Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Lost Sheep

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Sun, Oct 27, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Family, friends, and all,
This week has been wonderful. Finding for International up here is a little more akin to searching for a needle in the haystack because a lot of people come in and out of Hong Kong, and the ones who live here permanently conveniently sequester themselves in Chinese mountain villages in Pui O, Mui Wo and around Lantau Island. When we go door knocking, we pass by the doors with all the red Chinese d├ęcor and look for the places that seem less idolatrous. I wonder if it's coincidence that we "Passover" all the doors decorated in red. Yes, everything is suddenly symbolic to you when you're a missionary.
This week while were on a bus ride to Discovery Bay, a philippina walked up to us and asked us where the church was. As we began to talk with her, she told us how she hadn't been to church in 16 years because she had married to someone of another faith. She was a returned missionary. She told us that she had been abused by her husband and separated from him and has been working abroad ever since. Elder Chang and I were really saddened by her story, but we did our best to encourage her and invited her to church. She came the next day and brought with her a set of old scriptures that she had kept with her all those years. Last night she sent us a text which said, "Good evening my two angels elders! Thank you so much 4 making my sunday so complete im back 2 the fold! pls continue 2 pray 4 me 4 my recovery as a comeback." Then she said, "Thank you so much elders. Have a good nyt rest! Continue to work work work hard to find those lost sheep. They are waiting for you elders. Good night!"
Elder Chang and I were really moved by this experience. There are so many people out there like this wonderful sister who have lost their way. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the vision of things and so comfortable with our 99 that the one, very precious brother or sister falls away unnoticed. We have to place ourselves in positions, even if at times these positions are uncomfortable, to reach out to the one and follow the example of the Savior. That's what we came here to do, and that's the type of person Heavenly Father intends us to be.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen," (Moroni 7:48).
Elder Hazen

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Is Anxious to Help Us

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 1:15 AM

It's been another great week. Elder Chang and I are still adjusting to the huge commute from Tung Chung to Wan Chai every day, but God has put us there for a reason. It's interesting and not by coincidence to me that we're living out there at this time, however. The rent is going up so there's a 90% chance we'll be moving apartments in the next couple of weeks, but I believe God put us there to adjust for a few weeks because there are many people there who are prepared to hear the gospel.
Like I believe I mentioned last week, Elder Chang and I have set very specific and measurable goals in order to draw on the powers of heaven to find, teach and baptize families. We have our number, we have fixed our desire in sincere and heartfelt prayer, and we have set with the Lord the simple things we are willing sacrifice in order to show Him our willingness to achieve these desires. Last week we fasted together about these things and specifically inquired of the Lord to help us find a family to teach. That night we met a young family on the street and got their address and phone number. Yesterday we finally got in contact again by knocking on their door, and they asked us to return tonight. On top of this, 2 days ago we were finding for 6 hours in a beach town called Mui Wo, which Elder Chang and I love because it literally feels like an asian pirate town. One night when we were walking by the local school there a rapscallious group of little kids were running around on the rooftops of the school and yelling out their triumphant battle cries to us. Anyway, we didn't have much success until the last five minutes of our 6 hour find, when we bumped into an American man married to a Philippina woman and their two little kids. I found it slightly ironic that the American was the one professing to be the devout Catholic, but his wife, Rea, said that she'd been baptized into our church in 2004. She said she'd recently met a member from Discovery Bay Branch and they seemed willing to have us over to share the gospel. THEN we met a less active from Canada named Peter who has a great testimony of prayer. He lives with his Japanese girlfriend, but they're preparing to settle down together, and his girlfriend asked him just a couple months ago if she could pray with him. He said she wouldn't mind having us over for dinner this coming week. THEN Brother Cruz, who lives with his less active family in Mui Wo, is the Vice President over the Filipeno community in Mui Wo. He loves having the missionaries over, and he invited us to attend a inter-faith Bible group a few nights ago to meet other filipeno family friends, which we did, and we were received warmly. He's like a King Lamoni--- get that guy back to church and you've got a whole community of filipenos who'd open their hearts to hear us.
.... take a breath. Does Heavenly Father hear our prayers? Does He honor our agency in the desires that we seek? Do our prayers of faith, our obedience, and our consistency in our righteous desires warrant the blessings God wants to bestow upon us? I've been with Elder Chang for less than two weeks. We ask Him every day to find families. I've asked Him my whole mission. Take the evidence, and decide for yourself, but it is my testimony that Heavenly Father is a lot more anxious to help us than we often are to be helped. Prayer works.
Words can only tell stories that are forgotten through time, but I wish I could look into each one of your eyes as I share these things that the Lord has taught me, with a prayer in my heart that you could feel that I know that Heavenly Father lives and that the work of salvation is real. I wish I could do more than type out stories to all of you, but I pray that they can bring a greater feeling of excitement in your lives to know that there is meaning to life, that we don't have to be acted upon by the world and the snares of the devil, and that we really are sons and daughters of a loving and divine Creator. I know for myself that these things are true, and every one of us has the right to ask the Source of truth for ourselves.
Let us build the Kingdom together. The Lord needs every one of you.
Elder Hazen

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Ultimate Objective

From: Garrett Hazen 
Date: Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 3:30 AM
Subject: The ultimate objective

This week has been a huge change from what I'm used to in International. 5 new philippena sisters have arrived in the mission, thus making every existing philippena missionary forced into training, even a sister who has only been serving here for about 6 weeks. Elder Ford has successfully made it home to Colorado, and I'm now working with Elder Joshua Chang, from Anaheim, California. We're practically neighbors! He's one of the most hilarious people I've ever met. He's kindof like Brian in the way that he talks and cracks jokes, except he has a twang of beach boy surfer kid. I didn't realize I belonged to an American subculture until I actually worked 24/7 with another elder from my state. It's pretty awesome. We're both really experienced -- he's from my younger district in the MTC, so we've known each other for a while. 
We've changed our Sunday branch from Peninsula 3 to Discovery Bay. It's so different, because we are now working primarily with Americans who live in this Hong Kong utopia out in Tung Chung, on Lantau Island. We now live out on that island too, but we still serve the every-day branch in Wan Chai during the week, so it costs us a couple hours and a fortune of travel money every day to get down to Wan Chai. However, I know the Lord is in it. As inconvenient as it seems to live out in Tung Chung, we meet new philippenos every day out there. There are tons of them! Elder Chang and I have set goals and plans to find and teach families out here, and on Sunday we fasted together to find a family. That night on the 15 minute walk from the MTR station to our house, we met a family from the philippines who gave us their address to go visit them later this week. I know that the Lord honors our agency in the desires that we seek. When we are consistent in our righteous desires and make the Spirit our companion, nothing is impossible. The Lord answers our prayers.
We're still getting adjusted to the new way of things. It was nice also to get to go to the Temple again yesterday. We spent a lot of time there praying and talking about how to draw on the powers of heaven together as a companionship to initiate growth in each Branch. There is so much energy and potential in both, especially Discovery Bay. The members there are so excited, and every new member we meet says, "Oh you're the new missionaries, we've heard good things about you guys!" I feel that God has placed us here, and Elder Chang and I have a lot of faith we're going to be teaching the families we've been praying for our entire missions in the very near future. I've noticed that whenever I set my mind to something, that's when fear and doubt play their biggest roles. But just like Elder Uchtdorf said this Conference, we must "doubt [our] doubts before we doubt [our] faith."
The Philippenas out here are amazing. They are so filled with faith and choose to be happy no matter what circumstance they are in. It inspires me every day to see these people who are so motivated by love in all that they do stand as a testimony to the real meaning of our existence. All around me I hear stories and meet people who have let themselves be suffocated by information and forget to breathe the air of wisdom. Sometimes I think we forget that the ultimate objective of the human existence on this earth is happiness, and that can and should be experienced in every condition.
"In every condition, in sickness in health,
In poverty's vale, or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be." -- Hymn "How Firm a Foundation"
Heavenly Father is wary of us. Christ's sacrifice is real. He is the reason to rejoice and the motivation to do good even when everything else seems to fail. I know this is God's work, and it will never fail.
Elder Hazen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Consistency in our desires

October 6, 2013

Elder Ford is going home this week, so I'll have a new companion in a few days. It's crazy thinking that I'm next. I've thought a lot about the type of person I want to be when I return. What type of better person I can be for the rest of my life. There is so much I can do to contribute to the building up of God's kingdom, and I think that has a lot to do with how I decide to live the rest of my life.
And I can testify to the power of member missionary work. This week was pretty slow in Victoria II, our every day branch, and so we figured we'd be pretty low in our goals at the end of the week. Until we went to Peninsula 3rd Branch for Sunday. Zeny, who was baptized last week and who I had the opportunity to confirm this week, brought 3 friends with her to church. THREE. Single-handedly. And then another member, Sister Eunice, not only brought back one of her referrals from a few weeks before who is now reading and loving the Book of Mormon, but also 2 more friends. Then two other members came up to us later introducing us to the friend that they brought, saying it was their first time at church. If the math isn't quite clear yet, that totals out to be 8 people at church yesterday without us doing ANYTHING. Needless to say, we reached our goals. However, I should make it clear that I don't believe those blessings came because Elder Ford and I sat around and waited for it to happen. I know that God sees the work, hears the prayers and knows the burdens of every one of His servants. Our obedience and consistency in calling upon the Lord directly influenced the blessings that we received.
Liza was baptized this week. She's faced a lot of challenges here in Hong Kong, and it was a blessing for her to finally enter the waters of baptism and be confirmed a member of the Lord's true church. Her faith has been inspiring. She always says that she'll never lose her faith in God, no matter what happens.
I know that there is power in consistency. I've noticed on my mission that every time I pursue any righteous desire or attempt to increase my faith, it seems that I am suddenly faced with greater opposition of some form. Whenever a force for good begins to grow stronger, Satan will always push back. That is the nature of things, and I've learned that countless times from my own experience. The key is that we trust in the Lord, make sure that our desires are righteous, and remain consistent in pursuing them even when we can't see exactly how things are going to turn out. But that's what faith is, right? "A hope for things which are not seen, which are true." (Alma 32:21). I've told you all about our recent convert, Myla, who has been so filled with faith ever since her baptism. Her husband, Rene, up until now, had always been pretty resistant to us missionaries. I decided after meeting him that I really wanted to teach him the gospel, and to teach their family. I've been praying to find and teach families my entire mission. So I've been praying specifically for Rene and Myla every single day. They are currently travelling in the Philippines for the next month, and the members yesterday said that Rene attended church with his wife there. Coincidence?
We must remain consistent and true to the desires of our hearts in order to warrant the powers of Heaven to bless our efforts. If we give up at the first sign of opposition, then I believe we can reasonably conclude our either our desire isn't true, or we don't have enough faith in God. And the best times to build our faith are in the quiet moments, when everything is going fine, and when the opposition is at its trough. Our faith isn't meant to be built by the test, it's meant to be used during the test. So do your homework, and be consistent.
I love God's work.
Elder Hazen