June 18, 2015
In 18 months, I'm moving to Africa!
MANAHONA (Hello in Malagasy)
OK BEST WEEK OF MY LIFE!!!!! I know I am going to say that every single week for the next 18 months but seriously...the MTC is the best. Last night we watched a devotional from Elder Holland from May 26, 2015 at the Provo MTC and it was soooo good. I know we don't get general authoritites from the states but just watching him on the screen was so powerful. I am so grateful for our church leaders and I know that if we follow their guidance and listen to them, our testimonies will become stronger and we will know how we can all become more like our Savior.
My schedule is about the same every day. We wake up at 6:30 and eat breakfast at 7. Every elder says "Good Morning" to you. I love the elders and I will probably talk about them a lot but they are so hilarious. It doesn't really feel like I am in Africa yet because we are cooped up inside all day so I love to ask the elders a million questions and find out as much as I can about their families and cultures and everything. Elder Desouza from Uganda (Justin Langford...the missionaries from Uganda are my favorite! They are all spiritual giants and know the scriptures so well. Their testimonies are incredible and are so humble. I am so excited for you to get to teach those people. Tips for the MTC...bring a sweater or two because it is cold inside. Love the Africans and try really hard to get them out of their comfort zone. THEY ARE HILARIOUS!! Brother Kubekah is the best teacher so try and get him or at least get to know him. Tell him you know Sister Bingham. Also the mission president here and his wife are awesome. This MTC is super small but the best. You kinda feel trapped in here but take advantage of every second. You only have a couple days and they go fast. I am so pumped you get to come here!!!!!!) anyways...Elder Desouza asked me one day "Why are Americans so fat?" I just started laughing and we talked about it and then he told me that here, at the MTC he ate like a king. It was a very humbling moment and I am so grateful for the example these elders are to me. The food...well it's not the best but it isn't bad either. I am starting to get used to it but man do they give the biggest portions ever!! And every elder eats every single thing on their plate! The other day we had fish sticks for breakfast. All their sausage and beef tastes like those salami sticks we take backpacking. Good thing I like those. Oh and I had NSHIMA for the first time!!!! It was pretty good. It's hard to described but it really didn't have a taste so sister Thueson and I decided we will survive in Zambia! Other funny comments from the elders...I asked one you lives on the coast of South Africa if he ever goes swimming. he just looked at me and said, "I'm black. Do you think I like to swim??" In class our teacher asked us to define a word and Elder Tema just said, "Americans?!" Elder Tema is hilarious. He was having a really, really hard first day and I think he is still struggling. But he loves talking with the Sisters and even though my teacher gets mad at him, he told us that we have a special spirit that he likes. He told us about his girlfriend at home and turns out almost every one of them has a girlfriend and they love to talk about them.
My companions...are the greatest. We work really well together and have so much fun and really love each other. This week has been a hard one for sweet Sister Owusu-Afriyie. She had a terrible dream one night and told me about it and started crying she was so worried. The whole next day she really couldn't focus so I encouraged her to talk to President Collins and she felt much better. I loved that she trusted me enough to open up to me though. Then she fell on the ground when we did this activity outside and we thought she just scraped up her knees but she couldn't walk. Since Monday, she hasn't been able to bend her leg and has to hold onto the wall as she walks. I feel so bad for her and just hope she will be ok to go to Zambia. President Collins said he might have her go to the doctor but we aren't sure how serious the situation is. Then today she started throwing up. I felt awful for her and wish I could take her place. Although I wish that none of this would have happened, I am grateful for how it has brought us all together and taught me patience as well as charity. Sister Thueson and I have had to work hard to help Sister Owusu-Afriyie do everything but it honestly doesn't bother me at all. I think at home I would get annoyed but as I have learned over the past week, mission is changing me. Keep her in your prayers though.
We LEARN A LOT!!! We are in class everyday and we teach our teachers, they pretend to be investigators, every morning and night. That has been where I have learned the most and realized how unprepared I am. It's easy to get frustrated with myself but I know that this whole teaching thing will just come with time. Today though...wow it was incredible. We have been taught that the most important thing is to teach with the Spirit. Obviously I want to do that but what is tricky for me is that sometimes means we have to go away from our lesson plan. We have been taught to find the investigators need and then teach to that concern according to the Spirit. It sounds so simple yet it way harder than I thought. However, after getting frustrated that first day, I have decided that my own weaknesses and faults will become strengths not only as I teach more and more in the mission field, but also as I rely on the Savior and his Atonement. Being here has increased my testimony of the Atonement one million times more. I know that if we apply that enabling power in our lives he can help us accomplish whatever. Even if it is as simple as being able to follow the Spirit when teaching. Today we taught again and for the first time since being here...I felt that enabling power take effect in my teaching. We were listening to our investigator and I had this thought come into my head and a burning in my heart that I needed to share something. It was not what I had prepared but as I spoke those words, I knew that I was speaking with the Spirit and the investigator could feel it. As we walked out of that lesson, I felt so much gratitude for that answer to my prayers. I know Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. He loves us and loves all his children.
Sunday was super great. The two non-English elders who are learning English blessed the sacrament and they did it in perfect English. Tears filled my eyes as I once again felt that enabling power of the atonement. The lord watches over and blesses his missionaries and children you seek to do his will. Whenever I think it's hard here, I think of those elders. They are such an inspiration!! We all, 17 missionaries, had to prepare talks and then the President just called on us. I wish you could hear the testimonies of the missionaries here. We love to have fun and joke around, but as soon as they speak about the gospel, the get serious and quiet and speak with so much power!! I think there is a big difference between Americans and Africans and how we show our reverence. I love how humble and sweet the Africans are and feel so privileged to be among these amazing missionaries!! That night we had a devotional by President Collins about the Law of Sacrifice and Consecration. Wow. He gave us two talks...One from Elder McConkie in 1975 and one from Elder Bednar a devo from BYU Idaho on Jan. 5, 1999. look them up and read them and then you will know what I am talking about. I feel that I have already sacrificed to be here on a mission and now it is up to me to develop and dedicate all my time, talents and strength to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth. Being in the MTC is like one big fireside. I have always loved firesides so it's great but you really learn a lot. I am beyond excited to go to Zambia (real Africa according to President and Sister Collins) but I have treasured these days at the MTC. I love my teachers. My one teacher, Brother Kubekah is incredible!! He speaks 11 languages!!! He talks with clicks all the time!!!!!!!! it is the coolest. Matt...I have been trying to learn it but wow. Hopefully by the end of 18 months I can get it. It is more speaking than clicking though but still you should look it up because I can't describe it. He is only been a member for 4 years but I can tell he was an amazing missionary. As I have been in class, I couldn't help but think of Matt, Rebekah, and Josh teaching in the MTC. I wish I could be learning from you and I have so much more love and respect for you. Not that I didn't before but wow....these teachers know so much and have helped me a ton! I also have felt so much love for my brothers, Sara and dad as they have served missions.
Court asked if I was nervous about singing here. Well...considering I am probably the best singer here...not really. They love to sing loud but maybe sister Duffy could give them a few lessons. I love it though!! I love everything about this continent and its people. YOU ALL HAVE TO COME HERE!!! I haven't seen much outside of the MTC but from what I have seen...I'm glad I'm not going to Joburg. Kinda sketch...I just learned today that South Africa has the highest murders in the whole world!!!!!!!!!!!! That's why they don't send sisters here. Oh so the Joburg mission home is right next to us and on their P-day the American elders were so pumped to talk to Sister Thueson and I. It was funny. I love going outside for sports time!! THE SUN IS THE BEST!!!!!! We kinda get trapped in here so it brings so much happiness to finally go outside! There is a soccer field (it's pretty sad) and a basketball court. The other day, the elders said, "Sister America, teach us how to play basketball!" You should have seen them!!! Not one of them had ever played before and I think Mom could shoot better than them. They all laughed the entire time and had the biggest smiles on their faces. Even this fun experience was so touching. Being here has made me so much more sensitive to the spirit and grateful for all that I have been blessed with. On Tuesday we had a Health and Safety meeting but don't worry, it didn't scare me at all even after they told us all about these terrible diseases. They said if you get bit by a dog, cat, monkey, mongoose, lion, elephant or any animal you must get a rabies shot. AN ELEPHANT?!?!? Hahah he might have been kidding up he was serious about malaria and all that jazz.
Wednesday....the greatest day. A member of the African South East Area presidency came and spoke to us. He talked about how if we do what we are supposed to, then we will become what our Heavenly Father wants us to become. He taught that we need to not worry about the non important things of our life and instead focus on what the Savior did while here on earth. He taught, blessed, healed, and most importantly he loved. We then went to the temple and getting there was an adventure. I just stared out the window the whole time!! It really is a whole different world here and they have been telling me this isn't real Africa!! Everyone parks their car on the grass underneath a tree. It doesn't matter if they could park on the street or on their driveway, they drive up on the grass. I wish I had a picture to show you. We can't send pictures from here but Sister Collins said she would send you at least one group picture. While the missionaries that hadn't been through the temple went early, we went to the distribution center. They had Books of Mormon in a ton of different languages and they are crazy!!! I want to learn the languages in Zambia and Malawi but wow...it will be difficult. The temple, I don't have words to describe it. 6 hadn't gone through and I know a couple of those who have never even set foot in a temple. When I heard this, I felt spoiled to have gone to the temple so many times. But yesterday, I made it a goal that I would go to the temple as often as I can because we live so close to one! Elder Mugenyi from Uganda told me that they are building a temple that will only be 12 hours away and he can't wait. 12 HOURS AWAY?!? the faith of the saints here is inspiring. I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming amount of love for my family in the temple. I can't express how much love I feel for each and every one of you. I am so grateful for Mom and Dad and that because they were sealed in the temple, we will be together forever. I love the prayer for the missionaries and our families. So many times in one day, you are prayed for here by the missionaries, our leaders, me, my companions. The temple will be one of my fondest memories of my MTC experience. The temple was beautiful!! Oh and I met Morgan Firmage's grandma in the temple!! How crazy is that? I am here in South Africa and I made a connection to home! She was really really excited. Oh and my teacher served with Dallas Yorganson. Mom forward this to Sister Yorganson so she can tell Dallas. Brother Kubekah speaks very highly of him and told us this hilarious story about a man with a super long chin.
How is everyone though?? I wish I could be there with Susan and Beth and Elise and Suri and Grandma! Give them big hugs from me! Tell Elise she needs to come to Africa. How did Jacob's soccer tournament go? Melissa how was the half marathon? Your time was incredible!!!! I am so proud of you! Maybe we can do one together when we get back. I never get to exercise in here and its killing me...seriously I am probably gaining weight. Dad, and all the fathers in the family...HAPPY FATHERS DAY!! Being here has made me so grateful for the amazing priesthood holders you are. I feel blessed to have you in my life and for how you honor that priesthood. I know it is the power from God to act in his name and with it, we can bring others unto Christ. Without the Priesthood we could not have the ordinances to return to our Father in Heaven. I love you guys! They are super sweet to the sisters here. Today our teacher said, "If all the Elders were like the Sisters, the very powers of hell would shake..." Hahah we get a lot of praise but we have so much improvement to make!!
I love the culture here and I really wish I could express how much love I feel for my companions and the Elders here. Last night an elder told me that he had a dream about me and that I shouldn't get freaked out but in the dream I died and he felt very sad. He said he wanted to share that with me to tell me how much he cared for me and the other sisters. I appreciate the missionaries as they have accepted me and welcomed me in! Sister Owusu-Afriyie told me that she never would have thought she would serve with a white companion, let alone two, but that color doesn't matter to her. I have felt this same love from all the missionaries. They are amazing!! I keep telling them I will come back to Africa and visit them all.
I apologize for this long email and for how scattered it is!! They are pretty relaxed here at the MTC and I just don't know when I will have this much time to email again. It is the best though. There is so so so much to explain and describe!!! I wish I could video it all and send it to you. Someday I will be able to tell you all about it but for now, I love you so much and pray for you every day. I am so grateful to have an amazing family!!!! Keep being faithful.
Ngiyakuthanda (I love you in Zulu)
P.s. some african slang...."Eish" which means darn it, or bummer. Everyone says it here. And they say "Eh?" and "You know" and "Ok?" especially when they are teaching.