Well, I made it. I'm at the MTC doing my laundry right now. The trip from California to the MTC was rather uneventful. Becca already told you all about it so I won't, other than when I was going down the escalators at the Salt Lake Airport I saw a huge sign saying, "Welcome Home Elder Gardner!" I thought it was pretty funny an Elder with my same name came home the same time I left. I talked to the people holding the sign, they were nice.
When I got to the MTC they had another Elder take my luggage while they took my picture and gave me my nametag. It's pretty weird to have my own missionary nametag. It almost makes it seem like I'm actually a missionary. My companions name is Elder Kelly (I call him Elder Keshy (Nate should get that)). He is a really cool kid from Salt Lake City. His dad co-founded Jet Blue, but retired since he is the new mission president of the Rome, Italy Mission. So Elder Kelly's parents were here for the mission president training seminar the past few days. Having the mission presidents here was interesting; we weren't allowed into some of the buildings and the cafeteria was half as small as normal. But there were many apostles here the past few days.
The other Elders in my room are Elder Beck, from Utah, and Elder Rasmussen, from Canada (no relation to President Rasmussen). They are both really cool. My district has nine Elders and two Hermanas (sisters). Half are going to Buenos Aires North and half are going to Neuquen Argentina. My teachers names are Hermano Strugill and Hermano Ringwood. Our zone is getting new zone leaders this week, the old ones are leaving, and one of the new ones is named Elder Molinaro (I think that's how you spell it). At BYU I knew him as Justin, he was my Family Home Evening dad. I've seen several people I know from BYU, but most of my close friends don't come for another month.
Spanish is tough. We have a computer program called TALL that helps quite a bit, but we haven't really learned any grammar yet, just vocab. So I don't know how to form a sentence. I think it's cool though, the first thing they teach you is how to pray in espanol. What a good thing to learn how to do. Hopefully as I pray in Spanish God will realize how bad I am at it and help me out a bit.
On Friday there was a special fireside because of the mission presidents and eight of the twelve apostles were there. Elder Oaks spoke about the true and living church. My companion got to go to a sacrament meeting with his parents where ten of the twelve and the entire first presidency were there. The prophet spoke the entire meeting. Sadly, I didn't get to go with him, but he said it was awesome. We got to meet our new mission president since he was here being trained. His name is President Gulbrandsen, he is from Arizona and seems really nice. I'm excited to be able to work with him in Argentina.
On Saturday we had our first practice teaching experience. Hermano Strugill told us we would be teaching a man named Felipe who was an ex-gang member/drug runner who did some serious sins and didn't think he could be forgiven. He gave us twenty minutes to prepare the first lesson then teach another companionship who pretended to be Felipe. Elder Kelly and I outlined the lesson and did an ok job teaching the restoration, but we didn't focus at all on Felipe's needs. That's what they are really trying to get us to focus on, the investigator's needs. So for companionship study we went over the lesson and tried to do a better job with his needs. We were doing good when we got to the Savior and the atonement. We didn't know what to say and sat for a few minutes thinking. All of a sudden an idea hit me, we turned to the scriptures and we talked about the cruxifiction and the pain Christ suffered. The spirit was really strong as Elder Kelly and I tried to figure out what we could tell Felipe. I think that was the first time I've ever really been guided by the spirit to do something specific, it was a great feeling. On Sunday we tried teaching Felipe again and this time the spirit was really strong. Our pretend Felipe was really good and he said he could really feel the spirit. I'm excited that I've had such a great experience and it's only been four days. I hope that I can continue to recognize the spirit and be able to follow its guidance better.
I'm loving the MTC. I'm loving being a missionary. I know what I'm doing is what God wants me to do and that I can help people change their lives. I'm working hard, and praying harder.
p..s.. I don't have anyone's address so if you want me to write you you need to write me first.
"Here I go. And there's no turning back. My great adventure has begun. I may be small, but I have gaint plans to shine as brightly as the sun."