Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week 5: In which I sing in the choir, run into Marco, and ponder my faith

¡Finalmente, tieno la abilidad a escribir en Español! Esto es muy divertido. Me encanta mi tiempo aqui in el CCM, y mi compañeros son excellente siempre. Soy muy agradecidos para sus mensajes y para su amor. No se cuando estía sin ustedes. ¡Ví Elders Oaks, Bednar, and Anderson esta semana! Fue muy divertido. La comida aqui es ahora mejor que ultimo semana, pienso porque los Apóstoles son aqui. Es no importante, pero me gusta comida, entonces es mas mejor en general.

[Finally, I have the ability to write in Spanish!  This is very fun.  I love my time here in the MTC, and my companions are always excellent.  I am very grateful for your messages and for your love.  I don't know where I would be without all of you.  I saw Elders Oaks, Bednar, and Anderson this week!  It was very fun.  The food here now is better than last week, I think because the apostles are here.  It's not important, but I like food, so it's better in general.]

Alright, I suppose that's enough Español for now. It's nice to get a computer which has a Spanish keyboard downloaded on it. It's very convenient. I finally got my flight plans! I can hardly believe my time here is fast approaching its end. It's pretty crazy, really. I was assigned to be the "flight leader", which means I am in charge of getting the group to Yakima safely and without incident. Yeah, it's gonna be interesting. I'm pretty sure I was assigned because of my last name having so many letters close to the beginning of the alphabet. I'm quite sure it has nothing to do with my natural talent at organization. Just watch; I'll look down the hall to admire a mural, and 3 missionaries will accidentally (somehow) get on a flight to Uruguay or something. I know that's pretty much impossible, but anything could happen with me in charge of organization. Well, I'll do my best to keep any serious disasters from striking. I do get to assign companionships for the flight, though, so hopefully I'll get that part right!

Last week, the temple trip actually had a few funny moments. We were teaching some people during the week, and on our way to attend the temple, we ran into one of them. We just went up and said hello, and he (his name's Marco) just looked at us, grinned, and said "shh, don't tell anyone." Later, we saw the other person we had been teaching working in the temple. It was kind of funny, but at the same time, it was kind of cool. See, Marco told us that even though he was already a member now, we were actually teaching a past version of him. In his words, "that is me; that is my story." It was pretty cool.

Yesterday we taught Marco for the last time here at el CCM. Marco had polio as a child, and now needs crutches to get around. He's super strong. We talked about repentance, and we shared some scriptures that applied to him. I could feel the spirit getting stronger and stronger, like a well about to burst. At the end, Elder Woodfield (one of my companions, who is also going to Yakima) paused for just a moment. After a short period of silence, he asked Marco to bear his testimony of Christ.

It seemed like an eternity before Marco spoke, and during this time I felt the quiet and powerful influence of the spirit growing like a tidal wave about to eclipse the sun. Then, in a moment, Marco began to bear a very simple and very powerful testimony. As he spoke, the spirit began flooding the room. At the end, Marco simply testified that Christ our Savior lives. In that moment, the only way I can describe what happened is "BAM!" The spirit hit the room like a giant sledgehammer. The tidal wave broke, and the spirit was practically tangible. I felt totally swept up. I must say, that was a pretty incredible experience. I felt like fire ran from the top of my head through every vein and artery into my feet. There is nothing, truly, that can compare to a spirit that strong. When that wave breaks, the entire geography is changed in its wake.

So yeah, it's been a pretty cool week. In the choir, I stand directly in front of Elder Holland. I haven't seen him yet, but he probably has a pretty nice up-close view of my back. Sadly, we are now done with the choir. Yesterday, we were warming up just before Elder Anderson's practice, so he was there and said hello to all of us and shook our hands afterwards. This morning, Elder Bednar came in to our practice and told us thank you for singing. We didn't shake his hand or anything, but as soon as he walked out of the room, one of the people on the other side of the choir made a funny sort of squeaking sound. I think, whoever it was, they spoke for all of us. As I was walking down the street yesterday with my companions, I thought I saw someone familiar walking right behind us. My companions registered who it was long before I did, but by the time I realized it was Elder Oaks, he was already nearly gone.

So, I've seen a lot of well-known faces here. In addition to casually seeing apostles, I ran into Elder Carter Hill the other day. He came in pretty recently to learn Japanese. It was kind of funny to just be walking down the street and think "hey, wait, that Elder looks oddly familiar!" We were able to talk a tiny bit, but we had to quickly part ways. I ran into him later at lunch, too.

Oh yeah, I also wrote a hymn this week. My companions and I collaborated on the lyrics a bit, and I set them all to music. It was a pretty standard chorale-type arrangement, but I think I got some interesting chords in there. We'll see! I hope to submit it soon. Also, as soon as I remember to put the charged camera battery in my camera, I'll be able to take a ton of pictures. I'm taking a bunch of pictures here if it kills me. I'll take a picture of the hymn as well; maybe you could make it nice using Finale! That would be pretty sweet. I wrote most of the lyrics, but not quite all. I also collaborated with my companions on all of them, so the lyrics are not entirely mine. The music is, though. I'll put the lyrics right underneath here:

A Forgotten Road
There lies a forgotten road;
It led me where I am.
The path was paved with blood and tears,
The way forged by the Lamb.

I wandered day and night,
Not knowing where to go.
My brother showed me where to turn
And know the path I know.

I found my brother gone astray.
I helped him up, showed him the way.
When next I looked upon his face,
The Lord stood in his place.

The path is hard, the way is steep,
The future 'round the bend
Is never clear; yet still I trust
My Savior, Lord, and friend.

So there is the poem which I set to music. It was super divertido a [fun to] compose. I love studying Spanish here, it's really great.

I've taken up a bunch of time already, but I wanted to let you all know that my two companions, Elder Day and Elder Woodfield, are great. Elder Day's dad served in the Frankfurt Germany mission, and actually knows the Ringgers. Perhaps they would know an Elder Day? It's worth a shot.

Finally, I just wanted to end with my own witness of these things. Earlier in my life, it was not always easy for me to really know the truth of the Gospel. I believed, it's true, but I wasn't necessarily convinced. I have a naturally somewhat skeptical mind, and I don't exactly like believing something simply because someone told me that they believed it. I believed, but I didn't know. Many, many years ago, I finally decided to find out for myself. I had been asked to read the Book of Mormon through, and I knew it would be the perfect opportunity. I read, and I read, and I read. I read with a true desire to know the truth. After I read, I said a deep prayer to my Father in Heaven asking for a confirmation of what I had previously believed. In that moment, I no longer believed. I knew.

Ever since, there has been the occasional event that shook me. I have had times when I felt less sure of what I had felt to be the truth. However, since that first witness in my very heart of the truth of my beliefs, I couldn't deny what I had felt. Over the years, I have received witness after witness that Christ restored His church on the Earth, and I still cannot deny it. There are times I struggle, but those experiences continue to strengthen me as I study in the scriptures and continue to pray about their truth. The last lesson with Marco was yet another of those witnesses.

I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ is the redeemer of the world. I testify that through the Holy Spirit, we can receive answers to the deepest questions of our souls. I also testify that Joseph Smith was called of God to be a prophet on this Earth, and that the authority of God has continued after him in an unbroken line to our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson. I didn't know these things before, but I have received witnesses in my heart and mind that they are true. Even still, I cannot deny it. I close my testimony in the name of our Savior, Lord, and friend, even Jesus Christ, amen.

I wish you all the best in your lives, and love you all more than I think you can know. I think of you every day as I continue to learn more and more. I send you all my love,

Elder Adams

Washington Yakima Mission Office Elders anticipate the arrival of 12 new missionaries. (Ben is top left on the paper.)

Choir singing for New Mission Presidents Seminar.  (Ben is in the top row, 5th from the right.)

(Video) of the choir practicing:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Week 4: In which I get a care package, practice for performances, and write a hymn

Hola, mi familia (this keyboard is faulty, so not much Spanish this week)!

Well, I've been here almost 3 1/2 weeks. Pretty crazy, huh? I was telling the new missionaries when they came in that every day feels like a week, but every week feels like a day. It's really not much of an exaggeration. Our district is awesome, as always, and we keep learning Spanish. We're mostly learning grammar, but my vocabulary is steadily expanding as well. The next step is not having to think about the words before saying them.

By the way, thank you so much for your awesome packages! The food in our companionship is now, thanks to you, the envy of the entire zone. I've been sharing it a bunch. It's kind of funny to watch people eat the German Peanut puffs. Most people still think they're going to taste like peanut butter or something, no matter what I say. A few people really liked them, and others began looking at me strangely when I started eating them. There is a district leaving the MTC tomorrow, so the plan is to open up the Kudu pate (or, as I like to say to those unfamiliar with either kudus or pate, "Spreadable Antelope Paste") as part of saying goodbye.

Also, as it turns out, I never ended up getting that new companion. Apparently he had been assigned to the same district as his girlfriend, so they were going to transfer him to our district. However, they ended up sorting it out somehow without sending him to us. I'm still super happy, though, because my companions are awesome. I don't have a lot of time left to write today, but the temple this morning was really a beautiful experience. That is, in many ways, the highlight of my week.

I also found out that when I leave the MTC, I get to call you in the airport. I have as much time as I can make before getting on the plane, but I only get 2 tries. I just wanted to give you a heads-up so we could coordinate once I find out my travel plans in 2 weeks. We'll get to talk! I'm pretty psyched up about that.

Okay, so a couple of interesting things. First, I'm playing cello with this awesome piano major named Elder Blackham in the big MTC-wide devotional tomorrow. Second, as some of you doubtless know, my cousin and I are in a small, special choir that is singing for the Mission Presidents Seminar this next week. Each day, we are opening talks by Elder Nelson, Elder Eyring, or Elder Uchtdorf. It's pretty awesome. Elder Blackham is also in that choir. It's a really cool experience. Third, one of my companions has a birthday in 2 days. Woohoo! Finally, my companions and I were inspired one night to begin writing a hymn. It's pretty cool. The three of us are collaborating on the lyrics and I'm setting them to music.

Oh, one more thing:

I couldn't end this email without a huge shout-out to my dad. He has been the best father I could ever hope for, and I have no idea where I would be without him. He has been by my side since I materialized as a so-called "purple monster" (in his words). I can never thank him enough. Dad, I love you. Happy Fathers Day.

Much love,

Elder Adams

Ben with Aurthur Silva (former member of our ward, now teaching at the MTC)

Special choir practicing (Ben is the tall guy in the back)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Week 3: In which I join the choir, learn to love Spanish, and laminate a schedule

¡Hola, mi familia y mi amigos! Mi vida aqui en el CCM es muy fantastico. Inserio. Amo mi compañeros, y estoy muy agradecido por mi tiempo aqui. Gracias, madre, por su ayudar con mi Español. [Hello my family and friends! My life here in the MTC is really fantastic. Seriously. I love my companions, I am very grateful for my time here. Thank you, Mom, for your help with my Spanish.]  I already knew some of what you said (and just slipped in the email), and some of it I ended up learning before your letter arrived, but some of it I didn't know at all. It was very helpful.

I have a few little bits of interesting news. For one, my companions got fed up with me and decided to kick me out of the companionship. Naw, I'm just kidding around. The real news is not unrelated, though. Our little triumvirate is being broken up, and I'll be getting a new companion who is coming into the MTC (or CCM, if you prefer Spanish) soon. The two of them will remain in my district, and will still be companions, but they won't be my companions any more. I'm going to be companions with someone who is probably already fluent in Spanish, judging by how short his time at the MTC is going to be.

I also auditioned to be able to play a cello solo for one of the big MTC-wide devotionals. I will receive notice by mail shortly before the devotional in which I'll play. They told me in person that they really, really want me to play. I found a missionary (after he played in Sunday's devotional) who is going to the Berlin Germany mission and is also a piano major. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We actually auditioned together playing "Consider the Lilies".

Finally, I have been attending choir here. The news? I was selected to sing in a special, 40-or-so person choir for the Mission Presidents Seminar. All the new mission presidents-in-training will be there, and very possibly a few apostles (or - who knows? - the prophet) will be there. I'm pretty excited. It's going to make the first few days with my new companion interesting, at least. I have no idea what we're singing, but the letter I got says that "because of the importance of this assignment, choir rehearsals take precedence over ALL other MTC activities." I'm pretty psyched for it, as you can probably imagine. It's going to be awesome.

I continue to learn Spanish all day, every day. It's quite nice. I have learned a lot about the preterit, future, and present cases. I've also started learning other grammar rules, like using the infinitive after "deber"  ["to have a duty to ( to 'should')"], "poder" ["to be able to"], and similar words. I love learning so many new things and focusing on it.

One of the Hermanas in my district suggested we create a schedule and laminate it, so we could use a dry erase marker to assign prayers, hymns, and spiritual thoughts each day. As District Leader, I loved the idea, so I took a schedule one of the Hermanas made, laminated it, and we're now the most organized district in the Zone! Okay, that's probably just not true, but it sure feels nice to have something along those lines.

I love it here. It's a great environment, and there is a great spirit here. I feel inspiration every day. Sometimes, when I'm teaching, words I didn't remember I knew come out of my mouth. One of my companions even used a word while teaching that he never did know, and didn't realize he'd used it. I feel a great love for those I teach and for my district. There is so much to do here. I feel I'm learning so much, both about the gospel and about the wonderful language of Spanish.

Thank you so much for the really beautiful picture you sent. I have it on my desk, and I see it every morning and evening when I'm in the residence hall. I will treasure it. Thank you.

Elder Adams

P.S. Oh, and fyi, we no longer have a surplus of food to snack on in the residence hall. ;-D Honestly, that will probably change, but still thought I'd mention it. We do have vending machines, though.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Week 2: In which I play the cello, catch cold, and meet my cousin

4 June 2016

[Editor's note: Ben has been learning Spanish for a total of 10 days now, and his Spanish often has errors.  In the translations we include here, we will leave the errors in his original Spanish, but we will try to write what he likely intended to say in the English translations.]

¡Hola, mi familia! Estoy muy feliz por hoy. ¡Puedo visito el Tiemplo!
[ Hello, my family!  I am very happy today.  I get to visit the temple! ]

I'm finally starting to get used to the schedule here. I'm still slow getting ready in the morning (still faster than I ever have been before), but I'm working on getting faster. We got some new districts in our zone this week, which is exciting! We're no longer the newbies. Hooray! I kid, of course. We'll always be The new missionaries are super strong and cool, and I'm very happy they're going to be in our zone/branch. One of them, Elder Nabo, is originally from the Ivory Coast, and he bore a really powerful testimony as my companions and I stopped by the door. The new missionaries will be really fantastic, I just know it.

Last Sunday went pretty well, I think. I improvised on the cello while someone else in the zone played "God be With You 'Till we Meet Again". There was a district leaving that week, so they were really moved. It wasn't hard to do, but it seemed to touch a lot of people in the branch. Oh, yes; my companions were called to be the Zone Leaders. I already knew that last week, but it wasn't official so I didn't say anything.

I was a little sick with a cold this week, but thankfully I'm starting to get a little better. I bought some Mucinex at the store here, and it seems to be doing the trick. It seems every other minute I'm either coughing or frantically searching for a kleenex. I don't even know how many kleenex boxes I've emptied. I'm hoping I'll be over it by the middle of this next week or so (judging by the rate at which I'm getting better). Unfortunately, I've heard a few people in my district sneezing...

I actually have run into my cousin Hermana Hanson in the cafeteria a few times! She came in with the new group of missionaries (about 300) on Wednesday. Sometimes the Russian speakers don't sit far away from the Spanish speakers, and we eat at the same time, so I've said hello a few times. We're here for about the same amount of time, too (she'll be here for 3 or 4 weeks after I leave).

We finished teaching our first "investigator", who agreed to be baptized! He was, as I had completely suspected, a teacher. It was still pretty cool, I think. He came in last night and discussed with us all (still in Spanish) how it went and how we could do better. I'm afraid our broken Spanish only confused him for some of the lessons, but in the end, our final lesson went pretty well.

It's funny how my companions are the Zone Leaders and I'm the District Leader, since once a week I have to interview them and once a week they have to interview me. So basically, we end up sitting down and having a big, happy, interview-fest. In all seriousness, though, it's kind of a cool setup.

[Note: Ben had brought the "wrong" suitcase initially, and Jeff was back in Utah on business this week, so he arranged to swap suitcases.  Tammy had sent along a few things inside the new suitcase.]
Thank you so much for your letters, study materials, and goodies smuggled in the suitcase! I didn't get the memo that I was able to share the chocolate eggs with my entire district in time, but thankfully, I shared them with my companions. Had I shared them with my district, there would have been 2 extras (which might have been awkward). Elder Day and Elder Woodfield loved them, though. I've already begun marking my scriptures using the materials you sent. Thank you so much!

Now for Spanish. Yo se nuestro Padre Celestial ama nosotros, y yo se Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador. Yo creo José Smith será un Profeta, y Jesucristo viva. En el nombre de Jesucristo, amén. Gracias por todos!
[I know our Father in Heaven loves us and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and that Jesus Christ lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  Thank you for everything.]

Muchos amar, [Much love]
Elder Adams