Jaxon Washburn – Letters from the Field – MTC week 1

October 12, 2018

Jaxon Washburn was a previous guest on the Latter-day Saint MissionCast (click here to listen). He was called to serve in Armenia and will share his letters from serving in the Mission Field each week. Subscribe to our blog to get every letter.

Hello friends and family,

I just wanted to reach out and confirm that I am indeed alive and well. As most of you will likely know, missionaries adhere to strict behavior guidelines, one such being that we can only write emails once a week on our Preparation Day (mine is Wednesday, hence my correspondence), though we can check emails daily. As such, if you do wish to write me, know that I will often read it the same day. Another means of communication is through mail, and I would highly recommend the service provided through DearElder.com. With it, I believe that you are able to send free letters to me that are printed and delivered on the same day here to the Missionary Training Center. The few that I have received so far have greatly raised my spirits, and it is nice to receive tangible mail through this form. Some of you have inquired as to what my traditional mailing and shipping address is. It can be found at the following:

Elder Jaxon James Washburn
2005 N 900 E Unit 114
Provo UT 84602

Also, please pay close attention to the following instructions:
“All missionary mail must come through the US Mail or commercial delivery services.  These services should not be used to send pizzas, fast foods, ice-cream, or any items that will spoil if they are not refrigerated within 24 hours.  Missionaries are not called out of class to receive packages, nor do they have access to a refrigerator.  For security reasons, we cannot accept any items delivered by hand.”

Now with those things in order, allow me to provide a summary of my week in all its turbulence, excitement and difficulty:

Last Wednesday, I had a safe flight and happily chatted with various missionaries and individuals that I met at the MTC and at the airport. Fulfilling standard stereotypes for Latter-day Saints, we were effectively and seamlessly organized and streamlined through the process of getting our introductory materials, getting assigned badges and dorms, and getting fully immersed into MTC life. On our name tags (my first name has changed to “Elder” from now on), has been placed an orange dot that is colloquially referred to as a “dork dot”. It essentially let everyone know that we were new and to give us proper greetings. Classroom experience that day was only partial-Armenian immersion today, with full immersion coming in future weeks. There are missionaries coming and going to all parts of the world here, and we all share the first name. My companion is Elder Gooch, and he is fresh out of high school, a big Marvel fan, and a strong leader. He has been made our District Leader, while I was made his Senior Companion. Our district (those of us going to the Armenia/Georgia mission altogether) are composed of 7 elders and 4 sister missionaries. Us elders have become incredibly close during our time already. We are composed of Elders Gooch (my companion from Utah), Mandla (hyper, hilarious, genuine, and an Aussie! I swear his accent has been rubbing off on me), Hooker (farm-type, here from Utah), Gunter (from Washington, fairly progressive in his politics and religious views (I am not alone!) and well read on Mormon scholarship, kindred spirits you could say), Leon (the oldest of us at 24, soft-spoken, incredibly empathetic, from Colorado, eats a ton, and enjoys the arts), and Stratford (from Arizona, very kind, spiritual, and quirky in his own ways). We have all bonded a ton and that has definitely made the change of mission life more manageable. The sister missionaries include Sisters Birtcher (from Arizona), Chisholm (from Mississippi), Dabb (we have made ample jokes at her name in light-hearted jest), and Jensen (from California). Sister Jensen isn’t typically in class with us given she is learning Georgian.

The Missionary Training Center is a strange mix of what feels like the monastic life, a private-religious school, church, and at times what I assume would be prison? Haha. Not that I don’t wish to be here, but there are plenty of highly regulated rules and guidelines that are typically enforced with exactness. Following the rules, being obedient, and behaving as the model missionary are all virtues here put on the highest pedestal. It is definitely a unique experience, has caused me to do some personal introspection as to how I perceive and react to systems of authority, and how I might best balance my roles and responsibilities as a missionary while retaining a semblance of individual autonomy. This environment has similar effects on the other missionaries with interesting results. Individualism is expressed in unique ways, given that typical avenues for such are limited.

Are typical schedule looks like getting up at 6:30 in the morning, getting ready for breakfast and eating, then having exercise time for an hour, having 2-3 hours of personal and companion study time, having 4-5 hours in the class learning the language intensively, having lunch, dinner, a bit of down time, and perhaps a devotional to attend. The schedule changes and isn’t fixed so I had to be generic with it. I typically fall asleep by 11 pm and rise to do it all again the next day.

I have been learning around 30+ Armenian words every day. I hope to raise this to 50+ in the coming weeks. Studying is intense and we speak and practice it constantly.

General Conference was a great experience here at the MTC. We were able to listen to the words of the prophet, the apostles, and other Church leaders, though on Sunday, I was sitting in listening to devotional talks for close to 11 hours. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep more than once. Oops! 😉

Parts of General Conference were difficult for me, and those who watched it may know what I am referring to. Part of belonging to any religious group is working through the tensions of claiming a specific identity attached with unifying beliefs, while also understanding that not all will carry the same paradigms. I sustain and respect my Church leaders and look to them as committed disciples of Christ, however, at times I do engage in a holy wrestle with the things that they say. There are a few other missionaries at the MTC that have felt similarly, and though we often feel like the minority, we have found comfort and understanding with each other.

To close, I want to bear my testimony of the work that I am doing. Whether you are, used to be, or are not a member of my faith community, I know that the values of peacemaking, love, sacrifice, charity, meekness, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion are all virtues of Christ and are things that can change hearts and change the world. We should all strive to embody them and to live the Golden Rule. Here at the MTC, I am learning to become the disciple of Christ, the brother, the friend, and the person that I am meant to be. I have no doubt that the experiences that I am having and will have while on my mission will bless me in various ways through the rest of my life. I am here because of my love and devotion to my Savior Jesus Christ. He has brought me the peace, security, perspective, and perfect example in my life and His Grace has forever changed me.

I love you all and will write more in the coming weeks. My Christ be with you and may we all make the world a better place by emphasizing and living a radical and transformative love in our families, communities, and relationships. We all have equal worth and value in the eyes of God, of this I am sure and can sincerely testify. Our lives are a time to learn, grow, and to enter into sanctified relationships with one another by practicing Christ-like values.

This is Elder Washburn signing off, one week down, eight here more to go before Armenia

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