Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy and his wife spoke to us last night and it was so great! One thing I really liked that they said is how sometimes all you need is a start. How simple, but how true! It’s when you’re standing on the brink of something new, looking down at the dark waters below that fear takes ahold of you heart, leaving you motionless. The thing is that’s exactly what the adversary wants. He doesn’t want you to move, he doesn’t want you to progress. He makes you think that there’s no way you can do this–turn back and find somewhere safe, somewhere familiar. But this life is all about change and progression, that’s the whole purpose for us being here. We have to push ourselves to try and do new things. And yes, sometimes it’s scary. Looking down from the ledge can sometimes appear to be certain death. But the great and miraculous thing that we have, the thing that we must never forget, is that we have never been expected to do this alone. Our Lord and Savior will be with us through every part of the journey if we call upon Him.
23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
Trust Him. He has all power and all knowledge. It’s so easy to forget the power of the Lord over ALL things, even the little or seemingly insignificant ones. He cares about us and will help us. Sometimes starting is the hardest thing, but it is essential. Get to work and it will work out. All you need is a start.
I can’t wait for the next step in the adventure! I am so incredibly grateful for the time that I’ve had to learn and grow in the MTC and for this whole mission experience that I get to be a part of. Every time I feel scared about going to Hong Kong, I just think about all of the people that I will have the chance to talk with and help and I am again filled with a strength and fortitude. I know that the Lord will be with me through every step of the way calming and comforting, strengthening and steering me. China, here I come!
(Gok Ji Muih)
(P.S. The Men’s chorus also preformed “Baba Yetu” which is like one of the coolest songs in the world. Look it up and prepare to feel EMPOWERED!!!(Just kidding. Not really))
1) sisters in my district
2) flowers at the temple
Looking back on it, I really can’t believe how fast time flies! It’s crazy thinking that today is my last P-day in the MTC and then I’ll be in CHINA!! We got our flight plans and we leave the MTC at 2:30 in the morning on the 25th, so I probably won’t be getting any sleep that night (partially due to excitement and partially due to the fact that I hate packing and will probably put it off to the very end).
This week was kind of a blur so I don’t remember too much that happened. It’s like a million things have happened since I last wrote, I just know it, but also it feels like everything is still pretty much the same. I’ve pretty much become amazing at 4 square, so I’ll leave that legacy behind. Also I’ve been really worried that it would be hard to find peanut butter in Hong Kong so I’ve been eating a lot of it lately, pretty much at every meal. But luckily I found out that it’s pretty cheap over there. Yeah, I’ve still been eating a lot of it.
We will have to say good-bye to our teachers this week and it is honestly going to be one of the hardest things about leaving the MTC. They have both been so great and I don’t know what my experience would have been like without them! They have been there for us the whole nine weeks and very patiently tolerated our quirks as well as helped us through our struggles. I did tell them, though, that they have to tell the next Cantonese speakers that come in about the dolphins on the Hong Kong flag. I’m not sure if it will happen though because one of the teachers still to this day can’t unsee the dolphins and doesn’t want to bring that burden upon anyone else. I’ll find a way to get the word to them somehow…
For our Sunday devotional the BYU Men’s Chorus came and preformed for us, and it was amazing! They sounded so good and throughout the whole presentation you could feel the Spirit so strongly. They mostly sang different variations of hymns, but they also sang an arrangement of “I Can Go the Distance” from Hercules and it was one of the coolest things ever. I felt like it fit in perfectly with everything that I am feeling right now. About to set off on the next great adventure down a winding road that leads to places I’ve only ever dreamed of. About to be thousands of miles from home swallowed in a sea of new faces and speaking a language that I really don’t even speak. But I know that for all of the trials and hardships that are surely lurking around the corner, there will be so many more rewarding experiences. Hard work, yes, but I have the opportunity to do and be so much! I truly know that “every mile will be worth my while” if I put in the work and do the very best that I can. I know that there are some things that are simply out of my control, but there are so many more things than I oftentimes realize that I can do!
1) weird picture we found in our language book from the 80s
2) us with some departing Mandarin sisters
Leih hou, ngohdeih puhngyauh!!
I know I say this every single week, but I learned so much this past week! Sometimes it’s the same lesson over and over that you have to learn, even when you think that you’ve finally got the hang of it. And sometimes it’s a new one that you never even knew you needed, but you’re glad you learned!
The other day I got to sign a support beam that will go inside one of the new MTC buildings. It was actually kind of cool to think about. because for as long as that building stands my name will be written on it. I will be able to say that I quite literally left a piece of myself behind when I leave the MTC! After everyone who wanted to sign it had, there was a ceremony where some people spoke and then they lifted the beam onto the building. All of this took place outside and as it so turned out that day happened to be the hottest and sunniest day that we’d had while I have been at the MTC. It really was a beautiful day and I relished the opportunity that I had to feel the sunlight before heading back to class. But when I returned I found that I had gotten sunburned! We really only could have been outside for 30 minutes, tops, but I was definitely sunburned! Over the past 8 weeks that I’ve been in the MTC I have quite honestly spent very little time outside. Like, not very much at all. Being in class all day inside the same building will do that to you I suppose. I’m sure the first picture that I send after I leave the MTC will be of my beet red face!
This week we were teaching one of our investigators about the word of wisdom and how she couldn’t drink tea anymore. Just a side note in case you didn’t know, the “investigators” that we teach in the MTC are just our teachers taking on the persona of someone that they taught while they were on their missions. They’re in a sense not real people, but when you’re teaching it sure feels like they are! She was devastated to hear this because green tea is coincidentally her favorite flavor of everything: chocolate, ice cream, you name it! As we were teaching her about the blessings she would get if she followed this commandment, we invited her to try not drinking or eating it for a week. She thought for a minute and then told us that she would accept our invitation if we would promise to not speak English for a week. I’m sure my face must have dropped when she said this, but my companion and I quickly looked at each other, gave the “nod”, and then agreed to her demands. I think at this point we were willing to do anything she asked, and she probably knew it! We did agree, though, that we could speak English with people who didn’t know Cantonese, so that made this a little more bearable. I don’t think that we realized what we were getting into. It has definitely been a struggle and there have been a few times where my companion and I have communicated primarily through hand gestures and charades because of our still very limited vocabulary. But what a learning experience! I really have been humbled so much and also motivated to learn the language more than ever. And through the pains and struggles of me and my companion (just kidding, but kind of not really) it has actually helped the rest of our district to be more motivated in learning the language and speaking the language as much as possible. Ah, blessings in disguise.
Every week we have TRC which is where we teach members a lesson. These past few week we have started doing Skype TRC where we get to talk with people from our mission. On Monday we got to talk with a member in her early twenties from Macau. We taught about some of the attributes of Christ, primarily service to others and charity, and she seemed attentive to our message despite our many language errors. She had a great testimony and was always willing to share it, even when unprompted by us. At the end of the lesson though, she seemed slightly distraught and we could hear what seemed to be her mom yelling at her in the background. We thanked her for her time, said our good-byes, and ended the call. As we walked back to the classroom, I could feel my heart weighing down in me so heavily I though it might drop right out of me. As I thought back on our lesson with her I felt so much sorrow at the state that we had to leave her in. We had given an alright lesson, but I felt that there was so much more that we could have done to help her. I so desperately wanted to help her. After my teacher came into the classroom, she told us a little about the member we had taught. She was a recent convert of just a few years and her family was very unsupportive of her joining the church. She worked as hard as she could to try to support her family. At the end of each month, she would save up about 100 dollars just to get to Hong Kong so she could go to the temple. Every month. Without fail. She then told us that she has been struggling lately, though she didn’t know with what. This is probably why she volunteered to Skype with the missionaries for TRC, so she could feel the Spirit that she had so desperately craved for and desired. And did we help her feel that? Does she know she is loved?
This experience helped me to realize just how important it is to help everyone. Everyone. My mission isn’t just to help investigators get baptized and receive the gospel, though I won’t downplay how important this is. But it is to invite all to come unto Christ. If I had known what I know now before I taught that lesson, I might be writing a different e-mail. I am grateful for this opportunity that I had now to learn just how important it is to love everyone, because most of the time you don’t know their story. You don’t know what they’re going through or the valleys of despair that they might have passed through or perhaps are still in. My heart aches thinking about their anguish and grief, but is filled again with hope when I think about how I have the opportunity to help. Please don’t forget how important it is to reach out your hand to all, just as the Savior constantly does for us. We are the Lord’s hands to help lift them out of the depths of despair. But to find people to help, it requires looking outside of yourself and your own worries and needs. Don’t forget to serve. Don’t forget to love. Everyone.
I love you all and wish you the best this week!
Another week flown by!
One exciting thing that happened since last time is that we finally got our name tags that we’ll wear in Hong Kong!! They have one half in English and the other half in Cantonese, so pretty much they’re super cool. And also it means that we’re getting closer and closer to finally making it out into the mission field! Which while is really exciting, also makes my stomach twist into knots just thinking about all of the change and new experiences that I will have. It also means that I will actually have to know how to speak Cantonese!
Last week for April Fool’s day the other missionaries and I played some “pranks” on our teachers. As a missionary, you aren’t really allowed to do pranks so it was really just us exasperating our teachers slightly. We switched the Hong Kong flag to the Macau one (which we thought was HILARIOUS) and then talked in slightly wrong tones to our teachers. We only kept it up for a little bit though, because it turns out that it gets old pretty quickly, haha! But for the rest of the day we continued to say “April Fools” at every little thing that happened. Ah, the things that you have to resort to when you’re a missionary! We asked our teachers if we were the funniest class that they’ve taught and one agreed that we were while the other said “we were pretty funny” which I’m going to take as a yes 😉 I’m not sure how we all ended up in the same district, and maybe it wasn’t the greatest idea, but we all got really lucky!
So in our apartment building there are some “give away” boxes in the commons area where people put things that they don’t want for others to take. It’s become somewhat of a competition between me and one of the sisters in my district to race to it each day. Really, it’s nothing special. Its contents are usually nothing more than half-used shampoo bottles, random articles of clothing that probably came straight from a thrift store, and if you’re lucky, maybe an envelope or two crumpled at the bottom. But for some reason by the end of the day all of our energy is exerted into racing to this box. I really think at this point it’s more for the thrill that we get in beating the other to the box than it is for anything that we ever find inside it (though one time I found some laundry detergent and that was a pretty sweet steal). This sister’s mom sent her a mini basketball game for Easter and we played that against each other one night just to further our competitive natures. You’ve got to find ways to have fun!
This week for our Sunday evening devotional BYU Vocal Point came and we got to hear from them and listen to them perform some of their songs. It was a really neat experience as they all talked about some experiences that they’d had from their missions and gave us bits of advice. One of the members talked about how important it is to remember who you are and what you were called to do. Not only just as a missionary, but for the rest of your life! And to top it all off at the end we all got to sing a song with them. So yeah, I got to sing with Vocal Point!! I am glad that I was able to give them such an honor.
This weekend was also General Conference as many of you already know, and it was amazing! I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to stay awake or completely focused for the whole thing. But thanks to the chairs at the MTC it was nearly impossible to get comfortable enough not to! But really, it is always so great to hear the messages that these wonderful servants of God have thought and prayed about for many hours just for us. One of the things that I really liked was in Elder Renlund’s talk when he said that trials get more difficult when we distance ourselves from God. Sometimes when life gets hard we let go of God so that we can focus on whatever it is that we have to deal with or work through. But He is always there for us and wants to help us through our difficulties. We never just have to rely on our own strength. As Elder Uchtdorf said, the Lord will search for the lost and strengthen the weary. But it is up to us to reach out to Him and take hold of His outstretched hand. If you didn’t watch conference or if you missed some of it, I invite you to go back and watch or read it!
Have a great week and look for the good in each day!
Leih hou, puhngyauh!
Another week has come and gone! One of the Mandarin districts in our branch left on Tuesday which makes the Cantonese districts the oldest in our branch! It’s crazy to think how long I’ve been here, but how much further I still have to go. Watching them leave made me excited to leave the MTC and get out there as well, but I had to remind myself to be grateful right now for where I am instead of wishing for something else. The MTC experience is once in a lifetime and I know that I’m still here because I definitely still have a lot to learn! How very grateful I am to be in a place of such growth and insight!
The hot new trend is middle part Monday! Everyone in my zone this past week parted their hair in the middle on Monday, and let me tell you, it turned out pretty epic. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first but I was definitely proved wrong! Seeing the middle part on the some of the Elders was just the laugh that I needed to help me push on through the week! They’re talking about doing a slicked back Saturday, but I’m not so sure that I’ll participate in that one…
So last week I talked about how I got chopsticks and it was exciting and all that. Well, being the dutiful person that I am, I determined to use them as much as possible so as to hone my skills into perfection. I took them with me to every meal, persistently pushing through the pain and doubts that tormented me. But alas, it all came to an end. One fateful day, I neglected my poor chopsticks and left them on my lunch tray. That was the last time that I saw them. Once I realized what I had done, I ran back into the cafeteria frantically trying to find them, but they were long gone. But this story has a happy ending! When I got back to my classroom, I was talking to one of the sisters in another district, and her mom had just sent her a bunch of chopsticks. So I got new ones! Unfortunately, they don’t have all of the same memories as the old ones. But if I was ever going to lose my chopsticks, it was the perfect day to do so! I know that Heavenly Father is looking out for me, even with the small things!
Even though it’s supposed to be spring now, I’m not so sure that the weather quite understands what that means–it’s snowed at least a little bit pretty much every single day! Every time I think that it’s going to get warm again, I find myself caught in the middle of some snow flurries and am reminded once again that I was foolish to believe that Utah weather could be anything other than unpredictable. But weather aside, Easter was so great this past Sunday! Elder M. Russel Ballard came to the MTC Sunday morning and we as missionaries got to hear from him! He taught about how everything we do should be centered around Jesus Christ and we should make it a goal to always have Him forefront in our minds. He also talked about how important the witnesses of Christ are; they further allow us to understand His character and serve to strengthen our testimonies. I invite you all, if you have not already, to read the accounts of Christ’s resurrection and visitations in both the New Testament and The Book of Mormon. I am eternally grateful for not only our Savior’s death and atoning sacrifice, but also for the perfect example that He has set for each and every one of us. As I was reading in John 16:20 it reads, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” This scripture really stuck out to me because when Jesus Christ was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross, truly He suffered more than any person can even begin to comprehend. After His death the sky darkened and those who knew Him wept at the loss of one so perfect and loving; the perfect example of power and humility. But He lives. That sorrow and lamentation is replaced by hope and joy. How bitter was His death, but how much sweeter is His life and Resurrection! We have no need to ever be cast down or feel heavy laden, because we have a loving Savior who suffered all for us, even unto death, so that we could live and have joy! So lift up your head and remember that the most powerful being to ever walk the earth not only died for you, but He lives for you and loves you!
1) My companion and I about to save the world
2) Middle-part Monday!
3) Me taking a picture of the other sisters taking pictures