First week in the MTC!

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Well good news! I have officially survived my first week here at the Provo MTC! Adjusting to missionary life and the MTC has been quite the experience. This past week has been a shock to me and full of lots of ups and downs but I am so happy to be beginning my mission and know that what I am doing is right.

The MTC truly is a crazy place. In some ways it reminds me of being in school, except extremely more focused, more difficult, and more spiritual. Days here are very long and hectic but at the same time are completely full of learning and development. Our day begins at 630 am when we wake up and go to the gym/fitness center and work out. Twice a week we pair this with service which involves keeping up the facilities of the MTC campus. From here we go back and get showered/dressed for the day and head to the cafeteria for breakfast. The food here is almost identical to the Cannon Center at BYU and is actually pretty good. After breakfast we go to our classroom where we spend most of the day. We spend more time in the classroom learning and studying than we do sleeping; it’s intense. There we do companionship planning, personal study, companionship study, and language study before we head to lunch. Because we are learning how to share the gospel, everyday we teach lessons in Korean to investigators which we do after lunch and prepare for in the mornings. We’ve taught about 5 lessons all in Korean to Pek Ho Hyeong Je Nim, which have taught us a lot. Following the lessons we have additional study time which my companion and I use to learn vocab and use computer software to improve our Korean. Around 5 we leave for dinner and return for 3 hours of korean class taught by a returned missionary. At 930 we go back to our residence to prepare for bed and have a few minutes to write in our journals and then there’s 15 minutes of quiet time for prayer and lights out at 1030.

Writing that all out it truly sounds like we have jam packed days, which we do here at the MTC, but I can already see it as a blessing. I am constantly doing something, which can be hard, but I know that I am maximizing my time and can already feel the blessings of being so disciplined. I think I brush my teeth, eat healthy, and exercise here more regularly than I ever have.

I’ll just say right now, learning Korean is SO HARD. I knew that it would be a struggle, but I feel like learning this language is the hardest thing that I have ever done, harder than highschool, harder than BYU. It is nice that Korean has an alphabet, but in this past week we have had to learn how to read and write a new alphabet, speak using grammar that is completely backwards from English, and understand 3 different levels of formality in our speech (low middle and high), all while our Korean teacher solely speaks to us in Korean. I have never heard Gunnel Hyeong Je Nim say a word in english, from day 1. It is insane. I always thought i was good at language and while I enjoyed Spanish, this is a completely different ball game. They say Korean is the second hardest language at the MTC (behind Finnish or something) and I am really starting to believe it. However, as much as my class and I are struggling to improve and feel like it is impossible, I can already see that I am making progress. I have gotten to where I can read fairly well (but slowly), write all of the characters, form basic sentences, understand my teacher fairly well (or his miming), pray, and bear a simple testimony of the gospel. And all of that in a week! As we have been teaching our lessons we are able to say more and more every day. I have also come to find that although the language is important the message and the spirit are what actually matter, and I am working to improve on those as well. People say all sorts of things like you cant really understand anything for the first year, which I can see being very true, but we are just working away as hard as we can and praying for the best.

I think one of the real blessings of being here is the people! We have great leaders and teachers and my companion and district are both amazing. Many of our leaders are returned mission presidents from Korea and our teachers (even though they only speak Korean) are really spiritual and knowledgeable. I get along really well with my companion, Elder Kunde, who just got out of highschool and is from St George Utah. My district is actually pretty large (12 of us) and we all help each other out and have truly become friends. It is really nice to share a laugh after a long day with all the great people I have come to know. I have also been called as the leader of my district so I have had lots of opportunities to get to know all the people and leaders we have. Wish me luck!

Overall being at the MTC and being a missionary is probably the hardest thing I have ever done but I have honestly come to see that it is the best thing I have ever done. Sometimes I feel so discouraged and don’t think I can do it, but not too long after I am reminded that what I am doing is right, the Church is true, and that our leaders and the Lord are here to help. I have come to find that I cannot be too hard on myself because I simply cannot do everything on my own. It is only if I rely on the God to help me that I can make it through and I think that is a lesson which is important to every missionary and person on this earth. I have also found that when I focus on the needs of the investigators I teach and the people around me that I care about my own worries seem to fade away. It always sounded cliche to hear that you have to lose yourself to find yourself but it is the truth. Love is key. There have been meetings here such as our devotionals with M.Russel Ballard where I feel the spirit so strongly and know that I can succeed. There is a spirit and energy here that is one of a kind and I am very glad for it.

Being a missionary is an amazing experience and one that I am grateful for. Pray for me as I learn Korean and how to be the best missionary I can. I’d love to hear from you as well so send me a letter (preferred over email)! Thank you for your love and support!

Sincerely,

Nathan Lees

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