Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mission Training Center Week 3 - Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving! This week has been great. Elder Brown and I were called as Zone Leaders. It's quite a bit more responsibility. The Zone Leader orientation felt like the first day at the MTC again; lots and lots of information that I was sure I would be able to remember was given to us. But we're now settling into the calling the same we settled into the MTC after a while. We're not the oldest district here, so it's difficult to have stewardship for some missionaries that have been here longer than we have, but we're doing our best to keep everyone doing their best.

Serving a mission is a very unique opportunity. We are receiving so many blessings. Elder Brown and I taught a lesson on Monday; we had prepared notes and scriptures for the lesson, but we forgot all of them. The lesson that we taught was better than the lesson that we had planned, and teaching the way we did is something that I was far from capable of doing a month ago. Our ability to teach is improving, but the most important aspect of that ability is our perception of the needs of those we are teaching. Our teachers say to "teach people, not lesson." I am beginning to understand what they mean. In the beginning of my time here, I was focused on how well we were doing in our lessons, but that is far from what matters. What matters is the feelings of those we are teaching: how they receive our message, and the influence of the Spirit on them. I have been gaining more and more faith in the power of the Spirit to teach, and have begun to rely more and more upon that power.

We were able to hear from Elder Holland today for Thanksgiving! He spoke on his gratitude for the Savior's ability to atone for us on his own, on his gratitude for God's compassion for the poor, and for his gratitude that God knows each of us by name. Every devotional I attend helps me to know how I can be better, and how I can know what is required of me. There are more Thanksgiving-related activities later today! We're making school kits for underprivileged children. Also, apparently people eat pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving, because my roommates and I have been sent 5 loaves of pumpkin bread. Thanks for the pumpkin bread!

There was a "major storm warning" earlier this week. We were heading to teach in the TRC and one of the teachers told us that everyone besides the missionaries had to leave by three, because "the worst storm in years" was coming and that we would have a few feet of snow. It snowed for about 30 minutes and there was about an inch of snow. And the next day was one of the clearest we've had for a while! So, we never know what to expect.
One Elder from our district left to the Peru MTC this week! We were happy that he managed to get his Visa in time, because some other Elders in our district did not. The Visa situation for Mexico is not looking good; there are some missionaries here that have been here for 12 weeks! I'm hoping that everything works out, but I really wouldn't mind serving somewhere in Utah while waiting, like some of my friends are doing. Except I'll probably need warmer clothes than I have for Mexico...

Learning Spanish is still going really well, and it's genuinely just fun for me. I spend more time during language study teaching than anything I do learning. A lot of other Elders are having a lot of difficulty learning a new language, and it's a great opportunity for me to be able to reinforce my own learning by teaching them. I'm sure that our district will be speaking great Spanish by January.

There's an MTC talent show around Christmas. Some other missionaries from my district and I are trying to put something together for that. You can rent out guitars apparently; I suppose I'll know more about that later, but I'm pretty excited about being able to do something musical.
Thanks for all of your support. I'm working hard and learning to work harder. I appreciate all of the letters that I get. I dry-cleaned my suit and then spilled milk all over it.

Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Elder Spencer Tingey

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mission Training Center Week 2

I have been in the MTC for two weeks now! We're pretty comfortable now. We're pretty much MTC experts. I was kind of sick and couldn't really sleep for the first week, but now I am HEALTHY and WAKEFUL and this makes working and staying awake throughout the day much easier. So things are going very well. I've been learning more about some of the MTC hidden gems. There are a lot of pass-downs from other missionaries; we found out that there are names and dates written in glow-in-the-dark paint written on a portion of the wall in our room. This was really cool. Most of the dates are about ten years old. Also, I left some ugly ties at home (one has horses and one has polka-dots, they're really cool). Now I need those for... something...
Elder Kevin Pearson of the Seventy spoke for our Tuesday night devotional and it was very, very good. He explained how important it is that we perceive ourselves as missionaries, and it has helped me to try to have a fully "missionary" attitude; this involves calling everyone "Elders" and "Sisters/Hermanas" instead of "guys" which is hard. But I'm getting better, and me and my district are maturing. We plan our day out down to five minute intervals the night before and this allows us to study very efficiently the next day.
New elders came in last night! It's very exciting for us. This included Elder Braxton Boyer! I just ate breakfast with him, and all of my two weeks of experience allowed me to share some pearls of wisdom. Wesley wrote me a letter with some good questions. We should all follow Wesley's example and write me a letter. But I felt like some of the answers would be good for this e-mail. The pace and workload of the MTC have not been overbearing so far. I've never been good at being diligent in school studies, but it's not a problem here at all. The only deterrent has been fatigue, but that's being worked out with earplugs. I am not getting fatter. So far. Maybe I'll get less skinny though. Yes, I will be here in the MTC for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Hannukah. I don't know what, if any anything is different in the MTC for these. Hopefully, some turkeys will be available to eat. I've heard that lots of apostles come visit during the holidays, and that would be awesome! Also, we didn't take any "Matrix" pictures, but we did take some "lightsaber" pictures. I think these are probably cool, and maybe everyone can see some if I can get pictures home somehow. Working on that.
I think (this may have been a dream) that Brian Stucki wrote me on my birthday when he was on a mission... Whether that happened or not, it was awesome. So I'd like a family list so I can do the same!
Speaking of not knowing what's real, my perception of time is distorted beyond belief here. It's very strange. I feel like I was writing my last e-mail an hour ago (that was last week) but I feel like this morning was months ago (that was this morning). It's because we're really busy, I suppose. It's fantastic.
I hope everyone understands how easy it is to send me messages with Dear Elder! Getting mail is so great. I'm going to try to respond to everyone who sent me something with the time I have for writing letters today. But feel free to send me a Dear Elder, even if it's short! Letters are really nice to, especially if they have pictures. Tell Evan Lipman that I won't play Halo 7 with him unless he writes me a letter. And I really like pictures. Hopefully my last e-mail made sense; I ran the clock down to the last few seconds before I sent it. Hopefully this one makes sense too. I'm not entirely sure who is reading these, but I hope that those who want to are able to.
Family, thanks you for sending bread and staff paper and sweaters and other treats! We have a drawer full of candy and cookies and things which is why I wanted bread to balance it out. Also, I like bread. I hoped that my e-mail wasn't misinterpreted to mean that I was asking for new things, I just wanted the things I already owned sent up to me. Because it's really cold here! They didn't plan for the MTC weather in my Mexico packing list.
I know the work I'm doing here is very important. I'm working very diligently to become a better missionary. We had a great experience teaching in the "TRC" this last Tuesday. My companion and I did very well teaching together about the Restoration of the Gospel. The Spirit was very strong and the experience has motivated me to work even harder. Thanks for all of the support!
- Elder Tingey

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mission Training Center Week 1


The MTC is great. It's honestly really fun. Right after I was dropped off, we went and started practicing teaching people about the church. I was asked to bear my testimony almost immediately and to a room full of strangers, so my comfort zone grew very quickly. And then I got a bloody nose in that first activity, so my self-consciousness grew, and my companion's confusion grew as well. It was awesome! The first day, everything goes VERY quickly; they direct the new missionaries everywhere that they go, and I felt like we were just being swept around, but the second day it's all up to you and your companion to be fully obedient to the schedule.
It's decidedly difficult to explain how different the MTC is from "normal" life. I expected a very austere environment from what you hear about being here, but I've been surprised by that not being the case. The mission president, President Smith, requires us to be rigorously obedient. That may seem like the same thing, but the spirit is much different. (Mostly) everyone is focused on doing the work that we are here to do. I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people here who I know, or have found connections with, whether they're from Vegas or BYU or my family. Apparently there's another Elder
Tingey somewhere, so I'll have to find him. And there is a Sister Brown whose parents are serving with my Grandparents in West Africa! There are a too many people to mention specifically, but it's great to see familiar faces.

My companion is Elder Benjamin Brown from Farmington, Utah. We get along very well, and we've been getting a lot of work down by setting new goals each night to stretch ourselves to be more and more diligent. He's really tall and really generous and funny. We've really enjoyed our district as well; I can't even express how lucky I feel about my companionship and district. We all became friends very quickly, and we have so much fun. and we get a lot of studying done as well. My zone and Branch President, President Estes are great as well. Branch 50, District D!
Learning Spanish has not really been challenging so far. Last Thursday, I had to write a talk in Spanish. That was quite difficult, but since then I have just been learning more vocabulary and grammar and it's been really entertaining; I can tell that my ability to learn is being strengthened beyond what I would be capable of on my own. Along with hours of language study each day, my companion and I spend a lot of time studying the gospel and the scriptures; I am learning a lot, and I feel more prepared to teach everyday. Elder Bednar spoke at a devotional on Tuesday. It was amazing. It honestly influenced my entire attitude about behavior on my mission. He explained that, in the church, we often try to use applications to solve a problem, when those applications are based on principles which are based on doctrines, and those doctrines are the answer.
To the priests/youth/those preparing for a mission: Decide now whether you want to serve. Once you are here, the work of the missionaries is the most important thing in your life, and it's your only focus. You'll be very appreciative of your time in seminary - and I am SO appreciative of my two years in high school Spanish. Try to recognize how important it will be to you in a few years, and apply that importance to your diligence in seminary right now.

One of the teachers here asked, "Oh, Elder Tingey! Do you have a brother who plays in a band? Broby... or Bramby?"
"Yeah, that's me. I play bass or something."
"Ah. I have you on my iPod."
So that's cool. My disctrict is really curious about Brumby's music and why people keep asking my about it. So Battle Born better be on iTunes by now so that their families can listen to it!
We can't listen to music here in the MTC, but once I leave, it would be really great to have an iPod with Hymns, church music and a LOT of classical music, and a set of battery-powered speakers. I don't now how easy that would all be, but it would be much appreciated.
Some elders have multiple SD cards, and they take pictures on one and then send it home so they can keep taking pictures with their camera. That could work for sending pictures home in the MTC, at least, I don't know how much I'll be able to rely on Mexican post.

Anyways, write me! I can't write you until you write me because I don't have any addresses! And I have plenty of time to read letters, but only a half hour to e-mail, so feel free to send me any length of letter any time. And send me pictures!


Elder Spencer Tingey