Monday, June 30, 2014

whoaaa....we're halfway there...

Another week! so technically we're not halfway through yet, we won't be until this thursday, but exactly five weeks from today we'll be flying out to Thailand! Bomb diggity.
This week we started learning how to read and write Thai script. We started on Tuesday and were basically left to our own devices to study and teach ourselves how to do it. It's AWESOME. I'm so dang slow but I can usually figure words out relatively quickly. I freaking love learning Thai.
On Tuesday evening we had our usual devotional but it was special because this week was the Mission President Seminar where all the new mission presidents come and get trained by the apostles and first presidency. At our devotional, there were six apostles sitting at the front! Elders Oaks, Christoffersen, Anderson, Bednar, Ballard, and Nelson. Elder Christoffersen was the only one to speak, but it was so powerful to feel the spirit of all those apostles in the same room as us! Elder Christoffersen talked about the worth of souls. What is the worth of a human soul? "The worth of a human soul is its capacity to become like God." There are no ordinary people in this world! He went on to say that if the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, it must be worthless in the eyes of Satan. Satan will do everything he can to make us feel worthless and ordinary. Recognize that when you feel that way, those feelings are not from God.
Most days we sit in class and have Thai spewed at us for 8 or more hours a day, but on Thursdays we have an hour and a half to do service in the MTC, usually by helping out with some of the more menial cleaning tasks. We love it because it's physical and we don't have to be sitting in class, but last week was more awesome than usual because we got to put up flags at the MTC! The sisters in our district put up 31 flags in the front and side of the MTC, from Peru to India to Canada to South Africa. And of course Thailand!
On our temple walk we ran into one of the sisters we know from Thailand. While the rest of the sisters in my district were talking to her, I started up a conversation with her companion, Hermana Ferro, and quickly learned she's from Peru and barely speaks English. Sister Nethercott and I talked to her for probably an hour and a half in Spanish and the rest of the night we were speaking "Spaiglish" (which is Spanish, Thai, and English). So fun. Hermana Ferro is speaking Spanish and English on her mission but there are four sisters in her district and they are native-speaking Korean, Thai, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. They can't communicate in any language other than English and most of them didn't know but a few words before they got here. I was so impressed with the sisters dedication to learning the language and persevering despite the enormous trial of the communication barrier. I know I can't imagine not being able to express my thoughts and ideas in English to my district. There are so many sacrifices made by missionaries to be here; we give everything we have and were before the mission to be who God wants us to be. "Greatness comes as you forget yourself and lose yourself in service to God."

I always feel like I never really mention any stories in my weekly letters but that's because it's the small moments in life that often bring the biggest memories. In the MTC, it's so easy to see the impact of a random act of service like opening a door for someone. I thrive on little moments like that here, like being able to work out every morning in the weight gym or biking a new record. When I start worrying about my ability to be a missionary and suddenly Elder Hilton will make some sassy comment and Elder Okimoto will start laughing and then we all start laughing. When Sister Herrmann and I are sitting in a lesson and suddenly our investigator makes a major personal breakthrough and starts feeling what we're saying instead of just listening. When we talk about favorite movies and somehow Elder Curtis and I end up leading a rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," or when we're all super frustrated with studying and suddenly our whole district is on the floor laughing about something really stupid or immature. In the words of a random note I got this week, "everything is gonna be alright. :)"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Church is iglesia es verdad...ศาสนาเป็นความจริง

all of our food. there are eight sisters and we all donated as much as we could to the cause. it was a huge success.
there was this spicy thai tuna that sister brown's mom sent to us! we were all a little apprehensive to try it but sister Alley, sister Mamea and I had the guts to do it and it turned out really good!
district pic!
sisters having fun pic!
In the last almost three weeks, we've had devotionals from Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Sister Sheri Dew and Sister Janice Kapp Perry. Because it's the new mission president conference for the next few days, we've had 14 of the 15 apostles on our MTC campus (we haven't seen really any of them though) and yesterday the Elders in our district had the opportunity to pass the sacrament in the same room as President Thomas S. Monson. This morning my companion and I were coming back from the temple and we totally saw President Henry B. Eyring! He waved to us from his car. Nooooo big deal...our lives are kinda made. ;)

We said goodbye to the older Thai elders this week! They actually just left today. We were all sad to see them go but excited to see them when we hit Thailand in six weeks and at zone conferences and stuff. Crazy how three weeks with people can make us feel so connected and close! That's mission life for ya.

Well, if I've noticed any patterns in my life, it's that really hard stuff leads to really awesome stuff. Sometimes they occur simultaneously. This week has been a week of the Spirit. I've received so many answers to prayers and questions in so many different ways and it's been physically exhausting because it's so spiritually intense. It's awesome.

The gift of tongues is real. As we put in the effort to speak the language all the time, we have been blessed to learn faster and feel the spirit more powerfully. I have been struggling to learn the word "special" for almost a week and was really frustrated that I could never remember it, but as I was sitting in a lesson on Saturday our investigator used it in a question and in that moment I learned the word and pronunciation and I have not forgotten it since. I have been sitting in lessons struggling to remember words or phrases to use and out of seeming nowhere the Spirit will bring a word to my mouth or a thought of what to say. I'm so grateful to be learning Thai.

All the sisters in our district have decided that we're going to do "Friday Night Food Parties" every friday night! We collect all the food we're sent and go crazy. This week's special was this "spicy Thai tuna" courtesy of Sister Brown's mom! We were all a little scared to try it but it turned out to be soo good! We're already pumped for next week. Apparently we have a bit of a reputation in our building of being the loudest district because we're always singing, laughing, and being generally happy and awesome. We're really cool with being gossiped about that way.

Sometimes when Sister Herrmann and I get bored during study we go outside and bear our testimonies in Thai to missionaries or employees to help us practice, and we've had so many good experiences come from that because even though no one can understand what we're saying (and we're probably butchering the words that we are saying), the Spirit is there and conveys the message anyways. As we were walking I felt impressed to share our testimonies with an older couple that were walking around campus but as we introduced ourselves we realized that they didn't speak English! They were the new mission president for the Argentina Rosario Mission and were there for training, so their English was broken and about as good as our Thai. We bore our testimonies in Thai and I was able to speak with them in Spanish afterwards! It was suuuuch a tender mercy for me because I LOVE Spanish and it was such a blessing to feel like I could still speak and understand it as well as I could (although I don't doubt that the spirit was there to help me as much as ever). The Church is true in every language, in every country, in every time and place. The Lord has given us the privilege of serving Him and furthering the work. 

Go watch "Missionary Work and the Atonement" on youtube. it's our district's favorite video.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Life isn't a t-shirt giveaway!

Sister Heaton, Sister Herrmann, Sister Tu'avo (probably spelled wrong), and I. Sister Heaton and Tu'avo left for Hong Kong this morning! We love them.

Me, Sister Nethercott, Elder Curtis and Elder Hinkson. I don't have favorites, but if I did, those would be my favorite Elders.

We told the Elders to smile for their moms and that was the result.

the Thai sisters! I love love LOVE them! Pitts, Alley, Herrmann, me, Peck, Brown, Nethercott, and Mamea.

Brown, Herrmann, me, Nethercott, Mamea. We love temple walks on Sundays!
Sawatdiikha iig! It's our second p-day here in the MTC! This week is a lot more down in the trenches getting dirty, but we're still learning so much and loving everything!

This has been a week of miracles. It's said at the MTC that obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles, and this has been a week of miracles in our district. When I give everything to the Lord and trust Him, I can feel the spirit speaking through me and helping me remember words and phrases that I would never remember without divine help. I've been sitting in lessons not knowing what to say when suddenly a phrase will pop into my head and I'll know exactly what the Spirit wants me to say. It's a powerful experience and I'm so grateful to be learning Thai.

It's said that Thai is one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers, along with Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Cambodian...all the languages in our zone! It's supposed to take thousands of classroom hours to be able to learn all the grammar and syntax and everything and the fact that I can carry a broken conversation and understand what's being said is nothing less than a miracle.

It can be really stressful and discouraging at times, despite all our success and motivation, and this week was definitely long and hard. I was frustrated initially because I can't deal with stress how I normally would by jamming out to music or going for a drive or a late-night run, but I've realized I have sooo many resources to help me even here. I've been blessed with an AMAZING district and whenever some of us get down, Elder Curtis or Elder Hinkson will crack a joke or Sister Alley will give us a positive pep talk or someone will read a scripture or we'll have an Easy Cheese friday night party or I'll get a priesthood blessing and they're such simple things, but they make such a big difference in helping me make it through one more day at a time. Around here, you gotta get excited about the little things and tender mercies because they're EVERYWHERE but you just gotta look sometimes. Some days when I get really burned out I go listen to spanish hymns while I study Thai, and it's such a tender mercy from the Lord to be able to have access to those on the LDS website. And all the mormon messages! Go watch the one called "True Christianity" with the cute little old men in the biker club. I love it. And go watch the one about fathers, too! It's even better!

One night this week, we were sooo burned out. We'd had 8 hours of Thai and were feeling like we weren't getting any of it, and as we were moping one of the Vietnamese Elders named Elder Andrews stopped in our classroom and we started talking. Out of nowhere, he shared with us some things his district had been talking about recently. He emphasized that the mission is the Lord's time; when we come here to serve, we sacrifice everything about our old lives to devote everything we have to serving the Lord completely. This is His time, not ours, so obedience is key. Then someone reminded us of that quote that goes something like "You have two years to give to the Lord and the rest of your life to think about it." CRAZY. but true. Talking with Elder Andrews was exactly what we needed that night to put things in perspective.

I remember a picture/saying that used to hang in our house back in Wisconsin, and I don't remember if we still have it but it says, "With God behind us, and His arms beneath us, we can face whatever lies before us."
Happy Father's day! It was hard being in the MTC yesterday when literally all anyone was talking about was how great Dads are, but it's true. Dads are awesome, and mine is especially awesome. I'm so grateful for his example to me and his patience and love. In addition to our earthly fathers, we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants nothing more than to help us. Turn to Him in everything you do, and you will notice an increase in divine help in whatever you need help with. Remember, if it's important to you, it's important to Him.
Have a great week everyone!
Sidtaa Zoller

Monday, June 9, 2014

Walking on sunshine....whaaaooo!

My awesome-sauce nametag

our district picture!
myself and my lovely khuu (companion)
Sawatdiikha! Today is my first P-day so here's my first big email! I've only been here for six days but soooo much has happened!

The first day I got here, we sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" but they changed the words in the chorus from "We will be the Lord's missionaries" to "We are now the Lord's missionaries" and it was so powerful! I felt the spirit so strongly as I looked around the room and I finally felt the confirmation I've been wanting for so long that THIS is where I need to be and what I need to be doing, and every day since then I've received that confirmation again in countless ways.

In six days, we have taught two lessons to our new investigator completely in Thai and taught him how to pray and prayed with him, and we've given him a Book of Mormon! We study Thai for 6-8 hours in class every day and then we also have extra study time on our own. It's really structured and rule-oriented, but also we have a lot of freedom to structure our study in a way that will help us most. In our district (our class, of all the Thai missionaries that entered the same day) there are six elders and eight sisters, and we are soooo tight. We do everything together and we're always studying together and trying to help each other out. We're such overachievers on the language, we spend all our spare time trying to pick up new words and grammar rules from the other Thai district who has been here longer. The older Thai district keeps telling us to calm down and stop making them look bad because apparently we're much farther along than they were when they were five days in. We love it.

Our zone, which is a bunch of districts together, has around 60 missionaries speaking Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Cambodian, going all over the world where those languages are spoken. We always eat together and have (friendly) competitions during gym time.

My khuu (companion in Thai) is Sister Herrmann! I was so thrilled when I saw her. We met through the Sister Missionary Facebook group during winter semester this year, along with Sister Brown, who is in our dorm with us and her companion, Sister Nethercott. The four of us get on so great.

The best spiritual experience from this week was with our investigator, Txg. He's actually role-playing our investigator, he's really our other Thai teacher, but when we roleplay the feelings and experiences that we have are just as real as if we were teaching in the field. Phii Txg is Buddhist, a single dad with an 8-year-old daughter who has been crippled from birth, and he's had a really hard time taking care of her but he heard about Jesus Christ and the Plan of Happiness in our church and wants to know so badly how to get the light that he sees when we come to visit and share scriptures with him. We have some language barrier issues, naturally, but when my companion and I pray to have the spirit with us we go in and we can truly understand and communicate with him. We talk about faith a lot in the context of KNOWING things, but we often forget that faith starts with a simple desire to know the truth. When we taught Phii Txg to pray and he prayed for the first time, it was so simple and yet overwhelmingly powerful because he wants to know the truth so badly.

In my time here, I've come to realize more and more that everything I have and am is because of what God has blessed me with. I'm so blessed to have the language coming to me more easily because of all my experience with Spanish, but I never would have learned Spanish if I hadn't been led to take Spanish 101 last spring term at BYU (shoutout to Sarah and Maggie! I think of you girls all the time and how much you're going to LOVE the MTC/CCM!). Everything I thought I was sacrificing and giving up and having to suffer through has truly all been for my good.

Shoutout to Michael Perry and Brianna Fabiano for being my family and dropping me off at the MTC! Thaaaaaank you thank you. It meant a lot to me and helped me be less nervous than I would have been if I'd gone in by myself.
Extra shoutout to all the people I know who work here! I know seriously half the people working in the cafeteria and people on custodian crew and a few teachers too! It makes my whole day to see random wardies and cafeteria people.

And to anyone reading this, feel free to DearElder me! Please do! It's free for you besides the time that you put in and it makes my whole day. My address is on facebook and it's so easy!
Lots and lots of love,
Sidtaa Zoller