Hello, everybody!So, this week I got my itinerary! One of the most exciting moments of my MTC experience: the moment they tell you you actually will someday leave this place. After seeing everyone come, and go, and then more come, and still go before you, you start wishing that someday it would be you.
So last Friday, in our mailbox, was our itinerary. We got it after lunch, and everyone was so excited (except for the two people in our district who didn't get an itinerary because they're going to Canada, an entire week after us). Our flight is currently scheduled to depart on September 5th, and it's a direct flight to Tokyo, Japan, where we will board a connecting flight (with only an hour and forty minute layover!) to Taipei, Taiwan. It was so exciting for us, reading all the checklists and "get ready" information.
About an hour later, the supervisor over the Chinese language teaching thingy came in and said that, as of right then, we were being delayed one week because not everyone's visas had come in. Imagine the depression! We were all so pumped, only to be told no. But someone after lunch went to the Travel Office, who said that there was no such problem and we would depart as scheduled. Two hours later, the guy who told us we were delayed said that our visas had come and we were no longer delayed. But then the Travel Office said, there might be a problem, don't listen to that guy, he doesn't know what he's talking about. So right now we're not sure what to think, but we're all still planning on departing as scheduled.Also got my tags. They came the following day, on Saturday.
They're beautiful! Direct from Church Headquarters. They are in a sealed bag, which most people in my district are going to leave alone until we land in Taiwan, at which point we will ceremoniously open them and put them on when we finally arrive in our mission. One reason that we don't open them now is because it's cooler to open them when we arrive in Taiwan, and we're not allowed to wear them around the MTC anyway.
The teacher who gave our tags to us in our district was a substitute that day. He's from Singapore, and so he told us a personal story before he handed them to us. When he was in Singapore, at age 18 he was in the army (is it mandatory service down there? I don't know). He said the first week, there was a major ceremony where they all got up early and all the new recruits were marched to the square or some similar place like that. Then, they were each individually, one at a time, given their gun, which was really special to them because 1) in Singapore, he said, not many people have guns, and 2) because it was going to be with them constantly for the next two years.
He then told us, "I can't tell you these [name tags] are the real deal, because all tags are, but..." And then he called each one of us, and we came up one at a time to the middle of the room, and he (using two hands) gave each one of us individually our tags. It wasn't like he just set them on our desk as he distributed them, but it was really cool having him be the one to give us our tags, because of the story and how much more meaningful it all became.
As for the language, I understand 90% of this video: http://www.mormon.org/zho/monica. And you have no idea how happy that makes me. It's like, hey! I'm actually progressing! And when you watch it the following week, and understand so much more of it, it is really quite the confidence booster, and you amaze yourself. There are three "I'm a Mormon" videos in Mandarin, and we watch them pretty frequently. They're just a lot of fun to listen to. The gift of tongues which missionaries pray for so frequently is in a very literal sense, real.
At the MTC, we have this thing called TRC's (Teaching Resource Center). We do TRC's once a week, where we teach, in our language, a gospel lesson to a member, who is acting as themself (not as an investigator). Last Monday evening, for the first time, we started our Skype TRC's. When we did live TRC's, it was usually returned missionaries who went to Taiwan or Americans who'd learned Chinese. But Skype TRC's are different; we go into a computer lab, and they connect us to actual Chinese people, usually a member in Taiwan. Except me and my companion, we taught a lady from China leaving in Cedar Hills. But most people taught Taiwanese people. And when you realize that they understand what you're saying and you understand what they're saying, and it's only been 7 weeks, you realize how much the Lord has helped you to learn.
At our Tuesday night devotional, we had Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the Young Women's General President, come speak to us. She gave us 5 bullet points that we should focus on, and one of them was the importance of giving everything you have on your mission. One quote was, "The work should never really end if you're doing it right." She said that, "I've never heard anyone say, 'Boy, I wish I didn't work so hard on my mission.'" She said that these memories will be eternal; don't let them be memories of regret.
She shared a quote, I don't remember from where, "The task in front of them [the pioneers] was nothing compared to the support behind them." With God on your side, nothing is impossible. Something our language teachers told us when we first arrived was, "God didn't call you to fail." And that is a very true statement, and reminds us that whatever we're called to do, we know that it isn't impossible.
I'm so excited to go to Taiwan. It's coming up really soon. The MTC has been a great experience, but it will be truly exciting when I board that aircraft.
Have a great week!
Elder Sequoia Ploeg
Taiwan Taipei Mission