Monday, September 30, 2013

Greetings from California!

Greetings from Rancho Cucamonga, California!  Actually, greetings from Apple Valley, California, since that's the area I've been assigned to.  Surprisingly, Apple Valley as a distinct shortage of apples and valleys.  Who would've guessed?

I left the MTC early Tuesday morning and arrived safely in the mission field.  A lot of the new arrivals in this transfer are visa waiters, so I'm definitely not alone.  We have no idea how long we'll be here.  I've heard missionaries who are here for a month and there's a missionary here right now that's been waiting for four and a half months.  There's also a greenie that got his visa two days after getting into the field but he has to wait for the whole transfer to leave.  So, I really have no idea how long I'll be serving here.  I figure if the Lord wanted me to have my visa then I'd have my visa, so I know that I'm supposed to be serving in Rancho Cucamonga right now.

I try not to tell the members here that I'm a visa waiter.  A lot of them don't know that it takes a long time to get a visa so they assume when I tell them that I'm a visa waiter that I'll be gone within the next week or so.  I'm going to be here for a while and I want to get to know the members better and gain their trust and that's a lot harder to do if they think I'm going to be gone in a few days.  The only time it comes up that I'm waiting on a visa is when they read my nametag, ask about my time at the MTC, or my companion brings it up.

Speaking of my companion, his name is Elder Escamilla and he's been out here for almost a year.  He's a great trainer and I'm learning a lot from him.  He's from Georgia and has a little bit of an accent.

So, the Rancho Cucamonga mission is divided into two geographical regions with about half of the missionaries serving in each.  There's the valley and the desert.  The valley looks like how you'd expect typical California to look like.  There's palm trees and grass and lots and lots of fast food chains.  The dessert looks like, you guessed it, a desert.  Guess which one I've been assigned to?  That's right!  The desert!  While I'm growing to love my area, as someone who comes from the Evergreen state this might be the ugliest place I've ever seen, haha.  When my companion first told me we were in the desert I thought, "Oh, what a cute nickname for the area."  Nope.  It's not a nickname.  It's just the truth. It's so dry out here that people don't even have grass for yards, they just have dirt.  There's cacti and tumbleweeds and I haven't seen a single cloud in my whole week here.  It's truly amazing that people are able to live here, because there's no reason that this place should be inhabitable.

My apartment is a tiny little living area behind a member's house which we affectionately the Apple Valley Manor.  It's about the size of my family room back home and that includes living area, kitchen, and bathroom.  We don't spend too much time in the apartment though so it's really not a problem.  Besides, there are people all over the world that have a lot less.

For the few months that I'm here I'm on bike.  A lot of the elders drive cars down here but some of us are on bike.  I actually don't mind being on bike.  Since our ward now has two sets of missionaries the area's been split in half, making our area pretty small.  It's only about three miles by three miles, so it's easy to get wherever we need to go.  Besides, I don't even know how you proselyte effectively in a car.  Tracting as a method of finding is highly discouraged nowadays, so how Elder Escamilla and I spend our time is we compile a list of ward members that we want to visit that day, whether they be active or less active, and ride around to their houses.  While out riding we just stop and talk to anyone that we pass on the street.  It's so much more effective than knocking doors.  We've already found a whole family of people who want to be taught just by doing that.

Since my address is subject to change while I'm out here, the best place to send mail is the mission office.  Once it arrives there it will be forwarded to wherever I'm currently staying.  The mission office address is 6541 Woodruff Place, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 91710.

My P-Day is Monday, so you can expect a weekly letter from now on.  I'm excited to be out in the field and I'm having a lot of fun!

Your friend,
Elder Carter Morgan

Thursday, September 19, 2013

California here he comes!

We just received word that Carter is being temporarily assigned to the California, Rancho Cucamonga Mission!  He's pretty excited and probably fitting as it's not too far from Disneyland!  He flies out Tuesday morning and we will let you know his address as soon as we get the details.

(This pic is the one that his district titled "The Face of America's youth."   I swiped it from a blog of another missionary--Sis. Culpepper.  She's hilarious by the way.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Final Week

Hello from the MTC!  It's my last week here and I'm really excited to go out into the world and to preach the gospel!  Unfortunately for all Brazil-bound missionaries, Visas are incredibly hard to get so I'll be reassigned to the states for a while.  Our district will receive our reassignments this Thursday and we're all really excited to see who goes where.  We've all put our guesses on a piece of paper and tacked it to the bulletin board in class and we're going to have a little party when we open them.  It's gonna be great!

Tomorrow we have the opportunity to host incoming missionaries.  That means that we get to show the new arrivals around tomorrow and help them get their books and things like that.  I'm really excited to do it, especially because I know how hard it is to leave everything behind to come serve the Lord.  I'm excited to help other missionaries ease into the transition and to help them feel comfortable here at the MTC.

Portuguese is still coming well, but I'll admit that it's harder to focus on learning it when you know that you probably won't be speaking it for the next couple months.  I still study everyday though.  In fact, yesterday the elders in our district only spoke Portuguese for the entire day.  It was difficult, but I was able to learn a lot of new words and to communicate fairly well with other Portuguese speakers.  It made me excited to proselyte in Portuguese in Brazil.

Well, due to the way email time worked out this week I don't have too much time to write.  This letter is pretty short, but I'm doing well here in Provo and I'm excited to serve in the mission field wherever that may be.

Your friend,
Elder Carter Morgan

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's been a month already!

Sept. 10, 213

Greetings once again from Provo, Utah!  I realized that this Saturday will mark a whole month of me being a missionary!  That's crazy!  The days are long here, but the weeks are short.  Sometimes it seems like the whole MTC has gone by faster than one hour of class, haha.

Things are going well here with my district.  We've made a lot of process and each day I can see little miracles from the Lord helping us to keep going.  We've become more organized and spiritually uplifting.  It's been a great opportunity to serve with them as district leader and I'll be sad once I leave them.  Although, I'm sure that sadness will be balanced out by the thrill of actually going out into the field.  The MTC is great, but we're all just aching to share the Gospel with real people.  Our district will most likely not be going to Brazil at first, though.  None of our visas have come yet and we're not really holding our breath.  We'll be reassigned to a domestic mission until we receive our visas.  We're all really excited, though!  What a blessing to be able to preach the restored Gospel in both your native and your new tongue!  It'll be a great opportunity, no matter where we end up.

I had the good pleasure of seeing Elder Soper, Elder Erickson, and Sister Arnett this week.  It was nice to be able to talk with all of them and to see a little piece of Vancouver here in Provo.  They're all doing great and seemed really happy.  It was cool to be able to welcome Elder Soper and Sister Arnett to the MTC.

We had the opportunity to teach another district that's a week ahead of us the first discussion.  For those of you who don't know, the first discussion is about the Restoration of the Gospel and is my favorite discussion to teach.  We taught individually, not in companionships, and it was so cool to teach.  After I finished the lesson I realized that throughout the 15 minute period that I hadn't thought in English for one bit.  I was able to teach the whole lesson by thinking in Portuguese, not by translating from English to Portuguese in my head.  I've only been here learning Portuguese for three and a half weeks!  It was a testament that the Gift of Tongues is real and that the Lord truly has his hand in this work.

On a side note, the sisters in my district took a picture of me at the temple and have decided that I'm "the face of America's youth," whatever that means.  It's a title I will bear with honor.

Email time is limited here and I have to move my laundry anyway, but I just want to say that the work is great.  I feel bad for any young man that has the opportunity to serve a mission and willingly gives it up.  It's such an amazing opportunity and I can already feel the blessings in my life.

-Elder Carter Morgan

PS--he loves getting mail!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Adventure Continues...

Oi!  It's P-Day once again so I have the opportunity to email back home.  P-Day's are a little weird, because it's refreshing to get some time to ourselves, but I don't feel as accomplished at the end of the day because we have a lot less study time.  But hey, you gotta do laundry and get your haircut sometime, haha.

Even though I learn less on P-Day, it's one of the best days of the week because I have the opportunity to attend the temple.  Our district gets to go first thing in the morning and it's an absolutely fantastic way to start the day.  In a work that is so consistently focused on others and always being with someone it's nice to have a time set aside in the week to exclusively focus on my relationship with our Heavenly Father and our savior, Jesus Christ.  The peace that I feel in the Celestial Room is absolutely fantastic.  It's not like other days in the mission where I feel rushed or sometimes stressed, it's just a quiet peaceful time to commune with my Heavenly Father and reflect on the events in my life.  I can't even describe the blessings that come from regular temple attendance and I wish I had attended the temple more often when I was back home (especially because the Portland Temple is beautiful and us Northwesterners make sure to remind the rest of our district of that fact.)

It's been an exciting week here at the MTC!  Since we are officially halfway done with our MTC time our old district leader was released.  He did a great job and it was a fantastic learning experience to have him lead our district.  And guess what?  I was called to be the new district leader!  It's been a lot different from other leadership roles that I've held in the past.  For starters, I'm one of the first 18 year-old missionaries to ever serve that hasn't been away from home.  There are a lot of 18 year-olds here, but most of them have done at least a semester of college first.  There's only one other elder in my district that just graduated high school, so it's been interesting to lead a group of missionaries with ages ranging from 18 to 22.  It's been a humbling experience to be called of the Lord to lead my district and I pray every night for the Spirit and the gift of discernment.  I testify that our Heavenly Father will bless us if we pray to Him in faith, humble ourselves, and plead for righteous purposes.  I've seen His help daily here in the MTC and I know that He's looking out for each and every one of us.

Last Tuesday we got to hear from Neil L. Anderson, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles!  It was exciting to be addressed by a man who holds all the same authority that the Savior's apostles of old, like James and John, had.  After he spoke he came into the crowd and shook hands with a lot of the missionaries.  I was sitting too far inward in the bleachers to get the opportunity, but it was still great to see an apostle of the Lord in person.

Portuguese is still coming really well.  I find it easier everyday to put together more complex thoughts and to communicate with the Spirit to our mock investigators.  The grammar of the language comes really easily to me so I'm mostly just working on expanding my vocabulary, especially with verbs.  Reading The Book of Mormon, or O Livro De Mormon, in Portuguese also helps a ton.  It's an excellent study help and I would encourage all missionaries that are learning a new language to start by reading The Book of Mormon.  It's a powerful tool both in conversion and study, and I bear witness of its divinity.

Speaking of The Book of Mormon, I can't say enough how much it has blessed in my life.  I'm so glad that I took the time before my mission to not only study it as scripture, but also as a historical text.  It's such a fascinating book and it gains a whole new level of complexity when you view it not only as scripture but also as a record of people who really lived who had thoughts, emotions, and motivations.  To anyone preparing the serve a mission, I can't stress enough how important it is to missionary work.  It's the most correct book of any on Earth and it is compelling and powerful evidence of the restoration of the Gospel.  Through it we can gain a testimony that our Heavenly Father loves us, Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was God's chosen prophet to open up the last dispensation.  I know with all my hear that The Book of Mormon is the word of God and that we can get nearer to Him by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.  I know this to be true and I would stake not only my life but my eternal salvation on it.  We shared a scripture with one of our mock investigators from The Book of Mormon.  She has a really strong testimony in Christ, but can't seem to gain a testimony of The Book of Mormon.  These verses had a powerful effect on her:

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also aJew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and bbelieve in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shallcbelieve in Christ ye will believe in these dwords, for they are theewords of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they fteachall men that they should do good.
 11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with apower and great bglory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
The work here is great, and I stand as a witness that the work here is true.  I feel incredibly blessed to be serving as an authorized representative of Jesus Christ.  I know that He stands at the head of this church and I know that this is truly His church.
-Elder Carter Morgan