What a crazy first week! Tuesday I flew out and was at the LA airport 7 hours before my connecting flight and was the only missionary there for about 2 or 3 hours! Eventually they started to trickle in, and then at the end like 20 missionaries from Utah came in! Some of them were best friends going to the same mission! That's just crazy to me. We got to the CCM (MTC) Wednesday morning and were welcomed in. After some confusion I finally ended up with my real companion who showed up a few hours late because he came from New Zealand and missed one of his connecting flights. Elder Pilling is really awesome and although he has basically no Spanish background is doing well.
We got right to work in the first few days. Spanish classes sprinkled in between the meals and devotionals and personal study time. It's been a little exhausting, but I've been finding the energy I need. Sunday we watched a Christmas devotional from a couple years back with Elder Bednar and his wife. It was the best Christmas I've ever had! He did a question answering session where they passed out phones and the missionaries from MTCs all over the world could text their questions to his iPad! He had some amazing advice! One thing he said was "This isn't church doctrine, but I would very much think it's worthy of consideration; might I suggest that while Jesus was suffering in Gethsemane, if He did not feel, for at least a brief moment, one by one, every living being's specific pains, sorrows, and afflictions." He went on describing how "one by one" is the epitome of Jesus' life and ministry. He said that six times in the Book of Mormon it says that phrase, and that he wouldn't tell us where, other than when He comes to Bountiful and they feel his hands and feet one by one, but that we must find them ourselves.
My first full day in the CCM we had to teach an "investigator" a lesson in complete Espanol! That was stressful, and Elder Pilling and I ran out of the stuff we wrote down halfway through, but I somehow managed to finish the rest of it without notes. Okay, not somehow, it was the Holy Ghost for sure, but it was so amazing! My first day speaking Spanish, and I had already experienced the Gift of Tongues! Guatemala is beyond beautiful, and greener than anybody in Texas has probably ever imagined. As we flew in we could see all the volcanoes around and the coastline in the distance, while we looked down on the sprawling expanse of Guatemala City; it was the most gorgeous sight I had ever seen! I wish I had taken pictures. Also we had our cameras taken up for the time that we are in the CCM because there have apparently been past incidents of really immature missionaries with cameras. So I wont have any pictures for you guys for the next 5 weeks. Sorry!
Mom and Dad, thank you so much for everything you've taught me. I love you both so much, and even though the past few months were rough at times, I took in every word of advice you told me. I know I didn't emulate that all the time, and I hope you'll forgive me for my stubbornness. I've been fine as far as thoughts and feelings go, and I know it's because of your patience, advice, and love, as well as the Spirit's whisperings to me of the right thing to do. I know it was stressful for both of you, and for me, but I am so grateful to Heavenly Father. I have been taught that I can do hard things; this has taught me just how much you love me; it taught me that others love me; and it taught me to love myself. I would probably be so frustrated with myself and feeling completely worthless and helpless right now if I hadn't learned how to see myself as Christ sees me, and as others see me; that I matter not only in His eyes, but that I have worth in the eyes of others.
The strength I have received through personal covenants is beyond what I had ever imagined it would be. When we make that personal effort to bind ourselves to the Lord in a way that He hasn't even specifically asked us to, He is going to do everything He can to make sure we keep that. I feel like the people of Lamoni and the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, when they made a covenant of their own to do something of their own free will. For if they should not do that, they might perhaps lose their souls. Jesus Christ is my strength, and I trust in Him completely.
Love, Elder Jackson