Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the MTC!

Beloved Friends and Family,

I hope you are all doing well and I are enjoying your last minute Christmas preparations! In the past week, we've gotten probably a good 8+ inches of snow (check out the weather cam link on the right side of my blog if you want a peek), so it looks like I will FINALLY get to experience a white Christmas! My family tells me it's been snowing like crazy up there too... what are the odds? I hope you all are safe in the snow up in Washington. Maybe you'll get a white Christmas too!

Yesterday was the first chance Hermana Blanco and I had to teach the first lesson in Spanish. Up until now we've been teaching in English, working on teaching techniques, learning the order of the lessons, etc., but since we're just past our halfway point, it's time to begin teaching in Spanish! We were both fairly nervous, but it went well, and the teacher we taught had lots of great feedback for us (we do SO many roleplays around here it's crazy). She was very positive about our spanish and our teaching techniques, even though it was only about half as good as our English lessons usually are. It will take practice and continued hard work, but hey, that's why we're here right? After we finished teaching, we went back to our class (there are 11 missionaries in our district... which is the same as our class) and everyone was discussing their experience. One of the elders said something particularly funny. He said, "The worst is when you ask them to read a scripture, but you don't even understand it [because it's in spanish]. Then you're like... 'So tell me... what does that mean to you?' hoping something they say will remind you what that scripture says..." Maybe you had to be there, but it was quite funny.

In addition, I couldn't possibly forget the birthday of my dear friend Marta whom I've known since I was 5! She turned 22 on the 17th of December. Happy Birthday, and Happy National Syrup Day, my dear!

Usually on P-day we go and do a session at the temple, but it's closed for a couple of weeks for maintenance and cleaning. At first I figured we'd probably just have extra time for writing letters and laundry and what not, and then I was told that nope... WE are going to go and do service at the temple and help them clean! So right after I send this email my district and I will be trudging up through the snow to help clean the inside of the temple! It should be interesting. I'll let you know how that goes.

Also, just an interesting note: Edward Herrman (Lorelai's dad on Gilmore Girls) was on Music and the Spoken Word a couple of weeks ago, as the narrator to one of the songs the choir sang! Crazy huh?

Finally, I am learning so much. I never thought that going on a mission could help me grow so much, but I can feel any walls that I had breaking down, and the truths of the gospel penetrating my heart. The sarcasm and skepticism that is so easy to feel under normal circumstances are slowly but surely being scrubbed away by the amazing spirit I feel everyday and the happiness I have at the opportunity to do so much to bring such wonderful happiness to any who may be looking for it. I am finding myself seeking the spiritual nourishment I have found through the scriptures... I am truly feastin on the word like I never have before. I love it.

Anyway, I hope to hear from all of you soon!


Hma. Austin Hollenbaugh

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Weeks and Counting...

Family and Friends!

I hope all of you are well!!! First off, I want to send out a birthday shout out to one of my best friends Caitlin Carroll! She officially turned 22 on December 5th. Happy Birthday Love! I hope you're doing well and hope to hear from you soon. Things are looking up, here at the MTC. Even though things are just as hard if not harder than they were before, I seem to be getting the hang of things... I must have built up an endurance to the busy days here. I think I'll start with a funny quote. One of my first days in the MTC, a teacher gave us a quote, that said, "People learn best by two means: traumatic experience, and repetition. The MTC provides both." Now, don't get nervous, I wouldn't say by any means that I've had a traumatic experience here, but I could see how it could possibly be traumatic to some people maybe. :)We've had some great opportunities this past week and the week before which I didn't get a chance to write about yet. Every week we have the opportunity to go and work in the Referral Center during one of our class periods. The Referral Center (or RC) is the place that receives the phone calls when an ad about getting a free Book of Mormon or one of our Christmas DVD's comes on TV. The place is operated almost entirely by missionaries, and it's a little nervewracking but such a great learning experience! It gives us all a feel for what it will be like in the field, answering the questions of people who don't yet know about our message, and to send them more information or a visit from the missionaries, etc. I have had several chances to send people Books of Mormon, Missionary Visits, etc. It's so exciting to spread the word to these people, even if all of them aren't as nice as we'd hope :). Sometimes, if all the phones are busy when people call in, they leave their information on a message, and then when we're not answering calls, we call them back. We try to bear our testimonies to them, and let them know how much happiness and joy the message of the restored gospel can bring them, and hopefully they believe us and let us send them more info. Next time you see an ad on TV, or see a card for a free Bible or BofM from us, you know that number leads to the MTC :).

Also, I wanted to let all of you know about a website called At this site, you can send me an email, which the mail room receives, prints out, and will put in my mailbox. It's like sending speed letters! I really love getting handwritten letters, but if you're one that rarely has time to sit down and write a letter, find a stamp, etc., or you have some exciting news, send it via DearElder! I think all you need is my name (Sister Austin Hollenbaugh) my mission (Texas, Houston) and my reporting date (Nov. 19th). Feel free to contact me through this method and I will do my best to reply!

On a little bit of a different note, I want to mention that it's fun to be sister amongst tons of elders. It makes me feel like I stand out a bit more, and like I'm not just one of a huge mass of missionaries.

One of my teachers is absolutely amazing. His name is Brother Dallon, and he is only like a year off his mission but he's the oldest of five as well, and you can tell. He is very wise :). Anyway, he gave all of us some really great advice the other day. We were talking about mail and getting letters and what not, and a few of the Elders in our district have girlfriends at home. He told us about an experience when he was out on his mission.

I've been growing a ton, but one thing I've really noticed is how pronounced my bad habits and weaknesses are in the mission. They become very obvious. Which is, of course, good and bad. It is frustrating to have these things pop up and interfere with the work I'm trying to do, but at the same time, it gives me the chance to recognize them and pray or search the scriptures to find out what I can do to fix these problems. It is yet another thing that is difficult but worth it. The fixing part is a fight, but once I start to make progress in an area, the feeling of success and joy completely pushes away any frustrations.