Sunday, February 17, 2013

Deep Cleans

It's been another busy week in Chai Wan. We had to participate in the yearly "deep clean" that most Chinese people do around New Years. I spent about 3 hours cleaning the kitchen fan. It feels great to clean stuff up sometimes, I feel like everybody needs a deep clean to freshen themselves up. Physically and spiritually. There was a talk in General Conference recently where they told a story of an engineer who went cleaning in the temple, and as they went to meticulously clean the chandelier in the celestial room, the engineer could not see why they needed to clean it when time could be better spent elsewhere -- the chandelier seemed perfectly clean. As the man he accompanied began to carefully clean every crystal on the chandelier, the engineer asked him if there was somewhere else they could go to clean up, where their help would be more needed. The man repsonded, "We aren't here to clean the temple, we're here to keep it from getting dirty."
I hope that all of us can do the same with ourselves. Spiritually speaking, occaisionally cleaning up after ourselves is never enough for the Lord. He expects us to keep ourselves from getting dirty. I know that the Lord expects us to learn in this life to "abide by the celestial law" of heaven (D&C 88:22), and I hope that we all can ponder on what deep cleans we can and need to participate in for ourselves. All that said, Happy Chinese New Year!
Turns out Eddie has two addresses, and would rather be baptized in a different area, because his girlfriend also attends in the other ward. I know it will be good for him to have that support, so we have to turn him over. I'm so grateful for the experience I had with him last week, and just as President Hawks has advised us, I'm as grateful for the assist as the baptism itself, which will be done by other missionaries.
The Ward seems to be picking up in enthusiasm for missionary work lately, as they were so helpful in our other investigator Francis to have a good experience at church this Sunday. All I can say today is the work is progressing, and there is a lot to do to ensure that the area is left better than it was found, with an enthusiastic ward and several new investigators. Continue to pray for us to find and teach families! I love you all.
Elder Hazen

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To Touch a Thousand Lives

There's a lot of red and yellow bursting at every street corner and hanging from every ceiling as the people of Hong Kong celebrate the Chinese New Year. It's fun, everybody gives everybody free money in small red envelopes called "red pockets." We've gotten a few, and it's nice to see all the people take a little time out of their overloaded, high-stress jobs to eat some noodles with their families. 

All the libraries are closed here, so we had to hunt out this internet cafe in the international area. 

We've had another great week out here. Both the Chai Wan companionships had an opportunity to meet with the Bishop and the Ward Council this week, and we were able to get on the same page with the Ward.  I recognize that a lot of the things we need to accomplish in the next few months and in 2013 is going to require major intervention from the powers of Heaven, and I pray every day that through our obedience, faith, and the mutual efforts of both the ward and ourselves, we will be able to bring many people to Christ this year. It'll happen.

E., the walk-in from last week, has met us a few times now. On wednesday, after we had reviewed the Restoration, he asked us if we would stay and talk with him. As we sat on that bench he rehearsed to us some very upsetting family issues. Upset at this and unsure of himself, he asked us how he should respond to this situation. As Elder Woo began to talk about treating people with love regardless of their sins, especially their families, E. began to weep openly. I could feel the love he had for his family, and the great burden it was for him to see the sins and mistakes of others that affected him. I felt impressed to pull out a picture of my family and said to him, "This is my family. As you can see, we are so happy together, and I love and miss them very much. I think one of the greatest gifts God has given us is the gift to choose freely for ourselves. When we choose good, many people are blessed, and when we choose bad, more often than not we not only affect ourselves but others negatively." I went on to explain that I had the opportunity to choose to serve a mission, to serve and seek to bless others full-time, and I have seen my family blessed for it. I thought of two letters I've been written by people that I did not even know were reading my emails, but expressed that they were touched by my emails home and their faith had been increased to face their challenges. Somewhere in the moment that I looked into E's eyes and told him that I knew our decisions to follow God will greatly bless the lives of our families, I felt an intense confirmation from the Spirit of the truth that I spoke. We cannot change others, and we cannot control that precious gift of agency for anyone but ourselves, but I experienced in that moment an almost tangible understanding of who I am and why I'm here. 
We have been given our gifts to bless the lives of everyone around us. Our gifts were never intended solely for us, but for everyone, especially our families. Just the other day one of the sister missionaries was thanking me because one of her investigators who had been having difficulty making the decision to be baptized finally did after she heard me sing at a mission-wide fireside. It pierced my heart as I thought back to my experience with E. and could feel the Spirit witness to me the truth that people are being influenced and changed for good simply because I chose to do what God willed, even when I could not fathom what lay ahead for me. Just as Ammon in Alma 18-19 was able to touch the heart of one king through his service and thus influence many to be baptized in the Lamanite nation, I too can testify that even one simple choice to follow God can positively affect hundreds, even thousands. 

I am of the firm belief that one man or woman baptized touches a thousand lives. All it takes is one choice to do something good for another person. It has changed me. It still changes me. I am convinced that if we have the faith to follow God even when reason seems to tell us otherwise, the pathway ahead seems gloomy, or our understanding is limited, we can be an instrument in His hands to touch a thousand lives. And, in a moment of reflection, I've come to find in my experience that perhaps the most profound change among the thousand was wrought within myself. 

Elder Hazen

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shifts in mindset, great blessings, hope for the future!

Hey all,
I think I must have been taught to have a bad attitude about the work on the Island when I served in Aberdeen. It's really amazing to me to see the difference that it makes when your faith is strong and your mind is centered on the work. Maybe it was the Hung Shui Kiu interlude, maybe it's maturity, maybe it's better Cantonese, maybe it's having a native companion, maybe it's a stronger testimony of the truthfulness of what I share, and probably a mixture of all of it, but I'm back on the Island and I don't want to leave again. There's work to get done, and it's fun.
Last week, as a new additional companionship, we naturally had nobody to work with. But we had an Area Book, and I have a fiery little Elder Woo who's half my size, yet walks twice as fast as I'm capable. I feel like I'm going 500 miles per hour a day, and ironically, it kind of keeps my spirits up. I'm grateful for the desire and the strength of my companion; I couldn't do it without him. But we ended up meeting or succeeding most of our goals for the week, ending with a total of 7 new investigators -- several of them found on the street. That was a miracle in and of itself, besides the finding that God decided to do for us.
One man, who we called and scheduled from the potentials list left behind from previous missionaries, listened to a lesson and then rescheduled to attend English Class and he brought his two daughters, which gave us a total of three new people to teach. Another came to English Class because of word of mouth and via the internet, was taught a lesson afterwards and became a new investigator, and then yesterday at church, a young man in his mid-20's showed up to church saying that he had studied at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah and wanted to know more about the church. He was taught after Sacrament meeting, and I had the feeling that he was someone who was prepared to receive the Gospel, and he walked away with a baptismal date for next month. Of course I can't say what has happened with any of these people, because I have all of this week to follow through with them! We don't know what will happen, but I know for a fact that if we had not been diligent to the minute of every moment we hit the streets this week, and poured over the area book, there's no way that we would have seen the success that we did. I know that the outcome of an area or the manifestation of any miracle starts within the mind of the missionary.
Not much time left for today. I suppose it's safe to say that coming to Chai Wan didn't come with the biggest heap of encouragement on part of missionaries who have served here, nor is it what people might call a white field already to harvest when they hear the name. But you might say that I don't believe that. The Chai Wan companionships have a lot of work to do, and we all have a lot of faith out here. I know that God answers our prayers of faith according to our willingness to work for their outcome, even if it means a lot of difficulty or seeming failure at the outset. May we all have the faith to endure, for God is a God of miracles.
Elder Hazen