Called to Serve

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29, 2012--MTC Week 4

Hello from the beautiful fortress of the MTC!

Questions first:

1) The MTC campus is... kind of like a prison compound :p just kidding.  It's an incredible place, but it's really hard to know that BYU is a block down the street and that it's an entirely different world.  And that I just want to get into the field!!!  We have one classroom that we basically live in.  My classroom is 7M (building)-209 (room), which won't mean anything to anyone who hasn't been in the MTC.  But that's where we have class (usually 6 hours a day, one Tuesdays and P-day 3, and on Sunday not at all), also have personal, companionship, and language study in the same room.  So we average about 8 hours in that room per day.  1M is the main building, and we eat and have church there.  There is one big cafeteria, and everyone eats there, just at staggered times.  19M is where the gym is, we have 50 minutes of gym time every day, and we also have our Tuesday and Sunday night Devotional/Firesides there. 
2) We will be watching Conference in 19M.  There will probably be a couple overflow rooms in 1M, but we'll be in 19M in the front of the room (we always make sure and get within the first 3 rows for stuff in there).
3) Like I mentioned, we have church in 1M.  We have sacrament meeting every Sunday from 8-9 and every Sunday but Fast Sunday we have Priesthood from 11:10-12:00 (Fast Sundays we have Mission Conference in 19M).  We have branch presidencies (called from the general Utah/Salt Lake Valley area).  They are all very faithful and experienced brethren in the church.  Two of our three speak Spanish (we pray, sing, bless the Sacrament, and two elders/sisters give 5ish minute talks per week in Spanish), and our president served as a mission president and as a sealer in the temple.
4) I think I mostly answered this question in your my last response, but our teachers are BYU students (both awesome guys), we have a few Zone resource teachers who are great too (I will definitely have stories about Hermano Gamez after my mission...).  Other than that, we have a DL and ZL's (expected, right?), and our Branch Presidency serves as our mission presidency (more or less) while we're here. 
5) Of course, after a month of spending 10+ hours a day, day in and day out, with the same people, they start to wear on you a little bit.  But I really have no complaints.  Our district is the best I could have asked for.  Elder Rhodes is an awesome missionary.  We're not as alike as I first thought, but we've found that as long as we're focusing on the work, any disagreements are worked out easily and quickly.  My DL, Elder Whited (from Texas, going to California), is incredible.  He's the perfect example of humility, hard work, and quiet dignity. 
6) Our first couple weeks in the TRC were not what I was expecting.  Of course, since I volunteered for the English TRC, I was expecting to teach investigators.  What actually happens (for Spanish apparently it's different) is that we go and teach members (it's a lot like Home Teaching actually) and ask for referrals and stuff.  This week we started teaching our first actual investigator in the TRC.  Which is a lot more real than when our teachers were role-playing to be progressing investigators.  The hermano that Elder Rhodes and I are teaching right now is named Abraham.  He is 57 years old, from Mexico City, and has a son who passed away a couple years ago.  It's still role-play, but since he is actually hispanic and speaks Mexican Spanish, it feels a lot more real.  We teach him twice a week (the second time will be tomorrow).  Monday we taught him a lot (mostly let him do the talking), mostly about the Plan of Salvation.  Tomorrow, we'll be going over the Restoration and the Book of Mormon so we can challenge him to read and pray (absolutely the most important thing, since that is where is strength in the Savior is strengthened and where he gains his own testimony).
7) The dearelders are working great!  I really appreciate the nightly message.  And I am getting my packages, thank you so much for those :) they definitely brighten my week as well.  There's nothing in specific that I think I would want (unless you could somehow hook me up with a Mexican visa :p)
8) No specific questions... I love hearing from you guys though :) I'm really going to try to get off another round of letters soon... I just wish I had more time to write than the 2-3 hours on P-day...  But it says pretty clearly in the handbook that we should only write on P-day, and the Lord knows a whole lot better than I do, so I'll stick with what I've been doing :)

Don't have a whole lot more to report this week than that... Elder David Archuleta reported to the MTC yesterday, his classroom is right down the hall from mine, so that's kind of cool.  Other than that, nothing new.  Spanish is still a work in progress, teaching is getting to be infinitely easier (especially now that Elder Rhodes and I have found a balance in our teaching, instead of me dominating the lessons... I was being pretty bad about that since my Spanish is a little ahead of his).  But we're doing a lot better now, and with the balance the Spirit is a lot more present in our lessons. 

I'm so glad I'm here, even though I don't love the MTC.  I just can't wait to go preach the Gospel!!!!!!!

Con mucho amor!!!!!!!!!!

Elder Andrew Nickerl

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22, 2012--MTC Week 3


I'm sending this to both your emails to make sure that I have the right one at gmail....

Ok, so I can send you the SD card from my camera if you want, but I won't be able to take any pictures until you send it back.  What we should have done is instead of buying flash drives we should have gotten more SD cards.  Not that there is really that much cool stuff to take pictures of here at the MTC (CCM), but I've got a few on there right now that I'm sure you'd like.  So just let me know in your next dear elder if you want me to do that :) Also, I'd like to have a few addresses and was wondering if you would be able to get them for me.  Would you mind finding me an address for all my seminary teachers (Sis Fletcher, Sis Fry, Sis Langford, and Bro Ganyier), Bishop Peltz, and for Chris?  And in response to your other question this week, the elder in my district from Phoenix is not who you were asking about (sorry, don't have the letters in front of me right now).  And although I have talked to two Elder Drapers going Spanish speaking, I have yet to find the Elder Draper going to Tuxtla.  And thank you for your updates on the missionary moms sight!  It's good to hear about what's going on down there.

So!  Huge highlight of the week was having Elder Oaks here for our Tuesday night devotional!!  We were sitting about 5 rows back, so just probably less than 100 feet away from us.  He talked about the importance of taking the Sacrament worthily each Sunday so that we can have the Spirit with us at all times.  What I've learned recently is that having the Spirit is important not only because without it we cannot teach, but also because when we have the Spirit with us our ability to learn is exponentially increased, and that's definitely something I need right now.

Spanish continues to come right along.  Elder Rhodes and I are getting a ton better at teaching.  It's really funny how much easier it is to teach a lesson in Spanish than it is to carry on a normal conversation in Spanish.  Something that I've started doing is listening to Mormon Messages in Spanish.  Since right now I speak Spanish a lot better than I understand what others say (which is weird, I know), that's been a huge help to me.  We're just about done with all the grammar principles that we need to learn in class, so now it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice and learning all the vocab I need.  It's a pretty daunting task, but it's so rewarding to be able to look back and see how much I've learned already.

Some other news is that 3 elders from my district left for different MTC's (Peru or Colombia).  So now, we've got the 4 of us going to Mexico still here, the 2 going to California, and one who should be at the Peru MTC but doesn't have his visa yet (the 2 Cali elders and the Peru elder are now a trio).  It's kind of weird, very different dynamics in our district now.  But, our tiny classroom doesn't feel like a furnace quite so much anymore, so that's a blessing. 

On the visa note, 3 Mexico elders who live on our floor got reassigned yesterday... I haven't talked to anyone since I've been here that got a visa to Mexico without being reassigned.  But I'm really not worried about it.  The Lord know's what He is doing.  The "nothing" in "nothing can stop the work from progressing" includes the Mexican gov't. If I get reassigned to somewhere for a few months (although I doubt it will be that long, because it does really sound like we are needed in Mexico, and the Lord knows that), that would be ok with me.   

Other than that, although the MTC is still not my favorite place in the world (Elder Rhodes' brother-in-law put it perfectly in a letter to him:  "the best experience of your life that you never want to do again"), the progression that I see in myself and the missionaries around me is amazing.  I know as I work hard to prepare myself, the Lord is doing His part to prepare people for me to teach.

I think once I'm done with them, I'm going to send my MTC Spanish books home if anyone wants to read through them and try to learn.  Someone else in our family will definitely be speaking Spanish, so they will be good things to have around.  On that note, make sure everyone is reading Preach My Gospel!! 

That's all I have for today... Maybe I'll remember something earth-shattering and send a letter later.  It's tough to remember everything that I want to type in a half an hour. 

I love and miss you all!!!!

Con amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012--MTC Week 2

Hey Mom!!!!

Sorry, I know you were expecting an email this morning rather than afternoon, but we mixed up our p-day schedule a little bit last week.  We just got back from the temple (which was amazing, as always) and had lunch.  Our P-day schedule will probably be more like this until I leave the MTC.  I'll start off by answering your questions:

1.  Do you want me to reorder your electronic Spanish/English translator? If not, is there something else you would like from Amazon?

No, my electronic translator works fine (even though I use my little book a lot more often, it's just quicker), and I don't think there's anything I need/want off of Amazon right now... Although maybe a mosquito net would be nice.  Both Elder Rhodes and Elder Turner have one for when they get down to Mexico (apparently it was one of the things their moms were recommended to get from have you gotten a chance to look at that yet?)

2.  When you send a paper letter, do you want me to type it onto your blog?

If you want to post my paper letters, that's totally fine with me.  But I understand that it would be a pain to type it all up and that you're busy, so it really isn't a big deal if you don't.

3.  If I send photos to your lds mail account, can you open them or is it better for me to have the photos printed and mail them to you?

I appreciated you sending the photos this week!  That was awesome.  I'd probably prefer printed photos just because the software here is really dumb and I can only see the thumbnail or a HUGE picture that doesnt fit on the screen--no middle ground.  That way I can see then during the week as well.

4.  What would you specifically like us to be praying for in regard to your visa? I’m assuming that we are praying for you to get your Mexico visa to leave the MTC at your assigned date, but I want to make sure—so we are all praying for the same thing.

It would be great if my visa came on time, but I'm not really expecting it to.  I'm excited to go to Mexico, but being temporarily reassigned wouldn't bother me at all.  I figure that the Lord knows what He is doing with all this, and if He wants me to go straight to Mexico, then I will.  Otherwise, I'll be happy to go to Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, etc... wherever He sees fit to send me :)

5. Did you get to go to the temple last week on your P-day?

We JUST got back from the temple (as I noted earlier).  Very very needed break with no stress about Spanish.  I've really missed being able to work, so I look forward to going on P-days A LOT.

6.  Is there anything that you are wanting or needing me to send in your next package?

Hmmmmmmmmm.... I actually think I forgot my tar-whatever shampoo.  And I kind of need it.  Could you please send it (or another new bottle of it)?

Thanks so much for your packages!!  I just wanted to let you know that your cookies are known around my district as "galletas de los cielos".  If you put that one through a translator it literally means "cookies of the skies" but it definitely means "cookies of heaven".  And getting 4-5 pounds of galletas de los cielos is simply delightful.  There are only a few left now.

I never even know where to start!!!!!!  There's just so much to talk about.  My Spanish is coming along so quickly now.  In FAIRLY proficient Spanish.  I think it's pretty cool that I can now quote the JSH accounting of the first vision in Spanish perfectly now and I can barely stumble through it in English.  The biggest difference I'm noticing is that when I read Spanish or listen to someone speaking Spanish, instead of translating it in my head to English, it just makes sense in Spanish.  It's a lot the same when I'm speaking (especially praying), the words just come in Spanish instead of having to think through what I want to say in English and then translating it.  The Gift of Tongues is no joke (I had to stop and think for a second about how to say "El Don de Lenguas" in English... I love it).  It's so much easier to speak Spanish in class or while we're teaching a lesson than it is when we're goofing off in our room (which we really do try to keep to a minimum haha).  Cool little sidenote:  praying in Spanish is AWESOME.  In the Spanish language, you say "you" in two different ways: tu or usted.  As missionaries, we always use usted, because it the formal form of "you".  In English, when we pray, we use "thee", "thou", "thine", etc. to show respect.  In Spanish, you use "tu" instead of "usted" to show love and closeness to God.  I think it's pretty cool that the only time we use "tu" is when we are praying and speaking with our Father in Heaven.

Other than that, the MTC is still pretty tough, but I'm learning to enjoy it more.  The rules here are pretty strict, and it's easy to feel suffocated at times, but I'm really learning a very simple Gospel concept continually here:  obedience brings blessings, but perfect obedience brings miracles.  On that note, I'm really close to being out of time, so I'm just going to tell you about our "investigators" really quick.  Since Edgar committed to baptism, we've gotten two new 'investigators" (Cesar y Jonathan).  Elder Rhodes and I are getting pretty dang good at teaching the first lesson... actually we have a REALLY long way to go.  But we're working hard and improving quickly, and Heavenly Father blesses us every day.  I've really been shown here repeatedly that "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all who believe on His name, to make them mighty, even unto the power of deliverance."  I know I misquoted that, but it's close. 

The Church is SO true, our Father in Heaven and our Savior love us so much, and are ready to bless us when we follow them.  This work is not an easy one, but there is nothing more rewarding.  Truly, la obra vale la pena ("valer" is kind of a tough verb, so I'm not sure if that's 100% correct Spanish). 

Con mucho amor!!!!!

Elder Andrew Nickerl

March 8, 2012--Week 1 (Hand written letter)


¡Hola Mamá!

So, I emailed you this morning, but I didn’t really explain how life is here due to my lovely time constraints.  Also, I forgot to thank you for the package you sent and let you know that you are the best! J

Anyway, let me give you an example of a normal day at the MTC (actually, the CCM, that’s Spanish and I can’t remember what it stands for… Centro something Misioneros).  Wake up at 6:30, or before 6 on Tuesdays for our morning service project.  We’re in our classroom for personal study at 7 and then have breakfast at 7:40.  We usually have another hour or so of study time right after lunch.  The first week we had allotted companionship study time, but now we use either part of personal study, language study, or planning time to do that.  From 9:15-12:15 we have a combination of teaching our “investigator” and classroom instruction time which is usually more spiritually oriented than Spanish oriented.  There’s one teacher in particular who I love hearing from.  Four years ago, Hermano Adams was an atheist.  Since them, he has served a mission and been teaching at the MTC.  His faith is incredible and when you’re around him, you can just feel the love of our Savior and the changing power of His atoning sacrifice.  There is truly no greater work than bringing the joy of being cleansed from sin through the blood of our Redeemer to those with no hope left in their lives.

After morning class, we have lunch.  At some point in the day (unfortunately always right after a meal), we have gym and then time to get ready for our next activity.  Through the afternoon, we either have class from 1-4 or language study.  If we don’t have class from 1-4, we have it from 6-9 and if we do, we have language study in the evening.  Dinner is at 5:15 between the two.  Planning is 9-9:30 and then we go back to the residence halls, get ready for bed, write in journals, etc.  On Tuesday nights we have devotionals (this week was Elder Evans of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy), which are awesome so far.

Sundays are very different.  We have a lot of personal study time and it’s a lot more relaxed.  Unless you’re a DL or a ZL (thankfully I’m not J) and then you have meetings all day.  We have a fireside Sunday night.  Alex Boye came to speak to us this week.  He’s an African-American convert from England and he sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  If you have time to read about his story, it’s pretty awesome.  Afterward, we usually watch a church film (like Legacy). 

It’s been great to hear from home.  I really miss you guys!  Let the boys and Anna know I’m working on writing them all, but much more painful of a process than emailing.  Also, I forgot to send my email to Dad this week.  Could you please forward him the email I sent you?

I really hope this letter gets to you in a semi-timely fashion.  I love you!!!

Con Amor,
Elder Nickerl

P.S.  I’m also hearing about a lot of Elders not getting visas to Mexico right now.  We’ll see how that plays out and where the Lord wants me to serve.

P.S. #2  Apparently if you go to you can find out a lot of cool stuff about my individual mission and possibly meet Elder Rhodes’ (my companion going to Veracruz, Mexico) and Elder Turner’s (my roommate, also going to Tuxtla) mamas.  So that could be cool.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 8, 2012-MTC Week 1

Hey Mom!!!!!!!

It's finally my P-day (we had a half P-day) last Saturday but we weren't allowed to email.  I sent a letter my very first night though.... so I'm kind of surprised that you haven't gotten that yet.  Thanks so much for all of you letters!  It's so good to hear from home every night. 

Life at the MTC is very different than I expected.  I guess I really didn't pay all that much attention when people told me my mission would be hard.  I assumed the MTC would just be a breeze and nothing but amazing because we're feeling the Spirit all day every day.  I've learned that  although the MTC is an incredibly spiritual place, we still need to work to be worthy of having the Spirit with us.  We do A LOT of sitting in class and just sitting in general, so sometimes it's really hard to stay focused.  Gym time is an amazing break when it comes (50 minutes a day).  I usually run a mile or two and then play some pretty intense non-competetive 4-square. 

Even though it's hard, life here is incredible.  The tender mercies of the Lord are so obvious and so abundant.  The power of the spirit here really is comparable to the temple.  Spanish is so much more difficult than I ever imagined it being, but it's incredible how much we're blessed with the gift of tongues.  The third day we were here (last Friday) we taught our first investigator lesson to a man named Edgar Juarez (who is actually just a teacher we don't know... definitely all role-play at this point)--all in Spanish.  Elder Rhodes (who I will talk about in a second, he is an awesome companion) and I were pretty nervous, but once we relaxed and allowed the Spirit to be with us, it didn't matter.  We've since taught Edgar four times, and yesterday he committed to baptism.  Even though it was just role-play, it was still an awesome experience.  Our Spanish is still nowhere near what it needs to be to teach investigators, but we've been working hard.  What I've been trying to work on is understanding Spanish, since I can communicate close to what I want (although that doesn't mean it's in any way, shape, or form gramatically correct, it just means I can get my point accross).

Now for the people.  My companion, Elder Rhodes, is from the Salt Lake Valley (Alpine).  He's serving in Veracruz, Mexico (a couple missions north of me).  He played football in high school too, and we've definitely bonded over talking sports (haha).  More importantly, he's a really great missionary, and his testimony is a huge strength to me.  He hasn't taken Spanish for a couple years, so he's having kind of a tough time with the language, but he's improving very quickly.  We're working hard to learn how we can teach better with each other (the biggest challenge is that we're doing it in a language that we just don't know :p), and we're getting much better. 

My district is really awesome as well.  We've got a couple of guys from Utah, one from Illinois (Elder Turner, who is the only other missionary in my district going to Tuxtla, and we're actually the only two in the district going to the same mission), another elder from South Carolina (I actually played lacrosse against him without knowing it... funny coincidence), one from L.A., one from Phoenix, and one from Texas.  Two going to Cali (bay area), four of us going to Mexico, two to Peru, and two to Colombia.  All awesome guys.  We're going to be really close by the time we're done here. 

I'm just about out of time.  And I don't think I'll be able to send pictures until I get to Mexico... And on that not I forgot to bring a card reader for my camera... and on THAT note I forgot to bring tweezers.  I'll tell you more about the card reader next week once I mess with my camera some.

Anyway, I reallllllllllllllly miss you guys.  And love you so much.  Vaya con Dios hasta la semana proxima.

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl