Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elder Degen's e-mail dated 8/26/14

Wow, it feels so good to email everyone again! I look forward to your emails so much. Yes, the MTC is very hard and very tiring! We wake up very early (5:30 because all the african elders think they need to iron their shirts and shine their shoes for an hour...) and go to bed at 10:30 (More like midnight because the african elders need to study..) So yes, it is very taxing and tiring! I'll run you through a typical day here.. Wake up, personal study in our class rooms from 7 to 8, breakfast (usually bread, pinapple and a hard boiled egg), 3 hours of classes and then a break for lunch at 12 (Rice, chicken and coleslaw). After lunch we have 3 more hours of classes until we have physical activity at 4 or so. Dinner is at 5 (Rice, chicken, coleslaw), folllowed by our final 3 hours of classes. On top of all that, we're all still jet lagged. As you can tell, it's not very fun, but it sure keeps me busy! Let me tell you this; saturday was the hardesy day of my life. My companion, Elder Day (He was at the airport, from Delta Utah, cowboy, kind of reminds me of a Blonde-haired Landon Smith), has been really struggling here in the MTC and was really bringing me down the first few days. It was extremely hard to remain positive amidst all the negativity. The days seemed to drag on, and by Sunday it felt like I had been here for weeks. Many Elders were considering going home, mainly the American ones. It is such a huge transition that it shocked a lot of us. Yesterday, a stress management teacher came and met with 3 or 4 really bad americans. I tried as hard as I could to fight the feelings of homesickness, but it was no use. I missed everyone back home and was starting to wonder if going home was an option. Then everything changed Sunday afternoon. I have been praying more than I ever have in my life and I was finally given peace and comfort in one moment. I realized that I left everything and everyone I've ever cared about back at home, and that I chose to be out here. What better teaching tool than love? I left all of that behind for 2 years to share the restored gospel with these amazing people; and it took a lot of faith, love and trust. That is a powerful thought that came to me. Instead of forgetting those that I love back home (which many missionaries here try to do), I have decided to do the opposite; think about them all the time and use it to teach. What a difference it makes! My eyes were opened and I was finally able to feel the spirit. Things have been much better since then and time seems to go by much faster now, I'm already a week into my mission and halfway done with the MTC. We got to go to the temple today which was an amazing experience.
Enough about me... How has your week been? Tell Josh Happy Birthday!! I'm sending something home with the sister that took my picture for facebook, it's for everyone though (Sorry Josh). I honestly dont have much time to write letters or do anything, I'm doing things all the time! Before I forget, thank you so much for telling me about your visits with Missy, you have no idea how much they mean to me. I worry about her everyday! I'm sorry that I have to go already, I'm trying to upload some pictures before I go. I'm still working on my sign off phrase, don't worry, it will be good:)
Last thing... I cannot tell you have amazing these African elders are. They are so knowledgable of the gospel that it puts the American missionaries to shame. I thought I was prepared for a mission until I met these Elders. They can recite scriptures from memory, teach lessons like it's nothing, and talk to anyone. I have learned so much from them that I feel inadequte at times. Many of them have been converts for less than 5 years and have served as branch missionaries before. They love the gospel and would do anything for it. At first I thought it was because they had nothing better to do, but they are very busy people and make time for the gospel in their lives. As someone who grew up in the church, It makes me sad I didn't take more advantage of it.
I love all of you and look forward to your emails next week! I'm so sorry if i wasnt able to email some of you back, they are very unprediatcble on the amount of time we get to email and when we get to.
Love, Elder Degen

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