Sunday, September 29, 2013

Open your mouths, and they shall be filled

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 9:56 PM
Subject: Open your mouths, and they shall be filled

A busy week this week! 2 of our 3 scheduled baptisms this week went through, and one is postponed for this coming week because her employer didn't let her out. Lea Galima and Zeny Bacolbas are washed clean successfully, and they are each so happy how much the Lord has blessed them and guided them in finding the true restored church.
This morning I conducted my first baptismal interview to a chinese man from Tseung Kwan O. He's 25 and has a lot of faith, he's read the Book of Mormon all the way through and is in 2 Nephi for the second time already. That's about as much as he really had to say in my book to know that he was ready to be baptized. I found it interesting that he said at first he didn't really understand what he was reading, but as he kept reading and thinking about life's questions in context of what he read, he began to find answers throughout the stories and examples of the faithful throughout the Book of Mormon. He said that as he found personal answers to his own questions about life, his relationship with his family began to improve and he began to be happier. I told him that the Book of Mormon was the key to retaining his testimony of the Gospel for the rest of his life, and to never stop reading it. The world will throw anything and everything at us to try and convince us that Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet or that God doesn't exist or care about us, but I testify with Elder Holland that they cannot do so without climbing over, under or around the Book of Mormon. That book is from God and there is nowhere else it could have been conceived or written except by His power.
Mom, sorry, I didn't get a computer that has a USB, so I can't send any photos this week.
There's always so many things I could say to all of you, and discerning the best thing to share from the week for me is always a relatively tedious experience. Sometimes I just want to extract something deeply profound out of all my experiences and bear down in pure testimony and cause the earth to shake or something cool, but any time I consider that my mind goes blank. And that for good reason. The Lord expects us to open our mouths before they become filled. This week Elder Ford and I taught several lessons where I felt that the Lord enabled us to teach with great power and authority, especially to a certain investigator who was having issues in being faithful to a spouse. This work has to be done by faith and by the Spirit, because there's no way in any other work that a couple of 20 year olds with little life experience can face a woman, broken down in pitiful agony because of the guilt she feels from sin and wrong choices, and speak with such power that she can leave with a greater determination to change and to repent. We just opened the Book of Mormon and answered the questions of the soul to our Investigators, and the Lord has been with us and has filled our mouths and our hearts.
I was also blessed to confirm 3 members of the church this week, including Myla who was baptized two weeks ago (confirmation postponed a week because of the typhoon). It's very humbling to be a medium through which the Lord blesses His children, uniquely and differently according to their own needs and concerns.
I testify that this is God's work, and I am so blessed to be a part of it.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hold Steadfast to what you know

September 22, 2013
We got typhoon'd yesterday, so Z.'s baptism will be postponed until next week. Tomorrow I'll have my first baptism in International that I personally found and pulled back to the church - L. She's super smart and a very thoughtful person. She grew up a Catholic and has a very strong relationship with her family, especially her mother. Her father passed away from cancer a few years ago, and she grew very close to her mother as they struggled through the family loss. She was always very strong in her religion and her family is rooted deep in Catholicism, but after reading the Book of Mormon thoroughly, sincerely, and every day like she promised, she gained a testimony for herself that it was true. When we finished teaching her the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we asked her if she believed everything she'd been taught, and she said, "Yeah of course I do, why do you think I keep coming here? This would all be a big joke if it weren't true." Ain't that the truth. Life would be a pretty big joke if all this weren't true. When L. told her mother she'd been meeting with us here in Hong Kong, she asked her how she felt about her being baptized. Her mother responded that if it were up to her, she'd say no, but she'd give Lea the choice to choose for herself if it was God's will that she get baptized. Lea passed her interview the following week, trusting that the Lord had answered her prayer that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I'm so excited for her.
I got a lot of emails today filled with long awaited updates from good friends and family. Thank you to all of you who wrote to me and shared with me your thoughts and the news, good and bad. Things seem so different from the way they used to be, especially because of the new lens of perspective my mission has given me to wear. I feel like I've learned so much, but one of the biggest things I've seemed to learn is just how little I really know or understand. My experiences, my emotions, my desires and my prayers all seem to point back to the basics, that God is there, He is wary of all of us, we are His children, Jesus Christ is the Savior, and we have a lot to do to learn and grow and make it back to Them. For those who struggle with their testimonies or their faith, do not be deceived because wickedness seems to be prevailing. The key to pulling the plug on that deceptive device is by expressing sincere gratitude to God for the things that are good -- and I testify with all my heart that this world has a lot more good working in it than it has evil, no matter what your television or local newspaper would have you believe. The things to be grateful for far outweigh the things to be depressed about.
The Spirit is real, my friends and family. If any of you think that I or any other sincere missionary say the things we do simply because we're too drawn out from the world and sheltered from reality, let me speak for myself at least and say that doubt, fear, and struggling with faith is just as hard or harder for me as for anyone else. Missionaries are the targets for all the anti-Mormon, anti-God and anti-good filth that exists in this world. If we don't struggle with faith sometimes, then we never have opportunity to let it strengthen. But we must hold fast to what we do know and what the Spirit has told us. There's always going to be tolerance in this existence for an enemy to tempt us, and the very definition of resistance requires that we exert effort, and that sometimes means an exhaustive amount. But no matter how much effort the Lord requires us to exert, no matter how powerful the force of the adversary, and no matter how much you feel like you don't know, if you are motivated by love, the truth you do know will pull you through.
The Spirit gives that truth to us. So I say again and emphatically the simple truths that I do know and that unfailingly pull me through: God lives. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Savior of mankind. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because the Book of Mormon is true, and the Book of Mormon is true because God said so, and He said so in my heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. I cannot deny that.
Hold steadfast to what you know.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Finding by the Spirit

September 15, 2013
We were surprised with 2 early baptisms this week - Myla and Jona! Myla will have to go back to the Phillipines for a month in a couple weeks, so if she was baptized on her original date she would not have been able to stay the next week for her confirmation. So she said, "Well why can't I be baptized this week?" So we said, "Well why don't we ask our Mission President?" So she said, "Go ahead!" And then that's what President Hawks said also. So we went ahead and baptized her. Jona got her holiday this week, so she thought she'd step into the font also. Their baptism went very smoothly, and they were both so happy. Pictures attached - Myla is the one with the baby.
The whole mission has been really focused on increasing faith again, and President Hawks has reissued an updated version of the "drawing on the powers of Heaven" paper that he gave to the mission back when I was serving with Elder Farnsworth in Hung Shui Kiu. That was probably my busiest and most effective time in Chinese work, when we baptized Sister Yip and Soso (who by the way is active in a new ward at the same chapel that I attend every sunday, so it's super good to see him progressing in the gospel well after his baptism), and I'm excited to report that the same energy that came from the focus on faith back then is rekindling again.
Elder Ford and I have been really focusing on rooting out any bad little habit or ineffective thing that hinders our ability to be exactly obedient so that we can warrant more blessings from the Lord in finding prepared investigators to teach. Obedience to God is what manifests our faith in Him, and we recognize that God will be wary of even the small things that we do to express our faith. On Wednesday we decided that after the Sacrament service we'd go finding in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay because we knew that a lot of International people liked to gather there. Dinner was scheduled at6pm, and at around 5:45 we stopped without any success and we were trying to decide if we should take the MTR back to Wan Chai for dinner. I felt like we needed to circle the park one more time, and Elder Ford agreed, so we set off again. Just before we had rounded the final stretch of the park, I glanced in passing at a couple sitting on a bench. They didn't seem particularly friendly and I wasn't sure where they were from, so we kept walking. Almost as soon as I decided to keep walking, I felt an impression that I shouldn't give up that easy and go back and talk. Then I thought it would be awkward to walk back after passing, so I walked some more. Then the feeling got really strong, and my thoughts formed into the beautifully crafted statement: "That was a husband and wife from the Phillipines. Go talk to them." I stopped and looked at Elder Ford and said, "Do you know where that couple was from?" "That one on the bench? I'm not sure." "..." "Do you feel like we should talk to them?" "Yeah." So I decided to be obedient to my feeling instead of my fear of awkwardness and we approached them. Jerry and Roena are from the Phillipines. They invited us to sit down with them. They both work in Hong Kong. We gave them both a Book of Mormon. They said they'd come to church with us next Wednesday. And that was that. I learned yet again the importance of following the Spirit. I know that the intensity of the spiritual impression to go talk to that family was in direct proportion to my desire with Elder Ford to be obedient and to pray faithfully for families.
Don't be obedient to fear. Don't be obedient to what others say or what your mind creates as a worst-case scenario. Don't even be obedient simply to your good intentions, which often times have lots of room for error. If something is right, then do it. Be obedient to the Holy Spirit. He will never lead us astray.
Elder Hazen


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Choosing to be happy

I opened my email today and saw that Elder Packer had finished his mission, and was reminded that Bryce is already home and that my companion is going home in 4 weeks. I'm not feeling trunky, but I am a little overwhelmed with how fast time is going. Every week now seems like 5 seconds. Especially here in international, we're teaching so many people and having so much fun that I swear I'm going to be home in the snap of a finger. To be honest with you all, I feel really disconnected with home. People I really cared about or hung out with are all getting married or already are, everything that I think about and even care about is vastly different than it was 2 years ago, and everything I read from everybody else makes me feel like I'm talking to somebody different. Dang it. I'm going to be one of those super awkward missionaries when I get home.
We have 4 people scheduled to be baptized on the 22nd. Myla, Veronica, Zeny, and Jona. Jona was an unexpected surprise, she had been Elder Ford's investigator before and had been taught everything, but she had gone back to the Philippines for a while. She texted us saying "I'm back!" and had been attending church every week while she was there. She passed her baptismal interview and should be baptized in 2 weeks, on her next holiday. Now we're just praying super hard that Myla, Veronica, and Zeny pull through. Veronica's husband back in the Philippines is not consenting to her being baptized, but Veronica is pretty shy and hasn't really talked to him at length about it. She really desires to be baptized, so we're fasting and praying that she'll have the faith and the spiritual capacity to help her husband soften his heart. Zeny is doing pretty well, and Myla is boss. She's one of my favorite investigators. She's a young mother who actually lives here with her husband up in Tuen Mun in the New Territories. We travel up there weekly to teach them in their home, because they live with members of the Peninsula 3 branch. Her husband, Rene, really wants her to be baptized but still has not agreed to meet with us. He has a lot of interest, but says that with his busy schedule working at the shipyard makes him unable to be fully committed, and until he feels ready to go all the way he's going to way. He's all or nothing, which I respect a lot. But Myla in the meantime is so ready to be baptized. She reads the Book of Mormon every day and says it brings so much peace to her and her family. Her 2-3 year old daughter Kate loves screaming "AMEN!" after every prayer in Sacrament meeting. Every time I go teach them I feel like one of those missionaries in the church videos where the missionaries are teaching these golden investigators, the lesson goes smoothly, and the members back up your every word. I always take that hour bus ride back to Hong Kong Island with Elder Ford and think, "Finally. That's what being a missionary is supposed to feel like." We're praying every day that things will work out with Rene and we'll have a family to teach.
I continue to be amazed by the faith of all these Sisters. Some of them relate stories of such difficult circumstances that I wonder how I would respond if I were in their situation. I never imagine myself as humble as they are. Because we have church every day, I got to listen to fast and testimony meeting every day this week, and listen to sister after sister get up and share about their complete trust in God amidst all of their trials and afflictions. What impresses me every day is how they choose to be happy. For whatever prideful reason, I did not want to share this before, but I ran into Francis last week on the street. I baptized him in Chai Wan. The only investigator in my 7 months of service there who got baptized. He is very less-active now. There are several circumstances within his family and other things that have contributed to this that he has not shared with us and that I don't understand, but it was really discouraging for me. The Lord blessed me to run into him on the street in the most unlikely of places, over in World-Wide where we find the filipenas all day. Out of the 7 million people in Hong Kong, I suppose I should consider it a blessing I ever saw him again. If there has ever been a time in my life where I have looked someone in the eye and felt like I could see into their soul, it was when Francis bumped into me on the street. It was a short interchange, because he was working, and he told me not to tell him to go to church. I was not ready for it, and I had no idea what to say to him, except that I cared about him. My chinese fell out of my head and I looked him in the face and said in English, "Francis, I just hope you know how much I care about you. We all really care." He looked back and I could see in his eyes he needed help emotionally and with his circumstances, and I could see how unwilling he was to ask for it. And just like that he was gone again.
I know that Francis will be OK. He has his freedom to choose. I cannot express completely my thoughts or feelings about everything that I've been able to do here, but I do want to say that meeting Francis on the street to me was a blessing from God. It was an opportunity to see my brother, and let him know that someone cares. It was an opportunity unplanned for me to witness that the Lord really loved him. He may choose to be unhappy now, and maybe he'll let that decision turn him from God, but I testify that we have the power to choose to be happy. We can choose to trust God in our affliction. We can choose to be happy when things go wrong and life seems unfair. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can fix all that is unfair about life, as long as we consistently and faithfully choose not to resist it and submit ourselves to God's will. I love my mission more than anything. I know that Jesus Christ lives.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Seeing people the way the Savior sees them

September 1, 2013
Hong Kong International District and Zone are doing awesome. It's really awesome to see and take part in the way the mission as a whole functions. President Hawks is very organized and very good with numbers and statistics because his whole life he worked as a professor of manufacturing engineering. He knows how to establish order, and it's been awesome to learn how to account for the work of several other missionaries in the mission. It's tangible evidence that the Lord is hastening the work and guiding His missionaries. It's very faith-building and encouraging to me to watch how things fall in to place through the Lord's guidance. Ultimately everything is based on "go out there, go where the Lord wants you to go, and teach people the gospel" and then it just happens. It seems vague and your average joe just stands in awe as they see the growing success of missionaries as they go out and make things happen through their faith and obedience to the Lord. There is so much structure and so much order to everything that is ultimately founded on nothing more than faith and obedience.
I love the Lord and I love this gospel. We have several baptismal dates out for September and are confident that most if not all with go through. Our attitude and our decision to love people really makes a huge difference. I've thought a lot about charity and loving others this week because I think Elder Ford is a great example of it. Since I've been focusing on avoiding negative thinking or being critical, and treating people the way I feel the Savior would, I've had two pull-backs to the church in the last 8 days that said, "Last time I saw the missionaries, I told them no and didn't want to listen to them. But something in the way you approached me and talked to me made me feel in my heart that I needed to go with you."
We all need to be loved. Everyone needs to know they're cared about. Working with these wonderful people who sacrifice being with their families to work abroad has been really eye-opening to me in a lot of ways. They appreciate even the little things you do for them. They take joy in the simple things because they know that is what brings them happiness. Some of them have literally nothing to hold onto but their faith in Christ, and they give me a huge smile and tell a joke and talk to me like they are the happiest people alive. I feel that many of these people understand better than most how to see the world through the Savior's eyes because they realize that the way they treat others and the way they choose to respond to unfortunate circumstances makes a difference. They know what actually matters. I pray that we can all learn to pray "with all energy of heart to be filled with [charity]", the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:48). I testify that people will feel it when we show it, and it will give us the power to change our circumstances and lift our burdens.
Elder Hazen