Monday, November 25, 2013

I Touched a Shark!

Emily "touching a shark" on her first Preparation Day in Georgia!  Exciting!  Thrilling!  Dangerous? 

Hey you! [=
So I only have 20 minutes to type up this letter versus an hour because I was so busy reading all of your letters! I loved hearing from each and every one of you!  I've loved the encouragement but I'd appreciate it even more in a hard copy because I'll actually be able to ponder and read it more in depth when I don't have a time bomb blinking at me every second. :)  My new address here in Georgia (At least for the next six weeks) is: 
Sister Emily Sudweeks
240 North Ave NE #1327
Atlanta, GA 30308
So once again I had a breakdown on Thursday at the MTC (surprise, surprise) but this one was even worse than the previous week.  I was able to get a priesthood blessing and I felt better the next day. I'm proud to announce that last Thursday (the week I couldn't write) I did NOT have a breakdown on Thursday. So the pattern of having breakdowns on Thursdays has been broken, yeah me!
So if you remember Belinda from TRC, we actually committed her to baptism! She read the entire Book of Mormon in 2 days and she believed it and prayed about it. We were completely awestruck considering our past sisters said that they were the only sisters successful in getting her to pray. We told our teachers Sister Looney, Brother Adjei, and Brother Ahkahihifo and they didn't believe us, but we did it!
On Saturday it was the most amazing experience ever. We did a role-play where for example, I taught Elder Olsen, but he was pretending to be me. So in reality we switched off and we taught ourselves. All of us had to be so vulnerable and so willing to let each other know our insecurities to be able to teach properly. There wasn't a dry eye in the room, and we were able to put our weaknesses behind us after the lesson was complete, since the spirit was so strong telling us we didn't need to be afraid of our weaknesses.
When we went to the Provo Temple on Sunday, there was a protestor there spewing off blasphemies. Some of the missionaries actually went over there to try to talk to him, but his mind was already made up and wouldn't budge from his opinion. 
When I got here in Georgia it was so surreal, there are SO many trees! The flight was somewhat awful because it was really turbulent. It didn't help that most of us got up no later than 3 am. The sisters didn't sleep at the mission home that evening, but at some member's homes. I was asleep by 9 pm while the rest of the sisters (Burrows, Jackman, and Stephen) stayed up until 10:30 pm, but I was exhausted.
On my first night in Georgia, I accidentally had a missionary moment! President Harding says we should ALWAYS carry a Book of Mormon with us. We went to Walmart and I bought some things at the self checkout, and I forgot my Book of Mormon there. An employee picked it up and as we were leaving. I realized I forgot it so we headed back. I talked to her and she actually wanted to keep it, and she said she would try to come to church. But she didn't, but I don't blame her since she doesn't even live in our area. She said she may go to our church nearer to her house, so I hope that's what she did.
Emily and her two wonderful companions--Sister Freitas (on left) and Sister Jarman (middle)
So I have TWO companions, I'm in a trio! Sister Freitas is actually a Temple Square sister and she's leaving Wednesday morning. Sister Jarman is going to Brazil but is waiting on her visa so who knows when she'll be leaving for Brazil. They're great and the ward is great. I'm in the Atlanta West area, and it makes me sad to see all of the poverty in the area. A lot of members have to take the MARTA (like Bart for you California people) to church, walk, or get a ride from someone else. Not many people have cars in our ward.
Speaking of my ward, we have over NINE HUNDRED people in our ward. But we only have 200 or so active. Our main goal as missionaries in this ward is not to baptize, but to re-active those 700. We go to a lot of less active houses to see if they've moved or are still around. Most of the time they don't live there so we have to do the paperwork to let our leaders know they’ve moved. We do tract around their homes but we haven't been successful much. According to my companions we're going through a dry spell when it comes to teaching, but I somewhat prefer that for my first week. I think I would have freaked out in having to teach lesson after lesson. I feel like I need to ease into this mission and I'll be just fine after another week. 
Don’t worry about Thanksgiving, all of the members are taking care of the 7 (yes seven) companionship's in our ward. They may not have much, but they try their best when it comes to the holidays.
When it comes to accents, I cannot understand any of them one bit. It's so embarrassing because one of our investigators, Joyce (her husband Billy is a member) asked me if I liked tuna, and I thought she asked me if I was eighteen. I was so embarrassed because when I look back, there's NOTHING in common when it comes to those two questions. But I haven't gotten the drawl yet. It seems to me that none of the missionaries get the accent here, which makes me kinda sad.
I have 54 seconds left! I must get going! I love you all and I am so happy to be here in Georgia! I hope you're all doing well and the church is true! (Man, I never thought I'd be one of THOSE missionaries at the end of an e-mail.)
Sister Emily Sudweeks

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

So I'm Engaged...

Hey y'all! (Note: That is the first time I've ever used that word ever since I got to the MTC, feel special.)

I survived a week at the MTC, which I'm somewhat surprised at considering I thought I wasn't going to survive Friday. I'm not going to lie, the structured 16 hour life of a missionary in the MTC is a LOT harder than I thought it would be.

Some of you asked what my life in the MTC is, so I'll just type it up here. If you don't really care, you can skip the next bit.

I wake up at 5:45 (willingly, mind you.) instead of 6:30 like what our schedule suggests. I take a shower and blow-dry my hair with a diffuser and get ready for the day. By 7am we're supposed to be in our classroom for personal study until 7:30. Then we have breakfast until 8am. Our schedule really varies on the day. Some days we have a 3 hour block of just studying, and it's REALLY hard to focus. Thankfully we learned the 25-5 minute rule. Study intensely for 25 minutes, and then have a break for 5 minutes. Then we usually have gym for 50 minutes and we have a fifteen minute prep before and after gym. Then I have lunch at 12:20 all the way till 1pm. Then a 1:05pm we have zone teaching for an hour. Afterward, we have a three hour block which tends to drive me insane. I would HAPPILY stand for 3 hours at Hobby Lobby instead of sitting for 3 hours. We have one or two 3 hour blocks depending on the day. Then we have dinner at 5:20, and then our second 3rd hour block from 6:05 to 9:05pm. Then we have daily planning session from 9-9:30pm. Between 9:30-10:30pm we have personal time. Funny story, one of my teachers Brother Adjei (Ah-jay) called me Sister Showers and my hair wasn't even covering my name tag. My entire district laughed and they call me Sister Showers sometimes. Depending on the day we also have devotionals, meetings, online portal time, choir practice, and service.  

So, my companion Sister Burrows is pretty much amazing. We tell each other that she's the brunette version of me, and visa versa. I am so glad that I get along with her considering I've seen some other companionships who are not so close knit as ours is. Funnily enough, we chose the same missionary scripture (D&C 121:7-8), same camera, same new missionary scriptures, the works. Except I'm the girly girl and she's not. I think she's pretty amazing and we teach our progressing investigators pretty well. We tend to blurt out in song whenever our elders (They're going to Canada) say something. We were singing hymn 246 Onward Christian Soldiers, and Sister Burrows and I said TWO FOUR SIX OH ONE! in sync. We burst out laughing and some people rolled their eyes at us, but we don't care. All of us sisters get along VERY well. I'm really blessed that they're such good examples to me. We also like to sing an assortment of Wicked, Disney, and any other popular songs that pop up into our head. Sister Burrows and I were singing Popular and Elder Heuer (Hoyer), Gibbs, and Olson came into the classroom and joined in instantaneously while dancing and moving their hips. It was probably one of my favorite moments in the MTC so far.

When I was leaving my classroom, I saw Elder Coltrin! He was in my zone and we were so excited to see each other! I had no idea if I was going to see him or not so it was pretty special that I knew someone when I had just gotten there. Not to mention that I also saw Sister Branvold and Elder Andrus in the MTC as well so we were able to wave crazily at each other when we walked by. 

Thursday was pretty hard.  I may or may not have had a breakdown Thursday night because I was under the impression that Sister Burrows and I were going to teach our 'investigator' Nathan a 15 minute lesson with everyone watching us. I talked to the other sisters in my room, (Sister Stephens and Sister Jackman) just today and apparently they all had a breakdown Thursday night as well. It didn't help that I got very little sleep Wednesday night, perhaps about 3 hours max.

I really didn't enjoy role playing when I first started to practice. I was so anxious and I didn't want to say something wrong. My stress level was probably on an 8 or 9 even when I just had to say the phrase, "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized from someone holding the priesthood authority?" That's all I had to say, I didn't have to build up to it or anything. I've now made progress to say a short little lesson.  It’s  no problem at all.

During the weekend, I was feeling a little sick. Let’s just say that I'm already sick of the food, and I don't have much of an appetite at all. I don't think it's from stress, considering I'm not as stressed the longer I'm here with some few minor exceptions. We were able to go to the Temple, and we took SO many pictures. Depending on how much time I have left before I have to get off, I'll try to attach a few.

On Sunday my Branch President told us that 1 in 10 converts know that our church is true right when they see the missionaries. We talked about how neither the Book of Mormon, nor temple is our logo. Missionaries are- we are literal representatives of Jesus Christ and I think that is so amazing. I just think to myself that I need to be as professional as possible, but still having fun of course. So when I say that I'm engaged, I really meant that I'm engaged to do the Lord's work. 

My birthday was in fact, very memorable. To start it all off, I didn't realize I forgot to bring my towels until AFTER I had finished my shower. I contemplated shouting, "SISTER BURROWSSS!" although I already knew that she was in our room already. Thankfully, I had my bathrobe with me so I had to put it on sopping wet. I wasn't a fan of that. Later during personal exercise all of the sisters in our room were on a sugar high and we were doing the craziest things. Now that I think about it, it wasn't really funny at all. I attempted to do a hand stand so I started to walk up the wall to get into the desired position. BAD IDEA. My feet were in the air and my arms couldn't support the weight so I fell and landed on my chin. No one was paying attention and I was rolling on the floor and all of them were joking when I told them I wanted to go to the medical clinic. I dislocated my jaw once before, and it somewhat felt like that. In the end we went, and I have a contusion on both sides of my jaw, and on my chin. My chin is bruised and I wasn't allowed to speak or sing for a day. It still hurts to eat, and my bruise is still there. But I'm a tough cookie!

I got quite a few letters and packages on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and I feel SO loved. Thank you so much! I never really realized how much difference getting one letter each day compared to none. My district jokes about how I'm Ms. Popular because I got 9 letters and a package alone on Monday. They told me that they're going to email their families and how they want to beat how many letters I get. So, it's competition time! Although my birthday is over, I hope that the amount of letters I receive stays the same. -wink wink-  By the way those mint brownies were delicious Mom and Dad, thank you very much. [= 

Also, Sister Burrow's Mom sent me a surprise birthday package for me, and I was so surprised. They sent me balloons, streamers, Birthday Cake Oreos, and some other things. We completely decked out our room in streamers and we've decided it's going to stay up there until we leave.

Monday we did our service for the week and cleaned the bathrooms. May I just say that I got to use a real ACTUAL (foam) gun? Oh yes, be jealous!

Tuesday we had our first real 45 minute lesson (TRC) with Belinda Moey. We really didn't know much about her other than she questions God's existence and she doesn't have a Christian background. In the end, she was one of those philosophers who try to learn about EVERY religion. She kept going from question to question. By the time I was able to find a scripture for her she was already on the next subject. She agreed to read the Book of Mormon by the next time we saw her, but she refuses to pray because she believes that it wouldn't be fair to any of the other churches. Apparently no companionship has ever been able to get her to pray except two sisters in our zone that have already left for Virginia today. It feels so weird to be the oldies in the MTC although I've only been here for a week. I think time drags on, yet flies by here. 

Speaking about me leaving, I'm leaving for Georgia at 4:30am on Tuesday morning. I don't have to get up at 4:30am, I have to be READY by 4:30. I think I'm going to die. 

Today I was able to get my patriarchal blessing shrunk down to scripture size, do laundry, and get a haircut. 

Overall, life has been pretty amazing. It’s been really hard, but my testimony has grown SO much. Not to mention that we kneel to pray all the time so my knees have been getting creaky like Mom's. (I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.) I had more spiritual things to say but I left my notebook in the classroom and I don't want to take up even more time by having to drag Sister Burrows and get it. All in all, I know that I'm supposed to be here. Being here is one of the best things that have happened to me. I've been able to rely on the spirit so much to guide me on what to say when I'm role playing with an 'investigator'. Even though none of it is real (technically TRC may or may not have real investigators, they don't tell us), role playing is such an important aspect of learning on how to teach the gospel. When someone decides to go on a mission, we have NO idea on how much of an impact it will have in our eternal perspective. 

I love and miss you all, and I hope that you're doing well. 

-Sister Emily Sudweeks