Sunday, November 25, 2012

Whisperings, Changes, and the Book of Mormon

The New Territories is on fire, like usual.
We've heard through the grapevine that Mainland might be opening up soon. Another missionary told us that his friend got his mission call to Taiwan and to serve there until he is sent up to Mainland. If it's true, it seems pretty natural they would start with the Taiwanese missionaries who all speak Mandarin. There are a lot of whispered preparations happening all over the mission here as well. Word has it that certain missionaries in Hong Kong are going high-tech -- on the back of missionary tags they are stamping QR Codes for people to quickly scan with their Smart Phones. Apparently some missionaries will possibly be using Smart Phones. There is a missionary companionship currently cooped up in the upper (the kind you have to use scanner codes to get in) floors of the main 13-story Wan Chai building, doing what all the other missionaries call "top secret missionary work." We aren't really sure what's going on, but apparently the companionship is helping to develop some sort of website thing that is directly geared to investigators of the church, that can be easily accessed, is full of special messages, etc. With that and how big the New Territories Zone has gotten in the last move, the huge chapel in Hung Shui Kiu finally opening up after 10 years, the huge and rapid technological advancements, and whisperings of Mainland, we're given in speculation that huge things are going to start happening in Asia. That's all I know. Take it for prophecy or just for feeling, but I feel like whether in this mission or later in my life, God is preparing me for a great work on the other side of the border.
Soso, our best investigator, is currently experiencing a lot of changes in his life. We found him wandering about a mile down the road from the chapel lost in thought. He said that an old friend had offered him a job in office work, and he wasn't sure what to do. He currently works as a delivery boy in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant pretty close to the church. We even made him deliver to us a couple days ago. It's funny, because he's always so close, we see him on his bike almost every day, so "daily contact" is made pretty easy. He didn't come to church yesterday, so Elder Farnsworth and I, a little worried, decided to go visit his house. Turns out he had just gone to bed an hour before after being on a phone call nearly the whole night. Whatever had been bugging him seemed to be fixed, and he just needed to sleep. Looks like he's going to take the new job, too. We'll see him less, but I'm pretty sure he'll be baptized before he even starts it next month. He has a lot of faith, and I think God is preparing him for a lot of the joy that the gospel will bring him and his prospective family.
Our other investigators are doing well also. Sister Yip will have to get a special interview for baptism due to some past issues, but she is so prepared and humble and receptive. She is already an active member practically. Our friend Andrew is looking for a new job; when he finally gets accepted into a new work he'll be able to come to church. The only thing that is holding him back from baptism has been his inability to attend church. We're hoping for 3 baptisms in December.
I have a testimony that the Book of Mormon is the answer to questions. We met with a less active member on Saturday who had a lot of deep questions about the Plan of Salvation. We sat for a good while disputing certain issues back and forth, but he kept letting his confusion get the best of him. I told him right then that I thought continuing in conversation would do us no good, and that instead we should turn to the scriptures. Elder Farnsworth and I found wonderful passages in 2 Nephi 9 and Doctrine and Covenants that spoke to him and eased his mind.
God answers questions, we don't. The difference is clearly visible and noticable when you open the scriptures together instead of having some philosophical conversation. Faces soften from the furrowed questioning brow to the focused and peaceful countenance of self-introspection. It becomes a conversation with God, where He Himself instructs, guides, answers and uplifts you. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that we have an inspired prophet in these latter-days, and that God will never cease speaking to us.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, November 18, 2012

People in Need, Miracles, and Prayer

Hello all,
It's been another great week up in Hung Shui Kiu. The Spirit is really brooding over this land; people have been walking in on church, accepting chapel tours, self-referring themselves to our free English Class, and several people are progressing towards baptism. Our first English Class up here, only about 4 weeks ago, had a total of 5 people attend, which in some places in the mission, is considered a success. I remember when I was in Aberdeen, sometimes for 2-3 weeks in a row nobody would show up. Last friday, we had 29 people attend English Class, and only about 2-4 of those people were members. We had to split classrooms and have all the missionaries in our district working together to make sure that everybody had a quality, satisfying experience.
Last week we found an old woman on a roof on a patch of farmland in the village that neighbors the church. I was afraid to call out to her at first for fear of scaring her and causing her to fall off, but with a little faith I opened my mouth and called out to her. She turned out to be the most hilarious and sweet little lady we've ever met. Her back was acutely hunched over, I swear like an 80 degree angle, and she daily engages in physical labor by herself. I couldn't help but thinking she looked like a muppet, by both her appearance and her cheery personality, and she loved us from the start. We offered to come serve her and help her out with the work, and she invited us back a few days later. We came with our whole district wearing "Mormon Helping Hands" jerseys and I tell you, I don't think I've ever been as elated about doing physical labor as I was for that first hour. But our joys were cut short -- a man came in and told us that it was his land and without even asking us what we were doing or why we were there he called the police on us. The woman ran up to me, grabbed my hands and looked into my eyes while she described to me that this man ruined this little farm and would frequently beat her. I looked at her helplessly. The native missionaries talked to him and explained that we were here to help the old woman, and he said that she was senile and always intruded on his property. We said we were sorry, and not wanting to get ourselves or the Church involved, we quickly left after the man cancelled his call to the police. It was a really sad experience, knowing that there was nothing we could do. There is a great need for more love in this world, and there were more talks in General Conference this year that talked about service than anything else. The call of the prophets is to find those in need, because there are too many who need it.
Soso is progressing towards baptism. Yesterday he came to church humbly praying and intently listening all through Sacrament Meeting. I was impressed at his comment after both the opening and the closing prayer when he said, "Wow, they prayed... fast." He has so quickly understood the nature of our communication with Heavenly Father that it seemed odd to him that at church the members would offer such a quick and ritualistic prayer up to Heaven. We must always remember that in all things we do, especially at church, represent both our individual spirituality and the church itself. People watch, and they notice. We should all take time to sincerely reflect the way that we communicate with Heavenly Father, in public and in private. One thing I've really learned in my service is how to pray. Odd to say, I've done it my entire life. When we learn to pray sincerely, always, we are given the added blessings of heaven. Miracles have begun to happen here, and I know it's a product of our prayers -- prayers that have been offered because we truly wanted them to be answered, and had faith that they would, not because we were told that prayer would help.
I know that this is God's work. God bless you all in your individual pursuits to come closer to our Father in Heaven, and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"I've Heard It Before

The miracles that we've been taught to expect are now beginning to roll in.
One of the amazing things about Hung Shui Kiu is that it is right in the heart of the New Territories, and the huge chapel that has just been built there is a beacon to everything around it. We learned recently that this chapel has been in construction for 10-13 years, and people have known about it for a long time. For whatever reason, it's construction process was drawn out for a very long time. Needless to say, people know about the Mormon chapel. President Hawks has increased the New Territories Zone by two companionships, and this new chapel has finally opened. Why did the church invest so much money in a chapel right in the middle of the New Territories, and why is our mission president concentrating his forces here? Because miracles are going to happen. Hung Shui Kiu, it's time to explode.
There is a huge main road that runs through the New Territories, and the chapel happens to be built alongside it. So Elder Farnsworth and I have spent some time walking up and down it asking people if they've seen the new chapel and if they'd like a tour. As we were walking down the road last week, I saw a guy passing us on his bike so I thought I'd have a whirl and yelling and waving him down. It was a miracle in and of itself that he stopped his bike and said, "what?" We shared with him a minute message about the purpose of life and then invited him to our next English Class. He gave us his number, and then showed up. Shortly after we visited him in his home to teach him the Restoration, and he accepted a baptismal date without question. He is 22 years old, and his name is Soso. He's from mainland. The following English Class we had two men who called us and referred themselves to come learn english, and afterwards we gave them a tour of the chapel, and Soso tagged along. As Elder Farnsworth was explaining something about the Atonement, Soso edged closer to me and said, "Hey I have good news, my boss said I now have all Sundays off work. I don't even know why, I didn't even ask him. I can come to church." I started getting all excited with him, but I was quickly shut down by a glare from my companion, who couldn't fathom why I'd be making a fuss while he was trying to have a spiritual experience sharing our most sacred doctrine. My bad.
After that, we sat down with the men and taught them seperately a short lesson about prayer. Soso sat with me, and much to my surprise hestarted answering the man's questions, explaining clearly and correctly that prayer is a way that we communicate with God, and that He answers us through our feelings, helping us to know what choices we should make. I sat there a little awestruck that our new investigator was now helping us fellowship and doing it right, when he has absolutely no Christian background and has only heard one lesson.
Encouraged, we rescheduled him to teach him the Plan of Salvation. It was the first time I've taught the Plan of Salvation in months because we've been spending so much time starting people off with the Restoration. Needless to say, my mind spaced out for most of the lesson, and for a long time I felt like I'd forgotten all the principles we were supposed to teach. Thanks to my companion and the member who was there to help us, it ended alright. At the end of the lesson, I felt like I needed to ask Soso if he believed what we had taught. He indicated that he did. I asked, "Why do you believe it?" He thought for a moment and then responded, "Because when I pray I can feel that it's all true.... and also, when you guys started teaching me the Plan of Salvation, I could have sworn I'd heard it before. I know for a fact that nobody has ever taught it to me, but I know I've heard it before." We sat there in silence and the Spirit seemed to thicken the air about us, and I felt for a moment that I'd burst with joy. I then said to him, "You have heard it before, in the pre-earth life. The Spirit just confirmed that to you, and your spirit recognized it."
That's our miracle story of the week, and please know that there have been many more. We currently have 4 investigators with baptismal dates, two of whom I'm positive will make them. Elder Farnsworth and I have labored diligently here in Hung Shui Kiu, and we have searched for those prepared souls even when we would have prefered to go home. We have prayed for miracles, we have promised the members they'd see miracles, and we have begun to see miracles. God has prepared us all to fulfil a magnificent purpose and calling in our lives, and if we are humble and willing enough, our spirits will recognize that plan. We must always remember that we have heard it before. God is telling us every day. Eternity hangs in the balance. This is the work of the Lord.
Love, Elder Hazen
P.S. To top it all off, I got to sing in Sacrament meeting this week. It may be your cliche arrangement of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," but it may not be sung in your cliche language. May it uplift your spirits.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Investigators, prayers answered, brought low to be lifted up

Hay errbody,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADDIE! I can't believe you're in Primary now! You're so huuuge. I'm going to write you a letter today. I miss you!
I've reported on working with members in my past few emails and talked about our Preach My Gospel "One Heart One Mind" plan. This week we've begun to see the fruits of our labors. Early this week we visited a couple members, shared with them about opening our mouths and sharing simple and direct testimonies about the Book of Mormon, and then invited one of them to help us fellowship one of our investigators the following morning. Since President Hawks came, we've been allowed to teach female investigators, (it's been kind of awkward having women help us fellowship and then trying to answer them when they ask why we aren't passing the investigator over to the Sisters). Our investigator, Sister Yip, is very receptive to the message but has ZERO Christian background. Anyway, after the member we invited and the Relief Society President helped us fellowship her and had a wonderful lesson, on saturday night we received a call from our member saying that she took the initiative and called Sister Yip on her own to invite her to church. And Sister Yip came. Dressed up.
Another fruit has been talking with the active members who have a lot of fear about sharing the gospel, and are very timid (even with themselves) about their testimony of Jesus Christ. A few days ago we practiced with one such investigator, inviting him to teach me as if I were his friend. When I asked him how he knew Christ was his Savior, he turned to my companion and said, "I can't do it." We just stared at him and told him to try. It was tense for a few moments, but we watched as he engaged himself in introspection, looked at me straight in the eye and told me his testimony of how simply going to church strengthens his knowledge of the truth. It was simple, and it pushed him, but he said at the end of the lesson that he learns a lot from us every time he meets us. It was a testimony to me of the contant need for us as members to "teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom," to strengthen one another, and to mutually perfect each other in this mortal journey to eternal life.
I know that God answers prayers. One of our investigators, Andrew, last week texted us saying that "God couldn't redeem him." Every night after that I called him, and for a few days he didn't answer. So last Monday, Elder Farnsworth and I fasted and prayed for him to give us another chance to meet with him, and help him come closer to his Savior. He answered his phone that night, and we rescheduled him, and on wednesday we taught him, resolved his concerns with a member, and gave him a card that we made for him that was based on Alma 36, with a picture of us with him on the back. He told us that he had been in contact with another church, but we were the ones who called him back and actually showed that we cared. I felt so much love for him as I fasted and prayed for him, and God answered our prayers.
Recently we've had a ton of success in finding a lot of prepared people, with humble and receptive hearts. It's been a blessing, but it's also very interesting to note that all the investigators or potential investigators we have that seem to be progressing or will progress have a very close relationship with Mainland China. They are either from there, born there, or go there frequently. It's interesting to look back on the words of Elder (Bednar?) in an address to (Mission presidents?) a few years ago when he said (paraphrased), "China is ready for the Gospel, but we aren't ready for China." Get those 18 and 19 year old missionaries out now, I am a witness to the truth that people in China are ready to hear the Good News. Double, nay, sextouple the army of the Lord!
My testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ was strengthened this week as I was brought down with a cold. Being sick, even a little bit sick, as a missionary is the worst. You can't just stop working. But that's what actually made the past few days some of the best few days. Sometimes we are brought to low points, or brought down to a lower plane in order to clearly see the blessings wie've been given. I found that as I forced myself to keep going at a lower level, I was able to see several of the blessings that attend my "normal" functioning mode.
Our low points in life can be anywhere from something as scary and severe as cancer or the death of a loved one to something as temporary and trivial as catching a minor cold. Whatever is included in life's current hindrance, it's purpose is to help us understand our own circumstances from a lower level, and see the blessings we've been given when life is easier, supported by the comforts of health and financial security. We learn at our lower points that we are never ready to receive more blessings until we've learned to appreciate and cherish the ones we've already been given.
God breaks us down to lift us up. It is by this principle that we are enabled to recognize and understand the merits of Christ's atoning sacrifice; just as we are lifted up and built stronger by our own experiences and trials, He who descended below us all has been lifted the highest to guide us back to Heavenly Father. As we see the blessings and the goodness of life from a lower plane, so has Christ seen us from the lowest of all planes. Only through Him, by Him, and with Him can we ever expect to reach the highest of all planes, even in celestial glory with our Father in Heaven. We must be brought down, even as our Savior was, in order to be lifted up.
I know that this work is God's work. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is more real than I ever knew before. We can feel the prints in His hands and feet as we partake of the emblems of His holy sacrifice every Sunday morning.
Add oil,
Elder Hazen