Hola familia, a…

Hola familia, amigos, y assorted guests…
 
I really need to stop with those cheesy email titles, but I guess I’d rather have that than just “Week 7 Email” or something. 🙂 So, as of yesterday, I’ve been here a grand total of seven weeks. In terms of visa news, there once again is none. We don’t know whether we’ll be going straight to the field at this point, going to the Lima MTC for the balance of the 9 weeks, or staying here until our 9 weeks is up once we get our visas…and of course we don’t know when we’ll get our visas, as always…so, pretty much, more of the same. 🙂 Once I do find out any further information, I will be sure to let you all know, and I will also be able to give you guys a quick call again once I get my visa, as well as talk to you (family) at length when I have layovers on my way to Peru. As for how I feel about this (Dad, I noticed in your DearElder that you said you sensed some frustration), I really am totally fine, I promise. I’d love to get to see my district in Lima before I go out to the field, and all that, but I’m really doing quite well here still. Like I said in the email last week, we’re getting the chance to learn in new ways here with the very large district of two that we have left. And also like I said in the email last week, our zone is a very good one. They keep us company. 🙂
 
Speaking of our zone…my companion and I, as of Sunday, are now Zone Leaders (as well as continuing in our role as district leaders…of ourselves). Yep. We’re the senior district, so we had a feeling it might be coming (the district that came in before us left on Monday and Tuesday), but we weren’t sure the branch presidency would go that way…but they wanted us to be Zone Leaders, and of course the Lord wanted us to be Zone Leaders, so here we are. 🙂 Our zone is down to 19 now (2 of us in District A, 7 in District B, the one that came in about 3 weeks or so after us, and 10 in the district that came in last week), and it’s all elders (our only 4 hermanas left this week), but we’re all getting along very well, and our new assignment is going pretty well too. We’re responsible for taking care of the zone, checking with the district leaders to see if there are any concerns or problems, calling the branch president each night that they don’t visit and report on how our zone is doing, we go to branch council meetings and leadership training meetings, we make sure everyone’s observing quiet time at 10:15 each night, we take care of orientation for new districts (though we won’t have a new one until at least next week, so we have no idea if we’ll actually be here to carry that out) on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and various other little duties throughout the week. The 1st counselor in the branch presidency, Brother Priest (who I’ve mentioned before briefly in these emails, and who is one of the most knowledgeable/fun people on the face of this planet), says he tells new districts that they can do anything they see us do. That pretty much sums up how we’re kind of examples for the rest of the zone. A tough charge, but a rewarding one, too. 🙂
 
So, I have a story from this week (I was going to put it with the tweets, but I think it deserves to be told in full). On Tuesday night, we had one of the two leadership training meetings we have a week. During it, we watched a clip from a talk by President Monson a few years ago where he told about an older couple (in his ward when he was a bishop) that hadn’t gone to church in a while because of medical reasons. One morning, on his way to work, he felt impressed to go visit them out of the blue, even though he was on his way to a meeting. He arrived at their door, and the wife, Emily, answered and said, “I’ve been waiting for someone to visit me today, but no one’s came. I’ve been waiting for the postman to bring me mail, but all we’ve gotten are bills. Bishop, how did you know it was my birthday today?” Pres. Monson answered honestly, “I didn’t. But the Lord did.” (He then went inside, he decided to pray with them to find out why exactly he’d been impressed to go there, he was inspired to ask them to come back to church, and they rarely missed a week after that.) So the next day, Elder Armijo and I were at the bookstore, and he decided to get a bag of candy (I’ll mention this in a moment in my tweet section, but anyways, you get a steal of a deal on candy here). He then turned to me and suggested we should get some Skittles for one of our teachers, Hermano McClellan, since he always eats our candy when we bring any to class. We got 3 bags of different flavors of Skittles, Elder Armijo came up with the idea of telling Hermano McClellan we’d hidden them around the room and he had to find them within 10 minutes or they were ours (he hid them in very conspicuous places, plus we gave Hno. McClellan a lot of hints), and we did hide them and Hno. McClellan found them pretty quickly. He then asked us (in Spanish) if we knew what day it was…we were confused for a second (Elder Armijo was significantly more confused because he’s still struggling a lot with Spanish), and then I asked…”Your birthday?!?” He asked us how we knew, and I started laughing hysterically…what are the odds that we decided to get him Skittles on his birthday?!? I kept asking if he was kidding, and nope, he was serious. So the very day after we heard that talk from President Monson, almost the exact same thing happened with us. We told him (after we stopped laughing) that “we didn’t know…but the Lord did.” 😀
 
So now, some MTC Tweets…
  • Salmon and chicken parmesan for dinner? MTC cafeteria, you fickle mistress…right when you’ve lost me, you reel me right back in with a delectable combo like this. #AlrightOkayYouWin — 5:47 PM, June 14
  • Never mind…MTC cafeteria, you’ve lost me again. Is it so hard to make remotely edible French toast? Apparently, it must be… #YouCouldaBeenAContendah — 7:47 AM, June 15
  • So Hermano Williams just started off class time by teaching Elder Armijo and I how to tie a tie. And after billions of times having people trying to teach me, I think I might have actually got it. We’ll see… — 8:18 AM, June 15 (It started off with him seeing Elder Armijo’s tie…Elder Armijo had a nasty habit, for some odd reason, of cutting off the bottom of his ties when they came undone, instead of retying them. One of the hermanas in our zone [she left on Tuesday], Hermana Merkley, who had a VERY long braid that you’ll see in the pictures I’ll send home in a bit, loved to sew, and did a bunch of sewing jobs for us that we needed…she kept bugging him about all his ties he needed the ends sewn on, and I finally got him to bring them all to her last week. 🙂 Anyways, Hno. Williams saw that, and was then determined to teach us both how to tie ties properly.)
  • Being a volunteer at the TRC, after teaching there for 4 weeks or so, is a bit of a weird experience. But also a very cool one. I had some great missionaries teaching me, and we all learned a lot from the Spirit. — 9:01 AM, June 15 (So the TRC…not sure if I’ve talked about it in an email or not…is the Teaching Resource Center, where volunteers come and be themselves, and we all teach them for 20-40 minutes. We get to go teach every week, and it’s always a wonderful experience…last week, they were a bit short on volunteers, and we had some open time in class, so our teacher brought us over there to serve as volunteers for an hour.)
  • I just bought about a pound and a half of Skittles and gummy bears. For less than 4 dollars. MTC bookstore, bless you. #IWantedCandy #AndIGotIt — 12:46 PM, June 15
  • For the very first time in my 20 years of life, I tied a tie on my own just now. And it actually looks good. Wait…make that two. I am feeling SO pumped right now. — 10:06 PM, June 15
  • For somewhere between a minute and a few hours this morning, I was concurrently serving as Zone Leader, District Leader, and Branch Music Coordinator. And stake president and prophet too. (Just kidding about those last two. :D) — 1:23 PM, June 17 (I was released as Music Coordinator on Sunday, since I already have two other assignments now…they like to spread the responsibilities around. :))
  • Sister Sheri Dew gave a wonderful fireside tonight about spiritual gifts. Like I’ve said many a time…I love the MTC. 🙂 — 8:02 PM, June 17
  • Tonight, we got double the talks we usually do…right after the fireside, we watched a great devotional from a few years ago by Elder Gerald N. Lund, about teaching by the Spirit. You might say he put a lot of work into his talk…and it was full of glory. #BaDumCha — 9:01 PM, June 17
  • We totally had the most fun volleyball hour we’ve had in a while today. Plus I actually hit the ball. Over the net. In bounds. Multiple times. #HeCanBeTaught — 8:08 PM, June 18
  • Our last time (we think) waking up early to see someone off (an elder & sister in our zone). I’m beginning to get used to seeing how the MTC campus looks in the middle of the night…sigh. — 5:12 AM, June 19 (The zone that left this past week, for some reason, was split up into two days…7 of them left on Monday, and 2 of them left early Tuesday morning. Since we were zone leaders and were going most places with them on Monday since they were both alone, and couldn’t be official companions because they were an elder and a sister, we helped them take their bags down and everything that morning. I say it’s probably our last time because either one of us, or ideally both of us, will be leaving next out of our zone.)
  • No comment about where I got hit today while playing Four Square. No comment at all. (I seem to be an easy target or something…I got hit in the head by a volleyball a few weeks ago, among other instances. :)) — 9:45 AM, June 19 (Hey, I’m nothing in these emails if not brutally honest. :D)
  • Happy Birthday, Mom! (Everyone, she’s turning 25, of course.) Hope it’s a great one. 🙂 — 11:36 AM, June 19
  • One of our roommates got cupcakes sent from Cocoa Bean (a cupcake shop here in Provo) from his family, and is sharing them all with us. Oh my gosh I don’t care how unhealthy these are they’re SO SO SO GOOD. 🙂 — 9:48 PM, June 19 (I’ve had those cupcakes once before…while I was up at BYU, our assistant director brought them in for Jazz Voices. I never dreamed I would have them again this soon. 🙂 They will change your life, I swear.)
  • So I just talked to someone from my freshman ward at BYU (the second I’ve seen here)…but didn’t quite recognize her at first. Oops. (I did remember exactly who she was, though. I got confused and thought she was someone from junior high for a brief second. :)) — 1:12 PM, June 20
So…other things. Mom, as you noticed above, Sheri L. Dew came to speak on Sunday. I thought of you and your…mixed feelings about her business practices. 🙂 She gave a great devotional…we all loved it. (My companion was especially impressed by her…he’s a convert of about a year, so he hadn’t really heard of her before. Probably because he hasn’t met you yet…OK, kidding, kidding. :D) Also, guess who I talked to just a few hours ago? A certain Hermana Rebekah Ellingson, who just got in yesterday. 🙂 I had forgotten she was coming in to the MTC pretty soon, so it was a nice surprise to see her. She’s in my same classroom building, I believe (or at least she lives in the residences upstairs?), so I should be seeing her somewhat often. I saw her brother a few weeks ago, but didn’t get the chance to say hi to him (we don’t know each other too well besides). Ariel, Nate, and Livi, you should all either already have letters from me, or they’re still on their way (I don’t know what the post office has against missionaries, but they seem to take extra long getting stuff from here to you :)). I also sent a few cards out for Father’s Day and for your birthday, Mom, so be on the lookout for those. 🙂 Ariel, with your letter (and with Nate and Livi’s letter…I forgot a few things), I sent a list of things I needed to ask you about. Also, in case you don’t catch it in there, I found my sheet music for “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go”…I had it tucked in one of my Organ Chains books, for some reason, along with a copy of my farewell talk and the ward program from that day…so no worries about that, I just need that one other song (the piano one I wrote) I asked you about in the letter. So no worries about that. 🙂 And Granny, I’m going to write a little reply to your email, but I’m going to be working on a letter to you, and I’ll make sure to send it on to wherever you’re staying.
 
I think I’ll end this week’s email with an experience I had this week. We had a substitute teacher for our morning classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, since our normal morning teacher, Hermano Williams, was in Las Vegas for a bit to visit family, I believe. Hermano Pitcher, a teacher who’s kind of over the whole zone, was our substitute, and he’s a terrific teacher, and really cares about all of us…but he’s tough as a practice investigator. Relentlessly so. The investigator he was playing on Monday and Tuesday, Oscar, was very standoffish, didn’t engage much in the lesson, and we just couldn’t figure out how to help him. At the end of both days, he said what we had to teach him was good and all, but he wasn’t interested in any more. After Monday, I was bummed about how our lesson had gone, and I had to kind of try to pull myself together and be calm for Tuesday’s lesson, remembering the day before. I was trying to stay positive, but it didn’t last…and our lesson ended up going even worse than the first one. At first afterwards, I was trying to brush it off…but I just started falling apart, in a way I haven’t really done after any lesson (no matter how badly it’s gone) here. I felt like I didn’t know how to help our investigator, like maybe I couldn’t teach…just kind of lost. The answer kept coming to me that I could do all those things by the Spirit…but I was so discouraged, I had no idea where to start, and I felt like I wasn’t able to even do that. We had a practice teaching activity afterwards, and I kind of shut down…I was barely speaking, I was on the verge of tears, it was pretty bad. (Hermano Pitcher stood his ground and I eventually started participating, something which I’m very grateful for, even if at the time I didn’t like it.) After class that day, I went to choir and then devotional, and both those things helped me feel better and more of myself just naturally, by giving me a chance to unwind from the mountain of stress I’d had in class…but also both of those things gave me some important and much-needed spiritual insight. In choir this week, we sang “Lead, Kindly Light” (the gorgeous arrangement by Mack Wilberg that MoTab sings…ah, the joys of Wilberg pieces :)), and the words really spoke to me. “I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou shouldst lead me on…I loved to choose and see my path, but now, lead thou me on.” Lead thou me on…that’s what I knew I needed to ask the Lord to do for me. I knew it the whole time, but sometimes, we just can’t get it through our heads, can we? We had a solid devotional that night by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, and he spoke mainly on the Spirit. There was a lot of good counsel in his talk, but what really hit me was a scripture at the end, Doctrine and Covenants 42:14. (Our second counselor in the branch presidency, Brother Blackham, likes to not abbreviate it to D&C, since apparently that stands for a very grisly medical procedure, and once he told us about it [he’s in the field of computer technology, but he knows what it is], we felt very much the same way, so I’m going to try not to shorten it anymore. :)) “If ye have not the Spirit, ye shall not teach.” I’d always read that scripture (and when it was mentioned in a talk or something of the sort, took notes to that effect) as us not being able to teach without the Spirit. That moment, though, I saw it a different way, kind of the flip side…we need to receive the Spirit in order to teach. Earlier that day when I was so discouraged, I kept feeling like the Spirit was saying, “Let me in.” I wanted to, very much, but I had kind of a mental block that was keeping the Holy Ghost from really helping me. The Spirit is right there, waiting to help us, to guide us, to be right there with us…but first, we need to let it in. We have to seek for the Spirit in order to find it…and that’s something I already knew many times over, but I really needed to know once again. I felt very low on Tuesday afternoon, but although it wasn’t a fun time at all by any means, I’m very grateful Heavenly Father had me go through that…because He was right there to bring me back up, and have me learn a lot in the process. It’s wonderful how that works. 🙂
 
One more scripture before I close…2 Timothy 1:7, which I felt impressed to look up that night (I didn’t know the reference, but I found it through the Topical Guide), and hopefully I’m quoting it right: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear has no place in missionary work…and God knows that. He’s given us power and authority through the Priesthood, He’s given us the ability to have charity for others, just like Him, and He’s given us the ability to have the Spirit with us in our minds and in our hearts. With all these wonderful gifts…we can’t go wrong. But first we have to follow Him. I’m thankful for my time here in the MTC where I’ve been able to learn how to follow Him more diligently, to work harder, to have the Spirit be a more constant companion, and to learn so much about myself, and about the Gospel, in general. I love this work, I love my Savior, and my Heavenly Father, and I love this Gospel. Without a doubt, I know it’s true. I love you all, and thank you for all you’re doing to help my calling as a missionary be even more wonderful. 🙂
 
Con mucho querido y amor,
Elder Randall
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