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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