August 31, 2016
Hello all and Merry Christmas!!! (even though we celebrated it 6 days ago!)
Today marks the beginning of our last full week here at the MTC. Next Wednesday will be our last pday, and then after that we have in-field orientation for Taiwan, some culture classes, and a whole lot of packing to do! In exactly two weeks from this moment, I will be asleep in Taiwan. AND WHATS EVEN MORE EXCITING (okay maybe not more exciting than being in Taiwan but it happens before that so relatively more exciting), WE GET OUR TRAVEL PLANS FRIDAY!!
Anyways, lets talk Christmas.
It was an absolute success. I am 200% certain we had the best Christmas celebration the MTC has ever seen, including every single December 25th. In order to give this story justice, I will start from the very beginning, trying not to spare a single detail. You’re welcome. 😉
On Christmas Eve, after nearly a week of building during my free time, I finished the construction of the Christmas tree. It stood about 4 feet tall and 4 inches. It had 9 branches, a 4-part base, a trunk, and a white star. Each branch was made of a folded piece of cardboard with “pine needles” cut out of it and was connected to the trunk via small slits into which I could slide the branches. I of course reinforced everything with liberal doses of packing tape for good measure. I was so proud. However, it badly needed to be decorated. So I went to work. Luckily my jolly good district mates had mothers who were wiling to send us Christmas decorations. All in all, we had at our disposal, 6 strands of tinsel (3 silver and 3 red), 18 tiny ornaments (6 of which were soccer balls), 8 larger letter ornaments (each one being the first letter of our last names in our district), about a dozen snowflakes, some random ribbon, 10 tiny stockings, a Christmas elf, a strand of 100 golden Christmas lights, quite a bit of wrapping paper, and a full Santa Claus costume with beard and all. After decorating, we all went to sleep, eager to awake on Christmas morn.
The next morning a few of us, including Santa Claus and some of his elves, woke up early so we could jump on the beds of the rest of the zone! We didn’t actually end up jumping on their beds, but we did walk in and sing Christmas songs to wake everyone up. After some pictures with Santa Claus by the Christmas tree, as a zone we walked to breakfast. This is when the first Christmas miracle occurred: the breakfast line was so short we didn’t have to wait at all!!! That never happens. Especially since we went later than we usually do because we were taking pictures with Santa! We all got some wonderful looks from other missionaries who were wondering why there was a Santa Claus and a herd of people wearing elf and reindeer hats following him.
Later that day, right before our class started, we had to move all of our Christmas stuff to the classroom in order to continue the Christmas festivities. So that gave us another wonderful opportunity to showcase our Christmas spirit in front of all those who weren’t celebrating Christmas that day, which happened to be about 2500 people or so. Since I built the Christmas tree, I didn’t let anyone else touch it and I moved it across campus to the classroom. More than a few missionaries asked why on earth we had a Christmas tree. The rest of the elders helped carry the 50ish presents we had, and various other decorations. Once at the classroom we set up the tree and all of the presents outside in the hallway, for all to see! I spent a good 45 minutes or so organizing all the secret Santa gifts by district, and then in a way that it was the most visually appealing. Because of course, that was an important and valuable use of my time. At some point during study time Santa Claus showed up again and there was a literal line of people waiting to take pictures with him. It was wonderful. There was even one of the building custodial workers that came and took a picture with him and I’m pretty sure it ended up on his Snapchat story. At some point, one of the staff walked by and practically shrieked when she saw the tree. She was really confused as to why there was a tree, but once I explained she told me that in the 20 years of her working here at the MTC she hadn’t seen anything like it. #bestMTCChristmasever
Dinner was After dinner, we went caroling. I’ve mentioned in the past that Elder Van Slooten is a wicked violin player, so he went and checked out a violin. Everyone in our zone at this point was wearing sweaters, and we even managed to get a hold of some scarves. As we all went to check our mail we sang. Since our class building is on the opposite side of the mail building, we were able to sing a few songs and lift the spirits of all who who heard. Some people joined in, some just look bewildered, others laughed, and a few actually mocked us. But that’s okay we were having the time of our lives.
After our evening class, at the end of the day, we opening presents. Santa Claus graced us with his presence yet again and he handed out the presents to the entire zone. We all went outside and opened them and ate sugar cookies and Christmas cupcakes and sang even more carols. People who weren’t in our zone even came up to Santa to snag a picture, even some of the MTC teachers!
So yeah, Christmas was great. Our zone became even more notorious than it already was. The next day at service, one of the service staff had heard about us and our festivities. We still have the Christmas tree. It now sits in our bedroom in the corner. Every once in a while I’ll plug in the lights and bask in its glory.
The rest of the week was not nearly as eventful or memorable as Christmas. We did however end up moving classrooms and joining districts with another district in our zone! We call our new room the penthouse because it’s on the 5th floor of one of the building and we now have a white board, rolly chairs that recline, rolly desks, and a ton of space! But we’re also separated from the rest of the zone. They had to join our classes because of the shortage of teachers. BYU just started class on Monday so most teachers are taking less shifts.
I would like to talk a bit about last night’s devotional though. Our speaker was Elder Maynes and he told some pretty amazing stories. One of the subjects he touched on was the worth of souls. He said that we as missionaries need to remember that all people are children of God and are of immeasurable worth to Him. That applies to every single person we will meet, on the street, at the park, while biking, whether they be rich or poor, young or old, its all the same. Every person we know, whether they’re our friend, acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, boss, or whether they oppose us, bully us, or even threaten us, they are all beloved children of God. I’m going to do my best to remember that simple truth every time I step outside my apartment in Taiwan to find people to teach. I challenge you all as well to try to remember that simple truth. Imagine how much better this world would be if we loved others even a tenth of how much God loves them. Imagine the compassion, forgiveness, service, and acts of charity that would exist because of that love. God loves his children so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on the cross so that we all would have the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and return to live with our Father in heaven. Not a single person is beyond or outside the infinite reach of God’s love. No matter what our circumstance, no matter what our past is, no matter what we have done, the hand of Christ will always be stretched out for us to grab hold of. After the devotional Elder Glen, one of the elders in my zone, said something I’ll never forget. It went something like this. People often comment how missionaries and other representatives and servants of Christ have this light in their eyes. What if that light was just our eyes reflecting the light we see in others? Every single person has the light of Christ in them. As sons and daughters of God we all have immense potential, if we come unto Christ. The worth of all our souls is so great. The worth of a single soul is great in the eyes of God. If we saw God’s children as God sees them, imagine what this world would be like.
P.S. I was Santa Claus 🙂
Check out my blog for the pics.