Monday, July 1, 2013

WEEK 2 at the MTC- (Excerpts from letters received last week) " It's incredible how I can speak from my German."

Dear family,
.... I am surrounded by amazing people here in the MTC. The girls in my room are so much fun to be around and we are constantly learning from each other.  I am the youngest out of all of us-they are all 20 and 21 years old. But I realize more and more that age doesn't matter. We are all here performing the same task and accomplishing the same purpose. I feel like I am developing  friendships  here that I will keep long past my mission. One of the sisters, Sister Stuart, was commenting that she thinks we were all friends before we came here to earth and that we knew before coming here that we would be called during this historic time to preach the gospel together in Germany. It is comforting to know that, even though we probably will not be companions with each other, we are all going into this together. We are already talking about getting together after our missions. I feel so much love from them and they really help me when I am missing people from home.

I am learning so much from my companion here. Like I said, we are so different but we are able to work so well together.It's so amazing how if you just LOVE someone,nothing else matters. Neither of us are perfect but we can help each other be better than we would be alone. The other day (last Wednesday) we had the neatest talk in the temple.We sat there waiting to do initiatories and we shared our experiences of why we decided to serve missions. I felt so lucky before coming here that I had received such a concrete answer that I was meant to serve. My companion didn't have an experience quite like mine. She had grown up thinking that a mission would be a neat experience. Unfortunately there were many instances before she came here that she almost gave up serving altogether. She was hanging out with the wrong crowd, neglecting her personal prayer and scripture reading habits, and focusing on activities that really didn't matter.But in the end she decided to serve. Which is the one thing that really mattered. She told me there in the temple that she knew that I was supposed to be her companion. She said, "Out of all the girls I could have had as companions here in the MTC I think God put me with you because of your strength. He knew you would love me and help me." I was really touched by this because I hadn't realized how much of an impact I 'd had on her. But even after another week I see her changing and becoming right before my eyes. She went from doubting herself to believing in herself, and from being shy to confident. In the temple that day she and I were able to do family names for Elder Smith (in my district). That was a really neat experience. I didn't notice until the ordinances were being performed that the names were from England, just like lots of our family members. Do we have ancestors from Cheshire or Lancashire, England? I thought I remembered reading about those places in the Shelley Family Heritage book. It was really neat realizing that I was doing work for REAL people. People who probably had a lot in common with my own ancestors! I really don't think any of us are here by chance. There are too many coincidences and too many connections. I love everyone here so much! I thought I was done saying goodbye to people I care about , but I guess as long as I'm human I will experience both love and pain. It's so hard at times but I would never give it up.
Yesterday I had the neatest teaching experience with Sister Rasmusssen. We were teaching our new investigator(formerly my investigator named Justus, now my afternoon teacher named Bruder Davis, and now my investigator named Reiner Lubke) ***[kind of confusing isn't it!!! ] We didn't even bring in any scripts or anything. We brought in our scriptures (auf Deutsch) and a few sentence lesson plan outline. WE TAUGHT FOR 45 MINUTES!!! It's incredible how I can speak from my heart and I will say words and phrases that I have never used  before. I taught him how to pray and I was struck with so much gratitude. Prayer is a miracle. Something that I feel I have taken for granted at times.I used the verb kommunizieren
which means to communicate. Prayer is two-way communication...that is INCREDIBLE! As I taught him how  to pray I imagined how it would really be to pray for the first time. I said a prayer - we were all kneeling in the small classroom, and the words just came so effortlessly. I recognize that Reiner is not a real
investigator. In fact, he's  now my teacher , but when I teach him about these things I have so much love for him. Bruder Davis is an incredible actor, and he plays his part well. When we went in to the lesson he told us that his grandson had been hit by a car so he was quite worried about him. At first I was  a little startled. This wasn't in our lesson plan! But then I found myself comforting him, telling him about the love Christ has for him and for his grandson. It was so cool that I was able to speak and tell him about things that he needed to hear. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon and bore testimony of this Book. He sat there  a little fidgety throughout the lesson, sometimes with his face in his arms, and other times  he wasn't looking at us at all. But when we bore our testimonies simply yet powerfully, he looked right at us. I asked him a few questions and the way he looked really got to me.-----This is an excerpt from my journal just after teaching--"At one point I was sitting there and I just wanted to get up and hug Reiner. I wanted to say, "Please ....this message will change and bless your life. Please listen to what we have to say. Listen to the Spirit. Open your heart. Act on the things we teach you.It was our best lesson yet! I'm coming to see that every lesson is our best because we do our best!"

It's so cool seeing how much we progress every day! During that teaching experience there was something really funny that happened! At the end of the lesson Reiner said something about why he was having such a hard time concentrating and he apologized. He had held his hand up motioning like he was drinking from an invisible glass. SO this is what I understood him to say ...... He was having a hard time concentrating because he was worried about his grandson and he was thirsty. Hahaha...No......I was a bit off......I find out back in the classroom that he had actually been drunk! I guess I need to work on some non-gospel related vocabulary. I had to tease Bruder Davis (my teacher/pretend investigator) about it when he returned to the classroom a few minutes later.I said, "Is this why you're always so tired when you teach us?!" Hahaha... it was pretty funny. Bruder Davis is an incredibly funny guy. He just returned from  the Berlin mission a few months ago. I feel so lucky to have such good teachers.

Bruder Alston still teaches us for our three hour morning block. I have come to really trust him. I think that's so important here because it helps me open up in class, bear testimony often, ask questions and ask for advice. He really does inspire me to be an obedient and hard working missionary. He too became one of our investigators this week.(So now we have two progressing investigators!) I really like this system because I really feel comfortable teaching him. I look up to him and love him as a teacher so teaching is easy. I teach my very  best, right from my heart because I know he sincerely wants to help my companion and I grow and improve. The coolest thing is, is that our investigators are "real people" with "real stories". Bruder Alston's investigator, Jess, and Bruder Davis's investigator, Reiner, were both people that they grew to love on their missions. Bruder Alston said that he will tell us the full story of his investigator when we are done teaching him (which will be when we leave the MTC)

I also wanted to share with you the neatest experience I had last night at the devotional. Janice Kapp Perry was the speaker and her talk was so funny, spiritual, and inspiring. She wrote "As sisters in Zion" and many Primary songs that are well known. The Spirit was so strong! We were able to sing several songs together with all the missionaries and it was INCREDIBLE! My favorite was the song we sang at the end. We sang a medley of " The Sisters In Zion" and "We'll bring the World His Truth". ( "The Sisters in Zion" is a special arrangement of "As Sisters in Zion" written for the sister missionaries on Mother's Day) So we sisters began singing our part and then all the  elders came in singing their part. We sisters had all been sitting down as we sang, but when the elders began singing their part they began standing in large numbers. There was so much power in their song! We sisters waited for our part again and then we added in our voices, standing in triumph also. Imagine us all standing strong together making our song heard. As Sisters we sang how we are all enlisted with *Helaman's army and all together  we sang, "We are NOW the Lord's missionaries to bring the world his truth!"  (*Rememeber  the story of Helaman and the stripling warriors who  fought bravely for their freedom and were all spared as  they had been taught by their other mothers to put their trust  in God-  Book of Alma [in the Book of Mormon] Chapter 56, especially verses 47, 48. " they (meaning the stripling warriors) had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." ) This is what I wrote in my journal right in that moment:
" The elders are singing their part and they all just stood up. So POWERFUL. I just want to sing with all the energy of my heart. I closed my eyes for a minute and just listened. So much power Such a strong feeling of the Spirit." Every day I have experiences like this. I feel the Spirit so strong. I want to just break down and cry. I feel so much love. I feel so much happiness. It's impossible to not want to share this with the world.We need to share the message of the restored gospel. Das Wiederhergestellte Evangelium Jesu Christi! 
I can also say that I can now say Verkundet Meine Evangelium without a second thought, hahaha..[**So good to hear this---During the weeks prior to Heidi entering the MTC we were quite entertained as she practiced and practiced, attempting to say this German phrase with correct pronunciation, Only to learn she was "slaughtering " the pronunciation.] I don't  really find German that challenging. It follows lots of rules, and if you learn the rules then it's really simple. It has a lot of similarities to English actually,  which is nice.It's kind of funny because occasionally I'll throw in  a French word here and there. Or the other day I met an Elder who was from Quebec and I had a hard time speaking French to him. Haha...I'll have to work on my French when I get home:) I find myself laughing so much here and I think it's important to do that so you don't get stressed out. I have really adapted well here though and things are getting easier every day. I still have a LOT to learn but I am starting to believe it's possible.
Don't forget about me! :) Remember me in your prayers, okay?
Heidi (Schwester Shelley)

Excerpt from letter to sister, Heather [dated Sunday, June 23rd and 26th)
Wow! I can't believe I survived my first week and a half. I can really call it surviving because every day here is so HARD. But every day I keep pushing forward, becoming strengthened, and adding to my knowledge of the gospel and of the German language!
Thank you so much for your sweet letters! Honestly, each one of our letters means the world to me. The days here can be so challenging at times but a simple letter can lift my spirits no matter what...
Even though I've only been here for 11 days I feel like it has been much longer than that.  Time works in  a strange  fashion here. Days feel like weeks, but weeks feel like days. I know it doesn't make sense but honestly that's the only way I can think to describe it! Haha...I wrote a little in my email about my schedule and it really is that busy. I think I forgot to include all of my schedule here it is:
6:00 a.m.- Wake up and get ready
7:00 a.m.- Be ready and in the classroom for personal study for an hour and  a half . We study and have class as a district, which is 5 of us ( 6 when my teacher is in class) It's often difficult  to concentrate during study time because Elder Barber  (From England) had serious problems sitting still, haha...It can always be difficult to stay awake because we always go to sleep the night before we're exhausted!
8:30- Breakfast!! There are always lots of food options, many of which  are very good. It's just hard exercising control at times because pretty much everyone gorges on the food like it's the last meal they will ever eat. Hahaha...
9:15- More personal study in the classroom.
10:30- Bruder Alstrom  comes for our classroom instruction. We start by singing  a hymn auf Deutsch and kneeling in prayer together (again auf Deutsch). We read  from the missionary handbook, and then proceed with class.For the next three hours we learn mechanics of the German language and gospel principles (again auf Deutsch) Our teacher does not EVER speak in English matter what we are talking about.So, learning German is really critical for survival.It's crazy how natural speaking German comes. I work incredibly hard learning and studying inside and outside of class time but I know the Lord has got to be blessing me. The gift of tongues is given abundantly to us missionaries in the MTC. It is incredible!
12:30- Lunch! The whole time we can barely contain our excitement for receiving MAIL!!!! (The Elders in our district check for mail after eating) If there is mail we get so excited! I usually end up squealing and jumping up and down like a little kid on Christmas.
1:15-Classroom instruction. During this time we review previously learned material (German), prepare lesson plans for our investigator(s), and go and teach our investigators. Teaching should probably stress me out more than it does...but I actually really like it! It's wonderful feeling the Spirit in the room. You can feel the spirit the truth brings even through broken German and occasional periods of laughter. I never leave one of these teachings experiences without learning something. I always learn about my teaching abilities, how I can improve, and how much I have improved from the previous lesson. I also find these experiences healthy because I always laugh hysterically after having finished.
4:15- Our teacher (now Bruder Davis -formerly known as my  investigator, Justus! :D) leaves us. We have language study on our own for the next two hours and 15 minutes.
6:30-Dinner! Again, we can hardly wait to see if we have more mail.
7:15- Return to our classroom for more study time.
9:00-Plan for the next day.
9:30- We return to our residence to get in our pajamas, get ready for bed, write in our journals,say apartment, companion and personal prayers and be in bed by 10:30.
10:30- Lights out! SLEEP!!!
There are a few variations in our schedule every now and then for exercising  and devotionals, but pretty much that's what everyday is like.And I know it's hard to believe but P-Days and Sundays are almost more busy. It's so exhausting! But I am really grateful for the scheduling because it helps me keep my heart and my mind on the work throughout every day. I am learning what it means to keep my "eye single to the glory of God." I am learning more and more my responsibility here- to represent the Lord. I have to live up to the name of Jesus Christ on my name tag. I started out my first few days here feeling like I was on top of the world, but after the first week I started going down hill a little bit. This is SO HARD here. There are so many expectations, rules, and things to learn... and it was suddenly so overwhelming. I was going to bed and waking up each morning but I was just so exhausted I couldn't stay awake during class or study time and I would just fall asleep! Everything seemed so impossible and it was so sad because I wasn't being my normal happy self.I realized that all of us missionaries deal with the same stresses, it's just how we respond that makes the difference. My afternoon teacher, Bruder Davis, said something that really helped me. He simply reminded me that I need to turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and let Him help me. The Spirit really can bring us comfort, hope and peace. How could I have forgotten this for even one second!! This work is probably (or surely) the hardest thing I have done up to this point in my life. But I can't expect to do this work alone. Alone I am weak, lost, and in need of help. With the Lord ALL things are possible.

Look at the lyrics to "The Lord Is My Light".This song completely summarizes how I feel.

"The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
 By day and by night his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin,
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.
The Lord is my LIGHT,
He is my JOY and my SONG.
By day and by night,
he leads, he leads me along."

Every one of these verses gives me so much strength and helps me realize how much power the Lord can give me.With Him he is my strength.
"The Lord is my light,The Lord is my STRENGTH.
I know in his might I'll conquer at length.
My weakness in mercy he covers with power.
And walking by faith,I am blessed every hour."

Hymns have really come to be dear to my heart here. They invite the spirit like nothing else. and really are a prayer unto heaven.Like I said my district begins and ends every class session in song and it feels so incredible singing together. We are but 5-6 people but we make up a choir praising God in song. I wish you could feel what I feel every day here. My heart is always so full of love and light. I am often so moved by the spirit that I am brought to tears. The scriptures empower me , as do the other missionaries here. My teacher, Bruder Alston especially, has taught me to always remember my purpose as a missionary. He has taught me the importance of obedience. I can tell you every teacher is divinely inspired from above in what he or she teaches. The MTC is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

I am coming to love so many people here. You saw my schedule and you saw  how much time I spend with my district. They are my family here. We are all each other has. My companion too. I am by her side day and night and every day we become closer. There are only about 40 missionaries in my Branch so we also have formed close relationships.It doesn't matter if we are from Finland, Scotland, England or Utah. It doesn't matter if we converted to the church in the last 5 years or if our family has been in the Church  for 150 years . What matters is that we are here. What matters is that we are united, that we stand firm in the faith,leading the way with light. We have to bring the world his truth.

[Heidi was at the Marriott Center for the Worldwide Broadcast and wrote the following afterwards]:
Wow that was incredible! The prophet, apostles, and many general authorities were there. Is that incredible or what?!! The spirit was so strong during the meeting and there were a few moments when I wrote  my experiences in my journal. This is what I wrote at one point when they showed a video..."I'm sitting here with tears running down my cheeks. All around me there are peopel reaching up and wiping tears from their eyes. The spirit is here. They  are playing the song "We'll Bring The World His Truth" and there is such and overwhelming feeling of love in this room. Every seat is filled here and I know we all have been feeling this. It would be impossible not to feel this." All of us sisters are enlisted in the Lord's work. There is so much strength in this missionary force. I am so honored to be a part of this great work- Such a marvelous work and a wonder!

( Wednesay, June 26)
I honestly feel like I knew all of the girls in my room in the pre-existence. We have so much in common and we strengthen each other EVERYDAY! It's really hard being away from home but it makes it easier when you are always surrounded by good company. I feel the spirit calm my heartache every time it comes. I have only been here for two weeks but everything seems routine  and normal. I am cool, confident and  happy everyday. You should have seen me the couple days that I was a "Zombie". body needed a couple days to adjust I guess. I seriously couldn't move,walk, or talk because I was so tired! But that is long gone now!! I am always singing, skipping, and smiling. This work would be much too hard if we couldn't enjoy ourselves:)

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