This week is a literal changing of the guard. We lost both of our first teachers (Pan and Chen) to the throws of the new semester starting at BYU. Our gao ji also received their travel plans and will be leaving a week from today for the field. It’s sad and exciting all at the same time to see them go. Yesterday was our first day with our new teachers. Fan Laoshi (JieMei) is a bendiren from Gaoxiong (sp?) and already has improved our SYL abilities leaps and bounds. Mao Laoshi (Maofa de mao) hen li hai! Hard core about SYL, speaks pretty quickly, but is personable and jokes around with us (in Chinese) quite a bit.
At the end of the day (during something like Personal Study), some of the Elders expressed frustration that this felt like the first day all over again. At once, I don’t think they realize how far they’ve come in Chinese and I share similar frustrations. Both our new teachers speak realy quickly and with different accents (kouyin)… obviously. It took some stretching in the first hour of class yesterday to really understand Fan Laoshi. But she is encouraging and… honestly… as much as the Elders complain…. it’s nice to have a Sister as a teacher. She also served a mission in Taiwan and in our Coaching Missionary Study time she talked to our tongbantuan (companionship) about specific Sister Missionary things. Yay!
Suoyi… the most interesting part of my week, though, was yesterday’s pile of Dear Elders. It’s as if all y’all got together and gave out assigned topics. Yesterday’s was desire — this is actually been floating around our District and our Zone for the whole week. Jiang JieMei’s farewell talk drew on Maxwell’s conference talk on Desire (find link, plz, bebes!), Dad’s HPG lesson (which he described in minute detail, thanks!), Devotionals, etc. Everything ties back to this: what are your desires? Are they aligned with God’s will?
From my best friend Lihua: “Your mind is a powerful thing. Control it, or it will control you. Lots of powerful impulses, fears, and unbelievable fallacies.” Truer words were never spoken — nor more manifest here at the MTC. We have a rigid schedule, but so much of it is “structured, unstructured time” (thank you, Ryan for that descriptor), where you have an hour to be doing “something”… what that “something” means is up to you. We are reminded constantly of our missionary purpose (page one of PMG) and in everything we do, ask ourselves “how does this help Lin Kun Zheng (one of our current investigators)?” However, because of that abnormally intense focus and the fact that we are litterally surrounded by 19 year olds… it’s fairly easy to get off task. 😉
One of our Elders in last nights spontaneous “District Inventory” expressed concern that he didn’t know enough Chinese to be funny, to have a personality. And that was a demotivator for him to learn the language. I shared a bit of advice from my friend Kristen and something from a recent devotional: In becoming Sister Oler, you will lose part of Vanessa. But don’t worry — the Lord is investing in you during this time. If you go “all in” the ROI will be exponential. It’s been interesting to watch not only myself but our District lose bits of themselves (their worldly selves) in order to become Elder or Sister Whomever. I am watching the Refiner at work.
Bible Dictionary — Refiner. A man who separates the precious metals from the dross with which in nature they are usually found mixed. Part of the process consists in the application of great heat, in order to bring the mass into a fluid state, hence the term “refiner’s fire.” Christ is the great Refiner. See Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2–3.
On a losely related note…. I received a Dear Elder from @grocerysecrets today and she asked how we learn the language here at the MTC. My first thought was: “well, we’re the first class who, from day one, is completely on the new curriculum… so completely differently than any other missionaries have learned their language.” My second thought was, “only through the Holy Ghost could we be learning this so quickly.” Those are both true, but here’s some more comprehensive thoughts:
We learn the Mission Language the same way we receive baptism: complete immersion. Sprinkling just doesn’t cut it. 😉 From day one, our teachers only speak Chinese to us. They have resorted to pantomime, but never English. We also set goals as individuals, companionships, and districts to SYL for specific hours of each day, always in specific places, etc. It really helps and really works. We don’t have a ton of Chinese under our belts, but we use what we have.
Focus on the missionary purpose and our investigators. There’s a neat little circle chart in one of our manuals that shows how each thing in our schedule relates to the mudi… and I will never forget Pan Laoshi’s gentle chastening whenever he sees us get off topic: “how does this help Lin Kun Zheng?”
By our third day, we were teaching a real Progressing Investigator the first lesson, all in Chinese. We don’t memorize lessons, but we do recognize they’ve been laid out in a logical oder in PMG. In fact, for the last two weeks, my companions and I have been struggling to make lesson plans that were cohesive and really addressed the needs of our investigator. We finally opened up Chapter 3 in PMG and realized it was all right there. So we took the English lay out, translated into Chinese that we were comfortable with (not just memorzing from our pinyin PMG) and are already teaching more effectively and with more unity.
Perhaps the most important language learned at the MTC is the language of the Spirit. How to know when you have it and how to know when you don’t. There have definitely been times where we were practicing teaching in English that words of the Gospel refused to come out of my mouth. I knew it was because I’d been harboring ill will towards my companion, or gotten particularly peeved at an Elder, etc. It’s subtle, but you have to be constantly aware of your actions and deeds and making sure you are always worth of the Companionship of the Holy Ghost.
This quote from Nibley is particulary pertinent to language study at the MTC… and study of anything, really, in your life right now: “No matter where we begin, if we puruse knowledge diligently and honestly, our quest will inevitably lead us from the things of the earth to the things of heaven.” Everything testifies of Christ, including me. I know this Gospel is true and complete. I know God loves each of us because we are His children. He also has a plan for each of us that He’s willing to share with you if you just get on your knees and ask for guidance.
I love you all and wish you the best!