Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011

Oh Man. Guess what?! Yesterday was my 5 week anniversary of entering the MTC! I only have about 3 1/2 weeks left before they send me to Chile. I can hardly believe it! This upcoming Monday one of the districts in our zone is leaving. We will be sad because they are so awesome! AND because once they leave MY district will be the oldest district in the zone! How did THAT happen?? Serious craziness! I LOVE my district and my zone. I am surrounded by uplifting, encouraging, and faithful people. I am no longer the Coordinating Sister, but I am now in a trio (so I have two companions instead of just one). It is fun! During our language study sometimes we go on "flashcard walks" where we use our flashcards to create sentences using words we are trying to learn. It's a nice break from sitting in the classroom:) Sometimes we get pretty giggly though. Hmmm...what else is new? Oh and we have gym time everyday except Thursday and Sunday. Usually I just stretch and do some push-ups/crunches etc. And I am getting pretty good! Already I've increased the amount of push-ups I can do by 10!! I told one of the Hermanas in my district that if I kept this up I could do over 100 push-ups by the end of my mission! Haha...she told me that I probably had better things to do than try to increase my push-up capabilities...I think she's right:)

Here in the MTC we are not allowed to listen to music. It seems like a strict rule, but I am sure it is in place because the rule was abused in the past. The result though is that when I am able to hear music it is that much more powerful of an experience! I value it so much more! (I usually hear music at Music and The Spoken Word every Sunday morning and sometimes when my teacher shows us Mormon Messages). The music that I am able to hear here is SO uplifting and inspiring. Yesterday i thought to myself...I never want to listen to any other music than music that invites the Spirit into my life! I've just been noticing how powerful music is for good in my life and the good thoughts it inspires and I know it can be that much more powerful as a destructive and distracting noise in our lives. On the subject of music, I LOVE the hymns. Lately I will get random hymns stuck in my head. When I go look up the hymn in my hymnbook and read the words and the scriptures that relate to them I learn so much! The hymns speak to me! For example, in the MTC choir we sang the hymn "Oh May My Soul Commune With Thee". One of the verses says something along the lines of "Oh may my soul commune with thee and find thy holy peace, from worldly cares and pain of fear, please bring me sweet release". Even though it says "pain of fear" in my mind I heard "fear of pain" and it caused me to reflect on how painful it can be to be afraid; afraid of failing, afraid of not being loved or accepted, afraid of not being good enough, afraid of not being strong enough or capable enough, afraid of the future, afraid of losing someone or something. There are SO many things that we can be afraid of; I know I am afraid of a lot of things. This hymn reminded me though that through Jesus Christ we can be freed from this "pain of fear" because Jesus Christ provides hope and salvation.

Another song that was stuck in my head yesterday actually is not even in our hymnbook. I started singing it and didn't know all the words and couldn't remember the title. I tried to find it in the hymnbook to no avail. Finally after trying to figure out all day what the song was, I thought it might be "Faith in Every Footstep", a hymn that used to be in our hymbook but isn't anymore. I don't know where I heard it or why it was in my head, but it's my favorite song right now! I looked it up on (I finally figured out that we do have access to and it indeed was Faith in Every Footstep. The lyrics that were particularly in my head were "O ye that embark in the service of God, give heart, mind and strength unto him". The song is about the pioneers, but I find it very applicable to myself and fellow missionaries. One of our teachers talked to us this week about giving everything to the Lord. He talked to us about how at the end of our missions, if we have given our all, we will know that our missions were a success. On Tuesday we had Elder Zivic of the Quorum of the Seventy come speak to us. He talked about this too and quoted Ghandi who said "Total dedication is complete victory". I like how that quote doesn't say that positive performance or astounding results is complete victory. Elder Zivic's talk, my teachers lesson, and the lyrics of that hymn have come together to teach me about giving everything I have and am to the Lord. I am still learning what that means, but I know that if I give my heart, mind, and strength to the Lord, He will make my efforts a victory!

This week I've also been thinking a lot about Jesus' life while He was here on the earth. My companions and I have, on occasion, been to visit a member of our District Presidency. When we go to his office, he teaches us out of the scriptures. It is a really neat experience. In his office are some beautiful paintings of the Savior. He told me they were done by Liz Lemon Swindle. My favorites were one of Jesus standing on the edge of a body of water and one of the story of Jesus forgiving the adulterous woman (He That Is Without Sin). That is one of my favorite stories of Jesus. Jesus knew people's hearts, and He loved them. He administered to people perfectly to meet their needs and fill their souls. I've been thinking a lot about other instances in the scriptures where Jesus healed people, and taught them. The district presidency member talked to us about being folllowers of Christ. He asked us what those who follow actually do and then taught us that following means to do as the leader does. As followers of Christ we do not just listen to His words, we do what He did, and the more I think about His life, I am seeing more what my responsibility is as His follower. To love, and serve, and heal, and teach people. I love Jesus Christ and I long to be like Him.

My time is up! Thank you for all you do to send me your love and support!! Whether through letters or prayers, I get them both:)
Con amour,
Hermana Diane Bowns

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Joy is Full

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011

Has this been a full week or what!? Missionaries here in the MTC say that on your mission days go by like weeks and weeks go by like days. It is odd but true. Slowly and surely my Spanish is getting better! I'm actually starting to occasionally conjugate verbs correctly (like be able to say "I will pray" instead of "I to pray" - yeah it's exciting and helps people understand you better:)

Whew, last Thursday was rough though. My companion and I were teaching one of our investigators (one of our teachers who pretends to be an investigator). We tried something new. We didn't try to memorize phrases in Spanish, we identified what we thought he needed to know and feel and then tried to rely on the Spirit. Sadly it was a DISASTER! The whole lesson I was thinking, we must be missing something here, because this isn't working out how we had hoped. I know we could have prepared better for sure! The beginning of the lesson wasn't all that bad, but somewhere we got scared and I had no idea what to say or teach, my companion didn't know what we were talking about and it was just awkward. It finally ended with me tellling my companion in english "we're going now". Ugh. Our teacher sat us down to discuss what has happened. He started giving us some suggestions, but this day had been frustrating before this experience happened and I lost it. Yes, I cried in front of my teacher. Those of you who know me well, know that i do not cry in front of people. Not as a rule, just because me emotions don't often get the best of me. For some reason everything had built up and I couldn't help it. I was weepy for like 30 minutes! I think I scared my teacher because my companion was like "Um, I have NEVER seen Hermana Bowns cry". I wasn't crying because I felt like a failure, or because i thought the lesson was the worst it could've been (it definitely could have been worse), or because I had lost hope, given up, or thought i was stupid or incapable - none of those things. Rather i was crying because the thing I hate most in the world is to feel frustrated, uncomfortable, embarassed - and I definitely felt all those things. I felt like I was trying really hard to do the things we had been taught, but I wasn't getting it quite right. I made up a good analogy for my teacher to try to explain why, although i was sitting there crying, i was okay and would be fine. I told him that it is like babies. They cannot walk until they learn how to walk. So i as a missionary cannot teach well until I learn to teach well, and I cannot speak Spanish well until I learn to speak Spanish well. It is just a natural law of life. Some growth and progression is necessary but that doesn't mean it isn't hard. We fall down over and over and over. And while we are crawling along, we are acutely aware of the fact that we can't walk yet (or at least i am in the missionary sense) I know I have so much to learn. And I know I will learn it, but it is still difficult. But I learned many great lessons from that. And I learned that in suffering hardships we become better and we become more like our Savior (who suffered more than any of us!) Some of the elders in my district have a favorite quote from Elder Holland, "The road to salvation goes through Gethsemane". This story does have a happy ending. The next lesson we taught our investigator we had prepared so much better and had figured some things out. Our investigator said he would be baptized! After the lesson our teacher told us that he had intended to put up a fight about being baptized, but (as an investigator and as our teacher) he felt the Spirit so strong and couldn't deny that feeling. our teacher told us that during that lesson we had taught as well as any missionary in the field. What a compliment! And he told us it wasn't because we wpoke good Spanish (because we didn't). I know it is because we taught with the Spirit! This doesn't mean we're in the clear and we'll never teach a bad lesson again, but we learned some things about how to teach more effectively!

Another great experience I had this week was on Sunday during our Relief Society meeting. Sister Rosemary Wixom (the General Primary President) came and spoke to us. I don't quite remember what the point of her whole talk was, but I remember vividly a video clip she showed us called "My Joy is Full". (Maybe if you can find it, put it on the blog!!) It is a clip of when Jesus appears to the Nephites and I think it might be in The Testaments. Anyway I know I've seen the clip before, but before we watched it on Sunday, Sister Wixom asked us to pay attention to what the Spirit was teaching us. And holy cow, the Spirit taught me something beautiful and precious. I don't have a whole lot of time to recount it, so I'll just type up what I wrote in my journal about it:

The images and messages in the video were so powerful. When Jesus took a man's crippled hand into His own and covered it, looked into the man's eyes, smiled, released his hand and it was made whole! Wow. In that moment I saw myself, with my spiritually crippled hands, and how if i let Christ enfold me, hold me in His hands He would make me whole and useful! Also he healed a blind woman. She knew who Christ was, she lovingly touched His hands, but when her eyes were opened and she SAW the living God with new eyes, she saw and understood God more than she ever had before. And she turned to see others (her daughter) as she had never seen them before - with greater love! At first i only saw how I am and need to be the one that Christ administers to and asked myself, "How can I put myself in God's hands?" But then i saw two other insights. First that not only do I need to experience this healing, but I need to also facilitate this healing. I, as a missionary and representative of Jesus Christ, need to help others put themselves in Christ's hands so that they can be healed and have their eyes opened! Also I was struck by the powerful message that what Jesus Christ does is CHANGE us. This is what His Gospel, this life, and missionary work are all about! We want not just to be "saved" by Jesus Christ, but changed by Him; healed by Him.

If you can find it, watch that video clip. The message was so clear and powerful to me: Jesus Christ heals us and makes us whole! What a wonderful and beautiful thing! Learn to put yourself into His hands and allow Him to heal you:)

I love you all! Thank you for your constant love, support, prayers, and letters:)

Con amor, Hermana Bowns

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011

Hola! First of all THANK YOU all sooooo much for all your letters and packages and love and support. I feel SO loved and SO blessed to have such great friends and family!!! Having said that I will try to get back to all of you ASAP, but my letter writing time is limited so be patient with me:)

I think my body is finally adjusting to being in the MTC. Yesterday was my three week anniversary:) And I've finally gotten used to the schedule. The first three weeks I felt overfed because we eat every 4 hours (7:00a, 11:30a, 4:30p) but this week I am starving by the time we eat again! My sleeping is still a little wierd, I just don't think I'll ever be awake at 6:30. One day in gym (which was right after waking up), I almost fell asleep while riding the stationary bike!! and while stretching, and while studying! Once it hits about 10a I am fine, but before that it is a struggle! Not even exercise will wake me up. But I am not getting sick (I am fending off a little cough, but nothing to really get in my way). This week  I had a couple moments where I thought to myself, "I am on a mission. Like for real!" It's still sinking in. This week was also the first week that I actually felt frustrated! Day 19 was bad. I had a venting session to my roommates when we got back to the room. It is just hard to not really know what to do to meet your goals effectively, but I knew the next day I would be fine because I know that all things that are happening are for my good and are teaching me. I just feel like a 3 year old, kind of miffed and frustrated because I'm not "getting" everything (like teaching investigators, etc.) perfectly the first time. Duh! Diane.

The MTC is definitely a hub though and I've seen more than a couple people that I know. Two guys from one of my BYU wards are teachers here so I see them occasionally, and I ran into a guy that I went to EFY with in like 2002! I don't even know how he recognized me, I didn't recognize him for sure! And my friend Dave Roemisch works here and so I saw him too!! AND I saw Tucker Ferwerda yesterday! It was his first day and I was looking for him like crazy at dinner. Finally he saw me and I went over to say hey. His nametag is crazy. I don't even know what to think of Bulgarian! I'm glad I'm learning Spanish:) He looked good and happy. Hopefully I'll run into him often. But Mom, tell Debra that he is doing good and looks the part of a diligent missionary:)

Sadly this week we lost some elders (meaning they left to go to their missions). My favorite Zone Leaders are gone to Honduras and my beloved District Leader and his companion are now in the MTC in Guatemala:( They will be missed. My new District Leader is Elder Tingey (grandson of Elder Earl C. Tingey) He is awesome! And my new Zone Leaders (Elder De Lora and Elder Ingersoll) are SO fun:) I would send pictures so you can see all of these wonderful people, but sadly there is no way for me to e-mail pictures home. I have to print and mail them, or get them on a CD and send them home. I will do the latter when I have more pictures to send. So eventually you will get to see me in the MTC.

Oh man I have learned so much this week. The amazing thing is that here in the MTC I feel like my prayers have been answered so much quicker than ever before! And my measly efforts yield such amazing results that I KNOW that I am not doing this on my own. For example, I think my companion is awesome; so wonderful, but we could always be closer. One of my teachers suggested that I try to serve her to strengthen our relationship. I was like "yeah right"! How can you serve someone who is ALWAYS with you?? Then it's not a secret or a surprise and it's kind of embarassing to try to serve someone with them watching (like make their bed and stuff, since that's the only thing I could really think to do...I mean we are in the MTC, all we do is sleep, study and eat). But I said I would try it. So I made her bed twice while she was in the bathroom, and took her meal tray a couple times, and tried to be more encouraging and engaging. And oh man, this week has been so much better. We are definitely closer than we were before. At first I was like, "wow this is awesome!" I'm feeling so much more love for my companion, and we are laughing and sharing with each other, and we are working better together. And then I was like "oh. I've been praying and trying to serve her." I know that it wasn't all me, I know she's been working to strengthen our relatioship too, but I was astonished by the results of even my small efforts. Another example, I have been feeling a little lost in my studying. So much to study, and no organization. It was getting to me, and so on fast Sunday I decided to fast that my studies would be more effective. And guess what, THAT DAY i had incredibly effective studies. I felt edified and uplifted. By the end of the day I was so happy. And I had only fasted that day! I know that Lord was helping me. ANOTHER example, my companion and I have been frustrated about teaching one of our "investiagtors" and teaching in unity. We decided to try something new, and prayed about it. We each studied on our own what we thought our investigator needed to learn about and them came together to share. I knew that something amazing was about to happen when my companion started smiling as i was sharing what i had studies about. she was like "i was thinking the exact same thing!!" amazing! The Lord really does want to help us and does want us to be effective, and I have seen first hand in many small but amazing ways how He blesses us for our small efforts:)

This Gospel is all about change! Changing to become better and more like the Savior. I have been experienceing some of that change the past three weeks and am excited for more of it. Change isn't easy and it definitely isn't comfortable, but it is worth it. The joy that comes from becoming more like Jesus is priceless, really! What can you change in your life to be more like Him?

I also know that all things have a purpose. We don't always understand the purpose, but there always is one. We are put with the people and in the places where we can bless and be blessed. I have experienced that as I've been here in the MTC, but also in other times in my life. The sisters and elders that I am surrounded by are blessing my life more than they know because of their love, testimonies, and faith.

I love you all. You are a blessing in my life too! Thank you for your prayers and letters!
Hermana Bowns

'Rescue Me' by Jenny Phillips

Here is the song Diane mentioned in her August 4th letter.
'Rescue Me' by Jenny Phillips

Here is a link to the YouTube video:
There are other versions on YouTube. I figured this one is probably the closest to what it sounded like for Diane.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4, 2011

I have so much to say I hope I can type it up in 26 minutes!! First of all MUCHAS GRACIAS for my birthday package and wishes:) The cupcakes were delightful. Squished but delightful nonetheless. I shared them with my district. They all say thank you:) Elder Sutterfield's birthday was on the 3rd so we've been getting lots of packages and treats in our district. He just turned 19 though!!! He just graduated from HS this year! I can't hardly believe that. He is 4 years younger than me, but is so impressive and spiritual. But don't worry all these 19 years olds are normal 19 years olds. I saw how amazing they are and how much I love them, but they still do funny 19 year old boy things:) I think I smile too much though in class and when people are talking. I just love everyone here and so I smile at them when they talk. I think one of my teachers might have been slightly wierded out the first week because I was so attentive and expressive. Oh well:) And my zone leaders who I loved so much got released! In the MTC you only have a leadership assignment for 3 weeks so Elders Shirley and Roper are no longer the Zone Leaders (plus they leave for Honduras on Monday:( ) Now Elders De Lora and Ingersoll are the Zone Leaders. At lunch the other day they dared us to drink root beer, orange juice and chocolate milk together. So we did! It tasted like a rootbeer float with an orangecreamsicle in it. Those are the types of things 19 year old boys do that we hermanas get pulled into:) Elders Gregroy and Hartmann also leave on Monday to go to Guatemala. We in our district will miss them soooooo much. E. Gregory is our district leader and is soooo amazing! They are going to the MTC in Guatemala. I also had an hermana friend leave on Wednesday. My host (the person who showed me aruond the MTC on my first day here) was Hermana Lao from SLC. She moved into our room a week ago because she had to stay at the MTC a week longer than her district to recover from ACL surgery. She was so loving and so fun. She left to go to Argentina!! And yesterday two new sisters moved into our room. They are from New Zealand and Arizona going to the Saint George visitors center and san fernando california. It is crazy how much shifting goes on in the MTC. People come in and leave all the time. And these new sisters will only be here for three weeks. So in three weeks we'll get NEW roommates!! Crazy!

So this last week we taught our first lesson in the TRC (teaching resource center). I used to volunteer here before my mission. People (usually BYU students) come and volunteer to be a fake "investiagtor" and be taught by the missionaries. When we went on Friday not enough volunteers came so we actually taught one of the TRC administrators. Intimidating!!! Our teacher told us he "wouldn't follow the script" which to me meant he would be hard to teach. But he wasn't. In fact the lesson went amazingly (well it was in English so that helped a lot!) The feedback that our "investiagtor" gave us was that the lesson was very powerful and that we could focus a little more on the doctrine. The lesson was powerful! I was able to recite Joseph Smith's first vision and the Spirit was there and my companion testifies of how she knows that the Book of Mormon is true and can bless you life. Even though it was only a mock situation it was still a great booster for us, who have been trying to teach our teachers in Spanish and failing miserably.

The Spanish is coming along though. In my setting apart President Ellis told me that I would be able to learn the language quickly and I have! I feel like I speak spanish about as well as I spoke French after one year of French in HS. Granted I can say different things. I don't know the days of the week or the numbers all the way, but I can bear my testimony in Spanish and I wrote a 5 minute talk about the Book of Mormon in Spanish (luckily I didn't have to give it in Sacrament Meeting - I just had to have it ready in case I got called on). Learning French has DEFINITELY helped me. Sometimes french words slip out, but overall it is a benefit, not a limitation.

This week was a little tough. We've been here 14 days. And it is finally setting in that this is our life now. We've been a little more restless in the classroom. I knew it was bad when our fearless district leader E. Gregory was asked a question by our teacher and he couldn't respond because he was so hot. All he could manage to say was "isn't anyone else hot? I'm dying!" It was funny, just because E. Gregory is SO diligent and obedient. I knew we were in trouble if HE was having a hard time paying attention:) But we get little boosters every week. Like on Sundays and Tuesdays we have a Devotional/Fireside where awesome and important people come talk to us. This Tuesday Gerald N. Lund (former member of the Quorom of the 70 and author of the series Work and the Glory) came and spoke to us about Faith. It was very inspiring. One of the coolest things sometimes happens at these devotionals. The elders all have to wear their suitcoats to the meeting and they are only allowed to remove their suitcoats if the speaker invites them to. Sometimes the speaker does and sometimes he doesn't. Last week the speaker said they could take off their coats, and all of the sudden the room was full of light! It looked like it had snowed or something. 2,000 elders who had once been wearing black were now wearing white. It was way cool! We also get to watch a movie on Sunday nights. They show church movies or conference talks. The funniest thing though is that in some movies (like Legacy or the Joseph Smith movie) there is a little bit of kissing. Like one kiss really, not that much. But whenever there is a kissing all the elders (mind you hundreds of 19 year old boys) whoop and holler. It is very amusing:)

This last Sunday I had the chance to play the piano. One of the hermanas in my district, Hermana Hathaway, used to be a piano major and has a beautiful voice!! She wanted to sing one of her favorite songs "Rescue Me" by Jenny Philips (I think there is a youtube video of a man singing could put that on the blog maybe) for Sacrament Mtg. And she asked me to accompany for her. So three days before we ran through it. We practiced on Saturday and again on Sunday before church and then performed. It went very well. It is a beautiful song. Especially in the context of Hermnana Hathaway singing it. She has been having a very hard time with anxiety and homesickness here at the MTC. She hasn't been able to keep food down, etc. And so to have her sing this song about how the Lord will always be there to help us and strengthen us was really meaningful.

We also saw the former president of the Ukraine here at the MTC. We were having a lesson in the hall and the MTC president stopped to talk to the former president of Ukraine about us and what we were doing and where we were going. Cool!

I am almost out of time, so the last thing I'll say is that one thing I am in the process of learning is that the reason I am here, on a mission, and I think one of the reasons why we are here on the earth, is to learn to love; to love everyone! I have to go now, but I love you all very much!

Hermana Bowns