This has to be extremely short, we weren't really given a P-day this week.
I'm so happy I got to talk to you all on Christmas! I'm so sorry that it seemed so short, I felt like I blabbered on about things that didn't matter. There's so many stories to tell and feelings to share that it's nigh impossible to really get anything out at all in 30-40 minutes. So for Mother's Day let's just have a normal chat like you probably all wanted to and I think it will be better. So good to hear all your voices.
Zach! YOU BEAST. That's the most legit cowboy stache I've ever seen. I don't know what the heck it's doing on your face, and I about popped out of my seat when I saw that little video clip Brian sent. So hilarious.
S was baptized on Sunday. He spoke for 8 and a half minutes at his baptism because he assumed he had to prepare a talk for it. His life is completely turned around. In describing the way he felt about his whole experience he told everyone in his testimony that he wasn't sure if he was breaking the 10 Commandments because he "coveted" Heavenly Father's love. He's so happy.
We just finished having the Open House. It was the craziest activity ever -- SO many people have come in contact with the church in the past few days. Sorry for the negative sound on the phone call -- I LOVED the Open House. It just beat me up with exhaustion. And today we had the most intense lesson of our lives because of it. A man who lives nearby came to the Open House and met with us today, telling us that his wife and kids went missing in Mainland 10 years ago and he has been looking for them ever since, with no job and no purpose other than finding them again. Assuming that they're dead, he came to the Open House wanting to know more about Jesus Christ before commiting suicide so that he could go to Heaven and see them again. It was intense and very serious, but he is a willing man and hopefully we'll be able to help him turn his life around and find the truth.
So many more things to say. Know that I'm well, that God is with us, and the work is progressing. God's truth rolls on.
All I really have to say to anybody right now is Merry Christmas.
Heavenly Father is giving us the most amazing Christmas gifts right now. I've never had so many people to teach my entire mission. In fact, I've actually been praying harder recently hoping that we won't let any people slip through the cracks -- it's not even Open House yet and our load is as big or bigger than most in Hong Kong right now. Hung Shui Kiu is miracle town; something miraculous happens every day. We used to complain trying to find every possible way of escaping finding on the streets all day, and now finding time is precious with all the records to keep, people to teach, and members and leaders to follow-up with. It's incredible. President Hawks has sent out a call for all missionaries to pray for 8 specific things in order to "draw on the powers of heaven" in our work. As our faith has increased, our prayers more humble, and our righteous desires magnified, almost immediately the Lord has poured multitudes of both blessings and miracles on us.
Sister Y got baptized yesterday. It was the first time I'd ever baptized anyone, and the water was pretty yellow for some reason so it may or may not have been biproduct from the neighboring bathrooms, but she came out of that water beaming.
A few days ago we became a little worried because Sister Y still hadn't answered her phone after leaving on her trip to Mainland. It was already Friday and we had a baptism to schedule, so on a whim we looked at the vague address she filled on her baptismal form and set out to find her at about 8pm. Because we weren't familiar with the area and Chinese addresses aren't particularly clear, we spent a while knocking random doors in a concrete village at our best-guessed location. Just as we'd about given up and walked back onto the street, Elder Farnsworth saw her riding her back and stopped her. She had just come back from Mainland and had no minutes on her phone, so she was unable to contact us. With the very unlikely circumstances in which we ran into her friday night, I am convinced that the divine hand of providence was with us. Turns out she was planning on extending the baptism to a later date. She got baptized on Sunday. She told me right before that she was so excited she couldn't sleep all night before, and she looked so happy afterwards.
S. will be getting baptized next week. He's such a stud; he showed up to his baptismal interview in a full suit! I wish you all could have seen what he looked like when we first met him, always wearing T-shirts 35 sizes too big. His testimony is so strong. I about jumped out of my seat when he told us the goals that he had written up on the wall in his bedroom: get baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, receive the priesthood, go to the Temple, go on a mission, and endure to the end. All of these are complete with an empty space at the side for check marks.
We have a lot of other miracles coming in for our ward. Hung Shui Kiu will actually be having two baptisms next week, because the Sisters taught an investigator who lives in our area who will also be getting baptized. The baptism will count for us because we no longer have sisters in Hung Shui Kiu -- and what's more, the neighboring area had a husband and wife who were so golden that they received all the lessons in just a couple of weeks, but they had two houses, and they chose to fill in their address that is actually in our area, so the following week we'll have a couple also baptized into our Ward. This couple, by the way, is so on fire that they constantly bring new referrals to the missionaries. So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, along with the two that Elder Farnsworth and I found, we have 3 extra free baptisms!
Pray for us that we'll be able to successfully work with our ward members to ensure that all of these miracles are managed. With great blessings come great responsibility; now more than every we can't be lax in our efforts. I feel the pressure to be more focused than I ever have as a missionary. I think the answer to why I care so much about these things and all these people can be summed up in the following experience with a less-active member we've been meeting:
Recently Brother Leung has been coming to church, but he's been having a lot of deep questions about the Plan of Salvation, ultimately saying that he wants to progress but doesn't feel like he has the potential. After spending a good time delving through the scriptures, he seemed to be more satisfied, and I decided to tell him that I knew that God loved him. He said, "Really? ... I'm not so sure." I don't think I'll ever be able to describe the feeling that came over me at that moment when I looked into that man's eyes and felt the indescribable love that Heavenly Father had for him, and I told him never to believe that God didn't love him, and as His witness I testified right there to him of that love. I nearly cried at that moment, realizing that the most profound moments for a missionary are the times that he or she witnesses of the simple and eternal love that Heavenly Father has for His children.
Please, never forget that you are children of the Almighty God, the Eternal Father in Heaven. Your potential is eternal. I know that He lives, and that Jesus is the Christ. Expect miracles in your life. Remember the Savior this Christmas.
First off, to all those who write me letters -- I DO write you back. Sounds like a couple have been lost. Don't worry, I'm alive and in China. I guess I'll write you again.
This week has been full of surprises. I guess I'll start with S, he's the big news lately. I've never seen a man change his life around so quickly. Elder Farnsworth and I checked our planners and saw that we met him on the 1st of November. Here we are in early December, he's abandoned (by himself) his baggy overly large clothing and long hair and earring in his left ear for a clean cut head, glasses? and clothes that fit. He comes to church and prays to himself in every hour of the meetings, participates in each class, answers questions and prays some more. Last night I asked him what he learned from church, and he told me about how in Elder's Quorum some of the men were arguing about how to judge people righteously. He said he could see that one particular brother was having a big question in his mind, so he immediately started to pray for him. Then he spoke up and said, "Well the most important thing is, if you don't know what to do, you can just pray or fast."
Now for the surprises. Because S is such a sincere guy, he went ahead and did a very sincere thing. He has this tatoo on the back of his right hand in between the knuckle of his first finger and thumb of a clover. He has indicated time and time again of his loathing for it, and we've assumed that it must have some meaning that brings him thoughts of the bad things he did in his past. This wednesday we scheduled him for a lesson about Thomas S. Monson to help him gain a more solidified testimony of the modern prophet. He was waiting for us in the hallway of the chapel as we finished a lesson with someone else. Elder Farnsworth greeted him as I went into the library to grab the TV, and as I was pushing it into the classroom he came up to me and said, "Have you seen S's tatoo?" Rather elated by my sudden and erroneous assumption that he must have removed the clover I said, "What? Did he remove it?" Then Elder Farnsworth made a particularly interesting face and said, "Not quite." My interest peaked, I walked out to greet him and reached out to shake his hand. He clasped my hand.
I didn't know whether to be delighted or horrified by what I saw next. I was right about one thing. The clover was gone. But I choked on my "hello" as I examined the new and bigger tattoo that covered it. A cross engulfed in flames and the word "Pray" etched beautifully and permanently right there for all to see. S, you see, he's a great guy. As we sat down for the lesson, I really didn't know how to respond, so I just said it straight. "S, because our bodies are sacred and are from God, we as members of his church don't get tattoos." He looked at me and said, "Oh." Then he told us that the reason he put "Pray" on his hand was because he always forgot to pray over his food, so every time he lifted the chopsticks to his mouth he'd see the word on his hand and offer a word of prayer. Yes, again, he really is that awesome.
Yesterday at church we saw the sides of the tattoo missing, replaced by raw skin and traces of dried blood. We didn't really say much about it, because we didn't want to make a big deal about it. I have not met a more faithful man in my life. The things that S has shared with us and the sincere desire he has to be worthy to receive all the blessings of the Lord is so incredible. I've sent two pictures of him today for you to see, the one of the Temple in the background of us just last night. That he would have the faith to so immediately change and do all that the Lord wills of him is a testimony to me of the power that God has to forgive us and to build us.
As for another surprise, we had a ward activity on Saturday, and inviting two mom's on the street about 15 minutes before it started turned into about 6-7 mom's with all of their kids, totalling over 20 people there that were not members of the church. "Eat food and play games!" we said. The Lord did the rest.
I'm so blessed to be out here serving the Lord. All we have to do is be willing, and the Lord will shape us and build us and help us change. I myself have so many things I need to change. But I know that with a willing heart and an obedient spirit, the Lord will shape us and change us, and help us become who we were always meant to be. God bless you all and may he help you all to continue repenting and growing throughout your lives.
Dear Sister Hazen, President Hawks and I just returned from a Mission Fireside where Elder Hazen sang a solo. He sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" in Cantonese (except for the last verse in English). It was beautiful and I'm certain touched the heart and soul of the investigators that were present. He is truly using his God given gifts and talents to bless the lives of the people in Hong Kong, and that includes me! He is obedient, hard working and contributing much to the Mission. Thank you for sharing your son with us. Sincerely, Sister Julie Hawks HK Mission
Turns out that last week I played 2 Truths and a Lie with you all. I swear I didn't mean it.
Ironically enough, missionaries are probably the best at gossip and spreading half-truths like wildfire -- among themselves. Of course we spread full truths, yea, even the fulness of truth like wildfire on the streets, but you gotta love how one person gets some fake news about Taiwanese missionaries getting called to mainland and every missionary in Hong Kong knows about it by the end of the night. Everything I shared about the crazy technological advancements, QR Codes, special online secret missionary companionship, possibility of smart phones, and all that? True. Noob Taiwan-Mainland missionary call? False. My bad.
If I were to give commentary from my personal opinion, I'd say China has a while yet. But I sincerely believe that it will open to missionary work within my lifetime, and sometimes I get the weird feeling inside that tells me when it does, I'm going to be a part of it. I've seen Mainland several times because our area is right along the border -- you just have to look over the harbor and there it is, just looking like a dream in it's cloud of misty pollution. Because we're so close, we run into Mainland people daily, and the difference between them and your typical Hong Konger is like night and day. They're usually more humble, receptive, and willing to listen and hear you out. I'm a firsthand witness that China is ready for us, but we aren't ready for China. Why, you might ask? Because my first baptism next week is going to be a Chinese woman named Sister Yip who still frequents her home across the border.
Sister Yip has been among our most progressing investigators during November. Due to time limits on the computer, I haven't made much mention of her until now -- she's originally from Mainland and lives a mile or two down the road from the new church. Elder Farnsworth found her during a Zone Find in late October as she was walking around looking for her son. He has a mental illness that makes him "especially naughty." He likes to hit us, kiss us, hit us again, bang on things and scream. We love it. Anyway, she ended up coming to church nearly every sunday after she was found, and has met with us during the week to hear the lessons. Like I mentioned before, we are allowed to teach female investigators now on certain conditions -- so we always had at least 2 Relief Society members helping us fellowship her lessons. She passed her baptismal interview this Saturday and asked that I baptize her. She's really been great; one time she snuck a pack of noodles in my backpack, and for my birthday she made some weird chinese cheesy dish. It wasn't that good, but Elder Farnsworth loved it, and the point is, Sister Yip is great. Interesting thing is after the interview we were told that she was married; we had assumed the whole time that she was divorced because she never mentioned her husband... Oops. Apparently he's Buddhist and isn't opposed to her learning and being baptized, but wants nothing to do with us himself. She has had to read the Book of Mormon behind closed doors away in a room by herself. Many of her friends told her that our church is a cult, but she said she always felt so good at church and the members were so nice that she never listened to them. If it hadn't been for the willing and welcoming members or the comforting of the Spirit, I guarantee Sister Yip would have ended up like all the rest who hear one person anti the church and consequently never answer the phone again. It happens way too much out here. She's currently up in Mainland this week, and she says she might not be able to get back in time for her Sunday baptism, but I have faith that she will. If not, next week.
As far as my birthday is concerned, Mom, I woke up that day with food poisoning. Both ends were on fire most of the day, which really added nice touches to the lessons we had scheduled. I thought I'd gotten over it by about noon, so I decided to bring some of the protein shake stuff that you sent with me for lunch as I figured it would go down easy. O fool that I am to think that added amounts of protein sits well with an upset stomach. Soso was blessed to practice answering the baptismal interview questions with Elder Farnsworth as he listened to moanings and flushings from the nearby bathroom. He's doing great by the way -- he has a powerful testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. 9 months ago he was under the pressure of drugs, and a previously much different lifestyle is apparent from the tattoos on his back and hand, and the fist-prints on his bedroom door. Yesterday he filled out and paid a fast-offering to the Bishop, and then picked up several flyers for the Christmas Open-House and waved them saying "Mouh hei!" which means, "weapon". Yeah, while I have anything to say about it, he'll be on a mission soon. Haha!
My Zone Leader and I were talking last night. The MTC is changing a lot now to accomodate the huge waves of missionaries coming in. Apparently the weekly missionary application rate has increased from 700 to 4000. (See if maybe that doesn't contribute to the future of China). The MTC is shortening its time to take in more people, so Chinese missionaries are only going to be in for 9 weeks. That, in turn, is going to be affecting transfers, which indicates two things: 1) We're going to have a TON of white people coming in while all the native missionaries go home within the next few moves. I'm grateful to know that a lot of us have been so blessed with our capabilities in the language, because I get the feeling that I'm going to be teaching a white kid or two how to speak Chinese in the near future. 2) My going home date may change, possibly earlier by a few weeks. As my Zone Leader put it, "You're just about hitting your peak. As far as time is concerned, you're about to head on the downward sloap." I layed in bed and worried about it for a while. I can't believe it's almost been a year. I don't want to leave this place. It just feels like it's not enough time. Part of being patient is learning to control anxiety -- I live under constant pressure wondering if I've been doing enough, finding the right people, doing the right thing, blessing enough people's lives. One day I'll wake up and this experience will be over. I never realized I'd find comfort knowing that a mission is just an orientation for the rest of my life, a stepping stone that prepares me to bless others throughout my entire life. I never want to stop blessing people. There is just too much good to be done, and so many people need it.
I know and testify with all energy of heart that the greatest good you can ever do is to align your will with your Creator, and through so doing learn to continually and tirelessly bless His children throughout the earth. This is the work of God, and it will never cease. We are doing a great work, and we cannot come down. We are always in the middle, because everything we do is a part of something eternal. God Himself answers our prayers. We have what we need given to us, our purpose is to learn how to use it. I stand as another witness with all the prophets and apostles and disciples of old and in the modern day, that Christ lives, the Atonement is real, and that the Gospel that He founded nearly 2000 years ago has been restored in it's fulness. I am here to share it.
May God bless you all with the knowledge of that truth,