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