Monday, June 21, 2010


Date: Monday, June 21, 2010 4:01:04 AM
Subject: I am two decades old

I am older now than I've ever been. But it feels almost the same.

Happy birthday father's day! That's what the characters read on a plate of cookies at church. In honor of being a prospective father, I won the apple eating contest. At first it seemed Nick would win, but then his mouth was too full of apple to really do anything. Elder Westhoff laughed at me as he enjoyed his apple slowly. But I got a ceramic bobble head (and feet and tail) turtle, so look who's laughing now!

I am going to go buy some new shirts after this. I should have listened to Mom when she told me that cotton shirts don't stay ironed. It doesn't really bother me, but sometimes people comment on it. But at least the cotton ones fit! The 50% cotton 50% fake ones are like giant tents, until you get to the neck, at which point they feel like I bought them before my neck really filled out. I got a rash from them the first day of the MTC. After that I guess I got immune, because it didn't really bother me any more. Until the summer humidity came. Now I had to invent a button extender. But I think shirts that fit will be even better. In fact I'm very excited to look nice again. I had no stains on my shirt until I really started cooking. I think I might also get an apron to protect my new shirts. Or a double breasted chef shirt thing. That would be pretty sweet.

I got my hair cut today in a way cool old barber shop with lots and lots of old cranky barbers. I was thinking about how I could write to you about all the people who were getting shaved with straight razors when my barber whipped his out to trim my side burns and neck. I almost really want to get a shave some day, but I think I would be too scared.

We still have good investigators, and lots who are nice but won't actually come too church. Normally if you can't get them to come to church with you, they won't ever come. They give you their number almost every time (I've been denied once since I came to international), but they almost never will come. So I didn't really believe Argie when she told me she really was interested, but maybe next time. I was surprised when I called her and she said that she has been really searching for the truth for a long time, but doesn't know how to find it. "I've been to lots and lots of churches, and they all say they are the true church, but I still don't think I've found it." I guess I told her about the Prophet, and so she's very interested. It is nice. Like one Elder said, showing a paper absolutely covered in numbers, "I have talked to every single one of these people and none of them would even come to church. Except for this one, and now she's baptized."
So. No effort is wasted.

I ate really expensive thin crust pizza at a place called pizza express for my birthday from Grandma. It had buffalo mozzarella, padano, arugula, and prosciutto ham. It was way good, and will maybe be able to tide me over until I can get the real stuff at P712.

Love you all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good Food and Bad Food

Date:Sunday, June 13, 2010 11:54:56 PM

Some good food I have eaten lately was a melt from the new Marks & Spencer. It was great, but way too expensive. As far as more Asian food goes, I still need to find a Thai place. The street food is cheap and either pretty good or just too weird to handle. A lot of it is quite westernized. I love what they call BBQ pork, which is nothing like BBQ pork. I prefer to just say it in Chinese, because BBQ is just wrong. Also I made a cheese cake with some of the birthday money from Grandma. And some yummy bread and pie.

Some bad food I ate was at church. They made me eat the head of a salted, dried, fried fish dipped in vinegar. It pretty much tasked like salt, but there were bones and eyeballs and stuff in it. I couldn't finish it. They also made me eat balute. Did I already mention that? It's a boiled egg, but there's a chicken inside. You crack the shell, 'drink the soup,' and then eat the greenish black thing inside. If you look too carefully you can figure out where the different parts of the small bird are. I didn't look at all. They say I almost cried. Did I tell you about the cow intestine I had to eat? It may have been just from horror stories I've heard, but it tasted like poop. Indonesian food is full of MSG and very spicy, but so far nothing more than that.

I continue to have wonderful experiences almost everyday. I could tell you about them, but there are too many. The people I talk to now just really get it. Some of it any way. They feel the spirit so easily, but many of them don't come back. They let the cares of the world be more important. I still love teaching more and more though. It's just fun when the people being taught are so receptive.

The other day while we were finding (not very many effective finding areas, so for the good ones we are given a schedule of when we can go, so that there aren't too many missionaries there at a time) we walked up a side path thingy and stumbled on an old ruined college! It was unreal. One second we were in the busy city, the next we were in an overgrown ruin. Most of the buildings were gone, there were just walkways going all around the side of the mountain, without a No Trespassing sign in sight! That is unheard of in Hong Kong. There were a few especially cool places with fences guarding them. If I were not here representing Jesus Christ's church, I would have trespassed, I'm afraid. But we felt that under the circumstances, something bad would happen. It was a shame.

I decided to buy one of these cool moleskin note books they have that you use to make your own city guide. It has a map of Hong Kong for marking, and pages for writing about places of interest. What better time than now to use that? I just wander around the city, running across random cool places all the time. I still have a year. I should be able to fill it right up. Then we can have a sweet guide for when you all come.

Speaking of the word sweet, I used it in it's slang form the other day to an investigator. "You've been reading the Book of Mormon? That's sweet." I don't think she understood.

I saw this on a t shirt. "The Ladybirds come rushing and hang with me."

Love you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Date: Sunday, June 06, 2010 7:54:32 PM
Subject: Before I forget

This is our new address.

18 Dorset Crescent
Kowloon Tong
Kowloon, Hong Kong

The mission office is being moved to the new building across from the temple. From about now on, use this one. Could you change my Facebook page please?


Motivational Text Messaging

Date: Sunday, June 06, 2010 8:29:58 PM
Subject: New Branch

Several of you mentioned that it is (or was) very hot and humid in New York, but said you are sure it's not as bad is in Hong Kong. Thank you for these comments, because it helped me to realize that, in fact, it has been very pleasant here. Actually not killer hot or humid. Just bad enough to warrant AC use at night, which completes the pleasantness. I imagine it still has plenty of time to get hot, but I will keep praying, and my faith is not based on results, or whatever that quote is. I mean, I'll go on being a missionary even if it does get hot.

To answer Mom's questions, I am assigned to a specific branch. The Penincula 2 branch. It only meets Sunday, and in a church building a ways south of the Temple (in Homentin, if you wanted to know that). That is technically my branch, but because of everything in this situation, we can only do work for that branch on Sunday. The rest of the week I think we technically are just helping out with the Victoria 2 branch, which meets Tuesday through Saturday in the Wan Chai building (where I used to go to church). Elder Westhoff and I only actually attend Sacrament Meeting during the week once (mostly to help out with the Sacrament).

Testimony meeting was exciting. We got a motivational text messsage read out, a letter from a less active sister, asking that the reactivation efforts cease, as she is now a practicing "Witness", and a long, complicated, inappropriate story about one sister's husband and best friend, which included their church callings, to illustrate the strength of faith in some people. But there were many powerful, appropriate testimonies as well. I was confused for a moment when one sister expressed her gratitude for the "gas bill," and all the wonderful changes it had caused in her life. I really wanted to hear that story! But alas, it was only a figment of her accent.

I have heard a few pretty cool conversion stories though. One sister told me she was converted in Taiwan, while on a mission. I thought for a moment that she had said it wrong (maybe she was converted, and then went on a mission to Taiwan) but no, she was a Catholic nun before. She was living in the same building with the missionaries, and somehow they interested her in listening to their message. Then she was called as a ward missionary, so she and her 'companion' (roommate?) woke up every morning and went tracting with the missionaries. Her parents were supporting her on what was originally a Catholic mission, so she had lots of free time I guess. Now she works in Hong Kong where her employer is very very Catholic, and sometimes forces her to go to Mass, where the nuns really give her a hard time I guess.

Sometimes it feels a little bit like Groundhog Day, doing the same thing everyday. And I almost forgot that I can't buy things on Sunday yesterday. I mean, everyone else does it. I always send people off to church and then go buy lunch! But then I remembered. It turns out I really do have time to cook if I want to. And study Chinese, and even play a little guitar. You just have to manage your time well. And I get to eat at a lot of new restaurants too. It's the best of both worlds, really.

I'm happy to be here. I hope the trip to "The City" was fun. It's really a different city than this one in a lot of ways. But also very similar. I love you.


Noah's New York photos

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Date: Sunday, May 30, 2010 11:53:35 PM
Subject: My Fault

I forgot to tell ya'll that my new P-day is Monday. Oops.

So last email I was short on time and all I could think about was that soon I would go to international work, but didn't really have anything real to say about it. This time I have plenty of time, and I really have real things to say about this work. Not much, I've only been here a few days, but that is enough.

Turns out this is pretty awesome. It is challenging and you really do have to work hard, but it's way fun too. Do you remember a long time ago we heard something about how in China lots of people don't get Sundays off because their culture is different and so they hold church services every day so that everyone can go? Well actually, the culture in Hong Kong is basically American in that respect. What we were hearing about was the International branch here. Lots and lots of Philippinas and Indonesians come here to Hong Kong to be domestic helpers. They live with their employer and basically do whatever they want them to do. Cooking, cleaning, raising children, etc. They work ridiculously hard from early in the morning until late at night, often with very strict rules about not buying anything for themselves or calling or texting anyone while they are working. Many of them have young children back home, and all of them have some kind of family, to whom they send all their income. Usually they get one day off each week (though sometimes it's only once every other week, and I've even met one who only gets one holiday a month) which is most often Saturday or Sunday, though it can be any day of the week, and for some it is different each week. They sometimes find out the day before that tomorrow will be their holiday.

They really don't have anything to do on their holiday. They will often gather in certain places where they find a few friends and sit down and just eat, talk, and rest. Lots will go to church if they can.

So what we do is wake up each morning, exercise and eat breakfast, do personal study, and then go finding. We go to places where we know lots of them will be and start talking to them. We tell them we are missionaries and try to get them to come back to church with us. Almost all of those who stop will give you their number, which is exactly what I was after in Mandarin work. Here though, that's almost completely ineffective. The best way is to get them to come to church, where there is an instant support group of happy fellowshippers, busily cooking, chatting, and having fun while they wait for church to start. If we can get a pullback (someone to come to church with us) then we show them around, introduce them to the members, and then get a member or two (or five. or seven) to come help us teach. After we teach the first lesson then members take them away to be fellowshipped beyond recognition, and we go out to try to find another person willing to come back with us. This goes on until about 1:00 when church starts. At that point we usually eat lunch and then maybe do some phone calls (some of them will still answer their phones during working time) or study or something. At this point finding isn't as effective, because all the fellowshippers are in church already. After church we will maybe teach investigators found previous weeks, or make friends with the members (who are basically all awesome and love missionaries) and investigators. Then they have family home evening, and then they make dinner, which they are more than happy to give to the Elders. In fact, we have to tell them that it is a rule that we can't eat their food unless we have an investigator there, or else they will force us to eat.

After dinner they all start to head home to make it back before their curfew (usually at around 8:00, but later for those with Saturday holiday. I'm not sure why) and we go home to finish studies. From 9:00 to 10:00 we get ready for bed and write in our journal, and then from 10:00 to 11:00 we make calls (hopefully our investigators are done with work at this point). At 11:00 we go to bed. Then we wake up the next day and do it all again with a completely different set of members who are just as aware of their responsibility to bring their friends and help the missionaries find, teach and fellowship.

Most people (including myself) looking at international work from the outside think of it as "fake missionary work." It seems to easy to us. Having spent only a few days here, I realize that no, this is real missionary work. Missionary work is only real when it approaches what goes on here every day. When a member brings a friend or willingly helps teach, or an investigator is humble enough to joyfully receive another testament of our lord Jesus Christ, or when the love from the members is strong enough that there can be no doubt in an investigator's mind that this is anything but the truth; that is real missionary work.

Elder Oaks spoke to us again on Sunday. He spent a great deal of time speaking directly to the members of these wards, telling them, frankly, that they need to go home. "You are in," he said, "an unnatural condition." "Set goals to take control of your lives." "We must never choose temporal blessings at the expense of eternal ones." Of course he was very wonderful and loving as he said it, but it helped me to realize that that is one of my purposes right now, to help them be brave enough to go home to their families.

I ran into the Li's luckily and completely on accident by the exit to the MTR station. It was odd to be introduced to a large group of short Asian woman whom I had never met, and then have a short Asian woman run up to me from the left yelling, "NOAH!" How on earth does she know my first name? Oh, of course, it's Jasmine. I should have known.

They gave me the stuff. Thank you for it. I decided to keep the present from you, and the ones from the Corry's until my birthday and then open them. It's much more fun that way. I decided that if I didn't make a stand now and wait, I would never wait again, and that would make me a lame adult-like person. Now my birthday is a much more exciting prospect!

I tried the steamed bun recipe from the Li's and it worked! I did it! It was delicious. Now I just need to learn to make Cha Su.

Aunt Gabi sent me a lot of dried fruit and nuts in her package. That was very thoughtful, because I really like fruit and nuts, but they are quite expensive here. I appreciate candy of course, but as a missionary I find I am rarely lacking candy, but always lacking dried fruit and nuts.

My favorite scripture is, in fact 2 Nephi 5:27. I also really like 2 Nephi 22. It a very short chapter. All good.

Love you all! I am very happy where I am. I will learn a lot, and hopefully be able to apply it in all my mission, and my life.