Happy 11/11/11!!! I hope you all make many wishes and may they all come true.
Whaaaaale, time is winding down here in the MTC. In all honesty, I don't think I'm that trunky (yet), which makes me really glad. A lot of Elders here get towards the end and start complaining about being here, whining about not being in their country, and kind of losing focus. I think a few weeks ago I kind of just resigned myself to being here, so everytime I thought about the MTC, it was more of like "Yeah, I'm here. I'll be here until whenever, no worries. When I leave I leave, let's learn Spanish."
I hope, however, that that doesn't all change, because today...ba bada baaa... we got our travel plans! Yes indeed, we are locked in to going to Chile. I'll give you the rundown.
(Times are all in SLC time)
We leave SLC at 5:55 on Nov 21st (which means we leave the MTC at 3 in the morning...)
We arrive in LA at 7:01 and have an almost 5 hour layover
We leave LA at 11:50am and arrive in Santiago at 5:45am the next day
We have 3 hour layover in Santiago and then
We leave at 8:25am to arrive in Concepcion by 9:30am
For a grand total travel time of almost 28 hours! (Not including the bus from the airport in Concepcion to the Mission Home)
Basically, I couldn't be more excited. Especially for all the sweet sweet study time! In regards to calling home from the airport, I'm going to buy a phone card from the bookstore tomorrow so I can do so. I'll probably call during my layover in LA, so be prepared for that.
As exciting as this all is, however, I am horribly frightened by the fact that LanChilean Airlines (from LA to Santiago and beyond) only allows carry-on's up to 17 pounds plus one small personal item. Considering I flew to Provo with two large checked bags plus a rather heavy carry-on and backpack, I'm really not sure how I'm going to make this work. I'm already considering all of the things that I can trash here before leaving (pillow, extra clothes, products, books, etc.), because it's going to be tight. Fortunately the charges for our airlines (United to LA and LanChile beyond) for extra things aren't as crazy as other airlines. I believe it's between $100-150 for a third bag and between $60-100 for an overweight bag up to 70lbs. I'll let you know how it's coming next week!
Unfortunately I don't have much time today (I know, like I say every week. But this time I mean it). I wanted to share with you all the basic schedule of a missionary here at the MTC, at the request of Anna and Joseph, and for the information of former missionaries who might not be aware of the change in curriculum, but I'll try to do so quickly.
Basically, we wake up every day M-Su at 6:30 (6:00 on Temple Day) Every day there is at least 1 hour of personal study time, which is our time to learn the gospel and be schooled by the Lord, usually in the morning. Some days we have more time later on.
We have 50 mins of Gym time 5 days a week at various periods throughout the day
5 Days a week we have 1 hour of TALL (Technology assisted language learning), which is basically the Church's version of Rosetta Stone, albeit much more in depth but just about as interactive. Every day we have 1 hour of Language Study. Like personal time, this is directed by the missionaries according to our needs and the needs of our investigators.
We have a service assignment every week. It's different for every district. Our district helps stock and rotate food in the cafeteria.
Every Tuesday there is a devotional with a guest speak. There is also a Fireside (basically the same things) every Sunday
The biggest change in the new curriculum I belive is the Class schedule:
In the past (like several months in the past) missionaries were left largely to their own devices in terms of study. This was called MDT or missioanry directed time. And I believe they would teach a lesson perhaps once or maybe twice a week in the Training Resource Center to volunteers, while being observed by their teachers.
Today, teaching is the complete focus of the MTC. We have 10 class blocks (3 hours each) every week. This takes up the majority of our day every day. At the beginning of every class period, we teach a 20 min lesson directly to our teacher (acting as a real investigator that they had in their mission) in Spanish. We've been doing so since our 3rd day in the MTC. This means we teach 10 lessons a week (one of which is a 40 min lesson to a volunteer in the TRC). That's about a 1000% increase in teaching experience for the missionaries under the new program in the MTC. The result, many mission presidents, in-field missionaries, etc. have reported that the new missionaries coming out to the field are tremendously more prepared than they used to be. I didn't realize this until recently, when one of our Zone Resource Teachers (personal tutors who work with us one on one briefly every day according to our needs) told us about his experience in the MTC. But now that I think about it, I am astounded that before even entering the field, my companion and I have taught almost 80 lessons, not counting the many learning activities and practices we do during class time. Basically, it's a great time to be a missionary, and I am so grateful for the privilege of representing the Lord.
I wish I had more time to tell you all about our experiences with Jorge and Kleyber, but they are too many to count. However, this past Wednesday, Kleyber was baptized, and talking with him yesterday about it was such an amazing experience. He was a very difficult person to teach for a long time, and seeing how far he has come, and how his heart has changed because of the Gospel is inspiring. Also, this past Monday, Jorge accepted our invitation to be baptized, and the service is scheduled for tomorrow. The moment he said yes, I felt more joy than I think I've ever felt. Elder Phelps and I have been working a long time to help Jorge understand the importance of the Church and of baptism. He's always been very prepared for the Gospel and very receptive, but for the longest time we couldn't seem to get him to progress towards the waters of baptism. But in our lesson on Monday, after a strong presence of the Spirit, and some very inspired questions on the part of Elder Phelps, the moment was perfect, and the invitation was extended and accepted.
Dang. I'm out of time. I desperately wish I could write more in depth about how much Elder Phelps and I have grown as teachers in the past week, and all of my experiences here. C'est la vie. I know things are only going to get better. It may seem kind of silly how important to me these mock lessons are. But it's our life as missionaries. It is our purpose. To help God's beloved children return to Him, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preparatory as this time may be, it has changed me, and continues to do so. I can't wait to get to Chile and share the Gospel for real, and see people's lives and hearts change because of their Savior. Thank you all for your constant support. Sorry I always forget/leave out a lot of stuff in my letters. I do the best I can. Stay faithful, stay true, and may God bless your lives.
Elder Ross Wilcox