Monday, January 19, 2015

January 13, 2015 Another Good Week in the CCM


.....Or MTC for the gringos.  It has been an interesting week in the showers.  One night I got done with the shower and headed back to our residence where much to my surprise found a closed (which means locked) door.  My companions were also in the shower, and thus far we have not made it practice to carry keys to the shower.   I didn't quite know what to do - start looking for anything I could make bedding with, maybe take shelter underneath the ironing board for a night?  After everyone had had a good enough laugh Elders Payne and Spencer were kind enough to go to the main office building and get a spare key.  We felt pretty dumb standing in the middle of the hallway in our towels.

And there was another incident.  I was in the shower, just singing along to "America the Beautiful" (we have zone choir practice every night in the showers) and I dropped my bar of soap.  Hardly out of the ordinary, but when I went to pick it up - it was gone!  Gone.  I didn't know what to do - I had lost my bar of soap in an enclosed shower.  Well I eventually found it, not where I was looking.  It was hanging on the underside of the aluminum hand railing three feet off the ground.  What?
I'm pretty sure this is how the whole concept of false gods got started.  I never did find out what the soap was trying to tell me.  Some theories were that it either meant I am destined to carve stalactite models out of soap or that if you really want to keep hold of the iron rod the bottom is the best place to grab.  I spent the rest of my shower trying to recreate the phenomenon (unsuccessfully) and contemplating the meaning of life.

I'm finally recovered from a bad case of sternoclydomastoid and platysmal (et al) muscle soreness.  I couldn't help but notice that the consecutive sit up record for the MTC gym needed to be.... upgraded.  I got 472 for a new record, and my neck has been feeling some serious whiplash.

Something really cool happened this week. We were cleaning bathrooms for our service hour and someone asked me if I was related to a Sirrine sister that was here last year.  I think his name was Hermano Byres - but he said he was Becca's teacher!  So he said hi.  Sister Sirrine must have been unforgettable!

I had the opportunity to accompany one Elder Richards singing "My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee" - it is an incredibly beautiful song, and the words are taken from some of my favorite scripture ever, a prayer from the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail.

Our lessons have been going better every week.  Companionship unity is really a tough goal, especially in a tripanionship.  To everyone who wants to serve a mission one day: teach in companionships.   It's a skill that we could be working on all the way up through the young men and women's programs.  I really invite you all to take this opportunity as often as possible.  The Lord has declared the the Gospel will be preached two by two.

I love being a missionary.  I wish everybody, members and nonmembers, could 'do some time' in the MTC.  In the Book of Mormon it says we talk of Christ, preach of Christ, and do all other things in Christ.  It is incredible to have the opportunity to truly dedicate 24 hours per day to Christ (I count the 8 hours of sleep as aiding the work).  We talk about Christ all day.  He is the center of this Gospel.  It is so amazing to think about the humble package he was sent down in.  Think of it.  The all powerful God and creator humbled was given to us in a manger.  Probably sub-10 pounds.  And through His grace, we can become like him.  He called himself the Son of Man.  He wanted us to know that he was human once as well.  Through him, all other sons of men can be perfected as well.  I have a testimony of the changing and enabling power of the Atonement.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 6, 2015 Half Way - No Turning Back Now!

Our Beautiful District

With Elder Jake Harper from Bluffdale Ward
Half way through the MTC experience anyway.  Still not quite at the classic "one year" marker.

Today has been very interesting - we got booted out of our residence by incoming Sisters so we've been moving all our stuff to a different building.  And yes, I'm taking my blanket collection with me.
We got to go to the temple this morning!  It was an amazing experience.  It just opened this week.  Last week my district had a service assignment doing 'deep cleaning', and now we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor so to speak.

Our Spanish is improving as a district, we have come a long ways.  Of course, we still have a long ways to go, but it is truly amazing what we can do in Spanish.  Our last two lessons with one of our investigators, Victor, have not even followed our lesson plan for one minute, yet we are able to follow where the Spirit directs and communicate with him in Spanish.  The first lesson in the MTC we were wondering why they gave us a thirty minute appointment (we thought we could only talk for about 5), but we filled it, and now we have 45 minute appointments and it's usually hard to end it on time.  It's often better to have shorter lessons, but there is just so much to talk about!

The iPads have been an incredible resource for us so far.  We have access to any church material imaginable right in our hands at any time.  We have even used a Mormon Message in a lesson.  For one of our new investigators we used them to look up background information about Jehovah's Witnesses because we didn't know much and wanted an idea of where to start preparing.  In fact, we really have access to most anything.  The iPads have not been limited in any way I can see - so it's a good opportunity to practice obedience.  They simply ask us to use them wisely.

The Sunday devo was excellent - we heard from the head of Church media.  Fascinating.  As promised in the Bible, the Lord is hastening his work.  Right now he is using technology to do it.

Also I accompanied two sisters who sang a duet of "I Need Thee Every Hour".  It was amazing! They have some of the best voices I have ever heard.  It has been super fun being able to work with the best musicians in the MTC - I've been asked to play for the next three Devo musical numbers already, and there's a lot of talented singers.

My ice cream eating record remains, of course, untouched.

In my personal study I have been reading in first and second Nephi.  I realized, for the first time, that the it may be possible to characterize the people in it by not only what is written, but what is left out.
I was reading the final blessing Lehi gave to his children and noticed that Nephi went into depth about his sibling's blessings, but only briefly mentioned his.  What is mentioned is that Nephi had a responsibility to keep the family together.  I wonder if when Nephi was writing this in hindsight, if he felt responsible for his brothers.  I wonder if he didn't elaborate on his own blessing because he felt like he had failed.  I don't know.  It may not be important, but since becoming a missionary I have had so much stronger of a connection to the Book of Mormon.  I can feel it.  I have never put the effort into studying it as I do now, and it has made it come alive.  I invite all of us reconsider how much we are showing God our appreciation for scripture.  I testify that through careful study of the Book of Mormon, our seed of faith will grow into a tree that bears fruit.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

My Companions: Elders Morrison and Hull

December 30, 2014 Second Week Victory

Yes it's true - I have now survived two weeks in the famed MTC.  Actually didn't even come close to dying.  In fact, I have in fact gained weight (not the good kind), probably due to being the most active champion here in defending my ice cream eating title.  It seems that right now my defining characteristic to the district is that I ate an entire ice cream sandwich in one bite.

All this is in an effort to make a bit more sleeping insulation.  The residences are kept pretty cool - I robbed an old lady of her blanket so I have two, and use the mattress pad they gave us as a third.

This week we had a pretty cool Sunday devo - Richard Elliot and David Archuleta came and made music for us.  I'm pretty sure Richard can play the organ better with his feet than I can with my hands.  I learned something - David made "glorious" for Meet the Mormons with his name tag on, companions at his side.  He was still on his mission and they couldn't wait a few weeks!  So it's a really special song to him.

The holidays have been amazing here.  The first day we got here, the MTC president said to us that it was no accident we arrived at the Provo MTC on Dec 17.  I don't think I have come to understand the full measure of that yet, but I am already grateful that I got to spend the holidays here.

Yesterday my district received iPads.  For those of you who don't know, I should probably explain.  The NYNYS mission is right now a pilot mission for testing new technology in learning and proselyting.  That is why I am in the Provo MTC instead of Mexico.  We are one of 5 districts here using iPads.  It will be interesting to see how much of a challenge this technology presents, and how much of a help it will be to us.  Not sure why I happen to be in this mission - I am literally technologically impaired compared to the others in my district.  So maybe I will be able to figure out how to send pictures next week.

Our schedules aren't quite as desperate any more but now my comps and I spend a lot of our time practicing new music - after playing for the Christmas devo I now seem to be the official MTC accompanist.  Luckily both my comps sing, so they are helpful and aren't bored.

We had a really good devo where we watched Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ".  It was the most amazing  message ever.  Unfortunately, it's only available in the MTC (or through dark magic maybe), but it is in a book called "Act in Doctrine".  I would challenge everybody to read it.

Christ is our perfect example in all things.  One of the most notable characteristics of Christ is that in times of trial, he turned outward, when most of us turn inward.  I hope we all can try to follow his example and deepen our conversion.  I testify that Christ's doctrine is the way to peace.    Don't let anything come between you and God.  Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.

I testify that His gospel is restored.  God knew there would be an apostasy.
Amos 8:11-12 says, "Behold, the days come... that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And (people) shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it".

God honors our agency.  He has promised that nothing will prevail against his church, but he will not destroy our agency - that was his plan.  Every dispensation has ended in large scale apostasy, according to the will of the people.  While God has promised this final dispensation will not end in apostasy, we all have our own agency in personal apostasy.  In the gospel, we are either moving forward or moving backward.  I testify that conversion is not an event, but rather, a lifelong process.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

December 23, 2014 First week in the MTC

Danai was able to visit Johnny the day after he entered the MTC.  Both were set apart missionaries at this time.

Well I guess the whole mission idea is finally here!  It's already been almost a whole week which is crazy.  It's been so busy I haven't even had time to think about anything but studying.

I'm actually in a 'tripanionship' which has been pretty interesting (Elder Hull and Elder Morrison).  It's going to feel so weird once we get to New York to only have one buddy.  It has made it a bit difficult to keep up with the schedule - getting three people places is just harder than two.  One of my companeros had 15 feet of his intestines removed.... let's just say hacemos mucho tiempo en el bano.

Our schedule is opening up a bit now, but the first few days were insane.  From 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. we were running around desperately trying to be on time to all our workshops and such.

To add to it, our zone is in a predicament - the last districts left a week before we got here.  So we have nobody to train us, and the branch presidency doesn't even really know - they've never been missionaries here.  Oh, by the way, tell Uncle Ronnie that President George Stewart says hi.  It was pretty funny - I now play the piano for our branch and President Stewart asked me if I had a Grandpa that played the piano really well.  Apparently they grew up together.

The first day we had dinner at 4:00, which was a little concerning starting around 8:00 later that night.  Now our dinner is at 4:30.... count my blessings!  (thanks for the granola bars mom!)

We've already taught 4 lessons in Spanish!  All I can say is wow.  The first one was the the third day, and at that point we had had maybe two hours to prepare it.  Needless to say, we opened with a prayer.  As fervent as it gets in three-day-old Spanish.  And it went super well.  I pray for the gift of tongues every day and the Lord has blessed me. It's almost weird - I'm actually teaching in Spanish. There is definitely a long way to go with the language, but I have faith I will get there.  I think God has decided to give me other challenges.

The MTC has been amazing.  I look forward to spending the next 5 weeks here (I also look forward to getting to New York).  There is a good spirit here.  A lot of people were giving me their condolences that I was going to be stuck in the MTC for Christmas, but I am really looking forward to it.  The Christmas program will be very good.  Actually, I auditioned to play "O Come, O Come Emanuel".  The wife of the MTC president is an incredible musician (she reminds me of a nicer Mrs. Barnes).  She said she liked it, and I'm waiting to find out if I will play for the Christmas program or a devo the next week.  Also she asked if she could recommend me as an accompanist, so a couple of sisters in my zone saw my name and asked me to play "I Need Thee Every Hour" for their duet.  The arrangement they have is incredible and they are both exceptional singers.  It is a beautiful piece of music.

To all future missionaries: don't forget your running shoes.  No bueno.  I rock my tracting shoes and church socks with gym shorts with the best of 'em, but it's just not the same.  (Thanks again mom for sending my running shoes... my man pride has been restored).

Thank you everybody for the support.  I am so blessed to have so many people at my back.  I know that Jesus Christ is our savior and loves each of us.  I know that through him, our weak things can be made strong.  I testify of that with all my heart.  I know that work is a celestial principle and brings great blessings.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Additional note sent:

For the eyes of only those authorized. Which is anyone, really. Discretion advised.
The MTC has been great.  But it has been curazy.  I was asked to be a district leader, and that has made it seem impossible to do everything we are supposed to.  Like I said, having no previous D.Ls to train us has been hard.

One of the hardest things about it is trying to get all the Elders (and sisters but they aren't nearly as prone) to focus on our purpose.  There are a lot of rules, and it's hard being "the bad guy".  But strict obedience brings miracles.  I believe that.

I have been blessed with great comps but yeah it's hard!  I'm trying to figure out how to get them to speak more Spanish.  We are in the intermediate class and a lot of them are struggling.  Unfortunately in our lessons, if I don't talk, nobody does.  But I know that it needs to be everyone involved or they won't learn.  If I've learned anything here, its that its not about me.  It's about my comps and our investigators.

I love you guys.

Elder Sirrine