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 :)

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