Friday, May 31, 2013

Week 5: 21st Birthday at MTC

Last moments being 20!
I am having such a wonderful birthday! It's weird to be 21! Thank you everyone for the cards, letters, packages, and emails. Love you all! I feel so special even so many miles away. Special shout out to the one and only Chelsea May for a FANTASTIC package, I love you! You are so hilarious and thoughtful. Alright I could go on and on...but suffice to say it was the best. LOVED IT. Thank you Mama for an awesome package as well!! I absolutely love it all! I can't even begin to express my gratitude for such a wonderful support system at home - it's unreal.  My entire district continues to rally and share in my joy each week.
Well there's not too much to report this week...but I'm definitely going to miss this place as we round the last corner. I can't believe I'm done training in less than a week and I could leave as soon as Saturday to my next (unknown at this point) destination! I am fully in the Lord's hands right now. Though I will miss it here, I will NOT miss the food. I'm eating less and less each day, so I'm glad this part of it is winding down. After 6 weeks, the food isn't the biggest attraction. Guess it's a way to get us outta here or we may never want to leave.

No not sneaking away - 4am walk to the temple!

My personal favorite...last district temple trip. We have all become
like a family, it's sad to think we only have a few days left together.
This is Tuesday, May 28th - I'm 21 - Do I look any different?
This week I learned a lot about listening and why that is so important not only in life but especially
on a mission. We can't continue to teach people if we don't know what they need and that's where listening comes in. Also, we shouldn't be thinking of what we're going to say next while the other person is talking. I've had a problem with that my whole life and probably most of you reading this could attest to that I'd rather talk than listen; parents? But that's changing as I realize the importance of it. Mom always said I have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason, so I could listen twice as much as I talk...or did dad say that? HaHa. Kidding Mom!

Anyway, umm let's see I got my last shot this past week. Hepatitis A #2 in case anyone was concerned. I may have cried and then almost passed out. That was embarrassing. I just wanted my mommy :(

Speaking of mothers, the whole MTC watched Sister Monson's Funeral Sunday night. It was sad but so beautiful as well. She was such a great example of service and dedication. The support she had for her husband is unbelievable and I hope one day I can be half the kind of wife she was. She seemed like the best mother, always looking for ways to be charitable and did it without expecting anything in return. How amazing.

Sister Hargrove and I matched - both too stubborn to change!

Too funny - it happened again!
Sister Empey and I are getting along so well and it's sad that we have less than a week left together. How did 6 weeks fly by so fast? I have a feeling this is how it will be my whole mission. Moral of the story: enjoy every moment, good or bad, because it will always come to an end.  Change is change is constant and inevitable.

 Love this sister-friends for ever!

Me and Elder Ferguson playing extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors!!! Haha!
Well that's about all for now. I will update you all as soon as I know where I'm going! Mom and Dad I'll talk to you on Friday! Love you all and thank you again for all the birthday love :) 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Week 4 - Only 2 Weeks more!

This is my whole District.  We'll get there eventually!!

Beautiful day in Provo

What a week! So this Friday is my one month mark. WHAT?? Crazy!! I am excited but with turning 21 next Tuesday and all the upcoming changes I feel its a lot for me to handle all at once so I'm still learning to take things as they come.
This past week has been incredible though. We had an Apostle come speak to us...Elder Russell M. Nelson! He spoke on simple yet important truths of the gospel. He talked to us about family history and how as people are converted and come unto Christ, not only are they affected but their posterity as well. The reality that because of one person, many generations are affected, blew me away. He also spoke on losing ourselves in the work in order to bring Jesus to their lives. This work is not about us, we are just the instruments in God's hands. It was so uplifting.  Missionary work is so important! I am so lucky and blessed to be a part of it.
So...Yesterday Sister Empey and I got to go to the outside world! She had to go to the chiropractor so we took a shuttle to some office in Provo and it was so weird. The MTC is a little bubble and it's all I've known for the past month so to be out here again was odd. Everyone was staring at us haha.  I felt like a real missionary!  Anyway, we get to go again tomorrow and again on Friday. My companion and I have changed so much for the better and have grown much closer. This week was a miracle and proof that God answers prayers! I am so much more patient and loving because of her and even though it was a struggle at first she's such a blessing to me and I'm lucky to have her as a companion...for multiple reasons.
But before I get too mushy, I would also like to state how grateful I am for her courage! We had a MOUSE in our room last week and she was the brave soul to chase it out. I, thank goodness, was not in the room at the time but I came up the stairs from working out and it was running right towards me... My companion was chasing behind it as she and the mouse came running out of our room. I'm the worst story teller but I hope you can visualize it. I may have screamed, ran the other way and freaked out a bit. Maybe... And then other sisters came out of their rooms thinking someone got their visa haha whoops. Good joke...funny story!

I would now like to take this time to brag about two of my best friends, Janelle and Jori. The day finally came when I received Cocoa Bean Cupcakes! That was pretty much the thing I was most looking forward to when coming to the MTC and they pulled through. They're the best. AND they even sent me my favorites - Red Velvet and Better Than Whatever... thank you so much! Also, Janelle has kept my letter count steady with the most mail haha. I love you both!

My celebrity companion before playing at Devotional
Last thing. Sunday night Sister Empey got to play her arrangement of "Called to Serve" for the entire MTC. That's about 4,000 people. She auditioned and played it at a devotional. She is incredible I can't even describe. I can't even tell her I play piano after that piece...and she wrote it! Truly talented. It makes me cry and get chills every time I think of it. I had so much fun treating her like a celebrity for the rest of the night by moving people along and saying "no photographs please". She loved it! Devotional on Sunday was by Mary Ellen Edmunds and she mainly spoke on being optimistic and how that's so important as a missionary. She was hilarious and said..."If you want to know if you're being positive think...did my friends get caller ID because of me?" just an adorable lady. She served her mission in the Philippines and she was the first sister to be there - Ever! She told us to treasure the Book of Mormon because they didn't have it in Tagalog at the time, nor did Hong Kong or Africa have it in their languages. It is such a powerful book. I thought so before, but more and more things jump out at me as I read it on my mission. It's amazing!

Well that's about it for this week. I find out where I'm going next week when I get my re-assignment and then I'm out of here in just 2 weeks! Remember to always have faith and the Lord will guide you through anything. He is our rock, our Savior, our Brother, and our friend. Love you all! Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Halfway Done - MTC

I cannot believe I've already been here for 3 weeks. I feel like I got here yesterday but at the same time it feels like I've been here forever. This past week has been amazing and I've had such a change of heart. I always joke about the MTC being on lockdown, but it really is a special place and I might actually miss it. It's like a little safe haven before you go out into the real mission field and people fully depend on you. It's a lot of pressure!
I thought I had been studying and working hard but Sunday night we went to a recording of Elder Holland's devotional called "Missions are Forever" and I realized that even though I'm working hard I need to work harder. I can't even put into words how amazing his words were. He told us how every thought, word, deed, and effort should be directed by the spirit of the Lord but we need to be worthy of that spirit and if we're not doing our part, how can the Lord bless us with his spirit?
He stressed obedience to each and every rule and how we should be excited about this work we're doing! We need to make it personal as we teach to be more effective.
We had another devotional before that on creating our mission culture when we do get there. How will I finish the sentence? "In this mission we ___, when we get to Brazil." Some people may say we are obedient to every rule; Some may say we baptize a lot people; or we don't get to teach many lessons. I don't know what mine will be until I get there.
Because our visas are delayed, we'll likely get re-assigned.  I'm taking guesses of where I'll go... Mission call round 2! There is also a possibility of us having to stay here another week while they find somewhere for us to go because right now there are hundreds of visa-waiters in the states. They're running out of room for us. So glad I'm not the one that has to plan this stuff. Anyway, there are tons of rumors so who knows what's going to happen. We should find out in 2 weeks where we'll go.
Our lessons this past week went really well. We do them entirely in Portuguese and they're about 30 minutes long. We always start with a prayer, share our lesson, ask questions, bear our testimonies, and end with a prayer. Sounds easy but I can promise you it is not. It's fun though. I love the challenge of having to find different ways to explain something when someone doesn't understand a certain concept.
This week we also had TRC (Training Resource Center) which is when a member of the church comes in...typically a student from BYU who served a Portuguese speaking mission and we just share a spiritual thought with them. It was the coolest thing ever. We went in to teach this guy but he wound up teaching us. We wanted to share the importance of prayer with him and he helped us to realize how prayer blesses our lives. Deus quer ouvir por nos. God wants to hear from us and I know prayer is amazing and can help us if we use it. He hears and answers every prayer. I know it.
Our teacher taught us this week to make sure we have a specific lesson planned and then change it as we feel necessary and as we are guided by the spirit. Our first lesson we kind of had an idea of what we wanted to teach but nothing really specific-it crashed and burned. My companion just went on, I bore testimony once, but it was so scattered and definitely our worst lesson. It happens. It was a learning experience. The next time we taught him about faith and Joseph Smith and how he restored our church to the earth. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and asked him to pray to know if it was true. Remember, we were actually teaching our teacher as he pretended to be an investigator; someone that he himself actually taught on his mission in Portugal.
He told us it was a complete 180. The spirit felt in that room was amazing. We learned the difference between being prepared and not in that lesson. What a difference. Miracles come if we prepare. We are learning 2 languages here. Portuguese and the language of the spirit. It is such an amazing thing to feel prompted to teach something even if it's not exactly what was planned because you really can feel what this person needed to hear.

Finally, Sunday morning in Relief Society we had Janice Kapp Perry come speak to us and for those of you who don't know who she is, becasue I didn't, she has written a bunch of Primary songs and is just a musical genius. She wrote "Love is Spoken Here" and "A Child's Prayer" to name a couple. It was like the Grammy's for Mormons because everyone freaked out and they had to say no photographs or autographs. I thought it was hilarious. She also wrote the music for "As Sisters in Zion" a personal favorite...and she just wrote new lyrics for it and titled it "The Sisters of Zion" specifically for all the sisters serving missions right now.  We were the first to sing it! The strength of all the women in that room and the spirit was undeniable. I was crying, of course, but happy crying. It just reminded me of all the reasons why I wanted to serve a mission and I'm so happy that I'm here despite missing my wonderful family...but I know they're all ok! I have come to find that there is nothing better than singing "Called To Serve" in a room full of missionaries. Coolest thing ever!!!

I was sick this past weekened but I'm a lot better now. I just think I overdid it because I never get enough sleep. I'm tired all day studying and teaching so when it comes to gym time Sister Dixon and I work out hard; run, do lunges and abs and a bunch of other things to wake us up. That's probably not the best method because then we're over exhausted. Ugh!. But it feels so good to get out and run around because we're in a classroom all day long!

My district leader has now made it a game to "hide Sister Cox's letters and make her think she didn't get any mail." It's really awesome. Not. My birthday is in 2 weeks! So exciting! I still can't believe I'm out of here in 3 weeks. Nuts. I apologize if this was boring for anyone, but for now this is what happens in the life of  missionary in the MTC but I must say - I love it!

Love you all so much and miss you all!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Week 2 at the MTC

 Oi everyone! como vocem estam? tudo bem? I am still loving Portuguese and love teaching in this language. This week has gone by pretty quickly but days are SOOO long. Our schedule just changed due to the thousands of missionaries here so now we have to wake up at 6 instead of 6:30 and breakfast is at 6:30, class is at 7. Sister Empey and I have had a much better week as we've prayed together and gotten to understand each other more. It's still difficult being with basically a total stranger 24/7 but I guess this is what I signed up for right? I've also learned a few lessons on patience and how if the person isn't going to change, that I need to change my attitude and focus on why we're here. Anyway, she has such a strong testimony and knows TONS about the Book of Mormon so it's been awesome teaching with her. I'm learning a lot. Speaking Portuguese in my district is coming along and sometimes we'll have an English fast and strictly try to speak Portuguese for a whole meal or for a couple hours. There is power in disciplining yourself enough to do that and that's when we all learn the most or else we just wind up saying "como se diz" (how do you say)...and then continue in English. Not quite as effective but it's funny. Oh. Do not mix up pecado and pescado! Look it up...You cannot repent of your pescados haha. We laugh about everything here because that's honestly what gets us through the day.

Chad Lewis (Eagles Football Player) came to speak to us Sunday night and it was so cool! He spoke about his own mission in Taiwan and how this time in our lives is incredible and to seize every moment. Such a powerhouse!

So in the past week I have been asked multiple times if I am Tongan or Samoan, to which I politely say no but I've been making a lot of friends this way, it's pretty funny. This place is so mentally and spiritually exhausting but I go to bed every night thinking "I love being a missionary. Absolutely love it and cannot wait to get to Brazil! It might be a while but I'll get there eventually and I know wherever I am that's where the Lord needs me. This past week a whole district got re-assigned to the Washington Spokane mission because none of them got their visas for Brazil. So I will not be going there since they're full now but I could go anywhere! Every now and then there's some screaming in our building and it's either because visas came or people got re-assigned. The biggest challenge for me this past week was feeling inadequate. I compare myself to others way too much whether it's the lack of knowledge of church history or someone's extremely powerful testimony or someone who already seems fluent in Portuguese. I know I'm really hard on myself so that doesn't help but I got advice from one of the counselor's in my branch presidency. He said that if they wanted perfect people to teach the gospel, we would have no missionaries. I soon got over those feelings and just have to pray harder and rely on the Lord and know that He will give me strength to get through any of those feelings that I'm not good enough. Also, we sat with some Elders and Sisters going to Japan for their missions and they are so overwhelmed and said they can't even read they nametags so that made me feel a lot better haha. I shouldn't be complaining that it's hard sometimes. 

Also this past week we have read the Book of Mormon with a question or a purpose in mind. Mine was to look for scriptures of God's love and strength. There are SO many if you will just look for them. I have no time to waste here and we talked about how this really isn't our time, this is the Lord's time so studying the scriptures is a necessity and so wonderful and uplifting at the same time. Every day is different and  I never knew I could feel so many emotions in one day. Sometimes I wake up really happy and by the end of the day I'm worn out and sad or just exhausted and other days it's opposite and I'm super happy at night; it's weird. Some days I feel a bunch of different things throughout the day but it really is always the same at the end. I'm where I'm supposed to be and have no regrets. I have seen blessings in my life from being here already and the lessons you learn on a mission are irreplaceable. I really miss music though. No music in the MTC besides hymns we sing on Sunday and before class.

My birthday is in just 3 more weeks! And it's on a P day so I can email all you wonderful people that day :) Can't wait. I'll be expecting...I mean accepting packages from now until then but please no more cookies! We have them in the cafeteria as well and I have to resist every time because I have some in my room. I really do appreciate them though. Love you Mom and Garcia's! 
Your notes made my day. This past Sunday was an important day for 2 very special people in my life. Happy (belated) 21st birthday Chris! And Happy 2 months to my beautiful, sweet niece Gianna. I love and miss you both! I feel so blessed to have such an amazing support system home and here in the MTC as well from little uplifting notes Jeff leaves me on my desk to the Elders Chris served with just giving me a friendly smile. It's the best. Sometimes this place feels like a high security institution because you have to swipe your cards to get into every building and when they unlock it's super loud...freaks me out every time. But it's really such a great place and it's starting to grow on me...Only 4 weeks left here can you believe it? Gym time keeps me sane, especially when you're in the same little room with the same 12 people every day; but we have become like a family and I love it. Last week someone found out my first name and said "Alyssa" to get my attention and you wouldn't think it would be weird but after being called nothing but Sister Cox for 2 weeks, I answered then everyone froze...awkward.
Anyway, I love you all and am so blessed to be a missionary. It's wonderful! Remember we can't grow without trials and this increases our faith. 1 Nephi 15:11. Keep the letters coming you have no idea how much I love them! Miss you all.

Remember, you can write me letters on that I will get same day at the Provo MTC, Box #133, Mission Code BRA-SPS 0604; you just have to set up a free account.
Eu sei o Livro de Mormon e verdadeiro e Jesus Cristo e nosso Salvador e Redentor. Muito obrigada por tudo! Tchau!