Thursday, August 29, 2013

MTC week 6

August 27, 2013

Family and Friends,

Hosting was way fun, and I hosted 6 people so It was great! Our district was actually assigned to do it for tomorrow which is awesome because the new Kohai will be coming in so hopefully I get a few of them.

Ok so I have seen Jeff a ton! We usually get to sit next to each other during choir which is way nice! I haven't seen Lisa so she's probably on the West Campus.  I see my friends who aren't going to Japan way more than those who are. However I saw a lot of Elder Pace until this morning since he left at 2:30.  

So the song the choir sang was “Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer” and the music is by Brent Stewart.  Look it up, it’s amazing!  So Wednesday one of the sisters had surgery on her ankle so I had the opportunity to fast for her, which was a really cool spiritual experience.  I could tell that the Lord would bless her because of our fast and she’s doing great now.  Never underestimate the power of the fast!  I also had the opportunity to give one of our sisters a blessing, which she said really helped her.  The Lord really does speak through priesthood holders giving blessings.

Thursday was awesome!  We taught our investigator a lesson about repentance and baptism, and before we could commit him, he asked us when he could be baptized.  The spirit was so strong and we felt great!  I’ve also learned that when we use our talents, and we help others with them the Lord will continually and more frequently place us in situations when we can help others.  There are no coincidences; the Lord’s hand is in everything!

Friday was kinda funny because a few of us made one or two origami things and by the end of the day we were all making every paper product we know how to!  The room was so full of different paper crafts that we had to spend some extra time cleaning it all up.  Also, I could feel a glimpse of the gift of tongues and that made me very excited!

Saturday while reading 1 Nephi Chapter 8 I had this really cool thought.  In verse 37 it talks about how Lehi is talking to Laman and Lemuel and it says: ”And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words…”  So I was thinking about it and God is doing the same to us.  He’s the most loving parent there’s ever been, and He’s exhorting all of us to hearken to his words.  Awesome right?

Sunday was good, but a little sad.  I was released as District leader because my 3 weeks of being DL were up, but it’s ok, I feel like I did what I was supposed to.  They switch it every three weeks to make sure people get good leadership opportunities. Poulter Choro is the new DL which didn't surprise me at all.  In District Meeting (Sunday School in the MTC), someone brought up the point that baptism is the most important ordinance because it is a weekly, lifetime covenant.  And if we don’t keep our first covenant, how are we going to keep any others?

Yesterday was one of my teachers’ last day teaching us because school’s starting for him.  He is such a great guy and we took pictures, got advice for the field and said our goodbyes.  He gave us a quote that I’ll share “Love the people with all your heart, trust Heavenly Father completely, choose to be happy every single day, devote yourself fully to the work, and you will have an amazing, great mission.” – Willard Sensei

Today was good, and we did the usual P-day stuff.  Laundry, letters, temple, email, and soon we’ll have dinner and the devotional.  Apparently it’s being broadcast tonight so it’s gotta be one of the 12 or the First Presidency!  I’m so excited!

Sorry I don’t have a lot to say about this week, I’ll work on that for next week!

Love you all,
Elder Stephen Bickel

Friday, August 23, 2013

MTC Week 5


First off thank you Mom and Dad for the letters!  It’s so great to hear how everything’s going back home!  I’m glad Mom’s surgery went well, and I hope that she recovers very quickly!  It may have been a good learning experience, but I think that it’s time for you to be better!  I was very sad to hear that you also hurt your thumb and I really hope that also heals quick!  Just take things slow!  Enjoy your time and don’t rush through things.  We’ve learned here at the MTC that when you rush things the Spirit isn’t with you.  Also, people are more important than schedules, so that includes you!

Also Mom, thank you for sending me a copy of your talk!  I thought it was great!  And I agree that Dad probably just didn’t want to write as long of a talk. : )

Well this was another great week, no surprise there.  On Wednesday I made a goal to be even happier (a better attitude, etc.), and I was going to see what happened.  As it turned out, I felt happier, focused more, and didn’t worry near as much.  So attitude really does matter!  You can always have a better attitude so always try to improve it.  Also, on Tuesday, the night before, the choir director said something that I thought was really cool!  He said, “Women are up there with God.  They are the only two beings who can create life.”  I think that ‘s pretty awesome so all women should feel special, and be treated as such.  I also finished all of the missionary reference library. 

Thursday was a pretty good day and had only a few hiccups.  I saw Elder Graham, and some other good friends!  That night one of our Sensei’s was pretty hard on us though.  Luckily everyone popped back and is doing great!

Friday we decided to make up a game to get us to SYL (Speak Your Language) more, so we created Ryunushi, which means Dragon Lord, so that’s very fun and is cool to try to win.  Basically one person draws a paper to become “Ryunushi” but no one knows, so throughout the day, everyone tries to SYL as much as possible so that everyone votes on who was Ryunushi and if you drew it, and everyone voted for you, then you win.

Saturday went well when we started out with TRC (Teaching Resource Center) again.  The language was really coming well on Saturday and I basically shared the entire Restoration in Japanese by myself so that was an amazing miracle!  It also turns out that the McKinleys agree that I talk like I’m 40…We’ll see if that ends up helping me or not later on. : )

Sunday was awesome again!  We sang an arrangement of “Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer” which was absolutely amazing!  I’ll find out who arranged it tonight so you can listen to it if you have time, but I really thought it was beautiful.  Also Dad, you’ll be jealous about this, but Vai Sikahema spoke at our fireside on Sunday!  I was a bit disappointed though because he wouldn’t allow anyone to take notes.... But he told an amazing story about his mission and how he converted a man there who has ended up being a lifelong friend, and they went on a family reunion together last week.

Yesterday was pretty great!  We played sand-volleyball with the Nihonjin (Japanese) Elders and Sisters and they’re great!  I found out that since there are 3 Japanese Zones, the other two have the same schedule, but we get the Nihonjin every 2 weeks for 2 weeks!  I think we have the better deal personally.  I realized also that every lesson can be taught to an investigator’s needs.  The doctrines and principles all apply to their problems no matter what!  We just need to show them that when we teach.

Yesterday I also experienced another miracle.  Katakana (the 2nd alphabet) was really giving me a hard time, but yesterday when I went through it, I got every single one.  God’s power is amazing.  With God on your side, you can do anything.

Today has really just been writing letters and doing laundry since I decided to write this earlier.  So I hope things are going well, and I’ll write again next week!

Love ya!

Elder Stephen Bickel

Saturday, August 17, 2013

MTC week 4

August 13, 2013

Family and Friends,
            This week has been extremely busy so I’m sorry if I didn’t write.  First off, I saw a bunch of friends this week!  I saw Elder Pace, Skidmore, Wilson, and Aarif a ton since he has the same meal schedule, so almost every meal every day, and I just sat through the devotional tonight with Elder Lunt!  Elder Richard G. Scott spoke and it was amazing!  But it was good to see Jeff and talk to him for awhile.
            So this week we officially became Senpai because the new Kohai came in!  It was so nice with them coming in because it showed us how much we’ve already learned!  And that was extra nice because the language is so hard and I’ve had some struggles, but I’m doing a lot better so not to worry!
            Thursday this week I was still sick, and because of that I was completely exhausted.  However, the Lord strengthened me cause I was able to last throughout the day, which I didn’t think was possible.  So that was a huge blessing!
Saturday we had TRC again, and again it was great!  One of the people we taught was a returned missionary from Sapporo so that was cool!
            Sunday after the devotional I got to go see all of the Oly missionaries that were still in the MTC and got to take a bunch of pictures with them.  During Choir on Sunday the director told us that the person who published “Jesus Once of Humble Birth” donated about 200 copies of it so the missionaries could sing it and wanted the missionaries to take the copies.  So to give them away he gave them to all the  missionaries who went to choir for 4 weeks or more, and since that was my 4th week, I got a copy!
            Monday I was feeling some self doubt and hopelessness.  I felt like I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose and couldn’t do it.  Then during class we taught each other while pretending we were investigators ready to be committed to be baptized, but having doubts.  I was the ‘investigator’ for two of the sister missionaries and I pretended that I had doubts about whether or not I could keep going with the lessons or be baptized and endure to the end.  They then asked me if I believed that Christ would help me.  Immediately the scripture 1 Nephi 3:7 popped into my head.  Specifically the part where it says that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which he commands.  I felt the spirit telling me that God has commanded me to go on a mission so he will prepare a way for me.  God answers your prayers!
            Today was great!  We finally were able to go to the temple and see the new temple film!  We also had another miracle happen to us.  Choir was at 5 and we got back from the temple at 4:45.  I didn’t think we were going to make it, but we were able to get dinner, pick up the mail, drop by the classroom to drop off the mail, and go to the residence to get pens and paper for the devotional, and make it to choir on time.  That was 15 minutes.  It was amazing, but we did it with the Lord’s help.  The devotional was a great talk by Richard G. Scott about prayer.
            Again, I thank all of you who are writing letters!  It means a lot to know you care.  If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them!  I love you all and miss you, but I’m doing great and loving it!  I hope all of you are doing well and you’re in my prayers!

Talk to you next week!
Elder Stephen Bickel

Monday, August 12, 2013

MTC week 3

August 6, 2013

Family and Friends,

            This week was exhausting.  Between being sick, 6 hours of class a day, trying to learn a new language, almost 4 and a half hours of study time, gym, and having to be completely mentally competent, and all there the whole time really takes a toll on you.  There is no way that we could do this every day without the Lord’s help!

           I finished “Jesus the Christ” the other day and it is definitely one of my favorite books!  I’m now kinda forced, but in a good way to read the other books in the Missionary Reference Materials.  I’m already 100 pages into “True to the Faith”!

           So Saturday this week we had our first TRC (Teaching Resource Center) appointment.  It’s where volunteers come in who speak the mission language, and we go in and teach them a lesson about the gospel in Japanese.  It was extremely difficult but I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for our second one on Saturday this week.

            One of the sisters in my district reminds me a ton of Katherine!  Her personality is very similar so it’s kind of fun to have that little reminder of home.  Even though thinking of home makes me miss everyone, it’s still nice!  Since it is the MTC there are no dogs, and I miss Cali a ton!  Hopefully she’ll recognize me when I get home!

            Fast Sunday this week was very uplifting.  A few people in my district were worried about fasting until dinner, but I told them, “the MTC is filled to capacity with the spirit already - no other place, except for the temple has the spirit this strong.  We fast in order to feel the spirit more strongly in our lives.  So fasting at the MTC makes the spirit all the more powerful.”  My prediction proved correct, and everyone was completely fine, and the spirit was as close to that of the temple without actually being in the temple as it could possibly be.

            Each Sunday we watch a film after the fireside and I watched, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration” again.  My conviction to do whatever it takes for the gospel was called to my remembrance and was strengthened so much.  This gospel is so important!  I know it with every fiber of my being, and hope that you all know it too. 
            Every 3 weeks in my zone here they switch up the district leaders, so on Sunday I was made the new district leader.  It’s really exciting, but it’s a lot of responsibility, so I hope that I do as well as the one before me, but I know that the Lord qualifies those he calls.

            I’m sad I missed Trek, but I’m more sure than ever that there was a reason that I wasn’t able to go.  Also, the new districts of elders come in tomorrow, so I will no longer be Kohai (underclassmen), but I will be Senpai (middleclassmen) instead.  I don’t feel like I should be Senpai yet, but looking back to when I first got here, I really have learned a ton.  I’m a third of the way done with my stay at the MTC, which is freaky, but awesome!

            It was funny a few of the people in my district have told me I talk like I’m 40 years old.  I asked if that was a good or a bad thing and they said it’s not bad, but they just thought it was funny.

            I love getting letters, so thank you to those who have sent them!  Oh and please keep sending them when you are able to!  I love you all and miss you! I’ll write again next week!

Elder Stephen Bickel

Saturday, August 3, 2013

MTC Week 2

July 30, 2013

Family (and Friends),
            Wow, what a crazy, crazy week!  Wednesday we had our first service assignment where we cleaned our building.  We were going to play Fugitive for our exercise that day in our building with the Dai Sempai (6-9 week missionaries) and Sempai (3-6 weeks) but they all had a departure meeting so Fugitive was canceled.  Basically we were going to try to make it from the second floor of our building to a room at the top floor so I was a little disappointed when it was cancelled.

            Wednesday I also had an interview with my Branch President and he asked me what my favorite part about being here was.  Naturally I said “the amazing spirit I feel all the time.  Then he told me to look up a scripture.  It was Alma 13:12.  I’ll let you read it, but after I read the scripture he shared with me four points from someone’s talk.  I can’t remember who’s but it said this: “In order to be filled with the spirit we need to do 4 things.  1. Have meaningful daily prayer.  2.  Have daily scripture study.  3.  Think about the commandments and repent constantly, and 4. Do service.”  He then said, “Keeping that in mind is it any wonder missionaries have the spirit?”  He then told me that even when I’m off my mission I can still do those things and keep the Spirit.

            I’m worried I’m actually gaining weight for the first time in my life.  I’m trying to eat less fried food and more fruit.  I’m also exercising as much as possible even if it’s just sand volleyball (which I’ve found I really enjoy and am ok at!).

            My district is really getting close which is great!  They’re all so amazing and I’m really lucky to be with them!  One of the sisters in my district had an amazing comment when she said, “The Atonement is the hardest and best thing to understand.”  Like I said, amazing district!

            For personal study I’ve been reading Jesus the Christ and it is absolutely amazing!  It is really superb and I’ve read 342 pages already!  During class one of the days we were told to teach the Restoration to someone in our district, in English luckily, and it was so cool!  I felt the spirit so strongly and I just wish I could do the same in Japanese, but I know that’ll come.

            Sunday I was actually pretty sick.  I “tossed my cookies” and didn’t feel great.  So, being surrounded by my district full of Elders, I asked for a Priesthood blessing!  I felt so much better afterwards, but after the blessing I still took some medicine just in case!  So don’t worry about that!  Sunday night I went and got a picture with a bunch of my high school friends but forgot my camera so you’ll just have to look around for that one.  It’s weird for me to think that some of them are leaving or have already gone while I still have about 7 weeks.  Oh and since my district is still one of the newest Japanese districts, we’re called Kohai, but soon we’ll be Sempai, which will be nice!

            Monday, the playing field was closed so we couldn’t’ play sand volleyball, but we still got to go to the gym, so it wasn’t too bad.  Earlier in the week I started feeling like I had a better understanding of Japanese but then our lesson Monday, dashed that hope.  I still have a long way to go, but I’ve got the Lord’s help so I’m not worried.

            Today, (Tuesday) actually was a pretty perfect day.  We woke up, got breakfast, and went to do laundry.  Surprisingly, right as we walked in, we found just enough washers to accommodate us, just waiting for us.  It’s like they knew we were coming and it was so nice!  We then wrote emails, got lunch and had the amazing, rare chance to clean the temple.  I was thinking about it and I’m guessing the percent of missionaries who get that opportunity has to be less than 0.0001% because it is rarely closed and they pick 2 districts to come clean it 5 days a week so we are super lucky!  Because we were cleaning the temple I didn’t get to finish this letter in time to mail it today so I’ll mail it tomorrow.

            For the devotional tonight, we got to hear a great talk by President Richards from our Stake!  He did amazing and I really enjoyed what he said.  The choir sang “How Great Thou Art” and yes I did sing in the choir even though I’m still recovering.

            I love you a ton Mom and hope you get better soon!  Dad you are such a great dad and I look up to you so much!  You are an example of what a dad should be and I’m going to try to be as good as you.  Katherine, I think I beat you this week!  Daniel, I hope your summer’s going well and that trek was awesome.  Spencer, same to you.  Peter, remember that you’ll wish you played less video games so go do something fun!  Learn how to do a Rubik’s cube even!  I should have a mini one in one of my nightstand drawers, probably the top one in a plastic wrapper.  Consider it.  Well I’ll write again next week!

Elder Stephen Bickel