Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25, 2015 -- ¡Hola de México! Hello from México

It´s nice being able to type those characters now that I´m in México and the keyboard actually has them. A few people have asked about the differences and similarities between the MTC (Provo) and the CCM (México City), so I will start with that. First thing I noticed was that I am now the minority and everybody speaks Spanish (obviously). Also, the roads are crazy. Just on the way to the CCM, I saw people in the streets at a stoplight walking around selling candy or something (let´s say it´s candy), cars that are about a foot away from each other and a Mexican washing someone´s windshield on the road (like at a stoplight). Then, similar to an oasis in a desert, the CCM appeared with a huge fence all around it. So beautiful, as  you´ll be able to see from the pictures. Palm trees, grass lawns, houses halfway up the nearby mountains that look really cool at night, and the city that goes on FOREVER. Literally, the last 8 minutes of the flight was just buildings from the city. Inside the CCM, the missionaries are more laid back and the teachers are still great. They are all native speakers who know just more english that the 6-weekers do spanish. So they are fluent enough to teach and communicate, but still ask about some words (I had to explain what "you´re going down" meant to my teacher, in spanish it´s something like "va perdiendo" translated to "you´re losing").Oh yes, the food!! The food is a lot different than in Provo. Here we will sometimes have a good main dish (chicken or taquitos or something like that) and they´ll usually have rice and beans and some kind of salsa that they change every day inside. I live mostly off of the beans and rice. I still can´t get over not being allowed to listen to music, even MoTab here. Nevertheless, the work continues.
Some of Mexico City on the way to the CCM

The CCM campus
The trip to México City was pretty wild. When I got there, I wasn´t on the list, they jokingly said I might have to go back to Provo... speaking only spanish. I laughed later. There was a fantastic devotional the night before by Elder Cook of the (Quorum of the...) Seventy and one of the things that stuck out to me was when he asked what we thought missionaries were doing at the airport on the way to their mission fields. One Elder answered that they were probably talking to people about gospel stuff, sharing and whatnot. Elder Cook said that was the correct answer of what they should do, but they usually stood around in groups and talked amongst themselves. That kind of surprised me so I made it a point to talk as much as I could with others on the train and the airport, I even invited others to do the same because I felt it was that important. It yielded great results. I talked to another worker from the church headquarters building and asked him some questions about how the 70 was organized. He knew a lot about that so my question was answered very well. On the next train, a couple of other missionaries and I talked to a Catholic who was on his way to work at the airport Super nice guy, he helped the sisters with their bags. At the airport, we had about 90 minutes before boarding. I talked to a Spanish couple who were on their way to the México City temple (remember them for a very important story later on). An Elder with AP spanish and no MTC training and I spoke with them for about 20 minutes. I was just about as fluent as the other Elder, how about that for a testimony of the gift of tongues! They were members, so very nice about helping us with the language. Then I talked to someone who had a Real Salt Lake hat about soccer for a while. He was able to hold up his own on the topic, I was impressed. Turns out his brother had bought the first ticket ever to the Rio Tinto stadium! He showed me a post he put on Facebook (I remember that) of how he was feeling more nervous than usual with flying, then saw about two dozen missionaries walk over and immediately felt safe. Funny guy and it´s totally true, Heavenly Father blesses His servants. No way would that plane crash :) The last two people were a bishop and his wife on their way to celebrate their anniversary. Very nice people too. I´m happy to report that I left almost each person with a challenge, varying from family history research to studying a topic to share with their families. The purpose of a missionary is to INVITE! Doesn´t matter if they are members or not, everyone needs to be invited to come unto Christ. Great experience on the way to the CCM.

Classes are just about the same as in Provo, language study, practice lessons, fundamentals study (as in BoM and study PMG in english most of the time). One of the most important lessons my teachers have taught since being here was to plan well. I thought I was pretty solid on my knowledge of the lessons like most people who grow up in the church, but the spirit is definitely strengthened by putting more into lesson planning. I learned that the hard way. One of our investigators, Guillermo, had a really strong first lesson, really bad second lesson (because of lack of planning) and pretty solid third lesson (because of good planning). Our teacher actually talked to me and my companion personally about it. Oh yes, my new companion, Elder Pisciotta, is a super funny guy and really nice. Being from Las Vegas, his old stake president was President Richards! Tess was actually in his seminary class. He also used to play Rugby as a side note. Other than that, my district gets along pretty well too. They joke with me about being the new guy, but it´s not too tough since I´m also an experienced MTC goer.

My new companion
My room at the CCM
I´ll end with one more experience at the airport after we landed. We were all waiting for our bags, the spanish couple who we had talked to earlier (told you to remember), approached a couple of us Elders and asked to help with a blessing. I quickly sprung into action looking for the section in the handbook about how to give a blessing, but had no idea how to do it in spanish. Luckily, the spanish priesthood holder gave the blessing to the boy about 10 years old who was in a wheelchair looking very sick, barely getting through the blessing. He and his dad were both said to be non-members. I really felt that we were helping the boy get better through the blessing. Those experiences are my favorite part of being on a mission. To any who are reading this, I want to extend an invitation to you to study in your scriptures the topic of miracles and/or priesthood authority and share with your family. I heard (the Frederick Stake) President Cook made a challenge to study scriptures every day, so I hope this will help. Heavenly Father has faith in us and we should likewise have faith in His power. Thank you so much for your support.  I love you all!

-Elder Allgaier

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18, 2015 -- Arrival Reassurance

Just landed in the Mexico MTC, this is my reassurance email. My P-day is on Wednesday now so you won't hear from me for another week. Mexico is CRAZY, so excited to take it all in, even the keyboard I'm typing on is different. Love you!

-Elder Allgaier

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015 -- Goodbye, Provo. ¡Holá, México!

Hola everybody!

When some of the missionaries told me that the weeks would start to feel like days, I didn't believe them at all since that first week felt like a month. Now I understand, I'm getting into a groove of the schedule and being able to find my way around campus and the lessons a lot more easily. Quick side note while it's in my mind, there's an Elder on our floor who sang the National Anthem full volume in the shower like it was a nightly ritual. He doesn't do it anymore, but it was awesome. That's the kind of spirit you can see around the MTC (Missionary Training Center), so many great missionaries here.

Anyways, I brought my journal this time so I can remember everything that happened. Our (Elder Johnson and mine's) investigator, Ana, was responding very well to our lessons even though our Spanish was not very good. On the third and last lesson, we went over el Plan del Salvaccion, the Plan of Salvation, and asked her to be baptized. She said yes! To celebrate I drank that mini bottle of martinelli's (thanks again Mom and family). I was so excited until we found out the next day that she was our teacher... Still very happy about how we were able to do, just a little weird. Her name is Hermana Larson and she's a great teacher. All of the maestros, teachers/masters, here are the best I've ever had. They are young enough that I can relate to them and not be very intimidated, but also experienced as returned missionaries and have incredibly strong testimonies. Excellent instruments in the Lord's hand. The three maestros are Hermano Voss, Hermano Thompson (who actually served in my mission!) and Hermana Larson/Ana.

Also, last Wednesday we got a new district of missionaries in our zone. I've gotten to know most of them and they are all great missionaries as well. As an added bonus, it's nice to not be at the bottom of the totem pole :) One of the big lessons I've learned at the MTC is to invite! I even memorized the mission purpose in Spanish and English on the second day and the first word is INVITE. Our teachers have told us to always invite people to come unto Christ, otherwise we have failed the lesson. Last night some Elders and I had a cool experience with that when a southern lady came over to talk to us during our study time just outside the building. One of the coolest things about the MTC is these random investigators who float around campus and we can teach them whenever we want to, sooo cool. So this lady actually approached us and started talking about musicals with one of the elders who loves musicals (Elder Egbert who was in BYU men's choir as well) we must've been talking for an hour until we started talking about religious things. She had told us about her very trying life, but she has a great attitude about it now. Moved from Tennessee with a member friend to get somewhere new and wanted to come help the MTC by being a practice investigator. Not a member, so she had a very specific question about why we let women speak in church, even young women since her church follows all of what the Bible teaches including in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (I invite you to read it with the JST-Joseph Smith Translation which is part of the Bible left out or changed through the centuries, restored through inspiration by Joseph Smith). It says women shall not speak, but the JST changes the word speak to rule. Elder Jones in our district was smart enough to point that out and tell her a bit about the JSTs. Before she left I remembered General Conference (A broadcast via internet, satellite and radio around the world where the leaders of our church give the members guidance and direction.  This happens twice a year the first weekend of April and October.) is coming up in the next few weeks so we invited her to watch it and find out for herself if our women were really giving doctrine and "ruling" or giving testimonies and speaking to uplift others, since only the quorum of the twelve apostles can do that (like when President Monson lowered the mission age). I felt like a real missionary after that and it was great to realize that a lot of the practice investigators are real investigators as well, so the pressure is more intense.

The lesson that did not go well was one with our new investigator especially when he asked about how the prophet can receive revelation to change the way the church runs (again, like the mission age change) but that also God is unchanging. I knew the answer in English and I assured I knew it by asking the older district afterwards, but I could not tell him in Spanish. I ended up telling him that we couldn't answer it now, but we would next time. Que avergonzado (even more if I spelled that wrong)...

Turns out we won't even be there since I finally got my flight information to the Mexico MTC! That lifted my spirits really quickly when I found out that I'll have a change of scenery tomorrow (wednesday) at 4:35am. Early morning, but I'm very excited. It makes the fact that my companion left yesterday (Monday) for the Spain MTC, so I won't have to be in a tripanionship for that long.

Last event was the lesson I was able to give on Sunday about enduring to the end. Missionaries are very hard to give new ideas to, but very easy to lead a discussion with (especially in english). So the lesson was pretty easy, though I had planned a three part, two page lesson that would've taken about 40 minutes if we had gone the same pace for that time. It took an unexpected turn when my companion jumped to the end of my plan, probably since we were getting low on our 20 minutes of allotted lesson time, and we asked what happens when we do and do not endure to the end (can't quite remember the scripture reference now but it's somewhere in 2 Nephi, scripture challenge extended). Everyone gave great thoughts and great testimonies, I learned from them. At the end Elder Johnson gave his last testimony and I gave mine on enduring to the end. I was grateful for the chance to lead the discussion with Elder Johnson and he has been a great companion.

Well that's all for this week, I love you all so much!

-Elder Allgaier

Building where classes are held

Classic map picture of each missionary pointing to the area to which they were called.
Elder Allgaier and his MTC companion, Elder Johnson, before he headed to the Spain MTC.
MTC zone picture behind the Provo, Utah temple.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12, 2015 -- Part II...

Part II...

Monday, my companion, Elder Johnson, was sick with an upper respiratory infection for the whole day. Sick as a dog, and just as contagious. We went to the waiting room to have him looked at before they said he would have to stay in the residence for at least the rest of the day. I was feeling a little sick too, not enough to leave class but I had to stay with Elder Johnson anyways so I was able to recover. The waiting room in the health office is so fun by the way. They have this toy you can move a spinning  disk back and forth with (sounds a lot less interesting than it really is, but it kept me entertained for about 15 minutes), they have puzzles, church magazines, and even this challenge where you have to get a washer and a bolt through a hole in a the hole of the stick inside of a bottle. It was also quite entertaining, even though I couldn't do it. So while we were in the room, we slept for the first couple of hours while the rest of our district was in class and lunch. Then, we were tired of sleeping so we explored a bit of the residence building and found a huge pile of pillows under the stairs and some vending machines for a snack. Every week we have to prepare a talk for Sunday as well, in Spanish of course, so I used the rest of the time we had to write that in English to translate later to Spanish (see Preach My Gospel where it says to prepare in your native language first). I was pretty bummed since we missed a our second lesson with our practice investigator and our first visit with our new investigator.
Tuesday was p-day (preparation day), but I did not do a lot of p-ing. We woke up at 5:20 to go to the temple to do a session. 5:15am! On p-day! It was a great experience since it was the first time I have gone inside of that temple, I wasn't even able to go when I was at BYU unfortunately. Very peaceful in the celestial room as always and I accompanied it with a prayer. After that spiritual high, I went straight to the travel office where some other missionaries and I were supposed to meet to go to the Mexico consulate to finalize some visa work. That trip was amazing and not just because we were let out of the MTC (as great of a place it is, it's nice to get out every once in a while). In our group, we had one sister (Hermana Pina), and four elders including me, I think their names were Elder Silva, Elder Ontiveros and Elder something. Sorry last Elder. We all got along very well, talking to each other, practicing spanish, talking to other people on the train, etc. A big difference I noticed about walking around Salt Lake city with missionary tags and probably anywhere else in the world was that everybody knows who you are. At least the people that I noticed. A few cars honked and the drivers waved at us, a return missionary who served in Indiana who also worked at the church headquarters talked to us for one part of the trip (he said he would say hello to President Monson for us). One worker who I was talking with said a bad word, but then immediately said "oh excuse my language, sorry." I'm not used to that at all. And it's a good difference. The business part of the trip at the consulate took about 10 minutes total, but we were out of the MTC for about 5 hours going back and forth. On our way back, we had two great conversations. The second was with a 15 year old kid who was on his way to BYU to practice with the BYU dance team. He was only 15! Also, he said he was looking at getting a scholarship for the dance program when he applied there. Cool guy, we liked Ryan. The first conversation was when we were waiting for our next train, we had 50 min so the missionaries were just talking in a circle with each other when a guy, about my age 19 or 20 approached us and asked if we were missionaries for the Mormon church, then to tell him what we believed. CRAZY!! I was so excited, but just as nervous so I didn't say much. He asked a lot about biblical evidence of Jesus Christ going to the Americas since he believed in the Bible. One missionary was smart enough to know a scripture in John 10:16ish (I found the reference later) which is a scripture mastery that says Jesus is going to visit his other sheep. He didn't think that was enough, since it could be referencing anything, not just the Americas. He also had a problem with how we changed the Book of Mormon, which I believe he was talking about the formatting changes and the minor, minor changes in a very small amount of words. It does say in the paragraph before the first chapter in Nephi 1, that there have been minor changes, another Elder in my zone (Elder Hales), later told me exactly how minute those changes were. His Mom joined us later who also had some very great questions since they had been wondering a lot about the church. The Mom even said she had researched religions like Hindu, Catholicism, Christianity, she even said she looked places where she probably shouldn't have like the Satanist church. I told her that was great for being so diligent in her search for truth. They were very intelligent with their questions, but we weren't able to answer all of their questions then. Hermana Pina talked for most of the time. I was able to give her my email address and another Elder's email address so that we could talk more. Long story short, we had a street contact while in training. It gave me great insight about what the field would really be like (except I would be speaking Spanish of course, that'll be tough). That was probably my best experience since being in the MTC.

Quick notes about what I have learned.
1. The gift of tongues is real
2. Teach by the spirit, you are only the facilitator
3. Teach the person, not the lesson. Always ask yourself what the investigator needs
4. Use your study time wisely
5. Lots and lots of Spanish

Love you all!

-Elder Allgaier

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10, 2015 -- Hola!

Part I...

Hola everyone!

First of all, thank you Mom and family for the package, I didn't even know they have personal sized bottles of Martinelli's, I'm saving that for my first practice investigator here in the MTC who commits to baptism since Martinelli's are for celebratory occasions. Thank you for all of the letters and packages as well. Dear Elder's (he means are also a great way to send me letters since I can read them all the same day they are sent, which gives me a little more time to respond on p-days. For this first email since so much has happened, I will split it into two sections: what has happened at the MTC and what I have learned. (Please see sidebar for Elder Allgaier's current address and email address!)

The first week at the MTC was crazy. Some things I had to get used were 1. Wearing my nametag 2. Being called Elder Allgaier 3. Waking up at 6:30 4. Not being able to 'hang out with the sisters' (meaning we can't even hint at flirting with them, that's rough) 5. Learning Spanish and using it in everyday conversation. First thing they gave me in the MTC was my glorious name tag with the infamous orange sticker signifying exactly how green I was on it for all to see. I was probably welcomed to the MTC 30 times that day ("Welcome to the MTC"). Almost everyday we have classes three times a day, first is Spanish lessons where the teacher only speaks in Spanish even though we are the beginner level class. On the topic of the language I have to say that the gift of tongues is real. Almost all of the time I will try to be translating what I hear or what I say or what I read to spanish or from spanish to english. My district of 10 missionaries sometimes uses study sessions to speak only spanish to each other. We all get along pretty well. My companion is Elder Johnson from Texas ("tehas" in spanish) and he will be leaving for the Barcelona Spain mission after the MTC. Pretty sweet being able to go to the second best mission in the world after Mexico Monterrey West. Anyways, we taught our first lesson in Spanish to our practice investigator last Saturday, that's right, all in Spanish, she didn't speak a lick of English (at least her character didn't). It was very interesting being able to do that after just three days. She was really nice when we kept stumbling through words, but we got her to commit to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Sunday we had a devotional followed by a movie watching a talk by David A. Bednar called Characters of Christ. Great talk, you should read/listen to it if you get a chance.

I'm out of time for now but I will write more soon (before next tuesday) I had a great experience today. Sorry.

-Elder Allgaier

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 4, 2015...Does this look like Mexico?!

Elder Allgaier at the MTC with his uncles who dropped him off.
On October 24th 2014, Spencer opened his mission packet and read that he had been called to the Mexico Monterrey West Mission!  He was to report to the Mexico Missionary Training Center (MTC) on March 4th, 2015.  However, due to a small delay in getting his visa, we found out that he would have the opportunity to first attend the Provo MTC in Utah for two weeks, then transfer down to the Mexico MTC where he will complete his last four weeks of training.  As usual, Spencer saw the benefit of being able to be a part of both MTCs.  He was set apart on the rainy evening prior to his departure and is now a full time missionary who is undoubtedly getting used to being called Elder Allgaier! In fact, we received a quick email from him last night to let us know he arrived safely and he had this to say, "I was very excited when the first thing they gave me when I walked in was my awesome name tag, but I still feel like it's someone else's and I'm just a kid who they let wear it for a bit." Typical funny guy!  FYI, his preparation day (p-day) is Tuesdays while he's in Provo, so that's when we will hope to hear from him next time.  We are looking forward to this amazing experience!

A few pictures of our family goodbye at the airport