Turns out P. Hawks kicked me out of my favorite area into Chai Wan. What's special about this place is that there are two companionships of Elders -- one Elder Siebach who's been here for 4 moves, his new native companion, then me and and my new NATIVE companion and trainee, Elder Woo. He is incredible. In odd ways I kind of feel like a real father, because he reminds me a lot of myself when I first came into the mission -- ridiculously energetic, talking to everyone he sees, determined to do well but slightly undirected. He's already 50,000 times more capable than I am because his Cantonese is perfect, he's well-versed in the scriptures and the functionings of the church, and has tons of ideas. He naturally knows how to relate to Chinese people while I'm still frequently cracking jokes to people in Cantonese that don't get my American humor. It reminds me of when President Hawks came to speak in the Hung Shui Kiu Ward and he made an American wise-crack in Chinese and I was the only one who laughed. Needless to say, I love Elder Woo. There are definitely things we'll work on together, but I think in the end I'll be the one being trained, and not to mention having another awesome opportunity to get wicked good in the language because it's hard for him to frequently speak English.
President has a lot of high expectations for Chai Wan. It has a history of little progress. The Ward only had 30-40 members, and almost all of them were either unmarried, their family members are Less-Active, or are apart of Part-Member families. Almost zero full families at church. But as far as I can tell, the people who do come to church are strong members. They have to make somewhat of a commute to go to church in the 13 story Wan Chai building.
Long story short, the Stake President here set a fixed goal of having 100 baptisms this year on the Hong Kong Island. To put that into perspective, 2012 had 30 something baptisms. Further, President Hawks stood up in the Island Zone and said with a calculating, furrowed brow, "You know, honestly, I don't think we're going to get 100 baptisms this year. I think we're going to get 113." I don't know, he was a Manufacturing Engeneering Professor at BYU. Ask him.
Coming from all the miracles that I saw in Hung Shui Kiu, I've come back to the Island with renewed faith that God is a God of miracles. I don't doubt that the goal of 100 can be surpassed. And Elder Woo and I will, through faith, unity, humility, diligence, and exact obedience, contribute to that number. "May we all put our hands to the plough and never look back."
The Hawk swooped in last night. Aka, President Hawks called Elder Farnsworth and I, to tell us that next move we'll both be training new missionaries. We pick them up on Thursday. President Hawks was pretty straight with me on the phone as he asked me if I was ready to go senior and to train, and said to me, "Elder Hazen, none of what I say is due to a lack of confidence in you, but you are a pretty young missionary to be training. With the incoming of many new younger missionaries, I'm going to have to start having Trainers be younger and younger, and it just so works out this time that I'm going you need you to start that off. Now, this is really important, are you listening closely? You must always remember that as a senior and a trainer you must be humble enough to follow the promptings of the Spirit and listen to your companion. The AP's will call you on Wednesday to tell you the time you need to pick up your trainee, and if you have any questions, give me a call. Have a good night."
With both of us training, that's going to push one of us out of Hung Shui Kiu, meaning that wherever the new companionship goes they'll both be new to the area, and thus whitewash it clean, neither missionary having any background with the members, places to find, or investigators. Whoever stays in Hung Shui Kiu will be the District Leader as well. Either way, I've just been given a lot of responsibility. After the call, I couldn't help but shake a little bit at the excitement and the fear of such sudden responsibility. But I know that to train a new missionary is a sacred trust from the Lord, and that it makes a huge impact on the future of the mission. I'm grateful that I have the responsibility, and I may or may not be scared out of my mind, but it's fine. Both the convenient AND the challenging thing is that there are currently no american missionaries coming to Hong Kong. They are all either native or chinese people from another country. I pray that I'll have both the linguistic and spiritual capacity to make a difference with my new companion.
I will miss Elder Farnsworth a lot. In the beginning of our companionship 3 moves ago, I think it's safe to admit now that we actually had some trouble getting along. As time went on, we began to see that nearly all of our differences were trivial and of little to no import, and as we both, being obedient and desirous to do as the Lord willed, humbled ourselves enough to see greatness in each other. Now as I look to the future, I'm actually a little scared of not being his companion, because we were able to influence so many people to come closer to Christ, both members and investigators. Many of the members comment on our companionship, saying we work wonders together and one couple said they'd been members of the church for over 30 years, but our companionship inspired them to become better ward missionaries and examples to their families and friends, to whom for so long they'd been hushed about how they feel and what they believe. Most of all, I've learned what it really means to increase my faith and be obedient to God in all things. Elder Farnsworth has always been a very powerful example of that, and as I go on and begin to lead in the mission, much of what I learned from him will set a pattern for how I choose to lead and bless the lives of others.
The family that I mentioned last week, the M. family, is doing well. Within less than a week we have visited their home twice and taught them and given them baptismal dates for March 10th. Sister M. and her son attended church this week, but because Brother M. wasn't feeling well (cancer) he stayed at home. I'd been hoping my whole mission to have a family to teach, and Elder Farnsworth and I had prayed every day that'd we find and teach families. I know it is because we believed it would happen and did everything we could to achieve it that we made it happen.
We were supposed to have a baptism yesterday with a couple that I have never mentioned -- K.and A. Searching for the truth, they found our church distribution center in Kowloon Tong and bought themselves a triple combination, and shortly called the missionaries thereafter. The Tin Shui Wai Elders taught them all the lessons, but then it turned out they actually lived in our area. Over the past month and a half, we've been meeting with them. Yesterday was the 2nd time they had extended their baptismal date due to family issues and timing.
I think the important thing to remember about faith is that the outcome does not define it's worth. The diligence, the hard work, the trust, and the obedience; those things that naturally will and must accompany the faith that we exhibit in the Lord are what make the difference. The fruits of our faith that emerge as it is being exercised are often more profound than the end result itself, no matter how magnifiscent it may be.
We found and taught and gave baptismal dates to an entire family. This was a blessing that came as a direct answer from our very direct petitions to Heavenly Father. We also plead with Heavenly Father that we'd see K and A get baptized, and we searched for them to the very last possible minute to try and make it happen. But it didn't.
The outcomes are not always what we expect. I doubt that any martyr in history of himself intended the final outcome of his faith would be to be burned at the stake, crucified, starved, tarred and feathered or shot point-blank. Yet, would any dare suggest that the immense faith they manifest in the Lord was useless?
As far as I can tell, it's the faith of those kind of men that inspire us the most, and continue to bless generation after generation. I know that although K and A did not get baptized this week, when the Lord has seen their faith sufficiently tried and overcome, they'll be ready at some soon future time to enter into that eternal covenant with Him. And I have no regrets, because we did everything possible to see that we fulfilled our purpose. We did not give up on them, and will still not give up on them. And in the process of exerting all mental displine to believe that God would provide, even with the unexpected outcome my faith has increased. To rest assured that the will of the Lord was done and that we did everything we possibly could is a much more peaceful feeling than to have faced the outcome with the guilt that there was something more we could have done, or that our faith was not sufficient to receive God's blessing. It was enough. God Himself made that known to me.
He will, according to your faith and your consistency in following His will, answer your prayers as well. I know it is true. He answers mine daily.
We're pretty pressed for time today, as I spent most of my email time reading the 28 emails that were sent. Sorry this weeks email was so late, Mom -- President Hawks has changed the rule about attending the temple. We can only go once every quarter, and the day that we decide to go becomes our P-day that week. So we had a few days extra work to do before we could email home!
On what is normally P-day, Elder Farnsworth and I went street contacting in the after-school hours in a nearby area we had only just discovered a few days earlier. We were fasting that day as well because we wanted to make sure the couple that had been passed over to us last month were ready to be baptized this coming Sunday, so needless to say we were a bit tired and a little at a loss for what to do. Elder Farnsworth seemed to have a lot on his mind and a bit troubled, so I suggested that we go sit on a nearby public table to pray. We both engaged in our own personal prayers. For some reason, I felt my prayer needed to be short, and as soon as I lifted my head up I had a prompting to face the road. So I turned around and saw a 16 year old student walking home from school. As he came near, I waved at him and got up to greet him. Before long, Elder Farnsworth had finished praying and we taught the boy a lesson about the Restoration at the table. Just as we had finished the closing prayer, I noticed a young boy on a bicycle riding back and forth looking at us and hovering near the spot that we were sitting. As the student continued asking questions to Elder Farnsworth, the boy on the bike locked eyes with me and made a face that said, "Who are you and what are you doing?" I decided to get up and go answer his question. Just as I began inviting him to attend our English Class, his parents walked up. They were very interested in the English Class, and the wife, after reading my nametag, casually mentioned she didn't know much about Jesus. They were willing to give me both their number and their address, and indicated that coming to their home would not be a problem. A couple hours later, Elder Farnsworth told me I should call them immediately and schedule them for the following day, and it proved to be successful. The next day we visited them in their home, told them that our main purpose was to teach about Jesus Christ, and taught them the Restoration. Two parents and a 13 year old son.
The M. family will be coming to English Class this week, and are also interested in attending church. However, it turns out that the father has cancer -- his condition seemed more severe when we were in the home than when I had first talked to him on the street. He can walk on his own still. He is a native of Hong Kong, but the wife is from Mainland, and her native language is Mandarin, however she speaks adequate Cantonese without too thick of an accent. Her son is perfect in both languages. So, we've been blessed this week to find a family to teach, and we are still praying faithfully for many more families to teach. After all, that's what the gospel is all about, isn't it?
Tomorrow, I will have been on my mission for one year exactly. It's a surreal feeling to know that although last week felt ten years long, I feel today as though I entered the MTC just yesterday. If you had asked me a year ago what faith meant, I may have given you the textbook answer and wondered later if I really knew. Brian sent me an email this week that really touched me about giving a priesthood blessing to his pure, faith-filled child, and in my current experience, faith is exactly that: being as pure and as believing as a child.
Well, I'm getting kicked off the computer, so I have to go. I know this work is true.
We've heard tell that the first 18 year old missionaries are coming in April, and transfers will begin occuring in 9 week periods instead of 6. Apparently the group is going to be huge, and the following group in June is going to be even bigger. It just so happens that many missionaries will be going home around that time, so all the leftover missionaries (including me) will be training. President Hawks said that basically everyone in the mission will be training by this June. I'm going to feel like a veteran with all the new people. It'll be cool to take part in such a huge transition. Guess I better mature up one of these days.
Elder Farnsworth and I have had a lot of faith exercising this week. With several people being baptized and the others being dropped from investigation due to either a lack or unwillingness to progress, we're getting back to that time where we really need to start finding some new people to teach. When we planned for Friday and Saturday's events respectively, Elder Farnsworth felt like we needed to find 4 investigators, saying that we were going to find a family. The mission has been very focused on finding families to teach ever since President Hawks has come in. There's a list of goals that every missionary is required to read every day that we all call "the Faith paper." It includes a process of prayer and mental work that President Hawks wants us to utilize to increase our faith and "draw on the powers of Heaven."
Well, Friday and Saturday we came home with 0 new investigators. As we planned for Sunday, Elder Farnsworth said we should go finding for 3 hours after church and find a family. He asked me how many investigators I thought we could get. In my mind, I thought maybe one. But I didn't want to be faithless. So I pulled out the Faith paper and read the sentence, "Exercise the mental work necessary to really believe it will happen and pray for the gift of faith to make it happen. (D&C 90:24; Matthew 21:22)." Then I said, "let's find three." Elder Farnsworth said, "We're going to find a family." I said, "OK."
So we got on our knees, and we begged Heavenly Father to find a family. I told God that if we didn't find a family in that 3 hours, we'd keep finding until we did. In my personal prayer that night, I felt a lot of mental pressure. It was really like it says in Ether 12:6, about how miracles don't happen until the trial of your faith. My faith was being tested a lot, and there were plenty negative influences telling me "it's not that you're being faithless, you're just being impractical. People have agency. You can't just make that happen." It was one of most powerful prayers I may have ever offered to God, literally begging for the miracle and the faith to make it happen.
The next day we searched. We only talked to families. Surprisingly, there were many of them out together that Sunday afternoon, and as I talked to one family another would pass by, and I could only hope and pray Elder Farnsworth would catch them. By the end of the three hours, we were empty handed save one phone number that could potentially be a family in the future and a second run-in with one we'd met a couple months ago, who seemed they might have interest. Elder Farnsworth said, "You told God in your prayer last night that we'd keep finding, I think He's testing us." I said, "Yeah, I thought of that." We kept finding. My legs wanted to fall out beneath me because we also happened to be fasting, but I was praying every moment I wasn't talking to somebody that my attitude would stay believing and hopeful and that we'd find a family.
Then the moment came. I sat down with a woman and her child and began talking about eternal families. She told me how she was usually very busy, but was interested in coming to our activities. Then her husband walked over with a 12-pack of beer, greeting us by saying, "I love Jesus." I don't think he was drunk. Surprisingly, he liked us. So we taught them about eternal families and how to pray. We got their number and their address. We rescheduled them. They became new investigators. God answered our prayer. We found a family.
They aren't in our area.
I think God is still laughing, and I know Elder Farnsworth did all the way home, exhausted and hungry and our faith increased a thousandfold in a way we didn't exactly expect. But the miracle came. The one thing I wish anyone might understand from this story is that one should never be afraid to be very specific in their petition to Heavenly Father. He really does answer our prayers. The truth of it is, if you really expect to increase your faith, you really have to work for it. It's not that Satan wished at that moment to drag me down to his state of misery, because he knows that he can't do that. But what he can and will keep trying to do is stop me from becoming better, from exercising that much more faith and becoming that much more convinced that I can, through the help of the Spirit, find and change more people. To break away from our comfortable spheres and shape a new and greater one is always where we face the greatest trials of our faith, and if we endure, I witness that God really does bless His children with miracles.