HOLA!!!!! Familia y amigos!!!! I love you all, thank you for all of the support!! I am doing really well!! Even though it has been a bit overwhelming to get used to everything and have time to settle in, I know I am so blessed to be here, and I am loving it so far!!!
So let's start with the beginning... Saying goodbye was a bit hard, but I had some great tender mercies right off the bat that helped me feel less sad! My host sister that helped me carry my luggage and tell me where to go reminded me of a good friend Lacee Bowen (shoutout- walking is strength ;)) Then after getting my name tag, room key, ID card, and a Samsung phone to use here in the MTC, I was finding my host sister again, and there I saw Shania!!! (My cousin who is preparing to go to Japan!) It was so so nice to see her and made me immediately smile and leave my sadness behind. Also, since we're talking about running into people, I saw Bailee Fox in passing after one of our meetings (she and I served in the Draper temple together). I have seen Bailee twice more since then and Shanai one other time, :) yay!!
After dropping off my bags in the dorm room, I went to the classroom building to meet my companion and the other members of my district. So when we got in the classroom there was one other sister but she wasn't my comp, then as more people began showing up my companion came!! Her name is Alicia Gerardo!! She is from Houston, TX, but she was born in LA. Her mom is from Honduras and her dad is from Mexico! But they didn’t speak Spanish much in their house, so she is about at my same level in her Spanish abilities from learning at school and such. We were both labeled as intermediate (funny story about that later) and it's really good and nice for us because we can speak Spanish a lot with each other and get lots of practice/learning in!
Hermana Gerardo went to Kingwood Park High School in Houston. In the crazy coincidence, her high school is only 10 minutes away from Kingwood High, which is the high school I helped do a service project for during my junior year after it flooded from Hurricane Harvey. Hermana Gerardo was an office aide and after the hurricane her high school shut down for a week so they could host KHS students (because her high school didn't flood crazy enough). One of her jobs was to sort through clothing donations that came in from many places, including from Corner Canyon High School in Draper. So she helped sort through clothing donations that I helped organize and ship! CRAZY RIGHT?!
ALSO, Hermana Gerardo knows the Ahlmers from Draper!!! Their oldest daughter Samantha was Megan's companion in Argentina (Megan was actually her trainer). Sam's little sister is serving in the Houston East mission and my comp and her mom know her! Long story, but wow super cool connections!!! And this morning when my companion was facetiming her momma, she said to us that God was already connecting us before we were companions!! I really loved that thought a lot because it feels so true and it feels like we have been friends forever (pre-mortal life)! We both speak super fast and want to share our entire life story with each other all the time! She is a convert to the Church of less than 4 years!! Super cool! She went to a year of college at BYU before this - studying communications and wants to maybe be a journalist!! Ok so yeah that's all about my companion. I already love her a lot!!
OK so our district has 6 sisters and 7 elders. They are pretty great! We haven't really connected a whole lot with the elders yet but a few of them are so funny. Our district leader is Elder Baker! He is super cool and knows a lot of Spanish too. We did find out that in my district two other sisters (besides my companion) are converts, and one elder is a convert as well – he was just baptized a year and a half ago and is already serving a mission. How cool right?! It adds a lot of strength in our districts’ testimonies that's for sure.
After meeting our district and our brother teacher (Hermano McClaran), we went to a welcome to the MTC devotional thingy. :) It was really cool to hear the messages they shared with us! So many people these last few days have reminded us how sacred and dedicated and special the MTC is and encouraged us to enjoy the spirit and opportunity to be here! I’m really trying to embrace that. At the beginning it’s been a bit hard to settle in because the first two days just felt all over the place for me. Those that know me well, know that I like to be organized and have things planned out. But I am praying for a better outlook and the ability to feel more settled and not panicked about how much I need to do! And slowly but surely, I am getting there! We have finally had a little time to unpack our suitcases, get organized here in our room, and we are now planning each day, so it is getting easier!
After the welcome to the MTC meeting we went to a meeting/activity called "People and Your Purpose". And guess who I saw????!!!! MY SISTER MEGAN!!!!! Most of your know that Megan works at the MTC. Her job is to hire and train the Spanish and French speakers who work in the TRC (teaching resource center). TRC is a place we go to practice teaching real people, and applying our missionary purpose which is to “invite others to come unto Christ and help them receive the restored gospel…” For this meeting, Megan was pretending to be a nonmember and the group of like 60 or so of us were allowed the opportunity to visit with her and try to help her come unto Christ! It was a really good activity for the first night! And it was so cool to see Megan again after saying goodbye to her and the family just a few hours before!! During the activity, Megan was saying how her sister is on a mission right now, and me and my comp kept smiling because we knew the real story too!! So cool. The elders in our district were sitting next to us when we were all visiting with Megan and they kind of caught on. Afterwards when I got up and introduced her to my companion, and then hugged her, they were giving me questioning looks, so then I told the elders Meg works here and is my sister. :) After being with Megan, we did two more rotations to meet and help/teach two other people as well and that was also so great!
The final activity for Wednesday was a “meet your zone” meeting and I played the piano for the opening song! :) We sang Sweet Hour of Prayer. Apparently, no one knows the words to that song, so I had to start singing along while I was playing to help them out. But it's all good. We all took turns introducing ourselves, and we also took a tour of the MTC campus which was good because up until then we were kind of just following the crowds all day.
Thursday! So the funny story about intermediate Spanish. After breakfast we went to pick up our scriptures and other books in Spanish. They were in this storage closet with a yellow bag for each missionary organized by last name and language. My companion and I were trying to find ours in our section of the alphabet, but they were nowhere to be found! We started wondering if we were in the right place. But then we looked two shelves below and there were our bags separated with the advanced and intermediate Spanish missionaries. At first it was a crazy panic moment for us, but then we were like umm so do we have different books than the rest of our district because we are intermediate?! Turns out we all get the same books as everyone else.
After picking up our books we had our first class with our sister teacher- Hermana Richman! She is really sweet and bore her testimony and shared super cool experiences with us about her mission! Then we studied a bit. During language study we were able to go find anyplace we wanted to study. We found this beautiful room and turns out it was one of the music rooms my friend Elder VanDeGraaf told me to find in the MTC!!! It was really great and so peaceful! :)
After that we had another People and Your Purpose, part 2! I'll be honest, during the first part of it, I was struggling to stay awake, but again it was good practice. After dinner we had a chance to meet our branch presidency! The branch presidency is our church leaders while we are here at the MTC (like our bishopric). They are all so amazing and so nice! It was a really powerful meeting! They had us introduce ourselves and share a brief testimony which was so powerful! Then they took us out and each presidency member and their wife split up our zone and each companionship met with one of them! It was really great. Hermana Gerardo and I met with President and Sister Heaps which reminded me of home. :) They gave us great advice that made me tear up a bit. :)
Friday!! In the morning we went to Megan's office to pick up a couple of things I forgot at home – my debit card and temple recommend - whoops! (Thanks family for remembering!) I also got to see my picture on her desk.
I was told that when I got to the MTC I would get a water bottle, but turns out now they just give you one in the country where you serve. In my case I’ll get a filtered water bottle when I arrive in Quito. So without my water bottle I had been feeling super dehydrated. In the afternoon class we sang “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” - or "Tengo Gozo en Mi Alma Hoy". After class we went to the MTC store and I finally got a water bottle! When we left, I rejoiced by singing "tengo agua en mi alma hoy" (There is agua in my soul today) YAY!!! I am a happy and hydrated Hermana now!!!
Another funny story - Hermana Gerardo has a hard time remembering the word yesterday in Spanish- which is "ayer". So during one of our 4 different language study times on Friday (yes FOUR! they were each about 30-45 min long), we came up with a way for her to remember! By singing to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles we sing "ayer-sterday!!!" hahaha You have to admit that is a pretty great way to remember the word! Also, we studied in some beautiful places Friday as well! The new buildings here are truly incredible!!! Overall, Friday we spoke about 60-75% of the time in Spanish all day! (We, as in me and my comp.) It was really great and we were actually surprised by how much we were able to speak and recall!!
We also had a workshop in the morning about the gift of tongues! It was awesome the guy teaching it was super funny and entertaining! Afterwards we were very motivated to speak Spanish as much as possible! It was crazy because by the end of the day when we were writing in our journals, we both were still thinking of the words in Spanish even though we were writing in English! It was a good comforting day to see some progress and have Heavenly Father's help!!
We are working on memorizing our missionary purpose in English and Spanish, and it's coming along pretty well! We also had exercise time! Hermana Gerardo and I biked a bit over 2 miles on stationary bikes and then we played volleyball with the other Hermanas in our district!
Anddddd today (Saturday) so far we figured out laundry and got to video chat with the family at home!!! The blessings of missionary work are real!!!
Sorry that this was so long!!! But I wanted to introduce you to my comp and how it all works. Next week I will be better at summarizing and everything won't be so new to me so it should be a bit shorter haha! Also, I can read emails every day and I will respond on my P-day which is Saturday!
Love you all!!!! Remember to always strive to be your best self and love all those around you!!
Con mucho amor (with lots of love)
Hermana Bart the 3rd ;)