It's been a great week. Elder Niel L. Andersen came to visit our mission this week, which was the highlight for the missionaries and the members here in Hong Kong. Elders Brown, Woods, Johnson and I were selected to perform a musical number when he visited the missionaries, and we sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." Mom, I know you're going to punish me (fortunately verbally), but I forgot to record it for you. My voice didn't crack, so no worries.
Elder Andersen had several uplifting things to say to the missionaries, especially in that if we expect to increase our faith and our desires, we must center and focus our study in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that as I've worked as hard as I can out here, the single greatest blessing is my testimony of the Atonement. When times get rough, everything seems so difficult, change isn't apparent, you feel weak and even worthless at times, you really begin to understand more fully the power of the Savior's sacrifice. To paraphrase Elder Holland in one of my favorite talks from him, "Missionary Work and the Atonement," we cannot ever expect anything in life to be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him. I've felt the enabling power of the Atonement as I've tried my best to "take up the cross," and I'm confident that no matter what challenge we face -- the Lord knows, understands, and has the power to help us overcome it.
I was more impressed, however, at Elder Andersen's address to the people of Hong Kong. I felt like he extended his hand of authority from the pulpit and gave everybody a personal wake-up slap of prophecy. He told everyone that Hong Kong is the gateway to all of Asia, including Mainland, and said that the Lord has His eye on this place like the Christus in Rio de Janiro. He thanked the members for their contributions and the thousands of missionaries that have come through here, which has resulted in a temple that has blessed thousands of members throughout Southeast Asia who don't have one, a strong church presence and powerful group of members. But then he said in a particularly loud voice, "But it is not enough!" He quoted from D&C 82 and 115 to illustrate the need for Zion to increase its borders and strengthen its defense, and said that work in Hong Kong has only just begun. He made it very clear that every member needs to step up their game, and we know as missionaries that growth in Hong Kong, regardless of the baptisms, has remained stagnant for the last 20-30 years because of the rate of less-activity. He said that if every member increases their faith and fulfills their role, they will succeed in the next 2-3 years in adding 2 Wards to every stake in Hong Kong. He said, "That is a righteous goal." It made me feel really special to be a part of the work here, recognizing the vital role that this small little place on the southern edge of China has in bringing the gospel to the Asian realm. There is a lot of vision, a lot of work, and a lot of faith that is being centered in Hong Kong, and the Lord has blessed me greatly to be a part of that. I earnestly hope to be a part of all of this later in my life, as Zion's borders increase and the world becomes more prepared for the coming of the Savior. Does anybody realize how awesome this is?!
Elder Woo and I have had a better week. Our numbers in lessons has bumped back up to normal. Chai Wan is a great place. We found a public estate this week with no guards - 28 floors and about 60 flats on each floor - which we have gone to knock doors nearly every day in the late afternoon. It's such a nice change to street finding. Do you hear that all you Elders in the states? I LIKE TRACTING.
Everybody keep the faith, stay strong, learn of the Savior, and watch prophecies be fulfilled! This work is God's work, and it is the best work. Join in sometime.
The week has been good. We managed more lessons and have focused a lot on help with the Ward. They have been improving their enthusiasm in missionary work, and the Bishop has called 5 Ward Missionaries to increase our army -- three of whom are preparing for missions of their own and one of whom is a friend named Francis who was baptized on Easter, someone you've all heard about. His desire to understand the gospel and become an effective advocate of the truth himself is inspiring, and he seemed more ready to serve and share his testimony than any of the other Ward Missionaries. We gave them a training on Sunday, and we're excited to get them out with us.
President Hawks told me something this week that really stood out to me. "The Lord has commanded us to have a light heart, not a light mind."
The other day I saw Elder Woo pick up the phone and call a woman we met on the street whose head is boiling with a mix of truth and false doctrines. She said, however, that she was looking for the true church.
About as soon as E. Woo introduced himself on the call and asked Mrs. Lee if she had time to meet, he was assailed with a stew of twisted doctrine and presumptuas accusations about the church; the infamous "Mo Muhn Gaau." The more he answered her questions calmly and succinctly, the more it seemed I heard the small, impatient voice squek from the phone with increased tones of anxiety and misunderstanding. Then I saw something incredible happen. Elder Woo began to laugh. Not mockingly or accusingly, but heartily! He kindly asked her to calm down and continued to explain. Ever time she fired back, Elder Woo looked at me with an excited smile on his face and delivered a brief, clear answer to which the little voice had very little to squeak. He bore his testimony of the truth, encouraged and blessed her, and commited to call again soon.
Elder Woo demonstrated to me a fine example of having a light heart but a powerful mind. When I've found myself in similar situations, I've let my heart become heavy with aggravation and indignation towards my uninformed assailants. It is a light heart, one that is enlarged to allow room for patience, charity, and cheerfulness, and a strong mind, one that retains the capacity to think clearly under pressure, respond with conviction, and receive thoughts formed by the Spirit, that enables a man or a woman to effectively advocate the truth and be a witness for Christ. I love my companion.
God bless you all this week,
picture: After training all the Ward Missionaries. Francis on the left of me.
It was good as always to talk to the family. You all sound great and full of success and seem to have even greater goals for the future. Keep that up.
This week has been a little rough with the lack of investigators. One person we had been teaching that we had initially intended to baptize yesterday sort of fell off the face of the planet (aka never picked up the phone again and didn't show up to the lesson). The others who have a lot of potential are just too busy for their own good (I'm not kidding) and it seems that the Lord has willed a determined Elder Hazen and Elder Woo to stay on the streets yet again this week and search out some lost sheep.
Mom and family, I hope you all know how much I love you all. It's been such a blessing to be loved and cared for by each of you. It seems that lately I've been running into so many broken families that I've become so aware of the blessing that my family has been to me growing up. Countless cases of mother's doing all the raising of children and financial support with husbands who gamble away their earnings and mysteriously don't ever come home at night to sleep by their side. We have one investigator, a 50 year old mother, in such a situation. Hearing her lament of the difficulties of being a mother alongside being in denial that her marital relationship of zero communication is damaging her family, I can't help but pray in earnest in behalf of all the broken families throughout the world, and express whole-hearted gratitude for mine which has been knit together by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
That said, Mom, I love you. I'm doing everything I can to serve the Lord in righteousness. I'm probably weakest of your sons and have little to say but be grateful for your example of endurance and perseverance, and commend you for the family that you have nurtured to maturity. God bless all the Moms out there with their God-given determination to bring happiness and love to all the children of the earth.
mothers day present: I made Elder Woo take a picture of me on the MTR. Sorry for the increasing lack of photography.
Still working hard out here in Chai Wan. We went to the Temple this week, so sorry for the delay, Mom. Thanks for the package by the way, I got it like 3 weeks ago. My bad! I love getting mail so much.
We've been busy with street finding, frequent meetings with Ward Leaders, and we've been asked by both President Hawks and the Hong Kong Island Stake Presidency to put an increased focus on working with less-active members. I've always found it kindof burdensome to go out looking for them because I always feel like we come home empty handed, but of course the triumphant discourses that came from President Hawks recentered my focus. Truly those who have already made covenants with the Lord are so precious, and Hong Kong has a ridiculously high number of them. I'm ashamed to even write the number. Just take the 3600 fully active members and multiply that at least 4, and then you'll have a rough guess of how many less-active members there are in Hong Kong whose records are either too outdated or have been lost. Not to mention the other ones we know about.
I called up a less active that I found in the Area Book who has visited with missionaries off and on since 1999, when she was first baptized. She is now a young mother with a 5 year old son. She happens to not have a job currently, which is music to the ears of a missionary in Hong Kong because people are so busy here it's a battle just to reschedule a street contact even if they are interested, and so I scheduled her for the next day. Looking back on her record I just saw 5 month to 1 year periods in between meeting with missionaries, with every companionship writing that they had reviewed the Restoration with her, and then she just drops off again for a while. I thought a lot about what we should share and had a feeling we should read the Family Proclamation with her. Her response was, "I'm not doing any of that." It shocked me when she said she no longer loved her husband, that he wastes all their money in gambling and that she had about given up on the prospect of him changing. She felt that she was a terrible mother, but that she wanted all the blessings stated in the proclamation. She said she didn't know how to start. It seemed in that moment to me that what I have and still oftentimes take for granted was so apparent and obvious: "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activites," (Family Proclamation to the World). Developing our faith in Jesus Christ is the first step to lasting peace and happiness, and is the anchor that has holds together any righteous family. It has held together my family -- even in times I've seen opinions change and disagreements come up in my own family, it is faith in Jesus Christ that has rescued relationships from going sour, misunderstandings from becoming life-long contentions, and misfortunate circumstances from initiating senseless, selfish feuds.
Every spiritual and uplifting experience that I've had on my mission always has me turn back to gratitude for all that I've been given, and I can think of no gift greater than my family. It is our responsibility to keep our families in our hearts and to hold steadfast to the faith that brought them together and binds them both here and in eternity. One thing that I see more than anything in this nation are a people that try to maintain their ancient and culturally-deep duty to their families, yet become more steadily unhappy with their lives because they waste each day cooped up in an office until midnight and fail to fulfil even the simplest family obligation to play with their children. Happiness is not in money, but neither is it in tiringly trying to pursue yourself and some self-inspired definition of spirituality. I testify that true, lasting, eternal joy is found by having faith in Jesus Christ.