Holy cow the Missionary Training Center (MTC) is INCREDIBLE. I arrived last Wednesday at noon and was immediately paired up with a companion. Her name is Sister Hano (Hey-no) and she is super cute. She is 19 and from Alaska, so I keep teasing her every time she complains about the heat. It's really dry here, so even though it's hot, to me it feels PERFECT.
The MTC is a wonderful little gated community. We have our missionary name badges that identify us as missionaries, as well as a badge with a barcode that gets us into each of the buildings. There are 19 or so... it's pretty much like a nice little college campus. Smaller than Towson. Perhaps the same size as HCC.
Our schedule is pretty insane. The first day or so it felt kind of overwhelming. They don't schedule travel time into the schedule - one class will end at 2pm, and the next class in a building across campus will begin at 2pm. That really stressed me out until I realized that the teachers take it into account - as long as you're not more than a few minutes late. If you're TOO late, then they make you do a "door approach." See, we do a lot of role playing here at the MTC - people take turns as the missionary and as the "investigator" (someone who wants to learn more about the Church) In a door approach our teacher will pretend to be a random citizen, and the tardy missionaries have to knock on the door and introduce themselves and talk to the person to see if they can come in to share a message. I've only seen a pair of missionaries late once. Poor sisters. ;)
We're up by 6:30 (I've been waking up naturally before our alarm at 6:15... I don't know what's up with that, but it feels GREAT to not have an alarm wake me!) And we begin studies in our classrooms at 7. Then breakfast around 8 or so. The rest of the day is packed with classes - our two main classes are taught in one room by two different teachers. The teachers are all young - people who have already completed a successful mission. One teacher is named Brother Roberts. I'm pretty sure he's younger than me, but he's a SOLID teacher and I've learned a lot. Our other teacher is Sister Hutchings - she's 10 months older than me (we discovered this when I pulled her aside to ask for advice on how to be a good mature adult-type leader person to the younger missionaries in my district.) We actually graduated high-school the same year, and I find that pretty hilarious. She is INCREDIBLE. I've learned so much from her about being patient and a stern yet loving leader.
I mentioned the word "district" before. This is a group of 8 missionaries who all came into the MTC at the same time. We have 4 Elders (boy missionaries) and 4 sister missionaries in our district. All of the sisters share one dorm. Of course I'm the oldest. All three of the girls are 19. The elders are all 18 or 19.... sometimes I just need to close my eyes and patiently wait out their antics. ;) After all, half of the missionaries in my district JUST finished high school. All of us but one sister are going to the same mission in Salt Lake City, so it's really great that we'll be able to see and probably serve with each other again. :)
The atmosphere here is SO great. In Mormon lingo I would say that the Spirit is very strong. I kinda don't want to leave the MTC. I have learned more in the last 5 and a half days than I have in the last year. Seriously. Not really about doctrine - the only thing I've had confirmed to me is that the doctrine of the gospel is SIMPLE. Seriously. I could lay it out for you in 30 seconds (I know because we had to do that in one of our classes) But I've learned a lot about how to teach. How to lead. How to develop a true Christ-like love for people. I am growing closer to my Heavenly Father, and changing in ways I never thought possible. I have made so many commitments to myself in the last week, and just trying to remember to take it a step at a time. There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that talks about learning "line upon line, precept upon precept." I want to learn it all NOW. Ha.
The really cool thing is that there are hundreds - probably thousands - of missionaries here, but it is SO highly organized that you can't really tell. I spend most of my time with my district - those 7 other missionaries. We sometimes have classes with the other districts in our Branch (small congregation - I think there are 4 districts in our Branch right now, so there are only 24 or so members.) But for the most part, it's just the 8 of us. Which is great. I was talking about their youth before, but it's really cool to see how much they are growing and maturing here too. They're really anxious to get out in the field, but I think another week here will help them tremendously.
Ok - some silly things! You may be a Mormon missionary if you quote scriptures and sing hymns with random people in the shower room. You may have been at the MTC too long if you are willing to sniff a tree to see if it smells like Cream Soda (it does.) And that's about all we have time for because we actually study 14 hours a day. The only times we're not in class and studying or practicing teaching (or preparing for a mock or REAL lesson - we have our first lesson with a real life non-member tonight!) are when we are eating or sleeping. Today we had time off this morning to go to the temple and right now we're doing laundry. :) But we have class again right after dinner today. And we still had some study times scheduled into our day. We're busy, but it's awesome. It feels really great to just lose yourself in a good purpose.
Wow this is long! I don't know if I'll always be able to write so much. Hopefully it's cohesive and not too boring. ;) It's hard to describe what we've been doing, but I promise you it has been life changing. I wasn't looking forward to the MTC - I thought it was going to be really tedious - but now that I'm here I'm SO grateful! Oh, and one last thing. You probably noticed that I mentioned "become a better leader." My companion and I were assigned to be Sister Training Leaders here in the MTC. That means that we check up on the welfare of the other sisters in our Branch. We only have the two that we share our dorm with right now, but tomorrow a sister comes in from Tobago that we have to meet and take with us to our evening devotional, and on Wednesday we receive three new sisters! Life is pretty exciting!