Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy 4th of July!!! (even if it's a little late...)

This week was another of those that somehow just flew by!  Each day certainly doesn't fly by on it's own; but as an overall picture, it's like this week was several days shorter than it should have been!
On Friday night last week since it was the fourth of July, we had a special devotional.  There were a lot of musical numbers and then we got to hear from Brother Ron Gubler who is the MTC's executive secretary.  He talked a lot on how God loves freedom.  And how when the church was restored to the earth, it was like spiritual independence day.  Because now man: could begin to be freed from sin, could be free from the natural man, was free to live with God again, and so on.  One quote in particular (as you know, really probably a little bit incorrect in wording) was this: "Turning our agency over to God is the only way to be truly free."  After we heard from him we watched '17 Miracles' as part of the devotional.  And then we had a closing song and prayer after that!  It was really weird to remember in the end that we were still in a devotional even though we had just sat through an entire movie.  Then President Roach (2nd Counselor in the MTC presidency) announced to us that Sister Carrie Underwood had just finished singing at Stadium of Fire about a minute before, and now all of us missionaries could go outside and watch the fireworks (it was 10:25 at this point).  So we went out and saw the fireworks from Stadium of Fire.  One group of missionaries started singing the Star-Spangled Banner and everyone joined in and we finished right as the finale ended. Impeccable timing!  And then we headed back to our residences and got in bed around 11:30.

On Sunday it was fast Sunday and so we had a special missionary conference in the afternoon.  And it was announced to us that the First Presidency has announced that missionaries are now to teach all of the missionary discussions (lessons 1-5) BEFORE baptism and that they are to reteach all of those same lessons after baptism.  Before missionaries' main focus was on Finding Teaching and Baptizing, And now added onto that are Retaining and Activating! So that was a pretty exciting change to hear about!  We're going to be teaching a lot of lessons.
That night our speaker/performer was Josh Wright.  He's a member of the church who is a very accomplished pianist.  He has performed at Carnegie Hall, and all over across the US and Europe.  So he would tell us stories from his mission and in his piano experiences and would relate it to our missions, and then play a song for us.  And he was incredible.  I didn't know people's fingers could move that fast, and on top of that, that they could incorporate style and dynamics while moving that fast.  I liked the things he said during his "talk" (I guess it was slightly different than a talk...).  He pointed out to us that "Diamonds can only be created under great amounts of stress and pressure" and that as we work through the pressure and trials that the Lord gives us and those that he allows to happen to us, that we can become much more than the block of coal that we started as.  And I really like this too: he said that "You either DO or you WILL know Christ if you give your heart to him."
On Tuesday we got to hear from Neil L. Anderson and he talked a lot about the Holy Ghost.  He said, "In the quiet, peaceful moments of our life is when God speaks to us.  We need to learn to be quiet and still."  And after the devotional when the closing prayer was said, Elder Anderson stayed in his seat for a minute or two and we sat there in silence and the Spirit was really strong.
On Wednesday we got to host new missionaries coming into the MTC.  We got to take them from their families and get them their stuff, show them to their rooms, and then take them to their classrooms.  It was really hot though! We were apparently a little short on hosts so I had to book it around (walking of course) from dropping the missionary off at his classroom and going to get a new one immediately from the drop-off.  I ended up showing 5 elders around.  3 of them were from Utah, and 2 were from Washington.  They were going to: Madagascar, North Carolina, Mexico, South Dakota, and France.  So I got a variety there!  Some of the goodbyes were rough and the families and the missionaries kind of struggled, but they were all good.  The two missionaries who got pretty choked up and cried in saying goodbye to their families were over it within 5-10 seconds as we started to head up to get their badge and everything; which was actually pretty inspiring to me how ready they were to get right to it and not keep dwelling on other things.  Whenever we passed someone in our district or zone that was hosting someone, we would tell their new missionary "Ooh! You got so lucky! He/she is awesome!"  And basically established ourselves as really awesome people - in the most humble way of course!
We get updates from people on the World Cup and it's pretty crazy that Argentina and Germany are playing each other in the finals! Shame about Brazil though.  Biggest deficit in World Cup history in the semi-finals is pretty rough.  I'm not completely shut out from the world here!  Well, pretty much, but it's totally worth it so that you can focus on your work.
The language is coming along better.  I've been working a lot on "to be" verbs and in just memorizing different forms and tenses and slowly but surely they're just all solidifying in my mind!  (but remember, emphasis on slowly...)
Everything here is going great! It's crazy that today is technically my 30th day to be in the MTC!! I love all of you! Stay strong in doing the good things that you're doing!  Keep on having a good summer!
~Elder Woods

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