Week 4 (Halfway there)

Nimen Hao wo de pengyou! (Hello my friends)

This week I will hit my half-way point at the MTC, which is pretty crazy.  And in 4 weeks, I’ve only gained 5 pounds.  That is an accomplishment if I do say so myself.  I’ve heard of elders who in 3 weeks have gained over 25 pounds.  That’s just insane.
Not too much has happened in the last week.  We did find a tree that smells like cream soda though.  Looking out the window in our classroom we could see people always sniffing this tree so we finally decided to go check it out for ourselves.  Smelled really good actually.  The MTC has some weird stuff.
I received UNO in the mail this week (thank you Mom)!  The night I got it we had a game night in the residency.  I don’t remember how it started but we were all talking in southern accents and so it became a rule that you had to speak with one if you wanted to play.  From my completely unbiased opinion, I had the best accent, but I also didn’t win a single game.
Last Wednesday we got a bunch of new Chinese speaking elders and sisters in our zone!  There’s an elder who played soccer at the Air Force Academy, an elder who already has a master’s degree from Columbia (he’s french too), and there’s an elder who will be playing football at Stanford.  No big deal right?  There was an elder who served in the Army as a Chinese interpreter but he knew so much Chinese they moved him out of our zone into the international one.
Oh yeah, this last Friday I did 100 burpees (the ones with a pushup at the bottom)!  I felt like I was going to die.  I decided to work out with an elder who has a track scholarship at Utah State.  He can run a mile in like 4 min and 20 sec.  He ended up doing about 230 burpees.  Then we went and played kickball, which was far more pleasant.
This Saturday we had another TRC session.  That morning we had a substitute teacher who didn’t realize we hadn’t prepared any lessons until 8 minutes before we went over to teach them.  So we all prepared two 20 minutes lessons about receiving answers to prayers in less than 10 minutes, all in Chinese.  They actually turned out to be fantastic!   The first person we taught was from Hong Kong.  She teaches Chinese at Timpview High School here in Provo.  That lesson was really funny because I used a word that means to live in Chinese and she corrected me in English.  Turns out the word I used meant more along the lines of to exist as a living thing, not to live at a place, which was how I was trying to use it.  During her lesson we challenged her to make some of her prayers completely gratitude prayers, meaning that for an entire prayer we only thank God for the blessings he has given us, the experiences we’ve had, the people in our lives, etc. instead of asking for him to help us with all of our problems and give us blessings.  We taught her that if we do this, we are showing God that we recognize His influence in our lives.  I shared that personally, when I give prayers like this, I come to appreciate the little things in my life that my Heavenly Father has blessed me with and also come to greater appreciate the impact other people have made on my life.
The second person we taught was actually a student from BYU.  For that lesson we focused more on that fact that we need to put forth work in order to receive answers to our prayers.  My companion was able to share a personal experience he had from high school about whether or not he should continue to play basketball and the process he went through in order to obtain an answer through prayer.  I was able to share how I had a similar experience when I was trying to figure out if I was going to leave high school early to head to college.  We taught that we shouldn’t just go to our Father in prayer and ask him to give us an answer to our questions.  God wants us to use our agency and decide for ourselves and He will be there to guide and direct us through His Spirit.  In my experience, if I go to the Lord in prayer with a concern or question (like whether or not I should attend college early) and also have a plan prepared, I’m far more likely to receive an answer, because I’ve put forth work.  Often times if we present our thoughts and ideas to the Lord and we receive peace and comfort in return, those feelings are God’s way of telling us that we already know what we need to do.  If instead we were to feel discomfort, stress, or concern, even after praying with a plan, that’s the Holy Ghost telling us we shouldn’t proceed with our plan.  From there comes more work and more prayer to ask God for his help.  My companion and I were extremely proud of ourselves after that lesson, because we were able to teach all of that in Chinese, and tell our own stories, with only a few minutes of preparation.  I know without a doubt we both had God’s help when teaching those people.  There’s no way we did that on our own.
Then there’s Sunday.  Since I’ve already written a ton I’ll try to keep the rest short.  So I’m the new District Leader!  Basically that means for the next 3 weeks I get lead all of my District’s discussions, I get to interview them on behalf of the Branch President, and I have an extra obligation of keeping our District focused on our purpose here at the MTC.  It’s basically an administrative role, so I have a few more responsibilities now.
The best part of Sunday though was that I got to teach a lesson on Baptism and the Holy Ghost in our District meeting.  When we are baptized we covenant with God to be willing to take the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, upon us.  I focused my lesson on what that means.  In preparing for my lesson I came across a few thing that I had never heard before.  I learned that the commandment to not take the name of God in vain is directly related to the baptismal covenant.  To explain it simply, when we sin after being baptized, we have taken the name of Jesus Christ in vain.  Because we all sin and will all break that commandment, God gives us two things: 1) the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, who will help us keep God’s commandments if we listen to it, and 2) Jesus Christ’s Atonement, which allows us to continually repent, receive Christ’s forgiveness, and eventually return to our Father in Heaven.  I honestly wish I had time to write more about my lesson but I’m running out of time.  I love teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and giving lessons, because each time I do so my own testimony of the gospel increases and I learn so much about things I often think I already know everything about.
On Tuesday an Apostle came for our MTC devotional.  Good old Elder Anderson spoke.  It was pretty neat.  He taught us how learning to be a missionary is not complex, but it is difficult.  Our missionary work is difficult for many reasons, but one I would like to touch on is this: God gives us difficultly because it humbles us.  God knows that when His children are humbled, they turn to Him for help and guidance and accept His gospel.  That principle applies to everyone’s lives.  I’m grateful that missionary work is difficult, because I know I need to be humbled.
Like always, I’m loving life, learning a TON, and having a blast.  Please send me emails/letters because I love hearing from all you wonderful people.  I can’t get on Facebook so unless you tell me whats happening in your lives, I won’t know about it for 2 years.  Love you all!!
-Elder Councill