Friday, June 22, 2012
Hello family and friends!
Wow! I’ve already been here for four weeks and tomorrow is one month to the date of having been here. It is kind of funny how the first week or two seem kind of slow but after that the time flies by. Before I know it, I’ll already be in California and before I know it, I’ll be at the end of my mission wondering where all the time went. But yeah, I love the MTC so much and every day is practically my new favorite day on my mission. I mean where else can you go to Relief Society and have Elaine S. Dalton speak to you then later on that day go to a devotional and get to hear Sheri Dew?! I am the luckiest person ever! And the best part is that the best is yet to come! The New Mission President seminar starting tomorrow and will go on for like 5 days, the next Sunday and Tuesday devotionals will probably be the most amazing talks I've ever heard in my life and I'm really hoping it'll be some of the twelve apostles.
That being said, I'm pretty sure I get to meet my new mission president for my mission tomorrow!!! They haven't told us a time or a place really, but they told us last Sunday that there will be a time when we can meet them. I'm so excited for that!!
About devotionals, I'm pretty sure we are going to be doing something different on the 4th of July-like a fun fireside type thing. I'm not sure exactly what, but the media department has been advertising that they need people with MCing or fiddling experience. It should be different and fun. It is a little funny because we basically didn't have Memorial Day at all here (I only knew about it because Music and the Spoken Word mentioned it the day before) but I guess the 4th of July is a bigger holiday so we get to do something. It should be fun :)
Before I forget, thanks so much for the letters from everyone!! Reading the letters makes me feel so loved and cared for. It is good to know I’m still on your minds sometimes. Also, the care package I got was fantastic!! Thanks so much Mom!!! I love the headbands and the socks are great (I think I figured out how the washing machine ate the others-- the machines have this rubber thing at the door and the socks fit just about perfectly in there, so after you get the laundry you have to make sure nothing snuck into those). Also, the snacks you put in there are perfect! I love it!! I don't think I can eat 6 pounds of gummy bears on my own, so I have been sharing with the sisters in my room and they love you for it! Thanks a ton!
It is kind of funny how much the little moments matter. With having a trio again we've been having to figure out how to teach with three sisters again. I guess in a way we were sort of getting used to how lessons would go with just Hna Coleman and I, but with Hna Roades it is a little different. I mean it is different in wonderful ways... like Hna Roades has a fantastic ability to pull scriptures out of nowhere which really help to reinforce that this is indeed doctrine and that we're not just making up stuff. But it is different because with three of us we all like to talk about the little things that we like to testify about and there were some lessons that seemed like popcorn. One person threw out one idea that they thought would help change the investigator's life and then the next would jump to a new topic etc. But really we were just talking because we liked to talk about those things. We weren't really teaching what the investigator needed to hear. So we've been working on listening better and focusing more on the investigator and his or her needs. But even more importantly, we are focusing on unifying our companionship and honestly I think that is the part that is helping the most. A week ago Hna Roades decided to buy me an HLJ ring in the bookstore (it is like CTR but the Spanish version. I'm pretty sure it stands for Hacer La Justo or Haz La Justo... not sure which version exactly but I love wearing it so much!!!) Likewise, we needed to have our room be clean before the tour with the new districts because Hna Koerner the coordinating sister wanted to show our room off as an example of how to keep the room. It was getting close to dinner time and Hna Coleman was in the shower after gym but she had grabbed fresh sheets for the week and so while she was gone I made her bed. A different day, Hna Roades made my bed while I was in the shower! Honestly, it is hard to serve at the MTC because almost everything is provided for us, but it is those little things like that which really make the difference. It isn't the time while teaching the investigator that we work on being unified. It is in all the little things all the other times that we work on it. That is what I've learned this week.
Talking about service, once a week we get to do service in preparation for continuing to do service at least once a week out in the field. The past three weeks Hna Coleman and I have gotten to clean the showers. I love doing it! That is probably my favorite job ever! First of all we get to look ridiculous because there at these huge rubber shoes that you slip over your tennis shoes and we get attractive goggles. Then we get to use a power sprayer to spray down the showers. Then there is this foaming stuff we spray on the walls and floor before scrubbing a little bit with a brush. Then we get to power spray it again. The only really gross part is taking the hair out of the drains. But yeah, I love getting to do that job because I love doing the power spraying! It is a blast.
What else? Oh yeah, our district sets goals all the time to work on speaking Spanish to each other much more frequently. We all know Spanish well enough that we can usually get by with explaining what we want to say in Spanish and getting it so others can understand, but it is harder so sometimes we get lazy and just revert to English. but we have this game called El Nativo (or the native speaker). In this game we draw a card which says yes or no and the one yes in the district is el Nativo for the day. That means that they don't know English and can only communicate in Spanish (it is helpful to carry around a dictionary when you're it). At the end of the day we vote and if people guess the real nativo, the nativo gets 2 points and the people who guessed right get one point. But when you're not the Nativo you try to trick people into thinking that you're the nativo because if people guess you at the end of the day, you 3 points! It is a really fun game and a lot of people in the district are really competitive, so it is wonderful because it gets us to speak Spanish much more! I also do other things like I've started writing in my journal in Spanish when I have enough time, trying to read El Libro de Mormon con voz alto (outloud) instead of the Book of Mormon, praying in Spanish obviously (praying in English is kind of weird nowadays for me), practicing speaking, and practicing listening better instead of zoning out when people speak Spanish. It is all good practice and it all helps so much. I am pretty sure I had my first dream in the Spanish language last night even!! I've been looking forward to that for quite a while! I don't remember much but I am pretty sure I was teaching or sharing my testimony or something in with an investigator (not too surprising). I didn't realize it until I woke up and was like... "wait a second :D"
Oh yes, I was also asked to be the new coordinating sister for the zone, so I've been following Hna Koerner around when she has done her responsibilities this week to help me figure out what exactly goes into that assignment. It looks like it'll be a fantastic assignment!!
Oh yeah, thanks so much for finding the copy of elder Bednar's talk "The Character of Christ" for me mom!! It is from the past and it isn't quite the same but the main stories and scriptures are the same and I was so excited when I found that little treasure in the letters from the family. Some small differences are that the introduction was totally different. Like he lead up to a fantastic quote "who you are is far more important than anything you will ever say" which relates to me with the language absolutely at this point. he also took a moment to talk about taking notes in situations like that to make sure that you're not making essentially large plates but instead are writing down just enough that you'll remember the spiritual impressions you received and have direction for if you want to focus on the topic in personal study in the future. Also, he didn't focus on the etymology of words so much, but he did have a funny example that the "natural man" is essentially the cookie monster... "I want cookie now!!" It is so true!!
I think that is just about it! I loved what you said, Mom, that you and I are still basically going to the temple each week together... just in different temples!!
Anyway, love you all! Have a great week! And may the spirit be with you!
~Hermana Whitney Whetten
Saturday, June 16, 2012
I hope your week has been absolutely fantastic! I've definitely learned a lot this week and I look forward to another week. It is crazy. In a week I will have already been gone for a month. When I think about it like that I'm like, "oh no! I only have 17 months left to complete everything I'm supposed to do!" But that is good. I love that I have the opportunity to serve becasue where else in the world do you get to completely fulfill the covenant of consecrating everything--my time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed me or with which he may bless me? I love it. I plan to completely turn myself over to the Lord and trust in him completely. I learned about that this week and I'll get to talking about that thought more later in this letter.
First, though. I absolutely love that the spanish word for peanut butter is crema de cacahuate! An Elder in our district innocently asked how to say peanut butter in Spanish and when that was the answer we burst out laughing for about 5 minutes.
Another funny thing that happened this week was that the Elders in the district were practicing teaching a lesson in Spanish and one of them said (sorry I'm not going to take the time to add the accent or upside down question mark right now) "Se bautizara (future tense) en una mesa?" He meant to say in a month but he said on a table instead. I don't know if it is funny reading it now, but it was hilarious to us.
Also, random cool fact. David Archuleta was in my zone when he was at the MTC. He left about 3 weeks before I entered but it is cool to know that. They said he was actually kind of shy in a way but that the zone was really good about like protecting him so that he wasn't just the center of attention wherever he went.
Courtney, I have a quick thought that I want to give to you before I forget. I am so grateful for your letters because I can tell how very much you love me. I'm so sorry that my being gone is very hard for you. Know that I love you, though. It may not seem like it right now, but these next 17.25 months will seem to have flown by and I'll already be home and get to hang out with you again. I do want to give you a quick gift that will hopefully help a little bit. That gift is simply a scripture and it is one of my favorites. It is St. John 14:27. I love you and I have such great hopes for you! You're fantastic.
Let's see... the big thing that happened this week was that Hermana Asay got her visa, so on Tuesday morning she flew out to Peru. That meant that in our district we have 3 sisters (Hna Coleman, Hna Roades, and I) but in our dormitory we have 4 (also Hna Koerner). Hna Koerner is technically a solo sister because she is the only girl in her district but she is companions with Hna Roades whenever they are outside of the class (which isn't actually that much time in the day-- food, P-day, and gym etc). But because Hna Roades is in our district/class, she is with Hna Coleman and I when we teach. So I am kind of in a trio again and kind of in a normal 2 person companionship. It is a little hard on Hna Roades because she practically is our companion but she is supposed to be with Hna Koerner in all the free time stuff plus she misses Hna Asay a lot (we all do). It is very different having Hna Asay and Elder Meyer (went to Columbia) gone from our district. They were such great people but they did the first 3 weeks of MTC here and then are going to the MTC in their countries for the remaining 6 weeks. That means that our district has 6 people now and 2 companionships basically when we had 4 just last week. What that means is that last week we would teach practice investigators somewhere around every 1-2 days but now we teach at least 1 lesson a day and usually we teach 2 times. It is good though because we're getting A LOT of practice. Some lesssons are wonderful and some need a lot of help, but I am grateful for them and for the opportunity to practice so much.
I was thinking about my little tree that I was growing in my bedroom for a year before I left on my mission. When I gave it to Shaun and Sarah to plant it I learned an important lesson which is that before you can plant plants straight from a nursery-type environment, you need to put the plant through a period of acclimation or hardening. In the case of my tree, it didn't like being outside the first time and it lost basically all of its leaves. This is because it had never been exposed to the sun and the wind and all the other factors in the actual world nearly so intensely ever before. That is what we are like as missionaries. If they just threw us out in the world immediately, we'd fail and be crushed by the world. But we are blessed with this wonderful opportunity to be in the MTC (or CCM in spanish). The purpose of the MTC is to help us acclimate so that we are prepared to be planted out in our mission and we will be strong and ready to withstand whatever the world may throw at us. Of course there will be hard times of intense wind, rain, sun, et cetera. But we will be prepared for it. I also like that the Spirit is so strong here! It is like that extra nutrition given to us now that we can just soak up and enjoy while it is so abundantly available.
One talk we listened to in a video after the devotional last Sunday night was a talk by David A. Bednar that he gave last Christmas at the MTC and I learned so much from it!! I loved it and I really think having watched it changed my mission and maybe my life. But the talk was on the Characteristics of Christ and the biggest point was that in every moment where the natural man would have turned inward, Christ turned outward. The implications of that statement are very profound and I don't have time to explain it all right now, but I love that thought so much. It taught me that I should of course take care of myself, but that after that, I can forget myself and just completely love and completely serve everyone with my entire heart.
One story the family already pretty much knows about because evidently Ryan recorded it and put it on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzppKsiLOnY
But my brother works in the media department at the MTC and so he is in charge of the devotionals and things like that. So this pastSunday we had the second of two videos specifically meant for the new sisters in the field. Well we were going to this and I noticed something weird. The camera at the front was always pointed at me. I mean if someone in the audience stood up to answer a question the camera would turn to them to broadcast it, but the camera was always returning straight back to me. I knew something was up. And lo and behold when they got to the section on "How do you cope with stress" there was a rather lovely photo of me making a bloated cheeks face and Ryan had photoshopped smoke coming out of my ears. The cameras were on me because he was recording my reaction and that of my companion. I think I was mostly just chuckling, When me companion was like "Hermana! How did your picture get up there?" I was like "my brother!" I guess Ryan did warn me when he dropped me off at the MTC because he said that he hopes that I will love him no matter what. I was considering not sneaking him ice cream from the cafeteria any more, but he gave me a can of pringles so it kind of makes up for it a little bit (though Ryan, you still owe me big!!). Granted, on the can that loveley picture was there with the caption "I cope with pringles" (because the photo said "how do you cope with stress"). Oh boy, what am I going to do with you, Ryan?! Evidently I'll be famous at the MTC for "generations to come" with that lovely piece of art. Good to know I'm remembered wherever I go.
I think that is about all the time I have for now. I hope you're doing well! I hope Max is doing better. That would absolutely work having Ryan get me the bag and waterbottle etc! I may also have him give you back my camel back backpack thing because that might be difficult to ship. But thanks for all the letters and everything!! I love you and am grateful for you! Also feliz dia del padres, Dad!!
Talk to you later! and may the spirit be with you!
Hermana Whitney Whetten
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Dear Family, Friends, et cetera,
Mom, Sarah, Cathie, etc thanks so much for finding a bag. If you don't mind sending it while I'm still at the MTC so I can use it as a my "personal item" at the airport so I will have enough room to carry everything that would be wonderful. I'll send my camelpack back before I leave and include any other stuff I don't need to pack because of weight restrictions et cetera. Thanks though. Also, if you could find some of the little socks for the church shoes that would be wonderful. I think the washing machine has eaten some of mine or something.
By the way, since I've written you last I got your letters for the first and second week and I love reading them so much! I especially love hearing different perspectives from people toward the same story... like the fish tank one. Britt, did you figure out how to start it? If not, there are youtube videos on how to start the vacuum sucker cleaning thing without having to suck it. Hopefully you can find it. Dad, I liked the letter in Spanish! I actually understood all of it except I didn't immediately know the word for: radiator. Surprising? Probably not. Mom, you asked about how often I see Ryan. I usually get to see him on Sundays and on Tuesdays. Sometimes there is just enough time for a hug but sometimes I get to talk to him for a little while and that is so nice! Brittany, I loved in your latest letter when you included your testimony. That really touched me and I needed to hear that when I read it. And Courtney, I love reading your letters so much! I love you too and I'm sorry that I don't have the time to write you back every single day. But I do love you so much! I'm not really sure of a way to send pictures while at the MTC, but I am sure I can upload some when I am in California (though I should probably take some first haha!)
I do have a quick question for everyone who has been on a mission. I'm just curious how the MTC used to be. What was it like? I mean how it is now is the norm for me, but when I was talking to RM teachers, they said that the MTC is totally different than even just a few years ago. Like just within the past year they've incorporated the fact that we teach many investigators all throughout the week. Though I was so nervous about that the first few times, I am so grateful for it because it is practice for being out in the field. It is practice conversing and listening and teaching totally in Spanish. It is great because it teaches us what words we need to learn and when we don't know how to explain things a certain way, it makes us figure out a different way to describe it.
Anyway, a few quick things... so we got the new Hermana in our room last week and her name is Hna Roades and she is from Arkansas. She has the partial southern accent and her family is largely made up of Baptists. Her Spanish has a bit of a Southern accent, but one day when she and Hna Asay were teaching, Hna Roades was trying to teach about how through this church we can feel the love of God in our lives and that it blesses families and can also give us peace. The Spanish word for peace is paz. But with her cute southern accent she accidently said pez instead. Pez means fish. So she was telling the investigator about how this church gives us hope, joy, love, and fish. It made us all laugh so hard. I haven't made too many funny mistakes like that, but I'm sure I'll have my share.
I did make a mistake of a different sort last week, though. In the laundry room they have these little one load packages of laundry detergent that you can buy. But we went to the bookstore to get a larger amount because it is more economical. When we were there we got the cheapest one that was there and only when we had already put the load in and gotten it just about started did we realize that we didn't buy laundry detergent. We bought Downy fabric softener. So we had already poured so much in there. Needless to say, our bedroom and classroom smelled quite "fresh" of fabric softener for a little while. It still makes me laugh. Oops.
Let's see what else? I love going to the Provo Temple here! It is different but in a way it is the same if that makes any sense at all. It is the same ordinances and the same wonderful opportunity to learn and grow and pray even though the physical building and the setup of the building and the arrangement of everything is different. I think it is kind of cool that the alters in the endowment room glow. Our group of sisters like to go to the temple with a specific concept or idea in mind and see if we can receive any revelation concerning one particular thing and then we have discussions which always are phenomenal.
Anyway, gym is also wonderful and is a great break from the classroom all day. We do many things like go outside to play beach volleyball, Hna Coleman and I went jogging the other day, and lately we've been going to the little weight lifting/cardio gym and I'll work out for a while but them spend some time stretching and doing yoga on my own or with Hna Koerner (I think that is the spelling.. I still forget).
Last Saturday, they finally gave us a lesson on stress management. I guess they save that lesson for a while until you actually feel some stress. I mean if they had given us that lesson the first day it wouldn't have meant nearly so much as like a week and a half or two weeks into it. Since then living here has gotten so much easier. I mean I want to be this amazing person who is perfect at studying, at the language, at teaching et cerera, but I'm not perfect. I'm just human. Since I've let myself realize that it has been easier and I've just let myself have fun. Still working hard, but enjoying it all along the way. For instance, this Monday, we convinced our substitute teacher to let the rest of the class have family home evening while individual companionships were teaching. So we had this great lesson reading out of El Libro del Mormon on the tree of life and then we had a fun game where we rearranged the classroom to be a maze and one person tied a tie around their eyes and had to try to get at the end listening to the one person who really was the Holy Ghost while the rest of the class tried to yell and confuse the person. It was actually really insightful because at one point Elder Meyers took a turn that basically put him back at the beginning and Elder Lindquist who was the spirit was so disappointed and he understood what it must be like for Heavenly Father and the godhead when we were on the right way and then we make that completely wrong turn. We also just do more things for fun. Take some time and sing as a district, everyone shares their mission placque scripture, share spiritual insights, et cetera. I love it and it is so much fun all along the way!!
My time is just about up, but I'll share one more quick insight from this week. Last Sunday I was thinking about the gift on tongues and how it works. I realized that in the scriptures there are stories of babies whose mouths were opened and they were able to testify of truths so strongly that their words could not be written. How did it work? It worked through the spirit being able to take over and testify through them. I am so many levels above a baby because I have control of vocal cords, I have a language, I have the basis of a different language as well. So if the Spirit can work through a baby to give them the words that were needed to testify, then it is definitely possible for it to share the truth through me as well. I just have to fill my mind with as much of the gospel and as much of the language as I can and then have hope that in the moment I will need it, if it be God's will, the Spirit will be able to work through me to testify of the truth because He has promised me that. That gave me a lot of hope and comfort to realize that.
Anyway, I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!
May the Spirit always be with you!!
Hermana Whitney Whetten
Friday, June 1, 2012
It is a new week! Hopefully Sarah was able to figure out the e-mail list problem etc. I forgot to mention one thing when I wrote last week and that is that evidently there is a website called DearElder.com and if anyone wants to send me e-mails while I'm at the MTC that is one way that you can do it. It is different than this e-mail account because they print them out every day and put them in the mail boxes so we can get it sooner. Of course this e-mail address works as well and it is always nice to receive snail mail, but that is just another option you can use. I honestly have no clue how that website works but hopefully it is user friendly and will explain it enough.
Mom asked about the MTC choir and yes, I was able to be in it this week. We have a practice Sunday night and a practice Tuesday night and then we perform at the devotional. My companion was willing to sing in it also which I am happy about. This coming week we won't have the Sunday practice because I guess fast Sundays are different than other Sundays at the MTC but we'll still have the Tuesday practice and sing next Tuesday. This past week we sang about Joseph Smith's First Prayer (I think that is the name of the song?). It was phenomenal and I loved performing it but even more, I loved being able to go to the practices because of the stories told and the testimonies made of the song and that necessary event.
It is kind of funny that that is what we sang about this week because that was kind of the theme of what I learned this week. I always thought that the atomement was the most important thing to testify of it because it is the single most important event in all of history. But this week I learned and realized that while that is true, almost every church has the knowledge of the atonement. What makes our church different is that we have the priesthood power which enables us to, for instance, even fully utilize the atoment (because baptism is a necessary step in utilizing the atonement and also partaking of the sacrament) and that priesthood also enables us to make covenants that are accepted by God both on earth and in heaven. Thus, the restoration is the most important event to testify about because without that we would literally be nothing or nowhere as a church. But with it we have everything needed to become perfected and, if we endure to the end, return to live with Heavenly Father. I love that.
Anyway, I might have sounded a little frustrated about the language in my e-mail last week. I finally pinpointed exactly what my frustration was and it was something along the lines of the fact that I was frustrated because it was "was the fourth day already and I'm not fluent yet!" When I pinpointed that I was able to see how ridiculous that is and so I can work to be more patient with myself. Everyone keeps telling me that the language will come and so I have faith and hope that as I keep working at it daily that that will be true. Some days are better than others with the language because somedays I just feel a big mental block toward Spanish. But every day is a new day. I'm grateful for that because if yesterday was a bad day, that doesn't mean that today will be also. And on the other hand, if yesterday was good, I won't let myself be prideful which will then make today bad. Every day is simply a blank slate and I try to fill it as best as I can. It is just hard trying to balance everything because we have so many things to do all the time... study the Book of Mormon, study Preach my Gospel, study the language, prepare for lessons, memorize scriptures, go to workshops and devotions, exercise etc. I am going to work on finding out how to optimally balance everything I have to do.
The way they teach the language here now is evidently meant to be essentially proportional to 6 months worth of experinece out in the field decades ago. Thus, we are asked to teach lessons from the second or third day... in Spanish. That is scary and hard, but I've already taught 5 lessons and so the nervousness gets easier the more we teach. Last week I thought they were real investigators, but they are just other teachers. We had one "investigator" last week who we taught 3 lessons to but then our second permanent teacher came back from vacations so now we are teaching him (Robert). Those aren't their real names, but that is their investigator name. The first lesson with Carlos was so terrible. We had no confidence in our ability to teach about anything in Spanish so we read quotes and butchered the language. He was so confused because we were trying to cover too many topics without fully explaining because we weren't able to. The second lesson of Carlos was a complete surprise. The teacher walked in and was like "you're going to teach Carlos in 20 minutes." So we simply each read our favorite scripture and testified of that to him and also took the time to get to know him and his neeeds. Then the third lesson with him was so much better. We simply explained and testified better. With Robert the first lesson was also so great. We are realizing that it is hard to cover a full lesson in the time allotted, so we are only covering a few sections so that he doesn't get confused. Much of what I testify about is about how God loves us so much because those are words I know how to say. But each day my Spanish does get better. Anyway the third lesson with him was yesterday and all the other groups took up way too much time so we only were left with 15 minutes so we taught him how to pray.
Anyway, another new thing this week is that a roommate from our zone went out to the MTC in Guatemala for her remaining 6 weeks (she was here for 3). So we have a solo sister in our room who was her roommate. But we also got another sister in our room and district who was bumped up from the beginner Spanish class. It is better that she is in that. But because of that, our trio companionship was broken up. So my companion now is Sister Coleman and I love her. It was easier teaching with 2 other people, but this is good because it makes us all work harder.
Oh yeah, mom. in case Ryan forgot to mention, last Sunday we were told that we sisters aren't supposed to have backpacks because they don't like that look so can you start looking for a shoulder bag for me? I am thinking of something that has plenty of room like a backpack but that slings over your shoulder instead. Like I am thining of a bag like mail carriers used to use. If you could work on trying to find one that would be great. I won't need it while at the MTC, but if you can find one before I leave the MTC and mail it to me, I would appreciate it a lot! Let me know if I need to be more clear in the description.
One more funny thing is something I didn't realize would happen. It is now weird for me to hear English prayers because every prayer for the past week has been in Spanish. And I am thinking and speaking more and more in Spanish, so it is kind of weird to hear English again at meetings etc. Also, I lost track of time so badly here. When we got a new shipment of missionaries in on Wednesday it was crazy to think that I've been here for a full week. I mean I've been here for a week but it feels like I've been here both a shorter amount and a longer amount of time. It is so crazy! But it is because our time is so packed with things to do!
My time is just about up so gotta go. Hope everyone is doing well. I love you!! May the Spirit be with you!!
Hermana Whitney Whetten