Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas

We had to go to the other side of Hong Kong to get a package for my companion. It was a long trip, but we got to go to a very yummy curry place from my second area, and then get some wonderful "milk yellow bread," a steamed bun with egg custard inside. This certain place is particularly good. The custard is hot and runny and delicious. Especially good on a freezing cold day.
Technically it is not 'freezing,' but it is very cold. So thank you so much for the scarf Leah!
We also got to go to MUJI. I go there as often as I can. Even though I have seen everything they have right now and don't intend to buy any of it, I just love the feeling in the store. Especially at Christmas time. They get as close as I can find to a real Christmas, not just mall Christmas.
There is MUJI in New York.
We are having a Christmas party tonight and making gingerbread houses. I am excited. Tomorrow we have to go sing and dance at a cultural activity. Also pretty fun. Dancing is fun and I miss it.
Our investigator Sister Ruan might be able to be able to be baptized on the 26th, the biggest question right now is just whether or not her husband will support her right now. He is indifferent to religion, but has heard the Mormons are a cult. Told his wife all about Warren Jeffs. Also didn't like the word of wisdom, but is ok with it now. I think it'll be ok. But we might have to wait until 2011 sometime. I am so impressed with her though. She hears anti stuff and then looks it up online, only to find more anti stuff, and so does she block our number or say she's too busy to meet? No, she schedules us and asks us about it. She's felt the truth in this message and when something comes up, she's going to find out everything about it before she decides to do anything drastic. That's why I'm not worried about her.
I love you all. Thanks for the music.
Merry Christmas.

Stress and Joy

Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Yesterday we couldn't email because of a visitor. Sister Ma (horse) was converted in the UK and then went home and took her mother (also Sister Ma) to church with her. Actually in this circumstance she could have been baptized in China, but there was a bit of a misunderstanding so she came here, which is just fine. It gave them the chance to get some of their ancestors' work done, Ma mama (yes, that is how you say mother horse in Chinese) could learn about the temple from the chapel inside the the chapel, and they could meet with full time missionaries. So it was great.

But it seems that Murphy's law is always in force when trying to set up a baptism for a visitor from mainland China, especially since we moved across to the new chapel. Because of Institute we usually end up holding the baptism in the temple chapel anyway, and it seems there is never enough time to find an interviewer, get the temple unlocked, get the font unlocked and filled, fill out the forms, get the baptism clothes, set up chairs, call the right people, find hymn books, choose hymns, and get everyone in the right place. As a junior companion I just kinda flowed along and did what my senior comp told me to do, and Elder Zhong is just a very organized and competent person, so this is really the first time that all the responsibility is on me. Of course Elder Edwards is great and will do whatever he need to, but it's still up to me to tell him what that is.
So. Stress.

But it is worth it. How many missionaries are there in the world who have to give up a P-day now and then because of an unexpected baptism?
So. Joy.

Also, Christmas is just a plain old joyful time. This year I am focusing on creating a happy Christmas for all four of us living in our apartment. Last year I did Christmas things to remind myself of home and try to be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams. This year I'm trying to bring Christmas here so that we can all celebrate it together and not get so sad as I did last year. I'm the only one in the apartment who has done it before (Christmas as a missionary), so I feel I ought to do my best to help them have a good time.
So. Joyful Stress.

We have a golden investigator right now. I don't know if I told you about her, but she's great. Not much to say really. She's just ready and was looking for the church. We found her on the street. at first she thought we were selling something because of our bags. "I couldn't think what it could be. Insurance? Drugs?" But it turned out ok in the end. And now, like I said, she's golden.

Wednesday we were waiting for an investigator to come. He was late and not answering his phone. After waiting a half hour we were about to leave, when some members from Utah (originally Taiwan) showed up with one non member friend from Hong Kong. We talked to them, talked to their non member friend, got her contact information and then they left. As soon as they were gone I called our investigator who answered and said that he had to work longer than he thought so he couldn't make it. If he had answered any earlier we would have left. Shall we not press on is so great a cause?

I love you all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm thankful for Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving. We had a project this morning, then ate. Our project was making notes to put into red envelopes for members to give their friends on Chinese New year. It was so much fun. I love writing in Chinese, though I can't even kind of remember how. I must check at least 2/3 of the characters I want to write to make sure I do it correctly, but it is still so fun. Especially because they had these AMAZING pens for us to use. I do not know where to get them, but I will find them and buy many.
Our eating was turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans (with almonds and stuff on them), and gravy. Of course it was just great. Then came pumpkin pie which was not in the traditional shape, and had thick sugar cookie-esque crust, and was served upside down (cookie on top), but it was delicious and had whipped cream so everyone was happy.
Then I got very very stressed out trying to orchestrate my companion's exit from and re-entrance into Hong Kong. He had to go with the Macao Elders and then come back because the customs official was silly and stamped him as a visitor instead of activating his visa. It shouldn't have been a problem, but it was. Very much a problem. And the whole time the turkey in my stomach was telling me to just go to sleep and forget it all. But now it's all good and we'll probably even be able to make it to the second Thanksgiving dinner of the night.
So now I know Elder Edwards a little bit better. He is from Pleasant Grove, but has lived in BeiJing and somewhere else (Ireland? That is a really cool place, I don't know why I can't remember for sure). When you ask him what he likes he says he doesn't know. I got out of him that he likes computers and computer games. He was quite a programmer it seems and was able to tell his computer to kick his sister off Facebook at certain hours of the day. Sounds like something Mom would like to be able to do. He always orders the same food I do (usually making sure to ask me if it's ok first) and wishes he had studied Mandarin better in BeiJing. He's happy to be here and ready to work. He has the kind of faith that young missionaries so often do. He understandably feels hesitation about talking to people in Chinese, but is more than willing to contact foreigners, which is more than I can say. We are doing a lot of finding, but hopefully will be able to start teaching some less active members soon. Our investigators are good, but busy. It's hard to communicate the magnitude of our message to people. I don't even get it.
We made some doughnuts this week. We are all excited for Christmas to come, though I always say one should wait until after Thanksgiving at least to start celebrating in order to appreciate it most, but they all call me a scrooge or a grinch when I say those kinds of things. So I eventually gave in and made doughnuts. We're also going to try making some eggnog, as it is unavailable here and we all miss it.
Speaking of food, a surprisingly common question I hear is "what did your mom/do American moms feed babies and small children?" Many mothers want their children to grow up big and tall "like an American." So... any answers from moms? I always say apple sauce, but I thought I'd ask.
I love you all. I am so grateful to be here on Thanksgiving day and this past year and a bit. I am also grateful for you, my family. And my friends. And the church. And everything God has given to me.

Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 10:30:12 PM
Subject: Oh no

I want to share an experience that I found very funny, but I just realized that it shows that I am quite missionary. Oh well. I guess that's good.

The other day on the street I was trying to explain that the spirit is not something that I can explain, so I followed that example of Elder Packer and asked him "What does salt taste like?" In English the answer is, "Salty," which of course just means Salt Flavor, In Chinese, salt is pronounced 'yan' while salty is 'xian'. So it didn't quite work out as well. It still worked, but not as beautifully.

I am no longer companions with Elder Chung. We are split, our enormous area is split, and we are both training. My new companion is Elder Edwards from Pleasant Grove. I just met him yesterday so I don't know very much about him at this point, but he seems like a lovely chap. He spent two years in BeiJing and now regrets not studying Mandarin harder. I am excited to be able to help him and learn all the things they taught us in the MTC that I forgot.

Recently I somehow was able to change my attitude toward finding. I always hated it. I remember once a rather pompous Elder told me "Why hate something you have to do? If you have to do it, there's no reason to hate it." At the time I was just annoyed, but the advice has stuck with me, and suddenly went into effect this week. I am happy when finding, I feel the joy of the gospel, and then I can share it with people on the street. Not only does this make it much more enjoyable for me, it makes it much more effective. It is no longer a annoying waste of time, it is actually useful. There really are prepared people, and the Spirit really will lead us to them if we listen. For reals.

I talked to Sister Ning last night on the phone. She is too busy taking care of her children and grandma to meet lately, but she is so happy! She cannot even contain it when she talks. It is by far the biggest change i have ever seem in any one. She is great. Her Life hasn't changed, but now she is happier in it.

The gospel is true.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ten Thousand Holy Holiday

I guess the word for Holy as in in Holy Ghost can also be used to mean just unearthly, as in the translation of Halloween: WanShengJie or 10,000(a whole lot of) Holy (unearthly) [things] holiday. I only saw two terrifying western style demons, Goku, and a lion, who roared at me when I pointed him out to my companion. I remember last year my trainer took me a slightly out of the way route home in order to see the chaos in the more grown up people's play places (down town). For my costume I found two large buttons and put them over my eyes to be "the other Elder Kershisnik", but I only did it in the apartment because they said it was too creepy. So when we went out I just drew a mustache on my pointer finger for a disguise.

That was Saturday.

We celebrated real Halloween (the 31st) by baptizing sister Ning. She goes to a Cantonese ward because it is more convenient. She is so awesome. I know she will be strong. Two weeks ago she called us Saturday night to say she couldn't attend her baptism because she was in the hospital with her sick son. She said that after all the trials she'd faced, maybe it was God telling her not to be baptized, and if anything else came up that would be her conclusion. We tried to help her understand how we get answers to our prayers, and rescheduled it for the 31st (had to be two weeks because of stake conference). The next week on our way home from church she called us to tell us she had again been unable to go to church because she was in the hospital with her sick daughter. We told her about priesthood blessings and met with her later that week to bless her (still) sick son (the daughter was ok). So Sunday we left Mandarin Branch after sacrament to go to the Cantonese ward she goes to. On the way she called us and said she was again at the hospital, this time for herself. But she would leave at twelve-thirty because she knew she needed to be baptized. I was able to perform the baptism. It was so awesome. She's been through a lot, and I know that she has used it to strengthen her testimony of the true and living gospel.

I also know that it is true. I am so happy to be here helping people to receive it. I love you all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Year

The other day someone said this funny Chinglish. "I have drink so many water." Guess who it was? Me. I guess it is getting more obvious that I've been in Hong Kong for a year. I also really like eating rice, playing ping pong, and thick rimmed black glasses. And speaking English. All very Hong Kong people type things. Yesterday when we had our cleaning check I was startled to realize that the reason I was the only one talking to the senior couple missionaries about the weather during winter and spring is I am the only one in our apartment who was here during those times. I'm not young anymore.

Speaking of the weather, it is lovely. Chilly, even. Wearing a suit is pleasant. Also, the typhoon never hit. A recent convert, David, scaled a mountain and prayed for the typhoon to not hit Hong Kong or Mainland. The storm then turn and beat itself out on Taiwan, leaving Hong Kong and Mainland China unharmed. I guess God agrees that Taiwan is not part of China. Elder Zhong's friend sent a letter saying that the floods in Taiwan were above her waist on her bike. It didn't even rain here. We are all sorely disappointed.

I saw Tom and Katy sending some funny Chinese names. I saw one on a TV in the bus the other day. Her name was Pikki. Silly.

We started teaching a family. They first met missionaries seven years ago and are super good. They travel a lot and spend a lot of time not in Hong Kong, so it turns out they actually haven't heard that much of the lessons, but they are really good, they know it is right and good and are willing to come to church each week (except the dad who is in Beijing. They say he would come to church if he were here though). They are really great. They were some of the few of our investigators who were not ill on Sunday. Not too many investigators at church, I'm afraid. I guess the pleasant weather is just too much for them here.

We went to a charity foundation yesterday and helped them cut boards for a LCD TV storage container. I guess they just have far too many and don't know what to do with them all. You never know what you'll do when you go to Crossroads. Digging a hole, using a power saw, or making some rocks look dirty for a display. The table saw was pretty fun. Do you think there's any chance Dave Williams would teach me about furniture making later on?

I love you. The church is true. Chinese food is yummy.

Lots to Do

As a middle aged missionary with another middle aged missionary I feel this is the prime of my mission. We are both young enough to not assume we already know everything, but old enough that we do know a few things. And since we are both motivated and happy, we have plenty to do. Much of which is travel. If you look at the map, [Sorry, Mom's not posting that, it wasn't all that helpful. You'll just have to visualize] our area is everything from Lai King west, including the pink line and Lantau Island. We live in Kwai Fang and still attend church in the Mandarin branch in Wan Chai on the Island. From our home it takes about forty five minutes to get to church, as well as forty five minutes to get to Tuen Mun, where we sometimes have lessons. Buses are faster, but less reliable. It's rather a mouthful, but we're trying our best.

There is a typhoon coming. We are not to leave our house if a warning signal 8 or higher is hoisted. Right now it's at 4. We are also to secure our windows and find a safe place in case they break, as well as make sure we have plenty of food and water. We got this (along with our instructions) forwarded to us today.

Dwight Pincock is not here today and I have been asked to contact you three to obtain a report on your preparations for Typhoon Megi that is scheduled to hit landfall late Friday, or early Saturday according to reports we have received. We just need to know your plan for the missionaries’ safety. If you could let me or Dwight (who will be back tomorrow) know so we can inform the brethren I would appreciate it."

I could feel scared, but knowing the brethren know and are thinking about us, I'm not worried at all.

In fact the approaching Typhoon has given us very very pleasant weather, with a nice breeze and cool temperatures. It's actually really lovely out which is a very lovely change.

Yesterday we taught a visitor from Hai Nan Island, the little island at the bottom of China. It was hard, because all she can speak is her dialect, but we did ok and she accepted everything. Now all that's left is endure to the end. So daunting a task, but so doable on a day to day basis, as long as we have the Lord. That means daily scripture study no matter what. Daily prayer, weekly church attendance. Those three things are so crucial. When Elder Uchdtorf was here he said at very least two minutes of scripture study a day. He promised that if we do that and really study the scriptures we will find that two minutes is not enough, and we want more. That's the way it is with good things. With truth.

I met a young man named Karlo from Indonesia who had come with his family and other members to get his Endowment in preparation for his mission. He was so happy. His family was so happy. They didn't know Elizabeth, but he knew her name. It made me so happy to see a happy, faithful, functional family.

There are so many broken families in our branch. It also makes me so happy to see our recent convert Sister Zheng's husband so supportive. He isn't interested at this point, and maybe he wears basketball shorts to church, but he comes. He supports his wife going to church by going with her, even though his Mandarin isn't good at all. Even though it's hard to get both their kids up and ready and to Wan Chai by nine in the morning. I know that he, like Grandpa, will eventually accept the truth of the gospel and be sealed to his wife in the Temple. It's so cool!

On a slightly less happy note, sister Ning couldn't make it to her baptism on Sunday because her son was in the hospital. She says she doesn't understand why she has so many problems trying to join the church. I know why, Satan doesn't want it. But she has strong faith, and it's just getting stronger. I know she'll be a good member soon.

I love you all. Be good.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Chinese

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 11:22:16 PM
Subject: More Chinese

Reading the letter from the Taylors I realize how little I am enjoying the culture here. As a group, missionaries here seem to try to search out as much American culture as they can. It's really a shame. Of course we all miss home, so we look for things that remind us of home, like food, activities, stores, but we are missing all the wonderful stuff around us! So my companion and I are trying to become more Chinese while we are here. It's easier for him, he looks like the rest of them.

Part of that for me is a renewed emphasis on studying the language. And part of that is doing my first ever week long English fast. And that is a pain. Tomorrow is the last day and I am terribly excited. One of the problems is that the other missionaries don't speak this language. So I cannot communicate with them. But it helps me find words I do not know.

Another part is trying to learn to make Chinese food. Usually I just make whatever, often American, but lately I'm trying to master the use of ginger and soy sauce so that my Chinese food tastes authentic. I usually add too much and it's just a blast of salt and ginger and garlic. It's hard to get the subtlety right. But what better place to learn that in China where I can test it against the real stuff whenever I want?

Recently the Brethren have asked us as missionaries to teach at least twenty lessons a week, if not to investigators then to recent converts, less active or part member families. I think they want us to focus on teaching and improving our teaching skills, and encourage the members to do more of the finding. So far we have not been able to do it, but we are working hard, and teaching more than ever before. It's really nice. I much prefer teaching.

Yesterday we met with a former investigator from Taiwan. He loves drawing and painting and art. It was fun to talk to him, but it became obvious that the most important thing in his life is art. He said that. First art, and then church on Sunday. Everything we tell him he accepts, but doesn't seem to understand why it's important. He wouldn't accept a Book of Mormon, because he said he wouldn't read it. "When I have time I read those book, self help books, books about what to eat and how to live." "Who wrote those ones?" I asked. "Well, people did." "And what about this one?" "Well, God did, so it's different. I can't accept it." It's really hard not to get frustrated with that kind of response. Luckily we had a recent convert with us who is very optimistic. Afterword he said, "Well, that went well! I was the same at first. Don't worry, it'll come." I guess that's true. Getting frustrated and mad never helps. Loving and serving and teaching the simple principles does help. Sometimes after a long time, it just suddenly clicks, and they understand why the gospel is important. The same thing happens to me with gospel principles all the time. I learn them, I believe them, and understand and can answer any question about them, but then one day while reading the scriptures I suddenly just get it. Understand so much more the things I've known since Primary. So i just have to keep giving people that opportunity. And remember it isn't from me. It has to be between the person and God. Like a less active member said on Tuesday, "No, I won't commit to you to do anything. That's what I've always done, committed to the missionaries. But as soon as they leave it becomes so easy to just give up. This has to be between me and God." Oh yeah, that's right.

I love you. The Church is true.


Date: Thursday, October 07, 2010 1:01:37 AM
Subject: Good

In Chinese everything is good. Hello = you good?, Yummy = good taste, done = do (to the point of becoming)good, "it's hot" = "good hot", fun = good play, ok = good type. So the only adjective I can ever think of in English is 'good'. It's good!

But things really really are good. Elder Chung and I (I think last time I said his name is Zhong, which it is, but that's the Romanization of his Chinese name, while the Americans gave his parents the name Chung, so this is actually his English name, but all missionaries call him Zhong) are working hard and having a good time. As I said, he's really obedient to every tiny thing, but he still has a lot of fun. It's really nice to be with someone who wants to be obedient, but doesn't think that missionary work can't be fun. And the Lord blesses us for it. For example, I will share two contrasting stories about the same stretch of road.

Elder Zhong and I set a goal to teach three lessons yesterday, but by about five thirty only had two with nothing else planned. I felt that if we did what we were supposed to do and went finding we would meet our goal. We did go finding, but I decided that meeting our goal was just me being silly. We got to a stretch of road that I had had previous experience with (the second story) and I told him that every time I walked down that road at least one person would stop. but, nearly to the bottom, no one had stopped.
Then, someone stopped and talked to us. At first he walked past, but I saw him look back, so I turned around. Then he asked if we were Mormons and said he didn't have time and didn't speak good mandarin, so Elder Zhong started talking to him in Cantonese (he studied it before his mission). Despite not having time, the man talked to Elder Zhong for half an hour. A full lesson, complete with opening and closing prayer. And so we achieved our goal.

Once, in my first transfer, I was on exchanges with another young missionary in his area. We set a goal to contact 10 people and then went finding. After two hours we had contacted 7 people. We still had an hour, but the other missionary wanted to go in. He thought it was enough. But I convinced him to stay out and go up and down that road again. "We always stop at least one person" I said. So we did. And we stopped one person. "Ok, 8. Now let's go in" he said. But again I convinced him to stay out and traverse the road once more. One person stopped. "9 is enough. Now we go in." "But we have fifteen more minutes, in fifteen more minutes we can talk to one more person and get our goal." but I don't want to" "But, our goal! One more person! someone stops every time!" "I don't care. I don't want to."
So we didn't. And we didn't get our goal.

So as you can see, Elder Zhong and I are blessed for obedience.

In fact people come up to us and talk. Sketchy 14 year old girls. Groups of them. Blocking our path. Giggling. With questions like "Why do you come here?" and comments like "Your eyes are so beautiful." So we get their numbers and turn them over to the Sisters. I felt bad for Elder Zhong trying to remain serious while telling Sister Hancock that she could try giving Watermelon, Abalone and Cucumber a call. He did his best, but in fact I've never seen him laugh that hard.

We found a really good dumpling place very near our house, so I'm happy. Although there aren't any good chaxiao bao places nearby. We keep looking.

And finally, and most importantly, on Sunday, for the first time, I baptized an investigator. (Technically Elder So and I baptized one in Macao, but I only taught her once or twice and it was just review in preparation). Sister Zheng is so happy and excited and changed. Her husband is really supportive, but doesn't think it's worth giving up tea and coffee at this point. He hasn't really heard the lessons though, so I imagine he just lacks a testimony. I hope he will keep coming to church with his family, and then, like grandpa, he can learn this is all true.

Because it is. I love it and I love you.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Other Side

As of today I am a senior companion. Oh boy. It feels like the beginning of a new phase of my mission. Now I am, in earnest, an old missionary. I'm not ready for that. Not old in the sense of "not much time left". Old like, mature. Ward members ask me what I think the missionaries most need help with. Old like I am expected to know what to do when someone walks into the chapel. Old like I am given responsibility. Old like there are Zone Leaders who are younger than me.
My junior companion is great. Elder Chung, and ABC from California. I'm glad to be his companion because he will stretch me to work hard and be more exactly obedient than any of my companions have. I am worried that I am not focused or organized enough to be his senior companion. But that is good, those are areas I need to work on.

Last Sunday an Indonesian I taught in Macao was Baptised. This Sunday our investigator sister Zhang will be baptised (if all goes according to plan). After the training we've gotten lately we have seen a lot more success as far as numbers go. As everyone knows, success as a missionary does not have to do with numbers, but numbers sure as heck feel good. At any rate its nice to receive training that actually shows statistical improvement in performance.

I am a district leader. My district includes the zone leaders, Sister Hancock (friend of the Taylors) and her two companions Sister Smith and Sister Black (they organize our sisters by how outlandish the last name is). I cover a vast area. One and a half zones worth of residential Hong Kong. Should be fun.

Hong Kong is really so international. The westernization everywhere is at once comforting and disappointing. It's so easy to resort to comforting American food and environment, but that means that learning about this culture isn't as easy. I'm afraid that if I were not a missionary I would come and go and all I'd have done was see a new big city like New York or London. It's so nice that I am forced to do my best to talk to the people here and be their friend so that I can actually learn a little bit about these people. Our Zone focus this transfer is on working with members, especially less active members, so I look forward to being able to get to know more of the people of this great ancient country. I'm glad I am now able to carry on a conversation at least, but I need so much more in order to really learn the stories and ideas and history of this people. Of course I can do that later, but it's so much fun to hear it from a real Chinese person. Like reading about George Washington in a textbook versus listening to a real, old, patriotic American talk about him. Sure, it might not be 100% true, but it's the feeling and the culture and the minds and circumstances of the people.

The minds of the youth here tend to be more focused on America or Japan. Chinese culture isn't really trendy here. Elder So is annoyed by the Japan lovers among his peers, but he himself loves Western things. It makes it a little harder to learn about, because old people are hard to understand.

I asked another person why they give moon cakes on mid Autumn festival. She said, "I guess it's because a long time ago people missed their families so they sent them moon cakes." So there you have it.

Well, I've got to go. This email is slightly weird. Time in retrospect has gone very fast. I'm sure it will continue to pass just as unnervingly quickly.
Love you much,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Mid Autumn Festival

Today is the Mid Autumn Festival. It's a big one for China. A long time ago the Mongolians took over China (like in Mulan they try). They turned all the Chinese into slaves. Every Mongolian had ten Chinese slaves. The Chinese weren't happy about any of this. They far out numbered their oppressors (they almost always have that going for them), so all they needed to do was get organized. During this festival, all the Chinese people exchange mooncakes, but no one else does (mostly because they really aren't that good). So they put messages inside all the mooncakes that said "Kill the Mongolians on such and such a day". So they did. And it worked out. If you ask for "the story about the mooncakes" that is what people tell you. I guess the real origin is too old to be known or something.
A traditional mooncake has thin later of cake as the outermost layer with lotus seed paste inside it and several whole duck egg yokes inside that. Most missionaries hate it. I don't mind it, but after maybe 1/4 of one I'm already full. But that is not satisfactory to the host, who often isn't eating any. The ice cream ones are more yummy, though I have not tried the Haagan-Daas version which is apparently the best. They are expensive I suppose. In addition to ice cream and traditional mooncakes, you can call anything a mooncake that has something on the outside and something else on the inside as long as it's the right shape. We made some with the Cantonese ward with sweet coconuty dough on the outside and then fruit gelatin on the inside that were really good. The important thing is that after forming it is a ball, you smash it into the mold so that it looks right. They are pretty little cakes. The molds we used mostly had little cartoon characters like Winnie the Pooh (they love him), but there was one traditional looking one, so it wasn't too much of a shame.
We have some really good investigators right now. Three baptismal dates that are pretty solid. I'm very excited. I love helping people who want to be helped. Sometimes it feels like I'm a doctor trying to convince someone they're dying and need treatment while they tell me they don't need it but thanks, or maybe later they'll be interested in life, but right now they're too busy for all that. So it's nice when one of them actually opens the scriptures and feels the spirit and calls to say actually she would like, how long does it have to take before she can be baptised? That's really a nice thing.
I did my first baptismal interview in Chinese yesterday. It went quite well. Not as well as I hoped though. Just before it I was wondering how it would go, and decided I had gotten a lot better, so it would go just fine. Whenever I think things like that I think God has a harder time blessing me. When I'm more humble it comes so much easier and more naturally. In this situation it went just well enough to not be a problem. She likes to talk, sister Chen, and she was telling me all kinds of stories. So, be humble ya'll. It's nicer in the end.
We will go to a cool little island today. Our whole zone. I've been once before, but it was a long time ago. It's weird to think of things in my mission that happened a long time ago. But I'm an old missionary now. Middle aged, more like. In my prime. It's exciting. Elder Gunderson and I are both District Leaders (I was not released), the only companionship with two district leaders in the world, we imagine. So one of us will probably leave next week. I have no idea what will happen. But I'm excited for it.
Love you all! Try a mooncake!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back from Vacation

I'm back in Hong Kong, and on the boat ride back I really felt like I was going back after a long trip. Back to normal life. So That's how good Macao is. I still don't know if it's Macao or Macau.

My last day we had lunch together with all the missionaries and I made Apple Dumplings, which I had never had, but were great. President Chambers made Peanut Butter Cheesecake. It was so great.

The next funny bit of news is that I'm back with my "step-trainer". First I went back with Elder So, then back with Elder Gunderson. It will probably only be for the remaining two weeks of the transfer, which I deduce from the fact that they did not release me from being district leader, regardless of the fact that my current companion is also a district leader. They told me I just wouldn't have any responsibilities for two weeks. I guess I just take care of myself. I am the district.

I live in an apartment with Elder Mat Jolley who went to East High and knows Elizabeth. His companion is Elder Welling, who is a loud, funny sporty kind of guy. It's a good apartment so far.

We went to a place called Crossroads yesterday to do service. I have heard a lot about Crossroads ("where needs meet resources"), but had never been. Missionaries in the Kowloon and new territories zones go once a month to do whatever they want us to do. It's a non profit organization to help people all over the world, but part of what they do is help Hong Kong people to try working. Rich people come an dig or move rocks or pour cement and get humbled. It really is hard work. But I think a lot of it is unnecessary. The missionaries go so often that they can observe that maybe one time they will ask us to bury some rocks, and then next time to dig them up again. While this is very good Manual Labour experience, it seems to me they ought to plan a little better and have us do things that they are going to keep. I don't mind helping them, but remember that as a missionary who's done a lot of digging in my life, I'm helping you, you're not helping me. Maybe I'm wrong, they really need the rocks buried and then dug up again. I'll just do what they ask and not complain. It was nice to dig something again.

I loved the Mandarin Branch before. But in the six weeks I spent in International, I grew to love that branch even more. Then, in the nine weeks I spent in Macau I grew to love that branch even more. Now I'm back to Mandarin. I think God is showing me how much better an experience I can have just by loving the people more. So that is my goal. Love the people.

I love you people.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I love dumplings. I can't get enough of them. I'm thinking about them now, however, because yesterday after my lunch of deep fried Japanese dumplings and hot soup, I ate normal fried Chinese dumplings and cold Korean soup for dinner. It was just too hot to get hot soup, lunch was a bad idea. But even with cold soup (which was only a little weird and really good, rice noodles in a sour citrusy soup with fresh tomatoes, cucumber and kimchi) I was able to burn my tongue with my first dumpling. Burnt tongue is one of my least favorite things.

I have been eating out a lot this week, trying to try all the food I've wanted to here in Macao (I'm still not sure if that's supposed to be a u or an o) because after all, I am going back to Hong Kong on Tuesday. Still don't know where I will go, or who I'll be with though. It is possible that I will go back to international, which would mean no P-day next week (I'd go back after theirs was already over), so sorry if I don't email.

Originally our investigator Karen was going to be baptized on Sunday, but now her mom won't let her. I was afraid that would happen, but I know I have helped a lot of people here. I still have not seen much success as far as investigators getting baptized, but I know that I have helped a lot of people. I know I am doing what God wants me to be doing, and so I am quite happy.

But I am also quite upset that a parent would forbid their child from joining a church. Karen's parents both work all the time and basically never spend time with their family. They also profess to be members of another christian church, so they do not want their daughter joining the Mormons. What makes me mad is that a mother who says she believes and follows Christ, but is more worried about providing money than providing love or nurturing in the gospel, whatever denomination she is, and does not even attend or participate in her own church, whose daughter starts of her own free will to go to and learn about a church and feels it is true and is what she needs in order to follow her savior and redeemer, would then forbid said daughter from showing her faith and willingness to follow the truth she's found. Money is too powerful. It blinds people, whether they have a lot or a little.

Anyway. I am happy. I know Karen will be ok. it won't be too long until she's old enough to do what she wants without parental permission. I have confidence she will do what she knows is right.

I love you all. I love teaching people the gospel. I don't love talking to strangers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten Days

As of now, I have ten more days in Macao. When we come here, we're pretty much at the mercy of the customs people as to how many days we can stay. First thirty, then twenty, then...? Some missionaries get thirty again. And again. And again. Some get seven. And then have to leave for fifty days. So last night me and two other missionaries were taken into a back room where they told us (in Mandarin, I had to translate for the two young Cantonese missionaries) that they can only ever give thirty and then twenty. They never have or can give more than that. So we had to go tell the people at immigration why we want to stay longer. Those people told us we have to leave in ten days. And probably not come back. So it's a huge pain in the "special move" that will have to happen in the middle of the transfer. They should just get us real visas and leave us for a few months. Oh well.

We run into the African Ping Pong champion everywhere, including at immigration. He was there to vouch for his friend Jimmy, who talked to me for a long time. Jimmy is from Jamaica and now lives in Tokyo with his son. He has long dreads and lots of piercings and travels around playing blues and Ragae. He has been to Utah and knows lots of Mormons. He tells me there is some heavy *poop going on in the world, like millions of dead alligators and fish in Bolivia and a comet headed for earth. He advised me to maybe start working on an ark.
But the other missionaries tell me he's just over-stayed in Macao and they see him sleeping on the street all the time. I dunno. He was nice.

Our investigators are going slowly. We have a lot of slowly progressing investigators. Elder So is having what some people call year and a half sickness, and has slowed down a lot. He has a hard time finding joy in the work. I think maybe he's just thinking about home a little too much. But you know, I think it would be terribly hard not to if you served in your own city, however large it is. I respect the natives here a lot.

The more humble I am, the better my language is. I cannot tell anyone that I learned Mandarin on my own, because each time I do I can't speak it. I would have to be a fool to keep believing it had nothing to do with humility and gratitude. Sometimes I am a fool though. Like the Nephites.

There is a new Mandarin Missionary coming! He is from Taiwan. I am pretty excited. He is actually already here, but I haven't met him. I'm all the way over here in Macao.

Sorry, I can't think of anything that is happening. I decided to try making some rye bread... I'm really tired all the time... I think my mission president might not trust me because in trainings when they ask for experiences to illustrate principles I am the only one who ever shares the kind where I didn't do it right and it didn't turn out well. Judging from what you hear the missionaries say, none of them need the training because they are already perfect, accept me. That's ok. Elder So says I'm just really honest. I guess that's true.

I love you all. This really is a lame email.

*he didn't say poop

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's my one anniversary year. I'm still not sure how that is correct Chinese grammar, but I'll trust the natives. At first I thought she was saying one week year, so she wrote the characters out, but actually week and anniversary are the same character as well. Chinese is crazy. But I love it.

To celebrate we ate Thai food. It was good, but I think that it isn't really better here than in America. When a Thai person immigrates anywhere else and opens a restaurant, it's really good. The geographic distance does not effect the quality. It seems to me. The atmosphere seems to affect it the same here and at home. If you pay a lot for an atmospheric Thai restaurant, then that's what you get and the food quality suffers. Ask my dad if you want to know good Thai places near you.

When I was in Pen 2 (international branch in Hong Kong) each Sunday a group of Indonesians came who wanted to feed us fried noodles. Every time. Super spicy. I thought that's all they ate in Indonesia. So when Abie told me the Indonesians were making dinner on Sunday I wasn't too excited. Ok, the noodles are pretty good I guess. I need to repent of ever thinking Indonesian food was boring or not yummy. It turns out it can be down right awesome. Similar to Thai food in many ways (chicken saute with peanut sauce? Lots of lemongrass? Yes please). It was some of the best food I've been given by members. Ever. In my whole life.

That's a little hard to say though, because I love dumplings so much. We bought some the other day. I could eat pork dumplings forever and ever.

And not to leave the Western style food out, on Tuesday the Senior couple made us dinner, which was good. Then I ate the desert. Carrot cake. About six months ago my companion (who was Elder So) had something he called carrot cake. It wasn't anything like what I was expecting. It wasn't sweet, or cake, and it had no cream cheese frosting. In fact it was just a white blob that they cut up and fried. Since then I've thought longingly of real carrot cake every time I saw a white blob (which happens more often than you might think). So if I thought I was happy before that cake, it was nothing compared to after. I love carrot cake.

Speaking of cake, we go running about four or five times a week. I can scarcely believe it. It seems I have gotten to the fabled place where I don't have to fight myself each morning to get up and out. I just do it. We run a mile and a half. We're going to make it two. I feel great. What the heck?

We have a potential investigator from Nigeria who sometimes comes to church and activities, but is always too busy to meet with us. The other day he came to our branch ping pong tournament. I played him second round. He beat me. I scored one point. Turns out he was the African Champion. "But that was before. Now I'm no good." Ha. I guess maybe he's right though, I did score one point after all.

Our investigators are slowly progressing. Maya, our best investigator, didn't come to church and her phone stopped working at the same time. I prayed and prayed that she would come back to church. After over a week of nothing from her, I prayed one last time that she would come to church the next day (Sunday). I knew she could, but I also decided that if she didn't I would just leave her for the next Elders who found her. Maybe we were just preparing her for later when she could be even more golden.
She came to church!
I know that this work is true and the most important thing I can be doing right now. I still have a year, which will probably go by faster than the first one did. I hope I can continue to learn and grow like I have this past year. The biggest thing I've learned is to be humble. I'm pretty bad at it, but it helps so much. Also, keep moving forward. Mistakes are what we do, so get over it and move on. I'm also bad at that.
Love you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza and Plastic

Today we will go to a fancy Italian restaurant because during lunch time for only 110 dollars you can order as much pizza as you can eat (order too much and they'll charge you though). It looks like it's going to be really good pizza, and the cheapest one is 110 anyway, so if we can each eat at least one full pizza, it will be worth it. I can eat at least a pizza in two and a half hours. Hopefully it will be able to tide me over for another few months of no p712.

Yesterday I kicked a fan over as I walked out of a room. It started making the DAACK DAACK DAACK of plastic blades against metal cage. Acting quickly I reached down to pick it up. In my mind (or maybe my spine, where reflexes come from), if I grabbed the cage, my fingers would be on the outside, and the blade would be on the inside. Hitting the cage, but inside it. For the most part that's what happened. But the fleshy pad of my right middle finger squeezed its little self through the bars of protection to the place where all the noise was coming from. I am now one finger print short of a full unique individual, but I think I'll get by. At least it wasn't my thumb, which I'll need if I want to go back to Hong Kong.

Did I ever tell about that? It's so much fun. After you get off the boat from Macao you have to go through customs, but since I have a Hong Kong ID card, I get to do the cool ones. First I stick my ID card into a slot. It reads it for a minute and then spits it back out. When I take my card, the first doors open and wait for me to enter. Once I'm inside, they close behind me. I then place my thumb on the little scanner thing to get it read. As long as I'm me or still have my full thumb print, the doors in front of me open, and I enter Hong Kong. I don't know what happens if I'm not me. It's probably scary.

I've gotten a lot better at ping pong here. Most Chinese people can still beat me, but I at least score some. Yesterday the senior missionary Elder asked if I'd like to play him. He's probably in his sixties and getting rather portly, so I admit I wasn't expecting the walloping I received. He owned me, man.

There is an Indonesian member here, Eni, waiting for a visa to go back to Hong Kong, so she has nothing to do really. So she, another Indonesian who has two week's holiday, and a Phillipeno who is looking for a job, spend as much time as they can finding with us. It's so crazy. Every day they ask if and when we're going finding. When we're done and have to go do other things they say "Ok, well maybe we'll just stay here and keep on finding, ok?" Of course it's ok. Please, please do it.

Now I'd like to tell a sad story about Elder Wright. When he was young, his mother made him lunch every day for school. Every day, from preschool on, pudding, fruit leather, juice, and his favorite kind of sandwich. One day, in third grade, she asked him on the way home from school, "Did you enjoy your lunch today?" "Yep! I ate it all up! It was so good!" He said. Later that day, she noticed he had left his lunch box in the car. When she picked it up to bring it inside, she found that he had not eaten his sandwich.
"McKay,why didn't you eat your sandwich? You love this kind of sandwich!" Turns out he couldn't get it out of the plastic wrap. He had been surviving on fruit leather and pudding for years. Now his mother understood why he always asked for extra fruit leather.

So she showed him exactly how she wrapped it, and said she would do it the same way everyday so that he could get it out. But the next day, he still couldn't do it. It just wouldn't come off. "Well," he thought, "I do love this sandwich, and my mom will be sad if I don't eat it."
So he did. Plastic wrap and all. Every day.
And the moral of the story is, don't be too nice. Don't just pretend there is no problem. Fix your problems.
I love you all

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mexican Food!

Today we finally went to El Mexicana. Despite being completely manned by Phillipenas, IT WAS REAL!!! It was much better than either of the places in Hong Kong. Muy Autentica. And you could feel it in the price, but I've saved up money, because my companion had none (literally. including personal) at the end of last month, so we ate cheap. And that was worth every penny.

As much as I like the "Levi's" shirt that says "koust of the tinei" and the Winnie the Pooh blanket with Pooh Bear praying the words "Now and ever, We always provide better products and service to our clients. bao ye zhi ban", my new favorite Chinese T-Shirt is, "Get Your Pig on Route 66."

Our Investigators are still good. Not too many new ones lately. Finding gets us lots of numbers, but few new investigators. One Elder put it like this (holding up a paper covered in numbers), "I've talked to everyone on this list several times and none of them would meet with us. Except this one. And she's already baptized." So finding the numbers and then calling them is important, though tiring. Not just to body, but also to mind.

Anyone know what Galangal is? I looked it up in a Chinese dictionary to just ask for it in the street market, but all it said was something about the scientific name for Ginger, so I just put Ginger in the Thai soup I made the other day. But it was delicious. Kind of like Grandma's Thai soup, but with more coconut. I also made ice cream in the freezer. The texture wasn't perfect, but it tasted good. One of the other Elders from Hong Kong in my apartment also really likes cooking, especially baking, and due to circumstances in our area, we are often on splits. Of course there isn't much time to bake most of the time, but we get to bake together sometimes. The other day we were going to bake cookies for an event, so we were looking through a recipe book. He said maybe we should make oatmeal pumpkin cookies. That sounded good to me too, so I agreed. Then he asked, "What is Oatmeal?" I explained it, after which he said, "What is Pumpkin?" It seems he was just guessing, or wanted to learn some more English.

We went to a member's house for dinner. The dad is from Canada, the mom from Macao, but she is very less active. Their daughters, 8 and 10, are both active and don't seem affected by their mother's not going to church. The mom was sick in bed when we got there, but we gave the girls a birthday card we had made for her. It's sad to see a family with a problem the doesn't make sense without an apparent solution.
But what an apartment they live in. It's quite large, and the third floor has a garden, pond, huge outdoor pool, BBQ area and indoor air conditioned play area. Brother Knowler says housing in Macao is quite cheap, and there is almost no tax to the residents. In 2006 Macao matched Las Vega in Gambling revenue. As of July this year, Macao casinos had made three times as much as Vegas. The government taxes the Casinos at 39%, and has more money than they can spend. They end up giving the Macao residents money each year.
Now for the part that really blew me away. There are 36 Casinos in Macao, and 24 of them are owned by one man. I can't even imagine how much money he has.

I've been reading 3rd Nephi recently. I know that it is true. The whole book is true. I also know the church is true and the Prophet is called of God to lead us. Thank you all for everything you do and have done for me. I love you.


Monday, August 2, 2010

S'Mores Will Be Made. I'm Excited.

We're going to a beach and making s'mores after this. Yay.

The other day Elder So said something about a painful canker. I thought to myself, "Oh, I have not had one of those in quite some time. How nice." Then I got two, huge, painful canker sores for thinking that.

Here is a very useful word I found in a dictionary.

1. a rule or regulation
2. a pair or compasses
3. to admonish
4. to plan

I'm still not sure just how to use it, but it seems quite versatile.

In district meeting the other day we played a game where one person writes a word on the white board and then their companion has two minutes to ask yes/no questions to figure out what the word is. When it was the couple missionaries' turn, Elder Chambers wrote the word 'Clock'. Ooh, good word, we all thought. That'll be tricky. Sister Chambers asked these questions: "Is it a thing?", "Is it round?", "Is it a clock?" It took a while for us to recover. Elder Chambers got 'purse' within ten questions, which would have been a lot more impressive if he'd gone first.

I don't like humidity. That being said it's been rather pleasant here. Hot, yes. But nothing near the deadly unbearable heat everyone pretends goes on during July. Everyone told me July is the hottest month of the year. Now, however people are saying this is nothing, August will be the real heat. I think it's just a mild year, because I firmly believe that it was a lot hotter than this when I first got to Hong Kong in late October. But as of now, it's ok. And it is often overcast. And rains a lot. You know in Utah when it's sunny and hot and then two minutes later you can't see across the street because of the rain, and then it's suddenly sunny again? That happens, except the two minutes of rain lasts two hours, or maybe two days. And the church floods. Luckily our investigators often cancel if it's raining too badly, so we can help at the church. Not that I like an investigator to cancel, but if someone is going to, it might as well but when the chapel is full of water.

We have a crazy investigator named Maya. Maybe I already told you about here. She is from Indonesia, but spoke a dialect, so she doesn't really understand the Indonesian Book of Mormon. However, her English is quite good, and she speaks fluent Russian, so with a copy in each language, she can understand. She also speaks fluent Cantonese, but cannot read characters. She learned Russian because she wants to go to Russia and be a rapper, which is pretty cool.
On top of her coolness, she is super powerful and wants to be baptized so much. She meets with us at least twice a week early in the morning before work. Her problem is she works on Sunday and can't get it off, but now she can probably come for Sacrament meeting at least. So she should be able to be baptized soon. It's so exciting!

The is a member here named Christina from Brazil who left home when she was fifteen because of her abusive father, and then left her uncle's home too for the same reason. She went to a bar and bought a Coca Cola, turned to a woman and asked if she could live with her. The woman said yes, and that's how she found the church. I'm not sure what a member was doing at a bar, but it's good. She has a crazy life, and her husband, a Macanese man (half Chinese half Portuguese) is in jail here for stealing money from the government (he thought he could win more and pay it back. He lost it all and escaped to Brazil where they were married. He came back ten years later, thinking it would all be blown over or something, and was put in prison), but she says he's never done anything to hurt her, just himself, and he was very honest with her before marriage, so she came here to be near him. Then she went to Portugal to meet his son, her step son, and now she is back with her step son to wait another five years for his release. All she wants to do is help the missionaries.
She is so strong.
My life is so easy.

I can't believe how soon Elder Holley (Sam) will go home. Should be like, two months. If he gets this email, I'm so sorry I haven't written much. I just don't write or send many letters. I'm sorry to everyone about that.

I love you all.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thanks for E Mailing

[This is Noah with Elder Jaquier]

I won't lie to you, I expected you to forget last week. At least it was on my mind that it might happen. So when it did I wasn't too surprised, or upset. At least not on any conscious level, but I had two disturbing dreams in which I got no emails for the second week in a row, so I guess it did bother me a bit. But don't worry, I completely forgive you all. Other than Eden, who needs none at this time.
Last Sunday we went to Hong Kong because President Uchtdorf was in town. He came to pick up his grandsons (twins, serving in different missions in Taiwan). I am so impressed by people like them and my friend Elder Jaquier who have to learn mandarin from English when English is already a second language. It's just amazing. And Elder Uchtdorf is great too. His wife is so funny! As he put it, she brings spice into their life.
After Sunday we stayed in the temple's patron housing so that we could attend special training for zone and district leaders. Did you know I'm a district leader? Yeah. But it's ok, don't worry, I'm still a junior companion. And I was the third youngest person at the training, so I'm not an old missionary yet. I don't know what I'll do when I am.
The training was good. It was all about teaching with the spirit. It is all from Preach My Gospel, but the Bretheren have taken specific parts to helps us be better teachers. It was very long, but we were fed by Mandarin members every night, and mainland members staying in patron housing every other time we felt peckish. There was also a family from Paris staying there who know Elder Jaquier. I gave them a letter for him. Patron housing had a very nice shower, but very hard beds.
One morning we walked out of our room to find Elder Uchdorf taking pictures with Mainland members! We didn't get a picture (he was just leaving) but he shook our hands, put his hand on my shoulder and did a quick apartment check through the book. He said he wouldn't report us. He also said it was "pretty good."
Sorry this is short. The library cuts you off early when it's this late. Love you all so much!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:57:16 PM
Subject: I guess it's not called the city of dreams

The City of Dreams is just a casino. It looked like an add for the city of Macao itself.

I really like being here in Macao as Mandarin/International. There are lots and lots of Mandarin speakers here, so we can teach the greater portion of the people. It's harder, because if the helpers don't have Sunday Holiday they can't come to church, but the employers here are a lot nicer. Most of the helpers live in apartments with other helpers, so at night they can meet with us, or during the day sometimes. There are still plenty of Indonesians who don't speak any English, but more of them here can speak it pretty well. Sister Maya asked us today if she could have the Book of Mormon in Russian, because of all the languages the Book of Mormon is in, she is best at Russian. I'm not sure what part of Indonesia she is from, but she says she spoke a dialect, and her Indonesian is pretty bad. She now she will have Indonesian, English, and Russian to compare and see if she can figure out the meaning. She learned Russian cause she wants to be a Russian rapper. She's pretty cool. Most signs here are in Chinese characters and Portuguese, so the other day in the church she said, "I can't speak any Portuguese though. Like this [pointing to a sign on a door] Cust-od-i-al clo-set. See? I can't."

Macao has everything. Mandarins, Philippians, Indonesians, cheaper-better food, Mexican food, a big apartment, we even found the relief society's sewing machine. Now I can make my shirts fit me! And do it quickly even!

My Cantonese is getting better and better. Four of the six Elders here are from Hong Kong, so they just speak Cantonese all day long. I think I can understand more Cantonese now than I could Mandarin when I first got here. And I can now pick out a few gospel words in Bahasa Indonesian as well. The gift of tongues is real.

Remember how I like to ride my bike, but I don't like any helmets cause they are all super dorky? Well there are tons and tons of people on scooters here, and I see at least one helmet that I approve of every time I go outside. Maybe I'll go into one of the Scooter shops one of these days and buy a helmet to send home for after my mission. I know you'd like that Mom.
One problem is the the church floods all the time. I don't really know why, but sometimes we have to go over there in the morning and clean it up. It's weird. Maybe like a broken pipe or something.

Did I mention last week that you can get Blueberry Muffin Toppers (the Malt-O-Meal original cereal) at USMart? you can. You can get anything you want.

I haven't tried any Portuguese food yet, but I'm hoping it's as good as Grandma's Portuguese Chicken. I miss it so. Maybe Grandma could send me the recipe! I just thought of that. Anyway I hear the Portuguese food here is pretty good too.

We met an old lady on the bus from Spain. She speaks English and Mandarin and has been a Catholic missionary for fifty years. She travels from Macao to Taiwan, to Philippines. She was very nice. I didn't start talking to her, cause I could tell she was a Catholic missionary, but Elder So was undaunted.

Sorry this is a weird email. I'm not very organized in my thinking right now. I love you! I miss you! It's been 11 months already.

[This is Noah's friend Elizabeth, who is serving in Indonesia. She knows LOTS of gospel words in Indonesian.]

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dream City

Date: Thursday, July 08, 2010 5:45:19 AM
Subject: The City of Dreams

Sorry, you'll have to re-adjust to me having Thursday p-day. And I'll tell you why. I am now in Macao; The City of Dreams.

When I very first got my call to Hong Kong I went to my good friend Jason Bahr to find out a little about the mission. He served here several years ago and is still a legendary AP, though his name is beginning to fade, as quickly as most things in a mission. If your name lasts longer than two years after you go home, you know you were either very powerful, or very "apostate" (missionary lingo, translated from the original Cantonese). Bahr was powerful.
He told me that Hong Kong is the best mission in the world, and gave a few reasons for that claim. The one that stood out to me was that Hong Kong missionaries don't go to bed until 11:00 and wake up at 7:00. I said how excited I was about that, and he said, "That's nothing, if you go to Macao [a small city, formerly Portuguese colony an hour's ferry ride from Hong Kong] you sleep from 11:30 to 7:30."
And so I was sold. I wanted to go to Macao. The City of Dreams.
But I was realistic, and when Jason told me that "Everyone wants to go to Macao", I realized that I probably would not get to go. And then I got to Hong Kong and found out that there weren't even Mandarin missionaries here. So all my hopes were gone. I would never serve in Macao. But my Trainer, Elder So, had just come back from Macao, and he, like everyone who has ever served in Macao, was Macao trunky (meaning he missed Macao dreadfully). He often spoke fondly of his time spent in Macao and hopefully of time yet to come that he could return there. On several occasions he even went as far as to say, "Elder Kershisnik, one day I will go back to Macao. You would love it, I know you would. Perhaps we can be companions there!" I would protest that first, he was probably not going back, and second, I was defiantly not going there, as I do not speak Cantonese. "It could happen!" he'd say. But I knew better.
Well, Elder So has a lot of faith. He somehow got himself back to Macao. I admit, I was impressed. He overcame the odds, and went back. I knew that him coming back to Mandarin work wasn't likely, so I said goodbye to serving around my mission trainer for the last time. There were no Mandarins in Macao.
Not too long after that, another Mandarin Elder, Elder Ng went to Macao to open a Cantonese/Mandarin companionship (incidentally, his companion's name was also Ng. Both from Hong Kong). It gave me a slight hope that one day in the future there could be a Mandarin companionship in the City of Dreams. But not in my mission life time.
Then I went International. Mostly going International means you'll stay there at least, at very least, two transfers. I became happy and content there. I hoped to get three or four before going back to Chinese work. Then I got a call to be a district leader. Oh no, that means senior companion and real responsibility. Or so I thought.
Then came moves calls and the biggest shock of my mission. I was headed to Macao to be Elder (Zone Leader) So's junior companion. It was about as likely as me going Cantonese, but it happened. Elder So and I are serving International/Mandarin together in Macao.

Elder So says now he owes a lot to God. He prayed himself back to Macao, he prayed Elder Ng there as the other Zone Leader, and then he prayed me here to be his companion. He's getting a little bit scared, he says.

All would be sunshine and joy, except that this morning as I slipped the Macaopass card from Elder Wall into my wallet, I noticed something was different. My wallet didn't look like it normally did. And then I realized that my mission money credit card was missing. All my cash and my personal card was still there, just the mission one was gone.
So that's annoying.
And also Elder So is already low on money for the month, so even when I get my new card we won't be able to partake of the wonderful food Macao is said to have. Delicious and cheap is all I hear.

It was terribly sad to leave the investigators and members in Hong Kong International. Some even cried when they found out. I almost cried as we taught Sister Gena this morning. She will get baptized on her next holiday, and is very sad I will not be there. She's the first person I've really taught who will be baptized.

But it's ok. The Church is still true. I am still happy to be a missionary. And I am in Macao, the Las Vegas of the Orient, where people are nice and will actually talk to you, blueberry muffin toppers are available at US Mart, Chinese speak fluent Portuguese, and quality buffets are almost affordable on a missionary budget. So there are lots of casinos, but it still feels like people care less about money here than in Hong Kong.

I love you all! I will use some personal money to live until I get a new card. Sorry about the change again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twenty. Still.

Date:Monday, June 28, 2010 12:52:29 AM
Subject: I'm still twenty

We now have three investigators with Baptismal dates. That is very exciting. I think it might be more than I've had in the rest of my mission combined. I think I will be less afraid to ask people to set a baptismal date after this. But none of them are people we found. Street contacting is probably the least effective thing that we do. Member referrals are where it's at.

Today we are going to the Hong Kong Museum of art. My past companions didn't want to look at art, except for Elder So, but he lives very near the museum, so he doubted he could have gotten permission to go there. We probably won't be able to stay long, but I am excited. I do love museums.

Speaking of Elder So, the branch I attend on Sunday meets in the same chapel as his home ward, and did I tell you that his sister found me the other day and gave me a bag of food? I was so surprised. It was so nice of her to do that. I guess Elder So told her to. She is funny, she looks like she's maybe twelve. She is literally about half my height, but she's actually a bit older that me. It's just incredible.

I had to talk to a walk-in from Bei Zhing yesterday, and my Mandarin was fine. I kept thinking it was so horrible, and then I realized that actually that's how it was before, too. It's not that good, but it hasn't gotten worse. And I can read a lot more characters now. That's mostly what I do for language study. It's really fun to be able to read a sign every now and then. It's even more fun to understand it, which happens, but even less often.

I'm trying to think of cool things that have happened. It really is like groundhog day here. I: wake up, go finding, hopefully teach some people, eat lunch, make phone calls, study, talk to members, eat dinner, study, write in journal and get ready for bed, make phone calls, go to bed. A nice member did buy us Mexican food the other day. There were baked beans on that taco salad. Baked beans do not belong on a taco salad. At least not in my book. But it was quite delicious none the less. I found a Thai place to try. Still haven't been though. Probably this week.

Last p day we watched Moses, Prince of Egypt and Meet the Robinsons while playing Bang! and Monopoly Deal, which are two quite good movies and two quite fun games. Especially Bang! which is super fun. It's a western card game with outlaws and a sheriff and gun fights and stuff. I admit, the first time I played it was the most fun. Partly because it was the closest thing to a new movie I'd had in a long time. But it's still fun after playing it many times.

I can't think of anything else to say. Things are going well. I'm learning a lot. I'm still baking when I can. I love you all.
-Noah Kicker or Cornick or Niknik or Hersheys (somehow...) or Snickers or (my favorite and impossible to say correctly unless you are from Indonesia) Shrickshrick