Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 3 - December 8, 2015  Fast Sunday, Teaching Members, and Dictator-Butlers


This email commemorates the 21st day here at the MTC. My sojourn here is about half complete now. And might I just say it's already been a wonderful unforgettable experience. There is a diversity of culture, testimony, ideas unheard to me before. I have two awesome instructors. There is a very strong presence of the Spirit here. The days are impossibly long but unbelievably fast too.

This Sunday was fast Sunday and was thus a little unusual. We had dinner Saturday at around five. Then in lieu of the normal breakfast and lunch meals, we had more meetings. There are a lot of meetings here. One where the Branch president spoke and one where we generally discussed how to "Endure to the End". The real highlight was the sacrament meeting itself. The meeting is maybe 60-70 people. All French-speaking save one Elder who is going to the Haitian-Creole Boston mission. Haitian Creole sounds a bit like caveman French. We can all understand what he says for the most part. The Sacrament itself and all the hymns are done in French, after which the remaining time was turned over to the missionaries to bear testimony in their mission language. To no surprise the testimonies were continuous and there was never that awkward silence falling over the congregation. The testimonies borne were simple-- in part because we don't know how to say anything other than simple things, but that made them all the more beautiful: All these young beautiful people expressing simple truths about God, Jesus Christ, and what they (they being the young beautiful people) believe, while the Holy Ghost echoed the truthfulness of their words. It was very cool and spiritually uplifting.

This Wednesday we had the chance to share a brief spiritual message with people who are already members of the church. It's quite the change of pace from the usual role playing with instructors. It was a nice break and was much more relaxed. Speaking in our broken and pause-filled French is still a struggle however. My companion and I talked with a returned missionary who served in Africa, and a French teacher mother plus ten year old kid. It was both heart-warming and slightly demoralizing, mostly the former, to hear a ten year old raised here in Utah speak French with better fluency than us. 

Missionaries staring thoughtfully out the window

There had been some construction going on outside the residence hall. And there were a few loose bricks here and there. Seeking to satisfy my desire for a unique keepsake here from the MTC, I wanted to take a piece of the building itself. While I don't remember stealing specifically being banned, I assumed it was included in the umbrella of things not to do. So every day I'd pass by those bricks, casting a longing glance, then wander off to class or a meal or whatever else I had for the day. One evening I walked outside to find the construction worker hard at work fixing the building. I asked him if I could "steal" one of those bricks. He helped me pick out a nice one. My theft was now justified. So the moral of the story is patience justifies whatever crimes you'd like (just kidding).

The brick

The other notable thing this week was an activity I proposed to the other three Elders I live with: I'd say a career, then we decide which of the four of us is that career would be suitable for. It was decided that none of should be a secretary. I'd make a solid surgeon, an excellent explorer- think Lewis and Clark with coonskin cap-, a butler, a teacher/professor, as well as the most suitable to be a dictator of the four. My companion Elder Iacopucci will be one or multiple of the following: a fencer, chef, actor, orca handler. Elder Dunoskovic is suited for farming, detective work, authorship, piracy of the non-digital variety, and a hitman. Elder Taylor is the astronaut, film directer, pilot, and clam diver. That should also serve as a bit of description about each of us.

I'd like to end this email with a thank you, a testimony, and a challenge. Thank you for those who have supported me, both before I embarked in my service and during. I'm grateful to hear from and about you and have you in my prayers. Stay fresh wherever you are. Je vous aime. I'd like to write briefly about faith here for a moment. As I've been teaching "investigators", chatting with a myriad of missionaries, and soul-searching myself, I've seen the whole spectrum of faith. People who have none. People who have loads. People who believe one thing and don't really know another to be true. Myself included in these categories. And it doesn't really matter in a lot of ways what quantity you have. A lot of missionaries and one of the people we teach seem to not think this: They try and quantify how much they believe things. For faith is not to have a perfect knowledge. It can even be to have know knowledge and simply desire to believe. That's all it takes to start. Simply a desire to believe things. Whatever quantity of belief you profess to have is enough, simply because it's there at all. And you grow it by using it. You grow it by acting on it. You grow it be reading the Book of Mormon and asking through prayer if it's true. You grow it be seeking after the truth willing to believe whatever answer you find. So my challenge would be to read Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon (if you have one-- if not the material is free to access via technology. The church has an app for all the scriptures.) and learn about faith. And then strive to act on whatever faith you do have. Water those seeds.

With affection.
-Elder Hacker

Another "Sweater Monday" for the District

The less reverent version of the "Sweater Monday" picture

And from another email Alex sent answering some of our questions:

The food is still pretty great! No complaints. They repeat various types of burgers and sandwiches often but the other line has yet to repeat. They get the BYU creamery ice-cream on Tuesdays and Sundays which would probably default as my favorite.

The Branch president is President Dowling. The mission is all French speaking save a Haitian-Creole speaking Elder headed to Boston.  Sundays are marked by Church service, a devotional in the evening-- someone in the Quorum of the Seventy or a high ranking MTC guy so far, a film (generally a general authority's past talks here at the MTC). There are a few hours of class-time also. We have a district based Sunday School thing and meet as a Zone for a devotional review/testimony meeting.

So besides Thanksgiving I hear a devotional every Sunday and Tuesday.

The choir which I'm still in performs every Tuesday devotional.

Our service project is setting up for the devotionals Saturday night after our gym time. Lot's of putting chairs in lines.

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