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)
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.