Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MTC - Week Four

Hello Family!

Another week has flown by down here! Time is very weird here, days are like weeks and weeks are like days. What's crazier is that next week we will be the Russian elders that we looked up to when we got here and 40 new Russian elders will come in. I have heard that they are just flooding the Russian speaking missions right now because visas are in good standing or something like that. Our teacher Brother Eckersley who went to Donetsk told us that he thinks that something big is about to happen in these missions and that missionary work is just on the edge of exploding over there. It's awesome!

This past week we've been focusing a lot on using The Book of Mormon in our teaching. (Or Kniga Mormona in Russian) It is absolutely essential in conversion because if the investigator knows it is true, then they know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, which means that the Church was restored, which means that we have a living prophet on the earth today and that Jesus Christ lives and directs His church through prophets. Elder Moss and I have been trying to find scriptures that really apply to our investigators' lives so that they will want to read more and understand the importance of reading. Our branch pres. on Sunday said that he will never understand why missionaries just suggest 3 Nephi 11 or Moroni 10 and call it good. We must apply it to investigators and encourage them to start from the beginning. These verses we suggest for them will spark their interest but ultimately the book must be read from the beginning. We teach Anya and Valera like three times a week total now. We are all on a schedule. We are getting better at teaching, testifying, and following the Spirit especially. We have learned to bag our lesson plan during the lesson and just speak from the heart as best as we can. For example, we planned to talk about Eternal families with Anya last week and we ended up talking about The Book of Mormon the whole time because she had questions about it. Following the Spirit is key and having the Spirit in the first place is one of the most important things on our missions. The Spirit truly is the one that converts, not us. We're just there to invite them to come unto Christ.

I felt like I hit a wall this past week in learning the language and just trying to do everything I need to do. I would compare it to Harry Potter where Platform 9 3/4 is closed and they run straight into it and crash hahaha. There is just so much to learn and it's hard to figure out what to study. I have been praying so much and so long for help to know what I'm supposed to be doing and I've felt that I haven't really progressed much. So last Saturday Elder Moss and I came up with a sweet plan in companionship study to help us out. We role play our lessons for Anya and Valera in Russian as best as we can and write down unknown words during this. We then look them up and role play again using the words. It is helping tons for our lessons and language study. We have a book called Sila that is written by RM's for Russian missionaries that has all of the grammar rules and how to use them. I'm studying that more for my language study now. I wish I had been studying it more than I have but it is okay. We learned last night in Devotional that we must have faith in the Lord's timing of things. If we do all that we can then He will help us get to where we need to be.

Every Wednesday we have a thing called TRC. Not really sure what it stands for haha. But we show up with our district to a building and volunteers who speak Russian/served Russian missions come in and we teach them. We don't know if they are members, non-members, or investigators until the lesson starts so we have to change our lessons accordingly. Last week we taught about the Restoration to some other missionaries. They have been here 10 weeks and are going to the Gibbons' mission, Novosibirsk. They said that we did good and that they weren't even teaching at three weeks. I think that this language immersion program is good, although it is a shock sometimes. Sister Alletto always speaks Russian, no English so class with her is frustrating because we have important questions sometimes and they are answered in Russian. Brother Eckersley speaks both and explains things better. It is good to have a mix though. Anyway, tonight for TRC we are teaching about The Book of Mormon and how to receive personal revelation from it. We will see how it turns out. We did out first official SYL yesterday as a district. That means speak your language. It's pretty humbling to have to look up everything you want to say. I want to do more of them because you learn a lot. Elder Hunsaker in my district has been taking Russian for a year and a half now and has really been frustrated because he knows how to get around and can understand about 90% of what is said to him. However they told him to just stay here because they can't really bump him up or anything so he is a great help to us. He taught me yesterday how to use the verb "to need" and "to have." At our 6 week mark, we want to to try and be doing everything in Russian. This is what Sister Alletto told us she did when she was here. Some of the Russian elders leaving really soon wear signs under their tags that say "Sorry I don't speak English anymore" Elder Moss and I want to do that! It's so crazy to think about but it is very possible. It will also help us not to be so shocked when we get to Ukraine haha.

To answer your questions in your dearelder, I would like to start taking vitamins. Elder Moss's older brother served in Dniprpropetrovsk and so Elder Moss has crazy stories about what happens to your body when you get over there. All missionaries are required to take a de-worming pill when they get back to the states... I will leave it at this haha. So vitamins would be a good thing. The microfiber towel washes just fine. I would like another one before I leave and I will send the other ones back. They dry in like 1 hour of just hanging up and are pretty slick. The other elders in my district just have one towel I believe. And you may choose to forward whatever you like, that's fine. Tell people to write me dearelders because it's a pain reading emails right now because we have no time and can't print them out haha.

I love you guys so much! Hope you are doing well! Tell everyone that I love them!

Love, Elder Keown

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MTC - Week Three

Hello Family!

Well I am officially at my three week mark as of today! Only eight more to go, it's crazy to think about. I feel like I've been here for eight already so I'm sure they will fly by. Thanks for the chocolate gummy bears, they are great! Everyone loves them in my district so they were put to good use. I remember now that the computer attachment thing for my camera might be the thing I left in St. George or it might be in the computer already so maybe check there. We'll figure it out. I got a letter from Ian and Elliot a few days ago. It was very sweet, Jon and Jenny typed out a letter and then they drew pictures and signed their names (except Elliot). Ian drew me a Batman and Spiderman, it was great! And this turned out to be really funny because Elder Welch received the exact same letter a day before me with the same subject and everything haha. He said that he is going to call Jenny on it haha. I memorized the missionary purpose in Russian now, so I say it everyday. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be so I am also tackling the first vision this week. We'll see how that goes. I have finally realized why people say that Russian is so hard- it's because of all of the grammar and case rules. Every ending of a word in a sentence you say changes based on how you are talking about something. There are six cases and each case has different endings for pronouns, adjectives, nouns, etc. It is crazy!

The grace lesson went well on Sunday. It was a very different experience teaching missionaries versus the priest's quorum. Our Branch President also sat in on our lesson, so it was very nerve racking! He is probably the scariest guy I've met haha. He is very serious, no room for messing around. I think he was a Mission President in Novosibirsk before this. To give you a description, he recently dyed his hair black and he tans and is like 6'2 or 6'3. Anyway, after the lesson he said that we did a good job but we could've done some things better teaching wise. So he pointed some things out that will be helpful in the future. I learned from teaching on Sunday that the Spirit will teach the things that you don't say. It's pretty cool.

So we have Firesides every Sunday here and Devotionals every Tuesday. Last night we had Pres. and Sister F. Melvin Hammond speak to us. He is an emeritus seventy. They taught about The Book of Mormon. They're testimonies were some of the most convicting I've heard in my life, next to Elder Holland's talk a year ago. The main thing that stuck out to me was that we need to read FOR and WITH our investigators and members in some cases. Reading FOR them means knowing the material and knowing how to teach it. They were mission presidents in Bolivia Cochabamba and they related a story about a man who couldn't read but knew that the book was true just by feeling it against his chest. There are chances that people we come in contact with might not be able to read so we have to read FOR them. And reading WITH them means to read out loud with them. We can't just hand them the book, point out cool verses, then call it good. We must read WITH them. He also talked about how we should commit to reading The Book of Mormon at least once a year in English, and then if we learned a second language, read it in that as well. He said that after 100 times of reading in English and Spanish, he never gets tired of it! This is something I want to keep up during and after my mission- reading daily in Russian and English to keep up the language and to feel the Spirit in Russian.
I have started writing down blessings I notice throughout my day every night in my journal. I wish that I would've been doing this longer, it's amazing to see how the Lord blesses us and how we don't recognize the blessings. There are many that I have taken for granted and I am just now realizing how much the Lord loves us and really is watching each of us. I challenge you guys to do this, you will grow closer to the Savior and feel the Spirit more in your lives, I promise!

Yesterday we had a tracting experience. We had a substitute teach us and then we went and tracted to his "house." I told Elder Moss that we would only be showing up with our Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, nothing else like notes and stuff. It was amazing how much better we were able to speak and teach. We challenged Tomas to read The Book of Mormon and we got him to pray. He said he didn't know how and so I was like "shoot, how do I say this to him?" But then I was able to just teach him in very simple Russian how to pray and he did it! It was a really cool experience to have. Anya and Valera are doing good as well. We're teaching them later on this week. Anya testified to us that she knows the church is true, so now we're going to start teaching her the gospel of Jesus Christ lesson. Very cool stuff!

I love all of you and hope that you are doing well!

Love Always, Elder Keown

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MTC - Week Two

Hello Family!

It's been another week already, it's hard to believe! I've decided that here at the MTC it is just one really long day with sleep in between haha. Lots to say to so here I go. I forgot to mention last week that I am supposed to leave for Ukraine September 13 instead of the 14, and my card says I will serve until July 16, 2013. That's about two years from now so it makes up for the time (kind of) spent here. Also, Elder Welch is in the other district in our building. His room is like right across from mine so I talk to him now and then. He's doing good. We have a new Elder in our district now, his name is Elder Jiles and he's from Elder Welch's district. He is great and fits in well with our group. He is going to the Romania Bucharest Mission and is from Kansas/Arkansas. Basically his companion was asked to change mission languages from Russian to Romanian so he moved to a different building and moved Elder Jiles to our district. So now we have 12 in our district. I really love my district, they are awesome! I learn a lot from them and love them like brothers. Thanks for the packages! They were great! The mini four square balls work good for our hall ball court haha. Elder Moss's mom sent him an official four square ball so we will use that. The gym is closed right now so we have to play on the field court with all of the Italian missionaries. It is lame, so we are waiting for next week when the gym is up and running again. And the bamboo towel adds a great touch haha. The other towel was better after I washed it, but it is nice to have more than one towel. It is retarded using the same one every day but it's okay. And the animal cookies were great! You know my love for those!

Our lesson with Victor and the Holy Ghost/Word of Wisdom went really good. We challenged him to be baptized in our terrible Russian and he accepted. The next day in class, he walked in wearing a shirt, tie, and white nametag that said "Brother Eckersley, Provo MTC Teacher" haha. Turns out he was our other teacher the whole time and he and Sister Alletto will be team teaching us. He is awesome. AND HE SERVED IN DONETSK!! So he's been telling us all sorts of stuff about Donetsk. He had a baptism and said that it was an amazing mission. He is a little better at teaching us than Sister Alletto. He explains things more in depth and he will say things in Engilsh after he says them in Russian, unlike Sister Alletto who only speaks Russian to us. But it's good to have a variety. Bro. Eckersley's new investigator he is being is named Valera. The investigator is about 50 years old and is the only member in his family that isn't a member. We taught him about the Restoration first and asked him to pray about The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He said that he would. Tomorrow we will be teaching him about eternal families and challenging him to come to church this Sunday with us and his family. And Sister Alletto's investigator is named Anya. We are teaching her today and we know about her that her father died and she believes in God and Jesus Christ, so we're going to teach about eternal families to her and have her pray to know if our message is true. Our companionship and the rest of our district just alternate days on teaching these investigators. It is good practice for sure and we learn how to say things in class to apply to lessons and stuff.

The Russian is coming along. It is really confusing because there are six cases to learn as well as present, past and future tense. So the endings all change six times based on how you are talking about something. We are teaching ourselves about this right now because our teachers aren't teaching us and we want to get ahead of the game. This is similar to German, so my comp Elder Moss understands it pretty well and is helping us outside of class. And this other Elder, Elder Hunsaker, has been taking Russian for a year and a half so he can understand about 80% of everything and get his point across. He tried to move up to the next class to get to Vlad early (and get out of here!) but they wouldn't let him. But he is great, really really smart. And he helps us all the time. He is like a Russian dictionary. He also marched for the BYU marching band so we have music interests. Sometimes Russian frustrates me because during our lessons I know exactly what the word(s) are that I need to say, but I just can't bring my mouth to pronounce the crazy combination of letters haha. And I can't roll my r's so I focus too much on that and just kind of spit out words sometimes. It's like I freeze up mid-sentence. So I am just trying to work on fluidity with speaking and practice what I'm going to say in the lessons and stuff. I have faith that this weakness can be made a strength for me though. (Ether 12:27)

Will you please send me two copies of Elder Bednar's talk "In the Strength of the Lord?" You can go on Google and type that in and then just put it in word. It also might just be saved in word already. Also, will you send me one copy of the talk I gave back in April at Bryce's farewell on this subject? Elder Moss and I are teaching our district this Sunday on grace. Basically every Sunday a companionship teaches on their chosen topic, and when I learned this I knew instantly that I wanted to teach on grace/Bednar's talk. So we are teaching this Sunday and I want to have Elder Moss read the actual talk and myself review it so if you could get those to me soon that would be great!

I am sorry that the pictures have taken so long to get ready! I am sending them later on today so you should get them tomorrow. There are like 30 or 40 pictures, something like that. Basically there are two camera machines in the bookstore. One of them is permanently broken so that leaves one machine for 2,000+ missionaries to use haha. I had tried using it 8 times and finally on the 9th time I was able to get it to work. There's always a long line, or I don't have my camera, or it's just out of order for that day. It's lame but nevertheless, the pictures will be mailed today.

Well I have 35 seconds left on this thing so I'm done typing. I love you guys so much!!!! Things are going good here and I'm grateful to be here!

Love Always, Elder Keown

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MTC - Week One


That is how you say hello in Russian if you're wondering. I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to email you guys yet, my P-day is on Wednesdays and you only write on these days so here we go! A lot has happened so hopefully I can tell you about everything!! So first off, I am doing everything in Russian already! I pray in Russian, sing in Russian, and have had a few dreams in Russian as well! Oh yeah and I can kind of talk but not too much. I can bear my testimony kind of and I can officially pray pretty good now, there are a few things I still can't remember to say but I've only been here a week so it's alright. I have seen like all of my friends here, it's awesome! I have seen Elders Tregeagle, Rees, Simpson, Eunho Kim ( from Philharmonic), Seymour obviously, Metcalf, and Pres./Sis. Gibbons. They are all doing great and were glad to see me! Let's see, my district and companion are great! My companion is Elder Moss and he is a world class athlete. He is sponsored in free running, which is like par core but you do tricks and flips and stuff, it's crazy! So he'll just randomly do backflips in our room and do tricks off the hallway walls and stuff! We make a good team though. My district has 11 elders including me. Four of them (with me) are going to Donetsk and we're all in the same room. Elders Moss, Lewis, and Groothuyzen. The other seven are going to the Russia Vladivostok Mission, which is where Taylor Kevern went. They are Elders Barney, Taylor, Whitemore, Hunsaker, Lyman (who is our District Leader), Ward, and Dickson. I really love all the guys in my district and we are convinced that we have the best district here! Let's see, gym time is pretty sweet, all of us play four square and it gets pretty intense! I didn't think I would ever play this but basketball is a joke because so many elders play and the line just to shoot for teams is like 20 elders long. And so your chances aren't that good. I played one time and had a layup so I called it quits haha. But four square is sweet! This really smart elder in my district, Elder Hunsaker, has already taken like a year of Russian so he can already talk pretty good. He is kind of a nerdy, big kid but he's awesome! Anyway, the first day of gym he showed up wearing a shirt that said 'Spell Czech' on it and I about lost it. It was hilarious!

My district is part of a new guinea pig program where they only speak Russian to us, NO ENGLISH!! So my first day here and until now has all been in Russian. Our teacher is great, her name is Sister Alletto and she served in the Ukraine Kiev Mission. So she only speaks Russian to us and has given us some handouts that show us how to form sentences and say basic phrases like "I know that Jesus Christ lives" and "The Holy Ghost is my friend" things like that. Class is really hard because we don't really always understand what she's telling us, but we are starting to understand more and more everyday though. She has spoken English to us a little bit though and she says that we're way more prepared than she was for her mission so that's good! On top of class only being in Russian, we are assigned to teach an investigator every week. His name is Victor and he is apparently from Lugansk, Ukraine. We watched a video the third day of class that interviewed him and then we figured out from Sister Alletto that we were going to be teaching him all in Russian that night! So it was crazy to say the least. Elder Moss and I prepared some things to say and just hoped for the best. I forgot to mention that Elder Moss's brother went to the Ukraine Dniprpropetrovsk Mission so Elder Moss already knows a lot about Ukraine. Also, he can speak German and Chinese and was hoping to go on a Chinese mission, so Russian is coming really easy for him. Anyway, Elder Moss basically said everything in our first lesson with Victor and I didn't say a lot. I wasn't very happy with this, so the next day we taught him I prepared much better and was able to ask him questions and stuff. I don't think these "investigators" are really investigators haha. I think that they're just volunteers or something for the MTC for missionary training purposes. But at the end of the lesson we were small talking with him and I asked him about those cookies that Paige gave me and he went nuts and just started rambling off about them and drew a picture on the board! It was sweet! We're teaching him again at 8:40 tonight about the Holy Ghost. Hopefully it goes well. Also, we taught "Anya" who was Sister Alletto yesterday. Elder Moss forgot how to say a lot of stuff so I was able to step in and ask the questions. It was really cool and showed me that that's pretty much how it is in the field. No matter the ability, the companions work together and help each other. It's crazy to think that I've been here a week and will be teaching a fourth lesson tonight!

Last Thursday, we had a branch meeting and met our Branch Presidency and Zone Leaders. We had interviews with a member of the Presidency and they then determined leadership positions. And guess who is Senior Companion in my companionship? If you guessed me, you are right. I didn't expect this at all. It was humbling to be called as this. I feel that we are really growing as a companionship and as friends in the gospel. We have high goals and are hoping to achieve them this week. Our goal is to be able to bear a 'pure testimony' by Sunday, which means not using our paper and saying what we want to, not what's on the paper. (Alma 4:19) Me being Senior Companion also added to my frustration when we first taught Victor because I felt that me not saying anything was bad but I learned that it's really not and not to get down on myself.

Sacrament Meeting was interesting on Sunday for a few reasons. One, it didn't seem like Sunday hahaha so that was weird and two, the whole meeting was in Russian. Opening and closing prayers, sacrament prayers, hymns, and testimonies. It is crazy to hear it spoken and to think that we will be able to speak and understand it in the very near future. My goal for myself this week is to be able to say my prayers without my paper. I can almost do it! Also, we have to prepare a talk in Russian every week that is 5 minutes long on a certain topic. This week is enduring to the end. The catch is everyone prepares their talks and then in Sacrament Meeting they will call two Elders at random to give their talks. So you don't even know if your going to give it!

The food here is alright haha. I am not eating cereal for every meal yet and I don't think I ever will. Breakfast I have cereal, lunch I have a salad wrap and dinner is usually like chicken or pasta or something. Some of it's pretty nasty haha, but it is okay.

I have some requests: a new towel that isn't 100% cotton haha. It really sucks because I get cotton stuck on my body after I shower, it's great.

We need a small ball to use for four square to play in our room/building! Just a little ball or something that will bounce good.

Some rubber tip drum sticks! I'm dying to play!

And some treats!

Keep sending me dearelders and letters, they're great! Also, tell people to write me like my friends and stuff and people in the ward! I want to hear from them!

I love you guys so much and hope you're doing good!

Love Always, Elder Keown