Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Revelation for Them or Revelation for You?

Toihfung faailohk! Happy Typhoon!
Apparently a few days ago we had the biggest Typhoon in 13 years. I thought it was cool, but I think I regarded the level 10 a little too lightly. We had to come home early at around 6pm when it hit, but it didn't seem all that bad. We may or may not have gone to the roof to take some pictures (it was only an 8 at that time, and not terribly rough). But by bedtime the wind was very fierce and extremely loud outside. Anyone who knows me well knows that almost all my life I've slept with a fan on so I fell asleep like a baby. But Elder Ng, a Hong Kong native who also never wakes up at night, was awake because he was scared that we didn't secure the windows enough. I was surprised how nonchalant I was about the whole situation when the following night we found copious amounts of water beneath the bunkbeds that had pushed through the windows. I'm not sure whether I should be worried or proud of my ability to carelessly fall into joyous slumber during severe storms on the upper floors of rusty, old apartment skyscrapers.
The work has been more encouraging lately -- what can a missionary expect but constant ups and downs. The important thing is we're focused and doing our best. Speaking of, this week I've really made it a point to make every hour of my day meaningful. It's so easy to get distracted or lazy in some aspects of your work without realizing it. A sense of urgency and exact obedience is really important to me. I really believe that God will push us through if we're making it a point to make every hour of our time meaningful. Elder Ng and I sat down for about 2 hours straight during a rainy day and listed every activity that we could think of down to our lunch hours to determine what is effective and what isn't, and how we could fix that.
Goal-setting is so important -- I'm realizing that God gives us so many resources to accomplish any variety of goals, and if we're only using one way to accomplish one goal, we're probably wasting our time. We are making it a point to look over each goal for the week every night and see how much time we have to accomplish them -- and our numbers of lessons are increasing. If you're focused and you rely on God for your support, everything, including your happiness and satisfaction, increases.
The highlight of my week was with our investigator Vincent. He's 18. His older sister is a very active member in our ward, and he has been meeting with the missionaries for a long time now, off and on. However, school has taken over the majority of his young life and he never really gave us the time of day, and was dropped several times. Two Sundays ago was really frustrating because we had had several really powerful lessons with him and he commited to come to church, but when it came right to it he "fong'd" again. He had prepared to go and everything, but when his sister said, "let's go" he got annoyed and said he felt too pressured.
So Elder Ng and I decided there's got to be something more to this, we couldn't understand why coming to church was so hard for him. So instead of preparing a lesson for him, we decided to show up to his humble apartment in Wah Fuh and just listen to him and how he thinks, to see what he needs. We arrived shortly after a lesson with a different investigator, with whom I was pretty frustrated because no matter how rationally I presented to the Gospel to him, he didn't really show any signs of real progression. I had just got done spewing this long-winded explanation about the changing truths of scientific theory and the unsolidified philosophies of men vs. the unchanging and absolute truths of God. It didn't work. He probably didn't even understand me. Haha, in fact I can practically guarantee that.
Vincent began to tell us about his testimony of the Book of Mormon -- he said it made so much more sense than when he was younger and that he understands how it can give direction to his life. His main concern is that now as he is in transition to college, he isn't really sure where to go. He thought he didn't have enough faith to go to church even though he was sure he'd felt the Spirit with us several times. Earlier that day I had prepared one scripture I thought was good for him, but just as I was about to share it, my mind rather suddenly thought "Alma 37". I've heard too many times about how we should follow promptings or sudden whisperings of the Spirit, so in my slight hesitation I decided that this must be one of those moments and went for it. I had him read verses 40-47 about how it is easy to give heed to the word of Christ, and how the way is prepared.
When he finished reading, I felt the Spirit so strongly. I said to him, "It's powerful, isn't it?" He agreed and repeated the part about how the way is prepared for us if we are willing to just follow. We left soon after, not leaving any commitments and telling him we wanted him to make this an individual pursuit -- "no pressure." We said we hoped to see him soon. He came to church the next day and had a wonderful experience.
I learned in that moment that just as it is "easy to give heed to the word of Christ" for investigators of this Gospel, it is easier for me and my success as a missionary to use the Book I preach about. Compared to the lesson I had taught before trying to single-handedly destroy this kid with my own rationalized opinions on why he should listen to us, I spoke very little. I testify to you all that God speaks for Himself. We simply must look to the words and resources he gives us to communicate with Him. I didn't come on a mission to interrupt God, I came to let Him speak more clearly. That was revelation for me in the same moment that it was revelation for Vincent. God guides His servants, and indeed all of His children. And that's who we are.
Love, Elder Hazen

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Been 6 Months. Give a Little Reflection.

All's well in the Kong.
Today I had the opportunity to attend the Temple, and it's amazing the peace you feel there. Missionaries go once a month on P-day. Sometimes you forget how chaotic the world is, especially in Hong Kong. When all of the sudden you're surrounded by nothing but good, quiet peace, the world just seems a little better and your spirit feels that much more renewed and ready to get back into the action. I love how prophets would go into the solitude of a mountain to communicate with God. I'll have to take up a more serious hiking hobby when I get home.
Trevor, I give you permission to write me more. I also give you permission to tell me 35 reasons why being a hipster is valid and worth it, and then you'll have my approval. If it's just the new glasses, I really have no objection to thick rims. They're pretty cool. Brian, I love you -- I need to write you soon. I'm sorry that lately I haven't had a ton of time. Katie and the kids -- you guys are so awesome, know that I pray for you often. By the way all of you -- I should throw it out there. I'm well aware of the fact that Batman came out today. Do me a favor and don't tell me how it was. Better yet, just tell me it was anticlimatic and a ruination of pure masterpiece. 70% of the buses in Hong Kong (double-decker mind you) are basically one huge advertisement for that movie. Like, the entire bus is one advertisement. That leads me to explain how materialistic this place is -- it is literally part of the Hong Kong culture to buy something at least once a day. When you ask someone what they normally do for fun or they're regular schedule, it almost always includes "maaih yeh" (buy stuff). People in Hong Kong are so trendy, and because they're so caught up in the latest technology or newest item, the treasures of eternity have little importance to them. Not to mention Buddhism is rampant -- the all encompassing belief that everything is good and fine, everybody is right, truth isn't necessarily constant, and everything is subjective. That may not be what Buddhism is exactly, but that's what every Buddhist guy says to us.
Well, yesterday was my 6 month mark. Including the MTC -- I've been on my mission for half a year. It's really hard to believe, for me. You can bet I had some moments of self-reflection -- what have I accomplished? What have I become? Have I been influencing anyone for good? I haven't baptized anyone, is that a failure? What does my future out here have in store for me? Have I been using my time wisely? Am I being effective? Am I serving God to the greatest of my capacity?
Such questions have filled my mind as I've awoken every morning, as I've planned for future activities, and as I've done my studies. One thing is for certain that has frequently reoccurred to me the past few weeks: I have so much to improve. It really takes a lot of work to personally realize that you're really not perfect, that you've got a lot of pride to extract, and that all you're really here to do is learn. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to be on my mission, to really awaken to the fact that there is always another step, there is always something that can be better, and that I really need to trust in God, and stop trying to do it all myself. It can't be done alone, and it was never meant to be done alone.
Honestly said, as far as numbers are concerned, well, I'm not in Bolivia. But I know I've had success. It has been measured by my commitment to do what is right for my Father who is in Heaven. It has been measured by the constantly renewed and resolidified desire to serve Him, and to steadily increase my capacity to do so. It's been measured by the slowly but surely realized revelation that my Savior Jesus Christ descended below every man, and that I will never be greater than that, and no sacrifice I could possibly give could amount to my Master. I have loved to call Christ my Master, for that is exactly what He is. I don't simply talk about Him, but I strive to do what He did. I strive to do what he does. I know that He lives, for the Spirit speaks His words. His words are provocative; they not only invite and compel me to do what is right and to say what I should, but they enable me to do the things that I could and would not do if He were not there. Jesus Christ is my Savior, and my Master. I know this work is true. There is success in every footstep, and I follow His.
I love you all and pray for your successes. Don't you dare ever give up.
Love, Elder Hazen

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Purpose of Life

Dear Family and friends,
The attached file is an old recording from the MTC that I meant to send a billion years ago, but never had the chance to connect it. It's a 50 second recording of a musical jam session of Praise to the Man with a Jamaican elder delivering a mad beatbox. It's not perfect, but it'll give you a little taste of how we missionaries relax ourselves from the weariness of the day.
This week has been as busy as ever. We've had several good experiences with teaching, and because summer just started we're finding that challenging teenage kids to play basketball with us is one of the most effective ways of 1) demonstrating that you're a real person and 2) thus opening ourselves a doorway to get their numbers and schedule them. There are a few that are interested in the gospel, and you wouldn't believe how much being yourself is a part of missionary work. When they see a guy walking around dressed up in a shirt and tie and a tag, the people here tend to either get scared or have no interest, or sometimes just laugh at you. But when you approach them excitedly, compliment them on something and invite them to play with you, they start to recognize you as a real person and open their heart to you. An investigator said to us this week, "You know, the missionaries before only tried to teach me stuff and ignored me otherwise, but you missionaries are special because you actually want to spend time with me and be my friend." Whoever said the gospel limited ANYONE from being themselves? I'd go as far as saying the gospel actually enables us to be ourselves -- even our best selves. I'm learning to make all of that count; to work in my personality with my work and it is really helping people not only like us but actually listen to us.
I have something I wish to share this week -- it's hard to just put everything into a bunch of random specific experiences. But every experience I have leads to a certain mindset and pattern of thinking. So I want to share the thoughts that my experiences have led me to this week.
Roddy, the lawyer guy, had a problem this week. When we taught him the Plan of Salvation, he didn't like the idea that this life was a time to prepare to meet God. He said, "Our purpose can;'t just be to prepare for the next life. If its all focused on the next life, our purpose on this earth doesn't seem to matter all that much. But I think our purpose here is enormous in capacity; that cant be it."
What is success and how do you achieve it? What greater knowledge surpasses knowing what things in this life not only matter here but have eternal, everlasting value? What greater success is there that surpasses knowing truth because God Himself gave it to you?
Of course our life here has enormous meaning. If our purpose was meaningless, why would God send us here? Obtaining a body is fulfilling an eternal purpose; it enables us to become literally as our Father in Heaven. As profound as that principle can and should be illustrated, I believer there is little truth that surpasses the principle of agency in depth, profvundity, or importance.
When everything is said and done, stripped naked, disected to the smallest molocule, made vulnerable in every sense of the word and pulled apart until theory, hypotheses, and doubt must needs become fact, there is a choice in every thought and every action and there is either a positive or negative outcome. Stagnancy in this life or the next simply DOES NOT EXIST. If you think your life is the same old boring thing every day, you are professing stagnancy and a life without change. But what you're really doing is habitually convincing yourself that nothing can or will change. You're teaching yourself that success and progression can't and won't happen, thus consistently hindering yourself from achieving either of them and therefore declining.
So there's a choice. Right and wrong exist. Good and evil exist. There is no story without a conflict, and every conflict stems from the question of right or wrong, good and evil -- even if the answer is unclear at the outset. As we carefully, prayerfully, and faithfully make choices even when the clouds are thick and the fog is unyielding, we are taught by experience what choices are best and what are worst.
When the outcome of our choices is positive, it usually if not always will have a positive effect on another person. The same is true with a negative outcome. Experiencing both of these effects is a blessing because it teaches us to grow. It is progression. It's all a part of this mortal, human experience.
So does this life have enormous, grand, beautiful, unfathomable meaning? Absolutely! Consider it a fact you were born for something magnificent. If everything were clear-cut and black and white, there would be no opposition, and we wouldn't need God. But we do. We absolutely do, because we don't always know where our choices will lead.
The fact that we have deep and often indescribable emotions in response to things that we cannot see is evidence that our purpose here is not merely to get ourselves born, live a trivial life, die and go to Heaven. There is no earthly palace that a common man can just saunter on into without some sort of proper identification. Is Heaven any different, if not more strict with it's prerequisites? Christ's comman of perfection was a goal He set for every man and woman. Mastery of any skill takes patience and focused effort in order to achieve. We are here to learn to be perfect, and we can only learn it by being obedient to the One who went before us, and that is Jesus Christ, our Master.
I know that He lives. I know that this Gospel is true. Make choices that will bless the lives of others, and you will fulfill a purpose of unfathomable and beautiful magnitude. May this week have you with God's blessings.
Elder Hazen

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Love the Truth

All is well and the labor is satisfying here in the Kong.
There has been a change in the Mission Presidency this week! President Hawks is our new Mission President, and he has the same Chinese surname as I do: Hah. He's a way legit guy, he works in the Engineering department at BYU, he's tall, and for some reason I get the feeling he'd make a perfect cowboy in True Grit. When we had our Question and Answer session with him, I asked what he liked to do. He said, "Work." When he has nothing to do, he likes working in the yard, going up into the mountain and cutting down trees, and making his kids work. You can bet my first thoughts in response to this was, "Welcome President Lee Hazen to the Mission field, good to have ya." Haha Dad, I remember all to well the saturdays we spent together working in the yard and I murmured against you so hard. All I wanted to do was see a movie. Maybe God is giving me a chance to repent by strictly working in the Hong Kong yard under a very symbolic you. Love you Dad.
I love getting fed by the members. You'll see in one of the photos that we ate some seriously amazing roast goose. Mom and Dad -- I gave in. I bought a yihwu. Mandarin pingyam: erhu. It's a chinese violin. I'm teaching myself, and it's turning out pretty good. And it's a beautiful one. I'm currently preparing myself to get good enough to use it for street contacting. Nothing like a little hymn action on a chinese instrument duly sounded by a white kid.
Elder Ng (yes he's still my companion) told me yesterday that my voice is deeper and more monotonous when I speak Cantonese, even though my tones are almost always correct. He says if I talk too long in Cantonese it starts to lull him to sleep. What the. I didn't think it was possible for a tonal language to be limited by monotany! is that even a word?
I told you about Brother Choi, the high priest in our ward that we helped reactivate. Yesterday he helped us fellowship an investigator. I can't even tell you how satisfying it is for a missionary to watch the same person who was giving you skeptical questions 2 months earlier now happily helping you answer the skeptical questions of another. It's powerful to watch how simply and profoundly people change when all they do is keep the commitments we give them. We told Brother Choi to read the scriptures every day and pray, and find answers from the only perfect source of truth. He did so, and now he doesn't even need us anymore.
Roddy had some moments this week. He called me on the phone and I talked to him for nearly an hour about the necessity of going to church, but his biggest problem was he felt like we were his connection to God but he had a ton of reservations about being associated with an organized religion. Again the answer ultimately was: read the book. Read the Book of Mormon. He did so. He texted us and asked us if he could come sit in on a church meeting, and afterwards told us he felt like some things the members said echoed with him. Now we're doing everything we can to get him turned over to the missionaries in his area. As for the investigators in our area, things are progressing slowly but surely.
I love knowledge, and I love gaining it. But if there is anything I adore more than anything, it is the truth. Through my experiences I am positive that our feelings and our faith can become tangible evidences and sources of further data to confirm the truth. The Spirit is real. There have been too many times where my knees have felt bruised from praying so long begging to feel the Spirit, and arising from my prayer renewed and determined, confident and happy. A state where I have conquered myself and my pride through begging God to help me. And I know it works, and plead with you all to do the same. I wish everyone realized seriously how incredible it was to know that we are supported by Divinity. God is our support!
Love, Elder Hazen

Roasting an entire goose, mgoi.

 Tallest building in Hong Kong, 3rd (?) in the world.

In front of the Wan Chai chapel building. Most expensive chapel in the world. 11-13 floors, I can't remember.