Okay, by this time, mission life has pretty much set in to the same routine. Our schedule is virtually identical each week. So no updates there. The only change we really see is when we get to escape the MTC (missionary training center) compound - I mean campus for things like picking up antibiotics for Elder Miller, who got strep this week. Thankfully, my illness has returned home defeated, and strep sounded lame so I passed on that one as well.
The language is coming along well. It's gotten to the point where I can make satirical sentences when asked to practice a grammar structure, so my teachers really appreciate that. On my teachers: In the morning, we have Sister Seegmiller (pronounced "Seg-miller"), who is 21 and got back from her mission in the Marshall Islands last year. She's getting married in June. She likes to talk about her fiance so whenever we get tired of studying we'll ask her about how he's doing (tricks I learned in high school). She's hilarious and we spend a good amount of class time laughing.
Brother Sherman is our afternoon teacher. He's 22 and returned from the Marshall Islands about a year ago as well. He actually just got engaged last week. He was running late to class and when he came in he said "This is all I have to say about being late.", set an empty ring box on the desk, and walked off to his teacher's meeting. Brother Sherman is half-Japanese so I have to watch what I say under my breath around him. He loves languages and actually speaks Kiribati as well as Japanese and Marshallese. He's a pretty funny guy too, and he's got a pretty dry sense of humor, which matches mine well. We're pretty lucky to have such great teachers (we also do occasionally learn things; I probably made it sound like we do no work).
As I suspected, being with two companions definitely got more difficult. Definitely learning patience. I haven't tried to hurt anyone yet, so I think I'm doing it right. It's just beginning to get a little bit easier and I have no doubt I'll be able to work through it, but I'll definitely be glad to have just one companion in the field. I've noticed everyone else in the district ("everyone else" being all five of us) starting to feel a little strained as well. I plan to assume some of my responsibility as District Leader and discuss how we can be patient as we pass through our half-way point at the MTC. So, we'll see how that goes....
We taught a couple of real investigators(investigator is our name for people taking lessons from the missionaries or who are interested in the church; it's just a convenient term and entirely non-derogatory, just to be clear). It was a nice change to teach in English and talk with people with real questions. We taught them about our purpose here on Earth and one of them asked why God would send us to a place with such terrible people and allow us to experience so much pain. As we answered his question, I could sense that this nice couple had been carrying some heavy burdens their entire lives and were searching for relief. It is my experience that the relief that they were searching for is found in understanding and application of Christ's Atonement.
Most of what we do outside of language study here is learn more about our purpose as a missionary. This is what the General Authorities of the church have written (after countless revisions) about that subject: "Our Purpose: Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." The more we teach, the more I realize that the focus of our lessons is not doctrine. It's Christ. Literally everything we teach leads back to him. For one reason: We. Need. Him.
This was something that I never really realized before in my life (because I like to do things on my own). But as we've studied how to teach, and as we taught this lovely couple, I've realized that everything is possible only through Christ's grace and sacrifice for us. Only because of his teachings are we able to make it through this life, and that's because his teachings lead us to come closer to him, and one day, to live with God again. This couple told us about some of the things that had happened to them. I could see why they couldn't understand why God would allow us to come to earth. But, as I explained to them, I know that there is a purpose in us being here. It's so that we can learn and grow and become more like Christ, so that when we are brought back into God's presence some day, we won't feel uncomfortable because we will be more like Him than when we started (we won't be even close to how perfect He is, but we will have changed enough and learned enough to be happy with Him). So, even though we endure pain and sorrow, it's worth it. And not only is it worth it, but Christ's Atonement covers our suffering. I don't know how yet, but I do know that one day, because of the sacrifice Christ made for us, one day all of our pain and sorrow will be gone. Everything done to hurt us will be made okay. God didn't send us down here helpless or alone. He provided a Savior to enable us to come back to his presence some day and to help us along the way.
Which brings me to my challenge this week: Study Christ's sacrifice for us. Learn more about the Atonement and his grace and how it applies to you. We all need it. We all fall short and we all experience sorrow and pain. I'll leave the medium of study up to you (though I strongly suggest Brad Wilcox's talk "His Grace is Sufficient"), but I will promise that if you will seek to learn more about the Atonement of Christ, you will feel its effects in your life more strongly and you will begin to feel Christ's grace in every aspect of your life.
You're all great. Thanks for those who wrote me (and who sent me food; I may or may not have lost 10 pounds since coming here, so I am much obliged) and don't feel bad if I don't write back immediately - I'll do my best but time is short and email isn't the reason I'm out here.
Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission
P.S: A little key for the Marshallese I've been using so far or may use (the spelling isn't really standardized, so apologies if I spell things differently sometimes):
iokwe - hello/love
jerammon - goodbye/blessings
Kajin Majol - Marshallese
ilo - in
emman - good/it's good (probably our most-used word, since it's what we say when we have no idea what someone just said to us. "*blank stare* .......Emman!")
P.S.S. If you feel like it, and by "if you feel like it" I mean it's compulsory, you should listen to/watch Elder David A. Bednar's MTC devotional titled "Character of Christ". Elder Bednar is one of the twelve Apostles in our church and he totally rocked this talk. I know it's a good one because it made me feel like I could do better, so there's that. They suggest we watch it on our first and last Sundays here, and I'll probably make it my topic for week 6, but you can get ahead of the game by checking it out now.