Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hello Outside World!!!

It has been another crazy week here at the MTC. Can you believe I am half-way done with my stay here!!!! (Well almost!!!) That is so crazy!!

So I have one thing to say reguarding the whole 'you must wear a skirt thing'. I am so tired of it already!!! I can't believe that I signed up for a year and a half of this crazyness!!! I have decided that I will never be ok with any type of dress-like clothing EVER!!! And I will definitely go back to my jean wearing days as soon as I get home!!!

So, this week the Zusters in our district were talking about the Elders in our district....we decided that each of them can be described as one of the Avengers and they now all have code names. I though you might want to know what my district is like it goes!!

Elder Chantry: Captain America. He is a clean-cut, moral following guy who will fight if he has to to keep the peace...but he would rather not!

Elder King: Black Widow. He is able to manipulate the words of the district to make everything we say fifty times more funny and he also has mad-like flipping and twisting and black widow skills.

Elder Staley: Iron Man. He is smart. Knows he is attractive and is full of himself. (He is still a very nice guy!! Don't get me wrong)

Elder Liang: The Hulk. He is probably the most patient person I have ever known. He puts up with the things that his companion does that aren't quite obedient and continues through life without a word about it. But, we haven't seen him blow yet.....We have a feeling that it is going to be epic!

Elder Jex: Thor. He's just Thor. We see most of his ability to fly and save the world of men in our volleyball games. He has the Thor hammer down pat.

Elder Muse: Hawk Eye. (Now these are Sister Juchau's Words.....not mine) He is useless but attractive.

These Elders are probably some of the funniest, most crazy, and cool Elders I could have asked for!! They are all here for the right reasons and I am so happy that I get to spend 8 hours a day in a classroom with them.

So, Zuster Noguiera and I had a really cool experience the other day. We were in Coaching Missionary study with Brother Wells. We have been having a really tough time being able to teach together and be albe to work off of what the other said. Brother Wells asked us to share our testimony and explain why and how we know everything about a certain topic to each other and then he had us teach him. It was probably the coolest thing ever to see how both of our experiences in life, though they are extremely different, were able to play off of each other and build an environment where the Spirit could truly reside (it was even in Dutch!!!) I am so grateful to have learned this and as Zuster N. and I share our testimonies with each other our companionship is also growing closer than I ever though possible(especially with the language difference).

Zuster N. fainted three times on Monday.....this is getting a little ridiculous. I don't know why the doctors haven't found anything yet because we have been in there for tests almost every single day since we have been here in the MTC. They also keep waiting to make the decision of whether or not she is going to stay on a mission, or if they are going to re-assign her to a mission in the states, or keep her in the BEL-NETH mission. She is getting really tired of this crazyness. She told me yesterday that she would rather know now that she was going to be doing something different than to continue to learn Dutch and then randomly be an English speaking missionary. She is on a heart monitor right now and they want her to faint while she is wearing it so that they can get a more accurate reading. We have spent the last three days either in the clinic all day so that she can sleep while I attempt to teach myself Dutch, or we have been in the hospital meeting a billion new doctors. I guess we will see how it goes but right now it isn't looking very bright.

Our district decided that we were going to have nightly devotionals so that we can have something great to pick us up after long, disappointing days. (Which there are a lot of around here) it is probably my most favorite part of the day because everyone gets to share their testimonies with each other and we have grown a lot closer because of it!! I LOVE my district. They keep me going and help me out even when I have to miss a lot of class. And it is so nice to be able to learn more about them, their families and their testimonies!!!

So, we have investigators here at the MTC. We are teaching two right now. (They are both our teachers acting like investigators that they had on their missions) We have taught a total of 3 lessons combined over the last two weeks because we are never in class BUT, we already have one committed to baptism and we are hopefully teaching again tonight. It's way cool to teach. It's super hard to teach in a language that you still don't really understand, but the best part about it is that you get to learn more about your teachers and see and feel their love for those they taught on their missions. It just makes me even more excited to get into the field so that I can meet people that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am so excited!!

On Sunday, Ann Dibb came and taught Relief Society. (For those of you who don't know, she is President Monson's daughter....yeah, it was a surprise to me too) But she left a few moments at the end of her talk for us to ask any questions that we had about President Monson. One sister asked if there were any rumors that Sister Dibb wanted to clear up about her father. Sister Dibb's response was,"It really bugs me when people say,"I can't believe a man of 80+ years would still dye his hair so that he can try to look professional.' That really bugs me because all of the hair upon his head is still naturally brown. The Prophet does not dye his hair you young sisters!! But I, on the other hand, pay big bucks to keep my natural brown" That was probably the best moment of Sunday. It had us sisters laughing for the rest of the day!!! So just you remember that the Prophet does not dye his hair!!

The food really driving me crazy. It is time for some real chocolate, some homemade rolls, real meat and less grease!!! Don't get me wrong, I am very appreciative of the food that I am given to eat....but I can't wait until I can select the food I want to eat for myself and plan my own meals!!! It will be a glorious day when that happens!!!

I LOVE THE PICTURES THAT EVERYONE SENDS!!! They are probably the best part of my week!!! (Along with the letters!!!) Please keep them coming!!! If you don't, I will end up being one of those awkward missionaries when I come home because no one is keeping me up on the real world!!!

Ik hou van jullie!!!

Zuster Israelsen

P.S. Mom, I am positive that I don't have my USU hoodie.....I looked again. I am pretty sure that I left it in my closet....on one of the shelves. It may be inside out and therefore unidentifiable from a distance, or someone(*cough *cough Rachel) 'accidentally took it' But even if you can't find west side story hoodie...or wicked or really any nice and attractive hoodie you can find would be fabulous(even though I would prefer the USU one :D)

P.P.S. Rachel, als u wilt het Nederlands te translate is niet so goed vor grammatica of zin structure. Mijn lerars lachen weneer zij kijken uw letter en zeide," Dis is niet goed nederlands, maar es heel plezier!!!" Ik hou van u Rachel :D

Ik hou van jullie!! Mijn familie es geveldig!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 2 at the MTC


I have successfully made it through week two.....I know. It is super crazy. The days seem like months because they move by so slowly but then you look back and the weeks seem like days. Now I know why everyone has told me to enjoy every moment of my mission because it really is going to fly by.

This week has been super crazy. My companion(the girl who has fainted now more than once) is still in and our of the doctor ALL of the time. We have been to the hospital or the MTC health clinic at least once a day this last week. Most of the time that we have to be dealing with medical stuff we are missing class. It is also really difficult for her to have a medical problem in these here the United States because she does not speak english well enough to communicate with the doctors. They usually have to set up a specific time and request a translator so that we can figure out what is going to happen next. Tomorrow we are going back to the cardiologist so that she can get a week long heart monitor. They think that it has something to do with her heart but apparently she has been through all of these tests before. In the mean time, I get to go on field trips!! That is right. I am one of the few missionaries who gets to leave the MTC on a regular basis!! It does make learning Dutch a little bit difficult though. But it is crazy to think of how much Dutch I already know. I teach in het Nederlands every day of the week which is pretty great!!!

I was able to be an escort for Zuster Noguiera last Thursday!!! It was pretty cool and she was way nervous but once she figured out that everyone in the temple was there to help her and to support her she was able to relax and then enjoy the opportunity to learn in the house of the Lord. She even had a cool little head set that had the endowment in portuguese so that she could understand everything that was going on. She was literally glowing for probably two whole days after last Thursday. It was so cool to see that happen especially since she is so worried about learning english and Dutch and she is worried about if she is going to be able to stay on a mission or not. It was such a good thing for her to be able to have that relief.

Ok. Craziest thing that happened this week. They have a fireside on every Sunday and they brought in Brother Heaton who is the director of all mission related programs in the world. He informed us of the new program for the missionaries that is starting with our group who leave the MTC at the beginning of December. We will have a 12 week traning program in which our trainers take us through Preach my Gospel and pretty much start us out right away with making appointments, planning baptisms etc. Then, at the end of that 12 week period in the field, we will then be eligible to train new missionaries who come into the field. Those missionaries will only have 6 weeks of language training in the MTC. That means I better learn the language quickly or else there are going to be problems!!!

Everyone keeps asking about the food. The food is ok. It was great for the first week and I kept thinking,'What were people talking about....It's not that bad!!!' But then we came back to Wednesday and I realized that they have the EXACT SAME FOOD scheduled for every day of the week!!! So there is pretty much NO variety. But they do have hot sauce so I can spice things up a little bit.

So our first investigator that we had miraculously became our teacher. His name is Broeder Robinson and his family is from the Netherlands. He is super great and I am glad that he is my taecher because he speaks my IPA language. None of the other teachers know what the heck I am talking about but Broeder Robinson has my back. It's almost as good as having Dr. Keisker here in the MTC teaching me how to sound like I am from the Netherlands except he does not have catchy phrases like,'Chicago, Wisconson' or 'voille la sallade' to help me to remember where to place my vowels!!!

I offically love the Dutch language. I have started to memorize 'Joseph Smith's first prayer' so that I can sing it for one of the weekly devotionals we have in our district (or maybe later for real discussions) but I have to say...the language is just beautiful!!!

My favorite parts of the week are first gym time. We usually play volleyball and the sisters in our district totally rocked the elders last night!!! It was pretty sweet, if I do say so myself. Also, I love that I am the only Aggie in our zone and that everyone trys to talk about how wonderful BYU is, or that they attend BYU and I get to look at them and just say,"Oh, I'm so sorry" and they have no response. Also, we pull pranks on the elders in our district ALL of the time, it usually causes chaos in our classroom for at least 10 minutes as they try to figure out what is going on!! But my all-time favorite thing is being able to be in the choir. It is so wonderful to be able to create music since you can't listen to it in your rooms and the only time you sing during the day is with a huge group of elders. I'm pretty sure that I have become an alto over the last week because the elders like to prove their manliness by how low and loudly they sing. But in choir, I get to make real music and sing like a girl!! The spirit is always so strong when a group of missionaries comes together and sings. I LOVE IT!!

Oh, and I have finally become friends with some of the Elders. Elder Chantry and Elder King are probably the funniest companionship in the world and we just have a blast being crazy all day long!!

30 minutes is NOT long enough to tell you everything that I want to say. I am doing well and continue to learn and grow each day. I am learning fast than I ever thought possible!!! It is so crazy but super fun at the same time!! I will send pictures later today when I get a chance during laundry(that is the only computer in the entire place that reads anything picture like)

I love you all!!! (Ik hou van jullie!!!)

Zuster Israelsen

P.S. I'm sorry if there is any Dutch in thise letter....I have been writing every word I know in Dutch when I take notes....and I had to try really hard not to have any in here!! So good luck!!

P.P.S. Mom....I know I already sent a list of stuff I needed...but it just barely got really cold here. I have a coat, but for during the night and on my P-Day I would like a hoodie....If you could possibly send me my Aggies hoodie that would be the best thing of my entire life!!!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

First Week at the MTC


I have had a very crazy first week here in the MTC. This is probably the hardest, yet most rewarding things that I have ever done in my entire life. Let's take a walk through the first few days shall we? I arrived in the MTC and Elder Keate was my host missionary which was probably my most favorite part of the entire day!! It was so nice to have a familiar face here to welcome me into the new missioinary life. I then went through a big long tour and received all of my tags and other necessary items for life here. We then met as new missionaries all together with the MTC mission presidency and all of the new missionaries. 88 new sister missionaries came into the MTC last Wednesday which is most likely going to be the smallest number they will see for about the rest of forever. My favorite part of that meeting was that we sang 'Called to Serve'. I had been waiting for a year for that moment and I have to say, it was better than I expected. The Spirit was so strong and it was so cool to see the new addition to the Lord's army!!!

I then went to my first was all in Dutch. I'm pretty sure all I understood was hello and goodbye. Talk about jumping right in. Our teachers speak in het Nederlands(Dutch) ALL of the time. You either have to be really good at reading body language or start to learn the language super quickly or else you will never survive. Our teachers are Broeder Norton and Broeder Wells. Broeder Wells says that he knows Trevor Israelsen and that we could be friends because I am cool enough to be related to Trevor!!!

There are four sisters in our district. Me, Zuster Raun, Zuster Juchau and Zuster Nogiera. My companion is Zuster Nogiera. She is from Portugal and she doesn't speak english very well. She didn't arrive in the MTC until 2 AM on Thursday morning so I was a solo sister for a whole day....which was kinda weird but I enjoyed it. Because she doesn't speak english very well it is very hard for her to learn Dutch from anyone in our district. I feel as though I have fallen behind because I am trying to make sure that she is able to understand and perform well. We have an interpreter sometimes....but it is hard to find someone who speaks english, portuguese and dutch...we're still working on that.

On day 2, we had to teach our first lesson in Dutch....and I wish I could say that I was phenomenal and that I was already fluent in Dutch.....but it was a train wreck. I had no idea what I was saying....I had no idea what our investigator was saying. I now know how Elder Calhoun felt when the lady in the park spoke Dutch to him and he had no idea what in the world she was saying. I read (in the worst Dutch accent ever) the entire lesson from preach my gospel and I don't think that our investigator got anything out of it....but I made it through. Since then, we have taught two more times and have another lesson tonight. We're getting better at it...even though we still sound like Dutch cavemen.

One super cool thing is that since Zuster Nogiera doesn't have a temple nearby at home, she is going to receive her endowment 1:00. And guess who gets to be her escort.....that's right.....this girl right here. We tried to convince her that maybe she would like to have someone who spoke portugese go through with her but she won't hear of I'll let you know how well I do considering I have only been through the temple a few times.

Conference this weekend was so incredibly amazing!!! Can you believe the missionary announcement?!?! The Lord hastens His work in His own time and it is so cool that the time is now!!! It is time to gather Israel!!! My colegas(companions) and I were talking about it though...and we have come to the realization that we are going to be so old when we come back from our missions. We'll tell people that we are return missionaries and they will respond 'Oh, so you're 21' and we will correct them and automatically be seen as old people. And to put the cherry on top, the only skills we will have when we come back is being really good at making gutteral noises....attractive....I know.

So on Sunday....mijn colega fainted. I missed the last session of conference so that she could rest and we have missed classtime every single day this week(as if we aren't already behind) because we have to keep going to the hospital. We are going to the cardiologist and they have done so many tests it is unreal. She currently has a monitor on her so that they can see what her heart goes through during the day. It's super scary since she is unhealthy, but also because if they don't figure out what is wrong they will most likely send her home.

OK. So here is my favorite part of this last week. On Tuesday nights they have a devotional and someone comes to speak to all of the missionaries and this Tuesday.....drumroll was Elder Bednar. Probably one of the coolest things ever. He taught us how to study the scriptures given to us my the modern day prophets. He counciled us to FIRST, identify the doctrines and principles the speaker is teaching, SECOND find out what he is inviting you to do and THIRD find the promises thay he gives to you if you heed his teachings. He counciled us to put all of the things that we have learned onto one piece of paper from general conference and keep it for the rest of your lives and try to do those things you have learned so that you can receive the blessings promised. I was also able to be part of the choir which is so amazing because they don't let you listen to music in your rooms in the choir is the only opportunity I get to sing.

I have to say though that I have never looked forward more to my gym time in my entire life. I play volleyball with all of the Dutch missionaries and it totally helps to relieve the stress that builds up during the day.

So.....I thought that 30 minutes was going to be more time but....alas I have been trying to help my companion figure out a computer at the same time I have written this letter so I'm sorry that it isn't very long. I love you all and I love getting your dearelders everyday!!! It helps me so much to be able to have the strength to be able to learn the language and still feel accomplished even though I am behind. You are all wonderful people!!!


Zuster Israelsen

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Night Before it all Begins

Tonight I will be set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I cannot believe that the day I have waited for is finally here. I will be spending the next year and a half of my life in the countries of Belgium and the Netherlands spreading a gospel that I know to be true. A gospel full of the joy and love our Heavenly Father has for us. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I have made this decision to serve. To give of my time to a cause that is truly inspiring and crucial to the salvation of men.

There was a time when I felt like a fish in a fish tank. I would swim around all day, hang out with my fish buddies, eat food that is somehow provided for me by some mysterious source and was completely content in my own little world. But then I began to wonder what was going on around me. Who was taking care of me, even though I was ungrateful and oblivious to their care, and what my purpose was in this big fish tank called earth. The truth is, we have all been put here for a reason, for a specific purpose. Some of us may be sharks, others tuna, others sea cucumbers. We each have our own special qualities that allow us to help others to survive and to return to where we came from. We have a purpose, to return to our Heavenly Father.

Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that not only did He provide the means for us to live and thrive here on this earth, but He gave us the means necessary for each of us to return to Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."(John 3:16) In my scripture study this week I was led to a section in 1 Nephi. In this book, the prophet Lehi describes a vision he had of the tree of life. This tree had fruit that was desirable above all other fruit and Lehi had desires that his family should partake. As he beckons them to come and partake, he sees many others trying to reach the tree of life. Amid darkness and temptations, there is a rod of iron, that if one would grab ahold and not let go, led to the tree of life.

This particular parable from the Book of Mormon is one that I have been taught since my youth, but I found something particularly interesting in 1 Nephi 11, where Nephi asks to see this same vision. As he is given the opportunity to see what his father saw, he asks for an interpretation of each of the items described by his father. When he asks about the tree of life he is shown the Baby Jesus with his mother Mary in Bethlehem. The love between a mother and son is shown, not only a mother and son but THE son who was sent to redeem us all. Nephi is asked if he understands what is being shown unto him and he replies, "Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things." (1 Nephi 11:22)

Nephi is then shown a vision of Christ's ministry to represent the rod of iron, which Nephi interprets to be the word of God proclaimed through and of Christ. Over and over again, Nephi is given glimpses of Christ's ministry and learns of the truth. How cool is that? The only way that Nephi was to learn and understand the love of God is through the only begotten of the Father. The only way Nephi was to understand the beauty of the word of God was through Christ and by observing the love that Christ had for every man. Likewise, it is through Christ we understand the love of God. Through Christ we learn of the beauty of the word of God. It is through Christ that we learn of our purpose on this earth and in the life to come. And it is through Christ that we learn how we can be happy and achieve our goal to return to our Heavenly Father.

"And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest gifts of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7) As I have followed the commandments and guidelines given to me by my Heavenly Father my life has been filled with joy and comfort. It is the message of Christ's life, the message of His love, that brings this comfort.

That is why I am going on a mission: because I know that God loves His children and that through His Son are they saved. Nephi says," I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17) I, like Nephi, do not claim to know everything; nor do I understand everything that I am asked to do but the fact that God loves me gives me the confidence, and even more the desire, to do His will. "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."(1 Nephi 3:7)

I know that in 1820, a young man named Joseph Smith was guided by the word of God to pray and ask which church to join. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him"(James 1:5) I know that he saw God, the Father and Jesus Christ and that they, through Joseph, restored the full truthfullness of the gospel and the message of love given through Christ that have allowed millions from that point forth to be comforted by the knowledge of the truth.

So, why am I going on a mission? Because God loves me, because God loves all of His children and because of the love of Christ. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) I am not being asked to lay down my life, but I am giving a year and a half for Christ, who laid down His life for all of us. My purpose is to spread this word so that my fellow brothers and sisters may know of the truth that I have been blessed with. I know that Christ lives and that through Him all things are possible.

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 19:32)