Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Week 7: Another Great Week!

One quick note: We have added an instrumental song to the blog. It is a song that Sarah and Becca recorded before Sarah entered the MTC. It can be found on the website version of the blog, and in Sarah's Blogger profile. We hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy the beautiful music!

Hello everyone!
This week has flown by!  And I only have a couple more before I head off to Mongolia!  Sunday was, hands down, my favorite day so far! :)
Tuesday finished off great with an amazing choir practice and performance of Nearer My God to Thee.  It sounded like angels came down to sing with us.  I got goosebumps the whole time! Then, the devotional speaker was Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!  He did a really informal talk where he walked around the auditorium and had missionaries answer questions.  I was about 6 rows away from an Apostle!  His presence in the room brought the Spirit so strongly.  He talked about the divine inspiration he receives as he assigns mission calls as one of God's Apostles.  He said that not a single mission call is an accident.  None are assigned by chance.  He gave a talk in General Conference called "The Divine Call of a Missionary" if you want to go read more about the process.  This was such a treat, and I felt so strongly that I am called to Mongolia for a reason.  It is not an accident.
Wednesday was fun because we hosted again!  I hosted 3 sisters.  It was funny because I was watching all the families get choked up, and in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Don't be sad!  This is going to be great!  The blessings will be far greater than the sacrifice!"  And I truly believe that!  But I also remember back to that first day, and I felt so much compassion for them.  It's not easy saying "goodbye," but the blessings really are so incredible!  I also passed off the first vision!  I loved being able to say it from memory IN MONGOLIAN!  There were a few places where I looked at the teacher and said, "wait for it.....it's coming....just a second...." and then the word would come to me. haha  It's amazing how God is truly helping me learn Mongolian at an increased pace.  There is no way I'm able to do any of this without His help.  I also had a great evening because I got a package of girl scout cookies! I shared them with my zone, and most of them were eaten before I turned around.  Everyone was so happy to get some of the cookies, and I loved sharing!  Thanks, Mom! :)
On Thursday, we did service!  Sinks and mirrors again!  I know, it's a shocker!  Also, we got a new person to teach!  It's going to be fun!  Sister Hansen and I also got a letter in our mailbox from the wife of the MTC 1st Counselor, Sister Bertasso.  She invited us to sing at the departing missionary fireside on Sunday evening.  We were super excited!
On Friday, we learned directional words and causative voice.  We don't have causative voice in English, so it's been an adjustment to learn, but I'm working on it! :)  We also had a crash course on food in Mongolia.  Lots of noodles and rice and fried food and tons of fat.  Like literal animal fat.  I'm in for a treat!  The real treat will be the occasional goat head! haha
Saturday was absolutely beautiful!  It was so warm we got to study outside!  And I felt the sun warming my back!  And I loved every second!  Fresh, warm air is good for the soul!  
Sunday was the big day!  We had a great church meeting about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  We had a great women's meeting about faith.  We had a great lunch at which I overdosed on ice cream from the BYU creamery.  I figure I will be replacing ice cream treats with goat eyes soon, so I better enjoy it while I can! :)  It was warm again, and the temple walk was so beautiful!  I love being outside!  It was the Cambodian's last Sunday, so we took a lot of pictures with them!  Then, we ate dinner and had our sound check.  It went really well.  The departure devotional had about 350 missionaries in attendance, along with the first presidency of the MTC. We sang at the beginning of the meeting, and snuck out right afterward to go to choir practice.  The Spirit was so strong as we sang, and I really felt like Heavenly Father blessed my voice to sing my best.  As we snuck out, Sister Bertasso came and met us in the hallway.  She said that President Burgess, the president of the MTC, demanded that all of the missionaries should hear that song.  She said that he's never done that before!  But she invited us to sing at the MTC-wide devotional that night!  On the way to choir, we were speechless!  We couldn't believe it!  
Then choir was so profound!  We sang Janice Kapp Perry's song, A Child's Prayer.  It is a two part song where the first half is a child asking to know if God really listens to and answers prayers.  The second half is from a loving adult telling them that God really does listen to and answer prayers.  All of them.  The choir director brought in 2 little boys.  Because we got there a little late, we ended up sitting right next to them.  They were so angelic, and they sang the first part, and we sang the second part.  It felt like I was singing to them.  They need to know that their Heavenly Father loves them and answers their prayers.  It was a really spiritual and profound moment for me.  
After choir, we went and did a quick sound check.  15 minutes before the devotional starts, everyone gathers in their seats and sings prelude hymns as a congregation.  We sang 2 hymns, and then, they got up and announced that Sister Hansen and I would sing the last prelude song.  We sang, and the Spirit was really strong.  I felt so peaceful and blessed to be looking out at the 1300 missionaries at the MTC, singing to them about Christ.  It's a moment I'll never forget! 
The devotional was great!  A sister came to talk about the history of missionaries, and it was great!  That night, we all gathered in the hallway of the residence to celebrate the Cambodian sisters.  We will miss them!  We drank sparkling cider and cheered and hugged and cried and sent them on their way!  I know they will change Cambodia for the best.  I love them all!
Yesterday, we taught a sister over Skype who is Mongolian.  She was super sweet!  I just felt badly because she couldn't understand us.  Our Mongolian was technically correct, but the accents were difficult to understand.  I'll work on that!  They served Taco Bell for dinner, so that was a treat!  And we started our online course to become certified English teachers.  It will take 15 hours of online training, and then we will go to the BYU campus to practice teaching at the English Learning Center (ELC).  It is a nationally known program, and it is going to be so much fun to be a part of it!
Thank you, all for your prayers and support and letters!  I love you all and hope you are doing well!  Being a missionary is such a great experience, and I am so grateful to have your support!

Love you!!
Sister Bottorff

"Our zone before everyone left!


Sister Bottorff's desk.

"Mongolian and Cambodian Sisters! :) Sisters for life! :)"

Jumping! :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Week 6: Miracles Happen!

This week has been great!  I have seen miracles and my faith has grown!  
On Tuesday, I went to the temple and then to choir practice.  We sang "Be Still My Soul" and it sounded angelic.  I am so blessed to be able to sing in the choir each week!  The devotional speaker was Elder Dube from South Africa.  He spoke and the Spirit was strong!  I took from it that I am so blessed to be one of the 75,000 missionaries in the world!  This is such a unique opportunity, and I need to enjoy every moment!
Wednesday was a good day!  I had class and played volleyball and had class and ate and had class.....it's a great life.  Our teacher challenged us to learn Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mongolian.  It's about 2 verses long, and I have been working on it!  He challenged us to have it memorized in 7 days!  It was a leap of faith to commit because it is long and challenging, but I know I can do it!  If I have learned nothing else while being at the MTC, I've learned that without God's help I can do NOTHING, but with His help, I can do anything!
Thursday was great!  It started with service, which happened to be sweeping and mopping bathrooms again!  Only this time, Sister Hansen and I were much more efficient, and we finished with enough time to vacuum the entrance!   Then, we got changed super fast and headed over to the main building.  Sister Hansen and I decided to audition to sing a special musical number at a devotional.  So we auditioned, and it happened to be in a conference room with only us and the three wives of the MTC presidency.  They are kind of like celebrities here, so it was pretty exciting.  The audition went well, so I'll keep you posted and let you know if I end up singing at a devotional!  After the audition, we had class as usual.  I scored 2 points in volleyball!  I'm pretty excited about it.  :)
On Friday, we had to plan 5 lessons in 2 hours.  But it went well, and luckily I have some outlines from previous lessons to draw from.  We taught 2 lessons that went really well.  We are teaching another companionship in our class, and sometimes it's hard not to laugh.  I mean, we don't really speak Mongolian, and neither do they, so when we are sharing something and they don't understand, we just basically try not to laugh.  There's a teacher in the room watching, so it would be bad to laugh.  We hold it in until we leave. hahahaha
Saturday was awesome because I got packages!  And I LOVED them!  Thank you!!!  We also taught TRC and it went really well!  I usually teach other returned missionaries who served in Mongolia, and if we're lucky, they share a personal experience from Mongolia at the end! :)  
Valentines day was packed with LOVE!  I opened cards from my family and Sister Hansen and I performed our song in Sacrament Meeting.  We skipped the temple walk because the weather was bad and we weren't feeling great, but we watched Mormon Messages, which inspire me and make me feel so happy!  Choir was amazing, as usual, and we started singing Nearer My God To Thee, and learned the story of Jacob and Esau and Jacob's ladder.  It never clicked that the song is basically that story!  Look it up in Genesis if you get the chance!  And then look up the song (with all the verses) and you'll feel uplifted!  The devotional speaker brought his son and sidekick, Russell, who is probably about 12.  He has Down Syndrome, and he's super cute!  He got up and shared his testimony, which was so pure.  It went like this, "I know Christ lives.  I know missionaries are important because they help me.  I'm grateful that my dad gets to travel to your missions for his job because he brings back gifts for me.  I know the church is true."  I was so happy!  The speaker, his dad, did a great job, and he brought up two missionaries from the congregation to share their stories about converting to the LDS church.  It was really amazing to see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed their lives.  
Yesterday was miraculous because I woke up with a cold coming on.  I felt like I just needed to sleep it off.  But I tried my hardest to work through it, and after prayers and some medicine, and a quick nap during gym time, I seriously felt like a new person!  I had no more symptoms of a cold, and I was able to go through the rest of the day feeling normal!  Miracles happen, and I know that God is watching out for me!  I also taught a lesson last night overs Skype.  We are going to start Skyping to teach people in Mongolia!  The person we taught wasn't in Mongolia because there weren't enough people who signed up, but the lesson was great, despite technical difficulties.  I'm just so excited to be a part of this great work!  I'm learning so much!  
Other than that, things are great!  The language is coming line upon line.  I have the first vision almost completely memorized!  We are doing a test tomorrow.  Our teacher will take us in the hallway, one by one, and we will recite it!  I have about 5 words left to memorize.  After that I just need to solidify my fluency of saying it.  See?  Miracles really do happen!  They happen every single day!  
I hope everyone is doing well!  I love you all!!
Sister Bottorff
Sister Bottorff and the Temple.

Sister Bottorff and Sister Hansen at the Temple.

"I found a smiley face in the scriptures! :) Scriptures make me happy! :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 5


It's been another great week at the MTC!  I'm feeling great!  Life is great!
After my last email, I went to choir practice.  We sang Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer, and it was the most beautiful arrangement.  And have I ever mentioned how awesome the director is?  He always has inspirational stories and is also super hilarious at the same time.  I love choir!  He told stories about the Savior's miracles.  And then he told modern day stories about miracles that happen.  In the early days of the LDS Church, a man (I THINK his name is Matthew Cowley) was called on a mission to New Zealand.  And he ended up performing many miracles on behalf of the Savoir.  I know that Christ lives and loves us so much that He allows miracles today!  Big and small!  The devotional that followed our choir performance was outstanding!  Elder Zwick of the 70 and his wife spoke.  And let me tell you!  It was amazing!  Sister Zwick talked about her sweet son, Scott, who is mentally and physically handicapped.  He wanted to go on a mission with all his heart, but he couldn't physically do it.  His younger brother ended up getting called to Thailand, and Scott lived through his younger brother.  He posted mission pictures all around his room and soaked in every email.  Then, Elder Zwick (the dad) found out he had an assignment to go to Thailand on behalf of the Church.  It was a week before the younger brother came home, and they decided that they would pick up their son in Thailand following the assignment.  When they called the mission president to ask permission, the mission president replied that it would be alright under one condition.  He demanded that Scott would be able to come and spend the week with his younger brother as his companion.  The Scott was set apart as a missionary and they spent the week working together.  The last day, Scott wanted to be able to share his testimony.  So his brother did all he could to find someone who spoke English.  And on the train, there was a couple speaking English.  And Scott approached them and held the Book of Mormon to his heart and said, "Even though I can't read this book, my family has read it to me and I know that it is true."  The Spirit can be felt through the Book of Mormon.  I know it.  And the story really touched my heart.
Elder Zwick spoke about prayer and the need to be fully engaged in prayers.  Distractions are easy to come by, but a fully focused mind and heart really enhance our prayers.  And I have tried it out!  I have felt and seen a difference in my life!
On Wednesday, we woke up to no hot water or heat.  So that was exciting!  Or something! :)  I had a great day of classes!  And ate some good food!  
Thursday started with some service.  Sister Hansen and I had toilet duty, which was surprisingly easy and fast and not so bad!  We also started teaching each other in Mongolian.  So Sister Hansen and I teach three of the elders in our class.  It's kind of hard not to laugh, but it's a good time!  Mongolian is HARD, but I can see great progress in all of us!
Friday was an adventure because our teacher banned us from bringing written sentences into our lessons.  We have to go off memory and the use of a dictionary and ONE note card with vocab only.  It has been a surprisingly wonderful experience, and I'm amazed at how much I actually know!  God has blessed me more than I can say!  I can't take credit for a single word I know!  
Saturday, we taught TRC, and we taught two lessons.  The first was with a returned missionary who returned from Mongolia not too long ago.  And the second time, we taught another returned missionary and his native Mongolian friend!  They ended up teaching us.  We understood only a portion of what they said, and as we were reflecting, Sister Hansen and I were confused about how to feel.  We weren't sure if it went well or badly, haha but we know the Spirit was there.  So we chose to feel good about it!  And we learned a lot from them!  Then we had more class.  Volleyball was fun because there are some new elders that are here who basically are professional volleyball players.  It got really competitive.  And I just kind of ducked the whole time.  And laughed.  And prayed I wouldn't get hit in the face.  And it worked!  Yay!
Saturday was also my ONE MONTH mark!  I love looking back at how little I knew (and when I say "little" I actually mean "Nothing") when I got here and how much I've grown.  I am teaching and praying in MONGOLIAN!  And none of it would be possible without the help of My Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and loving family and friends who help me along the way!  
On Sunday, we fasted for the people of Mongolia.  I loved it!  All of the missionaries met together for a conference.  There were some great talks given by the presidency of the MTC and their wives.  One spoke about diligence, and it motivated me to work even harder!  Then we had sacrament meeting where strong, powerful testimonies were borne by the members of my zone.  I am surrounded with incredible people!  After sacrament, we watched the movie about the life of the prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  And then Sister Hansen and I taught Relief Society.  We led a discussion about the Holy Ghost.  We were taught by the other sisters.  I am in awe of the way the Spirit works in our lives.  And the blessings he can bring.  We did our usual temple walk, and then we watched Meet the Mormons!  I love that movie!  The devotional was astounding!  Jenny Oaks Baker graced us with her presence.  And her whole family came and performed.  She is a Julliard graduate who works magic on the violin (just like my sister, Becca!) and her four kids played with her.  Her 14 year old was on a violin, a 9 year old on the cello, a 12 year old on the piano, and a 9 year old on the guitar.  And all I can say is that I was speechless afterward.  But I made a new life goal to have musically talented kids that can play music with me!  
Yesterday, we taught 2 lessons, which will be our new normal.  It's more stressful, but I'm up for the challenge!  Both lessons went really well!  We also had Chick-fil-a for dinner!  So basically the miracles keep pouring in!  :)  
I sometimes don't think I'm learning the language very well, but the other night, I realized that I know more than I think.  I was writing in my journal and I started writing in all caps to express excitement for making it a whole month, and I started accidentally writing the Mongolian letters that make the same sounds as the English letters.  Hello Monglish.  haha I guess I'm doing better than I thought!
Other than that, life here is normal!  And great!  And packed FULL of blessings! 
I am so grateful for all of you and your support!  It makes me so happy to hear that you are all doing well!  I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Love you!
Sister Bottorff

The Mongolian Sisters.

Sister Bottorff and the Provo Temple.
"Books and flash cards for dayssssssssssssss."

The half flash cards are words and the whole flash cards are sentences.
These are all of the words and sentences Sister Bottorff knows in Mongolian!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Week 4

This week has gone by faster than any other week!  On Tuesday, we went to the temple and then had dinner, followed by choir practice!  Choir practice is one of the highlights of my week!  We sang a song called "Hurrah for Israel" and it stems from the movie "The Other Side of Heaven."  It was the saying everyone used in the movie to show that even in the hardest times, they were doing what the Lord wanted!  The director showed us a couple of clips from the movie, and that was quite the treat!  I want to watch the whole thing!  I guess we can add it to the list of movies to watch when I get home.  But you should all watch it!  Because it's inspirational and based on a true story!  Elder Hallstrom from the Presidency of the 70 came to speak that night.  He spoke about the importance of humility and obedience.  And he said that he has been to every country that has missionaries, and that made me smile!  Not many people can say that!  Especially since there are over 400 missions in the world! :)
Wednesday was fun because we hosted new missionaries again!  I hosted 3 sisters this week!  They were all so nice and excited to get to work.  One is headed to Japan, another to Pennsylvania, and the third is going to Salt Lake City!  It is amazing to be on a campus where people are going all over the world speaking almost every language to share happiness with people!  
Thursday started with service.  We cleaned the sinks and mirrors in the women's residence hall.  Service makes the time fly, and it's fun to have something mundane to do! :) No thought required! :)  Then we had class and talked about the story in Matthew 14:24-31 where Peter gets the opportunity to walk on the water.  He begins to sink, but Christ showed mercy on him and helped him not to sink.  I likened it to myself.  I have been called on, by the Savior, to do something I thought would be impossible.  Sometimes doubt can creep in and make me feel like it really is impossible.  But Christ is closer than I think, and if I reach out to Him in faith, He lifts me every single time.  He never fails me.  Or anyone!  Thursday was also unique because my teacher's boss asked Sister Hansen and me to teach him a lesson in English as he pretended to be a Mongolian 21 year old.  We were able to teach a really heartfelt lesson that God loves him.  We sang to him and the Spirit was strong.  It made me so excited to learn Mongolian so that I can express my feelings of love to those in Mongolia.  
Friday was uneventful.  But I got a package from Mom (thank you!!)!  I missed Becca's play, but I know she did well!  
Saturday was Sister Guild's birthday!  We sang and celebrated!  I passed around a card for our whole zone to sign, just like we did at Scott Elementary!  It turned out super cute, and it got EVERYONE saying "happy birthday" to her! :)  After the day of classes, the sisters gathered for a small potluck to celebrate the Thais (Missionaries going to Thailand) in our group.  They all left on Monday at 3am, so it was good to see them again!  We had TONS of sweets and lots of laughs.  We made it to bed on time, too! :)
Sunday was bittersweet because Sunday is AWESOME always, but it was the Thai's last day.  We have become a little family, and it's so sad to see them go.  They did a special number in sacrament meeting, and they sang “God Be With You Til We Meet Again”.  Many tears were shed, but we are so proud of them!  We had a really fun temple walk and took some last pictures.  Choir was fun.  We are singing Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer this week.  It is absolutely beautiful.  Brother Richardson, from BYU, came to speak at the Sunday Devotional.  He talked about what it means to be a REAL missionary.  Afterward, we watched the pioneer movie, Legacy, about the Mormon Trek westward.  Our zone gathered together in our hallway after the movie.  The Thais were getting their last things from their classroom, and we all stood together and sang God Be With You Til We Meet Again one last time.  There is a Hawaiian in the group, and he sang Aloha Oi.  Most everyone cried, but only because we will miss them so much!  We know that they will be amazing out there!
Monday was a little weird without the Thais, but the MTC had Subway catered for dinner, so that was nice!  We had class and learned more Mongolian, but it was pretty uneventful. 
I have been playing volleyball every day!  Still getting better! :)  I met someone going to Pennsylvania, and he got here on Wednesday.  I told him about Dixie Barton's nephew serving there, and then the elder said that her nephew was probably in the huge snowstorm! I laughed and said, "well probably, but being at the MTC is like being under a rock, so I had no idea it happened at all!"  And that basically sums up my life! :) But it's a good life! :)  I hear everyone is getting snowed in at home!  Enjoy those days off!  It's been snowing here, but we are hardly outside, so I can't really tell what the weather is doing.  
Other than that, life is really good!  I have so many great friends, and we are helping each other through! :)  
Love you all!

Sister Bottorf

Sister Bottorff and Sister Olsen in matching hats.

The Sisters with Elder Torres and Elder Fukino.
Elder Torres has a Polaroid Camera!