Good morning, everyone!
Today is my first Preparation Day in the MTC. It's a busy one too, let me tell you. We have so many things we need to do, the least of which is not laundry. But I get one hour per week on the computer doing personal things (such as writing letters). And that hour is almost up.
The MTC is an awesome place. I don't know quite how to describe it. It's somewhat like EFY, except everyone is way more focused. We still have a lot of fun, but we are also learning a lot. It's cool being surrounded by missionaries who are ready to go and serve the Lord.
Chinese is difficult. The first day I arrived, my host dragged my luggage as I went around getting my tags, info, keys, and language materials. Those materials are bigger than my backpack was going to school on a regular day! But they're good. Every time we're in class, the teacher speaks only in Chinese. While I'm learning words and how to say them, my biggest struggle is comprehending what is being spoken. It takes so long to translate the words one by one in my head. But everyone (meaning those who have been here longer than I have) keeps telling me that the gift of tongues is real, so I'll just rely on the Lord and do my best to learn the language on my own.
So I arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday our teacher told us we'd be teaching an investigator on Friday. Yes, two days after I arrived I had to teach a lesson with my companion. IN CHINESE. That was one of the most intimidating things I've ever done. Because the investigator (at least pretended to) did not understand a word of English. And then we had to teach another lesson on Saturday. And another one today (Monday). At least my companion, Elder Shoop, understands Chinese pretty okay. He took 3 years in High School (which doesn't mean much sometimes, but he has quite the edge on me).
Mr. Williams, my 10th Grade English Teacher, is in my Branch Presidency. In fact, he interviewed me yesterday. It was quite the opportunity. It's strange seeing him outside of a school setting where he can be religious rather then "separation of church and state," but it was awesome nonetheless.
President Teng, our branch president, is also a way cool guy. And his wife. They're both Chinese. And they are like, some of my newest favorite people ever. I met them during Sacrament meeting yesterday.
Ooh, Sacrament Meeting. Every missionary must prepare a talk every Sunday, and then in Sacrament meeting, the one conducting will announce who's speaking. No prior warning. And the talks must be given in Chinese. It's quite the experience.
My classroom teacher, Ruan Laoshi (Teacher Durrant), is also just one of the most amazing guys ever. He's really nice, patient, and willing to teach us stuff. He teaches Chinese, and he teaches us missionary and gospel principles (also in Chinese). He's one of the nicest people I've ever met though.
Oh, yes. My Chinese name. It is Liao Zhanglao (Liao is fourth tone). I could change it if I wanted, but I like it.
They have crammed so much into the first half week here in the MTC. So many gospel principles have been taught to us so far; we had a devotional last night at the Marriott Center which was focused on charity and Christlike attributes. It was a really good devotional; he talked about how he learned to develop charity for the people he was serving. He said we simply have to pray to develop charity, and then do our part in working for it.
We can't expect God to help us with anything until we first make an effort to try ourselves. They tell us that the gift of tongues is real if we do our part for it. So I'm doing my best. I have a little notebook that I'm putting words in and stuff (I wish I had been smart enough to bring a notebook with me).
Anyway. I'm pumped about my mission. It's going great so far. It's harder for the families and friends who send off a missionary than it is for the missionary themselves. I'm always busy and occupied; they don't leave us any time at all to feel homesick. But by 9 weeks, I think we're all going to be completely insane (us Chinese missionaries in the residences). We'll be ready to get out of here by September.
I'll send pictures next time I write. I forgot to bring my camera and connector today.
Elder Sequoia Ploeg
Taiwan Taipei Mission