Friday, September 30, 2011

Week 2

Hola todas las personas! Como estan? Yo no tengo mucho tiempo porque I spent so much time reading your emails! We only get 30 minutes to read and write on G-Mail! I invite all of you who want to contact me through email to use I get a hard copy of it the same day and I don't have to use precious email time to read them. If this is not possible, then perhaps printing your emails and snail mailing them to me would be good. Also, my P-Day is officially Friday, so try to get your emails to me before 3:25 on Fridays at the latest. Muchas gracias!

Okay. Once again, I sit here with a blank screen in front of me and almost no clue what to say. I have been thinking all week what I would like to share with you in my email, but so much happens in such short time here at the MTC, and es muy dificil to summarize what has happened. First of all, the Spanish is coming very well! I cannot believe how much we have learned in only 10 days! A week and a half ago, I could not speak more than a few words, and now we speak nothing but Spanish from the time we wake up until after lunch every day, and we try to do so as much as possible afterwards. I believe I mentioned Cristian Nieva in my last email. I'm sad to say, after five lessons (taught completely in Spanish), we are no longer teaching him. His family back in Buenos Aires has been having troubles and he flew down to be there with them. In our last lesson however, he expressed his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and said he wants to have the missionaries in Argentina teach his family.  It was such a great opportunity to participate in those lessons right off the bat here, in Spanish no less, so that we could instantly discover what it means to teach the Gospel. We have talked a lot about how it is not a missionary's duty only to teach. Everything we do is in an effort to point people to their Heavenly Father. We are merely there to help them help themselves along the way, providing any help and comfort that they may need. It's all about love.

I've been making it a habit of taking short notes throughout the week of things I want to share with you all as I think of them. Here are a few:
In our fourth lesson with Cristian, Elder Phelps and I were reading a verse from 2 Nephi 11, I believe, with Cristian. The word "Hosanna" came up and Cristian asked what it was. After a moment's thought, I responded, "Hosanna es alabanza" (Hosanna is praise), and he understood perfectly. Thank you “In the Heights” for teaching me so many Spanish words before my mission!!

This past Tuesday, we had an MTC-wide devotional. Elder Don R. Clarke of the Seventy spoke to us about four keys to becoming a "Preach My Gospel" missionary. It was fantastic. He listed,

     1. Follow the Spirit
     2. Search the Scriptures
     3. Be obedient
     4. Apply what you learn.

It was a fantastic talk. He shared a story about a missionary in the Bolivia Mission where he was a mission president. After some time in the field, one of the missionaries said to him, "President. I don't like the food. I don't like the climate. I don't like my bed, and I don't like my companion." Elder Clarke asked him to give him one month and see how he feels. The missionary (get this) said, "I'll give you two." Two weeks went by and sure enough the missionary came back and said, "President, I don't like the food. I don't like the climate. I don't like my bed, and I don't like my companion. But President, in the past two weeks, we have been teaching the most wonderful family, and we are seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ change their lives. For them, I'll stay.”
After the devotional, we sang a closing hymn, "Sing We Now at Parting." The last verse goes like this:
"Jesus, our Redeemer, now our praises hear. While we bow before thee, Lend a listening ear. Save us, Lord from error. Watch us day by day. Help us now to serve thee in a pleasing way."

Hearing more than 2,000 young men and women, having sacrificed time, family, friends, and many other things I may never know to serve the Lord, all joined in harmony was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. It truly felt like everyone in that building was not singing, but praying as we embark on this journey.

I wish I had more time to write you all, but I'm running out of time. I apologize that there are no pictures this week. I've taken plenty, but alas, I forgot to bring my cable to the computer lab. Lo siento. Next week I won't forget! Well, let me close for now.

If there is one thing I've learned here at the MTC (and I've learned many), it's that this work is all about love. That was the Savior's message. And that is our message. Dios es nuestro amaroso Padre Celestial, God is our loving Heavenly Father. We are his children. He wants all to return to him. The message of the Gospel is beautiful and simple. We invite all to come unto Christ. I wish I had more time to share more of my experiences here, but I think even if I did, I wouldn't ever be able to share them all. I know that Christ is my Savior. I know that this is His true church, restored upon the Earth. I know repentance is real. I have seen it work in my life, and I have felt the Savior wrap His arms around me in forgiveness. Family and friends, love each other, keep the faith, and keep me in your prayers. I appreciate all of your support and the many sacrifices you have made on my behalf. Until next week, adios!

Elder Wilcox

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week 1

Buenos Dias, mi familia!!

It is day4 here at the CCM (MTC en Espanol), and I do not even know where to begin. The MTC is amazing! Amazingly challenging and uplifting. Day one was like trying to catch a drink of water from a fire hydrant. We dropped off our bags in our room, and went immediately to our classroom, where we were fully immersed in the language. Our teacher is not aloud to speak English to us, so it was with some difficulty and a lot of help from fellow Elders that we received his instruction. After that we had a long meeting in a chapel for all the greenies (although my sticker was orange if I remember correctly). It was mostly an orientation-type thing, but the highlight for me was singing We'll Bring the World His Truth, replacing "we will be the Lord's missioanries" with "we are now the Lord's missionaries." It was a powerful realization of the reality of our new lives as representatives of Jesus Christ.

Remember Elder Michael Phelps? Yep, that's mi companero! He's all the way from Spanish Fork and has studied a year at BYU-I. He's really nice, easy to get along with, and he's really fired up about the language. I know after a lot of prayer and hard work, we're going to be a great companionship. We've certanily got a long way to go. The MTC kinda makes you realize just how much you can improve personally. Not a moment is wasted here, and I have a whole new appreciation for down time. Meal breaks are only 40 minutes and aside from getting ready in the morning and winding down at night, that is the extent of our free time. But you know me, I like to keep busy. I want to make every single moment count here. Oor Zone Leaders were talking about their personal goals to make their study time more effective by cutting their bathroom and water breaks shorter, and not stopping studying until the end of the block, not even five minutes before. It was really inspiring to understand that we are literally on the Lord's time, not ours, and every moment wasted is wasted on God's behalf. Our time is precious.

Anywayyy, back to the narrative. Thursday was even crazier, but still fun and exciting. I've run in to a ton of Elders here from before the mission, including Elder Stallings, Steffan, Coakwell, Farnsworth, and others. It's really great to see familiar faces here and see that we're all in this together, doing the Lord's work. Man...what to say... So much has been crammed into our brains in the past few days, it's difficult to organize my thoughts or make a lot of sense of everything. I've found going to sleep at night is very difficult. Even though I'm physically exhausted, my mind races while I lie in bed. We only have a limited amount of personal time at the end of the day, and I always spend it in a rush to finish up planning, journal writing, unpacking, etc. before lights out, with little time to really wind down. Added to that is the swirl of spanish words and phrases that floods my mind as I ponder, half of which I don't know the meaning. I find myself constantly trying to translate everything I read or write, and even now I have to restrain myself. It is a testament, however, of the amount of information we have learned in the past few days. I'm already completely accustomed to saying "Hola," "Gracias," "Esta bien" and other common phrases in my regular speech. I have a testiomony of the gift of tongues. We have prayed for it in our district and strived to learn as much as we can, and we have certainly been blessed. I'll tell you why.

Yesterday was my first run in with discouragement here. After less than days of Spanish training, we had our first lesson en Espanol with an investigator. His name is Cristian Nieva. He's from Buenos Aires, and has been living in Orem with his uncle for 3 months now. His family is Catholic, but Cristian isn't much of a believer (this is the story they give us, anyway. We're all conviced that every "investigator" is a member with a fabricated story. Still, we treat it as the real thing.) Our instructor (Hermano Ames) helped us prepare as much as we could, but it was ultimately left up to us to create our own lesson plan and memorize phrases we would need to be able to teach. Everyone in our district was scared to death. Right before meeting with Cristian, Elder Phelps and I prayed for the Spirit and the gift of tongues, as well as the strength of the Lord to have a successful lesson. Well, I wouldn't call it a success, but it certainly wasn't a failure. We understood about 70% of what he said, and were able to teach him about our Heavenly Father and prayer, and invited him pray. He declined, but we were still able to pray with him twice in the lesson. It was a remarkable experience. I couldn't believe how much I was able to understand and speak.

AHH!! I'm runnig out of time, so I'll have to cut this short. I could go on for hours. I got my first letter from Anna last night and picked a package from her this morning. I am utterly speechless. Thank you everyone who wrote advice to me. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I will write after I leaev the computer lab. I cannot thank you all enough. I know your words will be such a strength to me here, and I blessed by the Lord to know so many wonderful people that are such great examples to me. Anna, you have outdone yourself.
I'm out of time, but I want to end with a testimony. I know that this is the Lord's work. I am so grateful to be here, and I couldn't be more thrilled for what lies ahead. I know this gospel is true, and Christ lives. I love my heavenly father and I can't wait to fulfil my purpose invitar a las personas a venir a Cristo al ayudarlas a que reciban el Evangelio restaurado, mediante la fe en Jesucristo y Su expiacion, el arrepentimiento, el bautismo, el recepcion del don del Espiritu Santo, y el perseverar hasta el fin. Yo se Dios es nuestro Padre Celestial y Cristo es su hijo, el Salvador. En el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

Elder Wilcox

My Brother the Hero

(Heather's final tribute. Original post here):

 Pictures stolen from Facebook. Thanks, Ross, you had a boat-load to choose from.
Today my baby brother officially become a missionary. He's off to serve for 2 whole years in Concepion, Chile, and I couldn't be more proud of him. He will learn to speak fluent Spanish, teach the Gospel, become immersed in the people and their service, and will surely change some lives, no doubt including his own.

Ross and I have always shared a weird special connection. I don't know what it is, but I have always felt like he's a little older than he really is and somehow on my same plane. Call us "kindred spirits". Our 5 year age difference never slowed us down growing up, all the way through my high school years, and even when I came back for the summer during 3 years of college. When he came out to BYU for his freshman year, we got to relive that just a little bit and I'm so grateful for it.

Ross is one of those anomalies among us. He's a talented musician and composer, actor, filmmaker, scholar, dancer, free-runner, writer, snowboarder, drummer, budding chef, pianist, swimmer, and a spiritual giant.

Heck, he's basically good at everything he touches -
 like Midas.
He's also a goofball,
 and a philosopher,
 a comedian,
an adventurer,
a true friend,
and now, missionary.

Boy, I just read this through one more time and lost it. In case you didn't know, I kinda love this kid. And will miss him like crazy. I've done the waiting-for-a-missionary thing before, I know I can do it again. (Except this time we're already an eternal family, so that really helps.)

God speed, Elder Wilcox. Use your Midas touch on the Lord's work in Chile.