Friday, July 31, 2015

Week One at the Missionary Training Center

Elder Colton and Elder Bauer in their room at the Missionary Training Center in Utah

Elder Colton (in the back with the blue tie) and his district at the Missionary Training Center in Utah


Greetings from the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. I've been here for about a week now and am loving life.

For those who don't have any idea what I'll be doing over the next two years, I'll try to briefly explain. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a world-wide missionary program with about 80,000 full time missionaries around the ages of 18-25. Simply put, our mission is to invite others to come unto Christ. We all start out by going to one of the fifteen or so missionary training centers around the world (The main one is here in Provo) for anywhere from twelve days to nine weeks. If you are going to speak English, you are here for twelve days. If you are learning a "hard" language, such as Japanese, Chinese, or Russian, you are here for nine weeks. Thus, I'll be here for about nine weeks. After I finish "learning Japanese" in nine weeks, I'll head to Fukuoka, Japan where I will spend my days teaching the Gospel of Christ and serving others. Around that time is where my emails will start to get more exciting.

So, my past week. I've been told that the mission can be split up into three phases: the first three days of the MTC, the rest of the MTC, and then the rest of the mission. So far that is accurate. I got here last Wednesday and was immediately sent from building to building to pick up name tags, language books, and other missionary items. It was similar to my first day at West Point during my Cadet Basic Training, except that my first name was "Elder" instead "New Cadet."  And everyone was extremely nice and helpful. By the end of the day, I was sick of hearing, "WELCOME TO THE MTC!!!!"

The next few days were a bit of a blur. I had a lot of Japanese spoken at me, but all I heard was funny sounds. On Sunday, however, things started to make sense. Now, I am used to the schedule, understand about one out of every ten words my teacher says (that's a huge improvement from 0), and actually enjoy being here.

Here is my basic schedule:
0630- wake-up
0635-0730- Workout (volleyball, weight room)
0730-0800- Shower/get ready for the day
0800-0830- Breakfast
0830- 1130- Japanese class with a teacher who only speaks to us in Japanese
1130-1450- Personal study (read scriptures)
1245-1330- Lunch   
1330-1630- Language study and teaching practice. There is a volunteer who we practice teaching lessons to. Our first lesson (all in Japanese) was on our second day!
1630-1730- Companionship study 
1730-1830- Dinner
1830-2130- more language study, personal study, and companionship study
2130-2230-  getting ready for bed
2230- bed time (yes, we get 8 hours of sleep each night. It's a tough life)

Some observations from this week:
1) The MTC is ridiculously clean. Similar to West Point, we are the ones who clean it.
2) My companion is from Australia!!  As missionaries, we have a companion assigned to us who we are with 24/7. Literally, 24/7. I'll be with mine for the duration of my stay at the MTC. Luckily for me, he is the man. Everyone loves him because of his accent, so I see myself as the lame younger brother who just tags along with his cool older brother and his cool friends. Okay, it's not that extreme, but he is actually incredible.
3)  I'm old! Everyone in my district (for you West Pointers, think of it as my squad) is 18 or 19. Probably because I'm the oldest, they decided to put me in charge of the district. (district leader is similar to being a squad leader). Luckily for me, I spent the three weeks before this attempting to train 10 new cadets in order to transition them from civilian to West Point life. While my role now is much less structured, serving as a squad leader prepared me extremely well. I realized I'm pretty good at being a fun killer for all of them.
4) The food here is fantastic. I get unlimited BYU chocolate milk and unlimited food at every meal.

I'll end by sharing a bit about why I decided to serve a mission (I'll try not to sound too preachy). My life has been full of spiritual ups and downs. At times I've doubted the very existence of God. Over the past few years, I've slowly (emphasis on slowly) come to realize how much God has played a role in my life. I now know that Jesus Christ lives and that He loves and cares for all of us. Without family and prior friends here, I've learned to rely on Christ for support. I recommend trying it for those who haven't yet.

Attached are a few pictures: 
The first is of my companion, Elder Bauer, and me.
The second is of my district!

Love you all!

Elder Colton