Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 8: MTC Wrap-Up

Hello world,

So I'd like to start this email with a few matters of business and announcements:
-I leave THIS TUESDAY OCTOBER 1 for Kiev! Not that I'm absurdly excited or anything. That means that this is my last email in the MTC, and that you won't hear for me from the next 12 days, until my 1st Monday P-day in the field. (Sorry Judy!)
-My last day to receive letters/dear elders/packages at the MTC is Sept. 29, so everything has to come by then! Dear elder still works in the field, but not very well. So it's better to use mail or the church's pouch mail or email (Judy can give you all this information if you so desire it.)
-Everyone log onto LDS.org on Saturday night at 6:00 to watch the Relief Society General Broadcast. Specifically, the choir in the RSGB. There may be a certain Cectpa you know wearing jewel-toned blouse and a Russian name tag in the choir. You know. 

Alright, that's all the business I have (I think). Since it's my last MTC email, I think I'm going to do something a little bit different today. I hope that's okay with everyone. Instead of telling you what happened this week, I'm going to write about what I've learned during my time here. If I've already written about these things, forgive me, I kinda just decided to do this. There really aren't the beautiful or profound or earth-shattering things that I read or heard spoken. These are the things - the thoughts and beliefs and knowledges - that have sunk into a little MTC-shaped space in my heart. I hope this doesn't get to preachy. But in no particular order, here we go:

1. His hand is in my life.
For years, I have been known to say, "I don't know why, but the universe just favors me." Throughout my life, inexplicably and consistently, things have worked out for me. Whether it is the most wonderful people who have walked into my life, or good things (that I clearly didn't deserve) happening to me, or success coming or problems fixing themselves for me, things just work out for me. I realize how abstract that sounds, but even during the times of intense doubt in my life, I have had faith that the universe would be kind to me. 
Well, as my faith has grown, I have come to see this a little differently. Now, it's not so much that "the universe favors me" as that "my Heavenly Father loves me and has a hand in my life." An enormous hand, whose trace I can clearly see as I look at my life. The universe doesn't just favor me; my God loves me. I know I can rely on that love. 
This has completely changed my relationship to prayer. When I ask for something, or tell him I need something, or say I need help, I know it will come if it is in any way, even a petty way, the right thing for me. It's not that I think I can demand a laundry list of blessings and get them. It's that I have complete faith in His involvement in my life. I cannot look at my life without seeing His presence blessing me at every turn and I cannot offer a prayer without knowing that His answer will be the one that blesses me the most. I feel like I cannot even slightly adequately express how intensely I know He will take care of me. I rely on that belief as much as I rely on anything as a missionary.

2. Love is more important than lipstick.
There isn't necessarily a good way for me to tell this story, so I'll just tell it how it is.
My first Sunday (as every sisters' first Sunday), I went to New Sisters' Orientation, in which they discuss the dress and grooming standards for sister missionaries. The woman who let this meeting is a "higher up" at the MTC. And the meeting was pretty superficial (because dress and grooming standards usually are), but it got the job done. The most notable part of this meeting was the 2 or 3 minutes spend emphasizing the importance of lipstick because it helps people focus on your smile so you look more inviting so they're more likely to talk to you. It was sort of weird, but mostly just funny emphasis on the old-school value of lipstick.
So I didn't really think much about the lipstick until several weeks later when I found my companion and I having dinner in the cafeteria with this woman and her husband. And it was one of the most uncomfortable dinners I had at the MTC. This woman was so cold and so formal. It literally felt like I was letting her down - like she thought I was a failure as a missionary - because my details - lipstick and posture and formal, dignified language - weren't up to her standards. My companion asked her, "so what's your favorite part of serving at the MTC?" This woman responded "Oh, the missionaries." But it sounded so flat and heartless and empty I wanted to ask, "you sure?"
So I thought a lot about this woman. And I know that I've painted her in a very bad light and that's really not fair of me because I don't know her really at all. But, based on those 2 short interactions I had with her, she taught me something important: love is more important than lipstick. We frequently say that the most important thing a missionary can do is love, but this woman taught me more. She taught me that without love, all that other missionary stuff - lipstick and language study and obedience and wearing the tag - is completely useless. Being a representative of Jesus Christ is first and foremost about loving. Jesus was about love. So while all of that other stuff matters, it doesn't compare. No one care about how nice you look or about how on time you are if you don't love them. But if you do love them, it makes all the difference. As Elder Holland said, "If you can love them today, maybe you can teach them tomorrow." So on those days when I get bogged down in the details or the language or anything else, I take a moment and remind myself: love will always be more important than lipstick."

3. I have a voice.
This is something that I've been told a couple times in my life, usually by writing teachers, And I know this doesn't really seem like something I needed to learn - we all know I'm obnoxiously outspoken already - but it turns out it actually was. What I've learned is that having a voice is not about being different. I used to feel like having a voice meant being outspokenly different - not agreeing with certain things in the church, being a crazy-what-have-you liberal, going to a fancy liberal arts college and studying  completely useless, highly interesting things. And all those things still matter to me and are still part of who I am. But they neither comprise my identity nor characterize my voice. Having a voice is about integrity, certainly - being true to who you are and what you think - and it's about being willing to share that, but at it's core, having a voice is about knowing how and when to use your voice. Because a voice that isn't heard isn't a voice. I've learned that I have a voice, not just because I have thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc and not just because I'm overly-willing to share them, but because I'm learning how to speak so my words will be heard. 

4. Turning out is the answer.
Elder Bednar has written and said a lot about the Character of Christ and how that character is manifest by Christ's consistently turning outward in love and compassion and service when an ordinary person would turn inward in selfishness and suffering. Which is lovely and profound and maybe difficult to really apply to myself. But here's what I've learned: turning out is not just good because it's good; it's good because it makes me happy. My hardest days at the MTC were the ones I spent thinking and writing and focusing on myself. It was when I got over myself and out of the way that life got brighter. I don't think this is a missionary or a Mormon truth, I think it's just true. Turning out is always the answer. It seems to me that the purpose of life, on the most basic level, is to have joy and to learn how to love. I think these things are inextricably linked. As I love, I have more joy, and as I'm more joyful I love more freely. It's a glorious cycle. Sometimes, I get selfish and interrupt it (and let's be honest, by sometimes I mean at least daily), but I really have come to believe that turning out is always the answer.

5. Sometimes, love is streamers, plastic sunglasses, and cardboard American flags.
Until this Sunday, Elder O'Brien from my district (who you'll remember from the JS story episode), had never had a birthday party or gotten a birthday present. He grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive family in Serbia, and they didn't do birthdays. So when our district found out his BD was during our MTC stay, we started saying "Elder O'Brien, we're going to have such a HUGE party." And he was always like "no don't... I don't want anything. Don't." Up until his birthday, he continued to insist that, but we decided to plan something anyway. Now, something you need to know is that Elder O'Brien inexplicably loves America more than any human I have ever met. I literally do not have the words to express to you how much he loves the country. I could write an email full of Elder O'Brien and America stories, but I have other things to say. So anyway, Judy was kind enough to send me a box full of the most American stuff she could find at Zurchers. And on Sunday, while the elders were at priesthood, Sister Gomm and I decked out the room in American swag. It literally looked like Uncle Sam threw up in there. WE even had "America the Beautiful" playing on repeat from LDS.org. And, or course, we had gifts of plastic USA sunglasses wrapped in streamers, sitting on his desk.
He walked into the room after priesthood and his eyes got wide and he said, "Woaaaaah, it's all USA in here, woahhhhhh." And he opened his presents and put on the sunglasses and seemed happy enough. We had to run to our Sister Training Leader Meetings, but we left feeling like "well, that was good thing to do for him. I'm glad we did that little thing. I think it made for a good birthday." And neither Sister Gomm not I thought much about it as we went about the rest of the day. But about 6 hours later when we walked into the classroom, things were different. Elder O'Brien was there and even though I'd seen him every day for 8 weeks, I think that was the happiest I've ever seen him. He said, "Sisters,  I love you. If I could give you a hug, I would. You are the greatest missionaries in the world." Later, his companion told us that Elder O'Brien had been going up to every person he saw saying, "It's my birthday today and the sisters threw me a party."
The thing that was miraculous about this experience to me was that Elder O'Brien felt our life. For weeks we have been trying to help him know that we, as his district, love him. But he has a really hard time accepting love and always responded with, "No, I am stupid." But because we put ups some petty little streamers and plastic sunglasses and cardboard American flags, he knew he was loved. That's a miracle. 
If there's been one "theme" of my MTC stay, I think it would be love. I have studied and pondered and wrote and prayed about love every day that I have been here. I have understood and felt my Heavenly Father's love more powerfully than ever before. I have started to understand how and why we are commanded to love one another. (Emphasis on started). And I've found out some beautiful and profound and intricate things about love. But this might have taught me more about love than anything else. Because what this taught me is that love isn't about me. Love is about the other person. It's about meeting their needs and touching their hearts and losing track of myself in the process. Sometimes, that comes down to things as simple as streamers and plastic sunglasses and cardboard American flags.

6. I turn to prayer.
If love was the biggest "theme" of my MTC experience, then prayer was my most meaningful growth-space. At a certain point, fairly early on, I realized I didn't have the relationship with my HF that I wanted and needed as a missionary. So I set about changing it. At first, that meant getting out of the Mormon Prayer vernacular and into "okay Heavenly Father, here's where I'm at." And that was good but wasn't enough. So I set studied some talks and wrote some journal entries and made some goals. I started praying aloud every night and morning. I started pondering what I needed to say when I showed and brushed my teeth. I started leaving myself 10 minutes so I wouldn't rush. And I started carrying a notebook to write down what I needed to pray about - both to keep my prayers deliberate/sincere and so that I would know what things I was look for answers to. In essence, I was trying to change my prayers from things I sent off into the universe to a daily communion and conversation with my Heavenly Father. And here's the miracle: my prayer have forever changed, and I am as well.
I have become someone who turns to prayer. When I'm happy or sad or anxious or excited or frustrated or worn our or proud of myself or grateful or whatever, I now turn to prayer. When Elder Scott came, he said, "how we face challenges and solve problems is critically important to our Heavenly Father." Let me just say that I have found that to be true. I have seen that truth in my life. It amazes me and nearly breaks my heart I find it so miraculous. Prayer is one of the most awe-inspiring gifts I have ever received. It has already changed my mission.

Alright, that's not all I've learned but it's all I have time for. Wish me luck as I'm off and away next Tuesday!

All the love,
Hannah



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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 7: Double Rainbow Monday

Hello World,

So I don't know about the rest of Utah/the country, but it's been a crazy weather week here in P-town. (Since I don't go to BYU, these 9 weeks are the only time of my life that I'll get to call Provo P-town and I'm taking advantage of it). We've had rain and hail and blazing heat, pretty much all in the same day. It's mostly impossible to get dressed for the appropriate weather. But, on Monday morning, we had not one but two full rainbows - those ones like out of a picture book where it's a perfect half circle and it's just gorgeous. So that was my miracle of the week. (Not really my only one, but maybe my favorite.)

Anyway, life as a Russian sister in branch 110 has been fun this week. My neighbor sent me a party in a box on Tuesday (Thanks Katy!!) and I had a leftover luau box from Judy, so on Saturday night, Sister Gomm and I had a sisters party in our apartment, since we're sister training leaders and what not. It was one of the few nights that we had 16 sisters in our branch (since we got 4 on Wednesday but 4 left on Sunday) and it was seriously so fun. Everyone was wearing mustaches and leis and eating their weight in dark chocolate (again, thanks Katy!), and it was the best 20-minute party I've ever been to. I think we all needed a little bit of a break from MTC study/serious time. Plus, sisters are awesome. There's a real sense of comradarie among the Russian sisters and it was nice to be able to cultivate that a little bit more among the sisters we're in charge of. 

In other fun sister life, this week our shower drain got clogged with hair. With 4 sisters all using the shower, it was bound to happen sometime. We reported it to maintenance, but when nothing happened after a day, Sister Gomm was like "I need to shower, dangit!" So she bought a hanger, and went to work. I tried to help, but I couldn't even figure out how to get the drain open. (As we'll all recall, I'm kinda high maintenance and prissy). So, pretty much all by herself, Sister Gomm got the drain opened and fished an enormous amount of hair out of the drain. It was fairly disgusting. But the fact that my companion did it instead of me was also a miracle! Seriously, my companion is the best and I love her so much.

Speaking of my companion, on Saturday, she did a "Plan, Study, Teach" cycle with our teacher, which meant she planned, studied for, and taught a lesson with our teacher as her companion. So for 3 hours, it was me and the elders and our other (male) teacher. I've been assured that it wasn't against the rules for that to happen, since the teachers authorized it and what not, but it was SO WEIRD. It's funny how quickly one gets used to ultra-conservative missionary life. The combination of not having a companion by my side and being the only female in the room made me so incredibly uncomfortable. When we went to lunch I was like, "Sister Gomm, don't you ever leave me again." 

In other missionary-life-makes-everything-weird news, the producer of 17 Miracles came and spoke to us for Sunday devotional. He showed us a like 12-minute clip of his new movie. In it was a kissing scene. In normal life, it would not have been a big deal. But because this is the MTC, literally everyone freaked out. It was so funny. I would have paid about a thousand dollars to have been in the main campus gym where the actual devotional was (instead of West Campus where it was broadcast) to see the MTC president's face when that happened. I can only imagine the face palm that must have occurred. 

I learned that my last name sounds and will be spelled the same way as the first-person conjugation for the verb to drink. As in, the Russian translation of the sentence "I drink" sounds like "Ya Pugh." So my name tag will pretty much say "Sister I drink," because you don't always need pronouns in Russian. Anyway, hopefully people don't think I come from a long line of Russian alcoholics. Whatevs.

Also, like most other languages, Russian nouns have gender - masculine, feminine, and neuter. But this week, one of the newer missionaries called them neutered nouns. I didn't quite have it in me to correct him.

Yesterday, in devotional, the speaker said something interesting. He talked about Nephi's words "As the Lord liveth and as I live..." and he said that that's a famous Bedouin phrase used to convey commitment and covenanting. Does anyone know if that's true? Is it really a commonly used Bedouin phrase? And if so, which Bedouins? Someone out there has to know, right?

Anyway, I leave in THIRTEEN DAYS. Which, on one hand, seems like it's never going to come. But I also am getting super anxious about it. Not traveling or living in another country or trying to speak Russian all the time, but starting over again. In the past year, I've already packed all my bags, said goodbye to everyone I know and love, and set off to do something I'd never done before at a place where I didn't know anyone twice - when I went to college and when I entered the MTC. And both times, it was good and I grew a lot, but it was really hard too. And now I'm doing it again, and it sort of terrifies me. I feel like I've finally gotten in the rhythm and flow of the MTC and now I have to start over again. It's not that I can't do it - I know I can - it's just that my heart is like "Hannah, not again! Too much!" And I'm like "I know heart, but it'll be okay (I think)." Starting over is hard.

Sunday night, I watched a video of a talk that Elder Holland gave at the MTC a few years ago. We all know that I love Elder Holland an enormous amount, but here's a new favorite quote from him: "Don't try to dazzle with how brilliant you are. Dazzle with how brilliant the gospel is." It really is brilliant. I'm learning that more and more every day. I am so grateful I decided to go on a mission. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's not, but every single day I know that this is where I'm supposed to be. Every day, I am dazzled with this gospel in my heart and in my mind, and that is one of the best things about being a missionary. What an opportunity this is.

All the love,
Hannah




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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Week 6: Hanging Out with the Higher-Ups

Hello World,

So, as you can tell from the subject, Sister Gomm and I had a somewhat interesting week. (Sorry my email subjects are always lame/abstract/out of the blue, I'm really bad at titles and even worse at email subjects. Anyway). We ended up spending time with lots of the higher-ups at the MTC, which really doesn't happen very often. The way the MTC is organized, there's an MTC president, who's like the mission president, but he also has 2 counselors, because one person couldn't run the whole MTC since there are literally thousands of missionaries here. And then the MTC is divided in half into 2 districts, which function like Stakes. And then there are branches/zones within those districts (ours in a Russian zone with like 40 missionaries.) SO, now you understand that. On Wednesday, one of the MTC presidency counselors and his wife ate dinner in the West Campus cafeteria, and happened to sit with us. On Sunday, one of the district presidents had dinner in the West Campus cafeteria and again, happened to sit with us. And last night, Sister Gomm and I were late walking back from main campus to west campus after the devotional, and as we were leaving the lobby, the MTC President's wife walked out with us and offered us a ride back to West Campus so we wouldn't walk back alone in the dark. So, if you tally that up, it means that out of the 5 couples that run the MTC (MTC President, 2 counselors, and 2 district presidents), we hung out with 3 of them this past week. Which is actually really remarkable. It's just cool because in a place as big as the MTC, few missionaries who don't have problems meet the higher-ups, since the higher-ups are busy running things.  But somehow we did this week. They were all wonderful people, and it was neat to see how much they really love missionaries. 

I don't think I explained that very well, but it was a cool week, okay?

In other news, Sister Gomm and I were called as the new Sister Training Leaders for our Zone. Sister Training Leader is sort of like Zone leader, but you're in charge of the sisters, not the elders. It changes every 3 weeks, so that's our calling until we go to Ukraine. It's pretty cool and stuff. Actually, it's just fun because basically what we get to do is hang out with the sisters and make sure they're doing alright and share spiritual thoughts every night. And we're getting new missionaries today! Some of them are going to Kiev, which is pretty neat. So we get to take them around tonight and help them get settled in and work through the "deer in the headlights" period of time that is the first few days at the MTC. It'll be fun. We all know I love being in charge of things, but it's even better when the thing I'm in charge of is loving people. Like it's just wonderful when MY JOB is to make sure sisters feel loved. 

We play 4-square during gym every day (the sand volleyball court here is mini and consequently annoying). I haven't played 4-square since I was in Lower School. But MTC 4-square is super awesome. We have gym time with our whole zone, so on any given day at least a district or 2 are doing SYL (where you speak all Russian, no English), so you'll hear people playing 4-square and talking in Russian. I don't think I can explain how funny it is to hear a game of 4-square conducted in Russian, but it's one of the best parts of my day. 

Speaking of Russian, it's going pretty well. This week I hit a funny point where, for the first time since I got to the MTC, learning Russian really dropped on my priority list. It's not that I don't care about learning it, but this week it felt like there were gospel things that I needed to study more. Part of it is that this week it hit me just how little Russian I know and how much I am just going to have to learn in the field. Which doesn't mean I shouldn't try here, it just means that it might not be at the top of my list. If that makes sense. Anyway, grammar is still coming along pretty well. I'm becoming very grateful for all those years I spent in middle school learning grammar and slogging through the grammar book. My Waterford grammar education is paying off! Because of the way Russian cases work, the fact that I can look at a sentence and identify the subject, verb, direct object, indirect object, predicate, etc. makes learning Russian infinitely easier. So hurrrah for middle school grammar!

Also, in Russian, he didn't marry her, he wifed himself on her. #genderroles

We had a really funny lesson with our teacher/investigator this week. Before we taught him, the district had a little "let's attack Hannah because she says the word for "good job" wrong in Russian." It's a word we say about 28 times a day, and apparently I've been saying it wrong for 6 weeks, and apparently everyone had told me that before, but I swear I'd never heard that I say it wrong so I got a teensy bit defensive when that happened, and insisted I'd say it my way. (For the record, I really was wrong, because I was ending the word with a "T" sound instead of a "TZ" sound and in Russian those are 2 different letters.) So we went into the lesson and when our teacher/investigator said he'd done our assignment, I said "good job," but I said it my way not the right way. And he was like "what?" and I repeated it and he was like "what?" and I repeated it and he was like "what?" and Sister Gomm was like "Good job (but she said it the right way), please excuse my companion." And he was like "Ohhhhh, good job (said the right way." And I was like "Oh! It's "good job" (said the right way)? My teacher taught me differently, but he's American, so he must not speak Russian well." Which was funny, because, of course, our "investigator" was our teacher. So we all laughed a little bit about that but then later on in the lesson our teacher decided to make a point back at us. We asked him to read a verse, but we didn't specify out loud, which is a thing he likes us to specify. So he opened his scriptures and read the verse to himself, but then we started laughing and he started laughing and it was such a funny lesson. Basically, none of us stayed in character, but we had a whole lot of fun. Sometimes, we need that. 

Anyway, that's all that happened this week. At a certain point in the MTC, every day is groundhog day and there's not much to report. I guess I'll end with telling you a sweet little story. Our whole district goes to MTC choir, and this week the choir is singing "Joseph Smiths First Prayer." So before we started practicing the song, the choir director wanted to talk with the missionaries - there are about 1000 in choir - about what the song really meant. He asks this HUGE room full of missionaries who will come up and talk about Joseph Smith. For a good minute, no one volunteers, until Elder O'Brien, from our district, does. He's from Serbia (English is his 3rd or 4th language), been a member of the church for about a year, but out of all the missionaries in that room, he was the one who volunteered. Which in and of itself is pretty inspiring. So he goes up, and the choir director asks him some questions, and Elder O'Brien doesn't necessarily know all the answers perfectly - he hasn't heard the Joseph Smith story told and retold since he was little and he can't quote James 1:5 and he doesn't really know about the history of the Great Awakening in upstate NY in that time period. But he does a good job, and they get to the part where Heavenly Father and Christ appear to Joseph Smith and the choir director asks, "So, Elder, what did Joseph Smith say to them?" and Elder O'Brien says, "I don't know, I think he probably just listened to them." And while that is technically incorrect, it was deeply touching to me. It's a simple answer, but isn't it lovely? I love the humility implicit in that. Just listen to them. Don't barrage them with questions or make statements or battle needlessly. Just humbly listen and wait for the miracles that follow. 

All the love,
Hannah



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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Week 5: Time Warp

Hello Everyone,

So, as we can tell from the title, my life in the MTC has officially become a time warp. The schedule is pretty much the same every day weeks 2-8, and I've hit the point where I've lost track of reality. There's nothing to distinguish the days or the weeks from one another. For the first several hours of today, I thought it was Saturday, because P-day feels like Saturday. Turns out it's actually Wednesday. Who would have thought that? Because it's such a time warp, I don't have much to report on Russian. It was a typical week. However, I met some Finnish sisters (as in learning Finnish, not from Finland) and they told me something amazing. There are 16 commonly used cases in Finnish, 26 total. There are 6 cases in Russian and each one of them kicks my butt. So this week I'm grateful to be learning Russian. Like our Pugh family motto says, "it could be worse." I could be learning Finnish. 

Life on West Campus is pretty good. There's a 7'3'' elder walking around and every time I see him I gawk. He used to only be 7', but he had to have back surgery and now he's 7'3''. He's state-side though, so he'll be gone pretty soon. I think I'll miss having someone to gawk at. (Does that make me a terrible person?) Another plus of West Campus is that we got a new teacher. He got back from Mother Russia 3 months ago and is darling. At the end of class every day, we have 10-30 seconds of "smile time," where our whole district just has to smile at one another. It sounds weird, but after an hour or two of Russian grammar, your soul needs smile time to keep from crawling into a deep dark cavern and hiding there until the entire country of Ukraine learns to speak English. I love smile time. But the best thing about West Campus is that Sister Gomm and I have grown way closer. I think it's because the way things are set up we're spending more time together, but maybe it's something else. At any rate, something clicked this week and we went from 2 missionaries assigned to be together to friends who love each other. We're very different in how we see the world on a lot of things, but we love each other and I think we make good companions. It's awesome.

The biggest problem of West Campus is that the cafeteria isn't big enough to handle all the missionaries. They got 200 new missionaries when the Russians moved last week and can't quite handle it. They're coping with it by serving us smaller portions of food and it is not okay, because now we're hungry all the time! It's like fast Sunday every day! But it's kinda made up by the fact that on P-days we can walk down to Jamba Juice! They even give us an enormous discount there. Today we walked down and I was exhausted so I got a double 3G boost (aka their caffeine boost). I haven't had a real dose of caffeine in 5 weeks and I am so wound up! But I'm not tired at all for the first time in a while (like maybe 5 weeks), so it was worth it. 

This week we got to leave campus. Sister Gomm got pink eye on Monday, but the clinic was closed since it was Labor Day so we went to Instacare. It was so funny to get in the van and be like "wait the real world still exists! It kept going without me?" We drove past a group of guys running shirtless and it was so weird! Like it somehow feels like while I'm in the MTC, the rest of the world will dress like pioneers, too. Turns out they don't. Oh vel. Once we got to the doctor's office, the real world assaulted me again!  THE TV HAD NEWS ON IT AND THERE WAS A TIME MAGAZINE SITTING ON THE TABLE. It seriously took an immense amount of self-discipline to study my grammar flash cards instead of tuning into the news. It literally killed me to not watch. If it has been MSNBC instead of "Good Morning America," I don't think I would have made it. But I'm working on obedience. And also, my parents are feeding me news of the real world. Except no one has told me anything about feminism since I entered the MTC. IS FEMINISM STILL ALIVE?! 

Speaking of feminism, the MTC had a little dose of feminism this week. Not real feminism, but MTC feminism. Elder Evans came to speak yesterday (which was funny because he lives in our stake. When he first moved in, Lorin was still Stake President and I'm pretty sure he went to that ward for like 3 months straight because he always had Elder Evans stories at dinner). Anyway, Elder Evans made a point of saying how important sister missionaries are. He made a point of saying that women matter the exact same amount to the Lord as men. And he talked about the importance of Sisters learning to speak up when they're in council meetings. While that isn't something I especially struggle with, it was nice to here the head of the Missionary Department assert the importance of women's voices. 

The other thing that Elder Evans said that I really liked is "How wonderful it is to know that you're exactly where you ought to be and doing exactly what the Lord would have you do." That's something I really felt this week. For whatever reason, Sunday and Monday were really hard days for me. But it was reassuring to know that even though it's hard, I'm doing what's important and what's right for me. You know what I mean? This is one of the rare times of my life that I can have absolute certainty I shouldn't be anywhere else. And as the bumps come, I face them knowing that. I'm learning that I can't try to fix every problem that comes and learn ever lesson immediately. The things that mean the most to me are the things that took time and investment and energy to learn. I rarely learn the important things in a few hours or days or even weeks. Change and growth come slowly over periods of time. It's just the way things work. 

Anyway, that's all I've got for today. I say this every week, but I really am grateful for the support and letters and packages and emails and prayers I get. I'm a lucky missionary to have so much love in my life.

All the love,
Hannah

PS. In 3 weeks and 6 days I'll be on a plane to Ukraine! (Apparently, you have to say Ukraine, because "the Ukraine" is what the Soviet's called it and it implies colonization and Ukranians hate it.)



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