Monday, June 24, 2013

Wo de pengyoumen, nimen hao!!! (I wish I knew how to put tones on the words with this thing; I currently don't, so that's a wee bit of challenge--anywho: That phrase means: My friends, hello to you all! [Kinda]) :)
Another week, another destiny! Only 3 more till we flight out and off to Singapore/Xinjiapo! One of the teachers, Bro. Moody, is a fellow redhead that went to Singapore as well. He's been telling us about some of the crazy food that we'll eat there. He's mentioned that grass is served quite frequently, as is dog and something known as gutterfish (pretty much the fish that dwell in the Malaysian gutters and sewers, where people throw their garbage and stuff). Fun fun fun :)
Life continues to go on; I hope everyone was able to watch or listen to the Worldwide Broadcast! There were so many great messages and sermons delivered there! One of my ultimate favorites was a line that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve said: "The Lord's objectives are accomplished one soul at a time." I LOVE THAT! It is so true! In a few of our past lessons, we've had investigators ask, "If my family doesn't accept the Gospel in this life, will I be able to be with them in this celestial kingdom of yours?" And the answer: The Lord loves ALL of His children! Missionary work doesn't end beyond the grave! That was another topic that was briefly touched upon in the Broadcast. The Lord calls and sends missionaries on both sides of the veil to do His work and to give all of His children the opportunity to accept His Gospel. Those who don't accept the Gospel in this life will be given an opportunity to do so in the next.
Just sitting here, thinking about that profound and wonderful truth, brings great comfort to my soul in connection with my brother. I have no doubt that there is a mission call waiting for him in the mansions above, and maybe part of that call's area will be able to extend over that of my own mission; I hope and pray that he will be able to become a companion of mine in the jungles of Malaysia and the streets of Singapore :)
For those of you that haven't read it, I HIGHLY encourage reading Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk "Sanctify Yourselves". This is so inspirational and so motivating a talk, and it really drives home the fact that we're meant to help each other, as we are all members of the human family. Missionary work is not just for missionaries; it is for EVERYONE (This was yet another statement that was really driven home during last night's wonderful Worldwide Broadcast).
I testify that the Lord really does love everyone. Throughout this past week I've really come to accept and know that the Lord has a hand in all of our lives, including those people who have never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He will provide a way for all of them, in one way or another, in this life or the next, to hear and hopefully receive the truthfulness of our message. I know that the Lord has a hand in China; I know that He is preparing those wonderful people. I know that He will find a way to bring all of His children back home. If this were not so, then nothing we teach and testify of would be correct. This is one of the foundational doctrines that our Church is based upon, and it is one that is dearly beloved in my heart :)
I hope you all have had and will continue to have an amazing week! Thank you for your many letters and emails; please keep them coming! There's no better way to drive off discouragement or loneliness than to receive a letter from a friend or family member! They're pretty much the best :)
I love you all! Wo hen ai nimen :)
Zai jian for now; God be with you till we meet again,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello friends and familia!
Another week has gone by here at the good ole MTC :) This past week has been one of renewed effort to study Chinese and to improve in my attitude towards that there language. It's been a struggle at times, but positivity is so key! I'm so thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which allows us to pick ourselves up from the pitfalls of despair and rise to the heights of hope :) I've also had the joy this past week of getting sick--not hard-core, malaria/smallpox sick, but a congested nose and headache can at times feel just as bad as the two other diseases aforementioned. One of the teachers here made the comment that when we are sick, that is when the adversary will try to mentally bombard us with thoughts of homesickness and a longing to leave. I am thankful to say that I haven't had to deal with anything of that nature to that sort of degree they talked about. I hope that that means the Spirit has been protecting me.
Another goal of our companionship's for this week is EXACT OBEDIENCE. On Tuesday night's devo, one of the speakers spoke about a cow that would poke its head over a fence and eat the wheat on the other side. For those who don't know, when cows eat wheat they bloat. Big time. Eventually, if they eat enough of the stuff, it could be a fatal and permanent mistake. That being said, she (the speaker) addressed the fact that when we spiritually and physically don't obey even the smallest of rules--even if the cow just barely nibbles on the wheat--it could potentially create sickness. Spiritual sickness. I've felt that before whilst being here, and it is certainly not worth the disobedience in the small things. In fact, it is the small things that will make or break our testimonies. Reading our scriptures daily, praying morning and night with sincerity, thinking good and kind thoughts towards others, ourselves, and God, and being of service to our fellow beings in small and simple acts of random kindness--these are the things that will determine our destinies. They'll be the determing factors in what make our days happy or not, and they'll certainly be the deciding agents in the grand eternities. When we are exactly obedient to the little things, the Lord can bless us with so much more than we ever thought of or dreamed. I'm excited to work on exact obedience this week, and I hope that it will make a difference in my life and in the lives of my investigators :)
This past week I really fell in love with Helaman 3:27. We've been trying to get our investigators really 'rooted' in the Gospel--not just to think that our teachings are good, but to actually BELIEVE that those teachings will help to improve their lives. It's been a struggle, but Helaman 3:27 has brought a lot of encouragement and conviction in the quest to help our investigators feel even more of the love of God than they already have. It's pretty great :)
I've been here a month!!! Just four more weeks from tomorrow, and I will be on a plane to Singapore (or, in the Mandarin, Xinjiapo! :) ) I'm mucho excited, but also really nervous. I've learned a LOT of Chinese here, but certainly not as much as I want. I guess that's why we have two months of our mission here--to help prepare us to properly teach the people who need to hear our message :)
I hope that you'll all tune in on June 23rd to the broadcast from the Marriott Center--the MTC Choir is going to be great (trust me, I'll be in it ;) ) and the speakers--including members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve--are going to be phenomenal! :)
For now I bid you all a fond farewell; may God be with you till we meet again :)
Mai Zhanglao/Elder Mitchell :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dear friends, family, poisonous reptiles:
I hope you all got the clever 'Ice Age' reference there :) It was pretty good, if I say so myself. It's hard to believe that yet another week has gone by!! In five days it will have been a month since I entered the MTC, and in six days it will be a month till I leave it! I'm nowhere near ready nor prepared to go to Singapore/Malaysia yet; there's this thing called Mandarin Chinese that is proving to be a fun yet determined roadblock. But deep in my heart of hearts I REALLY want to go. I just want to go and fall in love with the people of Singapore and Malaysia; I want to go and be their servant and their friend. I am anxious to just go and immerse myself in the culture, the people, and yes, even the language. :)
This week has been one of great spiritual rewards and blessings. I've put more effort into studying the language and the Gospel, and I can testify that the Lord blesses such efforts. I can also testify that the adversary enjoys trying to overthrow such efforts as well. But, in the words of a great song, "don't give up, never give up, we won't stop, give it all we got" :) (to be honest, I'm not sure which movie that's from, but my sisters would be able to tell me. I probably just offended them right now by saying I forgot :) )
We've taught several more lessons and are advancing in the language, my companions at a remarkable rate, me at more of a snail's speed. But yeah. All's well, I suppose, in that regard. There are times when I feel like I'm just moving so fast and rapidly in Chinese, and there are other times when I feel the complete opposite. Pretty great :) Positivity! That's the key, my friends! I've come to learn through happy and sad experience that to be positive is to get the most and advance the farthest in any situation presented to you, spiritual or temporal. There's a reason that the most oft-repeated commandment--and, as Elder Holland says, the most oft-broken commandment--that the Lord gives to us is 'Be of Good Cheer'!!! 2 Ne. 2:25--"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy" :)
Lately the days have been supremely hot. I'll find myself in the midst of complaining about said heat and starkly realize: Singapore is even HOTTER than this, and is much more HUMID. Oh joy ;) But I'm really super excited to go! I've heard stories that go something like this: You sweat gallons, and you hope it rains so that you can get a free shower :) I'm totally fine with that :)
This week I've decided that I want to read the Book of Revelations. I'm not very far into it, since I don't really have that much time to do that sort of 'for fun' reading, but what I have read is amazing!!! It is so thought-provoking and awesome! :) I really like Revelations 21:4--"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." This scripture, along with a lot of the devotionals and other studies I've done here, has pointed my heart towards my brother and towards Singapore. I miss him a lot, as well as the friends and family back home, but I know without a doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be, and I'm very thankful for it :)
Friends and family, I know this Church is true. My knowledge is far from perfect, and my faith is far from being that of a spiritual giant's, but I know that the work I've been called to do is one that the Lord has ordained. I know that although I am weak, He is strong, and He can help me when I need that help. I know that I'm far from perfect, and that He still loves me. This morning me and my district had the chance to go to the temple, and the Spirit there was wonderful! I love being in the Lord's House and I encourage any and all to do whatever it takes to get there! It is so worth it! I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, and that he saw what he said he saw. That is an area of my testimony that has definitely grown since my time here in the MTC, and for that I'm eternally grateful :)
For now I bid you a fond farewell; see y'all next week!
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hello everybody!
Another week has come and gone; this one really felt like it flew by. I've seen a bunch of friends from home and from college here at the good ole MTC; that's been kinda fun. I really do enjoy seeing people that I know; it's like a little taste of home away from home. We've been learning Chinese more and more, and I'm beginning to understand a little bit more of it. It's a hard language in the fact that the tones are very precise; if you say a word wrong, then essentially you're saying a completely different word. That's so challenging for me; I'm so used to using the tone of my voice for different reasons, not for indicating completely different words and phrases! Ack! But I've been called to speak this language for a reason; I've had that truth emphasized to me several times throughout this week.
I've decided that I'm probably not doing my best to dedicate myself to the language; a goal of mine for this week is to be better at studying Mandarin and to familiarize myself more with the words and phrases I need to know, as well as with the sentence structure. The nice thing about Mandarin grammar and sentence structure: There is a very methodical and sensical way to construct sentences. It's nowhere near as confusing as it would be to learn English...but that doesn't mean it's not confusing :)
This past week has had several unique and unforeseen challenges, but it has definitely been quite a rewarding week at that. You can definitely tell when the Spirit is with you, and when It is not. On Wednesday the latest bunch of Mandarin missionaries came it; there were 36 of them! (About the same amount that arrived the day I did). Yesterday me and my companions were announced to the ward as new Zone Leaders. We're going to be the leaders that usher in the next wave of Mandarin missionaries that come in in June--the largest wave yet, with over 50 new missionaries!!! The Lord is certainly hastening His work, and we have the privilege of being a part of that hastening.
Last night at the Sunday Devotional, a man named Ted Gibbons spoke to us. He was portraying Willard Richards, and spoke of the closeness he'd had with Joseph Smith. It was interesting and very spiritual! My testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith has grown tremendously during the short time that I've been here at the MTC, more than I ever thought it would. He truly did see what he said he saw, and because of that, look at how much happiness has been brought into the world! Remarkable and amazing! :)
Please feel free to send me letters and stuff like that; I love getting them! Mail is pretty great :)
So this past week I had the chance to read the Book of Enos during Personal Study. There is so much of this wonderful part of the Book of Mormon that is personally and universally applicable! Throughout the first verses of the book, Enos mentions that he 'wrestled' and 'struggled' with the Lord during his mighty prayer. I think that sometimes people automatically assume that testimonies can and will come with the snap of a finger, and that all of our trials and temptations will vanish with that same snap. I'd just like to say from personal experience (particularly gleaned from here in the MTC)--That is false!! Many of us, myself included, have to work and struggle in order to come to know God. And when we increase our efforts, the adversary will certainly increase his. His whole goal is to make us miserable; but God will NOT forsake those that turn to Him with real intent and a sincere heart. Enos struggled to come to know God, and it wasn't easy. But it was worth it.
In verse 8 he hears the voice of the Lord confirming to him that his sins are forgiven, and that his faith hath made him whole. At the end of that verse, Enos could easily have finished his prayer and gone on his way...but then he felt a desire to pray for his brethren. He didn't have to, but, just as Joseph Smith once said, "a man filled with the love of God is not content to bless his family [or himself] alone".
In verse 10 we read: "And while I was thus struggling in the spirit." Look at the word 'spirit'. It's NOT capitalized! It was his own spirit he was struggling with, not the Spirit of the Lord. Enos, although he'd received a testimony from the Lord Himself, was still struggling with his own personal weaknesses and testimony. I can totally relate with this, as I'm sure everyone else can. It wasn't until after he prayed for his brethren and the Lord answered THAT prayer that his "faith began to be unshaken in the Lord". It wasn't until Enos lost himself that his faith was fortified, and it wasn't until he committed his heart to the Lord and to others that he found true happiness and that his strugglings with his own testimony were quenched. I testify that this principle is true, whether or not you're in the MTC :)
For now, I'll be going. Have a grand week everybody!
Zai jian,
Mai Zhanglao