Come Follow Me

Come Follow Me
"And he saith unto them, "Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt. 4:19) As the New Year begins, we, the members of the Willow Wood Ward, invite you to Come and Follow Him!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Elder James Hadley

May 12, 2014
I'm in Tenancingo Mexico. In the state of Mexico. I was in the federal district for 6 weeks but now I'm back here.
So this area is really really awesome. We have the city part that we work in a lot, but also we have a lot of little villages that we go out to. Tiny little villages, where the people are so so so poor. It's sad, but well, that's Mexico.
Ummmm, well, we have been working a lot with families that are partially members and partially not. It's been interesting. Just a bunch of recent converts. We haven't made a ton of progress with them this week, but next week we are going to try to find a ton more people.
But yeah, people here are a TON nicer than they were in my last area, life here is more tranquil. Almost everyone will just listen to us and let us teach them. So yeah, that's really nice. I'm excited to keep working and keep finding people.
I don't know really what more to say. I'm happy, and it is crazy that 6 months has past. I'm 1/4th done. But at the same time it feels like I can't even remember normal life. I'm excited to keep going and keep experiencing things and whatnot.

May 19, 2014
So yeah, I arrived in my new area, it's the polar opposite of my old area. My old area was huge commercialized city, and here is just a little town. Well it could be more different, quite a bit of people live here. But yeah, it's really weird.
My companions name is Elder Bradford, he is from Blanding' Utah. He is great, we have a lot of similar interests, such as computers, videogames, that sort of stuff.  He is just kind of a regular dude, that's how I would describe him. He is really nice and we get along well. I'm excited to get to know him more and work with him.
So yeah, well, I told you about everything else. Anabel said she was sad I wasn't going to be able to baptize her. And that when I come back she would be my tour guide to Mexico City. I want to make that happen. 
May 26, 2014 
I think my favorite area was the city, because I really like the city, and I got along super super well with a lot of the members. And also I had some of my favorite favorite favorite investigators there. But out here is really really pretty too. It's different but also really great.
We do not have a chapel in this area, just a house of prayer. This ward was changed from a ward to a branch about 2 changes ago, so like 3 months. So it's super new. And a chunk was taken out to make another branch, for the members that lived super far away from this house of prayer. Right now they are meeting in a high school, because one of the members is a teacher.
The apartment here is my favorite yet. Its pretty nice. There aren't that many bugs, and we have this little washer and dryer thingy. The dryer just spins them to get most the water out, but it's super nice to have. This apartment is pretty clean, we clean it a lot, and the water heater thing is the best, it makes the water way hot and heats it up fast. In my old house it only heat it up for like 5 minutes.
Yeah, life is crazy being in the mission is crazy. It's great though. We are teaching this guy named Omar, and he is awesome. He used to live in Delaware. He's super great, he has a ton of problems and really really wants to change. And he loves us a ton. We are just best friends with him. He is going to get baptized June 8th.
June 2, 2014
The guy who lives up super high didn't come to church, so we dropped him. We haven't seen him in a long time. There are a ton of drunks that always come up to us on the street and ask us to help them change. If they REALLY show interest then we do help them. One time there was this group of drunk guys and they called us over, and we went, and one asked us to help him, so I said - Ok, start right now and don't drink that glass you have in your hand right now, then we will help you - and he said that glass was his last one so we just left.
So we have been working with a lot of people. The last missionaries that were here baptized 11 people in one change..... but only one of those people actually go to church often. So we have been working a ton with all of those recent converts. They are great people, they just have a lot of stuff to work on. We have also found a lot of new people who we are hoping with be great and progress.
So, something cool that happened this week, ------- so my District Leader was Assistant to the President for 8 months before he was here. He was chosen to start a whole new branch in a place called Ixtapan (Eek-stop-an) it has been the first new branch started in over 2 years. Anyways, so he is incredible, one of the most spiritual, kind, loving, smart people ever, and his Spanish is flawless. People always ask him if he has Spanish parents and that he has been speaking it his whole life. Anyways, so I went on an interchange with him, and it was awesome. We went around and visited a lot of the people they have getting ready to be baptized.
So, well, I cant think of a ton more stuff that happened. We made scones today and ate them with honey and butter. They had bedbugs last change, and we went and checked the beds and I found a live one on my bed. Also, my companion found a baby little scorpian in his food box thing. Interesting!
Everyone keep reading the Book of Mormon every day. 
June 9, 2014
So this week was weird. We found a ton of people who we thought were great, but they ended up not being so great, so we kind of wasted a lot of time. But whatever, we will press on harder this week. We are going to work with the ward more, because that's the key. When you can teach people that ward members know, and then you bring the members, it's a lot more effective. They feel more obliged to go to the church. Which is the hardest thing is to get people to go to the church. So here in Tenancingo there is a huge market on Sundays, and EVERYONE goes there and shops. It's hard to get people to realize what their priorities should be, but when people are really great they will make time. 
It was a few months, maybe 2 months before I got here, that they couldn't knock doors anymore. So I haven't ever had to do it. Well, I have, the thing is that if you have a reference, and you are looking for a person, you can knock the door next to theirs or the door in front of theirs, so I've done it a bit. But it's not a too effective way of doing things.
So yeah, early we hiked up to Cristo Rey, it was amazing. I sent a few photos. We ran down all the stairs, we got down in like 10 minutes.
Ummm, oh yeah, so members, well less actives but members, made us sushi for free today. They made fried rolls and rolls with bananas, and then a sushi cordon bleu, it was soooooo amazing. I was filled up by it too. But yeah, they said we can go there every Monday. So I'm excited and hope I stay.
Keep reading the Book of Mormon and keep being happy.
June 16, 2014
I'm doing well, I went on an interchange all of last week with Elder Dubose, and he is really really really amazing. He was Zone Leader for a long long time. He is super great, and I learned a TON. We got along so super well too. They have a million investigators to teach, for 5 days it was seriously that he had an appointment every hour of the day, so we were running and teaching and running and teaching. It was really great though.
So well, this might be my last week here, I will hopefully stay here, we have found a few good people, and I would be fine with staying with my companion. Of course after 6 weeks with someone it's kind of easy to get annoyed with them, but I need to work on that and not care about stuff at all.
I will be happy with wherever the Lord sends me next and who he puts me with.

June 23, 2014
SO THE NEWS ABOUT THE CHANGES, nothing changed. I'm staying here in Tenancingo with the same companion. He is now District Leader. So yeah. So last change we didn't baptize any, which is terrible. The thing is when I got here there was NOBODY at all. So well, we had to start from the ground up. BUT, we have found a lot of really great people. And we have one baptism for sure next week, and one for sure for the week after, and then another pretty sure one the week after. We have 2 other people that all they have to do is come to the  church, then they would get baptized that day. And we also have a bunch of family members to work with of the sure ones we are going to get. So yes, things are looking a lot better.
The goal that President Whitehead keeps stressing is that we should be baptizing every single week. And so, thats what we are working for.
So Tom needs to come down here to Mexico to eat the food. Everything has chile. They say "if it isn't hot then it doesn't even taste" And I have gotten super used to it, and really really like it a lot. Before I would eat hot cheetos or Takis and think they were hot, they would make my nose run and my face go red. But nowadays, those things are absolutely nothing. I eat salsa of habanero and manzano daily. And it's really delicious. So yeah, that's something cool that has happened on my mission. I wonder what I will do when I get home, maybe just never ever use chile. We will see.
Yep, well, another week here in Tenancingo.
I'm happy that I'm staying. I love it here and we have really good members. My companion is good.

Elder Hadley
                               Elder Hadley at "Cristo Rey" - translated literally means Christ the King!

Elder Zach Beckman

Mon, 7 Jul 2014 12:09:23

Whats up everyone!! How are you all doing??  I just wanted to give you all an update for me and Elder Price for the week!!  It has been a fun one and we are just loving being here in Cherry Grove.  I love it here and it is just the greatest ward ever!!  We have meals every night and they are all with young couples who are just way legit and love the missionaries!!
So this week we went to Western Hills for MLC and it was awesome we sat downstairs of Presidents house and just had an awesome 8 hours of mind blowing discussion!!  But it was a lot of fun seeing everyone again!  I loved talking with Elder Coughlan and Tavake again they are sweet but ya it was an awesome time!  But on the way home we have to drive through the City to get home and so we had an appointment cancel so that opened up an hour to do what ever we wanted!!! ;) ha ha ha YES!!!!  So, as we pondered all of the options of what we could do in the city, we decided that we wanted to go over to Kentucky to take pictures of the river with Cincinnati in the background!!  It was so sweet!!  You will see pictures in the next email!!  But it was awesome, the City is so sweet!!  I love seeing all of the people there, but while we were there, we were able to talk to some people on the streets and we actually talked for a while with this one guy, ha ha ha I used a funny trick to get him to talk!!  So... I gave him my camera to take a picture of me and Elder Price and then instead of taking it back right away you just talk to him while he is holding it and just don't take it back right away and then we just stand there and talk and he cant go anywhere!!!  Ha ha ha it works great!!  I love it but he was a sweet guy!!  I got his info for the Cincinnati elders!  So mission accomplished! 

Next story was the 4th of July we were able to do another Chalk Drawing of the Plan of Salvation and a Huge Family Fan Chart and we were able to help people get started on their family history and just to talk to a lot of people which was sweet!  We got to meet a ton of sweet people and it was funny!!!  All of the old people at the park loved the family history stuff, so I love talking with the old grandmas they are hillarious!  But ya so that was our day and then we went down to the Ohio river to talk to more people setting up for the Cincinnati fireworks!! The Cincinnati fireworks are huge!  They are done on the river and people just line both sides of the river and they get some like 15 thousand people a year to watch and it is just nuts so we did that!!  And it was an awesome day!! I LOVE THE 4TH OF JULY!!  Except for I was super trunky!  All I could think about was how most of you guys were at the park probably sitting under the Big Tree (our Spot) probably drinking DP and a subway sandwich or pizza or something but ya I miss that!! ha ha that is my favorite holiday but I did enjoy it our here too!!
But ya I love being out here and this upcoming weekend we have a baptism with Eddie Navone!!  He is an awesome 12 year old kid who's aunt is a less active and he loves coming to church and he is just awesome!  So we will have to send more pictures next Monday of it but ya i just want you all to know that I love being here in Cincinnati!!! The people are awesome and they just love the missionaries which makes it awesome to be here!! But I love this work and I know that I am supposed to be here!! I LOVE YOU ALL!

Elder Zach Beckman

Sister Sydney Burningham

          This is Brother and Sister Welch, newly called ward missionaries, we spent the 4th with them!

Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 9:16 AM

Happy 4th!

Hey Everyone!

The 4th of July was wonderful and we were able to go watch some fireworks and talk to a lot of people so it worked out really great, they have this huge celebration downtown at world's fair park and it was really great!  We got to spend some time with the Welch family as well and they are wonderful.  It's getting very hot and humid where we're at and hopefully when we play tennis today we'll make it through.  It really has been an incredible week though, we are still working on finding people to teach, another one of our investigators moved this week and we're learning a lot about relying on the Lord to find those who He has prepared.  It's been interesting and humbling to say the least.  

We get to talk to so many people everyday!  I think that's one of the things I love most about being on a mission is that you get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds and different experiences.  Last night I feel was one of my little miracles.  I was feeling very discouraged because it just seemed that no one wanted to listen to the message we have to share, I didn't picture this all happening at the very end of my mission but there are lessons to be learned and I know that. I love our message, I know it's true and one thing I have noticed is that you can either be discouraged or you can allow these experiences can solidify your testimony.  We were trying to contact a less-active member the High Priest Group leader had asked us to go see, we were told where she lives by a neighbor and then we walked up to and met Charles, he goes to a church and holds a lot of our same core beliefs, I knew he had such a strong sincere testimony of Jesus Christ and I just felt like I needed to bear my testimony of the Savior and his Atonement, and as we did, he started to soften, he is a wonderful man and is always seeking truth, I offered him a Book of Mormon and told him that if he would read it with a sincere heart he would know that it is true.  He was hesitant based on what he had heard about the Mormons but took it.  After we saw the Less-active member we walked back outside and his aunt was out there, she is from another part of the mission and just talked about how her brother and sister in law are members of the church and she just loves us missionaries, it was getting late but she kept asked so many questions about the church, she got our number and said next weekend she wants us to come help her understand our beliefs!  She was so kind, walked us to our car and told us to never forget that what we do is beautiful and it matters. 

This experience solidified my testimony even more but not only that it helped me see that the Lord will only give us what we can handle and then he takes care of the rest.  I consider last night my miracle from Him, to let me know there are people that care and people searching, he gave me that experience so I would keep going, and never give up on his children and his work.  
I have been reading a talk I read at the beginning of my mission called The Fourth Missionary by Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge. In that talk he writes:
"Every challenge you face, every hard thing you confront, every bad thing that happens to you, every unfairness, every conflict, every sadness, tragedy, every disappointment and heartache, every temptation and every opposition happens for one purpose only: to give you opportunity to respond by applying in your life the teachings of Jesus. As you do so you are changed to become more like Him."

That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is why we are here.

I love you all so much, thank you for the support and prayers and love! Have a wonderful week.

Sister Burningham.

Happy 4th! Left to right: Elder Sinks, Elder Edwards, Sister Roundy and I. 

Left to Right: Elder Crowell (not sure if he is related to the Crowells in our stake but probably!) Elder Williams, and Elder Sinks. The two on the left are our zone leaders, they're a hoot.

Best Pizza ever it's called "Gino's Pizza" close to our place.  I have a new obsession with pizza...

Elder Brennan McEwan

5/4/2014: In Which I Take Part in a Few Miracles

Hey family,

As per title, this week was pretty awesome.

It looks like the last few long, hard weeks of finding with very little obvious success have finally paid off. Anyway, this week we were blessed to be able to get three, almost five new investigators that all seem to have sincere interest to learn the gospel and real desire to follow Christ. (The other two that aren't official yet was a husband of one of the new investigators, and the other is scheduled but hasn't been taught yet, and so doesn't count for reporting purposes.) Anyway, I'm thrilled to see this enormous jump in the area and I'm really excited to continue teaching these people.

One of the new investigators from this week, J, is incredibly well prepared. Her initial interest was actually to come to church, right off the street. I've never really seen that before. Her only Christian background comes from watching some Bible shows on TV, but I guess it was enough to really spark an interest in the Gospel. We went ahead and taught a simple message using the Book of Mormon to introduce Christ, and she understood and accepted it really well. Plus, when she came to Church, she had a really good experience there too. She's more or less a miracle, and I'm really happy we're going to get the opportunity to teach her.

But wait, there's more! We also got a referral from the land of my nativity, Chai Wan. Turns out that they got a baptism down there, and the convert invited some of her friends. One of them, Je, had interest to learn more, but she lived in Tai Po, so they sent her on up to us. To make things better, she brought along her husband, which makes them one of the first family lessons I've taught in quite a while. Unfortunately, the husband doesn't have a ton of interest - he says that he already believes in Jesus but doesn't feel like he needs to got to any meetings or anything to worship Him. We'll work on him. On the plus side, Je is pretty good. She had a good time at church - the Relief Society did a great job embracing her. She does have a few problems though. She made a comment about how she didn't like how other Christian churches tell people that doing Ancestor Worship is a sin. Our respose: Yeah, those other Christian churches... pretty mean... I guess... but back to Christ, for now! That will probably take some tact and good teaching to defuse.

A, M and Sister L  are all still doing fairly well. We were really excited to throw a quit smoking plan at Sister L with a done smoking date of this coming Friday, but she said that she already had her own plan and she thinks she'll be done much before then. Cool! We also gave her a priesthood blessing, and the Spirit was pretty powerful. I started off by just blessing her to have the strength and determination to quit, but close to where I was planning to end, I was prompted to try and express the love that our Father in Heaven has for her. He loves her. A lot. (More than my Cantonese can entirely express, unfortunately, but I feel like I got a bit of a helping hand on that part too.) I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in that blessing.

Oh, thinking of dumb things I've said, I think I had my greatest language fail yet a week or two ago. So it was English Class, and I was trying to explain what "treasure" meant. It didn't work in English, so I tried to use Canto. Bad plan. It turns out the difference between "take off your pants" (It's also more or less slang for "get naked") and "riches" is one tone and a vowel sound that doesn't exist in English. I caused quite a stir in our little class.

So, that's more or less my week. I was super happy to get all the new investigators, and I'm really excited to keep teaching them!

Oh, before I forget, yeah, I should be calling on Saturday night for you guys. (I'm planning on calling on Sunday morning HK time.) Glad that I'll get a chance to talk with you guys!

Oh oh and also next week is temple week, so I won't be able to email until Thursday. I guess it doesn't really matter since I'll be able to tell you in person, but I actually remembered to tell you this time!

Love you guys lots!

Elder Brennan McEwan

5/15/2014: Happy Mother’s Day!

Hey family!

I know I got to tell you in person a few days ago, but happy Mother's day Mom!

Anyway, the past week and a half has been pretty good. Much to my happiness, the miracles from last two weeks ago are still in progress! We added a few too!

One of the really great things from this week is that Sister L  was able to quit smoking tobacco cold Turkey last Friday, and she hasn't smoked at all since then. I'm really grateful that she had the faith and diligence to make such an awesome and rapid change. Unfortunately, we're going to have to push back her baptismal date though. Me and Elder Nestman's original plan was actually sort of dumb - we thought: Cool! So she quits smoking Friday, gets interviewed the next week, and gets baptized that Sunday! Unfortunately, it turns out that it doesn't work exactly like that. We actually had to call President Hawks- it turns out that there's sort of a policy that you're supposed to be off tobacco for a few weeks before you can get baptized. Derp. Anyway, as long as she keeps it up, I don't think it should be a problem pushing her date back. It's just probably not going to be fun breaking the news to her...

That Sister J who's new of last email is still super awesome. It pretty much improves my day any time I have any sort of interaction with her. So this week we read 1 Nephi 1 with her, and I think it really helped her to understand it well. Later, when I called to schedule her again, I checked up to see if she'd been reading the Book of Mormon, and it turned out that she'd not only been reading, but she also took the initiative and watched a whole bunch of church videos. Yeah, she's pretty much made out of solid gold. I'm so grateful that we've had the opportunity to find and teach her.

M is also doing fairly well. She seems to be accepting everything fairly well, but she's been a little bit uncomfortable in lessons. We're doing our best, but honestly I think that part of it is that she's just a little bit uncomfortable around men in general. :/ We're doing what we can though. Her baptism date is also getting really close - June 1st. Woah. I'm not 100% sure that she's be able to make it - her testimony is not too bad, but there's just the problem that she's still got two to three lessons worth of doctrine to hear and only a week to do it. We'll see what happens with that, I guess.

A is still moving along. He's kind of dragging his feet on setting a new baptism date for himself, but I think he's starting to warm up to the idea, at least.

In addition to the regulars above, we also found a new girl, despite the ridiculous amount of rain that's been falling in the last few days. Her name's C- she's twenty five and plays the organ at a different Christian church somewhere. She's pretty nice, but boy, does she have a LOT of questions. We tried to teach the Restoration, but it got kind of derailed by all of her questions. Basically as soon as we finished answering one, she'd ask a new one that took us farther away from what we wanted to say. Most of them were pretty good, but a few of them were sort of off the wall. For example: Do we believe in ghosts? Yeah. Fun lesson. Anyway, I think she's still got interest to learn more, so we'll see her again this Sunday. I think it should go better now that most of her questions are on the plate.

Other than that, we've got a bunch of new people to meet this week. Testing season is finally over, so it really freed up a lot of the YSA age people that we're striving to find. I'm definitely excited to continue to expand our teaching pool. Hopefully with more men. Apparently President Hawks let our leaders know that he wants us to focus on finding more men to teach. I guess he was a little concerned when he saw that all of our progressing investigators with baptismal dates are all women. Err...

As far as I know he's not really concerned about us being sketchy or anything, it's just more a problem that Hong Kong desperately needs more Priesthood holders. Unfortunately, there's just a lot more female members than males in Hong Kong, and they want us to help to close the gap, not widen it. I think the problem probably stems from the fact that women just tend to be a lot easier to find and teach than men. They just tend to be a lot more sensitive to the spirit and more willing to change themselves. Actually, come to think of it, I've only really ever had two consistent male investigators my whole mission. Maybe I need to step my game up... or down? Heh heh heh.

Oh, and I got a chance to see a part of my area that I've never seen before. We've got some members who live up there that we visited for a family home evening type meeting with a partially active member. Anyway, all the houses up there are more or less 3-4 story condominiums in a suburb. It was a pretty big change from just about anything I've seen in Hong Kong so far. Plus, there was actually wide open fields up there. With GRASS! :-O I haven't really seen much of that stuff for a while...

So that's most of what I can think of that was interesting this week. Quick story though- I might have told you over the phone, but it's worth writing either way.

So when we were teaching J for the second time or so, we had the weirdest interruption I've ever had in a  lesson. So we sat down and started to teach, and it was pretty hot, so we turned on the air conditioner. About five minutes into the lesson the air conditioner started to make weird grinding noise. We all did our best to ignore it. I thought it was something working on the outside of it or something. But then after a few minutes of the grinding, it made an especially loud noise. I turned around just in time to see the air conditioner cough, shake, and spit out something. Then there was a splat as a gecko got shot out of the A/C unit. Whuh? Anyway, it seemed about as surprised as we were, because it just kind of sat there stunned on the ground for a few minutes. We eventually ignored it  because it wasn't really going anywhere. But then as we kept teaching J dropped a little pack of tissues down her leg, and she jumped up and screamed. I guess she thought the gecko was running up her leg. It was pretty funny.

We went to pick up the little gecko after the lesson. He was still alive, but he didn't have a lot of fight left in him. It looks like getting forced through an air conditioner is not a very fun journey.

Anyway, that's most of the interesting stuff that I can think of for this week. Love you guys a lot, and I guess I throw in special mention for Mom again. Love you lots! (Especially Mom!)


Elder Brennan McEwan

5/25/2014: In Which I Find Out Why Missionaries Always Wear White

Hey Family!

This week was pretty normal for the wacky life of a missionary. Anyway, as per title, I finally figured out why standard missionary wear is white - you can't see the sweat soaking your shirt. Yeah, it's starting to warm up a bit here, and between the walking around for hours and hours, the humidity, and the lovely nature of missionary gear, I've been getting pretty gross. You know your in sort of a rough spot when your sweat soaks all the way through your inner collar, your tie, to finally get the outside of your collar wet.

Oh well, it's been a pretty fun week regardless of grossness. Finding was actually better than normal this week- I've been finding it easier and easier to stay focused on the work lately. That's one of the things I've really been learning a lot lately - the more you can defeat the boredom of walking the same few miles of sidewalk over and over day after day, and resist the temptation to just start daydreaming, the better you tend to do. Anyway, we had a bunch of fairly good contacts, and I think we hopefully should be able start teaching some of them soon.

Our investigators... are varied.

Sis L is still going strong after quitting tobacco two weeks ago, so that's really good to hear for us. I don't really foresee any problems that should keep her from getting baptized in the week after next. She still needs her interview, but from when we've asked her the questions, she answered fine, so I think she should be good. My only real concern is that she sometimes forgets to wake up and come to church. I wonder how much we'd have to stay involved in getting her to church after she's baptized. Is it a problem to have the missionaries reminding you to come to church all the time?

J is still probably the best investigator I have seen or heard of. This last lesson she showed up with a little notebook and took notes on the things we were teaching. I was blown away. She's also been coming to English class lately. I've been a little worried about that because, to be honest, there's several total weirdos that show up to our English class regularly, but, so far so good. It's funny though, because in English class, I tend to find out how polar my Cantonese knowledge is. Man, if I'm not talking about the gospel, I still don't really speak the language. We've had some funny conversations where I'm completely ignorant of a very simple word and she just can't figure out how to explain it. But she's still awesome. I'm so grateful that we've got this opportunity to teach her.

Thinking of finding, we got a pretty weird one yesterday. We stopped a fairly non-descript forty or year old guy. At first he seemed normal, but things quickly went downhill pretty quickly. We introduced ourselves, and he seemed possibly interested, so we sat down on a bench with him. It turns out that his interest was probably not in the Gospel. I started to detect that things were going wrong when he started talking about how blessed he was to meet two handsome gentlemen such as ourselves. A lot. Me and Elder Nestman, made eye contact, decided that he possibly had potential buried under a layer of weirdness, so we decided to soldier on.

After like the twentieth time he called me "leng jai" (I really wish I could get you guys the full meaning behind this- it literally means "pretty boy" but it also means handsome, and... basically... it just means "leng jai") we decided to leave him with a prayer and flee with some of our dignity intact. As I said after, "Did we just sketch find a forty year old man?"  I don't know. I don't think I want to know either.

We also had a pretty fun ward activity on Saturday. It was a ward family home evening and an anniversary celebration of... something. I didn't quite understand. Anyway, lots and lots of good food, and some crazy Chinese party games that I didn't really understand very well. That's nothing new though. Anyway, I ate a new food there. It's kind of a black jelly that's cut into about centimeter cubes. It's sort of weird, because the jelly itself is almost tasteless, but then you throw some sugary water and condensed milk on it to make it good. It was pretty good stuff, actually.Oh, and made these really good chicken wings for it too. And the Relief Society is still doing a great job at befriending her.

So that's most of what I remember from this week. We're going to Monkey Mountain for preparation day today, so that should be pretty fun. Except for the part where all the monkeys are supposed to be evil and stuff.

Anyway, hope you guys have fun and everything back at home. Great to hear from you, as always.


Elder Brennan McEwan

6/2/2014: ...Straight From the Dark Pits of a Gamer Lounge in Tai Po

Hey Family,

Unfortunately, today is a public holiday. Dragon Boat Festival, I think? I need to ask some people with good English about this one. Somebody tried to explain it to me in Cantonese, but I didn't really understand that much. Anyway... the nerds of Hong Kong took over the library, and all our local computer stores killed their wi-fi when they saw us coming, so the last place left to email was a nerd box. Hourly rate on shiny gaming computers in the same poorly lit room. Uggh... this is gross. I'm surrounded by literally one hundred fourteen year olds playing League of Legends and Starcraft. Not only are all of them playing with the sound super loud, but, they're fourteen. And loud. And obnoxious. I hope you appreciate this...

Anyway, not a ton happened this week. We were able to teach all of our investigators. J was awesome again - she said some really cool stuff about how she wanted to make sure that she was prepared to endure to the end after her baptism. Man, she needs to teach a class somewhere about how to be a good investigator. Sister L is also doing really well-  her baptismal interview is next week and I don't think that there should be anything holding her back from passing. Expect some pictures!

We were able to see M again- she's... going. We taught her with a really nice member who helped her to feel nice and comfortable. But, unfortunately, she's still super resistant to baptism for some not-very clear reasons. I think one thing that's holding her back is that she told us this week that one of her greatest desires is money. That could explain why Tithing was such a big problem for her last week. Hopefully we'll be able to help her overcome that a bit.

The big deal for this week is that we had zone conference. President Hawks taught us a lot about the importance of sticking to our commitments and our covenants. He also said a lot of really neat stuff about preserving the changes we're making here as missionaries. I know I've definitely grown a lot, and I hope that I'll be able to keep a lot of the things I've learned and changed throughout my life. It also turns out that President Hawks got to fly with the Blue Angels a few years ago. He made a pretty fun object lesson/parable about how even though we're in the middle of a life-changing and amazing process as missionaries, there's going to be some tough times in the middle. As he was talking about this, he had a cockpit video on the projector of him nearly losing his cookies and eventually passing out in the back seat of one of the Blue Angel jets. It was fairly memorable.

English class was pretty funny this week. One of our regulars- a sixty or so year old guy, brought us a big shopping bag full of like thirty hard boiled eggs out of the blue. We weren't really sure what to do with them- nobody was quite brave enough to eat them because many of them looked pretty sketchy and all of them were nice and warm. I think we just ended up throwing them out.

Other than that... I honestly can't think of a ton of other interesting things that happened this week. Other stuff probably happened, but the legions of fourteen year olds are greatly interfering with my ability to stay focused at all.

Oh! Thinking of obnoxious, loud high school students, Monkey Mountain last week was super cool. It is very appropriately named. As soon as we got off the bus, we started seeing monkeys. We went up a road, passing about fifty monkeys, and then we went off onto a little dirt path. At first we didn't see any monkeys on the path, but then it turned out that it was because they were all following us in a line of like twenty monkeys. We all stopped, and they passed by only a few feet away from us. It was pretty crazy. Then, as we kept on walking, we stumbled onto two groups of monkeys that were fighting each other. After that, we got to this little clearing, and about fifty monkeys were all around us - swinging through trees, eating stuff, staring at us. We may or may not have given one a flyer. Anyway, I'd definitely say that was one of the coolest preparation days I've been on so far. Today we're planning on renting some bikes and biking down to this Buddhist statue called Gun Yam that's pretty close to our area. It should be a lot of fun.

So, yeah, that's pretty much what I can think of. I'll try and send some pictures your way of Monkey Mountain in a few minutes here. And then flee this disgusting hole.

Love you guys lots!

-Elder Brennan McEwan

6/22/2014: A New Companion and a New Member

Hey Family,

This week was really good. First and foremost, the best thing that happened was that J got baptized yesterday. Woo! Anyway, she was really awesome to find and teach. It's been a really fun process teaching such an amazingly well prepared person. I used to not really believe in the mythical "golden investigators," but I guess they're real since I managed to find, teach, and baptize one. Her testimony after getting baptized was also really great to hear. She definitely had a real and sincere desire to get baptized, and it showed. The only bummer was that Elder Nestman wasn't able to be there.

So that's the other big news for the week - move calls struck us on Tuesday night. Usually they come in the afternoon, but there was probably some last-minute revelation going on or something because they were pretty late this time. It was actually really funny how we got them - we were finding along the Tai Po river when we got a call from a random phone number that we didn't have. Elder Nestman picked up to find some excited missionaries telling him how stoked they were to have him up in Yeun Long. Whuh? They got kind of embarrassed and asked Elder Nestman to call back when he actually got the move call.

A few minutes later Elder Smith called with the real move calls, and confirmed that Elder Nestman, was, in fact, moving to Yuen Long. And the way that missionary moves work that means that he's gone Thursday morning. He seemed pretty upbeat about it- I think in a way he was starting to get sick of Tai Po after eight months of working here. Though it did dampen his mood slightly when we discovered that Yuen Long also includes Gam Tin - infamous for being one of the most dead areas in Hong Kong that only exists to drive missionaries insane. But, hey, it's also the only area in Hong Kong that gets to have bicycles, so I'd say that's a plus.

So we spent Wednesday saying goodbye to A, Elder Nestman's recent convert, and we also did a good-bye lesson with J. It was pretty fun - we took a bunch of dorky pictures with A and she got them printed out for us the same day because she's awesome. I'll have to send some of them back for you guys or something.

Then on Thursday morning we dragged everything (well, everything except for Elder Nestman's suit coat and all his pants, which he somehow managed to forget) up to Kowloon Tong to make the companion trade off. And everything changed.

Anyway, my new companion, Elder Wong, is a great guy. He actually started the mission at the exact same time as me, but he left the MTC a few weeks early because he already had fluent Cantonese. He's from Canada, but both his parents and most everybody where he lived only spoke Chinese. But, to sweeten the deal, he also has native English, which makes life a lot easier.

Anyway, Elder Wong has already impressed me a lot. He's a really hard worker. He's actually spent his ten or so months in the mission all in Gam Tin - yes, the evil dead area full of depressed missionaries - so, he knows how to work pretty hard even when the rewards seem distant. He's also really great at just talking to people - pretty much everybody except for grumpy old farts are instantly comfortable talking to him. He's also going to be really great for my Chinese - he's really willing to help out. This morning in language study he spent like a half hour trying to teach me how to pronounce "yu" correctly.

He's also a total nerd, so we've got lots to talk about. It seems like he's played a significant amount of most video games under the sun, and he's done a lot of other nerdy goodness too. I blew his mind when I revealed that I too greatly enjoyed launching Kerbals to their doom. (Sounds like his Kerbaling skills are better than mine though - he says that he managed to land some on the Pluto equivalent.)

Oh hey, dad's email just came in. And it made me think of another thing that Elder Wong has shown to me. My Cantonese blows. Chunks. Big chunks. No, it's not that he's another sadistically Elder W sent from the pits of abomination to make my life hard, it's just the fact that he's actually fluent and speaks like a native. In other words, very, very fast with a lot of words and grammar that my cute l'il white man brain just can't process very well. Here I was thinking that my Cantonese was pretty good and that I was going to be fluent and native-like by the end of my mission.

lol nope.

But, like I said, Elder Wong's a great guy and is really willing to help me out and work with me. We've already taught some pretty good lessons together, and he's also a pretty good teacher. I think that a lot of great things are going to happen in Tai Po with him here. And many bad jokes are going to be told. (We're both kind of dorks, so, yeah. Lots of bad jokes.)

Our other investigators are also doing pretty well. I decided that we needed to push back Sis L’s baptismal date a few weeks - originally we were going to put it as close to her previous interview as time would allow, but when we tried to teach her about prophets, we discovered that she understands the idea of prophets much less than we thought. Also, she mentioned hearing voices talking to out of a thunder storm, but, unfortunately that's not super un-normal for her. There's definitely some problems there... but Elder Wong agrees that she should still be teachable. She's now scheduled for July 27th.

Another investigator that I'm really excited about is A. We found him on the street alone, but he's married and I think he has great potential to bring his family along to learn about the church. We taught a lesson really focused on families at a member's house, and I think that it had the desired effect. He seemed pretty excited to hear what we had to say about how families can be forever. I'm really looking forward for the chance to teach a full family.

That was the lesson where I figured out how much my Cantonese sucks though. After the lesson, A, the members, and Elder Wong started talking about normal people stuff and I realized that I really only know how to talk about church related stuff. Ouch. It kind of went like "So what do you do for work?" "Oh, yeah, I wong ching cheung bo lo ya lay...." Sigh. I'll get this junk done one of these days.

Oh, and Elder Wong also did wonders for M, the shy investigator. It turns out that it may have just been a communication problem that was making her so shy. Once Elder Wong started talking in more normal, non-excessively formal Chinese she opened up a lot and was much less awkward than she usually is. Sweet. Hopefully we'll be able to get her to accept a baptismal date soon.

So other than that, it's been an interesting week. I'm excited to see where things go with Elder Wong in the area.

Love you guys,

Elder Brennan McEwan

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Elder Brandon Wallis

Hi All,
Brandon transferred to what may be his last area, the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation (transfers have typically been 6-7 months).  Background on the reservation on Wikipedia:  A YouTube video I found that shows the landscape and talks a little about the reservation of around 2,000 people:
Rob Wallis

From: Brandon Wallis
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2014

You'll be happy to hear that in my new area we go off roading every day! hahaha. I'm on the Alamo Navajo Reservation! The only full reservation in the mission! It's suuuper different out here. It's practically a different country. People live in trailers, and there's wild dogs, horses, cattle, and other animals just running around everywhere. Everyone here speaks English, but they also speak Navajo. Which makes it kinda hard for us. I'm trying to learn some, but it's a suuuper hard language! I feel like I'm choking on my tongue when I try and say a regular sentence. There's a free gym here! So that's super nice! We live in a trailer too, with a swamp cooler. It's not quite enough to keep us cool! Some good news though! We have 5 people on date for baptism!  Two of them are looking really solid, and there's another three in the family that we might be able to get too. Really exciting! That's all happened within this past week! This area hasn't had solid baptism dates in a long time! We're working hard, and we're already seeing the fruits of our labor. We live right next to the Church building. There's a small branch here, and about 50 people attend every week. So there's hardly any member support with the missionary work. We're in what's called "phase 1"(Missionaries do all the work). Probably sounds familiar to Dad! So we don't get fed meals in this area. Maybe once a month. We hardly ever get members out teaching with us, BUT! It's all improving already. We were able to get 4 lessons this last week with a member.

I'll tell you a bit more about my companions, Elder Ah Loy has been in this area for about 7 months. This is also his first area. He's super tall, and is roughly half Polynesian. He says is 38.5%... He also makes the best spaghetti I've ever had in my life... I'll have to get the recipe from him. Elder Farb is 25% Japanese, and has been out 9 months. This is his second area. Before this he served in Taos, up by Los Alamos. I actually saw him come into the mission and get trained up there. We all get along great. We've been able to mold our teaching style's really well. All of us have been learning from each other.

Well, I love you all! Glad to hear that everything is still going well for you! Stay safe and healthy!

Elder Wallis (your belegaana son, that means white person hahaha)

Elder Dallin Stout

Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 2:08 PM

A new mission President!

President Castro's last day was on Thursday and President Felix got here on Friday. I haven't met him yet and I'm not sure when I will. Here is a quick summary of how our week went.
Debrist (a less active) called and asked us to do service for her. So we went to the house and spent our time digging up and clearing weeds from the side of her house. Later we met with Brother Nolan for a short lesson and shared stories from the Book Of Mormon. We had dinner with the Hawkins (less active) and later went to see our investigators, the Goyeneche family.  
We had lunch with Jackie Pollock, (former investigator) she was very nice and we were able to have a good lesson with her. We met with Bob (investigator) he has had a hard time understanding the Book Of Mormon and found on the internet a "plain english" version of the Book Of Mormon and has been reading that. We taught him about Joseph Smith and why the Book Of Mormon is important. We had dinner with the Gonzales's and discussed favorite hymns that they could sing when in moments of temptation to bring the spirit. We had another dinner appointment with Debrist, we gave her a blessing before she goes into foot surgery. 
We were able to see Richard Perry (investigator) and catch up with him after his vacation to Florida. We also had an appointment with Sister Moon (less active) but it fell through since she wasn't home.
We saw the Logans (Less Active LA) and shared a scripture with them. Brother Logan came to church last week so we followed up with him on how it went for him. We had dinner with Brother Brodbeck (LA) who took us out to eat. Then we had a second dinner appointment with the Tao's and after that I felt that I could be rolled around for the rest of the night I was so full!
We went to see Debrist, her surgery went well but she has to stay off her foot for a few weeks. Later that night we saw the Goyeneche's and shared a Mormon message with them. Its called "lessons I learned as a boy" it brought the spirit very well and we had a good lesson with them.

Elder Stout