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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hola querida familia y amigos!

Hello from the MTC! I am so excited to finally be able to communicate with you all. My P day is on Thursday, but we didn´t get one last week because Tuesday was our first full day of classes. And unfortunately I have a little less time to email today than I usually will because I had to go to the doctor up on main campus (I'll explain that later), but I am eager to tell you all about my week.

First of all, thank you so much for all of the notes you left for me at my farewell, and for the letters and packages I've received since being here. I think DearElder is the best way to send letters. I love having a letter to read at the end of the day. I feel so much support and love from everyone, so thank you for that. 

The first three or four days here at the MTC went by really slowly. They were also a bit overwhelming, but so good. I am on the MTC West Campus (we usually call it the CCM, which is short for Centro de Capitación Misionero).We do live at Wyview, and attend class in the old Raintree apartments. I love being on the west campus. We live in an apartment rather than a dorm, so there's a lot more space, and because the entire campus is Spanish speaking we're more or less immersed in the language. We try to speak Spanish all the time, but there are times when we're too spent to try and speak in Spanish. Our classes are completely in Spanish though, and I was pleasantly surprised on the first day when I found out I could understand about 95% of what my teachers were saying to me. By Friday we taught our first investigators in Spanish. Our district is assigned an "investigator" every week who is actually a teacher here at the MTC. But there are also people walking around the campus who you can set up appointments with, and my companion and I have picked up four investigators that way. Some of the investigators are members of the Church but others are real investigators. I'm pretty sure two of our investigators are members of the Church but it's such good practice to teach them. The other two are a husband and wife from Guatamala who we are meeting with tomorrow for the first time, and I'm not sure if they're members of the Church, but I think they might be real investigators. We treat every investigator as if they're really investigating the Church, and it's amazing the revelation we can receive for them. 

So my companion's name is Hermana Woods. She's from Sacramento California, is nineteen years old, and also went to two semesters at BYU before entering the MTC. We get along really well. We are pretty different in a lot of ways, but I think our strengths compliment each other's and there is a lot I can learn from her. There are two other sisters in our district, who also share our apartment with us: Hermana Robinson and Hermana Kell. Hermana Kell is 23 and graduated from BYU last December. Hermana Robinson is 20 and goes to Utah State. I love all of the sisters I get to work with here. 

There are four Elders in our district. Elder Hazel and Elder Dreesen, and Elder Stewart and Elder Branham. Elder Hazel is very loud, sarcastic, and funny. Elder Dreesen is also funny and a little sarcastic, but more laid back than his companion. Elder Stewart is our district leader. He's 6'7" and the ceilings in our classroom are only 7', so he's usually slouching. He's been a great district leader. Elder Branham is "sneaky funny" as Hermana Robinson described him, and looks like Ron Weasley (not Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley.) Five of us in our zone are going to Mexico, though because we're an intermediate class it's a mix of all different missions. Elders Stewart and Branham are both going to Costa Rica, and Hermana Kell is going to California. The other district in our zone is all Elders. One Elder, who is one of the zone leaders, is from Pleasant Grove, so that was fun to figure that out. Our district is already really good friends- it's easy to get to know people when you spend 16 hours a day with them. 

I've also been able to see a few friends, Sister Marquis and Sister Olsen, when I go up to main campus for devotionals. It's so fun to see all of us preparing to go out into our field of labor, excited to serve. 

It's amazing how much I learn in a single day here. On Thursday, I was so hesitant to pray that I wrote out a prayer in Spanish and used it twice that day, once reading it and once more or less memorized. But by the end of Friday I had said more prayers in Spanish than I could count! My language skills are improving every day. These past two days I've also learned so much about how to teach investigators. They kind of just give you an investigator at first and let you figure out how to teach them, and then teach you how to teach once you're finished with your first investigator. I have such a strong testimony that this is the Lord's work. There is no way I would be able to do the things I do everyday--especially with the language--if it wasn't. I can feel Him buoying me up and strengthening me daily. 

I want to share one experience before I have to finish. On Tuesday I was exercising with weights during gym time when I felt my shoulder momentarily pop out of place. I got really dizzy and started seeing stars but was pretty sure I was otherwise okay, so I continued to exercise, being careful to not work my shoulder. That night at the Devotional though my shoulder was in a lot of pain and I really started to worry that I had seriously injured it. I was a little discouraged that night because it had been a long day and I was in pain, but I fervently pleaded with Heavenly Father to heal my shoulder completely. But as I prayed before going to sleep, I felt literally "encircled about in the arms of His love" (2 Nephi 1:15). It was like Heavenly Father was giving me a hug, and it was the most comforting answer I could have received. As I lay in bed on my back, trying to not further aggravate my shoulder, the song "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide" kept running through my head, as I continued to pray that I would be completely healed. 

The next day I went and saw a physical therapist who did some tests and said that if my shoulder had subluxed, it was now back in place. She set up an appointment with the doctor for me and I went and saw him today. The doctor said it's more likely that I just tore a tendon, but that it is also very possible my shoulder bone momentarily popped out of place but went right back in. Either way, he is completely confident that I will be 100% recovered within the next week and that I shouldn't have problems in the future. He prescribed some anti-inflammatory drugs just to be safe. Heavenly Father definitely answered my prayers for recovery. 

Well, I need to go, but I love you all! I felt so much peace my first day in the MTC. I know this is where I need to be. I miss you all of course, but I haven't really gotten homesick because I'm just taking everything a day at a time. I love being a missionary, a servant of God and a representative of Jesus Christ. I know this is His Church, His Gospel, and His work. Have a great week!

Abrazos y besos, 

Hermana Ashley Southard