Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Work, God's Work

Well, sorry for the big build up -- V. didn't get baptized on Sunday. I was so sure he was going to, he has a personal testimony. 
So... I'm still not sure when he's going to get baptized, but I know he's still diligently pursuing the goal. He came to church last sunday dressed in church clothes (without us telling him) and he brought his parents. Maybe God is just providing a better way for V. and his whole family. I can't really complain anyway, it's not my baptism. And V. brought two of his friends to meet us in the past week. And so the work rolls on.
There's just too much to learn out here. I don't really even know how to express myself anymore. I can't tell any of you how often the phrase "I don't even know anything" comes to my mind. It's an interesting phenomenon when you're young you think you own the world, but the more you learn and the more you experience the more you realize that you actually haven't the slightest clue what is going on. Coming out here is helping me to realize that I am really nothing. We read many scriptures that compare us all to the dust of the earth, or even less than the dust.
It's interesting to see how everything can be counted. Everything we see and comprehend is ultimately finite; it's numbered. And all these things fit within a certain order. When the wind blows, the leaves of the trees will rustle accordingly. When the Sun goes down, you can bet it will come back up in the morning. Every person that populates the earth, every tree of every forest, and every drop of water of the sea are finite. As many as there are of anything, they are counted, and they obey the laws of the universe. They obey the laws the God has set in order. But you want to know something interesting? I don't always follow these laws. I've got that rebel in my soul that says I want to do it my own way. I've got too much pride in my heart sometimes to let myself realize that sometimes the dust really is better than me, because dust absolutely obeys the laws of nature that God put it in. 
Honestly put, I've relied way too much on myself and the products of my own efforts to measure my success. I learned a great lesson this week when, after ultimately feeling dissatisfied with myself even when I've been throwing in all my effort, I asked my companion to give me a blessing. I felt immense power inside as he spoke simple words of comfort that the Lord wished me to know. You might say a simple truth was awakened inside my heart: The work I'm doing isn't my work. I didn't come on a mission for Garrett Hazen. At least, that's not what God had in mind. As I've been doing His work, I've felt disappointment and frustration for my failures. But if I'm really doing God's work, who am I calling a failure when I've done my best and not everything works out?
I know that this work is real. It's as "real life" as real life is going to get. The power of God is real. The Book of Mormon is without a doubt a divine witness of the Savior, His reality, and His atonement. I am truly one of the weakest men in the world. But in my weakness, let it be felt with power in your hearts when I say that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and He is with us every step of the way.
Love, Elder Hazen
People burning stuff in the streets for ghost festival
Elder Wu and I in Aberdeen
Picture with me, Elder Wu, and investigators
A card for an investigator (a violin with tuners and a bridge that represent the steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Believing in People - A Force For Good

Leihdeih hou ma? Jeuigahn dim a?
This week has been as busy as ever -- we have way more people scheduled than usual, and that's on top of our Island-wide English activity every day from 3-5. All I have to say is use your resources. I don't know why Elder Ng and I never went through the Area Book when we were companions -- it's gold! It's a 3 inch thick record of everybody who has ever had interest in our message in our area in the past 10 years! This Saturday I managed to schedule 5 people I've never met before, right on top of each other. I'm guessing some will fong us, but we haven't even gone through a third of our area book yet and we've scheduled more people than we have in weeks. Here's hoping for a new pool of investigators, pumped and ready to progress!
V. is well prepared for his baptism on Sunday. I promise I'll have pictures next week. I solemnly testify to every person who reads this that neither my companion or I converted V. The Book of Mormon converted him, and there's no other means through which he could have gained a testimony of the truthfulness of our message. I've watched him change from the first time we met with him months ago to now. Every question he had was answered because he kept his commitment and read the Book of Mormon. If the people don't read the book, they will never be converted. I know that without a doubt, because I know the same is for me. I have to convert myself every day, and it's only through the Book of Mormon that I can achieve that. I read it, study it, ponder it's message, share it's teachings and testify of it every single day. I know it's true, and my testimony is sealed to the world by the millions of others who share it, and it is sealed to me by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I met with President Hawks last week -- I may have already mentioned that. "Raise your vision, Increase your faith" is the big motto in our mission right now. I've already shared with you the immensity of his vision, and it really affected me. So I decided to talk with him personally; I really wanted to know what he'd have me do to contribute to that vision. After talking with him, I came to a realization that I've wasted a lot of time the past 4 months. Elder Ng and I had this idea engrained in our heads that if we could get people to see we weren't any different than them besides the tag we wear, they'd open their hearts to our message. Board game after board game, basketball match after basketball match, we did everything we could to get people's numbers and contact information. We were tired of people thinking we're an evil church. Always avoiding us. To this President Hawks replied, "What gets people to know you aren't evil, playing board games or teaching them the Restored Gospel?"
Since that meeting, we've significantly cut the amount of time we've spent with investigators in lesson -- preparing something short, powerful, straightforward and sincere. We are paying attention to what the feeling is when the investigator leaves -- do they leave after we've ended the lesson talking being their chums or when the Spirit is still powerful? What makes them want to return? Their buddy, or the power of God? I've already seen the counsel of my mission president manifest it's promised blessings in my work as I've hearkened to it, and I know he is a man of God.
I've been immersed in the scriptures lately. It's partly been inspired by my companion, Elder Wu, who has several scriptures marked on practically every page of his Standard Works. He was a convert at 13, but had read the Bible through 3 times before he had even touched a Book of Mormon. We've made a companionship goal to do scripture study from 10:15-11:00pm in our nightly free time. The more I read the scriptures, the more open my mind feels. The more real everything is, and the more obvious it's truth becomes.
Something I've reflected on over and over again is why people won't even bother to experiment the truth of God. They refuse further happiness at the wave of their hand. I've come to find as I've engaged in theological conversation most hours of my day that many major religions and philosophies, in fact, all of them beyond the true gospel of Jesus Christ, are self-centered and convenient. Your common Hong Kong street philosophy can be summed up in the phrase, "I believe in myself."
I don't question the value of inner potential or the power of the individual. I think there is a lot of truth to it -- and in fact, I preach about it. We teach that every man has the capacity to become like their Father in Heaven, and it is their purpose to overcome their trials in order to achieve such a worthy and marvelous potential. People often quote Gandhi's wisdom: Be the change you wish to see in the world. I agree, we must act if we want to see change, if we want to progress. But if I may, I'd like to add to that statement: Beyond believing in yourself, we must believe in other people. My discouragement and "failures" have caused me to disbelieve in other people. I've hung my head and thought, "These people will never change. They're all too stubborn. I can't do anything about it." But what the heck does that kind of attitude do for ANYBODY?
Missionaries go to their respective areas of service to be a force for good! How can any of us expect to do that when our heads are drooped low and our hearts are full of disbelief? I testify that this gospel is not a gospel of convenience. It is not a self-centered philosophy. Every man and woman needs God and Jesus Christ, whether they realize it or not. Start by believing in them. We are a light to the world. We are not an idle people. We must reach out.
I love you all. May God bless and prosper you all. Reach out to the world, and believe in them.
Love, Elder Hazen

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chinese Jokes. Preparation. A New Standard

My first week with Elder Wu has been awesome. It's quite different having this Chinese guy as my companion -- it's decieving because he looks like everybody else but he isn't native in Cantonese. His New Zealand accent is thick and full of flavor. You gotta love it. This week we've worked hard and done a lot more street finding (by the way -- the most ineffective way of contacting people) because we don't have a lot of investigators right now.
Some people we haven't seen in a long time we've been able to meet with again. One investigator, R., met with us this week and said he'd really been wanting to call us but he hadn't because he was just waiting for us. I thought it was so interesting that he told us be believed we were God's servants because we were "more active." I know that when we are actively engaged in a good cause and "always abounding in good works" it really has a profound effect on the hearts of men. It isn't necessarily what we say, but what we do that defines us.
V. is really actively engaged in preparing for baptism. There are still several things we need to make clear to him, but he understands more than any other person I've taught the covenants he is going to make and the responsibility that accompanies coming into the fold of Christ. He asked me yesterday if I'd baptize him. The goal is the 26th. I told him last night that my responsibility as a servant of Jesus Christ extends beyond these short two years in Hong Kong, and that if he ever needed my assistance or someone to rely on even 30 or 40 years from now, I'd be there. I've realized now more than ever that my commission to serve my Heavenly Father and follow the absolute truth that I've witnessed in my heart is an endeavor that must never end, no matter what the future brings.
I told you all a while ago about L.C K. -- he got himself a summer job so we haven't met with him, although we finally have him scheduled for tomorrow. He's kept im touch. Last time I saw him, Elder Ng and I got a little sneaky. You see, LCK has a problem with waking up on time, and therefore has never kept his commitment to come to church. E. Ng and I discussed how in Chinese culture, giving somebody a clock is a way of wishing death onChinese language, "sung jung" either meants "give clock" or "pay last respects," so the culture superstition/bad omen naturally developed. Well, Elder Ng and I devised a plan to have the uncultured American give LCK an alarm clock in a kind gesture to incentivize an earlier morning rise. Elder Ng pretended he didn't have a clue what my gift was. When LCK opened up his gift, his excitement quickly turned into confused, wide-eyed horror. Then he looked at me with an expression that suggested he figured I hadn't the slightest idea of my ignorance. He asked, "You want me to DIE??"
I'd say overal it went pretty smooth. Except for the fact that he didn't come to church the next Sunday.
President Hawks is setting a new standard. I'll just put it in brief: we have 4 stakes in Hong Kong. In the next 8 years, P. Hawks wants 25 stakes. Impossible? Not at all. In fact, when I heard it, I didn't think it was impossible or crazy, but a huge desire to live up to the new standard. I think I haven't believed in people enough, just as I've witnessed people not believe enough in each other. If there is anything I can say, it's that there is a lot to do and I need to destroy my pride, have patience with myself and with these people, and teach with more power and authority. I came not to interrupt God, but to make His voice heard. I came not to play basketball and boardgames, but to preach the restored Gospel. It has been restored. The Book of Mormon changes lives, and it changes mine every day. Every single day. If you don't know this church is true, you're letting doubt be your guide. But how has doubt ever helped a man reach any goal? I say to you all, we have the truth and it is my divine commission to declare it. I love you all. May the Holy Spirit attend you always.
Love Elder Hazen

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just Another Crazy Week

WAI? WAI WAI? LEIH HAI BINWAI A??!! (just a little Kennedy Town apartment talk. When other missionaries call me I tend to pick up like I'm an old crusty Hong Konger slightly irked at the fact that an unknown foreigner is interrupting his Chinese chess game). Speaking of Chinese chess, I can now occasionally beat chinese people. And I'd venture to say it's more fun than regular chess.
A ton has happened within the past week! I'd first like to make a couple shoutouts to friends -- Tyler and Abby, if I remember correctly, you tied the knot yesterday? Which would put you on your honeymoon at the present? Which would mean you're not reading this? I wouldn't be.
Bridget Benton -- I got your letter AND this year's pass-along card for Nauvoo. I tell my companion that I don't get trunky for home, but I get trunky for that place sometimes. When I saw that picture, I was slapped in the face with memories. Thank you so much for sending the note.
Rivkah Steele -- your birthday is today! Don't act like I forgot. I wish you the best and hope all is well with you.
MOM. I got your package today. The jerky warmed my belly, the notes warmed my heart, and those scottish tartan ties kindled an inferno inside my withered soul. And the non-aluminium deodorant sticks. What more can I even say? I LOVE YOU.
Today, as promised, Elder Ng left to go be our Zone Leader here on the Island. I'll miss him -- he's taught me a lot about what it means to love the people and take time to show how much you care. He was quiet, dignified, and answered people's questions like a master -- he could practically dissuade any man to argue with us simply by answering in a way that caused them to think instead of try to defeat you in a battle of the wits. I was very blessed to be his "baby."
My new companion's name is Elder Wu -- he sounds like he's native but he's actually from New Zealand. His parents are Chinese but he didn't know a lick of Cantonese before his mission. You can rest assured that my New Zealand accent is going to be pro by the end of this move. He's come to be our new District Leader. He is very outgoing and I can tell he really likes to have fun. I'm excited to show him around Aberdeen and learn from his example.
This week we started our 2 week long EEFY (English Especially For Youth). It's a big event we've organized throughout Hong Kong to attract a lot of people to learn English and become familiar with the missionaries. Apparently they do this every summer. It's been fun and we've been able to schedule some new investigators there.
There is so much to do. I remember when I first came to my area I didn't teach a single lesson for a week. However, we now have a good pool of investigators. They aren't all progressing, but we're doing the best we can and we know we've at least developed a good relationship with all of them. It's been somewhat of a miracle this past week to have been able to schedule random people that actually showed up. When I first got here, I swear everybody "fong'd" us, but this week we had success in scheduling people -- we got 4 new investigators. Some of them may not stick around, but I know that the Lord is guiding us to new people to teach and helping our area to progress.
Two of these new kids I want to make a brief mention of -- because both of them are kind of hilarious. One of them is the "chillest" kid you'll ever meet. I don't know how else to describe him. He says he likes to learn everything. His name is A-Gin. We call him A-Gin the Younger because we already had another investigator with the same name. Well, the first day we scheduled him we took him to our chapel and shared with him a message about prayer and finding happiness, and then gave him a Book of Mormon with the invitation to begin reading. After the lesson he stayed with us because he had nothing to do, so when we met with Brother Choi (the less-active who we helped reactivate), A-Gin stayed and sat in. It was hilarious when this kid, who had only learned of the book's existence a couple hours earlier, jumped into our lesson and tried to help us answer Brother Choi's question about the Anti-Nephi Lehites.
Then the other kid, his name is Tom -- he's a bit strange, but he asks the best questions. We shared with him the message of the Restoration on saturday and then he came to church with us the following day. He had a weird desire to have ALL of God's knowledge, so he was kindof annoyed when the Gospel class's lesson on Charity was "too basic" for him. But the hilarious thing was, he kept saying how he wanted to learn about Jesus and after the Priesthood hour he said he wanted to attend seminary and go to Scout Camp. In order to do the latter, he needed to meet with the Bishop. So Tom met with the Bishop on his first day at church. Good old Tom.
A follow-up with Vincent. We had the best meeting with him a couple days ago. He was scheduled to get baptized last Sunday, but he wasn't able to reach his goal because he didn't have enough time to meet with us. But in our lesson we shared about the importance of baptism and gave him a card that I designed to look like a tree growing out of a seed -- based off of Alma 32. A few meetings ago we shared this chapter with him and he told us how much it spoke to him and his situation. He loved the card, and then he set his own batismal date for the 26th. I'm positive he'll make it -- when Elder Ng asked him what the difference was between this goal and the goal before he said, "The biggest difference is that my previous goal was passive, but now this goal is active."
I know this work is the work of the Lord. Just as every person we teach needs patience to obtain truth for themselves, we missionaries need to have patience. But instead of waiting on the world to change, we're endeavoring to go forth and change it, according to the will of our Father in Heaven. May He be with you all and bless you in your lives to find more truth. There is always more to find.
Elder Hazen

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Use What He's Already Given You

It's a hot day on the inskirts of the Kong.
I've forgotten the past three P-days to get this out there: Little Caleb down in south Georgia and to your parents as well -- I got your package and nearly wept tears of joy. Haha, it was so awesome, and it only came two days after the fourth of July! I wish I could thank you with more than just these typed words, but this will have to do. Caleb, keep up all the good work, and take care of your family!
It's been really hot lately -- Mom, you mentioned you heard that it rains a lot in Hong Kong. I'd say that's true, which also explains why it's always so humid. The rain here is nasty-- it's thicker and stickier, so you feel like a dirtbag by the time you've leaped onto the bus. It makes people even more confused at why your smiling at them when you're sitting across from them drenched in Honkey Kong death rain. People in Hong Kong HATE rain. Count on getting fong'd by an investigator if it's raining.
Well, this time I'm a lot more sure -- I'm getting a new companion next P-day. Elder Ng is going to be a Zone Leader in Kwun Tong, so I'm anxiously awaiting to be assigned to a new companion. Elder Ng is such a good little man. I say little because I'm pretty sure if he held his knees to his chest I could shot-put him, but his heart is big. I've learned so many things from him, and I'm positive my experience with him will largely shape the way I will do my work for the rest of my mission.
Cantonese is getting better. Yesterday I spent most of the day with an American Elder who hasn't even finished his first move yet, and taught a lesson with him. I'm positive I was just like him only 4 months ago, but I couldn't believe how much more able I was to communicate. He did great, but it was encouraging for me to realize how much I've improved since I got here -- I can understand most of what is going on although I know I still miss a lot of the nitty gritty stuff. It's still hard, but I've focused on pounding a ton of vocabulary into my head simply for the sake of understanding it when other people say it. They say that 6 months in you start to understand people a lot better -- it seems to be coming true with a lot of diligence and prayer. For that I'm so grateful, and sometimes I wake up and realize I spend most of my waking hours speaking in Chinese. Who'da thought.
We work hard. Since last week's reevaluation with Elder Ng and in my studies, I've noticed a significant change in our progress. We're achieving our goals more easily, we're having more effective lessons, and finding more people to teach. It's profound for me to continue learning about what it really means to follow the Spirit -- so many times we think revelation and following the Spirit to equate to Mario hitting a question mark and an invincible star hits you and then all of the sudden you overcome anything in your path. Sometimes we think we're immediately going to be inspired if we just pray about it and wait. It isn't like that. God gave you a brain and gave you logic for a reason: use it. God wants us to use the resources He's already given us: willpower, intellect, knowledge, wisdom -- and then use it WITH prayer and His guidance. It's never a bad idea to evaluate yourself and where you're at, to look at what can be better, do everything you can to change it and ask God to help you make up the difference. I know He guides us after all that we can do. Use your gifts.
Love, Elder Hazen