Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Only 19 more days at the MTC!

Six weeks ago today, Elder Swenson arrived at the MTC, eager to learn Danish and serve as a missionary. Today he informed us in his letter he only has 19 days to go. He leaves the MTC on Feb. 13. As for the language, he says, "There are a few native Danish elders here and according to them, our Danish sounds great, but it's just weird for us. This is the first language I've had to learn to speak fluently, so some words don't even sound like anything. Like the word for "lake" is sø, which pretty much sounds like (suh-uh). It's been way fun learning the language, honestly there haven't been any huge obstacles of any kind, I think my music background has blessed me tons. I actually set up similar practice plans to those I used for piano at BYU which is pretty funny, but they work really well. I probably study the language for about 2 hours each day personally, on top of the 2-3 hours we spend in the classroom only learning the language. I think we'll be fine, everyone in the district is doing very well. We took the LSA (Language Study Assessment) this week and I was actually surprised that I did pretty well. Our teachers said that the average missionary leaves the MTC with an overall score of 4, and I got a 4.5 which was pretty encouraging."

We were online at the same time today so we got to "chat" meaning we exchanged emails quickly so it was almost like chatting! This is the second time we've had a chance to do that. These are the two times I've felt the most connected, and I love it! It's a blessing. I also discovered that playing recordings of his piano music when I'm missing him helps a ton. SPEAKING OF THE PIANO, I keep asking him in my letters if he's played the piano at the MTC. During our chat, I asked again. He answered and told me that he had just played "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" by Marshall McDonald with a cellist on Sunday for sacrament meeting. He said they are auditioning tomorrow to play for an MTC devotional! How on earth do you leave that out of your weekly letter? Silly boy.

The cello player is Elder Dibble from Houston, who is leaving for Mexico in a couple of weeks. Elder Swenson said, "He's pretty good, it went awesome on Sunday. We got like 100 compliments after haha." I can't wait to hear if they get chosen for the devotional. He told me that Marshall McDonald and Steven Sharp Nelson play it (they probably arranged it) and wondered if I had heard it. I couldn't find it on youtube. Would've LOVED to have heard it on Sunday :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Love the MTC...

Volunteering at the MTC was awesome. This picture was taken in front of the Wilford Woodruff Admin. building. For those that don't know, Elder Swenson is a great, great, great grandson of President Woodruff. I sure wondered where Elder Swenson and his building were, but really it's probably good I didn't run into him. I don't know what I would've done anyway. But it was cool to get a feel for how things work. Char and I were "investigators" for a sister learning English. She is from Puerto Rico. She was solo for some reason, so one of the teachers came in with her (Bro. Caywood). They told us ahead of time she was really shy. I think it was really hard for her to try to discuss the gospel with us. But she did it! And the amazing thing was that when she read us a scripture, I felt the Spirit. Just proof that the Spirit can break through all language barriers or other shortcomings we might have. She goes to Florida at the end of the month. I will pray for her! The gospel is just so amazing.

Another fun thing was that Bro. Caywood went to Jordan High and knew Elder Swenson, at least knew who he was. I don't know his first name, but he is an RM and went to France and now teaches at the MTC. He graduated two years earlier. I was surprised he knew who Rusty was, but apparently his piano skills made him famous at JHS. Anyway, it was fun!

Excerpts from Elder Swenson's last letter:

"Probably the coolest part of the week was Monday, when President Brown came to our classroom for a few minutes with a lady and her daughter from Norway. They were coming to tour the MTC and the President offered to take them through, and since we're the longest Scandinavian group to be here, they came to our class which was awesome. Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are all very similar languages, so they were able to understand a lot of what we told them. The Danish is getting much better, my last two lessons I've been able to only have the Danish Book of Mormon and my memory which has felt really good. Only 5 weeks in and pretty much all of us are speaking at will during our lessons. I think the biggest room for improvement for all of us is in pronouncing everything better. We're still all getting used to the switch from the front of the mouth to the back of the throat for speaking. Mom, that was pretty funny about you trying to pronounce the Danish [the word "I" is pronounced "yiy" not "JEG" like it's spelled].

"Dad, I'm way jealous about the hunting trip! That's awesome you guys finally called a coyote in, just the fact that you did that means you guys were doing things right. I had a good feeling about that area, that might be the new place to be. You guys will have to send me some pictures when you get one. Glad Gar had a good time camping, sounds like some of those kids need to man up and take a dunking!

"Well, things have been going pretty well here. I really haven't been down still, I guess I'm just lucky that way, but as long as I'm doing the right things nothing else really bothers or gets me down. It's been fun here, I'm glad we're going to have the 9 weeks, because I'm already seeing the training pay off. At the same time, I'm way excited to get to Denmark the more I hear about the people and the country. It sounds like the perfect mission for me so far, and I know that there's people there that only I'll be able to get through to, so I'm stoked to see that happen. Thanks for all the letters, food and pictures! . . . The food up there is going to be amazing, pretty much everything you eat is made fresh that day. They have HUGE pastries, tons of fish, and tons of other awesome crap I probably haven't heard of. Thanks for everything, I'm grateful to have a family that has supported me every step of the way, seeing kids come to the MTC from difficult circumstances makes me feel for them. I'm grateful to have an amazing family."
Jeg elsker jer!!!
Ældste Swenson

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MTC Here I Come!

Guess where I get to volunteer this Friday?? Yep, the MTC! They needed English volunteers. I jumped at the chance and Char is coming with me. Okay, so I know I probably won't see Elder Swenson, but hey, it'll be cool just to know we're on the same campus. And I really want to get a feel for what it's like down there. This will give me a tiny bit of insight into missionary life at the MTC. Go missionaries!!! Go MOM!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Four Weeks Down!

Rusty, I mean Elder Swenson, is doing great! Excerpt from his last letter:

"We got to hear from Russell M. Nelson last night at the devotional. It's always awesome to be in the presence of an apostle, you can seriously feel their spiritual presence as they walk in the room and everyone stands up. They all seem ridiculously happy with their lives, even though they're probably hard at work every second of the day. He talked about the ancient prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah who saw today's missionary work happening in visions, and he read to us a few scriptures on that. It's cool to be part of the prophecy that's about 4,000 years old now.

"I guess I'm pretty lucky or something but I honestly haven't felt down much here. I've seen tons of elders getting homesick or overwhelmed when they get here and start thinking about ending their mission before it even starts. Whenever I get overwhelmed, all I have to do is think of what I'm here for. I know that there isn't a better place I could be, and that the Lord is happy for me to be here. It's been a huge adjustment, and still is at times, but I could honestly say that I'm happier now with this new lifestyle. I'm not worrying about myself anymore, most of my thoughts are on what I can do to be most prepared when I get up to Denmark. Speaking of which, our teachers told us about the schedule that we'll probably have on our first day up there. It's going to be crazy fun. So we get off the plane, meet the president and his wife and drop our stuff off at their house. From their, we go contacting, yes CONTACTING on our first day their with our MTC companions. I can't remember the name of the place we're contacting, but it's one of the public squares in Copenhagen. One of our teachers actually taught a guy his first day who was baptized 3 weeks later by the missionaries in that area. Pretty crazy to think about. After that, the president takes us to an amazing restaurant, can't remember what it's called but it sounds good. Then we have our interviews and get our areas the next morning.

"I love you all, see you in 23 months!"

This cool picture was taken off the coast of Denmark, and I posted it because I have no new photos of Rusty. In the resort town of Skagen you can watch an amazing natural phenomenon. This city is the northernmost point of Denmark, where the Baltic and North Seas meet. The two opposing tides in this place can not merge because they have different densities.

I know he's looking forward to being there. He said he made a cassette tape and promised to send it... we are still waiting to get that. He said that he speaks Danish on it along with some bonus features, like him and his companions making animal noises.... can't wait to hear it!