Okay, first of all, I'm so sorry it's taken this long to email you. We seriously are constantly busy all the time forever in the MTC. They have our schedule (EVERYONE's schedule, all 3000ish!) totally planned out until the end of our MTC stay, which is March 19. So yeah, we fly to Italy on Dad's birthday, and until then, we're busybusybusybusybusy. And I absolutely love it.
I really do. I mean, it's plenty stressful and sometimes very frustrating, because the pace we SOAR here makes it feel like I've been here for at least a month. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. I'm excited for the day when I eventually leave the MTC and go into the field, but until then I know I'm going to enjoy (almost) every moment here. The most frustrating thing is the language. In my Patriarchal Blessing (thanks for sending that, Mom!), I was blessed with the "interpretation of tongues". I thought that was kind of oddly specific, but now I know exactly what it means. My Italian teacher's name is Fratello Garvin, and from the moment I walked into class 20 minutes early and started learning from him, I've understood at least 80% of what he says in Italian. Which is all the time. Seriously, I might have heard 10 English sentences from him since the first day. It's awesome.
And if I can learn this fast with ONE person speaking Italian to me all the time, how much more will I be blessed with the interpretation of tongues when I'm surrounded by the wonderful people of Italy? I can't wait!! I'm so happy, so so so so happy. And there's SO MUCH TO SAY.
A lot happens in a week, and a LOOOTTT happens in a week at the MTC. Seriously, this place is so organized, it's amazingly fantastic. I've never seen anything like it. I already went up to Salt Lake for the Italian Consolate (sp?) and got my visa all signed and ready to go, so now all I have to do is survive--or rather enjoy--five more weeks here, and then andio a la bella Italia! (I know there's supposed to be some words squished in there, but I haven't gotten to that point yet. All in good time. It's been a week.)
But I can already pray and bear my testimony in Italian. And my companion and I are already teaching an investigator. She's just an actress--a teacher, actually--but she's portraying a woman she met on her mission, so when we pray for her and teach her, it's very real. It's SOOOO HARD, especially for me, to teach a lesson about anything in Italian, because in English I feel like I could get her baptized in a day. Not really, but you know what I mean. Thanks to the way I've been taught and raised, I'm very well versed in the doctrine of Christ and I know how to teach about Him and His Church and the Book of Mormon and the Restoration and all that great, wonderful stuff. BUT I CAN'T SAY ANY OF IT!! Because Valentia (our investigator) only speaks Italian, so I have to explain everything in a language I started learning 7 days ago!! It's really, really hard, super frustrating, and even discouraging sometimes, but I need to remember that all of this is divinely organized. The way we are taught here is inspired of God. I believe that with all my heart, but that doesn't make it any easier or less frustrating.
I'm glad I can type fast. I still feel like I have so much to say. Be sure to ask me questions in emails so that it's easier to respond, because we don't have a lot of time to do anything other than study and learn. Which is great, of course. My testimony has doubled--tripled!--in just a few long days, and I can barely imagine the person I will be when I come home, as long as I give my will to Heavenly Father's and represent His Son, Jesus Christ.
Don't I sound like a missionary, Mom? It's weird... when I read this kind of stuff from my friends who were on missions, I thought it was a bunch of hokey balogna. But now that I've been here, felt of the Spirit here, gone to Church here, watch devotionals, felt the Spirit work in my life and whisper directions to my heart and soul, I want to shout this gospel from the rooftops! It's true! I know it's true! Io so che il Vangelo di Gesu Cristo e vero! (Sorry, this computer won't let me do accents, so that doesn't make much sense. Whatever.) Even typing my testimony and my devotion to God doesn't feel cheesy or silly at all. I'm filled with righteous fervor, and I'm going to try really hard to keep that with me all through the next two years. Of course there will be moments of devastation--I've already felt the inklings in ONE WEEK--but in the end, it will be so worth it, and I will be so happy. This is such an amazing thing to be a part of. It really is.
Okay, still so much to say!! I obviously can't tell you everything, there's just too much happening every day, every hour. I write a ton in my journal every night, so I'll have plenty of great stories and experience to share when I come home--and that's just in the first week of the MTC. HA! This is crazy.
I love having a physical planner to write in, and I love having a suit with a billion pockets to carry all my stuff. It's so nice not to have a phone, and even sitting on here on a computer connected to the internet feels kinda weird. I love this lifestyle, even if I'm super exhausted and full all the time. Yes, Mom, I'm eating 3 great meals a day. The food here is not bad at all. It's not gourmet by any means, but I haven't eaten anything I don't like yet.
I just noticed there's a timer on this thing. Ha! That's awesome. Okay, I've got 12 minutes left, so let's get to the good stuff:
My branch is comprised of missionaries going to Milan, Rome, and Romania. Each branch is divided into Districts, so I'm in 33A. There are 9 elders and sisters (we're not allowed to say "guys" or any slang here, it's all "elders and sisters") in my District, which is also my class. We pretty much do everything together. And it's awesome. We've got Anziano Herrin and Anz. Lovett, Anz. Smith and Taylor, Sorella (Sister) Acerson, Seare, and McCann (a trio), and then me with my companion: Anziano McKinnon. Who. Is. Awesome.
Anziano McKinnon grew up in Sandy, UT. He's my height and build, blonde, played volleyball, and absolutely loves his family. His cousins are his best friends in the world. He has traits that remind me of Tate, Brad, AND Clayton. It's so cool. He busted his shoulder a while back and is getting the end of recovery from surgery, so he can't do any sports during our daily gym hour. Uh, can you say HUZZAH!!? How amazing is that? All we do is simple work outs, running on machines and lifting weights and stuff, and I don't have to worry about scary basketball with all the huge elders or anything like that. The Lord must really love me, or maybe I just prayed hard enough. Anziano McKinnon is a perfect companion for me, and I couldn't be more grateful. He's super cool, super funny, and super chill, and we get along great. It's gonna be a wonderful 5 weeks coming.
I don't have any pictures for you yet, but tell me what you want to see and I'll do that next P-Day. We can only take pictures on P-Day.
These computers are freezing up, so I'm gonna try to close this before something bad happens. OH! Also, please apologize, like, a billion times to Brother Moon for me. I'm so sorry that didn't work out--I wasn't sure if I was supposed to go find him or just stay by the baggage claim. It was my fault for not communicating well enough. Everything is totally fine with me, though, so don't anybody worry about anything.
We listened to a recorded devotional from Elder Bednar on Sunday night, and it was the greatest thing I've ever heard. Up there with Holland's conference talk on the Book of Mormon for favorite addresses ever, and this one was given in the MTC, just for missionaries. It was incredible. He talked about a ton of fantastic stuff, but it boiled down to converting ourselves, turning OUTWARD instead of INWARD, turning to CHRIST rather than the NATURAL MAN. It was very powerful, very life-changing, and I want to apply everything I learn here to my time as a missionary and to the rest of my life.
I'm so priveleged. There's so much more I want to say, but I'm out of time and I guess these experiences are more for me than for you. I hope all is well at home, and I hope that God gives you as much thrilling opportunity to grow as He is giving me. In bocca al lupo, e arrivederci!
Ask tons of questions for next time, and I'll just focus on that. I purchased an Italian hymnbook and Children's Songbook, which are both super awesome. As it says at the end of their version of Come Come Ye Saints, "Tutto ben, tutto ben!"