It's only been about 3 days because of the extension of last week. Everything continues to go forward -- several of the families I mentioned in previous weeks have either faced anti-mormon stuff and family who shut them down, or have headed out of town for the holidays. Haha, I guess that's what happens when you're in International, all the people pilgrimage to their homelands during the winter months. But that's not to say we don't have the privilege of talking to cool people on the street everyday, yesterday I ran into a Jewish couple from Israel. They weren't surprised at all when I raised my missionary, "Whoa, Israel? Really?!"
I just want to share really quick about how it feels right now to be a missionary. The days and weeks are going by insanely quickly, and at night as I pray I find myself repeating (not vainly) to God over and over to please bless me with the Spirit. It's such a good thing to have my last area be a 180 turn around from what I've been used to my whole mission, and I feel more often than not that I'm doing things wrong. I feel no different than most of the China Hong Kong mission now, which is primarily made up of missionaries that have only been sent out for a few months. I feel very new, I feel excited, and I also feel sometimes like I really have no idea what to do. It's very humbling for me to have many people constantly telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing when my natural man tells me I've been here long enough to understand everything. That's why it's so important to have the Spirit.
Going with that, I think that members of the church who have access to "the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost" assume at times that they are like Super Mario running into a magic star and suddenly become invincible (and have really great two-note fast-paced background music). Sometimes we feel like we need to have constant revelation pouring into us guiding us at every footstep. Well, as a missionary, I have the constant companionship of Elder Chang, and I'm here to testify that while he is constantly right at my side I'm not necessarily utilizing his help the best I can. Sometimes I may get carried away in explaining something in a lesson and not give him time to share, or at other times when he gives me his input I don't really let it sink in. Learning to recognize the still, small voice of the Spirit, hear what He has to say and act on it is a life-long process, and my mission has been teaching me that just as much as I needed Him to guide me in the beginning of my mission, I need Him now. As long as we're worthy members of His restored church, we have the right to His constant companionship. Whether or not we act on the input that He has to give us and whether or not we let Him truly speak is really up to us. I know that the Holy Ghost is real and He confirms the truth of all things, and His input is always a bit more profound than ours.
Let us be more diligent in following the Spirit in our own lives.
I've heard from some today how at this stage in the mission I'm probably at my high point, taking all the skills I've learned and applying them to spread good to every ear that will hear it. As much as I value the knowledge, skills, and additional spiritual witnesses that I've gained these nearly past two years, I can't tell you how often I find myself thinking, "I wish I could take what I know now and start another two years." Where I am and the responsibilities I've been given are not badges of honor or marks of achievement; my first thought this morning as I got out of bed was, "Don't ever assume you've got everything figured out." It's probably a moral I should live by for the rest of my life.
Serving in Discovery Bay has been a new ball game for me. Teaching in English to people from New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria, Italy, Mainland China, Philippines, United States, and everywhere else you can think of, whose religious backgrounds vary from being devoted church pastors to passionate and (if I may, rather vehement) atheism, has really given me a run for my money. To tell you all the truth, I feel like a child more at this point in my mission than perhaps I've ever felt. And I'm on the front lines, walking around for most hours of the day and trying my hand in a box of chocolates, quite literally never knowing what I'm going to get.
I had a wonderful day at the Temple today. As I sat and pondered and prayed, I felt very close to the Lord. I felt very much like I was having a two-way conversation with Him as I prayed and asked the Lord what He would have me do for the very short time I have left. It was very clear that the point I'm experiencing now is much more a beginning than an end. It has been made very clear to me on several fronts that although I of myself am a rather unremarkable person or teacher of the Gospel, that this is indeed the Lord's work. I am grateful for every single day that I have to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength.
I believe that it was once said by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "It's an awfully thin pancake that only has one side." For all those whose testimonies may be hindered by the sleight of misinformation, or whose faith might be weakened by the convincing "evidences" that shroud our understanding of God and His reality, I say to you that on either side of the pancake you can find something just as convincing, intellectual, and I guess "enlightening" to prove to you that God exists or that He doesn't, that Joseph Smith was a prophet or he wasn't, that religion improves the quality of people's lives or makes everybody crazy. If you'd like my two cents, I hear just about everything around these parts: if you expect to lean your testimony on evidence, whether it be bad or good, if you don't already, one day you'll find yourself pretty bitter and dissatisfied.
Spiritual witnesses should be sought after and treasured more in today's world than ever. If everything on all sides can convince you of anything, then any of those pieces of information do nothing more than reinforce your decisions to follow God or to turn away from Him. I know that God exists not because a man wise in rhetoric and smooth talking told me so. I got my witness of the Spirit, and I cannot describe that to any of you any easier than a blind man can describe the color yellow.
"Where can I turn for peace,
Where is my solace,
When other sources cease to make me whole? ..."
Only one source will keep us whole. With a heart set on crying repentance to my fellow man and with full recognition of my own faults, I say with Alma, "Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience," (Alma 29:5).
I choose good, life, and joy. God answers my prayers, and He will answer all the prayers of His children in His own time, and in His own way.
It's such a blessing to work with Discovery Bay members. They are all about to explode with excitement to be finally working with full-time missionaries fully devoted to their Branch. I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago that President Hawks called us and cancelled our daily commute to Wan Chai to support the every-day Victoria II Branch. The Senior missionaries will take care of the Sacrament, and for the first time in years there are only filipena sisters supporting Victoria II. So for the past little while Elder Chang and I have been walking around Lantau Island looking for all the International people we can find.
Of course, we're still in Hong Kong, and most of the Internationals that aren't tourists are corporate businessmen or pilots that live in these grand utopia-like estates that seem like chilling in a 5-star resort 24/7. Not my choice of lifestyle, but working with these people is a blast. Last night I had mexican food for the first time in forever. So our strategy, (I suppose like it's always been), is to WORK WITH THE MEMBERS. If we really want to bring families into the gospel, let's face reality -- missionaries shouldn't be the ones finding them. And with the nature of finding up here, members are practically the only way to find them. And we're fasting and praying to harness the excitement and enthusiasm each member of this small branch has to make it happen. There is so much vision throughout the church on how missionary work is to be done. It will be a great day when the greater portion of church members remember that missionaries are called to teach, and that the great call of the prophets indicates that every single one of them is called to find. I'm grateful for all the miles that I've walked aimlessly on my mission and for the joy that I've felt from seeing even the smallest boost of enthusiasm from a Ward or Branch -- it is teaching me in large part the kind of member I want to be of God's restored church when I return home. Easier said than done, I know, but I testify that now is the time to allow God's work to hasten.
Perhaps you all remember the sweet Less-Active lady, Sister Jovelyn, that we met and brought to church last week. Turns out I heard wrong, she hasn't been to church in 6 years, not 16. Anyway, President Joslyn felt we needed to visit her with him during the week to show her that we cared. He hired a taxi for us on Wednesday, and we all went together to visit. Her employer also turns out to be from the Philippines, who is married to a British lawyer and lives in a large flat in a very wealthy community. She walked into our visit, and when she realized we were sharing about God she went to grab her other helper, and our short Less-Active visit turned into a full lesson on the restoration of the gospel. Joji and Ogie, the employer and the other helper, were both very touched by the message and believed that it wasn't a coincidence that we had come. Joji hasn't felt spiritually satisfied with her church lately and had been praying for a means to come closer to God. They commited to read the Book of Mormon, and that was that.