Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 2014

[My] first day [at the missionary training center] was fun.  I got whisked away from the drop off point by a very nice, very friendly Elder South (I have to get used to calling people Elder [their last name], no first names here).  He's serving in Singapore, Mandarin Chinese speaking so he kept saying 'dui' and 'hen hao' a lot.  He's been here for a very long time (going to be here for 9 weeks total). 
I got my name tag and it says the name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Chinese along with “Elder Dyer”.  I got taken out of the regular sign-up lines to go to the international office where they offered me interpretation for English because I'm from Shanghai, China.  Good thing I don't need it!  They also tested my Mandarin. 
I talked to a guy on a phone in Chinese.  My conversational Chinese was fine. My pronunciation was better than whoever I was talking to (surprising) but I had zero idea of how to say any church related words.  He kept saying 'hao de'.  I guess it didn't matter because I was 'fast tracked' to the advanced language program which is only 2 WEEKS LONG.  Very scary because they do not teach us anything in Chinese – all the classes are in English (weird right?).  So no more 8 weeks here.  A lot of Elders are jealous because I get to leave earlier so I guess it's a blessing. 
We had a large group meeting with all the new missionaries.  The MTC president asked us to stand based on where we were from.  I was the only one from China – people looked at me weird.  I didn't have a companion to start because of the change in language track. It already feels weird to be walking about by myself.  At dinner I saw Dallen Peterson (Elder Peterson) and Todd Okeson (Elder Okeson).  It felt awkward to call them Elder.  MTC food is going to get old really fast.
There was a group meeting where we met with role-playing investigators (people interested in learning about Mormons and our church).  I was falling asleep fast even though there was a very charismatic MTC trainer there facilitating. 
Because I was changed to a 2 week track, I got new companions who are in the advanced language program in their respective languages.  Elder 'Otuafi is from Tonga, he's a great guy, very funny, but very spiritually strong.  He is serving in the Salt Lake East mission speaking Tongan.  Elder Valles is from the Philippines. He is incredibly nice and smiles a lot (I guess they both smile a lot) and is serving in the Las Vegas, Nevada mission speaking English.  Our 'district' is made up of 5 people, all Elders (men) which is supposedly kind of weird.  We're all 'fast tracking' through the MTC so we'll be out in 2 weeks (more like 12 days). 
My first morning wake up at 6:30 am was not as rough as I expected (I have to wake up every morning at 6:30 am and be in bed by 10:30 pm).  Elder 'Otuafi actually woke up first and said quite loudly "Good morning Elders."  He's always joking around about Tonga and how Tongans are "stupid."  They're strong in rugby but "stupid" and get outsmarted on the pitch sometimes.  He has a very extensive knowledge of scriptures and pulls references out like it's nobody's business. 
Personal study was a period of the day where I was a bit confused.  I'm trying to learn Chinese, but I'm supposed to study the Preach My Gospel missionary manual in English.  I'll figure it out (I hope).  We have a little white book handbook of rules in the mission that we have to follow.  It has everything from how we dress to how we act to how we can give only handshakes to women. 
During our 'gym time' we got to work out.  Elder 'Otuafi was excited (as was I), he's a very strong Tongan, loves to lift weights).  But Elder Valles wanted to play Volleyball.  Elder 'Otuafi loves volleyball, rugby and volleyball.  In Tonga he says only girls play soccer, guys will laugh at you if you do.
It was crazy hot outside, so much so that the volleyball sand was too high temperature so they had to just hit the ball around on the grass. I played soccer but got tired quickly.  There were missionaries playing baseball nearby but they didn't have a bat... They would throw the ball and the batter would catch it and throw it as far as possible.  That didn't last long. We went in because it was so hot. 
We had class for 3 hours, and I learned to tailor lessons and teaching to the investigators and their needs.  If they're concerned about why we need a structured church for example, I have to adapt the lesson to fit. 
For the final 30 minutes of class, the investigators asked me to act as an investigator with a specific person in mind as who I would be role playing.  I chose to be a mix of [two people I know], kind of ambivalent to religion but still kind of spiritual.  After 30 minutes, the teachers said I was the hardest investigator they had ever taught.  I'm excited because I thought I was being easy.  I was just answering logically, the questions they had.  For example, they asked, wouldn't you, if you 100% knew the church was true, want to follow it.  I just said, wouldn't anyone want that if they knew it was 100% true?  Wouldn't a Buddhist want to be Buddhist if they knew it was 100% true?  Anyways, they said I was really difficult.

We had a meeting with our district and the Branch Presidency (leaders of our small Sunday church group) afterward.  We went through some administrative things, guidelines and principles to follow and interviewed with the leaders.  Because our zone leaders are leaving Monday, they assigned me and Elder Timmerman as the new zone leaders.  Kind of daunting as we've only been here a couple days and are only staying for another week and a half. 
We'll be serving about 30 missionaries, including welcoming the new missionaries.  I have to learn everything from shadowing the current zone leaders (apparently there is lots and lots to do at night, very busy) and then train the zone leaders after me.  It's going to be hectic. 
Elder Timmerman is from Phoenix, Arizona, 'fast-tracking' to a French speaking mission to Washington D.C.  He, like me, has no experience with any church related vocabulary so he's somewhat worried as well.  Elder Valles got assigned as a district leader of our small 5 man district, and Elder 'Otuafi is our senior companion (Valles and I are junior companions).  He says he is our father, and we are his sons. 

For p-day (preparation day) I'm wearing regular clothes but back to class and wearing a suit in the evening!

Elder Dyer ready to go!

All Elder Dyer's books

Elder Dyer and his two companions

Elder Dyer's missionary nametag

Elder Dyer's schedule

Elder Dyer points to Riverside California, his home to be for the next two years

Elders Valles, Otuafi, and Dyer

The dorm room (each missionary in his room gets both bunk beds)

The Mandarin texbook

Supplemental language study materials

Elder Dyer's music setup (back to 2007)

Three Elders of Israel (Valles, Otuafi, and Dyer)

A three-way handshake among companions

Zone leaders Elder Dyer and Timmerman

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you're making great progress Jacob! Hope you have a productive mission! :) - Atty