Baptism is a Law of Heaven! week 71

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

So we are getting ready as a mission to enter into the world of 2017. As we anticipate the miracles that will be coming our way, I thought I would share something to let everyone know that this work is REAL: The number of lessons taught with a member present has DOUBLED. The number of investigators that have a baptismal date has TRIPLED! Our goal for family lessons in this zone, which we thought would be difficult, was destroyed with a number almost FOUR TIMES as large as the goal!

Upon invitation from a member of the Seventy, I have been getting up five minutes earlier (with my companion, of course) in order to make it so that the first things I do in the morning are pray AND read the Book of Mormon. I cannot describe how effective this invitation has been in increasing my scriptural knowledge, as well as my appreciation for them. It wakes me up in the morning. At the beginning it was rough because I couldn't even see the words because my eyes were so blurry. Now it's better though. It even helps my morning exercise to be more full and filling. I highly recommend it.

We are also working really hard with our ward's less active members. The craziest thing happened this morning: Brother Chan, who has been struggling with smoking for decades now, texted us asking us for some scriptures that we could recommend to read on the way to work.
We also have a less active who made the decision recently to break up with his girlfriend because of the lack of morality that was present in their relationship. Another less active brought his non-member to the christmas party AND sacrament meeting just yesterday.
I'm almost more inspired by these less actives versus investigators (though it's not necessarily the most comparable of situations) because I have seen a glimpse of how hard Satan has worked to wrap them in his chains. Be it through addiction, immorality, or simply strangling their faith, I've seen it all. It's a scary image to see someone who is screaming inside to be set free from this prison. They came into the church for varying reasons, some not necessarily being the most doctrinally correct. They established the covenant nonetheless. As they progressed in the Gospel, they realized that the missionaries that loved them and treated them like Christ Himself would have, were gone in a few months or even weeks. The members that they were previously inspired by seemed to become more and more alienated as their attendance at sacrament meeting to renew their recently established covenants decreased. They didn't know what was happening, and so they tried to find something to blame. Members, their family, God, even themselves. As a missionary, we can act as the good shepherd, but our actions are so limited by the language, nametags, lack of social media, and other protections given to us by the Church for our safety and benefit. This is where the wards and the members come in. Remember that, while every member is a missionary, we should also remember that every missionary is a MEMBER! We have the same covenants, the same struggles, the same questions. That's why we can't just look at missionaries as this bulletproof shield to go charging into a war zone. We are actually just another tool that God has in his hand. A powerful one, but effective only in certain cases. If God were to do everything through a group of thousands of tagged adolescents with a slightly distorted sense of personal space, this work would burn and crash than you could say Thomas S. Monson. God needs ALL of us, man, woman and child, to put our shoulders to the wheel. He needs good home teachers, Sunday School instructors, Primary presidents, and overall good members. Baptism is the Law that we promised on the stakes of our salvation that we would keep. How can we resolve now to keep this law more fully, just as Christ Himself did it to Fulfill ALL Righteousness.

I witness His divinity and power. I also witness His mission as the Savior of the world. His Grace can fill us all with a hope for a better tomorrow where we can know that the Sunday School lesson will touch someone's heart, or where the Primary song will be the future source of comfort for a future missionary in the middle of a big city surrounded by darkness and sadness. I know that these things have become an endless source of power for me. I leave my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Notes from Mom:  This email actually took me by surprise!  We were able to Skype with Ian on Sunday evening at 6:30pm.  We were originally going to chat with him on Saturday evening, but got a last minute Facebook message from Sister Fong/Poon letting us know the update.  The calls go so quickly, but it was great to see him.  He looks so good.  He sounds so happy.  It is such a blessing to have a missionary.  I heard it a thousand times, but I know for myself that it is true.  

[He also sent some photos, as did Sister Fong during the week.  She is my Hong Kong angel.  She also posted some video of Ian singing with the choir, as well as some of the Primary children singing.  Bishop Choi also sent a picture of himself with the missionaries.  The thoughtfulness astounds me.]

Had some fun with the members at the christmas party last night.
This is the other suit from Eric's. It's a dark gray (if the picture didn't turn out well...)


This was the best I could do with Christmas pictures. I never have time during these things to get pictures, so I use my companion's camera and just forward the email to everyone. The party was a TON of fun and very touching. We had messages about participants in the Christmas miracle like the Nephites, Gabriel, Shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and had a couple of people bear testimony of Christ. All of the food was made from SCRATCH! THAT'S HOW GOOD WE ARE!

The other one is a head sized muffin that we made the mistake of eating in one sitting..

Some other baked goods...

Phone call pictures from the Tai Po stake center.  I didn't realize he was talking to us on someone's phone!  This photo is courtesy of Elder Walker.  Ana took the pictures of me (Mom) while we were at Carrie's house.  Our Christmas dinner was there on Sunday afternoon, Christmas day.  We stayed up there for the Skype call.

Christmas call is coming...week 70

Monday, December 19, 2016

Notes from Mom:  I sent Ian a couple of pictures and told him about the comings and goings around home lately.  I sent his Christmas packages on Tuesday and they arrived at the mission office on Saturday morning.  I wanted to make sure he got the packages and asked about the Skyping details. He didn't write much, but he did give us the information I was looking for! I also told him about his Christmas message that I shared this week while visiting teaching.  One of my favorite sisters was really touched by what he wrote.  I know that he doesn't have a lot of time to write, but I mentioned that we aren't hearing as much about his investigators.  Missionary work is definitely work.  

I got both packages. We get to tow all the zone mail back to Sheung Shui! It's a LOT!
About skype, there is going to be a little bit of strain in the situation. I should be able to do it at 11:30 am here though. Is that 8:30 pm for you? I can't remember anymore... If I can't Skype, then I will just call at the same time(ish).

I definitely felt the spirit when I wrote the message. I'm glad that it touched somebody. I'm sorry that I don't talk about my investigators very much. I actually get a little bit down on myself sometimes when I write about them. They are doing well and we have a lot. I also find it difficult at this point to see the line of confidentiality, so I just avoid it entirely. I promise you will hear ALL about them someday. I have so many stories. So many experiences. I barely have enough time to write it down. It's tough because we don't see many baptisms here either, so sometimes we just try not to get our expectations out of control. It's a good reminder about hope though. I definitely have faith that they can all make the choice to be baptized. Can I teach them well enough though (or rather can I invite the spirit into their lives so that they can be taught by the master)? Are my expectations unrealistic? Am I being impatient? This is my struggle as of late. I know that if I do my best though, that GRACE will be there. I'm excited to see you all soon!

One of the pictures was the announcement by Ian's friend Daniel Peacock, who he knew well when they lived in the temple a year ago. He has subsequently married a return sister missionary who served in Hong Kong and now they are expecting a baby.  Such exciting news.  

The other picture was from Joy school back in 2000 when Ian was just 3.  The kids were reenacting the navity.  Ian asked about John Leavy, his friend growing up who is serving a mission in Iowa. Elder Chen, who is serving in Hong Kong with Ian, also knows John.  "He was never much good at telling stories. He likes being in the moment or keeping memories. Sharing was tougher for him as kids though. I'll have plenty of time later with Elder Chen to interrogate him though:)"

Bonus post for week 69!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A few days ago we received the China Hong Kong Mission Christmas letter.  It was so fun to see the zones and find Ian and his companion.  I think this is from before his transfer with Elder Lee, so he would have been with Elder Love.  We are really grateful for the simplicity of the message and to see our sweet boy who has turned into a man with a strong testimony of the Savior and His mission.

Ian is in the middle left picture standing on the back row in the middle.  

I love Christmas! week 69

Monday, December 12, 2016

I think I would like to start off by stating that there is no better way to spread Christmas cheer than singing loud for all to hear. It only gets better and more filled with the spirit when you have 20 missionaries singing "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," each heart filled with love for each other, their investigators, their families and friends, and most of all for the Savior of the World.

"No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in."
In the work of the Lord, we are often stumped in our efforts to pick out those "meek souls" in a crowd of millions. I don't think that is the meaning of the song though...

We cannot push our beliefs on anyone. I would find this especially true around this Christmas time, where we celebrate not only the gift of a Savior, but also the reason that He came. Humankind has been given the beautiful gift of agency, being able to act according to their desires. I am a living witness of the fact that, even though we may use our agency at times to do wrong, even if it wasn't our intention, because of the gift of a Savior, we no longer are bound to our mistakes. No longer must we be crushed by regret or ensnared in anger. Instead, a peace settles over the earth as we all in humble awe think of the image of a star shining in the east, or a virgin in a stable, or shepherds abiding in a field, or wise men travailing through the long journey to find a child born to be a king. Not a king of earth. No throne of iron or sword of steel. No chains that bind. Just light. A light that peirced the darkest of doubts forever. It definitely peirced my own doubts.

Blessed be the God who saved us all. May we all take just a minute in our understandably busy lives to wonder what we would bring to him if we were the wise men. What lullaby would we sing to this babe who may not even have known the sacrifice that he would make for men?

He knows us now. He will know us forever. He rejoices when we are happy and weeps when we stray from the path that He has forged with his own hands. I add my witness to the millions of others from all ages: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I leave my humble testimony in this email that I hope you can feel what I feel when I say these things in the Holy and Sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Merry Christmas

Notes from Mom:  So I did the usual by sending pictures and then wrote to him.  This week was Adam's 14th birthday.  He and his friend Landon Boyer both became Teachers and earned their Duty to God for Deacons. Landon is a good friend to Adam so it was nice that they could advance together. I told Ian about it and then told him I am readying the box to send.  What would he like included? "Toothpaste would be convenient. The cheap kind that they have here works, but it's not very cheap, and I always feel like I am not actually brushing my teeth because it tastes more like rootbeer than mint (I'm not sure how they mix those up in production, but oh well). Also, the SKYPE thing will be happening (I'm pretty sure at least). I have to organize everyone's time scheduling before tomorrow because we only have one place and we don't want it to be a hassle. I will tell you next week what time I will be doing it with you. It's 1:00 pm that I'm sending this. Don't worry about time. My main focus is supposed to be direct family anyways. I trust that you will know what to get me for christmas. Chocolate covered almonds and cinnamon bears would be nice around this season. More hot chocolate (I'm trying to be sparing with it, but it is almost gone...)Whatever fits really. Did I ever send you a picture of the new suits?  Colgate anything really works. I just realized I forgot my camera, so I will send you a picture of them next week. I'm actually wearing one right now...Regarding Landon Boyer:  His whole family is awesome. That actually reminds me, do they still have any contact with Felis these days (the chinese foreign exchange student from a LONG time ago). I still regret not trying to be better friends with her."

Ian still hasn't forgotten the families he home taught.  "Mom, could you also tell the Lundbecks and the Andersons that I love them and pray for them. I know it's been a while since I sent anything like a home teaching message, but I hope that they have a safe and happy christmas season and that they can remember that the happiest part of our life will always be when we choose to act as the savior did (no wonder the church is doing this "Light the World" initiative)."

Our neighbors, the Andersons, moved earlier this year.  I wasn't sure if I had told Ian!  The Andersons moved to St. George at the end of the school year. I keep up with them on Facebook. I sent them a quick message and they really appreciated it.  

Ian added:  "Yes I am aware. Bishop Ashcraft specifically stated to me in my last interview that I had with him that a home teacher is never released from the families he is assigned to. The Andersons and the Lundbecks are the families that I had last. However, now that I think about it, could you also send it to the Jensens (Kylee's family) and, if at all possible, the daughter of the Esplins that Dad and I home taught a while ago that lived in the Trapnell's basement. Sorry to load this on you, but I think that it's really important."  

I informed Ian that the Wallace's had recently had their first baby.  "WHAT!!! I didn't know. That's what I get for slacking off. Tell them that I send a belated congratulations! She is adorable! I love the name."

We look forward to the Skype with Ian.  One more regular week and then a Christmas phone call!

Ban family update for Ian...week 68

Monday, December 5, 2016

Notes from Mom:  On Sundays I send Ian pictures if I haven't through the week and then I write him as much letter as I have time.  We had the Noll family over for dinner.  They are so great and have 2 return missionaries.  We have known them since we moved to Springville.  I was talking to their son Ryan about ancient church folklore in Asia, about which he was familiar.  Ian said he'd heard a story and related it:  "Yup. A more famous one here is about Gunyam (I don't know if that's correct spelling). They now think that it is a woman, but in the original legend, there is no specified gender. A pale, brown haired individual came down from heaven, taught the people, and then left...3 Nephew 11-27 anyone?"

Today he didn't write his traditional letter again.  I still appreciate the comments and pictures.  His great grandmother Fina lives in Azul, Argentina and she turned 95!  We love her dearly and I sent him some pictures as well.  


I told him about the Ban family from Guandong that he interviewed for baptism.  They moved to Salt Lake and are attending the Mandarin ward.  Elder Darrington's mom has their contact information. What languages did you have to do their baptismal interviews in?  This was amazing:  "Actually, they each had a different language. I did the Cantonese for the husband and the English for Vivian. Sister Ban was actually interviewed by President Lam, so I don't know what language, but she speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, and English all pretty much fluently..That was a stressful day...that's how you know it was good though right?!"

Elder Darrington's mom posted some pictures on Facebook and I sent them to Ian and to Sister Hugo. She is one of the sisters serving in Sheung Shui and is hilarious. He wrote that "Sister hugo will be emailing you momentarily to get the pictures (I'm not allowed to send them to her...)"  I sent them to her and now she sends me her weekly emails.  Yes!  Speaking of Sister Hugo, Annie Fong posted pictures of a talent show, which included Sister Hugo and Sister Hoxer, who was in the MTC with Ian.  

Us at the apple store (right now). 

The other is from last night. We had a family home evening visit and we brought our investigator Ken with us. This is the Chiu family. You have Sister Chin, her oldest daughter Cathy, her daughter that just had a baby Shelly (the baby's name is Hannah and her husband's name is Steven. These past mentioned people have all served missions ALL IN HONG KONG!). We have sister Chiu's daughter Ariel with the short hair. She has another daughter at BYU Hawaii and a son on a mission in Oregon right now. Her husband was busy that night and couldn't come, but we had a BLAST!

I sent Ian a picture of him, Bryan, and Simon taken at Carrie's wedding back in December of 1999. 
Simon was a few days shy of turning one.  I hadn't seen it for a while and thought he'd enjoy it.  
"I love that picture...and Dad's hair...and my hair...and Simon's lack of it...:)"

A Fullness of the Holy Ghost?...week 67

Monday, November 28, 2016

Notes from Mom:  This week Ian didn't really send a group letter.  I asked him some questions and he chatted about Thanksgiving, and sent some pictures.  "Yeah, we were given a day for Thanksgiving actually. I made a turkey without a recipe and it turned out to be one of the greatest things that I have ever made on my mission. I haven't made many good things though. The turkey was good though, and we actually had quite a lot of food for the entire zone (20 people). Butter is expensive." 

I also asked him about what he needs or wants for Christmas.  His response:

"While I write this, I do need to tell you that it became very cold VERY quickly, and I actually had to buy some extra clothes and a blanket in response. I will be reimbursed for the blanket, but I don't have enough money now to go pick up my suits today. Would I be able to get the equivalent of 500 HKD so that I can pick those up?  I felt like such a wuss though in the morning because I was shivering in the shower and COULD NOT get warm. Thanks mom! LOVE YOU!"  Ian didn't really express specifics about Christmas so we decided he should buy another suit(s) since he gets so much use out of them and they are so inexpensive to have made there.  When I asked if he needed me to send gloves or other clothes he said, "I don't need gloves. Hands are rarely a problem for me. I bought a sweater and some sweat pants (the ones that I brought are wearing out and the sweat pants that I brought have many many moth holes in them. The rest of my clothes are okay though. I need to begin to regularly wash all of my clothes.

Thanks momma. I can get thermals and sweats here. There are a few nike outlets (they are the only ones that have pants long enough for me that aren't so tight that I couldn't fit my leg through if I wanted to. EVERYONE HERE HAS SUCH SKINNY LEGS!"

I asked about his shoes and socks.  His tennis shoes seem to be holding up well because here is one of the best things he's written:  "Those shoes are the STURDIEST thing that I brought other than my testimony."  I love it!

He also told us about his new companion.  "Elder Lee was born into a traditional Taoist family. They had this lifestyle for about 10 years, but then Elder Lee's dad because very busy with work as a doctor, so they didn't do all the traditional stuff that they used to. Then Elder Lee's uncle became a bishop of the local ward. Elder Lee LOVE's his uncle, and when his uncle told Elder Lee about this change of responsibility, Elder Lee was curious. Curiosity turned to interest, then faith, and then turned into the path of conversion in July 2014. His mom and brother then became a little interested and Elder Lee pounced on the opportunity. NOW his dad is meeting with the missionaries and his sister is turning 8 next year. He went on a mission only a year after his conversion (meaning that he would miss his moms endowment happening in two weeks). He loves the scriptures and is VERY familiar with them."  

He asked if that made sense, but wrote it in Chinese, which I don't read.  得唔得?

Our neighbor Ruth recently returned from Hong Kong and brought some gifts.  One of them was a package of candy that she said was more of a gag gift.  She wouldn't eat it.  It smells and tastes disgusting, but I tried some and it wasn't horrible.  When I asked Ian about it he was very informative.  "Durian...Elder Lee eats it EVERY DAY and it doesn't smell good at ALL. I have learned to LOVE cottage cheese which is now a rare delicacy, but Durian is the one food that I have not yet conquered. 
This is also the most dangerous fruit to harvest. It is a large cause of death in that line of work because it grows in a tree and is COVERED in spikes. The small ones weigh four or five pounds. The BIG ones can be as much as 25 pounds. Elder Lee Loves it!"  I asked if I should include the leftover Durian in Ian's Christmas package for Elder Lee.  His response was quick and specific:  "NOOOOOO!"

"President Lam invited me in an interview as well as on multiple other occasions to study this verse of scripture. Please tell me any thoughts or comments: D&C 109:15. Feel free to invite the rest of the family too. I really want to see what ideas everyone has on this before going to President Lam next week in interviews.  Get everyone on it please." We had a lot of fun as a family discussing this scripture and the significance of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.  I'm not sure that we had much more insight than Ian did, but I liked that it allowed us to focus our study together.  

糖水...week 66

Monday, November 21, 2016

So I would like to share a little thing that I have been able to apply in the missionary work. Lately I am beginning to develop a craving to learn about the culture of Hong Kong. Buddhism, Taoism, Bai San, languages, wars, stories, and most importantly, FOOD! You don't just go about this just willy nilly as a missionary though. There is strategy to it. The example of this strategy is in this weeks example:
We have a brother in our ward. He is the only member of his family that has been baptized. The rest actually are very against the church and even the bishop of the ward has not had the opportunity to meet his family members.
However, this is a very TRADITIONAL chinese family. In this context, that means that if you ask them to teach YOU something, they are VERY willing to impart of this knowledge that they have, especially when you place the request the way that we missionaries have been taught here.
I want to learn how to make Tong Shui (糖水) a dessert soup that is AMAZING! I will make some for y'all when I get back...
I came to Brother Tong in one of our lessons and mournfully brought up my dilemma. My companion is not knowledgeable about cooking arts (though I still love him nonetheless). Moreover, I REALLY want to show everyone in america upon my return that Hong Kong culture and food is just undoubtedly better than americas. To prove it, I will use this Tong Shui. I begged him to ask his wife if she would be willing to teach us uncultured missionaries how to make this surprisingly simple dish the way that only a traditional Hong Kong mother knows how.
Long story short, she has accepted the invitation, and we are going to their house this week. YES!
I know that God will continue his work in ANY WAY POSSIBLE! Even if it means he has to teach missionaries how to cook at the same time. I would encourage all people to never give up, even in the face of all the resistance that we are facing. God will fight for you.

Notes from Mom:  I sent a screen shot to Ian and some of the other missionaries from our ward.  I thought they'd get a kick out of it.  

"Today I got an email from Jesus. We know he speaks to us in language we will understand, right?! I haven't opened yet. I'll just assume it's a call to repentance."

Ian said, "Elder Lee and I both got a kick out of that one! You should just send it to the first presidency to record as direct revelation;)"

I also sent him a meme of scuba diving:  

"As 唐兄弟 would say: "mh,mh,mhmhmhmhmhmhmhmh!" In Cantonese, that actually is just a statement of agreement or confirming that something is correct."

I also sent Ian some pictures from Simon's musical that finishes Monday, November 21.  I told him that we've really enjoyed it.  He said, "I need to see that VERY desperately. I will be in my room for about three full days just catching up on all the 'records of the people of Taylor'."

I also mentioned Christmas to Ian.  He's looking forward to the Christmas call, and so are we.  I asked him what he wants and asked if his other new suits have come in.  His response:

"Suits won't be ready until the beginning of December. Thank you for all the pictures. I'm excited about the christmas call! Adam is looking tall. I don't see many pictures of him though...How is he doing? He and Owen are really the only ones that regularly email me (other than you). I'm actually thinking that I don't want anything for Christmas other than pictures. I could buy clothes at Uniclo or Baleno for SO cheap, and I literally have to walk for just 3 minutes out of my house to either of those stores. Food I am learning to LOVE here even more! Thank you for your prayers! 我愛你地! (That probably won't make as much sense in Mandarin...)"

From last week's emails there was something he mentioned that I googled and asked if the translation was correct.  

"I hope that you can get a translation of this somehow that actually makes sense, but get this: 欲速則不達."
The google translation was "Haste makes waste."

He replied that it is close.  "It means 'no shortcuts to success'. It's not too far off, but not the same either."  I forgot to ask more about his companion's conversion story.  Until next week!

Trials of faith...week 65

Monday, November 14, 2016

This week I felt kind of bad for Elder Lee. I have been praying for trials of faith lately, and this week is where that happened. Almost every single one of our investigators cancelled on us, and every single lesson that we scheduled, the people that actually did show up were very very late. I am very grateful for having invited these trials on my own though. It actually really helps to open your perspective and we are enabled to see the blessings building up just beyond our reach. We just have to be ready to catch as many of those blessings as possible. We must expand our capacity to receive, but that only comes when we increase the capacity to give first.
Not much else to say, nor do I have time really to say much, but I hope you all know that having a testimony of Jesus Christ is the most joyful and precious gift I have. It has gotten me through everything. I am learning more and more to rely on it as I have more and greater challenges. I love my Savior. Also, I hope that you can get a translation of this somehow that actually makes sense, but get this: 欲速則不達. Shoutout to my amazing companion. I'll try to tell you all his conversion story next week.

No photos from Ian this week, but Annie Fong never fails!  She posted these on the ward website.

New Companion...week 64

Monday, November 7, 2016

The news of the week is my new companion Elder Lee. I think it's funny that right after my trainer from Hong Kong finishes his mission, I get a new native companion. This is going to be VERY helpful for language. 

That's not all though. He draws like a boss and, because he is a convert of two years, he's actually had more time of exposure to missionary lessons than I am, so he's a VERY good teacher. I think that this is going to be a very good transfer.

Not much time for anything else, but I think y'all need to know that Hong Kong is the best place on earth. I love my mission...THERE I SAID IT AND I WILL SAY IT AGAIN IF I HAVE TO! This is the best experience of my life. I've always heard that life never gets easier, but at the same time, what would the fun be in getting easier? Thank goodness for the gospel of Jesus Christ! Thank you for all of your prayers and support. I hope that you all are safe and healthy. Hopefully it doesn't get too cold where y'all are at!

This is the new Sheung Shui bunch! Sister Hoxer is from Utah and is also sister training leader. Elder Lee is my companion. He is a convert of two years from Hong Kong Sham Shui Po ward!

Pictures: Elder Powell with his temporary companion on his last day.

 Elder Love and I part ways. 

New set of Sheung Shui ward missionaries.

I found my trainer after he finished his mission! He misses us.

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