|Elders Stratford and Woolley at the Map Wall|
|Elder Woolley meets Sister Woolley|
|Elder Olsen arrived - Jacksonville FL bound!|
|Ryan's district "working" hard|
|Elder Hammond, taking a little break|
|Sister Odem and her companion still goofing around with these Elders|
|The boys are back together - Elders Holmes, Woolley, Olsen, & Curtis|
|Caroline and Ryan - still goofy and still awesome|
This week was the best week so far! I learned so much and I have a lot to cover so I hope this all makes sense and that I have time to say everything I want to say!
I'll start with a little bit more about my companion Elder Stratford, he is from Bountiful, Utah, and is an absolute historian. We compliment each other very well as companions, I've been blessed to be able to pick up the language faster than him, and he struggle with it so I help him out there, and he knows tons of great scriptures and quotes that help back up all of our lesson points. It's been good to get comfortable enough with one another that we are able to positively accept criticism from one another. The rest of my district and I continue to get closer and have lots of fun in class, though some of the more serious members sometimes take everything too seriously all the time. I think it's important to be able to relax and laugh and take the time to enjoy ourselves! The mission is serious and important, but so is making it a positive and good experience! Our zone got a bunch of new elders this last week and I look forward to getting to know them all, despite some of them being painfully immature high schoolers. But its not like I'm super mature anyways haha. A few more of my really good friends got into the MTC this week, specifically Sister Bennion and my good friend Elder Olsen! It's great to see them and catch up when we can, and I love seeing all my friends out here dedicating themselves and working hard it's very inspiring!
Some of my friends in the other zone got picked to be interviewed by the Huffington Post which as kinda random seeing as it's not the most credible new source, but Im interested to see what they were asked. I kinda wish I got to be picked haha but everyone look out for that article! Apparently the prep for it was pretty intense, they had to be able to answer some super negative and slanted church questions, so I hope the interview goes well!
I had the opportunity to teach my Elders quorum class lesson this last week about baptism which was an awesome lesson. I really had to think about it, I think as missionaries we often lose sight of the sacred nature and need for baptism because we focus so much on obtaining it for our investigators, and I really got to challenge the Elder's with questions about baptism. I also think that in order to learn about it we have to study our Savior and the parts of his life (his death and resurrection) that our baptism represents. My whole shtick for the lesson was that the Savior (as we read in scripture) willingly gave up his life and was baptized not just to be an example for us, but also to show his willingness align with that of his Father. The best thing we as God's children can do is align our agency with his will etc etc I wish I could talk more about it haha
I also had some fantastic teaching experiences this week! I'll start with our 2 new 'investigators' Mu Zhi Hao and Deng Zhi Xian. Mu Zhi Hao is super curious and asks tons of questions in kind of mumbley Chinese, so it's been really good practice trying to figure out what he is saying and how best to answer him. He's been very open and accepted many of the principles, he just likes to learn. Deng Zhi Xian is the exact opposite. Funny story, when we showed up to teach he asked how we found him - the word for to find is zhao dao and to teach is jiao dao so they sound really similar when spoken fast- so I thought he asked how we would teach him, so I pulled out my books and said with these books! and he just stared at me. It took us a couple uncomfortable moments to even get in because we kept asking if we could come in and he was just weirded out haha but we finally figured it out and taught a quick lesson. After our closing prayer he just left his head down and had totally passed out which was funny and uncomfortable, so we woke him up, set another appointment and left. On Saturday we got to teach in the TRC which is where they have real members and nonmembers and we got to go in and teach them which was such a confidence booster to see that I really could communicate in Chinese with real people and have normal conversation! I was happy to see that my companion's Chinese is also beginning to progress well. We continue to work on having the Spirit when we teach, not getting frustrated with language, and supporting one another as we teach. It's been great!
One particular day we were both pretty frustrated about the language and my teacher (who is a total stud) reminded us that Chinese is nor our purpose as missionaries. The Chinese will come, but we can't let it get in the way of our true purpose which is to invite and help people to come unto Christ. Our purpose is people. I love that!
I got to meet a missionary who had just returned from Hong Kong Mandarin speaking which was awesome! I am so lucky to be one of the 16 people called out of the thousands to serve such amazing people, and work with people from mainland China who have never heard anything about Christ before, it can give such hope to a religiously oppressed society! He also said that I will be learning Cantonese in the field too which is pretty hype!
This week I also got to meet my new mission presidents which was AWESOME! Hands down the best hour of the mtc so far they were so inspiring! They told about their conversions and bore testimony that they know this is where were supposed to be, and I felt such a strong confirmation that this is where I am meant to serve, speaking with this language, and serving the people of Hong Kong. The mission president's conversion was also so interesting, he said he was intellectually converted before he was spiritually which I thought was so interesting because most people think that intellectually religion doesn't make sense. He talked about the facts of Joseph Smith, how he, as a young man with the education of a 3rd grader, was able to translate the 530 pages of scripture in the Book of Mormon in 65 working days, and that the accounts from witnesses say that everyday he would orally dictate to the writers picking up right where he left off from the day before without anyone saying anything about the previous days work, and the Bible, as authorized by King James to be translated, took 5 years with 20 scholars working every day to translate. It's pretty incredible, especially when it is the most powerful scriptural witness of Christ alongside the Bible that we have. He also talked about Christ, and the fact that he is one a few people in history who's teachings have lasted for thousands of years, His life has been analyzed, alluded to, and talked about in endless amounts of literature, and is the only one who continues to touch lives and change lives, that continues to grown and connect with cultures globally, and was the only being who affected humanity so universally and culturally, that time itself is counted from his life. He then talked about how he was spiritually converted later.
I also hit a rather rough spot at one point this week, opposition really takes the smallest doubts or worries and makes them seem huge. I was feeling pretty down and afraid I wasn't ready, or wasn't gonna be a good missionary one night when I read 2nd Nephi 4, and was immediatley comforted.
I feel that I should bear my testimony in this letter and talk about a few more of my insights from this week, so I will. I know that this church is true. I truly truly do. I wish I could convey to you all the truth of the Book of Mormon, it really was translated by Joseph Smith, a modern day prophet of the Lord. Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer and we have a Father in Heaven who knows us and loves us I promise you that he is real and that he is there. He hears our prayers, and we are all able to find it out for ourselves. We talked about enduring to the end this week and I didn't like how so many people took it to seem so negative, like the world is some terrible harsh place that we must endure through til salvation. We are taught that Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy. Our Father wants us to have joy, think of the Savior that he gave us, and the sacrifice and torment he endured to allow us to become better through him! When we are buffeted by the winds and storms of life we shouldn't just lower our heads and bear down into the wind while we stare at the dirt and the ground, we should look up at the sky, up to our Savior, in 3rd Nephi 15:9 Christ tells us to look unto him as we endure, that he is the light! It's an inspiring scripture, and again reminds me that I shouldn't focus on my self and pity myself whenever I have a struggle, this mission isn't about me, and life shouldn't always be about me. I'll leave you all with this scripture that I love it's 2 Nephi 9:51 " Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness." We are all working our hardest to do things that give us real fulfillment and happiness in life, the things that are uncorruptible and perish not, the things that are really worthwhile. I think we all know what those things are.
Sorry for the length of the email and disjointed-ness, I just had a lot on my mind this week and little time to get it out! As always I love hearing from everyone, love and miss you all!!
Wu Zhang Lao.