elder Matthew Jones
Taiwan, Taichung mission
Wow so the MTC went from one of my least favorite/hardest things I've ever had to endure the first weekend to a place that I love. The days are starting to fly by and it's kind of hard to imagine that I've been here for 2 weeks already. I wake up and before I know it I'm back in bed. It's crazy.
Day 8 (wednesday): This was our P-Day last week. P-Day is really cool because we can wake up and go straight to the temple and do a session, which is always a great way to start off a day. Plus the cafeteria food at the temple is AMAZING. Or maybe we just think that ‘cause we haven't had amazing food in a while haha. Anyways after the temple we can exercise for an hour, and then we have until about 4:45 to eat lunch, do laundry, email, and do whatever else we need to do. We always look forward to P-Days and Wednesday is actually a really nice day to have it because it splits up the week nicely. Then we eat dinner and have class from 6-9 so it's a really easy day.
Day 9-11 (thursday - saturday): All these days are pretty much the same. We have class study with a teacher which is entirely in Chinese, PCL (Personal, Companion, Language) Study, and a couple breaks here and there. We teach an "investigator" every other day which is really good practice but can be extremely hard. To communicate the gospel in Chinese definitely frustrates me because I always know what I want to say but I'm always missing a couple words to complete the sentence. Even though it’s tough, it is really cool to be able to put together a full sentence in Mandarin and see the "investigator" know what you are saying and feel the spirit. We have definitely gotten good use out of the nerf basketball hoop you sent. It's hanging in our classroom and we play horse when we get tired of trying to learn Chinese haha. My zone is so awesome. Everyone gets along and there are so many funny personalities.
Day 12: Sunday's are always one of my favorite days. The theme of the day was faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, which was amazing. I got to connect part of the lesson to Steph Curry and everyone started laughing hahah. It was the best. The lessons are really spiritual and I got to bear my testimony on Christ's atonement with the help of a talk that my Mom sent me called, "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox which I suggest you all read because it's great. Sacrament is always good and it's nice to hear the prayers in Chinese. Sunday night devotional was awesome because we got to sing with the Nashville Tribute Band. The music was all spiritual and uplifting but like country rock at the same time so it was really cool haha. Everyone in the room started tearing up when they sang "The hardest thing I've ever loved to do" so mom don"t listen to that haha. After that we got to watch a talk by Elder Holland that was really good. I love when he said "My mission means everything to me". It was a really big testimony builder for me to know that even in his older age, he still treasures the memories of his mission and the work he was able to do.
Day 13-14 (monday, tuesday): More of the same. We just have a lot of fun learning to try to be good missionaries and speak Chinese. We laugh way more than we should haha. We told our teacher we "love you as a friend" and wrote Chinese sentences about how distracting Elder C is. Tuesday night devotional was given by Brother Condie, an Emeritus Seventy. It was really good and it was on using our testimony and promised blessings to convert people to the gospel of Christ. He said, "Your testimony is your most powerful tool." and "The Spirit cannot be restrained when pure testimony of Christ is borne." I love those two quotes and they are definitely true.
Well there's my week. I love this gospel and I've loved this week at the MTC. The friendships that I've developed, all the inside jokes and testimonies shared, are really helping so much. I know that through inspiration from God I was put in this district, zone, and mission. I have such a strong testimony of this gospel. I feel myself growing every day. Sometime it's hard to get along with everyone or it's hard to stay focused. Teaching in Chinese gets frustrating. Trying to learn Chinese gets frustrating. It's just such a hard thing, but so great at the same time. It's humbling, fulfilling, rewarding, and so worth it. I know this is where I am supposed to be. I know that the Taiwan mission is where the Lord needs me. I had always wanted to go to South America and even leading up to my mission I was kinda bummed out, but now I am more stoked than anything to get to work. I miss home and other worldly things, but at the same time I just kinda put that aside and focus on the mission. It's so great to lose yourself in the work, and I definitely have been doing that. A scripture I have really loved this past week is 2 Nephi 2:6-8. It's a missionary scripture about Christ's Grace and the mission purpose. I know it is 100 percent true and I love every second that I get to spend serving the Lord.
Wo zhidao tougou Jidu de shuzui, women keyi dedao kuanshu he biancheng genghao de ren. Wo ai Yesu Jidu de Fuyin. Wo ai wode Jiating. Wo shi wei chuanjiao jihui ganxie. Feng Yesu Jidu de ming, Amen.
Talk to you all next week! Love and miss everyone and hope all is well
One thing I forgot: Our tradition on Friday's is called Murph day. Murph is a crossfit exercise where you run a mile, do 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 squats and then run another mile. Our goal is to do the whole thing by week 8 or 9. We did 1/3 of everything this week to warm up, and we will increase each week. It's really fun to push yourself and see that you can do way more than you thought you could. Can't wait for Murph day!
Matthew's first p-day email, one week after entering the MTC. His favorite MTC meal is chicken alfredo - YUM! On a scale of 1 to 10, he's an 8 today. I say, it's great to be eight.
Ni hao wo de jiating!
Wow I've got so much to say about this week.The first weekend in the MTC was tough. I'd say it was probably the worst weekend of my life haha. I know you probably think I'm joking but it was really hard. I miss my family so much, all my friends, but ya it has been really challenging. The homesickness definitely affected me for the first couple of days, especially since this is really my first extensive time away from my family. The days felt like years. Class was insanely hard. So I'll just get right into it.
Day 1 (Wednesday): From the first minute I walked in there it was almost entirely Chinese, with English only used to explain what a word or phrase means when we really can't understand, which is quite often. It was incredibly overwhelming to walk into a classroom of Chinese for the first 3 hours of my time at the MTC. I didn't have any Chinese background and almost everyone else in my district did. One Elder speaks almost fluent Chinese. It was really intimidating that first day to say the least, and still is at times. But it is amazing to feel the gift of tongues working through me. Our teacher tells us to speak "Chinglish" which is pretty entertaining. There's that video on the Gift of Tongues where Elder Aidukadas says "You must make 30,000 mistakes before you can master a language. The amount of time it takes you to make those 30,000 mistakes is up to you." I'm definitely trying to get all those mistakes out right now hah. I try to say things in Chinese and they often come out wrong but it's a good learning experience and provides a laugh for everyone in the district. After that we got to talk to some "investigators" and try to teach them about the gospel. It was a really good experience to talk to people on the first day about the gospel and try to make connections with them.
Day 2 (Thursday): was the longest day of my entire life. I swear it lasted for two years. It was a full day of studying, classroom instruction, and more studying. It was so hard for me to stay focused and keep my mind off home. We met the Branch Presidency that night which was really good. We had a spiritual lesson and got to sit down with them and talk about our worries/concerns and impressions of the MTC. I got to sit down with Brother A. and he gave me words of comfort that really helped me endure through the weekend. He assured me that I was receiving prayers of love on my behalf and that everyone at the MTC had had struggles as well. It really helped me get through to the next day.
Day 3 (Friday): was when things started to slightly get better. I went from a 2 to a 5, which is actually a lot better than it sounds. We had our first exercise day, and Friday's are zone kickball day which is really fun to mess around with everyone in the district and just have a good time and get to know everyone a little bit better. We taught an investigator for the first time, which is insanely hard because of our lack of language skills. We have a couple books that teach us how to teach in Chinese with phrases about the lessons in Preach My Gospel, so at this point we basically just read straight out of those. It is really hard to understand what she is saying when she responds; the first lesson I felt like I understood nothing. Despite all this, teaching investigators is one of my favorite things at the MTC. It is really cool to try to explain the gospel to someone in another language. It's unreal. That night we had another teacher come in and teach a workshop lesson on the gift of tongues. He spoke a little more English because it was more of a gospel lesson. The spirit was insanely strong, and this was one of the first times that I felt really ok at the MTC, even if it only lasted for an hour or so.
Day 4 (Saturday): We woke up and ran a mile and a half as a district for our exercise time along with doing some push ups and crunches. Definitely good district bonding time and this is when we started to get really tight with everyone. We taught again today and it felt so much better. Even a 24 hour difference showed how much of the language can be picked up day to day. I was able to teach with the help of my orange Mandarin book, which I've named the Orange Bible. It really is a life saver when we teach these lessons. We have so much time in our days to study, so when I got here I decided I would read 10 pages of the BoM, 5 pages of PMG, and 3 pages of the White handbook everyday, meaning I would finish them all before I left the MTC. It has definitely strengthened my testimony so much. They say that the most important thing here is becoming more converted to Christ, the language will come. I definitely am doing my best to have faith in that.
Day 5 (Sunday): This is when I decided I loved the MTC. This was our Sunday, and Sunday's are the best days besides P-days (I know I probably shouldn't say any day is better than Sunday whoops). We have Priesthood meeting taught by a companionship, then sacrament meeting which is thankfully in English because we have some Cantonese speaking missionaries in our branch. Bless them haha. We then have district review which is basically Sunday school but a thousand times better. We all bore our testimonies. The spirit filled the room as we all teared up a little explaining why we were here and what we had learned. They say the MTC breaks you down to tears, but since I cried before the MTC it hasn't really affected me hahaha. Our district decided we were gonna join the choir which is really fun. On the 24th, we are singing backup to Nashville Tribute Band. After that, for Sunday devotional we watched a video on a talk given by Elder Bednar in the MTC a couple years ago called ‘The Character of Christ’. These next couple hours changed my entire week, view on the MTC, and my life for sure. It was an amazing talk, helping me to give up myself to the Lord and realize that I am now at his service. He talked about how there would have been no atonement except for the character of Christ. Christ is outwardly compassionate, always looking to help others before himself. He compared the natural man to the cookie monster, always wanting cookies and wanting them immediately. Some things he said that I really liked were, "Who cares what you want as a missionary, it's about serving the Lord" "Be on a pathway of continuing conversion" "In the strength of the Savior and His Atonement, you can do all things." "Charity is not something we do, it is what we become" and when talking about how it is amazing that anyone is converted by a bunch of 18, 19, and 20 year olds he said "It isn't about what you say, it's about what you are." and what you represent when you put on that name tag. People will feel the spirit through you because you will be filled with the light of Christ. I can testify to that. After the video recording of the talk, sure enough, Elder Bednar walks in!!! We got to ask him questions about becoming converted to Christ and having the character of Christ, and it was one of the coolest nights of my entire life. We were all on the verge of tears because we all had had such a rough weekend and we all missed home and wanted to go home. It was exactly what we all needed and I know without a doubt that it will change my mission for the better.
Day 6 (Monday): Really started loving the MTC. We got to play basketball and my district has a lot of good basketball players so it's really fun to compete and do as well as kids who played high school ball, which there are many of in my zone. We teach investigators almost every day so it gets a little better each time. I got my notes of encouragement from my friends on this day which was really good for me. It's so comforting to know I have people cheering me on at home and hoping and praying that I will be successful. We definitely feel those prayers as we study, learn the language, and deal with challenges.
Day 7 (Tuesday): Yesterday was so fun. Our district has the tightest bond, we are all good friends and make learning things so much fun. We had to give some blood today which was the worst thing about my mission haha. I was contorted in the chair and my companion was dying of laughter. Lol but while teaching an investigator I was able to bear my testimony of the Plan of Salvation in Chinese. I felt the spirit so strongly and it was one of the coolest things about my mission so far. That night Elder Don Clarke and his wife spoke to us about being obedient missionaries. He was very motivating. I loved when he said "Be a 9:30 missionary" meaning always have appointments all day and teach as many people as possible.
Well there is my first week for you! I am loving my P-day. We got to do a session at the temple, play basketball, do laundry, email, and have a good, relaxing time. (He told here about all of the elders in his district - lots of high school b-ball players). Elder M. and Elder P. are the only short people in our district, the rest are over 6 foot haha. They send all the tall ones to Taiwan I guess. I love and miss everyone so much. Thank you for the notes, packages, letters, prayers. They all mean so much. I love this gospel and I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I feel myself becoming converted to him everyday. Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is say "I will try again tomorrow" and I can promise you I will try again tomorrow for the rest of my mission. Tougou Jesu Jidu, women keyi xuexi ai de fuyin. Zai Jian!!!
Zhong Zhang Lao (Elder Jones. Zhong is the closest Chinese word to Jones haha)
I received the following letter today in the mail. What a great and unexpected surprise! I'm just so happy he actually knows how to send a letter by mail. It was hand written on Friday, July 15th - Matthew's second full day at the MTC. (p.s. He says the food is like school lunch. He hasn't eaten school lunch in years. Adjustments all around!)
I’m alive! Thursday was one of the longest, hardest days of my entire life but it was so rewarding at the same time. On Wednesday, I got dropped off at my classroom and was immediately immersed into Chinese. Our teacher only speaks like 20 words in English the whole 3 hour lesson. It is so difficult but I can feel myself slowly starting to pick it up. The Gift of Tongues works in crazy ways that I don’t always understand, but it is amazing. . . . . My zone, district, and room are all amazing. I’m rooming with people who love sports which is definitely a tender mercy. When I walked in and saw my companion was Elder Griffin and my roommate was Elder Barker, I knew the Lord was lookin’ out for me. . . . . Thursday was rough. It was so long and hard. We learned more about how to meet the needs of our investigators. We practiced companionship teaching using an online course with a fake investigator. It was tough but I definitely felt the spirit working through me to meet the needs of the investigator. . . When we finally got to language class, an overwhelming feeling of peace came over me and I felt ready to learn. I am beginning to understand bits and pieces. Speaking is still insanely hard, but I am trying my best. . . . . The love and spirit that I feel here is incredible, it truly cannot be found anywhere in the world. The work is hastening on, I see examples of it all around me. . . . I am so excited to learn to preach the gospel to the people of Taiwan. This is an amazing opportunity I have and I love this gospel with all my heart. . . . I love you all so much and I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon every day. It is the best! Also, I said my first prayer in Chinese the other day! Please keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine. I love you.
Zhong Zhang Lao
I received this from Matthew at 9 pm last night. His companion is from Syracuse and is 6'4". I don't think they'll be hard to spot at the MTC!
Hey family! I'm alive and well haha the MTC has been crazy and today has been the craziest day ever. My companion is Elder Griffin and Elder Barker is in my room! I think my P day is Wednesday but I'm not completely sure to be honest haha but they said I'd be able to email you again next week. I love you all and I want you to know that there is nothing else I'd rather be doing. I love this gospel and it brings me more joy than I can even describe. Chinese is hard, but I know that with faith and hard work it will come. Love you.
Matthew is currently serving a 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This Blog is for family and friends interested in following his adventures for the next 24 months.