Monday, April 27, 2009

Week One in McAllen!

Hey Family!

So, I'm FINALLY here! Wow, it's pretty incredible that I've been here nearly a week. Honestly, it feels as though I've been here a few months. A lot has happened already.

Ok, so I'm in an area called Edinburg which is just outside of McAllen. We live in McAllen and have to drive about 10 minutes to get to our area. The mission home is super nice, the whole area where we live and in this part of McAllen can be equated to Beverly Hills. I'm not even joking, the majority the houses around here are huge, giant mansions. BUT you start driving towards our area and it begins to get more rural and more trailers. There still are random nice houses in the middle of nowhere, but yeah. That's just this area I suppose.

McAllen--or this part of Texas--actually reminds me A LOT of Mesa. Kind of the area where Grandma lives. Like when we were first driving to the mission office, I was looking around and definitely felt that I was driving on Stapley heading towards Grandma's. Kind of weird. But I love it. It's so nice and warm here...LOVE it.

My area is nearly all Spanish speaking. I'd say about 80 percent of the contacts we do is in Spanish and the rest in English. It really just depends. I definitely learned on my first day that they speak 3 languages here: English, Spanish, and Tex Mex. There will be some people that only speak English (or only want to speak to you in Spanish), lots that definitely ONLY speak Spanish, and then people who speak a mixture of both. It's so funny because they'll say a few sentences in English, then a few in Spanish, then an English word here or there, then tons in Spanish. It's so weird, but I'm already used it it.

So my Spanish is coming along. Not in the way I thought because you're not really "immersed" in it but still, I talk a lot in Spanish and teach in Spanish, etc. What is a real blessing is that I actually can understand people really well. When we are teaching or contacting, one of the investigators will go off on this long story, but I can--for the most part--understand what they're saying. Definitely couldn't do that two months ago when I got my call. But I love it alot.

Ok, so now for my companion. OH! I love her so much! I need to tell her more because she is SO awesome. Her name is Sister Loftus and she's from Portland, OR, went to BYU for a few years before her mission, etc. To me, she looks a LOT like our cousin Krystal Peterson. Long sandy blond hair, super cute, SO nice. She's been out a while, actually this is her last transfer before she leaves! :( But it's ok because she is an amazing missionary and I'm learning ABSOLUTELY all that I can from her. She literally talks to everyone and shares the Gospel with everyone. She knows how to talk to get people talking and interested. There's so much I need to learn from here and I only have 5 more weeks to do it. But she really is awesome. I couldn't ask for a better companion.

My first Sunday here was pretty crazy. They were having a special meeting because they were splitting 2 wards: a Spanish ward and an English ward into 4 new wards (which is WAY exciting that the church is growing so much here that both of them are getting split). But the meeting...wow, it was crazy. It was in both English and Spanish. So when we would sing hymns, everyone would just sing them in whatever language they knew or preferred. There were tons of kids running around all over the place (kind of strange since I've been in a singles' ward forever AND haven't seen any kids for the past 2 months), when the stake president or other people would speak, the main speak would stand up there, AND another person would stand next to him and translate what he said over the pulpit (whether it be the stake president who spoke English, or the new bishop of one of the Spanish wards who only spoke Spanish). But it was a very memorable first church in Texas experience.

We are whitewashing this area (which means that we are both new to this area this transfer) which I suppose is kind of hard. But Sister Loftus was here for about 6 months at the beginning of her mission. So she already knows the area pretty well, knows all the members, etc. Like I mentioned before, we have a car, but can ride bikes if we want to. Everyone says that how much you ride bikes depends on how much your trainer likes to ride bikes. Personally, I want to ride bikes all that I can, so if I'm ever a trainer, that will be first on the list. Haha. We have a lot of new investigators last week and will continue to teaching them. I'm really excited about them and so is she. Luckily, we teach a LOT of lessons so we don't knock doors like you imagine missionaries doing. Even if we didn't have lots of lessons, we wouldn't really have to knock doors anyways because there are ALWAYS people outside! Sitting in chairs, standing in the street, talking with friends, hanging out...I really don't know why the majority of the people are outside, all I know is that I'm grateful because it makes it really easy to find people to talk to.

I'm definitely not a very good missionary yet, probably when I'm done, I still won't be a very good missionary. But I know the Lord will help me become what he wants me to become. I'm trying my hardest every single day. It is a really humbling experience being out here and realizing that you can't do it alone. Well, I suppose to can, but you'll soon find out that you won't get very far. But I have an awesome companion and the Lord on my side who is working with me. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I love telling and teaching people EVERY day about his Gospel. My testimony has grown so much here in Texas. I love it and I'm happy!

I love you so much and am grateful for all your support, Mom and Dad.

Love,
Hermana Burt
XOXO

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flight Plans, Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, & Happy Message!

Hey Mom, Dad, and Family!

Hope that you are all doing well and had a fabulous Easter! I most definitely did. I mean, how could you not have a great Easter when you are in the MTC surrounded by missionaries, great leaders, awesome speakers for the fireside, music...all of it combined to make a wonderful Easter. Thank you so much for the package. You were right, the chocolate in the package was no good--I'm assuming because it was "left in the car a few days" according to you. But that was just the Reese's and Hershey kisses. Everything else was wonderful, so THANK YOU so much. Again, I don't know why you always overnight the packages, it's really not that big of a deal, but whatever. Oh and don't worry about the Corn Bag, that's not a big deal either. And you mentioned you were going to send another package. Here is my suggestion: send it to the mission home in Texas because I have WAY too much stuff and I have no idea what I'm going to do...either have to ship it or somehow get a hold of another bag that I can carry on. SO, if you do think or want to send it here (I am here another week), then maybe including my pink duffel would be nice. If not, it's all good. Let me know though.

Ok, so the flight plans finally arrived last Thursday! Flight plan day is always a big day here at the MTC and all the other missionaries get jealous because they want them...well finally it was our turn! And the best news of all: the Pocatello boys aren't taking buses up to Idaho! They're flying with the rest of us! (Seriously, I don't think you understand how exciting of news this was. It's been a long running joke in our district and so when they opened it up in the cafeteria and saw that they were flying, we literally all cheered for them). So yeah, I leave next Tuesday, April 21. My flight leaves at 8:30 in the morning and I don't arrive in McAllen until 5 (because I have a 3 hour layover in Dallas). So that's very exciting news. Oh and it turns out, I did meet that one Sister who is going to McAllen. She is actually in a trio with 2 other sisters who are going to McAllen as well. I see them every once in a while and smile, wave, and say "Hola," but sadly, that's all we have time for...but I'm sure I'll get to know them very well in the not so distant future. Hooray!

So I have 2 "I'm such a missionary" moments for this week. The first one is that 2 (or maybe 3...I've lost track of time here) weeks ago we had Elder Featherstone--an emeritus 70--come and speak to us at our fireside. First off, this guy is a stud. His talk was awesome (well actually ALL of the 70s talks are amazing). But at the beginning, he mentioned that he had been on the committee that was in charge of getting the publication rights for the Spanish Bible. Well, he announced to us that day (and then I believe the next day it was announced on the LDS news website) that FINALLY, the church had procured the rights to publish the Bible in Spanish. This was another JUMPING for joy moment for all of the Spanish speaking missionaries. Because we use the Catholic version of the Bible, and it doesn't have any footnotes or cross references to the Book of Mormon (obviously) and the funniest part about it is that it has the Catholic "Plan of Salvation" (exact words, no joke) listed on the very last page. It's super funny to read, but definitely is missing QUITE a few real points. So yeah, anyways, when we heard that we got super excited. It is going to be published and available in September. I'm such a missionary...haha.

Ok and the other one: I was playing volleyball with the Elders last week (and yes, I know that I said I'd stop playing volleyball, but I already had done a really hard cardio workout, so I just decided that "10 minutes with the Elders on the court wouldn't hurt"). Well, let's just say that you know you're a missionary when you (meaning me and a few of the Elders) are quoting some of our favorite quotes from the movie "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration." Not just quoting them in between serves, but actually quoting them DURING the game, as we are setting it to another person, spiking the ball, etc. Some of our favorites are "Hey Joseph! Had any more of your visions lately!?"--Crazy Scottish Guy and "Well you suuur were misinformed." --Governor Boggs. Of course, these quotes only make sense when you do them with the proper accents. So yeah, go see this film again and again if possible. They show it here every two weeks and we love it.

So can I just say that Elders are hilarious? There, I said it. But yesterday during the "Health and Safety" departure meeting (...slightly boring, I'm not going to lie), one Elder got up and said the prayer and during it said, "And please bless us that we won't die or get killed." I looked up at him and so did everyone else, it was so random. Then later, the guy was talking about the importance of taking vitamin supplements every day and one Elder raises his hand and seriously asks, "Are gummy vitamins, ok?" Oh geese Louise... Gotta love them though.

So it's our last week here...crazy. My district is awesome and we are WAY more focused then a lot of the other districts (surprisingly, considering we have 11 people). But occasionally, for 5 minutes at a time random things will come up that are a bit off topic: such as the one Elder who was relating the song, "No One Mourns the Wicked" from "Wicked" to the Gospel, which resulted in me and two other Elders singing the song--me singing the super Soprano part of Glinda, of course. Seriously, I don't sing, but ever since I've been here, I sing all the time...And then another favorite discussion of mine was the debate about "Who is the 2nd Greatest Man who Ever Lived?" I didn't start this one but walked into the class as they were finishing it up. The narrowed it down to John the Baptist, Adam/Michael, Joseph Smith, Captain Moroni, and Elder Poulsen (an Elder in our district). They had tons of scripture references to back these up (well except the Elder Poulsen one), and it was hilarious. Still there isn't a consensus as to who is the winner. The world will never know...

So when Hermana Arellano was here she told me about this Elder--Elder Owens--who she deemed as "the most perfect guy ever. He's half Taiwanese/American, beautiful smile, awesome personality, serving in Taiwan, etc." I was like, "Hermana, why are you taking about this?!" Well, she became friends with him and showed me to him one day and wow...was she right. Haha, I don't know what it is about these Hybrid guys that are so attractive, but it's true. But anyways, she left weeks ago and I met him once and that was it. Well last Sunday, the day before he left he found me and came up to me and started talking (which was sort of weird because I've never really talked to him before) and then finally said that he really wanted my address and stuff. Haha, it was so random. But, he's super nice and told me a funny story about "Happy Message" (pretty much there was an Elder in Taiwan back in the day and the only Mandarin he knew was "Happy Message." And long story short, they ended up converting a lady because all he could say was "Happy Message! Happy Message!" and she had a dream years ago that a "Happy Message" would come to her), so I obliged. But random, eh?

So as you can tell, not much is going on here at the MTC. I mean, we teach around 3 lessons a day in the TEC to teachers, study, learn from our teachers, eat food, exercise, wake up, go to bed, etc. I can't wait till I get out and then I will have REAL stories. But I know that this Gospel is true. I'm learning every single day the importance of Jesus Christ, and his Gospel and Atonement in my life. I love studying the scriptures every day and will actually be sad when I leave this place. But onto bigger and better things!

Love,
Hermana Morgan Burt

P.S. Since I'm flying out next week, I don't' know when the next time I will be able to send an email will be. So, mom, DON'T freak out if you don't get one next week and then end up calling the Mission home, etc. It'll be alright. I'll let you know. Love you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Conference!

Hello again!

Can I just first off say that conference was amazing! Wow, I really really really enjoyed conference this year--especially getting to watch it at the MTC. I really prepared myself this year for conference opposed to past years. People would always say, "Oh wow, Conference was so great. I got so many questions answered and prayers answered." And honestly, I always felt really dumb because I wouldn't receive ANY answers during conference. Well, the reason was because I NEVER had any questions: I wouldn't prepare, I wouldn't pray and ask for my questions to be answered, I wouldn't do a thing. It's no wonder I didn't receive any! But this year was WAY different, I prepared all week (and before obviously): I prayed for questions to come to me to ask, prayed about those questions, wrote all my questions down, took fabulous notes about what was said and personal revelation/thoughts I receieved during the talks, had awesome discussions with my district after each session, and wrote down more thoughts and insights about each talk after it was all over. ANd WOW, night and day difference this year comparred to previous years where I would just fall asleep and not receive answers. It was crazy because I had about 25 random questions that I wanted answered and didn't know if I would actually get all of them answered, but I guess I had little faith because they ALL were answered. It was quite incredible. During the very first talk (Hale's) within the first minute 2 of my questions were directly answered. I'm sure my jaw dropped because I couldn't believe it. It happened again and again and my favorite was when I had the question, "How can I have more spiritual experiences in the temple?" And then right then and there, there was a talk given about Temples and he said, "Steps to have better experiences in the Temple." Bingo! It was really incredible. What a testimony builder for me. The Lord does know me and rewards those who put forth effort. He will answer our prayers but we have to do our part first. Ah, I love conference!

Anyways, so this week has been great. I can't believe that last week was the week I was actually supposed to report to the MTC--I honestly can't imagine what I would have been doing these past 6 weeks. The only thing I can imagine being is being a missionary! Oh and so in the past few weeks I have had many "Oh, I'm SUCH a missionary" moments. Let me share a few. 1) Whenever I'm at gym and doing boring things like wall squats or planks, since I don't have a stop watch to time myself, I just quote memorized long passages of scripture. Once I get through them, then I know I can stop. Wow, I'm such a missionary.... 2) Whenever we walk on the temple grounds and I see girls wearing normal, knee-length skirts I think, "Wow, those skirts are really short! So immodest." Haha and 3) I had a dream that Orlando Bloom was my boyfriend (most likely inspired from the conversation/quote-a-thon I was having with Elder Smith the day before where we were quoting Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean--both of which Orlando Bloom stars in). Anyways, the first thing I thought when I woke up was, "Hmm, Orlando Bloom is a Buddist if I remember correctly. How would I go about making a lesson plan to convert him?" Again...wow, I'm such a missionary.

Oh that reminds me. Elder Smith and his district left this week. Honestly, it was a very, very sad moment because his district was my absolute favorite in the world (remember a few weeks ago when I said that? I lied, I only liked that other district because they played basketball). This district was the bomb! Of course, Elder Smith will be missed the most becuase I don't think I've ever laughed for hard in my life. Every meal time, I would just quote Disney, laugh, listen to him quote more, laugh, laugh, and laugh. Seriously, his impressions were SO spot on it was crazy--his Davy Jones, Sherrif of Nottingham, Sir Hiss, and all others...simply amazing. We decided that he has a photographic memory, but only for things he hears (because according to his companion he can't memorize scriptures, but I doubt that). He was quoting something one time and was all, "Well I don't know much because I've never actuallyu seen that movie. I've only seen the trailer," he then proceeded to quote the entire trailer. It was funny. He said that his dream job is to be a talk show host and if that happens, he said that I can be a special guest and him and I will just quote Disney movies and bore the audience to death (which we seemed to do to my companion and others in my district). But it's all good. He's gone now, which is probably for the best. My meals are a lot more mundane now and less comical. But it's ok. Haha.

So funny story. So I obviously am a desert rat: everyone knows how much I love the heat. Well, it's been interesting living with roommates again because of course I never agree with the temperature that they set it at--same thing with our classroom. Seriously, when it's snowing outside, I don't understand why you need the AC on. Seriously. And in our class, we have this fan and the Elders ALWAYS turn it on super high and I HATE it. But they've learned that I'm ok with the fan only as long as they don't point it towards me. So that's a good compromise I think. But seriously, at night times, I FREEZE to death. I've just learned to give it up and don't say anything because apparently I'm just some crazy person who never thinks that it's hot when it really is ridiculously hot. But I sleep with 3 nasty blankets, my purple fleece blanket, warm socks, and my corn bag every night and I still wake up all the time because it's so cold. Oh well, THANK goodness in two weeks I'll be in Texas and I'll be so ridiculously hot that I won't even know what to do with myself. Heaven.

Ok, so about my corn bag. You stick them in the microwave for 3 minutes and it heats up and becomes all toasty. I like to cuddle up with mine at night because it's so awesome--or at least, I USEd to l ike doing that. Over the past few weeks, I began to notice that my corn bag (the one grandma gave me) began smelling strange. I didn't think anything of it. One night, I put it in the microwave, and then came back and heard all these girls say, "Ew, oh my gosh, what's that smell?" I wasn't even anywhere near the microwave and I could smell IT. I opened the door up and SMOKE comes billowing out of the microwave. Oops. I have no idea what happened, but apparently, nothing good. So I scooped it out, doused it in water, and threw it in the trash. Well turns out that the smell went through the ventilation system and ALL the girls could smell it. Oops. And my hands smelled like smoke for a week no matter how hard I scrubbed and washed them. So yeah, no more corn bag which is lame because now I'm even more cold. But yeah, I'm not going to lie, it was pretty funny.

So that's pretty much the going ons here at the MTC. Oh in Conference, someone mentioned a CS Lewis quote and I just love that guy to death so I'll leave you with one of my favorites as well:

"A man who gives into temptation after 5 minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong...after all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in...Christ, because he was the only man who never yeilded to temptation is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means--the only complete realist." --C.S. Lewis

But I know that this church is true. I'm doing all that I can everyday to prepare myself for going to teach the Gospel. I don't know everything, but I know enough--the Lord will make up the rest. Only after all the we have done. I'm grateful for conference and the chance we have to listen to the Prophet and the Lord's servants. The things they said relate to every one of us right now, the messages given as what the Lord wants for us to hear in this very moment. "Whether it be by my voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same." The Lord loves us and we need to constantly turn to Him and he will help us in all that we do.

I love you guys! Thanks for all the sweet letters and packages. Glad to hear everyone is doing well. You are in my prayers!

--Hermana Morgan Burt