Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 6

Seriously! Time is flying by here! I can't even keep track of it anymore. I guess I have like 4 weeks or less to go. Yeah, that's right. But just when I think time can't go by any faster, it does!  These two years are going to be over in no time, and it already makes me sad!  I want to thank you all (mi querida familia), from the bottom of my heart for all your words of comfort and counsel.  They truly brightened my week.  I thank God many times a day for the blessing of such a wonderful family.

Heather, have that baby already!! Although, if it came on Halloween, I wouldn't be too disappointed :) I hope you're doing alright and hanging in there. I love you! Thank you for your letters!

Ashley, you have no idea how much I love to hear from you. It lifts my soul so high. I've always known you have a very quiet dignity about you, but to be able to hear your testimony and counsel in your letters is something I really cherish. You are such an example to me of faith and charity. AND SANTA VACA I'M GLAD YOU'RE OKAY! My heart stopped a little bit when I read Mom's letter. What a crazy experience, but I'm glad everything's fine now.

Jennifer and Sterling, your letters are like pure gold. Both of you having served missions and being able to give me very personal advice is so awesome. I don't just read your letters; I devour them (maybe a French word?). And thank you for all those stories about children. We went to the Temple this morning, and I was thinking about angels and the thinness of the veil the whole time. Really cool stories :) Tell Eeen that I love him and miss him.

Mom and Dad, thanks for keeping me updated on the Sing Off! Glad to hear Vocal Point's hanging in there, and can't wait to hear them when I get back. Dad, I'm glad you're going to Spanish classes. I think that's really cool, and it makes me really happy :) You better be fluent by the time I get to call home! :)  Mom, Thanks for the addresses!! We're pretty short on time today, since we didn't make it into our usual Temple session this morning, so I might not have time to write the Bishops or Corey today. But I will try to as soon as possible! My friends are always welcome to write me first! :) Thank you for sharing that missionary experience with me. Way to be bold!

ANNA! I promise I don't hate you! I sent you a letter last Friday, that I could have sworn I put a stamp on.... But apparently not, and it just came back to me yesterday. Yerp. I'll send it again today along with a new letter. Sorry!

Zach Taylor is here! I saw him when he got here on Wednesday, and guess what! He's on my floor! Right down the hall. I see him every day! And it is so good to see him, I'm super proud of him for making the decision to serve the Lord. There's no place God would rather him be right now.

Class has been sort of interesting this week. One of the lights in our classroom has some kind of short in it. At first it just strobed for a few hours (Bailar. Bailer.) and then went out completely. However, every few minutes, it flashes. So in the midst of our dark room, we get what seem like occasional lightning bolts. All it lacks is the rain and thunder, but it does give us an unusual ambience. The showers here are as moody as ever. The first few days, I thought they were all
just eternally cold, but as it happens, in order to get a nice hot shower, the knob must be set just a little towards Cold. Obviously.  Not too much though, as Seinfeld says, one centimeter is a thousand degrees! The one shower that actually has significant water pressure rather than that of a dripping wet rag, we call the Celestial Shower.  It's almost always warm, however you have to be careful. Every now and then it will dump a little bit of scalding hot water on you. Luckily, it makes a sound before it attacks. Much like the monsters in The Village. However this sound is something akin to an industrial rendition of the 20th Century Fox drumline.

All joking aside, the MTC is wonderful. Very tedious at times, but I'm keeping a positive attitude. We're learning a ton every day. The Spanish is coming quickly, and our lessons with our investigators continue to improve. (Kleyber is actally reading the Book of Mormon now, and isn't just getting baptized for his mom anymore!).   

Que Mas..?

Oh! All of you should watch the "I'm A Mormon" video with Brandon Flowers. He's the lead singer of the hugely successful band "The Killers." He was inactive for some time, and I don't know if he's super active now, but he decided to make a video about how the Gospel has affected his life. It's super cool! Check it out!

A man named President Sweson stopped by our room last week one evening. He just got done being the Mission president in Concepcion South a few months ago!! He told us a lot about it, and how awesome the new President is. He also told us to say hello to a woman named Ingrid when we get there, who will cook our first meal in the Mission Home when we arrive! Can't wait!

Okay, now I'm really really out of time. One more request! Can you send me perhaps some kind of coloring book that contains pictures of everyday things, people, etc.? I'm trying to expand my vocabulary, but I learn better when I can associate words with pictures to study.  Thanks! Also, I got your package, Mom! I haven't opened it yet, but Iam super excited to do so!

Well, I love you all, and you are in my prayers. The Gospel is true!
Christ lives! Go tell someone!

Elder Wilcox

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 5

Hello again! I can't believe it's already been one more week. It's getting to the point now where every week when we have companionship inventory, district meetings, or letters to the president, it seems like it was just yesterday. I can’t believe how fast time is flying, and much left there is to do!! I will try, as always, to remember everything I need to reply to specifically in your letters, but as always I'm sure I'll forget something. I haven't received in print your letter yet, Mom, but I just now read it in Gmail (DearElder sends a confirmation e-mail). I'm sorry to hear your letters got lost, I can only imagine the frustration. Good thing I only have to use PC's once a week now, huh?

On to my weekly list of "Things to Write Home About:"

-One of the most difficult and important challenges about being a missionary is trying to strike the balance between being a lesson-cramming robot, and a therapist. We don't want to just teach the lessons for the sake of lessons and completely ignore the needs of our investigators. But it's also difficult to consider their needs, but not to the extent that every visit is about personal feelings, rather than gospel principles. The key is identifying their needs, and figuring out which principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will most help satisfy that particular need. Easier said than done, but when it works, it's amazing. Our goal is to help them come unto Christ by seeing for themselves how the Gospel will individually and personally bless their lives. Part of the trick is also teaching with unity. This is something I've really been trying to focus on lately. As the Spanish is coming quite well for me (compared to many), and because of my personality, I have the tendency in the lessons to immediately jump in when a question is asked. I don't remember if I've already talked about this. But Hermano Ames very gently repremanded me one day for dominating in the lessons. So Elder Phelps and I have been planning more carefully and dividing the lesson better, and it's helped so much. I'm learning to shut up and trust my companion, and in return Elder Phelps is getting so much better at teaching! He used to freeze a lot and has never been very assertive, but his tesitmonies and the power of his teaching is grown tremendously in the past week or so. Basically, I'm really proud of my companion.

-How is Vocal Point doing on the Sing off?

-MTC really stands for "Make Time Count."

-Investigator news! Jorge has (kinda) set a baptism date for 10 days from now! He's coming along really well, and our lessons are wonderful. Kleyber, not as much. He has a baptism date, but we just found out recently that he's doing it mostly for his Mom. So tonight, we're going to try to help him understand the real importance of baptism and the commitment he's making, and the importance of having a testimony for yourself.

Thank you all so much for continuing to support me every week. Your letters are such a tremendous strength to me, and all my fears and worries truly fly away when I read your words. I love you all dearly. Well, I'm out of time. I don't think I answered a single question of yours...but I can't remember what they are. I love you all. I pray for you every day. And I love being a missionary. Truly. Well, till next week. Adios!

-Elder Wilcox

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Month in Photos!

Stand in the Light
 study time
 Looking like a missionary
At the temple
Matrix at the MTC
"Walk tall and carry two sticks"
Men in Black!
 My shoulder angel!
 The District
 And of course, some music! Evening hymn-singing outside the MTC. First in English and then into a Polynesian language...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 4

Hola, one and all!!
First things first. I'm tired of having things I mean to say, but not getting to them because I spend too much time on other stuff first. So hard to pack it all in! Maybe I need to stop keeping a list of things to write about. Anyway!
-Yes, Mother, I did get your DearElder! Thank you so much! It was great to hear from you and Dad and everyone again. I look forward to all your letters every week.
-Tell Austin his e-mail cracked me up and it was SO GOOD to hear from him. Tell him to hang in there and keep working hard. I'm super super proud of him, and I think about how great an example he has been to me all the time. And tell those other bum friends of mine to write me (letters preferably), because it turns out I left all of their addresses at home on accident!
-On the note of addresses, is there any way you could find the addresses of my former bishops for me? I never did tell them the results of my mission call and thank them for their hard work in helping me get it. They are the following:
    -Bishop Kenneth Donahoe from the BYU 10th stake maybe? I'm not sure, because they rearranged the   wards after I left. But his information should be in my iPhone.
    -Bishop Something Horton from the Provo YSA 61st ward, I think. Again, his information is in my phone! If you could get me these (as well as my friends' adresses) that would be wonderful. I want to write them and thank them.
-Thank you sooo much for the luggage tags! Those things are wicked cool!! I've already attached them to all my bags. Muchas gracias.
-Tell Grandma and Grandpa I'm sorry I haven't written them back yet to thank them for the peanut butter bars. I struggled last week to write a thank you letter, but ran out of time. I will be sending one today, but in the mean time, let them know how much I really appreciated it, and how my district all raved about them!
-Did anybody ever ask about a Missionary Plaque for our ward at home? How does that work? If you need a scripture for it...umm, I actually haven't decided yet. I'll send one in my letter today, which will also contain a memory card full of pictures!
-Jenn and Dad!! Good luck in the 5K! I'm super excited for you Jenn, and happy that you're going to get the wonderful experience of running with Dad that I have so enjoyed on multiple occasions. Dad, I can't wait to run with you again when I get back! Ps. I appreciate that you always keep me informed about the current events. It's nice to remember there's a world outside the MTC.
-Thanks for the belts! and the melotonin. Hope it works. And way cool about the "I'm a mormon" stories. Loved reading them!
-Can you send me the lyrics for
1. No One is Alone from Into the Woods. Great uplifting song!
2. Seasons of Love from Rent - at some point in the near future I want to start writing lyrics to "1,051,200" minutes (in a mission).
-Last week I meant to say something about a song I listen to during TALL, but I forgot! It's called "Fuertes y Valientes," which means "strong and courageous." It is absolutely beautiful and I listen to it on repeat! Can you send that to me in the future as well?
-Some things I I've heard that have caught my attention recently:
    -We have 2 years to serve a mission, and a life time to think about it. Make it count!
    -The wife of one of our Branch Presidency councelors was talking to us during a district devotional review about Nephi's vision in 1 Ne. 11. The angel said "What desirest thou?" And Nephi immediately knew. She asked us if we really knew what we desire, and if those desires are what Christ would desire for us. Interesting thought.
    -We focus A LOT in the MTC on the importance of teaching PEOPLE, not LESSONS. It's one thing to explain to someone why some principle of the Gospel is important. But it is quite another to explain (or rather have them find out for themselves) how that principle of the Gospel is important to THEM personally. We as missionaries can't do anything. We can't convert people. We can't solve their problems. We can't even teach very well. But God can do all things. The Spirit of the Lord can convert people. It can change their hearts. The Gospel (being primarily faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) CAN solve peoples problems. And the Holy Ghost is a perfect teacher. It all comes down to love really. If we love those that we teach more than ourselves, then God, who knows everyone perfectly, will witness to them through the power of his Spirit. I've seen it happen, and it is the ONLY way this Gospel can be - or ever has been - successfully taught.
-Some funny things about Spanish:
Tired is cansado. Married is casado. Not much difference one way or the other ;)
Wife in Spanish is esposa. Handcuffs in Spanish is esposas...Yeah.
Finally, el papa is the pope. La papa is potato.
Dumb, but funny.
Anywaaaay!!! Sorry this letter has been very formulaic. I was tired of not getting in everything I wanted to say, although I have no doubt that I will soon recall many things that I forgot to mention. (You all are just so dang good at writing all the time, it's hard to remember what all to say! It's a good problem to have.) I must be finished soon, but I suppose I'll first give a quick review of life here:
First, our District has been cut in half (almost)! We had ten Elders starting out, but last week four of them went on to finish their training in the Guatamala MTC! What a cool opportunity! I know their going to pick up the language so fast, being completely immersed like that. Here in Provo, the language is coming pretty well. Sometimes I feel like I'm not getting much better, but I have to remind myself of where I started three weeks ago. I don't have to look at my notes during lessons NEARLY as often, and I'm learning new tenses like crazy. I need to focus more on my vocabulary though. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a grammar nut, so I have to remind myself that nouns and adjectives are important too. Anna asked me to write her a paragraph in Spanish in my letter to her, and I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to say. So far I only know missionary Spanish. So, if you want me to pray, bear my testimony, or explain a Gospel principle to you, I'm your man! But for almost anything else, I'm pretty useless hehe.
The lessons are going wonderfully though. Since the other Elders have left, we've all been able to teach twice a day almost every day. Currently we're teaching an 18 year old student named Kleyber whose mother is a member of the Church, and a 60 year old man named Jorge, who is really progressing quickly! He has a real desire to follow Christ and is very interesting in the Gospel. Elder Phelps and I are slowly but surely getting better at planning lessons and teaching in unity. I got chastized the other day by our teacher for talking to much and not giving Elder Phelps enough time to teach. I knew from the very start in the MTC that this would be a problem for me, but I've been praying a lot and trying to humble myself and let him grow, and it's working! We're a lot more balanced know.
Okay, I really need to be gone now. Our laundry is done! Les quiero mucho! I'm so grateful for all of your letters and support. I thank God every day for such an amazing family and friends. Next week, I'll try to share more experiences and less list-y stuff. Lest anyone doubt, I can tell you all from experience that this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth. God DOES have a plan for us, and Jesus Christ is the center of that plan. He is everything. Sin La Expiacion, no podemos hacer nada! I love the MTC, I love my companion (truly, I couldn't have asked for a better one), I love the Lord, and I love this work! Anna sent me a scripture today that I'm planning on using in our lesson tonight with Kleyber. It's from Matthew 14, about Jesus walking on the water. He invited Peter to follow him, saying "Come." Petter followed, but in the midst of wind and storm, he was afraid and started to sink, yelling "Senor, salvame!" (Lord, save me!) Immediately, Christ reached for him and pulled him up. After this, those on the boat knew for a fact that He was the Son of God.
Christ has invited and continues to invite us all to follow him. He stands where we must excercize our faith, and says "Come." Sometimes it's not easy. Sometimes the winds blow and the storm rages. Sometimes our faith falters. But EVERY time we say, "Senor, salvame," immediately He is there to pull us up.
Christ is our Savior. And He wants us to follow Him. He wants us to know Him. If you haven't prayed, pray. If you haven't read his word, read his word. If you haven't studied the Book of Mormon, study the Book of Mormon! If you haven't exercized your faith, reach out, and Christ will wrap his arms around you. I know and testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, that our Redeemer lives. Hasta proxima vez, I love you all! Have a great week!
Elder Wilcox

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 3

Hola mi amigos!

So! We're already on our third week here. I can't believe how time flies. The days are the longest days of my life, but the weeks move quick. Such is the paradox of being busy. A few days ago, we all thought it was about 7pm and that we had already had dinner, when in fact it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. This was in part due to the dreary weather we had that day (and every day since. Utah threw another signature curveball, and as Heather put it in her letter, Provo has skipped Fall entirely). As you may have also heard from her, we had our first snow two days ago! And the mountains are all beautifully snow-capped. It's a wonderful sight, and it's nice to see a change of clothing in the student body here too.

Before I get going, I want to thank you all for your fantastic letters! How I wish I had the time to send personalized and detailed letters back to each person. But please know that it makes my week to hear from everybody, and I'm thankful every day for your love and support.

Where to begin...How I also wish that I could remember and share even half of what my life brings me every week, but I've kept up my practice of making notes of things I want to share throughout the week, so I'll start with that.
Conference! Was fantastic. I can't even describe how cool it was to watch it with 2,000 young men and women who have dedicated their time to the Lord. Such a powerful experience. A few of you have asked me what my favorite parts were. I have to say the Temple announcements were up there. Everybody cheered at the sound of another Provo Temple, and it sent chills down my back and brought water to my eyes. And of course I thought of Jenn at the announcement of the Paris Temple. What a blessing for the French saints! I love the temple. And I love being able to go every week. Our district leader, Elder Christensen (from Star Valley) was super excited by the announcement of a temple in his hometown as well. Basically, I am thrilled that the Kingdom is rolling forward on the Earth. I was also very impressed as all of you were by the number of talks centered around missionary work. My notebook filled up very quickly, let me tell you. For those of you that didn't hear Elder Holland's talk during priesthood session, I encourage you to read it when it comes out. Powerful words from him, as always. One of my favorite talks was actually from Sis. Dalton about Fathers teaching their daughters, and for some reason, Heather and Sam, I could not stop thinking about you. Sam, I'm way excited for you to be the father of a daughter, and I know you'll be an excellent example to her. Another highlight: during Music and The Spoken Word, The Tabernacle Choir sang a song arr. by Mack Wilberg titled Brother James Air. It captivated me! It was one of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard. Can you somehow find it for me?

That's crazy that Anna met my teacher!! And very kind words on his part. Although, I have to wonder if you met the right teacher. That was some pretty high praise, and as it happens, there is another Elder Wilcox somewhere in the MTC also going to Chile Concepcion South! I keep hearing about him, but have not met him. Was this teacher you met named Jackson Ames or Andrew Welch? Those are my two instructors.  There's also a third Elder Wilcox, whom I have met (not going to Chile), who happens to be the son of Brad Wilcox, speaker extraordinaire. Cool beans!

Ay ay ay...Too much to say and too little time. I'll be brief.

-I was thinking about things I miss here, and things I've left behind. It occured to me that I don't miss things. I miss people and doing things. I don't miss my phone, I don't miss Facebook, I don't miss texting, I don't miss the computer or television. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss spending time with people, in essence. My thought is that unimportant things are a lot less important than we maybe realize. Like Ian S. Ardern said in general conference, we should be as quick to pray as we are to text.

-Please tell Joseph Gooden that I use the diary he gave me every single day. Thank you so much for the gift.
Sheesh! For two weeks now I've been wanting to share some funny things about Spanish and various anecdotal stories, but I'm out of time again, and I want to leave you with things that matter, and things that uplift.

This last week has, in fact, been very difficult for me. Learning a foreign language is difficult. Teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ with charity and love and in such a way that invites the Spirit of the Lord is difficult. Teaching cooperatively with someone is difficult. Doing all three with little experience is next to impossible. Every day is a struggle. Every day is a challenge, and I often get frustrated. And yet, when we pray for the Lord's strength, and we open our mouths to speak, the power of God is with us. Our lessons are not perfect. Far far from it. But when we bear our testimony to those we teach, and we pray with them to a loving Heavenly Father, the spirit IS there. I don't know how 52,000 19-21 year old boys do this work, but I know that it happens, and every day, one by one, souls are brought to their God and their Savior. Every day I face discouragement, but I also face sublime hope, and my faith is ever growing in the Gospel. Hermano Ames has encouraged us to treat learning Spanish as a sacred opportunity. We're not just doing this for fun. We are learning this language so we can help God's children feel the same love and hope that we feel, so we can do His work on Earth. I pray every night for the people in Chile. I pray that they will be prepared to hear the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored church. And I hope when I get there, I'm prepared to share it.

Thank you for all your letters and support! I wish I could write for hours, but now it's dinner time. Until next week, adios! (To God - just like adieu. Jenn gets it. :)

With Love,
Elder Wilcox