Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week 3

Hey Everyone!
Another week down and everything has gone well so far!
This week has been great! I ran into a teacher of mine from BYU who taught my Book of Mormon class my freshman year; his name is Brother Merrill.  He is in the branch presidency here and I wanted to say hi to him even though I never talked to him when he was my teacher just to tell him I loved his class and it strengthened my testimony a lot.  I started walking up to him and he somehow recognized me from class even though I had never volunteered to say a prayer or talked to him or anything and from the last name on my tag he remembered my first name and which class I was in and told me he was proud that I was here and could tell that I would be a great missionary. That made my day for sure!
Last week we went to the TRC (Training Resource Center) for the first time and we had to teach 2 members a 20 minute lesson each in Spanish. That went really well. We had no idea what we would be talking about and Elder Perez and I did really well and the comments we got were that they were really impressed with us.  One of the guys was latino and he asked me if I was from Idaho and worked on a farm because I guess it looks like I work a lot outside on a farm.  He also gave me the nickname "Matagas" which in spanish means "kill gas", so it's fitting since my last name is Gaskill and it has stuck with my fellow elders here.
This week we tried speaking only in Spanish for 3 days; a spanish fast.  It was really tough but I felt like my speaking ability got a lot better in just those three days.  I look forward to doing more things like that in the future.
I got kicked out of volleyball this week for diving.  It's my instinct and I couldn't help it.  I always do it and normally they only say don't dive in 4 square but there was a different guy working this week and he gave me a warning and I literally dove within 4 seconds of him saying that so I guess I deserved it.
I'm sending home an SD card today so look forward to the first wave of pictures!
I also keep seeing the kid who poured curdled milk into the vent above my door during my freshman year at BYU. He knows I know he did it and I've never talked to him before so I can't wait to go up to him and be nice to him so he realizes what a big mistake he made. I know he'll feel really guilty which is the best way I could possibly "get back" at him.
I have had a lot of really cool impressions from the spirit that I acted on.  This week one of our teachers was pretending to be an investigator he taught during his mission who's name is Gerver and had problems wanting to pray.  We were on companion splits at the time so Elder Jurado and I taught together.  I felt like we should sing to him so we sang "did you think to pray" in spanish to him and it definitely worked.  I also taught him how to pray and helped him pray and was prompted to ask him afterwards a couple questions about how he felt.  Later when hermano monroe was talking about how it went he focused on me because apparently he could tell I was listening to the spirit because it was exactly what he needed to here and worked.  He knew that certain questions I asked were not coming from my brain and he was dead on.  Another time this week we made a lesson plan to teach Gloria (our other teacher) and while we were teaching I completely went a different way from what I had planned and as i was talking i was thinking "this is so cool, i know the spirit is talking right now and not me". I can't wait to have more of these experiences.
We had a really sad moment this week. Elder Jurado went home yesterday on his own accord.  He told me the first week that he was going to tell them he wanted to go home after the first week but he stayed two more weeks and was really getting a ton better.  His testimony grew so much and his ability to speak spanish was coming along very very well.  I was so proud of him and then yesterday he caught us off guard at lunch and said "I'm leaving in 20 minutes" so we had to say our goodbyes and see him off.  It's really sad without him because he became such good friends with all of us and was a great influence on all of us.  Now there are only 3 in our district and we are all companions which will take some getting used to.
I love getting all your letters and it makes every day better and because I only have 30 minutes of email time I will try to send as many handwritten letters out when I can.  Send me the addresses of the Whites and Nortons because I want to write to Chandler and Sam! Also Nate White teaches Albanian in the same building as my classroom, right above me so I get to see him every once in a while and that's really nice.
I love you all! Hope all is well, everyone is in my prayers!
Elder Gaskill

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2 weeks down

Hello Everyone!
I've completed two weeks now and I feel like I've been here a long time already, but at the same time it feels like it's all gone by so fast.  We had a workshop yesterday and our teacher filled us in on a lot of things that are going on in the outside world, like the basketball player for the  Knicks that walked onto the team and has been putting up 25+ points per game in his last 5 games or so.  It was weird to hear things like that because being here we forget that there is an outside world that we're not a part of.
So we finished teaching our first investigator and it turns out that she is our other teacher! Our two teachers are Hermano Monroe and Hermana Van Vliet.  For the rest of the weeks they pretend to be investigators and we teach them.  The people that they're pretending to be are real people but they are our teachers.  They play the part really well but it's weird to be teaching our teachers.  We have 1-2 lessons every day so we have a lot of work to do.  Elder Perez and I have adopted a new  teaching plan: "Allalo", which in Spanish more or less means, "wing it".  It's gone well so far.  As long as we say a prayer beforehand we do really well and somehow can remember all we want to say in Spanish and teach pretty well.  We have already committed these two new fake investigators to baptism after the first two lessons. We're just soooo good! (:
This past Sunday was interesting.  Our first Sunday was a fast Sunday so it was very different from what every other Sunday will be like.  Every week we are given a topic and have to write a 5-minute talk in Spanish that we might give during sacrament meeting in church.  They don't announce who will be speaking until a member of the branch presidency gets up to the pulpit and announces the program.  So my second Sunday (the first Sunday with a normal sacrament meeting) I got called on to be the first speaker. They told us that it wasn't unheard of to call on the new guys to speak in their first sacrament meetings and I guess they were telling the truth because I spoke! We also had to teach a lesson (in English luckily) during our district meeting later on Sunday.  We just thought we were going to be sharing what we learned with the other 2 guys in our district but it turned out that we combined with the district that was leaving this week and a member of the branch presidency was there as well.  We were supposed to be teaching a lesson to everyone to evaluate our teaching skills, and everyone would give us feedback after we taught.  Elder Perez and I went into it with our Allalo teaching plan again and we taught about Lesson 5 in Preach My Gospel about the Book of Mormon.  We taught a really good lesson and when everyone was giving us feedback they had nothing bad to say! We were the group that got the best comments and no one had any suggestions on how we could improve.  It was amazing! We were so proud of ourselves.  This is one of the comments someone said to me that is probably the best compliment I have ever received in my life. (Elder Dahlburg): "I feel like if someone came up to you and told you the Book of Mormon wasn't true, you wouldn't be angry, you would smile and love them.  You wouldn't be stumped and not know what to say but you would smile and have a scripture to answer them and just love them".  That made me so happy and I hope that when that situation comes that I will be able to do as Elder Dahlburg thought I would.
We got to visit a beginner class this week and practice teaching the lessons to them. It was a huge self-confidence boost.  They couldn't conjugate verbs and we could barely understand what they were trying to say.  It made us feel a lot better about our speaking abilities and our teaching abilities.
I forgot to tell you guys what I wanted as my scripture on my missionary plaque.  I've always known what I wanted and it's Alma 26:12.
I got your package this past Monday and was really happy to get something.  It made my day a lot better.  I also got the package from the activity day girls the next day on Valentine's Day and I was very proud that my Valentines were a bunch of 10-12 year old girls from my ward back home.  Needless to say, everyone was jealous.  It was a weird day around here because surprisingly most of the guys here have girlfriends back home and so it's weird being one of the few single missionaries, although it should be more like how I am.
It has been a fun week, with a lot of funny stories.  Yesterday, our Hermana Van Vliet walked back into class just as Elder Jackson was saying "the last time I pooped my pants..." We never got to hear the story but it made him very embarrassed and the rest of us got a good laugh from that.
Tomorrow is Dad's birthday.  Happy Early Birthday! I sent you something and it should get there tomorrow but mail seems to be very slow to and from the MTC.  I hope you have an awesome day Dad!
Also, if you ever hear President Don R. Clarke of the first quorum of the 70 speak, don't believe anything he says.  He speaks false doctrine.  He gave a devotional this week in which he said, "Basketball is the sport of the celestial kingdom, there is no soccer there".  If that's true I'm not going.  It was very hard to be a good missionary audience member and not yell anything out, but I somehow managed to do so.  He gave a good devotional but he discredited himself by saying that.
That's about all I've got for this week.  I miss everyone a ton and love getting letters even though I can't respond to them until the end of the week.  I love hearing about what's going on in the outside world and everybody else's lives. 

Love You All,
Elder Gaskill

Thursday, February 9, 2012

1st Preparation Day Email

February 9, 2012

It's good to hear that everyone is doing well.  I'm excited to get a package and all of your letters! We can only read our mail at night when we go back to our rooms for the day and we can only write letters and email on P-days but it makes the days even better when there's mail for me at the end of it. Good to hear dad's thumb is healing, I need him to get better so he can ski with me when I get back and hopefully not hurt himself again.  That's great to hear mom that you're so close to the end! I actually didn't finish before I left, I got stuck/lost in the wars of Alma and never finished but I have read a lot of 3rd Nephi and all of Moroni since I've been in the MTC, and some of Alma when I have time so I can finish the Book of Mormon at the very least by the time I leave the MTC.  We get about 2 hours of personal study time each day but all of it so far has turned into companionship study since we have to plan for our lessons every day with the potentially fake investigator we are teaching.  We taught our fifth lesson to her yesterday and committed her to be baptized! If she's actually an investigator then we get to baptize her on the 21st and if not then at least we got the great feeling of having someone commit to baptism, and all in Spanish of course.

So here are some things that have happened this week.  I have run into some people I know. Elder Livingston (a friend from BYU) lives in the room next to me and has class on the same floor I do so I see him a lot.  I have also seen Elder Smith from my hall at BYU and Elder Chase Russell, my fellow Coloradoan from my hall at BYU.  He was supposed to leave the day before I got to the MTC but none of the Elders here who are supposed to go to Mexico have their Visa's yet.  They all got their new assignments yesterday and are leaving sometime between then and the end of next week.  Elder Russell left this morning for McAllen Texas (where my fellow missionaries Elder Wilson and Elder Whittington are currently serving!).  I will miss him a lot but it was great to see him a lot over the past week.  Someone started a tradition at the MTC by bringing tabletop foosball table that's about 1 ft x 2.5 ft long.  It gets passed down from elder to elder when the person who currently is in possession of it leaves the MTC. Elder Russell had the table (he was the 5th in the lineage) and passed it to me last night! I'm honored to be a part of this tradition and will have to give it some good wear and tear.  I will also have to constantly think about who I will give it to when I leave.

I haven't said too much about my district yet, besides my wonderful companion.  Elder Jackson and Elder Jurado are the other two in my district.  Elder Jackson is from Wako Texas and is an interesting kid, definitely not someone I would normally get along with.  He is going to Buenos Aires North.  Elder Jurado is from Vegas and is going to St Louis, Missouri.  These other two elder in my district are interesting but we all get along really well somehow.

Yesterday Elder Perez and I got our backpacks taken/stolen in the cafeteria (someone just moved them to the front desk since you're not supposed to have backpacks in there). They said it was going to be really bad if we did it again and they were going to notify our branch president but when I talked to him last night he just laughed and said don't worry about it, it's not a problem at all. You're going to suffer lots of persecution on your mission and the MTC cafeteria will just be the start of it.  I also decide to have an ice cream bar during lunch this week and it got stuck in my mouth kind of like a tongue gets stuck to a pole when it's really cold outside.  I had to rip it out and it took some skin with it and hurt really bad.  I learned my lesson: dessert (however it's spelled) is also dangerous.  No more bad food for me.

We only get 50 minutes for gym in the MTC and that has taken some getting used to.  I have played volleyball the past couple days and I have already made an impression.  Everybody knows my name even though we don't have tags on, and I still don't know anyone's name.  The MTC also has records for physical activities and I plan on beating at least one before I leave.  No idea which one yet.

My scheduled release date is April 3rd, I didn't know before and it never said anywhere in my call letter but now I know! 9 weeks. I'm excited for every one.  Elder Perez took the test to move to advanced classes and even though he should be there they decided to keep him here, lucky for me! But now he'll only be here 6 weeks so it looks like I will have another companion before I leave.

Someone tell Daniel Woolley to write me! I have so many things I want to tell him.  I need his address though first... and I also just want him to write me.

Hope everyone is doing well! Next week let me know what's going on in everyone's lives!

Elder Gaskill

Monday, February 6, 2012

Arriving at MTC Wednesday

Hey, I figured out how to post a photo!  Hopefully this all gets better as I go along!

MTC: Day 4

February 4, 2012

Hey Gaskill family!
I know I said I wouldn't get to email you until next Thursday but Elder Perez is doing his laundry right now and the computers are down here so I tried to log on and it worked! So I get to email you guys. I just got the letter mom sent from and the package with the Budge Hall newsletter and family picture in the mail. This is the first day we've got our mail and it was nice to have a few things in there!

So we have class either once or twice a day for 3 hours blocks.  Our maestros only speak in spanish so it makes things difficult.  I understand a lot of what they are saying but a lot of it goes right over my head.  They are all returned missionaries and all have different accents.  Hermana Brown went somewhere in south america but has a very strong "english" accent to her spanish and is more difficult to understand.  Hermano Parke and Hermano Staples are the 2 I've liked the best so far.  I can understand them the best and they are so nice! Even though I feel like the other 3 guys understand more than me they are very helpful and help me and make me feel comfortable.  Even though I've only been here 3.5 days, my Spanish has already improved so much! I can pray in Spanish (so I try to say all my prayers in Spanish), I know how to bear my testimony in Spanish, and I try to use it as much as I can outside of class when I can.  The rest of the days so far have been filled with language study, personal study, companionship study, and district meetings.  My branch president is President Tyler. He is awesome and owns a business right here in Provo.  I like him a lot. Elder Perez got called as the District leader (presiding over the other 3 in our district) and I am the senior companion for the first half of our stay here while he will be for the second half.

We had our first gym time yesterday and I was disappointed in the weight room.  They do have P90X there which is kinda cool but we only get 50 minutes so there's only so much we have time to do.  We have gym time for the second time later today so I'm excited for that. Right now I get to read and write letters and email while Elder Perez does his laundry.  I didn't want to buy laundry detergent until next week so I don't have to use my own money (we get about $6 on our missionary ID cards that we can use in the bookstore but I already used mine buying other things I need so I will have to wait until thursday to do my laundry).

Yesterday Elder Perez and I taught our first lesson in Spanish! It was very difficult and we were extremely nervous.  Elder Perez is a lot more fluent than I am since he took 4 years of spanish in high school and lived in Chile twice.  He might be moving to the advanced Spanish section (we are in intermediate right now) but I'm not sure what will happen.  Anyway we prepared a lesson about the Restoration and gave it to Jacquelin.  She was very receptive and had some questions and we were able to answer them all and communicate with her well.  We asked her is she would like to follow Christ's example and be baptized and she said she would if she knew that our church was true.  Room for potential!  We taught her again today about prayer and the Spirit.  We asked her if she would pray for us at the end and she did and it was great! I felt the spirit especially strong and in that moment I felt the love for the investigators that I've been praying for this whole time.  We get to teach her about the Plan of Salvacion on Monday! Should be awesome.  I'm pretty sure she's only a teacher at the MTC and is just being a practice investigator but if that's true then she is really good at being an investigator.  She is about our age and goes to school at BYU so we'll see if she ends up being a real investigator (not likely) or a teacher (most likely).  This is really hard to do but I love doing it and I know it's good for me.

This is definitely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life but I'm so happy to be doing it.  I see the progress that other elders have made over a few weeks or over 2 months and I'm excited to learn as much as they have! When we get to do workshops in English or anything in English I feel like a pro already. I'm so excited to get out in the field but I'm loving my time here and I know I need every second of it.  I'm already being exposed to many accents and since the people of Sacramento will all have different ones it will be interesting once I get there.

I love you guys and hope to hear from you soon!  I haven't taken any pictures yet because I've been extremely busy but I will later today since I will have time! Send me some more of the pictures Linda took and Mom if you could print out a picture of Jessika, Charlie, and Kenny dropping me off at the MTC and send it to me that would be awesome!  Hope all is well at home! You guys are in my Spanish prayers every night!

Elder Gaskill