Sunday, July 28, 2013

Well folks,
My first full week in the beautiful land of Singapore! I'm pretty much having the TIME of my LIFE!!! :) So, before we get to anything spiritual, here are some stories that will either make you laugh or shake your head in disgust or something in between.
The other day we went some members of our YSA to a Korean BBQ buffet place. One of our members is going back to China this week before he heads off to either BYU or Australia for school, and this was a sort of going-away party for him. Well, in this particular place there are these grills in the middle of the table where you take your meat and cook it. I didn't know that at first, though. (Sweet, naive little me ;) ). So, as we're getting our meat at the counter, the thought runs through my head: This meat does NOT look cooked. But I decided to be brave and eat it anyway.
Yeah, a few mouthfuls of raw chicken later, I noticed that the YSA kids were throwing the meat onto the grills and cooking it. It was at this rather awkward moment that I began praying like CRAZY--"Please, Heavenly Father, please please please let this meat not make me sick. Help my body to cope with whatever I just put in it!"
Do you remember that scripture from 1 Nephi 16 where Nephi states that the Lord made their raw meat sweet unto them, so that they didn't have to cook it? Yep, I pretty much lived that moment. I have, as of yet, not gotten sick from this adventure, which is really nice; keep your fingers crossed that I don't get worms or something ;) It was one of those really awesome greenie moments that just humbles you and also shows that God has the greatest sense of humor :)
Also at this BBQ place: Some of the YSA girls started drilling me and Ge Zhanglao about our personal lives (aka "Do you have a girlfriend? What's your family like?" etc. etc. etc.) At one point one of them asked, "Ni you mimi ma?" Which means, "Do you have secrets?" (I'm sorry I don't have the time and/or skill to add the right tones to that). I thought she said, "Ni you meimei ma?" Which means "Do you have sisters?"
I responded, "Dui, wo you liang ge mimi." I have two secrets.
Yep, they got a kick out of that. 
Whatevs ;)
So on one of these past days we went contacting at a big mall place known as Bugis. While we were waiting for a bus to take us there (to Bugis), a VERY drunk guy came up to us (there were six of us elders plus one of our YSA guys there at the time) and started talking to us. He was a member of the Church about 14 years ago, but then we went down very forbidden paths that I won't go into describing right now. 
Later that day we were contacting at Bugis, and we were approached by a guy who was on his break from work. As we talked to him about the Book of Mormon, he started smoking. We ended up giving him a copy of the Mo'ermenjing, but that day the Lord really taught me such an amazing and awesome lesson: Love.
It's a little, four-letter word that carries with it the weight of nations, the glories of the heavens, and the potential for so much good! The Lord Jesus Christ went out into the highways and by-ways of the ancient Holy Land, healing the lepers and the blind men, blessing the sick and the afflicted, dining with the publicans and harlots of society. He--the Jehovah of the Old Testament--not only condescended from the heavenly courts above to this globe, but as a more than mortal Man descended into the lowest levels of society to lift people up and help them realize their celestial potential.
This is what we've been called to do--to go to those who appear most undeserving, because they are the ones who need the message of the Gospel most. As I'm falling in love with the YSA, the Chinese ward, and the people of Singapore in general, the Lord is teaching me that He loves ALL of His children, no matter their life circumstances. Although the drunk smelled AWFUL and although he used some pretty colorful language, he was still loved by the God of the Universe. Infinitely loved, celestially loved, loved beyond compare.
This is a principle that I'm still working to perfect, but someday I'll get it down. For now, I'm continuing to be taught by Heavenly Father, and I'm relishing the experience to learn from Him as I try to help His lost sheep come back to the fold.
For now I bid you all a fond zai jian;
God be with you till we meet again! I love you all! :)
Mai Zhanglao :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

HELLO FROM SINGAPORE!!!!!!!! I'm here, I'm here, I'm here :)
Whew! The adventures I've had are gonna BLOW your mind ;) I'm sitting in a large room right now that is dedicated solely to gaming. There are rows and rows of big, black, FANCY computers, and you pay S$3 for 1 hr 1/2 time on the computers. Naturally we missionaries/chuanjiaoshimen can't do gaming, but we can sure do emailing :) Pretty much the next best thing, right? :)
Let me fill you in on what's happened so far; hopefully I won't be talking too fast and forget something ;)
Okee-dokee, so on Tuesday afternoon we departed from the MTC and arrived at the good ole SLC airport. Whilst there we ran into a lady who said her niece was also serving in Singapore (and guess who we happened to run into at a baptism this past Saturday? Yep, her niece :) But more on that later). 
The flight which we took from SLC to LAX was nice and calm; it was my FIRST TIME FLYING, and it was amazing!!! We flew over SLC and Provo--I got to see BYU from above one last time for the next 2. We then journeyed onward; at one part of the flight we came up out of a cloudbank and were soaring above rows and rows and columns and columns of pink and orange and bright red clouds. The music from the 'Romantic Flight' of "How to Train Your Dragon" just kept flying (see what I did there? :) ) through my head at that part :)
Our plane flew over LA, and what a sight that was! The whole city, lit up at night--it was huge! On our way into LA, we saw a big fire on one of the nearby mountains--it was quite impressive. And the city itself--alive and abuzz with light...whew, that was a sight I'll never forget! :)
We arrived in LAX, but alas, we weren't wearing any cardigans. We had plenty of dreams though (for those of you that don't know the song "Party in the USA", you won't understand that last sentence :) ). I saw palm trees for the first time in my life! Me, a little small-town kid from Utah, out adventuring! I'm pretty much Bilbo Baggins! :) 
There were some concerns we had about our baggage at LAX, but those worries were all taken care of. We proceeded to fly from LA to Hong Kong--aka 13 and 1/2 hours over the Pacific Ocean. By the time we got on that plane, I'd been up for 21 hours. For those of you that aren't missionaries, you could possibly be saying to yourselves, "21 hours? Piece of cake." But for those of you that have been in my same shoes, you'll know that 21 hours is pretty much a trip through the seven circles of diyu (that's Chinese for not-heaven :) ). 
I tried to get some sleep on the plane and was mostly successful...kinda. We flew over Japan and Taiwan, and I got to see some fishing boats and little towns in those countries. Flying in to Hong Kong was one of the koolest experiences ever! All these kool clouds and then the shore! The Chinese coastline was SO PRETTY! We flew over the city proper--the towers and immensely high buildings of Hong Kong just BLEW MY MIND. So awesome! The Hong Kong Internat'l is separate from the actual city itself, and it is a huge place! Lots of people, and LOTS of Babylon...but that's okay :)
From Hong Kong we had a four-hour flight to Singapore. One hour away from our destination, our plane hit some pretty hardcore turbulence. Very unnerving and a little scary all at once! I think all three of us missionaries on board were praying our guts out: "Please let us make it!" And we did :) So that's happy :)
It was raining when we got here, so we didn't really get the full effect of the humidity and heat of this climate at the first. It was still quite hot outside, but it was bearable--thanks to the rain :) We spent that first night at the home of a senior couple here in Singapore, after getting to know the mission president and his wife. Fun fun fun :)
On Friday (oh yeah, we arrived at Singapore on Thursday afternoon--we lost our Wednesday!) Anywho, on Friday, we were alerted to our first assignments here in the mission. Su Zhanglao is going to Cibu, and Ge Zhanglao is going to be one of the first Chinese missionaries in Kuala Lumpur! I've been assigned to Singapore, so this good ole city is my 'birthplace' :) My companion, Fei Zhanglao, is pretty awesome. He didn't study any Chinese before coming, but he knows SO MUCH! It's really impressive and very helpful :) Both Su and Ge are going to be staying here in Xinjiapo for a couple weeks, though, so that their work permit stuff can get figured out.
That night we taught 3 lessons! Yeah--second day in the field, three lessons, all in Chinese. Pretty fun :) 
On Saturday we had to get a bunch of doctor's stuff done for work permits--without these work permits we'd have to go on visa runs like crazy. These just allow us a quicker and easier way back into Singapore--in other words, we won't ever have to worry about going to Indonesia for a day (for those of you that know what that means). 
We work closely with the YSA in the Singapore 2nd Ward (the Chinese ward here in Xinjiapo). On both Friday and Saturday nights we went to a Subway really close to our apartment with them to get a bite. Those that I've met are really awesome and really great! Even though I don't really know (or understand) them very well, my love for them is growing. My love for the Chinese language is growing, and I'm coming to understand the truly magnificent importance of this work and of the people that are here :) I'm falling in love with them, and with Singapore :)
On Saturday night we had a baptism! My companion was the one baptizing--the 'baptizee' is named Oscar, and it was really great :) Fun fun fun :)
So, now to the spiritual truth that I learned on Saturday, then I'll stop talking so you all can get back to your lives :)
After the baptism on Saturday, me, my comps (Ge Zhanglao is our additional companion while he's here in Singapore), and the other Mandarin elders in Singapore (we all live in a house/apartment/thingee on Balmoral Road--how kool of a name is Balmoral!?!?! :) ) went to Subway with some of the YSA members that had also attended the baptism. As we walked into the Subway, there were four or five guys all sitting there in a booth laughing raucously and swearing pretty violently. As our Chinese friends started ordering their food, these guys started making fun of them, using very profane and rude language. I did my best to ignore them and offhandedly commented to one of the Chinese girls that was talking with me and my companion, "They're a little weird." (Except I spoke that in Chinese).
She quickly told me, "You can't say that." She also said, "Bu hao", which means 'not good'. I didn't quite understand the rest of everything she said, but I got the message loud and clear. It was very humbling and very profound. Here's what I learned that night: 1) As we walked to the Subway and talked it up with these Chinese YSA kids, I felt a blossoming love for them deep within me. 2) As I offhandedly made that comment and was quickly corrected by the Chinese girl, I felt that as foreign as these profane and unkempt guys were, they were also and forever will be children of the Eternal God. He loves them as much as He loved me.
Turns out: Me and my companions ended up talking with these rough-around-the-edges fellows, and they turned out to be pretty kool. This is another lesson in and of itself, but it's the first two that I really want to emphasize: My love for the Chinese is growing, and the Lord's love for ALL of His children is very real and poignant. I don't understand everything, nor will I pretend to, but lately I've definitely been praying for greater love and charity for these people. They are dear to their Father in Heaven; their souls are precious to the God of the Universe. I and my companions stand in His place here in Singapore and Malaysia, begging and beckoning them to come drink of living waters and eat of manna from heaven. I know that the Lord lives and that He loves His children, of every color, language, race, understanding, economic and social and religious background. I know He desires their happiness, and I know that the Gospel is the only thing that can take what they do have and magnify it into something MORE.
I love you all, and I miss you a great deal; but I also know that this is the place where I need to be! These people need what we have, and I've been praying quite fervently that the Lord will help me be bolder and better in speaking with them. 
For now I bid you a fond farewell; God be with you till we meet again :)
Zai jian for now,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

One day more

Hello friends, family, and all other persons that might be involved,
"One day more! Another day, another destiny!" Now, imagine that song (from none other than Les Mis) being played while the images of planes crossing the ocean are displayed on some sort of big screen. Yep, I feel pretty much like a mix between Jean Valjean and Indiana Jones :) Tomorrow is the big day! Tomorrow, at 4:00, I go to the Travel Office, and from there on I head to SLC, then off to LA, and then across the Pacific. For a small town kid who's never been outside of the Intermountain West this is going to be the adventure of a lifetime! I've never been more scared, nor have I ever been more excited, for or about anything in my entire life! But I know that this is where I need to be. Allow me to illustrate my point using a brief but hopefully effective story:
On Thursday we had our big In-Field Orientation meeting--pretty much 9 hours of seminars and classes that prepared us as missionaries to work with members and how to find investigators out in the field. It was long, it was stuffy inside the classrooms, but I thought that it was a great and meaningful experience :) Anywho, towards the end of the classes my stomach started feeling weird--sort of that feeling you sometimes get when you haven't eaten food for a long time. It was a low, almost meaningless pain in the pit of my stomach. There were 30 minutes left to the seminar, so I decided that I could probably "man up" through the pain and make it thirty minutes without food.
About two minutes after thinking that, the pain started getting worse. It incrementally became stronger and stronger of a feeling; I found myself standing in the dinner line, fending off the urge to double over from the agony of my stomach. It hurt A LOT! There were moments when I thought that maybe my appendix was going to rupture or something like that (okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating the pain a wee bit, but it still hurt like the devil). After I finally got some food in me, I felt much better.
When I reflect on that pain, I'm also reminded of a memorable quote from a Mission Conference we had earlier this week, in which President Nally said: "The world is hungry...for the truth."
The world is HUNGRY for the truth. Those pains that my stomach was having were minimal compared to the spiritual needs and nourishment that this world is currently lacking. The Lord has called us all to arise and shine forth, and impart of that good word which we do have to the rest of the world :)
In 2 Nephi 31:20 we read that we are supposed to feast "on the words of Christ"--FEAST! There's more than enough to spare for everyone! And we're not supposed to do it in minimal amounts either--we're meant to FEAST. We're meant to delight ourselves in partaking of the goodness of the Gospel. I know that as we do this, as we become entrenched in the wonderful fruits of the Lord's words and His work, we truly can find delight. The only thing that can add to the joy of feasting upon the words of Christ is inviting others to come join us in the feast. Which is better--watching the football game by yourself, or with your buddies? Exactly! It's better when there are others with you! Though that might be an unorthodox example to attach to this message, the principle is still the same: We are meant to not only feast on the words of Christ--we are meant to invite others to do so! And with the renewed emphasis on "Every member a missionary", we are ALL invited to help others come and partake. The world is hungry for the truth, and we are meant to go forth and fetch those that are starving and bring them before the arrayed wonders of doctrines and ordinances and Gospel principles and words of living prophets. The crowning course of this feast, I think, will be the fruit of eternal life that is served at the end, the fruit that is described about in 1 Nephi 8:10-12.
Well, friends, it's almost time for me to bid a fond farewell to the States and proceed to the Great Unknown. I hope and pray that you'll all remember that the Lord is so very aware of your existence and that He loves you with all the perfection of a Heavenly Father! :) I know that this Church is true; I know that the work missionaries do is the work of salvation, and I know that any and all, set-apart or not, can participate in this noble endeavor. I know that the Lord is hastening this work; He is eager for His children to come home. In the words of Joseph Smith: "Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad" (D&C 128:22) :)
Zai jian for now; God be with you till we meet again!
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao
p.s. Prepare yourself for some great and grand pics of Singapore/Malaysia/wherever it is that I'm sent! :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Another week

Nimen hao wo de pengyoumen he jiating!
Hard to believe that yet another week has come and gone here at the good ole MTC. There's quite a bit of cabin fever going around in our district--we're all fairly anxious to get out into the field. My Chinese is nowhere near good enough for it--I'll provide a story in a couple minutes to illustrate that point--but I'm also super excited to just go and teach all day and make new friends and see new places. I'm finally getting out of Wyudahoming!!! It's a happy moment indeed--by the time I get to Singapore, I'll have stopped in LA and Hong Kong! That's right! I'm going all over da place :)
Now, about that story about my Chinese being no good--Yesterday at our Temple Walk we heard from a few Mandarins in the other zone that up by the fountains were a bunch of native Zhongguoren/Chinese! We hurried up there and found about four sisters being mobbed by every Chinese-speaking missionary in Provo. None of the sisters were LDS--they were visiting America, and the place where they worked also happened to be the workplace of a member. He (who served his mission in Singapore, but was a Malay elder) had taken them to church and was now giving them a tour of the Temple grounds. Anywho, none of these sisters were members; that much was clear by the way they dressed...not exactly Temple worthy. Not awful, but I'm pretty sure a Young Womens' Leader would have a coronary if she saw one of her Beehives in such attire. Whatevs. Anywho, we're talking with them--it was kool to be able to talk in Chinese to actual CHINESE people--and I decided to throw in my two cents' worth. I was trying to ask the question, "Nimen cong Zhongguo lai ma?" which means, "Do you come from China?"
Instead, I said, "Nimen qu Zhongguo lai ma?" Which doesn't make any sense at all. It's like saying, "Are you going to come from China?"
Yeah, pretty much a party.
Another incident like this occurred at the time of the Worldwide Broadcast. There was a man waiting in the drinking fountain line, and we started a conversation up with him. He was from Taiwan (I think), and he was asking us where we were going on our missions. Clever Sam replied with: "Wo cong Xinjiapo lai." Instead of saying, "I'm going to Singapore," I said, "I'm from Singapore." [I didn't realize that mistake until after this conversation, when my comps finally told me] He gave me the weirdest look, something that can only be described as: "There is no way this skinny little white boy is from Singapore. No way."
Whatevs. You have to learn to laugh at yourself, I guess--and I've certainly had plenty of those opportunities! ;)
Oh! Before I forget: We were talking with those Chinese sisters up at the Temple, right? So, the guy that was escorting them around the Temple finally asked one of them, "Have you ever seen hair like that?" pointing at my luscious mop.
The Chinese sisters emphatically shook their heads; one of them asked, "Is that natural?"
I nodded smugly. Apparently they don't have redheads in China. Bummer--they're missin' out ;) Either way, maybe my hair will make me a celebrity or something ;)
So on Sunday we went to a great devotional, and afterwards we decided to go to the movie/talk that Elder Holland gave here back on Thanksgiving last year. It was excellent! One of his main points was how grateful he was that we were born in this age and dispensation. I testify that this is such a great thing to be thankful for! It's so amazing to me that, of all the many billions of God's children in heaven, He's allowed us to come at this time and to this place for a very specific purpose and plan! I don't know His ways, nor will I ever pretend to--but I do know that He knows, and that He's got things prepared for any and every situation that will come our way.
The other day I was studying from Preach My Gospel, and was doing the Patience Personal Study Activity. It has you go to Mosiah 28:1-9--I really loved the second verse, particularly the word 'cure'. This word made me think of that scripture in Isaiah 61:1-3--this is pretty much the Savior's mission call and mission statement (the one in Isaiah). However, it can also be applicable to all of us. Missionaries, members, any devoted disciple of Jesus Christ--we're all meant to 'bind up the brokenhearted' and help those who are in need, spiritually, physically, emotionally. It's really great :)
I hope you all have a good week; one more email from the States, and then you'll be hearing from none other than Singapore Sam!!
Zai jian for now; God be with you till we meet again,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao

Monday, July 1, 2013

Another week

Another week has come and gone here at the good ole MTC! It's hard to think that already I'm at P-Day...only two more after today, then the field! One of the teachers I have who went to Singapore says that on his first day, the mission president had them go out street contacting and they filmed him doing it and sent that recording back to his parents! I dunno how my mission president is going to do it, but that'd be neat if he did that. You'd be able to hear my bright, beautiful mug speaking some Mandarin! ;) 
This past week has been quite a crazy one. For the first half we weren't allowed in the main administration/dining building on campus, because of the New Mission Presidents' Seminar; now we are though. Me and the two other elders in my district going to Singapore got to go to a malaria instruction class on Tuesday--turns out we get to take special pills every day of our mission so that we don't contract malaria! Oh joy! On Wednesday we got all of the new missionaries that came in; it was very exciting and fun! Our zone, after being split a couple weeks ago, has now doubled or more in size with all of these newbies. Pretty great :) 
Mandarin is coming along, at times fast, at times slow. It's a work in progress. I've discovered this week that I can hold my own in a lesson, and that I can understand and speak more Chinese than I originally thought I could :) It's still going to take a lot of time and effort to learn this language, but I have hope that it will come :)
I'm just so doggone excited to get out to the field! There are several downsides to being there: 1) The mail will take FOREVER to get there! 2) Humidity and heat--so far this hot weather here in Utah is already killing me. I dunno how I'll survive Xinjiapo. 3) Speaking Chinese all day, errday. I'm excited for this one, but also scared to death of it. My Chinese is nowhere near ready for anything like that...I guess it will be a kind of 'baptism by fire' experience :)
This past week on the Tuesday Devo our speaker was none other than Janice Kapp Perry!! One of the greatest of Mormon legends! She and her husband spoke, and it was really awesome :) At one point she had all of us start singing a medley of the various hymns/childrens' songs she'd written. While we were singing "We'll Bring the World His Truth", I just had the thought that Rory too had been called to serve. Where and for how long, I do not know; hopefully on his P-days he can come help me, though :) I also remember thinking of an image that just brought me comfort: In my mind (whether or not this was inspired by the Spirit, I dunno) I could picture myself lying in the mud, battered and bruised. Rory came; at points in my mind (don't think this is like a vision or anything like that; it's not. It was just a thought, a picture, that I had) anywho, Rory came. At points he was dressed in white, and at other points he seemed to switch back to his regular work clothes, with the discolored red/maroon shortsleeve shirt and his tattered jeans and USU hat. He was accompanied by the Savior, who both helped to pull me up. Me and Rory then went out and helped other people up out of the mud.
Maybe this doesn't make any sense, and I hope none of you think that this was a vision or anything like that. It was an image that I kinda crafted in my head while we were singing these rousing songs, and one that I thought I'd share with you :)
I've been working harder and harder on learning how to apply the Atonement in my personal life this past week. It's been an awesome experience! For those interested in learning more, I suggest reading two talks: "O Ye That Embark" by President Eyring, and "Missionary Work and the Atonement" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. They're both on, so hopefully you'll be able to find them without too much trouble :)
I know that the Lord loves each and every one of us. As we strive to work out our salvation and make our wills align with that of heaven, I know that the Lord will provide strength, comfort, and help. He won't "leave us hangin'"; He will always be there to catch us, to buoy us up, to make us stronger. He will certainly pass us through refiner's fires, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the Book of Daniel--but let's not forget that He was standing right beside them in that fiery furnace the entire time. :)
The Lord loves you! I know He does! I love you, and I hope that as you feel the light and bounteous joy this Gospel brings you will strive to become more and more like our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ :)
May God be with you till we meet again,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao