Monday, August 26, 2013

When we are happy

Aug 26, 2013
Another wonderful week. It's so nice to work with another Elder who has been out longer than me. Elder Ford will be going back to Colorado at the end of this transfer. He's such a good guy. After training two missionaries back to back, I love how smoothly everything goes with an experienced missionary. Our Zone did really well with their goals this month, and we're sure that with added faith, obedience, and a focus on Christlike attributes, this coming month our Zone will continue to see miracles. The filipena sisters in International had 3 baptisms this week! 

September is looking good for our companionship. We have several baptismal dates scheduled. We also managed to get five pull-backs this week. We frequently go to a place called World-Wide that is two stops away from the church in Wan Chai. A lot of filipena and indonesian domestic workers gather there from all over Hong Kong, and we go there and invite people to come back to the church with us. Several of the pull-backs became new, really solid investigators this week. I love talking to these people, they are always so humble and their faith in Christ seems deeply rooted. With the abuse and unfair treatment that many of them suffer, it's always profound to see how much faith and trust they put in God. It's interesting that sometimes the happiest people we meet have some of the saddest and most trying backgrounds. I think that should be instructive to all of us. 

We're always busy and the members are keeping us on our toes with referrals and pull-backs they bring back themselves. 

Today is short, because we don't have a lot of time. I've realized that the times where I've been happiest on my mission have not necessarily been when numbers are high and we are teaching a lot of people, but when I feel that I'm bearing sincere testimony of the Savior and His Atonement. It's been when I've felt the Spirit confirming the truth of my words in the heart of the hearer. I think it's easy for a missionary to think a lot about how much they are changing other people, and little about how much they are being changed themselves. I don't think we can ever expect to invite someone to follow Jesus Christ, and invitation which ultimately implies becoming like Him, without understanding ourselves the implications that invitation has for us. I have felt immense changes in myself during my service. I hope that I'm changing every day. I feel that I've got more pitfalls than the average layman, and whatever wind of goodness that got me out here has been a tremendous blessing. I cannot explain in an adequate way how much my faith in Christ, especially the enabling and lifting power of His Atonement, has increased in my labor, which at many times seemed fruitless. It's more real and peaceful and happy and content than any other thing that I've put my trust in, and if it were fake, then it could not produce such feelings. The circumstances of our lives will always fluctuate, but our faith shouldn't. Every challenge and every blessing should be a new opportunity for our faith to enhance. I can testify that this work is true, and it has the power to make us selfless, influential, peaceful, righteous, and more like our Heavenly Father. 

Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The true test of our faith: Abundance

 Aug 18, 2013
The work here in International is so different. As Zone Leader, I'm still connected with several companionships accountable for Chinese work and will occasionally go on exchanges with them to help with any challenges and to lift, encourage, inspire and bless. However, I still feel like I stepped into a completely different world.
The Filipena sisters are seriously the best people I've ever associated with. They are so humble, so friendly, so teachable, so willing and eager to learn, so patient with affliction, and so willing to be unified and to help one another. Sure there's a personality here and there who will keep you on your feet, and sometimes the sisters who aren't members will say things to the Elders that are uncomfortably friendly, but as a whole, these people are incredible. I'm afraid when I go home I'm going to feel really stupid, because I feel like it isn't difficult at all to amuse people here and the caliber of my humor will be so downsized to ridiculousness that I'm going to get a lot of blank stares and awkward snorts. Oh well.
Tagalog is like dominoes. You say a verb, and depending on how you conjugate it and add aspect markers, the rest of the sentence just kind of falls into place. It's got a lot of spanish roots as well, so all the Nacho Libre accents of old should come in handy.
We've got several baptismal dates out for next month, which I foresee being pretty solid. Teaching in English is really nice, honestly. I love Chinese, but speaking straight from your heart is a lot easier with your mother tongue no matter who you are. I feel like I can more quickly incorporate the doctrines, analogies, and teaching skills I've learned in a lesson setting. People who serve stateside should be wary of what a blessing it can be to preach the gospel in their native tongue.
It's only been a week and a half, but I feel like I've been here forever. I've fallen in love with these people almost immediately, and have been blown away by their faith in Christ. And I feel like I've learned something very profound already as I've paid close attention to the differences between Chinese and International work. As is evident, my mood is excellent, and the same has been for so many others who have been privileged to serve here. But I've already noticed how easy it can be to feel complacent when everything is going so well. I didn't realize how principles of exact obedience and exercising faith are actually easier when conditions are more difficult. In Chinese work, I daily felt inadequate and felt like I was pushing so hard to get something going from either nothing to something or something to a little bit better. When suddenly being placed from that condition into International, everything suddenly feels easier. These sisters have the principles of "the Work of Salvation" down. Every lesson is a member present lesson. Members are always attentive, always let the missionaries teach, and always bear powerful testimony that touches the investigator. Members call and follow up with us about investigator friends they met at church. Members go finding with us and talk to people they've never met before on their own initiative and invite them to hear the gospel. Members always invite friends to come to church with them. It's seriously the epitome of IDEAL. If every member of the church was a filipena or idonesian domestic worker, God would need to send another flood to accomodate all the people lined up for baptism.
But that leads me to my point: It's a whole different level of exercising faith in International because even a little bit of input gets a lot of output, so the trend here has been complacency. The scriptures often speak of the rise and fall of nations in direct correlation with level of abundance and pride. The struggle with International work when a missionary's backdrop is high rejection, little numerical satisfaction, and comparatively little Ward support is ultimately to find the willpower to make what is already good even better. It's almost like running into a wall of "it doesn't get any better than this" and facing the temptation to agree instead of pulling out the sledgehammer of "yes it does" and pounding it down with power and authority. Sometimes, I think, those are the most difficult walls to break.
But I know the other side is worth it. When we start to see things in the perspective of eternity, we realize that we should never be satisfied with fine, good, no problem. If we are not doing our best, then we are not doing enough. That is what we learn when we understand the grace of Jesus Christ, that the results of his Atonement do not become sufficient for us unless we use it by our continuous efforts to keep the commandments of God and be anxiously engaged in a good cause at all times, in all things, and in all places. It is my prayer that we International missionaries maintain the fortitude of mind necessary to break down the walls of complacency that come because of abundance, and allow God to work even more miracles here. The true test of our faith is if we'll continue to be exactly obedient even when we are not faced with the heat of affliction.
I love God's work. Let it hasten.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 11, 2013

gusto mo bang sumama sa simbahan?

August 11,  2013
Yes, that was Tagalog. Yes, I have been transferred. No, I am not going to be preaching the gospel in the Cantonese language for the rest of my mission.
I've been assigned to the Peninsula 3 International Ward, where the primary focus of our work is the population of Filipena and Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. Our area is basically all of Hong Kong -- I'll be travelling back up to the New Territories tomorrow for a lesson. We teach all of our lessons in English, but I'm picking up a little Tagalog on the way. And may I just say that I feel like I've just started my mission over again with a completely different people in a completely different place with a completely different way of handling things. I've also been called to be a Zone Leader with my new companion Elder Ford over the International missionaries and certain Chinese companionships on the Hong Kong Island.
My last day in Chai Wan was pretty sad. Elder Parker thought it would be funny to sing "God be with you till we meet again", and as much as that song is overdone in missionary work it still made me really reflective and melancholy and before I knew it, during daily planning Elder Young got to watch water come out of my face as I told him it was hitting me that I was called to preach the gospel in the Cantonese language, and I had just completed my final day of doing so. I will really miss the work that I was privileged to do there, and I really came to love the Chinese people and the members in Chai Wan so much. But the Lord has interesting ways of preparing us for new phases of life.
In this area of International work, virtually all of the members and investigators are women. They all come from pretty hard backgrounds and many have left their young families to Hong Kong to work 2 year contracts as domestic workers. Unlike Chinese work, ALL of them have Christian backgrounds. Many have suffered abuse or are treated very unfairly, yet I swear they have to be the most friendly people I've ever met. Many filipenas remember me from the fireside I sang at last year. It seems like they remember every little thing you do for them and they are so appreciative of it. They feed us all the time, so I'm worried by December I may have gained a little weight. Elder Ford says we get so much food that it isn't any use buying groceries on P Day. Needless to say, being a growing boy, I've been in the best of moods the past few days. Humble, receptive people and food, what more should I ask for?
I don't have a lot of time left today, but there have been big changes for me in the course of my mission. I will be privileged of the Lord to serve two entirely different peoples on my mission. I'm already learning so much from these faithful sisters. In order to accomodate their days off, we attend Sacrament meeting every day except Monday, and bless and pass the Sacrament. You just feel extra clean and holy taking the Sacrament every day! I'm excited to share with you all the perspectives and knowledge I gain from being blessed to serve these wonderful people. I know that I have done all that I can for the Chinese people, and I will not forget them, and I know that one day in the future I will be able to bless them again with the gifts that I've been given on my mission. I know that Christ lives, and that miracles are given to those who believe and obey.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Of course God exists....

Hello family and friends,
It's been a busy week like always. The weather has been stormy and we were just missed by a typhoon, so I've been drenched head-to-toe a few times out finding. There's nothing like getting soaked in dress clothes to make you feel like you worked hard.
We were blessed to teach a family this week. We ran into the Ng family about a month ago by the pier in Siu Sai Wan, and the husband mentioned he'd always wanted to become more involved in religion but his work schedule didn't allow it. He works like a horse in a kitchen, which seems to be one of the busiest jobs in Hong Kong. Last week we called him in the middle of the day and discovered that he was in the hospital because he spilled a ton of hot water on his feet and suffered severe burns. We offered to bring him a Book of Mormon, and he accepted. We taught him a couple times in the hospital, where he expressed that he felt happy he got burned so bad, because he had an opportunity to rest and learn about God. He went home from the hospital and invited us to his home, where we taught him and his wife. His wife isn't very religious and is a native Mandarin speaker, so her Cantonese was difficult to understand. I hope that this family will begin to progress as we help them have more of a common goal. It's been often expressed to me by several different natives of Hong Kong that in Chinese culture people never say the words "I love you" to their family members, and very seldom if they do. Those words have always been so common and comforting to me growing up, and often taken for granted. The society here sometimes seems so loveless and the family values that chinese culture so often prides themselves in is being very steadily and quickly drowned by money and material.
I often feel like one of the ancient prophets or apostles in the church, endeavoring to teach about God to people who get so puffed up in the things of the world. So many people say, "So what if God exists. Even if he does and I know it, what does that matter?" Then I say, "What's the difference between being an orphan and having parents?" We learn from our parents. We are loved by our parents. We learn how to avoid bad things, how to make good things happen, to be effective, to have success, to overcome pitfalls and shortcomings. Since when have we, fortunate and blessed sons and daughters of loving parents, ultimately ever done absolutely everything ourselves? Did our parents hold our hands to help us learn to walk, our brothers comfort us when we make mistakes, our teachers teach us skills to enable us to bless the world with our talents, and our wives and our children to help us love all simply because life means nothing more than a bowl of rice and a pillow? Of course not. We are not spiritual orphans. We have a Father in Heaven who gives us all these things that we can gain experience, and grow, and be changed.
The watch on your wrist is about as likely to have exploded into existence as your brain, your heart, your thoughts, your ability to love, this earth, and this universe. Why is it so easy for the layman to admit that obviously something as complicated as a watch must be planned, organized, and carefully put together, and yet so difficult to admit that beings such as us, infinitely more complicated than the watch, have a Creator and Organizer? Somebody tell me. I say this to people on the street and they can never answer me. They just snort and run away because they don't want truth to be true. The problem with most philosophers and supposed learned men of today is they claim to invent everything they discover. But I say that though much credit goes to the watchmaker, he must first thank the man who invented the sundial. And the sundial maker must thank the Man who invented the Sun. I testify that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30:44), a divine designer, and the Book of Mormon is proof that He has yet again reached out to His children.
Love, Elder Hazen