Wednesday, December 25, 2013


So I am in the MTC on Christmas.  Unlike most missionaries, I don't get to call home this Christmas.  I instead get 20 minutes of extra email time.  I don't get to see my family; I don't even get to hear my family.  I only got a few presents from loved ones (which I enjoyed greatly) and I really wasn't able to give any.  Now this may seem like a terrible Christmas to a lot of people (and many missionaries are having a rough time with it, too),  but I, for one, am loving it.  We always say to keep the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts but for this Christmas I get to bear it on my nametag.  Even though I don't get a lot of presents and I don't get to see my family, I get to spend the entire day thinking about Christ.  As a missionary, my purpose is to "invite others to come unto Christ."  Jesus Christ is what Christmas is all about.  His birth, his life, what he did for us.  As a missionary, my purpose is essentially to invite people to have Christmas.  So even though when I am home from my mission, it will be great to have all those Christmassy things again.  I am grateful that for this one Christmas, I get to think about nothing but the Savior.  I know that Christ lived.  I know that He atoned for our sins, and I know that He died that all of us could live with our Heavenly Father again.  I hope that you all think about that today if just for a moment as you are going about all your grand festivities.  Just take a moment to be still, and think about the greatest gift you have all been given.  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.  Feliz Natal and I love you all.

Elder Russell  

Christmas Eve

Hello Everyone,

The MTC is a cool place to be on Christmas.  Since my P-day is Tuesday and we are just having devotionals on Sunday pretty much, this is about as close to a weekend as I am going to have for a long time.  We are having General Authority devotionals both Christmas Eve night and Christmas day.  They don't tell who it is for security reasons so obviously rumors abound.  From one person or another you can basically hear that any of the Quorum of the Twelve or the First Presidency are coming; or if you talk to the right person, probably, that all of them are coming.  The most common rumored speakers are President Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar, but there is no weight to these rumors in the slightest.  Whoever it is, the only good thing about being in Provo instead of Sao Paulo is that I get to go to the Christmas Devotional in person so the whole thing oughta be pretty cool.  

In other news there is no word on my visa.  No one in my district has received one and only two of the eleven in the district older (by older I mean been here longer) than us in our zone have there's.  But it seems to be hit and miss.  Out of the two districts that entered with Elder Hayden Hedworth, an elder from my home ward also going to Brazil, seven got their visas immediately.  But I have a better chance than many in my district.  Elder Stotts and Elder Mitchell have both not even completed their paperwork for their visas so I have a better chance than some I guess. 

Overall the MTC is simply the MTC.  We practice and learn and things go on faster and slower than you would ever think they could at the same time.  This is a nice place but I hope I leave on time.  Six weeks is enough.  I can't wait to actually be a missionary in the field, whether in Ribeirao Preto or visa waiting in the US.  Teaching people the gospel is all I really want to do right now.  Plus since I have had to do it entirely in Portuguese while I am here, I can't help but think it will be super easy in English if I visa wait. But I know that is just me being a bit prideful.  But either way I love you all! Feliz Natal. 

My Companion, Elder Mendoza, and I

This is the whole district.  From right to left:  Elders Booth, Mitchell, Stotts, Buchele, Voorheis, Wilson, Russell, Mendoza.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In the MTC Week 2

Hello everyone!
The MTC is an interesting place.  You can definitely learn a lot here.  It is really incredible what someone can do with God's help and when they work hard. That’s not to say I like it much.  I think I would much rather just have all missionaries come here for two weeks and then be off to wherever they are going.  Obviously my Portuguese is not great yet but I feel like it isn't going to get that much better until I am actually surrounded by Portuguese speakers.  But with visas the way they are that could be a while.  However, the visas are getting better.  A district from our zone just left and three of the eight got their visas before they left.  It used to be only half that many were getting them before they left. I am hoping most of my district is able to get it before they leave but we are all kind of in different parts of the process from what I can tell.  

There are some very weird things about being a missionary.  Like for one thing, I am already feeling weird about my first name.  When one of the other Elders in my district asked me what it was, it sounded weird when I said it.  I am also almost more comfortable in a suit then jeans now, but only almost.  

One of the biggest miracles I have seen since I got here is that following the rules is very important.  I have gone to bed at 10:30 every night since I got here and while a lot of other Elders who were often more lenient with their bed times have had trouble with the long hours, I have felt as refreshed as ever.  It’s not like I am really getting that much more sleep or some kind of super human, it is just that the Lord really does bless us when you do what we are supposed to.  I know this because last night I went to bed maybe ten minutes late and I slept right through the alarm.  My companion had to wake me up.  Some times I don't understand all the rules and they are hard to follow but it makes a difference.

I hope everyone is doing well! I know this is where the Lord wants me right now and I know this is what I am supposed to be doing.  I love you all.

Elder Russell

 P.S. I will send some pictures next week when I finally get the SD card reader that I need.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Saga Begins

The Saga Begins. . . in the MTC

The MTC is an interesting place.  Even though there are a lot of rules there, no one checks up on you to see if you follow them; it is all on you. I really like it.  It is really the first time in my life that I really feel like I am being treated like an adult.  Strangely enough, no one in my district is from anywhere in the west.  My companion is Elder Mendoza who is shorter than me and kind of an awkward guy occasionally, but he will talk to anyone right away which is something I can definitely learn.  He is from Georgia.  Then there is Elder Wilson and Elder Voorhies who are both from Texas.  Elder Wilson is the more average-crazy-state-pride Texan (though not annoyingly so), but Elder Voorhies is a plant.  He has grown up all over the place and he somehow manages to make a connection with just about everyone he meets.  He will be a great missionary because of that.  Then there is Elder Mitchell from Kansas.  He is the biggest guy in our district. He basically decided to come on a mission because he didn't have anything better to do, but he is here and he is working his hardest.  Elder Buchelle is his companion and he is kind of an awkward nerdy type, but he is very smart and has a great grasp of the language already (at least as far as a week of learning goes).  The final companionship in our district is Elder Booth and Elder Stotts.  Elder Booth was a wrestler in high school and I would have to describe him as quite ripped.  More importantly he has a very strong testimony and came here ready to work.  Elder Stotts is our district leader and we also call him the district dealer since he also has medicine if you need anything (and I mean legal stuff, he is not an actual dealer).   He also excretes more gas out of his body from both ends than anyone else I have ever known. 

Overall I have enjoyed my first week in the MTC.  I am learning Portuguese faster than I ever thought possible.  Learning Spanish really does help, especially with things like conjugations because they are very similar.  The hardest part is pronunciation.  My favorite word is diligentemente (try it out in Google translate for Portuguese because it is pronounced nothing like you probably would expect).  Overall the hardest thing is wanting to learn faster and not being able to, but I will get there.  I just have to have more patience.

I love you all.  Elder Russell