Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013 You Know You're at the MTC When ...

You know you're at the MTC when...                                       
  • The Elders and Sisters go crazy during the Legacy movie because it has "romance".
  • You wait 30 minutes in line for a bowl of cereal on Sunday morning.
  • You hear 5 different languages of "You're Welcome," because you say thank you to the elders holding the door open.
  • Your favorite day is P-day.
  • You learn to get ready in less than 30 minutes (or learn to be ok with what you look like in less than 30 minutes).
  • The Temple Walk on Sunday becomes the rendezvous point for outsiders to come see their favorite missionaries. (tsk tsk)
  • You try to call out to someone you knew pre-mish, but you can't remember their last name.
  • Everyone wants to go to bed before 10:30.
  • You stay up past the 10:30 bedtime write in your journal.
  • The best day ever (besides P-day) is Tuesday, because all the departing missionaries have left and the new ones haven't arrived, so the cafeteria is super empty and the lines don't take forever. 

April 15, 2013 Ya, I Work Out!

April 15, 2013

Ya, I Work Out!


Wow... (Insert sentimental and cliché saying or expression trying to describe the indescribable passage of time in the MTC). This week has been extremely eventful, hard, emotional, spiritual, confusing ... any adjective you want to add, go ahead. It's hard to cover all that has happened in 7 days.

You might be wondering about the subject line of my email, so I'll address that first. We get gym time for 1 hour almost every day. As most people know, I am not athletic. I don't exercise, work out, play sports, or run. It's just not my thing, but because I don't want to gain weight on my mission and the MTC so lovingly serves dessert at every meal, I have really tried to make my gym time more productive. Gold star for Sestra P. Overall, I do a pretty good job.  I run a little, then do push ups, sit ups, arms, whatever. Some days, though, we have gym at a really inconvenient time and I don't want to get sweaty, so some sisters and I do "yoga" meaning we relax and stretch on the balcony overlooking the gym, watching everyone else be athletic. On Friday, I felt like I should actually do something. I pushed myself, and then did my strength exercises on the balcony. There were two other sisters I didn't know doing "yoga". I tried to ignore my yearning to join them, and started doing my thing.  Right at the end of gym, I was stretching and getting ready to leave and those two sisters came over and said, "We have been watching you the whole time and we really admire that you've been working so hard! We were both thinking that if you were our gym teacher, we would totally work out! So we just wanted to let you know that we think you're really great." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA  Wow, I didn't even know what to say to that. I honestly didn't think they were talking to me. Cassie Pelton -- inspiring work-out-er? Who would have thunk? Needless to say that gave me a little pep in my step the rest of the day. They don't need to know that I did "yoga" the day before...

That was probably my funniest story of the week. Sorry it wasn't spiritual or anything. In language class, we've been really working the Cyrillic alphabet (like in Russian), because that's what they use for Serbian. It's kind of fun because it's like a secret code! So we've been trying to decode things for the last week, sometimes more successfully than other times. Singing in Serbian proved a little difficult, and mostly ended up with just the teacher singing the words and the rest of us singing the vowels we recognized. All in time I guess. We also had our first Speak Your Language day on Thursday. That was kind of a failure, but we tried at least! The idea is that you only speak Croatian the whole day, and then you're forced to learn and look up normal conversational words and practice speaking with each other. It mostly just resulted in a very quiet breakfast and lunch. But it was good to try. We'll probably do it again this week, hopefully, with more success.

We also had to change classrooms this week to another building. They are fixing the air conditioning, so now we're in a building with all Spanish speakers. It was very sad to move away from our zone and the other obscure languages of the world, but we tried to decorate our room enough to make the change more comfortable. Hopefully, we'll be back to our old class in a few weeks.

One AWESOME thing that happened this week was Sister Ann Madsen came to speak with us. She is the wife of the late General Authority Truman G. Madsen. They became very close with Kresimir Cosic, the famous BYU basketball player from Croatia who helped to really establish the church in Croatia and the Adriatic North Mission. She came and chatted with us for almost 2 hours about the people of Croatia, the gospel, Kresimir, and missionary work. She has gone to Croatia several times, and recently went this past summer for the 40th anniversary of the first baptism in Croatia and the formation of the church there. Her experiences were so touching, and you could feel her love for the people. It was really great to be able to put faces and names to the people that live there. It made it seem a lot more real, that we'll actually be meeting and teaching real, unique people. Yes, of course we will, but sometimes you forget about that while you're at the MTC just learning the language and role-playing. She is truly an incredible woman and shared some very touching stories about the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, both in Croatia and here with the people we know. I testify that God knows us and loves us, and because of His incomprehensible love, He provides us with the gospel. We can repent and find strength and hope in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have especially gained a testimony of this as I've struggled here at the MTC. Christ truly does know how to best support and succor us and to bind our broken hearts, if only we will let Him.

As a side note, if you listened to President Eyring's talk in Priesthood Session of this last General Conference, he talked about my mission! The orphaned boy that was the first baptism in the country was a boy in Bosnia, where they just received proselyting missionaries this past year! These stories are true and they are real people! And that's my mission! I'm so touched and inspired by the faith of the people in these war-torn countries, and I know they are looking for the hope and happiness that the gospel can bring.

I love you all! Thank you so much for all the letters and support. We get mail twice a day, so it really makes my heart happy to see that letter or “dear elder” on my desk waiting for me :)

volim vas!
Sestra Pelton 

Sorry, no photos this week, but check out the next blog ... You know you're at the MTC when...

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8, 2013 MTC Life!

Dobar dan ucitelj i prijateli!

Cassie at "famous" MTC World Map
Sestras Pelton and Menjivar

So this week it finally hit me that I was at the MTC--on Wednesday.  I saw all the new missionaries arrive, and I realized that I wasn't one of them! I'm not new anymore! That was a crazy realization. But it's fun. The time is so funny here (as I'm sure I've mentioned before); the days are long, the weeks short, but when you look back at all you've learned, it feels like months instead of weeks. I guess it just shows that time is  precious, and we can't waste it

So much happens during the week that I feel like I can't even begin to remember it all! Some fun things were that Starjesina Stuart's birthday was on the 4th, so we all gave him a card and learned to say "Happy Birthday" in Croatian. That was probably his favorite birthday present ever. (It's Srecna rodendan for those who are curious.)  Other fun/funny things: in language class, we were practicing to conjugate verbs. It was going pretty well, but there are always those verbs that are irregular and you have to be extra careful. One of those is "pisati" meaning "to write."  When you conjugate it, the s turns into a sh-sound, and the -ati conjugates like and -eti. (Sorry that's kind of complicated). Anyways, two missionaries were up at the board conjugating it, but they forgot to change the a to an e. Our teacher just started giggling and giggling, and if you know our teacher, you too would've been dumbfounded like we were. He is the most serious and intimidating person ever! Finally he told us what had happened: there is a verb "pi(sh)ati" that just conjugates normally, so when we wrote what we though was "we write", we had actually conjugated it to be the other verb. And "pi(sh)ati" means "to pee"!!!!  So we had written "we pee"!!!  So embarrassing!!  He says it happens to every new missionary when they get to Croatia. They go and stand up in church to say something, and end up talking about relieving themselves. Good golly... I pray that I will be spared from this humiliation.

Sestra Menjivar and I just continue to grow even closer in our companionship!! She is truly a testament to me that Heavenly Father knows our needs and places people in our lives for a reason. I have learned so much from her already, and I love that we can help each other when we struggle. She has already helped me become a better teacher, a closer listener to the spirit, and more confident in my abilities. One fun thing that happened yesterday was we got to chat for a while with some Elders from Mexico! I mentioned before that Sestra M is from an El Salvadoran family, so her first language is Spanish and she very much embraces the whole fun, loud, outgoing Latin culture. It's so funny because all the Latin missionaries here just seem to find each other and become best friends instantly. There were some elders sitting by themselves in the cafeteria, and she said that we should go sit with them. I was super nervous because I feel like my Spanish isn't very good anymore, but I decided we could try. So we went over. They were so nice! Even though I was nervous, I was able to follow their conversations well and even have my own input. My proudest moment was when one of them told me my Spanish was good :) gold star for me!

Teaching Marko was really great this last week-- we committed him to be baptized!  We weren't even planning on it, and didn't prepare the words in Croatian, but Sestra Menjiver just felt that she should, and I was so happy that she did!  We were teaching about how Christ can strengthen us in our lives by helping to take away our guilt and sins. Marko's life is really hard, and I know that he needed to hear this message of hope. We were just sharing our testimonies with him, then  Sestra M did it! The spirit was so strong as it was working on all of our hearts, and he accepted. It's funny to write about it, because in reality, Marko is one of our teachers and is already a member, but we still prayed for and about him as if he was truly an investigator. It was one of the most powerful moments! We actually have stopped teaching him because we'll be getting a new investigator this week. But I am thankful for the experience that we had to teach him.

Wow, so I haven't even talked about General Conference. It was incredible. People say that GC is the best when you're in the MTC, and it's true. Never have I felt that every message specifically spoke to me in some way like I did this weekend. I felt some very strong promptings from the spirit about things that I needed to do and change to be the person that Heavenly Father wants me to be. I testify that Thomas S Monson is indeed the prophet of God on the earth today. His counselors and the 12 apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators, declaring what the Lord needs his people to hear right now. I am so thankful for that! I cannot choose a favorite talk, because they were all wonderful, but I was especially touched by all the talks about the atonement of Jesus Christ, and His infinite love and forgiveness. What hope and joy this message brings. Sin, guilt and sadness can weigh us down so much, but if we will just come unto Christ, he will lift our burdens. .I promise that this is true, and I have experienced it for myself.

Last night we had a devotional by Vocal Point, the A Capella group from BYU!  It was so fun and very spirit-filled. They had a few of them bear testimonies and do a hymn-share, where they sing the first verse, and we all sing subsequent verses. They also sang a few arrangements of sacred songs.  It was absolutely beautiful.  One song that especially touched me was "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" I had never paid attention to some  of the lyrics before: "He answers privately, reaches my reaching." Heavenly Father does answer our prayers, and he does answer them privately. He makes sure it's something we can understand, and sometimes, ONLY we can understand it. We shouldn't have to justify or explain the choices we make based on guidance from the Lord, because we received our answer. It's between us and the Lord. I know that sometimes it can be hard to follow what the Lord has told us to do, but I know that we are always blessed for it. And I know that some people don't understand or they judge our decisions, but that doesn't matter. The most important relationship we can have is the relationship of prayer, obedience and revelation between us and the Lord.

That's all I have time for right now, but I love you all!! I'm so thankful for your examples. Keep writing to me!!! I love the letters and notes.
Stay strong!

Sestra Pelton

Only two elders in Cassie's District.  How often are elders outnumbers by sisters?!

All of these missionaries will be going to Cassie's mission. Nine are learning Croatian and four are learning Slovene.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013 -- First week in the MTC

HELLO HELLO!!! or should I say Dobar Dan!

Wow! I can't believe it's already P-day! These last few days have seriously flown by so fast. I can't even believe it. First of all, thank you all sooo much for the packages and letters that I have received so far. They seriously are the highlight of my day when Starjesina Fausnaught (our district leader) walks in with a stack of letters and passes them out to us. Thank you mom and dad for the Easter candy and card, and thank you Cortney and Paul for the yummy cinnamon bread and package! We had it for breakfast this morning before going to the temple. Please keep them coming!!! I love letters and letters too. They're all great.

So I arrived on Wednesday, and it was such a whirlwind. I was really nervous as we were driving up to Provo and taking pictures, etc., but as soon as we were at the MTC and the host missionaries opened the door, I just felt this burst of happiness and adrenaline, and I was ready to go! I almost forgot to say goodbye to my siblings... sorry about that. But that was such a testimony to me that I am where I'm supposed to be! I know it will be hard (it already has been), but I am thankful to be learning how to rely fully and completely on the Lord's strength and power, because I am so unable to do this on my own. Once I arrived and got my nametag (yay!!! sorry no picture of the pinning), my host showed me to my room (very old college dorm-style) and then I picked up my books and went to my classroom. My companion is Sestra Menjivar, and I already love her so much! I know that Heavenly Father was watching out for me when he paired us, because we get along so well and instantly became friends. She is from Canada and speaks Spanish (her family is from El Salvador) and French. And now she's learning Croatian. It's so fun because now I can practice my Spanish! And it's nice because we had both had the same initial feelings of sadness that we hadn't been called to Spanish-speaking missions, but now we can grow together as we learn Croatian. Going to my mission are 7 sisters and 2 elders speaking Croatian, and 3 sisters and 1 elder speaking Slovene. We only have class with the Croatians, so we're all a really tight-knit group. I'm sure the elders were surprised when they were so outnumbered though! Class on the first day was all in Croatian... truly. I felt like I was in Arabic class again from last fall semester! It was a little overwhelming, but I was excited to learn it and hear the language. I'm actually feeling really good about the language right now, even though it's a lot to take in. I'm way more worried about everything else.

Funny language story- When Sestra M and I were teaching our investigator Marko (more on that in a minute), we would say "hvala" to him to say thank you, and then he kept responding with something. We didn't understand it, but it sounded like "have a llama". Obviously that's not what he said, but we just kept giggling every time he said it because it was so funny! When we got back to class, we were trying to ask our teacher what it meant, but we didn't know how to pronounce it. We kept saying, "alabama" "have a llama" "lamabama" and any other combination you can think of. When we finally explained what he said to us after we said "hvala", our teacher said it was "hvala vama" and it meant "thank YOU". It was just so funny because we had been so overwhelmed with the language and it was so confusing and we really hadn't understood anything Marko said anyways. So now whenever we say "hvala" to each other, we just respond "have a llama".

I'm loving all the study time we have to just delve into the scriptures and find help and encouragement. I definitely needed that my first week here. On Friday we taught a Marko, who is a member that we practice teaching (as if he's learning about the church). But he only speaks Croatian to us and we can only speak Croatian to him. We had to teach him on Friday, after just one day of class, in Croatian. WHAT?! Thank goodness the MTC is just a safety net and we can fail as miserably as we want and it won't matter-- we can just learn from it. It actually went pretty well, and I felt like the spirit was truly there as Sister M and I testified of the love that Heavenly Father has for us as his children in our very broken Croatian. We even sang "I am a child of God" in Croatian! It went well. I've also learned how to pray and bear my testimony is Croatian! It's so amazing to me the progress that I've already made in the language, and I know it's because Heavenly Father cares about me and my success, and I've asked him sincerely for help. That's probably been my biggest lesson this week-- the power of sincere and heartfelt prayer! It is so powerful, and it's real!!! Never doubt that! I cannot count the number of times this week that I felt alone and discouraged and scared and inadequate, but I've prayed to my Heavenly Father with all my heart, and he has comforted me. The feeling doesn't always just go away, but there is always a much stronger and resounding peace that reminds me of the strengths I have, the people that love me, and the strength that I can find in Christ. I am not doing this alone. I may sound happy in my email, but there have definitely been very hard times. Saturday was especially trying for me, and I felt like I was going to be the worst missionary ever! I felt like I wasn't being guided by the spirit when we were teaching Marko again, and that I was only progressing in the language, but not my spiritual growth or abilities. It was so frustrating. I had to plead with Heavenly Father to help me, but he did. and I know I am becoming better for it. It's not an immediate transformation, but a gradual one, as I focus more on becoming like Christ.

Ok now for the good stuff- EASTER!!! Easter at the MTC was amazing. First of all, it was Sunday, which meant no Croatian or class of teaching or stress. All I had to do was listen and be filled with the teachings of the Gospel and the glad news of the Savior! We started off with a testimony with my branch. The branch is our zone, which includes missionaries going to my mission, Poland, Bulgaria, and Czech/Slovak mission. It's such an awesome group and the testimonies were so powerful. Then we got in line to go to the mission conference where Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse and his wife spoke to us! We took the sacrament in that meeting, with all 3000 missionaries in the MTC. Isn't that amazing!? One of the covenants we renew when we take the sacrament is to be willing to take Christ’s name upon us, and here we are, 3000 strong, literally emblazoned with Christ's name on our chests. What an experience. One thing I liked that he talked about was how to witness of Christ, is to know Christ. And to know Christ, we must repent every day, continually turning ourselves to him. We also had an MTC devotional that night with Sheri Dew!! Wow, is she incredible. She talked about how Christ is our only hope-- for happiness, forgiveness, joy, strength, everything. We also saw an amazing talk by Elder Bednar called "the Character of Christ". First of all, he did a cookie monster impression, and it was hilarious, but the talk was incredible. he spoke about how the character of Christ is continually turned outward to other people, and that's how we must be as missionaries. That is how we become truly converted to him, is by being like him. Character is moral qualities strongly developed, strikingly displayed, and consistently lived. So we must have the character of Christ. What an inspiration.

I love you all! I miss you, but I'm happy to be here. And I'm so busy and constantly filled with Croatian and the Gospel.

Znam da je Isus Krist spasitel i otkupitel. Bog je Nebeski Otac i znam da nas bog voli. Znam da je obitelji zauvijek! Mormonova knjiga je instina. Volim te!! (I know Jesus Christ is my savior and redeemer. God is our heavenly father and I know he loves us. I know families are forever! The book of Mormon is true. I love you!)

Sestra Pelton

PS I'm trying to send pictures but it's not working... maybe in another email