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, October 26, 2015

New Area! - Week 11

Hellooo everybody!

I'll start off by wrapping up this week in my last area! As we turned over our last investigator, Sheldon, last week I felt a very strong comforting peace and feeling of completion for my Tolo South area, and that I did what I needed to do there, which was a blessing because I had really been feeling sad about leaving. Elder Sy and I also got to meet with Jason Lin (a recent convert in our ward) and I really got to see the fruits of our labor with him. When we first decided to meet with him we suddenly realized that he couldn't really recognize his Spiritual conversion, or simply hadn't had one, so he was mostly just kinda going with the flow without any real conviction. In our last lesson we got to share our testimonies with him, and hear him bear his, and it was amazing to see the transformation he has spiritually gone through since we first started to meet with him. Since meeting with us he has really started to pray, read the Book of Mormon everyday, and start to truly search for a testimony, and it's been such a blessing to see him become spiritually self reliant, I honestly feel like helping him was one of the big reasons that I was serving in the area! On Thursday, Elder Sy and I went down to Kowloon Tong to change companions and go to our new areas.  He will now be serving in international work speaking Tagolog! I really really enjoyed my time being trained by him, it was pretty sad to say goodbye, I learned a lot from his example of patience, faith, and humility. I know we'll stay good friends for a long time!
Last night with Elder Sy before transfers.
Sister Gamboa is from the Philipines
My new companion is named Elder Ma! He's a really cool guy and actually trained my MTC companion Elder Stratford which is really fun! He's also a Hong Kong bundeih so he speaks everything. We're getting along great and have already had some good times, and good lessons. And now to my new area! I am now serving in Macau!! Macau is another country that is about an hour long jet boat ride away from Hong Kong, and I am living on an island called Tai Pa off of Macau. Macau is such an interesting place, it used to be owned by Portugal  (shout out to Elder Holmes) much like Hong Kong was owned by Britain so there is lots of Portuguese writing on all the signs as well as Chinese, and downtown Macau is basically Las Vegas, so it's like a crazy blend of China, Vegas, and Portugal.
Macau - with Chinese and Portuguese signage  
It's a super diverse place too, there's tons of people from all over the world here! It has a very different feel from Hong Kong as well and I'm excited to keep doing the work here! My companion Elder Ma is also the Zone Leader out here so we have lots of responsibilities. We serve in a Cantonese branch, and also an international branch! I end up going to church 3 times a week, the international branch meets twice to accomodate all the Filipinas schedules, so it's lots of church which is great, we also work with lots of less actives from that ward, right now we are focusing on the men to try and help them build stable families in the gospel. The importance of working with members is key in those lessons because I don't speak any Tagolog and a decent amount of the la's don't speak english. So I'm learning a little Tagolog to be friends with these people! Serving in the Cantonese branch is also hard because of course I don't speak Cantonese so well, I'm starting to really be able to hear and understand Cantonese much better, so the ward is really good practice for me to work on that language too and speak it better to contact everyone I can! And finally we have our investigators from mainland here that we work with. Because Elder Ma is the ZL we go on splits a lot, and I have taught a few lessons where just the investigator and I can speak Mandarin, but fortunately the Lord has really been blessing me with the Mandarin so the lessons have been going great! My language capabilities are all being stretched here in the different wards and I am definitely relying on the Lord to keep blessing me to learn everything I can to help all of God's children that I can! We have lots of great responsibilities here as well, we teach an english class, cantonese class for the international people, and we just got trained this last week in a self reliance class.
I am super excited to help facilitate these self reliance groups here in Macau. There are just so many people struggling here in all sorts of ways, and the first thing we get to teach is budgeting! (my passion) haha but we also get to help them manage money, start small businesses (Macau is full of tiny little shops and businesses) learn new skills, find jobs here etc, and the best part is we also teach them the Gospel every day at the beginning of the class. I'm excited to help these people regain hope.  The program has proved to be pretty efffective especially in just helping people have hope, hope that they are not spiritually or temporally stuck where they are, and gives them the faith to take their lives into their own hands, and move forward. Those groups will be starting as soon as we publicize them here and start to sort out groups and continue to train on how to help out the members and community! It's a great way to serve. I also have a lot of opportunity to play the piano at these wards because hardly anyone plays, which has been a great feeling of getting to use my God given talents to bless where I serve. I am trying to get a music class set up here as well to help teach the people how to play so that when I leave they can always have someone to play the hymns and provide the congregation with that beautiful music!
Funny stories for the week - We were visiting a less active guy in his apartment and one of the members was bearing a strong testimony in Tagalog when all of a sudden his dog breaks out and is all over Elder Ma just lovin him haha after a while Elder Ma turns to me and whispers dude I think the dog peed on me haha I just about lost it I could harrdly keep it together which was so bad because it was a very powerful moment for the man we were teaching (despite the fact that I couldn't understand any of it) haha and I looked down and saw this huge wet spot on my companion's suit pants haha so funny.

We went to a big birthday party for all the members of the international ward who had birthdays in October and the Filipina relief society sisters just loved me!
Filipina sisters in the international ward
Haha they are the friendliest people, so humble and willing to sacrifice, and they were just loving me, it was like my Popo's dreams had become reality, they were all swarming me and all lined up to take pictures with me and saying I am a movie star haha it was the funniest thing, I guess Filipinas just love me! I really love these two new wards and serving both of them, the members are all so humble and willing, and I want to do my best to serve them and hopefully leave this area even better than when I got here! Also a good amount of the Filipinas in the ward also new my grandparents who served in Wan Chai which was fun to talk to them about, they all loved you two!
This week I learned a lot about hope. In visiting the less actives and just getting to this new area and seeing what the gospel has given some of the poorer members has just inspired me so much. The people might not have much, but they sacrifice what they do have, and they recieve hope from the gospel of Jesus Christ. He gives us the faith to carry on, to know that we can be better, to allow us to always be able to be better than our current situations. He helps these people know that they have a Savior. They know they have a Savior, and though they have nothing, they have everything. The Savior takes empty people, and fills them. We visited a sad looking less active man on Saturday, and felt him be filled with the Spirit. He came to church and looked like a different man, suddenly given new hope, a hope that his mistakes, though they be grave, can be forgiven, he can be clean, and he can start all over. Sometimes we all need to start over, there's so much hope in the idea of a fresh start. I know that because we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, we can all have a new start, every day, even every hour, as we strive to be like him, follow him, and use his infitine Atonement. I am so glad to know that Christ really is my Savior, I know he is everyones Savior and I have seen him fill people with hope! I love this gospel so much! I am so excited to keep serving this new area and learn and do what the Lord sent me here to do!
Thank you all for the continuing love and support! I am so grateful for you all in my life!
Elder Woolley

Monday, October 19, 2015

Moving! - Week 10

I had a crazy week! Too much has happened but I will try my best to sum it up!!

First off some fun things of the week- I met a nice Phillippina who knew Grandma and Grandpa Woolley from when they served here! That was super fun and I was proud to be here just like them working in the same beautiful country! She had great things to say about them and it's great to have so many connections to this amazing city!

Not as fun-our washing machine broke this last week just like everything in our apartment haha so I ended up hand-washing all my clothes, definitely got to appreciate washing machines and my apartment mates had a good time laughing at me calling me a peasant haha.
Last p-day lunch in Fen Ling with Elder Sy and apartment mates
I met this random old white guy names Steve and he was the coolest! We talked to him for like half an hour in the park, he was in his 70s or so, and his father had actually had the missionaries over a few times back when he was just like 12, and he said he still remembers the feeling they had, telling my companion and I that we just had the good mormon 'aura' about us, just like those missionaries from when he was a kid. I was pretty amazed how much he remembered, he said when he was a kid he felt like they saw right into his soul when they looked at him and could tell his feelings, obviously he was very impressed by them. Just reminded me we never know what seeds we plant and what impressions we can give people just by doing the work!

Ryan and Elder Sy saying good bye to Jason - such a strong convert
This Thursday Elder Sy and I got a phone call telling us that our area (Tolo South) is being closed down and reabsorbed into one big Tolo Mission because there aren't enough Mandarin missionaries here to keep it separate, apparently there are 22 more Cantonese missionaries coming and some of the tri-lingual missionaries are flipping to cantonese to train, so I will be finding out tomorrow where I will be moving to. It was honestly pretty heartbreaking news.
The other elders office in the apartment
I have put in many many long hours of work in this area with my companion bringing it back to life and really just started to feel lots of progression and results, so I was pretty sad when we got the call. We have been turning all of our investigators over to the Tolo North Elders who will be taking over the whole Tolo area which is gonna be pretty huge. It's been pretty sad turning them over and trying to help them understand why we can't teach them anymore, but I really gained a perspective for how much the Lord has blessed my companion and I as we have been humbled here, and worked our hardest. I was reminded of a quote from Preach My Gospel that says Jesus completed all that the Father sent him to do, and I really felt comforted that my companion and I have done our very best to complete all that we were sent to this area to do, and that we have left this area alive and much more active than when we started. I have truly gotten to see and better recognize blessings and mercies of the Lord in my life as I served this area. I really love here and the ward, but I'm excited to see where I go next! I will also definitely miss my companion, I have learned a lot from his positive attitude, and especially from his humility. But it has helped me to resolve to always be doing what the Lord sent me here to do, so whenever I get moved I can always feel satisfied and know that i have tried to do the Lord's will. It has definitely been the hardest months of my life, but easily the most rewarding, and I'm excited to see where all of our investigators can go with the foundation we've given them, and with the guidance of their new missionaries.
Last time these two are together!  What a
wonderful trainer!!

 This week we had our last lessons with a bunch of investigators and it's great to just see the change in them, the difference in desires, happiness, and action. We even got our communist buddy Summers to pray for us! As simple as that might sound it was honestly amazing, and he did such a great job I knew he felt the power of prayer! I also had the opportunity to be interviewed by one of our investigators who studies journalism, where I basically told my farewell talk to him and I once again felt the missionary purpose, and I'm excited for him because he has to re-listen to his recording a bunch of times to analyze it, transcribe it, and other stuff so I'm hoping the more he listens to it the more the Spirit can work on him!

Recently I have been studying a conference talk each week, and this last week I read Uchtdorf's talk about being 'satisfied' with out church membership experience. One of his points was asking if we are making things too complicated. I feel that that is something that happens a lot in missionary life, because there is just so much to work on, so many things to improve, that it's easy to just flounder a little bit unless we take a step back, look at it from 'a higher plane' and realize the most simple and foundational thing that we need to do, which is come unto Christ. So I decided to every day find a characteristic of Christ that is highlighted by my scripture study every week, and it's been really effective on helping refocus everything around my missionary prupose. I have been reading Alma 25-27 this week which have been great and inspiring missionary scriptures, and something that stood out to me was mercy. Ammon talks about how he relied on the mercy of the world, and the mercy of the Lord to get through his mission, and made me think a lot about how everything is according to the mercy and grace of the Lord. He suffered unimaginable pain because he loves us and because of his mercy, so that everyone can have some way, some hope for a better life. And according to his mercy we are able to be forgiven, to move on, to start anew, to have success, and to be more than we are! I can't imagine the love, and the mercy he has for us, that he would willingly do what he did for us, to give us that great gift of mercy. He gives us success as a gift of mercy, forgiveness, happiness, everything! So who are we to with hold that from others? I think of the people I have met here, some really quite lost, asking us why they feel empty, sad, confused, bored, or even feel nothing. And we get to help fill them up, to feel something new that they have never felt before that makes them more. It's hard to explain the difference in people that we teach other than there is just more to them. More depth, happiness, direction, and understanding. And it is because of the mercy of the Lord, and what he did, so that we can all be more.
I dont know if this letter makes any sense because I am extra rushed today, but I love you all, and I'm sad but excited to move onto where God would have me serve Him and His children! 
Good Bye Tolo harbor
Beautiful sunset on Tolo Harbor

Elder Woolley

Monday, October 12, 2015

Conference! - Week 9

So much happened this week I'll have to see if I can possibly sum it all up!
Companion and apartment mates - Love these guys!

This week I really have started to see the success that God has given us here in this area, it's been really hard work, but as my companion and I have worked here in faith, and have trusted one another, we have been given success. I had a nice moment of realization this week of all the success that we have been blessed with. We've been so fortunate here to have found a new investigator every week for the past weeks and I know it's because we have been praying our hearts out and working hard! This last week we were blessed with 2 new investigators! One of them was such a stud, we we're talking with him and he was just loving everything, and then in the end told us how he thinks money isn't the most important thing in life and how he wants to be a good father. I was straight shocked! So many people here have told us that they believe there life's purpose is to get money and have a good job. How sad is that! My companion and I always try and help people realize that there is more to life than just money, career, and possessions. This young man's life and situation have clearly prepared to him for this moment with us to where he can't start to get to know God. I love finding people like this! People like that make it easy to say that I love my job!

On the other side of the spectrum is our investigator Sheldon, we have met with him three times and though his life has provided him with lots of money and success he still is a prepared person, telling us that he has always wondered in the back of his mind whether God is real or not, and if there could possibly be a little more to this life. He has been progressing and told us he feels peace as he prays and really enjoys praying. I was so excited! He's already progressed passed most of our other investigators!
I learned the sad lesson this week that you can't help people who aren't willing to help themselves. Unfortunately we had to drop our investigator Teng Hao (the male prostitute/porn actor). After our previous lesson with him I believe he started to realize that he really is not happy with his life and where it has led him, but was to afraid to face the goliaths of his life that suddenly stood before him. So instead he continues to run away from them, and in our last lesson with them he changed back to the way he was our first encounter, saying that he had no regrets, that he believes he lives the perfect life. It was a sad moment for him, and after carefully considering my companion and I felt it would be best to leave him with our testimonies of Christ, and leave him with a smile on his face. So we closed our lesson, pray that sometime in the future when he is more ready, some other missionaries can find his record sheet and start teaching him again. We still call him every once in awhile to check up on him and maintain a relationship, I think it's important that he doesn't think we just don't care about him once we realize he has no more desire to learn. He's a funny guy, he told us that society will change us and we'll be just likfe him in 10 years, more or less, so we made a deal to visit him in 10 years and we'll see who's right haha already planning my future HK reunion! 
I ran into another Bible basher and learned a very valuable lesson. I had been praying this week to learn something that the Lord would have me change or improve about my work here so that I can become a better missionary. While we we're banner finding I ran into this older man who seemed to have interest. He also spoke perfect English (warning signal number 1). So I started talking to him and teaching him a simple message when bam he suddenly just starting throwing out all this stuff at me, trying to twist what I had said and telling me what I believed in. Of course I found myself annoyed and a little offended, and began to argue with him, I could feel the Spirit leave me almost immediatley as I changed from caring about him and genuinely trying to teach him to being annoyed and having a desire to punch him haha. But in all seriousness the Spirit left immediately and I was left to argue with this man for like 20 minutes. All of a sudden I looked up, and realized all of the time I had wasted with this man, and I felt terrible, one, for wasting the Lord's time, 2 for being so angry with this random and kind of sad man, and 3, for driving away the Spirit. I ended the 'conversation' with the man turning around as he continued rudely talking to me and just said thankyou for sharing have a nice day. I later realized that was what the Lord wants me to improve right now, and it is my pride. My pride caused me to stick around and argue with that man who clearly had no desire to learn but just wanted to argue, and my pride led me to be offended and get angry. If I was humble I would've realized that man's intent, humbly ended the conversation even if it meant me appearing to have been defeated, and just kept doing the Lord's work. I felt very humbled by that experience.
I had my first baptism this week! As part of my calling I have the privelege of doing mainlander baptisms! So on friday the assistants asked us to go to Kowloon to start the process. So basically we teach asll the lessons all day to make sure they have a clear understanding, as well as give them time to read, pray, and start to develop a testimony. We then set up then needed interviews, get all the paperwork done, and then baptize them into the church! They are also informed about all the legal stuff about religion on the mainland, and then often times they go home late at night! It is a bit of an exhausting process but it is so amazing to see their faith, humility, and pure desire.
My first baptism!
Friends gathered for the baptism!

It's also so eye opneing to get to teach all the lessons in one day, and just get to see the gospel completely laid out. It really is eye openeing and testimony strengthening, as I taught all of the lessons I was once again remindned of how much sense it all really makes, and simple and true it is. The woman we taught has had a very difficult past with her family in the mainland and I just felt the gospel enriching her bearing her up, and giving her hope and happiness. Throughout the lessons, despite the length of the time learning, she seemed to brighten slowly and slowly as her faith and desire to be baptized grew. It was so inspiring, as my companion bore his testimony to her about to close our last lesson, I felt the Spirit powerfully bear witness to me that this is why I am here. I was so happy for her to have this chance to come here and recieve the gospel! I literally saw and felt it work it's way into her heart and mind, and see the love of Christ start to repair the damages of her past. It was humbling and powerful to be able to be a tool in God's hands to bring about so much happiness. I know that this gospel brings real, tangible hope. It's not some mental creation of the mind of the afflicted, but literally brings light, hope, happiness, and understanding to the faithful. The Atonement is so very real, I have felt it work in my life, lifting my burdens, making me better, and really helping the people we teach.

Finally we got to see general conference this weekedn! I don't have too myuch time to talk about it but it was amazing! So uplifting! Something I have been struggling these past few weeks is just the pressure of the mission field. I have just been pressuring myself so hard to be a good missionary, just thinking of all the things I need to work on, feeling quite inadequate, weak, and a bit overwhelmed at times. And I had been especially hard on myself thinking that I could've worked harder, or done something better to be a better missionary. Sometimes the mission does feel like a big pressure cooker. But this conference and mainlander baptism experience just really seemed to take a load of pressure off of my back. I really enjoyed the testimony of the new apostle who quoted Monson saying "the Lord qualifies those that he calls," and to focus not on what I can't do, but on what I can do. I can help people change, I can make people smile, brighten there days, I can testify of the Lord, I can love the people I serve and serve with, and I can make a difference. Everything else will come as I forget myself, don't pressure myself and instead just focus on what I can do in order to help others. I really just felt uplifted, inspired, and just have so much from this conference to apply here and keep learning. 

Thank you all for the support and love, I miss you all so much and pray for you all every night.  
Yummy Tom Say lunch! (I'm not fat, yet)

Elder Woolley

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mainlanders - Week 8

Downed trees from the typhoon
This week has been such a great week! 

This week we've been having a typhoon which has been crazy! Lots of wind, rain, broken trees and stuff flying everywhere, we couldn't go finding the other night because it was too dangerous, but don't worry Mom it's pretty safe here! 

Haha this week our gate also broke so we just took it down and decided to fix it ourselves (classic) and once we unscrewed it we realized how big and ridiculous of a fix it would be, I can't really explain it very well because it was so weirdly made, but basically it involved lots of strings and paper clips to get the bolt behind the hole positioned right and to give it enough tension and some other stuff to rescrew it haha but we fixed it and I literally felt like I had performed heart surgery, it took like an hour and was very tense. Sounds ridiculous I know but you would all know, if you we're here.
The impossible gate


My Chinese has been steadily improving I think haha it's hard to tell. The latest thing that has been hard for me is being expressive in terms of tones and saying things with conviction, mostly because with tones and the way people speak, you cant' really explain things and say stuff like "I know the church is true.. etcetc" the same way you would say it English or else it would sound weird. But I'm getting the hang of it, fluency is just around the corner! I definitely have been blessed by the Lord to be able to learn this amazing language, and work with the best people and the best ward!
Ryan and Jason, a recent convert
Ryan and Elder Sy playing basketball with the
Elders Quorum President, Elliot

This was a very spiritual week which is exactly what I needed this week, and I have learned a lot lessons. We had a trainer trainee meeting in Kowloon Tong at the mission headquarters so the new mission president could assess and see how everyone is doing, and if any changes need to be made to how he is doing things so far. Part of this meeting involved meeting this senior couple missionary named Elder James, he served here in Hong Kong about 50 years ago close to when it first opened and has served here many times after that. His love for the people is incredible, as well as his attitude. At the age of 16 he developed a very severe tremor in his voice and physical movement, so when he talks and uses his hand he just shakes really hard, and he told us with tears in his eyes that as he served here in Hong Kong hundreds of people, both members and non members tried to help and cure them, through various gross herbal drinks to needles etc, and he said that he is sure that had he not drunk all of those gross drinks or subjected himself to the pins, then his tremor would be far worse today. He really loves these people and the culture, and has a perfect attitude of gratitude. He talked about how he is grateful for having had that condition develop in his body, because it has helped him rely on God for so much. The greatest humility comes when we have to admit that we can't do something on our own, and turn to the Savior. He even said he was grateful for his weaknesses, and even for his sins, because they have allowed him to grow, and to get to know the Savior. I was amazed by his attitude. I'm not sure if I we're in his position I could be that genuinely grateful for such an impairment. It was humbling to say the least. There is a lot of power in being a grateful person, it humbles us, helps us recognize where everything of ours comes for, and helps us be less selfish. This week I've just tried to have an attitude of gratitude and it's honestly made this week one of the happiest and funnest of the mission despite the hardships.

We then had Zone Conference which was about having a mind focused on the work, and about serving others. We watched the lift mormon message which is very powerful, I like on quote that talks about the dichotomy of the human body and soul, when the body is injured it focuses all attention inward to heal, but the triage of the soul comes from turning outwards, and serving others. President Packer said that the mission is a great time of healing. It is also a great time of change, because it forces us to turn outward. I remember one night thinking wow I've never had this many people to pray for all the time! Then I realized, no, I've always had this many people to pray for, I've just always been to selfish to do it very often. An elder then shared a story about his grandfather serving his grandmother as her body deteriorated from a disease that hampered her ability to move, and it reminded me instantly of my own grandmother, who did everything she could to serve my grandfather as his mind deteriorated from Alzheimer's and dementia. I am amazed be her service and love for him, I have countless memories of her feeding him, wiping spit from his mouth, and always following around the hired helper lady and nagging her to make sure everything was done perfectly for the man she loved so much. I remember as a kid I didn't really get the significance of the example of service that I saw every time I visited them in SF. She would spend long hours with him, talking to him, and being with him even when he no longer recognized her. I've started to realize how many lessons I have to learn from my past that I just didn't realize were even there. I'm grateful for my grandmother's example, and I have definitely seen here how service and turning outwards makes all the difference.

Mainland investigator! Such a faithful preson!
This week had a lot of cancelled lessons and disappointments, but it all turned around when we got a call from the office assistants that a guy from mainland had walked in and asked to be taught! So we hurried on down to teach him and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the most amazing people ever! (I'm not supposed to tell his name bc of government stuff) He would tell us how every Sunday in mainland he would travel for an hour to the nearest church building, but because he is a China native and the church building has international members, it's illegal for him to go in, so he would sit outside the doors every day, straining to hear what he could from the meeting. I thought of all the things I take for granted, even something like religious freedom, I thought of all the times I didn't want to go to church, or would go and use my phone the whole time, and not pay attention, and here was this man who's country won't allow him to enter so he goes every week just struggling for some scraps of the gospel. We take a lot of things for granted. We we're able to teach him all the lessons in one day, and he just accepted everything, saying he has never doubted. His knowledge of the gospel was surprising, and his testimony was powerful and simple. It made me just remember how simple the gospel can be, so many people like to try and make the gospel so complicated and deep, or opposers try and look at every small detail to try and tear it down, but he just simply loved the gospel in it's simplicity. He loves God, knows he can be with his family for the eternities, knows that this is the fullness of the gospel restored, and knows that he has a Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for him. What else really matters? He is a truly happy man, and when we invited him to be baptized he gladly accepted, and if we're lucky he will be able to get through all of the legal work etc before he goes back to mainland. Though I sat across the table teaching him all the lessons of the gospel, his simple answers and testimony taught me far more.
Study time

Thank you all for the love and support! Praying for you all every day! 

Love and miss you!
Apartment dinner at the chapel,
with Elders Sy, Van Dyke & Kleine
Elder Woolley
Last week's visit to a cool heritage museum