Dear Mom and Dad,
Life is pretty fantastic. I hope in the next 26 minutes and 8 seconds I can describe just a little bit of why I am so happy right now, and I'll certainly try.
But first, I need to make a plea for a friend of mine. I was talking to another Elder in our hallway a few nights ago--he's not in our district, he's a week ahead and in another zone. But anyway, he mentioned that not many people besides his family write him anymore, which is rather sad. I said that I thought I could help him, at least for next week. And thus, here is my request--would anyone reading this with a spare ten minutes and a heart of gold mind writing to Elder Burt? Only one letter is required, although he is a nice guy and he might write back. I told him that I would tell everyone that his grandma died and he really needed a word of comfort, so you could write with that excuse if you wanted. Here's his info:
Elder Marshall Samuel Burt
MTC Mailbox #226
2005 n 900 E
Provo, UT 84604
First up--street contacts! Elder Lucero and I decided that, every day (usually while we are walking back to our residence at night, because while we may be awesome we're also kind of slackers), we would 'contact' two sets of missionaries and bear them our testimonies in Spanish. The first time or two were pretty hard, we were psyching ourselves up for it and talking about how important it is that we learn how to do this, but we soon found out that it is easier than we thought and a ton of fun. I think it's the most fun when we are talking is Spanish to someone learning Russian or Chinese, someone who has absolutely no idea what we are saying! And Elder Lucero is a natural at street contacting. He has an amazing I-want-to-get-to-know-you-and-share-what-I-have attitude that just shrazzles during street contacts. And to think, just a few more days until we will be doing this 1500 miles away, to people who don't speak any English at all!
So, yesterday was my first all-Spanish day. I spoke only 7 words of English, all by accident, and dutifully atoned for those 7 words with pushups at the end of the day. I think it was a lot more frustrating for the people around me than it was for me--once I got started, once I was not letting myself even think in English, it just kind of happened. But it also helped me see just how far I have left to go. I need to communicate the feelings and ideas of my soul with people in this language, and sometimes I have trouble explaining that I am ready to go to lunch!
I want to write a little happy note about one of the Elders in my district, Elder Stringham. Elder Stringham was the senior companion these last few weeks, so I got to interview him to see how things are going. Through this experience, I got to learn his back story. E' Stringham has never been crazy into the church, although he has been a member his whole life. Since the start of high school, he has been a pole vaulter. This last year he focused on pole vaulting a lot. He's good. I'm talking olympic good. Since he started really getting into it, the olympics have always been his goal. Up until a few months ago, he wasn't sure if he was going to serve a mission or if he would stay home and train. But he prayed about it, felt like he should go, and here he is! And now he is striving and trying hard to have the spirit with him guiding his actions and his lessons. It's quite inspiring for me to see.
Devotional this week was Elder Russell M. Nelson. Yeah, that's right, three apostles in the time we've been here, and apparently Elder Bednar is long overdue as well! I'm so crossing my fingers. Anyway, he talked about the Book of Mormon (in connection with this months Ensign). My favorite parts were actually something that his wife said, and something that he said not about the Book of Mormon. His wife talked about obedience, and suggested the slogan "Not Even Once." I like it :D What E' Nelson said that isn't exactly related to the Book of Mormon is this: "You are never an annoyance or an inconvenience to someone you are teaching. You are their link to divine glory. They may not know that, but you do." Talk about inspiring!
One privilege that I think missionaries have more in abundance (or maybe I'm just noticing this more now that I am a missionary?) are gifts of the spirit. Along with the gift of tongues, which believe me is the only reason I ever got past preterit vs. imperfect, I know that I have been/am being given the gift of interpretation of tongues, the gift of leading with love, the gift of teaching by the spirit, the gift of joy in my work, and others.
Ah! Running out of time, only 9 minutes left. Better start typing faster...
An opportunity that we have once a week here at the MTC is to teach in the TRC, where volunteers from around town come to hear a lesson taught in Spanish (and other languages too, I'm sure). For the first two weeks my mentality was kind of that these are members, they didn't need a whole lot, and I didn't know Spanish very well, so I would make sure to bear my testimony but wouldn't worry about it too much other than that. I have since had a change of heart. I am a called and set apart missionary with the mission and purpose of inviting others to come unto Christ, of changing lives. This means everybody--investigators, members, other missionaries, even my mission leaders and, I hope, everyone at home that I am writing. With this attitude and decision, this weeks lesson at the TRC was truly amazing! I love feeling like I'm starting to figure things out!
Speaking of figuring things out, this week I also had a moment of realization. I am doing really well here at the MTC. I am learning the language quite well, being a district leader has stopped being such a stress, I'm used to the sleep schedule and the work load, I love my companion, the food is quite good if you do a little searching, everything. As I see it, I have two directions I could go from here. I could get complacent with how well everything is going, and slip into mediocrity, or I could keep on striving and pushing for higher and higher levels of excellence. Of course, I want to keep on striving for excellence. I think right now, the way I can best do this is to reach out to those around me, to love and serve and lift them as I myself continue to progress. So that is my goal!
This is really such an amazing experience. I thought I wanted to serve a mission when I came here a few months ago; I want to serve even more now. I thought I could teach by the spirit and recognize the hand of God in my lives; I feel like I am constantly engulfed in the spirit now. I thought I wanted to be obedient and do everything my God has asked me to do; now, I want to be obedient with all my heart and soul, because I love my God and because I know I will only succeed in this work with the miracles that He is prepared to give me when I obey.
¡Estoy viviendo la sueño! La iglesia es verdadera, estamos salvados mediante Jesucristo, y estamos preparando el mundo por Su segundo viviendo.
Elder Jason Ray