Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 4 at the MTC

I love the DearElder notes! My companion is the District Leader so I always go with him to get the mail:) He never misses a day! Here, letters are kinda like a sign of status or whatever you wanna call it.  Some people get letters all the time and everyone else gets super jealous! Keep em coming! Maybe one day you could send me 10 little 1 sentence letters just so it looks like I am really popular;) and I don't know how DearElder works but if you wanted you could put it up on the blog so other people could send me stuff!  ( MOM NOTE:  If you send him a letter via, he'll get it that same day.  You just need his unit number, which is #158 and his ship-out date is Oct 1).

His companion fell asleep on his spiral bound notebook.
That restructuring of our Bishopric sounds really cool! I love Bro Case and Brugman. I know they are gonna kill it (in the best possible sense of the word). 
Got their "real" Russian name tags this week

Meeting Evan Johnson's Russian grandma at church sounds super amazing! I would love to meet her:) I was actually just wondering about Evan! Do you know how he is doing? I haven't heard from anybody what is going on:( 

I can't type Russian very well because we don't have a Cyrillic keyboard.  I am glad you got to meet her! She sounds so wonderful:) I am excited to continue the good work in Russia! I hope I can use some of my musical abilities to further the work.

Speaking of musical abilities, I am supposed to prepare a special musical number for Sacrament meeting in 2 weeks. I have no clue what I am gonna do! I am a little nervous but I will figure something out. I should have practiced the piano more like Sister Bowen told me to... :p
 I also have to play an opening hymn for our Priesthood meetings next Sunday! I have probably 5 Hymns that I could play, but that is in English... The Russian Hymn book has some hymns that aren't in the English version. They have some extra notes in some places to accommodate the longer and more complicated Russian translations. I also don't know which hymns are which. I have to just pick a hymn, start playing it, and hope that I recognize it. It is a blast haha but it is rough.
Just a couple quick little thoughts I had this week:

I sang "I am a Child of God" with Cameron in Sacrament meeting before I left, when I get back I wanna sing it with Megan... In Russian.

I successfully solved a Rubik's Cube in 1 minute and 44 seconds. The record is 1 minute 40 seconds! haha so close!
What else are you going to do with a giant can of 100 colored pencils?

At first I didn't really like this super short hair cut, but now I love it! it never gets messed up and I get to use so much less shampoo!

We met our Branch President this last week. His name is President Peer. He speaks 11 different languages fluently.  His criteria for being fluent are as follows:

-Study it in a formal setting (such as a school or class, with a teacher to monitor progress)

-Give a presentation in that language (such as a lecture or speech)

-Completely and accurately translate a piece of literature in that language.

He is so smart and he is funny, super nice, and everybody here wishes to grow up and be like him. He was in England for our first couple of weeks. He was being honored by Oxford and got the opportunity to present some of his texts to the big smart people over there:p Crazy!!
Ryan thought this chair was smiling, so he added the rest of the face with chalk.

We had a speaker during our Sunday night devotional, his name was Stephen B. Allen. He used to be the Tempe, Arizona mission president! Super cool:)

I was asked to give the blessing on the sacrament this week! Super scary... I had to do it in Russian and my heart beat was like a million beats per minute. 

I sang in the choir this week and I love choir, I really do. It was my second favorite class in high school (ceramics was by far my number one). Even though I love singing, this choir was bad:( I sang the bass part with my companion and we sang "Jesus Once of Humble Birth". There was this really pretty part of the song, it got super intense and was the climax of the song. The bass section has this conflict/resolution where we were supposed to hold the conflicting note for a whole measure and the resolution would've been really beautiful... but the entire bass section skipped it and resolved early. So frustrating! haha I probably sound nerdy but it really bugged me:) I miss singing with DeValk in Jazz Mad, he was so much fun:)
They have not given us very much information about the culture of Russia. We ask our teachers, who are all return missionaries from Russia, about the culture but they don't say much. They told us it is veryyyyy impolite to cross your legs or put a foot up on your knee when you sit. The shoe is the dirtiest part of a person because you're always walking around in the dirt. To show someone your shoe is super bad! They take off their shoes and put on socks or booties when they enter someone's home. I had no clue! That's about it for now but I will let you know the more I find out!
Some people in my district have seen the Saratov Approach. They said it was really good but kinda scary too:)
I loved the care package you sent me! It was so cool! I am currently eating a PopTart:))  I love it all!  The chocolate didn't melt and I am happy to be chowing down all the time. Thanks to that mini basketball, my skills have improved immensely! Thanks!  
I am glad to hear Cameron and Carson fixed the potato gun but they now have to make a giant potato gun that shoots soccer balls or something! That would be SWEET!
 That's about all I have for this week:) We keep studying and learning, it isn't getting much easier but we can now converse pretty well with our teachers. Thursdays are our days to only speak Russian! No English at all on Thursdays:) Wish me luck! I miss you all! Can't wait to see you soon!

The Church is true, and I Love You
Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

Saturday, August 23, 2014

MTC Week 3

Thanks for sending the care package.  I ate the chocolate anyways:) It was perfectly good all melted! I am loving the MTC. I weighed myself and I lost 5 pounds... how I did that.. I still do not know.. I eat big meals every meal. I don't even work out very hard. Nevertheless I am happy!

I sang in the choir this week and it was super cool! It reminded me of being back in choir with DeValk. It was like being in Acap. The one with all the immature sophomores and juniors. Not Jazz Mad. Anyways, when I was at the Tuesday night devotional last night, we had the opportunity to hear from the President of the Relief Society. I forgot her name but she gave an enthralling talk about missionary work and it got my way pumped to go out! I wanna go out now but I probably couldn't make it a day:) I have 6-7 more weeks here before they kick me out.
 As I was sitting there, the congregation was singing some prelude songs. I was singing the bass line (naturally) and the kid sitting next to me (Elder Herring) turns and asks if I was in choir. I tell him yes and he said he was in choir too at Red Mountain High School. Red Mountain isn't too far from us, so I asked him if he ever sang in a regional choir, and he said yes! Turns out, Elder Herring was in the Regional Choir that I was in, my junior year when Charles Bruffy was our conductor! Craziest thing, I never would have guessed.  What a small world.
 All the missionaries learning Russian say that there is a wall around week 3. You get super discouraged with the language and hate yourself because you can't understand anything and that it is such a humbling experience... I haven't hit that wall, nor can I see that wall in the foreseeable future! I am feeling really solid with the language and I am learning on average 20 new words a day. I don't say this to brag, I say this because I believe God has blessed me with the ability to learn this language. I have been praying to have the Gift of Tongues every night with my companion. I am so glad to not be struggling with it! It's truly a blessing to me.
My companion on the other hand, Elder Hansen, is not in the same boat. He is struggling a bit, but he is working so hard! He reads the Book of Mormon every night while doing push-ups, does pull-ups counting in Russian, he gets extra help from the teachers during free time. He is working so hard and it really is an inspiration to me. He is such a hard worker I want to be just like him. He comes from a family of 11 kids. 6 chocolate and 5 vanilla as he likes to say:) They have adopted 6 kids and Elder Hansen has named 3 of them! He is such a great missionary I am extremely blessed to be put with him.
I met another elder named Elder Daniel Rojas (I think that is correct). He says he went to Desert Ridge with Courtney and Ashley! You will have to tell them he says hi. I am up to 10 pull-ups this week. Doing more and more each night is an analogy for learning Russian.  You can't just do it all at once, but a slow and steady climb to the top is the way to go.
Got a haircut about 20 minutes ago and it is super duper short! just gotta give it some time. The lady mentioned as she was cutting, how fluffy and thick my hair is:) hahaha they always say that.
Thank you so much for the Twisty Bag Ties! That was so funny dumping those out and getting weird looks from my district! They had no clue why I received plastic clippy things but I knew right away:) My flip flops are fine now:) The clip and tape fix is holding up, but I will let you know if I have any other needs!
It was cool reading Elder Woods' blog! I will have to stay caught up with his adventures.
I miss you all so much! I will be back in 2 short years. The church is true and I love you
Love always,
Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week 2 at the MTC

Hey! All is well in Utah! Still learning a lot, still gaining weight:) We have plenty of boy time over here! maybe even too much haha we have to buckle down.
          The melted chocolate
Only 7 more weeks here. 2 weeks down, they flew by so fast!! I will send you another letter in a little bit of how we did the door trick.
I am so sorry for you though, now you gotta wake up so early! It’s rough getting up that early but I love those early morning dive practices. I am so sorry about dad's car.  That is so stupid...and the leaks sound icky :(   I’m sorry about that, it must smell so bad.
We heard yesterday that Robin Williams died and we had a party celebrating his life. We had chips, salsa, brownies, cookies and Dr. Pepper! It was a blast. Okay... maybe it wasn't to celebrate his life but he was our excuse so it all worked out:) I am going to check out that blog in a little bit! Sounds great, except for the girly part J  I am a manly man so I should have camouflage or something on there.  And as dad knows, it’s alright if we are a little Pinterest-y. After all, we are the Pinterest boys! Haha
Down at the bottom of the letter you wrote to me you mentioned you loved me more than the real estate agent! hahaha I totally forgot about that! That’s so cute. :)
I got the goodies in the mail today! I am currently wearing the ring, gonna eat a cookie or two... or all of them.  But I regret to inform you the chocolate goodies were melted.  I opened up the box and my roommates looked in and got really disgusted! They had no clue what you sent me:.  Don’t worry, the bags were tied shut and nothing spilled. I am still going to eat the chocolate goodies - I will just need a fork and knife to do so:)  The Pringles cans opened up a little and one cookie broke, nevertheless it will be consumed.  The cans look fabulous! They say CTR on them and I think that is so cool! It reminds me of our lesson yesterday after our devotional. Our teacher says to us "so normally CTR stands for Choose The Right. But for each of you it should mean something more important. Does anybody know what that would be? and without missing a beat I say "Convert The Russians". She thought it was the funniest thing.  But it actually stands for Current Temple Recommend. Even though we may not have the opportunity to always attend the temple we should still always have one.
On another note those pictures of Tyler look so cool! I am jealous! I wanna go out and start serving right now! But I know I am not anywhere close to where I need to be with Russian to head out yet.  
I saw Calvin all over the MTC but I didn't get a chance to say bye before he headed out.
Anyways I love the inspirational quotes you send me:) I use them in my lessons all the time!
There is a scale here in the gym and I weighed myself, I have gained 5 pounds so far.  I heard from our teacher that Russian missionaries come back skinny so I gotta gain while I can!
We went to the temple these past two weeks. Did you know the Temple is 3 stories high and has a basement? And in the basement they serve breakfast! I need to go get some breakfast there some time .
I learned a new version of tic-tac-toe this week. We call it ultimate tic-tac-toe. You set up a big board like a regular game but instead of x's and o's in the spaces, you put smaller tic-tac-toe boards it’s pretty crazy. 
I finished the gummy bears and all the candy bars I came with. I shared the bears because everybody LOVED them and i gave a couple candy bars away. I offered to people but they are all watching their figures. They are such girls. I would bring a candy bar with me to gym every day and get silly looks eating my snickers after an intense game of 4 square. The new missionaries come in every Wednesday and last week I met an elder named Jacob Biers. He apparently lives in Thatcher and is good buddies with Josh and Rikki.  I don’t have either of their emails so I can't tell them but it’s fun anyways.
Tonight is our first lessons without any language notes. its scary! We have to give a 20 minute lesson to a native Russian speaker only using a bible and PMG. (Preach my Gospel). Wish us luck!
I love you all! I miss you so much!
The Church is True and I love you!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Week 1 at the MTC

Dear Family,

The MTC is great! I am having a blast:) My Preparation Day is on Wednesdays.  We are only allowed one hour on the computer to write e-mails.  Please send me addresses of my friends so I can write them traditional letters.  We have much more time for that. 

This is such an amazing experience, everybody loves everybody, everybody loves the gospel and there are no fights or bickering! It is WONDERFUL!!

The cliché map picture 

I am so jealous that I didn't get to see Sharknado 2 because I really wanted to see it.

Haha - those street signs were from my childish immature days! I promise I won't do that again - at least for the next two years :)  I hope Carson didn't tell too many crazy stories! I might have to fact check some of them because he likes to blow things out of proportions sometimes.

Me and my companion
I am gaining a bunch of weight, I look chubby:) The food is so good, and all the Elders are so fun! We play hard but we work hard too,

I miss you all every day but I know this is where I am supposed to be. I first got here, and I looked around and saw people. These people looked familiar. Tons of them! When I went to talk to them I found they are from Idaho, or Germany, or Utah, or Ohio! I have never seen these people before but they all look so familiar. I believe I have known them in the Premortal life. It is so nice to befriend them all and feel their love for this Gospel and for missionary work.

There are 12 people in our District, which means 12 of us in a classroom studying for 9 hours a day. We are always together and we are all learning Russian together. Some people are going to Ucateranburg (I have no clue how to spell it... but I think it is west Russia), one sister in our class is going to Vladivostok, Sister Clark, and she is 26. She already has a masters in Piano Performance and will be getting her Doctorate when she gets back. She reminds me of Megan in her mannerisms and such. It is a nice little piece of home. Her companion, Sister Russell, reminds me of Aubrey Worthen to no end! This might come off a little weird but the way she speaks, the way she looks at me and her quiet confidence makes me think of Aubrey every time I see her.   I think of Michael Hopper whenever I talk to Elder Castleton. They are identical! Anyways I am getting side tracked.

Day one in the classroom

This MTC experience is amazing. I am learning so much. I am teaching the Gospel to an (fake) investigator, Vladimir, IN RUSSIAN! We are praying every night and morning in Russian, bearing our testimonies in Russian, and singing Hymns in Russian! I didn't think I would have so much success.  We struggle to hold a conversation in Russian but sign language and drawing pictures definitely help.  But each night I pray for the gift of tongues for me and my companion and I know God hears me. He loves us all and wants us all to be happy. I am just barely starting to realize this.

I love this Church. I remember a talk Sister Hansen gave a couple months ago in Sacrament meeting. She said something that really resonated with me. It was something to the extent of "The Gospel is like a really good book - or maybe a really good movie. You go and tell your friends, "hey guys I just saw the best movie! You have got to go see it! You are gonna love it"

This church isn't about the number of baptisms we get. It isn't about converting people to some weird cult (as some of the people in high school seem to believe). It is something that makes me really happy! And I want to share it! I want all of you to be happy and I know that this is the way. I am so happy to be here and I know this is the Lord's work. It will bless your lives if you live according to the principles. It may be hard and we will slip up, but that is why repentance is so great! Repentance is a great thing, it is a happy activity. We humbly ask the lord what can I do to better serve thee? What can I do to more fully love my neighbor? I feel that love all the time here and it is so amazing I wish you could all feel it.

In our class room we made a basketball hoop out of a coat hanger and shoebox lid and some medical tape. We put it up and each day we practice our mini-hoops. Don't wanna brag but I am getting pretty good at it. We learned how to break into a dorm room using an envelope, dental floss, a coat hanger, and a vacuum. Very inventive! We only do that when someone gets locked out of their room. Haha.  I miss you all so dearly and can't wait to write you again. Give my love to everyone and I will see them soon:)

Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner