A Day in the Life: A Photostory

Editor’s note: Choosing to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a commitment to a life of discipleship, and to a disciplined life. Missionaries volunteer for service, and pay their own way. For the duration of their missions (18-24 months), they seek to devote themselves completely to the service of their fellowmen, and their God.  To enhance awareness of spiritual feelings, and improve their attention to the people around them, missionaries strive to minimise selfish pursuits (such as compulsive shopping), refrain from time-consuming entertainments (such as computer games), and willingly abstain from most forms of media (such as tv, film, radio, magazines, and Facebook).  They even temporarily forgo very worthwhile and important aspects of life, including educational programmes, career advancement, romantic relationships, the comforts of home, and the companionship of friends and family.

So why are young men and women of the Church currently applying for missionary service at the rate of about 4,000 applicants per week? Could this kind of life truly be appealing to young adults? Why do they do it? For answers to these questions and more, read on…!

A Day in the Life: A Photostory

(concept and content provided by Sestra Jones; post written by Mrs Jones, her mother)

4 March 2013

Ahoj vs’etky! Welcome to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. My name is Sestra Jones, and I will be your tour guide for the day. So please keep your arms and hands in the vehicle at all times, and fasten your seatbelt because it’s going to be a thrilling ride! And it all starts with an early morning.

welcome to the MTC

Welcome to the Provo MTC!

It’s 6:15am, and we are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and engaged in a little light housekeeping. (Yes, you know you’re in the U.S.A. when you’re packing a vacuum cleaner on your back!) The main point of missionary service is the SERVICE.  It’s a doing word, so if there’s anything that needs doing, we’re there! This morning the big gym needs a clean.

ghostbusting

Who ya gonna call? Sister missionaries!

This massive gym is just one example of the excellent sport and exercise facilities available at the MTC. By day, the volleyball and basketball courts allow missionaries to engage in some friendly competition and vigorous activity, which provides a welcome respite from frequent contemplation and rigorous study! In the evenings, the gym can also be used as a venue for large meetings.

MTC gym

“My soul longeth…for the courts of the Lord” Psalm 84:2

Mission life requires a good deal of physical stamina, and missionaries are encouraged to maintain their health and fitness by exercising daily, excepting Sundays. All that exercising can make a body hungry; I wonder what’s for breakfast?

Breakfast: the “brown bag” version, for missionaries on the go. There’s something to suit most tastes. Here we have fresh fruit, brown bread, boiled egg, cold milk, and to satisfy the whims of nostalgia, Lucky Charms cereal. (Yes, it is 25% marshmallows. Lucky, indeed!).  Hopefully, all of that daily exercise is doing something to counteract the poisonous effects of all those tasty little pink heart, yellow moon, orange star, green clover, and blue diamond-shaped sugar bombs. But we don’t have time to sit here pondering the statistical probabilities of developing Lucky Charms induced diabetes! We’ve got more urgent matters to attend to…

breakfast in a bag

Breakfast, to go.

It’s studying time. Having already studied the scriptures this morning, both with other missionaries, and on our own, and devoted ourselves to a period of prayer and meditation, we are ready to take on the Slovak language! We also learn a little of the history and culture of the Slovak Republic. We practice teaching techniques, as they help us become better communicators:  more responsive to the impressions of the Spirit, and to the feelings and needs of those we converse with.  It’s more about listening, than speaking. And when you can barely speak any Slovak, that’s a comforting thought!

Slovak grammar

Slovak grammar. Questions, anyone?

But it’s not all blackboards and role plays in the MTC! There are many language resources available here, such as this language lab. Just because we have sworn off tv and the internet for 18 months doesn’t mean we’re technophobes. Reviewing Slovak verbs on the computer is almost as much fun as playing “Civilization”, and is nearly as educational, too!

language lab

Individual study adds variety to the day.

Wow! Lunchtime already! In our former lives, we may have only just now maxed out the “snooze” function on our alarms, and dragged ourselves out of bed. As missionaries, we’ve already been up for hours: we’ve worked, exercised, prayed, gained greater proficiency in a new language, improved our teaching skills, pondered life, the universe and everything, and shared meals, testimony, conversation, laughter (and maybe even tears!) with those around us.  This is all very enriching… but don’t we ever go out? Yes!

singin in the rain

Singin’ in the rain.

Even on rainy days, a walk around the temple grounds and gardens provides refreshment to mind and body! We take the opportunity to serve in the temple each week.

Other highlights of the day include “mail call”. The joy of receiving loving letters and thoughtful gifts from friends and family is beyond all reason, and therefore defies description.  But trust me, it’s a seriously awesome and humbling experience, and one that every person on earth should have at least once. Five times, if possible. I’m sure we would have peace on earth as a result.

happy ZenBread

My uncle has sent some of his famous homemade bread: absolute bliss!

The day is marching on, and so are we: back to class for more study. We practice conversing with and teaching one another, and we also enjoy visits from volunteers who practice with us. Their encouragement is very reassuring, and it is helpful to hear different voices. We’re so grateful for their support and friendship.

Kniha Mormonova

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:

them also I must bring…and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16

Our teachers are former missionaries who served in the Czech/Slovak mission, and are an inspiration to us. We are keen to learn all we can, so that we can be of service to the people of Slovakia.

Slovak class

At your service.

I’m already feeling so much love for the Slovak people, and am anxious to help my brothers and sisters there in any way I can. I feel so honoured and excited to be called to Slovakia! I’m eager to use what I’ve learned and get to work.

Evening falls, and it’s the end of a long, busy day! The events of the previous hours all begin to blur together; the Church leaders who came to address and instruct us, the friendships formed and deepened, the challenges faced, the goals achieved, the spiritual feelings experienced, and the many, little highs and lows of the day.

full day, full heart

Full day; full heart.

 Everything winds down now, and we share a few laughs and quiet conversation with our 5 roommates, whom we’ve grown so close to in these past weeks together.  As we say our prayers and drift off to sleep, our hearts are filled with a warm, satisfied weariness; the contentment of a day well spent, and the anticipation of greater things yet to come.

Czech Slovak district, MTC

“We are all enlisted til the conflict is o’er…

So, what do missionaries do at the MTC?  Basically we get up at 06:30 and work until 22:30. We study all day, pray a lot, and are the happiest people on earth.

Happy are we

…Happy are we!”

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it:

and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Matthew 16:25

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The Final Countdown!

18 Mar 2013

I’ve spent all day doing laundry and packing. My suitcases both weigh in under the 50lbs limit and I couldn’t be more chuffed with myself. Thanks for the packing lessons, Dad!

I’m so happy to be leaving! I cannot wait to get to Slovakia, although the thought of contacting people and speaking Slovak 24/7 continues to frighten me a bit. The MTC has been a blast, but I’m hungry for a chance to actually use what I’ve learned and get to work. Still, Provo is putting on an excellent show for our final week: the sun is shining (I’m currently sporting a scorched shade of fuchsia), the flowers are blooming (daffodils aren’t as pretty here as in Wales, though!), and nearly all the snow has melted off the mountainsides. It’s beautiful. =)

P Day in Slovakia is actually on Monday, not Saturday (that’s applies to Prague only), so it’ll be a fortnight before I can email again. Please keep us all in your prayers: I’ve got a stack of pass-along cards and two copies of the Book of Mormon I’m hoping to place on our journey. 😉

Saturday we “international missionaries” (those from outside North America) were set loose on Salt Lake City. Woohoo! A much-needed field trip and a huge blessing for those gaining a first glimpse of the rich heritage we share and the pros and cons of an LDS-dense society. I hadn’t realised how much I’ve missed it. The General Conference Center was decked out in banners for the General Young Women Meeting on the 30th. It’s going to be so good! =) Almost a shame we won’t be spending Conference here (missionaries get to attend a session), but I’m so happy we’ll be in Slovakia for Easter!

Maybe I shouldn’t though, as our teachers have told us the Slovaks have a “fun” tradition of the young men chasing the young women down the street and whipping them with lengths of string while singing a silly ditty. In exchange for this display of chivalry, we are meant to give them money and sweets. Fat chance – I’ll sooner give them a Kniha Mormonova! =)

Love you all so much! Next message will be from Prague! 🙂

Sestra Jones

Time to Start Packing…

11 March 2013

Ahoj vs’etky! (Hello, all!)

This is it: just a fortnight left at the MTC! I still have so much to learn and practice when it comes to language and teaching and missionary routine, but at the same time I’m looking forward to a change of environment. Yes, it may be a sentimental farewell: this has become my second home by now, and I will miss the people in our district and zone so much! =)

We’re expecting our itineraries this week! After I leave here, I may not be able to write for a bit: I’ve heard rumours that P Day in Slovakia is Saturday, and I believe we’re due to arrive on a Tuesday. I’m starting my packing today – it might just get done before the 25th! 😉

Czech / Slovak Lesson:

Flamovat’ = to party / rave. The first time I saw this word I thought it was a Pokemon move. (Charmeleon: Flamovat’! 😉 )

 Slovensko je najleps’ie krajina v svete = Slovakia is the best country in the world ❤

 Yesterday was so lovely and sunny that the temple lawn was covered in missionaries, who were sprawled on the grass after being cooped up indoors for so long.

I was blindsided by Babylon this morning: 5 minutes after completing a session at the temple, we were whisked to the Provo Mall for emergency shoe-shopping for my companion (long story). It was so strange to hear pop music and see ads after 2 months in our spiritual bubble! Another foray is on the horizon: as international missionaries, we’re next in line for a field trip to Temple Square! =)  Can’t wait!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! to everyone who sent me such lovely encouragement and advice – I feel so loved!

More news soon! Lots of love!

Sestra Jones

Hitting Halfway: 4 weeks down, 4 to go!

25 Feb 2013

I hope I can get all my thoughts down in the next 30 minutes; every week is a whirlwind of activity, and there is so much to relate! Thanks so much for all your messages throughout the week: they really kept me going. Thank you also for the blog responses: I will treasure them.

Back to the juicy stuff: sorry it’s taking so long to answer all of your questions about the food and the gym and my schedule etc., but Sestra B and I are working on a special photo project to illustrate our life at the MTC (the Primary children in her Branch have asked to know as well). It will be finished by next week for sure – hope you can wait that long! Until then, I’m doing really well, learning so much, and giving it my all. I just realised that I’m leaving for Prague in exactly one month today! It’s all going by so fast! We’re putting our shoulders to the wheel and trusting that the Lord will magnify our efforts.

Since last week, the Polish elders and sisters in our zone have left for the field, and the Bulgarians leave tomorrow. Will miss them, they did so much to help us settle in. Our turn now: a new shipment of “first-weekers” arrives this Wednesday. We’ll be welcoming 6 new Bulgarian Elders, 6 Polish Sisters, and 6 Polish-speaking Elders (2 of whom will actually be serving in Leeds England! 😉 We’ll do our best to give them a warm welcome!

Image

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel” Mark 16:15  Eastern Europe, here we come!

Something special occurred this week: we were sitting in class on Thursday when a Brother from Admin asked to have a word with my companion. She rushed back into the room, bubbling with excitement, and tearing up with surprise and joy: they had arranged for her to meet the missionary who taught her parents in Normandie 25 years ago, before she was even born! It was so lovely to hear Brother H (the missionary) recount her parents’ conversion, and it was so touching to see how much he still cares for her and her family. It was a very real reminder that the seeds we’re sowing now as missionaries may grow to bring forth fruit sweeter than we can immediately recognise or hardly even imagine.

In addition to practicing our teaching skills with our language instructors, and with the volunteers in the Teaching Resource Center, we’ve also started teaching each other: every missionary in our district plays the role of someone we know, and are taught as investigators. It is such a refreshing, educational experience to BE taught, and it’s closing the gap between our Czech / Slovak comprehension. I’m teaching Elder J as “Jakob”; our second lesson will be on Wednesday. Hope he kept his commitment to pray over the weekend – I’ll “text” him today to remind him. 😉

Speaking of Slovak, here’s this week’s lesson:

Milujem t’a / va’s. = I love you (in/formal, plural)

Ja som dobra misionarka / dobry misionar! = I am a good (sister) missionary!

Budes’ moj kamarat? = Will you be my friend?

Ty si lupic< a ja t’a zabiji. = Thou art a robber and I will slay thee (1 Nephi 3:13) =D

I know now more than ever that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and will lead every person to eternal happiness if only they will follow Him. I hope I will be prepared to take this glad message to the slovak people – I’m beginning to love them already!

I love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

Until next P-Day, Sestra Jones

Kniha Mormonova

Kniha Mormonova

Slovakian government representatives granted official recognition of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2006. This year (2013) sees the release of Kniha Mormonova, the Slovak translation of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is now available in 108 different languages (including Welsh! Llyfr Mormon was first published in 1852).