Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last Week in the MTC - photos to come soon!

Hello Everyone!
Another week down and only a few days left to go here at the MTC! Here's what's happened this past week.
This past Sunday Elder Perez, Elder Jackson, and I sang in church "Be Still My Soul" but since our meetings are in Spanish, Elder Perez translated it into Spanish so we sang "Amo el SeƱor´´ which means something different but there really isn't a easy song to translate so it was kind of our own lyrics. Anyway, we sang 3 parts and every verse was different and it sounded really really good! Elders Perez and Jackson have sang all throughout high school and in college and I just am a closet singer that has never been in a choir.  Anyway, everyone really really liked it and we felt famous because we couldn't get out of the meeting afterwards because everyone wanted to shake our hands and give us a compliment.  It was a really cool experience and I had the part of the melody throughout the whole song so a lot of the pressure to stay in tune was on my back.  But it went well and it was a great experience for all of us.
I don't know what I have said already but twice a week we go to the TRC (Training Resource Center) and teach a fake investigator that isn't our teacher.  Our investigator's name is Daniel Limon and he is a legend in the MTC amongst Spanish elders because he is extremely difficult.  In the past we have struggled to sneak the gospel into our lessons because he doesn't like to talk about religion and so we have just taught him little things like I taught him about the law of tithing and the law of chastity on two different occasions because I could fit them in to normal conversation.  Our last and final lesson with him this past Tuesday we taught him the entire lesson and he actually listened! Normally he talks the whole time and interrupts (and this is the same with all Latino people our teachers say) but this time he couldn't say anything and the spirit was so strong.  He even said, "what if my church is wrong and you muchachos are right?". We really got through to him and we are confident that if we had one more lesson with him we could commit him to be baptized.  We have in field orientation from 9am to 8pm tomorrow and normally we would go teach every Friday and Tuesday and we might go and try to teach Daniel again during one of our 2 hour breaks if no other missionaries are with him at the time.  During one of our lessons we got off topic and Daniel was asking about our shoe sizes because he knows we do a lot of walking and elder Perez wears really really old shoes. To this past lesson he brought a pair of brand new dress shoes he had bought for elder Perez and they are so nice! Elder Perez has worn them every day since our lesson.  Daniel really likes us and admires our service and lessons with him, which is awesome because most of the elders that teach him don't get through to him.  I am going to miss teaching Daniel a lot, I love him so much.
Another district in our branch has started this thing called "spooning" where we sneak spoons and forks from the cafeteria into people's jacket pockets and other pockets without them noticing and people find them later.  It is kind of fun to do to other missionaries in our branch and I am proud to say that I have yet to be spooned by anyone.
I woke up this morning and I could barely speak.  I have no idea why but I'm losing my voice! I can talk mostly normally now but I can't sing yet.  I went to choir practice this morning and just mouthed the words and pretended to sing.  I hope I get better by Saturday so I can actually sing with the choir and not just mouth the words.  I'll be saying lots of prayers between now and then.
I finally saw Elder Woolley his 3rd day at the MTC.  His classroom is in a different building and his residence is right next to mine but we can't get into the other buildings.  I don't get to see him too much sadly but I was so happy the first time I saw him in the cafeteria.  His meal times are about 20-30 minutes after mine start so sometimes I see him right before I leave since he knows where we always sit but unfortunately not as much as I'd like to.  He got called to be the district leader and seems to be doing well.  He can't understand a lot of the Spanish I say to him but I'm confident that after 9 weeks he'll be just as confident as I am with the language.
I'm getting ready to go! Only a few days left! Tomorrow is in field orientation all day, Saturday and Sunday are general conference, and then Monday is our last day of classes and everything! So sad! I got my travel plans 6 days ago and I will be leaving Tuesday April 3rd at about 11:20 am.  I'm so excited to be going to California soon!

I'm glad to hear that everyone is doing well and all that's going on in everyone's lives at home.  I hope you guys are getting a few of the blessings from my missionary service.  I am definitely seeing the blessings in my own life.  I love the work and I'm so thankful for every one of your influences in my life that have shaped me into the missionary I am today.

Les amo muchisimo!
-Elder John Gaskill

Friday, March 23, 2012

Week 7: Will Be Singing in General Conference!

Hi family and friends!

The first thing that happened to me this week is I hurt my ankle pretty badly on Saturday playing volleyball. Someone tried to block my set and jumped through the net and I landed on his foot and rolled my ankle. Luckily I've done this enough times that I knew what to do and I did everything I could the first 24 hours to get reduce the swelling and the pain and everything   Then I wore an ace bandage as a brace for a couple of days and now my ankle is perfect again.

I finally met some people in the MTC going to Sacramento!  There is one Tongan Elder and one Tongan Sister and they are English speaking but they are still the first people that I've met going to the same mission as I.

I met someone here who knows Forrest.  I was standing in line waiting to get some food and the Elder in front of me saw my tag and asked if I lived in Budge Hall this past semester and after some discussion we figured out that it was my brother he was thinking about. I don't remember what his name was but I think Forrest's first roommate switched rooms and became roommates with this Elder.  He is going to Houston and I haven't seen him since that day.

I read a talk this week that I really liked called the 4th missionary. I would recommend that everyone reads it because it can be applicable to ever person and not only missionaries.  It was given by Lawrence E. Corbridge on June 22, 2002.  If you guys manage to find it and can get a copy of it I would love it if you could send me a copy. The copy I read was a sister's in our branch and unfortunately I couldn't keep it.

We finally found out about the MTC choir for general conference and I got in! (As well as Elders Perez and Jackson.)  I am pretty sure we will be singing in the Saturday afternoon session, but I'm not 100% sure.  We got the music already and all the songs will be great.   We have to get up early every morning to be ready for choir practice every day at 7am until conference but it's worth it.  This is going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm really excited to be a part of the choir!

I got a nice compliment from one of the new Elders in the advanced district from Argentina.  He told me I sound like a real Mexican when I speak Spanish, which (I guess) is a compliment because most of the people can speak the language but they have a really strong American/gringo accent.

Elder Dallin Oaks came and gave a talk this week and it was really great.  It was nice to have another apostle come to speak to us before we leave.

We got to host yesterday and it was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately I didn't get to host Daniel Woolley and I still haven't seen him across the campus but I have my eyes peeled for him at all times.  I can't wait to see him.  I also got sunburned while hosting yesterday (as well as my other two companions).  We were only outside about 2 hours but I guess that goes to show how much of the sun we see: none.  We spend every minute of the day inside and only see the sun through windows.

I got my Spanish scriptures engraved and got them back today and they had misspelled my name!   They spelled my last name 'Gaskil' and I can't get it fixed because it says 'Gaskil lll' and since there is only 1 space if they put another 'l' in it would just look like 'Gaskilllll' instead of 'Gaskill lll' so I guess I will just have to live with it.

I forgot to bring my letters with me so I will have to try my best to remember all the things I wanted to say in response to your letters.
I’m glad that you guys get to come to Utah for spring break and go to conference.  I got a package this week from Grandma.  I’m jealous that you all got to go skiing and it sounds like everything went well! I can't think of anything I need at the MTC. Everything I need is in the bookstore here and I can use my money to buy things like a scripture case for my Spanish scriptures. I think I should be getting my travel plans either this weekend or the beginning of next week. Less than 2 weeks now and I plan on finishing out strong! We have been doing lots of Spanish fasts here so I’ve been learning really well but I have a lot left to learn. 

Hope all is well!
Les Amo!
Elder John Gaskill

Thursday, March 15, 2012

6 Weeks and MTC Life Goes On...

Buenos Dias Todo!

It's hard to believe that I only have a little bit of time left at the MTC.  I feel like I've been here a long time and I know everything about the MTC and it's become my home but it's really only been about 6 weeks.  We get to host the new missionaries that come on Wednesday which you only get to do for your last 2 Wednesdays in the MTC, and that's how we know we're close to leaving.  I'm excited to host this week though! Daniel is coming and I really hope I get to show him around and host him when he gets here.  Tell that to Daniel.  I wrote him a letter earlier today but didn't find out until after I sent it that we would be hosting.

This week we had a funny story with Elder Jackson.  Out of the blue he asked Elder Perez and I about the Crips who are a pretty big gang in the United States.  We convinced him that the Crips were a gang for people who have disabilities.  We also told him that Helen Keller founded the gang.  I don't know why anyone would believe that but he did and it was very hard for Elder Perez and I not to laugh as we were making this story up.  One of these days we'll tell him that we were messing with him.

Elder Perez has informed me that I have a ghost trying to kill me at night because every night I "kick" violently and it shakes the whole bed so it wakes him up.  I usually remember it happening because about an hour after I went to bed I wake up and feel like I had never been asleep and don't know why.  We'll see if the ghost continues to haunt me while I'm here.

I got new shoes in the mail last week from Grandma and they are awesome.  I like them a lot.  They have some bright neon green/yellow in there so they stand out.  Elder Perez's shoes have a lot of the same color so people like to watch us juggling a ball or playing soccer when we're in the gym.

This week I was informed I also look like Hugh Jackman during gym, not just Tom Cruise.  My hair was getting really long and I was messing with it during gym and it stood straight up and I didn't get to see it until after but it looked pretty good.  I took a picture of it and I'm sending the SD card home this week so you guys will get to see some more pictures and what my hair looked like.  Elder Perez and I got haircuts today and they took away all of our hair.  Our hair is now the shortest it has ever been for both of us.  It's different.

Our companionship might be singing as part of the MTC choir in one of the sessions of general conference.  We were informed that there would be a choir and they were asking for everybody's singing experience so hopefully we get selected to be in the choir.  Elder Perez and Elder Jackson are both very good singers and sang in high school and college but I just have the voice of an angel without practice so hopefully we'll all get to go.

Austin and Jessika came to visit Kenny during our temple walk on Sunday and the Temple Security people didn't like that very much and were pretty rude to everyone and ended up taking Elder Chatfield's badge so he had to go talk to his branch presidency to get it back.  It was good to see them but unfortunate that they had to try to get Kenny in trouble for it.

A member of our branch presidency named Brother Reynolds comes around our building at night to check up on everyone.  He got mad at Elder Perez and I  for playing with my little soccer ball and said that was against the MTC rules that we have in our white handbook (which it isn't).  We are starting to like him less and we might have some problems in the future if he tries to do anything about it.

This week I was angry with Elder Jackson and I opened my scriptures and opened straight to the section in the Topical Guide for "Murder".  The Holy Ghost works in mysterious ways but if Elder Jackson doesn't wake up one morning I guess the Holy Ghost will justify whatever happened (: haha.

Good to hear from everyone and that everyone is doing well! Keep the letters coming, I love hearing everybody's stories.  Oh also tell my friend Tim to send me a letter so I know what his address is.  I've been wanting to hear from him but I don't know his address in Provo.  Also thanks for the package!  You guys are the best.

Les Amo!
- Elder John Gaskill

Friday, March 9, 2012

5 Weeks at the MTC! See photos from last week!

Hello Everybody!

Not too much has happened this week so this might be shorter than normal but I will try to make it as exciting as I can.

We finally got a new investigator this week that isn't one of our teachers.  His name is Daniel and he is the most difficult investigator in all of the TRC (Training Resource Center) from what we've heard.  I'm excited though and can't wait to progress with him.  He loves to talk so it's hard to get a word in but we're working on it.  In our last visit Elder Jackson got mad an initiated and argument with him which definitely killed the spirit but it didn't end badly so we'll see how our next visit tomorrow goes.
I planned my first wedding! Sort of.  One of our investigators is living with her "esposa" even though they're not married so we have to get them married before she is baptized on Saturday so we had to plan a wedding for her.  I'm pretty much a pro at planning weddings now so if anyone needs help, I'm the man to go to....

This week was really sad because our favorite district left.  Elders Dever, Christiansen, Peterman, Tahlman, and Beasley left.  I got really close to a lot of them and I am really sad to see them leave.  Now that all my friends that have been here longer than me are gone, I get to be the friend who is a good example to all the younger (time at the MTC wise) ones.  I took a lot of pictures with my friends before they left so when I send the next batch of pictures home you guys will get to see them all.
This week Alex Boye came and spoke to us for a devotional.  I don't know if you know who he is, I didn't.  He's a black guy from England who is a convert to the church and is a professional singer.  He was hilarious and sang for us and was really good.  Look him up if you have time.

I don't know if you got the message from Grandma but I destroyed my running shoes this week.  I was playing volleyball and a ball got hit out of bounds and I chased it down and then planted my foot to cut and my foot went right through the side of the shoe.  So now there is a gap about 10 inches wide in the side of my left shoe.  I took lots of pictures so you can see how it looks when I send those home.

We have had some really nice weather this week.  On Monday it was really warm and sunny and we spent a lot of the day outside with our teaching appointments and doing our personal and language studies outside.  That was the first time I missed the outside world because I missed a lot of the good times I have had in Utah over the past year and a half-ish.  Warm weather is good for most people but it's bad for me because it makes me miss the good old days. Right now I'm living the good new days, so it's a trade off between the two.

We did another 3 day Spanish fast this week and as an incentive to not speak English we kept track of how many times people spoke in English and we're going to play butts up later today for every time each person spoke in English.  For those of you who don't know what butts up is, it's a soccer game.  One person stands on a line with their back facing everyone else and the rest of the people kick balls at them.  So for every time each of us spoke in English we will play butts up that many times.  It was a really good incentive and none of us said too much in English this week.

Well that's pretty much all that I have for this week that's new.  Thanks for the package with the soccer ball, and other goodies.  I am really enjoying all of it.  It's good to hear how well everyone is doing.  I hope Hannah had an awesome birthday and was sad that I couldn't be there but I told everyone here that it was my sister Hannah's birthday so everyone knew.  Good luck to Jackson in all things swimming! I'm sure if he tries hard enough he can outdo Forrest in no time.  I love getting letters from each of you hearing how you're doing each week.  Ha-ha mom I laugh every time you tell me that you haven't mailed my bedding yet.  There's nothing I need for you to include with it but if you want to surprise me with something I wouldn't be sad! A letter or anything is always a way to brighten my day.  I hope the best for everyone and you are all in my prayers every night and throughout the day (we say a lot of prayers here).

Les Amo!
- Elder John Gaskill

First Photos from the MTC - Fun Times

Friday, March 2, 2012

4 Weeks Down - (look for photos Saturday)

Hello everyone!

Another week down and it feels like I’ve been here a long time but at the same time not that long at all.  Here's what all happened this week:
I got another great compliment when one of my missionary friends from gym time told me that the first time he saw me playing volleyball he thought I was Tom Cruise. He calls me Tom Cruise now every time I see him and still thinks I look like Tom Cruise so I guess that's a big compliment.
Romance is in the air! One of the zone resource teachers named Hermano Staples who comes in and talks/teaches a lot got engaged this week! He came in and asked us for ideas so I got to give him a lot of ideas on what to do and I've only seen him once since the night before so all I know is that she said yes but I'm not sure how he asked.  Hermano Monroe has a girlfriend now, and he's actually one of my teachers.  Hermana Van Vliet is already married so not too much new for her.
We are doing this new thing in our class where every week our teacher gives one of us a new tie based on who put forth the effort in talking only in Spanish in the classroom or while they are around.  The first week ended on Monday and I won the tie! It's a zip on tie that I don't really like but it was a nice gesture and I was happy to win.  There are only 3 of us competing against each other so chances are we'll all win twice.
Spanish is coming along really well.  I can say almost everything I want to about the gospel in simple terms but I need to learn a lot more about other words that I would use when talking about anything else outside the church. But I can understand 95% of what my teachers are saying and I can even tell when they make mistakes when they're speaking when conjugating verbs or whatever.  So things are coming along nicely.  I am also starting to forget words in English. Yesterday I taught by myself in a workshop using English and I couldn't remember a lot of words in English that I wanted to use like "Atonement" and "wicked".  That was interesting.  The biggest challenge right now is teaching with 3 people.  Elder Perez and I had the teaching part down really well and now that we have 3 and have to take turns speaking equal amounts of time it's really difficult.  Elder Jackson just isn't on the same page and goes off and tangents and then expects us to bring it back to the lesson. We're working hard though.
So the highlight of the week was Tuesday night when President Holland came and spoke at the devotional.  Never have I felt the spirit about a person as strong as I did with an apostle of the Lord.  He talked about using the Book of Mormon more, staying converted after the mission and not falling away, as well as being an example because usually the first thing people think about when they hear "Mormon" is missionaries.  It was so great and I loved it.  Apparently Elder Holland and Elder Nelson came the night before we entered the MTC and we just missed them so it was good to hear from an apostle.
Kenny (Chatfield, John's former roommate) came to the MTC yesterday! I was so excited and was constantly looking for him all over the MTC and I finally found him today at lunch!  His classroom is in the same building as mine and just one floor down.  When we were teaching I heard that there was a new Tongan district in our building and I didn't get to go down there until a few hours later and they had gone already but I left a note on Kenny's desk and finally saw him today! I will have to take a look at his schedule and see if we have the same meal times or gym time.  I would love to see him as much as I can.
Mom, I am also going through the Ensign as well with all the talks from the last general conference.  I brought it with me and am almost all the way through.  I just have to read the Sunday afternoon session.  We never have enough personal study time here so it's hard to find time to read everything.
It's great to hear how everyone is doing! Good luck Jackson! Being able to swim every day will help you get a lot better quickly and when you have a lot of older guys on the team it will help you get better even quicker. 
Grandpa hasn't written me yet.  And I did send a letter to Forrest and he emailed me last week. I didn't get anything back from him this week but hopefully he saw it!
Also thanks for the (USA v. Italy) soccer update! We got the score from Elder Perez's dad but not any more information so I was really glad to read all that!
Love you all, and I love getting all the letters to hear how everyone's doing. Send more (:

- Elder John Gaskill