Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Week Five in the MTC

It has been an eventful week in the MTC! Let's see how much of this I can remember! Last week we had the ASL missionaries (there are only 8 of them) come and share their testimonies with us. Actually, they did something that they call "blue boxing" which is what they do for deaf people who don't understand ASL. Pretty much it is them acting out a story or a personal experience that they had, but they act it out all by themselves. It was incredible! Most of the stories were stories from the Bible or Book of Mormon and most of them I was able to tell what they were. One sister acted out Joseph Smith's first vision and I didn't realize what it was until after she was done and told us, but the Spirit was powerful during her blue boxing, even if I didn't understand what she was portraying.

This week was the week that they held the new mission president seminar at the MTC! All the new mission presidents for all the missions across the world gathered together and for 5 days were taught by the apostles and prophet. They held the seminar in the main building where our cafeteria is, but had every thing blocked off so that us missionaries couldn't just wander around and find an apostle to bug. It was neat though because if we left the cafeteria at the same time they were having a break from the seminar, you could see them all gathered around in the halls talking, including apostles! For example, we left lunch once and Sorella Tutt casually said "Hey, there's Elder Oaks" and he was just standing on the other side of the rope talking to some people. The MTC held a special devotional for us on Friday night with Elder Oaks speaking. My companion Sorella Ryan is in the exclusive MTC choir (only 36 people) and because the choir sang for the special devotional, we were able to get there before anyone else and sit right up front! Sorella Tutt and I sat on the third row on the side, about 15 feet away from where 8 apostles sat on the stand! It was awesome!

We also were able to meet our mission president, because he is one of the new presidents here at the seminar! His name is President Kelly and after the devotional on Friday, all the Rome missionaries (12 of us) met in a room and spoke with him and his wife for about an hour. I am not quite sure what I expected, maybe someone who was stern and more distant, but President Kelly and his wife were both incredibly kind and warm! He served his mission in Milan, Italy and we know he co-founded JetBlue although he didn't talk at all about that. We talked a little about the temple because even though they haven't started building it, he saw the plans. He said it was about the size of the Draper temple, and I heard rumors from other missionaries that it looks a little bit like the DC temple and should be started this fall. It’s on about 15 acres of land and they are building a visitor's center and a nice park/temple square type area. His wife doesn't speak Italian yet so she is in the same boat as us missionaries. They both seem very easy going and kind, I am so excited!

My birthday was great too. I was spotlighted in my district and got to show pictures of all my family and talk about my "previous life" (gasp!). My wonderful roommates bought me Jesus the Christ in Italian with the expectation that I would read it in Italy (ha! That will be tough but I am determined to do it!). I also tripped over someone while playing foursquare in gym on my birthday and slightly rolled my ankle, which of course brought a lot of pain because it is still in recovery.

I have such exciting news! We have an Italian named Matteo who is here in Utah for school and is not a member of the church and he is coming to the TRC! We just found out yesterday and he is going to be a real investigator for our district only! The three companionships in our district will take turns teaching him. He apparently talked with the missionaries in Italy and is really interested! It is difficult to describe the feelings I have about this, I am so stoked and feel love and concern for him already and yet also I feel the weight of the responsibility starting to rest on me. Me and my companions are teaching him next week, just as he is, no role-playing like everyone else who comes to the TRC. This truly is an incredible opportunity and we already pray for him every day so we can understand what he needs and how to help him. I'll let you know how next week goes!

I've learned and felt some wonderful things this week. I've been reminded how central the Atonement is to everything we teach. It is all about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and God's plan for us, and how we use the Atonement more fully. That is so central to our purpose here as missionaries! Also, I know that the Spirit of God is giving me the power and authority to teach. I am able to teach in a way that I would never be able to before when I am in tune with this Spirit. I know it because I have seen it. I have seen the tremendous difference between when I am focused on listening to the Spirit and praying and when I forget to. It gives me a confidence and power that is not possible when it’s me alone.

Love you all!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Week Four in the MTC

Still healthy and happy! I am growing to love my companions and my district more and getting a little more nervous for Italy. I am having some computer problems today, I lost about 8 minutes of the 30 and now the enter key won't work, ah! The TRC yesterday was a little rough for me but it is times like those that make it a really good learning experience.

I learned that I need to prepare more and put in more energy! So far the MTC learning is strenuous but it hasn't pushed me any farther than school has.. I think that is not what Heavenly Father has in mind for me and I think I received a little reminded yesterday that I should be working harder.. I am working hard and progressing but I am not yet working my hardest. And that is what he expects of me. Anyways, part way through our lesson at the TRC, our investigator turned to Sorella Tutt and said "when you spoke, I felt good" and then he turned to Sorella Ryan and said "When you spoke, I felt good." Then he turned to me and said, "When you spoke, I felt strange." Ouch! Still have a lot of work to do then!

On a better note, on Sunday my companions and I taught a lesson on the Plan of Salvation to our district. It was surprisingly the first time I had taught a lesson to a group of people in a church setting and it went really well! I loved it! It reminds me of being in DC and teaching about my research for the first time and how extremely rewarding it was. Similar feeling, I love teaching even though it is hard work for me!

My companion Sorella Ryan made it into the exclusive MTC choir and will be performing for the apostles when they come to the MTC this week for the new mission president seminar. She is so excited! I have a funny story about that actually. My companions and two elders from our district were all in the office of the secretary to the mtc president yesterday looking to check out some music and Anziano Parry (he is a very curious person) picks up some pamphlet sitting on her desk and starts to read it.. After a minute he says "Wow, I would love to have the mission presidents schedule" and the secretary freaks out. She takes it away from him and makes him swear to not tell a soul about what he read. Apparently it was the schedule for when all the apostles and prophet would be speaking this week in the MTC (they conduct the seminars for the miss pres) and it was a huge security risk for anyone to see it! Ha!

From now on, we are preparing to teach only in Italian and it makes everyone else really nervous and me really excited! However it is so true that it does not matter how good our Italian is because we can express ourselves in other ways. What matters is what we are teaching, our testimony of it, and the needs of the people we teach.

One more funny story; one of the elders in our zone used the bathroom in the middle of the night and locked himself out so he sat outside tapping on the door. Another elder inside the room woke up and didn't know what was going on and he got a little freaked out. He threw open the door with his fists up and said "Let's do this!". No one was quite sure who he thought would be at the door but that elder was ready to fight!

I made a goal to read the whole book of Mormon in Italian before i leave for Italy. It is so tough to do. I read out loud and it takes me several hours a day but it pushes me to work harder and use my time more effectively. I am so excited for mission president seminar, I cant even tell you. I cant wait to meet my Mission President. I and i cant wait for the apostles to be wandering around the campus. I love Sunday movie nights and ice cream and walks to the temple. I am realizing that god will work through my strengths to let me help the Italians. I like to listen to people and I care and he will help me do this to touch lives.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Advice for the Missionary!

Just for fun…Jourdan Hafen offers this advice to Caitlin about serving a mission in Italy: Do carry a picture of a boy in your wallet to show to creepy guys who won't leave you alone and say it's your boyfriend-- blond and military-looking is best. Also with the creepy guys and/or overly persistent salespeople-- don't be a nice American girl. Learn to say things like, "Signore, mi lasci stare per favore, non... sono interessata". Say your prayers. Don't think that things are impossible. Remember that jeans take a few days to dry on the racks, and other stuff takes a while too. Salt the water before you put in the pasta. There is no such thing as too much parmeggiano.

Be a good missionary! Falla brava! Remember who you are! Have fun and be safe! Take it one day at a time! Study hard! Don't give up after a few months when you can say everything you "need" to say; never stop studying the language! Treat the skanky men who hit on you like trees-- pay them no heed. Enjoy the food but fi...gure out a way to make the members stop stuffing you until you are to the point of vomiting (I always just said that there was no more space in my stomach; say it nicely and with a smile, but be FIRM!). Eat a lot of gelato. Eat mozzarella. Avoid drunk people. Don't be afraid to ask stupid questions. Don't carry your passport on you unless you will need it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Week Three in the MTC

Week three in the MTC! Time is flying by! It seemed when I first got here that the 9 weeks would never end, but the other Italian sisters who were here when we arrived left today for Italy. That will be us soon! Woohoo! The more time I spend here, the more excited I am for Italy and yet also the more grateful I am that I have all this time in the MTC to prepare. It has been a wonderful experience. I've realized this week that the MTC for me is not about learning Italian, Heavenly Father prepared me for that a few months ago, but rather it is a time to grow spiritually and become a missionary!
A few days ago we switched to speaking mostly Italian in our classes and it is incredible to see how quickly the missionaries pick up on the language and how much they understand for the little exposure they have had. We try to speak only Italian when we are together for a few hours in the morning. They can express themselves just about as well as I can!
One exciting thing we had this week was zone conference for all the Italian missionaries in the MTC (about 25). Some of our teachers spoke and one gave a powerful lesson on inadequacy, which is something we all experience here. She told us that yes, we all are inadequate, but that is why we need the Lord's help to do His work. She brought up a scriptural example that really hit me. It's the rarely mentioned "small lad" who gave up his meager portion of bread and fishes for Jesus to perform the miracle to feed the 5000. This small lad was well aware that he didn't have enough to feed everyone and yet he gave up everything he had. When Jesus performed the miracle, it wasn't the small lad who was recognized and glorified, even though it was his food that was multiplied. It was God who was glorified. As missionaries, we are just like the small lad because we give up all that we have and let our Savior perform the miracle and receive the glory. What a wonderful example to me of my purpose. It's not about me. I am also learning to love the Italians already even though I do not know them.
Last week we had Elder Robert D. Hales speak to us in a devotional on our purpose and finding the light of Christ in other people. Funny story; afterwards one of the Italian missionaries followed him to his car and was expecting him to say something to him and Elder Hales stuck out his hand and said while counting, "serve God with your (1)heart (2)might (3)mind (4)and (5)strength. Yes, he counted the word "and" on his hand!
Something else kind of neat; my companions and I were studying together outside and there was a big film crew recording Japanese missionaries. They wanted us to be apart of it for the "natural atmosphere" of the MTC and so they stuck a bunch of missionaries at our table and recorded us for 5 minutes. Apparently it was for a Japanese stake conference. Woot woot, we're famous!
Last week we also practiced talking to people in Italian on a "bus" (which was really a room with the desks rearranged). We did this for almost two hours, switching between being an investigator and being a missionary. Some of the elders in our district really let their personalities shine with this one because we were allowed to get pretty creative when we were investigators. One elder kept repeating "cerco il mio gatto" which means "I am looking for my cat" and he had the missionaries try to help him find his cat before listening to them. Ha! One of the many creative examples.
One of the things we do in the MTC is prepare a talk for each Sunday's Sacrament Meeting. Our Branch President doesn't announce who is speaking until right before, so we all have to be ready with something prepared according to a new topic each week! Apparently it is good practice for when we are missionaries in Italy and they ask us to speak at the last minute. By the time we leave, we will have 9 talks prepared and ready to go! Next week we are going to start giving them in Italian too!
One of the highlights of the MTC experience, something we prepare for each week, is the TRC where we teach an "investigator"(usually just a volunteer from BYU) a full lesson. This week we had two investigators and we taught them about the Plan of Salvation. I've been learning for these last few weeks about how everything we do is for the investigator. We get so caught up in learning Italian and learning the lessons and how to teach them, when really EVERY thing we do is for these Italian people. We don't matter. So, I've been trying to think only about the investigator when teaching, rather than worrying about how I am doing, and it makes a huge difference. The Spirit is so much more able to help us know what to say and how to say it and we feel so much more love for them. It's tough though when you are actually doing it because you are nervous and worried about what to say. Anyways, for me this last TRC was a great experience and I was much more able to worry about my investigators. Even though they are role playing, they are still real people with real needs and we can still meet those needs. I felt my love for them grow and my ability to teach them improve when I concentrated on what they needed to hear rather than what I needed to say.
Love learning with my companions, they share great insights and we are all on a similar journey with our testimonies. I am learning how to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior. It has taken me 21 years to finally realize that I need to do this and how I can do it and it makes all the difference
My companions sing like angels! Favorite moment weas singing hymns around piano
Io so che il vangelo restaurato e vero. So che Dio ci ama and ha ci dato suo figlio Gesu Cristo per la nostra salvezza.

Sorella Askew

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sorella Suzanne Tutt, Sorella Caitlin Askew, and Sorella Rachel Ryan. P-Day at the Provo Temple, June 2010.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Week Two in the MTC

Thank you everyone for the packages and letters, they have been wonderful and I love hearing from everyone! I am so sorry if I am not able to respond quickly, we are only allowed to write on P-day (Tuesday for me) and even on that day, we have a very limited amount of time.

Things are going really well! The MTC is an incredible place, every day is filled so much to do, learn, and feel. It's funny because the Lord is showing each of us our weaknesses so that we can truly prepare ourselves to do his work. From hour to hour, emotions can completely change from feeling so entirely inadequate to being filled with hope and excitement.

My district is wonderful and the teachers are incredible, what a blessing that is! We have two teachers and we spend a few hours each day with each one of them. If you want to see a picture of one, Brother Auna is on page 66 of the May 2010 Ensign. That is him and his "special friend".

One of my favorite parts of the MTC is seeing the Spirit take a person and make them so much more than they could be. You can take an ordinary person and when they are humble and worthy, you can watch them bear powerful testimony of the Savior and of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teach with such simple clarity. I have a deep testimony that this is the Lord's work, and that when we let him, he uses His missionaries for great good.

I've been spending some time with the two sisters headed to Italian in one week. I go on "exchanges" and hang out in their classroom, where they generally only speak Italian. One of the sisters has had a real struggle with learning Italian (or so she says) but it is incredible to see her near perfect comprehension and fluency in being able to express herself even if she doesnt have all the vocab. Only after 7 weeks of learning Italian! The gift of tongues is real.

Along with sitting in the classroom and learning, we spend a lot of time teaching each other in English and practicing "street contacting" in Italian. We spend a lot of time learning how to discern someone's needs and teach a lesson so that it meets their needs. One of my favorite activities was combining companionships and talking to them as a real person (no role playing or scenarios) and asking them about their fears and concerns. Then we taught them a 15 minute lesson based off of that. Every time we do something like this, I feel so inadequate in my ability to teach and meet their needs, but it is amazing how the Spirit guides us, something that will be even more apparent out in the field. The companions we taught both said that we touched their hearts and said something right on that they needed to hear. How wonderful is that?? I love practicing the street contacting as well, and I love how when I bear testimony of God and Jesus Christ and his Restored Church, I feel within my heart every time that it is true. Now imagine experiencing that 20 times a day as we practice and other missionaries practice with us! What a place!

I've been learning a little bit about pride and how it manifests itself in envy and seeking approval from other people. In a devotional a week ago, someone said something that really hit me and has been so far the theme of my MTC experience. "When our source of validation is external, it is never enough". I know this absolutely to be true. We experience great joy in the things of the world, and in other people and our relationships with them. But when we seek validation from anything but our God, it will never last and it will never be enough. This has been a powerful thought for me to consider and try to implement in my life. How often I silently seek validation from other people and find joy or sadness in comparing myself to others! This simply should not be how it is and I am working to change it.

Some other things I like about the MTC: the food (I eat quite a lot of it. I am going to start keeping track to see if I gain any weight!); Gym time on Friday nights where we go out into the field; how adorable all the sister missionaries look, how I feel good despite the hard work and not enough sleep (Blessing!); the high expectations and never ending lists of goals for myself; devotionals.

I know I keep talking about my teachers but I am so grateful to have them. They both absolutely radiate and their teaching is powerful and their love for us is so immense. I've really learned some important things just from their example. Their sure testimony and love for us are what I believe make them so great and are what I hope to develop for when I teach the Italians. We went to the TRC yesterday and taught "Davide". My companions and I work together because each of us bring a different personality and background and they combine to witness of the gospel. We are working on unity and greater love, even though we get along well, and also we are trying to be on time (that is a bit of a struggle in the mornings).

I am so excited to be here and pray that I will be able to meet all these goals I create and face all the inadequacies that are surfacing. It will be wonderful to finally get to Italy as well!!

Sorella Askew

P.S. Compliments: I got a few compliments from my teachers that I thought were interesting. They said they both were struck by my "virtue" and what a difference that will make because the italians will see it. And one said I taught like I was born to teach! Whoa

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wow! The MTC is quite the place!! I got here on Wednesday and they immediately put us in a classroom to start learning. No rest for the righteous! I actually have two companions, Sister Suzanne Tutt from Mesa AZ who is also going to Rome and Sister Rachel Ryan from Prince George, British Columbia who is going to Milan (Mom and Dad, Sister Ryan is the sister we talked to outside of Sis Missionary mall so you got to see who she is, yay!). They are wonderful! They are both upbeat and kind and so enthusiastic to be here! There are two other sisters going to Rome who arrived on Wednesday, one of them I know from BYU because she worked in the same lab as me. All of them are very friendly and funny.
Our district is our companionship and 5 more Elders who are going to Rome or Milan. We have two incredible teachers (seriously, incredible) and we spend about 6 hours with them (one at a time) each day. So far we have been focusing on learning to discern the needs of other people and teach accordingly rather than the language but our teachers are so filled with the Spirit when they teach, it is wonderful. Even the Elders in our district seem to be pretty mature so far (wohoo!) and they teach very well and have great comments. I am very impressed with the quality of people who enter the MTC, particularly the 24 new missionaries who entered with me on Wednesday and are going to Italy. They are all great and the elders and extremely courteous to the sisters. Of course, all the teachers tell them to be, but they always open doors, let us cut in line, take our trays in the lunchroom for us, even stand when we sit down at lunch!! Who would have thought that 19 year old boys could act so well? :)
We have a few hours a day for personal study, companionship study, and "MDT" (missionary directed time). We have gym every day and the sisters in my room like to wake up at 5:45 to go to a special workout class for sisters. And of course, if they go, I go, because we always have to be with our companions. So far we have learned to pray and bear our testimony in Italian and our district is catching on the Italian pretty fast. I had an interview with one of our teachers in Italian and he said I spoke well but that one other sister a few months ago was fluent and she decided to still stay the full 9 weeks so I probably will as well.
I am running out of time so I want to finish with one of the things I learned this first week. I want to testify of the power of the atonement. The first fews days were quite a rollercoaster of emotion and when I got to the point where I literally did not think I could do it anymore, I felt that burden lifted from me completely and ever since then I have been so much happier and filled with the Spirit. Love you everyone, please write me using dearelder.com!