Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mexico

Chad's Letter

Dear Family, 

I enjoy being here.  Mail takes one to two weeks to get here, and I check the post office regularly.

The MTC President, President Pratt is really nice.  He was born in Mexico, but he speaks English perfectly well.  He has a great sense of humor.  The Mexico City temple is beautiful.  It will be temporarily closed for cleaning, so today was my last time in a temple for a couple of years.  

One of the Elders from Mexico who was in our apartment building (He already left for his mission to a certain part of Mexico City) has an amazing conversion story.  He grew up in Provo, Utah as an illegal immigrant.  When he was 16 he ran a red light and the cop that pulled him over found out that he was an illegal immigrant.  He spent 3 months in jail before being deported to Mexico.  While in jail, he found out about the gospel.  he knew hardly any Spanish when he got dropped off in Mexico.  He met a family of members in Veracruz.  He lived with them for a little while after he got baptized.  To make a long story short, he is serving a mission because he went to jail.

3 nights ago, the wind blew the door open.  Then, in the form of dozens of  mosquitoes, a Red Cross Blood Drive Crew came into my room.  I woke up with a hundred and something mosquito bites.  They were mostly on my hands and arms, and haven't been itching too bad.  I think they are starting to go away.

The thing I like most here is teaching the investigators.  They are actually just my teachers, but it is still exciting.  One of my teachers, Brother Polo, has been learning English in his spare time for 8 weeks.  He had zero prior experience with English, yet he is very easy to understand.  I am confident   that if English can be learned that fast, Spanish can also, if not faster.

I love you all.
-Elder Withers

The Time is Flying By

Rebecca's Letter

Dear Family,
This week went by the fastest, it seems like I was just barely emailing, but this week was so good.  In our mailbox was a notice for our district saying we have been asked to be hosts for the new missionaries coming in on the 31st!  It should be really fun and I am so excited.

On Tuesday we went to choir again, and the director shared the coolest thing.  He gave us some numbers (you might have to check them) but he said roughly 100 billion people have lived on the Earth.  If you were to take that number and divide it by the number of missionaries currently serving, the ratio would roughly equal 1 in 100,000.  Meaning each missionary represents 100,000 other people.  When he said that, my stomach fluttered a little bit, and then I felt this overwhelming obligation to do my best for the other 100,000 people I theoretically represent.  Lots of responsibility, but I know I can do it.  For choir that day, we sang Mack Wilburg's arrangement of Praise to the Man.

This week I also learned how influential the Book of Mormon really is.  I believe that the Book of Mormon combined with the Holy Ghost is the most powerful tool or instrument the Lord has given us to convert, both others and ourselves.  Missionaries are on the front lines, taking plenty of metaphorical gunshot wounds for the church,  but no worldly weapon can win against the Book of Mormon and the Spirit. When joined together, they serve as the strongest sword against wickedness and simultaneously bring people to a true conversion.  I have learned the best way to slay Satan's influence in the world is with the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost, and kindness.  Nothing I ever say or teach will ever matter unless I teach with the Spirit and apply the Book of Mormon to investigators.

Every where else in Utah Pioneer Day brings BBQs, sharing pioneer stories, and bearing testimony of the gospel......at the MTC Pioneer day meant we sang all of the hymns about pioneers at least twice because there are only so many.....and also no mail.  Sad.  We didn't even have pioneer food that day.

There is an Elder in my district who is really good at singing.  He wrote a song about missionaries, and played it for us....and it is so good.  He said it is on YouTube.  His name is Tyler Barton and the song is called Through Me, maybe you can find it.  It was a cool song.

On Sunday we sang the primary song "We'll Bring the World His Truth"  and it was so amazing.  Having a room full of literally thousands of missionaries, learning who knows what language, preparing to cover the globe to spread the truth, and all gathered together to sing about it was incredible.

During the week my companion and I walk laps on our classroom floor, on floors beneath us, and around the MTC.  We review Spanish words, phrases, and grammar.  It's so nice to get up, moving, and some fresh air while still being productive.

I keep forgetting to tell you, I broke my shoes in when I first got here and they are the best purchase we made for my mission.  They are sort of manly, but they are so comfortable.  Also all of the skirts that I thought I hated, are the ones  I wear the most.

When my companion and I have gym we like to go to the bikes and look out the big windows.  The view is awesome.   You can see Utah Lake in the distance, the big Wasatch mountains, and the BYU campus with lots of trees scattered through it all.  It is so pretty.

I love you more than all of the Spanish words I have learned,
Hermana Withers








Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pictures

 Elder Withers with President & Sister Pratt (Mexico City MTC President)

Welcome to the Mexico MTC!

First day of the Provo MTC

Week 3 coming to a close

Chad's Letter
July 21, 2013

Dear Family, I am almost halfway through with the MTC; it is going by really fast.  Each week we get more teachers.  Most are American, some come from the old Mexcio City MTC.  That MTC had a teaching staff of 3, and some of the teachers used to teach school here.  

The food is slowly getting more American.  They offer cold cereal at every meal in addition to whatever else is served.  More Americans got here last night.  

We had an MTC devotional yesterday.  It was the first devo we have had in the auditorium, and our first devo that was not a re-broadcast of an MTC Provo devotional.  There was a member of the first quorum of the seventy who came and spoke.  

The Festival of Saints was a few nights ago, there were a lot of fireworks in the city.  It was like the 4th of July.  

The water here is unsafe to drink, so they give everyone a water bottle with a filter.  It was worrisome when I left my water bottle in the gym.  I prayed to find it, because it was not there when I went back to get it. My prayer was answered when Elder Smith in my district picked it up and gave it to me.  Prayer works.  

I am happy to be here.  I put a letter in the mail room today, so see how long it takes for Pachi to put that in the letter getter. 

With peace and happy gratitude,
Elder Withers


Rebecca's Letter
July 21, 2013

Hola!
This week has been crazy!  Last Sunday we had our first sisters meeting since our first Sunday here was a fast Sunday, and it was amazing.  We got to watch music and the spoken word ( and it was amazing to hear music because they don't allow us to listen to it except at church and devotionals).  Then we had a guest speaker, Carol Mikita, and her talk was so good.  Her message was about the importance of missionary work and that its okay to not always see the fruits of your labor, because it may not always be visible....but if a missionary is following all of the rules and working as hard as possible, then seeds are being planted.  It was a cool message.
On Monday we taught our first TRC lessons, which is when people from the community come volunteer at the MTC as investigators.  Our lessons are all in Spanish, and despite our broken Spanish the spirit was still very strong and it was amazing to know that the investigator got the message from the lesson.  I have learned that  if someone goes into something with the Spirit, and eager to learn, that they will get the message that they need to hear.  The message we had prepared wasn 't what she took away from the experience, but she was prepared and took with her what she needed to learn.  Cool.
Tuesday was like the best day ever.  My companion and I reached the conclusion that it would be infinitely better to join the choir than to try and study with distracting Elders...so we did!  We walked to the Marriott center with all of the other vocally inclined missionaries, and tried our best to make it look like we knew what we were doing and had sung the song before.  We had no idea, and accidentally placed ourselves in the first soprano section with all of the other girls who can sing high.  Whoops.  It turned out okay, and it turns out that half of the MTC is in the choir too, because its a fun hiccup in the sometimes monotonous schedule.  When we got there, the director and camera people told us to get our last drinks of water and whatever because this broadcast was special....they were going to  broadcast it to all of the other MTC's!  My heart skipped a beat, and I sort of said a prayer that my companion and I could be on the screen so Chad could see me.  The devotional was good, Elder Richard G. Hinckley spoke, and then our district met back up to discuss the meeting.  When we get in there..... the Elders told us that they saw us on the screen!!!  I was so thrilled.  I know Chad has been struggling to adjust, but if  Chad was paying attention he probably saw me.  Such a miracle, I didn't make it on that thing for nothing.  Thousands of missionaries are in that choir, the fact that I even agreed to sing in the first place is amazing, and I also was faking it until I could make it because our part was so dang high.  A miracle really. 
After the devotional, their was an MTC picture taken...with all of the MTC presidency and Elder Hinckley.  They said it was only the 3rd picture ever taken of an entire MTC group, so yay!
There are pictures on nearly every square inch of the walls here at the MTC, and on the bigger walls they have big beautiful paintings.  My two favorites, are the Standard of Truth painting with Joseph  Smith.  And my other favorite is the one we have in Boise, with the older brother helping his little brother cross the  River.  the MTC's copy is huge, and its  so fun to look at.
My companion and I have been called to be music coordinators here in our little branch at the MTC.  All it means is that we get to pick out the hymns and musical numbers on Sunday, but it is still fun to have a calling (:
To be honest, this has been a fairly uneventful week, just meals, classes, studying, and sleep.  Then repeat.  Ha last night, one of the districts in our zone sang Christmas songs because it was P-day eve because it apparently felt like Christmas Eve.  I have to agree though, P-day is one of the best days of the week.  The other best day is Sunday
  
Thanks for all of your love and support.  It means the world to me. 
I love you all more than the number times I have resorted to eating cereal for dinner (because everything else is highly suspect),
Hermana Withers. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July 13 Letters

Chad's Letter:
July 10, 2013

Oh Hi!  Yeah, I got your letter.  It was close catching that flight.  The gate was all boarded when we got to the there.  The plane sat for about 25 minutes though. 

The Mexico City MTC is awesome.  The group I was in is the first group of Americans to come here, 150 strong. 2 weeks ago, 100 Hispanics arrived, and left last Monday.  212 Americans came in last night.

My companion is Elder Hamilton, from Provo, Utah.  He could see the Provo MTC from his home, so he was really glad to come here. Elder Hamilton and I are the only two in our district who are not going back to the States.  He had a job doing laundry for the Provo MTC, so that is convenient.  I asked him what his hobbies were, and one of them was studying.  He was not kidding. He studies hard and sets the bar pretty high for our district.  He is going to Chile, Vina del Mar. 

The campus is 90 acres, it is the most spacious MTC.  The weather here is great, mid 70s most of the time.  It is really pretty here, with tall palm trees all over the campus.  The gardening here is extraordinary.  Outside our dormitory, there are some bushes pruned to look like a deer.  It even has antlers.  It does not rain too often, but when it does it really pours.  The food is great.  It is mostly Mexican food, with Costco pizza or hamburgers every few days.  There is a Kellogg breakfast cereal here that is chocolate frosted flakes with marshmallows.  It is interesting.

I am learning EspaƱol faster than I thought I would.  The enthusiasm for missionary work is incredible.  This is truly the work of the Lord.  Below is a letter I wrote while on the plane from Atlanta to Mexico City:

I left for my mission today.  I am on flight DL345 from Atlanta, GA to Mexico City.  There is a group of about 22 missionaries I met up with in SLC, all headed to the Mexico MTC.  A few seconds ago, the plane left the skies of America, and headed out over the Gulf of Mexico.  While waiting for takeoff, I was able to have a really good discussion about the church with the teenager sitting next to me.   We started off with talking about where we were from, our hometown weather, sports, and high school, and so on.  He asked me why I was going to Mexico and I told him that I was going to a missionary training center in Mexico City.  He asked me some questions about what an MTC is, and I answered them as best I could.  I then briefly explained my purpose as a missionary, saying it was to bring people to Christ.  Then, I asked him what he knew about Mormons.  He said he did not know anything about them, so I taught him about the restoration of the true church and the Book of Mormon, comparing it to the Bible he knew as a Catholic.  I handed him a pass along card, explained mormon.org and how he could get more information.  He seemed really happy about it all.  The most amazing thing, I did not realize it until we were done talking, is that the words were put in my mouth in the very moment I needed to say them.  It was a great testimony building experience.  I hope you are all doing well.

Love,
Elder Withers



Rebecca's Letter
July 13, 2013

Hola!  This week has been amazing.  I have learned how to say a prayer, bear my testimony, and teach a lesson on the Restoration, Plan of Salvation, and Life of Jesus Christ without notes.  The gift of tongues is definitely real, and I am learning so much.  If you asked me for directions or how to order something on a menu, or any other life skill in Spanish....I could carry on in Spanglish, but not Spanish quite yet.  It´s coming, but at least I can bear my testimony!

My first Sunday here was cool.  It was fast Sunday, which means missionaries go without food for 24 hours, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.  We had an MTC fireside, and listened to some amazing talks.  I just sat like a sponge trying to absorb it and write it all down.  Then we went to sacrament meeting, and the MTC president was there!

I am staying at the "real" MTC.  There are about 4500 missionaries here, and roughly 1000 at the West Campus MTC.  We actually never interact.  They operate as 2 separate MTC's for class, sleep, and food.  The only time we are in the same place is for Tuesday night devotionals. 

My district has a total of 10 missionaries.  6 of us are going to Rosario, and the other 4 are scattered.  I'm glad I'm in a district with a majority.  We all get along and are very good friends.  Someone has already started to plan a reunion barbecue actually! (:

You might be amused to know that out of the 6 elders in my district, 5 of them can't roll their "R's"....I still can't believe it.  5?!?  What is this world coming to?  Teachers here have said that it helps to put a pen on the top of your lip and make a kissing face so the pen doesn't fall and to teach your tongue to roll....but I have never tried it.   Who knows.

On Wednesday I watched all of the new missionaries come in and it was crazy.  They get them in here so fast, and rumor has it that last Wednesday was the peak number of missionaries for the summer.  Is that true?

And crazy news.  Two hermanas in my zone left for Argentina last week.  They went directly to Argentina without a reassignment.  I have learned that if your visa status says it will take more than a month, then they reassign you.  If it says it will come in a week or two, then you extended to stay at the MTC.  And a rare few get their visa right on time.  I didn't even know that happened, but I'm glad to know its possible.  If I stay on schedule I could be out of the MTC in a month....say what??

There are a lot more elders here than sisters, and it has everything to do with the age change.  The MTC saw a surge in sister missionaries almost immediately, and now the surge in Elders is coming as high school graduations have come and gone.  There are so many missionaries here you would flip.  There are lines to almost everything, but somehow the MTC keeps up with everything.  One thing I have learned here is that the church knows how to be organized.  This place runs like a machine!

Every day before lunch our zone sings a hymn in Spanish, which is really cool.  There are only 4 hermanas (the ones in my district) and everyone else (about 30) are elders.  Its cool to hear songs like "Called to Serve" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (our favorites!) in Spanish.  It also helps with learning Spanish.  My companion and I also read a chapter in The Book of Mormon every day in Spanish, its long and arduous but the book is starting to make more sense in Spanish.  Which is amazing!

The MTC food had been good.  It keeps me nourished, and that's all I care about.  The fruit here is guaranteed to be amazing (pineapple every meal!) and they pull strawberries out every once in a while.  And if any dinner turns out to be gross, makes you feel sick....they have the best cereal bar in the world.  So cereal is always the backup plan, and I'm staying healthy!  I haven't gained or lost any weight so I will just keep trying to eat good. 

In the morning, one of our teachers takes us on a walk around the MTC every 2 hours to stretch our legs and to take a break.  While walking we all take our little notebooks, and we write down vocab words that we see around us in Spanish.  Ha we look like we are all on a nature hike and trying to learn tree species or something...but we are really just trying to learn Spanish.  Its way fun to go outside though, and one of the days it was raining so we got to walk in the rain and it smelled amazing! 

The view of our classroom window is so great.  It is on the 4th floor, so its high up.  We can see the mountains, lots of trees, and through it all the Provo temple steeple peeps out and you can see angel Moroni and the temple.  It's perfect! 

I love you all more than the number of letters that come and go through the MTC,

Con amor,
Hermana Withers


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Letters

July 3, 2013

Dear Family,
The flight to Salt Lake was fast, the flight to Atlanta was a good tour of the country, and the flight to Mexico I and 5 others almost missed.   In Salt Lake, I met up with about 20 missionaries, but 6 of us got separated from the main group in the Atlanta airport.  Whoops.  I made it here safe and sound.  Customs was a lot easier than what I expected.  The MTC is ALL Spanish.  I have been told to have a talk ready every sunday, in Spanish.  They pick at random who has to give a talk.  It is a very big campus, with a big tall wall, with barbed wire on top.  I am assuming this is a dangerous city, hence the MTC guard station.  The fligh into Mexico City was cool.  It is a huge city, I couldnt see the end of it from out of an airplane.  The apartments are nice.  On the bus ride from the airport to the MTC they served empanadas. I hope the rest of the food is that good.  I am having a great time here in Mexico. 
 -Elder Withers 


Jluy 6, 2013

Dear Family, 
I arrived at the MTC safe and sound.  My plane landed around 7:30, and at the SLC airpot I met up with two others Elders from Boise also going to the MTC.  One of them is also going to Argentina Rosario, which is awesome.  The shuttle picked us up, drove us to the MTC, and then tons of nice volunteers and people snatched us up and took us all over campus.  I now have an official tag in Spanish with my name on it....right next to the Savior's.  The first day was crazy.  I met my district, and we are all just best friends now.  I went to lots of classes and firesides, and got to experience the MTC food.....which isn't bad.  It isn't world class, but if you stay away from the chunks of meat and the questionable beans, it's just fine.
 
When I entered the MTC I was told that a total of 841 missionaries, including me, entered that day.   The record for the Provo MTC is over 900.  But before the age change, people said that an average Wednesday saw roughly 350-400 missionaries....which seems so few now!  The work is definitely moving in a forward direction.  The one thing that seems to be slowing the work in Argentina is the consulate.  Argentina has one guy who does all of the interviews for visas.  He has been on vacation for a month now and no one knows when he is suppose to get back.  Everyone says he is coming back soon, but its all uncertain.  Praying that he hurries.  Yesterday my companion and I watched a district open up their reassignment calls...crazy to think I might be there soon. 
 
So my companion is Hermana Haynes, the same girl I had met through Facebook from Rupert Idaho.  She is so awesome and I am so glad we are companions.  We have so much fun.  We sleep in the newest, nicest, biggest, and most air conditioned building.  I am so grateful.  My host just kept telling me how lucky I was, and I didn't really know why until I saw the other buildings.  Such a blessing.  There are six Hermanas in my room, which equals 18 pieces of luggage, but the obstacle course is a fun adventure in the morning. 
 
So my district is great.  There are 10 missionaries total, and 6 of us are going to Rosario.  My companion and I, as well as 4 elders.  The other 4 missionaries are going to Oregon, LA, Paraguay, and Chile. 
 
On the 4th of July we went to classes and seminars as usual, but then in the evening their was an MTC fireside.  We sang patriotic hymns for about half an hour and then watched 17 miracles.  After the movie, we went outside to watch the Stadium of Fire fireworks (which were awesome) and we were handed a magnum ice cream bar.  It was such a cool day.  Also for dinner they served us turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pumpkin pie.........little confused but at least they attempted to celebrate a holiday right?
 
So my P-days will be on Saturday, and I will get to email either in the morning or early afternoon.  The Provo Temple closed July 1st for its yearly deep cleaning and isn't opening again until August 12....I pretty much missed it but if I stay another week while waiting for a reassignment I might get to go at least once.  So because there is no temple time, it just turns into more personal time. 
 
Yesterday we taught our first investigator (Luis) in all Spanish.   He is actually our teacher, but we also get experience teaching him first.  He doesn't break character and the Spanish language barrier is sometimes frustrating, but we are learning and doing the best we can.  I have already learned more Spanish than I have ever known.  Actually in the first class, our teacher covered all of high school Spanish in about an hour. 
 
Our zone has a retirement home schedule and we eat dinner at 4:10  SO EARLY.  We try to eat a little extra then so that by 9:00 we aren't famished. 
 
Sorry I wasn't able to get you a letter when I got here....I knew the Minnesota PO Box, but I couldn't for the life of me remember the zip code.  There was no mail on Wednesday because our district hadn't received the padlock code to get the mail yet, and then it was the 4th of the July and all of the mail people were off celebrating America, and so I didn't get anything until Thursday.  Ha all of the Elders were wagering fruit snacks, mints, and whatever to see who had the first letter.  We couldn't get our mail but we could see one in there on the first day.  I saw that my first letter was post marked for June 24th.....so I WON.   I didn't take any of their junk, but I am maintaining bragging rights.  Thanks for the letter and the package.  They are awesome, and now I have the address's.  You can also use dearelder.com.  Our district is allowed to pick up the mail at 11:10 and 4:10 (lunch and dinner) so if you get a letter sent before then I should get it.
 
I love the MTC.  Everyone told me it would be hard....but its a different kind of hard.  Its a satisfying, intellectually challenging, and most spiritually strengthening kind of hard that makes this place awesome.  I hope all is well with everyone and that you had fun at reunion. 
 
Thanks for all of your love and support.  I love you all more than the number of meals served here at the MTC. 
 
Amor,
Hermana Withers