Elder Andrew

Elder Andrew

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Eli Mail 7/2/14 (MTC: Provo, UT) Letter 1

Oh my goodness! My first P-Day has finally arrived! I'm sure you're all eager to hear so I'll jump right in. My mission started when I got through the airport security on Tuesday evening. It was a slap of reality in the face sitting on the plane all alone for probably the first time in my life. But all was well and I met Kelly and Aaron and stayed the night in their cozy apartment. We enjoyed a hike on the Y that Wednesday morning and I marveled one last time as my whole world was on the verge of completely changing. We rushed out into Aaron's car with 2 minutes to spare and drove to the MTC. I was greeted by a "host" missionary and he asked me where I was going. Once I told him he said, "What?? No way!!" This host missionary that happened to help me is from Rotterdam! More on him later. The rest of the day became a blur of stone brick buildings and all sorts of MTC orientation. And Dad, I always envisioned the "Called to Serve" hymn being awesome, and my expectations were fulfilled. Right away we were quickly swept into our classrooms where we met our district. Turns out there are 7 of us "Dutchies," as we're called. 5 Elders and 2 Sisters originally. Do you know what 5 Elders means? Companionship trio! Yes, I'm in a trio which has been awesome. My first companion is Elder Steenblik (yes Mom, I do happen to know him hah!) He's a tall, 6'5" lanky 18 year old Utah kid. His humor is hilarious and I love him. My other companion is Elder Parr. Another Utah kid who I can only compare to Elder Leonhardt. He's an all around sports guy but has a very loving spiritual side and just rock solid in the Gospel. We originally had one Sister from Aruba. And for those who don't know, that's a little Caribbean island somewhere above Brazil. She grew up speaking Portuguese and Spanish, and learned Dutch and English in school. 4 languages! She was transferred and we haven't seen her since day one. And did we jump right into Dutch the first day? Oh, you bet we did. Brother Klippel, our teacher, started the immersion into Dutch right away. And let me just say, learning Dutch has been incredible. I love being challenged and of course it's hard, but it's a real blessing to 'Predijk Mijn Evangelie' in another language. I'll also add, saying your first prayer in a foreign language is really special. It's very humbling offering up a prayer to Heavenly Father in another tongue.

The first couple days were a little rough though. My mindset and what I wanted out of the mission was completely backwards. I had very little interest in teaching investigators and it took me a little while to fully believe my "doel" (purpose). I'm not here for myself, I'm here to invite others to come unto Christ. I spent the first couple days only caring about learning Dutch which is totally wrong. I'm here learning to love and teach people, and I'm doing that with Dutch. Things have gotten way better, and the Spirit here is strong. And speaking of investigators, we had our first lesson with an investigator on the third day. That's right, after only 3 days of being exposed to Dutch, and we were preparing to teach. It's been an adjustment learning how to teach but I'm so thankful for it. A lot of growth takes place when you have the opportunity to teach. And I liked how my teacher put it, "We have an extra challenge learning Dutch. We have two languages we're learning. We're learning to teach with the Spirit and the Dutch language." The amount of learning has been incredible. We're mostly learning gospel terms right now but stringing together thoughts and building phrases is exciting. Hey fun fact, children in Dutch is kinderen, and in the U.S. we have kindergarten for 5 year olds. English does lots of borrowing. Oh, Reedie and Calvin will like this. The translation for father is vader. So you can call Dad vader* now. I really believe the gift of tongues is real. As I have studied hard and specifically prayed for certain things I have been able to increase my understanding and be able to communicate my message. It's truly a blessing.

And a little bit more on my district, the other companionship is Elder Hammond and Elder Shaw. Shaw comes from Texas and is full of energy. Elder Hammond is very reserved and intellectual. He likes a good laugh and went to North Eastern college in Boston for a year. Both are familiar with German so they are catching on quick. Poor Sister Fredrickson! She's a solo Sister now and we are basically her family. She's great though and we all enjoy each other's company. Our zone includes the Swedes, Danes, us Dutchies, and the Icee's (maybe the Nords?). Icee's meaning Icelandic. The Icelandic Elders are quite unique in fact that only 2 or 3 come out once a year. There are 6 Elders in Iceland currently and about 200 members. They have an incredibly special calling. Out of the 80,000 missionaries serving, they are the select 3 chosen to speak Icelandic. I get along really well with them and enjoy them a ton! The fact that I've even seen them is a mathematical improbability. They're in a trio just like us Dutchies. One last thing about our zone, apparently there's a Nerf gun that gets passed down to the zone leaders after every exchange. We played some late night roulette with 2 Nerf bullets in the 6 round chamber our first night.

I must share the best bonding time any MTC missionary can experience. So sometime during Friday an Elder mentioned something called "Magic Tuesday". Our district was completely befuddled and had no idea what it was. No one would tell us what it was and they hyped it up has something that violates you and destroys your dignity (and it did). And it only happens to the Belgium Elders. So we were freaked out for about a day and a half and nobody would tell us. Finally we found out. All Belgium missionaries have to collect a stool sample and get blood drawn. Nothing brings a district together like defecating for the Lord. 

And Dad, how's the food? I'll say this, you have a lot of temptations. There are 4 lines of different dishes at every meal and access to unlimited soda and BYU Creamery products. The food is great but Mom still makes way better beef stroganoff. A typical day includes sack breakfast at 6:45, gym at around 8:30, 3 hours of class till 12:50, then maybe more class till dinner at 5:45, and then 3 hours of personal, language, and companion study. So the days are very long and full. It's kind of a weird time vortex. The week went fast looking back but in the middle of the day it's very long. We got to go on a temple walk on Sunday! I had been completely unaware that there was still a bustling city around me. It's nice to be able to tune out the noise of the world and focus entirely on my calling, but hearing about what's going on is great. I appreciate all the DearElders and letters I've gotten. Mail means a lot to a missionary and it gives a little variety to the day. I like the notes Mom and Dad, they were nice. Uncle Whitney, thanks the family update. I don't follow sports much but I'm definitely interested in that drafting stuff. I appreciated some mail on the first day Uncle Craig, thanks a bunch. And Aunt Christine too, much obliged**. Just got the Grandpa Andrew's now and I'm excited to read it. Mom and Dad, if you're thinking of sending a care package to me I have a few requests. Sour Skittles (they don't have them here), sheets and pillow case (the ones here are uncomfortable), a paisley tie or two (they are way cool!), and the camera of course. No word on the Visas, won't know for a while. The Tide wipes have been helpful too Mom. 

It's hard to imagine that I'll be in Nederlands in about a month. The Church has never been so strong and I know I'm in the right place at the right time. Love you guys!

*all v's in Dutch sound like f's and there's less emphasis on the a. Just google translate it.

(L-R: Elders Andrew, Parr, and Steenblik)

(L-R Elders Andrew, Parr, & Steenblik; Sister Fredrickson, Elder Shaw, & Elder Hammond)

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