Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 8, 2016 My first couple days in the Missionary Training Center have been awesome!

January 8, 2016

Dear family and friends! My first couple days in the Missionary Training Center have been awesome! It wasn't too hard for me to say bye because I know that what I am doing is right! My companion is Elder Belnap and he is from Twin Falls, Idaho. He is super funny and he definitely has a different personality than me. It is awesome learning how to work with different people and learning to love them despite our differences. My district consists of me and 5 other elders, and 4 sister missionaries. All 6 of the elders are going to the Washington D.C. South Mission so I am super excited to get to know them because I will likely see them all later on in my mission. Their names are Elder Belnap, Elder Jones, Elder Hart, Elder Meldrum, and Elder Norton. The sisters in my district are going to the Chicago, Illinois West Mission. I already feel like a family with my district. Speaking of my district, I was assigned to be the District Leader yesterday after meeting with our Branch President, President Lords. I am super excited to serve my district in this capacity! My zone consists of 3 districts with about 10 people in each district. Some of the missions that these elders and sisters are going are DC South, Chicago West, NY NY North, some in Los Angeles, and a couple others. I am already learning and growing so much. The spirit is so strong here at the MTC and I know that the programs here are inspired by the Lord.
I arrived to the MTC on Wednesday along with 400 other missionaries. It seemed a little overwhelming the first few hours but I found comfort in the knowledge that Heavenly Father knows and loves each of us personally. All of the new missionaries had a meeting with the MTC presidency Wednesday night. While all 400 of us are all going throughout the world, some learning languages, and others speaking English, they stressed the importance that all of us will be learning an additional language: the language of the spirit. President Burgess taught us that we all can and will learn how the spirit works with us individually. We all learn and recognize the spirit differently, but as we study and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ with sincere desire, then we will be able to learn how the spirit works through us. In our first meeting as a zone, we all went around the room simply testifying of Jesus Christ and what we know to be true about Him. It was awesome listening to everyone testify of Jesus Christ, his life, example, Atonement and resurrection. It was cool to focus our first night on Him, because He truly is the root of our work as missionaries. As we share the gospel with others, we will strive to teach, serve, and love just as He did.
On Thursday, we studied A LOT and we practiced teaching A LOT. We went to different classes where we learned about the missionary purpose and how to best work with people. Our purpose as missionaries is to "Invite others 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." I learned that the best way to be able to teach people is to first love them, get to know them and their needs, and then follow the Spirit as we teach them. On Thursday night we met with our branch. Our whole branch each went around sharing brief testimonies of what we know to be true. Branch President Lords wanted us to speak no longer than a minute, so it was really interesting to see what people focused their testimonies on. Everyone bore simple testimonies on the basics of the gospel: that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God, that Jesus Christ's gospel and His authority was restored back to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a living prophet Thomas S. Monson on the earth today who receives divine guidance and revelation from our Father in heaven, and that we can pray to God to know these things to be true. Listening to everyone bear powerful testimonies about these basic doctrines of our church brought comfort to me. One thing that I worried about coming into the mission was not having the best scriptural knowledge, particularly with the Bible, but that's okay! I might not know a whole lot, but I know enough. It reminds me of 1st Nephi chapter 11, where Nephi is asked "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" and he responds by saying "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." Nephi recognized that he doesn't know everything, but he focused on what he did know to be true. He simply testified that he knows that God loves all his children. I would like to echo Nephi's testimony that God DOES love all of us, and he knows us, and he wants us to return to live with Him. I know that receiving, accepting, and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is how we can return to live with our families, in the presence of God, forever. I know that Jesus Christ died for each one of us, and because he suffered, we don't have to. Because of Him we can repent be cleansed of sin. Because of Him we can receive eternal life. Because of Him we can find comfort, peace, and happiness in this life despite everything that we may go through. I don't know everything, but I do know enough. I know that as I learn to focus on the basic doctrines of the church, and testify of what I do know to be true, that I can be an effective tool for the Lord to work through. I know that there are people waiting in northern Virginia that are waiting for me and my testimony and I can't wait to get out there and work!
My district flies out to D.C. on Wednesday, January 20th! Two weeks from the time I arrived on January 6th. That's not a lot of time here, but I am trying my best to M.T.C. (make time count!).
Love you all!!

-Elder Duvall
Left to Right: Elder Belnap, Elder Duvall, Elder Meldrum, Elder Norton, Elder Jones, and Elder Hart

Left to right: Duvall, Jones, Hart, and Belnap

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