The first few days are just a blur. Meeting after meeting, orientation after orientation...it was kind of confusing and overwhelming but I guess it has to happen sooner or later. Trying to learn all of the new rules and procedures has been a challenge. It isn't until you break a rule that you know about it, or at least it seems that way.
My companions are great! I am in a threesome. It is Elder Garay from Utah (whose parents came from Mexico), Elder Villasenor who is from Mexico and me. We are in a district of 5 elders (the other two are from Bolivia and Utah). All of them are going to Spanish speaking American missions. I think I am one of the only gringo, white guys to be in advanced Spanish. Our Zone is a combination of advanced Spanish districts (with all native speakers from Spain, Mexico, USA, etc) and a few intermediate level districts with other white boys like me haha. I have really come to love my companions already and we are pretty close now. But I can't lie, it has still been a challenge to be in a class where only Spanish is spoken (and that by native speakers). I feel a lot of pressure to be fluent especially from white intermediate speakers who have been the MTC for several weeks. They have learned so much! It is almost intimidating. Oh well.
Being here is great though. We have extraordinary teachers and lessons and I am learning so much. The hard part is trying to apply it all. One of the most frustrating things has been trying to give the lessons in Spanish. I know what I want to say, and I think I am a decent teacher in the gospel, but I just can't say it the way I want to yet! I know it will come in time though because the Lord qualifies whom he calls.
It is a neat experience to get up in the morning and put on my nametag. When I do so, I try to remember that it has both my Family name and Christ's written on it, and that I must live worthy of the call. I still have so much to learn. With only three weeks or so in the MTC, we have to try and fit in as much studying and learning as most missionaries do in 9 or more weeks. It is kind of stressful and frustrating when I find both myself and other things cuasing me to waste time. It isn't my time after all; it is God's time becuase we are on His errand.
I have had some very spiritual experiences since coming here. One day during gym time, Elder Villasenor hurt his knee while playing soccer. He was fine for a while but he got progressively worse every day until he was limping and could barely walk. I offered to give him a blessing and me and Elder Garay did so a few nights ago. He has since recovered really well and I know it is because of the priesthood and faith in prayers that he was healed. I was also able to go to the temple this morning and it was great. It was the first time that I had gone to any temple other than Medford and I really enjoyed it. It was nice to take a step back and realize why we are all here. I will definitely miss going on my mission. I have yet to meet anyone going to Nicaragua...which is a little disapointing. It would be nice to get to know some people and have some friends before I go.
Tonight we have a MTC fireside and I am really excited to see who will come. It is normally an apostle or general authority. The last two weeks, Elder Ballard and Elder Nelson came. It doesn't matter who comes though, it will be good. One thing that I have learned here while in the MTC is that while there are so many elders with strong testimonies and great skills, we all have different calls. I know that while I am not the best speaker and not the best teacher here, I have been called to Nicaragua for a reason. I am a totally unique as a missionary and God will use me as a tool in His hands to help at least one person. I know that.
I have been praying more than ever for God's help and guidance as I embark on this great journey as a missionary. I thank you all for your prayers and thoughts on my behalf. I have felt them and I am grateful for them. God bless you in your lives and I pray for you! The church is true and I know that God lives. I know that He really does love His children, not only as a whole but as individuals. He knows each of us personally. For now, I say goodbye from the great MTC. Until next week.
Elder Grant Russell