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.