I've heard a few stories of missionaries who liken the Missionary Training Center to a concentration camp. To be fair, they are not that far off.(You're probably thinking to yourself, "You don't know what an actual concentration camp is like" but I've watched "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," and read the very detailed Diary of Anne Frank, so I think I have a pretty good idea of them) I've concluded that the MTC is a lot like concentration camps, with the exception being that it's different in every way.(Now if they made us construct the addition to the MTC without winter clothes, didn't feed us, and made us watch BYUTV without the sporting programs all day, now that would be a a whole different story.) Anyways, I've concluded that state-side missionaries should be put on a special diet in the MTC that limits their number of calories they can eat per day to a healthy number. I understand feeding the missionaries lots of food if they're going to a 3rd world country with not many unhealthy food options. However, state side missionaries are in a whole different boat. We sit in a classroom all day, eat 3 times a day, and only exercise for one hour a day, which means we are going to gain weight here, and definitely will gain weight in the states.(It will be somewhat of a minor miracle if I return from Texas without Coronary Heart Disease)
About a week ago, I was introduced to my district. My companion is Elder Sitterud from Roseville, California, and he is headed to Des Moines, Iowa, speaking Spanish. He's a fantastic guy who has interests very similar to mine. He played basketball in high school, and loves the outdoors. The others are Elder Moon from Las Vegas(Headed to Barcelona, Spain), Elder Dayley from Spanish Fork (Headed to Argentina) and Elder Wilson from Star Valley, Wyoming (Headed to McAllen, Texas, and apparently is one of the only humans from the state of Wyoming who doesn't go hunting). The sisters in our district are Sister Karlen from California, and Sister Lamb from Arizona and they are both headed to Spain. In fact, Both of the sisters and Elder Moon are supposed to be in the Madrid MTC in Spain, but are just waiting for their visas to come through, and may be leaving us shortly.
The Spirit in this place is incredible. It is so strong. I have felt all of your prayers and thoughts on my behalf and truly appreciate it. On the day after I entered the MTC, Elder Sitterud and myself already had an MTC investigator to teach. In Spanish. Talk about baptism by fire. It was kind of like throwing a puppy into the deep end of a swimming pool and expecting it to swim. We've been applying ourselves and relying on the Lord and slowly but surely are getting there. However, my teachers, Brother Gomés and Brother Ream who are both returned missionaries of about 8 months from New Jersey, have been so helpful. They have helped us understand that we teach people not lessons, and how critical it is to teach by the Spirit. I always knew what the missionary purpose was, but never really quite understood it until this week. We are supposed to invite others to come unto Christ. Not coerce. Not convince. Not brainwash. Invite. With love, compassion, and the Holy Spirit. Just yesterday Brother Craig C. Zwick of the 70 and his wife spoke at our devotional and his wife shared a powerful story with us about this principle:
The Zwicks's oldest son, Scott is both mentally and physically disabled. As he reached mission age, he always asked his parents when he could serve a mission. He was unable to read, and he was unable to write. They knew he probably wouldn't be able to serve. However, his younger brother was able to serve a mission to Thailand, and the Zwicks decided that they were going to pick their son up from his mission. When they wrote his mission president, he said they could come on one condition: that Scott be set apart as a full-time missionary and serve the last week of his brother's mission with him. Scott got set apart as a missionary, and off they went to Bangkok. On one of the first days they got there, Scott and his brother tried to contact people on the streets who spoke English. They finally found a couple sitting on a bench from Queens, New York. Scott sat by them, put the Book of Mormon on his heart and said something along the lines of "I cannot read, but my family has read this book to me, and I know that it is true. It is the Word of God, and it brings me so much happiness to read it." A few months later, the Zwicks were contacted by this same couple and informed them that they were baptized because of Scott. They felt something powerful that they had never felt before in their lives. That something was the Spirit.
I testify that through Jesus Christ, our Savior, all things are possible, and that he wants us to follow Him, because it will bring us unfathomable joy. This I know to be the truth.
Hope everyone has a great week!