I'll start off by answering some questions: There are about 80 elders and 20 sisters in the Guatemala MTC, running at almost full capacity. We have a building, which is combined with the apartments for the temple workers and for people who come to the temple from far away, and a gym, which is a separate building. According to my calculations, that's exactly 17 fewer buildings than the Provo MTC. The food here is really good. They feed us all kinds of things, from lasagna to breakfast burritos. I don't know if this is what we'll be eating in the field, I suspect it's probably better. Missionaries here are about half and half latino and gringo. They will all be serving in Central America, though most in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
Also, if Pres. Uchtdorf really is coming to Guatemala, that would pretty much make my life. That would be AMAZING if he were to come and speak to us!!
Now into some stories:
The first, of course, was General Conference. We watched every session in English, and I loved every minute of it. Especially when Pres. Monson made the announcement about the Provo Tabernacle! That made my day! One of my favorite buildings in the world is literally about to become my favorite, because the Temple is one of my favorite places in the world.
Prior to watching conference, I had been praying to find out what I could do to be a better missionary, and my prayer was answered so bounteously that my cup runneth over. In pretty much every single session of General Conference, I received part of my answer from the amazing talks that were given. I can't wait for the conference Ensign/Liahona so I can study these talks some more!
Something funny that's been going on for a while, is the Latino elders really like my name. I've been addressed several ways: Bancos (literal translation of banks), Banks! Banks! Banks! (like Bang! Bang! Bang! from a gun), and then there's one elder who likes to start rapping my name every time he sees me. In other words, I usually hear my name at least three times if one of the Latinos is talking to me. Only the gringos actually call me Elder Banks (well, and the teachers). It's funny, but to be honest, it's getting a little old. I've decided to just tough it out, because the Latinos came in the same day as us, and they're only here for 3 weeks.
We got to leave the MTC and go tracting yesterday! I went with Elder Muguruza, my Peruvian exchange companion, and we knocked a few doors and talked to a lot of people on the street. We had some neat experiences talking to people, and helping them out. Some of the other elders had some even more outstanding experiences! For us, there was a lady who pulled up and got out of a truck, carrying some baskets of tortillas into a restaurant. We helped her carry them in, and we told her about who we were and why we were there. We got her address for the missionaries in the field, and gave her a pamphlet. It was a really great day and experience, and I'm feeling that once I get Spanish down and am able to understand better, I'll be ready to do this work. I'm super excited, and I feel ready. I know this is what I need to do right now, and it made me so happy just to help put six people in contact with the church, that I can't even begin to imagine how happy I'll be later on! (See D&C 18:10, 15-16) I'm really starting to get the "fire in my bones" as they call it!
And finally, the cherry on top of an awesome week: Elder Holland had given a devotional at the MTC the night before I entered. Last night, instead of having an area authority come and speak, we watched the recording of this devotional with Elder Holland. He spoke very openly and boldly about missionaries. He pointed out how we have an enormous responsibility, and this is the only dispensation that won't end in apostasy, and relatively all the missionary work in the history of the world is being done in the dispensation in which we live. He talked about how similar our calling is to his (after all, we're both called "Elder"), as we are both witnesses of Christ. But the thing that really hit home for me was how much God loves us. He was willing to give his only perfect son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of his billions of imperfect children, namely us. He loves us because we are his children, not because we are perfect, because if I'm any example, we're pretty far from it.
Well, I have to go now, they're forcing us out of the lab.
I love you all, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Elder Nick Banks