Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Hi Everyone!!!

Happy last day of 2012!!! Crazy huh?!!! I can't believe it!
This was a week of miracles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have investigators finally and I'm so excited! Thursday we were finding and saw a Filipino lady crying in a park. We sat down with her and she told us that she couldn't find a job and that she didn't have enough money to pay the fee she needed to pay in order to find one. We said a prayer with her that she could find a job and then gave her a Book of Mormon. I called her on Saturday night and she excitedly told us that she found a job and thanked us for our prayer! I asked what she was doing on Sunday afternoon and she said, "I was planning to come to your church." We arranged to meet her at 4:30 so we could show her how to get there and when we got there she was sitting on a bench waiting for us! It was all I could do to keep from running up to her and giving her a HUGE hug! On the way there, she told us that when she got home the night we met her, her aunt called and said that she could give her money to find a job. It was just in time because her visa expired today! I asked if she had had a chance to read the Book of Mormon and she said yes! She showed us her book and her bookmark was at least a half centimeter in!!!!!!! That's definitely past 1 Nephi!!! The sisters at church did a great job of welcoming her and she made friends right away. The Relief Society president said she was talking to our new sister and she said that after she found a job, she promised God she would come to our church. We're meeting with her tomorrow!!!!!!!! Not only all that, but she is boardmates with a group of people that visited our Christmas party and we have been having a hard time getting in contact with them again. We told her to invite them to church!
Miracle 2. The International missionaries in Wan Chi met an Indonesian lady and started teaching her. She is in Macau waiting for her a visa, so they gave her our number. One of the first things she did when she got a cell phone here was call us! I admit in the shuffle of things yesterday we forgot to call to see if she knew how to find the church, but SHE texted us today and said, "Can I come to the church tomorrow?" of course we said yes!!!!! She called later so we could set up a place to meet and she asked if she would still be able to be baptized. I assured her that we would teach her everything she needs to know. She will probably get baptized in Hong Kong, but I'm sooooo excited that we get to teach her.
Miracle 3. One of our member's brothers came to church yesterday and we are teaching them both tomorrow.
Miracle 4. One of the other sisters in my apartment met a man when we were Caroling last week. He came to church last Sunday and yesterday. He got lost on the way but luckily (miraculously) ran into the other sister missionaries who showed him the way.
Miracle 5. The Elders were able to baptize a lady yesterday.  It was sooooo cool to hear her testimony after she was baptized. Apparently, when the Elder met her, she really didn't have any interest but was nice, listened and gave him her number. Then he called her for like 3 months. She said she couldn't figure out why he was so persistent. She would usually schedule him and then not show up, or ignore his calls. Finally, she felt bad and came to church, "but only for one time and then never again." Hahaha!  She said that she hasn't had a very good view of herself during her life, but for the first time she felt like she was doing something right. She also said she knew she was perfect, but she knew how to talk with God and that He could help her. It was cool to hear her acknowledge that. I know a lot of people expect to be perfect when they are baptized and it's a bit of a shock when they realize that they're not. I'm glad she knew that and had enough faith in the Atonement not to worry about it.
Her story is pretty funny because she did EVERYTHING that investigators always do to us, I guess we just need to be more persistent. One of the Elders asked me yesterday, "So do people cancel on you all the time? Just out of curiosity how many times did you get cancelled on this week?"
Me: "1. . .2 . . 3 . . .4. . .5. . .6. . ."
Elder, "Ok ok, I get it that's all I needed to know."
Me: "Oh, I only counted back to Thursday."
Elder: "I'm so glad I have Chinese work to back me up!" (They serve in both branches)
I know from the sister that got baptized and from the events of this weekend that eventually Someone is going to show up and we are going to be able to teach them!
Miracle 6. We had tacos for lunch yesterday for Sister Law's birthday.
Miracle 7. We have been visiting lots of members and it has been really, really cool to hear all of these sister's stories. I love them sooooo much!!!
Ok Questions:
1 - Are there any celebrations for January 1 or do they just celebrate the Chinese New Year? 
I think so, we saw a number of stages with countdown things as we were out and about today.
2 - I can't remember, how often do you get to go to the temple?
Once every few months.  It used to be every move, but they just changed it. I guess I'll just wait until I get out of Macau or until Zone conference in February! It's been sooooo long and I miss it, but we are blessed to have the option, so I can't complain.

Well, That's all for this week! I love you!!!

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Macau Handover Day

Macau Handover Day Parade
 Hat from the Parade
 Roast Pig at the Mission Christmas Party

Mom, Dad, Kelli, Nathanael and Savanna!

It was soooo fun to talk to you this morning! It's amazing how fast 40 minutes flies isn't it?!!! But I was so grateful to hear your voices! Not to worry, when I get back we all probably won't shut up for several weeks to make up for 1.5 years with only 2ish hours of phone time!

Christmas here was really great, we had a lot of miracles too! Monday we got up bright and early to go to Hong Kong for the mission Christmas party! I included some pictures. It was so fun to see everyone! Unlike last year where I had no idea what on earth was happening! They had 2 roasted pigs for lunch and a man came and cut them up in front of us!!  Sister Hawks made Christmas cookies, and I got to sing in the mission choir which was really special! On the ferry back to Macau, I talked the whole way with a man from Sha Tin. We ended up talking about the plan of Salvation a lot. He says he believes the world has a God, but doesn't know where he is. I explained how we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and who we can pray to. I got his number and gave it to the Sha Tin Elders, hopefully they can teach him again! Other good news, my part of the conversation was in Cantonese! I've still got it! Unfortunately, it is becoming hard for me to understand it, since I don't hear it all day long anymore. I need to speak Chinese more with Sister Law. . .

When we got back we went straight to a Christmas Eve party at our Relief Society President's house. On the bus home we happened to see one of our investigators who doesn't have a holiday all December so we can't see her, but we had a 20 minute bus ride with her!! It was awesome!!!

We also had people feed us lunch on Sunday and dinner on Saturday, so that makes 5 Filipina meals since Saturday!!  We both felt like we would EXPLODE!! hahaha The thing about their food is they don't each veggies or fruit!!! It's all deep fried meat and carbs or things drowning in sweetened condensed milk and nestle cream!! yummy!!! We probably could have had dinner at someone else's house last night, but we had to leave for a lesson.

The other sisters from my apartment went to visit the blind lady I told you about last week.  We couldn't go because we were supposed to have a lesson, but the other sisters said that she remembered everything we taught her about the Plan of Salvation last time, and thanked Heavenly Father for it in her prayer. I thought that was so neat because she couldn't even say Plan of Salvation by the time we left the last lesson and really didn't seem to understand much of what we said. Yet, she understands and believes it now! Heavenly Father really works in amazing ways!

Last Thursday was Macau Handover day to celebrate Macau becoming a part of China again. I wasn't really sure of the details of the celebration.  I just knew there would be a parade and that the park near the church has had construction for a huge stage and lights system for weeks!  I scheduled an investigator to meet us at 330. The parade just happened to start nearby at 4 so we were lucky enough to see the preparations. Everyone had crazy hats (I'll send a picture of one that I got that was left over after the festivities) and the costumes and dancers looked so cool, Imagine mixing Chinese, Portuguese, Turkish, and the pop culture (more specifically Korean Pop culture) all together. It was pretty cool!  You should look it up on-line!! We didn't stay because we had other things we needed to do, but I was glad to catch a glimpse.

1 - How often do you get dinner appointments? Do they have a missionary dinner calendar like here in the states? 
Not super often, some wards have a calendar, but this one doesn't especially since it is mostly single Filipina sisters. It really depends on the ward.

2 - When does the Chinese New Year start? 
Around February 10

3 - Do you expect Macau to be as crazy for the New Year as Hong Kong?
Yes, there's most likely going to be some sort of festivity.

I better go, I wrote my report in the middle of e-mail today so I'm not sure how long I've been on here!! I love you!!!


Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm still in MACAU!!!!

We ate a weird preserved egg that apparently is pretty popular snack in mainland. It was black on the outside and pretty dense, not my favorite Chinese treat.
Water fountain near where we live in Macau.
Nativity near the waterfountain. . .
We didn't have time to go and see Broken Church, but this was a cool Mosaic that had a picture of it!
The inside of the MGM, I felt like I was in Whoville!!!
All of us with Turon
 The view from our apartment
 The bridge we take to Taipa
The famous Macau Tower
Hi Mom, Dad, Kelli, Nathanael and Savanna!!!

Yeah so where on earth did the time go?!!!! Remember in May when I called and you said, "Well, talk to you at Christmas!" and now it is Christmas!!!!!!!!

I got your package yesterday!!! President and Sister Hawks came down yesterday and brought the mail too! Can you believe they lugged a package all the way down here, when I'm going there next week anyway?  They are so sweet!! Thank you sooooooooooooooooooo much! I'm excited to open it! Actually, I kind of opened part of it already, I saw that you wrote "towels" on the front so I figured it was towels like last year so I opened it so I can give them away as gifts before Christmas. I already have several people in mind so thank you soooooo much!!

One of those people is Sister L. from Ma On Shan. She is the one who made the shoes for me. She and her husband, President Hawks' counselor, came yesterday too.  She and Sister Hawks came to our apartment to drop off the packages. She gave me a big hug and told me, "When I found I was coming to Macau I was so excited because I hoped I could see you!" She is awesome. I feel like each of my areas has had some of those sisters who I've been able to click with and I especially love and consider my friends. I don't really realize it until I've left and then I get to see them again. They are such great Sisters and examples. I was soooo happy I got to see her! Funny thing though, her son is our zone leader right now and he serves in the branch they visited!!!

So, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm still in MACAU!!!! With Sister Law!!! (Sister Lier's baby!) We're having a lot of fun and I'm so excited to serve with her! She is such a great missionary! Sister Cook is with Sister Heaton who was trained by Sister Kiene and came in the same time as Sister Lin! Such a good apartment! Unfortunately, it's not for long, my 20-day visa is up on Christmas, so I'll most likely only get another 10 days after that. Yesterday President Hawks said something to me like, "well it looks like we're going to have to take you out of here pretty soon huh?" nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! It's freaking me out a bit because it's occurred to me that wherever I get moved to is mostly likely where I will finish my mission!!! Every move is important and impactful, but that makes it even more daunting!!

I had the neatest opportunity this week! While we were waiting for our new Companions, I got to be Sister Cook's companion for a few hours. (That alone was awesome!) But I got to go with her to visit the neatest lady.  She lives alone and she is blind and going deaf. She wears a machine around her neck that amplifies sounds into her earphones, so when we talk to her, we often have to direct our voices to the microphone. When we came, she was so excited and even remembered my name because Sister Cook told her over the phone. I really enjoyed talking to her. Not many people visit her, so she really loves our visits. Sister Cook said that after one lesson, she said, "I didn't understand anything you just said, but I've been praying and it makes me feel better so I'll keep doing it!" We asked who cared for her and she said she cared for herself. We asked if she couldn't do it, who would?  She said us. From what she said it sounds like she has someone bring her food and take her to the doctor, but we had only seen her twice and she said that! She has other health problems in addition to her ears and eyes so it's hard for her to walk, and sleep. However, we asked her to say a prayer for us and all she did was thank Heavenly Father that we could come visit and that she could pray and a few other things. That was a lesson to me that I need to thank Heavenly Father more in my prayers. She had sooooo much to ask for and we had just taught her that she could ask for help through prayer and all she did was Thank Heavenly Father.

Yesterday was our ward Christmas party. We spread sheets down in the basement and sat on them like people in the time of Christ, wore scarves on our heads and ate food with our hands. Everyone wrote down one thing they wanted to change and give as a "gift to the Savior" this year and put it in a box that they will open next year. The Elders Quorum was in charge and they did a great job! (Well, except for when they handed us 2 bath towels and a cardboard box and told us to make a nice (not cardboard box looking) manger hahahaha). They asked us to do it because they "weren't any good at these table arranging types of things."  We found few pretty pieces of cloth and a table cloth and that worked out ok. hahaha!!

Monday, a couple in the ward invited us to dinner. He works at the MGM casino managing decor for all the events that happen in the main atrium of the building. A few weeks ago it was glass bubble that had butterflies in it, so you could walk into a room of butterflies. I sent a picture of the Christmas decorations, it was ridiculous!! Complete with a mini performance of the Nutcracker every hour. Apparently their next project is to build an aquarium in there! They took us to this amazing Buffet! It was really fun to be there and I enjoyed getting to know them better, they're a cute family.

I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!



Monday, December 10, 2012

The diary one writes in his life often differs from the one he intended to write.

Hi Mom, Dad, Kelli, Nathanael and Savanna!!!

Wow! Can you believe it's already December 10?!!! Crazy right!!! 3 months until I come home! That's crazy too!

It sounds like you're having a good time getting ready for Christmas!!!

I'll start with your questions first:

1 – In the pictures of the plants with writing, why was there writing on them? 

It's about the equivalent of carving on trees and rocks in hiking places in the states. But it looks a lot cooler because it's in a different language.
2 – Do you know where you will be for Christmas? Still in Macau?
I don't know yet, moves calls are tomorrow. I got 20 more days when I exited Macau last Wednesday, so I am allowed to be here until Christmas, and then I could have an additional 10 days before they kick me out, but President Hawks might have other things in mind.

3 – How do you get mail while you are in Macau?

We don't. . . hahaha until someone comes from Hong Kong. I've heard that Sister Kesler will sometimes put all the mail in a package and mail it here if it gets too piled up. It's not been too bad, once every 2 ish weeks. That way it piles up too. I had soooooooooooooooooooo much mail when it came on Wednesday!

This week has been a good week. First of all today, our neighbors lunch for us!! They are so cute! The Chinese woman next door is also our landlord and very nice. Her helper is from Indonesia. One day they came over to fix our water heater and we complimented L. (the helper) on the good smells that come from her cooking! She said, "I'll cook for you sometime, do you like Chinese food or Indonesian food better?" Wow!!! We told her that we like anything, but that she really didn't have to cook for us.  A week later she came over with a whole pan of Indonesian Curry!!! It was sooooo yummy! Last week we were out on our balcony and L. called over saying, "Do you like Chinese food? I make you Chinese food next Tuesday!!" Well, we ran into her while we were finding on Friday and she said she did cook for us, but we didn't answer the phone. So she scheduled us to have lunch with her and her boss today!!! Wow! They are so nice! The boss, Mrs. C., kept saying, "We can cook for you anytime, just let us know the day before!"  When we told her about what missionaries do she asked about pay. We explained that we give money to the church and the church provides our apartment, money for food etc. and she said, "Well I better feed you more often, this is your money that I get for your rent!!" It's been fun to get to know them! I also felt Super Chinese because we brought fruit over as a Thank you! (They love giving people fruit here!)

I tried Turon for the first time yesterday. It is a Philippine food that's like an egg roll, but it has a Banana inside instead of meat and vegetables. It was pretty good, but definitely deep fried so I couldn't eat a lot! Mamma Beth (President Marcello's wife) is soooo cute!  She made Turon and sandwiches for all the missionaries (There are 11 of us!!)

This week I've learned a lot. I guess this entire move I've been learning, but this week I was finally able to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I think what helped was a question that Sister Clements asked in a Companion study. President Hawks has given us this plan to help us focus more and bring more power and authority into our work. (I'm soooo excited!) He has given suggestions of things to read and do every day between now and the end of January. One of the quotes said something like, "The diary one writes in his life often differs from the one he intended to write. The humbling moment comes when he compares the two."  During companion study, Sister Clements asked us what "diary" or story we expected to write as a missionary. It didn't take much thinking for me to realize that I expected to be "perfect, smiling and sharing my testimony all day long." A bit of a fairy-tale image. I thought that missionaries could be perfect if only they desired to be. Only the ones who weren't really sincere would do dumb things. Well, I feel like I'm pretty sincere, I really want to be good, but I make stupid mistakes every day! So shux, I'm not perfect, but this week I've realized how grateful I am for these imperfections. President Hawks also gave us a talk by Elder Holland. It is a talk he gave in the MTC in 2000. It is sooo good! In it he says that we cannot preach and testify of Jesus Christ and represent Him as full-time missionaries if we are not willing to taste or suffer even bit of what He did. In the same light we can't teach of the powerful effect of the Atonement to cleanse us from our sins and bring us peace if we have not had the blessing of applying it in our lives. So I know mistakes and weakness are uncomfortable, annoying and embarrassing, but as it says in Ether 12:27 God gives us weakness that we may be humble and that our weaknesses can be made strengths. In my mission I have felt the Atonement making up for where I fall short. I have felt Heavenly Father's love strengthening me and helping me as I face the challenges He gives me. Never in my life have I thought I'd be so grateful for trials and weaknesses! I even find myself praying for them because I know they will make me better. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He suffered and dies so that we can be forgiven of our sins and so that he can comfort and support us in everything we face. I know that Heavenly Father loves every one of us. He knows who we can become and exactly what we need to do to get there. Even though my mission story is nothing like what I expected, it has been exactly what I needed.

Lesson #2 of the week: It hit me the other day that time is short! I've heard of missionaries looking toward the last day of their missions and missing out on many experiences at the end of their missions. I've also heard of some that go into denial and have a freak out when they get home. I don't want to be either of those (although I promise I'm going to be a bit awkward and weird until I adjust) I was thinking about President Uchtdorf's talk about missionaried being in the middle of their missions, not matter where they really are.  I was thinking, "Does that mean I should pretend like it's always August 2012? Isn't that like going into denial?" Then I realized that I'm still in the middle of my LIFE! and a mission is just another part of it. So every day is just another milestone in my life.

Ok sorry done with the deep thoughtful stuff! Just lessons learned from the week!

I got Savanna's Flat Stanley last week! I finished the letter today and I plan to get him in the mail soon. If I e-mail you pictures next week can you print them?

Tonight we get to go to the MGM (a casino, but we're not gambling!!!!!!! We cleared it with our district leader!) for dinner with a ward member! It should be really nice!

Oh before I forget, we cannot use Skype to call home, so I will be doing a normal call, I'm planning to call on your Christmas night. Is that ok?

I love you all soooo much!


Monday, December 3, 2012

I've been in Hong Kong for 1 year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pictures here in Macau

Hi Mom, Dad, Kelli, Nathanael and Savanna!!

Happy December!!!!!!! And guess what?!!! I've been in Hong Kong for 1 year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yikes!!!

We've just had an apartment of freaking out sister missionaries lately.  Nearing the end of one's mission can cause trunkieness which is where you don't want to work effectively and just want to buy souvenirs.  Then there's another emotion which I will call hou gap (in Chinese that's like pressed for time. . .)  It was just a realization that time is sooooo short and that it's going so fast and that we're going to have to be human again!!  I've been trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I've been here a year. The sisters from the MTC group younger than me are trying to understand how they're only 6 weeks behind, plus they just found out that they're leaving 2 weeks earlier. The first group of 18-19 year olds missionaries (or that generation) comes in on April 3. There are 15 of them!!!!! Crazy!!! Because the MTC time is now shortening by 1/3 they will only be there 9 weeks, so the transfer ends earlier. Transfer periods will be 9 weeks instead of 6. Isn't that awesome!!! So many missionaries in HK!!! Too bad I have to miss it. Well, of course it's affecting the sisters in the apartment who have more time left because they have to listen to us all the time, plus this news means that they have to train new missionaries!! On top of that, moves calls are next week. . . so we're just FREAKING OUT!!! hahahaaha Two of my roommates and I couldn't sleep last night.  One of the other sisters in the apartment started it by writing in her journal for a bit to help herself relax, one of the other sisters joined her, then I got up to go to the bathroom and sat with them. It was very theraputic just to talk.

We've had so many miracles this week!! We got to meet with several people for the second time. One of them is a woman we found in a park last week and she came back to the chapel with us. I didn't think she had that much interest, but she came again Wednesday and said she is soooooooo excited to be able to come and learn each week. She has been reading the Book of Mormon. Her Holiday is Wednesday, so we are hoping she can find a way to get time off to come to church. Another is another woman we found in a different park.  She also came back to the chapel with us.  (It's so good to have such a convenient chapel.) She met the Elders a few months ago and they gave her a Book of Mormon.  She wants to get baptized and be a missionary and tell everyone about the gospel!!! Soooo good!!! 

I just wanted to share some of my thoughts from church yesterday. I am serving in such a special branch. Most of our branch are Filipinos here working away from their families, so there are very few Priesthood holders.  The Elders Quorum has 10 at the very most and the ward has 2 companionships of Elders. . . A sister was sharing her testimony yesterday and she said she remembers when THE Priesthood holder was the Branch President.  Now there were 4 men sitting up on the stand, and I looked around and saw maybe 3 or 4 others sitting in the congregation. These Priesthood holders are soooo needed, treasured, desired and prayed for here. It really made me appreciate the Priesthood and those who willingly serve and fulfill their Priesthood responsibilities. There is one American family with 3 little kids in our branch. The husband, is one of 3 White brothers in the Branch. One of our Less-active members is going through a lot of trials right now and we were trying to find someone to give her a blessing. (Luckily the elders who are our default were not nearby) We found two of the men in the branch (one was the American) to give her a blessing. It was really special to see one brother explained to the other how to give the blessing and then so kindly listened to this sister as she explained her problem. I know it is not easy for the American family to live here, but this branch is soooooooo blessed by their service. As I observed yesterday, I could also see that this experience must be changing and blessing their family too.

Sister Clements headed a project to re-decorate the Primary room this weekend. At first I was hesitant, thinking it might not be the best use of time, but I'm sooooooo glad she was persistant, the members of the branch loved it and it no longer looks like a prison. I guess service to a ward comes in many different forms and I need to learn better to think outside the box.
Well, I better go, I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!