Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Love the MTC!

To paraphrase our friend Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: "Let me explain. No, there is too much - let me sum up." I'm afraid that even if I sum up, this will be a lot of information!

This week I've been here at the Missionary Training Center feels like a month! The other missionaries say it's like a time warp here, and I totally believe them.

Fortunately, I love it here! There are hard moments for sure, but it's also totally geweldig (awesome, pronounced gh-veld-igh. Got to get those guttural G's). I'll briefly describe the difficulties but hang on, because I'm also going to tell you why I love it so much here!

So as you know, I have been learning Dutch (Nederlands) here. They teach us in the context of teaching others and by immersion, which is great and effective, especially for motivation. However, the first lesson we taught was on our second full day here, less than 36 hours after we had just been introduced to the language. I'm not sure I can convey the overwhelming frustration that comes from trying to explain one of the most important concepts in your life to someone in a language in which you know no grammar and have a laughably limited vocabulary. We had to write out exactly what we were going to say, and when we asked Pascal (that's the name of our "investigator") questions, we had no choice but to just smile and nod and say "goed" and press on through our lesson because we had no idea what he was saying. That was definitely discouraging. Later that day all of us Dutch sisters had to write all the words we had already learned on the board and admire it in order to rehabilitate our spirits!
When we were super frustrated and thought we knew nothing, we wrote all the words we did know on the board. In order, left to right: Zusters Watts, Bush, Thomas, Whittington, Robbins, Voss

However! We have had three lessons since then, each leaps and bounds better. I understand so much more, and I am happy to report that I am in love with the beautiful Dutch language! At first when it was hard, I must admit that I was disappointed; why didn't I get called to speak Spanish or English, when I can communicate and express myself so much more clearly and eloquently in those languages? But the more I learn, the more I love the language. Grammar lessons are my favorite, because understanding the rules helps me feel more confident in producing sentences of my own. I've also definitely experienced the gift of tongues already, and I know this is the language Heavenly Father needs me to speak.

This is just a side note, but Pascal complimented our improving Dutch in recent lessons which made me way excited. Also, he asked me if my family was from the Netherlands, because I have such a Dutch name! That made me way happy, even though I had to explain that no, my heritage is mostly German. I'm hoping that between my fair haired Northern European look and Dutch name, people there will assume I'm native until I actually open my mouth haha. Our past three lessons have been so great, we have skipped giddily out of them. Pascal is a golden investigator. He already committed to baptism! That escalated pretty quickly! And we can communicate so much more clearly.

So speaking of the language, are you ready for the fun/funny things? Dutch, as you might surmise, is difficult, especially when any given word has at least five syllables with crazy non-English vowel sounds and a million guttural g's. It's hard to distinguish between words. The Dutch Elders before us were teaching a lesson and accidentally confused "doop" with "dood," and challenged an investigator to commit to death the next week, instead of baptism. Both the investigator and elder were super confused. We sisters were laughing about how it's not even that out of context... "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and commit to death next week?" Oh, dear haha. Anyway, we will not be making that mistake!

So here at the MTC, missionaries are organized into zones and districts, districts being the smaller units. I arrived on Wednesday with 6 elders and 5 other sisters all going to the Netherlands, and together we comprise two districts of 6. The other Dutch speaking missionaries in our zone are actually going to Suriname, which is cool. There are only four of them. Anyway, the zones are organized by language, so the Dutchies are in the same zone with missionaries speaking other Scandinavian languages and going to Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. It's pretty sweet because now that I understand by language better, since there are so many similarities I can kind of follow theirs as well. The Danes have been especially nice and welcoming to us new Dutchies, helping us figure out life at the MTC.

Funny language story from the Danes: the words for "pillar of light" and "lizard" are apparently very similar, so one missionary trying to retell the First Vision described "a lizard, exactly over my head which descended gradually until it fell upon me." Oh, the joys of learning a new language!

Another fun thing: I absolutely adore my companion! her name is Zuster Robbins. She is also the oldest of five and a talented musician, and our personalities are remarkably similar. We go around singing show tunes, Disney songs, and hymns together in fun harmonies. We're both crazy but in extremely compatible ways. We love talking to and laughing with each other, but we also work very well and manage to be focused and productive. We have had several people describe us as a dream team and it's awesome. I feel like I just met a best friend I was missing my whole life.
Sister Robbins and I with the flags in our classroom.
My other Dutch Zusters are also wonderful. I had already met Zusters Watts, Bush, and Thomas before the MTC so it's been great to get to know them better. Zuster Whittington is a recent convert of 18 months, so I have mad respect for her as well as for all of our freshly graduated from high school Elders for choosing to be here right now!
All of the Dutch sisters- notice me holding those flags!

I'm sorry that this is long! I'm really excited to share absolutely everything, I'm sure future updates will be shorter. Also, please forgive any grammatical errors you might encounter; I'm super paranoid that as my Dutch skills improve my English will steadily decline. My journal is already riddled with NederEngels (Dutch-English) but I love it- soon my journal will be an indecipherable code, from the language, not just my handwriting! :)

It's kind of funny how cut off from the outside world we are here at the MTC with no access to technology. At breakfast some worker had a little sign letting us know that Robbin Williams had passed away, and we were all sad, but we would have had no idea if that worker hadn't thought to let us know.
Sister Robbins and I with the missionary statue in the MTC.

Gym time at the MTC is fun- they have tons of exercise equipment we can use and games we can play. We've also been learning to moderate how much we eat in this all you can eat environment, so yay for being healthy at the MTC! Hopefully, there will not be any excessive weight gain that we've been warned about haha. It's impossible to give away food here, too. I'm grateful for the snacks I've brought and been sent, but I have no idea when I'll eat it all!

Every day, I marvel that I wear a name tag, that I'm an authorized representative of Jesus Christ. It's way cool... I've been preparing my whole life for this!

Spiritually, the MTC is very uplifting. I've been learning about the Gospel, how to teach and listen, and the language all integrated together. One of the biggest things I've learned is that is that when I'm sad or discouraged, it's because I'm focusing on myself. When I think about the support of my family and friends, the people waiting to here the message of joy I have to share, or when I think about my Savior in general, I'm immediately uplifted and encouraged. I think that's the secret to life in general, but that we really get it as missionaries. I'm mostly always happy here now that I know that!

On Sunday we got to take a walk around the temple, which was peaceful and wonderful. We have such rigid schedules here, it was nice to just relax. Of course, even our temple walk time is scheduled! I'm excited to actually go to the temple today.
My companion and I on the second Sunday! the temple is such a beautiful, peaceful place!

Also, on Sunday and Tuesday we got to sing in the MTC choir. It's a beautiful and inspiring experience to participate in. Also on Sunday andTuesday devotionals, I got to see all my friends learning Spanish at the West MTC campus, which is fun!

Despite all the wonderful new friends I've made here, I definitely miss my family and friends back home. Thank you for all the support I've received thus far, I love you all! Feel free to use DearElder.com to send letters/emails or to do that yourself to keep in touch, or even just so that I have your addresses.

I know this church is true, that I have been called of God, and that this is the right place for me to be. Until next week- Tot Ziens!

Liefde, Zuster Voss

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