Monday, August 29, 2016

MTC Week 5- 0 Changes

The weeks here at the MTC just start to blur together... My schedule virtually never changes, so when something does change it's exciting. The last 2-ish weeks I've had a really annoying cold. Finally my companion dragged me to the clinic in hopes they could give me something stronger than over the counter cold medicine to stop my cough. Here comes the fun part though, we got to walk out of the MTC, down the road, to the pharmacy. So, that was all exciting. It was like a 15 minute prison break. The medicine ended up making me feel worse so I spend 2.5 days in my building in bed coughing myself half to death. On a positive note I didn't have to go to classes, but I missed tons of vocab that I'm trying to make up. I'm better-ish now though.

I think I've mentioned this before but my zone is pretty great. On Sunday we had our normal Portuguese Sacrament meeting and as per usual our Branch President fell asleep on the stand. He also tends to fall a

sleep during Priesthood meetings which is always fun to watch. He is a great example of how tired we all are every day :)

Other than that I got my Mozambique shirt this week, which is epic. Also, we are being kicked out of our building (to 16M) on Wednesday. It is super annoying because we have to pack up everything, unpack into the new rooms then repack just over a week later. All's well that ends well though, and leaving the MTC will be a good ending.

One final positive note is that I get my escape plans, I mean flight plans, this week!!!! Sometime between Wednesday and Saturday I will get my papers.

Elder Howell

Monday, August 22, 2016

MTC Week 4

Well, according to my printed schedule this is week 4. I have 3 more weeks here at the MTC, then I'll be flying out of here. I should get my flight plans either a week before, or the Thursday before I leave. Today some 800 missionaries are leaving, which is really nice for the lunch lines, but hard to see others escaping first.

Not much around here changes from week to week. My schedule is identical for weeks 2-6... So, lots of class time. Elder Brown and I teach at least a lesson each day. On Monday nights we teach "TRC's". Just normal members who come in to hear a lesson in their native, or mission, language. I enjoy teaching those more than the fake investigators. The language is coming along pretty well. I can teach pretty good lessons in Portuguese and make very simple small talk. Tons of vocab to memorize before I get out of here though.

My district has found ways to enjoy our time here. Elder Lunt set up "MSD"- Missionary Smack Down - A nightly wresting bracket for a few nights. I came out undefeated. We also play a group of Elders going to Russia/Ukraine (pretty much Russian's) at soccer each week. That contest is tied 1-1. Most of my district, myself included, have joined the choir. The director is probably the funniest person in the MTC. Last night the Nashville Tribute Band came and played for our Sunday Devotional. The choir sang with them on 3 songs. The choir is huge. Last nights count showed it at 1703 people!

Enjoy the real world for me!

-Elder Howell

P.S. I somehow have forgotten to mention this each week. The building where I sleep is literally across the entire MTC from my classroom. My classroom is on the top floor of the building. My room is on the top floor of my dorm buuilding. Even the lunch room is up a flight of stairs... TOO MANY STAIRS each day!

Monday, August 15, 2016

MTC Email #3 - Elephant in the room

It’s been another interesting week at the MTC. I still think the food overall isn't great, but ice cream and lots of toppings on Wednesday with the new people is kind of nice. Not much changes here week to week so this will be pretty short.

We now have 2 Port teachers, so 2/3 of the 3 hour blocks are taught in Port. The other 3 hour block and random 30 minute study breaks are for memorizing and prepping lessons in Port. Everyone is really tired and at least one person falls asleep in class each time. There is a ton to memorize. 250+ vocab terms, a full page in 8 point font of phrases to know, the First Vision, missionary purpose, baptism invite and several scriptures to name a few. All of which was supposed to be down in 10 days. I'm thinking more like 20, but we'll see. To bring some fun into the endless studying my district has started the "Gosballers" which includes random games/records making attempts with a tennis ball. Everything from "Dude Perfect" shots to other random things.

 I have been sick all week along with a few others in my district, but not sick enough to stay in bed :( That makes staying awake an extra challenge! Thankfully I don’t have mono like Elder Dick in my zone. He got to the MTC 6 weeks ago, but started showing symptoms last week. He is being sent home for 2 weeks in hopes he can recover.

My district has made me the "District Drink Mixer" at meals, so at least that is entertaining.

As far as the subject line: My district has some seriously smart people in it. Lots of 4.0 GPA 30+ ACT scoring people. (Elder Dick has a 4.0, 36 and a record time of 4 minutes, 16 seconds for a mile) One of them, Elder Mangeris, has a 4.0, 35 and was convinced that elephants "suck their food up their trunks to eat. Their trunk is also their mouth". That was entertaining for us all day to make fun of him over that.

No photos this week, again, as the computers here won’t let me upload photos :)

 Elder Howell

P.S. I have joined the MTC choir. Mainly because the director is actually super funny and with 1300 people no one can hear me anyway :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Zone (3 Districts)

My District in the very very bright sun

My district in our tiny prison cell! I mean classroom, ooops

Our tiny cell looks way big in pano's. It in fact is tiny, hence "tiny cell".


This week has been an interesting week for sure. I arrived at the MTC at 1:15 on Wednesday afternoon to be very very quickly rushed from one room to another grabbing books, name tags and such. Within 10 minutes I have a massive bag of new materials, dropped it off in my room and was deposited into my new classroom. Getting there was shock 1. I entered the class to see 11, glazed eyed, confused, slightly scared looking people. Then the Portuguese started, and it was very very fast. I was quizzed down about my life (family, age, school, where I was from, mission etc.) all asked in Portuguese. That was a very overwhelming way to start off class. But thanks to tips written on the board and some help from the other missionaries in the class I figured it out. That class room is now where I spend up to 11/12 hours a day. It's a really really small room, with 13 of us including the teacher. My teachers name is Irmao (Brother) Read. I have 2 sisters-Sister Kinikini and Sister Frandsen, and a total of 10 Elders including myself. All awesome people, some of them are different, but as a group we get along quite nicely.  2 are going to Brazil (visa waiting). 8 to Cape Verde and Elder Brown and I to Mozambique. My companion, Elder Brown, is from South Weber and is awesome. We mesh very well and work even better together. I'm also rooming with Elder Peterson and Elder Mangeris (both of whom are 6'3+ so I don't feel tall when I'm in my room).

So, Portuguese. From now on I'll just call it Port because its long and I'll be talking about it a ton. We all wake up at 6:25 in order to try and get a shower in the morning without waiting in line. Brother Peterson wakes up, turns off the alarm, turns on the light and is out the door within in literally 10 seconds each morning when the alarm rings. I was told "enjoy the showers", this was a lie, or I got unlucky with my building because the showers are the worst :D The temperature control does nothing but turn the water on, and the temperature varies from either ice shower to too hot to touch in waves. Not fun to start the day off with, but we manage (and many scream). Then we are off to class for the first little 30 minute planning time. Breakfast at 8:00.

The food: its okay. Some of the meals are better than others. Overall you can find something that is worth eating each meal. There's always cereal which makes Elder Brown quite happy. There is also Fanta AND apple juice on tap, so I'm satisfied with the food situation. Also on Wednesdays when all the new people (me this week) show up there is BYU creamery ice cream and tons of toppings, so everyone is happy about that. Something to look forward to each week.

Back to Port. We then go back to our grueling schedule after we eat breakfast. 3, 3 hour sections of class. This consists mainly of us blankly staring at Irmao Read for the first 3 hours. Then we get an hour to study, AKA flash card of more Port. Then lunch, then another 3 hours of Port. Hour study "break" for flash cards then an hour to work out.

Workout time is probably my favorite hour of the day (besides going to sleep). The first 3 days we didn't get to workout and we sat for 11 hours a day, not a fun combo. But since then we have had an hour for exercise each day. My district (group of 12) and I went to play sand volleyball the first day. It was a blast. Since then we have been going to the gym and I've been getting into the competitive side of 4-square. I will conquer it by the time I leave.

Then we have another 3 hours of Port.... (hours 8-11...) this tends to consist of teaching a lesson to a fake investigator. Did I mention its only in Port??? The person we are teaching only speaks in Port so at this point its mostly Elder Brown and I writing down our lesson in English, translating it to Port and then reading it to "Nelson". Its actually really cool because we are starting to understand his responses. We taught our first lesson to him the 3rd day here... Crazy.

Finally its bed time, or as I call it "Drink a can of Fanta, write letters/journal and crash time".

P-Day for me is Monday, so I get to walk around in basketball shorts and a t-shirt until 6:30 pm. We got to walk over and go to the temple this morning too, which was sweet. Then its back into the tie and teaching Nelson another lesson.

That's pretty much it, no great stories to share yet, but I'm sure I'll have some very soon.

Elder Howell

PS: I did set up and sleep in my hammock last night, which was sweet.
PPS: Some of my district calls me "Elder Crockpot" after finding out I brought a crockpot, yay.

Friday, August 5, 2016

First MTC Email

Slightly Late

So, there were over 800 missionaries that came into the MTC yesterday so things were a bit jumbled. Somehow my whole group got overlooked and we didn't get to send anything. All is well. Elder Brown (comp) and I are doing really pretty well at Portuguese. It's like 9 hours a day in a classroom smaller than half of my bedroom at home, with 12 of us. It is a bit overwhelming but I will be fine. Elder Brown and I got 50 new words memorized in our last hour sitting in class. We have a good district of people, no crazies yet. He and I are the only ones in the whole MTC going to Mozambique. I got called down to the travel office today and everyone was saying my visa was probably rejected. Suffice to say I was stressed, but it turned out we both just had extra papers to sign that the Mozambique government wanted, Elder Brown is better than I had hoped for in a companion, which is a relief. SOOOOOOO MUCH PORTUGUESE. I went to sleep last night exhausted from sitting in a chair all day (didn't think that could happen), but its a mental strain trying to learn the language in total immersion. Like I said before though I think I'm, getting it down. But we teach our first investigator tomorrow in Portuguese... So yah.

Tudo Bem.

Elder Howell

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

  Tanner's *Farewell* Talk,  July 17, 2016

For those of you who do not know me, I am the son of Andrew and Julie Howell, I’m relatively new to this ward than even my parents because I was at USU for a year when we switched wards.I have been called to the Mozambique, Maputo mission. My mission will include Mozambique and Swaziland, both in South Eastern Africa. It’s the country closest to Madagascar and the second furthest mission from Provo besides Madagascar. As a surprise to my family and myself, the official language in Mozambique is Portuguese due to them colonizing it for trade. Swaziland speaks English and siSwati. I will depart for the Provo MTC on August third.
I would like to start off by thanking all of you who have come out to support me today and all of the support you have shown me for so long. I do want to let everyone know I’m not doing a “get together” at my house after like some people do. It’s usually random desserts and some food from the missionary’s mission. However, fire roasted rats on a stick and brownies just didn’t seem like a good combination to me.

I get to talk today about how faith and prayer played a role getting me to where I am today, mission bound.

On the topic of prayer my favorite talk is by Elder Holland titled “Wrong Roads and Revelation”. In this talk his father and he are driving back from a Grand Canyon overlook and they come to a fork in the road. It was growing dark and choosing the right road was imperative. They decided to pray and were both rewarded with the impression to go left. So down the road they went for 10 minutes, then dead end. Clearly the wrong road. They drove back and went down the right fork, which was the correct road. He explained how he was “troubled” by the wrong answer but his dad explained that by taking the wrong road they quickly knew it was the wrong road. Where if they had taken the correct road they would have gone down the right road for 30 minutes uneasy and tempted to turn back. By going down the other road it was made clear quickly that the other road was right.

I really like this story because I think it is a great way to look at prayer. Ask, but then you have to act on your answer. What for me is difficult is when it’s between what seem to be “good and better” options and not knowing which is which. For me that was the issue with going to school or going on a mission. By going to school for a year it seemed like a good option, but after that time and a lot of thought, prayer, advice getting from those close to me it was clear that a mission was the best option. Several people from friends, parents and others helped me to see a mission as the best option.

Alma 32 is the classic scripture talking about planting a seed of faith so that it can grow. I like this analogy so that’s how I set up my talk also, but from my perspective on the idea of a “seed of faith”.

For me my seed of faith was given to me by my parents and teachers. I see this seed as the classic primary answers of “reading your scriptures, prayer, going to church and following the commandments”. You can give anyone this seed, but it’s up to them to plant that seed.

Once that seed of faith starts to grow it needs to be protected from harsh weather, weeds, bugs or sometimes just given support—like a new tomato plant or tree. Often beams are strapped to trees to support them as they grow or a cage over the new tomato plant to give it structure. Both of these things give support when its most needed. That support has been shown time and time again by my family, young men’s leaders and friends when I’ve needed it. But just like the tomatoes cage and the trees supporting beams, they eventually have to be removed to let the plant grow. This was done by my parents in little ways like letting me drive alone, changing schools, or in bigger ways like letting me going off to college for a year.

Some others who helped me with nurturing that seed included Ted Heap. He was a great influence and helper when it came to deciding on a mission. Brother Heap who was my primary teacher when I was 11/12. About 8 years later I still remember how I connected with his teaching style. It amazed me looking back on it how much of an impact he had and how it stuck with me all that time.  So, randomly one day I got his number and asked if we could meet up and talk. This amazing teacher from 8 years ago jumped at the chance to talk with me even though we hadn’t really talked much since I was 12. I don’t remember specific lessons but the respect stuck with me and lead to me asking for his advice. Meeting with him, probably unknown to him, was one of a few tipping points to going. He was someone who helped me with my seed of faith.

Other church leaders that helped me nourish my seed of faith and push me out of my comfort zone were my young men’s leaders. Bishop Berry and Garry Ottosen both pushed me to try things such as rock climbing, repelling and backpacking that helped to shape me into who I am today. On one camp with Bishop Berry, Wind Rivers, we backpacked into a beautiful lake. It seemed all nice and pretty, much like the pictures I quickly saw of Mozambique.  But like Mozambique what the pictures don’t show are the insane amount of mosquitoes. Thankfully the Wind River mosquitoes weren’t a big malaria issue, whereas Mozambique’s are. But that camp, unknown at the time, was great practice for my mission and all its accompanying mosquitoes! Through all of these experiences I was able to gain support and help on nourishing my seed of faith with a loving environment that let me grow spiritually because of that balance of loving support with pushing out of my comfort zone. Another great leader, Steve Cutler, even before becoming my Young Men’s leader was always pushing me to leave my comfort zone and because of that I ended up with my closest dearest friend.

My dear friend Hannah Galli was arguably the biggest influence in my decision to go on a mission. She helped me to see things in a new way by asking me a question I have thought about time and time again since:
“If you had the world’s best cookie, and as many as you could ever want, wouldn’t you want to share that amazing cookie?”

This struck a cord with me, how could I not share “the most amazing cookie”. Very soon after talking to her about that I heard a quote “Valar Morghulis” and the response to it was “Valar Dohaeris”. In English they mean “All men must die” and “All men must serve”. I found this quite profound. We will all die, so we must all serve. One of the greatest ways we can serve is by sharing that “perfect cookie”.

In a letter from her this week she expressed worry about how different our missions were going to be—She is in Washington DC at the temple visitor center currently, and I will be in Mozambique, Africa. The cultures are so very different, the language is different, the GDP of the United States is $53,000 a year whereas Mozambique it is $605 a year. In an email response to her after giving it much thought, it finally clicked. I told her that we will be doing the exact same thing. I will wake up stupid early each day to go knock doors while she sleeps, and she will wake up stupid early to knock doors while I sleep. I may be docking doors in Mozambique while she knocks doors in DC. She may be speaking English while I speak Portuguese. But that’s the physical language we will be speaking. In reality we will both be speaking the language of love, charity and hope. We will be able to tell people they can see their loved ones again that they have lost, or keep the loved ones they have past “till death do you part” and so much more.

I’d like to end with a comparison to a movie because movies are something I enjoy- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it came out in 1989 so you had your chance.
Indiana Jones is going for the Holy Grail. He has to pass through two tests of faith, in his case lethal if failed, before he makes it to the “Leap of Faith”. He needs to step out into what appears to be a certain death drop, but he takes the step and is rewarded with a solid footing to walk into the final room. There he correctly picks out the Holy Grail and drinks, to which he is told “You have chosen wisely”. I have worked my way through my trials, thankfully not lethal and am at the “Leap of Faith” moment, for me it is going on a mission that is stepping into the unknown. I know that if I keep my faith strong, once I get there I will have a “You have chosen wisely” moment.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Day 1 MTC Arrival August 3, 2016