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

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