Hello Mom and Dad!
I love you all so much. I thank everyone for their letters and packages and thoughts and prayers. I really can feel the love and it makes me feel like I can work hard and be a better missionary. Seriously, getting mail and dear elder letters is better than Christmas. It’s kind of like a parable for me. I feel so blessed that i just want to share all of my blessings with everyone around me. When you give love away, it can only get bigger.
So like in my first email it is not possible to relate everything that has been happening in the MTC this week. The most exciting thing, that actually started last Thursday, was getting to teach people lessons more often. Our district is teaching two "investigators" named Aracely and Pablo, who are just our teachers acting as people they met on their missions. It’s actually an amazing process. Even though these people are just practicing as investigators, we can really feel the spirit when we plan, prepare, pray for, and teach them. The spirit makes this a truly meaningful learning process. We have taught Aracely and Pablo four and three times respectively, and both have really grown their faith and been receptive to our message. They have both agreed to be baptized once they gain a testimony of the spirit. It’s really exciting to see these changes in people's lives, even if it is just practice.
Another teaching opportunity that we get as missionaries in the MTC is to participate in training resource center (TRC) progressing investigator lessons. We don't know if the people we teach here are actors or actual investigators, so we take these lessons very seriously. Elder Herrera and I have been teaching a man named Abraham Delgado who has a lot of questions about the Book of Mormon. We have shared our testimonies with him along with scriptures from John 10 and Ephesians 4 that testify of our message, and he is consistently reading and praying about the book. We’re pretty sure Abraham is a member because he bears his testimony at his neck line (if you know what I mean.) elders Lopez, Medrano, and Barboza are teaching a man named José who we are pretty sure is not a member. In their last lesson the spirit was so strong that everyone was in tears and José committed to baptism. We were all so excited!! The spirit is the most important part on this work, and it is exciting to see it work in people's lives.
All of this teaching has been in Spanish. The gift of tongues is real, and I see it all around me in the MTC (pray for the elders learning Cambodian and Finnish). I’ve really gotten a lot more comfortable with speaking in Spanish. In lessons I stick to saying simple things and bearing testimony. On Tuesday of this week I made the transition to studying and reading the training materials only in Spanish. (If I had a dime for every time someone referenced the scripture ether 12 :27 to me...haha.) Well, I know that the promise in that verse that through humility and faith the Lord will make "weak things become strong unto them" is so true. The Lord will work miracles for us if we are about his work and doing it his way. I know that if I keep studying hard and speaking as much as I can, he will magnify my efforts. the spirit is much more anxious to help me than I am to be helped.
I also realize that I forgot to mention where the people in my district are headed off to on February 15th :) Hermanas Alspaugh and Walter are headed the Guatemala Quetzaltenango mission, Hermana Barrera to Provo UT (woot!!) and Hermana Gonzales to Chicago. All of the Elders (Lopez, Barboza, Herrera, and Stewart) are going to St. George except for Elder Medrano who is headed for Baton Rouge. I am so excited that I don't have to let these friendships go when we head off to the field; all of these elders are so great and they will change so many lives. I also realized that we are very blessed to have hermanas in our district. (The districts that don't have hermanas in them seem much more...strange :)) Hermanas think about the gospel and helping people differently and I’m convinced that they help elders become real people.
Over this last week I have been really grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord. I am so blessed to be able to see my sister almost every day here at the MTC. She helps me keep perspective and really motivates me. Also, I am blessed to be at the MTC with Elders Thomas Nilsen and Michael Neff who were in my BYU ward last semester. When we met each other in the cafeteria last week the embraso was epic. I am able to run with Elder Nilsen during gym time too, and it feels a lot like old times. It is helpful to have so many good friends in the same place all doing the same thing. The MTC is tough, but we really do have companions and friends to help each other. Also on my list of thankful names, is Elder Shumway. This elder lives in the residence right next to me and he has come to talk with me every night just to see how I’m doing and to encourage me. If people can show this much love, I just imagine what our heavenly father can do.
I know this gospel is true. Jesus really does have power to cleanse and strengthen us, no matter where we have been. The Book of Mormon is true. It changes my life every day and I want to share it with everyone. I know we can feel closer to the Lord in his temple, and indeed going in to the Provo temple felt like going home to me.
I love you all so much! Keep writing and praying for the missionaries!
Elder Michael Stewart