Hello my favorite people in the world,
I cannot believe that I'm already in my fourth week here now! Time is flying by so quickly. I'm not exaggerating, I feel like I was sending my last email to you all just one day ago. First of all, thank you to all those who have sent letters via mission ties and other methods. I am getting letters through Mission Ties--I know that has been a question on all of your minds! It usually takes a day or two from the time you sent them for them to appear in my mailbox here, which is not bad (it's a little bit longer if you send them on the weekends). I love hearing little snippets of life back home. It's great and it reminds me that I have such a solid support group writing me and praying for me and genuinely concerned for my welfare. I love you, and God bless you for your kindness.
Some other questions that I know you have had:
Have you been able to play the piano...?
Yes, but not as often as I'd like of course! I have to schedule a room with the CTM secretary, which is hard because there's not a whole lot of availability. I did, however, find a way around that :) I signed up to accompany the choir for last Tuesday's devotional, which meant that I was allowed more time--basically 30 minutes a day for Friday, Sat., Sun., and Mon. It was great! I practiced the number I would be playing (a Brazilian hymn entitled "Ide a Tudo O Mundo") but also was able to sneak in some run-through's of "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and some other church music I haven't been able to play for a while. The performance itself went great, no nerves or anything, just the Spirit. It's a really cool song, and I wish you could have been there to listen to it.
How many missionaries are at the CTM?
If fluctuates because we have districts leaving and arriving every Tuesday-Thursday, but on average there's about 150 Americans and 75 or so Brazilians, with some Hispanics sprinkled in. So, not very many compared to Provo! It's nice that way though--more time to shower and more time to get to know everyone on an individual level. The CTM has a capacity of 600 or so, which I'm sure will come in handy when we start getting all those 18 year old Elders and 19 year old Sisters!!! How about that announcement by the way?? Grandma and Grandpa Q, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about that as a Mission President and a Mission Mom.
How is the temple? English or Portuguese?
The temple is fantastic. I get to go every week with about 70 other Elders and Sisters on P-day. The sessions are in English, which is such a blessing for me. It's really neat to know that the Church works the exact same way no matter where you go in the world. And, of course, the Spirit is just as strong. I'm gaining so many new insights and impressions each time I go. Oh, and Conference this past weekend was in English as well. yay!
How are President and Sister Degn?
President Degn is an incredible man. He's so personable and very quiet when he speaks, but very firm. A lot like the Holy Ghost. He's served in mission leadership positions in the Church for decades and he's a concert pianist! How about that? Sister Degn is so kind and sweet. She reminds me a lot of Grandma Julie. She has an extremely powerful testimony and I think everyone that she serves have come to love her.
Spiritual highlight of the week: that'd have to be Conference!
The CTM just about lost it when we heard the missionary service announcement! President and Sister Degn had to hush us so that we could hear the change in the sister's age as well! We are all so excited, as am I individually as I contemplate the changes that may bring about within my family and close circle of friends. I've never been as spiritually fed during conference as I was this time. I tried to go into each session with a question or two that I was hoping could be answered, and pray for impressions to direct me to the answers for each of those sessions. Without fail, I got my answers. If I had to classify the knowledge and impressions I received during the sessions into 2 overarching categories they would be these:
1) As a servant of the Lord and representative of Jesus Christ who has been set apart to preach His gospel, I really am entitled to personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, sent from on High.
2) The message that I carry as a missionary is transformative and miraculous; when I promise investigators and companions that the gospel has the power to bless their lives in more ways than they can imagine, I can issue that promise with the aboslute conviction that what I'm promising is true.
I hope all of you enjoyed conference as much as I did, and I'd love to hear from you any insights you gained or thoughts you had!
Non-spiritual highlight of the week:
This Thursday we went to the "Policia Federal" to extend our visas from 1 year to 2 years. On the way there traffic was terrible; we saw a car get off the highway, drive through the hill on which the off-ramp was constructed (full of boulders and trees and dirt and such), and merge back into traffic at the end of the off-ramp. Crazy stuff! When we got there I was able to talk to two missionaries that were there that had been serving for 18 months and 21 months respectively. One was American and the other Brazilian. Hearing both of them talk gave such hope to me that I'll be able to be speaking and testifying like them at some point hopefully not too far in the future!
Another funny incident from this week: one of the sisters in our district, Sister Cook, wanted to decorate the room where we study so she brought down a gift that her mom had sent her from home. It's a solar powered flower that oscillates back and forth when it's close enough to the window. My companions and I are straight across from that window so we have the perfect view of it. One afternoon Elder Carter, one of my companions, started bursting out laughing and then proceeded to cry because he was laughing so hard. That is so unlike him, so I asked him what was going on and he said: "That stinking flower is waving at me and it won't stop! I'm going crazy!" We all had a pretty good laugh after that and on a second glance, that flower really does look like it's waving at us. I can't look at it anymore because I'll just start laughing. Silly 19 year-old's, I know :)
I love you all and I'm doing my best to send off as many letters as I can via Mission Ties today. Mom, please forward this on to the Shell's so that they can know what's going on down here! You're all in my prayers and I am so, so grateful for your kindness and support.
Love, Elder Sears