I can’t believe I’m more than halfway done with my time here at the MTC. Sora Merkley and I have a nightly freak-out moment when we realize how many days we have left (TWELVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) The Milan sisters are counting down the number of meals we have left at the cafeteria…I think the food isn’t too bad, but some days are definitely better than others. One time I did find a shard of plastic in my hamburger patty and that was pretty gross (plus my tooth hurt the rest of the day) and sometimes all the different meats are a little iffy (I believe the cod they served last night was a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with bread crumbs on it…that’s definitely what it looked like at least), but there is always cereal to fall back on and the bread rolls are always a favorite.
This week has been slightly uneventful. Now that we’re pretty used to the MTC, nothing is new and shiny anymore. Turning into a jaded missionary stuck in the MTC haha…I feel bad for the Russian-speaking elders and sisters who are here for 9 weeks! They are hitting us with more and more grammar, but it’s fun to finally be able to say more complicated sentences, like using the subjunctive and accusative and dative cases. The grammar nerd in me is coming out more often now haha. It’s been getting a lot colder, especially when we have 6:05 am gym on Tuesdays. But we are usually the only zone with gym at that time so we get free reign of all the courts and balls. We’ve taken to playing Knockout as a zone which is really fun and at least gets us a little warm when it’s freezing.
We’ve been having some trouble with teaching this past week — it felt like we were just off-kilter or something and I think part of it may have been that Sora O’Brien was missing parts of class to practice for the Relief Society Broadcast choir. It was hard to catch her up on what we’d been doing and our lack of unity was apparent when we tried to teach. It’s difficult to try to reconcile that on the fly, but after talking about it as a companionship and now that the choir practices are over, things have been getting better.
This week at TRC we taught two lessons, each of them a recently returned sister missionary. It was fun to hear about their experiences and to get to talk to them about making our prayers more sincere. We talked about conference with each of them. It’s gonna be weird to have conference here at the MTC. I think we basically are either watching or talking about conference ALL day both Saturday and Sunday — different from the PJs and snacks from the Hop that I’m used to at Dartmouth.
On fast Sunday, we had a mission conference all together as an MTC instead of our usual Relief Society. It was great to hear the counsel from lots of the members of the MTC Mission Presidency. They focused a lot on being selfless and being diligent. I feel like we get the same 5 things said to us at every talk, but they always manage to make me think about things in a new way or I feel inspired in a different way each time. We also had our zone Fast and Testimony meeting. I bore my testimony about agency and how important and beautiful I think it is — God trusted us and loved us enough to give us the opportunity to choose for ourselves. I love Helaman 14:30 “…for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.” I wrote next to it in big letters “AGENCY = FREEDOM!!!” I love that Heavenly Father has given us freedom and I’m so glad that I chose to come on a mission. The other testimonies that the missionaries bore were so strong and I’m so proud of each of them — I can’t wait to hear about their experiences in the field.
Sora Merkley and I getting waaaaay too hungry on Fast Sunday and going a little crazy.
This Tuesday, we had a great speaker, Elder Baxter of the Seventy. He is from Scotland and spoke about being bold and unashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). He was such a dynamic speaker and spoke about how we must be filled with respect and love for the other religions we will encounter on our missions — we are never to be rude or disrespectful, but we must always be filled with love and compassion for the people we serve, no matter if they accept our message or not. I love when people emphasize how we are to exemplify Christ-like love even in the face of great adversity or difficulty, even when we are under personal attack. His message about being unashamed of the Gospel made me think of a letter I received from Robbie. He said, “I was talking to Paul about how it is so fascinating to hear you talk about your faith, and we both wish that we had gotten to see that side of you at Dartmouth. I’m guessing you learned to compartmentalize, but I think it is important to feel comfortable sharing something so meaningful even with people who might not totally get it.” It made me realize that I can share the Gospel without being unashamed and without feeling like I’m being overbearing — that my friends WANT to hear about what I believe. They may not believe it themselves, but they are always willing to listen and that is what is important.
Elder Baxter closed his testimony as if he was speaking to the two missionaries who taught his family when he was only 12 years old. His words, “I will never be able to repay the great gift you have given me. I will always love you. I will never forget you.” brought tears to my eyes when I realized that this is why I am serving a mission — to bring the joy and love I feel to as many people as possible. But it is also about the relationships we can build with these people. I will never forget the people I teach and they will never forget me. Our teacher Fratele Boynton was talking about the love we will feel for Romania by the end of our mission. I thought he said it so beautifully. “You will always be connected to that country from now on. You will always be happy when you hear Romanian spoken. I can’t wait to hear Romanian in the celestial kingdom and know that I was able to help save it be one Romanian person come unto Christ.” I was reading in Alma 26 recently and came across verse 36: “Now, if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.” If that last phrase doesn’t describe me in Romania, I don’t know what does. But it is comforting to feel that the Lord won’t forget me and he certainly won’t forget the people of Romania.
I’m almost out of time, so I’ll sign off here, but I love you and I miss you! Let me know how everything is going. Shout out to Classic Herbst and Shannon for letters this week! Made my day. By way of clarification, I can write letters back so if you write, I will definitely always reply as long as I have an address for you (so write your return address legibly)!
Miss you and hope it’s all good wherever you are!
Sora Amy Bray