5/4/2014: In Which I Take Part in a Few Miracles
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 callingmorning 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!
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 ! 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 -. 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. 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
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
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
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.
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.
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