Thursday, April 26, 2012

In our failures we find the greatest success

Family, friends, saints, sinners, warriors, kung fu masters and everybody in between,

This week feels as if it has passed by in seconds. I'll just go straight to everything that's been on my mind lately as a missionary. Hong Kong, said without any intent to produce negativity, is not an easy place to serve a mission. I'm not exactly sure what I expected, if anything at all. But for whatever reason, I did not predict that so many people would be so unwilling to even experiment on the prospect of further truth, deeper knowledge, and greater happiness.

To explain a little how this thought was brought about -- you may recall that in my last letter I spoke of a "golden investigator" who we taught last week. In that lesson, I remember the Spirit feeling the
way it does when you're walking past the threshold in Costco on a hot day and feel the massive air conditioner pleasure you with sweet, blissful, cool air. It was so apparent, and it was so exciting to see him recognize the Spirit working in his life. He never answered our calls again, and fong'd us at the next appointment. Disappointing? Terribly. Why did he do it? Not sure, but we expect he got anti'd by family members. Apparently that is somewhat frequent in Hong Kong. We've been fong feigei'd a ton this week, even by those we already have somewhat of a good relationship with. On the
bus to my area every day I talk to people, get to know them, do everything I can to relate the vision of God to their lives, and watch as they smile and shake their heads when I ask them if they'd be willing to simply ask God if He actually exists. Why not? Seriously, why? This I have asked myself many times throughout the week.

I no longer question the existence of God. I, like everyone, have had my moments. I wonder where He is, why do I seem to fail when I do something right, and what direction I should go. But I can testify to anyone with certainty that God is real, and that He is among His children. It is difficult for me to explain how I know, but I feel His presence so often. I feel Him when things seem to be going
wonderfully, and when I'm on my knees at night begging Him to forgive me for my inadequacies, to help me become better. I know He exists because the more I serve Him, the less I care about myself. I'm not here for me, I'm here for Him. I don't want people to listen to me because I want throw them in a pool and increase my own personal success statistic. I want them to feel God right beside them, lifting them up in their greatest sorrows, helping them overcome their greatest fears, and become true children of God. (Mosiah 18:22).

If any of you have time, I invite you to read one verse of scripture. Mosiah 18:26. The first thing Alma did after baptising the mass of people was ordain priests and elders to go teach the gospel. I related this to me, as I go out and proclaim the good word. The verse says that they were "not to depend on the people for support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God." When I read this, the Spirit rushed through me. I've only been here
for what, 3 weeks? I need to continue in my labor. My ability to teach with power and authority is largely measured by my diligence in obtaining God's word. I realized that I need more patience. Things I used to deem failures are no longer failures, but ultimately successes. What a success it has been for me to realize that through what seems a failure, God will build me up and help me more fully recognize His power in my life.

I hope it all made sense. I testify that God makes us strong through our weaknesses, and gives us success through our failures. If we continue to only seek Him, we will eventually understand that our
failures really aren't failures at all, because we are fulfilling our purpose.

May you all be blessed with success and joy in the coming week!

Love, Elder Hazen

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The work is progressin​g

Good morning! Hong Kong is the best mission in the world.

What an awesome and productive week we've had. There was a Zone Find in our area, which means that about 20 missionaries concentrated their efforts in Aberdeen for about 2 hours to find more people to teach. It was such a blessing because last week we had no progressing investigators and not enough numbers to call, and those people we did schedule fong feigei'd us. (no show). I'm happy to report that we have about 4-5 new and scheduled investigators, and one of our investigators who wasn't progressing before I came now has a baptismal date next month. We have a list of numbers to call that we haven't even called yet, and there is seriously so much to do! I feel like I'm on fire.

A few great experiences. A couple days ago I was on a 24 hour exchange, and went finding for 3 hours with my temporary companion. We were a little annoyed after experiencing some sass from a group of four drunkards that "wanted to be taught" and then no success with nearly everyone else. I didn't feel terribly discouraged, but we didn't seem to find anyone truly willing to listen. As I was walking and asking a question about Cantonese to my companion, I noticed a woman around 60 years old walking next to me and listening. Naturally I started talking to her. She was going to go shopping, but after we shared a message she asked where our church was. My companion asked
her if she'd like to go there some time, and the woman replied, "Now?" I think my companion said the wrong thing and she thought we meant to take her there. We said, "Sure, if you have time." She then followed us for at least the 10-15 min walk it took to get back to the chapel. Unfortunately, the placing of the chapel is not very good, and it had some construction around it. She didn't want to go in with us and kept saying the word "pik jihng" which we learned later meant "secluded." She was naturally afraid of the prospect of being alone with 2 foreign men in suits in some secluded building. Then suddenly the Sister missionaries walked out. I'd like to call it a little miracle that because they showed up, we all gave her a tour of the chapel and the sisters taught her a lesson. Right place at the right time? I think so.

Also, I have been able to teach some of the most humble and receptive people ever this week. This 19 kid named A-Jung came to hear our message. At first I thought he was getting tired, but every time we asked him a question he came back with a soft-spoken and thoughtful answer. We knelt together as he prayed about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and our message, and after he prayed he continued kneeling. The room was silent for at least 7 minutes straight as he continued to kneel and pray silently and wait for inspiration. The Spirit was seriously about to burn the building down it was so strong. He was so humble, and afterwards he said he felt quiet peace, and felt the Spirit. We rescheduled. We are afraid of his family going anti on him, so we are praying to see him again tonight.

The greatest thing I learned from that experience was simply the fact that it was the first time I experienced intense joy watching someone else recognize God speaking to them. I remember what my mission call said about feeling greater joy and happiness as I labor among His children. God keeps His promises, because I've been feeling them come to pass every single day.

Everyone, don't forget that God loves you, and that even at the times you let pride rule your will, He is merciful and continues to guide you more than you realize. I know that I've been so prideful in the past, and am indebted to my God for giving me this opportunity to serve Him. Participating in His eternal work gives me more happiness and joy than I could have ever imagined. If you believe that you can have success, and you have faith that God will help you, He will shape you to become the greatest person this mortality allows you to become. Have faith and stretch your limits, God will always provide a way for His servants.

God bless you all!

Love Elder Hazen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Glad Easter tidings from the Orient

I don't even know where to start.

I've now been in Hong Kong for over a week. I serve in an area on Hong Kong Island called Aberdeen. I just got back from a hike my companion and I organized with the Young Men in our ward. I am red as a beet and feel ready to fall over from exhaustion. I seriously love it all.

You may all want a quick description of what I've observed of this place since I've been here. Well, first of all, if any of you didn't catch this before, "Hong Kong" in Cantonese means "Fragrant Harbor." The name is rather perfect, because I have experienced the most diverse variety of stenches as I ever have. Within the time it takes to walk 20 feet in certain areas, one finds himself assaulted by waves of a plethora of fragrant aromas, each individually and uniquely potent in a very personal way. People here are so busy. Even when they aren't busy, they act like it. You practically have to chase people down in order for them to actually stop and listen to you. Interestingly enough, it seems like the punk-rock kids with the purple hair are more likely to actually give you the time of day. A lot of people walk around looking rather depressed or angry, and seem to shut out their surroundings. Also, you might find it interesting that the name of the Book of Mormon has changed in recent years. The direct translation for "Mormons" used to be "Mo Muhn Gaau" which literally means "Evil Party/Group Religion." Perhaps you can see why the name was changed. Some people think we're evil. And not to mention the fact that 70-80% of the schools here are run by some Christian denomination. In certain areas girls literally run from the missionaries because a couple months ago the schools taught that some Mormon missionaries ... did bad stuff. Which didn't happen. Anyway, there's a lot of work to do, yes?

I wish to briefly share an experience I had this week. In our area, we don't yet have very many investigators. In fact, it took me exactly a week to be here before I had an actual lesson with an investigator. We were scheduled earlier that day to have an investigator lesson, but he fong feigei'd us. "Fong feigei" means stood up, or didn't show. Apparently this happens all the time. But that night we had a lesson with a man named Mr. Chan. To be brief, I remember feeling the Spirit testifying through both my words and the words of my companion in a very powerful way. The man said he thought there should only be one bible, and refused to accept a Book of Mormon. It seems as if we tried everything; my heart prayed unceasingly for him throughout the lesson and it was as if for a moment I caught a glimpse of the way Heavenly Father viewed that man, and how much He loved him. Nevertheless, he refused to accept our gift; he refused to even try and experiment the possibility of more truth. When I got home after the lesson, my spirit was so exhausted; I never knew what spiritual disappointment ever meant until then. I do not know him, but I love him, because I know God loves him. I respect his ability to choose.

So my message today is this: Christ suffered for all men. Every single living person. I know, especially now from this experience, that we really are all children of God. My love for Mr. Chan as an imperfect brother is matchless to the love of a perfect Father. May God bless him and all those like him. I ask that you all pray for Mr. Chan, and for all the people in the world either unprepared or unwilling to accept the gift that Christ has already given to us. He gave us the gift, let us all be wise and accept it.

May the good Lord bless you all. God is everywhere. More and more, as my prayers become more heartfelt and sincere and my desire to share this gospel increases, I see God in all people and in all things. If you cannot see it, and beg you all to catch the vision. Because now is the time to prepare to meet God. If you keep the commandments and follow this simple plea, I promise you as a representative of Jesus Christ, that you'll begin to recognize you've already met Him.

Stay strong and never, ever give up!
Elder Hazen

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I think I'm in Asia

Well..... I'm in Hong Kong. How bout it?

I don't even know how to describe this place. It's ridiculous in every way. When I say ridiculous, I mean incredible. I feel as if I've adjusted, but I'm probably just still in shock. I'm seriously surrounded by more skyscrapers than I thought existed, all erupting amidst tropical jungle mountains. People don't use cars here. They don't even walk. Everybody just flies. It's not a big deal; it's Hong Kong.

I wish I could eloquently describe the feelings I'm experiencing right now. I arrived a couple days ago, got picked up by my mission president (President Chan -- I don't think a kinder man exists on the face of the earth. He's a native Hong Konger), we went to bed and the next day we followed the AP's around learning all about what we were to expect here. We went to Victoria's Peak, a nearby mountain, and got to look over the city and contact people as we did so. I can barely understand a word that anybody says here, it's so awesome. Nevertheless, I've been talking to people non-stop. There's an opportunity at every corner to talk to someone, and I think I've been rejected more times in the past few days than I have in my entire life. But it doesn't bother me. In fact, if I can somehow capture the "get out of my face" look on some of these Chinese people's faces when I try to talk to them, and then take that face and make a muppet out of it, I don't think I'll ever be worried about finding something else to laugh about for the rest of my life. I want that for my birthday.

Beyond all the rejection however, I'm happy to report that on the underground metro system I managed to get a man's phone number after talking to him about the eternal blessings of family and how the gospel can strenghthen his.

I've taken a bunch of pictures, and I have a couple of funny recordings. Naturally, I wrote a song about going to Hong Kong in chinglish. I'll have to send them next week, I have nothing with me to connect my devices.

This morning we were assigned our new companions! My companion's name is Ng Jeunglouh; he's a native to Hong Kong. If you're at a loss on how to pronounce that name, just make an angry grunt in the back of your throat and you'll probably be close enough. Every single Elder at the church has told me all day that I have the best companion and the best missionary. He smiles a lot, he's kinda quiet, and he is very nice. I'm really excited to serve with him. And what an opportunity I have to excell in my Cantonese right off the bat! A ton of missionaries have told me that my Cantonese is really good already, and are always surprised when I insist on trying to answer in Cantonese. Might as well speak my language if I want to be a master, right?

The food here is incredible. We went to dim sum yesterday morning with President Chan and his wife, and it is so housihk. Brian, you would be in heaven over here. The food is so amazing. I'm obsessed. I'm not going to get fat.

The moment I walked off the plane a couple days ago, it's been nearly impossible to wipe a smile off my face. Missionaries before me know what I mean when I say I can feel that Hong Kong is where the Lord needs me to be. I recognize this place as a place where I have a great work to accomplish. I can see it in the faces of the people, in my surroundings, and in those whom I serve with. I can't get over how good I feel, and how much I love being a missionary. I've never felt so positive and optimistic, and I've never felt so close to God. This is the moment when I realize I'm really experiencing life, because I know that all God really wants to do is give to us. I know that God answers our prayers, and strengthens us even when we are in the bitterest of circumstances. God is my greatest resource in this new and difficult transition, and I am ready to stand taller than every tower in this city. My friends and family, I am called to serve. No fear, no shame, no failure. God knows I am willing to give my all in this amazing place.

For those who wish to write me letters, and I'd love to hear from you,
my address is now:
Elder Garrett Hazen
18 Dorset Crescent
China Hong Kong Mission
Kowloon Tong, Kowloon
Hong Kong

May God bless and keep you all,
Elder Hazen

P.S. Bryce, I sent you a letter to Norway at the MTC but I realized it only had one stamp and I put the return address to Hong Kong. Don't be mad if the Postal Service eats it.
P.P.S. Mom, as you may have noticed, my P-day is now thursday. You can expect emails on this day.
P.P.P.S. I'm in Hong Kong.