I can’t believe it’s already been almost 2 weeks since I got here. It’s amazing, this week went by so fast and so many wonderful things have happened. So first off, last Sunday after only having been here for 4.5 days, our Branch President, President Nielson, called Sister Russell (my companion) and I to be the new Sister Training Leaders of our zone. Our zone is made up of all the Portuguese speaking missions/districts including the Brazil and Portugal bound sisters. There’s probably 20-30 ish. We were very surprised because well, we were still struggling to find the cafeteria in the morning. Whenever the Sister Training Leader’s time is up here after the six weeks, they call newbies who will be sticking around for a while. Sister Tillman and Sister Christiansen were the STLs before us and they were the ones that came by our rooms every night to see how we were doing and guide us along. We felt like they had the answers to the universe. Sister Tillman just left last Saturday for her reassignment to Scottsdale, Arizona and sister Christiansen is leaving early tomorrow morning for her reassignment to San Jose, CA. Oh, I forgot to tell you guys in my last e-mail that September 2nd is my approximated last day here if my visa doesn’t come by then. If it doesn’t come by September 2nd, then I will receive a reassignment, which is basically a temporary new mission call. It can be anywhere in the U.S. We have heard of elders and sisters going to cali, wisconsin, pennsylvania, arizona, louisiana etc. So anyway, SIster Russell and I shadowed Sisters Tillman and Christiansen this week to see how they do things. One of our responsibilities is to hold an orientation for the new districts in our zones that come every Wednesday. This includes a tour of the campus, so….wish us luck 🙂 Another one of our responsibilities is to go to each of the sisters rooms at night to see how everything is going and especially check on the newest sisters. 5 new sisters came this past week and their Portuguese is coming along well. We love them so much and are trying to make them feel at home here. There is one sister who we think is having a rougher time because she is part of a trio and might not feel totally included. She asked us if we had ever seen anyone brake down. Ruh-roh. Sis Russell and I came by their room and shared a scripture with them,I think it’s in John, it’s that one that starts with Peace be Unto You…I should probably know the reference but I don’t 🙂 But anyway the sisters really appreciated it and Sis Russell and I are praying to know how we can help them. Visting with 20 something Sisters takes a while and so we haven’t been making it back to our room by lights out time…we are trying. Sister Russell and I went to 5 leadership meetings this past Sunday to prepare for our new calling and so we hope we will be able to serve and support these sisters with lots of love.
Oh my gosh, so coolest story of the week…so I told you guys how our first “fake” investigator we were teaching was named Rajen. And we knew that he wasn’t a legit investigator, probably just an RM that worked at the MTC for these training experiences. So we taught him for about a week. I mentioned how he was brought up Hindu and didn’t really believe in a God…I felt really frustrated at the beginning because I just didn’t know how to help someone believe in God. It kind of seemed like an impossible task. Ya, we could bear our testimonies and tell him that God was our Father Heaven but we just really didn’t know how to help him believe. So our first breakthrough lesson was about the importance of prayer and the Book of Mormon. By teaching him about these things, we were able to help him KNOW HOW to know God. Our subsequent lessons were about the Plan of Salvation, eternal families and the importance of baptism. So on our second to last lesson we invited Rajen to be baptised and he accepted! We couldn’t believe it. He was never super responsive and didn’t really share a lot so it was hard to guage what he was really feeling and experiencing. Through the whole process we prayed really hard to be able to have the Spirit with us to know how to best meet Rajen’s needs. I personally didn’t think he was ready for baptism because he was never really exhuberant about anything we said. But then I realized that it wasn’t about me, or how I felt he was doing. Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost work in mysterious ways. It isn’t up to me to determine how someone is progressing. The holy Ghost can touch people’s hearts and minds with the smallest whispers and Rajen must’ve experienced that. But him agreeing to baptism wasn’t even the best part of this whole story. So the guy who was pretending to be Rajen, his name is Brother Buttars and he got off his mission 9 months ago and now works at the MTC. Usually when they create this persona (like Rajen) for the teaching experiences, it’s based on someone they taught on their mission. However, with our district, Rajen is Brother Buttars’s current roomate who is not a member, who is legitimately an invsetigator. So Brother Buttars was teaching Rajen the gospel while we were teaching “Rajen” the gospel. The timing I guess just worked out perfectly. So last Friday, Brother Buttars who we had only known as Rajen for the past week (and who we had only ever talked to before in Portuguese) came into our class and told us this story…that Rajen was a real person, that he had been learning about the gospel, that Brother Buttars had used scriptures and parts of our lessons to teach the real Rajen…that Rajen was getting baptised in ONE HOUR. WE WERE SOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!! We really came to love Rajen and wanted to help him and we thought it was so wonderful that we could take part in bringing this man to Christ, in teaching him about God’s resstored truth and that God had a plan for him. Brother Buttars left to go to the baptism and when he came back, showed us a picture of him and Rajen at the baptism. What a miraculous day.
Yesterday we met our newest investigators (we are now teaching 2 at a time- one every other day ish). Irmao (Brother) Nothum (our daily teacher) was our first investigator of the day and we were only able to share a message at his door. He seemed really preoccupied and said he didn’t have much time and he told us that he works at a restaurant and goes to school for computer engineering. So we shared Moses 1:39 with him and bore our testimonies and set up another time to come back. The best part of this visit was that we forgot to ask him his name and forgot to tell him ours…AWESOME. But we did tell him that we were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…thank goodness. Our next new investigator of the week went amazing!!!!! Her name is Edinaya and it was so easy to talk to her. I really enjoyed our lesson. She let us come in and we talked her family and her job. She recently got into a car accident and had alot of surgeries because she broke her femur and was staying at home alot. She said that she used to go out a lot and drink and smoke with her friends but now that she was staying at home, she was thinking a lot. She wondered about God and if there was a plan for her….UM YEEEEHAAAAWWW!!!! It was like she handed her needs and desires over to us on a silver platter. Knowing the investigator’s heart and needs is one of the harder parts if they are not too open but thank goodness she liked to share. We really enjoyed talking with her and were able to share a message about the Plan of Salvation and the fact that God had a plan for her to have meaning in this life and the life to come. I shared with her the message that through the Atonement, that she could be perfected through Christ in the afterlife. This really touched her because of her leg. We really felt the presence of the Spirit and can’t wait to teach her again.
Brother Notham kind of looks like a cousin or brother of Joseph Gordon Levvitt and so his nickname is Robin (i hope you saw the latest batman movie). And he and Brother Buttars and really good friends and work together a lot so Brother Buttars has been nicknamed Batman. And so when Brother Buttars came in for our lesson as one of our teachers, we notice that he was wearing Batman socks…awesome.
We do service every week, usually cleaning buildings. So Sister Russell and I cleaned the water fountains in our buildings. We have so much fun together!!! When we are not being super spiritual and speaking Portuguese, we are talking in weird voices and quoting Parks and Rec and Kid History. I love her to death!!!! While we were cleaning, we sung to keep our selves occupied. Enya, U2, and Mulan made it’s way into the playlist 🙂
So I’ve had a wee bit of a cold the past couple days. DAD I PROMISE I TOOK ZICAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve had a fever the past 2 days and a sister in the bathroom told me I sound like a chain smoker but all is well. Thank goodness it’s P day because I got to sleep in and my sisters brought me breakfast and we ate on the floor in our PJs. I love Sister Russell and the 2 other sisters in our district, Sister Daniels and Sister Nielson. We get along really well, probably too well because he have girl chats all the time… we are working on being spiritual giants 24/7.
I don’t know if you know who Jenny Oaks Baker is, I didn’t know before Sunday. She is the daughter of Elder Oaks and is a fantastic violinist who received her Masters at Jiulliard/ She came and spoke to us for our Sunday night devotional. She talked about using our spiritual talents to share the gospel. She playd several songs on the violin throughout her talk. SHE WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!! My favorites were Amazing Grace and Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. Morgy, you should look her up and listen to her play, it was beautiful!!!!!
So every Tuesday we get to watch the Tuesday MTC devotional and go to the Marriott Center. Our whole district joined the MTC choir and so for the devotional we sang I Know That My Redeemer Lives (i think, it’s been a whole week and my memory is getting rusty). It was an amazing devotional. I wish I just scan my whole notes journal to you because there was so much that touched my heart. One thing that really struck me was a clip of a talk by Elder Holland. Here is the quote: “Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. It was never easy for Christ. WE NEED TO KNOW SOMETHING OF THE PRICE THAT HAS BEEN PAID.” wow. Something that I realized or felt during the devotional was that I don’t think I ever truly understood the importance of this mission, or understood how truly influential all the things that prepared me to be here really were. I knew automatically when the announcement came out that I wanted to go but I don’t think I ever quite understood completely why…until I got here. These might just seem like words but family, I FEEL it, I feel the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I feel the urgency to spread God’s truth to all the world. We are literally battling for the human soul. I always wanted to go on some grand, heroic, magnificent Indiana Jones, Rescuers Down Under kind of adventure and do something hard and important. This is it.
On Sunday night, we watched the Joseph Smith movie, WHICH I LOVE. It was so adorable because since we are all so affection starved here at the MTC, when it came to the part where Joseph and Emma are courting and they kiss under the bridge, everybody just started whoopin and hollerin and clapping. It was awesome. I’ve seen that movie many many times and I know the story of the restoration pretty well. But that night when I watched it again, I felt it again. I felt the Holy Ghost testify to me of the truth, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, that he brought the Book of Mormon to the world so they could have God’s written word, that this gospel is the way, the truth, and the light. Throughout the whole thing, the Holy Ghost touched my heart in little ways, ways that nobody else would probably truly appreciate or understand, but I knew the Holy Ghost was speaking to me. They were little whispers, connections in my mind and things that just clicked. Never in my life have I felt the Holy Ghost so strongly and so often. It’s incredible. I wish you could be here to feel this. And it wasn’t just because I watched an engaging movie, I know what I felt. And at the end when they showed the sequence of Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail, I cried, I remembered being there just a couple summers ago for my Nauvoo EFY. We visited Carthage Jail and went through the original door with the bullet hole that shot Hyrum. I stood in the room where Joseph Smith, a prophet of God was taken from this life. I wrote in my journal that night of my testimony. I know that God lives and that through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon we can know the truth. I know that through God and through Christ’s Atonement, we can have everlasting life and joy beyond our imagination. I know these things, I hope I die before I ever forget them.
Thank you so much for all the DearElders. THEY MAKE MY DAY AND I LOVE THEM SOOOOO MUCH!!!! Thank you for all the pictures and little details about your days, really it means the world to me. Lissy and Jenny, I hope you got my letters or will get them soon. I really only have time to write letters on P-days so i’ve trying to keep up with all of you. Morgy and Mommy, thanks so much for all of your updates, I LOVE THEM. i’m going to respond to them all today in letters because my time is up on the computer.
I love you all sooooooooo much and I wish I could talk to you and squeeze you.
The Portuguese is coming along amazing and I’m loving every day of learning. In my next letter I will write a bit to you in Portuguese 🙂
Love, Sister Mariah Jackson