Hey everyone! Before I get into the update for the week, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone back home who has sent me emails and mail. I feel so bad that I'm not able to respond to each of the emails personally, since we only get a certain amount of time online on P-day, but I thought I'd let everyone know that I have as much time as I want to respond to written letters. I'm totally aware it's more trouble to send it, but if I don't have time to send back an email on Monday, and you want a response, I promise I'll always respond to mail. Thanks!
Mom - Thanks so much for the talks! One of them has probably now been read by everyone in the district, and I've enjoyed reading them all. I love that line you shared about how he was an example of what it means to do good for the right reason. I hope everything is going well back home, and I wish you the best!
Ashleigh - I gained about 5 pounds in the first few days after eating like crap. When I realized what was happening, I told myself, "This will not happen to me!" Me and my companion immediately started working out really hard in the morning, and eating much better, so now I've probably actually lost weight :)
Ellie - Yes, we get to go to the temple every P-day morning, and it is awesome :) Also, we play soccer, we do laundry, we take a nap, and we go running sometimes. It's pretty much a "do whatever you want" day.
Hadley - I told Emi she wasn't allowed to do that trick till I got home, so I'm glad to hear she kept her promise. Keep telling mom there's no way you'll stop growing up :) glad to hear you're teacher is nice. It is so crazy to think the school year is starting.
Hayden - I'm doing awesome here. Yes, some of the people I meet at TRC are from Taiwan or China, and one of my teachers is also a native. You'll have a great time in Middle School, so stop worrying :) the teachers are mostly nice, and as long as you don't annoy the ninth graders, you should be fine :)
Dad - Sorry I don't have more time to respond, but I really appreciated the email you sent. I keep a book of all my favorite quotes, and here on the mission it's probably doubled in size. I love you so much and thank you so much for taking the time to send some thoughts.
Alright, so this week has been fantastic! First piece of big news - Me and Elder Stowell just got called as the new zone leaders. Three weeks in and they're already putting me to work :) Basically, all this means is that I give tours to new missionaries, my Sunday schedule is crazy, and - best of all - I get a phone!!!! I mean, sure, all it can do is call the front desk and get calls from the Mission President, and it's probably older than me, but IT'S A PHONE! I don't think the outside world realizes how far back in time you go when you come into the MTC. I haven't held, touched, or seen a cordless phone in almost 4 weeks, and it's a bit crazy to have one, even if it is a flip phone :)
Haha, now for the serious stuff. So, yesterday, we had the Nashville Tribute Band come and do a performance, which just may have been the best experience yet at the MTC. I had forgotten how much I loved their songs when I was younger, and when they all got on stage and bore their testimony through music, it was amazing. I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire audience.
They played one song called American Dreams that I especially loved, which is basically about an immigrant who leaves his native Ireland to go to Kirtland, where he hears a prophet is building a temple to worship his god. He leaves, and the song follows his travels until finally, he reaches Ohio, and Joseph Smith reaches out his hand and says, "Welcome, my friend." The chorus then changes from "They're building a temple to worship my God" to "I'm building a temple to worship my God" and he bears his testimony of his belief through his work and effort. Today, very few of us have to build a temple with our own hands and tools, but like those saints in Kirtland, we are in the business of building a kingdom, and whether that is with toil and sweat, or with words and testimony, we are building. The first saints had to give up everything including their homes around the world to follow a prophet. I'm sure their friends thought they were crazy when all the evidence they could give was a testimony of the gospel and a recently published book, but they went, and they went by the thousands. As they sang the song, I looked around and saw that, sitting in this room with me, were people from all around the world with no reason other than a testimony and a book they held in their hands. Now, I know that serving a two year mission is nothing compared to what the early saints went through, but it's hard not to feel admiration for these people from Tonga and Japan and France and New York who probably were the only one of their friends who thought giving two years of their time to the Lord was a good idea. And when I'm with them I feel like "We're building a temple to worship our God".
They also sang a song called something like "The Hardest Thing," and I don't remember the exact lyrics, but it was inspiring. It went something like "The hardest thing I've ever loved to do was when I stepped out of that car and said goodbye," as the singer talks about his family and his life he's leaving behind. The mission starts, and the comments start to change their point of view. Instead of dreaming of home, he starts singing "The hardest tears I've ever loved to cry, came when I opened up my mouth and testified." The singer's whole view of a mission changes, and it made me realize how quickly the Lord works wonders in the lives of the missionaries who serve him. I have yet to meet a missionary who doesn't miss his family back home, but I also haven't yet met one who hasn't felt the spirit here stronger than anywhere else. There's something special about the MTC, and I know to missionaries out in the field, my point of view seems a bit naive, but I've loved every minute here. The last line of the song says something like "The hardest thing I've ever loved to do, was to fly on home here to you, when a land so far away still owns my heart." I look forward to the day I get to come home, but I hope it's hard. I hope that, at least in me, Toronto will always have a place. That after two years of serving and working and loving, it's a bit hard to get on that plane and come home, because if it's hard, I think that means I've done it right.
I have no regrets about coming out here, and for those young men back home entertaining the idea of serving a mission I have a few words. Do it. You'll never be able to thank yourself enough for making the choice to leave your family for a couple of years to help others be with their families forever. Pray about it. Ask God, because I know the answer He's going to give you. He'll tell you there's nowhere He would rather have you be.
For those lacking in faith or in conviction, stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others. In the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland "If it was right when you prayed about it, and trusted it, and lived for it, it is right now. Don't give up when the pressure mounts." There's an elder in my district who left everything behind including a family who doesn't support him and friends who have ridiculed his decision. He has more determination than anyone I've met here, and I am in awe of his decision. He's a convert of two years, he comes from a pretty rough background, and I love him.
In order to get from the airport to the MTC, he had to call up a few old friends. Well, it turns out, that these friends of his were the missionaries that converted him, who have since returned from their missions and are back in Salt Lake. They picked him up, and I couldn't help but think how amazing that must be for them. On their missions they found a kid who no one would have guessed would accept the gospel, but they followed the spirit, and it turned out amazing. Here they are, two years later, dropping off this elder at the MTC. They get to watch the fruits of their labors and see a man begin his mission just because they took a chance and saw a kid like no one had seen him before.
I have no doubt that they looked at him through God's eyes, and saw something. Something that maybe I get to see a little of now. I'm not really sure what the point of telling his story was, but I felt like I should, and I hope it helps someone back home. Never underestimate the power of the Spirit and the effect it can have to soften someone's heart. Faith without works is dead, so go on in the work, and if you haven't started, then start now. We are building a kingdom, and sometimes the pieces come from the most unlikely places.
Love you all so much. Gotta go!!!