Sunday, August 10, 2014

Okay, so we're not in Hawaii.....yet! Our week at the MTC (that turned into a week and a half)

First off, let's get past the elephant in the room.

Seems it takes more than a hurricane to keep the Jones out of Hawaii.  It takes TWO!  Hurricane Iselle has done its best to shake things up and Hurricane Julio is riding in on her wake.  We were ready to slip in between storms and arrive yesterday, but received a call late Thursday from the PCC explaining that it might be too dangerous to drive the 1 1/2 hours from La'ie to the airport to get us.  Okay, all desires to be of service aside, we wouldn't want to place anyone in danger, so we are staying a few more days in toasty Provo instead....and having a marvelous time!

When we received our call, I did as I always do and started looking on-line for what life would be like for us.  Though there were lots of videos, I didn't find a lot about Senior Missionary couples - so, here is what life is like for old coots in the MTC.

Things were a little tense in the Jones van driving into Provo.  G'ma was nervous, G'pa had already turned his hearing aids off, and Mike Jones missed his turn.  Right about then, Ronan said "I gotta go....bad!"  Yep, a typical adventure for the Jones Family.

Various disasters addressed and/or adverted, including a disagreement over whether we could stop and get just one more picture before entering the gates, and Mike's van was ushered into the hallowed grounds of the Missionary Training Center. Immediately upon stepping out of the van Ron and Nina Jones were whisked into the greeting center, inspected, fluffed, stamped and directed back out the door, amazingly transformed into Elder and Sister Jones - ta dah!!!!

Time for two quick pics, just to appease Sister Jones and the family was kindly ushered back out the gate faster than Sister Jones' tear ducts could start flowing.  Two elders-in-training stepped from the throng of young men waiting to help and ushered us over to our residential quarters.  What a well oiled machine! Somehow I think it was specifically planned that way to save us women from spoiling our make-up.

Elder Jones kindly pointed to the package given to us and said "Look dear, a check-list just for you!"  Well, yes, I do love a well organized checklist.  Feeling back in control, I got out my pen and we started checking off our tasks....drop off luggage, CHECK ....go to bookstore, CHECK....get printed passes, CHECK ...lunch, CHECK.  By 1:00 p.m. we were meeting our trainers and fellow dazed and dazzled new missionary couples where we were divided into 'Districts'.  This was our 'district':

Yes, I'm standing funny - we were trying to get me shorter than
Elder Jones so that you could see him....but he still managed
to hide....
By 4:30 pm we were back in the cafeteria stuffing ourselves silly and by 6:30 pm  we working on our assignment for the next day.  We were in bed by 10:30 pm...because we are good and dutiful missionaries now (oh, and because there is no television here - which trust me, is a very good thing!)

Here is what senior missionary quarters look like at the MTC:

Basically, we have a very comfortable and clean motel room with better pictures and no kids running up and down the halls.  Also, I noticed right away that I never need to open a door.  These elders have been well trained by their momma's.  I feel like royalty! 

What, you may ask, do Senior Missionaries learn at the MTC?  Well, let me tell you what it's NOT about: It's not about statistics, or goals or learning how to convince people to be a "Mormon".  A District President explained that the MTC experience is really designed to get us missionaries in touch with the Holy Ghost - to recognize his presence and to learn how to utilize his promptings.  I think he's right!

But just to be clear, we do have a specific motto, which reads:

Now, Elder Jones' and my specific mission will be 'facilities maintenance' focused - but our first duty is to serve, lift, and represent and we will always be looking for opportunities to do that, especially with the students attending BYU-Hawaii.  Many of these students are far away from their home, probably for the first time in their lives.  Making sure that they are well taken care of, loved and happy - well, it will be an honor to do whatever we can.

Day 2 of training consisted mostly of reviewing and discussing the tenants of our belief, the love of our Savior, the joy of the Gospel and the meaning of "If you love Me, feed My sheep".  Tuesday evening was topped off with a wonderful devotional with a great speaker and an angelic choir of young men and women singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir itself.

Day 3 was a little more nerve-wracking.  We got to practice teaching real people.  But it turned out to be amazingly fantastic. It really was all about talking to people about Jesus Christ, loving them for who they are, and helping them answer questions and fulfill needs.  I could wax on and on about our experiences, but I think it is sufficient to say that I just loved the day, loved the people, and felt more fulfilled and comfortable that I could have dreamt possible.

Elder Jones, of course, was Elder Jones.  This was old hat to him.  Not that he didn't have a good experience - but he always has good experiences because he has always been so open about his faith and so ready to lift others.  But he did have a special added treat of getting his first 'official' missionary haircut.  He looks FABULOUS, by the way!

Wednesday evening we went to the Provo Temple, which is right across the street - here is a picture.  Isn't that canyon and those mountains glorious?

On Thursday we had some more training, more practice, and more insight into the scriptures and how they bring peace and direction into our lives.  Here is one that struck me especially strong:

3 Nephi 27:21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

This is also the day that Hawaii contacted us and told us to cool our heels for about a week.

Friday was filled with final instructions and many good-byes.  Out of our original 150 couples, we are down to about 20.  These couples are receiving instructions specific to their mission call.  We're going to spend Monday and Tuesday having office training.

Friday evening we were picked up by our son Mike and his beautiful wife, Havilah and whisked off to a sushi dinner (well, sushi for the men - we women stayed on the well-done side of the menu) and a lovely walk around the new temple (old tabernacle) site in downtown Provo.  We stumbled across a make-shift visitor's center that the local members keep staffed to answer questions and give a great view of the on-going progress.  Here is a link to a blog that has wonderful photos and information:

Saturday was our personal day (called "P-Day" out in the field).  We washed clothes, cleaned our space, exercised, and visited some dear sisters who lived in our home while serving in Sequim.

Sara Chronister was our first Sister Missionary
Crystal Givens was our last Sister Missionary

While we're at it, we also met up with Sarah Workman, who we watched grow up in Sequim.  We get to see her most everyday as she works in the MTC cafeteria.  What a joy it is to see her!
(this actually turns out to be an 'illegal' photo as
we've been asked not to take pictures in the cafeteria...oops)
Sunday has been the best day of all.  We've attended TWO sacrament meetings (the first one in Portuguese because the one we were suppose to attend was full), Music and the Spoken Word, a real tear jerker of a Relief Society meeting (while Elder Jones says his Priesthood Meeting was 'fine') and will be going to two devotionals tonight.  For those of you who don't know, devotionals are for all missionaries and are rather like firesides on steroids.  The spirit there is so strong, and so tender.  Two in one night is quite the jackpot!

And that, our dear friends, is life in the MTC.  Hopefully this will be helpful for those who might be considering a mission in the future.  If you are, we suggest the following:

  1. Throw expectations away - the MTC experience is better than you could possibly imagine, and the staff, volunteers and employees are so helpful and supportive.  This is sacred ground, dedicated to the service of the Lord, and you feel it.
  2. You will meet missionaries who are preparing to preach throughout the world.  The senior missionaries in our group are going to Washington DC, Kayenta, Arizona, Edmonton, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Scottsdale, AZ and (of course) La'ie, Hawaii.  The youth missionaries are going to places like Korea, Japan, France, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Russia, etc., etc (including the good ol' USA).  When we ask these young men and women where they're going, we usually get to say "wow", and then they ask us where we are going and they say "oooooooooooooohhhhh".  Heavenly Father loves His children throughout the world - and being a part of this movement is such a humbling experience.  There are flagpoles that encircle the east and south sides of the campus displaying the flags of the countries these missionaries are going to.  So many poles, so many flags.  That in itself is a wonder to see.
  3. Go on a diet now, because these people seem to want to fatten you up for the future.  So much food! We began skipping meals after a while....we just couldn't keep up.  Thank goodness there is an exercise gym and plenty of places to go on a walk.  By the way, the cafeteria accommodates many various food restrictions and diets but also caters to youthful gluttony (you moms know what I mean.)
  4. There is easy access to the temple.  We hear tell this is the busiest temple of all.  It seems like it. Still, they are prepared for the masses and hold sessions every 20 minutes.  We have greatly enjoyed our visits there.
  5. Be prepared to learn a lot - feel a lot - cry a lot - and smile a lot.

Missionary Reflections:

Here is a quote from our manual entitled "Preach My Gospel":  

Faith is a principle of power. God works by power, but His power is usually exercised in response to faith (see Moroni 10:7). He works according to the faith of His children. Doubt and fear are opposed to faith.

This picture is one of many that hangs in the hallways of the buildings here:

Of course, it is a picture of a baptism.  You may notice on the left-hand side some men with spears and other weapons.  They are there to fend off the alligators.  Now Elder Jones and I are not being asked to jump into alligator infested waters, but just like this missionary and the person being baptized, we are asked to exercise our faith by trusting Heavenly Father and prioritizing His gospel over our comforts and personal safety.

We have a testimony of this great work, the love of our Heavenly Father, the divinity of Jesus Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost upon the hearts of those seeking truth and happiness.  We are grateful for all of your interest in our humble little blog and hope that it reflects our love and joy in serving this mission.


  1. I'm not sure if I would have enough faith to get baptized in alligator-infested waters, even with the spear-men standing by!

  2. What a treasure this blog will be for you and your family now and in years to come! Takes me right back to our MTC experience. Lovely that you could see Sara Chronister, Crystal Givens, and Sarah Workman. Makes me grateful that friendships and loving relationships made during our earthlife are eternal. We're praying that the weather in Hawaii will soon be perfect and you can safely transition to your assigned field of labor. Love you!

  3. This was so fun and informative to read! Thanks so much Nina for sharing! We hope you have safe travels . . . soon!

  4. Love your updates, I feel very connected to two people I hold dear. Have safe travels, sounds like you have many inspirational times ahead. So happy you where able to see people from your memories, God is great!

  5. Just want to say...I love you guys! Have a safe flight to Hawaii!

  6. Your faith is contagious; Please continue to feed "us" sheep at home with the love of our Savior that you are now sharing on your mission!