Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014 - Banner Finding & Chinese New Year

Hello family. One of these days I will start a letter and say "WOW this week we found 6 new people and taught 20 lessons and baptized a family!' But that is not this week.

A better summation of this week would be a rereading of last week’s intro. But, this week was special, because we had BANNER FINDING!

Banner finding is as thus; the church in Hong Kong (and maybe Asia in general) is doing a big focus on families because Chinese New Year is coming 'round, which is the China equivalent of Christmas in terms of family gatherings. They are doing an ad campaign, online stuff, and we all got these banners that have, in a big colorful font, 'family' 'father' 'mother' 'children' 'marriage', then a little quote. We had 3 days as a district to use it. So we set it up and stood next to them for a couple hours and passed out cards while the sister missionaries occasionally talked to people. It was pretty fun, actually. I don't know if it was super effective, but I felt like it taught me a lot about some important principles.

One, you have to be very energetic and personable when sharing the gospel. I got to where I actually felt like I could force people to accept cards from me by sheer enthusiasm and cheerfulness, which, though blatantly false, definitely helped me pass out a couple hundred cards over the course of a couple hours. I am not a very extroverted person, and I don't like being physically dramatic. But by really throwing yourself at people, some of them get scared and take a family card from you. Like deer in the headlights.

Two, there is much to be said about what you aim for. Our mission, and probably every mission, has priorities for who you find. 1. Families 2. YSA age people, preferably male because there are not enough priesthood holders, and 3. Anyone who is interested. Obviously we never ignore people if they aren't a high enough priority, but I learned when passing out cards what the effect of focusing on people is. The marriage poster has a matching marriage card, and all of us missionaries felt like it was super awkward to hand out, for obvious reasons. But, I decided I wanted to hand 'em out so I ended up handing out more awkward marriage cards than anyone else, a ton. It was because I looked at every couple or any parent with a child as the highest priority and essential to receive this card that I did it. We haven't had any time to go normal finding since then but I want to apply this principle to that; you get what you go after.

Other than that, quick update on who we're teaching:

A 14 year old kid who we're teaching, the sisters are teaching his mom, he's cool but super busy, can't meet very often, and he and his family just left for mainland China for Chinese New Year.

A 20 something guy who I have taught from the beginning who has made very little (though not no) progress in the last 3 1/2 months.

No one else.

But we have a guy who we met on the street who we can meet with after New Year, another guy in the same situation, a guy who speaks perfect English who we might meet this week, and another guy who just hasn't picked up his phone for a while. So I figure if I want the Lord's help finding I have to use these people first.

Very tough these days, but still worth it. Oh, I want to give a special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Carmack, who have sent me more letters than the rest of you all combined, and Morris Matthews, who is their only competition. Your letters inspire me and lift my heart. Thank you.


There are very few Costcos in Hong Kong because the people usually have tiny refrigerators. Someone in our apartment last night said that Elder Ah Mu was very huggable, and it reminded me that my little sister is the most huggable person ever. SO you're not entirely forgotten.


I am intrigued by your mention of 'video game'. What is this curious art form you have discovered? From the name I can divine only that it involves some sort of interactive entertainment, game, in connection with a video. Do you do actions along with a movie? Or does the movie in some way modify the conditions of a real time game, thus rendering a constantly changing set of rules? And what is the role of these 'programmers'? I assume they are important, as you mention 3 of them, but cannot fathom what they are.


I think Sister Hawks might be concerned about Acutane side effects. I also feel like it would be really inconvenient to have to do it on a mission, but if I must I shall. Right now I'm just on new pills, benzoyle peroxide wash, 2 creams, and a regular face wash. Nothing new, but this guy seemed pretty legitimate, so we'll see.

Yeah, I bought a few socks because it was becoming an emergency. Not too many because the store was a little pricey. If I need to I'll charge the visa credit card, but the mission reimbursed me $2600 HK, so I should be good with cash for a while.

I am really happy to hear you doing member missionary work! As a missionary now, I think that I realize that I would have been a pretty bad fellowshipper before, because the thing we're always scared of is fellowshippers going off on tangents. So don't do that. The best thing you can do is be available, bear sincere testimony, be a good friend to the person, and show them that all Mormons are not missionaries. But you served a mission, you already know it. Don't worry!

Well, I hope I will do something worth updating soon. Or this could be awkward. I am SYLing a lot more. We have a comp goal of Wed., Fri., & Sun. SYL that we stick to pretty well, and I personally have decided after nightly planning I won't speak English. Lot of vocab, lot of weird grammar, but at least I'm not learning English.


I got into the habit of expecting to be given candy and certificates when called down to the school office. You get used to it.

I am now dying of curiosity to find out what mersenne primes are. Why?

The best thing you can do for the IA (refers to an Internal Assessment, a term from the International Baccalaureate Program) in math is USE TECHNOLOGY. If you're like me it will feel like cheating, but I got a 4 out of 7 in the subject that came most naturally for me, so don't follow my example.

What's interesting is that Hong Kong is not really like a big city in most places. It's really just a tiny country. Central Hong Kong, and most of the island, is like New York. Where we are is kind of like suburbs but all the houses are tiny and stacked up 30 levels high. Have you guys google earthed where I am ever? Do it. Tai Wai, Ma On Shan.


Just tell people that read my blog that they can't read it, because he's MY BROTHER! That'll confuse them. Unless they're already reading my letters, then they'll be expecting it. Now it'll be really awkward when they mention it, because you'll both know that I spent a whole paragraph talking about it and neither of you will know what to say about it.

Good job on reading the Book of Mormon! Keep it up, though. One of the things I'm trying to learn is how to keep up goals. Set some specific time to do it. Have you shared anything cool or learned anything? Tell me.

I am really so proud of your dancing, Becca. You understand that hard work is enjoyable, and because you kept it up you are being rewarded. You are going to do well in life because you will bring that attitude to other things. I love you and miss you a lot. I think it's interesting, having my mission be first time I’m away from home. I miss you guys, but I can't really let myself think about it. It's not too bad, anyway. When I'm working I feel happy.

(Glen’s Letter to John this week)

Hi John,

Today I was imagining you street contacting. We were talking to Sister Bangerter about how some people (like her) are naturally very outgoing and like to talk to strangers, while others (like us) are not. It makes missionary work more awkward and painful. Sometimes on my mission I felt like some kind of freak when I was trying to contact people. They treat you like a freak and after a while you start to believe it yourself. As time went by, contacting became more natural, and as my motivation became more real people began to react more positively. But it’s pretty brutal at first. I’m imagining you in this situation and it’s activating some of my protective parental instincts. I hope you can find the courage to just keep at it. The truth is that someday when everything is clear they will thank you for your efforts, even if they just brush you off now. I guess part of losing yourself in the work is not being upset about the fact that people totally misunderstand you and your motives most of the time.

We were talking about you and missionary work in general in our Sunday School class. It’s the small Gospel Essentials class taught by Brother Cline. We were talking about how on the one hand you can’t allow yourself to be discouraged by lack of success, since it’s all in the Lord’s hands and you just have to keep doing your part, but on the other hand you can’t lose sight of the goal of missionary work, which is to find, teach, and baptize. Some missionaries set up alternate measures of success for themselves when they aren’t having success as missionaries. Like, how many hours did we tract. That’s not a bad one. Other things like how many Chinese characters do I know or how well do I cook are not so good. You know what I mean. I hope you can stay focused on the actual measure of missionary success, finding, teaching, and baptizing, and yet not judge yourself by presence or lack of visible success. It reminds me of the exercise of goal setting. I assume that every week you have “companionship inventory” or whatever it’s called nowadays, where you talk about any issues as a companionship and set goals for the next week. I remember many times thinking, the realistic prediction based on the last several weeks would be to say we’re not going to find anyone this week. But goals are not predictions. They are commitments. If you set a goal and find that at the end of the week you have not reached it, but you have worked harder because of the goal, it has succeeded. You’ve just got to stay positive and keep making the most of every opportunity, so that when the person crosses your path who is ready to receive the Gospel, you are there.

My words seem a little empty to myself because you’re the missionary here, not me. I’m not going out on Foothill Boulevard and street contacting. But I hope that some of the impressions from my own mission have some meaning for yours. I feel more focused on keeping the family afloat in terms of material things, trying to do my job well, not get fired, etc. I think of time spent on the choir as service in the Kingdom, but we clearly can do more with our friends and acquaintances to share the Gospel. Mom’s doing a really good job with the Young Women’s program at including non-members. She’s pretty missionary minded.

I love you and we are praying for your success. I hope you are happy. There’s nothing more meaningful you can do to solve the world’s problems than being on a mission. People like to imagine that there are big solutions to big problems, that the right government program could solve the problem of crime, or unemployment, or other societal problems. I think in reality the solution to all of these problems lies in the individual recognizing their own intrinsic worth as a child of God and taking responsibility to do the right thing and improve their own situation and the situation of people around them, on an individual level. That’s the only way big problems really get solved. You’re on the front line of this battle.

Sorry for the pontificating. Maybe they’ll make me pope!



Or maybe I should call you Holy Father or whatever the Pontificate's title is.

I actually really enjoy your letters. I always can use advice, because I don't know what I'm doing here.

The first couple of days contacting were super awkward. My first time finding I just wanted to talk to people walking the same direction as me because I didn't want them to think I was stopping them. It took me days to really be able to make myself stop people. Now it's pretty easy. Banner finding started out super awkward but I pretty quickly got to enjoying it a lot. I may not be a super good teacher or fun to talk to, but I can choose to be really enthusiastic, talk to everyone, and work harder.

I have been feeling recently like I haven't been using this time as well as I could. Not wasting it, but I've only got 600 odd days left, and I don't want to miss any chances. I think the thing to measure your success on is what kind of person you are, how you've changed, what you learned. Read a thing on Joseph Fielding Smith in Grandpa's letter, and he obviously learned a ton on his mission. Grandpa's last letter also showed that Grandpa learned a ton on his mission. I already feel like I am so much more able to talk to people. I may not have helped a ton of other people so far but I definitely am getting something out of it.

Some day you will mention that you can pontificate now because you did some missionary work again.

Thank you, family, for praying for me. I can feel it. Every time I get really down something cool happens. I think it's because of you guys.

Elder Morrell

P.S. Triads are very friendly, can't report how many I've baptized yet but let's just say I don't worry about getting mugged anymore.

P.P.S. Oh, if I sound wordy it's because I'm continuing my reading of Jesus the Christ. Talmage. What a crack up.
My acne ridden face.  Don't worry, I feel happier than I look.

View from Ma On Shan apartment.

Hilarious sign on bathroom.

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