Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MTC Week 6: Cool facts.

Hello everyone! 

I'm just going to start every letter out saying how I can't believe how time has flown. We have less than three weeks here!  It's a little bit sad because we've now gone through two sets of English sister missionary roommates... and we're still here. Haha! It's great though, every week I'm more grateful for the MTC. It has been such a spirtually nourishing/strengthening experience, above all else.

Last week, on Tuesday, Elder Nelson came to the MTC! Now we've seen three apostles: Holland, Ballard, and Nelson. We're SUPER blessed. His talk was great, and it was all about the Book of Mormon. It was based on the October Ensign actually. The Book of Mormon is SUCH a RICH blessing to us from God. Through it we can gain access to heaven. It's so pure. Cool fact: the King James Version of the Bible was translated at the average speed of one page per day, and today in the Church scriptures are translated into other languages by the top translators also at the average speed of one page per day. When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, he translated an average of seven to eight pages per day. I thought that was amazing! The Book of Mormon is a shining light in the darkness, a bright and strong testimony of the reality of our Savior. It's such a faith-strengthening book.

I've been thinking about pride over the last few days. On Sunday we had an amazing Mission Conference and one of the talks was on pride. It was JUST for me - I don't always feel like talks I hear are "just for me" but this one I did. Pride has been the cause of all my hardships since I've gotten to the MTC. Pride is a "root sin" of many other sins, for it's the cause of contention, reluctance to obey, reluctance/slowness to repent, ingratitude, finding fault in others, withholding praise/generous thoughts, caring most about gaining approval for others, and the list goes on. It was an answer to my prayer, because with that knowledge comes the truth that the opposite of pride, and thus the SOLUTION to these sins/problems, is humility, meekness, and submissiveness. There is true spiritual power in humility. There is spiritual strength, spiritual protection, unhindered spiritual progression, truthful perspective, love for others, sincere prayer, repentance, faith, baptism, the reception of the Holy Ghost, a closer relationship with God, strength to overcome temptation, the ability to forgive, glad/natural obedience, peace, increased capability to perform tasks... all of these things and more are fruits of--or at least are connected to--humility. And not just humble actions, but humility of HEART. Sincere, honest humility. Know who you are and what's really going on--Who is really in charge. This has been a major focus for me the last few days.

I've been thinking about something my stake president said years ago. He said that the depth of your discipleship can be measured by how you see other people. That is really meaningful to me. When I am truly following Christ, love for those around me will be natural. Love is the core requirement for discipleship.
For some reason in my stake, we don't put favorite scriptures on the missionary plaques. But if we did, Alma 26:21-22 would be mine. I came across this last week and it's been on my mind constantly. My natural man can't know anything! I can only know the things of God if I have a penitent, or repentant, HEART. I need to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and repent (true faith leads to repentance naturally) and do good works (as the Savior did) and pray continually without ceasing in my heart. This is the way I will have a successful mission, and a successful life afterward. I have reflected on this time and again and I wish I had time to share all my thoughts on these two verses.

Read that scripture that talks about having faith unto reptenance, which reference I forgot but you can look it up on lds.org. Faith and reptentance really go together. Faith in Christ results in (so immediately that I nearly want to say that it includes) a desire to repent of and be freed from your sins. I'm really grateful for that.
Also Nehemiah 6:3, and Joshua 3:5. Since being in the MTC my testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible has also been strengthened a lot. There are so many spiritual insights, and so much we can learn about God through prayerful study of the Bible.

I love this gospel and I know it's true. I know that through the plan that God has made for us, through Jesus Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we have the ability to become clean and live in Heaven with God and with our families forever. Make this gospel (faith, reptentance, baptism/covenants, and the gift of the Holy Ghost) the center of your life. Let Him into your heart.

You are all in my prayers! Thanks for all you do for me.

Sister Gopinath
P.S. Three weeks  left in the USA!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MTC Week 5: An Invincible Summer

Hello everyone!

This sounds so cliche, but "I can't believe how time flies." It's so crazy that I've been here for over a month--we celebrated our one-month/halfway point the other day with candy and watching that documentary about Thomas S. Monson, "On the Lord's Errand." It was great, I love that man. It's so crazy to think that in four weeks, I'm going to be on the other side of the world. I'm so excited. I'm constantly thinking about Malaysia and I have already begun to love the country so much.

So the Elders going to Indonesian were all friends with us Singapore missionaries, and they helped us with the language a lot. They left two weeks ago or so, but before they did they said that week 5 was when the language clicked for them and they felt it was a miracle. We were all hopeful and hesitant at the same time, because this was our week 5 and we didn't feel any different. But since Saturday the language has just been a lot easier somehow. The last few lessons we've taught, I didn't even think about the language, and I was so much more aware of what was really happening because of that shift of focus from the language to what the person was experiencing. It's been great. We've been told here at a devotional that missionaries often come high in attribute, but low in skill. I'm working on both of those but my skills are especially lacking. I think I've said this before but being a missionary, for me, has made all of my flaws and shortcomings glaringly obvious. I'm learning how to rely on the Lord, and learning how to repent constantly. I'm so grateful to be here at the MTC, I feel like I'm learning so much! I'm determined to hit the ground running.

On Saturday, a volunteer came in and we taught her about effectively studying the Book of Mormon (she was a member). She had a lot of cool insights and had a sweet spirit with her. Oh, and did I mention that she was a native Indonesian? And did I mention how I understood what she said? It was awesome. The Spirit was there in our lesson and she said it made her want to serve a mission (she's been considering it). It was super cool.

It's been interesting because as I've strived to come closer to the Spirit and deepen my testimony here, I've felt that I become more and more comfortable within myself. These gospel principles, sincere prayer, etc. are all familiar. There's this quote by someone I don't remember and it says something like "When the dead of Winter had began to pass, I discovered to my surprise that within me lay an invincible Summer." (Albert Camus) I feel that way about spiritual things for us as children of God, because as such, we are spiritual beings. That's something that is constant and eternal and will never change. Whenever I renew my testimony of some gospel principle, it feels so right and nourishing and natural that it reminds me of Where I came from. Spirituality has a place within each of us, because spirituality is our core identities--we are spirits!
Read John 10. I've developed such a love for the Bible since I've been here. There are so many precious things to be found, so many insights into the gospel and into the life of our Savior. Also I read Romans 6 the other day and was really impressed with/spoken to by the insight offered there. OH! And read the October Ensign!!!! So so so good!!!

I'm sorry this email is shorter! I will write a better one next week. I love all of you and pray for you often. I am loving the MTC and learning so much. My companions are huge blessings to me, and so are my teachers. It's hard, but I KNOW that I'm in the right place. I know that God lives and loves me. He loves each of His children, everywhere. He remembers the isles of the sea. The Atonement can be a real part of our lives and is key to everything good that we can hope to obtain. We owe everything to our Savior, and He loves us so deeply and completely and truly. He is real! God is not far away. Don't pray as if Heaven is miles away--Heavenly Father is RIGHT there. It's not a "long distance relationship'' kind of thing. Pray and remember that He is close to you. ''I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." I know this is true!

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MTC Week 4 - Time is Flying By!

Hello everyone!

I really can't believe another week has gone by. As of yesterday (Monday the 12th), I have only 5 weeks left here until I leave this side of the world. The days are long but the weeks fly by so fast, it's almost scary.

But this week was good. I think everyone in my district is getting to the point with their companions where they have to start paying more attention to the needs of their companionships and actually working out problems that come up. Some of the elders have had a hard time this week, but everyone is heading in a good direction. Most missionaries have times with their companions when it's tempting to be selfish and prideful, but instead we're asked to be selfless and humble and loving and patient. We're asked to qualify for the pure love of Christ when that's not initially something that may come naturally. It's such a good opportunity for us, and me personally, to learn how to work closely with someone--things will certainly come up every now and then, but if you handle it well it can serve you so much. I can already see why, from this angle, missions bless families. We're all going to come back better at being in a family. I know I am.
My Malay is coming along! It's such a fun language, such an interesting one. I'll write more about it later. The other day I could understand everything my teacher said. I'm working on recognizing the feeling behind people's words, and putting sincerity into my own words, instead of just focusing on "What vocab do I know? What words can I pick out? What do I know how to say?" It's really helped me to focus more on "What are they feeling? Where is this coming from? What do they need to understand? What is the Spirit saying?" It's a challenge, but an important thing to be able to focus on.

I've been thinking about the reason why so many missionaries come home so different than they were when they left. There's nothing magic here, no secrets that I've discovered. What makes missionaries remarkable is--hopefully--the fact that we try to put the Lord first in everything every day, and we try to be consistently obedient and consistently seek to serve those around us. Consistency over a "long" period of time (even 18-24 months) has a profound and LASTING effect on people. If LDS missionaries went out for 3 months, generally they would come back unchanged--and if they did come back different, it'd be more short-lived. To me that stresses the importance of being consistent over time. At EFY this summer, we talked a lot about "Taking It Home," which meant continuing to keep commandments at home after returning from EFY. I taught several lessons on this. Now I'm learning more about why it's important. Six days (or even six weeks) of being obedient and spiritual won't change you or change your life--it can only start you on a path of consistency that WILL change you and change your life. I hope that makes sense. I think people come back from their missions different in a very non-superficial way. Their hearts have changed, they truly have become better from deep within. This kind of change takes consistency over time and it lasts. The change lasts, and continues to deepen because the mission will set a pattern for your life. I think it's super cool. It's not magic; it's way more real than magic. It's the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It's His power to change our hearts. It's our Heavenly Father's Plan of Redemption, or Plan of Happiness. It's such a beautiful thing. Enduring to the end in our lives means continually applying the first four principles of the Gospel: faith, repentance, baptism (sacrament and Temple covenants), and (receiving/working for) the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It's a process that we NEED to continually be going through in order to become Christlike. It's continual progress, it's continual change. It's Christ preparing us for what is to come.

I've also been thinking about the importance of the heart. It says in Moroni 10:3 (maybe 4?) that after we have received these things, we should ponder it in our hearts. We need to involve our hearts in this process. Christ in interested in changing your HEART, not changing your mind. He works from inside out. Your scripture study won't help you as much if you don't open your heart, involve your heart. Your prayers are less likely to bring you closer to God if you don't speak to Heavenly Father from your heart. Speak what is in your heart, open your heart. Let the truths of the Restored Gospel, let the Holy Spirit of God, deep into your HEART. Seek to feel it in your heart. And think about it--a heart pumps blood into the rest of your body. If your heart is changed, your entire body is affected. This is a spiritual principle. Your entire self, your entire life, will feel the effects of whatever condition your heart is in. There's so much potential for good. Deep, lasting good!

I love this Gospel! Please send me letters with your thoughts, and please pray for my Malay and also for the other missionaries going to Malaysia. We need it! :) Thank you so much for the prayers you already have been offering. We DEFINITELY feel the effects of those prayers. I love being here, and I know I belong here. I'm so grateful and humbled at the chance to represent our Savior. I love you all!

Sister Gopinath

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Week 3 in the MTC: Elder Holland and Elder H

Hello everyone! I hope you're all doing well!

Things in the MTC are busy and very good. I first want to tell you that after I wrote that email last week, I went to a missionary devotional that was given by Jeffrey R. Holland. It was POWERFUL. I know he is truly an ordained apostle of Jesus Christ. Present was a spirit similar to that felt during that testimony of the Book of Mormon that everyone remembers. He talked about how important our calling is, and how much respect and love the world has for missionaries, and how it is our duty to fulfill those high expectations and live worthy of that respect. He talked about how missionaries now, in this period of time, we will succeed because this period of time will not end in apostasy. We have a living prophet and that will never change--our missionary efforts will continue to be successful and soon the Savior of the world will come again. THAT is what it means when we are told we're a chosen generation. How inspiring, how encouraging, how true! Prophets of old saw our day and took courage in our success. Their dispensations would end in apostasy, but ours will end with the second coming of the Messiah. Think about that!! Does that not make your heart swell with joy and light? I KNOW it is true! I know that this is God's work, and that the Savior lives and guides this work. He loves His people, and He is coming again! Elder Holland also said that there was never a young man who benefitted more from his mission than him. Every blessing from God in his whole life was received through the portal of his missionary service as a young man. He said that he hopes we can see ourselves in him, because he sees himself in us. He also said that as missionaries, we are doing the same work that he does every day, that President Monson does every day. We labor, under a commission from Jesus Christ, to do everything in our power to extend salvation to the human family through the power and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Men have died for this work. It is so worth it. It was an incredible talk--I wish I could express to you the kind of feelings I had as I sat and listened. The Spirit was so strong, and I left a better missionary having heard Him. It was such a spiritual highlight of being at the MTC.

We are still teaching our "investigator" Siti. She has made progress with quitting smoking -- has taken to eating Hall's when she wants to smoke -- and she has accepted the invitation to be baptized. We still have quite a long way to go, but she is progressing and really wants to learn. It's really cool because our teacher based this person off of someone she taught on her mission in Malaysia, named Victor, who had a lot of problems but was willing to change and he was baptized. So cool. Hopefully our teaching goes well.

There's a young Elder here from Malaysia, Elder H!! His family is from KK in East Malaysia. He is one of the nicest people I've ever met! He's going to Salt Lake on his mission :) I heard him pray in Malay yesterday and I understood like 65% of what he said, which I was excited about. He glows--he told me that his brother met the missionaries and was baptized first, and then his entire family was baptized very very soon after. If everyone in Malaysia is as nice as he is, this is going to be the best mission ever. (He is the only person from Malaysia in the MTC right now, so he is a little bit famous here.)

The language is coming along. Everyone told me that I'd pick it up faster than I was expected, and they were right. We went into the Teaching Resource Center, where people who speak the language just come in and talk with us/let us teach them spritual thoughts in the language. It was our first time in the TRC. We talked to two people and it was really fun! I can understand a bit, meaning I usually know generally what the person is talking about. Though I still feel awkward, I can also communicate pretty well for being here just 3 weeks. It's not easy but it's going to pay off.

It's still hard not having many resources. I've probably said this already, but we're trying to learn Malay by studying Indonesian books. Also I'm starting to realize how hard it's going to be with having the Book of Mormon only in Indonesian--I really hope the Malay one comes out next year like the rumors say (no one knows for sure, and I guess they've been saying that for a while). Indo just has a lot of words the Malays don't ever use. For example, think of the English word "torch." In America, it means something different than it does in Great Britain (flashlight). And the only way you could know that here would be if you've lived in an area where you were exposed to European media/people and heard it used as meaning "flashlight." There are tons of words like that that just don't mean the same thing. But that just means that we as missionaries have to help them--that is another way we can serve them, to explain to them beforehand what is going on in the passage so their minds can be prepared and they can understand. It's easier for the Spirit to testify of truth, the more it's understood.

I'm working hard and doing well. I have a TON to improve on as a teacher, and as a disciple of Christ. But I'm getting there. I'm here to stay and I'm committed to becoming the best tool I can be for the Lord to use to bless His children. I love this gospel and know that Jesus Christ is real and He lives today. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers sincere prayers. I have experienced it countless times and I'm so grateful for the effect that's had in my life.

Love you all! Write me letters!

Sister Gopinath