Oct 1, 2011 (received Oct 6, 2011)
Happy General Conference!! Here at the MTC, we all get really excited by our weekly devotionals on Tuesdays, when there’s a good chance that an Apostle can come. In fact, devotionals have been described as a Spiritually edifying Mosh Pit of missionaries. So you can imagine the nervous energy we have for General Conference!
Enough about that, though, here are my answers to the questions you’ve asked:
Boots: Yes, get the boots, the high tops ones.
Dear Elder vs. Mail: Obviously I enjoy both, but through Dear Elder, they print out your e-mail and put it in my mailbox, so I believe it’s a bit quicker. As for me, I’ll be doing both, since I only get to e-mail once a week, and get to write one letter a week. I’ll usually try to get my letters off by Friday or Saturday, FYI.
Private Content in letters: If Dad thinks things are too personal he’s probably right. Honestly, I can’t really remember what I wrote, so I’ll leave it to your discretion. I try to censor myself, but I may have been too personal, feel free to put my letters on the blog though.
P-Day: My P-days are actually on Tuesday. We accidently told Sister Hope (who was super nice) Thursday, but they’re on Tuesdays.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms here are just like the ones at BYU – Communal. No toilet in my room (thank goodness). Oh and the showers are not Tree of Life, although I have quickly learned that not all showers are created equal. We have two showers that are “water savers,” which means that they shoot out water like a sprinkler. E nao bom (It’s not good) Then the rest are normal, except one. This one is the shower over the bath tub stall. We call it the waterfall stall, or the shower Irreantum, which being interpreted, is shower of many waters. (see Nephi 17:5)
OK, enough of that. On to things I need.
OK, now onto my experience in the MTC
Portuguese classes have been hard and trying, but rewarding and fun. Portuguese is such a beautiful language. To me, it sounds like a cross of French and Spanish, but waaaay better. There are lot of hard little rules, but I’m getting it. The hardest one for me is the letter R. The letter R almost never sounds like an R. If it starts at the beginning of a word, or there are two r’s in a row, it’s pronounced like an h. So representante (representative) is pronounced heh-preh-zen-than-chie. Otherwise, it’s pronounced as a light d, like para is pronounced pa-da.
It’s not like we aren’t given the time or the tools to succeed though. We’re given almost 8 hours of study time for language each day, and three of these hours we have a teacher. Our teachers are Irma Gonzales and Irmao Maxwell, and they’re wonderful! They both know the language and love it. This love really shows in all our lessons, as does their love for the gospel. I truly feel blessed to be taught by them.
The other five hours included an hour of personal language study, an hour of “TALL” (which is a program on the computer that has us do activities with the language) and then three hours of preparing to teach an “investigator”.
So far we’ve been teaching an “investigator” named Chico. We first taught him our first Thursday night, and we’ve taught him every night, minus Sunday, for 20 – 35 minutes, entirely in Portuguese. The rest of that three hours is spent preparing for it.
Elder Barkdull and I completely scripted out our first lesson in Portuguese, along with our second lesson on Saturday. I mean, we’d only been in the MTC for a couple of days, we couldn’t converse in Portuguese without help! Starting on Monday, 9/26, we starting going in without prepared scripts. It was terrifying. I was praying all day for the gift of tongues, and when I wasn’t praying I was practicing the language. Elder Barkdull had a hard time concentrating, thought. I don’t expect him to pick up the language fast, but he was just being distracted, especially be Elder Hobbs. Elder Hobbs was being very immature and downright inconsiderate, as he was distracting the whole district. I just think looking back, that it’s kind of pathetic that after two hours, Elder Barkdull & Elder Hobbs had only studied maybe a total of fifteen minutes.
So, at 7:45 pm, Elder Barkdull and I went in to teach Chico, about the Plan of Salvation in Portuguese. I can say quite frankly that I was able to converse and teach comprehensibly in the Portuguese. However, Elder Barkdull could scarcely say anything at all, relying on pre-prepared phrases written out on his notebook.
After that lesson, our district was sitting together, reading the scriptures. I could tell Elder Barkdull was really depressed (It’s weird, I can tell when he is even slightly off, and he is the same way about me.) so, I started praying, asking for a way to help Elder Barkdull, to help him get back on his feet, and really learn the language. During this time, I realized that the Lord had NOT blesses me with the aptitude for Portuguese for myself – I was supposed to use it to help others. So, I decided that night to help Elder Barkdull learn the language as best as I could. Shortly after I came to this realizations, Elder Barkdull was telling everyone in melaucholre tones how poorly he had done and how well I did. Then Elder Hobbs asked me,
“What’s your secret, Elder Twitchell.”
My Secret? I definitely felt the Spirit speaking through me as I opened my mouth. I first said how incredulous I was when I heard Elder Olpin bear his testimony in Portuguese (He is honestly the best Port. Speaker I’ve heard so far). Then I told them how when I spoke to Elder Olpin about this, he said that he was so good because he LOVED THE LANGUAGE. I told them that if we go forth without this love, filled with antagonism and negative feelings toward the language, we will never learn it.
Then, I shared with them a scripture. 1 Nephi 16:29 “… and thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.”
After sharing this, I told them that they were too busy hoping to receive suddenly the gift of tongues, when that is not the way the Lord typically works. It is through small means – ie. Using our study effectively, without being mortally distracted – that w are able to learn the language. These small means, and faith and prayer.
I didn’t mean to be so bold. – I normally don’t talk this way – but I got the feeling that these things needed to be said.
I don’t really remember much immediately after I said these things, because I was still dazed by it all. But I will say this: the next few times we had language study, Elder Barkdull worked. No, it wasn’t perfect, and yes, Elder Hobbs was still distracting us all the time, but Elder Barkdull was now trying, truly trying. I helped him as well as I could. I prayed for Humility and Meekness, because I know that the gifts I have can lead to Pride. After each lesson with Chico we got better and better teaching the gospel in Portuguese.
Something special happened this past Thursday 9/29/11. We were teaching our last lesson with Chico. Both Elder Barkdull and I were able to understand Chico, and respond intelligibly (we still have months to go before we can communicate what we want to though). We then gave him the Baptism challenge, and he agreed, on the condition that he quit smoking. After this lesson, I reflected on how blessed I was that the Lord helped me to help Elder Barkdull, and that we both have learned so much.
Chico, as it turned out, was not a smoking Brazilian emigrant investigator with a tendency to use his hands as he spoke (typically to mime to us works we didn’t know) He is a RM and in fact our third Portuguese teacher. He came waltzing into our classroom Friday
Night and taught us about having effective study time, all spoken in Portuguese, claro (of course). It was a chock for our whole district, but Chico (not his real name) is a great teacher, and I’m excited to learn more from him.
Well, there’s the best story I’ve experienced so far. It’s a good one. I like it.
Over the course of this story, life went on at the MTC. Our district played volleyball several times, and one day won the tournament that is held every gym hour. We all put up with the food here and then gradually accepted the food, even, dare I say, enjoy it. Elder Hobbs got stung by a bee. Brother Don R. Clarke of the Seventy spoke to us at the Devotional in what must have been the most irreverent, while still being Spiritually edifying talk I’ve ever heard.
I got to come and know and love each member of my district 54-B: Elder Barkdull, Elder Frahm, Elder Trevisannt, Elder Glenn, Elder Farley Johnson, Elder Hobbs, Elder “Dry Heaves” Reeves, Sister Patton and Sister Horkley. I want to tell you all about them in my coming letters.
This experience I’ve had so far has been brutal, frustrating, confusing, and trying. But it also has been rewarding, fun, edifying, and humbling. I cannot wait to see what the Lord will have us do next, and I hope I have the Faith and Humility to accomplish those things.
Tell me about San Jose! I want to hear how you’re doing! I heard Dad finally got a calling! Sure, it’s not as glamorous as Ward Financial clerk, but it’s nice to know what the Lord wants of us, as a calling. Surely, the church building will be more clean than it ever has been with dad in charge. Oh, and Good luck with work! I pray about you.
Mom, That’s too bad that the lady taught the dating lesson. I guess she really likes teaching that lesson too. Also, I’m sorry you don’t have anyone to protect you when you go to Lucky’s. Let me share a story about a woman biking up a hill when it was really windy. She prayed to the Lord for help, and the wind did not calm itself. If anything, it got stronger. When she got to the top of the hill, she sarcastically thanked God. Right then she heard in her heart this! “I did not still the wind; instead, I gave you the strength to overcome.” She would never have been able to go up that hill without the Lord.
I know how hard it is to live in San Jose, I really do. I pray about you all every day, especially for you, Mom, But I know that the Lord will give you the strength to overcome.
Autumn, I hope that school is treating you well! It can be hard, but just remember who you are. President Monson at the Priesthood conference said that part of being a member of the church is sometimes standing alone. But remember that you never really are alone if you’re living the right way – you have a member of the Godhead with you always. Think about that. A member of the GODHEAD with you always. I’m praying about you too. Tell me about the new manager in the Office! Oh, and don’t forget to look forward to Legend of Korra! By the way, Elder Barkdull is an Avatar fan, and before conference we were talking about it, and literally eight or nine people – check that, missionaries – joined in the conversation. There are many closet Avatar fans here.
I started this letter Saturday morning, but now it is Sunday morning of general Conference, 8:52 am. It’s a long letter but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what it’s like here.
I love you, and pray about you every day, in Portuguese ( Eu son grato por minha familia (I’m grateful for my family!)) Good luck, and enjoy conference. I’ll probably e-mail you before you receive this.
Com munito amor (with much love)
Elder Avram Twitchell
PS. It’s kind of funny, there are at least three other Elder Twitchell’s here that I know of. But don’t know how we’re related