I'm at my first week here at the MTC and so far it has been incredible. My doryo is Simmons choro (from So.Cal) and he is awesome. He's funny, hard working, spiritual, and shares a lot of my tastes. For those of you with weak imaginations, just think of a bigger, more white me. MUCH more white. Haha :D anyway, I've got a couple experiences I'd like to share with everyone on my chain email list.
First, my very first day was amazing. I got to the MTC and I walked in. I got my nametag and headed out. I went to my residence and was taken to class. Immediately, my teacher (Fowers Sensei) walked in and spoke nothing but Nihongo. For those of you having trouble reading this letter with the sparse nihongo I throw in, imagine having someone talk to you with 100% nihongo for 3 hours straight. Plus, since I already know German, my brain switched to "foreign language mode" (said in the voice of Edna from The Incredibles). Too bad there was no "And guest" setting in my brain! You see, I would try to think and learn Nihongo, but since my brain had a foreign language setting and that setting was predominantly German, I found myself saying a ton of German words instead of learning Nihongo! It was subarashimasen! Anyway, I finally managed to create a seperate Nihongo setting in my brain entitled "kuroi kinu" (If you want to know what it is, you've got google translate. hehe. God is better.) Then, we went to a meeting.
At this meeting, we sang "We'll bring the world his truth" but changed a few words in the chorus. We sang, "We are as the army of Helamen. We have been taught in our youth. And we are NOW the Lord's missionaries who'll bring the world His truth." This was the moment. This was the moment I realized that I was a true missionary called of God to reach out to His children in Nippon. And I was dai tanoshi!!! I was ready for anything!
After dinner, we had "Wednesday Night Experience". There were 3 seperate role playing activities. In the first one, I got into it and prayed for Heavenly Father's love for Doug (was the investigator's name). I was given insights and inspired in how to help Doug. I loved the sensation. But in the second role play, Sarah was the investigator. I am ashamed to admit that I got caught up in my success, like some of the Nephites in some of the wars, and didn't pray or pay attention to the spirit. I missed an important moment and my comments began to sidetrack the group. The teacher had to stop me and guide us back in the right direction, and I felt a horrible burning in my chest. I felt inadequate, and Satan lept on the opportunity to take me down. I struggled against his influence and did my best to get back into the role-playing, but I was distracted and hurt by my mistake. We went to the third role-playing situation for Aaron, a volleyball player at Stanford University. His friend Mario had referred him. The missionaries started the discussion, but I wasn't really in on it. I prayed, "Heavenly Father, please get rid of this distraction so I can do well in this role-play." So I tried to focus. At one point, Aaron said he didn't want to talk about his family. Later, he said religion was just an unrealistic hope; based in fiction. When asked why he thought that, Aaron opened up.
He said, "My older brothers prayed. They are both in jail. My younger brother prayed. He commit suicide. My dad prayed. He was diagnosed with cancer. So prayer? I have never seen it really work."
Some of the missionaries tried to talk to him, specifically one who got up and shared that he lost his best friend during highschool. While this Elder bore his testimony, I began to think. I could relate to Aaron entirely. I had close relations with individuals diagnosed with cancer. I had close relations to righteous individuals whose service in God's kingdom was cut short. I had close relations to someone who had commit suicide. As I began to pay attention, I realized that Aaron was telling of how he found his younger brother after his suicide.
His story was as follows.
"My brother was gay. He was bullied at school and my brothers and I teased him all the time. But I will never forget coming home one day and seeing blood... on the floor from his door to the bathroom... I just thought, 'Oh no.' I ran into his room and found him. He was laying on the bed. He had stabbed himself four times in the stomach. Next to him lay a note. It said..." At this point, he broke and began to cry. "It said, 'Dear family. I'm so sorry. I can't take it anymore. But I still love you.' I remember taking him in my arms and hugging him to my chest... and I guess I said a prayer. I said, 'God, I'm so sorry. I promise I'll treat him better. Just please... please give him back to me.'
"I guess if I think about it, I'm just scared of this whole religion thing... because after what I did to my brother... there's no way God could love me."
His last words shook my soul.
"There's no way that God could love me."
How many times had I thought the same thing? How many times in my weakness and sorrow have I thought that exact thing? How many times has despair waged war on my soul to the point of utter hopelessness?
At that moment, I knew. I knew with every fiber of my being. I did not care that I made a mistake. I'm imperfect. Who cares. I had already known that. I did not care that I could make more mistakes. I did not care that I was hurt by my own imperfection. What I cared about was the man in front of me, weeping becasue he wanted to be loved by God and to be forgiven by his brother but believed he could not be. I cared about a man so scared he pushed away the truth that could set him free.
That was the moment I promised Heavenly Father, "My purpose is to invite your children to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Once I made that promise, I could feel a burning in my bosom. Not the painful burning of guilt, but the wondrous burning of the Holy Ghost.
I know why I am here.
To all young men reading this, do not do ANYTHING to keep you away from a mission. We have too much work to do for you to be selfish and keep yourself from serving.
Thank you for all of your prayers. I feel them every day. I pray for you all and hope that you can be 1/10th as happy as I am currently.