Ni men hao!
Okay, so I figured that many of you are probably wondering what goes on in the MTC. All you future Elders and Sisters, this one's for you. Listen closely!
I want to explain the language education, but it's hard to describe. The motto here is "SYL", or, "Speak Your Language". This means that we have to say as many words as we can in our new mission language in our everyday talk. So pretty much it's common to hear what we call Chinglesh in the classroom: "Jin Zai wo need to go use the ci cuo." We devote 7 hours a day to learning the language. 4 of those hours are class time, 2 hours are independent and companion study, and 1 hour is for teaching lessons to investigators. The Lord's designated way of teaching is for us to teach ourselves. Currently we have two investigators that we are working with. One is Sister J. and her case is interesting because she is Buddhist and has no concept of a single all powerful God, and her family would disown her if she accepted the LDS gospel. The other one is Brother C. who has no religious affiliation, and has no familiarity with any Christian religions either. It's really difficult trying to figure out their concerns and address them when you are speaking in a language that you've only really learned in two or three weeks. But we are getting better. I can hold a pretty good conversation, I just have to take advantage of sign language and a lot of "I don't understand" phrases. It truly is a humbling, yet edifying, experience.
On Sundays and Tuesdays we have devotionals, where Church leaders and other folk come and give spectacular lessons to all the missionaries at the MTC. I've made it a point to bring an extra-large notebook to these meetings, because they are almost always so rich in doctrine and inspiring messages that I fill a couple pages completely up. Also, we have the chance to audition for special musical numbers in devotionals, and I've been extremely humbled by the immense talent that is present here at the MTC. The piano and violin players here are phenomenal. Oh, if you play an instrument, even though you are not allowed to bring them on your mission, there is flutes, violins, and cellos here that you can use.
Gym is pretty cool. Four-square is the game of choice. And I'm not joking. Jeff, I want to see you beat the MTC mile record here. I'll try to look it up for you and post it next week.
Living areas are cool, but sometimes crazy. We have one Elder here that is just insane, and will be yelling stuff that's just obnoxious. Apparently a lot of people have been complaining about him. I wanted to, but I bit my tongue because I seriously felt that love would not be in the criticism. But other than that, it's really just a bunch of people all excited to carry out the work. Usually they will dorm 4 people to a room, but they recently upped it to 6 since they want all the Chinese speakers in the same building.
The stress and pressure is playing on people's minds. In the first few days, I was having dreams of being attacked by bears and getting hit by cars. One elder had particularly unpleasant dreams; I truly have a testimony of the power of prayer, because as soon as I prayed for him to not have those nightmares anymore, he's said he's been sleeping peacefully.
I'm sorry I brought up the letter stuff last week. I realize that while time passes extremely slowly here, everything moves at a faster pace for everyone else. Despite my selfish attitude, I guess the Lord was really looking out for me, because I got a letter and a few packages from my aunt and uncle, and my family. Words can't express how grateful I am for them. I'm going to do better from now on in focusing on the work, and my purpose as a missionary.
That's all for this week. And I want to ask a question, and those that want to answer, just throw a response here. I just want to see what you think. Question: Jesus Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, an event the LDS church calls the Atonement. In your opinion, what is the Atonement? Or more specifically, what does it do for us, and why is it important? (Something that helped me was looking up what Atonement meant. Check out www.mormon.org for definitions or a head start.) Any little thought would be awesome.
Pictures are forthcoming!