Here is Elder Long's letter that we received. Enjoy!
Dear Family & Friends,
WOW! Where do I even begin? To say that the past week has been so great would be an understatement. I already love – love – love the Spanish people and language. First of all I want to thank everyone for all the letters and e-mails I received. You have no idea how much those help me. So thank you so very much. I want you to know that my P-day (or otherwise known as my personal day) is on Tuesday while I am here in the MTC. I get to e-mail for one hour on that day. On my P-day we do our laundry, write letters, typically grocery shop, play a sport of some kind and just anything that needs to get done. This will be the day I can read e-mails that have come through and respond to them. Please just be patient as I have limited time to write back either through mail or e-mail. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner. I have told my parents to put my letters that I write on my blog and that most likely my responses back to you will be shorter because of time restraints. So please follow me for 104 weeks while serving. It’s going to be a ride…
For starters, like I said before I love the Spanish people and language so much already. They are humble, good people that want what each of us want, the best for each other, our family members and children. Their circumstances here are very humbling. Can I just say, be so grateful for the small things back home. Be grateful for all the opportunities you have. These people just don’t get them like we do back home.
The MTC, also known as the Mission Training Center is very nice. It is highly secured with a huge gate around the entire thing and is guarded by guards/security. We can never just leave the MTC grounds. It is too dangerous. I have 6 roommates in my living quarters at the MTC. 2 of the 6 elders are always native speakers. Myself and my companion, Elder A. and four other elders. My companion, Elder A. is from Utah. He is one of many from a large family. He is on the quieter side but I am breaking him in, ha ha. The food we eat has been good. A lot of tortillas and beans. I eat tortillas at every meal. The orange juice at breakfast is amazing and the fresh fruit doesn’t taste like our fruit back home. It is so fresh. But let me tell you something, my intestines are getting used to the Mexican food…man its rough on the system at times though. ha ha
A typical day is I get up at 6:30 and pray and read my scriptures. I have about 8 hours of classroom work between learning the language and learning the gospel lessons. I am very anxious to get out on the streets and teach and be “living” in the culture. On my third day I had to teach an investigator an entire lesson in Spanish. I did the entire lesson. My companion was pretty quite and I kept looking over at him like this is your time to teach and he didn’t say a word. So we need to work together on the flow of our teaching and both of us always participating. I prepared for this lesson but the spirit took over and I taught a different lesson than the one I prepared. The spirit is so strong. I have never felt it like this in my life. The gift of tongues is a special thing. There is no doubt as I have immersed myself already in the language that the Lord has blessed me and helped me speak the language. At times after I say something I think, where in the heck did that come from? There is no doubt I am handling the language better than everyone else. I know the academy really prepared me. So right now my days consist of a lot of classroom work. At night we get some time to sit and visit. I love hanging with the Spanish guys and speaking with them.
This morning I made my whole district get up early so we could beat everyone to the washing machines. We had a temple trip planned this morning until about 2 PM and I wanted to have more free time after the temple for us all to play ball. So, I got them up bright and early. Tonight we have a devotional at 7PM. The rest of the day is left to chill and talk with other missioinaries.
From the time I arrived I have been helping the leaders help the missionaries get organized, etc. Because the MTC just opened 10 days before I arrived they are still getting things in place. I loved diving right in and helping. I have been put in charge of 10 elders and 2 sisters. There are about 30 in our district but each week that number will grow. My District President said he prayed and had revelation that I needed to be his assistant because of the help I would be able to give the missionaries who are struggling. I am excited to meet the new missionaries coming in tonight. Right now there are only a few hundred here at the MTC but that number will grow rapidly each week. Keeping busy and being able to help people has kept me from being too homesick. Speaking of homesick, a lot of the guys are straight out of high school and have never left home. Many are really struggling. It is time for me to give back and help each one of them. It was a year ago exactly that I was in basic training and struggling so bad. It was my family, friends and the cadets that pulled me through. No doubt I finished a year at the academy because of the great support I had. So I check on several guys throughout the day that I know are struggling with the culture shock, the language shock, and being away from their home.
I’ve met several great guys that I love so much already. One of them is a basketball player, Elder W. and the other two are companions Elder D. and Elder L. Elder D. went to Army and played football for them, so we have a lot in common. We tell stories about the academies at night and entertain all the Spanish guys. They laugh hysterically at all the stuff we had to go through. They are actually only here for a few weeks before they head out to the mission field. I love them and will really miss them when they leave.Guess where they get to serve? Yes, the Chicago mission. There is a good chance they could end up in in my town. So, all my friends watch out for Elder D. and Elder L.. Give them a good meal and tell them you know me if they ever knock on your door. Ha Ha And for sure let them in a visit with them. And I have 4 other friends here that are absolutely hilarious. We exchange stories and laugh a lot which is good when you are feeling displaced and homesick.
As we left this morning for the temple we rode on a bus. Between my 45 minute ride home from the airport to the MTC and then to the temple this morning, it’s been a humbling experience. We have so much. We have so much to be grateful for. Tell everyone to be more grateful. These people have so little. Have so little of opportunity for it to ever change. And yet, they are so happy. Tell my friends. Challenge my friends this week to do one act of kind service. To think about it and to think of something or someone that they can help. Also tell them that praying and thinking of others is important as well. Thinking of others will get you far in life. I have seen it, I have felt it. I know I was helped all school year…all school year, daily. And now I am experiencing it a bit differently. I am able to give back and help others because of my experiences last year at the academy.
As far as my greatest challenge so far. My nights are rougher. It is really hot. I mean really hot and humid. Air conditioning does not exist, not even fans. We sleep with the windows closed because is all you hear all night long and I mean all night long is barking dogs, gun shots and then sirens. So, between being hot and the noise it makes sleeping difficult. I sleep in long pants and a long shirt because mosquitoes keep biting me. It’s very annoying and one of my biggest obstacles. I know that every hardship last year while at the academy was for a reason. I know because of those hardships that I am able to help others right now that are hurting and need my help. I know that the challenges I faced every day at the academy have better prepared me to help others now on my mission.
Let me end by bearing you my testimony that I know that through service you can bring so much joy into anyone’s life. Help others of all faiths. Loving God and helping others is what it is all about. I know Christ lives. I know that I am suppose to be here at this time sharing the gospel. I can’t wait to get to Honduras to serve and love the people there. I already feel a love for them and I haven’t even arrived there yet. I thank my Heavenly Father for each of my family members and friends who support me, love me and stand by me in my hours of need.
Con mucho amor…
Hugs and kisses!