Thank you to everyone who sent me letters and dear elders this week! I was so lucky to have something every night! It absolutely makes my day to hear from you! You're the best!
Portuguese is going well! It's amazing how much I've learned in the mere 3 weeks I've been here! This week, Sister Spencer and I started teaching two new "investigators" named Maria and Neomar. Our lesson with Maria went so well! I didn't use any notes, and I was able to effectively communicate everything I want to say. Our lesson with Neomar didn't go as well, but we learned from it, and the next lesson we had with him went really well. I already have been able to memorize the missionary's purpose, the first vision, and James 1:5 in Portuguese. I know that I'm definitely receiving some help from above with that, because I would not normally be able to remember all of that and retain it in that short amount of time! I have two teachers, Irmao (brother) Vanwaggoner and Irmao Gessel. They are both so different, and yet so fantastic! Irmao Vanwaggoner is the absolute sweetest person I've ever met! He is so motiviting, complimentary and reassuring! And I might or might not be one of his favorites :) Irmao Gessel reminds me a little bit of Eric, so for that I love him to pieces! He's extremely intelligent, really funny and very fashion conscious. One of the elders in my district asked him if he got his pants from H&M and he laughed and made very clear that they were from Nordstrom's. He has a very nice leather man bag like Eric. It's pretty adorable. He's awesome, and was clearly a very driven and successful missionary. I love both of the teachers so much, and am learning so much from them!
That being said, a lot of our 16 hour day is self-directed study. Sister Spencer and I have been struggling a little bit with how to use the personal and companionship study time effectively. We would use the time to prepare for our lessons, and practice them, but after we were done with that, we wouldn't be quite sure what to do. Irmao Gessel challenged us to speak half the day only in Portuguese, which is challenging seeing as all of the vocab we were learning was about the gospel. If someone wasn't describing the first vision, or explaining how the word of wisdom can bless us, none of us would talk to eachother for the first half of the day. So Sister Spencer and I set a goal this week to learn 20 new vocabulary words a day of regular non-gospel realted words. Our favorite word of the week is bocheca, which means cheek. Since we've made that goal, we've been able to have more effective study time and be able to have a regular conversation better.
Sister Pennington and Sister Spencer on P (Preparation) Day
Sister Guyn, one of the other sisters in my district, and I doing a vocal duet for either sacrament meeting or relief society. When I say relief society, I hope you know that this relief soceity is the biggest in the world with every single sister at the MTC... We have to audition for the spot to sing at the meeting. I kind of hope we don't get it...I don't sing in front of that many people. Anyways, we're going to take two hymns with the same meters and mix and match the lyrics with the music. We haven't decided which hymns we're going to do; we're going to do that later today. It is kind of fun to sing, though, because it breaks up the day and allows us to do something different.
A couple of funny stories for you...
Because there are approximatly 10 million missionaries here going to Brazil, all of the Portuguese stuff at the bookstore is always sold out. So when they get a new shipment of Portuguese stuff, news spreads on MTC campus like a wildfire and people LITERALLY run to the bookstore. Yesterday, we heard from one of Sister Spencer's friends that there was a new shipment, and we elbowed our way to the front of the line at the bookstore. So now I have hymn books and a pocket sized copies of preach my gospel in Portuguese. It was a very exciting accomplishment.
So, for some reason, the elders in my district think that I'm "wicked smaht". I didn't help my case the other day, however, because one of the elders was asking me how to say a word and he kept saying it wrong. The word is podem which means they can. It is supposed to be pronounced PO-deng with an emphasis on the first syllable because (like in Spanish) the emphasis always goes on the second to last syllable unless there's an accent. (also note that m at the end of a word always makes a ng sound). Anyways, he kept saying po-DENG, and I was trying to help him say it the right way. I made a comment that I felt like Hermionie saying, "it's leviooosa, not leviosaaah". And I've since been nicknamed sister Hermionie.
Everyone is Sister Pennington's district pointing to where they are from.
Also, apparently it's a thing for sisters to hide goodies in their rooms before they leave. I didn't notice this, until one day I noticed that there was a weird yellow looking object in our vent at the top of the wall. We climbed up there, took the vent cover off, and it was peeps. There was an entire loot in there. There were stuffed animals, candy, really nasty looking powder dounuts, and a bunch of other random stuff. It was pretty exciting.
Sister Guyn and Sister Spencer finding the treasure!
Because we're always in such close quarters with eachother for so long, diseases spread very easily. One of the elders got strep throat. He felt better after a day or two, which was good. However, he got one of the other elders sick, and this elder also got the stomach flu. So he was sick with a temperature of 104 for 3 days, and he's finally just getting better. The elders said that their room looks like a hospital room with all of the antibiotics and other medicine. He's finally getting better, and luckily nobody else is sick. I guess that's not so much of a funny story as it is just an illistration of
And now for a spiritual story...
On Sundays, after devotional we get to watch a movie, and they have a couple of different choices. Last week sister spencer and I went to a documentary about historical sites in Navoo, and we didn't find it too interesting so we left and worked on our lesson. This week, however, we went to a recording of David A. Bednar's MTC devotional from a few years ago called "The Character of Christ". I don't know if any of you can find it online to watch/ read it because it was the most amazing talk I've ever listened to [Click here to read the full devotional - added by Christie]. Sister Guyn described it as a mind ninja exercise. I'll try to hit some of the key points in case you can't find it. The basic thesis of this talk was that Christ turns out when the natural man (who he compared to the cookie monster) would turn in. He gave a few examples from the New Testament that were very powerful. He pointed to the place in Matthew 4 where Jesus was being tempted by the devil. After he withstands the tempations of the devil, it says that angels came and ministered unto him. That scripture is translated wrong. If you look at the Joseph Smith translation of that verse, it says that Jesus sent angels to minister unto John, who was in prision at the time. After going through the temptation, Jesus doesn't think of himself or the reward he should get, but rather he turns out and thinks of others. He also pointed to the story of Jesus healing the soldier's ear. I've always thought that that was a great story, but Elder Bednar noted that this occured after Christ's atonement in the Garden where he suffered for the sins of the entire world; the agony of which caused him to bleed from every pore. His own apostle had just betrayed him to the Roman soldiers. And yet, Christ takes the time to heal the completely superficial wound of this Roman soldier, who was about to send him to his crucifixion. At the time of his pain, he turns outward. He mentioned a couple of other examples, and also urged us to study the scriptures to find more. He talked about how developing this character of Christ is how we become fully converted. He notes that we are not converted to this church, but to Jesus Christ. He said that if we become fully converted unto Christ, by emulating the character of Christ, we will never fall away from this gospel. It was a really amazing talk and I hope you can find it.
Anyways, I love you all so much and miss you tons! I think about you every day!