Hey guys! (It's nice to finally use the term "guys" appropriately. If there's ONE things I've learned here, it's that we can only call each other Elder and Sister.)
The MTC is the craziest place of all time. I feel like I'm hanging on the end of a helicopter propeller; even though it is the exact same rotation over and over, I never quite know where I am. Ha, I made that analogy on my own...
But really, it is the busiest I've ever been. By Day 2 we were teaching discussions to our teachers, acting as though they were real investigators. In fact, they are basing their stories and personalities on people they met on their own missions. While we are going back and forth teaching Chet and Freddy, we also are doing something with our entire zone where we create an investigator of our own, based on someone we know at home. They encouraged us to pick someone that you know very well, and it is really interesting as you really start to feel their same emotions because of how emotionally involved you get as you are being taught by other missionaries.
The whole culture of this place is hilarious, though. In the cafeteria, someone wrote on the label of Life Cereal to make it "Eternal Life." I was wearing my SigEp Epsilon pin the first day, and of course everyone was shocked that I could have been in a fraternity and still come on a mission. What was funny, though, is during the conversation, my teachers decided they wanted to make a fraternity called Alpha Omega.... Get it? Heh heh heh.... There's a whole different kind of humor here.
My zone is hilarious, though. There's my district, with six headed to Rochester and three (at one point four... but I'll explain that in a bit) to Spokane. But then there's also missionaries headed to Mongolia, Madagascar, Chile, and Indonesia--it's quite a mix. Two of the elders going to Madagascar are my roommates, and it's the funniest thing to hear them speaking Malagasi, the language there. Sometimes they'll read the Book of Mormon, and it's tough to differentiate between scripture and Afrcian war chants. They also have some of the funniest phrases: Their phrase for "Are you okay?" directly translates to "Are you dead?" And when they say "no" casually, it's just 'mmhmm," with the same sound that we say yes in, but their "yes" is a wide open mouth, slightly shaking, saying "AHHHHHH!"
The lessons are unlike anything I would have expected. I've been here five days or so, and we haven't even once gone over a Preach My Gospel lesson as a class. Instead, we're supposed to do all that in our daily study time (we're given like four hours for that... so there's time). Meanwhile, in the six hours of daily class time, mostly what we focus on is how to love. They have shown us scripture after scripture, I think Doctrine and Covenants 10:11 is one of them, but I may be totally off (I'm just doing my laundry now so I don't have my scriptures on me), that explains that we need to not seek to preach the word, but to fully understand the word. If we can do that, the teaching can become second nature. The most important thing, the teachers said, we can do right now is learn how to love others, be it investigators, less-active members, the wards we're in, our companions, anyone.
What's hard is figuring out what to say. It is so easy to see when someone gives a good lesson because it flows so smoothly and the investigator is just so intimately interested. Otherwise, it seems like you're just lecturing him. It's really difficult to make it so you're not just teaching what we believe, but touching him with the idea of the gospel and the Atonement. I think the hardest part is to get them to open up with their life story. Little excercise! This is one of the first things we did. Think about someone you really don't like at all--someone you just want to punch in the face everytime you see them. Now, how many brothers and sisters do they have? If you can answer that, you're ahead of me. But, what are their life goals? What is their family situation? What do their parents do, and have they ever struggled in their careers? We asked a few more questions, but it is interesting at how hard it is to not like someone whose story you do know. So much of what our job as missionaries is is to understand the person's life so that we can love them. If we can build that love and have a strong testimony ourselves, we can be guided by the Holy Ghost to ask inspired questions that will let the rest of the lesson be between them and Jesus Christ.
We had a really interesting fireside on Sunday with the Administrative Director of the MTC. He was talking about the power of the Holy Ghost and how the Gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the best reasons for wanting someone to be baptized. He then talked about what it means to have our prayers answered. He explained it like this: What is the answer to 2+2? 4. That is a very straightforward answer, one that we could spell out if we needed. But what do you do when you answer the phone? You just say "Hello." Usually, our prayers are more like the latter. While sometimes we can get answers that could be spelled out, more often, we just get that "Hello," the acknowledgement that someone is there listening to us. That is the power of the Holy Ghost; it is the comfort that someone passionately cares about how we are doing and what we need to know. In my four discussions so far, I have found the number one thing people need to understand is that our Heavenly Father loves them individually and wants what's best for them. It is important that we realize, as said in Isaiah 55, that our ways are not God's ways, and there will be things we don't understand. Meanwhile, 1 Nephi 11 says that while we might not understand all things, we know that God loves us, and that is enough.
This is the craziest, busiest, most stressful and difficult week I've yet had, but there's no question that what I'm doing is right. I love you all, and miss you all like none other. Write me! My address is on my blog, but Dear Elder works miracles cause then I get it that same day. DO IT! I only have 15 seconds left, so bye!
Oh Mom, you know all those things you were upset about with the MTC? "Why don't they have MTC pillows?"... they do. "Why don't they have MTC sheets?"... they do. "Why don't they have MTC hangers?"... they do. Haha, I came overprepared!