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