Thursday, August 15, 2013

John's 1st Email from the MTC

Hello family.  Now that it's past the first week, we're only supposed to use our P days to send emails or communicate with family and friends, and my P days are on Monday.  SO you should be able to expect emails every Monday afternoon unless something dreadful happens.  So far the MTC has been really great, but tough and not at all what I expected.  As I said in my earlier mail (sorry for the short length) we started teaching an investigator in Cantonese the 2nd day, which was pretty crazy.  It went a lot better than I expected though.  It is amazing how quickly we're all (my district of 5) learning the language.  From the first day, our teachers talked in only Cantonese (we have 2 teachers, Sister Cook and Sister Cheng.  Cook is a recently returned missionary going to BYU and we're her first district teaching, and Sister Cheng was born in Taiwan, grew up speaking Mandarin, then moved to America and converted, served mission to Hong Kong, and is now going to BYU learning physics.  They're both super cool.) so we've been playing a lot of charades.  But I can already give a simple and limited but surprisingly varied lesson in Cantonese. 
Oh, I think I forgot, but I'm in the MTC proper, not Tree water or whatever.  I thought it was like one big building, but it's much more segmented. I also thought we'd have less free time, but we have a lot of 'additional study time' which is kind of free.  I've been pushing my district pretty hard actually to make better use of it, because I feel like we waste it a lot.  I thought that wearing Sunday clothes would be really hard, but its actually really easy.  It's P day, so I'm in casual clothes, and it feels all awkward.  The only hard things are some of the weird MTC rules (no bags in the cafeteria, so you have to make a lot of trips to drop stuff off before eating, always be in Sunday dress in the main building, stuff like that) and being with a companion all the time.  Elder Ah Mu is a really cool guy.  He's a hard worker, and much more neat than me.  I like him, but sometimes we conflict, and even when we don't sometimes I just want to be able to move around without having to consider what the rest of my district wants/has to do (our district is so small that we all stick together, like a 5 man companionship).  That's been a bit tough, but I'm having fun.  I love the class time the most, honestly.  You know what you have to do and it's really helpful.  I honestly am not homesick at all.  I miss you guys, but not too much.  I do feel like I'm getting into the feel of the mission.
Mom, miss you.  Don't worry about me much.  The food here is really good, room is good, everything's been fine so far.  I really am enjoying myself.  I do laundry in a few hours, so wish me luck.  I would send photos, but I don't know if I'll be able to till I leave.  I'll try next P Day.  Don't be too sad about me.
Dad, MTC is really cool so far, but I do really feel like I wish I was out in the field already.  I'm starting to see what you mean about it being really cool.
David, you must play lots of Starcraft for me.  If you get good enough you can play on my ladder account ranked. But you probably won't.
Becca, contacts are really good.  It will be super frustrating at first, but stick with it.  In a month they'll be fine.  I love you, don't be too sad.
Abby, your letters are always funny.  Don't fight with Becca too much.  The MTC smells weird.
This section is for you guys, but make sure it gets passed on to Matthew and some of my other friends.  Sunday we had a devotional, and afterwards watched a recording of an Elder Bednar talk he gave at Christmas at the MTC some time ago.  Character of Christ.  If you can, look it up and watch it.  It was seriously life changing.  Without a doubt the best talk I've ever seen, period.  He spoke about how Christ turned out while the natural man turns in.  That was the culmination of a theme the teachers have been developing so far.  It's all about the investigator, not you.  It doesn't matter if you gave a good lesson, or if your Cantonese was good, if it didn't fulfill the needs of the investigator.  Our language teacher kept asking us (we eventually figured out) why when we said what we'd teach.  A desire to be a good missionary because you want success, or because you want to learn the language for yourself, is selfish.  The Christlike way of thinking is to focus entirely on what will help your investigator.  I always thought that, logically, going foreign speaking is no better than a stateside mission, but I didn't really feel that.  I'm still excited to go to Hong Kong, and I'm enjoying the MTC, but honestly I've come to feel that my not speaking Cantonese is a barrier preventing me form being an effective missionary.  It's something I need to learn not to know the language but to teach other people.  Matthew has a good opportunity to be a more effective teacher and help people more than I can, because he won't have a language barrier.  Make sure he sees that, because that is an idea I didn't understand at all before coming here.  The point of the MTC and the mission is to help others, not give you a cool growth experience or chance to experience another culture.  As a stateside missionary, Matthew is going to have an easier job making other people happy, and that's what matters.
Another cool thing that has occurred to me since I've been here is that in Sunday School and at church, we learn about the more complicated aspects of the gospel, while at the MTC we boil everything down to its absolute core, and in so doing, learn much more about basic doctrines.  I think it's really interesting.  One question for you guys for my next email;  was Jesus happy during his mortal ministry?
Love you all.  I won't be able to check email till Monday next week, but we get mail every day but Sunday, so Dear Elder away.  See you in 2 years.

P.S.  I asked for envelopes and stuff, but I bought like 100 that day even though I'll probably just be sending emails.  So don't worry about that.  I'll be using them as flashcards soon.  The store here has stamps, envelopes, books, clothes, detergent, etc.  The food here is great.  Mom remembers the meal we had when we came with Grandpa Carmack to the MTC.  It's not quite that good, but pretty close.  I'm limiting myself to what I can hold on one tray in one trip, because the first two days I stuffed myself.  Chocolate milk is pretty good.  I'll admit the journal mom got me has been good, and I have been using my quad instead of the other scriptures, but that's mostly because I'd have to bring the other scriptures in my bag and you can't take that into meetings, so they're pretty useless here. 
One problem I forgot to mention was that I'm exhausted.  We get up at 6:15 am so that we can beat the line to the showers, but even though I'm tired during the day, at night I just can't fall asleep till 11:30 or 12:00.  I'm being punished for my bad habits.  Send me lots of emails, because my companion has already literally gotten about 10 or 12 dear elder letters and an email too, no exaggeration.

P.P.S.  I keep forgetting stuff to say.  I need some oil for blessing in a container, it doesn't need to be consecrated, but they want us to have some on us at all times.  I can consecrate it here, but i don't have any container.
Also tell David THERE ARE NO R'S IN CANTONESE.  I realized that yesterday.  No r's at all.

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