Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Visiting Salt Lake City Temple & Checking into MTC

3rd email from MTC

Hey everyone!! Here's Laura's 3rd email from the MTC. It's hard to believe that she's already been there 3 weeks! Enjoy!

Hello family!!!!
So it's hard to believe that 3 weeks have already gone by! This is the beginning of our fourth week! We have 8 more weeks left-the other Russians that got here before us are leaving in two weeks and we're going to miss them! They were all on a special 9 week program that was being tested. I realize though that I'm here for 12 weeks for a reason and I need that extra time to learn!
Mom, dad, grandma, anna, johnny-thank you so much for your letters and for being so diligent!
And mom thank you for sending my shower caddy-it literally is saving my life!
So this week was wonderful but the days are starting to feel a little routine. We seem to have a couple of ho-hum days interspersed with really wonderful days!
I'll just elaborate on some highlights:
Guess who came to talk last night at Tuesday Devotional?!!!! None other than Elder L. Tom Perry!!!! It was such a surprise since we had Elder Christofferson come the Tuesday before that! It was a complete surprise but the moment he walked in I was just hit with a wave of emotion and gratitude.
Yesterday I'd been having a rough day. I wasn't feeling productive with my studying, the language has gotten harder, our last lesson with our "investigator" was a bust because we didn't have time to plan and we didn't have a commitment or goal in mind so it didn't have any sort of direction, and I was just starting to feel anxious about things.
Nothing could seem to make me feel better or to get me out of the funk. So when Elder Perry walked in, it literally was an answer to my prayers and I just felt so much peace and joy! He talked about the priesthood b/c apparently May 15th is the anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. He gave a great talk, but it was more his presence and the Spirit felt that made a bigger impression on me. He bore a powerful testimony of the priesthood and told us "Jesus Christ directs this missionary work."
How amazing is that?!!!
So that was absolutely wonderful! Being here has made me realize how much I need to improve on my faith in my Savior, especially when I have rough days.
Something else really neat: on Sunday when we went on our temple walk, we met this man from Ukraine named Vassily Osipenko. Apparently he converted to the church back in 92 and then served a mission for the church in Moscow! He talked to us for a long time and told us about the people and amazing stories from his mission. He gave us his business card so we could have referrals when we go because he knows lots of people in Moscow!
Talking to him just made me so excited to go to Russia and to meet the people. I wanted to talk to him all day long, but he had these three adorable little daughters with him who were playing around us the whole time and they were starting to get wrestless. He told us that the members in Russia LOVE the missionaries so much that apparently they will come to them with serious life decisions and questions like "Should I have a baby? Should I get married?" Talk about overwhelming!
This past week the language started to get a whole lot harder as we started getting more in depth with cases. In Russian, you not only have to conjugate verbs and whatnot, but the endings of nouns change depending on their position in the sentence, prepositions that come before them, or verbs that force different cases. We got this ridiculous little chart that has all the cases and their nouns endings and a bunch of ridiculous things. I understand them, but the idea of mastering them seems almost impossible. But I'm just going to continue to have faith that the Lord will enable me. It was funny-yesterday our teacher Brat Adams explained the instrumental case to us. At the end of the night all of our brains are pretty much fried.
I hadn't felt too tired up until the past couple of days, the fatigue started to hit me. I'm trying to stay postive though.
This past week me and my companion had a bit of a humbling when we realized that the way we were planning lessons out word by word wasn't working. You can't teach by the Spirit while you're reading something off to someone. So we just decided that we need to focus on good questions, have a specific commitment in mind, have some keys phrases, and then a couple of good scriptures.
We had two of our best lessons yet after we decided to do that. The atmosphere of our lesson with Kostya was completely different in our second lesson compared to our first because we were able to talk to him and he was much more receptive. He agreed to read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and go to church!
I planned hard for that lesson and was able to recount to him a lot of the Joseph Smith story and have him read Moroni 10:3-5.
But our second lesson didn't go so well because we didn't have any time to plan. So it's kind of hard trying to achieve that balance between planning and letting the spirit and the needs of the investigator guide the lesson.
We get to go to TRC tonight, and then we have 3 more lesssons this week, and me and my companion are in charge of teaching a lesson during district meeting on Sunday. Oh, and we always have to be ready to give a talk in church in Russian on an assigned topic each week in case we get called on. So I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Please keep me in your prayers! We just need to keep in mind that the Lord wouldn't give us this mission call if he wasn't planning on enabling us.
Something else that was neat: For the Sunday fireside, a member of one of my stake presidencies from my old singles ward at BYU came to talk! It was really cool to see a familiar face!
Please keep praying for me and thank you for your letters and your support!
And happy late mother's day! Love you all!

-Sister Schmidt

2nd Email from the MTC

Hey Family!!!
Wow! I can't believe that I've already been here for half a month! It has gone by so incredibly fast! The days are long but the weeks are short! I really love being here and I almost don't want to leave. But I know that when I get to Russia I'll feel that way even more!
So I have so much to type and so little time!
Me and my companion have already taught about 5 or 6 lessons in Russian-crazy! We've used notes of course but it's really amazing how much progress we've been able to make with our fantastic teachers and with the Lord's help.
Our "investigator" Zoya agreed to be baptized and during one lesson she asked about what she needed to wear and I was able to look up her answer because I knew where to find it and to answer her in very stilted, poorly pronounced Russian.
It turns out our investigator Zoya is actually our third teacher Sister Alletta! What they do here is use teachers or rm's or native speakers to come be "investigators" and we get to teach them. Our first one was Zoya and she was so sweet and interested and the perfect investigator!
We just got our new "investigator" Kostya this week and taught him for the first time, and they've now increased the level of realism and difficulty. He's a Russian who's a BYU student and not particularly interested in the gospel but more in the history of Mormons. He's agreed to a second lesson so we can talk to him about the restoration and I'm excited to see how he's going to change as he learns more and more about the gospel of Jesus Christ!
So the past week has had it's ups and downs but for the most past has been wonderful! I LOVE learning the langugage! Our teachers make it so much fun and always tell us crazy stories from their missions. Our one teacher reads a passage from his mission journal and told us how he and his companion would pick a day and name it, for example "weird-walk Wednesday". Then they would walk weird all day and the people in the street would notice them and come up to them and talk to them! Another teacher told us about this delicacy in Russia called "holladyets" which apparently is gellatinized pig meat and fat-EWWW!!! He said that one time he and his companion were visiting a woman and his companion decided to be a jerk and told her that our teacher LOVED her holladyets and was starving so she gave him a HUGE portion of it which he had to eat so as not to offend her and then gave him seconds! Apparently on his mission he didn't have a good time with the food but said that that's not usually the norm.
We've already learned past tense, verb conjugations, and how to talk about our families so now we have a much broader use of the language and can learn how to apply our knowledge for teaching our investigators!
We had a fun class this week talking about stress management at the MTC and our teacher told us to go outside and run around the building two times and we were all like....okay...and we went out and did it which was hilarious and ridiculous at the same time but his point was to try to convey how stressful a mission can be whether physically, pschologically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
We went to this workshop where we watched this really powerful clip from a talk by Elder Holland who told us that on our missions we would have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to the edge of what we are accustomed to. I've realized that I want to take full time of this time in the MTC to prepare me in every way possible so that I can be an effective missionary out in the field and become what the Lord wants me to become.
We were so lucky when Elder Christofferson came to speak last night at the Tuesday devotional! It was so amazing to realize that we were in the presence of an apostle of the Lord! He talked to us about charity and the importance of developing Christ-like love for the people we will be teaching and serving. He told us that charity never fails and that this pure love is a gift, an endowment that we have the right to receive, especially as missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ!
He spoke to us candidly, and asked us questions from verses of scriptures as we identified the roles of the members of the Godhead. He told us that he loved us and that as missionaries we stand shoulder to shoulder with apostles of the Lord, which was sooooo humbling!
I've really been able to make a lot of progress in learning the language but I still know very little. I've been praying REALLY hard to the Lord to have faith that I can learn this language and that I will be able to teach with the Spirit and develop Christ-like charity for the people.
I LOVE my companion and my district sooo much! I really don't think they could be any more perfect! I feel so honored to be able to be here with them, learning this language, and learning how to better teach the gospel and invite others to come unto Christ.
I've had a couple of emotional meltdowns on days where I've felt discourage or stressed or a lack of confidence and I've really had to rely on the Lord. Since I've been here, I haven't been able to bottle up my emotions like I'm accustomed to. My companion has been so wonderful and supportive-she is so Christlike and sees only the good in people! I'm truly blessed to have her as my companion, especially on days where I start to doubt that I can do this. My branch president has also been so supportive and I've been told many times that the Lord is preparing people especially for us to go and teach the gospel!
My branch president told me he knew that I was supposed to be here and that I would be an excellent missionary and that my teachers had told him that I was doing really well. So I feel like I can go forward with confidence in my mission and I'm soooo excited to go to Russia and learn about the people and their culture and learn to love them!
Well I love all of you!  I would love to hear from all of you and would LOVE to get letters!
Love you all!
-Sister Schmidt

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laura's first email from the MTC

Hey everyone!! Its officially here...Laura's first email from the MTC...check it out!

Hey family!
Oh my goodness I'm stressing so much right now with only having 30 minutes to type everything!
First off, I love you all so very much!
Wow! I can't believe I've already been here for a whole week! It has gone by SO FAST!!!!
So it was so cool when mom dropped me off and Elder Turner and his companion were the ones that helped me with my bags! Even cooler, that first night we had a workshop about meeting your investigators. We went around to three different rooms and saw three different people as the missionaries would come "knock" on their door and meet them. And guess who the missionaries were? Elder Turner and his companion!
It was so amazing because we got to realize during this workshop that this missionary work is not about us but about the people! You can't just go knock on somebody's door and start spouting out stuff about them about the gospel! You have to get to know them and their lives and love them the way our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would! One of the investigators said something really interesting to one of the missionaries. He're talking from your head up, not from your heart up. It really made an impression on me and I hope that when I get to Russia I will be able to teach people from my heart and learn to love these amazing people!
So our teacher's are amazing! I actually really love the structure and the schedule here. The days are long but they're full so they go by SOOO fast! We spend about half the time learning the language, the other half learning about the gospel and being better missionaries, and then the rest with meals, gym, etc. The first couple of days were a little tough because we're all getting to know each other and then having to adjust to not having as much time to get ready as I'd like. But the early mornings really haven't been too bad! I'm so grateful I had a job where I had to get up early as well as the prior experience learning foreign languages at BYU.
Sometimes, I feel a little bit like I'm at Hogwarts, except instead of magic we have the gospel! So my companion's name is Sister Carver. She's 21, from San Francisco, and we hit it off from the start. It's weird b/c we both have a lot in common its almost kind of freaky! She's so sweet and loving and it's crazy how much we've learned and how much closer we've grown just in this past week alone. She's so loving and supportive of me and we've already taught three lessons to our "investigator" Zoya. What they do now is they have people who are either return missionaries or native speakers from the country who they have come and have us teach. It's a little stressful because we're like: "how on earth are we supposed to teach someone about the gospel the second day we've been here and when we can hardly say anything!" But we have really amazing teachers and excellent tools and resources. When it comes down to it, our teacher told us that even if you're not "fluent" or can't speak the language, if you know how to testify from your heart, the Spirit will be the real teacher and the Spirit is a universal language that everyone can understand! He told us that he knew that we've been reserved at this time to go and teach the people of Russia!
Our teachers are sooo amazing! Brother Savage has taught for 3 years here and he loves the Russian people, culture, language soooo much! He told us that we're goinig to Russia at a very exciting time because the country is changing and the people are changing! He makes learning the language so much fun and makes our three hour classes go by so fast! Our other teacher Brother Adams told us that he's never had a district that has worked as hard as we do! But why else would you come here if you're not ready to work hard? That's why we're here!
So in my district there at 4 elders and two other sisters besides me and my companion. Our district leader is named Elder Fralof and he had the most amazing story! He's lived a very hard life and spent the past two years nursing his mother who had terminal cancer. He wanted to serve a mission because he wanted to follow her Christlike example because she would feed him when they were homeless and made sure he had food while she went hungry. It's amazing how many wonderful examples I'm surrounded by. Everyone here has made a sacrifice to come here but only because we know that this is where God wants us to be and so that we can go serve him and serve the people of Russia!
So our mission is splitting so we don't know if we're going to be absorbed by some of the other missions. We might either go to the Moscow mission, the Baltic mission, or to Novosibirsk, a.k.a. SIBERIA! I'm not too worried about it though because I know that no matter what, we will end up being where the Lord wants us to be and I have faith that it will be where we're supposed to be!
The first couple of days I was feeling a little discouraged...I was can I learn to love a people that I've never met? Will I really be able to teach by the Spirit and can have the confidence to speak boldly and courageously? Because I often have a hard time talking to people because I feel timid or uncomfortable at first in new situations. But I know that the Lord will enable me to do His work and that this is an experience where I will be stretched and tried and hopefully be made better as I learn to rely on the Lord more.
And when I think about it...we've already made the effort to learn to love the people! Because we're learning their language!
One of my favorite experiences since I've been here was when all of us who are going to Russia got together on Saturday night to sing hymns in Russian. We stumbled on the words as we tried to recognize these new symbols and the sounds they make, but there was a really special spirit as I looked up from my hymn book and saw all of us together singing. There was such a feeling of love and unity.
This is a very special place. It is a sanctuary. Where else is everyone this loving and selfless? Where else do you find 19 year old boys giving up two years of their life, education, their family, friends, and all worldly pursuits to go and serve the Lord and try to bring others unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel?
I know that I'm not entirely the person who I want to be yet. I know that I have many flaws. We listened to this really amazing talk by Elder Bednar on Sunday (he didn't come, it was just a rerun) but he talked about the character of Christ and how we can achieve that by turning outwards instead of fulfilling our own selfish desires. I really loved relief society on Sunday. Since I've been here I've been a lot more in touch with my emotions. I started crying because I was just overcome by how amazing all of the sisters here are. Some girls got up and shared their conversion stories and it's amazing how the gospel helps everyone! No matter what your pains are, the Savoir and His atonement can heal you!
I've been praying harder here than I have in a long time. I'm praying that I can understand the gospel and that I will be prepared to help the people I will teach! It's crazy that we're still going to be here for another 11 weeks but I know that time will go by fast and I want to make the most of it!
Thank you family for all of the packages and letters and treats! I've realized that I've had an easier life than most and that's why I want to be here to try to give back to the Lord for what He's given me.

Also: I don't have pictures yet b/c I didn't have enough time but I promise to send you lots and I have 11 weeks!
Love you all!
Cectpa Schmidt