Bonjour! It's so great to read your emails, and hear how things are going. As you know, Thanksgiving is coming up. On top of that, my cousin Christian is entering the MTC this week, so for this week's email, I'd like to do something a little different. I'd like to share the things I am thankful for, in bullet point fashion, and I hope that some of these things could help Christian as he starts his mission.
-I'm grateful for the MTC. It's a very diverse place, with many different people and many different understandings of what missionary work is actually all about. It's like middle school, a little bit: you're all new to this whole thing, so there are differences in opinions, to be sure, and maybe a few angsty puberty moments where things are just awkward, but I absolutely loved every minute of it. If someone asked me to go back and do it again, I'd do so gladly.
-I'm grateful for my family. As I have spent more time out here, the more I love my family. Not in a homesick way at all, I just grow more and more in awe of the blessing that Heavenly Father has given us as families. My family has really prepared me for my mission, and they are a great source of comfort and joy on P-days.
-I'm also grateful for the family photo album I have. This week was my first week with my new companion, Elder Dakouri. He's from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), so there are cultural and language barriers, but we've been tearing down the walls. Saturday night, we shared family photos with each other, and that helped us bond a lot. There are lots of different people that I've met on my mission, but every person on this earth is doing what they think is right, and we can all connect in some way or another, like talking about our families.
-And on a more general note, I'm grateful for Elder Dakouri. He has taught me so much in just one week! He has so much charity for Akpakpa 1 (he's been here for around 7 or 8 months), and he loves these people. He's never one to wait for things to happen: he's a man of action, and no investigator will ever throw him a curveball. Also, he's super patient, and willing to laugh whenever I make a mistake. For example: So, out here, things like sugar and salt are sold in sandwich bags, and oftentimes they don't have labels. One morning, I was making hot cocoa for everyone, and I wanted to add sugar to Elder Dakouri's cup. He's got a crazy sweet tooth, and 3 tablespoons of sugar isn't enough in his morning cocoa, so I decided I wanted to add 5 tablespoons. Well, as it turns out, our bags didn't have labels, and I didn't pay too much attention to which bag I was grabbing. I go to take a shower, and as I'm getting dressed, I hear Elder Dakouri say "Compagnon! Viens!" He offers me a spoonful of his cocoa, and next thing I know, I'm drinking salt water. We all look at each other, burst out laughing, and I promptly give my apologies.
-I'm grateful for Elder Hansen, too. He's probably my best bud out here in the mission, and he's been such a source of aid to me. He metaphorically gave birth to me, and he's taught me so many lessons about love and charity. And I know that Akpakpa 2 is in good hands.
-I'm grateful for how dead sexy I am. You know, there aren't very many people who have a lot of good looks, and I'm just so blessed to come from a family with good genes, and I'm blessed to live every day of my life as a hot person. :) (shoutout to the LP Morning Show Crew, Elder Landon Hall!).
-I'm grateful for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that's about it (you've got to see the Mormon Message here to get that one). Seriously though, the food here is really good. I like almost all of it, and it's delicious.
-I'm grateful for morning excercise. Seriously, I've never loved exercising as much as I have on my mission. It's the best way to start a day, right after morning prayer. It gives me so much more confidence for the day ahead.
-I'm really grateful for my washboard, and for clean white shirts. We sweat a lot out here, so there's no better feeling than putting on a completely soft and clean white shirt that you've washed with your own hands.
-I'm grateful for morning study. I've never gotten so much out of scripture study in my life! It's probably my favorite hour of the day. I'm also grateful for language study, the French language, and patient Francophones who are willing to wait for me to catch up.
-I'm really super grateful for prayer. I just feel so good every time I get on my knees and pray, it's one of the most meaningful things we do as missionaries.
-I'm grateful for the sacrament. As a missionary, the sacrament becomes a truly sacred experience. It's the best ten minutes of the week. You feel, for just a moment, like you and the Savior are the only ones in the room, and He's there just for you.
-I'm really grateful for daily and weekly planning. Missionary work is basically Spirit-filled improvisation, but with proper and thorough planning, it's Spirit-filled improvisation with a side of preparation.
-I'm grateful for mission leaders like the Assistants, Elder Mutombo, and President and Soeur Morin. If I ever find myself in difficult situations, I try to take time and ask myself "What would President Morin want me to do? What would Elder Mutombo do?"
-I'm really grateful for the Missionary Manual, and for the mission rules. Obedience brings blessings: the more obedient you are, the more blessings you have in your quiver!
-I'm truly grateful for Joseph Smith, and for our prophets today. I know that Joseph was a prophet called of God, who did see God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today.
-I'm infinitely grateful for the Atonement, for Jesus Christ, and the love He shows for us. President Morin, on our first full day here, gave us the advice to grow as close to the Savior as possible. As a missionary, you get to share the love of the Savior with the people you teach. I love these people more than I could have ever imagined, I am extremely in awe and gratitude of them, and I know that that love comes from the Savior. He is my King, and I get to live the dream of sharing His Restored Gospel and Plan of Happiness with each and every person I talk to. Charity changes lives, and it never faileth.
I hope you all have a great week!