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.