Hello from the inside, living in the rapids, and the gift of tongues
The first few days of the MTC are behind me, and I'm starting to get our schedule down. The first day was crazy, and had no down time at all. They took me to my room, dropped off bags, picked up language materials, and then went straight to class, where we stayed for 3 hours, with no English. We have three teachers-Sestra Tucker, Sestra Vulcrepa, and Sestra Watts. It wasn't too bad because I had learned a bit from Pimsleur (Thanks Aunt LaNae!), but it was still a bit crazy. They just kept repeating things over and over and checking for understanding. Later that night, we had some very interesting experiences. We were in groups of about 20, and moved around different rooms, and each room had a different investigator in it (they spoke English so that part wasn't hard). As we got to know each investigator, asked questions, and shared testimony, the moderator would pause us, ask a few probing questions, give us time to discuss, and then resume our roleplay. The investigators weren't real, but honestly, it didn't really matter. The testimonies we shared were real, and our desire to help them was real too so that's all that really matters. It was also hard to see, that no matter what we did, the investigators never committed to anything. It was hard to see, and it really forced me to examine myself and my shortcomings to find better ways to teach and help people we come in contact with. Anyways, that was day 1.
Thursday was probably the hardest day so far. We had another class with Sestra Tucker, but we didn't really learn any Croatian. The entire class was just her introducing us to Almir, our first investigator, and then giving us instructions to start preparing for the lesson. Still little to no Engleski, but somehow we understood. We had more studying in the afternoon, but we just sat in silence for 3 hours in a room, trying to understand what we were looking at. That was especially hard because at that point I felt like I wasn't going anywhere, and no matter how many times I repeated Moroni 10:4 in Croatian, I still didn't have it memorized. But, after dinner, we had a wonderful meeting with our branch presidency, which really lifted my spirits, and helped me remember why I'm here. One thing our branch president said really hit me. He talked about living in the shallows. Basically, on a river rafting trip, in the rapids, you're moving fast and have to act fast in order to navigate the rapids, but you move a large distance very quickly. However, when you are in the shallows, you don't have to act at all, but you don't go anywhere. Being at the MTC is like living in the rapids all the time, and he encouraged us to jump in, and don't hold back.
Friday was probably the best day. We had some great study sessions, lessons with Sestra Watts and Vulcrepa (side note, Vulcrepa is actually Croatian for either Wolf-tail or pulled turnip. We called her that and she thought it was funny), and then we taught our first lesson to Almir! We had a script with what we wanted to say, as well as a few different pages open to common phrases and other things we might want to ask him. All Croatian. No English. Welcome to day 3. We went through our script pretty quick, with just one big glitch. We asked him "Will you read the Mormonova Knijga (Book of Mormon), and then we *think* he said that he doesn't have one and then asked us if we had one. We didn't, so that hurt. Won't make that mistake again. Anyways, once we were through the script, we didn't know what to do, until he asked us a couple questions. Even though we didn't understand him, we tried to answer what we thought he asked. Then I started making stuff up on the fly, grabbing one or two words from about 20 different phrases that I had in front of me to say something to fill the silence. Right towards the end, I was thinking we needed to set up another appointment with him, so I tried to ask him when we could meet with him again, but I actually said, "Why can we see you again?" He seemed pretty confused, and then I realized what I had said, and corrected it. Then we set up another appointment for (I think) Monday night. We went back to our classroom and laughed about our mess-ups. Then sister Vulcrepa had an amazing lesson (still all in Croatian) about the gift of tongues. She talked about how we can be worthy of the gift of tongues. She had us study a few things in PMG and the scriptures on our own. At one point she asked one of us to read D&C 90:11. I read it, and nothing has every hit me so hard. It basically says that everyone will have the chance to hear the Gospel in their own language, from the mouths of those ordained unto this power. One of the steps to receiving the gift of tongues was to believe in the gift of tongues. I wasn't sure if I did, especially after the rotten day of studying I had had before, but after reading that scripture, I knew it had to be true. But the lesson wasn't over. She kept talking in all Croatian for about 30 more minutes. And I understood so much more of it! I tried to listen and understand as many words as I could, but I didn't understand anything I didn't already know. But somehow, the phrases and sentences were crystal clear as to what they meant. At one point my companion, Starjesina James asked me what she said, and I translated perfectly a string of words I know for a fact I don't know yet. The gift of tongues is real and I'm so glad I got a taste of it last night. The Gospel is true, and I'm so glad I get to share it! I'm loving it here even though it is hard and I'm tired! No pictures this week, sorry. (Although its only been three days, so there's nothing exciting I would take a picture of). Love you all, and can't wait to hear from you!
Starjesina (Star-yesh-ee-nah) Christensen
P.S. My companion reminds me of my cousin, Elder Barnes in Wisconsin!
P.P.S. Credit to Elder Thompson for 'hello from the inside' couldn't resist :)