Friday, August 26, 2016

A Good Week For Devotionals

The Plan of Salvation in Creole
First off let me just say that I was inspired by my dad's priesthood emails [those he sends to the Young Men in our ward] and I will be including a game at the bottom of my emails from now on. Have fun!

So let's see, what did I do this week? This week was a good week for devotionals, on Sunday we had the Nashville Tribute Band come and perform for us. Of course I was in the choir, and it was the largest choir in MTC history, 1703 people. That's 5 Mormon Tabernacle Choirs. We filled pretty much all of the gym with just the choir. Anyways the band was great, we sang 3 songs with them live. They were called I Was Born, John's Song [This is the only song with a video presentation, The others are just audio], and When He Comes Again [I think this is the one he means, although the title is a little different]. Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK UP THE SONG (aka look it up) The Hardest Thing I Ever Loved to Do. You will cry. You have been warned. Anyways really cool devotional but it was kinda weird not being able to clap afterwards. The Tuesday devotional was Juan A. Uceda of the seventy. It was a great talk, maybe you can find a recording of it somewhere. He was a convert, so he went through and talked about what helped him. I took lots of notes.

Elder Stevenson with his doppelganger Elder Duffin 
I guess one thing I should mention is that I'm the District Leader now. Here in the MTC a district is everyone learning the same language, so 8 of us. Some languages are split because they're so big. District Leader basically means I get the mail. I also go to Branch Council on Sundays to report on the district progress, hold interviews with the district, and lead District meetings after the devotionals. In my first Branch Council meeting I was asked to give the spiritual thought. I didn't know the format yet so I didn't really know what was expected, so I just stood at the front and told the story of the pastor and the bird cage (dad will know which one I'm talking about) and it seemed to be pretty well received. So far it's been a good thing for me, because it confirms to me that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Frè Augustin told me in a one-on-one that he was glad when he heard that I was the new DL. He also said I've exceeded his expectations in the language, which is reassuring.

Notes and pictures from his cousins in Houston
I love the letters I've been getting, I got a fun one from the Houston Nicolaysens with a bunch of pictures they drew for me. I'll send a pic, so fun. I love getting pictures and updates so keep sending em.

All the Samoans, Tongans, and Fijians left early in the week. That was kinda sad, they were all super fun and friendly. This Wednesday the newbies came to replace them, they seem like they could be nice too. It was weird thinking that they just came in from the outside world, they seem a little dazed. I wonder if I was like that, probably was. It's honestly so hard to remember what I've done, even just to write in my journal, everything blends together.​​​​​​​​

Class has been going on like normal. Last Saturday we had our first TRC appointment, or Teaching Recent Converts. We go in and teach members, sometimes investigators, that speak our language. All the rooms have cameras in them so our teachers can observe us. Elder King and I taught one white guy that served his mission in Fort Lauderdale and then we taught a couple that had come from Haiti. The couple spoke so fast, it was almost impossible to understand what they were saying. I just mimicked their facial expressions and got along as best I could. The husband in the couple ended up teaching us pretty much, we'd ask a question like "What is faith to you?" and he'd just go off. He even gave me a referral for a friend of his in Fort Lauderdale, which was cool. The wife said that Fort Lauderdale is pretty much Haiti, as in there will be lots of Haitian people to teach.


"Beach" volleyball for exercise
How much free time do you get?
Depends on how you look at it. My typical schedule goes like this:
Wake up at 6:30.
Get to class for personal study time at 7.
Breakfast at 7:40.
Our morning block is from 8:10 to 11:10, we'll either have a teacher for blocks or it will be PCL study (Personal, Companion, and Language).
Then study until lunch at 11:45. Some days we then have exercise time from 12:30 to 1:30, other days it's not until like 2:40.
After exercise we have our afternoon block from 2:00 to 5:00.
Then dinner at 5:00.
Get back to class at 5:45 for study until
evening block from 6:00 to 9:00.
9:00 to 9:30 is planning for the next day.
Then back to the rooms and lights out is 10:30.
If you haven't caught on, it's a lot of study time. My district in particular has a hard time focusing and staying on task, so some of it gets used up with chatting, that's one thing I'm working on fixing. A lot of those like 15 minute study sessions are just like breaks, and sometimes we finish early so we'll have some time then.

Best part and worst part of the day?
Best part of the day is sleeping. Worst part of the day is waking up.

Did you take a map photo?
I haven't seen any big maps anywhere yet.

Let me know today if you have other questions and I can answer them, or I will answer them next week.

So this is the game. I'm going to think of a song (which is super hard I'm finding out) and then use what knowledge of Creole I have to translate it. Then you have to figure out what song it is. That way I am guaranteed to get emails. ;) [his email is: hunter.stevenson (at) myldsmail (dot) net]
So here's my song for the first week:

"Yon moun yon fwa te di mwen, mond la pral woule mwen. Mwen pa se a pi file zouti nan remiz la."

Lanmou [Love],

Eldè Stevenson

Friday, August 19, 2016

Week 3? Already?

Alo fanmi ak zanmi! Mwen kontan ke mwen ka ekri nou jòdi a. MTC a ki pral byen. Mwen renmen Levanjil a JeziKri. Di mwen tout bagay w ap fè. Si ou gen kèk kesyon pou m, mwen pral eseye reponn byento. Mande mwen tout bagay, konsènan levanjil a oswa konsènan lavi mwen. Mwen manke tout moun, mwen pral wè ou pita!

Translation: Hello family and friends! I am happy that I can write you today. MTC is going well. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. Tell me everything you're doing. If you have questions for me, I will try to answer soon. Ask me everything about the gospel or about my life. I miss everyone, I'll see you later!

Hey all! It's already week 3 at the MTC! Time is flying by it seems, the days are long and the weeks are short. I'm already almost halfway done in the MTC.

This past week has honestly been pretty uneventful. Sunday I watched “17 Miracles”, that's such a good movie. We've been teaching fake investigators with our teachers. This week we started teaching Ivan (Brother Augustin). On our first visit we knock on his door and he barely opens it and peeks his head out and is like, "What do you want?" It was funny, but we were not prepared for that. We go into the room and barely can say anything except questions like "Kijan ou ye?”(How are you), “Èske ou gen yon fanmi?” (Do you have a family), “Kisa ou fè pou travay?” (What do you do for work) and Ivan is all like, "You come into my house to ask questions?" and kicks us out. He did that for all the groups, and none of us were expecting that. It's funny now, but we were all like "Is this how it's actually gonna be?" Turns out it was mostly our teacher messing with us, Ivan has been very receptive since then. I'm sure that'll happen at some point though.

No apostle for Tuesday devotional this week. Rumor had it that Elder Holland was coming because he was in town for Education Week, but instead it was Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women's General President. Her talk was really good, took good notes. She's on the missionary board or whatever they call it, so it was all pretty relevant. I can't remember what she talked about now, but she showed the video of Hugh B Brown's currant bush. I love that story.

Food here is good, it's pretty much cafeteria food. I like the chicken cordon bleu we sometimes have, it's not as good as the ones from home though. None of it really is, of course. I've been doing the weight machines every day still, some days more than others. Last I checked I had gained about 2.5 pounds (all muscle weight, of course ;) ) and I haven't been drinking chocolate milk as much as you might think. I think the real reason we get fat in the MTC is not because we're eating unhealthy food (which is debatable) but because we get 3 full meals a day. I'm surprised I haven't gained more weight to be honest.

That's pretty much it. Tell me all about what's going on in the world right now (heard we're absolutely dominating the Olympics, no shocker there *cough* Michael Phelps *cough*). Tell me about school and what not. Mr. R sent me a nice email saying he ran into you guys at Mod Pizza (I'm gonna miss Mod Pizza.)

Here's my spiritual thought for this week, figured I should start doing that:
"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed there a long time ago."
One of the Elders in my district told about a friend who went to the same mission as his dad, and in his farewell he said, "My dad planted a seed, and I'm going to check on the tree." I think that's really powerful and inspiring.

Elder Stevenson

Friday, August 12, 2016

The MTC is Amazing

Official missionary tag. The Haitian Creole reads: The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
So yeah. I have my journal here with me to try to help me remember everything that happened. Sunday was super great, definitely a rest from all my labors. We had a testimony meeting in our zone during church and everyone gave it in their mission language (we're encouraged to do so). I especially liked the ASL [American Sign Language] testimonies.It was weird how I could feel the spirit with absolutely no clue what they were saying. Elder King and I led a discussion about The Book of Mormon during priesthood meeting, we had some good participation so it went well. We also had a mission conference and we were watching in the overflow and it felt just like general conference. The temple presidency was reorganized so they all spoke to us. Later there was a devotional with Matthew Holland, president of USU [Utah State University] and Elder Holland's son. He spoke about Joseph Smith. I sang in the choir piece afterwards, we sang Praise to the Man, the MoTab [Mormon Tabernacle Choir] version and it was really cool. Mostly guys. Anyways, then we watched The Character of Christ talk by Elder Bednar and it's AMAZING. I wish I could find it outside of the MTC [Missionary Training Center] but they say you can't find this version. Look it up for me, it was a Christmas morning talk at the MTC with Elder Bednar called The Character of Christ.

Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT
Monday morning we did service. Just cleaned around the residence building. Elder Blood left for Fort Lauderdale. We sang God be With You Till We Meet Again in Creole with him and I got a little teary. He was super helpful the first week, we could ask him literally anything. I'll probably see him around. We started exercise on Monday, we went to the gym because Elder King was "just tryna ball". I stayed on the top floor running the track and using the weight machines. That's what I've done every day pretty much and I enjoy it. I like using the elliptical and bike machines. When we got back our water was off, it was all super hot and the drinking water had green stuff in it. They were working on some pipes or something. I went downstairs and got a powerade from the vending machine to drink, but no shower. 

Tuesday was Neil L. Anderson's 65th birthday. Ask how I know that. Because, to quote my journal, "he freakin CAME AND TOLD US." And guess where I was. Sitting with the choir not 50 [feet?] yards away as he spoke. He came for our Tuesday devotional. There was a spirit about him as he spoke, I took lots of notes.One of the main points was "Be clean, Be obedient, Be busy." We sang I Believe in Christ afterwards and it was super spiritual. This sounds weird, but as I sang I didn't have to try so hard to get the harmonies. It felt like someone was singing through me. 

Study Break
The rest of the week was pretty uneventful, just classes and study. We had Chick-Fil-A for dinner one night, that was cool. I didn't know that could happen. The language has been coming pretty well for me so far, and I feel like it's discouraging for some of the others, Elder King maybe especially. He feels like he's falling behind all the Elders with a French background and getting frustrated. Some of the others are maybe feeling the same way. He was also sick yesterday so that didn't help matters any. I pray for him and my other companions every night.

That's pretty much it for this week, I'll start the Q&A now:

Did you know that Elder Duffin is from Aunt Erica's stake?
No I did not and I told him. He said his dad lives in G. P. We were excited, I seriously think we could be brothers in another life.

Can I see emails on day other than P-Day [Preparation Day]?
Yes I can. If I find a few extra minutes I can read emails but I can't respond. I'd actually prefer that you send them throughout the week if you can, that way I don't have to play catch up. I'm a slow reader.

Did you get our cookies?
Yes I did and they were delicious. 

Did you get any mail?
Yes, I got the Dear Elders from Dad, I can also see those in my email. I got a letter from Auntie Lauralee that was super nice and had notes from all the family. Also missionary jokes that I told to my district and we loved them. P.S. send more jokes.

Where are your pictures? 
So the computers are not letting me access the camera or card reader due to a lack of proper permissions it seems like. I hope it's a temporary issue but for the time being I can't get into my card. I'll try to get to it but these computers are heavily tampered with to provide only basic functions. I can get to my portal and language training and that's about it.There's not even a way to search for files, you're supposed to be able to find it on the desktop but it won't show up. When the autoplay box pops up when I first plug it in my access was denied. We're going to try other computers later today because everyone in here has the same problem, hopefully that will solve the problem. [Obviously he got it worked out since they are on here now.]

Haitian Creole Language Book
Are you going to say anything in Creole?
Wi. Mwen renmen tout fanmi mwen, mwen konnen Levanjil a vre. Atrav(e accent grave) Ekspyasyon JeziKri a, nou kapab resevwa padon pou peche nou. Atrav(e accent grave) Levanjil JeziKri a, nou kapab viv av(e accent grave)k fanmi nou pou toutan. Mwen ap w(e accent grave) tout ou pita! Translation via google translate: Yes. I love my family, I know the Gospel is true. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we may receive forgiveness of sins. Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can live with that family forever. I'll see you all later!

Has Hannah moved into my room yet? Send pics.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mwen rele Elder Stevenson. Mwen soti Kaliforni.

After I got off the plane (it was a pretty small jet, CRJ200 to be exact) I got my carry on from the valet because it wouldn't fit in the overhead bin. Then I had to walk across the entire airport to get to baggage claim. It was a lot of walking to do after sitting in the plane for an hour and a half. I met Pappy and Aunty [Lauralee] and Noah at baggage claim and they helped me get my bags. We drove by McDonalds to get breakfast and then went to the U of U bid sale for Pappy to look around. After that we drove around for a while, and we drove around the new Provo City Center temple. It's pretty cool, there's an underground parking structure and you walk out of a gazebo to get onto the grounds. We didn't go, though, we just drove around outside it. Then we went to Golden Corral for lunch and I ran into Elder ... Campbell, a friend I met at EFY last year! He was just getting ready to leave because his report time was 12:45. I've already run into him once in the cafeteria since I've been here. I tried a little bit of everything at GC, and I felt so full. After lunch we drove to the MTC. We pulled into the circle and there was a host missionary that helped me get my bags. I said goodbye to Pappy, Aunty and Noah and was whisked away. The host brought me to several of the buildings around campus where I would go to pick up my tags, meal card, room key, ministerial certificate, language materials, schedule for the day and campus map. 

We dropped my bags off in my residence and went to my classroom. I was the last one to arrive pretty much and I was super sweaty from running around. The teacher said that he was from Haiti and started talking to me in Creole. I picked up what I could and tried answering his questions but I was so tired I just kinda sat there and threw out some French words. Then he laughed and said he was messing with me and had me go to the computer lab to watch a gym orientation video. He's a really cool guy, his name is Fre Augustin (Brother, there's an accent grave on the e but I can't figure out how to do it on this computer. Also there's no right clicking apparently so bear with any spelling mistakes.) More about him later. 

There are 9 of us in the Haitian Creole class, 8 of us all arrived together. The odd man out is Elder Blood, he's been here for 6 weeks already and is going to Fort Lauderdale, but the transfer schedule there changed so he was delayed a week. He leaves on Tuesday and he's our District leader for the time being. He's an interesting fellow, reminds me of myself actually. He's pretty knowledgeable about the language and everything about the MTC so he's a great resource. He's actually pretty stoked to have some other Elders in his district now, before he was a district of 1 doing everything on his own. He sleeps in my residence with me and my companion and another companionship (that makes 5 of us, still got those math skills). My companion is Elder ...King. He's from Bountiful Utah. He's pretty much the exact opposite of me, very outgoing, sports guy, likes to speak his mind. He's nice though, he was a convert at 16... It will take some time for him to adjust to mission life but he's done very well so far. We're getting together well so far. The other companionship is Elder Duffin and Elder Firth. I forget where they're from, but the four of us do pretty much everything together. We click pretty well (Elder Duffin is a lot like me, we get along very well. You can even see a resemblance I think) The rest of our first day was spent going to an orientation meeting with the MTC Presidency (there were over 800 missionaries taken in that day, one of their biggest groups ever and they had to split the meeting into two rooms) We sang a lot of hymns while we waited for him to get to our room. He told us about how the MTC works and our call as missionaries. Then we went to dinner (at like 4:15, it was early but if felt so much later. We had fried chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes. And yes, I had chocolate milk and it was amazing.) After dinner we went to a meeting called People and Purpose where a group of missionaries all went into a room to meet an investigator (either real or fake, but it's so hard to tell) and we asked them questions and basically taught them. After that (i think, the days are already starting to blend together) we went back to our residencies and got unpacked and ready for bed. I wrote in my journal as much as I could. We went to sleep at 10:30.

So that was Day 1. I woke up yesterday at 6:30 and went to the classroom for personal study. Then we went to breakfast and had really good breakfast burritos. I saw (Elder Stout) in the cafeteria but didn't get to talk to him. After that we went back to class and Fre Augustin said the prayer in perfect English! Turns out he's not actually from Haiti and was born and raised here in Provo. Surprise! He totally got us. His whole family is Haitian though, so he's really good at impersonating them. We had some language study and learned very basic phrases. (Mwen rele Elder Stevenson, mwen soti Kaliforni, that sort of stuff). After that we had another People and Purpose lesson when we watched videos from the New York Times about people talking about their lives and discussed how we would teach them. Then we had lunch (navajo tacos. Basically indian fry bread. super yummy.) And then we had several hours to do PCL basically (personal, companion, and language study.) The whole district was all in the classroom and we chatted for a while, which was pretty fun. After that dinner was chicken and mashed potatoes, pretty good but the chicken was messy and didn't sit well with some people. I was fine though. After dinner we met with our branch again (we're branch 14, the Haitian district is 14-C. There are 8 languages in our branch, all mostly island languages including ASL. Our branch president is President Willes (pronounced willis) and he loves us. He made sure we knew that he loved us. He's really nice, older man, and gave a great lesson on being exactly obedient. He sent us to our rooms a little early because we were all so tired, and I definitely went to bed right at 10:30.

This morning our room woke up at 6 to get ready and to get our sack breakfast right at 6:30 so there wouldn't be a long line. I ate an apple, a bowl of fruit loops (generic brand), a cinnamon donut and a bottle of cookies and cream milk. The milk was a little much, I don't think I'll be doing that again. Anyway Elder King and I went to the weight room to work out, we lifted some free weights and I used a rowing machine (exactly like ours at home. Maybe an older model.) Then we started our emails (this is my second sitting writing this, I have a lot to write today, I don't expect all my letters to be this lengthy but I've only been here a few days so I can go into pretty good detail.) Then we went to our assigned gym time, I ran around the indoor track and used an eliptical machine and some weight lifting machines. I met Elder Stout again and we had some time to talk. He says he leaves on Tuesday and is excited to go. His companion is 6'8" and a funny guy. He's a little sick so he couldn't do too much running around today. That was basically it, he wished me luck and said he hoped I had a good MTC experience and we shook hands. And then I came back to email just now.

So that's everything I can think to say, I'll answer questions as much as I can but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get back on today, I've spent a good amount of time typing all this. I'm attaching all the pictures I've taken so far (which is about 8, whoops, not much time for being a tourist). Overall I'm loving the MTC and am excited to see how far I can progress in the next 6 weeks (with all this exercise I might even lose weight. Probably not though, that chocolate milk will be the death of me.) I love you all, hope you are having a good time, and can't wait to hear back from you soon!