It is so good to hear from you! Thanks for the many letters, emails, and packages. I am blown away by how amazing the MTC is! And by the news that Hayden and another person from our ward is going to Brazil! I talked to Sister Haight (her class is down the hall from mine) and she was really excited about Hayden's call. (She has a letter with messages from all of us who went to Spain (Seth, Connor, etc.) and are now on missions that I think she'll send to Bryce to write so that we can all keep in touch). Blake, the MTC is like EFY times ten for six weeks. :) Instead of moving to the MTC it's like I Moved To the Celestial kingdom. My companion is great and I love my district. There is so much to say! about all the things that have happened since Tuesday I'm not sure where to begin.
It's good to hear you are all doing well. I hope Ben is pancaking defensive linemen (and using the swipe move on Offensive linemen) and that Blake is enjoying basketball, debate, and writing and memorizing a ton of poems. I hope Brooks and Braxton are doing well too! Thanks for the emails and letters from you guys! I only have a little time to respond, so I may only be able to write a main email today.
Last Tuesday it was great to see Uncle Jeff's family and Christy. & especially eat at Inn n' Out! That morning we went to the MTC and Sister Jones (Janaya, who was at the Jordan River Temple and was in my company at AFY) was getting her MTC service hours in, helping unload arriving missionaries! I think Uncle Jeff took some pictures. (I'll try to attach some pictures to the email, although the computers have been having a little trouble lately.) It is so much fun to see Elder Gauldin and Maites and I'm excited to see Elder Kamilos tomorrow! I have also seen Sister Fawcett and friends from previous EFY's. It's so much fun to be here in Provo. I have tried to look for Sister Eams for the Hapgoods but haven't yet. I'm not sure where she's serving (the MTC is organized by mission) so she may be at the West Campus.
We are already immersed in Portuguese. Elder Engle and I are trying to speak in all Portuguese (we call it an English fast:) todo a dia! We started yesterday and have only stopped to talk in English to our own companions. My companion is Elder Richards and he is a lot of fun - he's a great missionary and is super prepared with everything, spiritually and physically, for Brazil. He was struggling a little bit with the language and feeling a sick yesterday so Elder Jensen and I gave him a blessing. That night he was completely better and is catching on the language really well. Six from our district are going to the Cuiba mission, including him (I told them about the member from our ward going there), two going to Brazilia (I told them to look out for Bryce and showed them pictures:) and five are going to Teresina. We have all Elders in our district and one tri-panionship. I can't even describe how much fun it is, and how prepared everyone is in my district is to go out and serve.
Elder Tracey and Gundred are our roommates, and Elder Tracey is our district leader. They are awesome. Elder Tracey is going to play rugby at BYU when he gets back and played two years of rugby in college before his mission. He was also a DE and Mike Linebacker in high school, so it's been fun to talk to him.
Since Saturday we have been praying in only Portuguese, and it is coming along really well. It is so neat to pray in another language, because I've found that God answers in Portuguese when I pray in Portuguese, and helps me to know what words to say "in the very moment." It's amazing to see how much we are all being helped to learn the language - we have already taught three lessons from Preach my Gospel in Portuguese. Something I never imagined I'd be doing within five days!
My teacher in classroom study is actually the nephew of Brother Richardson! Heºs an amazing teacher. Kind of a mix between the teaching styles of Brother Bills and Brother Richardson. He learned Spanish on his mission and picked up Portuguese teaching English in Brazil (or Portugal.) We also have a teacher that went to Teresina on his mission and he has so many cool stories. I'm so excited for Teresina. I loved talking to Uncle Jeff about his mission on the way to the MTC. I hope by the end of two years I'll have served as well as he did, and still be able to speak Portuguese twenty years after my mission.
Choir on Sunday was unbelievable - there are at least a thousand in the choir. We sang "Where Can I Turn for Peace" and the director had us sing it as though it were an investigator talking to missionaries and it was so powerful. Everyone was in tears by the end of choir practice. I'll never think about the lyrics the same, it asks questions that everyone in the world has and answers them simply and powerfully.
Someone in Brazil that I will teach:
"Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace,
When other sources cease to make me whole?
Where is the quiet hand, to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
He answers privately, reaches my reaching!
In my Gethsemane, Savior, and Friend.
On Sunday night we listened to a devotional by Andrew Heaton (are we related to him?) about prayer that was really neat. It is so cool just to be surrounded by so many committed missionaries all getting ready to serve God for two years. Just seeing the all the missionaries in the MTC meet for a devotional is inspiring.
We also watched a talk by Elder Bednar about conversion that changed my life. It was about turning out, to serve others, rather than serving a mission for yourself. The Gospel is to be lived, not merely to be known. We grow our testimony of Christ when we study and pray, but we are converted when we ACT on our testimony. I can't wait to go out and just serve Heavenly Father for the next to years. I know there are people in Brazil being prepared to hear about Christ, and how he can change their lives.
I love you all - vocé tem uma semana marvilhosa!