Friday, February 22, 2013

Que Happening?

I have been tempted several times to start my blog posts with cool, mysterious Spanish phrases like Jaclyn does with Tagalog....but I just can't push myself to abandon some of the last English I enjoy! haha soooo I'm gonna meet it somewhere in the hideous middle.
               Que happening?....yup, thats pretty hideous. Anyway, I'm in the MTC!....Just like last week...and the week before! haha If you can't already tell, it's starting to get a bit repetitive and I'm running out of things to keep me entertained. Luckily, my district is full of hilarious guys and 2 sisters who can always provide some comic relief. The other night we were about to go back to our dorms after class ended and someone decided it would be funny if we waited for the sisters to come back and then scare them....if we are being really honest it was probably me who suggested it but hey, we did it, they loved it, I am still the DL so how bad could it have really been. But it was funny cause we had to wait in the dark for like 10 minutes hoping that they were coming back soon and before this all happened, I was under the impression that it was only hard for little kids to sit still...but CLEARLY I was very, very mistaken.

Panoramic of our Classroom
              Anyway, this week has been pretty good! Not much has happened, while at the same time sooo much has happened. On sunday we were watching the Joseph Smith movie in this big auditorium and during the movie I had this overwhelming sense of guilt come over me. I have never read the Book of Mormon all the way through at one time! I always claim to love Joseph Smith so much and I tell people I believe in him, heck, I'm even out serving a mission telling people that all they need to do is read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and yet I MYSELF haven't even done that truly!! I have just taken it for granted for so long and so right then and there i decided i was going to read the whole book of mormon from cover to cover while I am in the MTC. I am currently on page 157 and it has already been an incredible experience for me. As I've been reading I have kept a list of the scriptures that i want to remember because they are either cool or applicable or powerful and I want to use them with investigators/teaching. So far I have used sooo many of them! And i've gone deeper into stories in the scriptures, pulled new insights and meanings from the parables, and even had times in class where I'm just craving to read it more! Who knew the Book of Mormon could teach you so much?! ;)

              So I am happy to announce that my basketball has improved. You may think this is something not very relevant to being a missionary but I begggg to differ haha when the only things you look forward to each day is mail and gym, your performance in those areas starts to weigh in the balance haha but it's been better...jussayin.

               We got to go on a temple walk on Sunday, although it felt more like a temple mob. There were like 400 people there...and then some. And everyone had friends coming from BYU to say hi and there were directors trying to send those people away and it was chaos.....or in other words a much needed break from the regimented schedule of the MTC haha the other elders in the district and I realized just how sad our lives have become in some ways, when we noticed that there were different pictures in the slideshows shown on the tv's in the cafeterias. That and the fact that the Joseph Smith movie that we watched had a kissing scene in it and I'm pretty sure i blushed....YOLO.

My first self-done haircut!
               I have been really doing not much else! I've been working on faith this week because I lost my DOP kit or whatever you call it with my toothbrush, toothpaste, ect. Which isn't that big a deal except then i realized that it had my retainers in it :( So I've been trying to track it down but without much luck, but whenever I pray I feel pretty comforted for the most part so maybe I'll find it or maybe I'll just have to hope there is someway to make/send some more...not likely but a kid can dream!

               But that's about it for this week. Things aren't bad and I ended up getting a package from my family AND one from Evan and Tracey's family which made my week! It was full of chips and a hand drawn picture addressed to an Elder Hamm in very careful handwriting. haha of course the best part was when Jenna asked if the weather was warm where I was cause it had been snowing at her house....well 5 minutes can make a world of difference, but I think it's been fairly cold here too ;) Everyone in my district is excited to be going to Mexico and we're always talking about how they can't wait. I'm excited too....but I'd like just a bittt more time with the language. But i guess it will come with time. My branch president said the gift of tongues is real but it can't work within a frustrated heart so I'm doing my best to keep a positive attitude.

Elder Hamm and Hermano P

               Anyways, I always like to kinda end on a spiritual note with my blog posts and this week has had plenty of them. My favorite teacher ever in the MTC, Hermano P. is unfortunately/fortunately getting married in 8 days and so he is gonna leave us soon :( It's really sad and so last night we were taking pictures with him and then he sat down and began to talk to us. As he was talking, he told us about what a hard time he had after his mission and spoke about very personal trials he had to deal with after his return. He said "Once you've gone through so much pain and anguish to birth your misery, you will die to protect it. The more people tell you something that you know is wrong is wrong, the more you'll protect it." I've found that's really been true in my life. It's kind of like the need to rebel. Good ol' Rexburg Idaho reaches as cold as 25 below 0...clearly you would not want to be caught dead in shorts in such weather. But I found that just because BYUI forbid the wearing of shorts on campus, it made me want to wear the shorts even more! And the more people told me that shorts were going to very literally get me killed, the more I fought against my better judgment, and claimed shorts were awesome, even if my legs looked like two hunks of frozen beef by the time i got home. We have to learn to let those things go. It may seem like our self-righteous cause at the time and it's some huge deal, but if you try to give up whatever it is that is weighing you down so much, you will find your burden is more than relieved. The other thing he spoke about was worth. Everyone wants to feel wanted. Nobody, and I mean Nobody, has ever said: "Man i really wish more people would dislike me, or not accept me for who I am." It's hard to love people unconditionally and sometimes it seems impossible. But I know it isn't, because Jesus Christ does it for me everyday. In the story of Peter walking on the water, the lord doesn't run to Peter's aid. He doesn't rebuke Peter for looking away from what really mattered. He didn't ask him to beg for help. Instead, Jesus waited. He waited for Peter to realize that he could no longer help himself, and the veryyyy second that Peter cried out for Christ, he grabbed his hand and pulled him from the crashing waves that were pulling him under. We sometimes don't want, sometimes don't ask, nor are we worthy of our savior's love...but he gives it to us anyways. He loves us that much. The atonement is the physical manifestation that YOU are worth it. It's a beacon of hope in the darkness of doubt, when your self-worth comes under question. "I feel my savior's love, the love he freely gives me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Week In!

Elder Hamm in front of the Provo LDS Temple - look at those mountains!
Hi Everyone!,         
               Welllllllll I've survived my first week in the MTC and I have to say...not as bad as I would/did expect. Time here is like everyone says it is. The days go very slowly as you have class for 7 hours a day and are running on an average of 7-8 hours of sleep. I was always told that the times when Satan can tempt you the most can be put into the acronym HALT. The times when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. The irony is clear but I feel as though I should elaborate anyway. Over the past week and a half I have at one time or another experienced all these feelings, and even some of them in combination at the same time. I know what you're thinking though, you have to have a companion wherever you go...let me tell you something. This in NO way means that you don't feel lonely. Especially when you and your companion might not share quiteee the same interests. But anyhow things are going great. The food is good and going through me better than ever (be that good or otherwise), I absolutely LOVE my district and I have been honored and excited for the opportunity to serve as district leader.
               So this past week has been pretty good. I'm loving gym although something about the difference in altitude here has clearly thrown off my shot just a bit. ;) but I will be adjusting soon I'm sure. It's hard not to be totally competitive sometimes because some guys here think that if you play well enough you get out a couple weeks early. But most of the people realize its just for fun and we have a fun, clean, ....well maybe just fun game. I have been going to class and learning a tonnnn of Spanish. I can't believe how much i have already learned even though I've been here such a short time. i can honestly say that i have never in my life experienced such high quality teachers! My teachers are the greatest and they bring a fresh new perspective to our classes as well as real in-field experience which helps for laughs and advice.
               I think that my favorite teacher out of all of them is Hermano P. He is sooo funny and he is from the East Coast too! He was like oh I'm from D.C. and I was like wait but really from DC? and he was like only an East Coaster would ask that question!! haha and I was like yah I'm from Ashburn and he said he's from Herndon! so ask around. He is getting married in 13 days and then going back to the East to visit family. He is so awesome though. He relates really well and took  the time to actually get to know us individually. And he has a great sense of humor when he teaches but then suddenly he is so in-tune to the spirit, it's great.
               So the MTC is getting RIDICULOUSLY crowded. Like you wouldn't believe it. The lunch room is like a Zoo in there...except in the zoo the animals are in cages so you aren't worried about spilling your tray food all over them. With the new influx of missionaries we have also had to add new beds to the rooms. Each room is built for 4 missionaries and we are about to have 6. This morning they asked us to go downstairs at 6:30 to help them carry up the new beds to our rooms and then build them....kinda sounds like hiring someone to dig their own grave...except the word hire implies pay which we would not get haha luckily they canceled it, unluckily it was during our temple time so we missed our session...but then luckily again, we were able to get into a later session and it was really great.
               I have been realizing something about leadership in the short time that i have been here. I received an impression on Sunday while in a district meeting about leadership. I have found it curiously UN-ironic that the picture on the front of the District leadership binder is of Christ washing the feet of the disciples. It was impressed upon me that leaders are given power. But the power that they are given is to have enough strength and meekness to realize that they have been placed in this position not over but under those whom they have been given stewardship over. Christ washed the feet of his disciples because of an everlasting, perfect love. Now it's time that I have some of that same humble love as i serve my district. Speaking to this point there is something that happened to me this past week that is one of the most powerful, testimony building experiences dealing with personal revelation that i have ever had. I'd like to share the story with you now:
Elder Hamm with his MTC district
              As the leader of my district, it is my job to collect the mail twice a day. You have to know that here in the MTC mail to a missionary, is like a 9 Volt battery for a toy car- it's what keeps you going through the tougher times. So a few days ago I was worried about a few members of my district because they had not been getting any mail, or very VERY little mail. I of course felt bad for them and began to think of ways that I might be able to help them. I knew they wouldn't care if they got a letter from me, or at least that it wouldn't mean the same to them. So I thought up the idea that I could ask them for their addresses under the presumption that I was going to use it to write/find them after the mission. Then I would be able to send a letter to their parents saying something like "Hey, I'm your son/daughters district leader and mail here is what every missionary looks forward to so I would encourage you to try and send as many letters as possible to your missionary. Thanks" Something along those lines. But that night as i lay in bed, a dark feeling came over me. I couldn't figure out why i felt this way because my idea was harmless and it was service to my district members. But i knew it must not be as good an idea as i thought. Then the next night i was praying and asked God to help me know again whether it was a good idea or not. After getting up from my prayer, the same dark feeling came over me. Something just isn't right. I walked over to my desk to turn out the lights and paused as I saw my Spanish scriptures laying there. I felt prompted to open them up to Alma so I did. When i reached Alma I felt so clearly to turn to chapter 12 (which I haven't ever read) so I did. Then just as clearly I was impressed to read verse 5. Which I couldn't because it's in spanish and the language of the scriptures "es muy raro" or very strange. So I opened up my English BoM and ended up reading 4-6 which you should open up and now. But for those of you not owning/near The Book of Mormon I will paraphrase. It says something like: "Thy plan was a subtle plan, even a sublte plan of the devil as thou sought to deceive this people. For the devil hath exercised his power over thee, that plan was a snare set by the adversary that he might chain you and drag you down to destruction." So i had really gotten an answer haha but then the next day one of the elders was saying he wished he could get just even one letter. Again I felt sorrow for him and the plan again flashed through my mind as I reflected on the feelings I'd had and the scripture I'd read. How could it be so bad?! Then the final witness came so powerfully that night as i sat in class inspired to read my patriarchal blessing. I know you aren't supposed to share it but I feel comfortable sharing that a small part promised me that through prayer I would receive teachings from the Holy Ghost that were different from my own inclination. 
I am left searching for words as the incredible wisdom of the Father surrounds me. I'm so grateful for the power and influence of the Spirit in my life and there is no doubt in my mind of the power of the Holy Ghost and revelation. Since all of this happened, each and every one of the members of my district has gotten letters, AND each member has gotten at least one package. So God works in mysterious ways, but He always works. 
Love, Josh
Provo, Utah LDS Temple with Wasatch Mountains behind

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From the MTC

February 9, 2013
Hey guys! 
It's P-day today and so I'm allowed to shoot you guys an email. I'm currently in the laundry room trying to get all 2 of my long sleeve white shirts clean haha.  We are required to wear suits pretty much everywhere we go so I'm gonna have to do laundry about every other week or so, just so I can make sure I have long sleeve white shirt to go underneath my suit.

Anyway lets have a quick recap of my time here so far. The first day was all about NEW. New people, new rules, new languages, new shirts with new collars that left new rashes on my neck, new girls who were very recently made unavailable to me as we were both set apart as full time missionaries, new worries, new friends, and yes, even some new knowledge. It was hard getting settled in on that first day but I think It's getting easier! I have a new companion whose name is Elder New____. It's weird to have to be around someone 24/7 but we make it work pretty well.

Day 2 consisted of a ton of spanish class with sister K. followed by language study, followed by personal study, ect. So basically it was a pretty awesome day, however at the end of it I felt like I have been in the MTC for like 3 weeks. It's crazy how time moves in here, people weren't kidding. The days all blur and by the 3rd day I can't believe that its only the third day, and surprisingly it's not in a bad way! On day 2 we met with the people of our branch and the branch presidents. They interviewed everyone and then assigned me to be District Leader. It's basically like a nice name for the guy who gets the mail and conducts classes haha not really but it's pretty close. I love my district though so it works out pretty well. They are all great guys and we have two sister missionaries who are kicking our butts with the language. It's like they were born to speak spanish! Oh and this Sunday they are gonna call on someone randomly to give a talk about how to recognize the spirit. It only has to be 3 minutes so no big deal....except for the fact that it has to be in spanish. SMH at these people and their expectations haha we are already praying in spanish and singing spanish hymns and moree! sooo I guess you could say that day 2 was all about spanish.

Day three consisted of some spanish class, this time with brother P. Both of my spanish teachers have been awesome which is a hard thing to do as most everyone knows that spanish classes frequently get me very frustrated. But they keep things pretty lively and brother pacheco will even speak in English sometimes. It's funny though because even when he speaks in English, he speaks with a thick fake Hispanic accent. He says it makes him feel better about speaking in English...I tried it...He's right haha but the most spectacular part of the third day was definitly when we had to teach an "investigator". I can't believe it's the third day and they already have us teaching someone in all spanish! But what was even more surprising was how well I think I did. The spanish just seemed to flow as I kept reminding myself that the real important thing was to try and teach by the spirit. Even though I had to speak around some words, it went incredibly well and I know that the spirit was there with us. We pretty much just got to know him because we are going to go back and teach him a few more times this week. But theres a popular saying around here: "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." It's pretty powerful stuff.

I've been learning fast though that the quicker you learn to love people, the easier everything gets. If you don't love your companion, think about how God sees them and what kind of struggles they must be going through. If you don't love your district, think about the different backgrounds they all come from and remember the feelings of anxiety and struggle that you have experienced here. It's all about loving people. I shared my mom's favorite quote with my district about how missionaries are those who leave their families for a little while, so that others can be with their families forever. That's my reason.

In the MTC, seeing someone you know from home or kinda like finding water in the dessert. Except for here you aren't really allowed to touch anyone so it's like finding water...but it's really too dirty to drink. However, it's something that gives you hope. A little familiarity can go a long way in here, especially when everything is so regimented.

Anyway I've got stuff to do, ya know cool Elder stuff you probs wouldn't understand ;) soo I gotta go but I'll look forward to your emails. Thanks for the letters, its hard to not respond immediately but I guess I can wait till P-Day every week.....well i guess. Anyway I love you guys and I'll talk to ya soon.

Love Ya!
Josh....or Elder Hamm

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hey everyone! I figured if you are going to be checking up on the blog from time to time it would be nice to have my contact information up on here as well as the easiest ways to send letters to me! My contact information is as follows:

Before March 20th:
Elder Joshua Scott Hamm
MTC Mailbox # 64
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

After March 20th:
Elder Joshua Scott Hamm
México Puebla South Mission
Calle 25 Sur #907
Col. La Paz
72160 Puebla, Puebla

Also, there are a few tips for how to send letters quickly and cheaply.
Pouch Mail
Take one sheet of copy/printer paper. Write the letter to me on one side of it and then fold it into thirds and tape it shut. Add one US stamp and address it to:
Elder Joshua Scott Hamm
Mexico Puebla South Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City UT 84130-0150

Go to the website: and you will be able to write to me for free. If you are writing before March 20th select the option to send the letter to the MTC in Provo Utah. If you are writing to me after March 20th select the option to send the letter to Mexico Puebla South where I am located.

Any of the ways listed above will work just fine as well as sending an old-fasioned letter straight to me in Mexico, however that will cost you amount $1.10. But whatever floats your boat!