Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Week at the "Empty Sea!"

Family!
     I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this letter! So much has happened in the last 8 days and I have so much to tell! So buckle up. Because this is gonna be fun. :)
     So all y'all heard about my first day at the MTC and how fun that was. I wasn't surprised to hear that Dad couldn't stop laughing at the F.O.X. story. Seriously though, that was super funny. And there's something about the MTC that makes everything you hear twice as funny, so I could barely suppress my laughter. It's been like that all week, actually. My entire district is hilarious, and I've already filled several pages of funny quotes people have said. But I'll get to that later!
     I thought I would tell you a little bit more about the people with whom I spend all day every day. My district is awesome; there are 6 Elders and 6 Sisters. Everyone is super awesome! We have all grown super close already. It's hard not to grow close to a group of people if you're studying with them 8 hours a day. But I digress.  My companion, Sister Johnson, is super cute and friendly. We have this unification thing down! It has only been 8 days, and we already share brain waves. I think we may have frightened one of our investigators when we both simultaneously said, "That was perfect!"  with the same voice inflection after he said a prayer for the first time. We also tend to cough simultaneously. It's almost frightening how synchronized we are. But we're told when you and your companion are unified, it is much easier to teach with the Spirit. And that has been pretty apparent with our investigators. Sister Johnson and I have three progressing investigators right now; Justin, Gregory, and Daniel. Justin and Gregory are actually our teachers; their names are Brother Stayley and Brother Curtis. They are an awesome pair! What's kind of strange is that Brother Curtis is the spitting image of Jason Dahl and Brother Stayley is the spitting image of Scott Shattuck. But I digress. Every lesson they teach brings the Spirit, helps me learn how to be a more effective missionary, and fills me with the confidence to put the principles we learn into practice. I love the Spirit they bring and the way they teach; I have learned so much from them already! They are also really good investigators too; it's almost frightening how they can switch over to their investigator role so efficiently. Sis. Johnson and I have learned so much by teaching them! We committed Gregory to baptism the first visit! That was certainly encouraging, especially because it was our first time teaching as a companionship. Justin has been a little harder, but he's progressing, and we've committed him to read the Book of Mormon and to pray if it's true.
     So after teaching Gregory and Justin for a few days, I started getting a little over-confident. I forgot our teachers were going easy on us. But everything snapped back into perspective when Sis. Johnson and I went and did TRC for the first time. The investigators here are super good actors. Some are members, some aren't, and you don't really know if you are teaching a member or not. Some are also more receptive than others. So, essentially, some are easy, some are difficult. We started teaching Daniel, and that was a humbling experience. Not only did it take about half the time to convince him to let us in the front door, but as we tried to share our Gospel message with him, he completely refused. He told us he's Catholic, is happy with his life right now, doesn't like Mormons, doesn't want our message, and doesn't like talking about God with strangers. Sounds a little disheartening, no? I came out kind of discouraged, worrying that a lot of investigators in the South would be that way. So many of them are devout and may not want to change. But I learned a really valuable lesson teaching Daniel. My purpose is not to go door to door shoving doctrine down people's throats. My purpose is to bring people closer to Christ. And in order to do that, they have to trust you first. You love them and serve them first. I learned to be persistent, but also very patient with the spiritual progress of others. When we went back for our second visit, Sister Johnson and I focused most of the time on Daniel's specific needs. We were more receptive to the Spirit, and let him tell us more about himself. He immediately opened up, and told us without hesitation we could come back for another visit. We have two more visits with him, and I'm super excited to see where they lead!
     Speaking of excited, Thursday night I got to meet my Branch President, President Gamette. He is an incredible individual, and I have already learned so much from him. We got to know the zone a little better too. Our zone is huge! There are 4 districts I think (we had 5 but one just left) with 12 in each district. And about half our sisters. Crazy, right? In every meeting the sisters are always asked to stand up if they are 19 or 20, and over half of the sisters in the room stand. Same goes for the 18 year old Elders. It's amazing how many younger missionaries have answered the call and are now here with me in the MTC. The excitement and energy they bring here is overwhelming. I have loved getting to know everyone and I am looking forward to working and serving among them!
     Anyway, Thursday was a bit overwhelming, but what really was overwhelming was a brief interview with the Branch President. The Zone Leaders and Coordinating Sister in the Branch left just this last Tuesday, and he wanted to call new missionaries to fill those positions. He extended the call to me to be Coordinating Sister! My second day at the MTC. Before he even knew who I was or what my personality was like. He said he made the decision the first night we got to the MTC, and he hadn't even met us yet. I am humbled, overwhelmed, and excited to serve in this calling. I know I have been called to it for a purpose. For those of you who are not quite familiar with what a Coordinating Sister is, she is basically the Zone Leader for the sisters. There are 2 Zone Leaders and 1 Coordinating Sister, but now that our numbers our even (there are 24 sisters in my Zone), it is more intimidating to be the only Coordinating Sister. But it has been a joy so far. I lay down the law and make sure everyone follows the rules, which can be intimidating, but my favorite part is serving the sisters. I visit them in the evenings and make sure they feel happy and that their needs are being met. I also get to take new missionaries on tours of the MTC and orient them. It's a really good thing I worked here for an entire Summer, so I know where everything is! Also, when the sisters are sick, they come to the Coordinating Sister after going to the Medical Center. We have had so many people get sick over the last few days. Sickness spreads here like wildfire; it's insane. You know that stomach bug that was here a week before I got here? Yeah, it's still here.
     So, Dad was wondering if there was a motherly figure roaming the halls in the evening with painkiller and other things to meet the needs of the insomniacs and others who have trouble sleeping. Well, that's kind of the Coordinating Sister. Which is myself. But I have found that as I have actively tried to meet the needs of the sisters in my Branch, my own needs have been met. I feel comfortable here, and well taken care of. So, what happens when the Coordinating Sister gets sick? Because that totally happened. Wednesday I got the stomach bug (I have lost faith in flu shots by the way) and was super sick all morning. Sister Johnson went above and beyond to take care of me. She never left my side, even though they made a new rule that companions can go to class because the flu is so common here. She made sure I had Gatorade and crackers, helped me move my mattress to the floor, and kept asking me if I needed anything or if she could adjust the temperature in the room. She was super patient and loving. I am so grateful to have her!
     Ah, there is never enough time to write everything I want to! I just hope you all know how happy I am here. There have been discouraging times, and I have gotten frustrated and tired. But I am always happy. It's such a blessing. Even in the midst of the hard times, I feel happy. After every lesson, whether it is good or bad, I feel an incredible amount of joy that comes from being on the Lord's errand. Finding joy in the journey has taken on a whole new meaning. After every negative emotion, the Spirit has a way of melting my heart. It is so strong here, and I have never felt more enveloped in the arms of my Savior. I feel God's love so strongly here, and He has given me so much strength. He is invested in everything I do, because I am here to do His work. As long as we serve Him and the people around us, all our needs are taken care of.
I love you all so much! Until Next week,
Sister Fox

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