Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27, 2013 - In which the MTC celebrates Christmas

Dear family,

I hope that Christmas was fun for everyone! I hope you found a chance to think about the Atonement and the proper meaning of Christmas! :)

I mentioned that on Sunday Brother Randall and his wife (and Sister Payne) came and spoke to us. That was a pretty fun experience and very informative. He talked about listening to the Spirit as we teach, and we watched a clip from one of Sister Payne's teaching appointments from The District 1 that was a great example. (If you want to see what it was, it was when Sister Payne and Sister Meyers invited Laura to be baptized in The District 1, Episode 3) After we watched that, Brother Randall announced that Sister Payne was here and was going to talk to us. We were all pretty surprised because she wasn't sitting on the stand, and it hadn't been announced previously that she was there. She gave us some great advice, and a little behind-the-scenes information on teaching Laura. After the meeting my companions and I hurried up to the front and we got to shake Sister Payne's hand.

Christmas Eve was a normal day until the devotional, where Elder Evans spoke to us. He and his wife spoke to us about uplifting communication, and how we can improve that. A funny thing was that during his talk, Elder Evans kept on saying "tomorrow when you hear from Elder-- oops I can't talk about that!" and then would continue on with his talk. It was pretty brutal of him, but it was still a nice evening.

After the Devotional the MTC played The Nativity and also Mr. Kreuger's Christmas. It was a lot of fun to watch Mr. Kreuger, since that's probably one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Wednesday was Christmas! It was a lot of fun. In the morning after I wrote we had a talent show. There were some awesome acts, including probably the best magic act I've ever seen. It wasn't even the most amazing thing that the elder could do, but my favorite bit was that he would handkerchiefs into umbrellas. Along the vein of Elder Evans's teasing, we sang the 12 Days of Missionary Christmas, and the twelfth day was about the twelve apostles. The prop the MTC used to signify that was a picture of Elder Bednar. When they first brought out the picture you could hear half of the MTC whispering "Foreshadowing oooohhh...."

And it was accurate. For our Christmas Devotional, Elder Bednar came and did a question-answer-session. They passed out 200 phones in the congregation (and at all the other international MTCs they passed out iPads or something) and we were able to text in our questions. We ended up talking about a huge amount of different things, but all were excellent. It was amazing also because Elder Bednar didn't have to pause to consider any of the questions. He took a moment to pick one, but then he could speak without breaking or any notes. We noticed this quality of his during the Character of Christ recording, also, because he spoke for more than hour without stopping about a pretty specific subject without ever looking at notes and there are no teleprompters at the MTC.

Something else that was special about the devotional with Elder Bednar was the song that the choir sang. I haven't mentioned this before, I think, but each week the choir does a number at one or both of the devotionals, and almost my whole zone is in it. (I'm really glad I didn't have to coerce to get to choir!) For Elder Bednar we sang "Where Shepherds Lately Knelt." I had never heard it before but it's one of my new favorite Christmas hymns. The lyrics are probably the best I've heard, and I can't even talk about the music.

The devotional with Elder Bednar was definitely the highlight of the day. We had a couple of other programs, including a concert by Ray Smith and the recording of the Home for the Holidays Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert with Alfie Boe from last year.

It was a really uplifting day. Though it was hard to not really be doing anything (and that's the worst thing as a missionary), we tried to sit as a zone as much as possible and it was nice to be together.

Thursday was a normal day again. Classes, the normal things. The only way you could really tell that the rest of the world still thinks it's Christmastime is that the lights were still on the trees in the quad and we didn't get any volunteers at TRC.

Thank you so much for the letters and emails. If you haven't written me yet, I'd love to hear from you! I tried to send out a few Christmas cards, but I only had so many addresses. If you wanted one and haven't received one, send me your address or email!

I love all of you! I'm having a great time here in the MTC. It's been a great growing experience to learn a lot about the Gospel and teaching, but also about myself, the Atonement, and serving others.
I know that the Church is the only true one on the Earth! I know that Christ came to Earth for me and everyone else. A question that Elder Bednar asked us was if Christ ministered to the individual (for example it says in 3 Nephi that every person in Bountiful had their own time with the Savior) how did He suffer for us in Gethsemane? Did He take every pain on Himself at once, or did He maybe, for a moment, suffer for just me, and just every other individual in creation? Elder Bednar didn't answer, because he said there wasn't a doctrinal answer for him to give, but he gave us that to consider. It's an awesome thing to pray about and study. :)
I'm out of time now, and I didn't even get to talking about my investigators or how Czech is coming, but I love you!

Merry Christmas,
Starší Boyce
Package from home! It came on Christmas Eve night so it wasn't delivered until Christmas morning.

Daniel loved his Dr. Who Christmas stocking from Mom and Dad!

It helps to sing in the choir - this is what Daniel's view of Elder Bednar was during the devotional.

Self portrait - hanging with the bass section waiting for the Christmas devotional to start.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25, 2013 - In which it's Christmas!

Vesele vanoce! Merry Christmas!

I only have twenty minutes for email today! I was expecting a full hour but they told last night that after our devotional that we'd only have twenty. I'll still be emailing on Friday, though!

Since I only have twenty minutes today, I'll have to forgo giving you a rundown of the past week's events. Sneak peek for Friday: Brother Randall (who's in missionary administration) and his wife spoke to us, with the surprise guest speaker of Sister Payne from the District 1! Last night Elder Evans of the Seventy, who is the fourth member of the Missionary council with Elder Nelson, Elder Bednar, and one of the presiding Bishopbric. Both were great! Also we learned how to do past tense in Czech! Woooooo!!

I love all of you so much! I'm so excited to be serving the Lord for two years! It's strange because every day I'm probably more stressed than I've ever been (including right before AP testing) but I'm still filled with peace. It doesn't make sense, but I know that it's because of the Spirit that I'm able to move forward with confidence every day!

I'm so grateful for the gift of the Atonement! I heard someone yesterday say (I think it was Elder Evans but I'm not sure because we hear from so many people!) that without the Atonement we would never celebrate Christmas. I've been studying a lot about that this week. One of our investigators, Pavel, is trying to understand how the Savior could have completed it.

Nephi tells us at one point that he doesn't understand everything, but he knows that God loves his children. I don't understand the how of the Atonement very well, but I know how it can help me. It strengthens me every day to become a better person and to serve those around me more effectively. It helps me to feel peace every day, and I'm so grateful. I'm especially grateful that I can teach people who have never heard of the Atonement every day!

I'm a little over time now, but today remember that gift! The Atonement is God's greatest gift to us! He loves us so much!

I love all of you that are reading this!

Merry Christmas,
Starší Boyce

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013 - Third Letter: In which I split my face open

Dear Family,

On last Saturday I got three stitches! MTC four square is pretty intense. I was in the king square and (naturally) trying to defend my throne, and I leaned just a little too far forward as I tried to hit the ball. I was moving too fast to get out my hands so I landed on my face. I didn't break my nose (which was lucky) but I split my eyebrow open. And I had to get three stitches. There's a first time for everything!

Something that's funny about my trip to the BYU Student Urgent Care clinic was that the doctor that stitched me up was from Camarillo! She lived in the navy housing off Las Posas and went to Las Posas Elementary. It's such a small world. She and the other nurses also told my companions that my eyebrow had to be shaved off to give me the stitches and then put an enormous Band-Aid on my face to cover up my (perfectly intact) eyebrow. It was pretty funny when that came off.

On Sunday BYU Men's Chorus came and sang for the Sunday Evening Devotional! They were so good! I really want to be in it when I get back from my mission. (On a related note, Brother Machado let slip that he was part of BYU Singers and I almost died.)

Tuesday evening our speakers were Elder Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife. Sister Rasband told us an awesome story about one of their elders when they were the president of the New York, New York City North Mission. The elder, Elder Powell, had always wanted to have his shoes shined in a booth like they have in the nicer parts of New York City where you sit in an elevated, velvet-lined seat while the worker shines your shoes. Elder Powell had, however, stayed in Harlem and the Bronx for basically all of mission so he never saw a booth like he had imagined. So when he came to the end of his mission, and he heard someone offering to shine his shoes, he jumped at the offer and ran to the man. When he asked how much it would be, the man that offered just said, "Whatever you're willing to give." Elder Powell agreed to that, being a poor missionary!

He was surprised, though, when the man that offered didn't lead him to the chair he had always imagined. The man knelt down while Elder Powell stayed standing, and the man started polishing and buffing Elder Powell's shoes with his bare hands and his clothes.

Sister Rasband told us how Elder Powell was struck when the man started doing this. He took another look at the man that was polishing his shoes, and how his clothes were all blackened, most likely from days of polishing shoes like he was then, and how low in life he had fallen. He was reminded of the Savior, because the Savior also had descended below all to serve us, and even to make it so that we could have eternal life through completing the Atonement. The man, of course, was desperate and not serving out of love like the Savior, but Elder Powell thought about how Christ asked for the same thing in return for his Atonement as what the man asked for polishing shoes: "Whatever you're willing to give." By the time the man was done polishing, Elder Powell was searching for everything that he had in his pockets to give, and his companion's also!
I probably didn't do it justice (and I'm starting to have problems with pronouns in English), but it was an awesome story and such a powerful reminder of the Atonement.

After that Elder Rasband talked to us about spiritual gifts. That was pretty good, too, but I just liked Sister Rasband's a little bit better. :)

We've been very busy with teaching! We don't teach as often now, but we've had two investigators all this week and we just got a new one yesterday! We're now teaching Iván, Pavel, and Andéla. Also we have TRC now, which is where we basically teach anyone who comes in to the MTC to volunteer. They don't come in character like how my teachers are my investigators, they just come as themselves. Since we're learning Czech, though, we normally just talk to returned missionaries. Between our investigators and TRC, we taught three lessons in Czech yesterday! It's very hard, and we're having a particularly hard time getting Iván to seem interested or read the Book of Mormon. We spent our whole lesson yesterday teaching about it but he still wouldn't agree to try reading it. We at least got him to agree to think about reading it, so I guess that's an improvement.

Next week I'm pretty sure I'll be able to write two days! We get time on Christmas to write, as well as P-day on Friday as normal. It would just nice to get some letters to reply to. :)

I'm just about out of time, and I need to attach some photos (which is obnoxious on the MTC computers). Those will be in a separate email.

Merry Christmas! Love,

Starší Boyce
A beautiful picture of the Provo Temple in the snow.

The mountains are so beautiful in Utah
Daniel and his companions, Elder Prohaska and Elder Nelson

Daniel's district- Daniel is the district leader of these missionaries who are all learning Czech.

These missionaries all arrived in the MTC the same day 

Owie!  Off to the BYU Health Center for 3 stitches!

All better! Love the bandage!

Daniel's cousin gave Daniel this tie because every missionary needs a really, really ugly tie!
Sign says "thank you."  The Young Women and the Primary sent a package with cards and letter.

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 13, 2013 - Second Letter: In which we teach Štěpan and an Apostle visits

Dear Family,

This week has been exciting! Pretty hard, but also exciting.

Since I've written, we met with our first investigator, Štěpan four times. Teaching him in Czech was very hard. Mostly we have to rely on phrases from the Czech phrasebook, and then try to bear testimony of simple things. It's very easy to get discouraged about not knowing enough Czech or not being able to communicate well enough, but I've already seen the Spirit bless me so much in understanding Czech that I couldn't possibly have known otherwise. It was also hard to try and discern whether or not Štěpan had been feeling the Spirit, because he'd answer almost every question we asked with "Dobř," which means "okay," but more on that later.

Mom asked how visiting investigators in the MTC works. Our investigator "lives" in a closet down the hall from our classroom! There's just enough room for four chairs, and so we just have to pretend that it's a living room! As for who Štěpan actually was, we walked in to class yesterday and saw that he was our third teacher (whom we hadn't seen yet), Brother Machado. Brother Machado told us yesterday during class that Štěpan was actually the Czechified version of his father (who was baptized when Brother Machado was younger), so he just reacted the way that he thought his father would when we taught. It was great to be able to ask him questions about our teaching yesterday, and something that was really comforting was that he said that he could feel the Spirit during our lessons despite how simplified and bad our Czech was.

We probably won't see Štěpan again, but our next investigator will be Ivan, who we met on the street (in the hallway) yesterday. Ivan is one of Brother Machado's old investigators that he'll also be able to imitate pretty well.

On Sunday I had my first meeting as district leader! I won't go in to that, but basically as district leader I'm the eyes and ears of the branch presidency (in the mission field I'd be the eyes and ears of the mission president). I don't mean that to sound like Big Brother, but if one of my district members is having a hard time, it's my job to know about it so we can help him.

Sunday evening we were able to see the Christmas devotional. It was pretty good. It was fun to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing the song that our ward had been practicing, but the whole MTC's favorite moment was probably when the little boy during Elder Nelson's segment winked at the little girl next to him!

After that broadcast we saw a recording of Elder Bednar's talk entitled "Character of Christ." He gave it during the 2011 MTC Christmas Sacrament Meeting. That was awesome. He talked about the (surprise, surprise) character of Christ and how whenever one of us probably would have turned inward in selfishness, Christ turned outward in service. He also said that becoming converted is replacing our character with the character of Christ. If you can find that talk (that's a big if because I'm pretty sure it's only available to missionaries), it's my new favorite talk ever. It's life-changing.

Tuesday night Elder Cook and his wife came and spoke to us! It was also broadcasted live to all the MTCs in North and South America and the Phillipines. Sister Cook talked to us about how as misisonaries we are like the Christmas star that leads the world to the Savior. Elder Cook talked to us about our mission calls and how personal they are. He gave us some fun statistics, too! He said that it took 175 years for the church to send out one million missionaries, but they expect to reach the two millionth missionary within the next 25 years. Also since the changing of the mission ages the church assigns about two to three times as many missionaries each week as from before. Instead of about 500 missionaries assigned per week, it's now anywhere from 900 to 1500 missionaries assigned per week!

I'm having such a great time at the MTC! I'm learning so much Czech and about being a missionary and a better disciple of Christ. I'm still getting along very well with my companions.

On a not-linearly-related-note: the MTC is a cesspool of disease, and the health staff takes it very seriously. When somebody tests positive for influenza (they test you by sticking a Q-tip up to your brain and then seeing what grows), they put a mask on them and march them back to their residence hall, where he or she collects a few scant belongings to take to QUARANTINE. The patient watches the escorting health worker spray down his or her whole room with a Ghostbusters-esque disinfectant spray, and then is marched back to the underbully of the administration buildings to QUARANTINEEEE.

Good thing I got the flu shot!


Starší Boyce

PS Please keep writing on DearElder!

Friday, December 6, 2013

December 6, 2013

Dear Family,

I love you a lot!

I feel like I've already learned so much being here in the MTC for just under two days. It's very hard, but the Spirit here has been (and is still) very strong. There's a very special Spirit here that helps us missionaries so much.

You've probably wondering where I'm staying and who my companions are. I'm not in MTC West like Thomas thought I would be; I'm staying on the main campus (but in one of the farthest buildings from the cafeteria). There are five elders in my district (no sisters). My two companions are Elder Nelson and Elder Prohaska. The other two elders are Elder Huffaker (don't know if he's related to Val and Tony or not) and Elder Pitt. We all get along really well together! We're still getting used to each other, but I think we'll be great.

We've jumped right into learning! The first thing I did after I dumped my suitcases in my residence hall was go to my first Czech class. That was pretty hard, because the teacher didn't speak any English so we mimed everything that day. Yesterday was better. We had a different teacher yesterday, but he was willing to speak in English to us to help us get a bit more of a foundation in Czech before the teachers start speaking only Czech again.

The first night we had an awesome experience where we basically had panel appointments. A group of 50 or so elders and sisters sat behind a couch set-up and after some missionaries came in and set up the scenario the group started teaching. The Spirit was really strong, and it was really reassuring to see how He will give us the words that we need to teach.

Yesterday we spent the morning in a "People and Your Purpose" workshop. We watched some slideshows from the NYTimes/Religion site where people told about their experiences with God and their faith (none of them are members of the Church). After that we talked about how Christ sees them and how we could help them. Most of our instruction so far has focused on practicing seeing people as Christ sees them. I love it!!

Tonight we're teaching our first investigator as a companionship! In Czech! We'll probably say hello, ask him to read a scripture, bear testimony, and leave because that's all we've learned so far. Our teacher said that it was fine if our first lesson was only five minutes (or less).

Last night I was called to be District Leader. I still don't know much of what this entails, so far I've just been mailman, really, but my first leadership training meeting is on Sunday. I'm pretty nervous about being a District Leader already since it's only the third day of my mission! I'm pretty confident that I'll have lots of help though, especially from my MTC Branch Presidency and most especially from the Spirit.

I'm really excited to be serving! I'm very happy to be here in the MTC. It's a good place (though I definitely have not adjusted to the food yet). The Spirit here is strong.

I love you,

Elder Boyce

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 4, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.

All grins and ready to go!

Daniel reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) at Provo, Utah today at 12:30. The weather was bitter cold at 19 degrees with lots of snow so he has had a taste of what he has to look forward to during the winter in the Czech Republic. We had about 2 1/2 minutes to get everything out of the car, give Daniel a quick hug (and a kiss for Mom) and then leave so the next batch of cars could drop off their missionary.  Daniel was assigned a host missionary to show him the ropes for a few days.  We can't wait for his first letter!
Nancy, Daniel, Suzie and Wayne posing for one last picture.

Off he goes with his suitcases and host missionary.