Yesterday my companion and I were the only ones in our district who studied the entire
morning without taking any breaks or even getting off topic once! 6 weeks seems long
but really is only about 560 hours of studying time. That sounds like a lot (it is) but, for
all the things we need and want to learn...it is not enough!! We don't want to waste any
time! We even get up 10 minutes earlier than the other districts every day so that we
can have extra time to plan our days, lessons, set goals, oh...and it is pretty nice to
have the showers to ourselves while everyone else sleeps! ;) That's pretty nice! The
most frustrating thing about the MTC...sleeping...I haven't slept more than 5 hours a
night TOPS since I got here. I am considering testing out the floor tonight, I'm pretty
confident it will be more comfortable than my bed hahaha. Though I'm not sure I trust
the floor either...This morning I left the residence hall with my companions to go grab
some breakfast and I felt something hairy run across the top of my foot and then my
companions screamed and I looked up just in time to see a GIANT rat run between their
legs...Ew...Good thing I got my shots right? The Elders got quite the kick out of it.
Speaking of Elders...We got a new district leader because our old leader (not
mentioning any names...you know who you are) stole a microwave from another
residence hall because theirs was broken and his reasoning behind the crime, "We
were forced to IRON our hot pockets to heat them up....and it didn't even work!!"...oh
boy...well, boys will be boys, even in the MTC I guess.
We like to refer to Sunday meetings here as "The Reaping" (Hunger Games) because it
is the kind of lottery no one wants to win. Everyone is given a topic and we all have to
prepare talks in our mission language and nobody knows who is going to be called to
speak until President Dowling stands up and calls us up. hahaha. Yikes!! I was holding
my breath this Sunday because with my luck, I was sure I would be speaking!
Surprisingly, only elders were called and the 4 hours that I spent writing and translating
my talk for Sunday was all for nothing...Not really!! I learned SOO many new words and
had TONS of practice conjugating verbs so it was great! :))
The other day I was sitting in my classroom planning for a lesson with an investigator
and I stopped to pray for a little extra help in knowing what to teach. The moment I
finished my prayer, the fire alarm went off hahaha, it freaked me out...my answer:
Emergency Preparedness!;) hahah just kidding.
Soeur Hodgman and I went out "tracting" on MTC campus today and we had our first
really embarrassing missionary moment...we were trying to get into a building and some
Elders saw us and so they opened the door for us and said, "Wait, why are you guys
trying to come in here?" and we said with great enthusiasm "We are just trying to find
someone to teach the gospel!" They looked at each other and then back at us and said.
"Oh...Okay..." We continued through the door and I stopped halfway into the hallway
and looked back at the Elders and said, "Wait... is there some reason we shouldn't be
going into this building?" his reply...."Well, it is the Elders dorms."
We got out of there pretty quick. I also thought really quick to flip my name tag around to
reveal my "dork dot" and pulled the "We've only been here since Wednesday" card. I
just failed to clarify "which" Wednesday I was referring to haha. They just stared at us,
which made it about 10 times more awkward than it already was.
To add to the excitement of the day, some of the Elders in our district kept teasing us
because they said that for our Belgium Visas we were going to have to collect a "Stool
Sample". Well, of course we ignored them because they are always trying to mess with
us....until we received a Visa notice later that day...we walked into our appointment and
they handed us a bag, a cup, a spoon, and rubber gloves...Did I mention they also
whipped out a needle? Yeah... we owed the Elders an apology...though I think they felt
more sorry for us than anything because they thought it was just a rumor too. It was a
pretty exciting day. My companion took a picture of me sobbing (literally) in the doctors
office because the needles, the blood, plus the paper bag was just TOO MUCH to
handle. The best part is, I am in a trio companionship and only Soeur Hodgman and I
needed to be tested but all three of us had to be in the room together because we
couldn't be alone... talk about breaking the ice!! Then we had to walk through the
building, up the stairs to the Lab, HOLDING our paper bags... which of course
EVERYONE knew what it was... talk about humiliating...don't worry, we got a picture.
That's enough about that... I am so sorry you all had to read that. Although I knew my
sister-in-law would get a kick out of it (Sidney, you're welcome).
Speaking of tears... I was attacked by a giant gorilla spider that looked like a furry black
widow today... Okay, it just jumped on my book while I was studying outside and it was
only about the size of a dime. But still terrifying! Soeur Hodgman booked it and I quickly
followed, scrambling away from the table, leaving all my books as an offering of peace
to the spider. We stared at the spider for about five minutes as it guarded my book.
Finally, some elders passed by and took care of it for us, thank heavens for those
braves Elders! My book is safe and sound! But, I still feel like things are crawling all over
Yesterday my companions and I were trying to catch up with the other sisters in our
district and I lost my shoe as I was running up the cafeteria stairs. One of the Elders
behind me picked it up and brought it to me, I am now known as "Cinderella" here at the
MTC, as that is the third time I have lost my shoe on the move. hahaha.
I know this has been a very goofy email, I hope you all got a good laugh out of it. But,
before I wrap things up I want you all to know how grateful I am for the opportunity to be
here in the MTC. It is such a special place. I started reading the Book of Mormon again
yesterday for the third time since I received my mission call and my love for it grows
every time I read it. I was reading in the introduction yesterday and there is a promise in
one of the last paragraphs that as you read the Book of Mormon and pray to know of its
truthfulness, you will not only gain a testimony of its truth by the power of the Holy Spirit;
but, you will also know, by the same power, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world
and that he will come again. This promise is for everyone.
I have sooo much more to write but I just don't have enough time... :( So, I hope you all
have a wonderful wonderful week! I love you all!!!
Love, Soeur Wyson
Family!! (and friends, and all you lovelies reading this)
Holy smokes!! The past 5 days have been the best and the worst. I thought I was off to a really great start, you know...not crying and all...but, then I got into my classroom and realized--I am the only one in my entire district who has had less than 4-6 YEARS of French! Yikes. But, I kept my head up and immediately started writing down all the words that came out of my teachers mouth that I didn't understand...aka:everything, haha! Oh, and I prayed A LOT. I am sure my companions are already sick of me asking them to translate everything I see, hear, or say, into French...But hey, I'm trying to learn! My companions names are Soeur Hodgman and Soeur Landavery. There are three of us because Soeur Landavery is speaking Creole in New York and she is a solo missionary here in the MTC. But hey, I'm not complaining, I get TWO companions...pretty sweet right?;) Soeur Hodgman and I are both going to Paris and she is an angel. She is the most on task, obedient person I have ever met...Soeur Landavery is adorable too! We make a great trio!
I'm not sure how I should format this letter because I have soooooo much to tell you about this week. So excuse any grammatical errors that you may (will) find in this email, I am just trying to write really really fast because I hardly have any time today! We had a little incident with the printer/computer today so the President is allowing me a little extra time to write now since I wasn't able to do so this morning.
In the five days that I have been in the MTC I have felt just about every emotion possible. It is definitely "trying" but it is such a beautiful learning and growing experience that I know I will treasure forever!On the first day of the MTC the MTC President's wife shared something that really resonated with me and I wanted to share it with you today... "There is little growth in a comfort zone, and there is no comfort zone in growth." As I am working and praying to learn this language and teach lessons, there have been times when I have felt prompted to say something but I was afraid to speak up in front of so many people (totally not like me!). But, the times that I have listened to that prompting and spoken even when I wasn't necessarily comfortable have allowed me to grow and feel the spirit in ways that I wouldn't have been able to, had I not stepped out of my comfort zone. Same goes for learning the language!
When I first got to the MTC I was surprised with how much we are taught in English, I imagined it was going to bee 100% French from the moment I walked in. But, I have since learned that the gift of tongues applies to everyone, whether we will be teaching in our native language, or learning a foreign language, we all need to learn "The language of the Spirit". This has truly saved me as I learn French because I know that as long as I keep working hard and being obedient, I will be able to speak and teach by the spirit and whether I am speaking in English or French, the Lord will help me to know what to say and how to say it through the gift of the Holy Ghost.
My Soeurs and I are the only sisters who aren't lined up every night in the residence hall waiting by the vending machines for popcorn....we have decided to reverse the status-quo and refrain from gaining weight in the MTC. Honestly, it's really not too difficult if you really immerse yourself in your studies. You really don't even have time to think about food, even during meals! We have to eat so fast to get done in time for our lessons, I have eaten a salad for every single meal so far hahaha. That sounds uber-gross, but they have AMAZING salads, and they have a different salad at every meal. I haven't had the same one twice yet! My favorite so far is the feta cheese, cranberry, chicken, and candied almond spinach salad... YUMMMMM!
The second morning I was in the MTC I decided to wake up 10 minutes earlier than mon soeurs because I wanted to have a little extra time to study the language. It is amazing how much you can learn in just a matter of a few days in the MTC! It is extremely stressful and the first few days I couldn't understand ANYTHING! I have wanted to cry quite a few times... but I haven't ;) ...Day 3 of the MTC was the worst, so I won't talk about it much haha but to say the least... learning a language is hard, conjugations suck, and I have a new respect for missionaries here in the MTC!... Day 5 (yesterday) was TOTALLY AWESOME! I studied conjugations all day and it finally clicked! Since then I am able to teach full lessons in the language and carry on full conversations with my companions, and I understand "most" everything in class. THE GIFT OF TONGUES...plus lots and lots and lots of prayer and studying! I prayed a lot before the MTC but holy smokes, nothing comes close to the number, length, and sincerity of prayers now... We need all the help we can get!
I left my "Dork Dot" on for like two days after getting to the MTC (bright orange dot on name tag so people know you're new) because I keep getting lost! Your dork dot is basically a free friendship pass with anyone here because you're new and everyone is so eager to help when they see that baby, and I need all the help I can get! hahaha. Plus the nice "Welcome to the MTC!" whenever I thought my brain was going to explode never hurt ;).
My companion Soeur Hodgman and I have taught 3 lessons in French now and our 4th will be on Wednesday! The women we are teaching is Camille and I had a really hard time understanding her French the first lesson because she speaks really fast! She assumed I was fluent because my companion pretty much is and so she spoke extra fast. But, since then it has been a lot better! Now we am able to understand most of what she says and we can teach and share experiences with no notes! After the first lesson our teacher Frere Adams said that we wouldn't be able to use notes once we got closer to the end of our time in the MTC, so we figured we might as well start early and learn to teach by the spirit first! It has gone really really well and I love teaching!...and I LOVE speaking French! My companion and I speak in French most of time because we love it so much and we really want to do everything we can to improve. We have also been reading the Book of Mormon in French, which is awesome but super hard! Haha! It took us 2 hours to read the Introduction and the Testimony of Joseph Smith...But--we learned so many new words! Plus, we got a good laugh as we stumbled through pronunciation of the most bizarre words!
I have soooo much more to write but I only have 5 more minutes and I wanted to send some pictures so I will have to write it next week.... I LOVE you all SO much! I miss you and hope that you are all loving life and that you all know you have a loving Father in Heaven<3 Being a missionary is very trying but I know that "This is the place!"...where I am suppose to be ;) Being a missionary is the greatest! (can you tell I have some mixed feelings?... we all do!...IT'S THE BEST!) I can't wait to tell you more! Au Revoir, Bisous!!
A few days prior to receiving my mission call, I had the most bizarre dream... I stood before my family and friends preparing to open the letter that would tell me where I would be spending the next 18 months of my life. I gently, but impatiently, slid the letter out of the packaging and it read:
Dear Sister Wyson,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Spirit Prison Mission...
and at the moment I read it, I dropped down dead...So...you can imagine my extreme relief when I opened my call and read France, Paris mission! I am honored to be called to serve the people of France whom I already love so dearly.
For Millennia, people have been finding ways to keep some record of their lives. In fact, one of the key characteristics of a civilization was defined by the peoples' ability to write and keep records. Each civilization developed their own system of writing: Ancient Mesopotamian people dug up clay and devised styluses, the Chinese of the Shang Dynasty used bones or turtle shells, Egyptian slaves carved hieroglyphics into stone, the prophets of old kept hand-written records of their lives in books we know as the scriptures, and my Grandpa Wyson who I never had the chance to know, in addition to writing his life history, left behind a wonderful book of poetry.
My grandpa Wyson died before I was born. I have often felt sad about the fact that I never got to know him. I have heard so many fascinating stories about him, yet the most fascinating however, is the one he wrote himself. The earliest memories of my grandfathers life began with him hiding behind a stove at the age of five, watching his mother being carried away on a stretcher. He was then dropped off at a catholic orphanage where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.
Are you familiar with all those stories circulating around Christmas time of the little children in the orphanage receiving an orange, and how it was their only gift and still it was the greatest treasure in the world to them? I am here to tell you that those stories are true. I know first hand, because my grandfather wrote about it in his life history. He was the recipient of that orange, and yes... being an orphan on Christmas... that orange was indeed the greatest treasure in the world.
All those lonely years living in an orphanage led my Grandfather on a personal quest to find God, and to find His church on the earth.
As I study my grandfathers writings, I am able to feel a strong connection with a grandfather I never had the chance to know in this life. Though he is not here with me, the knowledge I have gained by studying the record of his life, and his search for truth, is priceless. It has allowed me to build a relationship with him, even though he is not here with me. I know that this is knowledge and a relationship that I will be able to carry with me into the next life. So that when I see my grandpa, I will know him. Without his journal, the vast knowledge and wisdom he gained in his life, would have been mostly lost at his death. What a shame that would have been.
The Lord commanded the prophets of old to keep a record of their lives. 1 Nephi 19:1 "And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them, the record of my people..." The records they kept served many purposes. First, they helped them to remember the experiences of their own lives. It allowed them to use those experiences to teach their children and others. What a blessing it is to be able to learn from the experiences of others. It is so much better than having to suffer the same mistakes ourselves. Moroni wrote, "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." Countless are the faithful saints in these days who have learned from Moroni and others, and in many ways, avoided making some of the same mistakes his people made.
My family has regular family lessons, both on family night and otherwise. For the most part these lessons revolve around a story from scripture - which really are just the personal journals of the prophets of old. I have found that my own writings in my personal journal, as well as the writing of my own ancestors, such as my Grandpa Wyson, have been to me in many ways, personal scripture. They have taught me lessons, helped me feel comfort when I was sad, and given me courage to face the trials of life.
There have been times in my life when I have felt lonely. Like many teenagers, there have been times when I have felt like I didn't have any friends. The following passage from my Grandfathers journal describing his arrival at the orphanage has had a profound impact on me regarding these times of loneliness--he writes,
"I remember distinctly my first view of St. Francis orphanage and walking up the steps to the main entrance. Although, at the time, I couldn't identify the empty feelings I was experiencing, in later years I recognized them as feelings of loneliness and abandonment. I have since reflected that I felt the same as a dog would feel when being taken to the pound. The extreme loneliness was always there and no amount of activity could substitute for the knowledge that someone belongs to you or that you belong to someone. The gnawing pain that began on the orphanage steps would never leave, and was particularly pronounced on Sunday which was visitor’s day at the Home. I would sit with other boys,waiting, hoping, for someone to visit me. I would watch the cars come up the long driveway hoping the next car would carry a visitor for me, but they never came."
I cannot read those words without getting emotional. I cannot read them without feeling grateful for the wonderful life my Father in Heaven has blessed me with. I find similar comfort in the writings of the prophets...
Who, in times of great challenge, has not been inspired by the Book of Mormon story of the sons of Helaman? Who cannot sometimes empathize with young Nephi when his brothers are constantly picking on him? Who can read the story of Ammon fighting off the thieves at the waters of Sebus, and not feel that there is a God in heaven who has the power to protect and care for His children? From beginning to end, the scriptures, those wonderful journals faithfully kept by the prophets of old, give us strength, hope, comfort and wisdom. They remind us who we are and what we are capable of. And they offer the assurance of a kind and loving Father in Heaven, and the testimony of Jesus Christ and His atonement for us.
As the Lord commanded the saints of old to keep records for future generations, He has asked us to do the same. Luckily, keeping a journal in the 21st century doesn't require as much physical work as it did centuries ago when the prophets carved each letter into metal plates. The Lord also commands that we study the records of those who came before us so that we might gain an understanding of our history and come to know him through reading the scriptures that he has provided for us. Through daily use of scripture, we will not only bless our own lives but also show gratitude to those who have gone before who have left their story behind for us to benefit from.
Likewise, we all have a story. We face our own challenges and climb our own mountains. Preserving the stories of our successes-- and yes, sometimes our failures that we have learned from, will bless our own lives in the years to come and the lives of our children and grandchildren who come after us. We are a record keeping people, and for good reason: because as the scripture says, it is out of the records that we will be judged - and furthermore - it is from the records that we can learn many wonderful truths to help us through this often difficult life.
I am excited to go on this mission to France, but I have no illusions about the challenge it will be. The French people are good people, but their lives and beliefs are steeped in centuries of tradition. I know I will experience frustration as I try to share the gospel that is so dear to me, often with people who will have no interest in listening. I will have to live with companions I do not know and have not chosen. I will eat food that is foreign and not always cooked by someone as skilled as my wonderful mother. At times I know I will be tired, discouraged and rejected. But I know if I keep my scriptures close, and the Lord closer, my mission will be the greatest experience thus far in my life.
I am thankful to those who have gone before me and left behind the records of their struggles, and how they have overcome them. I am thankful also to my Grandpa for his wonderful writings that inspire me to be better, as he went through so much to open the way for the life I enjoy today. One of my favorite of his poems goes as follows:
Easy to Forget
When the day is long,
When things go wrong,
I fall down on my knees.
I plead with God
To spare the rod
And minimize the squeeze.
When my burden's light,
When things go right,
When I win on every bet,
When I need no aid,
When I've got it made,
God's so easy to forget.
In time of sorrow
I always borrow
Something from God above.
In financial stress
I must confess,
I need God and His love.
He changes my luck,
Disaster I duck,
Then, when I'm out of debt,
There's no more need
My prayers I quickly forget.
Lord, make my day long,
Make things go wrong,
Make me worry and fret.
Give me a loss,
Hand me a cross,
When life's easy, I forget.
-Ulebwise (Joseph Wyson)
My grandfather faced many trials but had faith that the Lord was with him and that the trials would bring him closer to his heavenly home. I look forward to the many great experiences of serving a mission. I am also prepared that sometimes things will not always go as I would like, and when that happens, I will gain strength and comfort from those who have left behind records of similar challenges they have faced. I am also committed to keeping my own journal faithfully so the lessons I learn will not be lost to my own Children and grandchildren.
Brothers and sisters, through my own personal conversion I have come to know of the truthfulness of this gospel. I know without a doubt that the Lord restored the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to the Earth through Joseph Smith so that it would never again be lost. I have a testimony of the power of the priesthood and I know that without it, we would not be able to fulfill God's plan for us. I know that only through Christ's Atoning Sacrifice are we able to be forgiven for our sins, through sincere repentance, and receive the eternal blessings of living in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. I testify to you that the Lord loves each and every one of us with a greater love than any mortal mind could comprehend. He is calling out to us with open arms to come unto him so that he can bless us, and we can be perfected in him. I pray that we will heed his call.
I say these things, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
Jesus Christ est le fils de Dieu. Je sais que cette eglise est vrai. Pour ma part, j'ai appris que le livre de Mormon est vrai. Je sais que mon Sauveur vit. Et que par son expiation, nous peuvent etre pardonnes de nos peches et ait la vie eternelle. Au nom de Jesus Christ, amen.
I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the France, Paris Mission.