Mosiah 4:9-10

Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things, see that you de them. Mosiah 4:9-10

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas in Hong Kong - Week 20

I hope everyone had the merriest of Christmases!! I had such an amazing time talking to my family on the phone! It was so surreal to hear everyone's voices again, it was too short though and then it was back to life in Hong Kong. I'm so glad everyone is doing so well though! It was so cool and weird and miraculous feeling to talk to Popo on the phone! I feel unbelievably blessed by the Lord to have been sent to a place where I can learn languages that allow me to communicate with and understand family more. It was so fun understanding Popo, I am so blessed the I have been able to learn the language at this rate, I definitely know I was meant to serve here. It was pretty funny, I was expecting Popo to tell me different things than the same few things she is always telling me in English, but she basically told me the same stuff she did before, just more expressively haha. She's so funny. Anyways I love my family so much! I was truly blessed with an amazing family! I love each of you, try not to miss me too much! Also I always show people pics of our family and everyone is always just thinking we are such a leng or shuai family. And they always laugh at white dad just chilling on the edge of the picture too haha. Anyways, thanks for the being the best fam!
We had a great week here in Kowloon! As I said last week we are a super busy companionship, just traveling all over the place and trying to coordinate everything, it has honestly been a tender mercy to me this week that everything somehow miraculously worked out and everything went rather smoothly. Our teaching pool also seems to be growing and growing, the Lord really is hastening the work here in Kowloon!
Singing Christmas hymns with the district
I had a funny situation here this last week, we went to visit one of our investigators with a baptismal date in the hospital, he told us to visit him outside of visiting hours, saying that he had already passed it by the staff. But when we showed up they were kicking us out, and then he just rolled out in his wheelchair and just yelled at all of them and my comp and I just kinda sat there uncomfortably, then a social worker came over and then we got corralled into this situation where the social worker wanted us to represent him and go look at housing and negotiate prices for him all over HK which of course we can't. All of it was also going on in Cantonese so I was working overtime to understand and try to explain stuff to them, and it was all going over my comps head. Then our inviestigator tried to sneakily get us to help him escape the hospital haha it was pretty comical and just ended up with him moving hospitals and us deciding to only visit during visiting hours. It was quite the ordeal. On the bright side he should make his baptismal date! He is a funny older guy, but is extremely intelligent and has great desire to be baptized. May have a bit of a temper though. 
Christmas with the zone
Our buddy Yang Kai is doing great too! He is super excited to get baptized! I love seeing his eagerness, he attended a little boys baptism this week and was just marveling at it all, taking pictures of everything and was just so excited! Hopefully no problems will arise as he continues to progress.
Ryan with Elder Sy - he's now Ryan's zone leader

Just this afternoon my companion and I decided to meet with this guy who we hadn't met with before (an old street contact who we had both forgotten about), and we ended up teaching a really powerful first lesson. He was just soaking everything in and the Spirit was really strong. He was just loving it, and everything really clicked for him, it's rare that I have met someone so readily accept and continue to desire the gospel like he did. It was a great moment for our teaching unity and skills to really come together well, and at the end we felt prompted to extend a baptismal invitation. He accepted right away! I definitely see the Spirit working with us here, the work is really moving along, and I am blessed to be a part of it.
All of the other work is going great too! I have gotten to know more members, and hopefully we can get them to work even more with us! Elder Grayam and I are always looking and praying for ways to serve them, and hopefully they start to see how sincerely we are working in their branch.
This work is truly the most satisfying work there is! It's amazing to look back on a day, wonder how it all possibly worked out with all the crazy variables, and just have the reassurance of the Spirit that during that day, we were truly able to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. It seems like every day is like that. I know the Lord supports and loves His missionaries. It is an absolute privilege to be wearing His name everyday, one that I am not even near worth, to be able to wear the name of the Savior of all, the only perfect person to live, but we have been called, set apart, and are being qualified to be able to do so. I have been reading in the Book of Mormon in the latter half of the Alma, which, previous to now, I never really got too much meaning out of other than all the contentions, battles, pride, etc of the people. But what I never realized was the sheer faith of the righteous in that time. They were so unbelievably faithful to the Lord, trusting that no matter what, if they were faithful, he would deliver them. In one verse, I don't remember where, it says that Some men were left with just the trust in God, which was so pure and strong that no other power could prevail over them. What incredible faith. So much that no other power, be it worldly or not, could overcome them. I can't imagine that faith. If we all had such pure, unshakable faith, so much could be avoided, contentions, being offended, doubting, fear, uncertainty, so much.

 For this new year I would invite everyone to set a goal, a real goal, not one that will be forgotten or stopped after one month, but set a real goal and stick to it. A goal that will help develop real, strong, faith. A goal that will make a difference. A goal that will help us not only know about Christ, but to truly know who he is. That is something that the mission has given me, especially this amazing season of Christmas, where I have been able to not only learn about Christ, his actions, character, and teachings, but to really know who he is. 
It's actually something that I think can be asked better in Chinese than English, its the difference between zhidao ta shi shei, and zhende renshi ta.

Ryan's Christmas day running outfit



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas - Week 19

As most of you know this is my favorite time of the year!! So everyone make sure to listen to lots of Christmas music and all that great stuff for me. More importantly of course, remember what the season is for and why it's such a happy time. Because a Savior was born!

My last few days in Macau were so great! We taught a few last lessons with people who I have come to love, there was lots of spirit, love, tears, and excitement. I hope they all continue to come unto Christ! Definitely loved serving that area more than I can express. 
But now it's on to the next one! Kowloon area is really big! And our investigators and less actives live all over the place! The area right now is really doing quite well, the Elders really managed to build up a really big pool of people to teach, so it becomes extremely crazy to schedule all the lessons with all the people. I have felt totally hectic these past few days taking charge of everything, especially since I have decided to focus on member work here more, so scheduling in members with their hours and places they live has made it even more crazy! Our next week is packed which is good, but I can't even begin to explain the million different outcomes of the week depending on who can do what or who cancels last minute etc. Being the Senior comp is fun! I have a lot to do definitely, but I am giving my younger companion more responsibility so that my head doesn't explode haha. His name is Elder Grayam from Florida! He is a really cool guy, ran xc in high school which is good so were  running together so that we can stay fit. Rice cheeks are real. His mandarin is ok, and were working on teaching together! He reminds me a lot of one of my track friends from high school so we will be getting along quite well soon. My new apartment is in Mong Kok, and is about a block from Lady Street Bazar which is super fun. It's is so crowded though, we have a really tiny apartment crammed with 6 Elders which is low key gross haha we're trying to kill a rat who apparently lives with us.
Being a district leader here is also lots more responsibility than my last area! we're just way more busy, and I have a lot more stuff I am trying to implement into the district to work on here than in Macau. Kowloon is like the hub of the mission so there is a lot of work to do as a leader! They also white washed the Zone leadership here so we are all basically figuring things out and trying to work together to do what is best for our area! Also Elder Sy is my Zone Leader and in my district which is so fun! Love that guy it is great to be working with him again!

My new branch is a mandarin speaking which was honestly pretty wierd at first being able to just talk with everyone freely and not have to work as hard to understand what they're saying like all the Canto wards I have been in. The ward apparently has been complaining recently that the missionaries don't do anything etc, and the missionaries have just not been able to get members to help with lessons etc, so obviously there is a little bit of a problem on both sides. I tried my best on sunday to be enthusiastic, and really am going to be emphasizing building relationships, serving, loving, and just inviting ward members in my district and with the zone! There is just a ton of work to do here on all fronts, but I feel like I learned a lot about ward member work in Macau because the ward was so awesome, so I am ready to take on the task! I feel it is one of the reasons that I was sent here as a District Leader! Hopefully through our efforts and focuses these next months we can really get close with the ward and become a big family! I have a lot of ideas, faith, and excitement for the future here! It is a little stressful though.

I met with an investigator who had earlier said that he was not gong to meet with us anymore because his friend said if he reads the Book of Mormon than he won't be his friend anymore.. but we had a really great lesson with him (and the help of a great member) and taught about Christ! We then successfully gave him a baptismal date! Im excited fro him, his name is Yang Kai. We met with some other less actives and investigators, and it was clear that some of them just need love and feel like they are valued, which the gospel and the branch can give! There is a lot of work to do here but the potential is really incredible and I feel a lot of success here for the branch in the future. 

I have been learning more and more with each area how to give more of myself to the mission, how to consecrate more of my abilities to the work. It's interesting, I think in each area I gave it all I could at the time, but with each new area, I learned how to give more and more of myself. Every time transfers come around and I enter a new area, I evaluate myself in three ways.
1. Have I learned how to give more of myself, my talents, excitement, energies, heart, mind, and my whole soul?
2. Have I done all that God sent me to do in the area, touched the people, learned the lessons He sent me there to learn and do,just as Christ completed all that the Father sent him to do?
3. Did I leave the area stronger than when I found it? As in is the area itself better, and then am I myself better than when I entered?
I always am thinking of these questions for the future of the area and in retrospect of my areas, and I always feel at peace, knowing that I am improving, and working my hardest, giving more, and loving the work, loving the people, and getting to know my Savior. I am proud of what I have done so far, and know that I can do more, and better.

Merry Christmas everybody! Remember to keep Christ in Christmas! I really can't say how special this time is! I wish I had more time, to write, but I don't. I love you all! I love this work, the people I am privileged to serve, and of course, I love Jesus Christ. I know he is our Savior, the reality of his birth, and the magnitude of that event that we are now celebrating is hard to comprehend, but it is so very real. Again I invite everyone to watch He is the Gift from last year, and visit the website! It's the most wonderful time of the year for a reason!
Elder Woolley
Cool Missionaries

Visiting a temple in Macau

Study Time With Elder Grayam

P-day "meditation" with Elder Ma

At the fountain in front of the Hong Kong Temple

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Heading for Kowloon - Week 18

Zai Jian Macau!
Da Ga Hooo!
How is everybody doing? I had a great last week in Macau, very bittersweet that's for sure. So I found out that my next area will be Kowloon! It is a huge area, I will be with a newer missionary named Elder Graham, I'm not sure if he has finished training or not, and I will be a District Leader again over in Kowloon. I got super nervous when I got my moves, it's a lot to take in! I didn't expect to be a district leader again or Senior Comp in a new area, so I was feeling quite nervous when I got that call. I still feel like I have to learn so much, it's humbling, and I will definitely be relying on God even more when I move. It is definitely going to stretch and push me, which is good, because that is how we grow! Anyways I will be moving this Wednesday, and will also get to go to the temple on moves day with my zone which will be great we are really blessed in this mission to be able to go every transfer. I will also get to serve in one of the only Mandarin speaking branches in the mission which will be great! I'm happy I served here in the Cantonese one it helped me learn a lot more of the languages, I am so grateful and feel very blessed the Heavenly Father has helped me so much with these languages, and has blessed me with the opportunity to learn.

Like I said, this last week here in Macau has been bitter sweet. Unfortunately it is a huge week of testing and then break for the Universities here, so all of our Mandarin investigators basically just said they couldn't meet for these weeks which was brutal, I didn't get to teach any of them this week :( We did get to meet a new mandarin investigator from the Sisters though! Her name is Than Than, she actually speaks Burmese and Cantonese, but is originally from mainland. She is 65, quite lonely, and is sick with cancer, so she is very weak from the chemotherapy. But she is still very bright and asks lots of hard questions. I could tell she was a very lonely person, she loved to talk and loved the company of us and the sisters, who taught her how to cook Spaghetti. My companion and I taught her the Restoration and really wanted to focus on the fact that she is a daughter of God, and that he knows her and loves her, and that he knows all that she needs. It was powerful, and I could see in her eyes as she grasped that new possibility, and I saw her brighten, she said, is it really true?? We said yes, I promise God knows you, Than Than, by name. She said, how do you know? It's simple. You just need to pray to him. Everyone, I know it's all true! I say this in all my emails haha but it's because I really know it just as surely as I know that Kevin Woolley is my dad here (shoutout to my dad). But maybe you might wonder, like Than Than did, how do you know, how can you know? And it's the same simple answer, I have prayed to my Father in Heaven, pleading to know if He was real or not, if He existed, if He knew me, if He cared about me. And I got an answer. And time and time again, as I pray, as I truly talk with God, not just say words, I feel the truth of it all in a feeling that can't be explained. As we talked with Than Than I felt so much compassion, and hope that she can feel it as well, because I know God loves her, and I can only hope she will try to know as well, it will make all the difference in her life.

I got to take the sacrament to two members' homes who are unable to leave the house due to physical disabilities, and both of them touched my heart. The first member is Zhang Jie Mei. She has a terrible disability that has caused all of her outer appendages to shrink and they hang uselessly from her body. Her upper body has become compact, and she can move nothing other than her head. I have never seen anything like it, she sits in a little highchair for about an hour a day, and then lies down the rest of the time. She told us she hasn't left the house in years. The saddest thing is that the ward seems to have forgotten about her. Other than us missionaries, she has not been visited by anyone recently, even though she is an amazing convert, who even went through the temple back when she could walk. She is someone who has definite cause to be an angry person, she has almost been forgotten by the members, and has an unbelievably hard trial of disability and loneliness. Yet she knows that the Savior has not forgotten her, that God has not forgotten one of his precious children. She is one of the happiest, kindest people I have ever met. She bears no anger, no depression, no bitterness towards anyone. It is hard for me to even imagine, I know that I am not nearly as strong as she, I think if I were in that situation I would be much more angry. But she thanks the Lord, she treats the sacrament with the utmost respect, and thanks us graciously for our visits, as we had answered her prayers in helping her to take the sacrament every week again. I will not forget her example of charity, and the strength of her faith. She is truly one with a powerful and immovable faith.

The other family is the Taguiam family, from the Philippines. They are too old to leave the house as well, but Sister Joy Taguiam got up and cleaned the whole apartment for a few hours before we came with the sacrament, telling us that she wanted the house to be as clean as possible for the sacrament. Their reverence and respect for the sacrament brought me to tears as I saw how preciously they viewed the sacrament, and truly understood what it stands for. I was once again reminded of the sacred and wonderful nature of the sacrament, I hope we as members never forget, never let it get repetitive or boring, and always remember the privilege it is to partake of it easily and conveniently every week.

This last week we had the Christmas party for the Cantonese wards here in Macau! It was super fun, with lots of fun acts, and a super cute kids nativity. It's so fun seeing these different cultures and languages celebrating the same Savior. I also brought my Christmas vest and Santa Tie literally for this one night haha so funny, everyone was like I can't believe you brought that on the mish just for this, but they don't understand my passion for Christmas. The members loved it though! I also got to perform piano for the party which was super fun. It's been great being able to share that talent here in Macau. My little student Ricky is doing so good! He will be playing silent night at the international party next week which I will unfortunately miss. He and his wife were able to fly out there son from the Philippines this week and I got to meet him before I leave! ( a lot of families in the Philippines are split with parents leaving the country to work for money to send back to their families) It was so great to see them all together as a family, and I was just so happy to have been able to be a part of Ricky's reactivation and getting the priesthood and everything, families are truly ordained of Heavenly Father. There is such a special spirit and happiness there, and I was so blessed to be able to see them with there little baby boy! Man I love the international ward here it is so hard to leave! The members are so welcoming and amazing, they all will sacrifice so much to help one another. The Alayon family here is truly amazing, probably the most dedicated and willing to serve family I have ever met. I think I talked about President Alayon last week, but the rest of his family is just as great, they all stay long hours serving at the church, and their son Ryan Alayon ( a return missionary) is just amazing. He has a beast testimony and always brings the spirit in our lessons with LAs. They help us a lot with speaking tagalog to the members. I have really gotten close with their family, and appreciate their work and examples so much!

Thank you everyone, especially my family! I hope everyone is having a good Christmas season! Always remember to keep Christ in this season, gifts and all that are great, but of course the Savior is greater! 
"May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior" -Thomas S. Monson. Everyone imagine if you could journey to see the babe in the manger, and what he would really want us to offer him! 
Elder Woolley

Monday, December 7, 2015

Leaving Macau - Week 17

Xiawu Haoooooo,
I had a great but rather heart breaking week here in Macau! Great because the work here is really starting to progress so much!! And heartbreaking because I will be getting kicked out of here next wednesday :(
Earlier in the month I had tried to apply for an extension on my visa (Americans are only allowed 2 months ish) and this week I got rejected which was sad. Then this morning on my turn around I got pulled out and taken to an immigrations interview room, then had to travel to a different immigrations office in Tai Pa where I had to sign a document saying I would leave within 10 days or pay fines etc. So I will be going to a new area next week! Sad. But exciting! As Mandarin missionaries our areas are so big, if I go to a new area I will have already served 60% of the mission (geographically) which is pretty cool. But I am so heart broken to leave here, I have definitely put my whole heart into this area, our investigators and members and it hurts to have to leave so soon again. But I know that I will leave here better than how I found it, and will also leave here as a better person than when I entered. Amazing how that works.
This week was just full of the mercies of the Lord helping me be able to see some of the fruits of our labors here in Macau, for which I am so very grateful. We have been working on a less active named Calvin Parscia from the Philippines, and he has such great desire. He had some problems with feeling unworthy to come back, when I shared with him a quote from Pres. Nelson who said that God is never dissappointed with those who are earnestly trying there best, and striving to repent. I have probably said this before but that is such a great hopeful principle. One of Satan's greatest lies is that God is dissappointed or that we are too unworthy to even try and come back or repent. Of course that's not true! No matter who we are, where we've been, or what we do, God will always welcome us back with open arms! We had a powerful and emotional lesson with him, and he came to church the next week against all odds of his terrible work schedule! I was so proud, he is such a stud.
We have an investigator named Susanna from mainland who accepted a baptismal invitation! She really wants to be baptized but is facing lots of opposition from her strict buddhist family, so we'll see how she does. I know she has the faith to overcome the problem if she will be able to apply that faith into action, which is pretty key. We are praying for her! It was very spiritual when we invited her, and assured her using the words from DC 6 which goes something like fear not and look unto me (the Lord). If we look unto him in all things, truly we need not fear! That's a good lesson I have learned here, too. We also suddenly got like 4 really strong potential investigators/ new investigators into the mandarin work here, I can really feel the Lord hastening Mandarin work here, it's really catching fire! (not a reference to hunger games btw).
Another amazing change was in the life of a member named Brother Ben. We we're assigned to be his hometeacher, and when I first visited him a month ago (that was the time when his dog peed on my companion during the lesson) he was quite crusty and not really open to much. I don't think he even smiled or anything, but we could see him being touched by the Spirit. He has been to church a few times since then, and we got to go visit him this last sunday and the change I saw was unbelievable! We woke him up from an all night shift at like 9am and he looked so grumpy, but the moment we said good morning to brother Ben he lit up and was all smiles the whole lesson! He and his wife were so grateful and shared a powerful testimony to us about the Savior! He even got up in the meeting and bore his testimony! It was all in Tagalog so I didn't really get anything except for all of the thank you's to the missionaries, ward, and the Lord. It was so amazing I was so happy for him!
I got to do my first baptismal interview as the District Leader here and it was one of my favorite things I've gotten to do here with this role. It was so great to see how excited, and ready this sister was to receive baptism, and how she truly desired and understood the profundity of what she was about to accept. I appreciated the missionaries for preparing her so well, and my testimony was strengthened by hers as we talked about her conversion process together. The work is truly amazing!
I had the most amazing thing happen this sunday as well, two weeks ago a guy named Borromeo randomly came into the church asking to talk to us, saying he needed someone to talk to. He had been to a few other Christian churches who had all turned him away and he was seeking for anyone to listen. A lot of people (including some missionaries) looked quite hesitant to listen since he was quite loudly talking about passports, money, and looked a little dishevelled, but for some reason I felt compelled to sit and listen to him while my companion set up self reliance class. He told me of his niece who was homeless and stuck up in mainland, due to an employer who took her ID and working card, she was unable to leave or get any other job, and the police believed her employer who had told them that she had simply lost it and was trying to get money. I listened to his anguish as he told me how she would use the last of her coins to call him on the phone, telling him she was losing hope. I felt so terrible for them, and couldn't even begin to understand what it must be like. So I shared with him some scriptures, gave him a Book of Mormon, prayed with him, and invited him back to church later. He came to church and talked with president Alayon, our branch president. He later returned the next week and attended all the meetings. Then this next week I was floored by the testimony meeting. President Alayon got up and told of how he left the sickbed in the hospital at Hong Kong, and went up to mainland to contact a member there, and the two of them miraculously, and according to the guidance of the Spirit, found Borromeo's niece, went to the embassy and somehow resolved all the problems, and that they were all together that day in the congregation. He had them stand up, and as I looked over at them smiling together I couldn't help but cry. I felt so humbled that the Lord had been able to use me to help these people, and even more humbled by President Alayon's amazing example of selfless service, that he willingly left everything for a few days to go and help this random woman who might not have even been real, and he basically saved this family, and brought them back into the safe fold of the church. I have so much respect for that man and his familly, I have never seen a family more devoted to service in my life. It really brings to mind the scripture in Matthew 25- "35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
What a powerful scripture. I thought of all the times when I passed up opportunities to help or serve others, and was dissappointed, but the Lord gives us so many opportunities to serve, and they can make all the difference to someone's life! Every time we serve others we are serving Christ, so why not serve at every chance we get, why not even seek more opportunities to serve rather than wait for them to suddenly be in our path! I have really grown to see what type of member I want to be as I continue on in the church. Talking to the two of them after the meeting was amazing, the sheer gratitude and humility of the two, they both will be getting taught by us soon!
I especially love this message of serving as Christ served since it is now the Christmas season, I hope everyone remembers the main message of Christmas which is of course the Savior! A Savior was born to us, and has given us all so much! I invite everyone to look at and watch some of the videos the church has produced, and I still remember the theme from last year, which was 'He is the Gift.' He is the gift, and is the reason for such a wonderful time of year. I love Christmas, and I love Macau, I feel as if I have really learned a lot and grown a lot here. It's amazing to look back and see the impact this area has had on me, it's hard really for me to express how much I've learned here about myself, about the Restoration of the Gospel, about the work of God, and most importantly, about the Savior, the reality of his message, and the changing power of His Atonement. It is all so powerful, and so very real. I love it so much! I'm excited to see what my next area and companion have for me, and I trust it will be right for me!
Thank you all for everything, remember it's the most wonderful time of the year!
Elder Woolley

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving - week 16

Xiawu Hao everybody!
First off Happy Thanksgiving!! I am so grateful for every one of you! You have all been such great friends to me in my life, and of course so grateful for my amazing family! Love you all so much, and gratfeul for the examples you have been to me. This Thanksgiving was so great! We all got 3 hours together as a zone, and we had assigned different things to cook for the meal. Fortunately we have a pretty talented zone here so the cooking was really quite good, and this great couple got us a turkey and some pumpkin pie!
Elder Ma and Ryan cooking for Thanksgiving
Zone Thanksgiving feast

Which was such a blessing I have no idea where they got it. Porbably from one of the casinos. The activity was super fun! The Macau zone is really great and tight, we are all really isolated from the rest of the mission on our little island, so everyone is a like a big family! I really love it! Thanksgiving was also probably my biggest feeling of home sickness I have had so far, it was pretty brutal, then I heard this Elder, who didn't have the best home life before say that he wished he could have a good enough home to feel homesick about. I felt so bad! And it made me immediately switch attitudes, from the sort of self pity, to gratitude. Thanksgiving should be a day of gratitude!
Macau Zone
But really everyday should be. I felt so so grateful and blessed to have such great family and home who have built around the gospel of Christ. Truly that is the surest way to having a happy home life. I am so blessed to have two faifthul and dedicated parents. I'm grateful and blessed to have my amazing friends who
Ryan's District
support me, and a lot of whom are also out serving the Lord! I am so grateful for this missionary experience. i can't really put into words my gratitude for this opportunity to serve God, and to get to wear the name of Christ on the chest everyday and be recognized everywhere I go as a Christian, and someone who is serving. I am grateful for the knowledge that we all have a loving Heavanly Father. He does exist, and he does know us. I know it. I can really say that I know it. And I am supremely grateful for my SAvior Jesus Christ. He suffered unimaginable pain for us, so that we don't have to. He paid a debt he didn't have to for us, because we had no way to. There is no greater example, no greater, more selfless or moral being that has ever lived than he. My mission president, President Lam is so amazing. He was here in Macau a little while ago and talked about the enabling power of the atonemnt. I am so grateful for that enabling power of Christ's atonement. It allows us to really change, to truly be producers of our circumstances, rather than products of our circumstances. That is one of the greatest lessons I have learned out here as I have taught people and as I have run my own life out here, we will often complain and blame circtumstances for our results, our inaction, or really anything else that we find unsatisfactory, but in the end we are just being products. But the best thing is that we can be more than that, we can be producers of our circumstances! The best way to be able to do so is by allowing ourselves to believe in Christ, relying on him, and allowing his grace, the enabling power of his atonement, to enter into our lives, giving us more self reliance to take hold of ourselves, and be what we have always wanted to be.
One of the best examples of this is this less active member we have been meeting a lot with here, named Kirbi. We got to meet his mother from the Phillippines the other day, and it was one of the best blessings of my mission. She came to us in tears, saying she couldn't believe the change in her son, kept asking is this my son? For awhile he would always blame work making him too tired for church, and his schedule (which is a really tough schedule), but as he met with us and we taught him of the atonement, and of his Savior, he started to access that enabling power. He started to really change himself. He stopped blaming his schedule. He started doing things of his own volition, reading, praying, pondering, searching, through Christ  he started producing the happiness that he had been missing and wanted again. I know that Christ's gospel changes. It gives people power and motivation and happiness that nothing else can give. It's given me more of that than any other single thing in my life.
 To his mother the change was so very apparent. She said we were helping answer years of prayers. I was so moved by her, and she said something that really struck me, she said 'never forget my son.' It made me think of Hollands talk about mothers, they will never forget their children, and made me think of what Heavenly Father pleads from us as well, that we never forget His Son. However God pleads that we will never forget His Son because in remembering Him we are strengthened, forgiven, and may have His Spirit to be with us. It was a great moment where I really felt again I was doing the missionary purpose, and allowing God to use us to answer prayers.
We were able to visit the sister who had brain surgery last week as well, she had a tumor removed from the back of her brain and a lot of liquid drained out of her brain that had gathered up, she is recovering miraculously quickly and should be out of the hosopital soon!
The Lord answers prayers!
Her whole experience is absolutely miraculous, my last email couldn't even begin to do that day justice. She has one of the best attitudes of anyone I have ever met, just so positive and grateful even in such a scary and hard trial. And her trust in the blessing was amazing, and it is showing in her miraculously fast recovery. Everyone is shocked at her progress. Her gratefullness reminds me of what this old pioneer said when people were criticizing the hand cart company that he came over the plains in (he was in the martin hadn cart company which ran into an early winter where lots of people died of exposure, sickness, starvation etc on the plains) and he said he never regretted that decision during, or after because in those extremeties he truly got to know God. Amazing attitudes of gratitude. I love this mission so much, I feel as though I learn 1000 lessons a week and I hope I am retaining all of them. This was the best decision I have made in my life, though it has not been easy so far, I am gratfeul for the hard times because I have grown and learned so much, I have had to rely on the Lord, not on myself. I have prayed harder than I ever had before. I have felt the true power that is prayer, that it really really is communication with God. I have cried a lot haha, tears of stress, dissappointment, sadness, laughter, excitement, and joy. I am so grateful to God for serving here. My heart has felt fuller here than any other time in my life. These things and feelings I know are not from me.
I have a big testimony of gratitude! Every time I feel bad I just think about everything I am grateful for and then I just get overwhelmed with just how much I am grateful for! I hope everyone is thinking of everything they have been blessed with espeically in this Thanksgiving season! 

Love you all!
Elder Woolley
It's mid 60's - I think Ryan has become a cold wimp!
He's dressed for winter! hahaha

Monday, November 23, 2015

Miracles! - Week 15

This week had one of the most miraculous days of my mission! I don't like to throw the term miracle around very lightly, but this weekend realy had the most miraculous and crazy day of my mission.
I don't have too much time so I will just talk about Saturday! We had a baptims on Saturday with our buddy Tang Yang, it was so great! He was just super excited and nervous and it was so fun to hear his testimony after, such a prepared guy, it was a privelege to teach him. But leading up to that moment was one of the crazier days of my mission. So Elder Ma and I the night before had to go to the Elder's apartment living in Macau Island because the next morning we had to jet boat over to Hong Kong and come back as part of my Visa turn around thing with the government, but we had to make it back to 9:30 church for the international ward because we had told a less active we would meet him. So we stayed in the Macau apartment elders place (super filthy btw haha doesn't phase anymore though) to cut down the time we have to get up, because it's much farther from our apartment on Tai Pa.
Early morning boat ride
Sooo we woke up at about 5 and took a taxi over to the boat place, bought our tickets, and went over to the place when I realized I didn't have my passport! So we had to quickly switch tickets which costed even more money, then rent a taxi to go back to our apartment in Tai Pa, so basically it seemed that I had just wasted like an hour and gave us no reason to have stayed over in Macau and woken up early, you can imagine how mad my comp was haha he was quite grumpy. Also when we finally got back to get on the boat he ripped his suit jacket on a chair and got even more mad, I tried really hard not to laugh at how hilariously unfortunate it was haha. Anyways so we finally got on the boat and headed out, right before we were out of cell range we got a call and helped some people set up a blessing for someone back in Macau, then quickly lost range. We missed church but it was ok, we started preparing for our baptism which was at 12:30. But we didn't have the forms signed by the other Zone leader who had interviewed him becasue our apartment mates had accidentally brought the wrong ones so we had to fill out a new one and we didn't know all the info (Tang Yang had filled them out for us earlier) my companion was furious at the other zone leader haha but we couldn't contact him because he and all the other elders were on the boat back to Hong Kong doing there visa stuff. We were both all rushing around when we realized we had yet to start filling the font up which takes 2 hours, and the baptism was to start in an hour! SO we kinda went into panic mode! Everything else started falling apart, the member who was supposed to baptize him couldn't and everything we set up starte falling through, I was super stressed I was like this is one of the most special days in his life and were ruining it! Then, Elder Ma realized that because we had slept over at the Macau apartment he actually had the extra stuff necessary to baptize him!
So that was part one of the miracle. Part two was that we were able to fill up the font in just under an hour whcih was amazing! All of the missionaries and some members all joined in with buckets of water from sinks and somehow managed to fill it it was amazing! We then had a super spiritual baptism and I just felt the power of missionary work and it just touched me to see everyone working together. Then afterwords the other Elders got back and right before my companion could go off on them we heard the biggest miracle which just blew me away. Right before Elder Ma and I got out of cell phone range he got a call from someone in the ward saying one of our recent converts needed a blessing in the hodpital. Our number was the only one she had to call, and thinking not much of it we called the other Elders. The other Elders actually also would've been getting on the boat themselves, but they were stalled because they were freaking out at having brought the wrong papers for us back at the church. And they were stalled just long enough to get our call, turn around from the boat dock and go visit this sister in the hospital. When they got the hospital she was just being wheeled into surgery, they stopped the cart just in time to give this amazing and faithful sister a blessing before she would get open brain surgery. The night before at work she all of a sudden had huge headaches, nose bleeds, and her arm went numb-so scary! She went to the hospital where they told her she needed brain surgery immediatley, when the Elders got to her she had her head shaved and was barely conscvious, but heard their blessing and cried through the whole thing. It was amazing to me to see that all of the mishaps, with the missing passport delaying us, the papers delaying the other elders, which seemed to be wrecking our day, instead were all to answer the faithful prayers of this poor sister in giving her a blessing in her time of need.
The Alayon family dedicate all their time
to the branch! What an amazing family!
      It hit me so hard, the Lord truly truly watches out for us. He cares so much for all of us, and he still ensured that our baptism worked out smoothly in the end. It was an amazing day where I realized I was really just an instrument in God's hands for blesing his children for the whole day, which made it the best day of my mission! The verses in Mosiah 24: 12-14 have never been so true to me before."I the Lord God to visit my people in their afflictions." It is an absolute privelege to be an instrument in his hands, to help all in need. I pray I will always be more aware of how he would use me. I love this work! I love being able to see this gospel bless lives, and seeing our hard work pay off in the blessings of others!
Ryan Still finds a little time to be goofy

Thank you all of the support, I hope that story made sense I didn't have much time to write so it's probably pretty conveluted. Oh well, love you all, and pray for you all!

Ryan and Elder Ma with Brother Ryan
Love,    Elder Woolley
Elder Ma exhausted after a crazy morning!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Taking Thought - Week 14

This has been an amazing week, probably one of my favorite so far on my mission! 

I'll start off with talking about some of my favorite people here, Ricky and his wife Rovelyn. They are both from the Phillipines and they are seriously so amazing!! Ricky was a less active who just got reactivated this weekend which was so great! He had previously shown some musical talent and interest in piano so I offered to teach him one on one to help him progress fast and provide the ward with a reliable pianist. He has a super hard work schedule so it is hard to set up time, and the day of our lesson he called and said that he had to move it back an hour because his boss is making him work from 12am to 12pm, so he moved the lesson to 1pm. I was so shocked I was like Ricky go get some sleep!! But he refused, and his wife Rovelyn, who was quite sick, also wanted to come so she could listen and watch her husband learn music.
Ryan teaching Ricky some simple hymns
They both showed up with huge bags, but the biggest smiles on their faces, he was so excited to learn music! It is definitely a skill I have taken for granted in my life, I just about started bawling when I saw them two come in with such enthusiasm and excitement. And he is picking it up so fast! We also have been teaching them a lot about families and they have a goal to be sealed in the temple next year and I'm so excited for them! I have never met people with such positive attitude in the face of such hard situations, he is the smiliest man ever. He recently has also been worthy enough to get the priesthood, and I asked him why he wants to do it, and he said "so that I can make people feel stronger, like you two elders." It just touched me so much, because little does he know we are far weaker than him. I told him truly it was the opposite, that his faith was strengthening mine far more than mine was his. I also have found a lot of people in the ward with a little bit of musical background that have a lot of promise, so I'll be starting a weekly free class for everyone with basic music education, I've been writing the curriculum during my free time at night before bed. I really hope to serve the ward well this way, I truly believe music is one of the best ways to feel the Spirit, and it makes me sad to think of any ward without someone on the piano helping them all sing hymns to God together.

Elder Ma and I have a baptism scheduled for this Saturday! I'm super excited for Tang Yang and we are praying extra hard and meeting with him as much as possible to make sure everything goes over smoothly and that he is fully ready for everything. He is super humble and just so ready. I feel it has been a privilege teaching him this past month and can't wait for him to experience baptism.

Our buddy Feng (the one I gave a baptismal date to last week) came to another sister's baptism this last week and was just so curious and excited to watch! He has never seen anything like it. He is just so fascinated and excited by religious things, like a child, it is amazing to see God touching this gruff dude and just seeing the light of Christ in him. I'm excited for him to keep learning, he has so much potential! 

This week I pondered a lot about thoughts, in Alma 32 it talks about taking thought to nourish the seed of faith. It made me think about what are the other seeds I am nourishing in my mind? The basic germs of our conduct are our thought, and we nourish those seeds into behavior and action by though. Every mistake, testimony, fear, etc starts with a small seed of desire, curiosity or interest that we think about. Spencer W. KImball said "to a great extent we accomplish what we think about. Your life is influenced more by your own thoughts than anything else. How could a person possibly become what he is not thinking? Nor is any thought, when entertained, too small to have its effect. The 'divinity that shapes our end' is indeed ourselves. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being a complete sum of his thoughts." So what do I spend my time thinking about? About ways to  help my investigators progress? About how I can be a better missionary? About my Savior and what He has done for me and how I have seen Him change lives out here? Do I think negative thoughts, angry thoughts, distracted thoughts etc. Like David O mckay said, "I will know what you are if you tell me what you think when you don't have to think." Changing our thoughts is changing our nature, and it is something I want to change about myself, truly focusing my thoughts on my calling here, on my Savior and His Atonement, on my investigators, and not only the negative, the things I miss, or even any small distraction. So I would invite everyone to think about what you think about, especially when you don't have to think. What seeds are you nurturing? And that will help you see what you are. If it's not what you like or what or who you want to be, change your thoughts. Change your nature. It's a huge part of being a missionary. And it has been a change I really needed. I love being a missionary, I love wearing Christ's name every day and being reminded what he did for me! I love seeing people change, and being changed by others!
Love you all!


Elder Woolley

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Faith and Works Precede the Miracle - Week 13

Every week here seems to be busier and busier, but it's a great feeling to know that the work is progressing here in Macau!
Sunset from a boat ride from Kowloon
back to Macau

I don't have too much time today for emails so it'll probably be a little scattered so bear with me. Our investigators here are doing great! Tang Yang will be having his baptismal interview this week which is great! I am so excited for this guy, he is incredibly sincere and earnest. One time he was going to be late for a lesson because of a car accident, so he just jumped off the bus and ran a couple miles to get to our lesson! He really has a great testimony and is super excited for baptism which is great! This last week we taught a man named Feng xiansheng(mister) and after we talked about the first lesson I felt prompted to invite him to be baptized, which surprised me because this guy is straight out of mainland, is a very gruff straight forward hard labor job kinda guy, who has no idea about God or Jesus or anything, but I knew he was feeling the Spirit so I asked him if he was willing. I expected a Yes because of my prompting but instead he said, what is that? So I quickly explained briefly, let the Spirit keep working on him a little bit, and then he said yes I would really like that! It was great! Goes to show that we can always trust our promptings even if they at first don't seem plausible and don't go exactly how you would expect. I'm excited for this guy though he is extremely humble, and just has a desire to learn. He came to an open house our church building hosted a little while ago and he just was getting as much info, packets, pamphlets etc as he could and was writing things don so he wouldn't forget! We'll see how he continues to progress as it gets closer to his date which is in late December.
Elder Stratford, Ryan's MTC companion stopped by Macau
for some Visa matters

Elder Ma is a great companion, he just has so much experience and is really good at working with the members here, I have learned a lot about how critical it really is to have the support of members helping us out here! We made a big language plan for me for this next while with us together, drilling mandarin during language study, then Cantonese outside. It's a lot to handle and a little overwhelming, but it is good to have a bundei (native) companion as a resource to take advantage of! Hopefully by the end of it I'll be able to communicate better with all the people here, especially the wards! One of the biggest problems with being a mandarin missionary is that quite often we are in Cantonese wards, and that makes it harder to communicate with the ward and gain their trust, so I'm working to be a better resource as a mandarin missionary so that I can still coordinate and get involved with the wards I will be serving! I know the Heavenly Father sent me here for a reason and I honestly think this is one of them! I feel already so blessed with languages here so far, and I am very very grateful for it!

Elder Ma and I have had a lot of opportunities this last week as well to teach lots of less active members from the International branch and they have continued to be some of the most powerful lessons I have felt on my mission so far! For a lot of them we have just been talking to them about why they joined the church in the beginning, and just talk about life. And we have been reciting or watching the first vision movie with them. I've watched that movie like 4 times this week all in Tagalog so I don't get any of it, yet I have felt the Spirit so strongly, even stronger than I have before when I could understand it. It has reminded me of how amazing, and truly special that the Restoration really is. I hope I never forget it, the powerful Spirit of confirmation that I have felt time and time again this week, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. That he did see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and that he translated the Book of Mormon. It has become so very real to me this week. I don't really know how to explain it, but it just feels even more real to me now than it has in the past. I know that it happened. And I have seen the power of reciting his words recounting his experience, it changes lessons, opens hearts, and always, always invites in the Spirit. That's why we always recite it with less actives, because without fail it brings into their hearts that special Spirit that they once new, and brings rushing back all their personal reasons for having been baptized, and that amazing feeling of leaving the baptismal font a clean person. I just love working with the less actives and just loving them! A lot of them just feel so dejected by life. I had the opportunity to give a young lady a blessing this week who has such a hard life, she wants to come to church and come back, but her life isn't hers, she is basically owned by a casino here and has to do whatever they or their customers want. She is trying to get back to her home in Nigeria and was asking us to help her have the courage to take her life back into her own hands. I felt so powerfully Gods love for her as a daughter of God as we blessed her. I have really seen God's influence in my life and the lives of others here in Macau, it is one of the big lessons I have learned so far. I have seen prayers answered, lives changed, all because of faith. It is a simple concept, faith and works precede the miracle. The work here is really picking up pace! It's a privilege to be a part of it here!

Thank you all for the continuing love and support! Ill try and make next weeks email a little better! 

Hu Zhang Lao

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lost in Macau - Week 12

Every week here in Macau seems to get busier then the last! I have definitely grown to love this area, the wards, and the people we work with even more this week!
Zone Dinner

I go on lots of splits with a Cantonese Elder who just arrived because my companion and his companion are the zone leaders here, and this last week we had an over night and all day split while my companion went to Kowloon for meetings, and it was definitely a fun experience! Got to practice and learn lots of Cantonese with him. We had a great learning experience as well, because we live on a different island than Macau we take a bus everyday to the island, and we ended up taking the wrong bus. I had a fairly strong prompting to get off the bus at one of the stations I recognized, but for some reason I stayed on the bus, thinking I was still right even though I clearly wasn't. When we finally got off I had no idea where we were and had to resort to a lot of praying and a lot of talking to random people. Eventually we just had to hop on a different bus rode it for awhile and talked to everyone on it, no one really spoke Mandarin though so I got what I could from there instructions and just got off the bus again, praying really hard that the Spirit would help guide me, and feeling really bad for this new missionary who had no idea what was going on either and kept asking me questions, like I had any clue haha. Eventually we just wandered, and I pretended to know where I was going for his sake, all the while praying that we could find our way and make it to our lesson appointment when suddenly we walked somewhere familiar! It was quite miraculous and I knew I had been helped along because I literally had no idea where i was going and somehow ended up at a stop I recognized! We were able to get to our appointment, but were super late haha. I learned a great principle of always acting on the promptings we receive, doubting my doubts before my faith and promptings, and leaving a path when we are told, even if we feel comfortable on it. Often times we can find ourselves on a 'bus' or path that may seem to be heading in the right direction, and we have almost full confidence in what we are doing. In the mission it can be something as simple as some small, seemingly insignificant disobedience, but in the end we are always warned to get off the path, or find ourselves much farther from our destination than we had originally. It is always much harder to find our ways back from that point. It reminded me a little bit of Uchtdorf's airplane and degrees analogy. It was a good if not mildly stressful experience and helped me to get to know Macau better! 
Temple in Hong Kong
Our investigators here are great, we have 2 baptismal dates for next week, one of which (named Tang Yang) is progressing super well, and even shared the gospel with his family! He is for sure going to be ready and is a total stud. The other guy (wong) is a bit of a confusing guy, and kind of a compulsive liar which comes from his desire to please everyone. He tells us he reads so much scripturem and when we ask what he read he makes up some general story, then tries to slyly open the book and read the heading and then really quickly say Oh ya now I remember haha he also tells us absolutely ridiculous stories from his life, so it's hard to trust him. The other day he told us this hilarious and slightly racist story of when he was an exchange student in America, about how he and the other Chinese students would get in these huge brawls with black students and how he would take on 6 guys at a time haha and they had bats etc etc he is pretty ridiculous. Pretty entertaining dude, but I'm not so sure he really is taking anything seriously right now. We got 2 new investigators this week as well and Im excited for them to progress!
Halfway through the week I got called to be a district leader out here in Macau and I got stressed out, I have hardly been in this area, and hardly on my mission for that matter, I started feeling inadequate pretty quickly, wondering how I could lead a district of people who have all been here far longer. But I felt comforted and humbled, that I must lead by serving, and that I will definitely learn far more from my district then I could possibly teach them by leading. I am excited to serve in this capacity here and hopefully I can help inspire my district with the vision that our mission president passes down to us through APs, Zone leaders, to us, and to all the missionaries!
Another temple in the same area of Hong Kong

We work with a lot of less active members of the M2 branch, which is the international branch and try to help families specifically. Some of these people's lives are extremely sad, the work they have, and how much they sacrifice, and we have had so many Spirit filled lessons where we help people remember what they are missing. Those lessons always touch my heart. This week we taught an especially touching lesson, this man works a really rough job in the casinos and his best friend had just jumped off the bridge and killed himself. He was absolutely crushed when he came to us, and he just looked so tired, worn, and deadened by the weight of life that he was carrying. I was able to bear a powerful testimony of the Plan of Salvation, of my own personal experiences with deaths in my family, and how I know that death, though tragic, is not an ending. Though we may mourn their loss of life, we need not fear or remain stricken with empty grief because our Savior overcame death. He didn't die in vain, because he broke those chains of death, all may rise, and through him, return to our loving Heavenly Father. I told him I knew he would see his friend again, and not just as some nice thing a religious person would say, but because I really, truly know, without a doubt, that he will. As we all bore testimony, and invited in the Spirit, I saw his eyes fill with a hope so real, and a desire to know, and my eyes filled with tears of happiness for him, seeing Christ reach into his crushed life, and give him a feeling he hasn't had in a very long time. 

This week I learned a lot about humbly seeking, and trying to truly be an instrument in God's hands. My 'ponderize' scripture is Alma 29:9 (shoutout to the roomie this is his plaque scripture) which is about glorifying God's work, and striving to do all we can to simply let Him use us as His tools, Our joy is in being a tool of God and helping others become happier, and impart of my joy to all that I can. So in order to become the most effective tool possible, I have to consecrate myself as a missionary, which means putting everything on the table and leaving nothing back and giving all to the work. It's far easier said than done. I read this talk on being a consecrated missionary and definitely realized a few places I can improve upon a lot, or change in order to be a better tool for the work, so that my efforts here can glorify our Father in Heaven, just as all that Christ did was to glorify the Father.
Happy Halloween! Thanks so much Lucas family!!!

Love you all! I'll try to get more pictures out this week I have a ton backed up from the past weeks, the computers here in Macau are harder to do that with for some reason. Thanks for the support! Praying for you all everyday!
Wu Zhang Lao