Friday, December 25, 2015

MTC, MTC, MTC. Final Week!

Veselé Vanoce! (Merry Christmas!)
Dobrý den!
Today is my final email from the MTC. That is so bizarre! I feel like maybe I have been here for my whole entire life, but at the same time, maybe I just arrived last Wednesday. We laugh a lot at English speaking missionaries who complain about being here for "so long." We were passing someone in the hallway the other day who was singing a song about being almost 2 weeks in and so I copied his song and sang 8 instead. I think he very nearly died of shock.

MTC companions... Staršís Chadwick & Pickett

Significant things that happened this week:
  • In-field orientation was on Wednesday. We have watched the giant poster they set up every week and this week it was finally for us! What a great moment. We also learned some important things about goal setting, finding, missionary purpose, and working with members. Overall it was just a great experience, presided over by the husband of our teacher Sestra Godfrey
  • Two of our teachers, Sestra Godfrey and Bratr Knapp left last week. That was a very sad moment. All of you who are about to enter the MTC, just know that your teachers will be amazing and will pretty much change your life. I'm sure they have lots of spiritual and language requirements for being a MTC teacher, but they also have to pass an interview of awesomeness. Every one of them.

 Saying goodbye to our excellent MTC teachers!
  •          I am emailing a voice recording of my companion and I doing our favorite phrase from TALL (our online learning program). It means "God prepared a plan so he could help us return to Him." When other missionaries in the MTC ask us where we are serving and what language we are learning... then they ask us to say something in Czech.  This is what we say!   (I can’t attach this… but if anyone wants to hear it, let me know!)

Best Zone in the MTC!

District birthday celebration for Starší Marcucci

Zone Elders- Czech, Slovak, Polish, Northern Adriatic
pictures courtesy of Starší Brad 's card reader!!
  • Really not too much happened this week. We still don't have confirmation on Visas from the church travel office for any of us. But we're packing today. So that is an interesting adventure for everyone.  (I got confirmation from the travel office that Brad’s visa has come.  I couldn’t wait for once a week information, so I took care of that myself!  Thank goodness, I would be stressing right now!!)

Here is our District wearing matching Christmas scarves that Sestra Heap's boyfriend sent to us all!

  • Travel plans. We report to the Travel Office at 8:30 AM on Monday. We fly from Utah to Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. One hour layover. Then to London, that is our overnight flight. We arrive 9:30 in the morning. 1 hour layover and then fly to Prague. Travel British Airlines. 50 pound limit for all bags, including our carry-on plus side bag. We have a scale in our residence hall closet. It will all fit. Probably.
  • We have lots of fun Christmas things that will be occurring tomorrow, including a special devotional, meal, watching "A Christmas Carol" and other various things.
  • Our final gym time occurred on Tuesday, December 22, 2015. It was a glorious and terrible day. Also this was the final day of service for us. We will dearly miss those toilets that we cleaned.
  • We have a cool devotional tonight (Christmas Eve) that I am sure will be great fun. I believe we will be having a Nativity presentation by some Elders and Sisters.
  • The MTC gets to call home on Christmas this year! I get to talk with my family, which is good, because I only have 2 different 1 hour layovers in US airports on Monday.
  • We are all so excited to go to the Czech Republic on Monday, and also just a little terrified. But only in a good way.  (It will be GREAT if all the visas come through, then they will travel as a whole District of 10 missionaries plus 2 Slovakian Elders!)
The Czech District!
  • Spiritual thought for the week. During our devotional, the member of the 70, Elder Nielsen who spoke talked about getting called as a member of the 70. And he said that he did not have anything to do for the first 2 days, and on the 3rd day he was called in for an interview. He asked when the training would happen and was told "Go to your office and become. And we will let you know later when the training begins." What an interesting insight! It also goes along very nicely with my last week thought about a "to-be" list. We should seek to emulate, and to become like Christ. I add my testimony to the numerous ones that have already been born that He is the Savior of the world. That because of Him, we can all live with our families in a state of "never-ending happiness," as the scriptures say, after this life. So as you celebrate this Christmas, remember that the real reason to celebrate is because of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Love you all, thank you for the support, letters, and packages! Lisa Dalton sent me another letter that was very nice. Also, the Hollands sent me a Christmas letter with some Czech writing. And Lindsay and Alan sent Christmas stuff. And Dave and Karen and kids. Lynette Wilie sent me some fun DearElders also.

I am off to the Czech Republic on Monday!

-Starší Pickett

That was from our small group performance of "Come Thou Fount." These pictures were taken during a practice. We also had a violin and piano accompaniment. Myself, Elder Burnett (Croatia/Serbia) Sister Demordaunt (Polish), Sister Rougeau (Croatia/Serbia) are the singers.

Sweater Saturday
(We sent Starší Brad a new sweater for Christmas but told him to open it early... for more options!!)

This sunset was from a few weeks ago, top floor of our classroom building looking out a window.

Christmas Day update from our  30 MIN PHONE CALL:
  • Elder David A. Bednar and his wife spoke at the MTC today, with 12 other MTCs from around the world linked in to a Q&A.  Starší Brad reports it was awesome!
  • When asked about what he loves about the MTC, he reported everything.  But narrowing it down, he said the amount of time he has dedicated to studying the scriptures.
  • His favorite part about being a Zone Leader is taking the time each night to pray for every missionary in the zone by name and ask for guidance to know what is needed.
  • Starší Brad bore his testimony of Jesus Christ in Czech and we loved it.
  • He reports that thanks to the Sestras in his district (sister missionaries)... they actually get things done!  He loves his district and zone so much.
  • The missionaries are getting all packed and ready for their Monday flights. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

MTC- We Leave Here in Less Than 2 Weeks!

 Our Zone on our last Temple day

Seriously, I am having the greatest experience ever here. Don't even worry about me, I'm doing awesome! Although I do miss our awesome Christmas decorations at home. Those are super fun.

Basically our whole district and lots of zone died from a heart attack when we realized that we are leaving the MTC in less than 2 weeks. That was a crazy realization. We will get a 30 minute phone call on Christmas! 4:45 my time I believe. No idea about P-day and Christmas schedule next week other than that. Hopefully I will find out soon. No travel plans for us yet but I think those come out on Fridays, so maybe tomorrow. But thank you for letting me know about the Visa. Other than that, the MTC schedule is still virtually the same, with a few fun little changes this week.
  • First off, our devotional on Sunday was AWESOME. BYU Men's Chorus came and sang and people bore testimony about missions and it was basically a dream come true. And one of the 3 members who got up and talked had recently returned from the Czech/Slovak mission. And our district freaked out a little and talked to him after the devotional for about twenty minutes. It was so great. It just helped to get us all excited for leaving in a few weeks. And wow, Men's Chorus is awesome. They sang a bunch of Christmas songs, some that I knew and some that I did not, but all of them were incredible.
Czech district with the Men's Chorus returned missionary who served in the Czech Republic
  • We also found out on Sunday that the "A Savior is Born" video is in CZECH! This is pretty much the most significant thing has ever happened for a Church website in our opinion. It is seriously so great to watch that in Czech. Super cool.  A Savior is Born (in English!).. a short 2 min video worth your time!
  • On a sadder note we are losing two of our teachers for the last week (since it is Christmas week). It is very sad. Our 3 teachers are super great, and we are going to miss all of them when we go to the Czech Republic, but they are so excited for us.
Our Czech District with our teacher
  • I saw Elder Brown a few more times, including on Monday before he left, so I got to say a quick goodbye for the next 2 years.
  • The Elder Pickle ornament is awesome! I will take a picture of my Christmas stuff, Starší Chadwick and I decorated the other day when he got Christmas stuff too.
  • Starší Chadwick and I have our own room made for 6. We are also the zone leaders. So we were told that we would probably have an early arriving Polish Elder (in our zone) from England. So we set up a bed in our room, no big deal, and just hoped that he would not arrive in the middle of the night. He didn't. Tuesday morning we got a call from the front desk that our new Elder had arrived and we should come to pick him up. So we went up there and started looking for the Elder with the English accent. But there wasn't one. So then we asked if there was an Elder going to Poland, and there was! He was from Alaska though. So after we were done being confused, we took him back to our room and got him all set up and put him in with the other Polish people who have been here for 7 weeks. And then continued on our merry way, off to lunch. On our way into the cafeteria we received another phone call. The Redcoats arrived! Well, just one, and he was wearing a suit, so not really. But our English Elder was here. So we scrambled to get him all of the necessary materials, and steps for check-in and bartered and stole blankets and what not (basically just politely asked if anyone had any extras) and got him a bed set-up. And then had a late lunch and we were late to class, but it was all good. And then, at 10:10, we received ANOTHER phone call. The other Elder going to Poland from Alaska had arrived! So, we again scrambled to get blankets together and find room to store his luggage in another room for the night, because we were a little full. Basically in the end, we planned on 1 Elder, and 3 arrived instead. It was crazy fun. Quite the adventure.
  • Spiritual thought for the week/challenge. During our devotional on Tuesday, Elder Lynn G Robins of the 70 came and spoke. He talked about a whole lot of awesome principles in Preach My Gospel chapter 6 (great chapter). One thing specifically was the idea of "to-do" lists. He suggested we should not just have a "to-do" list, but also a "to-be" list. Which is impossible to ever check off. But what you can do is set weekly "to-do" goals that will help to aim you to your "to-be" goals. Very good advice. So my challenge to you all is to choose something you want "to-be" and then set a weeks "to-do" list to point you in that direction. He also talked about that we can not fully realize those "to-be" goals without the Enabling Power of the Atonement, so rely on that as well.  Elder David A. Bednar’s talk in Oct 2004 General Conference for a testimony building message about the Enabling Power of the Atonement

Love you all, thank you for the support and letters! The love I have received this week is from the Goolds (lots in the past weeks) the Hollands (yummy dear elder cookies) the Sirmans (Christmas card) the Lewis (Christmas card and fun letters) Sobczak (Christmas card)

- Starší Pickett

In honor of Star Wars opening, here is my attempt to use the Force to get MTC pictures. 
If I am on the computer when Starší Brad is emailing, I can have a short back and forth exchange.  Here’s my favorite Starší showing me that the Gospel is stronger than the Force.

Starší Brad: Also, I don't have any good pictures this week unfortunately... I am working on picture taking, but we take them at random times when I don't have my camera!

Mom: Okay.  I will be needing the emails of the Moms who get all the pictures then.  I hope Sestra DeMann comes through for me this week.  She is a pretty dependable photo sender!! (and the pictures this week ARE from Sestra DeMann!) More more more pictures.  I can never have enough.  That is all I want for Christmas.

Starší Brad:  Yes, I will work on that. Omlouvam se. That needs an accent mark that I can't do on this computer. She is good, yes. My companion may have a few that I can steal from him.

Mom:  Can you send me some of Starší Chadwick’s pictures please?  We have needs over here.

Starší Brad:  I will do my very bestest.  I might not send any pictures this week! Sorry, but I am out of time and without Starší Chadwick's camera.

Mom:  There is no try… only do.

Starší Brad:  No, in the gospel there is also try.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Finishing Week 6- Language, District and Zone Fun!

The famous MTC Map Picture we have been waiting for!

Ahoj everyone! This week has been really, really fast. And weird. And eventful. And not eventful. Confused yet? Join the club. This email may be a bit shorter than normal because I have to plan a lesson while doing laundry while also emailing. It is an adventure to say the least.
Big updates for the week:
  • My companion and I were called as Zone Leaders. We have no idea what we're doing. Not really, we're good. We have giant binders that help us to know what to do. As well as the Spirit. That one is a little bit more important. Basically, here is the breakdown. There are districts. Each district here is made up, more or less, of people going to your same mission. There is a district leader for each. Just one missionary. All the districts in our branch make up our zone. And they call a companionship to be Zone Leaders because there are multiple districts in the zone. So we have a phone! That can receive calls from the front desk and random telemarketers who do not speak English. Literally that is all. It does nothing else. We cannot make any calls, view messages, or do anything whatsoever. Basically they trust us, but not really. They just might need to get a hold of us. We also have meetings on Sunday. So instead of Sunday morning being really relaxing until after breakfast, we have the busiest schedule that morning out of our whole week. But it's okay, because it is a great opportunity. We are both learning to love and serve our zone more than we already did, and we are becoming more aware of individual circumstances. It really a great blessing. We also got to handle new missionary orientation yesterday. We had 3 Sisters and one Elder arrive. Basically we help them to not feel super overwhelmed and be their friends. It was a lot of fun.

Starší Pickett & Starší Chadwick- MTC companions

Sister Heap got some reindeer antlers. The rest is history. (Czech Elders)

Sestras from our Zone with the famous antlers

  • The Bulgarians (6 Elders) and the Croatians (2 Elders, 6 Sisters) left this week. That was very sad. Because with them, we won't have any chance of seeing them until after our missions finish, but they were still in our zone and we have spent the last 6 weeks getting really close to them. But it's okay, we wouldn't actually want to take anyone away from the missions that they have been called to. Maybe.

Sweater Saturday- this is our old Zone of Elders before they left!

  • I met up with Elder Brown to take the legendary Map Pictures. They are so famous that they deserve to be capitalized. He told me I have gained weight and I look it. I have actually. About 5 pounds since week 1 or 2ish. I'm not sure.  Apparently that makes my face look fat.

Elder Jeremiah Brown (South Carolina Columbia Mission) and Elder Pickett

  • We had a party with SYL this week. Speak Your Language. We try to speak in Czech as much as we can. We usually hold off at dinner so that we can actually talk to the other people in our zone, but interestingly, we can usually understand the Polish and Slovakian missionaries quite well. So we had a dinner SYL party basically. It was a real good time. Because oddly enough, no one understands any Czech, Slovakian, or Polish unless they are learning one of those languages. So basically we could say anything and no one could understand it. It was good times.
  • Our lesson with Martin last night was incredibly entertaining. We challenged him to start reading the Book of Mormon last week, and he was freaking out about how dumb Laman and Lemuel are when we asked him how he liked it. He got super animated and was using hand motions and everything. It was amazing. My companion and I were dying.
  •  I have a suggestion for Book of Mormon scripture reading. Before you read, write down a specific question that you have. About the gospel, about life in general, about whatever. And then watch how you will receive revelation on that question as you read. It will be awesome. I have tried it.
  • My language update: So Czech is amazing. One of my favorite things about this language is that if you say something and it sounds like stupid or weird, that's not the correct way to say it. They make it so that it has to flow well and sound amazing while it is being spoken. It is awesome. We learned a difficult grammar principle called "to, co" last week. It doesn't translate well into English, but I will try to explain. Example sentence: "I understand what you are teaching." In Czech, because of casing that sentence has major problems. So the way you change it is: "I understand that, what you are teaching." It is difficult because it is so incredibly different from English that it takes kind of a lot of thinking ahead, while also forming the sentence in Czech with vocab and casing. But I used it correctly, twice in a lesson last week! And it was wonderful. However, in the same lesson, I mixed up the word for more and nothing. And I told our investigator we were going to say nothing about Joseph Smith this lesson. So yeah. Basically, there are a lot of ups and downs with the language and I know that I just have to be patient. It will come. It is also very helpful to be able to laugh at my own mistakes. Another funny one was my companion mixed up the word for breakfast and easy, and almost said it was not breakfast for Joseph Smith to receive revelation. Which I guess is almost kind of accurate. But still not.
  • We got to Skype with members in the Czech Republic! That was super awesome! This keyboard does not change to Czech so I cannot type his name, but he was really awesome. He is a college student from Brno. It was super fun to get to Skype with him. And our teachers knew all of the people that we were Skyping with. Also fun fact, the verb to Skype in Czech is Skypovat. For real. I could not make that up. I Skype is skypuju. I think that is rather wonderful.
  • Spiritual thought for the week. Watch and share the Christmas video. The Church has an AWESOME Christmas website and video and everyone should go watch it. We got to see it during a Devotional a few weeks early. It is super cool. The most important part of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Presents, trees, lights, decorations, and spending time with family are all great, but we cannot forget that all of those things are vastly overshadowed by the birth and Atonement of our Savior.
I love you all, thank you for the love and letters, packages and prayers, and support and singing. (I don't know how accurate that last one is, but I wanted to continue my fun alliterativeness)
-Starší Pickett 


Journal writing party spot

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Finishing MTC Week 5 I Guess?

It just does not seem like it has been nearly long enough that I have actually been here for 5 weeks. The MTC is awesome and I am a huge fan. Very sadly our zone is shrinking drastically next week. On Tuesday we will be losing all 6 of the Bulgarian Elders and the 2 Croatian/Serbian Elders and the 6 Croatian/Serbian Sisters. They came in 3 weeks before us and so we have spent the last 5 weeks getting close to them, only to have them leave to missions we aren't going to. So basically volleyball is going be sad. And our zone table is going to be very small. But it is alright because most of them are unbelievably ready to leave, and we wouldn't want anyone to get MTC cabin fever and go insane.

Czech, Slovak and some Croation and Bulgarian Elders 
(the Croations and Bulgarians are leaving this week)

The majority of this email will be dedicated to Thanksgiving, because it was awesome. So, here is how the day went.
PDAY: We had Black Friday on Thursday in the laundry room. It was complete insanity. Basically they told everyone who had a Thursday P-day to go Thursday morning to do laundry. Not sure the thinking behind that one, because it literally became a free-for-all in that room. I waited behind a Sister and as soon as she took her clothes out I started loading mine into the washer. Then she tried to offer it to her friend, only to turn around and realize I was already putting my clothes in. That is how crazy it was. But we got our clothes loaded and all of that, and got them into dryers too.
Devotional with an Apostle: Then we went to the devotional with Elder Oaks. Yeah, an Apostle. No big deal, it happens at the MTC. We're just cool like that. So that was just a little bit fantastic. It was also like Black Friday getting into the devotional, but it did not take away form the Spirit that was there. It was very cool. His whole extended family performed some amazing violin/cello/guitar/piano songs and they were stellar. I heard from a random person (this is how the MTC works, you can't fact check anyone) that she is considered one of the best violin players in the world. I would like some independent confirmation on that, if someone could make that happen. (Note from Mom- I did confirm that Elder Oak’s daughter is Jenny Oaks Baker, a Julliard trained Grammy nominated violinist with 13 albums to her name! I was able to email back that confirmation to Brad!) But either way, she was amazing. After the devotional we went back to our classroom and studied.
This is where my 1st challenge of the week comes in. We had a gratitude challenge from our zone leaders (who are amazing) to write down 20 things we were all grateful for. So I started doing that and then I decided that I had way more than 20 things to be grateful for. So I wrote 50. I think that is enough to get the general idea of the fact that we have so many blessings that we can and should appreciate in our lives. So I challenge you all to participate in a gratitude challenge. To take a little time to sit down and write out 50 things that you are grateful for in your life. Big things, little things, whatever comes to mind. For example, I put the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I also put good whiteboard markers. So there is a whole ton.
Thanksgiving Meal: After our study time we went to our Thanksgiving lunch feast. It was quite good. Not nearly up to the Pickett/Allison Thanksgiving, but it can't be when the food is being prepared for over 1,000 people. I did really miss Grandma's delicious jello, they did not have anything even close to that. And Apple Cider. But overall, a great meal, and a great place to spend it at.
SERVICE: After lunch we attended our service devotional, where we had two speakers about service and about our service project, making meals for needy families and children. Then the A group (not me) went and started the service project while the B group (me) stayed in the devotional room and watched 17 Miracles. Let me just tell you, that is a humbling movie. Kind of makes you feel like "Maybe I should never, ever complain about anything in my entire life ever again." If you haven't seen it, go watch it. After that we went up to our classrooms and ate
our Thanksgiving dinner feast of PB&J's, chips, fruit, and soda. But it's totally fine, because we felt very glad we weren't eating burnt rawhide or flour with water instead. Also there was a rather obnoxious Elder in the hallway who was trying to be funny and so I started speaking Czech to him instead of English. That was quite enjoyable. Oddly enough, no one around here other than the people who are learning it understand Czech...After our Thanksgiving feast we went to do service. That was super fun. We had a big missionary assembly line going and we were scooping out different measure of food. It was really awesome. I love service, it is great. We got the total later that night, in the MTC we made 357,347 meals. Not too shabby.
MTC Devotional:  After service we had a big devotional all together again. It was the strangest MTC devotional I have attended. Good, but also strange. They had some displays of musical talent that included an awesome organ solo, the song "Rubber Ducky" complete with a Sister who could actually make the rubber ducky sound. And there was also an improve jazz piano duet that was quite snazzy. They also played the song "Glorious" sung by David Archuleta and I think some people might have had heart attacks and died from excitement. I may or may not have been one of them. After that we got candy canes and then went out to all the Christmas lights to take some pictures. I did not have my camera, but I will procure those photographs at some point. That was Thanksgiving. Overall, it was one of my favorite days since I have been in the MTC.

Other important things that occurred this week:
  • I did see Elder Jeremiah Brown yesterday, we hosted in the morning, so I did not see him then, but I saw him as I was walking into dinner. We are going to be taking a picture on Tuesday, and I will make sure to get one of myself by the map as well. Super fun to see him.
  • We had Temple breakfast this morning. If any of you live in, near, or basically within 500 miles of Provo, get off the computer and drive to Provo immediately, and enjoy the savory deliciousness that is an egg and cheese omelet from the Provo Temple cafeteria.
  • Czech is such a wonderful language. I did not have any too embarrassing slip-ups this week, but my companion told our investigator that the teaching of Jesus Christ could bring him "four" instead of "happiness." In the Czech the difference is "čtyři" versus "štěstí." Our investigator was just a little bit confused. Casing is still just a little bit insane, but we have decided to be happy we are not learning Finnish. I have heard that going from English to another language, Finnish is the most difficult in the world to learn. Because it has not 7 cases like our feeble language, but 12. Or possibly 15. I have heard 2 different things. Either way, both would prove fatal to basically everyone. Poor Finnish Elders. We pray for them.
  • Apparently a favorite hymn of the MTC is "If You Could Hie to Kolob." We sang it at the Sunday devotional and everyone got extremely excited. That was fun and sort of random.
  • Sunday was AWESOME this week. The topic for lessons and talks was Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Such an incredible topic. We could study it for our whole lives and never stop learning more. Writing a talk for it was a very enjoyable experience. As part of this awesome topic, I give my final challenge of the week. Some of you may be receiving 3 challenges from me this week (Luckies!). But this one is very important. Read Elder Holland's talk form the April 2015 General Conference. It is called "Where Justice, Love and Mercy Meet" and it is superb.

Oh. My. Goodness. The Christmas cheer package is amazing. I did indeed open up my Christmas sweater early, for sweater Saturday purposes of course. Christmas tree is up in our room (our teachers' boss is a Scrooge, so we can't have it in the classroom.). The mandarins were completely and utterly beautiful. Sooooooo great. And the Nativity is, of course, up. In our room, because apparently even that is too much Christmas for Scrooge Jones. Unbelievable. That is all for this week, hope you all have wonderful spiritual experiences, and thank you all for the love, support, letters, and packages!
-Starší Pickett

Friday, November 27, 2015

"Have a Good Week! And Have a Blast!"

Missionary name tags from the whole Zone!

Dobrý den! Jak se máte? That means "Good day! How are you all?" Fun fact though, the "How are you all?" has a great direct translation. It actually means "How are you having yourselves." And you answer with "Mám se dobře!" which means "I am having myself well!" Fun things in Czech.
Updates for this week:
·  The MTC is the best!  Honestly spending almost all of my day learning is pretty much a dream come true for me.
·  It is official, I have not even gained 1 pound in the last 2 weeks since I weighed myself. I feel so lied to about the MTC food.
·  My companion briefly lost his room key and someone from our zone found it.  Instead of immediately giving it back they took it and used it to sticky note our room while we were gone.  Not too shabby either. They also gave the key back anonymously this morning so we still don't know exactly who it is.  We have some theories though.

    • My companion and I taught some excellent lessons this week. We may have gotten the sympathy card since he was dying of the plague and sounded like it. But he's good now. We challenged one of our investigators to be baptized and she said yes! So that was pretty awesome.
    • On Friday was our teacher Bratr Knapp's birthday. He wouldn't tell us, but our other teacher told us right before he left for the night. So Saturday morning when he came in there was a very large drawing of a cake and Happy Birthday in Czech (we think). And we got him a brownie and put it up next to the whiteboard, and then drew a candle over it. He refused to blow out his birthday candle, and we were rather upset about that. I have pictures if this computer is willing to share them with you all.

    • On Sunday my companion and I taught Priesthood. And then taught at our District Meeting (which is basically MTC SundaySchool). And then he gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. Basically we were just trying to receive every blessing that we possible could.
    • I forgot to share in the last email, but we hosted for the 1st time last Wednesday. That was pretty fun. We are also hosting next week when Elder Jeremiah Brown will be entering into the MTC. If I see him I'm going to fight people to host him. (not really, I'll actually just walk up and say "Hey, I know this guy. He's a friend of mine. Can I host him?" And they'll let me.)
    • Elder Pickett the missionary hereby decrees by the power not vested in me to make decrees that from this day forth, Monday November 23rd will be termed Revelation Monday. This decree goes into effect as of Sunday November 22nd. Also please note that only when November 23rd falls on a Monday is this day called after this name. This decree goes into effect because Monday was super spiritual and super awesome! We don't have a P-Day due to Thanksgiving this week on Thursday, so we got to go the temple Monday morning. And let me tell you, there is absolutely no better way to start your day. So go to the temple people, it is a great place.
    • I credit Elder Paxton from my district with what might be the best worst pun I've ever heard in my life. "Pragueably." I don't even feel the need to explain anything with that. I will allow it stand alone as the masterpiece that it is.
    • Now for some language fun. I started reading one of our Czech grammar books and I feel like every time I do my brain sort of explodes. It is fabulous. I learn a ridiculous amount and it explains soooo many things that we've come across, but haven't yet learned. Amongst such, I am learning a bunch about pronunciation. Czech people are smart. Also, their language is amazing. One of these things is the word "kdo," which means who. In Czech k=k sound from English. Except sometimes. For purposes of easing pronunciation, in the word "kdo" the k sound changes to a g sound. Which seems really bizarre, but actually makes the word flow better. Especially because that word is 1 syllable long. Another fun Czech thing, there are 3 ways to say I like/love something. Libit se means a superficial kind of like. So you like someone's tie, or a city. Also with that one you say that thing you like first and conjugate the verb for "it is pleasing to me" basically. Like "me gusta" in Spanish. The next one up is usually reserved for living things you can actually have a relationship with and it is mít rád. The literal translation of it is "I have gladly ___." The final one is milovat. Which is reserved for people you are married to and God and Jesus Christ basically. Because the connotation of milovat is that you would die for that thing that you love. So we use it when we teach about how much God and Jesus Christ love us. And that is all.
    • It has been confirmed, we are getting a devotional from an Apostle on Thanksgiving! We are just a little, tiny bit freaking out about how amazing that will be.
    • Final thought for the week comes from the choir director. He is pretty much the coolest guy I know, and I don't even know him. He is super entertaining and injects a lot of humor and then a lot of spiritual aspects into the music we are singing. For example, Nearer My God to Thee is actually all about Jacob's Ladder. Fun fact. Which I found out about 2 weeks ago. But he shared a thought from Elder Scott, that was shared at the MTC pulpit. It is "Have a good mission. And have a blast!" So that is exactly what I intend to do. I feel like we can say the same thing about life. So everyone, "Have a good [week]. And have a blast!"

Our impressive stash of food in our residence hall   

                Bowling alley on top of closet

Love you all, thanks for all the letters and packages and support! Hope you are having a blast in Utah partying it up! Surprise, I am emailing a day early! Thank you all so much for your letters. I feel bad that I am not really able to respond individually, but know that I appreciate them very much and love hearing from you. Also thanks for the awesome package! Mints are the Caroline, sorry, but since I don't get a P-day this week, I am not sure if I will be able to respond to your letter until next week! We just have so little free time to write letters! Also, the Nativity is up in my classroom, which is where the Christmas tree will be going too, to bring joy to my entire District. I am excited for that. This week has gone by ridiculously fast. I can't even believe it. Seriously time here is utter insanity. Also, I have some people I would like you to thank for me. I can't remember if I told you about the Sugdens, they sent candy and an object lesson on faith. Grandma has now sent me 2 letters and I haven't been able to respond yet! Yikes. I will get on that one. Also the Browns sent me a giganto tub of Redvines. Also note that the computer is not telling me to fix the word giganto. Why is this? I feel reasonably confident that giganto is not actually a word. Other than that, I am doing great, and I think I can send some pictures too!
Sweater Saturday!

-Starší Pickett

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MTC Week 3- Czech Out This Language!

Close up picture of Starší Pickett's missionary tag 

Sweater Saturday... Brad's Zone of Elders practicing their European GQ look!  
Elders going to Czech, Slovakia, Poland, and one going to England, Slovakian speaking

 Ahoj! This week has been pretty great. Lots of fun things to talk about. It seems really crazy to think that I have already been here for 3 weeks. Seriously, the space-time continuum is broken above the MTC. That's the only explanation I have. Also, I have a new appreciation for the phrase "in the world but not of the world" from the scriptures. Because technically speaking, the MTC is right next to BYU, and is part of Provo and all that. But in actuality...Not even close. Someone hears some little bit of news from the "outside world" (we actually call it that) and no one has any way to verify it, or to find out anything else about it. It's very interesting.

Czech Elders

Highlights of this week: the good, the bad, and some other stuff too:
  • We are now teaching to investigators being role-played by our teachers. And our lessons on Friday and Saturday were on point. It was awesome. Our investigators were asking questions, we were actually able to understand and answer (miracles do happen!), it was so great. It's fun to actually have enough knowledge of Czech to have real lessons instead of just we read a script and hope really badly that they can understand what we are saying and don't have too many questions.
  • On Monday morning we woke up without power. That was quite an adventure. All of BYU campus lost power for a little while. We got it back about 7 minutes later, but it was still very exciting for us.
  • On Saturday night I had a dream where I was trying to speak Czech to random people. That was a little bit different. I have also had a dream in the MTC about trying to teach people in English. Which is interesting, because we don't ever get to do that here. All of our lessons are in Czech.
  • Awesome fact about the MTC. The song Armies of Helaman, which is the super awesome one about missionaries and all that, we sing it often. Weird. But when we do, we change the line at the end of the chorus. The original is "and we will be the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth." In here we sing it as "and we are now the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth." Chills every time. It is a super awesome song and I feel the Spirit every time we sing it.
  • I have left the MTC twice this past week. My companion is sort of dying of the plague, so we've gone to the doctor's here and then walked to the BYU health center to pick up some prescriptions for him. But he's probably all good now. We mostly think.
  • Choir is super cool. The director is phenomenal and we sang an awesome song. I wasn't in it this week, because I was practicing for a small group performance of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in Sacrament Meeting. Also, the choir seats are not good. They are terrible. Really far back and super uncomfortable. Our zone enters by a side door and snags 2nd row seats right in the middle for every devotional. 
  • Fun things about the language now: The word pokoj. It is pronounced pokoy. Because, obviously, j's are actually y's in Czech. What does it mean? That is a very good question. It means peace. Or room. Depends on the context. The problem I have is that I forget that it means room. So when our teacher says she's going to look for a room, I think she says she's going to look for peace. It's a little bit confusing. Another fun story: I mixed up the verb for "to have" and "to be able to" during a lesson. I accidentally told our investigator that "God can body." So that was different. Also, a fun fact for those of you who are linguistic enthusiasts, most people think that Russian and Czech are very close languages. They are, sort of. But not really. The closest is obviously Slovakian, but the second closest is actually Polish. Cases have begun. They are ridiculous. It is not absurdly difficult to do when writing out a sentence, but when you are trying to speak and case at the same time, forget about it. That's where it becomes sheer lunacy.
  • The Injury Count: I am getting over being sick (congestion, coughing, sore throat, etc.). So that's fun. And then Saturday. Ahh Saturday. What a strange day that Saturday was. First off, I was not paying attention while reaching into the toiletry bag of my dreams (we ordered one on Amazon that looked great... and it ended up taking 3 weeks and about 30 emails back and forth to get it delivered.  Hence its name.), and I accidentally grabbed my razor by the blade instead of the handle. Note, this is a very poor life decision. So I lost a little chunk on my skin on the side of my finger. But it's fine now. Also, while I was playing volleyball during gym, I was not my most coordinated self. I went up for a sweet spike attempt, and I came down a little...awkwardly. So I was walking it off, it was all good. But then by body decided it wasn't all good. So I went upstairs and threw up in a trash can. That was good fun. But it's ok, I'm totally fine now. For those of you keeping tally at home, you may be asking why they ever let me out of the house. I swear I am not usually this accident prone. Saturday was an off day for me. Except teaching. We had a really good lesson. It was an off day for my coordination I guess.
  • Spiritual thought for the week. This week we had Elder Kim B. Clark of the first Quorum of the 70 come speak on Tuesday. He use to be President of BYU-I, and someone asked about RMs. He said that the biggest mistake that he saw from RMs was that they treated their missions as a 2 year episode instead of a foundation for their lives. So my challenge to myself and to all of us is to not treat great spiritual experiences as "episodes" but as foundations. Our baptisms, going through the temple, girls camp, high adventure, wherever it is that we have had great experiences, they should be a foundation for our testimonies and faith that we continue to grow and nourish for the rest of our lives. Conversion is a process, not an event.
  •  P-day next week (which will fall on Thanksgiving Day!) will be P-day in the morning+extra/different stuff in the evening. 
  • When the last group of missionaries left the MTC for the Czech Republic, 3 went straight over to Czech, 2 followed late, and 4 got reassigned stateside to be "visa waiters." Most trouble they have ever had with Visas.  (I mentioned to Brad that the refugee crisis in Europe will be making the visa process slow and more scrutinized I am sure.  Please pray for missionary visas and all the refugees who are fleeing for safety.)
  • Thank you Mom for the package by the way! My companion and I set up a bowling alley on one of our cupboards. (we sent him a table top bowling game and a memory card reader... which is why we have PICTURES this week!!)
That's all for this week, thank you all for the love, support, letters, emails, DearElders and packages. Also, please thank the Allisons and Sugdens for their packages. I am working on writing to thank people, but I have very little time to do so!
Love you all!
-Starší Pickett

Our classroom. That is where I spend up to 11 hours of my day. Depending on the day of the week.

Elder Anderson and I ended up with matching Mr. Mac ties on!

This is my case card. The front is the one with the Czech flag. Every noun follows one of 11 pattern words. Every adjective also. And then they all case differently if they are plural versus singular. Also, all pronounces and possessives case. Also, some verbs automatically mean you case what come after it to a certain case. And some certain words. And THEN, some cases causes "mutations" that make it change. It's good times. Our teacher told us cases are going to be difficult for the next year. I will most certainly have more funny stories of language mistakes.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The MTC Defies Real Time!

The top picture of Brad's MTC District... all 6 Elders (Staršís) and 4 Sisters (Sestras) are going to the Czech Republic at the end of December!
The next picture is "Sweater Saturday."  This is the whole Zone.

Two weeks in and the MTC still ROCKS! Time in this place is the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. Each day feels ridiculously long. Seriously you lose track of which meal you just ate and which meals you have left. It's crazy. But then the weeks themselves feel like they are passing extremely quickly. I feel like I just got in here very recently. Like maybe a few days ago. Certainly not 2 weeks ago. It makes no sense. And then there is the added weirdness of the fact that I feel like maybe I have actually been here for my whole entire life. It's such an odd anomaly here.

Some things that I forgot to include last week:
  • Our zone is cool. I said that, but I have more to share on this topic. We have a zone table in the cafeteria that we take over and eat. It's a real struggle when new missionaries show up on Wednesday because they don't understand this fact and so sometimes we have to show our dominance by fighting them. (Not really, we just show up early and make sure we get it first at the next meal)
  • Also we do zone singing together on Saturday nights. Anyone can choose some hymns they want to sing and then we sing them all together. It's good fun. Also we have Sweater Saturday and take sweet pictures. Hopefully I will be able to get some sent.
  • To echo every single missionary ever: "Sundays in the MTC rock!"
  • My companion and I are the only ones in our room. That is made to fit 6. Not sure how long that will last, or how we were blessed with that, but it's a pretty sweet set-up for the time being at least.
New things from this week:
  • Breakfast at the Provo Temple is delicious. If you have the means, I would highly recommend picking some up. It is so choice. My personal favorite is the ham and cheese omelet. Yummy, yummy, yummy.
  • We got a 3rd teacher, Sestra Donaldson. She's cool, but she likes us to keep our desks clean. And that is a struggle. Our desks have these little metal cage things underneath, but are not really built to store that amount of stuff that we have. It's like a fiendish game of Tetris trying to fit it all in. Also, Sestra Godfrey is how my other teacher's name is actually spelled.
  • Apparently I remind my teacher Bratr Knapp of a combination between an Elder he knew from his mission, and his uncle. He says I look like his uncle, but my mannerisms are more like the Elder. Really not sure what to do with that information, but I now have it.
Class time with Bratr Knapp
  • Weight gain in the MTC is a real thing people! Everyone warns you about, but I had my doubts. Now I see what a fool I was! Since I have arrived I have gained...Less than 3 pounds. Actually, technically I don't even know how much I originally weighed according to the scale I used to weigh myself. So really I have no clue. But from my parents bathroom scale to the one in the MTC gym there is less than a 3 pound difference. Woohoo.
  • This week our Visa waiters headed off to the Czech Republic. They left Monday, really, really early in the morning. We miss them because they helped us translate sentences when our teachers weren't there.
  • We now have 2 "investigators" we are working with. They're cool. We ran out time on our lessons with both of them. That was a little bit unfortunate. But we will teach more soon. I am understanding Czech well enough to respond and have legitimate back-and-forth dialogue with our investigators. Our lessons are no longer scripted. We can take in a few vocab words, but they don't want us to just read phrases, and they ask us questions that would make it impossible to get by with just a script. It is really awesome and I am loving it.
  • If anyone is in need of hearing some AWESOME church music, look up Nearer My God to Thee and find the arrangement by Gregory Lawrence Duffin. We sang in the choir and it is fantastic.
  • We had Elder Montoya of the 70, who spoke at General Conference come and talk to us. He made a reference to all the Inigo Montoya memes that came out after conference. That was pretty entertaining to hear him bring up. Always great when General Authorities discuss pop-culture.
  • Language stuff from the week: Thursday in Czech is Čtvrtek. For your Czech lesson this week, in almost all cases, you pronounce every letter for every word in Czech. Which just makes that word sound a little bit absurd. Also, smrt means death. Notice, there are no vowels. Apparently those are considered optional. Now sure exactly how, but it just is. Also, there is a Czech equivalent for Hakuna Matata! It is (WARNING: may be incorrectly spelled) v pohodě. And you pronounce the v and the p together. It's a little bit tricky. And the ě is pronounced like yes. It is a great word. One of my favorites.
  • Spiritual highlight of the week: Teaching is very tough. We are only somewhat conversational, and it is difficult to answer questions. But my companion's and my best lesson by far was when we told our own personal conversion stories in broken Czech. Written out, and then we read them to our investigator. That was the lesson where we could most feel the Spirit. What to learn from this is that it does not matter if you are fluent. It doesn't matter if you are the most eloquent speaker. It doesn't matter if you struggle with pronunciation and grammar. The Spirit speaks to our hearts, not to our ears, and when we testify and bear witness of truth, the Spirit will make up for our own shortcomings. In short, we put in all that we can and have faith, and the Lord will magnify our efforts beyond our own abilities.
Please pass along my thanks to the Hacketts and Picketts for the letters/cookies/pictures, and Anne Tavernetti, Cathrine Goold, and Kyle Utterback for their DearElders.

I saw Elder Joseph Sobczak yesterday (a friend from our ward in Roseville). We are on the same floor for classrooms. Because we have 10 people learning Czech, we got moved away from our zone for class and we have a sweeeeet classroom. I will make sure to get a picture with him soon.

Thanks for all the letters and encouragement, love you all, and have a great week!
-Starší Pickett
MTC laundry room & computer time

Melinda note:  Pictures for this blog entry thanks to Sestra DeMann (one of the sisters in his District) since Brad is having “issues” with sending pictures to me!  From Brad:  One of the Elders in my District has a memory card reader which is really finicky and it does not work on most of these computers. They are straight up communistic. We can't get onto the control panel of anything. We open up the home menu thingy and we can turn off the computer, look at the 3 or so available programs so I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MTC- Week 1

Ahoj rodina! That is Czech for "hello family," although the grammar may be off. More on that later. The MTC is sweet! We have lots of good times in here. It's a lot of work and we do a lot of learning and stressful stuff, but we also have a ton of fun while we are doing it. 

Highlights of the week: sand volleyball. My zone is awesome. My district is awesome. Czech is such a cool language. Devotional Tuesday night with Elder Richard J Maynes from the 70. My favorite thought by him was that the First Vision was basically just the first missionary lesson of this dispensation. Joseph Smith was the investigator, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were the first missionary companionship. That was a cool way of thinking about it. Other highlights: Lots of letters from the family. Cookies from Hannah. Ice cream whenever I want.

My District includes 10 missionaries going to Czech Republic. 6 Starší (Elders) and 4 Sestry (Sisters). We also had 3 Starší visa waiters when we got here. One got reassigned and the other two are leaving soon.  (The District is pictured in the 2nd & 3rd pictures)
Our Zone is made up of people going all over. 6 Sisters and 1 Elder going to Poland. Several learning Bulgarian. One Elder going to Macedonia, which currently has 8 missionaries in the whole country. He is learning Bulgarian, because it is very close and there is no Macedonian teacher. We have 4 Elders learning Slovakian. But one is going to England, speaking Slovakian. One Sister going to Slovenia. That is pretty much what I know. (The Zone is the big group in the 1st picture at the Provo Temple)
My companion is Starší Chadwick from Provo, UT. He is number 7 of 13 kids. Plus 5 adopted kids. If you can do that math, you have realized that makes 18 children. He is cool. We get along really well. Even though he is really different from me.

Here is a schedule of my week.
Class starts at 7:45 goes to 11:45. This time is for personal, companion, and language study. No teacher, but we have access to TALL, an online learning program for Czech vocab and pronunciation. Class resumes after lunch, this time with a teacher. We have two teachers. Bratr Knapp and Sestra Godffrey, they are both really good. Return missionaries from the Czech Republic. Our teachers speak almost exclusively Czech in the classroom, which is both extremely helpful and extremely challenging at times to follow/understand directions. In the afternoons we sometimes teach our "investigator" Terezie. Who speaks nothing but Czech to us. Quickly. And we have to try to respond and teach. It is very difficult, but she is also very nice about it. My companion and I were able to give her a Book of Mormon our 2nd lesson, so that was cool. We teach her every day except for Sunday. We learn grammar and stuff in the afternoon and/or teach. 

Gym time is at 3:30-4:20. Every day that we are allowed to, we go outside for volleyball. If not...volleyball inside the gym. My companion plays basketball, so we do splits, he goes with another basketball guy and I go with our District leader to volleyball. We went outside yesterday, when it was so cold that I wore pants and a sweatshirt, and by the end of gym time my feet felt like they had frostbite and needed to be amputated. But it was all good. Because a lot of zone goes out to volleyball together and it is AWESOME. So yeah, gym is cool. After gym is dinner and after that is more class. In case you have noticed the pattern, we do a lot of class time. 5:35-9:30 is that one. If we didn't teach in the afternoon, we teach during that time. Our teachers switch off between afternoon and evening, and one is pretty much always there.

Tuesday morning we do service (we clean another residence hall, toilets, sweeping, mopping, trash emptying, vacuuming and whatnot) Tuesday evening are devotionals where the heavy hitters come and talk. This Tuesday we got Richard J Maynes. I missed Elder Neil A. Anderson by one stinking day. After devotional we do district review, where we share thoughts about the Devotional until 9:30.

Thursday is preparation day. Wake up, eat some food and go to the temple at 8. Temple was awesome today. We did an Endowment session. Laundry whenever. Basically after the temple we have free time until dinner. Then after dinner we have the Teaching Resource Center/class. TRC we don't do yet. It's where you teach member lessons to people in your mission language. Like a home teaching lesson basically. We can't actually teach fluently, so we will just have more class. That goes until 9:30

Sunday is Sacrament meeting & District meeting. We talk about things that we want to change in our District or do better on. Temple walk, study time. Sunday night devotional .Movie (inspirational talks. Watched Character of Christ Sunday. They have all the new missionaries watch it. It's a Christmas devotional by Elder Bednar. Phenomenal) Then we have mission conference (whole MTC). We talk about missions oddly enough. And that's my weekly schedule.

Language-Czech is awesome. It is also really difficult. Some fun facts, you probably did not know about Czech. The pronunciation of "c." Is it like cats? Nope. Like city then? Nope. It is pronounced oats. Because reasons. Also Starší is pronounced like Starshy. The í makes the sound like meat. Also "ř" is madness. It is entirely unique to the Czech language. And it makes absolutely no sense. It is like a rolled r combined with the s in pleasure. Into one sound. Somehow...Shout-out to my Spanish teachers. Although Czech is nothing like Spanish, they taught me how to learn another language and understand grammar and all that jazz. Oh, and about the first grammar thing I said. Starting in a few weeks we are going to learn what cases are. There are 7 in Czech. It basically means that every noun and adjective has 7 different forms. That are used according to who knows what. Hence why rodina may be the wrong word there.

Thank you for all of the letters and what-not. Love you all!