February 3, 2015

This is my first chance to really write to my family back home and I have so many things to tell you, I am afraid one email isnt going to be enough. Today marks my first successful week here at the Lima MTC (or CCM in Spanish) and my life has never been more exciting, brutal, and crazy. We work ourselves to death here at the MTC. It is clear to see that the Church and the Lord have very high expectations for their missionaries.

My first day here was literally the absolute longest day of my life. Our plan landed close to midnight and we managed to get to the Lima MTC at around 2:00 AM and we needed to get up by 6:00 AM so you can imagine how that went. My very first companion here at the MTC is named Elder Fritz. He is a tried and true Canadian from Vancouver, Canada. He is a good 5 inches taller than me, speaks little to no Spanish, and is a super athlete so we have pretty much nothing in common but I love the guy and so far I think our companionship makes the best pair out of all the Elders. My companion and the rest of the Sisters and Elders in my District are incredible and amazing people. Their spirits are so strong and I am uplifted each and every day. Learning happens here at the MTC both in and out of the classroom and there is no other place on Earth where I would rather be right now.

The conditions in the MTC itself are actually fantastic. The dorms are nice and comfortable, the grounds are absolutely beautiful and the teachers and district and zone leaders are pillars of spiritual strength and leadership. I love my teachers and I love the people I have met thus far. Our day usually consists of waking up super early, get dressed, go to class, eat like crazy, go to class, play soccer (or futbol is they call it), go to more class, eat like crazy, go to more class, crash in your bed from exhaustion, repeat. Every second of every minute of every day is used to the max here at the MTC to train you for the field and to better you as a missionary. The food here consists of a ton of rice though, so in that department I am happy.

Thus far I have been able to leave the MTC grounds once for P Day and I was able to go to the La Molina Temple and then go shopping around with other Elders at a bunch of stores. It is beyond hot here in Peru and I can only imagine how much hotter it is in Piura. Everyone I meet that I talk to about Piura calls it the land of eternal heat, so I dont really know how to feel about that. The people here and the culture are a wonder to see and experience. The Latinos I have met both in and out of the MTC are the absolute kindest people in the world. My Spanish is progressing steadily and I really think Im gaining the confidence I need to be effective. Being a missionary is no small task but the MTC has done an incredible job of bolstering my faith and strengthening my receptiveness of the Spirit. Speaking of the Spirit, what I feel here in the MTC is just indescribable. There have been times where I was brought nearly to tears just from feeling the Spirit that prevails here. This place is just pure magic.

I miss all of you back home. I feel so blessed and so grateful to have family and friends supporting me through this. Its only been a week but there are times when my mind leaves my mission and drifts back to Lynnwood every now and again. But I know I have a work to do, and being called to serve, I will do my best to complete that work. Every single time I look at this little black nametage pinned to my lapel, I am reminded what my purpose is here in Peru. It brings me such joy and humility to look at that tag and say: Yo soy un misionero de la iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los ultimos dias. I have yet to see where the mission will fully take me but I will go wherever the Lord directs.

I cant wait to hear from all of you sometime. Dont be strangers. Always know that you are in my prayers. I will email home again next week. Until then.
Elder Justin Cruz

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