First letter and email from Elder Brinkerhoff:
"Hi! I'm sending out a quick letter to you to let you know how I'm doing! Things are very busy and fast-paced here at the MTC. These past two days have felt like a week. We've learned so much. My companion is Elder Johnson. He, I and 3 others in our district are going to Kennewick and it's a great bunch! I will write more soon by email most likely. I'm sorry, I wish I had more time to tell all about it. We had loooooooong meetings today and we've barely had time to do anything we need to. I am senior companion. :o) Hope everything is going well! I love you!"
(Typical day at the MTC!)
(The following email was a general email sent out to many people):
"They said we would all say that after my first day at the Missionary Training Center. It was a whirlwind of new buildings, new people, new food, new experiences and a new life.
"I have never felt the spirit more strongly than here in the MTC. We have very long days, but they are worth it. Each day feels like two. I've only been here 6 days but it feels like forever. Most of us are anxious to go to our missions and we can't wait to begin. I don't know how people who are here 6--9 weeks learning languages do it! They must be losing their minds. ha ha! The classes we have are intense, but so profound and helpful. The instructors explain the MTC as a big fire hose in our faces and we're only able to catch a little water in our mouths to quench our thirst. I'd say that's fairly accurate!
"Well, the language is coming along slowly but surely!
"My teaching skills are coming along slowly but surely. We are being taught extensively from "Preach My Gospel" about teaching and there is much found within that inspired handbook that I've never realized. My companion, Elder Johnson and I, have taught a few role-play discussions and tonight we are teaching either a real investigator or a recent convert. The church pays people to come in to help us develop our teaching skills. I'm sure grateful I've spent so much time with the Elders back home because it has been a big help during these role-plays. My district is good and my companion is good too but we all have so much to learn over the next 8 days.
"There are a lot of headstrong 18 year old Elders and emotional 19 year old Sisters roaming the halls. Sometimes they get a little weird. I hope they give us classes on being mature and learning some things not to say...
"The buildings are numerous, very big and hard to get used to but you learn quickly. We leave for Washington on Tuesday, July 15th. Five in my district (including me) are heading to Washington, and the other 3 are going to Eugene, Oregon. We've really bonded well over the past week.
(Going to Washington!)
"We've had the chance to attend some great conferences and devotionals. I don't know if the church publishes the MTC conferences to Youtube, but you might try looking for them. They have been great for anyone who listens! We had a man named Josh Wright, who is a very accomplished pianist, play a few pieces for us last night and there have been many Sister and Elder musical numbers that have just been incredible. There are many talented people here. Many internationals come, too! They are very brave to come all the way to Provo! We watched a previous devotional from Elder Bednar on "The Character of Christ" that was great! Everyone needs to watch it. We have "devos" on Sundays and Tuesdays. I'm hoping a general authority comes while I'm here!
"The temple is closed until the day I leave (lame) but we went on a walk to the grounds and took pictures and stuff. I have taken some pictures but not many yet. There just hasn't been much time! I thought there would be a place to insert my photo card on the computer but there's not so I'll have to send those a little later.
(Elder Brinkerhoff and Elder Johnson)
"The members of our district are very funny and crazy so life here is never boring, but many are slacking a bit unfortunately. They are having a tough adjustment. I surprisingly haven't had too hard of an adjustment here. The hours we go to sleep and wake up are vastly different, but I've had no problem. As long as you have something to laugh about during the day it usually helps you keep a positive mind. Independence day here was cool! We had a devotional about our founding fathers and the pioneers and then they showed us "17 Miracles" on the big screens as a surprise. We were able to stay up late to watch the fireworks at the BYU football stadium from the gates of the MTC.
"Everyone should serve a mission. All my life I thought it would be so hard! It is a challenge, but at the same time it is so easy. As long as you are doing what is right and have a Christ-like attitude, you have no problem! There are a lot of good people here and I will miss them when it's my time to leave. If you have any questions for me, I will get back to you next P-day!"
More Pictures at the MTC:
Exerpts from other MTC letters/emails:
"The MTC is both better and worse than I expected. It definitely has its ups and downs but it's a good experience! I highly recommend all who are approaching missionary age to go. You only need sparks of a testimony and a willingness to grow. Everyone is so helpful and kind. It's a big family here and I will miss my district next week....Nowadays I feel it's so important for all young people to do it. It is not easy, but it is worth it. To explain how much it has helped me in just a week, I now feel that I only had sparks of a testimony and now it's a flame that is continuously spreading. I learn something new everyday. It is the best spiritual/learning experience I've ever had. No high school seminary class or Sunday school lesson has done more than my MTC classes have. It is beautiful how it works. Looooooong classes where you learn the basics and how to teach simply; fake lessons/investigators that train you up and teach you so much; free, great food; a clean family environment; good friends; great teachers and free time/personal time. Oh! and no one but teachers have cell phones so the classroom environment is so much more focused! I love it! It is amazing to see so many of these Elders learn and grow, too! My roommates, Elder Stevens and Elder Rosenkrantz are great guys and had a cool experience today. Elder S. is from Mesa and has had a rough adjustment. He wants to be a good missionary, but he isn't very confident. Elder R. however is from Las Vegas and is full of confidence and will be a great teacher. Elder R. prayed for Elder S. to progress and become better, even if it meant taking from himself to do it. Well, for the past couple of days, Elder S. has been on fire! Things are clicking with him and making sense and he does so well now. Well, funny enough, Elder R. has had a horrible past couple of days. He hides it well, but opened up to us today during class after asking our teacher Brother Fairclough if Elder S. could give him a blessing. We all stood in on his blessing and it really helped Elder R. Find comfort through his struggles. It was also Elder S's first time giving a blessing of that sort. It was a pretty incredible feeling to see their bonding and interaction as companions. They are both so fun and make us all laugh. We have had 2 devotionals so far that have been amazing! A man named Josh Wright came and performed a few piano solos for us. He is a professional pianist and he blew us all away. I'm not sure whether I've heard about him before, but I think I may have heard one of his songs on one of your CD's, Mom. He did a beautiful arrangement of "Clair de Lune" and "How Great Thou Art", together in one piece that I love and I'm thinking you may have....Then, last night we had Neil L. Anderson come and speak to us about faith and things not seen. It was a powerful message. I tell ya! There's nothing like being in the presence of an apostle of the Lord while he bears his testimony of Jesus Christ. I was hoping for an experience like this before I left the MTC. Apostles come quite often nowadays I hear. He and his wife came straight from Europe just to speak to us and then went right back. They obviously feel that speaking to us is important! We were told by Brother Brown, from here in the MTC, that there is an Elder here who was feeling very discouraged and wanted to go home but they felt impressed to ask him to be a door usher last night. He is going to a mission in South Dakota. Well, when Elder Anderson was leaving, he stopped. He went back over and shook the young Elder's hand and told him, "Best of luck to you in South Dakota, Elder." Then he left. How incredible of a story is that? Elder Anderson was impressed to do that and knew where he was going without asking!
I haven't felt the spirit more strongly than here in the MTC as a missionary. I hope it stays with me through the rest of my mission. I will do all I can to keep it with me as strong as it is now. I bear witness to the power of prayer and the blessings of obedience. I know that the Lord loves us and opens our minds when we do what he asks and I can name so many times where doing something hard has helped me so much. I have never (and I say NEVER) gotten more out of the scriptures and "Preach My Gospel" in my my whole life than in this past week. I can't believe it's already been a week tonight since I first got here and that in a week I will be in Washington. The new missionaries arrived today and now we're the old group. ha ha! It's crazy how fast it goes. Dork dots seem forever ago!
Things here have still been busy, but we've had a lot of free time now that the gym is closed for maintenance and because our "Teach Real Investigator" sessions are over. We taught this guy that I'll tell more about in my email on Monday. It is really intense here. You learn a lot and get forced out of your comfort zone very quickly. We have so many practices that after a little more than a week I am pretty much a pro now at teaching.! ha ha It's been incredible. I've got the whole 1st lesson basically down and I know how to street contact and share a brief message. It's pretty awesome. We've had some interesting dynamics in our district and our zone lost half the people last Monday but we've really bonded and ended up gaining a lot more new zone members on Wednesday, dork dots and all! ha ha. It feels weird to be in the old group now.... Oh! Funny story...My district leader and his compaion locked themselves out of their residence today, but I'll get more into that in my email. We also cleaned toilets. So fun!
Well, it's my last full day at the MTC. I leave for Washington tomorrow. My travel group is 22 missionaries in all and I heard it's the 2nd biggest this week. We had our departure devotional last night where we all listened to President Nally and other MTC admins. speak. It was great and we learned a lot!
We were so happy to learn yesterday that the Provo temple opened back up today. Elder Johnson and I went and did an endowment session there this morning. It was great to go and learn and feel the spirit. It was very beautiful inside. A temple worker said that this is one of the busiest temples in the world! I was glad to be a part of that today!
This week, Elder J. and I had the opportunity to teach a man who is a member of the church, but he pretended to be an investigator for us. We taught him 4 evenings and only got through lesson 1 because he talks so much, ha ha. It was a great learning experience and we really learned and grew a lot from doing that.
We had in field training which was long and boring, but we learned a lot from that too.
On Tuesday we were privileged to hear from Elder Anderson!! It was great! He spoke about faith and the things felt but not seen. My favorite part was when he bore his testimony about the Savior and His gospel. They have a devo every Sunday and Tuesday. Since we're leaving tomorrow just my luck Elder Holland or someone will come....ha ha I don't even want to know who it is.
(Picture of Elder Anderson)
We had to say goodbye to our teacher, Sister Hutchings, this week. She served a mission in Houston, Texas, and now teaches here. She brought a lot of great insight and knowledge to our minds and helped us a lot. We will miss her class. We will say goodbye to Brother Fairclough (pronounced like "bear-claw") tonight. He is an amazing teacher too! Sad times....We have been teaching them this week, too. Sister H. pretended to be a woman named Shannon and Brother F. pretended to be Brady.
(Elder B. and Sister Hutchings)
(Elder B. and Brother Fairclough)
On Friday, our district leader and his companion both locked themselves out of their residence halls while they were showering and didn't have any roommates around to let them in, so we had to go get a key for them. They didn't have any shoes or name tags or anything so it was pretty funny. Kinda embarrassing to have to ask for a key to another room though. ha ha!
We had several times this week where some of our district members felt extremely discouraged and had the opportunity to stand in on blessings their companions gave them. It's been great to see how everyone bonds and develops as mature people and friends. Especially in such a short time here.
On Sunday, we had a crazy moment where I ran into an Elder Brinkerhoff from Utah. We asked each other where the other was going and he is going to Washington, too! Different mission, though. Turns out his companion (also named Elder Johnson) is going there, too! What the heck? It was so crazy that we had to get pictures with each other. It was pretty funny! I've even ran into 3 people I know here! Didn't expect that!
(Seeing double! Elders Brinkerhoff, and Elders Johnson! ha ha)
(Elder Brinkerhoff and Elder Nic Poulsen from Nampa!)
We do a lot of role-plays here. This week at one point we role played a missionary helping a member of the church to role play asking a less active friend of the fake member in the role play to help the less active member come back to church during the role play. Uh, lets just say it was confusing then adn it still is....
We had a devotional at the Marriot Center of BYU where we listened to Richard I. Heaton speak. He used to be the President of the Washington, Spokane mission and he now works at the MTC. Lots of members of my zone left for Australia this morning and it was sad to see them go. Lots of good people here.
I really wish I had more time to write but these are the highlights. I had so many great experiences this week. Thanks to all who have contacted me! I love getting mail either through email or letters. Love, Elder Brinkerhoff."