Week 1 – MTC

 

Malo e lelei! It’s been one week and a couple days since I entered the MTC. A lot has happened in such a short time. We attended the Provo Temple, had Elder Bednar talk to us for Sunday devotional, met all of our amazing branch presidency, and played a lot of 4-square, but I feel impressed to go into detail on one specific story:

Since last Friday we have been teaching an investigator named Elisapeti (Tonganized version of Elizabeth). The first lesson was terrible. Elder Mahe was able to make some conversation but I could only read a few scripted lines I took from a book. We gave her a pamphlet and asked her to read it, I think. The next lesson was better, but still very scripted. I asked a couple questions and read some scriptures but couldn’t understand anything Elisapeti replied back with.

We had heard that most of the investigators were just actors, but Elisapeti seemed legit. Elder Mahe said her Tongan was really good and she seemed sincerely interested in our lessons. She must just be a good actor though because we found a Tongan hymnbook in our classroom with pictures of her wearing a missionary name tag. We laughed pretty hard about that. Unfortunately we didn’t take the third lesson so seriously because of that and it was almost as bad as the first.

On Tuesday Elisapeti walked into class and introduced herself as Sister Fotu, our new teacher. She laughed when we told her how we found out she was a fake investigator. Sister Fotu is studying social sciences at BYU to become a high school teacher and it really shows in class. She taught us grammar rules using hand gestures and had us walk outside pointing at people and describing what they were doing. She and Brother Fisher are both great teachers.

On Wednesday Sister Fotu walked in early to class and asked if we were ready to teach her “friend” Elisapeti. Elder Mahe and I had a rough sketch of what to say and ask, but no prepared script to rely on. I felt confident though and decided to bring only some vocabulary and my scriptures. We walked in, said hello and I asked if we could begin with prayer. Elder Mahe prayed and then I asked Elisapeti if she knew about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. She responded with “so-so”, so I explained that God prepared the Atonement because He loves us, and that through Christ we can repent and be made clean. Christ has suffered pains and sorrows so that He can help us overcome our trials and weaknesses. Elder Mahe read Ether 12:27, which talks about bringing our weaknesses to the Lord and turning them into strengths, then asked Elisapeti some questions which I don’t remember. Eventually he asked if she would commit to being baptized, to which she said no. However I invited her to attend church and testified that if she did, her faith and testimony would increase. She agreed. Elder Mahe and I were super happy even just for that. I then closed with a prayer where I thanked God for the Atonement and asked Him for strength and for the Holy Ghost to be with us. That was my first unscripted prayer in Tongan and as I closed, I felt the Spirit burn strongly within me. Even though my Tongan was slow and broken, and Elisapeti isn’t even a real investigator, I was so happy to be able to teach and invite her to church in a language I barely understood, but knew enough to be able to testify and invite the Spirit into our lesson.

The strength of the witness I received then reminded me of when I got home from school this last semester and emailed my stake president telling him I now desired to serve a mission. Although I had decided to serve a couple months previous, I didn’t receive a really strong witness that it was the right thing to do until I actually resumed the process of preparing my mission papers. I have learned a significant lesson from these experiences. Until you exercise faith and act, whether that be praying or submitting your mission papers, you will receive no witness that what you are doing is right. Testimony only comes from sincere, faithful action.

Hope everything is good out in the real world. Exactly one month until I leave for Tonga!

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Author: Elder Patrick Watts

I am serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission.

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