So this is what a Naked Mole Rat feels like…

March 30, 2016

In our classroom with with all the missionaries in my district going to Taiwan Taichung. (Pre-Haircut)Mar 30 2016Week3

​Sister Jackson and I. She leaves for Tallahassee next week, so all you ‘Noles watch out for her around town this next year and a half!


Hey Y’all!  Another week in the books here at the MTC!

So this week was pretty eventful for MTC standards! We were incredibly lucky and blessed to have an apostle of the Lord, Elder M. Russell Ballard, come and speak to us Easter morning. He spoke about the importance of the Atonement and being disciples of Christ. He also told us how important our job as missionaries is in bringing others unto Christ. He also challenged us to find the beauty in our everyday lives, like to stop and admire at the flowers every once in a while.

This week’s entertainment comes in the form of having fun with our Chinese and messing with other missionaries here. So yesterday, all of the Chinese missionaries that came in January left to go to their respective missions, as their 9 weeks of training here were finished. Only one elder, Elder Hill, had his flight to Vancouver, BC leave this morning, so we got to hang with him all day yesterday. Elder Hill is from Idaho and of course speaks perfect English, but his mom is from Korea, so he looks very Asian. So back story time… when you get to the MTC, they give you your name tags with orange circle stickers on them (nicknamed dork dots) to indicate that you are new that day, so people can help show you around.  Backstory part two… at the MTC there are groups of “fast track” elders and sisters, these are missionaries who get called to speak their native language, and only come here for 2 weeks instead of 9 because they don’t have to learn a new language. Usually these “fast track” missionaries are straight out of Taiwan or China, and are all Asian.

Well, Elder Hill had saved his orange sticker, and put it back on his name tag, even though he had been at the MTC for the full 9 weeks already, and as it was his last day here, we decided that we were going to pretend he was a fast track elder straight out of China, who spoke no English at all. So at dinner, we planned this all out, we were going to go up to my friend from BYU, Sister Jackson (the one going to Tallahassee) and her district of 10 English speaking missionaries, and introduce our “fast track” Elder Hill who was new and spoke no English at all. So we go up to Sister Jackson and her district, and we introduce Elder Hill, and he starts speaking in straight Chinese to them. Of course, Elder Horton and I know everything he’s saying, but these English speaking missionaries have no clue at all. Sister Jackson goes “doooo youuu understanddd englishhh” super slowly like you do when you’re not sure if they speak the language, and it took every fiber of my being not to die laughing on the spot. I looked over at Elder Hill and he is trying his hardest not to die laughing as well. Well, the conversation lasted for another 10 minutes with me translating back and forth between Elder Hill and these English missionaries. The highlight came when they tried to get Elder Hill to say “Tallahassee” and he kept on trying to pronounce it as “Tarrahashe” like in the most stereotypical Asian accent ever, and they congratulated him like he was really trying his hardest. I died laughing at that point and it was super hard to not break character with Elder Hill. We said our goodbyes and went on our way. Later that night we saw them again and told them the whole thing was fake and that Elder Hill is from Idaho and not China, and they were shocked. Now that Elder Hill is gone, we have no more Asian missionaries that aren’t legit fast tracked, so I’m a little bit bummed we can’t mess around like that anymore.

The Chinese is coming along extremely well, I can pretty much carry on full conversations now, and Elder Horton and I teach in full Chinese for about an hour every day. My teacher said that I am progressing much faster than normal, and that he wants me to do extra work so I can keep myself challenged. On top of the vocab and grammar I already know, and on top of the stuff we learn in class daily, I have made it my goal to learn 40 new words and 3 new phrases every day. Needless to say, I am keeping myself busy here.

Last night the cafeteria served fish. I knew this would only end badly, so I advised everyone not to eat it. Unfortunately for one of the elders going to Hong Kong, he didn’t listen to me, and he got food poisoning. All I’m going to say is that I can’t wait to get to Taiwan and eat chicken testicles, because it will be better than anything they serve here.

I go back to the podiatrist tomorrow to get my foot checked out again. Hopefully he says I can get off the scooter and put weight on it!

Also I was told my hair was too long, so I just went to the infamous MTC barbershop like an hour ago and got my hair destroyed. Elder Horton and I went in there and asked for bowl cuts and they said no and got mad at us for not taking our appearance seriously. She then asked what I usually get and I said a 5 out of 10 on the sides and back, and scissors blended really well on top. I was then informed that the longest guard they have is a 4 out of 10 and they didn’t have scissors. So I currently have a #4 buzz cut. Thank you MTC… not. I’ll send pictures next week when I don’t look like a naked mole rat.

I love you all!!! Thank you so much for the letters and packages! They are awesome and make the days 100x better! Please keep sending them!

Hope you all have a great week!


Elder Stroud




You Can’t Fatten the Hog on the Day of the Fair

March 23, 2016

Here’s Zach’s update from MTC Week 2…

First scooter broke. Elder Horton and I checking out the rims on my new scooter!

First scooter broke. Elder Horton and I checking out the rims on my new scooter!

Hey Y’all!! Another week down at the MTC! Only 7 more to go before I’m off to Taiwan! (Wow that’s a long time). In the words of my companion, Elder Horton, when I asked him to describe this week in a sentence he said “This week was slightly better than last week, and last week sucked” So things are looking up here hahaha! Also it snowed kind of a lot yesterday, so that was cool!

So everyone here says the MTC is like a prison, but that’s really not true… Prisoners have way more freedom than we do, lol.  To put it in perspective, we are surrounded by fences here, and the only way in and out is through a guard gate!  Also we are completely in the dark here about pretty much anything that happens in the outside world, unless we get updates in letters or through emails on P-days (preparation day), which is for me on Wednesday. For example, Ted Cruz held a rally at Provo HS literally a mile away from here, and we didn’t hear about it until a day after. BUTTT my companion and I have started to have fun with this and we try to spread funny rumors every day to see how far they can travel, because interesting news travels FAST here. This week’s rumor was that Cam Newton got busted for steroids hahaha. So as we pass other missionaries in the hall we will be like “dude did you hear that Cam Newton got busted for steroids?!” to each other, and we wait and see if other group of people caught what we said and act surprised. It’s the little things that keep us sane here.

Every day is basically the same thing at the MTC. Wake up at 6:30, eat breakfast, go to the gym (I go to the trainer to get my foot iced), shower and get ready, study for 3 hours, eat lunch, class for 3 hours, study for another hour, eat dinner, class for another 3 hours, and then more studying until bedtime at 10:30. It’s really repetitive, but it’s the most efficient way to become as proficient in Chinese as we can in 9 weeks!

The food here is absolutely awful, like literally the lowest quality food I’ve ever eaten. Kids (Including me) get sick from it all the time, so that’s a struggle…

The Chinese is coming along really well! It’s so hard to be focused on it pretty much 24/7, but it’s what’s necessary for us to be successful! Our teacher still teaches in only Chinese, no English, and were only allowed to speak Chinese in the classroom, so it was a challenge at first, but now we can pretty much handle ourselves. The big surprise this week was that our “investigator” from last week ended up being our new teacher, so that was a shock for all of us. Now we have two teachers, one an RM who served in NYC Chinese speaking, and the other a native Chinese speaker from Taiwan. So we get a nice little mix of speaking styles! Elder Horton and I can pretty much teach hour long lessons in Chinese now, and like I said the gift of tongues is a very real thing.

My foot is getting better! Almost no pain when I stand on it now, But I’m not allowed to put weight on it for another week, so I’m still on the scooter. The podiatrist said that this injury takes a full 6 weeks to heal, but the missionaries he sees with it usually heal in around 4 due to so many extra blessings, so I’m hoping when I go see him again on April 1 it will be fully healed!

One of my friends from BYU, Sister Jackson, arrived at the MTC this week, and she is going to Tallahassee for her mish!! I’ll try and get a picture with her this coming week and send it!

My favorite quote of the week came one of the speakers at the Provo City Center Temple dedication which we got to attend on Sunday. It was “You can’t expect to fatten the hog on the day of the fair”. It really hit me that, in order to be successful in Taiwan, I have to put the work in now, and I can’t expect to do nothing to prepare myself and be fluent the day we get there.

Thank you all so much for your love and support!! Your emails, letters, and packages mean so much to me!! If anything cool happened in your lives, or you have any rumors you want me to try and spread, let me know!

I love you all! Until next week- Elder Stroud

Sink or swim… Week 1 at the MTC

Here's my official name tag. My name in Chinese sounds like "how" but with an "r", like "rao". I think it means "wind" or something!

Here’s my official name tag. My name in Chinese sounds like “how” but with an “r”, like “rao”. I think it means “wind” or something!

Here’s my official name tag. My name in Chinese sounds like “how” but with an “r”, like “rao”. I think it means “wind” or something!
Zach and Aleks

Here I am with Aleks, my cousin, and former BYU roomate. He’ll be leaving in June to go to Peru on his mission, after he finishes this semester at school.

This group is my district and we are standing in front of the Provo temple on Sunday. All of us are Chinese speaking missionaries and are either going to Taiwan or Singapore.

This group is my district and we are standing in front of the Provo temple on Sunday. All of us are Chinese speaking missionaries and are either going to Taiwan or Singapore. Elder Horton, my companion is next to me wearing the sunglasses.

Hi all, it’s Zach’s mom, keeper of the blog.  Here’s his first post from Week 1 at the MTC…

Well week one of the MTC is in the books! Only 8 more to go here before they send me off to Taiwan! To say it was the hardest week of my life would be a huge understatement. Basically the whole point of the MTC is to prepare us missionaries for our respective missions, and for us missionaries who are going to Taiwan, that means rigorously studying and learning Chinese in order to preach in the language. Our days are super structured here, and its exhausting to say the least. We wake up at 6:30 every day and go to Chinese class for 6 hours, and afterwards have 6 hours of mandatory study time in the classroom. So basically we are in the same classroom with the same 10 people ( My district) for 12 hours a day. It’s incredible how much we learn here though. I don’t want to offend my former Chinese teachers, because they are getting this email too, but I would say I’ve learned more Chinese in the last week than I did the last 5 years in school. It’s incredible really. The Gift of Tongues is a very real thing, and The Spirit helps so much in the learning process. The first day of class was an awakening for sure. We showed up and our teacher spoke only in Chinese to us for 3 hours. Not a single word of English. Have you ever tried to learn something when you don’t even understand the language the teacher is speaking? Its dang hard. But you learn extremely fast because your options are to sink and fail, or swim and succeed. So, its hard but good.

On Friday my companion (basically my partner in learning and teaching here) , Elder Horton, and I had to teach an “investigator” (she’s a BYU student who is from Taiwan and volunteers to help us practice our teaching skills) a gospel lesson in straight Chinese. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and we got wrecked. Our Chinese was not even good enough to even carry on a conversation, lol. But we teach her every day, and it gets better every time. On Monday, Elder Horton and I taught a 45 minute lesson about the gospel in straight Chinese to her. It was incredible, and like I said… the Gift of Tongues is very real, and our progress over just the weekend was unimaginable. Seriously our Chinese has improved SO much that we can teach a 45 minute lesson in only Chinese with no English at all. I can’t wait to see where my progress is after my next 8 weeks here.

The best part of every day here is the one hour of exercise time we get!  So on my first day of exercise time, I broke my foot playing basketball. Yep, you read that right. I played high level competitive lacrosse for 6 years without a broken bone, and my first day as a missionary, I break my foot playing pickup basketball. I feel like the Lord needed to humble me and, this was his way of doing it. So in the pictures attached, you can check out my sweet knee scooter that I get to ride on every day. So that was the first humbling experience, the second was having the scooter break my second day of having it and having to use crutches until the new one comes in. I’m in a boot for 6 weeks and I can start to put weight on my foot in 4 weeks. So that’s a bummer, but just another challenge to overcome.

Elder Horton and I get along super well, and I feel like our Chinese skills compliment each other. He’s from Utah, and played lacrosse like I did in high school, and is just an all around stud. The Lord definitely blessed me with him, because after he graduated he went into a surgeons tech program, and became a surgeon tech. So to have practically a doctor as my companion as I broke my foot is just a straight blessing.

The highlights of this past week were leaving the MTC campus to visit various doctors to get my foot checked out, and getting Chick-fil-A catered for dinner Monday night (the normal food here is the worst I’ve ever had), and having it snow a little after the devotional last night. Our days are all the same here, so even a little change of pace is exhilarating.


So while we were at the hospital waiting to get my foot x-rayed, we saw a service dog and Elder Horton and I started making jokes to each other in Chinese about how were going to eat dogs when we get to Taiwan. Well there was this random guy sitting in the waiting room with us smirking the whole time we were talking to each other in Chinese. As he got called into the nurses office, he passed us and just said “Jiaoyou” which means good luck in Chinese, so he knew what we were saying the whole time, and we started dying laughing, hahaha!

 I LOVE YOU ALL!!  And would seriously love if any of you sent letters or whatever to me here. Letters are the best part of every day, and they are like gold. There is a service called that will deliver any letter you type up to the MTC for free the same day, and getting those are so awesome. If you want to send something, my address for the next 8 weeks before I get to Taiwan is:
 Elder Zachary Kearsley Stroud

2005 N 900 E Unit  61
Provo UT 84602

I hope you all had incredible weeks, and I would seriously love to hear about them all! Shoot me an email or letter and keep me updated on your lives! I can only access emails on my prep days, which are Wednesdays, btw, but regular mail and the letters are delivered every day.

The Church is true and I know that this is where the Lord needs me to be for the next part of my life! Talk to y’all next week!
 Rao Zhang Lao
Elder Zachary Stroud