Of Men and Mais. . . Why yes, I did think of that title, like all week. And I'm really pretty proud of it. I should probably read that book someday if I use it as my joke......... Well, that'll come later. But you know, back to matters of eternal salvation.
Hello Family :) I still don't know which addresses to send things to Email wise. Send me Ashley and Justin's and Chris's Emails so I can get them in on this whole me writing letters deal. So yeah, I'm alive. Or I'm "athrive." Yeah, cut me some slack; my English abilities and my ability to pun are slowly dying in the Portuguese hole I am attempting to dig for them. Tudo bem!
I'm not exactly sure what all you want to know. I picture Mom yelling incomprehensible syllables that likely mean something in Portuguese at the screen because she has so many questions, but really I now feel Justin's pain from his mission. If you have questions, send them in an Email to me the night before and I will work through them. It's impossible to keep them all straight otherwise. I mean of course there's a lot to tell but the thing is there is so much to tell that there is no way to tell it in any form that would be comprehensible or effective or really do it justice.
The MTC is awesome. Yeah, it has its down moments but it's a great place. I have fantastic teacher and I'm trying my hardest to learn Portuguese with the constraints that I have. You know, time, ability, sanity, all of that. I'm trying to get more away from English but it is nigh unto impossible, for I and my wayfaring soul are addicted to the grammatical and structural mess that is our language. That is one thing trying to learn another language has taught me: that English is a mess. A glorious, disgusting, fantastic pile of wrongness and disorder that makes it so quirky and endearing. But enough about my soliloquy in favor of the melting pot mess that is English and on to the important things.
The language is crawling along at the speed of smell. Which isn't to say it's not coming so much as it is to say that I lack the patience to suck at something so very badly. Yes, I'm just starting to learn but I expect more of myself than I have, up to this point, been able to meet. Minhas expetativas sao muitos altos e minha habilidade esta muito pequeno. E triste mas estou aprendendo. So yeah, I'm trying. Progressing as best I can. And I know I talk about the language first but you have to understand that the language is a secondary factor in what we learn here. Or at least I have decided that it is.
The MTC exists to give you enough words so that you can stand and bear witness, but not all that much else language-wise. Instead, it trains you to rely on the Lord, obey wholeheartedly, learn to love your investigators and those you serve with, and maybe, just maybe, catch a glimpse of what missionary work should be. So though sometimes I lose sight of that purpose in the whirlwind of trying desperately to remember the word for despair (yeah I get the irony), I try to keep that top of mind. I'm called to bear witness and if that's all I can do right now, that is fine. As long as I catch the vision of missionary work. And, oh, how there is such a vision.
The quote I am living by right now is from Elder Bednar, who said a while back that "Who you are and what you are will make a much bigger difference than what you say." I know that's true. I have sat in lessons and seen inspiration work already. And even though they are pretend investigators, they were real to someone at some time, and that makes them oh so important. iT'S HARD TO TEACH IN pORTUGUESE, BUT THEN AGAIN, IT'S SO MUCH EASIER THAN YOU WOULD THINK, AND i THINK SOMETIMES THAT IT BRINGS THE sPIRIT MORE FULLY THAN (<------- yeah go caps lock)
it would be brought in English merely because of the simplicity with which we teach.
I have decided that teaching with a language you don't speak fluently or anywhere close is like a game of good old Bananagrams. You must take the words you have (tiles) and place them and rearrange them to make a coherent sentence, paragraph, or lesson. Your other time can be spent either grabbing as many more tiles as you can, or grabbing a new tense every now and then (which is like getting to be able to place tiles in a different direction -- up down, side to side) -- and there's constantly someone (another missionary or a teacher) yelling "PEEL!" "PEEL!" "PEEL!" so that you have to grab more tiles and figure out how to incorporate them. Try to get the gist of the metaphor because let me tell you it is so true, but I promise no one here gets it.
But anyway. Never being alone is a trial for me because that's kind of my thing. But I'm getting used to it and it's not all that bad. Just different. I'm sleeping well and enjoying the spirit of the place. Other questions uhhhhhh my tooth socket holes are fine but I still have to rinse the food out of them every once in a while; I'm healthy; the food is fine; and yes, seeing Justin the other day was fantastic. The man is an inspiration to us all, and every time I'm faced with a tough decision of what to do as a missionary I think about what Justin did and would do when he was a missionary. Look up to you so much Bud; you're the best.
Thank all of you for the letters and love you keep sending. Everyone in the District is jealous. They should be because you guys rock. I got two boxes and five letters in the mail the other day. There are few things more satisfying in life than walking back to the residence hauling such a treasure trove of words and boxes. So thank you.
But on to the main event! Story time! So a few things. Justin send Hailey the missionary's number on Facebook. Please and thank you. Ok, now really story time.
We had several lessons with Vanderlei, our investigator, this last week. The man was golden and we taught him and committed him to baptism and even though we knew he was our soon-to-be second teacher, it was super exciting. Great lesson. Now, we have two new investigators and are done with Vanderlei. One is named Dalase and he is recently married but doesn't have a church. We meet with him for the first time tomorrow. The other we street contacted (still our teacher but getting a feel for how it would go) a man named Edgar with a very sad life story. It's impossible to describe how much I feel for him especially. I've met fake him once and already I feel so bonded with real him. He's so special. So low right now but with the potential to be so much more. Our contact with him yesterday was one of the most heart-wrenching and also inspiring moments of my time here so far. Heart-wrenching because I didn't have the requisite Bananagram tiles to make him feel what I felt for him and because language, which used to be my strong thing, is now my weak thing. Being in a position to look at someone and not understand and not be able to communicate your feelings for them is difficult. So that was the hard part.
We walked up to him and introduced ourselves as missionaries and got to talking to him about what he needs and wants and everything. I was feeling down because I didn't know exactly what to say but suddenly I was able to look him in the eye and testify to him that through Christ we never have to feel alone, no matter what our trials are. I know that's true. And he looked at Elder L. and said in Portuguese "And what do you know? What do you believe?" The whiteness of Blitzen's fur cannot compare with the moon-like, white-shaded, petrified look on Elder L's face. Blankness. No recognition of what was being said. I recognized this face because I had been wearing it about 1 minute before. "Repita por favor?" he asked. "Has everyone you love been killed or taken from you, have you lost everything in your life?" Edgar pressed on. Still no recognition. But then I saw something. A jaw set, a faint light come into my companion's eyes. I saw inspiration come to him in that moment of need, and he said "I don't know the pain you feel, but I do know that through Jesus Christ our pain can be taken away." And it was perfect.
It was inspiration. Later, Elder L. confessed to me that he hadn't had any idea what Edgar had asked him, but he felt impressed to say those words to him. It was just one of the tiny miracles we see every day here at the MTC. I know that he was inspired. Even though these teaching experiences are practice with people who are already members of our church, even though it's not real, we are still God's servants here on Earth, set apart from the world and given the power and authority and necessary inspiration to testify to the world of Christ, of the Restoration, and of the truth. And we are given what we need in the moment we need it, not because of what we say, but because of who we are and what we are, just like Elder Bednar said.
In my personal study, everything clicked this week about truth and its importance. I'm trying to write it all down but as all of you search the scriptures this week (which you better be doing or we may as well send missionaries to you as well) see 2 Nephi 28: 25-31 in the context of studying scriptures continually instead of receiving the Book of Mormon at all. Look at it from the perspective of what truth is, what it does, what God's glory is, how that is accomplished, and what our ORIGINAL origin is and our ultimate destiny is, and why Satan was cast out and you should have some mind-popping personal revelations. I sure have. Also, the Bible dictionary is a gold mine. It's amazing to me how much of a different way you see the scriptures when you study them to teach someone else. I am finding so much I never saw before.
My last note to you is about foundations. Foundations are the essence of progression. In 3 Nephi 14 or Matthew 7, whichever you like, it tells the parable of the wise man and the foolish man and what the difference in their foundations was. The difference is rock versus sand. And why is sand a bad foundation? Because it never stays in the same place for long. It is bits of rock and other solid materials stacked on top of each other in a mismatched, imbalanced, and constantly shifting mass of ugliness and instability. It is the philosophies of men. It is the bits of truth of the gospel scattered and deconstructed to the point of instability.
We can choose to build ourselves on the foundation of majority opinion or the foundation of Christ, the rock (Matt 16 see footnotes). That rock is truth and it never changes. It is the same yesterday, today and forever. If we build on that rock, when trials come we will never fall. And how great a promise is that? But let us consider it a little more broadly. Why is a strong foundation important? Because think how much better and bigger and more balanced and more stable a building you can build on bedrock. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination and the foundation of your testimony. And what is built on sand? Shacks. And not even good shacks, shacks that are often torn up by storms.
So I guess that is my challenge to you this week, since I'm about out of time. Ask yourself and those around you who they want to be -- a skyscraper, a majestic, awe-inspiring edifice from which you can see so much, or a temporary, unstable shack? That shack may be easier to build and you might like the view for a while, but eventually the rains will come tumbling down and you with it. Be a skyscraper family. It's hard to build but worth it in the end. I told you about the man, now this is the mais.
I love you all. Happy week.