First MTC P-Day, First Email Home

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I've only been in the MTC for six days but at the same time, it feels like I've been here FOREVER! There is a new group of missionaries coming into the MTC tomorrow afternoon and so we won't be the babies anymore! There are over 1800 missionaries in the MTC right now and we all are scheduled to eat dinner at the same time. It's like waiting in line for Splash Mountain at Disneyland. And everyone is super hangry so it's just a ton of fun. There are a lot of things I want to tell y'all about but there's no spell check on this and there's like six other missionaries in here practicing Spanish so I'm zero percent focused (so sorry). But anyways, here's what's going on at the MTC, it's a party.

My companion is Sister Richards from Draper, UT. She has been called to the Alaska Anchorage mission too and so we could maybe be real companions when we are out in the field together and actually in Alaska! The other day, we met the other three sisters that are going to Alaska with us and there are five elders also going there!  Alaska is the coolest (haha) mission ever.

Sister Richards and I are rooming with Sister Smith & Sister DeSpain (both of which are going to the English speaking California Anaheim mission-like Abbey but English!-it makes my heart so happy) and I sleep on one of the top bunks. The bedding in there feels just like hospital sheets and they only give us a super thin and tiny blanket- that doesn't even cover my bed- and so I freeze at night. And right outside our room is this giant light post that's always on and so it's ALWAYS BRIGHT in our room. I guess it's just preparation for Alaska summers. We live on the fourth floor of our building and the MTC DOESN'T BELIEVE IN ELEVATORS - THERE ARE NONE! And so hauling our bags all the way up there on the first day was the worst thing ever. We all get along pretty well. The bathroom in our hall is bright yellow and has florescent lights so the whole room glows and it makes your eyes burn when you're in there. 

We wake up at 6:30am every morning (it's SO HARD) and then have to be in class from 8am-9:30pm each day and so by the time we finally get to go home, I am barely awake enough to take my name tag off before I fall asleep and die. It's a lot of writing and teaching and reading and listening and singing and praying and all that- but I love it. Sister Richards and I are already teaching two new investigators, Amanda and Lucia, and they are both so cute I just adore them.

Sister DeSpain, Smith, Richards, and I are the only sisters in our district. There are eight elders in our district. Elder Brown & Taylor and Elder Hopkin & Hartzell are going to Nampa, ID. Elder Jones & Johnson are going to Anaheim, CA. Elder Judd & Dredge are going to Jacksonville, FL. We are all all over the place. Go America! Our classroom is seriously the size of my bathroom at home and it's so squishy in there. Normally, I would say that it's hot but the Elders have decided that Sister Richards and I have to sit under the AC with it on FULL BLAST in order to get ready for Alaska and so I just freeze my face off everyday even though it's like 90 degrees every day in Provo. Yay. On Sunday, we had the temple walk where your whole district walks up to the Provo temple and we are assigned to go at like 3pm each Sunday. I think that was the first time that I haven't been totally freezing so far. The joke in our district is that we have all of these amazing new friends, but none of us know what each other's real names are haha. It's super weird. Our district leader, Elder Hopkin is HILARIOUS. He is like Dwight Shrute and Napolean Dynamite and whenever we read scriptures out loud in our district, it takes all I have in me not to start laughing because it is SO FUNNY. All of the elders in our district graduated high school in like May/June of this year and so I just feel super old (Sister DeSpain graduated in 2011 and Sister Smith graduated in 2014 so they're really the grandmas of our group haha). 

Anyways, I love you all and this is so hard but so good.
See you later.

xoxo Sister Dunlop


Sending Sister Dunlop on her way...

Monday, August 22, 2016

On Monday night, Caitie was set apart as a missionary by our Stake President, President Kunz. It was a beautiful (and teary) experience for our family. She's officially Sister Dunlop now and she is ready to get going! Hannah and Mom got to take turns being her companion.

Her final post before she left the world of social media behind for 18 months :)

Tuesday morning, we loaded up the car with her massive suitcases and headed to Utah. Because she was already set apart as a missionary, our musical options were somewhat limited to things like MoTab, The Lower Lights, and The Sound of Music. As if we weren't emotional enough already...
We made it to Salt Lake in time to attend an evening session in the Salt Lake Temple. It was a wonderful experience to be there together before we sent her on her way. It was beautiful, and filled us with much needed peace and love. Now we're ready!

The day had finally come. Wednesday morning we ran a few last errands, had breakfast together, and walked the grounds of the new Provo City Center Temple. Caitie was SO ready to go. She was excited, happy, nervous, and honestly felt like she was going to throw up. She just wanted to get there and get started. Things got real as we pulled in to the MTC. We had thankfully been prepared for the quick drop off once we got there. A sweet sister missionary met us at the curb, helped Caitie unload her bags, took a family photo for us (before we could start to cry), and helped Caitie into the MTC. She had finally stepped over the starting line and was on her way.

We love you Sister Dunlop, 
our hearts are with you every step of the way!

Mail Mail Mail

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hi guys! If you want to send me packages while I am in the MTC (which I would LOVE), here is my mailing address:

Sister Caitlin Dunlop
2005 N 900 E Unit  68
Provo UT 84602

I will be in the MTC for about three weeks and then after that my mail will be sent to the mission home in Alaska for the remainder of my mission. Here is the mailing address for the mission home:

Sister Caitlin Dunlop
Alaska Anchorage Mission
3250 Strawberry Road
Anchorage, Alaska 99502-3108

See you in 18 months!
Sister Dunlop the Eskimo

My Farewell Talk

Good morning brothers and sisters, wonderful friends, and my dearest family, my heart is so full as I look out on this room filled with the people I love and who mean so much to me. I truly feel so lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing support crew and thank you to all those of you who have traveled far and wide to be here today for me.

This morning I would like to share with you two sentences that have changed my life forever. They go like this:

Dear Sister Dunlop,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Alaska Anchorage mission.

I hope to never forget the overwhelming feelings of joy, peace, and love from my Heavenly Father as I read those words aloud on a rainy night in April. I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday afternoon and will spend about three weeks there and learn everything about becoming a missionary. In the beginning of September, I will climb onto an airplane and head up north to Alaska for eighteen cold months and return home in February of 2018.

The preparation that I have done for my mission includes watching just about every single episode of the TV show “Alaska Bush People”, researching the recipes of “moose tacos”, “muktuk”, and “eskimo ice cream”, and buying enough Smart Wool tights and Patagonia parkas to last a lifetime; and I think I’m finally ready to stay warm enough for my eyelashes not to freeze off while I am there. Hopefully.

My message this morning is simple and it is one of the happiest messages in the world. It is the message that we have a Heavenly Father who loves each and every one of us. And that He loves us NO MATTER WHAT. He ALWAYS loves us because WE are His children.

To me, there is no doubt that there is a God. Everything around us testifies of Him; the rushing rivers and towering mountains, the change of seasons from green to white, the stars in the night sky, and being surrounded in a world of millions of people, none of which are the same as you, and yet, He is mindful of YOU because He loves YOU. ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST THING? There is a quote that says, “how cool is it that the same God, who created mountains and oceans and galaxies, [knew] that the world needed one of you too?”. You are important to Him.

Part of Heavenly Father’s Plan was for Jesus Christ to become our Savior. In order for this to happen, Jesus Christ needed to perform the Atonement which allowed for each of us to repent and have the chance to return to live with our Heavenly Father again in eternal happiness and joy.

Jesus Christ is known by many names- the Light of the World, our Savior & Redeemer, the Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, the Lord Omnipotent, and many others. But one of my favorites is the Good Shepard. The job description of a shepherd is someone who cares for and looks after each one of his sheep. And because we are all His children, we are all under the watchful and loving care of the Good Shepherd because we are His sheep. And we are all a part of His fold.

When Jesus Christ was alive on the earth, the religious leaders of His day condemned Him for spending time with “sinners”. Jesus Christ then taught the Parable of the Lost Sheep which can be found in the 15th chapter of Luke. It reads: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s said of this parable, quote, “over the centuries, this parable has traditionally been interpreted as a call to action for us to bring back the lost sheep and to reach out to those who are lost. While this is certainly appropriate and good, I wonder if there is more to it. Is it possible that Jesus’ purpose, first and foremost, was to teach about the work of the Good Shepherd? Is it possible that He was testifying of God’s love for His wayward children? Is it possible that the Savior’s message was that God is fully aware of those who are lost- and that He will find them, that He will reach out to them, and that He will rescue them? If that is so, what must the sheep do to qualify for this divine help? Does the sheep need to be able to use a GPS to define its position? Does it have to have the expertise to create an app that will call for help?

No. Certainly not! The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd,” end quote.

One of my favorite hymns is called, “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd”.
The lyrics to this song are as follows:
Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the sheep of his fold;
Dear is the love that he gives them, dearer than silver or gold.
Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are his “other” lost sheep;
Over the mountains he follows, over the waters so deep.
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens, bringing them back to the fold.

Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the lambs of his fold;
Some from the pastures are straying, hungry and helpless and cold.
See, the Good Shepard is seeking, seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing, saved at such infinite cost.

Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the “ninety and nine”;
Hark! He is earnestly calling, tenderly pleading today.
“Will you not seek for my lost ones, off from my shelter astray?”

Green are the pastures inviting; sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer thee gladly “Yes, blessed Master, we will!
Make us thy true under shepherds; give us a love that is deep.
Send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep.”
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue we’ll hasten, bringing them back to the fold.

Over my last year of school at Utah State University, this hymn brought so much peace to my soul in times of trials. Having the knowledge that I am under the loving watch of the Good Shepherd even when life gets tough, meant the world to me. It gave me comfort when I was feeling lost or afraid and made me remember that as a Child of God, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for me, even when it sometimes seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel seemed impossibly far away and out of my own reach. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves each one of us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices with us when we do what is right. He knows where we are and what we need. We are His children and He loves us. And because He loves us, He will come to the rescue. Since the Savior has experienced everything that we will go through, He can help the weak become strong. He experienced all mortal challenges “according to the flesh” so He could know “according to the flesh” how to help His people according to their infirmities. He knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, our suffering because He willingly experienced them all through the Atonement.

It also helped me in my decision to serve a mission. The last verse reads, “Lord, we will answer thee gladly “Yes, blessed Master, we will! Make us thy true under shepherds; give us a love that is deep. Send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep.” Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold; off to the rescue we’ll hasten, bringing them back to the fold.”. As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we will go out and find people to teach about the joyous message of the restored Gospel in the latter days.

If you knew the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you share it with everyone? If you discovered the most delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe, wouldn’t you make a dozen for every person you knew? That’s how I feel about going on a mission. For me, the Gospel like the cure for cancer or that amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe. This simple and beautiful Gospel is what makes me happy! I want others to share in this happiness with me and so I am going to go and share it.

President Uchtdorf said, quote, “It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. There is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.

The joyous news of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, we can not only be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can also transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory,” end quote.

I love the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and that we can be with our families forever. I know that we have a Heavenly Father who always loves us and that He has a plan for each of us. I know that God gives us commandments to help us progress and so that He can bless us. I am grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins and helped to make it so that we can repent and work to become better people. I am grateful for the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost to help us know right from wrong. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we have a living prophet who guides and directs us in these the latter days. I am grateful for this ward and for the way that it has shaped and strengthened my testimony.

In Greek, “gospel” literally means good news. I am so excited to go and share this good news of hope and light with the people in Alaska and know that this is exactly where Heavenly Father needs me to be. I love my family and am so glad that we can hang out forever and ever. I know that this church contains the restored gospel in its fullness and that it is true.

See you in eighteen months.

I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.