Thanks for your emails! It means a lot to me.
First things first: This morning from 10am to 12 noon we had a devotional with Elder Bednar. I sat almost exactly front and center in our little sacrament meeting room. It was such an awesome feeling to sit less than 6 feet away from an apostle of the Lord and hear him teach us-- and it really was teaching, not just a talk. It was wonderful! He got up and said that we had probably come there today to hear him speak, but that's not how he wanted our meeting to go. Instead we were going to be actively involved and asking questions. We had actually been warned this might happen (apparently Elder Bednar does this a lot) and so we were prepared with questions. We only had time for four questions. My old companion, Hermana Harris went first:
"What can we actively be doing to develop patience?" An excellent question, especially since Hermana Harris always has to be actively doing something no matter what. She has so many nervous or bored ticks that it used to drive me crazy. Elder Bednar counseled her to get a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and mark every instance of patience and its practice therein. Afterward, write up a one page summary of what patience is.
"Sometimes I don't feel the Spirit when I'm teaching, even though I have a testimony of the doctrine." Another excellent question. Elder Bednar said that we shouldn't have to have the Spirit be telling us every step of the way that what we say or do was "meant" to be said or done. Be a good boy, be a good girl, keep your covenants and press forward with faith. More often the Spirit works wonders without us even realizing. We shouldn't have to realize it to have faith.
Then I got to stand up and ask an Apostle of the Lord a question. I had been pondering this question for at least a few days (time kind of blurrs together here) and I felt sure that this is what I needed to ask. I raised my hand and Elder Bednar called on me by name (he has really remarkable eyesight for 60+) and I asked "What is the role of temperance in missionary work, and how can we develop it?" If you know me at all, it should be obvious why I asked this question. There is such a high expectation for spiritual growth and so many intense spiritual experiences, I have been having a really hard time with the difference between the highs and the lows. Everything about serving a mission hightens your awareness of... well, of everything and this can be a little overwhelming. So I asked about temperance.
I don't have time to adequately describe the answer, but suffice it to say that Elder Bednar took 30 minutes answering. Most of it was teaching us how to ask and answer a question in a way that is clear, precise and inspired. I had been praying for the gift of temperance and moderation and stability for weeks. Everything today leading up to my question and everything about the very manner in which it was answered was a very detailed answer in and of itself. I'm still sorting through everything. This is how the Lord works. He never lectures, he teaches through experience.
In other news, my compaion and I are getting along great. The language is still a problem-- whenever I ask native speakers to repeat what they said, they 1- don't repeat the same words but explain it in a different way and 2- don't talk any slower. So that's been a little aggravating. I've also decided that my ability with music is more of a hinderance here. People love it when I sing, but singing with other people has become a really painful experience. I'm praying to be able to ignore. Part of it's cultural-- people simply aren't taught how to sing and part of it I'm convinced is that there must be something wrong with a lot of peoples' ears.
I'll be leaving the CCM on Tuesday next week! So excited! All the mission presidents from this area of South America were also here attending a conference, and so I got to meet Presidente and Hermana Armstrong! They seem like such nice and genuine people!
Also, since the age change for missionaries, the numbers have changed: Elder Bednar said that they used to receive 800 applictions per week. Since the announcement, the numbers have increased to almost 2,000 per week. WOW.
Love you, but I have to go. I'll be sending pictures soon!