Congratulations to Elder Bryce Johnson, who has successfully completed his mission in Norway. You've always been my best friend, and you've been a huge example to me as I've served on the other side of the world.
Work out here with Elder Young has been great. He's a fantastic young missionary with a head full of ideas. He's actually only a few days younger than me. He has a complicated history, but it has made him the man that he is, and some of his experiences have been powerful resources in sharing his testimony to struggling less actives and uncommiting investigators. It is truly a blessing to have him out with me, and I've learned so much already about keeping a positive attitude, sticking to the basics, and always bearing testimony of the Savior.
The more I listen to investigators ask me questions, the more I hear members tell me their struggles in trying to help out, and the more I hear a less active tell me their unsureties and their struggles to endure, the resounding answer that always comes back to me is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There are many times where I will entertain a discouraging or disparaging thought for too long, and the only solace that I receive is when I battle those thoughts with thoughts of the Atonement. Sometimes it seems too simple, and sometimes it seems too far-fetched to try and compare ourselves with what the Savior suffered, but I testify to anyone that is struggling with any challenge in life, the Savior can alleviate our pain, lift our burdens, and whisper to our hearts with complete sincerity the phrase that we all need most to hear: "I understand."
We had an investigator this week who has never kept his commitments, and he finally came out and told us some very serious issues that he has in his life. When he told us these things, as sinful as they were, Elder Young and I saw past the sin and saw the poor man, buried in guilt and choked with shame. He sat there and wept before us like a child. He told us that he felt like he tried all the ways to get back to God, but everybody's way is just an opinion and finding real truth is impossible. He said that neither Jesus Christ nor a psychiatrist could help him, only staying cooped up in his house to protect his aging mother. Elder Young proceeded to bear one of the most powerful testimonies of the Savior that I've heard my entire mission. He raised his voice and spoke with power, telling the man that Jesus Christ was the only way that he could overcome his shame and guilt, and that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is not an opinion, but a fact. As Elder Young spoke, tears came from his eyes as he spoke of the Savior in his own life, and his own past, which has also been riddled with misfortune and unhappiness. The man shook as he listened, and we left that room knowing that there was no error in what we had taught, and both of our testimonies of the power of the Atonement had strengthened.
I know that the Savior lives. The only thing that stands as the bridge between opinion and fact in this church is the Book of Mormon. I am a witness to the truthfulness of that book, and its frequent testaments to the reality of a Mediator between us and a just Father in Heaven. It verifies the precious doctrines found in the Holy Bible. Everything I say will always be an utterance of opinion to the layman who does not read and pray about the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart. What I'm am saying is no opinion.
It's a testimony.
Come unto Christ, who is the only way to peace, happiness, and salvation. I know that the Book of Mormon fulfills the prophecy that "The Lord has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."
It's incredible to see the fire of missionary work and a desire for growth spread over Hong Kong Island. The stake is still bent on their goal for a 100 baptisms this year, and just last week they held another member-missionary conference. The people here truly are "catching the wave." Our companionship had 3 people at church this week, and the other had a few as well.
Our Bishop has had a miracle change as well. One of the most difficult things about working in Chai Wan has been having a Bishop who seemed a little stand-offish to the missionaries and the work, and could only be contacted on the weekends because he worked in Mainland monday-friday. When he invited us into his office last week he informed us that he lost his job, but was very happy. He said that for years he had held onto the job for the simple reason that he was unwilling to let go of the money it was bringing him and his family. He said that now that he has no job, his burden of not being able to magnify his calling as a Bishop has been lifted. This man had lost a steady job and is still raising a family, and is the Bishop of our Ward, and he sat before us with a completely new countenance. Happy. He has been giving us assignments and materials to fulfil those assignments, admonishing us to keep frequently following up with him on those duties, and on his free time he is searching for a new job. I have been so impressed with the increase of faith in the members, and it feels like the Spirit is brooding over Hong Kong. I'm just waiting for an explosion.
Not to mention all the new missionaries. I would never have guessed what an opportunity could be found in the challenge of being with missionaries whose linguistic capabilities are so limited. I swear I've found more people (including families) to talk to with Elder Young than I had for a month or more with Elder Woo. The enthusiasm and childlike faith and new ideas of a young new missionary is bringing miracles to accompany the faith of all the members. I find it interesting that every companionship in the Hong Kong Island zones is training. No, I don't think it's chance. I think it's tactic, faith, and trust in divine assistance.
It's all a rush and city pressure out here, but we're all learning to pause for a moment and say a prayer. With all the new methods Satan has to attack the children of men in these modern times, we must take extra heed to the counsel of the prophets and develop a more profound inner connection with the Savior. Too many think that life is all about themselves, too many religions teach that finding peace is selfish and individual, but we know better. We know Christ well enough to know that His ministry was outward, not inward. We know that happiness comes from lifting the hands that hang down, and serving the helpless and the needy. And as the world begins to suffocate us with information, we must hold fast to knowledge. The poet T.S. Eliot once wrote, "Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge that is lost in information?"
There are certain truths that cannot be transmitted by word of mouth any more than a man can describe his mother to a stranger and tell him to find her in a Women's Conference. The man would find his mother. The stranger never would. I cannot describe to anyone scientifically the manifestations of the Spirit, but to the Savior I am no stranger. Never let your wisdom be lost in knowledge, nor your knowledge in information. Have faith. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and His restored gospel is the only hope for lasting peace in this life and in the lifte to come.
Sorry everyone, no time this week. I spent time elsewhere in my emailing this week. I'll report next week; my new companion and trainee is Elder Young, and he's a great guy. We'll be working hard in Chai Wan.
To my family and friends, remember there's a lot of deceiving things in this world, and as the world increases it's capacity for deception, the greater need we have to hold fast to what we know and not dare to staple ourselves to our fears and our doubts, because the only direction they go is down. Remember what you're really looking for is happiness, and happiness is meant to be eternal, and it is only found in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will never forsake the gospel of Jesus Christ. God did not lie to me when He told me it was true. I am willing to lean on that.
............. I'm training aGAIN. I'm so excited! I'm staying in Chai Wan this move with Elder Parker and his new trainee, and we'll be training two fresh Americans for the next 9 weeks. Elder Parker has become one of my best friends out here, and we're kicking out our natives and bringing in the fire of two new missionaries. I love Elder Woo, and I'm going to miss him a lot, but I know he's ready to storm up a new part of Hong Kong. There are 22 new Elders coming to the mission this week, and several missionaries are going home (including Elder Farnsworth, who changed my life in Hung Shui Kiu), so virtually everybody who isn't a Zone Leader will be training next move. Chances are, my new companion is going to be 18 years old.
I think I'm ready for such a fresh change. It's been a slow few weeks, but our hearts, desires, and diligence have not slowed. Chai Wan has significantly improved since I first came, with greater enthusiasm in the Ward to participate in missionary work and a couple of baptisms between our companionships. The enthusiasm coming into the mission from an MTC group that almost had 30 people in it is going to be huge, and I think it will make a huge difference in our area. We will labor to maintain the trust of the members and harness this new enthusiasm to begin Zion's increase! Gaah, I'm so ready for this.
Quick story for the week: We frequent a place called Aldrich Bay Park to find people to teach. There are always several people who walk through it with their families to play and rest, or use it as a shortcut to get home. Something special about Hong Kong is the fact that it seems that literally every square inch of the land has a working security guard (which explains why I hardly ever report door-knocking experiences). Even the public parks have a daily guard. Usually they aren't anything special. ABP's park guard, however, is a very special man. He lovesBuddha. He lives, breathes, and sweats the old sage. And you bet his two favorite people to see walking on his territory are a couple of young, smartly dressed guys with black name tags. For weeks Elder Woo and I would always be on the watch for our friend, because every time he sees us he likes to tell us to stop believing in Jesus and follow him by believing in Buddha. They are among the most hilarious conversations I've ever had on my mission, but it always interrupts our contacting, so we would move quickly to avoid him. He's got a wonderful Buddha belly, too. So we call him "feih faht", which literally translates to "Fat Buddha", but sounds like a Chinese man with poor english mispronouncing the word "favorite". And he is our favorite.
So one day it was hot, and we sat down on a bench. Feihfaht appeared. He began telling us to stop believing in Jesus and believe in Buddha, because Buddha is so powerful. He said, "You have to try, or you won't ever know." We asked if he'd ever tried learning about Jesus. He said that of course he hadn't, because Buddha is better. Then Elder Woo, with great power and authority, pointed out the hypocrisy in his claim that if we don't try buddhism we'll never know, and then challenged him to pray for us to Buddha and then we'd pray for him to Heavenly Father and compare the level of our feelings. Feihfaht turned to the east and with a grin began to wave his clasped hands up and down for a few seconds and then looked at us expectingly. Unphased, Elder Woo offered a prayer in his behalf, the welfare of his family, his success at work and at home, and ability to recognize truth and find greater peace and happiness, and closed in the name of Jesus Christ. Outspoken Feihfaht stood and said nothing, and we blessed him and walked away. He said nothing but only waved to us for the next week, and now when he talks to us and tries to say something about Buddha, we point to the bench where we prayed and ask him if he remembers his good feeling, and just chuckles, stutters, and walks away.
I stand with Elder Neal A. Maxwell who once bore his testimony of the Savior, saying that we do not believe in some Socrates who sauntered around Samaria. We do not believe in some Galilean Gandhi. We don't believe in a Bethlahemic Buddha. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose almighty Word is spreading among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. That is my testimony, and I am a witness of Christ's mercy and love for the people of Hong Kong.