Sunday, June 1, 2014

May 26, 2014 - Mission Leadership & Overwhelmed with Investigators

Mom & Dad,

Well, my confidence in my Father has been crushed. (Glen told John that although he was Zone Leader for 11 months, he was not assistant to the president like John thought he was.) 

Excerpt from Glen's letter to John:

Having told that whole story, I think I should also repeat something that Pres. Klein told us several times, which is that callings are not a sign of the Lord's favor. They are just opportunities to serve. These things depend so much on circumstance and the needs of the mission at any point in time. The important thing is just to magnify your calling, whatever it is at any time.

Not really. I think that I have thought a lot about the idea of mission leadership as well. Obviously, I've always been a prideful person. Luckily, I had that figured out before I went to the MTC so I didn't have to suddenly realize my faults, and I already knew that I would have to work on that through my mission. When Elder Ah Mu became district leader in the MTC instead of me, I had to remind myself of the fact that not only was I not better than him, being district leader didn't indicate that either. I have written in my notebook what I learned from each companion so far, and Elder O'Gara and Elder Ah Mu both were all about being humble, realizing that I am not infallible, and moving on. So I really think that I've progressed in that regard a lot.

However, every time moves come around I still have a desire to be made trainer or district leader just to show that I am better than the other missionaries who don't. But at this point, I'm so consciously aware of this fault that it's not so much me wanting it as it is some whiny junior companion who I just yell at and ignore. I was discussing this with Elder Barker, I think (personally, and I know this is ironic) that I am a pretty decent missionary. Not that I am amazing at the missionary skill set but that I am pretty obedient and hard working. So I think that I could be a mission leader, but I don't think I will very long or very much because God knows that I already have to struggle to suppress pride. If I was made assistant, for example, I don't think I really could avoid bragging about it at least to myself. SO, though I would enjoy it, I don't expect to serve a ton of leadership positions. But as Dad said, the point of leadership positions is just to serve others. You can do that with or without the title, if you really have the desire.

Ida's friend KK is a woman. She is interesting, because she is really lazy. I didn't teach her this Sunday (splits) but Elder Barker said they had an awesome lesson about baptism and priesthood authority. I wonder, because you two's missions were more traditionally Christian and religious, if you guys had this problem; we have a ton of people on the street, or in real lessons, who really don't get why there would be one true church. They just think if it follows the Bible it's good, or if it points you towards being good it's good, or if you believe in a God he exists, or if you get free food at church it's a true church. Hong Kong is not so much un-Christian in the sense of not having Christians, because there are a ton of schools or chapels and lots of people who 'believe Jesus', as it is un-Christian because the average understanding or devotion or real application of Christianity within those churches is very, very low. KK is kind of like that, but she'll get it. Our religion values truth, knowledge, and understanding. I like that.

I've been thinking a lot about being apt to teach recently. Dad mentioned it before, and I've been trying to find chances to develop that quality or understand it more. I think that Ammon and Aaron are great examples. Right now my practice method is to try to not only talk to people on trains, but teach them. It's interesting. Right after I set that goal, I ran into some weird guy who said he went to a Jesuit college but who was a bit confused (see above) and I found myself pulling out scriptures and reading on the train ride home.

Also been learning a lot about how we are made clean through the atonement. I read some talk called Coming unto Christ (I think) by President Eyring back when he was in the Presiding Bishopric. It talks about how by repenting and then inviting the spirit into our lives we can know that we are being healed. It really hit me very strongly. I have always loved Mosiah 3:19: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  Especially since starting my mission. I also think that there is much to be learned about the meaning of repentance from Alma 24. Consider.

I will send the rest of my email to Joseph and tell him to send it to you guys. Love you a ton. The more I'm on my mission the more I love the work, but I also love my family more, so it's tricky.

Dear Siblings,

As always I am amused by you guys. All so weird, all so typical and easily recognizable. One week you guys should just not sign the letters. I have no doubt I would know who is who.

Life rolls on, but slowly and ponderously now because there are 3 of me. That is right, I am now 3 people at once. And one of me is a native. Pretty weird. There are some interesting challenges to being in a tri-panionship. People run away from us on the street. I don't blame them; we look like some confused multi-racial government hit squad. And if we aren't careful we find ourselves surrounding people when we talk to them, which surprisingly is not counted as a sign of our genuine and loving interest so much as it is viewed as us preventing them from running away. Weird.

Also, I have a tendency to speak a bit much in lessons, so I have had to be really really careful because with 3 people there is not a lot of space for extra talking. Got to give the spirit time to speak, right? But I am loving it. I have a really good chance right now to learn Cantonese. We have the week split up into 4 days of only Cantonese speaking, 3 days of only English, because Elder Yim needs to learn English. I should say, my Cantonese is obviously not perfect, nor do I think it is much better than the average missionary, but at 7 1/2 months in I can speak pretty darn well. Earlier I had problems understanding people but I am better now. Recently I've had a lot of people compliment my Chinese. So I beat myself at night to keep humble.

Our investigators are doing well, but it's a bit tough because of how we got our 3rd companion. He came from Chai Wan as well. There used to be 2 companionships here, but Elder Wu (the brutal missionary) finished and went home to Tsim Shui Wai, which left us 3 with all of the investigators. So we have actually been a bit overwhelmed, need to get to know so many people, etc. Our weekly planning, which is how we plan for the investigators (see PMG chap. 8) took 4 1/2 hours. That was painful. Really look it up in PMG. I know we have one. Sometimes I'm nervous you don't do these things.

On the first day with Elder Yim, after emailing, we went to a Bishop over in TST (place in Hong Kong) who stabbed him with needles and rubbed weird substances on him with the purpose of somehow making his ankle better. Pretty hilarious. Really really hilarious. And apparently very painful. "Owww, OWWW, it is really hurt! This is my first experience! hou tung ahh!" Elder Yim. The last part is Chinese. It means ouch.

Excerpt from Grandpa Carmack's letter to John:

Dear John,

Memorial Day weekend and we just had a delicious rib dinner together with your two brothers and two sisters. With the ribs we had tater tots, green beans, and for dessert strawberry shortcake. Joseph had five ribs, Grandmother had four, Becca one, and Abbie 2 ½. Your Dad is 50 years old today! What do you think of that? I had my 83rd birthday on 10 May. I ran 4 miles that morning without any pain so I have no complaints.

I remember touring the Hong Kong Mission about 1993 or 1994. Your Grandmother Carmack taught them about how to work with people of differing social styles. There were four main styles—analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive. Drivers are people that like to be in charge and be the decision makers. You give them choices because they want to choose for themselves. Analyticals like to know all the reasons and like to have all the reasons for the thing you are teaching because they are thinkers. Amiables need reassurance so you let them know that you understand how they feel and reassure them that they are okay. Expressives like to see the thing you are teaching in color. They like excitement. You let them know, for example, how they will be involved and how great it is going to be. People are not usually just one social style. they may be an analytical driver or a driver analytical depending on which style is dominant. You can tell rather quickly what the style is and adjust your teaching style to be effective. Many people in Hong Kong will be analytical or amiable, but you never know until you observe them. Be ready to adjust your style according to the person or persons you are teaching. With an analytical get into the scriptures in a deeper way. With a driver be ready to let them lead out as much as possible. I could give you examples of each from my experience. Your father is an analytical. Your mother is more amiable, but also fairly analytical.

It isn’t the number of baptisms that make you successful. You will plant lots of seeds and sometimes you will gather fruit that others have planted. I just wrote a chapter in the new book I am writing about two missionaries that worked hard but never baptized anyone on an island in North Carolina. They planted many seeds, even healed a 12 year old girl. After they left the new elders baptized some of their friends and after them a third set of elders baptized more. The girl they healed had a great family and eventually they all joined the Church. She grew up and became a great member whose son became the bishop of the ward that grew up on the island where they planted so many seeds. He then became the stake president of the stake that was eventually organized. He wrote a book about the experiences of those first two missionaries called Harkers Island. We visited the island and met many of the descendants of those people. Jesus said in the 4th chapter of John that some sow and some reap and some don’t see any fruit for their labors, but others come along and harvest. Jesus understood missionary work because he was basically a missionary. You have the power to make friends and do great things. The Hong Kong missionaries we met loved their missions and loved the language. You will be the same. We think about you and pray for you every day and we are proud that you are in our beloved Hong Kong. Love, Grandpa Carmack

(Back to John)

Grandma/Grandpa, (Parents out of town, so grandparents watching the kids)

I don't think that my Dad could run 4 miles right now, and for that matter I don't know how well I would do. Be careful, when you tell me things like this, I brag about them to other missionaries for weeks. Also, the description of food is very painful for me to hear. Though, I have been having some really good self-cooked stuff lately. When I came on my mission I didn't know how to cook diddly squat. But this morning we went to the wet market and I bought a ton of chicken that will soon become really tasty sweet ‘n sour chicken. I feel better about that skill. 

Something that just occurred to me is that Jesus Himself was more of a planter than a reaper, at least in terms of his missionary work. By the end of his ministry there were a lot of people excited about him and a decent number of followers, but not really that many. It was his apostles who reaped the massive harvest that he planted and watered with his blood, excuse the metaphor.


I would love to go to the pool. It gets really wet and sticky here. I take 2 showers a day if I can manage it, both cold. Pool would be too nice.

Remember, if you cut off those last weeks of school it would just move the worthless weeks farther forward. My theory is that no one wants to do anything right before they leave, and the school knows that if they don't leave enough useless time at the end, they'll lose useful time. Plus, those are the funnest weeks.


You think you have it bad. I've probably swam more laps of kick drill than you have total. But I won't lie, I like kick drill. You dry off (David told John the reason he doesn't like to swim is because you have to get wet.) but it takes a long time. You know how your skin becomes wrinkled if it's wet too long? That happens regularly because if I wash my hands the space between my fingers won't dry. Just want to make sure, you are bringing Jerry to the last week of school, right?


Nice letter. Sorry, low time. Rapid response.

Honestly, if it came down to it, Rome or Athens? Or would you really rock the boat and choose Prague? These are the questions.

Aren't there some sort of contract things that say if you use those free versions you can't do any commercial things? And could you send me the logos? Make one for me? That'd be cool. Either Chinese or like an old German style coat of arms. (Joseph has been working on making logos for online contests with his Adobe Photoshop monthly subscription. He’s hoping to make enough money to pay for the subscription.)

Priesthood blessings are more important than we give them credit for. I haven't given an English blessing yet, though I have given many Chinese ones. It's rough. 

 I am afraid every time I cook that I'll be sick. That would be really rough as a missionary. Especially with our horrible bathroom.

Yes, but is Samara Russia ready for her? (Reference to Caroline leaving on her mission.)

You torture me. I will not watch it. Hopefully no ads here. I saw a ton for Transcendant.

I have been thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of leaving for a mission early or late. Obviously, the only thing that really matters is what prayer tells you, but leaving late has some advantages like us being in college together (that'd be extremely weird but cool) going to mission prep class, learning how to live on your own, etc. But the disadvantages are that on my mission I have learned a ton of skills that I know will make my college time more valuable. You decide. But remember that either decision is good as long as you go and you're ready.


I can always count on you to tell me exactly what happens on vacations and inform me of what parts were good and what were bad. I have had several dreams about how since I left, but for some reason I'm always a missionary in them. I don't think I ever dream of me not being a missionary. I hope you don't forget to tell me that dream. I love you Abby. I'm guessing you have lost the piece of belt that I gave you.

Big question, would you and Becca prefer a jade bracelet or a silk Chinese dress things? Something else entirely? And what do the rest of you want?

Tell Joseph to send this to Mom and Dad, and tell them to send their letter to you. There is an epistle of Paul where he basically says the same thing at the end, but I can't remember which one it is.

Love you all more than a random stranger would, which is saying a lot because you are all very good looking.

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