Adrienne Martin, along with other youth leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently organized a “Manhattan Training Program” to better prepare the young men and women in their New York City ward to serve full-time missions for the Church. This “MTC” is not affiliated with the Missionary Training Centers set up around the world by the Church, but it aims to expose prospective missionaries to opportunities for service and religious learning that will lay a stronger foundation for the missionary experiences they will have in the near future. Adrienne shares her experience with the program here.
For those involved, we’re all kind of obsessed with the Manhattan Training Center (MTC). It’s an eye-opening, head-scratching, heart-tugging immersive experience. The program was designed to better prepare high school juniors and seniors for their missions.
When the age to serve a mission was lowered, a lot of kids went from high school and the comforts of their own home straight into the mission field, where they had to fend for themselves. And many mission presidents noticed a lack of preparation and life exposure. Now imagine what would happen when a bunch of New Yorkers heard about this dilemma. After sincere prayer and mediation, the MTC was created.
To better help our high school students speak from personal experience and deep from their heart, we shape our activities in a way that looks at our faith from a different perspective and through an unexpected lens. We get them learning and applying in an environment outside of family activities, church walls, and seminary classes. We jump into the real world and see how the gospel fits into it.
After three consecutive activities of actualizing the doctrines, we spend a night reviewing, scrutinizing, and confirming what we’ve learned. It’s a casual gathering in someone’s (tiny New York) apartment. We hang out. And it’s in these quiet, intimate moments with close friends that the real questions, fears, and doubts arise. We get gritty and uncomfortable at times. And as a leader, I can’t tell you how much I love when this happens! I worry more about the kids who don’t ask questions, those who go with the flow, who say yes to everything. Because when these questions are asked, they are building an arsenal of understanding and formulating a testimony.
Just recently after a group discussion, one of our girls pulled me aside and asked a pretty heavy question. I first expressed gratitude that she felt so comfortable asking such an honest question, and I’m pretty sure I threw a hug in there too. And then I asked her what her own thoughts were. And then how she answered assured me that the MTC was working. She struggled through the logic for a bit but ultimately drew on various MTC activities as she came to her conclusion. And she said it way more eloquently than I could have said.
But the real beauty is that she answered it for herself. That experience will last longer in her mind than anything I could have answered. As we rode home on the subway, she spontaneously hugged me so tight and said, “Oh, I feel so happy now that I know. I love you so much.” [Insert a lump in throat and welling tears.]
I mean, it’s not a perfect process and we are still refining it. But isn’t that what life and testimony navigating is like too? Check out pictures of our incredible youth and stellar activities at www.thenycmtc.com.