Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Mind of a Missionary

Hey Everyone. I'm in Hong Kong. 

There isn't a ton to report on this week, honestly, except that I'm doing well and I'm finding immense satisfaction in my work. 

I lost my wallet last week on a minibus. It was seriously so awesome because I had just about everything important in it, and the minibus had this super sketchy driver who seemed like he was itching to fill his pockets with other people's money. Better yet, there are two lines of minibuses throughout Hong Kong -- they either have a green or red flag on the front -- and I happened to lose mine on the red line. Of course the red ones are the bad ones. There is a significant suspicion raised that this line of minibusii is owned by the Triad. Yes!

The teaching aspect of our work is going well. I'd like to make a specific mention of last night, where my companion and I were sitting and teaching 3 teenage boys who were all friends and referrals of the same member in our ward. I'd also like to note that currently we have no progressing investigators that we actually found ourselves. 

Missionary work is impossible without the members. Looking back, I was seriously a lazy member. I was not extremely bold in my testimony to everyone, nor did I ever have many experiences with inviting a friend to church. I understand the fear associated with proclaiming your beliefs and sharing the gospel -- believe me, I face it every day. My friend Elder Johnson mentioned in his emails from Norway a few months ago that he felt initial fear when approaching contacts on the street. I feel this all the time. There is nothing profound I can say about it than just do it, and God will guide you. We need the help of the members; we missionaries simply cannot do it without you.

Perhaps you'd like a glimpse into the mind of a missionary. But I had better speak for myself. I pray countless times a day. My prayers are almost constantly about my investigators, and if they aren't, they are simple, fervent pleas to help me open my mouth and be a better missionary. I sit on the bus every day on the bus to Aberdeen, and wait for a new person to board the bus and sit next to me. My heart pumps every time -- I'm about to open my mouth and do everything I can to give this person a chance to hear the gospel, a chance to feel the Spirit, a chance to give place in their heart to desire things of eternal worth. Most of the time, they scoff, frantically shake their hands at me to symbolize their complete and unconditional disinterest, and pick up their phones and pretend to call someone. I sit there and pray for them.
As I teach, I pray that the Lord will just let me say the right thing. I pray that I'll understand the language. I pray my companion will say the right thing. I try to say the things that a representative of Jesus Christ would say -- a bold proclamation, a direct invitation, a solemn plea, a declaration of pure truth, an expression of deep care. 

Being a missionary increases my testimony and magnifies every truth I've ever been taught my entire life. Even when I find myself completely stumped in my own gospel questions, and I have many, my conviction of divinity doesn't lessen. Instead it grows. The very fact that I have a billion questions makes my desire for more truth grow, which makes my study more diligent, which gives me more opportunity to deepen my connection with things that are spiritual, which all increase my convictions. 
If your heart is in the right place, every single difficult circumstance you ever face will increase your ability to change your nature. I plead with God often to change mine, to extract the evil dispositions within my heart and cast them away, to destroy my unrighteous desires, and to give me the eyes of my Savior that I might see the eternity within every person I meet.

Truth and knowledge, although inseparably connected, are different. They magnify each other, but are not conditional on each other. I have found in my experiences so far among the Hong Kong people that recognition of truth has little to do with previously obtained knowledge. When I focus with my mind, my heart will close, but when I focus with my heart, my mind will open. I know that Christ lives, because I have felt His perfection abide within my imperfection as I've done all that I can to follow him. 

I hope sincerely that something I've said has been beneficial to at least one of you. I love you all, my friends and family, brothers and sisters! May the truth roll forward! 
Elder Hazen

P.S. Mom and family. I'm almost jealous of the Europe trip. Be safe and have the best time of your lives! And take me when I get home. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is your Attitude?

My friends and family, it's been a great week.

It's a very interesting thing to be on a mission. It's interesting to notice how you are affected by even the smallest of circumstances. An accumulation of all the small annoyances, bitter rejections, unprecedented no-shows, accusations, and the meaningless rubbish that spews forth from people who let their mouths spit quick justifications for their choices of lifestyle and action can take its toll on the attitude of a person. I am generally cheerful and optimistic in my letters, and like to see myself this way even as a missionary, but it was not until after Elder Oaks came to visit our mission that I realized my cheerful disposition was waning in my work. 

It was not necessarily something he said that struck me, but the uplifted feeling I possessed as my companion and I returned to our work. I realized I was smiling more, saying hello to more people and with more energy, and the same sense of fearlessness that I felt when I first arrived seemed to reform itself, filling the void of self-doubt that was beginning to grow within me. 

The effectiveness of our work, and I'd even say our ability to do anything is largely conditional on the attitude we have. I think it's safe to say also that we don't always fully realize it when our attitude is bad, or that it is hindering our ability to do. But it felt like the difference between night and day when I walked away from that meeting filled with a renewed spirit, courageousness, and a cheerful disposition. I didn't even know that I was so obviously lacking it! 

My friends and family, I'm sure you all realize that life is strange. It's just straight-up weird sometimes. We are so caught up in our emotions that we let them rule our natures. But I believe that because our emotions have such a powerful effect on our being, the presence of God becomes so much more apparent. The fact that even our most seemingly set and unchangeable natures can be softened and redirected by the intensity of God's presence and the enabling power of Christ's Atonement is clear evidence to me. 

Perhaps I have tried to state it too eloquently. I am weak. I easily forget. Temptations, thoughts, and misfortunes beset me like every other man. But I see eternity in the balance. I feel Divinity right next to me. I would that every man and woman would have purity of intent to truly ask God if He's there and if He will guide them, with a mind to do according to the answer they receive. 

I love you all. Do not ever think that I am following after a ritualistic pattern of speech when I say I know that God lives. He is right next to you.
Elder Hazen

Thursday, May 17, 2012

His Grace is Sufficient For Me

Hey everyone!
I've spent a lot of time trying to think of what I would write home today. I've tried to remember miracles that may have occurred this week, or something out of the ordinary. After much thought, I've come to the conclusion that although nothing particularly exciting has happened this week beyond having the opportunity to call home and hear the voices of my incredible family, there is always a good message to share.
I have so many weaknessess. Those who know me well are very aware of this I'm sure. I'm passionate about a lot of things, and often I'll let this passion get the best of me at the expense of others. One of the many important lessons that serving God is teaching me is that in order to do His work, I need to constantly forget myself and be humble. The humbling of an inherently prideful soul, which is mine, is no easy task.
Sometime last week I was on the bus with a man that I perceived to be very prideful. As I did my best to spit out my best Cantonese and share my message, he would backfire with phrases that he seemed to think were extremely profound and logically superior to my views. He told me that God was a part of my family and not his, and that he was governed by his individual choices in life. I tried to tell him that the principle of choice does not disprove God, but in fact magnifies the idea of His existence because of the way our choices directly affect our happiness, and prove the existence of right and wrong, and good vs. evil. Of course I couldn't really get that out very well, especially because I was too exasperated by the look on his face after every time he spoke. If anyone has seen Batman Begins, they'll remember in the beginning when Christian Bale gets in a fight with that big chinese guy who says, "I am the devil." You remember his face when he says it? Yeah, same face.
Naturally, my first reaction inside was the though, "OOoo, I bet you think you're so awesome, putting the slam down on a white kid who has been speaking your language for four months." This is an example of my own pridefulness. The more and more I've looked back to this experience, the more and more I've realized that I truly don't really know anything. This man did not cause me to question my faith -- in fact, I'm grateful to him because he gave me cause to reflect even deeper on my beliefs. And in this time of reflection, I've come even closer to my Savior Jesus Christ. Maybe not the result the man was hoping for, but I hope one day he too will learn that there is an opportunity for strength in every moment of weakness.
And that is my message today: weakness is nothing but a medium through which we are made more powerful, more effective, more successful, and more happy in this life. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong," (2 Corinthians 12:10). Christ is not a school-teacher who says to his students, "Raise your hand if you want to be saved by grace." He tells us to do our homework, prepare for our tests, and do everything we can to succeed. We will make mistakes on our homework, miss points on our exams, and be discouraged on the way. But if we come unto Him in humility, seeking to utilize His Atonement, we will be enabled to eventually perfect the mistakes we've made in the past, until we can always get the right answer.
My wonderful friends and my beautiful family, know this: I am a representative of Jesus Christ. I seek always to humbly serve Him. I diligently seek to live by the statement made in Luke 12:43, "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing." I know that my Lord has come, and will come again, and because His grace is sufficient to fill in the gaps of our inevitable infirmities, I know that living the commandments of God will enable me to do the work I've been sent to do. I am not perfect, and neither am I truly a good teacher. But the Spirit whispers the words of the Master, who is Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, our Eternal Heavenly Father. My weaknesses are what enable me to remember my Redeemer, and know that there is not only light at the end of the tunnel, but there is light on my path the whole way.
Christ lives. We are all meant to receive His grace, and His enabling power. May we all be strengthened in our weaknessess. I love you all, and pray for you.
Elder Hazen

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 2012 Wooo, dim a?

Wooo, dim a?

What a great week. I don't have a ton of time today, but I'll get out
the best things I can.

Last week we achieved all of our weekly goals, and surpassed one of
them. Elder Ng and I are working hard. I'm loving every minute of it
AWESOME Story this week. Last night I had a very interesting
experience. Earlier in the week I was on a split with my companion
from the MTC, so we could basically only speak English to people. When
we were in the MTR (Metro train) I noticed a man was listening to our
conversation. So I began talking to him and it turned out his english
was near perfect. He never gave us his number, but we gave him our
number and a Restoration pamphlet and invited him to read and then
call us if he had any questions about our message. Mind you, people in
Hong Kong almost NEVER call you back. This man did.
He had the other Elder's number, so he met up with them last night.
Last night all of our scheduled meetings fell through, but I got a
text from that Elder saying the guy wanted to see me. I remember
thinking, "Is it even worth it to take the bus over there just to see
this guy?" Yet, Elder Ng and I decided to go anyway. When we got
there, the man we met in the MTR started talking to us and the other
Elders left to a meeting. We didn't plan on sharing a message with him
because we knew that he had just heard one from the companionship
before us, but as we sat with him and he was asking questions and
stating his opinions, we ended up having a lesson with him anyway.
This man is a teacher of law. He is
incredibly intelligent. He said, "I'm going to be honest with you guys
-- I don't think authenticity or proper authority or any of the
history behind the gospel matters at all. If there is anything I've
learned, everybody has truth and has the ability to learn and come to
God in their own individual way by developing a personal relationship
with Him." We shared some things about our opinions on these subjects
and our reasoning for going to church, but it became clear to me very
quickly that I didn't have the ability to outsmart this man. If there
is anything I've learned about having conversations with my brother
Brian about law and the contradictory nature of literally everything,
it's that unless I go to law school I'm going to get owned by every
one who has- in practically every subject.
It was then I had an incredibly strong impression that to continue
talking about this would profit us nothing, and that I was to simply
state who I was, why I was here, and to bear my testimony. So I said
something to the effect of, "You know, we could sit here and talk
about all these things, and you'd probably outsmart me in everything
because it's pretty obvious that you're at least 5 times more
intelligent than I am." (laughs) "I'm also grateful for you're
honesty. I wish more people were as honest as you. There is one thing
I know. I am a representative of Jesus Christ, and I was sent here to
share this message with you. You are a beloved child of our Heavenly
Father, and He loves you very much. I promise you that it was no
accident that you called us back, and just as you've developed your
relationship with God and followed His guidance in the past, he has
led you here tonight because He has more truth he wants to give you."
In the moment it was much more eloquent and better said, and as I said
it I felt enveloped by the Spirit, as if I wasn't even the one
speaking anymore. As soon as I finished speaking, the man began to
weep, and he buried his face in his hands. When he regained control,
he looked at me and said, "Maybe you're right. I guess I have some
homework to do."

Everyone, I know that this is the work of God, and that He leads His
servants to be in the right place at the right time, to give His
prepared children the opportunity to come closer to Him. I am not a
teacher. I am a tool through which the Lord teaches. I know that God
lives, and it is for experiences like these that I've come to serve
Him full-time in Hong Kong. I've come to learn a simple lesson. He's
here. He watches over us. And He loves us, no matter what.

Have a wonderful week!
Love, Elder Hazen

Friday, May 4, 2012

Creativity in the Work of the Lord‏

So many crazy things.

Everyone else -- thank you so much to all that take the time to write me. It's very uplifting and exciting for a missionary to hear from people on the outside world. I feel like a whiner, I know I've barely got here, but after all the work we do I feel like I've been here forever.

Speaking of, letters from my friends on their missions puts a smile on my face faster than anything. I screamlaughed at Bryce's letter that he drenched with nasty cologne, and Elder Tyler Sorenson is among one of the most hilarious people on the planet. GAah, we need more missionaries out in the world.

It's been a crazy week, and more engaged than last week. Elder Dallin H. Oaks is coming to visit our mission on the 22nd, and I've been asked to accompany a small choir with my violin, playing "I Need Thee Every Hour." I'm excited for yet another opportunity to share my talents to invite the Spirit and propel forward the work of the Lord. I remember when I was younger I was somewhat apprehensive about playing my violin for people, or acting like I was too cool to just share with people the gifts I've been able to develop. I was so dumb! Use what God gives you! Nauvoo really taught me how to use my gifts and talents as a method of building the Kingdom of God, and to love doing it. I think back often to that experience and the way my testimony was tried and magnified as I served there. Being creative in our work is essential. God gives us talents, interests, ideas, and gifts because they are meant to be magnified and pursued. So, I'm doing what I can to translate that into my work as a missionary here in Hong Kong.

A few days ago we were teaching a recent convert about the gift of the Holy Ghost, so we set up an obstacle course of folding chairs throughout the chapel (there aren't any pews in our chapel). We blindfolded him, and Elder Ng began to try and explain how to get through the obstacles. As something symbolic, I pulled out my violin, got in his face, and started jamming out some serious "Turkey in the Straw." There's nothing quite like trying to overcome the challenges and obstacles of life through the Spirit's guidance when you have hot licks of Satan pounding through your ears. The devil went down to Hong Kong, as they say. I have a feeling there's a lot more where that came from. Besides, it made for a delicious hands-on lesson. Yes I filmed it.

Cantonese is so hard. It took me till this week to realize I have no idea how to speak this language at all. I thought I did, but that's because I was still in the process of completing level 1. All of the sudden it feels like a thousand new doors flew wide open and there are so many other things I could be saying, and every time I attempt to say one of them I realize I can't. YEES! Elder Ng was telling me that my tones are really good and way above average, but my grammar and vocabulary needs a boost. I asked him what grammar concept I should focus on, and he said, "Everything."

Here's another good story. There's a 70-year old woman in our ward. She learned that I like to try new
Snake Soup
 food, so sometimes we get calls out of nowhere that she's traveling to our part of the city to bring me some kind of obscure dinner or food. So far I've eaten black jelly (it's like herbal jell-O), durian (an expensive luxury fruit that smells like barf), and my personal favorite -- snake soup.
 That my friends, is some serious good eats. It tastes like chicken gumbo.

I wish to share with you something I wrote in my notebook last week, because it inspired me and it gives you a taste of what it can feel like to be a missionary. It was at first meant to be a diatribe of frustration, but it ended up being an ode to rejection: "If you aren't being rejected, persecuted, and refused, if you aren't being turned away, laughed at, and mocked, if you don't have doors slammed in your face, fingers pointed at you, and the jaws of hell opened at your feet, then you have great cause to ask yourself the question, 'Am I doing enough?' People can't reject you if you aren't extemding some offer or invitation. People aren't given the opportunity to respond if you aren't reaching out to them and sharing the good news. The more people that reject you, therefore, the more evident your diligence as God's servant. Every time someone rejects you, say in your heart, (or out loud if circumstances appear favorable), 'YES. I'm so diligent.'"

Congratulations if you read all that, I know it's huge. I hope to God you're all doing well, and you're all individually magnifying your responsibilities as children of God. Share it with everyone! If you don't feel like you have something to share, then study it! This is everlasting security, happiness, and joy. I don't go to sleep at night until I know what I've done for God and what God has given me that day. Everyone can be better; we can always improve. And that's the joy of eternity.
Love, Elder Hazen
P.S. The Hong Kong Temple is so awesome. So Chinese. First time today.