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, 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