Thursday, June 28, 2012

Always Press Forward

Waaa, such a good week. Haha, what a rollercoaster of emotions this whole experience is.
First of all, YES I did get the package like 2 and a half weeks ago, sorry for not confirming. Mom, the beef jerky fell from Heaven. Rather, delivered from Heaven through you. Kind of like a missionary. Way to empathize. You can rest assured that I ate 2 entire packages within a couple hours.
And that new oil vial that Elder Sorenson made from Nauvoo? It's incredible! I love the symbolism of the Godhead. Seriously, touch of the master's hand. I hope he gets these emails too! I miss that guy, and miss his glute checks. Speaking of Nauvoo, several things reminded me of Nauvoo this week and how that summer really paved the way for the manner in which I serve my mission here in Hong Kong. I also received a wonderful letter from a friend in Nauvoo currently, and I felt the Spirit very strong when I read it. I miss that place.
False alarm, Elder Ng is still my companion and we're keepin the faith in Aberdeen. Mouh cho.
The reason I say it was such a good week is because just like I'd hoped, the work picked up a ton. Now that testing is over (yes Mom, to answer your question, it is government run and all the kids in Hong Kong are required to go through the public school system here) we've been able to meet with all of our previous investigators again and meet a ton of new kids. Something we like to do lately is go play basketball with the Young Men in our ward and because the basketball courts always have chinese kids wishing they were Yao Ming you can rest assured we get numbers every time. They especially love it when I use Chinese slang with them. If you tells someone that you will "wat" them "gei", it means you'll bend their machine, which is the Chinese equivalent of "I'm going to own you." You'd never believe it, but it does wonders. We've gotten so many numbers this week simply by playing basketball.
One of our investigators from before met with us again. He told us before that he thought our church was an evil church (it's is preached in all the Christian-owned schools here) and he'd never have met with us if it wasn't for his member friend. We teach him English one on one and then share with him our message. He loves to read, and before we could assign him a chapter he was like, "Yeah this is way important. I'll read the whole Book of Mormon."
The lawyer I told you all about a month ago, in brief we got in contact with him again. He said he wasn't ready for our message, but our Mission President told us we should keep meeting with him. I was able to schedule him again after some time without contact, and we shared a really powerful message again, and you could see tears forming in his eyes many times. He says he feels like he is happy and doesn't need more, but we told him that life is about progression. What's the next goal? Is he just going to stay there or does he want something even better? What is this life about? Happiness and then stagnancy? Of course not! Spur of the moment I assigned him to read Alma 32 and he said a great prayer to close. 3 hours later I received the following text message:
(He likes using our first names and refuses any other way) "Hi Garrett, great to have met u again. I can feel that u cared for how u brought the message across today. I feel your sincerity in connecting me with God. I enjoyed the opportunity in getting to know u better and hope u know me bit better. The vibes are right. For all of that, I thank you and God who's sent you and went ahead to read Alma 32 that u suggested. It echoes with me a lot when it talks about the good seed and the patience for the furit. Did u pick that verse for me? It speaks to me spot on. I am feeling much better in this journey and trust it will bring me to somewhere I am meant to be. Keep well and see ya."
You can imagine how I felt after reading this. Trouble is now we'll have to figure out how to help him recognize other missionaries as servants of the Lord so we can turn him over; he isn't in our area and it's tough to travel to him.
I just want to make it very clear that regardless of the trial, the affliction, or the trouble, success always comes if you press forward. I know this is the eternal work of our Father who is in Heaven. I wish I could stand on the peak of a mountain and have the ends of the earth hear my voice. But I am no angel, and am so imperfect. To my family, I miss you all so much and am so thankful to hear from you each week. To my friends, be strong always and never forget that God Himself is the source of truth. Nothing I say can persuade a man to believe, but only through the power of the Spirit which is in me. I am worthy, and I have the authority of God. And with it I proclaim that this is His truth, the Book of Mormon is true, Christ is our Savior, and we will always ascend if we do what is right. The Spirit will always tell you what to do.
God forever with you all,
Elder Hazen

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Work Is Love

This work is true, this work is hard, and this work is crazy.

That guy we ran into last week we were able to get to church with us and have a lesson with him, which was a miracle in and of itself, but he's got a lot of concerns and we're not sure if he's willing to open up to us. The problem we've had for the past couple of weeks is the fact that Chinese kids have been enduring their testing periods. The kids here are extremely pressured in their schooling, and Elder Ng calls the testing period "whitewash time" where we take a break from people, try and find new people, and start fresh with our previous investigators when the testing is over. Good news is, today is the last day for testing, so the work should pick back up this week. Most of our time lately has been invested in improving our relationships with members and less-actives to pass the time, and of course making all those cards.

There's something I'd like to explain about missionary work that I would have never been able to fathom or describe had I not made the decision to come out here. One of our investigators, Leung Cheung Kyuhn, (we'll call him A-Kyuhn), has had a rough time with schooling through the years, and has been extremely stressed about the testing. If he doesn't pass, he's too old to go to the next form. We had a lot of talks about faith in our lessons with him, and he seemed for a while to be our most promising investigator. Right when the testing began, however, when Elder Ng spoke to him on the phone he told us that he can't meet with us until the tests are over and said, "You know what, Elder? I don't believe in these things." He said he had some more things to tell us but it'd have to wait. My experience with him has not progressed beyond that, but that I've fasted for him multiple times now and that I pray for him constantly. I have watched him feel the Spirit. I've felt it and been able to discern that he also felt it. You can imagine what a slap in the face it is to a missionary to hear those awful words, "I don't believe this."
To my point -- sometime last month I had a long talk with Elder Ng about all these experiences, over half of which I can't possibly relate over these emails. He told me that because I am an emotional person, sometimes I let my highs and lows really get the best of me. I refuse to let discouragement rest upon me long, although the huge wave of disappointment that accompanies being rejected on a spiritual level is deep and penetrating. 

We work our muscles, we work our brains, and we work our spirits. Of these three, I believe the spirit is the most difficult and exhausting to exercise. It isn't hard for me to recognize why, as a new and inexperienced missionary, my emotions have been magnified to the highest of highs down to the lowest of lows. Never in my life have I experienced the intensity of spiritual exhaustion -- to invest the deepest part of my being into the salvation of other people, endeavoring to open their hearts to the truths of eternity with unwavering diligence and unfeigned love. Although I can hardly understand it myself, this love is powerful and profound. It enables me to see every man as my brother. 
Time and time again I feel the Spirit of the Lord descend upon my creature, filling me with the purest sensation that the people listening to our words have unspeakably beautiful and eternal purposes to fulfill, and time and time again these same people choose to reject us, care little about what they try little to understand, and give up on the prospects of forever because the temporary, materialistic, and ultimately meaningless pursuits appear more satisfying and comfortable.
If I am expected to be the best missionary I am capable of becoming, and therefore expected to open my heart to people in this level of profundity, then it is little wonder that I feel like 9/11 happened in my chest every time someone gives up on us!

I hope that made even a bit of sense. But don't take that as a complaint, because it is far from it. In fact, it is one of the most profound things I've ever learned in my life, because the experience itself is tangible evidence to me of the reality of God, and our spiritual connections as literal, eternal brothers and sisters. 

I wish I could say so much more, but I can't. Time limits me, so I pray the Spirit will do the rest. I'll probably have a new companion next week, but it's more than likely I'll be in the same place. I've learned so much from my companion. This work is about love. It will always be about love. The love of God. The love of family, friends, and people. 

I love you all so much. Never, ever give up on yourselves, or God. I am a special witness to His reality. 
Elder Hazen

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Carried By the Spirit

Ngohge pahngyauh, leih hou!
Mom, Trevor, and Dad. Ireland sounds so awesome. Once you've successfully traveled the entire British Isles, I am unashamed to request a Tartan patterned tie from Scotland, a kilt (don't act like I haven't requested one of those since I knew they existed), and a picture of Trevor clogging on a table in an Irish pub.
I only have 15 minutes left for the rest of my time -- Today was a busy day.
I wish I could eloquently describe to you all what it feels like to be carried by the Spirit of the Lord. A few days ago I felt like I was literally on fire; I was not to be stopped from preaching to every person I saw. I did not want to sleep that night, I was so full of energy, and it may be interesting to note that I did not eat or drink until 9:30pm that day. In the wet humidity that the Hong Kong summer is bringing, and the pace that we were going on the streets that day, there is no question in my mind that there was an extra source of energy beyond the adrenaline of missionary work.
By the end of the night we had obtained 14 numbers, taught a few lessons on the streets, placed Book of Mormons, and had miracle contacts to replace the no-shows. A quick cool story -- we had a miscommunication with a former investigator we planned to meet, and because we didn't want to miss him we literally ran to the place we agreed on. When I had nearly arrived I saw a kid looking at me like he recognized the missionaries, so I figured it must be Rex, the former (I'd never seen him before). So I ran directly at him and said, "mhouyisi, mhouyisi!" (sorry sorry) and he smiled and shrugged and said no problem. I obliviously began introducing myself like he knew who I was, but after Elder Ng started talking it became clear that this was not Rex. A sense of urgency to find Rex rushed over me, but we could not see him. So Elder Ng picked up the phone and said to me, "Get his number." Flustered, it did not cross my mind that we'd literally said nothing to this kid, and I just looked at him and asked him if I could write down his number. As if we were best friends he was like, "Of course," and I wrote it down.
20 seconds later, a friend met up with this guy and he walked away. Rex never showed. If I had not run to this man in my hurry to see Rex, I would have never got his number.
I have a testimony that God guides His children when he finds them diligently serving him with all of the fire and energy that they have within them. He guides us into having successes we could not have previously fathomed. I know these stories are simple, but the messages are priceless.
My friends, God is among us. Among the suffering, among the pained, among the afflicted, among the happy and fortunate. I know this work is true, and my testimony magnifies moment by moment. I am carried about by the Spirit, and I will have it no other way.
I love you all, and pray for your success. Find the source of truth!!
Elder Hazen
A view of Hong Kong in Aberdeen area

Chicken feet again. A little less deep fried, a little more texture.

Us Elders in the apt. in West Point, the smallest apt. in Hong Kong.

I'm just much too proud of this not to send it. I drew a picture of Thomas S. Monson in district meeting using the Liahona to the left.

Making a card for Brother C.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Finished product of the card. The most elaborate one we've ever made. China Hong Kong Temple shaped.

Preaching to Buddha. We figure if we can capture his heart, than Buddhists will be more open to our message as a natural result.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Service And Commitment

Waaa, Jousahn! Gamyaht geihou ma?
Great week, filled with plenty of adventures. Yesterday a pipe broke in the ceiling above the chapel and was pouring water everywhere, the credit card I received to replace the one I lost is faulty, we taught a bunch of lessons, I have slight bags under my eyes from being so tired lately, it's a lie when people say that they don't have orange chicken in China because it and everything like it is everywhere, and being a missionary is seriously so awesome.
Mom, Dad, Trevor -- I hope your flight was safe! You're in the part of Europe I always wanted to go! Britain. Since I don't have the opportunity to go there right now, I hope you get so down with our ancestral roots for me.
I'm so happy right now. I got a personal email from both my parents, and all three of my brothers. Part of the reason I don't have a ton of time, but I don't care. There's nothing like family to lift your spirits.
Mom, you asked me about the law professor I told about from a few weeks ago. Well, we got a text from him saying that he "didn't think [he] was ready for [our] message." Of course this was disappointing, but we'll give him time and keep trying. But this demonstrates a simple truth that I'll explain with another story:
So this law professor, Roddie, it was clear that the Spirit worked within him. In fact, it caused him to weep during his meeting with us. But as we continued to talk with him, it became clear that he was unwilling to keep commitments, and that'd he'd rather just hang out with us. To this point, regardless of the fact that he felt the Spirit, it's pretty evident that his experience with us is now forgotten, because he lacked the real intent to find more answers for himself. In other words, the pendulum has duly swung back.
However, in contrast, I'll tell you of Elder Ng and I's greatest success together. Since I first got to Aberdeen, I started working with a less active member named Choi Hingdaih (Brother Choi). He's been less active for 30 years, and is the only high priest in our ward that is less active. I remember the attitude he had with us when I first met him; he would ask questions in a very skeptical way, even in a disbelieving way. But -- and this is the important part -- he has always been willing to keep his commitments. He began coming to church, and as he continued to meet with us his attitude slowly began to change. And last sunday, without us telling him to, he showed up to church, dressed up in a button up shirt and tie, scriptures in hand. He is now preparing to take the sacrament again and renew his baptismal covenant of ages ago, and seeing the smile he has on his face constantly now is so satisfying for Elder Ng and I to see. We have watched the Spirit work in his life according to his willingness to keep his commitments.
If people don't show God they are commited to act according to the answer they receive, how are they ever going to expect God to give it? When you give someone a gift, do you not expect them to appreciate it and use it? Like Roddie, if you don't show God you care about the answer, the gift, he gives, then you'll forget even the first manifestations of the Spirit you once received. But we've helped a man who gave up on God for over 30 years reactivate and find Him again simply because he was willing to act.
It really goes to show how little we missionaries do. We are just tools for the members to use, for investigators to use, for anyone who needs help. We are called to serve, and to serve only. And I testify that there is no greater joy than serving others and helping bring forth the fruits of laboring in the work of eternity.
Have a wonderful week and engage yourself in something good. I love you all,
Elder Hazen