First off, thank all of you SO much for the pictures that you sent with Nick's package. That was amazing to receive. They all made me smile so much. I was particularly happy to see everyone wearing a fur hat...though I'm not quite sure where you got ahold of that. It was great to see the Lewisville Stake Institute too!
Yesterday was a big day! We got our Ukrainian nametags!! It's a huge deal when you've been here long enough to get your nametag in your actual language. The ones we had before say 'Cectpa Dunford' and then "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' in Ukrainian, but these new ones have our names in the Cyrillic alphabet. We're not allowed to wear them in the MTC - we have to wear our English ones, but still! We have them! So exciting! Everyone is jealous of my name because I have an 'f' in it, which is one of the cooler-looking letters in Ukrainian.
Elder Oaks came to the MTC last night to speak to us. It was honestly one of my favorite talks since we've been here - the topic was the sacrament. Since the talk was broadcast at every single MTC in the world, it was definitely more formal than Elder Holland's was - Elder Holland had mics set up for people to respond to his questions. But Elder Oaks had the teleprompters and it was obvious that he had put a great effort into this talk. It was magnificent. He talked about the sacredness of the ordinance of the sacrament, and how preparing yourself and worthily renewing your covenants is essential to us being able to have the spirit with us always. He mentioned that we should remember the promises within the sacrament prayers, pointing out that a 18 year old, baptized at the age of 8, has heard the prayers over 500 times. He even made note of the fact that the prayers were too sacred for him to repeat at that time, which really opened my mind to a new perspective. How often do I take the time to think about the sacredness of those prayers? Then he told us that every member of the church should have both of the prayers memorized, not just the priests blessing the sacrament.
Pretty much all I have to say is that I will now look much more forward to that time of having the sacrament each week - our branch gets there early enough that we actually start early (because we can). Our branch president, President Cranney, talks about how whenever he went to training sessions as a mission president, they were asked to arrive half an hour early. Most people showed up 40 minutes early, and then the general authorities would start the meeting around 35 minutes early...wow. Anyway. I want to get there as early as I can (there's a branch that meets in the same room before us), and just think about how sacred and important the sacrament is to me in my life.
Sunday, we had President McIff, a member of the MTC presidency, speaking to us about staying healthy as missionaries. He said that at any one time, 37 of missionaries throughout the worldare out of commission because of illness, injury, or more. Gave us tips such as exercising daily, taking weight sets out of our apartments, and most importantly follow President Hinckley's council, and "Don't do anything stupid!" He told us a story about an Elder in the NYC South mission that tried hurdling all of the trash cans on a street and ended up fracturing his pelvis...I will do my best to be more intelligent ha ha ha. Apparently, they're going to add "some of that X-90 P stuff" into the new missionary health guides soon. :) We all giggled
We learn more about Ukraine from our teachers all the time, particularly our teacher from Ukraine. It's fun because you really have to get her to warm up to you before you get her to smile a lot... "People in Ukraine don't smile a lot." "Why not?! Can we smile?" "Yea, but everyone will know you're American."
We found out later that Ukrainians don't get recess, and we think that's why they don't smile...
I have the first vision memorized in Ukrainian now! It's so amazing! I get to the point where I feel so smart and then we listen to a conference talk in Ukrainian, and we feel really dumb again....ha ha ha
PS all of the Bible videos online, on LDS.org are AMAZING. GO watch them. They are so wonderful. We watch them on Sundays. Also, we watch the spiritual crocodiles video all the time because we like to see wildibeasts get chomped on by gargantuan beasts. It's a good talk by President Packer. We watched it in seminary and I honestly think I remember seeing that talk when he gave it...I don't know maybe he gave it before my day. Anyway. Also, we've seen The Testaments enough to quote it pretty accurately..."You are a spector from the gods...and the gift of your hands will grant me immortality! Walk with me." - so much funnier if you hear us quoting it. Sorry, I realize I've turned to missionary humor. :)
I love you all very much and hope that your Wednesday is going very well! Have a great day!
-Cectpa данфорд <-- Ukrainian! WOO!