Thursday, September 27, 2012

Exploring Hung Shui Kiu. Declaring repentance. Pictures and a recording.

First attached file is of me and a sister missionary performing a folksy rendition of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" that we prepared for a stake talent show a few weeks ago. She's on guitar, I'm on violin, and we sing some stuff. Sorry it took so long, Mom.
I think yesterday was possibly the longest day of my entire life. Moving to our new area and then walking around semi-aimlessly all day for a week took it's toll. I nearly fell asleep walking about 50 times. Good news is, Hung Shui Kiu is an awesome area. It's basically a split-up of two other areas that already exist, due to the building of a new beautiful chapel. It has been erected to accomodate members in the area, so the HSK boundaries were added and they threw Elder Farnsworth and I into it. Technically, missionaries are already plenty familiar with this area, but because we currently have no Area Book, just barely threw together an incomplete Member book, only one investigator we managed to find yesterday, no investigator/potential records, and the ward itself won't be opening until the 3rd week in October, you may as well say it's like opening a completely new area. I love it though; it's been quite the adventure exploring everywhere we can, finding member's homes, and trying to keep from looking like a tourist.
Needless to say, my companion and I bought a couple of map books and have had our noses buried in them more hours of the day than not. At least it feels that way. I don't think I've looked at a map more in my whole life than my first day in Hung Shui Kiu. We've focused a lot on finding and developing relationships with the prospective members in our area. That includes attending two wards, and you guessed it -- we had a wonderful 6 hours of church last sunday, and we'll probably be doing it again this week. The majority of our days are looking through the member records that we have, finding their estate or village area on the map, and going there and trying to visit them. A lot of members keep telling us next week, but we've had a few really good visits. The members are SO awesome and are so willing to help us do missionary work. Several have told us the names of less-active members in the area, and one told us she wanted to bring a mother and her two sons to church. We'll see how it all works out, but we have a feeling this area is going to have the majority of it's progression through the members. It's really inspiring to see how willing and loving these people are, and it makes me think of what a lazy member I was! I hope that I'll be able to make as much time as possible to help the missionaries when I return home. Missionary work is something that is constantly intriguing, always moving and progressing, and more satisfying than any other work. Everyone who puts their heart into it will testify of the same.
It's Mid-Autumn Festival this Sunday, and all the Chinese people are getting ready. I'm not clear on the point of the festival. All I know is that everybody eats these over-expensive moon cakes, and almost every member who has invited us in this week has given us one. They... aren't that good. The lotus paste inside is alright, but the reason they are called moon cakes is because they have this nasty orange preserved egg yolk in the middle to represent a moon. The more yolks, the more expensive. And more nasty. I just love the sneaky smile that forms on the members faces just before they ask you if you've ever tried moon cake. You always know it's coming. And when you say yes, they think it's an invitation to give you one because you must like it. I honestly don't think anyone really even likes them.
That pretty much sums up my week. I had one interesting experience on the street the other day where a teenager was willing to talk with us but kept telling us that these things were impossible, he didn't believe, and didn't think it'd be important even if God existed. I started to get kindof frustrated with him after I pulled out a Book of Mormon to answer his question and he wouldn't read it. He waved his hands at it and said, "Msai, msai" (don't need, don't need). I didn't understand why he'd bother asking a question and sharing an opinion and then stubbornly refuse to read a scripture. I pulled out our phone and told him to pretend he was in ancient times. I asked him where the phone came from, and he replied, "Modern times." I said, "Well, how do you know that? You're ancient, you don't have a clue what this thing is. You'd probably break it or get rid of it because you wouldn't understand it's value or it's capability to help one communicate with another person from an incredibly long distance." I told him that the reason that we have such things now is because people were open-minded enough to believe in something that seemed impossible, and because people believed they were able to accomplish their goals, and over time we have these incredible things that seem normal. I told him that people are enabled to accomplish things because they believe, and they are hindered when they doubt. The same is with God -- Heavenly Father has commanded us through Christ to be believing. When we open our minds to God and believe in Him, we enable ourselves to feel His power.
The kid said it was all impossible. I pointed to the phone and said, "Ancient people would think this is impossible." He paused, and then simply said that these things didn't matter and he could do everything by himself. Then without really thinking about it, I looked at him straight in the eye and told him he was prideful. I then said, "If you don't open your mind to spiritual things, I promise you that you'll never be able to overcome your own shame and guilt."
I walked away and wondered what the heck I had just said, but I didn't feel like I had done something wrong. I felt my calling to declare repentance among the unbelievers, and that was as bold as I'd ever been. But I know it's true. Sin cannot be overcome ourselves. It cannot. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. It enables us to achieve Christ's command of perfection, through the power of repentance and forgiveness. I've felt it in my life, and every day as I've come here to serve the Lord. Open your hearts! It's just too good.
Love, Elder Hazen

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Out in the Boonies

Welcome to the New Territories.

I've spent all day moving out of my apartment in West Point (Aberdeen area's apt.) and taking a rather long train ride up north off the Island, away from the huge city. We still live on the 23rd floor of an estate as most buildings in Hong Kong are built vertically, but I am shocked at the difference in space around these parts. It's quieter, more peaceful, people seem less uptight, and the escalators have flowerbeds in between them. That's straight up luxury if you ask me, regardless of whether or not the flowers are real.

My new companion is Elder Farnsworth. He's from Amarillo, Texas. He has no Chinese blood in him. I hear he's a hard worker, which is always good news to me. I asked him if he ever went boar hunting, and he replied he almost did once. I told him when we get home we can fix that. 
I guess the biggest news is that we're opening up a new area together. Hung Shui Kiu (Huhng Seui Kiuh), close to Yuen Long in the New Territories. You can look those up, Mom. Apparently they just built a new chapel in Hung Shui Kiu and are splitting up the wards in two other areas and creating a new area, to which E. Farnsworth and I have been assigned. I hear the chapel is just like an American chapel, except two stories high and nicer than any other chapel in Hong Kong. Elder Farnsworth is my senior companion, and he and I are ready to build good relationships with the members up here and start fresh in our new area. It's exciting and a little overwhelming, but I feel God has put a lot of trust in both of us to open up more doorways for church progression in Hong Kong. 

I used my audio recorder a ton this week. I decided to go around to every member or investigator that I'd developed a relationship with over the past 5 and a half months and ask them if they would leave me a message on my recorder. I told them I'd listen to it in ten years, and promised I'd still understand Cantonese. It's a good way to force yourself to remember the language God's prepared you to speak -- there's a lot of promises to keep! I have with me the voices of the lives and the people that I've worked with, and I will cherish that forever. 
It was really sad to leave Aberdeen. Honestly, it's all I really know out here. I've been there for 4 moves, about 5 and 1/2 months, and it's the place that I learned to understand and speak Cantonese, the place that I was welcomed into the mission, the place that I faced my first very trying moments in the field, and the place that I really began to understand what it meant to rely on the Lord in all I do. Just before personal study I knelt to pray for inspiration, and as I began to say that I was thankful to serve in Aberdeen I started to feel pretty emotional. Of course in a manly way, but I realized then that this place has really changed me and moved me in so many ways. 
I feel as if I've started my mission over. I worked as hard as I could til the last moment in Aberdeen, and now I'm in a new place, I know no-one, and everything is different. It's an adventure, and I'm ready to take it on. I know in Whom I have trusted. In Whom I've been taught to trust, one step at a time.

There's so much work to do. Pray for my companion and I to find families to teach. That is a very big focus of our mission right now. Just like every new phase of my mission seems like a new phase of learning, so is life. I feel like I'm living a whole life in these two years, and preparing myself to face any challenge that I'm to face in the future. Something that I've taken to asking on the streets is "What has greater worth than gold?" Everyone knows immediately that it is family. That it is life. That it is choice. It really is. God bless you all!
Elder Hazen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Smile or Something

Weeell hey there!
Dad. Happy birthday!! ...right? I'm almost postive. Pretty positive. You look good. And thank you so much for the letter.
I'm not sure I want to even bother mentioning it, because every time I have a feeling I tend to be wrong. I think I'm going to be moving next week to a new area, because I've already spent four transfers in my "baby area." I really don't want to leave, in a way. There are too many things that I've seen start that I want to see finish. Chances are I won't see Vincent baptized, although he's well on his way to the waters. It's profound I guess that the point isn't to see everything from start to finish, but to see that everything is a part of a bigger plan that isn't ours. It's a blessing to realize that no matter what you do, it's going to be a long process -- a process which, if endured well, usually has more blessings as it unfolds than when it is "finished." But nothing is finished, right? Once one person is converted, their baptism isn't the end! They merely begin a lifelong process that leads to eternal happiness. There is more to life than 80 some-odd years of constant battling for a sense of satisfaction. True satisfaction was never meant to be temporary or limited to your own efforts. True happiness has always been eternal, meant to extend beyond the limits of the grave, and provided by Somebody who went before us. If we're Christian, why don't we have crosses on our churches? Because we know that Christ's ancient ministry didn't end on the cross. We declare that He lives! We declare that the love of God is restored in these times as it was in times of old, and that Jesus is the Christ. And that, is the greatest message since angels declared the birth of the Savior.
This week has been great. I feel happy. I'm tired as crazy, but I just feel happy. Everything is clear, and it all makes sense. I had an interesting experience on the street the other day as I was finding with Elder Wu. As I was walking, instead of seeing just one person as a target for contacting, I started to notice the people as a whole as they walked by me. Something in particular that struck me was the nature of the faces that passed my view, and how much depth lay beneath the eyes of each person. Forgive me for getting all philosophical, but it really struck me when I realized just how much you can tell about a person by looking at their face in only a matter of a few short seconds. There are a LOT of frowns in Hong Kong. People here really don't realize it's a small world after all. I realized in that moment that I've been so foolish to have been so negative about the merits of street contacting. I've been foolish to complain about it's ineffectiveness -- although there are more ideal ways, sometimes we have that extra time on the streets that we have the opportunity to smile at these people! It came to me in a simple sentence, "If these faces are ever going to chance, you can start by smiling at them." We can let other peoples frowns make us frown, or we can smile until they do. I can't even begin to describe how happy it has made me to smile at people and just watch them try and hold it in!
Everything is awesome. We attended a stake talent show on saturday where me and a sister did a guitar/violin jam and sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Recording next week.
May God bless you all. Keep a good attitude, it's nearly the only thing you have the ability to control in this life.
Love, Elder Hazen

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just a Little Bit More Every Day

Hello all! Looks like I've only got 15 minutes left for the day. We'll see what 15 minutes can do.
This week has been great. I find it difficult to draw on all the experiences I have every day and then narrow them down for you all in one short, unrevised email. Just know that I learn more about who I am every day. Every person on the street is my teacher. Every conversation a lecture in Life 101.
We share the 1st Vision in nearly every street contact. I love it. It sounds so legit in Cantonese.
I told my companion on the bus to Wan Chai the other day that it seemed strange -- I don't really feel like I'm speaking a foreign language every day. I don't feel like I'm in a foreign country, and whenever something ridiculous or random happens on the street I just think, "Oh yeah, I'm in Asia." But it just shows how the Lord's work is always the same, wherever you are. And it never gets old. When I go to bed at night and account to the Lord what just happened, I grow a little more in my own testimony that God really is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Wherever we are, we are witnesses for a greater good, and it applies to every person. I'm constantly limited by my own doubts and my own fears, but every moment of weakness is a moment of opportunity to learn, grow, and become better.
I guess it's just really satisfying for me to realize the difference it all makes. The way a mission makes good men better -- great if they choose to be. All our faults are surfaced, and then we're given an opportunity to evaluate who we really are and how we're going to choose to deal with what we face. All things must be done in wisdom and order. One epiphany can't change your life or your method of doing things -- all the riddles I have to solve with my own shortcomings or with investigators or with questions that people ask or with missionary work -- they're all a part of a process.
Just know that I learn a little more every day that I am a better man because I am a weak one. The tag I wear is being written on my heart. I realized that I've covenanted in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to perform every labor in this mission and throughout my life. I've faced plenty of tears and sweat already, but all I can really say is keep it coming. What a wonderful opportunity every moment is.
Mosiah 4:27 -- don't run faster than you can. Let it all be in wisdom in order. Let yourself be taught; it's what you came here to do!
Love, Elder Hazen