Monday, May 27, 2013

Sam's MTC address for those who may not have it:
   Elder Samuel Alexander Mitchell
   MTC Mailbox #96
   SINGAPR 0718
   2005 N 900 E
   Provo, UT 84604

Here are a few pictures of Elder Mitchell & fellow missionaries.

Another week

Hello all!
This has certainly been an interesting week, to say the least! The days have seemed to all melt together--it surprising to me that it's already gone by! Wow! :) I've never been so mentally stressed out before, but I've also never felt the Spirit as strongly as I do around here. Life just keeps on moving at the speed of light!
Earlier this week I was in a pretty low phase of life; the language is so hard to learn, the emotional and mental duress that accompanies the MTC is very great indeed, and I was just plain tired and angry at almost anything. My thoughts were often unkind and I had a very hard time focusing on the work at hand. After several powerful enlightenments and some chastising by the Spirit, I realized that I needed to talk to my Branch President about it and see what his thoughts were concerning all of this. We met on Friday night, and we discussed what was going on. By that point I'd been able to get rid of most of the negative thoughts, and had been striving very hard to remain positive and uplifted. I'd had a thought come to me that went something like this: When we redouble our efforts against the adversary, what's to stop him from redoubling his against us? It's a very sobering and real truth, but one that I knew I'd have to deal with.
As we talked, President Baker gave me a lot of encouragement and support, and I felt very uplifted after our meeting. He said during that meeting that he had an idea as to why I was being so heavily bombarded by this mental negativity; it wasn't until Sunday that I found out his reasoning. After Sacrament meeting, he called me and my companions aside, and asked us to be the new Zone Leaders. I'm confident that most of what impressed him and the other leaders of our branch was nothing that I did; both of my companions speak excellent Chinese and are very hard workers and self-motivated. It's thanks to them that this calling was extended. One way or another, we're going to start our Zone Leader duties next Sunday, and will continue to do so till June 30th. We'll still have a few weeks here after that, but whatevs :)
I've learned so much here at the MTC, and I wish that I could share all of it with you! For now, let's let it suffice with this: In Jacob 7, the prophet Jacob is confronted by the anti-Christ known as Sherem. Sherem seeks out and confronts Jacob, hoping to ruin and destroy his faith. Jacob, however, fights back--with his testimony, with the Spirit, with the scriptures, and, in verses 14 and 15, the Priesthood, even the power of God. This is so comparable to all of us! Sin and negative thoughts and darkness will often seek us out, trying to ruin what we already know to be true. When we use the arsenal of the Lord--testimony, the Spirit, the scriptures, and the Priesthood--with righteous motives and valiant effort, there is NOTHING that can stand in our way.
I testify of this with all my heart! Joseph Smith saw what he saw; Jesus the Christ died for us on Calvary's hill and now lives for us in celestial courts on high; God is our loving Heavenly Father who eagerly beckons us home with welcoming hands.
Of this I humbly testify.
You're all more than welcome to write me letters! You don't realize how much missionaries love getting mail until you're actually one! If ever you get the chance, send me even a card!
You're all the greatest; keep strong in the faith, my friends!
See you all in a week,
Elder Mitchell :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hello everybody!
I've made it nearly a week here and haven't gone insane yet :) After you guys dropped me off here at the MTC, my host took me through the proper building and I got all the things I needed. After that, I was escorted to my classroom...where everybody within was speaking Mandarin...I understood hardly any of it! Hooray!
We have lots of class time here. By lots, I mean LOTS! I have more class time here than I did in college, which is crazy! I've learned a lot about Chinese though...I'm still very much new and unused to this language, and it'll probably be six months in the field before I'm actually proficient at it, but I have learned a lot. The Mandarin Chinese language is really sing-songy and fun to listen to. I'm growing to love it--at times I do get frustrated and down about how my language skills are going, but the Lord manages to find some way to lift my spirits back up :) He has a knack for doing that sort of thing :)
My expected departure date for Singapore is July 16! In less than two months I'll be there! Crazy crazy crazy! :) I've run into a couple elders from home and college, and it's been really nice to see people that I know from before the MTC.
I have two companions--Elders Day and Andersen. At first I was a little leery about being put in a threesome, but I've really grown to love it. They both took Chinese in high school and for a semester in college, and so I really can do nothing more than lean on their Chinese experience to help me learn this language. They've been really helpful in teaching me the proper tones and everything like that.
Speaking of tones: You have to say things a certain way in Chinese, or else you're saying a different word. There are four basic tones in the Mandarin language (technically 5, but whatevs). They are probably the hardest part of the language for me to master! But that's okay--I'm counting on the Lord to help me figure out this stuff. 
We taught our first investigator Friday night and then again on Saturday afternoon. On Friday I took in a notebook with notes on it of the things I wanted to say (we each took turns teaching her stuff), and I ended up stumbling over what I'd written and everything like that. On Saturday, though, I just worked on memorizing a specific list of vocab, and I used that to construct sentences in my head when we taught her later. That was a much more spiritual experience! I don't know very much Chinese, so I was really only able to say that "I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know that we are the children of God. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know He loves me. I know He loves you." Even then, though, it was still really cool to feel the Spirit so strongly!
We have one other companionship in our room--both of them are going to Singapore, so that's pretty great. We'll be able to hang out on the plane together, I hope--I really don't want to fly alone. I don't think they'd let me anyways, but here's hoping I'll be able to be with them when we fly out on July the 16th! :)
Since they won't usually say 'Mitchell' in Mandarin, I've been given a name that I'll go by amongst the Chinese people for the duration of the mish. I'm known as Mai Zhanglao (again, I'm not sure how to do tones yet on this computer, so you'll have to forgive me. It's pronounced 'my jhong-lao'). The 'Zhanglao' part means 'Elder', and 'Mai' is the Chinese equivalent of 'Mitchell' :)
Last night, after the Sunday devotional, me and wo de tongban (my companions) went and watched 'The Testaments' in Mandarin. Even though I only understood 0.8% of what was spoken, I still felt the Spirit SO STRONGLY towards the end, particularly when Christ came to the Americas. I know that He lives, and I've certainly felt His hand and His help while here. It is comforting and reassuring to know that fact. Last night at the devotional, Sister Mary Edmunds spoke, and one of the main themes she impressed upon us was the Plan of Happiness. We've already chosen it once before, and now we must continually keep choosing it each and every day. The first few days I was here I was sorely tempted NOT to be happy and to look at the dark side of everything. But I decided to choose to have a more positive attitude, and that has made all the difference! I'm not saying I don't get frustrated or tired when I learn Chinese or how to teach people the Gospel--what I am saying is that choosing to be happy even when we're frustrated/tired is the best! :)
Zai jian for now,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao