Friday, August 30, 2013

Man the MTC is so sweet!! It is the coolest thing to be in an environment where you are being edified from the time you wake up all the way till you come back to your room. I have learned so much about teaching, about applying the gospel to our lives and about Portuguese that I can hardly believe my eyes when I look at the calendar and realize it hasn't even been 14 days yet!!

So I mentioned my two companions last week and how they are pretty hilarious dudes (except I'm not allowed to call them dudes or guys because in the words of the MTC President's wife "the guys are the ones back home dating your girlfriend" hahaha she told us that on the first day). Well to be honest I was a little nervous about our companionship working together because they are very alike and at first I had trouble handling their energy and crazy goofy humor but the beginning of last week we hit our stride and were having a BALL! We got along, we were studying well, we were working well together during our lessons, laughing a ton in all of our free time and everything was just cruising. Then on Thursday they both got called down to the front office and we found out that BOTH of their visas had come in at the same time. We had been joking that we were in a "tripanionship" because one of us would get our visas but none of us expected this to happen. So this morning was their departure date and they are already missed. They had kind of become our District Clowns and just had everybody laughing all the time so they have already been missed.

This turn of events means that I will now be joining Elder Moore and Elder Johnson in another companionship of three which will be very fun, they're great guys. One of the other elders that got a visa in our zone this week was one of our Zone Leaders which meant that there would be some mixing up in Zone Leadership. On Sunday our Branch President, President Laney, came to our classroom while we were studying before Sacrament Meeting and asked us three to be the new Zone Leaders. This meant that I am no longer District Leader and so Elder Neeley was asked to be the District Leader puting 4 out of the 5 elders in our district in leadership positions with Elder Fry being the only one left out. It's been a little wild adjusting to all this change, switching rooms, new responsibilities, new companionships, etc. but change leads to growth so I'm excited for the challenge. 

I've already felt a lot of growth at the MTC. The other day I was feeling pretty stressed. I was being pretty hard on myself as District Leader and also about the language. My district hadn't been studying very well during our study times and I was worried that I wasn't doing enough to encourage us to focus on our purpose as missionaries. I also felt stress about the language because with my Spanish background and having listened to many hours of the Book of Mormon audio in Portuguese I actually have a pretty good ear for the language and understand most of what is said but I get frustrated because I was struggling to say anything or it would come out in Spanish. While I was sitting there kind of staring off Elder Johnson came over and just checked up on me to see how I was doing. I was so thankful to be able to just talk it out a bit and realize that I'm doing fine, I'm way ahead of where I'm supposed to be and it's not worth worrying about those things, especially the ones that were out of my control. It was a growing experience because I came out of that and was able to just focus on controlling what I could and not letting other things get to me and it has helped so much the past couple days. 

So there have been some pretty funny things that have happened at the MTC as well the last week, many of them are moments where you had to be there but here are a couple that maybe you can appreciate a little.
So one of the pranks that was happening between the rooms was that Elder Moore would come into my room and turn up our heat all the way so overnight it would get way hot and actually we didn't notice for about two days the first time because we were so dead tired. So this went on mostly very one way for a couple days and then I finally decided to get him back and turn up his heat as we left one morning. The funny part is that they had been unscrewing their vent and putting their soda and milk in the vent to keep it cool. So when we got back that afternoon they had spoiled milk and hot soda :) I got them good. It was even better when one of them decided to toss one of the sodas and it blew up all over Elder Johnson who was the only one who had the guts to catch it because they had shaken it up.

Then the other funny thing was when Irmão Gabriel (our teacher) was practicing possessive pronouns with us and he pointed to one of the Sisters and asked Elder Burton "Ela e sua mai" meaning "Is she your mom" trying to have him practice responding in the negative. Nope. Elder Burton responded "Nao, eu sou SUA mai" which meant "I am YOUR mom." It was pretty funny.

Well I love you all. Always seek after truth and light. Remember that "the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray" so you must "pray always that ye may come of conquerer." (2 Nephi 32:8) I've seen it at the MTC that as I pray I am given added strength to do what I couldn't have done on my own. I want you all to know that the power of prayer is real, God wants to hear from us and he wants to bless us.

You all rock!
~Elder Della-Piana

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bom Tarde!

Man this whole week since I've left home has been one big whirlwind of emotions, inspiration and confusion. I got to say a lot of goodbyes but mostly just see you later. I was a bit worried last week that I would get homesick because I was realizing how much I'll miss all of my good friends and family "in the great state of Maine" (Look up James Taylor's song "Gotta spend just a little more time with you" and there are some lines that sound like they were written for how I felt that week). But once I said goodbye all I felt was excitement for the new opportunity I have ahead of me. I still love you all but I'm so excited to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. 

So the first thing I got to do when I got to Salt Lake before I hit the MTC was a super highlight because I got to go to the Salt Lake Temple with my Grandma Cooley, Aunt Gina and my Grandpa and Grandma Thompson. I was able to perform the endowment for my Great-Uncle Zoof and it was so cool because everything just worked out so perfectly for it to happen and because I had been able to perform his baptism and confirmation as well. Afterwards we were able to seal him for time and all eternity to his Mother and Father in Christ's authorized manner in the Temple of the Lord. It was so cool, I can't wait to see him someday and see how he has accepted the covenants that he has become entitled to through the performance of his Temple Work. 

Then after an open house, some last minute shopping the next morning and a stop for an In'N'Out Burger I finally arrived at the MTC. Grandma and Grandpa dropped me off and I was escorted through an efficient missionary making machine, receiving keys to rooms, name tags, stickers, you name it I got it and came out the other end wearing a nametag with a big orange sticker to say "HEY I'M NEW." All of the missionaries that have been in the MTC think it's the funniest thing to say "welcome to the MTC" to the new missionaries because you hear it so much that you eventually get sick of it and don't even respond. Eventually I caught on and so I started welcoming people to the MTC as well which got quite a few double takes when they saw my tag and realized I was just as new as them. My companions thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Which brings me to my companions. Yes plural, I am in a companionship of three which is very rare and can be awesome and drive you crazy at the same time. Luckily I love both of my companions. Elder Burton and Elder Klingler are both hillarious and even though neither of them are anything like me we get along great. One thing that I have learned about each of them is that they are both very quoteable guys. Which makes every day awesome.

Elder Klingler is having a hard time with portuguese and was getting kind of discouraged. But he had a great moment of strength when he pointed out that at least we're not learning Japanese and we get to use the same alphabet so we need to suck it up and quit acting like a bunch of "wimp-baby-nuthin's" and learn portuguese. He's doing well now. 

Elder Burton had another great quote. At lunch the other day I complained about the pineapple on my teriyaki burger and he instructed me, using a comparison similar to Lehi when he told his son Laman "oh that you would be like unto this river," except Elder Burton said "oh that you were like unto this napkin, forever wiping away the sauces of unrighteousness" - deep. 

I can't believe how fast we are covering material in portuguese! The first time we walked into class we hardly spoke English. We didn't spend much time that day but the next day we studied hard and by that night we taught our first lesson in Portuguese!!!!! It was nuts I couldn't believe I was doing it. Then on our third lesson on Monday I did a lesson that required me to ask questions and respond to his concerns and carry on a conversation and I DID IT!! After four days of study I carried on a choppy conversation in a language that I had previously not known how to say anything!!!The gift of tongues is true! We can receive gifts of the spirit as we seek them (See Moroni 10:8,15-6 - read that whole chapter it is so powerful and strengthening!). 

I have so much more to write but that will have to come next week, I have run out of time allotted for email. Search the scriptures they will edify your soul and lead you to happiness more than any other source you could turn to.

~Elder Della-Piana

PS - There's this great service called Dear Elder that makes it REALLY easy to send letters to me while I'm at the MTC. I'm pretty sure it's free while I'm at the MTC and then cheap when I'm in the field. Look it up and feel free to write, I'd love to hear from all of you