3rd week in the MTC

Can I just begin by saying – I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY. Seriously.  It is one of the most empowering and moving things to sing “Called to Serve” with this army of missionaries.

This has been the hardest week so far (ha, it’s only been three weeks) – but, I have learned so much.  It’s been hard because for some reason the homesickness has hit me.  There have been so many things that I have wanted to call and talk to Mom about – so many instances where I just want advice or to talk about something.  Because I can’t call Mom right away, instead I turn to my Heavenly Father in a silent prayer.  As I pray so much out here, my relationship with my Father in Heaven is strengthening and I feel His arms around me every day.  It’s an empowering, inspiring, humbling, and an emotional thing for me to write about, and it’s really hard to express in words.  That’s going to be the focus of my email today – that God answers prayers.  It has been a theme for me.


Some funny stories:

Last week, I had to go in with my immunization record.  They told me I needed one more shot, which I thought they would say to come back in a couple of weeks or something.  Not quite.  It was more: “Okay, we’re going to give you your shot in a minute, go wait in line.”  Well, I need more than one minute to mentally prepare for a shot.   There’s a sign that says “If you have a history of fainting, please let us know.”  Well, I let them know.  And they didn’t let my companion come with me.  Luckily, Anziano Valentine needed a shot too.  So, right when they were about to give me the shot, the nurse told me I could shake his hand the whole time.  So, I squeezed tightly and shook Anziano Valentine’s hand.  It was pretty funny, but I’m glad that he was there, because – I know this is pathetic – I came very close to fainting 🙂 But, I didn’t!


Also, it seems that all the sisters are getting sick. Seriously, it’s so true… sister missionaries are sick all the time.  I don’t really get it – maybe I just don’t realize it when I’m sick or maybe I have a really strong immune system, I don’t know.  I’m feeling fine. Well, today I am having a lot of difficulty breathing, but I think that’s just allergies or something. Because everyone seems to have some sort of cold (and one sister had pneumonia, yikes), our room is like an orchestra at night.  Someone snores, then someone coughs, then another person snores, then someone moves on their bed which squeaks quite loudly, and then someone starts talking or moaning.  No. Joke. I wish I could video tape this, or snapchat video it, haha. Luckily I have ear plugs.  And I’ve started doing these breathing exercises and such that really seem to be helping!


I am in love with the Italian language.  I have been studying the Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel in Italian during my language study time (since I know the grammar already) and I feel that I am progressing much faster than I ever have before.


We have taught at the TRC to Italian speaking members of the church. We love the TRC – it is probably one of the highlights of my week.  We learn so much from them, and we love asking them to make commitments to share the gospel.


This last week we taught Sebastian and Rosalba.  My heart is going out to them, as I pray for them each night and try to find ways to answer their concerns.  We taught Rosalba a week ago.  Initially, she told us she was already religious and didn’t need anymore in her life. But as we began to teach her and share with her the story of Joseph Smith, we realized she doesn’t quite believe in God, and her prayers are all written and have never been heartfelt for her.  She told us (and this is a rough translation) “God answers Joseph’s prayers and He answers your prayers, but He doesn’t answer mine.”  My heart went out to her.  I thought of times in my life where I have felt that way.  In that moment, we felt prompted to teach her how to pray.  We testified about the power of prayer.  We teach her tomorrow, and we are excited to see if she is continuing to pray.  Sebastian had a similar idea – except he refused to pray. He has talked to lots of missionaries before, but has never felt comfortable with any of them.  Sebastian thinks about God all of the time, but won’t pray to Him either.  We testified that God loves him, and that we know that He wants to hear from him.  At the end of the lesson, we asked Sebastian to pray.  He was quite reluctant and didn’t want to.  We said – “C’e la fa. C’e la fa” which means “You can do it.  You can do it.”  Sebastian prayed with such sincere heart, it was a wonderful experience.


As I face different challenges, I am learning from Sebastian’s example and seeking to pray more sincerely and with all of my heart.  A simple example – I prayed all weekend that I could see Ellie.  I haven’t really seen her that much, and I just needed to see a familiar face and talk to her.  (I miss my roommates a lot..) At the temple walk on Sunday we ran into each other and we caught up for 20 minutes.  It wasn’t coincidence, and I was so, so, so grateful.  I pray to stay awake, and I do.  I pray to be able to love the people that I spend 24 hours a day with and I am filled with so much love for them, I can’t believe it.  I pray to feel comfort when I am lying awake at night staring at the ceiling thinking – is this real life?  I pray for my family, for my roommates back home, for my friends in the mission field, for my friends at BYU, for my freshman students from last year, for the girl who was crying in the bathroom, and for the people that I will meet in Italy. I pray to feel the spirit, and I pray that others will have the open mind to feel the Spirit and let it enter their hearts.


It is an amazing time to be at the MTC.  Today was a historic day, because for the first time in history, there were 25 more sisters than Elders that entered the MTC (the crossguard told us as we were walking back from the temple). Wow.  I love being here, and even though it’s so crowded, it’s so exciting that it’s so crowded! So many missionaries.  So many youth that have conviction and the desire to convert the world. These times are historic, and we are a part of it.   Last night, we heard from Marcus Nash of the 70.  Wow.  Every week I am blown away by the devotionals and lessons and speakers.  He told us that we have been preparing to serve a mission even before we came to this Earth.   We have been called to do this for a long time, and we need to be loyal to that calling by working hard every day.  He shared a touching story about sending his oldest son on a mission. Right before his son departed he told him – “Don’t hold anything back.”  When his son returned he told his Dad – “Dad, I didn’t hold anything back.”  Not only did that make me think of my Dad here on Earth, I thought about our journeys here.  When I return to my Heavenly Father I will tell him – “Dad, I didn’t hold anything back.”  On my mission, I will continue to immerse myself in this work and pray with all energy of heart.  He said, “Follow the master fully, because you’ve been preparing for this for a long, long time.”


I would encourage all of you to do the same! Don’t hold anything back!

Smile! Another devotional speaker told us to “Be a visual aid for what you’re teaching.” A temple worker told me today I would convert the entire country of Italy with my glowing smile – and I hope that I can always continue to smile amidst the difficulties of the mission.

I am so happy to be a missionary, and I am so happy to have the knowledge that I am a daughter of God.  I want to share this knowledge with the world.  I am eternally grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Because of Him, my life has color, flavor, hope, and meaning. Grateful isn’t enough of a word – I am forever indebted to Him for His sacrifice.  That’s what this is all about – inviting God’s children to come unto Him.  Because He loves them.  All He asks of us is to have faith unto repentance, be baptized and receive the blessings of the Holy Ghost, and to continue to strive to follow Him, enduring to the end.


Sono una figlia di Dio.  So che Dio mi ama. Io so che Dio responde alle nostre preghiere. Amo il mio Padre Celeste con il mio cuore tutto.  So che quando pregho con il mio cuore tutto  Dio mi rispondera.  So che Il Libro di Mormon e la parola di Dio. So che quando leggiamo Il Libro di Mormon possiamo venire a Cristo e sentire il Suo amore.


Vi voglio bene.  Prego per noi ogni giorno e penso di voi spesso.

Sorella Emma Strong

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