September 24, 2014 – Week 1

Dearest family and friends, greetings from the missionary training center! #thataintthelanguagetheytaughtmeintheMTC.  First of all, thank you for you outpouring of love and support!  I so appreciate it 🙂 Also, please do not feel obligated to read this email! It’s going to be a lot of jibberish. I am having the most incredible experiences here! I really do love the MTC and all that I am learning.  Even though sometimes it feels like all we do is wake up, study, eat, study, eat, study, bed.  Haha. They (whoever “they are”) say that in the MTC, the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days and the days feel like weeks and I think that is totally true.  It seems like just yesterday that I was being dropped off but it feels like forever ago as well! And days are pretty long but amazing.  So I’ll try to answer some general questions here and then answer some specifics in different emails/letters.

My companion: her name is Sister Johansen and she is 20 and from St. George Utah.  She is so sweet and kind! Our strengths and weaknesses definitely support each other and we get along really well although we are different.  But I love that she’s a hard worker. She loves to read and work out.  Hahah so I’ve been doing some good exercise, we try to run a mile together every few days but otherwise might do weights or cycling or the likes.  Kickboxing was an interesting experience.  Anyways, we have a good time together! She also sometimes talks in her sleep or her alarm clock will fall from above onto my head which always keeps things interesting and funny! One morning the alarm clock fell off her bunk and woke me up.  I wondered “what time is it??” and boom, there was the time right on my pillow:)
My district- There are 3 Dutch speaking districts.   There are about 6 elders who have already been here 3 weeks and are going to the West Indies.  The other 2 districts are comprised of us new Dutchies who have only been here a week! These two districts going to the Netherlands are very sister heavy- each one has 6 sisters and 2 or 3 elders.  The sisters are so amazing.  I don’t know the other district’s sisters very well.  But in my district, there is so much unity and love and support.  And oh my goodness, we laugh a lot.  This is mostly because God blessed us with hilarious elders as not only priesthood examples but comedic relief.  All the sisters are from the US and all 5 elders in the districts are foreign: :a Brazilian from Canada, an american who lived in Belgium, a Brazilian, and in our district a Scot and a Brazilian who lives in Portugal.  Mom and Kiki, the Scot, Elder Hunter, was in the Nauvoo pageant-the first one to speak on the Trail of Hope! He like knows Carrie Underwood and Elder Holland and these awesome connections. Crazy random happenstances are everywhere I tell you.  So yes, my district is fun but we are also very goal oriented and want to work hard to support each other.  Our zone is comprised of other languages too: the Danes (who we love), the Swedes, uhmm actually I can’t remember the other countries, I’ll get back to you on that.  we don’t really interact with them much.  But yes, some other fun Europeans fa fa fa fa fa.
The language: where do I even begin.  Dutch is easy but it is extremely hard.  It is easy in theory because conjugations and grammar follow distinct rules and is fairly simple.  However!! These sounds are like nothing I’ve ever made or experienced hahah.  It is so fun to learn a new language but frustrating.  Especially because I think I had this notion that in the MTC the teacher would teach us Dutch.  Not so much.  Our teacher tells us some simple things but mostly just answers our questions and most of the studying is up to us.  Which is laborious but amazing because, after all, the spirit is the best teacher.  It is going better now, but no joke the first couple days were so so hard.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotional in my life! But it was good and humbling and I am learning so much about myself and the Lord’s plan for me.
My biggest struggle is the pronunciation.  I am doomed to pronounce things in a French accent or when I’m teaching a lesson, I’ll subconsciously put in French filler words.  In fact, in our second lesson, our investigator, Judith, asked me if I was French.  SO EMBARRASSING.  Luckily, for me, my awesome companion is really good at pronouncing things and a fast learner.  Speaking of teaching, it is overwhelming but amazing.  On our 3rd day at the MTC, we taught a 20 minute lesson in Dutch.  It was hard.  We cried afterwards 🙂 But it was awesome because if you prepare the best you can, the Holy Spirit really does guide and direct you.  Our investigator, who technically is an actor but based on someone she knows ((prayers in behalf of that person really do work!!)) is so so nice.  Her name is Judith and we have been teaching her about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, Dutch is hard.  But I have faith that if I study as hard as I can, not for my sake but so that I may bring others to Christ, I will be helped in my efforts.
Okay, highlights of the week:
SUNDAY.  The most amazing, spiritual day.  We got to watch the broadcast of the Ogden temple dedication and it was so powerful.  I loved singing “the Spirit of God” with all of the other missionaries.  It felt like angels were with us in the room.  President Monson and Elder Bednar spoke and it reminded me of the dedication of the Kansas City temple.  How incredible.  But at the same time, it meant more now that I have gone to the temple and understanding more and deepening my respect for the Lord’s holy house.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
Also on Sunday, our district just had a random testimony meeting in our classroom.  We actually do this quite a bit, we all just love sharing with each other how much the Gospel means to us and has blessed our lives.  Lastly on Sunday, we got to watch this talk by Elder Bednar called “The character of Christ.”  On Sundays, there is “movie night” at the MTC where old devotionals are shown – you can only watch them in the MTC. This talk was seriously amazing, it changed my whole outlook on missionary work and I can’t wait to watch it again. He spoke of Christ’s selfless service to all and how missionary work is about turning outward not inward and serving others, and you become strengthened through that.  I wish I could explain to you how much of an impression it has left on my heart.
Participating the MTC choir is so amazing, the director gives wonderful insights.  And select elders are singing in general conference priesthood session which is so cool!  I got to sing in the choir for devotional – we sang “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” and it was so powerful.  And guess who spoke at devotional?  M. Russell Ballard! It was fantastic because he said he wanted to speak to us as if we were his grandchildren.  Basically it was a pep talk about doing your best every day and remembering the worth of souls.  I loved his remarks.  I am here not to be an okay sister missionary, but the very best version of myself that I can be.
Sorry for the giant rant and probably a lot of errors 🙂 I know there is more to say but for now this will do.  I love you all and am so so thankful for all of the growth and instruction I have here.  These grounds truly are hallowed. I love to see all the missionaries and can’t wait to bring the testimony of God’s love to the work.
Onward and upward!
Sister Joshlin Manning