Thank you so much for the letters and notes. It really has meant so much to me. I never realized how much a simple letter or note could mean to a missionary until I became one. The MTC is amazing! It's hard and I have been stretched a lot over the past week or so, but I am so grateful for all the things I have learned through the Spirit while I have been here. It's crazy to think that I will be in Canada in a matter of days, but I am so excited to apply everything that I have learned here. I am really excited to get to know people and love them as Jesus Christ loves them. I feel like I have learned a lot about the magnitude of the call to be a missionary. I never thought about it in depth, but multiple times this week through the words of my teachers and speakers, the Spirit has taught me about my great responsibilities as a missionary. I wear the name of Jesus Christ on my heart physically, but it must also be there figuratively. I am here to be God's love with skin and to see and treat others as Jesus Christ would. I am His representative for the next 18 months. We had a very inspired lesson yesterday in Brother Starkie's class about love. Everyone has the desire to be loved. Christ offers that love to everyone, no matter who they are or where they're from or how they act. He wants them to feel that they are of worth and that they have great potential to become like Him. He didn't suffer so that we could hate each other. He didn't ask me to serve a mission to prove that I know something. He asks me to love them as He does. "Leave people better than you found them."
The MTC has devotionals on Tuesday and Sunday nights. On Tuesday, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and his wife addressed us. Elder Oaks taught us about why our church is the only "true and living" church because we have a fullness of doctrine, Priesthood power directly from God, and a unique testimony of Jesus Christ. He talked about many things, but one that particularly stands out in my mind was his testimony at the end. He asked many deep doctrine questions that many of us wonder about and then said simply, "I don't have the answers to these, but I know that this gospel is true because of the witness of the Holy Ghost." It was powerful coming from an apostle of God and reminded me of something we had discussed in class earlier. We don't have all the answers, but because of revelation we don't need to know all the answers now. Knowing through the Holy Ghost that God loves me is enough. (1 Nephi 11:17)
Part of the MTC experience is teaching investigators. It is challenging, but an incredible opportunity to really learn through experience. Sister Sharp and I teach a couple of investigators right now: Desiree, Belinda, and soon we will be teaching Chae. I love the feeling of coming out of a lesson knowing that the Lord filled our mouths and that we taught by the Spirit to meet the needs of the individual we taught. Desiree has committed to be baptized and to pray with her husband about her decision to be baptized in the LDS church. SO awesome! She is coming to church on Sunday and will hopefully bring her kids, too! We meet with Belinda again tonight, which I am really looking forward to. Belinda has a very different background and view on life. Our first appointment with her stretched us a lot because we were just trying to understand her views of life and the world. She is studying different religions right now, and Sister Sharp and I feel that the best we can do is to help her understand our religion more. We gave her a Book of Mormon last time and she said she would read it--the whole thing!--before we came back. We may not be able to invite her to baptism now, but our part right now may be to just invite her to learn about Christ and to plant some seeds in her heart. We're praying for divine help with teaching her. We are really excited to teach Chae! She is an investigator that just walks around the MTC, waiting for missionaries to talk to her. We gave her a Book of Mormon and we are hoping to teach her once more before we leave for Canada.
My district is composed of four sisters and four elders. The elders are all headed to Sydney, Australia and all of the sisters are going to my mission. There are three other sisters in our zone also headed to the Canada Halifax Mission. I haven't met any elders yet that are going to my mission. I was called to serve as a Sister Training Leader last week, which has provided me with many opportunities to move outside of my comfort zone. The Lord always knows I need a little push in that direction and is always happy to give it to me. :) My companion is Sister Sharp from Boise, Idaho. She is AWESOME! She has a strong testimony of the gospel and is here because she wants to help other people. We have grown so much over the past week and I am so excited to keep serving with her in Canada.
I will try to send some pictures later. Time is limited here. We are constantly going and constantly doing something. I love you all and am so grateful for your support! It truly means so much to know that so many are praying for me in my efforts. I am comforted by the fact that whom the Lord calls, He qualifies. I have much to learn and I am excited for the journey ahead!
Sister Maren Renda
PS The MTC is like Oakcrest on steroids. I love it! :)