Monday, August 26, 2013

P-Day 3: Beams of Energy

Hi Family,

Well, I'm probably behind the times already when I say this, but I'm glad that boat racing was fun, and that the parent night was endured.  Thanks for sending me pictures!  (By the way, do the Fronks really not get pictures?  Should I send some more with Joel if I get the chance?)  I run into friends more often than I expect, but not as much as I hope to.  I'm finding more people I know all the time.  It's exciting to see so many friends united in doing the Lord's work.
MTC Outdoor walkways
More outdoor walkways
MTC Hallway
To Noelle, thanks for the "Elder Evan and Elder Rex" Cartoon, it always makes me and my district laugh!  I took a few pictures, but I don't really know how well they capture the essence of the MTC.  I can't take pictures in the cafeteria or the main meetinghouse, but it's not hard to imagine what that's like.  The rest of the MTC all looks the same: Outside, a lot of covered walkways between 4-story orange-brick buildings.  Inside, it's just long, straight hallways between whitewashed classrooms.  I like outside better because sometimes, if I smile and wave, one of the guards in the towers will put down his gun and wave back at me through the barbed wire.  Just kidding.  There are flowers along the paths and flocks of little birds just hopping all over the place.  I'm glad I'll be out before winter, though.  Hopefully this is at least slightly inspiring of more EE&R cartoons.
Well, I'm not sure exactly what to tell you about at this point, so I’ll just dump some thoughts out onto paper.  The highlight of my week is...  that's hard actually, because it seems each day is better than the one before it.  I love learning Chinese, and I feel like my progress is speeding up.  I love teaching my Mudaoyou (investigators) about God's plan for them.  I feel a real love for them, even though I know they are just role-playing.  Wait!  Actually, I taught a genuine investigator on Saturday.  Her name is Juli.  She is from Mainland China, but now lives in Salt Lake City with her daughter and son-in-law, who brought her to the MTC to be taught at TRC - I don't know, it's code for something that happens on Saturdays, in which missionaries teach volunteer "investigators," mostly BYU students.  My companion and I are the only ones I know who've actually taught a real investigator here.  
Brennan and Steve Durtschi
I love the devotionals on Sunday and Tuesday nights.  I love choir especially, because I get to sing. (I'm really missing playing music.)   Oh, yesterday I met Steve Durtschi at the organ after devotional!  He sends his best wishes to the family.  I also love walking around the temple on Sundays, and sleeping through sessions on Mondays.  I'm really glad they are able to fit all the missionaries into the temple schedule.  I love all my classes, I love the food, I love conjuring beams of pure energy (see my pictures), I love my companion, and I really love you.  Thanks for your mail and your thoughts and prayers - it really makes a big difference!


Beams of Pure Energy!

 At the Big Map

Residence (Carpet Cleaning/Laundry Day)

Brennan with his district

Laundry room door to Narnia!


Elder Evan & Elder Rex visit the Cafeteria

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet Elder Evan and Elder Rex

In Brennan's latest letter, he made a reference to Elder Evan and Elder Rex (see previous post). This was something Evan and I (Noelle) came up with during sacrament meeting. It's been a joke that Evan's first companion will be a Tyrannosaurus Rex and that the two will have various missionary adventures. Here are some of the first:

Week Two Letter

Yes, I'm doing well and surviving somehow.  It's funny, I can't tell which it is I'm doing, sometimes.  Thank you for your mail, I really love hearing from everyone.  Sorry you had to wait a whole week to hear back from me.  The post office hours didn't line up with my schedule very well.  I haven't got your most recent Dear Elder message yet, so I'll have to write a response to that later in the week.
I'm glad to hear the family got to go to Lagoon, and I hope all of you (and Samantha) had fun.  I'd love to see pictures if you have some.  Oh yeah, thanks for sending me those pictures last week!  It makes me feel a little more connected to the family than just getting letters does.  Getting the Elder Evan & Elder Rex, and the Hatman drawings was a hoot!
I'm glad Great Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson got a visit.  How are they doing?  Was it fun for the kids, or not really?  I have fun memories of Thanksgiving Dinners at their house from a long time ago.
I'm definitely making some great memories now, too.  The food is great, my district is great, and my companion is awesome!  (No, that's actually not the most common adjective in the MTC.  In fact, I rarely hear it.  I usually hear "Feichang Hao!")  I love going to the temple, too.  Somehow, they actually do manage to work all the missionaries in. 
This week was fantastic - Elder Fletcher and I committed our first investigator, Leo, to baptism!  Actually, he beat us to the punch and actually asked if he could be baptized.  I nearly fell off my chair, because he had never asked any questions in a lesson before, even when we asked them.  I think he was taking it very easy on us because our Chinese isn't as great as the rest of the district's.  His baptism isn't going to happen, sadly, because the next day, he became one of our two new language teachers.  *rats!* :)  I've been getting plenty of exercise: running laps around the MTC, playing some fierce paiqiu (volleyball), and doing flashcard push-ups - a cruel game I invented.  On Tuesday, we sang at the Marriott Center, accompanying an address given by Richard G. Scott, which was broadcast globally from Provo to all the other MTC's.  Elder Scott taught us about the importance of prayer, and how we could make our own prayers more meaningful.  My favorite line was "You can't rush an effective prayer."  Last night, we were also addressed by Vai Sikahema, who told us about his mission experience, and encouraged us to propagate missionary work even after the mission.  Hopefully, everything we do can demonstrate our testimony in some way.  Sunday nights are also film nights.  Last week, we saw The Testaments in Mandarin.  I actually understood the part where one character said, "Come with me."  Yess!!  My Chinese is getting better.  Last night, we watched Elder Bednar's address, "(the?) Character of Christ."  That was probably the most powerful teaching have received in the MTC so far.  It is an outstanding address, and I encourage you to look it up, if you can, and watch it sometime!  I usually think that nothing tops Elder Holland's talks, but this one struck me especially strongly.
Well, things are going very well for me.  Strangely, I don't even feel homesick.  I'm just super excited to be here, and I can't wait to begin in Singapore!  I do think of the family every day, though, and I wish all the best for you and pray for you always!


Most of our choir, before Marriott Center performance.

I sing with Elder Fronk.

Crazy Guy preaches to missionaries on their way to the temple.

Study time

Elder Murray gets 5 letters and a package, Elder Clarkson gets nothing. 
(This is really not a dramatization. He actually rolled around on the floor, moaning.)

Elder Murray opens his many packages.

Lots of soap

Suiting up for "Service"
(I don't know,  I think the goggles look good . . .)

Monday, August 12, 2013

First P-day

Hi All,
Laundry at the MTC
Thanks for writing me letters last week.   I hope you received my first letter, written on a half-size sheet of notebook paper.  It was very short because I had to write it after bedtime one night.  Once again, I have very little time to spend writing home.  I tried to draft a letter earlier, as I did my laundry, but the whole process was so new (and so crowded) that I had no time.  I'm already running out of time on the internet, so I may just have to answer your questions in a list:
Monday is my P-day.  You were right that some elders have their P-day on Friday - Joel Fronk does.
I'm in the main MTC, not the MTC West (whew!).  All I know about the West MTC is that it doesn't have a bookstore, and its cafeteria is supposedly not as deluxe.  (I'm loving the food, especially the chocolate milk.)
My companion is Elder Derek Fletcher, from North Ogden.  He went to Weber High, but he's still cool.  He took Chinese for 3 years, like I did, but he didn't learn how to write, and he says he didn't try very hard in the class, so he knew the least Chinese of anyone in our district at the start.  He is very humble, determined, loving, and just all-around fantastic, and I wouldn't trade him for any other Chinese-speaking elder.
District 25F
My roommates are all very fun-loving elders, and they all respect the rules.  We hit it off well the first day, and our district is already very close and we all enjoy each others' company.  My district includes: Elders Fletcher, Murray, Simmons, Clarkson, and Sisters George, White, and Robertson.  Two other missionaries began in our district, but soon moved to the advanced Chinese class: Sister Chu and Elder Aun.
Elder Fletcher will also serve in Singapore.  All the Sisters will serve in Taiwan, and the other Elders are all going to California, but we all speak Mandarin.
We are district 25F.  Yup.
Elders Clarkson, Murray, Simmons, Fletcher, and Baer
So far, I'm not missing anything that can be sent from home, but my companion's mom just sent him an email saying that Singapore will allow two checked bags weighing 50lbs.  I'm still not sure if that's true, but that's how much stuff Elder Fletcher brought.
I'm actually not enjoying the "extreme scheduling at the MTC" as much as I thought.  It is very tight, and I am often behind schedule - I'm not late, but because of how slowly I do normal things, I am behind in my personal study, and I have to wake up extra early to shower before breakfast.  I just need to figure out how to do things faster.
The current MTC president is President Nally.  I don't know anything about him.
Elder Baer and Elder Fronk
I've met several friends and former classmates already, including Joel Fronk.  We got to sit next to each other at my first choir practice on Sunday, which was very refreshing.  I also saw Daniel Spencer at choir, but I haven't spoken with him yet.  So far, choir is my favorite part - the choir director reminds me a lot of dad, actually (in a good way.)  He's very funny, and asks us to sing tall, not wide.  This Tuesday evening, our choir of about 1,100 missionaries will broadcast "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth" to all the other MTC's around the world.
So far, the MTC is very, very hard work, (I've already had to give two lessons completely in Mandarin, and we spend 3-4 hours at a time in Chinese-only classroom lessons) but it is very fun, and it is completely worth the effort so far.  The atmosphere is very friendly and very uplifting.
I loved hearing from all of you, and I can't wait to get more mail!
Brennan (Elder Baer)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Letter - Aug 8, 2013

Aug 8, 2013
Dear (Everyone),
     I wish you all could be having as much fun as I'm having!  I'm sure it's still kind of fun at home, but the MTC is a blast so far!  Actually, I haven't actually done anything
fun -- I've just sat in meetings -- but the atmosphere is just so happy and buzzing with excitement that it feels fun. My district is full of the "best of the best" as the older Mandarin speaking Elders call us.  I actually think there is some truth to that.  Every one of the Mandarin speakers is very dedicated and hardworking.  My companion especially is an example to me -- he arrived yesterday as well, and he struggles more than anyone in language class.  However he is very humble and persistent.  I feel bad for him because he was just called as district leader.  He has the most responsibility out of us all, but know the least, it seems.  I wouldn't trade him for anyone else, though -- he is a fantastic missionary and a great friend already.  (Plus, he helps me find all the right meeting places.  He already knows his way around like he's been here for weeks. I help him with his Chinese, and he leads me to the cafeteria.  We'd both be lost without each other.)
     The work is very demanding but it is already richly rewarding.  I've had to dive right in and trust that I'll receive help.  I'll send you pictures and emails later (Monday is P-day.)  I hope you will also send me pictures with your letters, and be sure to tell me about anything exciting or otherwise, that goes on at home.

I love you all and pray for you always,

(Xiong Zhang lao)

Dropping off at the MTC

Here is a brief video of Brennan's brief drop-off at the MTC.  Note the brief reaction of the Sister missionaries (background) when Evan jumps out for a last brief hug.

Brennan's Talk

Somebody had asked about hearing the talk Brennan gave before he left.  Here is a link to it. 

If you would like to read a transcript, just play it again and write it down. : )

If you need a break in the middle, you can watch this cute video.  Enjoy!  Or, as Lauren says, "take luck!"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Brennan's Missionary Money

Today Evan was busy cleaning out the stuff that Brennan left behind.   Suddenly he said “Oh, no!  Brennan forgot his mission money!”  

There was a bank with three sections marked Mission, Tithing, and Fun.  There was about $100 in the first two categories.  The “Fun” part had a few $2 bills, a bunch of gold dollar coins, and this:
Some paper money from India, Mongolia, and Indonesia, as well as scattered coins from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, some memento pennies (upper right), and a Chuckie Cheese token (upper left).

No wonder he never had any fun...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wednesday before the MTC

Congratulations, Brennan!
Just yesterday our family said our goodbyes and threw Brennan out onto the curb at the Missionary Training Center. But before we did that we took a few pictures at the Provo temple. Here they are.