Whoa, I am so happy to see all the family pictures from Brian's graduation. I have been a little sensitive at Elder Parker's comment that the family picture I carry around looks like we're all from the 80's, but dang ya'll are slapping down with style. Zach's captain red beard, Trevor's thick rims, Dad's sudden loss of weight and Mom you just look beautiful. Not a single one of you with slacks that match your suit coat. Trevor, you're huge! I don't know my family anymore. Go back to the 80s.
I wish I could report a week full of lessons, miracles finding families, and street-preach triumphs galore, but instead we had a lot of no-shows and hands-in-face to replace them. I don't say that with a tone of discouragement or a plea for pitty, but that's what the week consisted of. We have one investigator currently progressing, who seems to be somewhat of an anime-junkie and all the mannerisms that accompany such a person, but I'm grateful for the desire he is showing forth to change. I tell you, the difference between an investigator that ends up in a baptismal font and one who doesn't is an investigator that keeps his commitments. It's been difficult to get this guy, Alvin, to read the Book of Mormon, but he finally has had to courage to read and he came to us this week with the news that he not only felt like everything we've been telling him was right, but when he opens up the Book of Mormon he finds passages that particularly strengthen and inspire him. Sometimes all I want to say is, "I told you so."
Yesterday as Elder Woo and I were street contacting in Aldrich Bay Park, we came upon several families. As I couldn't seem to think of anything more to say than "We have a special message about how families can live together forever" before the typical chinese "No thanks, don't need it" answer came, I began to get frustrated. I seem to write about this a lot, and in the midst of my frustration I got more frustrated for being frustrated, frustrated that I couldn't help from being frustrated. Elder Parker, an elder from Anaheim that lives in the same apartment, asked me during my bout of frustrastion if I loved my mission, and then asked me why.
Whenever I see a family on the street, for some reason most of the time I expect their initial reaction to be something more like, "Whoa, dang! Are you kidding me? Eternal families? Tell me everything." When they don't, after a while it almost feels painful to me. I've often wondered how many people do I have to pile through until I meet another Sister Yip, Soso, or Francis. Every feeling of dissatifisfaction, pain, bewilderment, or inadequacy was completely redeemed by each of their conversions to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I learned how much patience and humility was required for each of them to happen. And then I think rashly to myself that after I've learned it once or twice, God will be satisfied that the lesson was taught and then all the miracles will flow in exponentially and baptisms will be performed routinely every Sunday. As foolish as it seems in writing, I can't tell you how often I can be tempted to feel this way.
Brigham Young once said, "To profess to be a Saint, and not enjoy the spirit of it, tries every fiber of the heart, and is one of the most painful experiences that man can suffer." I haven't tried harder to be a Saint more my whole life than on my mission. The harder I've tried, the more I've recognized my limitations at being a good one. Humility sometimes feels a lot more like it comes in reaction to my initial pride than an inherent response to unfortunate circumstances. When it comes second more often than first, I find myself on my knees begging to be more Christlike.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "God allows spiritual peaks to subside into (often extensive) troughs in order for 'servants to finally become Sons,' 'stand[ing] up on [their] own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish... growing into the sort of creature He wants [them] to be." This statement summarizes exactly why I love my mission, and what it has been like for me to this point. I have had plenty of success, and I've seen miracles, and I continue to have and see it. God's love has become infinitely more real, my prayers have become infinitely more meek and searching, and my ability to cherish the sweetness of even one small act of kindness has been magnified by a thousand. And that's exactly one of the great evidences of God's existence -- even when we'd hope for an immediate answer or sudden blessing, we get instead a memory of the pure goodness that comes from virtue, kindness, and morality, a memory of what we do know and of what the Lord has already given. God said to Oliver Cowdery in Doctrine in Covenants section 6, "if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?"
I lament how many times I've been "compelled to be humble" (Alma 32), but rejoice in the what it is helping me to become. A patient Saint, and a man who loves the Lord.
It's been another busy week of street finding, lessons here and there with investigators for whom we're praying for inspiration on how to help them progress, and building better foundations of communication among Ward leadership and members.
I think honestly and simply the best thing that happened to me this week was running into a 12 year old Korean boy with his friend on the street during a particularly stormy, humid day. I remember thinking to myself as I usually do with foreigners that I shouldn't spend too much time with him because I have to be finding people to teach within the area. But as I brought up the message of the Restoration, he began telling all kinds of heartfelt stories about his relationship with Jesus and how God always answers his prayers. I was touched by his faith and his desire to do what was right. About 30 minutes after parting, I got a call from this boy who seemed desperate to know why I wasn't where he had met me 30 minutes earlier. He asked me to come back, and when Elder Woo and I did about 20 minutes later, the boy and his friend handed us two bottles of Pocari Sweat (chinese equivilent of gatorade) and said, "I just wanted to thank you and tell you to keep trying hard, I know it's probably so hard to stand out here all day." Late for whatever he had planned next, he and his friend quickly ran off. My heart was full the rest of the evening because of the kindness that boy showed us. It was such a simple act of kindness, and after a day of almost no success, I could only smile. I wished that everybody had as Christlike a heart as that young boy.
The other day, I sat at my desk just before bed thinking about everything that I've experienced on my mission. I reflected on the good things that I've done, the mistakes I've made, the successes and the failures, and asked myself if I'd been doing enough to serve the Lord. I have had times where I have sought for some sort of lift only to be shot down, and wondered why. The past few weeks I've faced several instances that have led to pangs of inadequacy and unexplainable lackings of motivation. It occurred to me that growing up I've been repeatedly praised for everything I can do, and very little berated for or reminded of what I can't. Even in times recently when I've met with the mission president or talked to my companion, instead of receiving the expected praise or pat of appreciation, I've been given an admonition against pride and a reminder of the deeper potential I haven't yet shown forth.
One of the greatest things I've learned about the nature of God is that He, in order to bring about His purposes for man and to propel forward their eternal progression, does not always shower praise and appreciation upon our heads when He and we both know we could be doing so much better. He pushes us for something greater. He does not praise us for our stagnancy in progression, no matter how far along we may be or what good we may be accomplishing. In my experience, the peace I expect and hope for never truly comes until I'm humble enough to recognize that I'm not doing everything I can be and cry for strength to do something greater for the Lord.
It is not until we let humility before God be our motivation and our strength that the Lord does miracles with us. Beginning to comprehend such a truth is to me a miracle in and of itself.
Numbers slowed down a bit this week, due to General Conference (a week later for us), but who cares? I ran up to the first counselor in our Bishopric after conference and said, "Brother Lee, did you even hear that? We have modern prophets and apostles! They just spoke to us! Can you believe it?" He laughed, and perhaps a little uncertainly, wondering why that seemed to be such exciting news to somebody who's called to preach that every day.
Chai Wan is doing great. I love serving here, although finding solid new investigators has been a bit difficult due to all the rain. We've done a lot of finding this week again, and the Lord has blessed us with several new contacts that I believe will become good investigators in the near future. Finding the Lord's prepared children by the Spirit is perhaps one of the most challenging facets of missionary work. This week I studied Preach My Gospel with my companion about recognizing the Spirit and following promptings on what to do, where to go, and what to say. One day in particular I remember keeping my mind very focused on the street as to where the Lord wanted me to go, and kept that hope and prayer fixed in my heart. That in and of itself required a lot of effort, I could not count how many times I've walked aimlessly, gotten frustrated that nobody listened, and then went and talked to the geezer fisherman on the promenade who would at least talk to me even though he probably didn't care at all what I had to say. The effort required to continue pouring out a prayer in my heart as I walked was difficult and even, at times, tedious, but my recognition of spiritual promptings was magnified. It turned a day of aimless finding into a day of unexplainable stopping-in-my-tracks-and-turning-around-to-go-the-other-way moments and teaching lessons on the street and obtaining numbers from potential families.
In this I have found great instruction, that there is always a difference it what we want to do and what the Lord wants us to do, even if what we want to do is good. The fact that I was on the street and talking to people about the gospel was probably pretty good to the Lord. Maybe He'll give me a pat on the back for it in Heaven. But having enough faith to expect Him to lead every footstep, when even asking the simple question "where do I go now?" was often tedious, gave me the opportunity to be led by quiet, simple, and almost unnoticable feelings from the Holy Ghost and actually have success. As I've repeated the process, it's always worked, and the success you do have is always more rewarding because I know it comes from God. Maybe He'll give me a hug for that in Heaven.
It has been both a difficult and inspiring process for me throughout my mission, and even now as I've been in Hong Kong for over a year, to learn slowly and sometimes painfully how to receive revelation from the Lord. The experience I just shared could have easily been shared by an Elder in his first week in the field, but I'm on the "downhill slope" and the experience is still every bit as wonderful, inspiring, and uplifting for me. It is essential to understand that the Lord's timing is in everything, that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55). I can do what I think is good according to my understanding and capacity for good, and end up satisfactory. I can do what God thinks is good according to His understanding and capacity for good, and end up extraordinary. But that is left to my choice, and in my weakness I lament how often I've given into my own understanding. The Lord is with us, and only through acceptance of and submission to His will can we ever expect to achieve what He wants to give us; the gift of eternal life with our families. I love my family too much to ever give up a promise like that because my answer was not immediate.
It's been another busy week. It's been pretty rainy, so we've spent several hours on the sky bridges in between buildings doing street contacting. Francis was confirmed and received the Aaronic Priesthood this sunday, and is happy as ever.
We'll be watching Conference this week since Hong Kong waits a week for the most correct translation to get out. Unfortunately, they do it all at the same time so even the English speakers wait a week. I'm very eager to hear everything everbody has already heard.
I don't have a lot of time, and besides all the normal pressures, schedule, and constant pushes to do better, there is not much to report on this week. There is a lot of hard work happening and I'm grateful for the power of prayer. I've learned that it has a lot less to do with telling God what you want Him to do for you and a lot more of expressing to Him your willingness to do better and seeing where He leads your thoughts. Those are usually the moments of the greatest inspiration. It's been a both revealing and delightful experience to have recognized the paradox that comes from dedicated service to the Lord: the harder I work, the more I need my Savior.