Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015 - Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hai Fat Choi!

Hello family! This week was a bit slow in the missionary work department because of Chinese New Year’s, but it was still pretty good. I can explain some of the traditions for New Year’s here.

As you already saw, there is a lot of red. Red is lucky, so there are red things everywhere. All the stores have tons of decorations hanging. Everything has a sort of Chinese Empire feel, if that makes sense. Many people, especially the old and the young, will dress up for Chinese New Year’s. There are these super cool or super silly looking Chinese silk vest things that are either super awesome or ridiculous. Usually the very young, old, feeble, and otherwise undefended are given the vest. The babies are super cute. Old people will also bust out moth balled suits and weird homemade clothes which have the appearance of being made of curtains. Fun is had all around.

They have a sort of Chinese equivalent of the Christmas tree, which is called the "Gat jai, or Gam Jai", which is basically a little bush with tiny fruits resembling sour clementines all over it. Everyone has them. Every business puts them up. Literally every one. The people will also buy tons of flowers, and reminiscent of our Christmas tree lots, they have beautiful flower and gat jai markets that get set up in soccer courts, and also include tons of random high school students or other people setting up booths and selling knick knacks.

Before New Year’s, the people will have a deep clean. We have ours on the first day of New Year because there's no real use in trying to proselyte that day. The deep clean was one of the funnest things that I've done in a while. At the very beginning, Elder Walter entered the bathroom to wage war with the mold, and didn't emerge for almost 4 hours. I went at the kitchen, which included cleaning all the cabinets, the stove, the vents above the stove hold (which took gallons of boiling water before the grease finally seeped out) and the ominous darkness under the sink. We got McDonalds for lunch and Pizza for dinner. We didn't finish until 10:55 (for all you other missionaries our mission's time is 30 minutes later, don't freak out), and honestly there's still more that could be done. Despite that, it is impressively clean. It really is true, cleanliness is close to Godliness. You feel the spirit more in a clean apartment.

The main celebration of Chinese New Year’s is getting together with family. People will go and eat with their extended family on both sides. The holiday is actually really righteous, basically family and new beginnings. I said happy New Year at least 1000 times these last couple days, but our street finding was still slow. Still, it was a cool week, and I have nowhere I'd rather be for Chinese New Year than in NTK.


I had a pretty busy church week as well. Spent 30 hours wandering around on the streets talking to people about church. I don't know why but I never feel that busy, even though we are the least available people, in some ways. If you remember, can you send me Eva's full Chinese name? I think that there'll be people who know her, but there are hundreds of Sister Chans.

We visited some family who had a very nice looking house, sort of western on the inside. But even the super expensive houses here are way smaller than ours; usually you could fit the whole thing into you and Dad's bedroom and bathroom. Utah houses are what the Chinese would call yauh leng yauh pehng, is both pretty and cheap.

I can really appreciate now how important what you're doing is, and I can promise you the missionaries in our stake love you. I do too, but I still wish I had more time.


Maybe all the job thing needs is a wall of unyielding faith. I was just talking today with one of the senior missionaries at Wan Chai about how she really wanted to learn Cantonese, and felt that she really had the gift of tongues, but was being required to sacrifice that dream because there were other more important things that the Lord wanted her to do. We also discussed your job, and I literally said that same President Klein quote to her.

I never really know what to say back to you because you just talk about everyone else all the time. I've been junior companion for all but one move so far in my mission, but honestly I don't mind. The only thing that bothers me is that I really want to get a companionship excelling, as in really exercising massive faith, really totally obedient, totally hard working, working smart, etc, but it's not the calling of a junior companion to cause that to happen. I still try to put out that influence, but I've really learned that I have a bad tendency to control things, and I've learned to be led more than lead. But I want to get out and really push into that level of performance, especially since time is short.


You know you want to live with Elder Bennett and me. We'd have the most epic game days.

I like the mayor now. She sees through you. But English Sterling Scholar is essentially charm, right? I mean, what else are they really going to judge on besides the charm of your writing or speaking?

That's good advice. I'm still running at least a mile a morning, though it's not as long as I'd like. Elder Tse, who is a super intense football player, has also commented that my running form is not the fastest. Last time I tried sprints, I hurt myself, though.


Did you ever finish the map of our house? That's the thing that I'd be most excited to mess around on. The actual game is comprised of controlling one unit and coordinating a team of 4 or 5 in a small map, where the individual people's position and accuracy are the largest determining factors. While the rounds may carry over, the game is totally driven off of tactics and individual combat, not strategy. Admitted, there may be an aspect of the game that involves tactics, but that'd be like calling Spore a strategy game, or Civ 5 a tactics game because your unit placement matters in a small scale. Admit it, you lose.

Lifeguarding must run in the family. Not sure why, I recall mom's journals not exactly enjoying swimming. Full AP is probably the smartest choice.


Sounds like dance has become a much bigger part of your life than it was when I left. When I left you were still the mouse in the Nutcracker. Now you're. SOMETHING ELSE...

Improvisation is an essential skill for the future president of the United States. You've heard about the debates, right? You have to be able to come up with stuff on the spot and sound like you know what you're saying, like Joseph in the English thing. Perhaps by the time you're running for president there will be a talent section in the campaign and they'll require people to perform, Napoleon Dynamite style.

The thing that I'm the most proud of is the Young Women part, however. We have an investigator right now who is 14, and the main thing helping her progress is that she's got some awesome friends and examples in Young Womens. Make sure you're ready to do that too.


I know what I geo cache is, just ask Dad. I've gone out finding with him before. You should look it up and find which one it is. Dad's got some GPS thing, you can put the geocache back where it says it goes. Did it get burned at all in the fire 2 years ago? That's a pretty big fort. I'll tell you what you should do. Buy a pool table and put it in, then play pool. That'd be pretty cool.

You'd love the vests here. And there was a ton of random jade stuff being sold under our apartment yesterday. I think that it's a tradition; all the streets just turn into markets. There were some really cool things there.

Love you all, Happy New Year!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Feb. 16, 2015 - Interest in the Sheer Abnormality of Missionaries

Well, after that letter from Abby, I'm not sure what to say.

This has been another pretty good week. Because of some complications I don't really have any time to write emails. It is the Chinese New Year’s break so the Library is extra full and we only got 1 hour total. Chinese New Year is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. Our apartment has been decked out for the last couple weeks, but now we're at the stage where everywhere you go you see people with suitcases going down the street. See, most Hong Kong people, even if they were born in Hong Kong, will identify with a particular Heung Ha, or village/town in Mainland where either they or their ancestors live. If they still have a lot of family there, come New Years they all pack up and ship out to mainland (because the houses here are ridiculously small). I recall last year on the first day of New Years there were only about a third of the lights on in some buildings.

Because of this, many people on the street will just say "after New Year’s" when you try to reschedule them. We got invited to a family's house on Saturday to be there for their New Year's feast thingy. The Mom is a super cool member, the kids are baptized, the rest were all non-members. The husband knows a lot about missionaries and the church, but the rest of them didn't, and it turned into a hilarious sort of interrogation/exhibition, with the mom and dad bragging about who we were, how odd we were, what strange rules we had to keep, how smart we were, how dedicated we were, how much we ate, etc, and the rest of the family just baffled and asking tons of questions. It was cool, I didn't even need to try to speak about doctrine, I just was blatant about our purpose and testimonies and let our extremity speak for us. There are few things that get more people to investigate the church more than the sheer abnormality of us missionaries. I am literally not kidding.

I also got you guy's package, which was awesome! I think you're trying to get me back up to my original weight. The Brussels cookies were especially appreciated. The watch is also very comfortable, and the ear plugs were definitely an inspired send. I'm a little confused about the ibuprofen, but I guess it's better to have than to not have. And the journal was excellent too. Hopefully it'll last the rest of my mission.

Two things to tell; 1, my recent convert Ben gave a talk in our ward conference, and it was awesome. He is seriously an amazing kid. I really hope he serves a mission. We've just got to convert his mom first. 2. I want to know what Eva's full name is, because honestly about 15% of people here are named Chan.


I really loved your letter. I would not buy the sofa, unless it's going to be as good as the ones at the cabin. But you must remember that the more money you put in now the more you lose when we all destroy it a week later.

Brother Lo is having some trouble, nothing specific, just some family arguments and not enough reading or meeting us.

Rachel has quit smoking and is now about ready to be baptized on the 8th.

Our investigator Ken is doing well, we taught him Word of Wisdom (of which word he has a habit of drinking coffee, smoking, and drinking wine) but he's still determined to accept it all. Super nice guy.

We have a new investigator named Mr. H, who has a ton of issues but is very interested and very available to be taught, so I’m really excited for him.

We have a newish guy named Mr Chau, who is hilarious, old, fat, and just says everything we mention or show him is "very amazing!'

Stephy and her sister Ivy are doing okay, but don't yet have big enough desire.


I am actually not moving yet. I thought I was this week, but the moves aren't until next Tuesday, so I won't know until the week after next. I could feel your hand in most of the gifts. It's really nice to get stuff from home. I realized that I haven't had any real desserts for a while. It's been warming up over here recently. Sorry, no time, but I love you!


I would consider BYU, not mainly because of educational reasons but because of the gospel reasons. Honestly, any university besides BYU is going to be hard to be a very active member, and very hard to avoid temptation. Obviously this is entirely your choice, but there are things more important than careers.

Congrats on the English acclamation, though I maintain that any recognition for science is innately superior to any recognition for English Subjective mess that it is. Still that's coming from the guy who didn't win Sterling Scholar.


I applaud your digging.

I maintain that the game CS is still one battle, even if split into multiple rounds.

What are you doing with programming recently?


That's a tough question. I think that a 6 week Ballet Camp is a pretty long time. It would be a cool experience, but you need to remember how much you would miss out because of it. Still, it sounds like you've gotten a lot more serious about dancing, so maybe it'll be good. How are you earning money for it? Still selling lemonade?


Your birthday card was definitely the most impressive. It really brought home to me. And the length thereof was exceedingly exceeding, yea even to exceed all other cards heretofore seen. And I get the feeling that you love me. Where is the fort? Try to describe the exact location using words. How did you build it? Love you!

Sorry no pictures, I lost my camera and only found it an hour ago. The work rolls on. Be true to the faith. I know that the Savior lives, and because He lives we will all be able to live together forever. GO to the temple more.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 9, 2015 - I've Lost 10 lbs. on my Mission

This is a little commi shop on the way to the library.  Basically they're all like this, decked out with New Years decorations.  Remember that I mentioned to Abby a while back that one of the colors of Hong Kong is Red?  Yeah.

This is the entrance to our apartment.  They made a decent effort for Christmas but Chinese New Year is where they really shine.  The year of the Goat has come in force to our apartment.

This is the market under our house.  That furry thing is a goat leg.  They hang them up to prove that the meat they're selling is actually goat.  You know, as opposed to dog meat or something.  Under the goat is some random cow organs.  I'm not sure who buys them, honestly.  Some of them seem a bit, ehem, personal.  Sorry for the blur, these were both taken on the way to the Library.

These two are some more super Chinese things.  The brown mess is called Ngau Jaahp, which really defies translation but could be called assorted cow.  Basically tons of organs boiled in their own juices for a century.  My companion is eating one of those kebab things off shot.
Hello me dear family. I will try really hard to stay awake for this email writing time, though the lady next to me is setting a very poor example. She's been there for about 20 minutes ostensibly (not sure if that's the right word, looking for synonym of supposedly) writing down some numbers from some website but just keeps nodding and nodding and nodding. Very funny. Oh, she wrote another one down. Annnnnnnnnd, nodding again.

This week was super cool for me. We had a really fun P-Day last week, playing pool. That's pool, with a capital P, that rhymes with T...

I thought that I'd be horrible but since none of us really knew what we were doing I did okay in the comparison. And at the center where we played there was a scale. Turns out that with clothes on I am now 141 lb. Somehow I thought that I had been getting fatter, but I've lost like 10 pounds.

We had an amazing zone conference this week. Our zone leaders and sister training leaders had some really cool trainings, which mostly focused on being more consecrated or focused. They brought up a very good point about how we often claim to be full time volunteers, yet often will 'clock out" during finding, or studies, or before P-Study, or after evening planning, and how we really need to maintain that desire and focus throughout the day every day. President Hawks also had some great trainings about how to teach prayer, which has been very useful in our recent proselyting, and looking Towards the Mark.

At the end of the conference he announced that we were going to have a chance to watch the movie "Meet the Mormons" which looked really cool, but Elder Tse and I had made a goal to go finding at least 2 hours every day. On that day, because of the conference, English class, and 2 lessons, we had basically only 30 minutes. So we left early and taught a cool kid on the street. He stood us up the next day, but we know that he felt the spirit during our lesson, and I really enjoyed it. That's sort of been the story for the rest of the week. We haven't necessarily had the most productive finding in terms of numbers, but it's been good on the side of the spirit and I've honestly been loving it.

I'm really hoping I don't leave this area.


One of the missionaries in our apartment held a ward activity that we had some people at that was making curry Malaysian style, and it was super good. I think curry's great because it's easy to make and it uses rice, which is cheap. But it's really hard to make it well with curry powder, I think that pre-made sauces are easier and better. Good luck. Honestly sometimes I eat stuff and just think "Man, no one back home'd eat this" because it's too spicy or weird.

I just barely sent in my weekly report to President Hawks and mentioned the Ecclesiastical Endorsement thing, so it's rolling. I really feel like it'd be fun to live with Elder Bennett. I'd be fine living with him, though I obviously can't speak for him. If he or his family prefers the apartments then that'd be great. As I said before, living with Joseph'd also be really cool. Basically I think I could live with about anyone. The hard part is finding someone willing to live with me.

I don't feel 20 at all. I keep forgetting I have my birthday soon. I won't be able to get to Kowloon Tong till next Monday at the earliest, so we'll see, but I'm not too rushed.


That's a bit rough, but it is cool that now you get to work on your own stuff at least. It'd be sort of bitter to have some super cool breakthroughs for someone else's idea before your own. I remember you mentioned before that it was harder for you because you really only get half as much time as most of the people who work on research. I think that you've always been blessed with a good perspective on things in life. You've always shown me that the little temporal things we do are just that; little and temporal. And I think that you've given me an example about how to focus more on the things that are actually of value. Obviously your job is a big part of your life but it's not everything, and it goes away in the end.

Yesterday on the street we started talking to some little family. There were a few kids playing badminton (because everyone here plays badminton), an older sister, and a dad with his daughter, and we stopped to talk to the dad. We talked for at least 20 minutes. He is originally from Guong Dung, which is in Mainland, and since coming to Hong Kong his life has just been super busy and stressful. But he understood something that few people in Hong Kong do, which is that it's all for the family. All the work and stuff was just for his kids. He was holding his 5 year old daughter for most of the time we talked to him, and it was just so obvious that he loves her and that he wanted her to be happy. We had a good sharing about the reality of God and what it means to us and our families, and though he didn't have interest to pray or meet again, it was cool.


Once again sleep's importance marks up there with the bonds of blood. I'm touched by your sacrifice.

There's a giant amusement park here called Ocean Park that is a sort of mix of aquarium, Sea World, and Disneyland. But I've never been...

I think in retrospect the service aspect of the National Honor Society is really good. That is one of the many priorities that I realized were off when I started my mission, the lack of focus on service, and NHS does trick people into serving, if only for the sake of future higher education. But the fundraising, I must agree, is what killed me off of it. Well, keep it up. Use your research period for something better than I did. I basically just played Starcraft or read. If you use it to do homework, your life is really relaxed.


Right now we have Mr. Lo, who is still doing okay, but we haven't been able to meet with him for a while and he's still struggling to quit smoking. We also have really been able to see the difference the spirit makes with people who have been meeting us and reading and those who don't keep commitments. We also have Stephy and Ivy, and many others, but sorry everyone I just spent like 15 minutes helping an old lady set up a Yahoo account and now I'm out of time. It's not that I don't love you. Usually, Abby, people think that you look the cutest. Where are you reading in the Book of Mormon recently?

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015 - Doing What the Lord Wants No Matter What the Cost

I bought some stuff at the store today.  It's a bit weird.  Here's the picture.

As far as I can tell, it's ground cereal grains and vegetable powder.  I think it may be the healthiest thing I've ever seen.  The question is, would you eat it?  Rest assured that it is food.

A cool view of the contrast of old and new stuff in Hong Kong

This is my name.
Well, my dear family, this week had its ups and downs. But honestly, as I've said before, as long as you're working hard basically every week is amazing. One of the many perks that comes from being on a mission. All you need to do is use all your effort every day, and you feel great every night when you go to bed no matter what happened.

The downs first. We lost several of our baptismal dates, and our church attendance, though still far above the average for our zone, is still frustratingly down to 3, when there should be at least 6. The reason? Honestly there is no one real reason. I've definitely noticed a pattern in missionary work. It is this; take the number of people strongly scheduled for church and cut it in half. Despite the repeated realization of this, I still have faith that this area can go crazy and we will have one Sunday with 8 people at church. That is faith.

Our finding this week has been super cool. We were out finding sometimes with no success for several hours, but we have met some really cool people as well this week. We met one woman on the street who said she had no religion, and then we just sort of talked and managed to share a good lesson just by being weird people and prompting gospel related questions by our weirdness. Then we rescheduled for the next night and taught an awesome lesson. We met with Ben's family, and while they haven't been to church yet his mom is super humble and has a good desire to learn. It's just that her understanding of things like this is not great, she already attends a church that is much closer, and she doesn't read Chinese. You'd be surprised how much more acceptable illiteracy is here. It's not the schools, it's just that characters are so hard to learn that anyone who is from a rural background in Mainland China who moves here might not read, and many people who quit school young (because you can do that here) won't read super well. But I can read. A bit. He he. The teacher of our Gospel Essentials class thinks that me and Elder Walter are super talented.

The thing that I think that I learned this week was about consecration, not just in terms of using all our time or money, but in terms of not fearing anything and not putting anything above the Lord's will. I have really gained a testimony this week of the hope that comes when you know that you are going to do whatever the Lord wants no matter what it costs. There are a lot of things that make us afraid. Sin, death, sickness, work, financial things, etc. We fear not having enough money, the things we love, we fear embarrassment, shame, pain. etc. The gospel can give us peace in these situations because though we may know these things will happen, when we have faith we know that if we do the Lord's will unequivocally, we will not only be okay but we will truly be blessed.


So, the saddest thing in terms of investigators is that we still haven't found Mr. Wong. He was one of the most well prepared investigators that I've had on my mission, and also just a really great guy. He called us once but it was in the morning and our phone was on silent. After that I convinced Elder Tse to never put our phone on silent. Pray for him.

Rachel and Brother Lo are still struggling to quit smoking. It's annoying, because they need to develop the faith and desire to please God if they are going to quit in the most faith-promoting way, but it's not easy to just give that to people. Something cool this week was our new investigator Ken, who is in his 60's and doesn't understand the gospel too well, was nonetheless able to very accurately explain what the apostasy was and what it meant. And he feels the spirit so strongly at church. He really loves it.

Our investigator Stephy, who is about 24 ish, was busy with a Korean test so she couldn't come to church, but her 14 year old sister Ivy came on her own, which was amazing. We only started teaching her 2 weeks ago, and her family has absolutely no religion, so for her to come to church on her own was really incredible.

The other cool thing at church was Brother Wong, who is the husband of a former less active, came for the first time in a month, and we had a decent lesson. His main issue is that he really hasn't felt the spirit really strongly yet, and he feels like Buddhism gives him more feelings than Christianity. I think the problem is that he's not getting into the Book of Mormon, but any advice'd be appreciated.

I feel so happy to be serving here. We had more people come to church than many areas have people scheduled to come ,and more people scheduled than most areas have investigators, period. This is a really amazing area.

Keep it up with the job thing. You know that hard work pays off eventually. Thanks for your example, Dad. I'm reading in Moroni right now, and I always think of you because you always seemed to emphasis those chapters when we'd read together, and it's about a father and son missionary team. You just need to get a bit more active in the missionary side of things and it'll be perfect.


I must be quick. May I suggest that magnifying your calling might include not waiting for people to find you but finding ways to help them? They might have seen the presentation but I'm sure that most of them are used to not using it, and maybe they need some real experience before they'll see what it means for them.

Good old Mr. B. Yeah, I always felt bad for him because I felt like he didn't know how to teach the class too well. I mostly just did water colors in my spare time, after finishing the rather boring assignments. Don't feel too much contempt, he's a person too.

I don't know what a dead lift is.


Why is it that man is so bent on safety that he destroys everything worth protecting? The trees have no tongues, and no Lorax to speak for them. (David told John they were chopping down trees in the park across from us.)



You sound like quite the busy bee. And it sound like your letter will arrive before my birthday. Much appreciated. But you shouldn't make valentines; you should do what the Chinese do and just give money to people on Chinese New Year’s. Did you know that Chinese people don't know what fortune cookies are? Pretty sad. But they have a bunch of other New Year’s traditions. Lots of noodles with abalone sauce, organ meat, preserved sausages, candies, weird glutinous rice cookies, etc. And gaak jai beng. Gaak Jai Beng are like waffles but they put peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, and sugar on them.


Sounds like you have a busy life. Why does everyone keep asking me to come home? Leave me be! I need not your books and games!

I've been a bit sick this week, but nothing too bad. Mostly just a runny nose, which is a bit annoying sometimes, especially when you want people to have a desire to talk to you. My companion bought 15 boxes of Mac and Cheese at the international store today, because they were on sale for about 50 cents US for a box. Because they expire on Wednesday. He's crazy.

Keep it up, can do blond.


Sum seung see sing. Try to tell Eva that,

Elder Tse's family is from Tai Wo, they are all members. They live in Fanling. He will be going home at the same time as me, he will maybe go to school, but he was working before his mission so he might keep doing that.

We get tons of lucky money but we're not allowed to keep it, so we donate it all to the missionary fund. There are also people who want to feed us dinner, namely grandpa's friend Brother Norris Cheung, but we have something called deep clean on the first day of New Year’s, so I don't know if we will. Our transfer should be on the 17th of February, if I'm correct. I will get on the Ecclesiastical Endorsement. Thanks for being such an awesome mom! Sorry, I'm out of time.

Love you All!