A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Everything here is Christ-centered.

I'm not really sure how to start this letter. Maybe I'll start with this: Being a missionary is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. The language is harder. The rules are stricter. The expectations are higher. And Utah is chilly... all the time.

But the Spirit is much stronger here.

Everything is completely different knowing that, feeling that.

From the first moment I stepped onto the sidewalk of the MTC until now, I've felt my Savior's love. It is expressed through others. Immediately, I was accepted, embraced, and welcomed.

The very first thing we (my escort, Elder Brewerton, and I) did was pick up supplies and take my luggage to my residential hall, 15M. It's named after Dan Jones, one of the greatest missionaries in this dispensation. Sparing no time, I was hurried to a classroom in 18M. This became my district's own classroom. No one else uses it, so we can leave our study things in there.

Our teacher, a return missionary from Brazil, spoke Portuguese to us immediately. And immediately we felt the gifts of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost interpreted a language, which I had honestly never heard before, for me so that I could at least understand, if not reply in Portoglespanol (Portuguese, English, and Spanish). In the last week, I have learned more Portuguese than I have Spanish in one year! And it's because of the grace and mercy of God.

The MTC is beautiful! The entire campus is dedicated and consecrated ground for the teaching and training of missionaries. There's a bookstore, gym, cafeteria, copy center, mail area, etc, in addition to a lot of classrooms, residential dormitories and bathrooms.

My companion is Elder Beyler, from Chicago. The two Elders who share our room (and are in our district) are Elders Anderson from Gallatin, MO, and Mortenson from White City, New Mexico. There are four other Elders in our district who live next door: Elders Sharp from Tennessee, Wood from Atlanta, GA, Brewerton (the brother of my escort) from Colorado, and Peterson from Utah.

Our district leader is Elder Sharp.
Elder Wood got his visa on Friday and left this morning for Sao Paulo.

My relationship with my companions is a good one. I can see the Lord's Hand in choosing who I serve. I love all of them. We are all brothers, and our friendship will last, as we keep in contact and look each other up in 2 years. But I'm also noticing that the companions I spend more time with are the ones that I have the most trouble with. The four Elders that live next door I have no complaints with. We get along great! I don't have to really ask for patience or humility from God to deal with them.
But the companions that I room with are a little more difficult. They have certain personality traits that clash with mine. For example, I'm cheerful all the time! And they are either goofy or solemn all the time. But we do get along good. We still like each other after a week! Prospects look good.

I know that I am placed among certain people that I need to learn from. I also know that there are people who need to learn from me. Every night, I ask God to give us patience and humility and love, one with another. Contention still comes too easy, but we are working on it as a district. Contention drives away the Spirit, and we really need the Spirit. Through the Spirit, I have received wonderful gifts, as my companions have, too. The gift of tongues and the interpretation of them helps us to learn and speak and understand Portuguese. We have already given two lessons in it, we can pray, testify, and discuss the gospel in Portuguese. Of course, we still have a long way to go before fluency, but the MTC is designed to quicken this process. Starting next week: no more English. Period.

The food is great. BYU students are the majority of the workers in the cafeteria and bookstore. We get delicious food three times a day. It is exactly like a college cafeteria, except that there's no caffeine, no tea or coffee, and there's always several people praying. Mealtimes are at 6:30, 11:00, and 4:00. We get ice cream from the BYU Creamery twice a week.

We study a LOT. Probably 60% of our day is studying (besides sleeping). Personal study, companionship study, group study, language study, and language class. We read, discuss, testify, debate, sometimes argue (we're working on it), and counsel over gospel principles and doctrine in Portuguese, trying to understand all that God wants us to.

We were lucky to have General Conference on our first week. West Campus joined us. During this time, I saw Elders Hobdy from Webb City, Wallace from Joplin 1st, and Hoyd from Carthage. I also saw Sister Peterson from Pittsburg, but that was earlier.

At least 3,000 missionaries were in the auditorium, watching all four sessions. It was fantastic. The Elders and Sisters split up for the Priesthood Session (the Sisters went to a rebroadcast of the Relief Society broadcast. After the last Sunday session, we had a devotional by BYU's a capella group, Vocal Point. That was really good. And to end that night, we watched Elder Bednar's devotional: "The Character of Christ". It was a mission changing experience. I exhort all of you to watch it. Look it up. It is truly a life-changing talk.

After the Priesthood Session, our district gathered in the classroom for a discussion/testimony meeting. We shared experiences of the past, from conversion stories to heart-breaking tragedies. All of them strengthened us. There were angels in that room.

I've seen, heard, and felt the presence of angels throughout my stay here. I can look anywhere and know that they are there, ready to help us. I've felt the presence of Grandpa Frei, cousin Bradley, and one of my companion's cousin. It's fantastic. Personal revelations and promptings happen every day. I know this will continue as I work hard and rely on the Holy Spirit. How great is my calling! To enjoy the presence of the Lord in all that I do and say.

I've been blessed in many ways. I can run faster, farther. I'm happier. I'm healthier. My mind is usually clearer, and the veil is very thin.

I went to the Provo Temple, today. It was so beautiful! I'm very glad to have this opportunity. Right now, I'm my laundry. Today is preparation day, a day where there is little studying and is meant for personal and group preparation for the coming week. There is some fellowshipping time ("hanging out" as you might call it).

I haven't gotten many letters or things, but that's okay. My companions always share their care packages with the district.
I had to buy some things (clothes hangers) while I'm here, but I've been very frugal. We all share laundry detergent.

For recreation during the week, we get gym almost every other day. We can play foursquare, basketball, volleyball, or run the track or lift weights. I run for half the time, then play foursquare. No shame foursquare is pretty intense. There's a lot of pent-up energy being released.

Everything here is Christ-centered.

I am determined to make my future home an MTC. Maybe with a little less rules (it's extremely strict here, which is for good reason), but with the same Spirit.
I want to end with my testimony.
The Church is true. There is no question of it. If I did not know for a fact that this was correct, I would not be out here, spending two years preaching it. God is our loving Father. He gives us no trials that we can't overcome. I've had some trials of my faith already, and I've overcome them with the help of the Spirit. The Spirit is so important. It's the most important thing to have with you at all times. I can't emphasize this anymore. Keep the Spirit! Fill your life with the light of the Gospel. Read the scriptures. Say prayers. Be united. I have received a witness of the power of prayer. Every night, I talk with my Father in Heaven, for as long as it takes. My companions tell me that I went a whole hour once. I don't believe it, though. But I do take my time. Every prayer I say, I try to make personal, even the short, simple Portuguese ones. Yet there's something special about night prayers, when I can cry to the Lord for comfort, exhort Him to send me aid, beg for the Spirit and thank Him for all of the wonderful things He has already given me. And, by the power of faith, the Holy Ghost, and the Priesthood, Heavenly Father always gives aid. Never doubt the Holy Spirit. Never take Christ and His Atonement for grant it. And love God with all your hearts. I've learned that there's a difference between having a testimony and being truly converted to the Lord. I'm working on becoming converted. Through the grace of God and His Son, I can do it.

I exhort all of you to pray. Talk with your Father in Heaven. He wants to hear from you. Trials are coming, and you will need all the help you can get. Ask to gain a testimony. That's a great step towards conversion to Christ. If you ask God with a sincere heart and real intent, then you will receive a witness, through the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, God is our Father, and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored through prophets, old and new, and through the power and glory of God. I testify, with the power of the Holy Ghost, and with the support of countless spirits and angels behind me, that Jesus is the Christ, the Atonement is real, and that through faith, repentence, baptism and keeping covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, we will achieve exaultation and will bring others to Christ. What a glorious time to be a missionary. What a glorious time to be on Earth. The Work is Hastening. As a missionary of God, I beg you to help me, help us, in furthering the salvation of all men, women, and children. We can't do it without you.
Take a chance: ask God.
Gain a testimony.

Grow your faith through study and trials.

Share your testimony with others.
Become truly converted.

It is the only way.

I say these things in the name of our Older Brother and Savior, the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.


1 comment:

  1. Elder Thomas Richins,
    You truly are inspirational! Thank you for keeping us updated! I really needed to see this today! Praying for you!
    Sis. Chotrow