Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let's hit the ground running!

Dearest Mother and Father, 
Our Zone Leaders recently informed us that we are allowed to use email one last time before we head out of the MTC, so it looks like THIS will be the last email you will receive from the MTC. I leave tomorrow at 4;00 AM, and yes, we are flying down to St. George :) I will be able to call from the airport, so I will call both of your cell phones for about 5 minutes if time allows. I'm pretty sure President Leonard will let us call from the mission home too. If my first area is Manti or Ephraim I will have made a circumnavigation of Utah. 

The MTC is a really great place, and I only hope that I will have to opportunity to come back some day. It is a mixed bag to be here for only three weeks; on the one hand I feel really well prepared. I believe that in every way I can be a contributing missionary in the field. But on the other hand, the MTC really does have a unique Spirit and atmosphere and it would be nice to get in some more studying and practicing before hitting the ground running. Just pray for the Elders learning Cambodian, Thai, Mandarin and any other slew of languages: they get 12 weeks to become fully capacitated. 

Last week I got really sick, coughing, head ache, runny nose. It was kind of distracting, but I kept up the schedule and tried really hard not to cough on people during lessons.  One priesthood blessing later though, and I was back to full form. It was kind of amazing. Even though my body was absolutely spent physically, I had strength to concentrate and keep studying and working hard. I think I understand that the Savior's grace can help and strengthen us when we meet our own physical limits. Now though, I feel at 110% (yes Dad, I must've had horrendous math teachers) and I know I can go forward into the field with my limited strength and the awe inspiring strength of the Lord. I'm actually extremely excited :) 

All of our discussions with our investigators this week went really well. Elder Herrera and I have gotten so much better at being unified in teaching and following the promptings of the Spirit. Both of our teachers complemented us on our progress in every way these past three weeks. As we planned too, in our last lesson with Pablo we read from 2 Ne 31:1-12 and committed him to baptism. After we asked him to "follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized" it was silent for a good 30-40 seconds, and the Spirit was TAN FUERTE.; you could have cut it with a knife. I actually love just sitting in situations like that, because you can feel heavenly father working on the hearts of the people. Pablo responded that he really does want to be baptized, but he also wants these things for his family as well. It is always incredible to me how practicing can be this real, and how we can actually learn to help resolve the concerns of investigators through the experiences of our teachers. I really want to be able to help real people come unto Christ in this way. Also someday I hope to be a teacher in the MTC as well. 

Friday of last week we had our "In Field Orientation" day at the MTC, and honestly it was one of my favorite days ever. We were shuffled in and out of workshops with former mission presidents and former missionaries featured in "the district" training videos, and we learned soooooo much. We learned about contacting, planning, working with members, the key indicators, and so much more. I was again struck by the centrality of the baptismal invitation to our purpose as missionaries. The truth is that we are the only people that can offer baptism to people of the earth; this is the way Heavenly Father has prepared for others to draw nigh unto him and eventually live with him again. He does the work, not the missionaries, but what a privilege it is to be able to see these changes happen in people's lives. 

On Sunday the MTC showed the recording of Elder Bednar's Christmas talk to the missionaries in the MTC entitled "The Character of Christ'. This talk was the most inspirational thing I have ever heard. Elder Bednar's main point was that the character of Christ is exactly opposite of the character of the natural man. When the natural man would turn in and be selfish, Christ always turns out and thinks of others. Developing this main attribute of Christ is the quest of our lives. We cannot perfectly overcome our selfish tendencies, but through faith, repentance, and covenants we can experience the power of the atonement in our lives. Elder Bednar's talk vindicated my personal sentiment that I am not serving this mission for myself. When I forget my own preferences, my own desire, my own thoughts on the way the work should be done, and focus on my Savior, then I am completing my purpose on this mission. In our district classroom there was a poster of Christ's second coming that was posted right by my seat. Every time I felt overwhelmed at learning the language, discouraged at my ability to teach, or just generally sorry for myself I would look at that picture and immediately feel the Savior's grace buoying me up. Needless to say, I have purchased that poster from the bookstore. It reminds me that, as Elder Bednar said, "The moment you think you can't do this work alone {without Christ}, you are right." 

I love you all so much. Thank everyone for their prayers and support on my behalf. This mission really doesn't belong to me alone, but I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have. Talk to you next from the Field!! 

Siempre Vaya con Dios,
Elder Michael Stewart.

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