Saturday, July 13, 2013

WEEK 4 at the MTC: A Week of Learning, Growing and Discovering

We received an email and letter this week! :) What an amazing week... full of growth and learning.

                                                                                                                                July 10, 2013

Hello all!!!

Once again this week has been full of ups and downs, but in every situation I learned something new. Have I really been here for four weeks?!  That's one month of my mission already gone.  Crazy.  Crazy.  Crazy. 
The fourth of July was a fun day here at the MTC.  We went to a devotional that evening and were surprised when they told us we would be watching 17 Miracles.  Before the movie we sang lots of songs together and it was so neat having all the foreigners with us.  By far the FUNNIEST thing ever was watching Elder Barber suffer.  He is from England and he let everyone in the MTC know that today.  In the opening prayer of the devotional somebody said something about being grateful we could 'break away from England.'  Everybody in my row (which was all my district) started chuckling.  Poor Elder Barber.  In our classroom that morning he made several England flags out of notebook paper and adorned the classroom walls with them.  He went on singing this song:
"Oh I'm England till I die,
I'm England till I die,
I know I am,
I'm sure I am,
I'm England till I die!"
Haha, he sure is a character. 
Anyway, it was really neat to be able to sing patriotic songs here in the MTC.  The speaker at the meeting reminded us that without the independence of America and the freedom in our country the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ would not have taken place.  America was prepared for this magnificent historical event to happen.  Oh how grateful I am for all those who came before me, who suffered and made sacrifices that we might have the freedoms and opportunities that we do today. 
The movie 17 Miracles was so incredible.  It was a really nice break from the regular routine.  It was a good reminder of the sacrifices our own church ancestors made, to help establish Zion.  There were many tears shed during the movie and there was such a neat feeling in the room.  After the movie was over the MTC surprised us with ice cream and the opportunity to watch the Stadium of Fire Fireworks.  Haha it felt good to be outside eating ice cream and laughing with my district. I liked the sense of normalcy.
This week I learned a lot more about my district.  I discovered more of my weaknesses.  I was reminded time and time again that I can't do this alone.  I need to trust in the Lord.  I need to have the Spirit with me.  One day this week was especially hard for my district.  Honestly Sister Rasmussen and I felt great, but the Elders were really struggling.  Elder Barber was homesick and really being worn down by the rigorous schedule.  And their companionship in general had a lot of tension in it.  During that day Elder Barber and Elder Smith both just lost it at different points and began crying.  You know the MTC is hard when the Elders are crying.  Brother Davis was teaching during that hour and he could see the challenges that our district was facing.  He had a talk with the elders after they taught him and then he came in to talk to us all as a group.  I don't know what I would do without my teachers here. They do so much for us.  They are inspired every time they speak, and when they speak they always do so out of love. 
 Brother Davis began talking about his own personal experience, about a good friend of his that had recently made the decision to serve.  It took him longer to get on his mission due to some earlier choices he made in life, but he eventually made it.  He's now been out a few months, and he was having a really hard time.  Brother Davis pulled up the exact email he had sent to his friend and shared a story with us that he had sent to his friend :

"When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out"Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear,"Don't quit.""Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was  so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy.We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music.  However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful.
The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully.  You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear,  
"Don't quit." "Keep playing." May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.
Remember, God doesn't  seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips  the 'called.'

In that moment I had one sentence play over an over in my mind:  "Don't quit.  Keep playing."  Once again something changed within me.  Every day here is full of discovery and crucial decisions.  This was mine.  No matter how hard it gets, I can't give up.  God is the master pianist and He is playing by my side.  His arms are around me.  He believes in me and he knows that I have an important part to play.  While he could play all by himself, he wants me to help.  He wants me to be a part of this great work.  I have to do the best I can do and he will do the rest.  Bruder Davis helped us realize that we are all simple people.  God knows that.  But God has promised that He will help us.  He wouldn't call us to help in His work and then leave us on the stage humiliating ourselves because we were weak and incapable on our own.  NO.  God is there and He cares.  We have to trust Him and He will lead us along.   
A day later I was really struggling myself.  I felt so inadequate and incapable of the tasks I am expected to accomplish.  I was frustrated that I could not speak what I wanted to in German.  In my journal I wrote, "There is just so much I want to say but I feel like I am constantly being held back--funneling my words down a small opening in German."  I have such a strong testimony and I'm dying to share it, so why can't I?  This is where my thoughts were.  Once again as I went to class that day I felt as if Brother Davis was being inspired to speak words especially for me.  In my journal I wrote, "Brother Davis talked to us today about who we are as people and our potential to become.  The reality is, man is weak.  But we all have the potential of becoming something great.  We can all turn our weaknesses into strengths.  And while we will never become perfect in this life, we can try more for perfection every day.  Every day trying will be a day worth remembering and a day building up an ever increasing happiness.  I truly believe that living this way, always seeking for a relationship with Christ and always striving to be obedient to the commandments, brings me joy.  I derive so much of my happiness in life from the gospel.  Brother Davis helped me realize that it is OK.  He helped me to remember how important it is that I be myself.  He quoted Carl Maeser when he said, 'Be your best self.'  God really does want me to perform His work.  He knows me.  He loves me.  He will help me.  Bruder Davis showed us a picture that was taken two years ago: a photo of him the day he went into the MTC, holding his brand new baby nephew.  He described to us the feelings he had as he held that beautiful infant in his arms.  He loved that baby so much.  The baby had just entered into this life and he had so much to learn and experience.  But he couldn't help but think about all the baby would become.  He new the baby had potential.  Even in the two years when he was serving his mission, he knew his nephew would grow and develop at a tremendous rate.  He looked at his nephew and he saw the work of God.  Do I look around me and see the work of God in my life?  Do I see His work in my very being?  He created this earth and all us who inhabit this earth.  His majesty and power is exhibited everywhere.  All we have to do is open our eyes and LOOK!  Brother Davis spoke of us as missionaries.  We have potential.  Am I really destined to be something great?  Brother Davis helped me to realize that.  I am so grateful and blessed to have him as a teacher.  Every day he touches my life in a new way.  All of us influence each other in so many ways."   Directly after this experience I felt SO good about myself.  I felt so confident.  But then we went and taught our lesson (Sister Rasmussen and I), and it was a complete failure.  For the first time I had a hard time laughing about my mistakes.  I was scared. 
After coming back from lunch Brother Alston (then teaching) could tell something was up.  The elders had to leave a little bit into class and finally I opened up to him and told him about my feelings earlier that day, then the great experience we had in class with Brother Davis, and then how our lesson was our worst yet.  I felt so stupid.  As I was talking to him I finally said, "This is SO hard."  And right then and there I started to cry.  I was so embarrassed but Brother Alston didn't even care.  Just the fact that he was sitting there before me, listening, meant the world to me.  I remember few of his words but just his character and testimony was enough to show me that he cared.  He is such an example of a Christlike person--a person who has charity.  There was one thing he said really stuck out to me.  "God didn't call you on a mission to fail."  Brother Alston talked to us about our lesson we taught earlier.  What had been good?  what had been bad?  Was konnen Sie besser machen?  As I described to him my frustration of being unable to express my testimony and words in German he said, 'What function does the German play?'  He helped me realize that the German is not one of my important tools as a missionary.  The Spirit is my tool.  He helped me realize that I need to teach from my HEART.  I can't let the German dictate my testimony and the thoughts of my heart.  I need to let my testimony and the thoughts of my heart dictate my German.  He directed me to the scriptures and said that he knew that we could find the answers to all our questions there.  My question:  How can I teach from my heart?  He challenged me to read and study the next morning with this question in mind.  Bruder Alston is incredible.  He is always helping me find and discover.  Helping me to remember what I should be able to remember on my own.         
Normally in class we have the opportunity to do some role playing, but this week we did things a little different.  Rather than taking turns in companionships and practicing on our teacher, Bruder Alston had us teach him as a district.  So Brother Alston left and we found our spots on our knees, praying for the Spirit to be with us that we could teach him the things that would help him come closer to Christ.  We were allowed a few minutes to speak afterwards and plan and then we had to teach.  WOW.  This was seriously the coolest opportunity of my life.  Sorry I'm going to have to continue my stories in a letter home because my time is running out . . . sorry.  I love you all and I'll talk to you soon!!!
Also, this week was probably my favorite of my entire mission so far so just wait to hear the rest!!!! :D
Love you,
Heidi. (Sister Shelley)

                                                                                                                           July 10, 2013

(Letter we received a few days later.)

Here is a continuation from my email. I wanted to finish writing about my experiences teaching my teachers. First Bruder Alston - we taught him just after I had my little "talk" with him and had been crying. Here is what I wrote in my journal:  *** Words in brackets [  ] are Heidi's thoughts  she has inserted into her journal quote.

"[ Bruder Alston ] told us that rather than having us take turns in companionships and teach him, he would have us all prepare as a district and then teach him together. So he left the room, we knelt down and we started in prayer. We were teaching our teacher, Brother Alston, whom we have come to love dearly. After praying together I proposed that we all take a moment to ponder and think about what he needed to hear. I said my own prayer, humbly and sincerely from my heart, and then began to flip through my scriptures and my Preach My Gospel manual. It was so incredible how we experienced revelation on what we should focus on in the discussion. I really believe that we are all conduits for spiritual revelation as missionaries- all we have to do is open our mouths. The overwhelming feeling that came to us was that we needed to ask him some questions about missionary work. What influence has his own mission played in his life? Why did he choose to get a job at the MTC? How has missionary work affected his life? How do us missionaries affect him? What is the difference between having a testimony and being converted? Right now in his life could he say that he is truly converted? I truly and sincerely feel that we asked inspired questions. We spoke out of love and sincere interest. I know that for myself I wanted to give to him a small portion of what he has given to me. He spoke so openly to us. We were sitting in a circle of trust, a circle where we have all come to love each other. [This is how it has to be with our investigators!!] The spirit was so strong. I remember little about what was spoken there but I remember what I saw and felt. There were sweet and heartfelt testimonies born and tears shed. I really felt like when we spoke we were influenced by the spirit as to what we should say. For the first time I felt like we asked inspired questions and we listened . We listened to Bruder Alston and we listened to the spirit. We weren't delivering  a rote presentation. One of the most personally affected parts of the lesson for me was when Bruder Alston asked a simple question to us: "What do you do when you have had a bad day?" He looked right at me when he spoke these words and I wanted to say"Thank you! You know this is the question I need answered right now, but you are still asking it." [Remember how just prior to teaching him I had told him about the bad day I had been having] Bruder Alston is the happiest person I know and yet I think he was inspired to ask this in our discussion. [ I think this is what is so amazing about my experience here. Nobody is a teacher or a learner. We all play every role. We all help each other. We all try to act on our promptings. ] Bruder Alston knew I was having a bad day and he sincerely cared. So as we were teaching him, he asked a question that he knew would further teach me. Thank you. The comments shared and the testimonies given really helped me. And the whole time I was sitting there looking into the eyes of Brother Alston and my other district members and seeing that they were being helped too. I will not forget when Sister Rasmussen bore her testimony and I watched her eyes fill up with tears. She believes and she knows. I looked over a few times and saw Elder Smith with tears on his cheeks. Oh how I love my (MTC) family. :) We all spoke. We all contributed. The spirit was there. I had to say to Brother Alston how grateful I was for him and how much his example meant to me. I told him how much we love him and how big of an influence he has on us. I don't think we will ever know what large ( or small ) impact we have on those around us. It is truly incredible. I told him how important it is we stand as examples of the believers. [As in Timothy 4:12] We have a responsibility. After this experience we had a talk together. It's amazing how my spirits changed after this experience. How could I not feel happy after feeling the spirit so strongly and hearing such great testimonies from people I love. Bruder Alston compared this teaching experience to our experience teaching our investigators. Holy crow..the differences aren't even funny. This made me really THINK! Bruder Alston helped me remember that when we teach him and Bruder Davis as "investigators" we are still teaching them. There really isn't anything different except for the fact that they remove their ties and name tags when we teach. I still love them and I need to show that when I teach. I can't let the German dictate what I say. My heart needs to dictate my German. [ Keep in mind that in every one of these teaching experiences I speak of, it is 100% in German, including when we taught our teacher.]. Bruder Alston thanked us for the influence we have had on him. He said that even though we might be teaching him as an investigator he feels the spirit in our words so often. He said that we so often teach him things that he needs to hear [personally]and we bear testimonies that strengthen his own. I know I can be better at teaching. I don't want the spirit to be absent from my lessons even if they are just here at the MTC. I have a calling to "invite others to come unto  Christ by helping them. ( My purpose, Preach My Gospel) I need to do that with Bruder Alston and Bruder Davis. It really is astounding how much I can learn and grow each day. It is astounding to learn that as a missionary I have the power to astound."

Isn't that such a neat experience? I had a very similar experience the day following when my district taught Bruder Davis. It was the same process and once again we receive specific revelation on what he needed to hear. I'm really starting to see the miracles. I'm beginning to see the difference it make being "set apart" as a missionary. I don't have enough time to write about that second teaching experience but it was incredible. Things were different the day we taught Brother Davis though. Once again I was happy. I was on top of the world. I had been reminded the day before of so many things I needed to hear as a missionary and I applied them.

So like I said in the beginning of  my email , this week was a week of learning, growing, and discovering with my district. I will remember "God didn't call [me] on a mission to fail". [Bruder Alston]   I will remember "Don't quit. Keep playing." [Bruder Davis] I will remember the scripture Sister Rasmussen shared with us as she bore her testimony crying. John 14: 26-27. "26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

 I will remember the scripture Bruder Alston shared with us as we taught him.     3 Nephi 9: 13-14.  " O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me."

You should read these scriptures as a family. I really really love them a lot.

So even though this week was  my hardest, it has  been my BEST.  I've grown so much. I've come to LOVE this PLACE SO MUCH!! I am so happy!! One more thing that Bruder Davis shared during  the lesson we taught him is that, "even if 1,000 things go wrong, there will still be one thing that is right." I like that a lot. We have to look at our blessings,  the miracles around us . We have to look at what we have over what we don't have. We have to see the good in every situation. I know that when we do this our day will become better and we, as people, will become happier.

I'm so glad I can share my mission experience with all of you! It is hard writing everything out each week but I can only hope my experiences and testimony will give you strength and help you when you need it.

Here is a little German testimony for you:

Ich weiB dass Gott uns lebt. Er ist unser ewiger Vater. Ich glaube an Jesus Christus und sein Suhnopfer. Ich weiB dass Buch Mormon wahr ist. Ich habe diese Buch gelesen und ich habe den Geist gespurt. Die Kirche Jesus Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage ist die wahre Kirche. Joseph Smith war ein Prophet Gottes. Er hat die Fulle das Evangelium Jesus Christi zur Erdig wiederhergesteilt. Thomas S. Monson ist der heutige Prophet. Ich weiB dass meine erloser lebt.   

(I did my best to copy Heidi's German writing...hope it make sense to those who know German)


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