Friday, January 29, 2016

Week Four

This will probably be a fairly short email since there is not a whole lot different this week from last week. Still teaching investigators, and although there haven't really been any stand out moments, lessons have been going really well because this last Tuesday we got some incredible one on one feedback from our teacher on how we can teach better, focus more on the person, and make the lesson more personal to fit them by asking questions.

We did have a couple really cool devotionals though, and I really appreciated the point that one of the speakers made about missions and how they affect you personally. He spoke about how right out of the house is when people tend to be the most self indulgent, and spend their time seeking after pleasures, which are good feelings that don't really last such as big money experiences ($500 sky-diving trip), drinking, one-night stands, etc, and try to find themselves that way. When you serve a mission however, you are leaving behind everything in your life to focus outward on other people, and get good feelings that last from helping other people change for the better and helping make a positive difference in their lives. I know I personally wouldn't mind going on a $500 sky-diving trip, but it was really cool how he made the point that you really find yourself and who you truly are when you focus outward instead of on yourself, which I feel partially applied to me this last summer at summer camp as well when all my time was spent focused on the kids I was in charge of, and that was one of the best summers I have ever had.

Other than that however, I now only have one more P-day in the MTC (besides today) before I hit the actual mission field, and it is a crazy thought. Ten days from now, I will be leaving the country for two whole years and it blows my mind. I don't have the flight/travel plans yet but we are supposed to be getting them in the next couple of days and so I should hopefully be able to fill everyone in next week on the details.

I'll throw in some pictures we got on our temple walk this last Sunday though: On our way back we went around kicking trees to make the snow fall off of them so that we could get some awesome pictures. Someone also got a picture of us walking from behind and we decided to throw a filter on it and call it our album cover for D29D (District 29 D, our district) and the name of the album would be "Kicking Arboles" (arbol is tree in spanish). Good times. We were all also super stoked that the street light was yellow in the picture instead of red or green, so I guess it's the small things you get enjoyment out of once you've been in the MTC for 5 weeks. The last picture is a picture from the stairwell right outside of our classroom as well of the mountains in the distance. Argentina will definitely be a lot different haha. Anywho, I will talk to everyone next week!

Love, Elder McCollum

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Week Three

So this has been a pretty interesting week so far I suppose. Remember how I was super excited to teach Victor? Well we got a new investigator instead, so we only ever got those two lessons with him and now we are teaching Marcos, who is really cool too but super receptive as well so the lessons with Victor were way more intense. Spanish is coming easier and easier, which is super awesome, and it helps a lot with teaching. The best parts of the week so far however have been devotionals. We have two of them a week and this last Sunday Janice Kapp Perry spoke (writer and composer of some of the best/most popular primary songs as well as a couple hymns) and her husband was there as well, who was beyond hilarious and even kissed her right up there on the stand when she told the story of how they first met. Apparently his first words ever to her as she was getting up for a clarinet recital (they had been in the same class all semester) were, "Those lips look like they were meant for something better than playing the clarinet." As she was speaking later she said that she knew him like a book, but she didn't always know what page he was on. They were like the picturesque old couple that everyone wants to be and it was adorable. We had a member of the first quorum of the seventy speak this last Tuesday at devotional as well, which was pretty cool, but this Wednesday we also had the first ever missionary conference. They broadcast some members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles going over teaching skills with missionaries, as well as a message from Dallin H. Oaks to all of the MTCs around the world at the same time. Speaking of members of the Quorum of the Seventy, we had an area seventy from Mexico visit our sacrament meeting and sit in and share his thoughts during our priesthood lesson as well (of which consisted only of the seven Elders in our district and a counselor of the branch presidency), which was a really cool experience. One of my favorite teaching tools this week however have been videos (thanks to my iPad), the two of which I used the most are:


A couple of Mormon messages that I really enjoyed a lot too, especially the first one, but haven't used in lessons are:


I can't really think of anything else too crazy exciting to share though -  I am still at the MTC so not a whole lot really changes from week to week but this last Wednesday marked the halfway point of my MTC stay and so I've only got about 2.5 weeks left until Argentina, which is awesome! :D

I've also attached a couple pictures from my district's temple walk this last Sunday, where we took a "roller coaster" selfie as well as just another goofy selfie. After three weeks here, pretty much anything amuses us haha.

Hope all is well with everyone!

Elder McCollum

p.s. the two guys farthest to the right in the second picture are not in our district, though they are in our zone. They were photobombing us. Also, Hermana Henrie and Elder Williams are not in either picture, so it was only 7/9 people in our district. 10/10 good photos though.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Week Two

Okay, so this week has been crazy but sorry if it's a bit incoherent at times; Stuff might be out of order and my thoughts might be a bit jumbled.

I can start on Saturday though: We got a new investigator (really just our instructor posing as her favorite investigator from her mission so that we could get some feedback) but the person she is posing as is really shy and soft-spoken so it can be really hard to teach her. The following day (Sunday) was the last day for the other two districts in our zone (they were leaving the MTC on Monday and Tuesday) so it was a really emotional day for them, but also really spiritual. We watched a video on Joseph Smith's life/history and the restoration of the church and it was an insanely good video and incredibly spiritual, it was awesome.

Monday we had to start the day with 75 minutes of service, and so my companion and I cleaned all the mirrors and mirror sills/shelves in an entire building (4 floors, two community bathrooms on each floor), followed by cleaning toilets in all the bathrooms, taking out trash in all the bathrooms, and vacuuming the entire first floor. That night we got another new investigator named Victor. I had heard tons of things about how hard Victor was to teach from other people before (and I think he might be an actual member at this point, but posing as his former self) and so our first lesson we talked about god a lot and a little about Christ. He then threw us the ultimate question of any Christian religion, but first a little background—he’s  agnostic but believes in a higher being and studies religion in school and has read the entire Bible, as well as religious books of other religions and saw Christ as a good person/central to his own religion like Buddha or Mohammed, but not as a savior. He saw religion as a way to worship that higher being based on where you were culturally and not as their being one true religion. The question that he asked us then was why we needed a savior if other religions didn't, and especially in the context of if god was our loving heavenly father then why could he not simply forgive us when we repent without a savior. We told him we weren't sure but we'd look into it for the next lesson but in general, that first lesson was the best lesson I'd had up until that point and the lesson where I could feel the spirit of god the most.

We found our answer in Alma 42 of the Book of Mormon; in that the eternal law of justice still had to be served, else god would cease to be god (be less than perfect by breaking his own law) and so through the mercy of Christ and his atonement justice can still be served but we can still return to him. We taught him that in the next lesson on Wednesday (though more elaborately and with stories/parables to help expound the concept that I don't have time to write right now) but there were points where he would just reread to himself over and over and there would just be silence for a minute and a half and he wouldn't even know what to say. Eventually he said that it not only made logical sense to him, but he could feel that it was true. Spiritually, it was way more powerful than even the previous lesson. We'll be teaching him tonight again and I'm really looking forward to it.

The Tuesday of that week we had one of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles come speak to us (Neil L. Anderson) for devotional and I sung in the MTC choir as well (which has an awesome director/teacher btw, but more on that next week). On Wednesday, as well as our lesson with Victor, our District got to be the hosts for all the new missionaries arriving, which was a lot of fun and a great way to get out of class and stretch for a bit - and some of the new missionaries that arrived were our two new districts so we have a full zone again. I haven't had that much time to get to know them yet but they seem like they'll be alright.

Last bit of exciting news is that our district gets to use iPads as a teaching resource (access to the entire Gospel Library, as well as videos and many other helpful materials) as a test to see if they want to make them more widespread adopted in the MTC in general, and so we finally got those this morning. That means that on P-days as well I can get emails throughout the day (but still only on P-days) but it will be interesting to see how it goes. I probably won't use mine that much because it's not going to be a resource that I'll have on my mission and I don't want to get to used to it for that reason, but I think that that pretty much sums it up for this week. Sorry everyone for no pictures, but I'll try and have some for next week.

Hasta Luego,
Elder McCollum

p.s. If you sent a Dear Elder, I have gotten it so the site does work. It's always fun to get mail during the week so thanks to those that did!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Week One

So, I guess I can start at the beginning - in the MTC missionaries are split up into districts, which are the people that you will be spending the next six weeks with essentially in all your classes, gym time, etc. My district has nine people including myself (7 Elders and 2 Hermanas), and almost all of us are going to Argentina:

Elder McCollum (myself, obviously): Argentina Buenos Aires West Mission
Elder Casablanca (my companion): Argentina Buenos Aires East Mission
Elder Rawle (rooming in the same dorm): Argentina Mendoza Mission
Elder Williams (companion to Elder Rawle, same dorm): Argentina Mendoza Mission
     The next three are in a trio and share a room together:
Elder Littlefield (district leader): Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia Mission (just above Antarctica)
Elder Clarke: San Bernadino California Mission
Elder Sueldo: Bolivia Cahabama Mission
Hermana Henrie: Argentina Mendoza Mission
Hermana Ramirez: Argentina Cordova Mission

Sister Ramirez, Sister Henrie, Elder Williams, Elder Rawle, Elder Sueldo, Elder Clarke, Elder Littlefield, Elder McCollum, and Elder Casablanca
We all get along really well and have a great time together, which is a good thing since we have to spend 9-11 hours together each day haha. My companion also cracks me up; he's from Florida and since he is not used to the cold weather at all he wears multiple layers of thermals, a sweater, and a heavy coat each day despite as well as hardcore winter boots despite the fact we're inside most of the day while I wear just a sweater and regular dress shoes, but I guess going to school in Provo for a year and a half gets you used to the weather. The Spanish is going really well as well; we had to start teaching investigators in nothing but Spanish on just the second day and by this point (day 10) I have already had to teach two investigators a total of 7+ lessons so far. It's really getting to the point where I feel like I'm teaching with the spirit though as I'm starting to be able to create parables on the spot in Spanish to help teach a gospel concept or pull out scripture references that I didn't even know I knew and its really awesome. A point that they really drilled into us as well is that we are teaching people and not lessons (you really have to take interest in and care for the people and not just spit out information at them), and also our missionary purpose to: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." and that we are to do just that; we want to convert people to Christ and not just to our church, and that baptism rate isn't as important as building up people's personal connection and faith, as baptism will then follow naturally.
This is Squaw peak, which is the same mountain that Matt opened his call at the very top of--at the very point!

Other than that there hasn't been too much that has been too crazy; the hour of gym time that we get each week is a godsend (no pun intended) and they just reset the records and so by the time I leave the MTC I want to try and set a sub 5 minute mile to get put up on the board (in peak shape, I could get a 5:30 in the middle of a 10K, I just need to get my cardio back in better shape). Our Zone (combination of 3 districts) has also been chosen to test out using iPads as a teaching resource in the MTC so that we can pull up talks and gospel videos as well as using the scriptures and lesson books that we already have and my district will be getting them tomorrow (you have to be there for ~2 weeks before they give them to you). The other two districts in the zone already have them but they are all leaving (mostly to Argentina as well) on Monday and so this next Wednesday we will be getting 10 new elders and 8 new sisters (mixed together in two districts) into our zone and our district gets to be hosts to help new missionaries arrive, so that will be a whole lot of fun. 

Missionary Matt at the airport before he had his name tag.

Dad and Matt at the airport on his way to the MTC.

Mom and Matt at the airport on his way to the MTC.

Matt and Tyler on the way to the MTC.