Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MTC Week 2: It's Starting to Hit Me

Hi everyone! First of all, thanks to each person who has written me a letter. You should know that getting mail from family or a friend during a really challenging day is really a boost and has helped me keep going this last week. I'll try to mail you back letters soon!

Week two was CRAZY. Our first (fake) progressing investigator, Juni, was so very open and amazing to teach. The Spirit was super strong, and we taught him about baptism and how that is a really important way we are asked to follow Jesus Christ. He said he was baptized when he was a child, and he believed in baptism... so we nervously taught him about priesthood authority and also how the Savior taught that we should be baptized by immersion. He was so open and receptive and he knew we were teaching him things that were true. He said he believed what we said, and he asked if he should be baptized again because his first time wasn't the right way. We all got really really excited and I invited him to follow Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God. He said that yes he would, and we set a date! I wish I could tell you the joy we felt in the room at that point! It was a true "spiritual high." I was beaming, almost laughing, glowing. So were my companions and so was Juni! I know that it's just the MTC, and that the investigator was actually a teacher, but this really is the way that Heavenly Father wants His missionaries to learn. He sends His Spirit to testify of truth and to show us the way, even when it's just "practice." It's really edifying and spiritually strengthening.

After that it got really hard, though. I know in my last email I sounded like I was having a blast. I am still having a blast, but it's starting to hit me now what is really happening. This is such an important work. This is God's work, absolutely. And the language, although I'm making progress, is a big handicap. The task is really, really daunting and I'm not sure anyone can understand until they face this situation. I have been hard on myself for little things. I feel like I've been here longer than I actually have--it feels like a month instead of two weeks, just because we've been so busy and learned so much. So I feel like at this point I should be able to communicate better, I should know more words. There's so much I want to say that I don't know how to say and it can be really frustrating. There have been times this week when I've just been wondering how I can ever fulfill my purpose as a missionary--it's hard enough in my native tongue. I'm working on developing more faith in Jesus Christ and trust in His ability to do miracles through me. I need to remember that God knows what he's doing, and there's a reason He sent me here, and I really CAN serve Him and accomplish much good. I CAN be successful because I have God on my side. I will not be useless just because I don't speak the language well. If you feel prompted to, please continue to pray for me as I try to learn this language and more deeply learn the doctrinces of the gospel so I can share them.

I have been thinking lately about my friends and family at home who are preparing to serve missions. I need you to know that the MTC is not a place to gain your testimony of the Gospel. It is NOT. It's not designed for that. Someone said once that your mission will make your testimony soar, but you need to develop the wings here and now. Do not wait until you're a missionary to "get spiritual." There's no time for that, and honestly if I didn't have a strong testimony of the Gospel I wouldn't want to be here because it is hard. It is hard if you want to succeed as a missionary, and the only motivation you have to succeed is the fact that you know the message you have to share is TRUE. I personally have fallen back on past spiritual experiences, spiritual strength I've gained over a long period of time, more than I've ever fallen back on them before. If I was to start now I wouldn't be able to muster enough spiritual strength. So start now. It's been the most important thing. There is honestly no TIME to gain a testimony--only to nourish a preexisting one.

We are starting to teach 2 new (fake) investigators this week. One is named Siti, and she is meeting with us because she wants to stop smoking and drinking, and she knows we don't do either of those. She is going to be hard because of her addictions, but I'm excited to see how things go with her.

Also, I have to mention that I LOVE THE TEMPLE. We went today. It's such a heavenly place. Go as often as you can. God is there, it TRULY is His house. I LOVE what I feel when I'm there. I KNOW that this Gospel is true and that Jesus Christ is real and that He is my Savior. Believing is the start to feeling His love in our hearts.

I love you all! Read the Book of Mormon every day! It will change you, and change your life!

Sister Gopinath

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saya tau Yesus Kristus Juruselamat saya.

Hello everyone,

So, first can I say that 30 minutes to email is NO time at all? Sorry if my sentences are all the same length or if my word choice is strange, no time to edit!

The MTC is an incredible place, it really is. I love it. People say that the MTC is really hard, but if you make it through you can do anything... but that really hasn't been my experience. The hardest personal challenges I've had here so far has been a tendency to lose focus during language study because other the missionaries in my district are so fun to be around and talk to. They really are awesome, I LOVE the other missionaries here. My point is that I'm doing fine and having the time of my life. For me, the MTC has been really fun. Our branch has missionaries going to Malaysia (us), Indonesia, Mongolia, Madagascar, as well as Missouri and Oregon. Super cool. They are all great examples to me. There are 15 new missionaries going to the Singapore mission: 3 sisters, 12 elders. I'm lucky to be among them.

The first day of class on Wednesday was interesting. I walked in to class and my teachers were talking to me and welcoming me, only they wouldn't speak English. I was very confused! :) But it made me happy. Malay is a really neat language. I couldn't understand anything the teachers were saying, but I was listening just to hear what it sounded like. I remember just sitting and listening and all of a sudden I felt the Spirit strongly, and I realized that the teacher had begun to bear his testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. It was a really cool experience and it showed me how much the gospel really stands on its own. It's completely true. The Holy Ghost testifies of that truth when it's being witnessed of, even if I don't understand the language being used to bear witness.

Since then I've learned a lot more Malay than I thought. It's a really fun language, and it's relatively (but only relatively) easy. You'd think it was harder because it's an Asian language, but it's easier than French and it's probably easier than Spanish. (Understanding the different dialects in Malaysia will be a different challenge than learning MTC Malay, though!) It's been hard because we don't have a lot of materials--half of our textbooks/resources are in Indonesian, which is about 75-80% accurate in Malay. But we're learning and it's fun, and the grammar/sentence structure is like broken English - aka caveman. There's even no words for "the" or "is." Example of caveman word order of Malay: "Pen blue this mine." Meaning in English, "This blue pen is mine." It's GREAT! The word for Savior is "Juruselamat." Super cool. Saya tau Yesus Kristus Juruselamat saya. I can understand about half of what my teachers say now, and I can have a basic conversation/teach a simple gospel lesson if I have a couple of notes to fall back on. Heavenly Father has REALLY been helping me. I still barely know anything, but I've made a TON of progress in the last 5 days of studying.

I have two companions - Sisters B and W - and they're great. We've been teaching a fake Singaporean investigator named Juni (he is actually a Malay teacher here, but he pretends to be an investigator). We've taught him three lessons in Malay so far. I'm always nervous and don't feel prepared, but that has been my FAVORITE part of being at the MTC. Teaching! In Malay! And it's really cool that because the Lord inspired this method of preparing missionaries, the Spirit is totally there during our lessons and it doesn't even matter that we know he's not a real investigator. It's amazing. It's funny, during the first lesson we taught him, we gave him a Book of Mormon to read. He said he would begin reading it. After we left, we realized the copy we gave him belonged to my companion, so we went back and (laughing) asked (in Malay) for it back. He gave it back. At the next lesson, we (thinking that he'd play along) followed up with him by asking him if he'd read anything from the Book of Mormon, and he said, "No, you took it!" It was hilarious but also really sad. We gave him his own copy and he's reading it.

So some of you who know me will agree that I like to choose my words precisely when I talk, and during gospel lessons I like to bring up new insights or cool facts that people haven't heard before. Sometimes I'm pretty good, but that's in English. In Malay, I am reduced to humble and simple statements of truth. The only thing that can make my lesson a good one is if the Spirit is there strongly. I NEED the Spirit to teach. I have NOTHING else to rely on. I'm being really humbled by that. Language is a barrier, because I need to discern the spiritual needs of the person I'm teaching, but it's coming. And I'm learning to communicate.
Saturday, we went around and found random people to bear our testimonies (kesaksian-kesaksian) to. We found some sweet Italian sister missionaries, and we practiced on each other. I felt the Spirit REALLY strongly as I bore my testimony to her. In Malay. The Lord has blessed me so much! I LOVE the Gospel! 

Thank you for your prayers and everything you're doing for me. I love each of you, and so does our Savior.

Sister Gopinath

Monday, August 22, 2011

Here is my "I am alive" letter.

Here is my "I am alive" letter.

Dear Family, 8/17/11, 10:07 pm

I made it through day one at the MTC! I am so tired I can hardly think. Next time I leave on a mission, I'm going to bed early...but I learned a lot today! Heavenly Father is so kind to me. Whenever I was in class or anything, I was able to pay full attention. I got a lot out of today.

Malay is going to be a really fun language! Our first language class was right when we got here, and our teachers wouldn't teach English. It was crazy! They just kept talking to us and trying to get us to understand. And they made us respond in Malay. I said "Nama saya Sister Gopinath" so many times today. It was awesome though, I couldn't stop smiling. We have such a cool opportunity.

One amazing story was that my teach was talking about something and I had no idea what it was; I wasn't even trying to understand. I was just listening and getting a feel for the sound of the words. But then as he was talking, suddenly I felt the Spirit really strong. I still didn't know the words he was saying, but I knew that he had begun to bear his testimony. I felt him testify of Jesus Christ, the Restoration, and he said that God would help us learn the "bahasa malayu," the Malay language. It was a really neat spiritual experience. The gospel is completely true. God is real. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth even when I don't know the words being used to share truth. The gospel stands on its own.

I have 2 companions, Sister and Sister W. We get along really well. Sister W is 23 and is from Idaho and is very friendly and logical. Sister B is newly 21, from southern Utah, and is the sweetest sister missionary I've ever met. I'm excited about being their companion.

The time is short. I will email you all soon. P-day is Tuesday, I think.

I love you all! I am doing well, no emotional problems or anything. I wasn't even nervous. I'm gonna work really hard. I am happy, I smiled all day.

Again, I love you. I will write more later.
The gospel is true!

Sister Gopinath

Monday, August 15, 2011

Write to me!

Write me fast, for free, while I'm in the Provo MTC (until Oct 19th) at www.dearelder.com. I'm MTC Box #312. They'll print out your message and hand it to me within hours.

My MTC mailing address:

Sister Manisha C. Gopinath
MTC Mailbox # 312
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604

Mission Home Address - AFTER OCT. 19th ($0.98 postage):

Manisha C. Gopinath
Singapore Mission
253 Bukit Timah Road, Floor 4
Singapore 259690

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alma 17:9-12

This is a short account, from the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ), of when the Lord comforted some missionaries, the sons of Mosiah, who were about to go out. I share this because I think I know exactly what this feels like. It's a really humbling thing.

9And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth, to the knowledge of the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct.

10And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted.

11And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.

12And it came to pass that the hearts of the sons of Mosiah, and also those who were with them, took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites to declare unto them the word of God.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Singapore Mission, where I've been assigned to serve as a missionary (YES!!!), covers three countries: Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei. I'll be spending most of my time in Malaysia.

FAQ: Where exactly is Singapore/Malaysia? --Don't worry, I wasn't exactly sure either. Americans are terrible and Southeast Asian geography. It'll help if you know where India is, for it's southeast of India... South of China and Thailand and Cambodia, and nowhere near Japan so get that out of your head right now.

If you keep going south past Indonesia, soon enough you'll bump into Australia.

Malaysia is split up into two main parts: Peninsular Malaysia, the southern tip of which turns into Singapore, and then East Malaysia, which is on the big island of Borneo (the biggest island in the bottom-left corner of the picture). Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore are quite developed and even Westernized in some cases, while East Malaysia is rural and the people are less wealthy.

FAQ: How's the Church there? -- New. There's currently one LDS stake in Singapore, and no stake in Malaysia yet. The first missionaries in this part of the world came in the 1960's, so the Church is still growing. I'm so humbled and excited to participate in the work here. The work is moving forward! In 2010, our mission baptized 1020 new members!

FAQ: Is there a Temple there? -- The people in Singapore and Malaysia are in the Hong Kong Temple district, although I believe the nearest one is in Manila (Philippines). It's far.

FAQ: What language do they speak? -- My assignment is the Malay language, which is from the Austronesian language family (e.g. Tagalog/Filipino, Fijian, Tongan, Samoan, etc.). It uses our alphabet (the Roman), so I'll be studying it for 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center. It's an official language of Malaysia, and so is English (but their English is usually quite broken). In Singapore, most people speak (a strange version of) English, or Chinese.

FAQ: Are you excited? Are you scared? -- Yes, and yes. I am SO thrilled and humbled to have this opportunity. I'm also intimidated, because I know that many challenges lie ahead. I'm a 21-year-old girl from America who is goofy and flawed and doesn't know what she's doing a lot of the time. However, I KNOW that this literally is God's work. I will be on His errand, and so He WILL help me. As I obey His commandments and work hard, I will not be left alone. He will strengthen me, guide me, comfort me, and make my paths straight. There will literally be angels protecting me. I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and I know He's working constantly with the people here because this really is His work. Read Jacob 5:72.

Deep down, I'm not afraid at all.