August 20, 2012--Last Mission Letter

So you asked about the Chinese Activity? Overall the Chinese activity was a great success, we are not sure of the total count but the number of Chinese members and investigators there was between 30-35. We had about 8 from Manchester, 2 from Preston and the rest from Liverpool. Although the total number was not what we were expecting, we were still happy to see so many show up, like was said, they could have been doing any number of other things on a Friday afternoon and evening and we are grateful that they were willing to come to support us and each other. We learned a few important lessons that we can use for the next activity coming up in January sometime. We want to make sure that the next activity is more suitable for both the male and female gender. I think we did too many tough activities that the girls did not want to participate in all the time, so next time we will accommodate for that.

Mt. Snowdon? To be honest it was physically the second most miserable experience of my mission. Haha. The mission went in two groups on two separate days. On Tuesday the weather was perfect, Sunny but not too hot. Lucky half of the mission. The next day, Wednesday, it poured rain for the whole three hours we were walking up the mountain. When I say pour I mean pour. Buckets and buckets of water cascading all around us, forming into natural waterfalls all around us on the trail. 40 mph winds buffeting us from all directions thrashing the water into our bodies and stinging quite a bit. My supposed water-proof jacket was no match for the torrent of rain and I became completely soaked along with all of the belongings in my backpack including my mini Chinese Dictionary. (I am not sure what i was thinking about when I put that into my bag, who studies Chinese on a mountain?) I had to throw it away. :) On the way down came the chaffed legs and feet from wet jeans and shirt. We were cold and miserable, but we loved it.

That was the Physical side, but the mental, emotion and even spiritual side was fantastic. As it was the worst day it could have been weather wise, our spirits were high and we enjoyed every minute of it, kind of... Honestly though, it was a great opportunity to test our attitudes and character. In a way it made me really thing about Hel. 5:12. We will be buffeted in this world from all sides by the adversary, it may not be physical attacks but the will be moral and spiritual attacks trying to push us back and keep us from our goal on high. We will be tested and tried over and over again, just to see if we will keep trudging and pushing through and with what kind of attitude we will do it in. It was a great day for insights into what will be the rest of our lives. Once again, we loved it, I loved it.
Yesterday in Church Bishop Murphy told the ward that after serving for so long in Liverpool I would be leaving, after which he then invited me to share my testimony. The Bishopric and the ward for the past two months have been joking that they need to request my records to the ward because I was now a permanent member. Honestly that is exactly how I feel, Liverpool is my home ward in my heart. I just realized that in the past 3 1/2 years my longest time in any ward has been the Liverpool ward, even when I lived at BYU I was not there as long. Liverpool will always have a special place in my heart and will be the center of the memories of my mission because of the members, and because of the Chinese work that has gone on here. I will miss Liverpool, I will miss the Chinese people, I will miss my mission, but I know there are greater things in store for me to build and grow upon in the future. Yes I am sad to go, but also am excited for the new adventure ahead.

As my mission comes to a close I continue to ponder on how insignificant we are in comparison to God and eternity, but at the same time I joy in that fact. I know that we are nothing, but at the same time we are everything to someone, either ourselves or or family or our friends. You are everything to me as my family. After all the things I have been able to learn on my mission I want to with all my heart keep moving and progressing in every aspect of life, whether it be learning Chinese, gaining a greater spiritual knowledge and testimony, or even being successful in my future education and career. I know that these past two years have been a refining and building two years for the rest of my rest, a springboard to fulfilling the potential I have. I will love and cherish these two years for how hard it has been and how amazing it has been. My biggest goal I have right now is to stay in contact with those I have grown close to on my mission so that I can continue to develop my relationship with them and support them in the faith they have. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

In closing to this epic novel of my mission life I want to share with you my appreciation for the support and encouragement you as my family have been to me on my mission. There are missionaries who do this work without that support and I admire and respect them deeply for it, but I am forever grateful for the coaching and advice you have given me to help me keep going. Once again, I look forward to this continued service from you and the service I will be able to give to you, just now it will be more personal and face to face. :) I know that this work is true, the work of God and his Son. I am honoured to be able to wear his name on my chest and to follow in his footsteps. May we all continue to do so whether or not we are full time missionaries. I plan to. Know that I love you, I am sad to leave this great land with great people, especially the Chinese, but I will be happy to see you.

August 13, 2012

The weeks fly by faster and faster and the closer I get to the end the more anxious I feel that there is so much to do and get done here in the mission field. In a way it is kind of a panicky feeling because I feel like there are so many Chinese people who still need the Gospel here in Liverpool and I can't talk to all of them. This past week has been extremely busy and this next week is going to be the same if not more so.

To be honest I am very grateful for all the things that we need to get done because many people say it is easy to get distracted about going home, but for me, I literally have no time to think about the next day let alone going home. I know that the principle of diligence talked about in PMG is true, the more you work the more you feel the joy of missionary service and the less you worry about anything else. I look forward to this upcoming week with climbing Mt. Snowon and having the Chinese activity.

This past week as we went to the temple as a Zone on Friday I felt it was a great opportunity to really think about what recommitments I need to make in my life. I love the idea of repentace as being an amazing thing rather then a drag or something to dread. Repenting daily doesn't necessarily mean changing what you have done wrong in the past, but about doing better than you did the day before.

Repentance can be seen as adding another dimension or a better level to a house rather then cleaning up piles of rubbish that have been lying there for a while. Yesterday a Chinese student who will be baptized this Saturday asked me what is the real difference between buddhism and our belief. I told him that from my understanding buddhists believe that you have a never ending circle, while we believe that you have an eternal ascending line of progression. We can have eternal learning and progression if that is what we really want.

Yesterday we had a wonderful surprise show up to our church. (Elder) Landon Smart my Father Trainer came back to England with his family to go visit all the areas and people he had met on his mission. It was great to see him again and see that he is still a very sacred missionary. It gives me great comfort and hope that there are greater things for us to achieve even after our missions.

He has only finished two months ago, but two months can still be a long time for someone to change and I can see that he has changed for the better. He will be attending BYU so I will be seeing him around there. I am very grateful for the former Elder Smart and the knowledge and wisdom he has and the knowledge and wisdom he passed on to me throughout our missions. I really could not have asked for a better trainer.

We just had three new Chinese speaking Sisters come into the mission four days ago halfway through the transfer. Sister Smith is from Utah, her mother is from Taiwan and her father served a mission in Taiwan. Her understanding is ok but her speaking level is not the best. Sister Miner from Utah had no Chinese background except for some characters because she is pretty much fluent in Japanese, and now she has spent 12 months in the MTC. Sister Embley is from Michigan and lived in Shanghai for four years so her Chinese level is pretty good. Now is the time for us to start passing over all of our knowledge and experience to them. I had language study yesterday with Sister Embley and Miner and it seems they are doing well. I am excited for their future here in the EMM.

Things are going really well in the work now, most of the next few days will be packed with plans for the Chinese activity. We will be playing the balloon stomping game, waterballoon toss, chopsticks relay, crab soccer, charades and some other games which should be fun. I will let you know how it goes. More and more recently I have been thinking of what I can do in the future to work with the Chinese. They have been such a massive part of my life for two years I can't really imagine them not being a part of it for the rest of it. I look forward to finding out how I can interact with them.

Have a great week, keep your sights high and be safe!!

August 6, 2012

This week has been a great one just like all of the others. When we had Zone and District Leader Council on Friday and Saturday we focused quite a bit on the importance of making a recommitment to the standards of excellance in our mission. As we emphasized the importance of knowing or at least having faith that each companionship can reach these goals, I thought of how that relates to the individuals that we teach. If individuals don't believe they can do something, they will have no determination or motivation to accomplish it. Whether it be missionaries who believe or not that they can reach the goals set for us as a mission, or people we teach that they can truly know God is their. If they have no faith in it they will never make it.
This led me to think even more about the Christlike attribute of Diligence. I am very grateful that I have been able to develop the attribute of diligence to some extent in my life. First while growing up at home and now on my mission I can see the importance of just working hard through challenges and plowing through trials. All people want to be happy and successful and I have seen how the Gospel and living the Gospel can bring that. Not only because it is true, but when you can have the determination to live gospel standards even when it is extremely difficult, you can have the same type of determination to help in the real struggles of life. Many people tell us they just can't live the word of wisdom because they will have to drink for some part of their career, but they don't understand that if they are willing to comprimise their values do be successful, they won't be strong enough to work hard enough to actually be successful. They think they can have it both ways but they can't.

One of my favourite scriptures is in 3 Nephi when Christ tells his disciples not to worry about what to eat or what to drink or what to wear because God knows that all people need those things and will provide while we are on his errand. "When we put God first all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives." It sounds easier than it really is, but how simple can it be, just worry about building the kingdom of God and he will guide you with all other aspects of life. He knows we want to be successful in life and he is the best one to help us do so, but we just have to put our trust in him first. Unfortunately too many people can not understand this principle of putting God first, and they let other things get in the way of the spiritual, then physical progression. I am grateful for the knowledge I have of this principle and look forward to putting it into action as the days and years go by. The same determination that we need to follow Gods commandments is the same determination that will lead us to be successful in life.

We have been pretty busy with meetings and other non-proscelyting activities and it will be pretty similar for this upcoming week. We will be going to the temple as a Zone on Friday and then we will have a Chinese Missionary meeting on Saturday to prepare for the Activity next week. Nothing too special to report except for our investigator Pinky is preparing for baptism on the 25th of August. Hopefully there will be more to report of interest next week.

July 30, 2012

It has been a pretty good week here in Liverpool, we have spoken to quite of few new Chinese students but they all seem to be extremely busy right now with a variety of different reasons (excuses). These next few weeks we will looking to branch out to some White people, or really anyone who is not Chinese so that Elder Reynolds will have something to work with later. These next few weeks are going to be quite busy with meetings and exchanges and other plans so it does not give us too much time here in our own area, but we will do the best with what we are given.

Having been pondering about the question of where I am at as my own personal leader, I have looked back through the course of my mission thus far and seen the differences in myself. These differences not necessarily being changing of leadership positions but more of changing of how I lead myself when others are and are not looking. My thoughts focused more towards the goals I set for myself, whether they be weekly key indicator goals, or whether they be monthly personal goals. Everyone says that in order to be a leader you need to have a vision and I feel that my goals reflect the vision of what I want to become or more like can become. Instead of thinking of what can I get away with, I have changed to what more can I do.

The idea of being the best personal leader possible is inspiring to me due to the fact that after the mission you will not be reporting to any District Leader, Zone Leader, or Assistant. Really the only time you will report on your actions is when you have interviews with your bishop. Everything else, at all other times will be reporting to yourself and to the Lord. So now as we have two years to learn how to be our own motivator and own personal trainer, we have to effectively use this time. I feel that I am doing fairly well, I feel self motivated to become better and help others.

What I want to improve in my missionary work and later in my life is to not worry about who is above my physically, but more so, who is above me spiritually. As we said in our training this week, we don't just want a pricked heart, we want a broken heart which naturally leads to a changed heart. So now I need to go personally and intentionally break my heart and be happy while doing it.

Yesterday we had some completely unexpected opposition. I am fine with exams coming up or dissertations that need to be written by students so they don't feel they have time to come to church. I am even OK if they sleep in or if their friend comes to town so they don't have a great enough desire to overcome that obstacle. But when opposition comes in the form of canceling church in your area, that is not fair for our investigators! How are they supposed to overcome that kind of opposition?! Yesterday because of road construction the road to the church was closed and their was no physically possible way for us to have church so the stake president canceled it and said we would have to go to other wards. We ended up having zero Chinese people at church including members and investigators alike.

Elder Reynolds and I, along with the Sisters were absolutely devastated. We were going to have four new investigators at church plus a few others, and two of them were really excited to go. Then we had to call them up the night before to tell them they would have to wait until next week..... We were quite disappointed and couldn't believe it had happened. What made it worse is that later in the day we received a text from a Less Active who had not been to church in about 5 months due to anxiety saying he had gone to the church but found it closed!! He said he wanted to surprise us by showing up but he was the one surprised and disappointed to have it closed. I think all we can really learn from this is to be grateful for those many weeks that we can go to church with no problems and that it is so close for us to go on a Sunday to worship. At least there is always next week, always good things to come.

We are now getting full swing into the preparation time of the upcoming Chinese activity. We are starting to tell everyone when and where it is and to mark it on their calendar so that they can come and bring their friends. What we are struggling with right now is the actual content of the activity. At first we wanted to do something different from last time, but after thinking about it, why should we try to reinvent the wheel? Last time the Chinese loved it and had a great time. Plus we will be having the activity the same time as the Olympics, so it would be a perfect theme. We still want to make it unique though, so that comes to the types of activities and games we will have them play and compete in.

July 23, 2012

Thank you all for your Birthday wishes! I look forward to being able to tell all our Chinese Investigators that I am 21. It sounds a lot older than 20 and whenever you tell them they get a really shocked look on their face and say that they don't believe you, when you adamantly reply that you really are they exclaim that you are way too young to know anything more than them. So 21 sounds better. President Preston told me to make it a special day, but I am not too sure how I should go about doing that. We have a Zone Meeting on that day, so I guess that is special.

There must be opposition in all things. That is the theme of the past five days. Ever since the start of the new transfer last Wednesday we, Elder Reynolds and I have experienced some opposition in our work. We have had seven investigators drop us, and pretty much every investigator appointment fall through. I have been telling Elder Reynolds that it is not usually like this, but I am not sure he believes me. Haha. It has given me a great opportunity to appreciate the times when we have a plethora of blessings in our work.

It seems many of the people who have dropped us recently have dropped us because they have read anti-mormon literature which has scared them away. It kills me when investigators fall by the wayside because they read something online because the reason they were reading in the first place is because they had a great curiosity to learn more and in doing so found something not true which turns them off. I know that these encounters do not count as a fair chance for these individuals, so at least they will have a greater chance in the future.

At the same time, as we have seen all of these trials piled against us we were blessed with a great experience last night while we taught a new friend for the first time. Her name is Olivia and she is from China. She does not have any belief in a higher power and knows nothing of religion. As we taught her the Chinese pre-lesson about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost it seemed that we were getting nowhere. Although she was nice she seemed disinterested in what we were teaching her. Then about halfway through the lesson she woke up spiritually. She started asking questions that showed she had a true desire to know truth.

By the time we got to the end of the lesson and talked about prayer she had felt the spirit and she said she wanted to know how to receive an answer. We taught her how to prayer and invited her to say the closing prayer. The prayer was simple but sincere and immediately after she said amen before we could say anything she exclaimed that she could feel it! She said, "I can't believe it, it is real, I actually feel that there is someone watching over me and look after me, it feels amazing. She then proceeded to profusely thank us for teaching her how to have this feeling. We look forward to seeing her on Wednesday to see how her personal prayers are going.

After meeting Olivia and as well another girl on the street right before Olivias lesson I have decided that I just love happy people. I met a Chinese girl named Candy and she was uber happy and excited about nothing. I asked her why she was so happy and she replied, "why not? There is no reason to be said so I might as well be happy". I am not sure if there is such thing as too happy, but if there was she is a great example of it. It made my day speaking to her though. I still can't believe how happy she was. It just gave me the desire to be happy all the time too, even if I do have trials I have plenty of reasons to be happy. If nothing else, when I am happy I can help others to be happy too.

As we have been studying for our training about a change of heart this week I have been drawn to the line of a "broken heart". Something I have learned is that as we line our will up with with Lords, because we are not perfect, we end up tearing away parts of our desires (our heart) so that we can purify ourselves for the Lord to put the right will in. In essence, we are breaking our heart so that the saviour through his atonement can bind up our broken hearts. -Isaiah 61:1 He is the one and only person that can make our hearts whole again and in a perfect condition, that is why he needs our hearts to be broken, so he can fix them. Like muscles, in order to get them bigger we have to break them down. Although it may be difficult we have the opportunity to put aside our own carnal desires so that we can embrace the will of God. As we do say we will be putting ourselves in a position to truly build the kingdom of God in his way.

Once again, thank you everyone for the Birthday wishes. Have a great week and remember that God Helps those that Help themselves.

July 19, 2012

Well I am sure you would like to know where I went for this transfer. I have been moved to nowhere. I am staying in Liverpool for yet another transfer! I wonder how many more transfers I can stay in Liverpool after this one. To be honest I am quite relieved to stay here, I am grateful for the time I will have here. One part of me can't believe I am still here in Liverpool and the other part feels like it is exactly the way it was supposed to happen. It could go without saying, but I love Liverpool, I really do. Elder Reynolds (my new companion) and I are excited for this transfer. Elder Cai was shipped back to Manchester. I am sad to see him go despite his craziness.

It will be interesting to balance teaching Chinese people and teaching other people now that Elder Reynolds is here and next transfer we are going to need to do a transition with all of our investigators over to the Sisters. We don't want to leave Elder Reynolds and his new companion starting from scratch if I happen to leave, so we will teach both Chinese and anyone else from now on. The other great opportunity is once again learning how to effectively teach in unity with your companion when he does not speak a lick of Chinese. I am confident we will work it out. He is a great missionary. He is from down south in England, I think he said North Hampshire. Maybe. He is my first English speaking companion so it will be a good change of scenery.

We are also excited to have two new missionaries come into our Zone. As has been said many times, new missionaries bring new blood and enthusiasm to the work. That coupled with their faith they are strong weapons in the Lords hands. Both Elder Norman and Christensen look prepared and ready to work hard and diligently, and it is great to know that they are in good hands with their trainers. We look forward to going on exchange with them and learning from them. We sat down with the sisters on Sunday to talk about the upcoming Chinese activity and put together some ideas. When we get it more figured out I will let you know what we will be doing. All is going well here, I am happy where I am doing the Lords work.

Unfortunately time is up for today, we have a lesson to get to, so I will have to more fully share what is on my mind of late on Monday. Have a fantastic weekend and enjoy the sun, because I am not due to the constant rain. Summer my foot...

July 9, 2012

This past week Elder Cai and I have been talking about what we need to do to prepare for the incoming Chinese missionaries. Within the next 6 months we will have 10 new Chinese speaking missionaries coming in and we need to make sure everything is set up and prepared as good as possible for them. I will only be here to see three of them come in but we are working on having another Chinese activity in the middle of August so that the new missionaries can see what Chinese work is like and how exciting it is to be a Chinese missionary.

It was great yesterday because we had about 3 hours of street contacting to do and in that time we taught a lesson on the spot and set up 6 appointments with some new Chinese friends. Most of which just got here to Liverpool in the last week. The great thing about working with students is that you always get fresh stocks coming in to work with. :) The only problem again is that the reason they are here for the summer is because they are all in English Foundation classes to prepare them for the Fall Semester. So when they see a white person who is willing to speak to them they want only English coming out of my mouth.

It is somewhat interesting because when they first meet me they get all excited because I am probably the first white person they have met that can speak Chinese. They rant and rave how fantastic my Chinese is, especially for only two years of study. Then when we start teaching them they tell me I should speak in English because they can't understand me and what I am saying. I am trying to figure how much of that is truth and how much of it is that they just want me to speak English so that they can practice their English skills... Oh the dilemmas in life... I really am looking forward to the continued learning of Chinese for the rest of my life.

On Friday we had a Zone Leader Council yet again, and the main part of our meeting was getting rid of Rules. Our previous mission president, President Bullock was very rigid and set on rules in order to help missionaries be obedient and more sacred. I was very grateful for that. Now we are getting rid of most of those rules to allow missionaries to be agents unto themselves. We have been told by the Prophet and Apostles that we need nothing more than the standard works, PMG and the Missionary Handbook to guide us in our missionary endeavors. We should not need extra rules to keep us on the straight path of discipleship. In a way I think that rules are really good, when we had them and they were actually followed, our mission was doing very well in regards to output of numbers. Now I feel missionaries have slacked off a bit. And now that we are getting rid of the other rules completely I completely support what we have done, I just wonder what will be the result.

Elder Cai and I discussed it and decided that at the end of the day that the missionaries who struggled before to be obedient will continue to struggle, while the missionaries who are always obedient will continue to do so. The difference will be of those in the middle. Really this way is the best way for missionaries to actually become what we are meant to become. We are not meant to be commanded in all things, but should do things because we want to and not because we have too. Ultimately if you can do what is right all the time without any rules, you know it was because you wanted to, not because you had to. It allows us to more fully exercise our agency correctly for the right reasons. Now I just hope our mission can catch the vision of that principle and live up to it.

Well, transfers are coming up next week, so we will see where the Lord will put me. Keep working hard and having fun doing so.