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, August 24, 2015

Prospering by degrees - week 2 in Hong Kong

Hello everyone it's been another great week here in Hong Kong! I don't even know where to begin so much has happened this week! This week was definitely way harder than my last but I've learned a lot from it.

First things first, shout out to my parents for making me so racially ambiguous looking haha literally every person that we stop to talk to on the street asks what race I'm from, its a great conversation starter, and helps us talk about why were here. Everyone also seems to think my hair is dyed too, or that Im mexican. Haha the people are so funny about race here. The ward members are also always very curious it's a great conversation starter, although sometimes I get railed for not being able to speak Cantonese despite having a mother from Hong Kong. Oh well, also this guy in the ward I'm in served in SF and knew Popo, small world.

I have the pleasure of meeting lots of crazy people here as well haha.  We ran into a few people who say they see God, have walked across the ocean, have pulled carts with Moses in China etc, it's so funny, and for some reason all the crazies can speak heavily accented English! My companion thinks its because they all attend our free English class haha.

Now on to the week, monday was great.  I went to victoria peak where you can see all over the island! Reminded me a lot of when I went there with my family which was a weird tbt feeling, but it was beautiful and cool to see so much of the mission area! Love Hong Kong! Its a beautiful place! Tuesday was probably the hardest day of the mission, it was a classic bad mission day. We went finding all day, and didn't find a single person who spoke Mandarin, and mostly just got ignored throughout the day, and then a bird pooped all over my companion as well, haha so it was just a hard day. I don't think I've ever prayed so hard and relied so hard on God to help me here, especially in finding. If we don't have the Spirit with us we literally find no one. It's been very humbling just knowing I can't do it myself. All throughout my life I've been able to do things mostly myself, and would pray of course, but never had to rely on God and the Spirit like I have here. I also have never had my weaknesses be so apparent as they have here. Its just like Ether says though - our weaknesses are pointed out to us so that we can make them strong, through the Savior's Atonement. We had many hard days like that in a row, and my companion and I spent a lot of time in sincere prayer together, asking the Lord to help us, to guide us to those who would here our message, and who are from the mainland. What I love about my companion so much is that days like that don't get him down! He really truly has faith and believes every morning, and I try my best to wake up positive, ready, believing, and faithful everyday!  When we have faith that the Lord will provide, and do everything we need to be doing out here, truly believing, the Lord does provide, in His time. I have never had a more powerful testimony of that than I did this week. It was just a super hard week all week long and then suddenly, by the end of the week, our success just did a total flip flop out of the blue! All of a sudden, we were finding Mandarins on the street, they were talking to us, and wanting to meet with us! All of our phone calls were being answered by dropped investigators, and they showed renewed interest in our message! It was honestly amazing, I feel so blessed to see my prayers answered so directly, and so quickly. Maintaining faith, attitude, and truly believing every day that we will find someone who needs to hear our message has definitely blessed us both, as well as sincere prayer and obedience.

It reminds me of the people of Limhi in the Book of Mormon, something that I studied this week. It says that his people were humbled after being repetitively beaten back and basically enslaved, it says that they were humbled even to the dust. That's a level of humility that I just don't even understand. And that humility caused them to cry unto the Lord with everything they have. The scripture says that the Lord then slowly allowed them to "prosper by degrees." This concept is a lot like what my companion and I had this week. I've never felt so humble in my life, feeling like I really can't do anything, or even talk to anyone without the Lord. I simply can't do this work by myself. All I can control here is my work ethic, attitude, and trying to do what God would have me do. A little later in the Book of Mormon Alma states that through tribulation he was made an instrument in the hands of the Lord. That's definitely what the mission is, tribulation, humility, faith diligence etc etc and finally just living your mission, forgetting about yourself, and becoming an instrument in the Lord. Sometimes it's soo easy to get distracted thinking about home, the past, or the future, but none of that is in my control, focusing on the amazing members here, on our investigators, and just loving the people is so much more effective on helping me become better. 

Now our new investigators! We have this man named Ben, we randomly found him and he told us this big story of one of his relatives who converted to our church then also served a mission! He seems super prepared and told us if he attended church and it felt right that he wants to get baptized! I was shocked but so excited! It was so crazy running into him, amongst the huge crowds of people, and to have that background, if that isn't a testament of the power of the Spirit in guiding us to find who we need to find, I don't know what is. We also have this guy named Summers (the english names are so funny, people seem to think they're normal american names) and he is an awesome guy! He loves boxing randomly and loves Mayweather (not a great role model) but he just has a great attitude and is very social. He even decided to go with us to the Bishop's house for dinner! Then we have Wu Wei Jian who is from Beijing and his accent is impossible to understand, so much slurry and r noises. He is great, and was super curious about the Book of Mormon, he asked for a copy and started reading it right away with us during our first lesson! And we have many more appointments next week which just makes me so excited to see the work here prosper by degrees! I really believe every area has so much potential, some people seem to believe that because its Asia, baptisms will be slow and scarce, but I believe any area can prosper! My mandarin is also getting better, sometimes its pretty frustrating bc I hear all Cantonese and it makes me feel like I'll never get it down, but we have been talking to more and more people, and working hard at it,  know the Lord is blessing me to learn this language. Im also getting better at understanding Cantonese when I hear it, though it's all still overwhelming. Chinese is so interesting, every word is just like the characters, they can be broken down into all these little pieces and meanings, and then put back together in any order to make different words, and sometimes the words mean what they're parts mean, and sometimes they don't at all haha so i've been working on getting better at recognizing all the new words etc. Its a crazy language but so fun to learn! Different accents are definitely the hardest part for me to understand, bc every mainland area has a distinct and different accent! 

The ward here is awesome, the members are seriously so amazing I love getting to know them! So many of them are converts and have cool conversion stories, its so eye opening being in a place where the church is still relatively new, and working with people who have never even heard of the idea of a Savior or a God. The ward had a talent show on Saturday and asked us to come, it was so fun! some of the talents were questionable (like this one old lady made this weird black smoothie that I drank, tasted like dirt haha) but there was just a great ward family feel! I'm working my hardest to gain their trust and then hopefully referrals! When I first got here I just thought everyone here was shy or busy, but Chinese people really aren't shy, you talk to them for like a minute and they don't even know you and start talking about everything haha it's super fun, something someone told me is that everyone is always looking down when they walk because they all have lots of stress and problems from the way the competitive society is set up, and the ones that are truly happy are the ones walking with their heads up, which is like no one haha. The difference between members and non members is so obvious, members are happy, smile, walk with their heads up and are friendly, I love running into them while finding! Their is just a happiness and a purpose they have that everyone else here needs so badly. Im trying my best to give everyone the opportunity to have it! When we brought investigators to events everyone is so welcoming I can just feel the love from them, it's great!

I hope that letter makes sense and isn't too jumbley haha. I feel like I've learned so many lessons and have so much to share but so little time to share it all! Thank you all for the love and support it means a lot!
Elder Woolley

Monday, August 17, 2015

First Week in Hong Kong - Tolo Harbor South

Helloooooo everybody!!

    It's been a while since I've been able to write because I didn't have anytime to write last week, instead I was on a plane for 16 hours :) Anways I'll quickly recap my last week at the MTC before I talk about Hong Kong.
  I got to hear from President Nelson, which was so great! He's an amazing and inspiring man, and definitely inspired to me to go out to the field and use my time wisely! We sang the song, Be Still My Soul, which is a really comforting song, I love the words in it. Telling our own souls to be still, the Lord is on our side. I then said goodbye to my teachers later that week which was super sad, they are really just the highest quality people and definitely inspired me countless times!
Last goodbyes to MTC District
Then later people sang, God Be With You Til We Meet Again, and we were off! Of course it was really sad to say goodbye to my district, especially my really good friends from college that were still there, but I know everyone is going to do so well! 
     Quick funny story from the plane flight over, haha, I took a sleeping pill right before dinner to help me get over the jet lag faster, and the pill hit me right away! I started eating dinner then all of a sudden I started feeling super weird, my head was all cloudy and I couldn't really move well, I also for some reason started seeing doubles of the flight attendants and thought that tha aisle was super colorful haha, sooo this made me spill food all over myself because I couldn't get it to my mouth, and I kept staring down the aisle and at the attendants. Apparently I kept telling my companion "there are two men" and "look at the colors!" and "my brain feels so weird, like there's a hat on it." I don't know why I reacted to it so weird but I was a total mess and everyone thought I was joking but I really was so out of it. Then I knocked my water onto myself and didn't even realize it til a few minutes later, then I asked my companion "am I wet?" He then realized I wasn't joking and helped me get up, wipe up all the water and food off, then tucked me in hahaha it was hilarious, I was such a mess. Apparently I kept talking to them for a while and saying random stuff then slept for like 5 hours. It was a great time!
Anyyways, now to Hong Kong! On our plane flight were these people from Shanghai who are converts to the church! They were soo cool and it was awesome to be able to actually understand them and respond! It's pretty crazy how much the Lord blesses his missionaries to learn in 9 weeks. The first thing I felt was the wall of humidity when we stepped outside, it is like instant sweat!! Everything is sweaty and sticky haha I don't think I'll ever get used to it. We met with President and Sister Lam, they are so awesome and I'm glad I get to work with them these next two years!!
President and Sister Lam in front of the mission home
The next day we went to get our Hong Kong IDs. On the MTR (train station) we tried to find people who can speak Putonghua (Mandarin) and found one daluren (mainlander), It's pretty tough always hearing Guangdondhua (Cantonese) and not being able to understand or communicate with most people, though most people understand a tiny bit of Putonghua. I also got to help teach one of the English classes which was so fun! We stayed in the mission home for the first two nights and got oriented, and we stayed next to a bunch of families from Beijing! Mainlander members are the coolest! The always have the most inspitring conversion stories and they are true pioneers for the church in China! We would stay out and talk to them for an hour or so each night.  They absolutely loved us and would all go dress up to take pictures with us! So cool! The last night we were with them, they all bore their testimonies to us which was awesome, mainlanders are the best!
The next day I met my trainer, his name is Elder Sy, he's from the Phillippines, but speaks English very well, Cebuano, and Mandarin.
Meeting Elder Sy
Basically a stud, he's only been in the field for like 5 months or so, so he and I are a very green companionship! He has a very positive attitude, is hardworking, and happy. He really has tons of faith too, I really like him and we get along very well! He's a lot like me, just shyer. He and I are in the Tolo Harbor South area, we have a big area and are starting from scratch in our area.  We had one investigator named Richard. He's from Beijing. Unfortunately, we helped him move on Saturday to the Kowloon area (I'll talk about that more later) and so we have no investigators. So we have done lots of finding! every day we do between 3-7 hours of finding.  It's hard work, but we go about it with a great attitude, and I always look forward to it beceause we both really believe we will find the people who are ready and need the gospel! I say hi to everyone that we meet and try my best to communicate with them. The problem is, almost everyone speaks Guangdonghua so I end up saying Ay ni hao, ni hui jiang putonghua ma? (hi do you speak mandarin) like a million times, most people say bu hui, ignore us, shake their hands, yell, or pretend they're talking on the phone. But we've had some great street lessons and found some mainlanders to teach! Some people can tell the difference based on how they look but I really can't, here they really do look the same, because they are the same. My comp says they look more Chinese. Idk how that's possible. I've also picked up a few phrases to say to the Guangdonghua people, my favorite are the old people. They are so hilarious! They are either super out of it and just wandering around, super crusty and grumpy, or rarely, super nice! I always try to talk to them, it's pretty funny. They all congregate in malls and stuff by the AC and just grumble and yell particles in Cantonese. Cantonese has all these long particles like gamaaaa or laaaa and stuff that drag out, whereas mandarin is short and choppy, it's one of the reasons why I want to learn Cantonese in about a year or so bc it sounds fun! Also, side note, the AC in my apartment is broken, I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my life.
View from my apartment
View from a bridge after torrential rains

I have had some really great spiritual experiences here so far. One night, my companion and I were finding and we were trying to decide what street to go on.  I really felt that we should turn left, almost like I was being pulled left, so we started walking, and all of the sudden we run into this couple speaking putonghua! And they both stopped! Which is super rare, so we taught them a quick street lesson and prayed with them, we're giving them a follow  up call today! Hopefully they become investigators. Another time we were finding and we walked past a park, again I felt like I should go back to the park but kept walking, then my comp asked if we should go back, he had had a similar feeling, so we went back and the last person in the park that we talked to ( after like 20 mins) was a Philippina lady who ended up taking a BoM and we said a prayer with her, she started crying after the prayer, and I felt the Spirit so strongly, that God loves this lady and her family, and that He would comfort her. She told us she was working from the Phillippines here for her family      (which is very common) and was very lonely that day. It was so cool to see that the Lord has prepared people everywhere!
We helped Richard move to Kowloon on Saturday and it was the most inefficient thing ever. We showed up and he hadn't started packing! I could totally see my dad just getting down to business and throwing everything in boxes and getting a move on haha but we helped him pack up and had to take his stuff to the train station, then switch trains a bunch of times and walk everywhere carrying this one huge cardboard box of his stuff, then it starting pouring rain, like monsoon type torrents of rain and lightning (it's monsoon season here) so we got soaked and the box got shredded in our hands by the rain, and we had to do two trips! It was very inefficient and I got absolutely drenched, but it was a great service opportunity! I don't know how he would've done it without us!
Soaked in the elevator with Richard and
Elder Sy 

I met the members on Sunday and they are so amazing and so friendly, which was a nice change. There are a decent amount of Mandarin speakers in the ward. the ward is very young, a lot of College aged students and recent converts which is fun, and everyone just loves and supports the missionaries. There are a ton of us operating with the ward (about 8) because they're really trying to make a big push so we can start a putonghua branch here in the area. Right now it's about 30 -70 Guangdong-putong, so the sacrament meeting is guangdonghua. Fortunately they have translators and headphones, though later it'll be useful when I can start learning it. 

The people here are so interesting.  The culture is that they can help themselves, they don't need anyone's help, but they want to also help others. But others don't want their help haha it's a very work hard society, and very stressed out and materialistic society. I really know the gospel can definitely bless all the lives here, and I just love the people so much! I say hi to everyone and give them a nice friendly greeting, it just makes me sad to see how stressed and busy everyone is, there's no time to appreciate anything but work and money. I feel so fortunate to have the gospel because it provides so much more depth and meaning to my life. 

I cant wait to find people to teach and help change! The power of change that the gospel can bring about is amazing, and is a sure testimony of it's truth! Hearing the Beijing member's testimonies of overcoming drug addictions and hard life situations by faith and the gospel was amazing! I know that through faith, and really truly believing and relying on the Lord, miracles can and will happen. Have faith! Believe! Just like my favorite scripture Mosiah 4:9! God is not an absent Master, and He wants to help us and can make Himself known unto us if we but try to know Him.
love the work, love the people, and love you all, too! Thanks for all the support!
Wu (Hu) Zhang Lao

Monday, August 3, 2015

Last Week in the MTC

I got my travel plans for Hong Long!!

This week has been awesome! Just the most exciting week here and I have much to say and so little time to say it! 
I'll start with my travel plans which arrived on Friday! Everyone's visas came through which is great, I leave next Monday at 6am, fly to Seattle, then have a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong which is gonna be soo brutal but so exciting! Getting the plans was one of the highest moments of the MTC - everyone was yelling and running around and Elder Hammond ran up the stairs then grabbed the rail and started jumping up and down on the stairs yelling "wake up Potter! Were going to Taiwan!!" in a loud british accent. Apparently Dudley does something similar in Harry Potter - haha it was so funny and I was shocked none of the MTC staff came to apprehend him! I really am so excited to go but it's a little bittersweet, it's so fun to see college buddies here, and I've gotten very close with my district and companion. DANSHI (but) it's time to go to Hong Kong! 
Travel itinerary!! I'm so excited!!!

Also family the pictures of the four pass loop in Aspen were beautiful, jealous of that hike, and can't believe that you are all going back to campus and creek soon! Where has summer gone? 

This week's skype TRC lesson went much better than last, no confusion of stories etc, we really tried our hardest to understand and check for our understanding as well as rely on the Spirit more since we really can't teach without it. We taught this hilarious and loud older women who had converted in the earlier 2000's. It was tons of fun and i just enjoyed trying to get to know her. We taught a solid lesson on patience and the idea of perspective and God's time. Perspective is something that I've definitely noticed coming up a lot in my studies and I'll talk more about that later.

My mom randomly sent me a paddle ball in the last package she sent me and it's kinda hilarious/sad how good we all are at it now. We started a competition in our rooms using the little time we have at night, and the first night we struggled to get over 15. Now the record is 651 haha held by my
Snacks in my mouth, Elder Stratford practicing his mad
paddle ball skills and Elder Kirschner looking for sour
patch kids
companion, it's pretty hilarious haha we just sit there hitting the ball forever but everyone is low key competitive about it so it gives us a little fun in the dorms. This probably makes the MTC dorms sound like the saddest place ever hahah but it actually has been a ton of fun, I dont know if I've ever consistently laughed as much as I have here, which is a good and bad thing. But this work is all about the attitude something else that the MTC has really taught me.

Me with Elders Ball, Bebbel and Hammond
Since this is my last week written from here I want to talk about some lessons I've learned here and maybe some advice to future missionaries. So many of the lessons I have learned here have been because of perspective and attitude. Something that's so great about the church is that working on specific characteristics such as patience, humility, charity, dedication etc is that they all build on one another, and have much of the same root principles. Perspective has been huge for me. Often it is so easy to get down or lost in a situation and I've neede to step back, and re-evaluate my perspective. More often than not I am teaching my worst, and feeling my worst when my perspective has been focused on myself, and on trying to blame others. It is too easy to think and expect so much for myself and to blame failures on others when really the opposite perspective should be taken. This can help develop selflessness. There is also the perspective of our relationship with God and Christ, something that I talked about last week. On realizing that we really do owe them everything (Mosiah 2-4) we are truly humbled, and look upon others with more charity. King Benjamin's speech has truly impacted me in my time here. The other thing that has been a huge part of my stay here is attitude. Often my first few thoughts and feelings in the morning can decide my attitude and the rest of my day. If we choose to have a positive attitude, and always be optimistic, we will be happier, we will look to successes and positive characteristics of everyone, and people will want to be around us. That's something that has been tested of mine here. I remember my hardest day here was because I was focused on myself and because I started the day off really disliking the MTC. Once my perspective changed in the realization of preparation and the grand scale of the work I am embarking on, my attitude slowly changed and the rest of the week was great. I try to always be positive, optimistic, and uplifting. That's what get's people interested in our glad message. The countenance and attitude of all members despite our personal trials. We are blessed with this knowledge, this sure knowledge of a Redeeming Savior, who's atonement is not just for forgiving of sins, but also to be used for improving weaknesses, overcoming any challenge, and becoming a person converted of Christ. I love Bednar's talk " Becoming a Missionary" and the same principle applies to people in all walks and stages of life in 'becoming a follower of Christ'. As a missionary I can't just go through the motions because I will come back and it will be as if I never left, I can't simply go on a mission, I need to become a missionary. The same concept applies to life. I can't go through the motions of anything and expect results, it's all about changing and becoming. Lastly, to all those preparing to go on a mission, make sure you know why you are deciding to serve a mission before you make the commitment to come. Be sure you know for a surety. Doubts will come but if you know, you will overcome it all. Go when you are ready, not when all your friends go or even when your family wants you to go, but prepare seriously, and go when you're ready. Then you can make the best use of these two years, they aren't my 2 years, and they won't be your two years, but they will be God's 2 years. I don't want to sound preachy because I'm not perfect, but I have seen the difference between knowing and not knowing here, it's absolutely crucial.

Left my suit in class on Sunday and had to
go in my shorts to class to get my suit :/
I have tons of thoughts and so little time to express them but let me just leave you all with a quick testimony of Jesus Christ since he's the center of this gospel. I have come to know throughout my life that Jesus is the Christ. I can promise you all with a knowledge as sure as any I have, that Christ suffered for us, and bore all burdens so that we don't have to, and all that we have to do is simply come unto Him, and believe on His name. All we have to do is simply believe, and we can have a joy in life that cannot be found any other way. His way is the only way under heaven by which we can truly have happiness. I love the Savior and am only beginning to understand all that He has done for me, and for all of us! I can't wait to share my simple testimony is Chinese with the people of Hong Kong and China! What hope this glad message can give them! It fills me with hope and motivates me every day here! 

I love you all and the next time you hear from me I'll be in Hong Kong! 

Wu Zhang Lao