Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sharing a message

                         Sharing a message with the Fife family in Discovery Bay, Hong Kong.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Where'er thou art, act thy part"

Dec. 1, 2013
Family and friends,
I appreciate all the birthday wishes this week! (and I guess all the "come back home"s and "don't be trunky"s). I can only say that every day I'm simply grateful to still be in the service of the Lord. Regardless of my current experience level, things continue to be difficult in a very satisfying sort of way, because it helps me remain humble and more able to gratefully recognize the blessings that do come. On the MTR ride home last night, I was hit with a sudden pang of, "Dude, I'm going to be at college in a month." That realization was about as startling as facing the reality that I'm now an old and cratchety 21 year old. Where did that come from?
Time flies by so quickly. My whole youth, all the choices that I've made, both good and bad, have really started flashing before my eyes. It's very difficult to articulate the mixed emotions I have every day, which range from a passionate gung-ho excitement about helping the work of the Lord move forward and magnifying my call as a missionary all the way down to quiet and melancholy self-instrospection, asking myself the same question I've asked myself over and over again, "Have I been doing everything the Lord wants me to? I've made a lot of mistakes, some of the fruits of my work have gone sour, is God pleased with my efforts? Am I worthy to be His servant?" I've come to realize that answers to questions like these don't usually come in these pondering segments, at least for me. I tend to be harder on myself than anybody else, and when others do decide to be hard on me, I do my best to accept it humbly and gracefully. There is a lot of growth that comes from not only humbly receiving, but seeking after correction from others. Especially at this point in my mission, receiving correction has been more spiritually uplifting thing for me than perhaps it would have been at the beginning. All of that said, knowing whether we've done our part well for God and knowing whether or not He's pleased with our efforts usually comes when we continue to do our part.
I have two examples of this from the past week:
1) As I was feeling particularly unsure of myself during an unfortunately quiet day of finding, wrestling with negativity and trying really hard to understand why I had been feeling withdrawn from spiritually, I caught hold on the thought that "faith is exercised by mental exertion, not by physical force" (Joseph Smith) and that to maintain a believing frame of mind required continued said "mental exertion", I decided to get over myself and targeted the very next person I saw in the distance, and walked directly towards her. I felt the Spirit begin the well up within me as I thought that stewing over all these thoughts was doing little for me and I needed to believe with greater consistency that the Spirit indeed was going to be my constant companion. That woman was the only woman who talked with us at length that day and accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon. Marcelli from Brazil.
2) We taught a less active family in Mui Wo, the Cruz family, who have been less active from the church for years and regularly attend the Catholic Mass on Sunday mornings. Brother Cruz believes our church to be true, but because of the current family situation and his wife's health condition he has offered us several different and I suppose valid excuses for not attending our afternoon services in Discovery Bay. They are the among the nicest people I've ever met, and are also very sincere. Brother Cruz mentioned that one of his desires is to eventually reactivate the entire family (6 grown children, 3 already married, all included) and get sealed in the Temple. However, he was not very committed to acting for himself to be the leading example in reactivation. So we shared about faith. We asked them if their faith was akin to a mustard seed, which they affirmed emphatically. Elder Chang placed the Book of Mormon on the counter and said, "Then use your faith to move this book." They sat and stared. I followed up, "Christ says that if you have faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains. This book is small! Use your faith to move it." Brother Cruz was stumbling over his words trying to figure a way out, when quietly his daughter Khorina stood up, walked over to the book, and moved it. And we said, "Exactly." We then shared the following video entitled "Wrong Roads": We said that sometimes traveling down the wrong road gives us the conviction to turn ourselves around and go back down the right one. We testified of the restored gospel, and the Spirit was strong, and told them that if they really desired what they said they did, then the Lord would enable them to get themselves up out of the chair, go to the counter, and move the book. Khorina, who had been less active for years and has forgotten most things she learned as a child, came to church on Sunday with a renewed determination to the Lord and introduced herself to the Ward by saying, "My name is Khorina Cruz. I was baptized when I was 8 like most of my family, but I have been less-active most of my life. When the Elders came to visit, I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly that I'm here today." In a lesson that was originally intended for her parents, she happened to be at home and the Spirit spoke to her so strongly that it awoke her to a sense of newfound determination to get her life in order and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. I testify the Elders didn't teach that lesson, but the Spirit of God.
I realized after these two experiences that we can be sure that the Lord is pleased with us, His imperfect children, as we continue to do our part. We will always continue to feel his love and the spiritual confirmations of His guidance as long as we hold fast to what we know and do our duty, regardless of our circumstances. May we all continue to be more courageous in simply doing our part.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Following the Spirit

Nov. 24, 2013
Friends and Family,
It's only been about 3 days because of the extension of last week. Everything continues to go forward -- several of the families I mentioned in previous weeks have either faced anti-mormon stuff and family who shut them down, or have headed out of town for the holidays. Haha, I guess that's what happens when you're in International, all the people pilgrimage to their homelands during the winter months. But that's not to say we don't have the privilege of talking to cool people on the street everyday, yesterday I ran into a Jewish couple from Israel. They weren't surprised at all when I raised my missionary, "Whoa, Israel? Really?!"
I just want to share really quick about how it feels right now to be a missionary. The days and weeks are going by insanely quickly, and at night as I pray I find myself repeating (not vainly) to God over and over to please bless me with the Spirit. It's such a good thing to have my last area be a 180 turn around from what I've been used to my whole mission, and I feel more often than not that I'm doing things wrong. I feel no different than most of the China Hong Kong mission now, which is primarily made up of missionaries that have only been sent out for a few months. I feel very new, I feel excited, and I also feel sometimes like I really have no idea what to do. It's very humbling for me to have many people constantly telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing when my natural man tells me I've been here long enough to understand everything. That's why it's so important to have the Spirit.
Going with that, I think that members of the church who have access to "the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost" assume at times that they are like Super Mario running into a magic star and suddenly become invincible (and have really great two-note fast-paced background music). Sometimes we feel like we need to have constant revelation pouring into us guiding us at every footstep. Well, as a missionary, I have the constant companionship of Elder Chang, and I'm here to testify that while he is constantly right at my side I'm not necessarily utilizing his help the best I can. Sometimes I may get carried away in explaining something in a lesson and not give him time to share, or at other times when he gives me his input I don't really let it sink in. Learning to recognize the still, small voice of the Spirit, hear what He has to say and act on it is a life-long process, and my mission has been teaching me that just as much as I needed Him to guide me in the beginning of my mission, I need Him now. As long as we're worthy members of His restored church, we have the right to His constant companionship. Whether or not we act on the input that He has to give us and whether or not we let Him truly speak is really up to us. I know that the Holy Ghost is real and He confirms the truth of all things, and His input is always a bit more profound than ours.
Let us be more diligent in following the Spirit in our own lives.
Elder Hazen

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where can I turn for peace?

Nov. 20, 2013

Hello family and friends,
I've heard from some today how at this stage in the mission I'm probably at my high point, taking all the skills I've learned and applying them to spread good to every ear that will hear it. As much as I value the knowledge, skills, and additional spiritual witnesses that I've gained these nearly past two years, I can't tell you how often I find myself thinking, "I wish I could take what I know now and start another two years." Where I am and the responsibilities I've been given are not badges of honor or marks of achievement; my first thought this morning as I got out of bed was, "Don't ever assume you've got everything figured out." It's probably a moral I should live by for the rest of my life.
Serving in Discovery Bay has been a new ball game for me. Teaching in English to people from New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria, Italy, Mainland China, Philippines, United States, and everywhere else you can think of, whose religious backgrounds vary from being devoted church pastors to passionate and (if I may, rather vehement) atheism, has really given me a run for my money. To tell you all the truth, I feel like a child more at this point in my mission than perhaps I've ever felt. And I'm on the front lines, walking around for most hours of the day and trying my hand in a box of chocolates, quite literally never knowing what I'm going to get.
I had a wonderful day at the Temple today. As I sat and pondered and prayed, I felt very close to the Lord. I felt very much like I was having a two-way conversation with Him as I prayed and asked the Lord what He would have me do for the very short time I have left. It was very clear that the point I'm experiencing now is much more a beginning than an end. It has been made very clear to me on several fronts that although I of myself am a rather unremarkable person or teacher of the Gospel, that this is indeed the Lord's work. I am grateful for every single day that I have to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength.
I believe that it was once said by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "It's an awfully thin pancake that only has one side." For all those whose testimonies may be hindered by the sleight of misinformation, or whose faith might be weakened by the convincing "evidences" that shroud our understanding of God and His reality, I say to you that on either side of the pancake you can find something just as convincing, intellectual, and I guess "enlightening" to prove to you that God exists or that He doesn't, that Joseph Smith was a prophet or he wasn't, that religion improves the quality of people's lives or makes everybody crazy. If you'd like my two cents, I hear just about everything around these parts: if you expect to lean your testimony on evidence, whether it be bad or good, if you don't already, one day you'll find yourself pretty bitter and dissatisfied.
Spiritual witnesses should be sought after and treasured more in today's world than ever. If everything on all sides can convince you of anything, then any of those pieces of information do nothing more than reinforce your decisions to follow God or to turn away from Him. I know that God exists not because a man wise in rhetoric and smooth talking told me so. I got my witness of the Spirit, and I cannot describe that to any of you any easier than a blind man can describe the color yellow.
"Where can I turn for peace,
Where is my solace,
When other sources cease to make me whole? ..."
Only one source will keep us whole. With a heart set on crying repentance to my fellow man and with full recognition of my own faults, I say with Alma, "Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience," (Alma 29:5).
I choose good, life, and joy. God answers my prayers, and He will answer all the prayers of His children in His own time, and in His own way.
love missionary work.
Elder Hazen

Monday, November 4, 2013

See how easy it is......

Novermber 4, 2013
Hey everybody,
It's such a blessing to work with Discovery Bay members. They are all about to explode with excitement to be finally working with full-time missionaries fully devoted to their Branch. I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago that President Hawks called us and cancelled our daily commute to Wan Chai to support the every-day Victoria II Branch. The Senior missionaries will take care of the Sacrament, and for the first time in years there are only filipena sisters supporting Victoria II. So for the past little while Elder Chang and I have been walking around Lantau Island looking for all the International people we can find.
Of course, we're still in Hong Kong, and most of the Internationals that aren't tourists are corporate businessmen or pilots that live in these grand utopia-like estates that seem like chilling in a 5-star resort 24/7. Not my choice of lifestyle, but working with these people is a blast. Last night I had mexican food for the first time in forever. So our strategy, (I suppose like it's always been), is to WORK WITH THE MEMBERS. If we really want to bring families into the gospel, let's face reality -- missionaries shouldn't be the ones finding them. And with the nature of finding up here, members are practically the only way to find them. And we're fasting and praying to harness the excitement and enthusiasm each member of this small branch has to make it happen. There is so much vision throughout the church on how missionary work is to be done. It will be a great day when the greater portion of church members remember that missionaries are called to teach, and that the great call of the prophets indicates that every single one of them is called to find. I'm grateful for all the miles that I've walked aimlessly on my mission and for the joy that I've felt from seeing even the smallest boost of enthusiasm from a Ward or Branch -- it is teaching me in large part the kind of member I want to be of God's restored church when I return home. Easier said than done, I know, but I testify that now is the time to allow God's work to hasten.
Perhaps you all remember the sweet Less-Active lady, Sister Jovelyn, that we met and brought to church last week. Turns out I heard wrong, she hasn't been to church in 6 years, not 16. Anyway, President Joslyn felt we needed to visit her with him during the week to show her that we cared. He hired a taxi for us on Wednesday, and we all went together to visit. Her employer also turns out to be from the Philippines, who is married to a British lawyer and lives in a large flat in a very wealthy community. She walked into our visit, and when she realized we were sharing about God she went to grab her other helper, and our short Less-Active visit turned into a full lesson on the restoration of the gospel. Joji and Ogie, the employer and the other helper, were both very touched by the message and believed that it wasn't a coincidence that we had come. Joji hasn't felt spiritually satisfied with her church lately and had been praying for a means to come closer to God. They commited to read the Book of Mormon, and that was that.
All that took was a member of Christ's restored church who cared enough to take a short time out of his day to show another friend some support. That's all it takes. Watch the first video:'ll+go+where+you+want+me+to+go&lang=eng&domains=video.
See how easy it is. We need you, and so do they.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Lost Sheep

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Sun, Oct 27, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Family, friends, and all,
This week has been wonderful. Finding for International up here is a little more akin to searching for a needle in the haystack because a lot of people come in and out of Hong Kong, and the ones who live here permanently conveniently sequester themselves in Chinese mountain villages in Pui O, Mui Wo and around Lantau Island. When we go door knocking, we pass by the doors with all the red Chinese d├ęcor and look for the places that seem less idolatrous. I wonder if it's coincidence that we "Passover" all the doors decorated in red. Yes, everything is suddenly symbolic to you when you're a missionary.
This week while were on a bus ride to Discovery Bay, a philippina walked up to us and asked us where the church was. As we began to talk with her, she told us how she hadn't been to church in 16 years because she had married to someone of another faith. She was a returned missionary. She told us that she had been abused by her husband and separated from him and has been working abroad ever since. Elder Chang and I were really saddened by her story, but we did our best to encourage her and invited her to church. She came the next day and brought with her a set of old scriptures that she had kept with her all those years. Last night she sent us a text which said, "Good evening my two angels elders! Thank you so much 4 making my sunday so complete im back 2 the fold! pls continue 2 pray 4 me 4 my recovery as a comeback." Then she said, "Thank you so much elders. Have a good nyt rest! Continue to work work work hard to find those lost sheep. They are waiting for you elders. Good night!"
Elder Chang and I were really moved by this experience. There are so many people out there like this wonderful sister who have lost their way. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the vision of things and so comfortable with our 99 that the one, very precious brother or sister falls away unnoticed. We have to place ourselves in positions, even if at times these positions are uncomfortable, to reach out to the one and follow the example of the Savior. That's what we came here to do, and that's the type of person Heavenly Father intends us to be.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen," (Moroni 7:48).
Elder Hazen

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Is Anxious to Help Us

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 1:15 AM

It's been another great week. Elder Chang and I are still adjusting to the huge commute from Tung Chung to Wan Chai every day, but God has put us there for a reason. It's interesting and not by coincidence to me that we're living out there at this time, however. The rent is going up so there's a 90% chance we'll be moving apartments in the next couple of weeks, but I believe God put us there to adjust for a few weeks because there are many people there who are prepared to hear the gospel.
Like I believe I mentioned last week, Elder Chang and I have set very specific and measurable goals in order to draw on the powers of heaven to find, teach and baptize families. We have our number, we have fixed our desire in sincere and heartfelt prayer, and we have set with the Lord the simple things we are willing sacrifice in order to show Him our willingness to achieve these desires. Last week we fasted together about these things and specifically inquired of the Lord to help us find a family to teach. That night we met a young family on the street and got their address and phone number. Yesterday we finally got in contact again by knocking on their door, and they asked us to return tonight. On top of this, 2 days ago we were finding for 6 hours in a beach town called Mui Wo, which Elder Chang and I love because it literally feels like an asian pirate town. One night when we were walking by the local school there a rapscallious group of little kids were running around on the rooftops of the school and yelling out their triumphant battle cries to us. Anyway, we didn't have much success until the last five minutes of our 6 hour find, when we bumped into an American man married to a Philippina woman and their two little kids. I found it slightly ironic that the American was the one professing to be the devout Catholic, but his wife, Rea, said that she'd been baptized into our church in 2004. She said she'd recently met a member from Discovery Bay Branch and they seemed willing to have us over to share the gospel. THEN we met a less active from Canada named Peter who has a great testimony of prayer. He lives with his Japanese girlfriend, but they're preparing to settle down together, and his girlfriend asked him just a couple months ago if she could pray with him. He said she wouldn't mind having us over for dinner this coming week. THEN Brother Cruz, who lives with his less active family in Mui Wo, is the Vice President over the Filipeno community in Mui Wo. He loves having the missionaries over, and he invited us to attend a inter-faith Bible group a few nights ago to meet other filipeno family friends, which we did, and we were received warmly. He's like a King Lamoni--- get that guy back to church and you've got a whole community of filipenos who'd open their hearts to hear us.
.... take a breath. Does Heavenly Father hear our prayers? Does He honor our agency in the desires that we seek? Do our prayers of faith, our obedience, and our consistency in our righteous desires warrant the blessings God wants to bestow upon us? I've been with Elder Chang for less than two weeks. We ask Him every day to find families. I've asked Him my whole mission. Take the evidence, and decide for yourself, but it is my testimony that Heavenly Father is a lot more anxious to help us than we often are to be helped. Prayer works.
Words can only tell stories that are forgotten through time, but I wish I could look into each one of your eyes as I share these things that the Lord has taught me, with a prayer in my heart that you could feel that I know that Heavenly Father lives and that the work of salvation is real. I wish I could do more than type out stories to all of you, but I pray that they can bring a greater feeling of excitement in your lives to know that there is meaning to life, that we don't have to be acted upon by the world and the snares of the devil, and that we really are sons and daughters of a loving and divine Creator. I know for myself that these things are true, and every one of us has the right to ask the Source of truth for ourselves.
Let us build the Kingdom together. The Lord needs every one of you.
Elder Hazen

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Ultimate Objective

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 3:30 AM
Subject: The ultimate objective

This week has been a huge change from what I'm used to in International. 5 new philippena sisters have arrived in the mission, thus making every existing philippena missionary forced into training, even a sister who has only been serving here for about 6 weeks. Elder Ford has successfully made it home to Colorado, and I'm now working with Elder Joshua Chang, from Anaheim, California. We're practically neighbors! He's one of the most hilarious people I've ever met. He's kindof like Brian in the way that he talks and cracks jokes, except he has a twang of beach boy surfer kid. I didn't realize I belonged to an American subculture until I actually worked 24/7 with another elder from my state. It's pretty awesome. We're both really experienced -- he's from my younger district in the MTC, so we've known each other for a while. 
We've changed our Sunday branch from Peninsula 3 to Discovery Bay. It's so different, because we are now working primarily with Americans who live in this Hong Kong utopia out in Tung Chung, on Lantau Island. We now live out on that island too, but we still serve the every-day branch in Wan Chai during the week, so it costs us a couple hours and a fortune of travel money every day to get down to Wan Chai. However, I know the Lord is in it. As inconvenient as it seems to live out in Tung Chung, we meet new philippenos every day out there. There are tons of them! Elder Chang and I have set goals and plans to find and teach families out here, and on Sunday we fasted together to find a family. That night on the 15 minute walk from the MTR station to our house, we met a family from the philippines who gave us their address to go visit them later this week. I know that the Lord honors our agency in the desires that we seek. When we are consistent in our righteous desires and make the Spirit our companion, nothing is impossible. The Lord answers our prayers.
We're still getting adjusted to the new way of things. It was nice also to get to go to the Temple again yesterday. We spent a lot of time there praying and talking about how to draw on the powers of heaven together as a companionship to initiate growth in each Branch. There is so much energy and potential in both, especially Discovery Bay. The members there are so excited, and every new member we meet says, "Oh you're the new missionaries, we've heard good things about you guys!" I feel that God has placed us here, and Elder Chang and I have a lot of faith we're going to be teaching the families we've been praying for our entire missions in the very near future. I've noticed that whenever I set my mind to something, that's when fear and doubt play their biggest roles. But just like Elder Uchtdorf said this Conference, we must "doubt [our] doubts before we doubt [our] faith."
The Philippenas out here are amazing. They are so filled with faith and choose to be happy no matter what circumstance they are in. It inspires me every day to see these people who are so motivated by love in all that they do stand as a testimony to the real meaning of our existence. All around me I hear stories and meet people who have let themselves be suffocated by information and forget to breathe the air of wisdom. Sometimes I think we forget that the ultimate objective of the human existence on this earth is happiness, and that can and should be experienced in every condition.
"In every condition, in sickness in health,
In poverty's vale, or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be." -- Hymn "How Firm a Foundation"
Heavenly Father is wary of us. Christ's sacrifice is real. He is the reason to rejoice and the motivation to do good even when everything else seems to fail. I know this is God's work, and it will never fail.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Consistency in our desires

October 6, 2013

Elder Ford is going home this week, so I'll have a new companion in a few days. It's crazy thinking that I'm next. I've thought a lot about the type of person I want to be when I return. What type of better person I can be for the rest of my life. There is so much I can do to contribute to the building up of God's kingdom, and I think that has a lot to do with how I decide to live the rest of my life.
And I can testify to the power of member missionary work. This week was pretty slow in Victoria II, our every day branch, and so we figured we'd be pretty low in our goals at the end of the week. Until we went to Peninsula 3rd Branch for Sunday. Zeny, who was baptized last week and who I had the opportunity to confirm this week, brought 3 friends with her to church. THREE. Single-handedly. And then another member, Sister Eunice, not only brought back one of her referrals from a few weeks before who is now reading and loving the Book of Mormon, but also 2 more friends. Then two other members came up to us later introducing us to the friend that they brought, saying it was their first time at church. If the math isn't quite clear yet, that totals out to be 8 people at church yesterday without us doing ANYTHING. Needless to say, we reached our goals. However, I should make it clear that I don't believe those blessings came because Elder Ford and I sat around and waited for it to happen. I know that God sees the work, hears the prayers and knows the burdens of every one of His servants. Our obedience and consistency in calling upon the Lord directly influenced the blessings that we received.
Liza was baptized this week. She's faced a lot of challenges here in Hong Kong, and it was a blessing for her to finally enter the waters of baptism and be confirmed a member of the Lord's true church. Her faith has been inspiring. She always says that she'll never lose her faith in God, no matter what happens.
I know that there is power in consistency. I've noticed on my mission that every time I pursue any righteous desire or attempt to increase my faith, it seems that I am suddenly faced with greater opposition of some form. Whenever a force for good begins to grow stronger, Satan will always push back. That is the nature of things, and I've learned that countless times from my own experience. The key is that we trust in the Lord, make sure that our desires are righteous, and remain consistent in pursuing them even when we can't see exactly how things are going to turn out. But that's what faith is, right? "A hope for things which are not seen, which are true." (Alma 32:21). I've told you all about our recent convert, Myla, who has been so filled with faith ever since her baptism. Her husband, Rene, up until now, had always been pretty resistant to us missionaries. I decided after meeting him that I really wanted to teach him the gospel, and to teach their family. I've been praying to find and teach families my entire mission. So I've been praying specifically for Rene and Myla every single day. They are currently travelling in the Philippines for the next month, and the members yesterday said that Rene attended church with his wife there. Coincidence?
We must remain consistent and true to the desires of our hearts in order to warrant the powers of Heaven to bless our efforts. If we give up at the first sign of opposition, then I believe we can reasonably conclude our either our desire isn't true, or we don't have enough faith in God. And the best times to build our faith are in the quiet moments, when everything is going fine, and when the opposition is at its trough. Our faith isn't meant to be built by the test, it's meant to be used during the test. So do your homework, and be consistent.
I love God's work.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Open your mouths, and they shall be filled

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 9:56 PM
Subject: Open your mouths, and they shall be filled

A busy week this week! 2 of our 3 scheduled baptisms this week went through, and one is postponed for this coming week because her employer didn't let her out. Lea Galima and Zeny Bacolbas are washed clean successfully, and they are each so happy how much the Lord has blessed them and guided them in finding the true restored church.
This morning I conducted my first baptismal interview to a chinese man from Tseung Kwan O. He's 25 and has a lot of faith, he's read the Book of Mormon all the way through and is in 2 Nephi for the second time already. That's about as much as he really had to say in my book to know that he was ready to be baptized. I found it interesting that he said at first he didn't really understand what he was reading, but as he kept reading and thinking about life's questions in context of what he read, he began to find answers throughout the stories and examples of the faithful throughout the Book of Mormon. He said that as he found personal answers to his own questions about life, his relationship with his family began to improve and he began to be happier. I told him that the Book of Mormon was the key to retaining his testimony of the Gospel for the rest of his life, and to never stop reading it. The world will throw anything and everything at us to try and convince us that Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet or that God doesn't exist or care about us, but I testify with Elder Holland that they cannot do so without climbing over, under or around the Book of Mormon. That book is from God and there is nowhere else it could have been conceived or written except by His power.
Mom, sorry, I didn't get a computer that has a USB, so I can't send any photos this week.
There's always so many things I could say to all of you, and discerning the best thing to share from the week for me is always a relatively tedious experience. Sometimes I just want to extract something deeply profound out of all my experiences and bear down in pure testimony and cause the earth to shake or something cool, but any time I consider that my mind goes blank. And that for good reason. The Lord expects us to open our mouths before they become filled. This week Elder Ford and I taught several lessons where I felt that the Lord enabled us to teach with great power and authority, especially to a certain investigator who was having issues in being faithful to a spouse. This work has to be done by faith and by the Spirit, because there's no way in any other work that a couple of 20 year olds with little life experience can face a woman, broken down in pitiful agony because of the guilt she feels from sin and wrong choices, and speak with such power that she can leave with a greater determination to change and to repent. We just opened the Book of Mormon and answered the questions of the soul to our Investigators, and the Lord has been with us and has filled our mouths and our hearts.
I was also blessed to confirm 3 members of the church this week, including Myla who was baptized two weeks ago (confirmation postponed a week because of the typhoon). It's very humbling to be a medium through which the Lord blesses His children, uniquely and differently according to their own needs and concerns.
I testify that this is God's work, and I am so blessed to be a part of it.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hold Steadfast to what you know

September 22, 2013
We got typhoon'd yesterday, so Z.'s baptism will be postponed until next week. Tomorrow I'll have my first baptism in International that I personally found and pulled back to the church - L. She's super smart and a very thoughtful person. She grew up a Catholic and has a very strong relationship with her family, especially her mother. Her father passed away from cancer a few years ago, and she grew very close to her mother as they struggled through the family loss. She was always very strong in her religion and her family is rooted deep in Catholicism, but after reading the Book of Mormon thoroughly, sincerely, and every day like she promised, she gained a testimony for herself that it was true. When we finished teaching her the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we asked her if she believed everything she'd been taught, and she said, "Yeah of course I do, why do you think I keep coming here? This would all be a big joke if it weren't true." Ain't that the truth. Life would be a pretty big joke if all this weren't true. When L. told her mother she'd been meeting with us here in Hong Kong, she asked her how she felt about her being baptized. Her mother responded that if it were up to her, she'd say no, but she'd give Lea the choice to choose for herself if it was God's will that she get baptized. Lea passed her interview the following week, trusting that the Lord had answered her prayer that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I'm so excited for her.
I got a lot of emails today filled with long awaited updates from good friends and family. Thank you to all of you who wrote to me and shared with me your thoughts and the news, good and bad. Things seem so different from the way they used to be, especially because of the new lens of perspective my mission has given me to wear. I feel like I've learned so much, but one of the biggest things I've seemed to learn is just how little I really know or understand. My experiences, my emotions, my desires and my prayers all seem to point back to the basics, that God is there, He is wary of all of us, we are His children, Jesus Christ is the Savior, and we have a lot to do to learn and grow and make it back to Them. For those who struggle with their testimonies or their faith, do not be deceived because wickedness seems to be prevailing. The key to pulling the plug on that deceptive device is by expressing sincere gratitude to God for the things that are good -- and I testify with all my heart that this world has a lot more good working in it than it has evil, no matter what your television or local newspaper would have you believe. The things to be grateful for far outweigh the things to be depressed about.
The Spirit is real, my friends and family. If any of you think that I or any other sincere missionary say the things we do simply because we're too drawn out from the world and sheltered from reality, let me speak for myself at least and say that doubt, fear, and struggling with faith is just as hard or harder for me as for anyone else. Missionaries are the targets for all the anti-Mormon, anti-God and anti-good filth that exists in this world. If we don't struggle with faith sometimes, then we never have opportunity to let it strengthen. But we must hold fast to what we do know and what the Spirit has told us. There's always going to be tolerance in this existence for an enemy to tempt us, and the very definition of resistance requires that we exert effort, and that sometimes means an exhaustive amount. But no matter how much effort the Lord requires us to exert, no matter how powerful the force of the adversary, and no matter how much you feel like you don't know, if you are motivated by love, the truth you do know will pull you through.
The Spirit gives that truth to us. So I say again and emphatically the simple truths that I do know and that unfailingly pull me through: God lives. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Savior of mankind. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because the Book of Mormon is true, and the Book of Mormon is true because God said so, and He said so in my heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. I cannot deny that.
Hold steadfast to what you know.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Finding by the Spirit

September 15, 2013
We were surprised with 2 early baptisms this week - Myla and Jona! Myla will have to go back to the Phillipines for a month in a couple weeks, so if she was baptized on her original date she would not have been able to stay the next week for her confirmation. So she said, "Well why can't I be baptized this week?" So we said, "Well why don't we ask our Mission President?" So she said, "Go ahead!" And then that's what President Hawks said also. So we went ahead and baptized her. Jona got her holiday this week, so she thought she'd step into the font also. Their baptism went very smoothly, and they were both so happy. Pictures attached - Myla is the one with the baby.
The whole mission has been really focused on increasing faith again, and President Hawks has reissued an updated version of the "drawing on the powers of Heaven" paper that he gave to the mission back when I was serving with Elder Farnsworth in Hung Shui Kiu. That was probably my busiest and most effective time in Chinese work, when we baptized Sister Yip and Soso (who by the way is active in a new ward at the same chapel that I attend every sunday, so it's super good to see him progressing in the gospel well after his baptism), and I'm excited to report that the same energy that came from the focus on faith back then is rekindling again.
Elder Ford and I have been really focusing on rooting out any bad little habit or ineffective thing that hinders our ability to be exactly obedient so that we can warrant more blessings from the Lord in finding prepared investigators to teach. Obedience to God is what manifests our faith in Him, and we recognize that God will be wary of even the small things that we do to express our faith. On Wednesday we decided that after the Sacrament service we'd go finding in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay because we knew that a lot of International people liked to gather there. Dinner was scheduled at6pm, and at around 5:45 we stopped without any success and we were trying to decide if we should take the MTR back to Wan Chai for dinner. I felt like we needed to circle the park one more time, and Elder Ford agreed, so we set off again. Just before we had rounded the final stretch of the park, I glanced in passing at a couple sitting on a bench. They didn't seem particularly friendly and I wasn't sure where they were from, so we kept walking. Almost as soon as I decided to keep walking, I felt an impression that I shouldn't give up that easy and go back and talk. Then I thought it would be awkward to walk back after passing, so I walked some more. Then the feeling got really strong, and my thoughts formed into the beautifully crafted statement: "That was a husband and wife from the Phillipines. Go talk to them." I stopped and looked at Elder Ford and said, "Do you know where that couple was from?" "That one on the bench? I'm not sure." "..." "Do you feel like we should talk to them?" "Yeah." So I decided to be obedient to my feeling instead of my fear of awkwardness and we approached them. Jerry and Roena are from the Phillipines. They invited us to sit down with them. They both work in Hong Kong. We gave them both a Book of Mormon. They said they'd come to church with us next Wednesday. And that was that. I learned yet again the importance of following the Spirit. I know that the intensity of the spiritual impression to go talk to that family was in direct proportion to my desire with Elder Ford to be obedient and to pray faithfully for families.
Don't be obedient to fear. Don't be obedient to what others say or what your mind creates as a worst-case scenario. Don't even be obedient simply to your good intentions, which often times have lots of room for error. If something is right, then do it. Be obedient to the Holy Spirit. He will never lead us astray.
Elder Hazen


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Choosing to be happy

I opened my email today and saw that Elder Packer had finished his mission, and was reminded that Bryce is already home and that my companion is going home in 4 weeks. I'm not feeling trunky, but I am a little overwhelmed with how fast time is going. Every week now seems like 5 seconds. Especially here in international, we're teaching so many people and having so much fun that I swear I'm going to be home in the snap of a finger. To be honest with you all, I feel really disconnected with home. People I really cared about or hung out with are all getting married or already are, everything that I think about and even care about is vastly different than it was 2 years ago, and everything I read from everybody else makes me feel like I'm talking to somebody different. Dang it. I'm going to be one of those super awkward missionaries when I get home.
We have 4 people scheduled to be baptized on the 22nd. Myla, Veronica, Zeny, and Jona. Jona was an unexpected surprise, she had been Elder Ford's investigator before and had been taught everything, but she had gone back to the Philippines for a while. She texted us saying "I'm back!" and had been attending church every week while she was there. She passed her baptismal interview and should be baptized in 2 weeks, on her next holiday. Now we're just praying super hard that Myla, Veronica, and Zeny pull through. Veronica's husband back in the Philippines is not consenting to her being baptized, but Veronica is pretty shy and hasn't really talked to him at length about it. She really desires to be baptized, so we're fasting and praying that she'll have the faith and the spiritual capacity to help her husband soften his heart. Zeny is doing pretty well, and Myla is boss. She's one of my favorite investigators. She's a young mother who actually lives here with her husband up in Tuen Mun in the New Territories. We travel up there weekly to teach them in their home, because they live with members of the Peninsula 3 branch. Her husband, Rene, really wants her to be baptized but still has not agreed to meet with us. He has a lot of interest, but says that with his busy schedule working at the shipyard makes him unable to be fully committed, and until he feels ready to go all the way he's going to way. He's all or nothing, which I respect a lot. But Myla in the meantime is so ready to be baptized. She reads the Book of Mormon every day and says it brings so much peace to her and her family. Her 2-3 year old daughter Kate loves screaming "AMEN!" after every prayer in Sacrament meeting. Every time I go teach them I feel like one of those missionaries in the church videos where the missionaries are teaching these golden investigators, the lesson goes smoothly, and the members back up your every word. I always take that hour bus ride back to Hong Kong Island with Elder Ford and think, "Finally. That's what being a missionary is supposed to feel like." We're praying every day that things will work out with Rene and we'll have a family to teach.
I continue to be amazed by the faith of all these Sisters. Some of them relate stories of such difficult circumstances that I wonder how I would respond if I were in their situation. I never imagine myself as humble as they are. Because we have church every day, I got to listen to fast and testimony meeting every day this week, and listen to sister after sister get up and share about their complete trust in God amidst all of their trials and afflictions. What impresses me every day is how they choose to be happy. For whatever prideful reason, I did not want to share this before, but I ran into Francis last week on the street. I baptized him in Chai Wan. The only investigator in my 7 months of service there who got baptized. He is very less-active now. There are several circumstances within his family and other things that have contributed to this that he has not shared with us and that I don't understand, but it was really discouraging for me. The Lord blessed me to run into him on the street in the most unlikely of places, over in World-Wide where we find the filipenas all day. Out of the 7 million people in Hong Kong, I suppose I should consider it a blessing I ever saw him again. If there has ever been a time in my life where I have looked someone in the eye and felt like I could see into their soul, it was when Francis bumped into me on the street. It was a short interchange, because he was working, and he told me not to tell him to go to church. I was not ready for it, and I had no idea what to say to him, except that I cared about him. My chinese fell out of my head and I looked him in the face and said in English, "Francis, I just hope you know how much I care about you. We all really care." He looked back and I could see in his eyes he needed help emotionally and with his circumstances, and I could see how unwilling he was to ask for it. And just like that he was gone again.
I know that Francis will be OK. He has his freedom to choose. I cannot express completely my thoughts or feelings about everything that I've been able to do here, but I do want to say that meeting Francis on the street to me was a blessing from God. It was an opportunity to see my brother, and let him know that someone cares. It was an opportunity unplanned for me to witness that the Lord really loved him. He may choose to be unhappy now, and maybe he'll let that decision turn him from God, but I testify that we have the power to choose to be happy. We can choose to trust God in our affliction. We can choose to be happy when things go wrong and life seems unfair. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can fix all that is unfair about life, as long as we consistently and faithfully choose not to resist it and submit ourselves to God's will. I love my mission more than anything. I know that Jesus Christ lives.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Seeing people the way the Savior sees them

September 1, 2013
Hong Kong International District and Zone are doing awesome. It's really awesome to see and take part in the way the mission as a whole functions. President Hawks is very organized and very good with numbers and statistics because his whole life he worked as a professor of manufacturing engineering. He knows how to establish order, and it's been awesome to learn how to account for the work of several other missionaries in the mission. It's tangible evidence that the Lord is hastening the work and guiding His missionaries. It's very faith-building and encouraging to me to watch how things fall in to place through the Lord's guidance. Ultimately everything is based on "go out there, go where the Lord wants you to go, and teach people the gospel" and then it just happens. It seems vague and your average joe just stands in awe as they see the growing success of missionaries as they go out and make things happen through their faith and obedience to the Lord. There is so much structure and so much order to everything that is ultimately founded on nothing more than faith and obedience.
I love the Lord and I love this gospel. We have several baptismal dates out for September and are confident that most if not all with go through. Our attitude and our decision to love people really makes a huge difference. I've thought a lot about charity and loving others this week because I think Elder Ford is a great example of it. Since I've been focusing on avoiding negative thinking or being critical, and treating people the way I feel the Savior would, I've had two pull-backs to the church in the last 8 days that said, "Last time I saw the missionaries, I told them no and didn't want to listen to them. But something in the way you approached me and talked to me made me feel in my heart that I needed to go with you."
We all need to be loved. Everyone needs to know they're cared about. Working with these wonderful people who sacrifice being with their families to work abroad has been really eye-opening to me in a lot of ways. They appreciate even the little things you do for them. They take joy in the simple things because they know that is what brings them happiness. Some of them have literally nothing to hold onto but their faith in Christ, and they give me a huge smile and tell a joke and talk to me like they are the happiest people alive. I feel that many of these people understand better than most how to see the world through the Savior's eyes because they realize that the way they treat others and the way they choose to respond to unfortunate circumstances makes a difference. They know what actually matters. I pray that we can all learn to pray "with all energy of heart to be filled with [charity]", the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:48). I testify that people will feel it when we show it, and it will give us the power to change our circumstances and lift our burdens.
Elder Hazen

Monday, August 26, 2013

When we are happy

Aug 26, 2013
Another wonderful week. It's so nice to work with another Elder who has been out longer than me. Elder Ford will be going back to Colorado at the end of this transfer. He's such a good guy. After training two missionaries back to back, I love how smoothly everything goes with an experienced missionary. Our Zone did really well with their goals this month, and we're sure that with added faith, obedience, and a focus on Christlike attributes, this coming month our Zone will continue to see miracles. The filipena sisters in International had 3 baptisms this week! 

September is looking good for our companionship. We have several baptismal dates scheduled. We also managed to get five pull-backs this week. We frequently go to a place called World-Wide that is two stops away from the church in Wan Chai. A lot of filipena and indonesian domestic workers gather there from all over Hong Kong, and we go there and invite people to come back to the church with us. Several of the pull-backs became new, really solid investigators this week. I love talking to these people, they are always so humble and their faith in Christ seems deeply rooted. With the abuse and unfair treatment that many of them suffer, it's always profound to see how much faith and trust they put in God. It's interesting that sometimes the happiest people we meet have some of the saddest and most trying backgrounds. I think that should be instructive to all of us. 

We're always busy and the members are keeping us on our toes with referrals and pull-backs they bring back themselves. 

Today is short, because we don't have a lot of time. I've realized that the times where I've been happiest on my mission have not necessarily been when numbers are high and we are teaching a lot of people, but when I feel that I'm bearing sincere testimony of the Savior and His Atonement. It's been when I've felt the Spirit confirming the truth of my words in the heart of the hearer. I think it's easy for a missionary to think a lot about how much they are changing other people, and little about how much they are being changed themselves. I don't think we can ever expect to invite someone to follow Jesus Christ, and invitation which ultimately implies becoming like Him, without understanding ourselves the implications that invitation has for us. I have felt immense changes in myself during my service. I hope that I'm changing every day. I feel that I've got more pitfalls than the average layman, and whatever wind of goodness that got me out here has been a tremendous blessing. I cannot explain in an adequate way how much my faith in Christ, especially the enabling and lifting power of His Atonement, has increased in my labor, which at many times seemed fruitless. It's more real and peaceful and happy and content than any other thing that I've put my trust in, and if it were fake, then it could not produce such feelings. The circumstances of our lives will always fluctuate, but our faith shouldn't. Every challenge and every blessing should be a new opportunity for our faith to enhance. I can testify that this work is true, and it has the power to make us selfless, influential, peaceful, righteous, and more like our Heavenly Father. 

Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The true test of our faith: Abundance

 Aug 18, 2013
The work here in International is so different. As Zone Leader, I'm still connected with several companionships accountable for Chinese work and will occasionally go on exchanges with them to help with any challenges and to lift, encourage, inspire and bless. However, I still feel like I stepped into a completely different world.
The Filipena sisters are seriously the best people I've ever associated with. They are so humble, so friendly, so teachable, so willing and eager to learn, so patient with affliction, and so willing to be unified and to help one another. Sure there's a personality here and there who will keep you on your feet, and sometimes the sisters who aren't members will say things to the Elders that are uncomfortably friendly, but as a whole, these people are incredible. I'm afraid when I go home I'm going to feel really stupid, because I feel like it isn't difficult at all to amuse people here and the caliber of my humor will be so downsized to ridiculousness that I'm going to get a lot of blank stares and awkward snorts. Oh well.
Tagalog is like dominoes. You say a verb, and depending on how you conjugate it and add aspect markers, the rest of the sentence just kind of falls into place. It's got a lot of spanish roots as well, so all the Nacho Libre accents of old should come in handy.
We've got several baptismal dates out for next month, which I foresee being pretty solid. Teaching in English is really nice, honestly. I love Chinese, but speaking straight from your heart is a lot easier with your mother tongue no matter who you are. I feel like I can more quickly incorporate the doctrines, analogies, and teaching skills I've learned in a lesson setting. People who serve stateside should be wary of what a blessing it can be to preach the gospel in their native tongue.
It's only been a week and a half, but I feel like I've been here forever. I've fallen in love with these people almost immediately, and have been blown away by their faith in Christ. And I feel like I've learned something very profound already as I've paid close attention to the differences between Chinese and International work. As is evident, my mood is excellent, and the same has been for so many others who have been privileged to serve here. But I've already noticed how easy it can be to feel complacent when everything is going so well. I didn't realize how principles of exact obedience and exercising faith are actually easier when conditions are more difficult. In Chinese work, I daily felt inadequate and felt like I was pushing so hard to get something going from either nothing to something or something to a little bit better. When suddenly being placed from that condition into International, everything suddenly feels easier. These sisters have the principles of "the Work of Salvation" down. Every lesson is a member present lesson. Members are always attentive, always let the missionaries teach, and always bear powerful testimony that touches the investigator. Members call and follow up with us about investigator friends they met at church. Members go finding with us and talk to people they've never met before on their own initiative and invite them to hear the gospel. Members always invite friends to come to church with them. It's seriously the epitome of IDEAL. If every member of the church was a filipena or idonesian domestic worker, God would need to send another flood to accomodate all the people lined up for baptism.
But that leads me to my point: It's a whole different level of exercising faith in International because even a little bit of input gets a lot of output, so the trend here has been complacency. The scriptures often speak of the rise and fall of nations in direct correlation with level of abundance and pride. The struggle with International work when a missionary's backdrop is high rejection, little numerical satisfaction, and comparatively little Ward support is ultimately to find the willpower to make what is already good even better. It's almost like running into a wall of "it doesn't get any better than this" and facing the temptation to agree instead of pulling out the sledgehammer of "yes it does" and pounding it down with power and authority. Sometimes, I think, those are the most difficult walls to break.
But I know the other side is worth it. When we start to see things in the perspective of eternity, we realize that we should never be satisfied with fine, good, no problem. If we are not doing our best, then we are not doing enough. That is what we learn when we understand the grace of Jesus Christ, that the results of his Atonement do not become sufficient for us unless we use it by our continuous efforts to keep the commandments of God and be anxiously engaged in a good cause at all times, in all things, and in all places. It is my prayer that we International missionaries maintain the fortitude of mind necessary to break down the walls of complacency that come because of abundance, and allow God to work even more miracles here. The true test of our faith is if we'll continue to be exactly obedient even when we are not faced with the heat of affliction.
I love God's work. Let it hasten.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 11, 2013

gusto mo bang sumama sa simbahan?

August 11,  2013
Yes, that was Tagalog. Yes, I have been transferred. No, I am not going to be preaching the gospel in the Cantonese language for the rest of my mission.
I've been assigned to the Peninsula 3 International Ward, where the primary focus of our work is the population of Filipena and Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. Our area is basically all of Hong Kong -- I'll be travelling back up to the New Territories tomorrow for a lesson. We teach all of our lessons in English, but I'm picking up a little Tagalog on the way. And may I just say that I feel like I've just started my mission over again with a completely different people in a completely different place with a completely different way of handling things. I've also been called to be a Zone Leader with my new companion Elder Ford over the International missionaries and certain Chinese companionships on the Hong Kong Island.
My last day in Chai Wan was pretty sad. Elder Parker thought it would be funny to sing "God be with you till we meet again", and as much as that song is overdone in missionary work it still made me really reflective and melancholy and before I knew it, during daily planning Elder Young got to watch water come out of my face as I told him it was hitting me that I was called to preach the gospel in the Cantonese language, and I had just completed my final day of doing so. I will really miss the work that I was privileged to do there, and I really came to love the Chinese people and the members in Chai Wan so much. But the Lord has interesting ways of preparing us for new phases of life.
In this area of International work, virtually all of the members and investigators are women. They all come from pretty hard backgrounds and many have left their young families to Hong Kong to work 2 year contracts as domestic workers. Unlike Chinese work, ALL of them have Christian backgrounds. Many have suffered abuse or are treated very unfairly, yet I swear they have to be the most friendly people I've ever met. Many filipenas remember me from the fireside I sang at last year. It seems like they remember every little thing you do for them and they are so appreciative of it. They feed us all the time, so I'm worried by December I may have gained a little weight. Elder Ford says we get so much food that it isn't any use buying groceries on P Day. Needless to say, being a growing boy, I've been in the best of moods the past few days. Humble, receptive people and food, what more should I ask for?
I don't have a lot of time left today, but there have been big changes for me in the course of my mission. I will be privileged of the Lord to serve two entirely different peoples on my mission. I'm already learning so much from these faithful sisters. In order to accomodate their days off, we attend Sacrament meeting every day except Monday, and bless and pass the Sacrament. You just feel extra clean and holy taking the Sacrament every day! I'm excited to share with you all the perspectives and knowledge I gain from being blessed to serve these wonderful people. I know that I have done all that I can for the Chinese people, and I will not forget them, and I know that one day in the future I will be able to bless them again with the gifts that I've been given on my mission. I know that Christ lives, and that miracles are given to those who believe and obey.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Of course God exists....

Hello family and friends,
It's been a busy week like always. The weather has been stormy and we were just missed by a typhoon, so I've been drenched head-to-toe a few times out finding. There's nothing like getting soaked in dress clothes to make you feel like you worked hard.
We were blessed to teach a family this week. We ran into the Ng family about a month ago by the pier in Siu Sai Wan, and the husband mentioned he'd always wanted to become more involved in religion but his work schedule didn't allow it. He works like a horse in a kitchen, which seems to be one of the busiest jobs in Hong Kong. Last week we called him in the middle of the day and discovered that he was in the hospital because he spilled a ton of hot water on his feet and suffered severe burns. We offered to bring him a Book of Mormon, and he accepted. We taught him a couple times in the hospital, where he expressed that he felt happy he got burned so bad, because he had an opportunity to rest and learn about God. He went home from the hospital and invited us to his home, where we taught him and his wife. His wife isn't very religious and is a native Mandarin speaker, so her Cantonese was difficult to understand. I hope that this family will begin to progress as we help them have more of a common goal. It's been often expressed to me by several different natives of Hong Kong that in Chinese culture people never say the words "I love you" to their family members, and very seldom if they do. Those words have always been so common and comforting to me growing up, and often taken for granted. The society here sometimes seems so loveless and the family values that chinese culture so often prides themselves in is being very steadily and quickly drowned by money and material.
I often feel like one of the ancient prophets or apostles in the church, endeavoring to teach about God to people who get so puffed up in the things of the world. So many people say, "So what if God exists. Even if he does and I know it, what does that matter?" Then I say, "What's the difference between being an orphan and having parents?" We learn from our parents. We are loved by our parents. We learn how to avoid bad things, how to make good things happen, to be effective, to have success, to overcome pitfalls and shortcomings. Since when have we, fortunate and blessed sons and daughters of loving parents, ultimately ever done absolutely everything ourselves? Did our parents hold our hands to help us learn to walk, our brothers comfort us when we make mistakes, our teachers teach us skills to enable us to bless the world with our talents, and our wives and our children to help us love all simply because life means nothing more than a bowl of rice and a pillow? Of course not. We are not spiritual orphans. We have a Father in Heaven who gives us all these things that we can gain experience, and grow, and be changed.
The watch on your wrist is about as likely to have exploded into existence as your brain, your heart, your thoughts, your ability to love, this earth, and this universe. Why is it so easy for the layman to admit that obviously something as complicated as a watch must be planned, organized, and carefully put together, and yet so difficult to admit that beings such as us, infinitely more complicated than the watch, have a Creator and Organizer? Somebody tell me. I say this to people on the street and they can never answer me. They just snort and run away because they don't want truth to be true. The problem with most philosophers and supposed learned men of today is they claim to invent everything they discover. But I say that though much credit goes to the watchmaker, he must first thank the man who invented the sundial. And the sundial maker must thank the Man who invented the Sun. I testify that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30:44), a divine designer, and the Book of Mormon is proof that He has yet again reached out to His children.
Love, Elder Hazen

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What we leave behind.....

I swear I was sitting at this computer yesterday. My perception of time has completely shifted from long and drawn out at the beginning of my mission to feeling like every week is about 24 hours long. I feel focused the whole week on our various tasks of street contacting, chapel tours, visiting investigators, planning, and studying, and then the next thing I know I wake up and it's time to go write an email. Now people are slowly beginning to remember me and send me emails and letters reminding me that I'm coming home soon, and I'm already beginning to wonder what I've done every day for the past year and a half or so. It's a foreboding thought that being a missionary is not something that lasts forever, yet I'm determined to take the skills learned, experiences had, and matured relationship with God to better bless the lives of those around me for the rest of my life. I love my mission so much.
We had a better week with lessons, although we were dropped by our most progressing investigator. It was rather sudden; I called him on the phone to follow up with him reading the Book of Mormon to which he reported that not only had he not been reading, he did not want to read it or to learn anymore about the gospel. With his baptismal date soon approaching, the first ounce of pressure associated with becoming a renewed disciple of Jesus Christ pushed him over the edge like a seed thrust on dry ground. It'd be much worse to have seen him do the same after covenanting with the Lord, and knowing that Elder Young and I have done our part, I suppose it's better that he has a little time to engage in self-introspection. It's disappointing, but I've come to grips with the fact that I can't and shouldn't ever force someone to follow the Savior. If there's anything my mission has taught me, it's that Peter Parker's uncle wasn't lying when he said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Where much is given, much is required, and nobody has given or is giving more than Jesus Christ.
I used to think a lot in the beginning of my mission about what I'd take from my experience, but as time goes by, I find myself thinking a whole lot more about what I'm leaving behind. I used to think, "Man, it's going to be so sick, I'm going to get pro at Chinese and open up so many opportunities for my future." Now I think, "Elder Young is a new missionary, and I want him to be better than I was, and I hope I can teach him as much Chinese as possible before I leave him." It reminds me of Priesthood Session from the latest General Conference when Tad R. Callister spoke about the Priesthood power in the boy. He quoted an old saying, "Do not die with your music still in you." I think that when I've faced discouraging moments and felt too inadequate myself to get any music out at all, I think I've overlooked the fact that my "music" can live on in others.
On that note, and in addition to the doctrine of grace which I shared last week, I believe wholeheartedly that there is no gift given us from divine hands that are intended solely for our own individual enjoyment. The "mighty change" that can be wrought in our hearts by His Atonement is meant to make us more capable of blessing everyone else.
I want all to know that I stand firm in that testimony of Christ, that His whole life and ministry was selfless and outward, and as His true disciples, we are required to do the same if we ever expect His grace to be sufficient for us. I love this work. I love my mission. It is Christ's.
Elder Hazen