One of my teachers said something that kind of hit home. A mission is just one drawn out goodbye. First you say goodbye to your friends and family, then to your MTC companions, then to your MTC teachers, your MTC Branch Presidency, your mission companions, your mission president etc. I've had to say goodbye many times this week.
The first two from my district were Elder Palo and Elder Timmerman, They left early Tuesday Morning (4 am). Then my wonderful companion, Elder 'Otuafi, left. He was supposed to leave last Wednesday, but a security guard came first thing to our class on Tuesday, and pulled him out, saying he was leaving now. It was abrupt and super sudden. We had to snap a couple of quick pictures, and off he went. Elders Mendez and Valles were next, they left Wednesday to their respective locations (Salt Lake City Central, and Las Vegas). So it's just Elder Li and I holding down the fort. The room feels empty without our old roommates, but my bed doesn't squeak anymore (like it would every time Mendez would move in the top bunk).
We had to say goodbye to our investigator, Jonathan. I'm going to miss how sincere and enjoyable he is to speak with. He's a great guy. His baptismal date is August 22nd. He talked about what a wonderful job it was "acting" at the MTC (as an investigator) because he gets to just be himself. Anyways, it was great getting to know him, and not just teaching him lessons, being his friend.
One interesting comment he made was that our church does not have a pastor or preacher standing up there each Sunday preaching to the congregation – it’s regular members speaking and sharing their experiences, their struggles, their joys. It's like we're all one big family, enjoying each other's presence. He really liked that feeling that he gets from church each Sunday.
Thank you mom and dad for the 3 dozen donuts.... For trying to get me fat! Don't worry, I shared them with my zone, they really enjoyed them too. Zone duties are time consuming. I have to leave class a lot and orient new missionaries. But it's fun! It makes me seem old when I'm instructing new missionaries on the MTC and answering their questions.
18 year old missionaries fresh from high school (I guess I'm also 18 but still...) are pretty immature. It seems like they're all trying to impress the sister missionaries and it's like.... dude... relax.... I'm glad I did a year at college (even though it means leaving my Miller [dorm] family behind). It's hard to believe all my Brownies [Brown University classmates] are going back in a month (or less). It makes me miss them, but [I hope they will] have a lot of fun without me!!!
Our Sunday big fireside devotional was by the President of BYU, which to be honest, was quite dry. I got Chinese translation and that was really the exciting part. Frank, the translator is from Taiwan and he puts all these funny voices on. He also sometimes just stops translating and then says they're talking too fast.
Later that night, we watched a movie where Elder Holland said we're so lucky to be born now, with modern medicine, transportation, and communication. He also commented on us having 90,000 missionaries (soon?). He said, "we've never had 90,000 of anything. His candor is pretty funny. Elder 'Otuafi made a funny comment after, he got some candy and [Elder] Valles asked where he got it. He said there's a big box of candy in the basement, you put your money in, and it comes out.... (a vending machine!)
Brother Villanueva talked to us about what kind of missionaries we're going to be. We already committed 2 years, might as well make the best of them. Like the Apostles in the bible, dropping their fishing nets to follow Christ, he said we have to "drop some nets too" (which ones, I don't know… yet). When we talked about the Word of Wisdom (the church's "health code"), Elder Palo said, "eat apple and you'll be happy...". Elder Palo's so funny, he was acting as an investigator, talking about tithing, and asked why the blessing in the Bible says, the windows of heaven will be open unto you, rather than the doors of heaven.... Apparently it's because there are a lot of windows in a house, and not a lot of doors. It was funny. 'Otuafi is always teasing everyone, he told Mendez, “Maybe in Tonga he could play rugby with primary school kids.”
Before Sister Xia (the other Sister Training Leader) left, she asked me for a priesthood blessing. I had never given one before so I hope she felt at peace with what I said. She wanted me to do it because I'm from China. She wanted to be able to leave her worries from home behind. It was a spiritual experience for me nonetheless.
Zone leadership struggles finally surfaced when I had to 'intervene'(?) with some Elders harassing another Elder, physically and emotionally. I talked to their district leader about discussing with them, and hopefully it's all gone now.
Highlight of the week was finishing up with ADL (advanced language) classes (which are in English) and being TRANSFERRED to the Chinese building. They just got us and we left, but that means P DAY ON MONDAY TOO. [Elder] Li and I got put in the 9th week of Mandarin for missionaries. We thought it would be super hard, but they're learning some pretty simple grammar stuff, stuff that comes natural to us. Like using the word "zai", as in "zai wo de pang bian." Anyways, my teacher is from Guangzhou, China, converted in China too. Apparently that happens a lot. Who knew? It feels weird to be suddenly speaking Chinese all the time.
I had to pick up more new missionaries, a really diverse group. We have missionaries from Italy, Austria, Samoa, Sweden, Peru, and Kiribati. It's fun getting to know all the new people!
Part of the Chinese schedule is 7:30 am gym time – rough... But I met an Elder Pierce from MIT. Nice to see another East Coast-er. He's going to Singapore, Chinese speaking. He had met Sam Church from Brown. Apparently Boston has tons of undergraduate members. Gym with the Chinese district means no soccer (nobody wants to play) and just volleyball, which is surprisingly not that bad - pretty fun sport.
Li and I taught our first lesson to a Chinese investigator and the Chinese went more smoothly than I had thought. It came kind of natural and I surprised myself sometimes - gift of Tongues! But Chinese investigators do ask harder questions. He commented on why we're called “Elder” (laughed too - dad you were right).
One of the members of my Chinese district got a package from his aunt, in an XBox box. He was flaunting it to the other missionaries and some actually thought it was a real Xbox, not really though. During the last hour of one of our classes, we taught the two and a half week Chinese missionaries. I'm glad I wasn't stuck with them, they're learning but it's hard.
When we had branch presidency orientation with the new missionaries one of the Elders from Peru came in crying. He had just spoken with his mother and she had just lost her job and was in the hospital, apparently diagnosed with cancer (it wasn't that clear). I took him aside and told him how much we love him, we're here for him and that his family will be watched over while he's gone. He was raised by a single mother and is an only child. It broke my heart, but I shared with him a scripture, D&C 100:1. Hopefully that helps him.
Today I went to Salt Lake to visit temple square because I'm an "international missionary." It was fun. The temple is beautiful inside, beautiful paintings on the wall beautiful interior design. It's clear where the older parts of the temple are. The Celestial room was beautiful, it wasn't that white but it had so much detail. One of the leaders showed me where Jesus Christ stood in the Salt Lake Temple when Lorenzo Snow was there. It was a very spiritual experience.
We saw so many weddings at the salt lake temple; apparently they have 50-70 weddings a day. It's funny to see how nervous these couples are as they are getting married. We visited the tabernacle and the conference center as well – great experience.
After, we went to the LDS humanitarian services. It was so cool. There were people there from 30 different countries (most not Mormon) helping put together clothing packages like you see on TV, the care packages. We helped doing some quilting stitching. It's amazing to see how much the LDS church loves everyone; [the church helps] out in so many places, especially with non-members.
I have an extra P-day this week, on Monday, which is exciting (because I’m on a new schedule). Then I’m off the California on the 12th (Tuesday). If you want to send me letters, you can do it through dearelder.com. They print out the email and give it to you the next day [in the MTC or mail it for you to my mission – there is a small charge].
Elder Dyer and teacher
District at the Provo Temple
Donut delivery from parents, courtesy of Aunt Annette
Elders Li and Dyer at Salt Lake Temple (see newlywed couple in background across reflecting pool)
Elders Li and Dyer with practice investigator
Elder Li and Dyer at Salt Lake temple visitors center
Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders
Quilting at the LDS humanitarian services
Before the departure of Elders Timmerman and Palo
Salt Lake conference center
District and teacher
Salt Lake tabernacle (of choir fame)
Weddings galore at the Salt Lake temple