Monday, December 30, 2013

"As the Good Book Says"--Tevye :)

To Friends, Family, and Anyone Else Involved ;)
This past week has certainly been a memorable one :) My first Christmas as a missionary shall not be one easily forgotten! On December 24, as I was on splits with another elder looking for a former investigator's house we were attacked by the winds and rains of what felt like a miniature hurricane. In all actuality we're just in the heart of rainy season here in Malaysia, but sometimes it feels a little like...well, a hurricane. :) ;) We were soaked from head to foot and I got some really nice foot fungus because of it. Yummy ;)
December 25th--what a day! Woke up and got to give my family a call! It was so wonderful to hear their voices again :) Of all the emails and letters that were sent, whether to me personally or to a collective group of missionaries, the best present of all was being able to talk to home again :) Following that we were going to go out and bike....but my back tire decided to be flat. Super kool ;)
This past week has flown by and another one is coming up. Here we go 2014!!! I'll be a missionary for this ENTIRE upcoming year! Totes cray-cray ;) As we all look forward to a new year full of new beginnings and new hopes and dreams, I'd like to share a quick thought or two. In 1 Nephi 10:18, we read that the Lord "is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever". He doesn't change. He's always going to help us. He's always going to help correct and chasten us till we are refined enough for His presence (Sidenote: One of my favorite Chinese idioms (I dunno the characters, so I'll just do the pinyin...sorry about that): zhen jin bu pa huo lian--"True gold doesn't fear the fire's refining). He will never stop being there for us. He will never stop living for us. He will never stop atoning for us till we are as He is.
In conjunction with that, here's something that I found really cool in my Personal Study today. I was in 1 Nephi 11, where Nephi, a young boy who will soon become a prophet and leader for his people, is having an experience, a revelatory vision per se, with the Holy Spirit of God. In it the Spirit shows Nephi an image of the tree of life and of Mary, the mother of Christ, and then asks, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?"
Nephi answers honestly: "I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." In nowadays English: I know that God loves us, but I don't understand everything you've just shown me.
The Spirit then proceeds to show Nephi images of the tree of life, the fountains of living waters, the Savior's birth and ministry, angelic visitations, the Crucifixion, and the apostolic ministry following the Savior's Death and Resurrection. He shows Nephi all of these various images of 'the condescension of God'. What does that even mean? Well, 'condescension' essentially means going from some place high and, of one's own free will, traveling to a lower plane of existence or thought. The condescension of God is the act of the Savior, even Jesus Christ, leaving the celestial courts of our Heavenly Father to come to this earth and atone for us. All of the images that the Spirit showed to Nephi in some way, shape, or form, acknowledged and testified of the condescension of God.
I decided, as I was reading this today, to try and do what Nephi would do in this situation: that is, liken the scriptures unto myself (2 Nephi 6:5). 
How have I seen the condescension of God in my life? Well, He has come down and died for me; He's atoned for my sins. He has healed me from spiritual and emotional weaknesses and trials and afflictions.
In the scriptures it says: "I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men" (1 Nephi 11:24). Christ has healed me, He has atoned for me, and He has 'gone forth' with me--He has been my Friend and my Ally in all of my troubles and afflictions. He has become the Best Friend I've needed in the darkest days of my life. He has become the Redeemer who not only commands winds and waves, who not only forgives sins, but who also sits beside me and listens as I pour out the sorrows of my heart. He's the Savior who not only died on a cross, but who sat beside me as I wept over the death of loved ones and consoled me. He it is who, along with those past loved ones, has lifted me up and given me strength to face it all--life, the universe, and everything. I have felt His love, I have sought His grace, I have been comforted by His Spirit, I have experienced the peace He is Prince of.
This New Year, let Him do that for you :) The upcoming weeks bring with them memories of life's hardest trials for me, but I know that "that soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, [He] will not, [He] cannot desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, [He]'ll never, no never, no never forsake" :) How has the condescension of God strengthened you this past year? How will it strengthen you this upcoming year? Either way, I wish you all the Happiest of New Years possible!
I love you all! Till next we chat,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

HaoHaoHao/HoHoHo (Depending on Your Dialect:) )

Well folks, another week has come and gone, and here we be on the brink of Christmas! Aiyo! Super fast! It's pretty exciting :) 
This past week we had the chance to go to Kuching for an East Malaysia Christmas Conference; it was wonderful! The Spirit was there, and I felt such a great deal of the Savior's love for me, for my family, and for the people of Malaysia. I've learned a lot about peace this week; it was a personal theme that I studied all throughout the conference. Peace is truly an interesting topic--we know from scriptures that the Savior is the Prince of Peace, and that from Him we gain the longest lasting, the deepest, the most profound, and the happiest peace imaginable. He helps us out through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. He came to this world for that sole purpose: He was "born to raise the sons of earth" to a higher state of happiness that they have never reached before. It's an exciting and invigorating thought :)
Fun fact: The word 'Kuching' (or, in its proper Malay spelling, kucing) means 'cat' in Malay. Thus, they have lots of cat statues and motifs all throughout the city. The day after Christmas Conference and before we had to board the plane back to Miri we went and did a little sight-seeing. Yes, as you can tell, they like their cat statues :)
This upcoming week is Christmas! It's the most wonderful time of the year! Hooray :) Christmas is by far the best evs :) I got to open a couple presents/letters at the Christmas Conference, and there are a few presents that I'll open up on good ole Christmas Eve; Christmas Day itself will be spent visiting members and less actives and making sure that they're feeling the cheer as well :) I hope that you all have a very merry and bright one, and that you'll have the opportunity to take some time and ponder more about the Savior and the true meaning of Christmas. If you haven't yet, I highly encourage you to take a moment and watch the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional from a few weeks ago--totally worth the watching :)
I love you all, and hope that all your days may be merry and bright, and that all your Christmases will be white :)
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm Dreamin' of A White Christmas :)

To Whom It May Concern (aka friends, family, and poisonous reptiles):
10th week of my son's training completed: Check.
First week as Miri Chinese District Leader: Check.
A successful Chinese Christmas Party held at the Church last night: Double Check.
This past week has gone by super quick! We just be doin' what we do: Battling the forces of Satan all day errday, taking ice cream/butter pao breaks when needed :) Yesterday marked seven months as a missionary and tomorrowmarks five months in the field! Believe it or not, but oh! how the time flies :)
This past week my companion and I have been hard at work meeting with less actives and calling potential investigator records from several years ago, in addition to some good ole fashioned door knocking. We experienced a couple miracles this week. I'd like to share one real quick: We were knocking in a particular area and we came to a house that had a lady home with her three young kids. She'd been contacted by missionaries 7 years before, in a different part of town; we talked with her for a little while. She had no desire to receive a Book of Mormon, but she did say this as we were preparing to go: "I'm very impressed by you guys. Going around at your age to talk about helping people come closer to God. May God bless you."
As we walked away from her house, I couldn't help but feel super successful about that particular door contact. We never placed a Book of Mormon with her, but we left a good impression. We helped her see that we are doing something beneficial; we planted a seed that other missionaries will be able to nourish and eventually reap in coming months and years. It was awesome, and it showed me the power of God's love for His children--He works with us according to our weaknesses and according to our strengths. Sometimes we need to take things a little slower, not because we are less than others, but because if we were to do something any faster, it would be detrimental to ourselves and others. We planted a seed with her, and someday that seed will grow into a tree, according to her weaknesses and strengths, and according to the Lord's timing. It was a very beautiful and simple reminder/lesson to me about God's love for all of us, and how exactly He works with us :)
In other news, last night we had an amazing and super fun party at the church. It was originally meant to be an FHE for our Chinese group, but eventually evolved into a Chinese Christmas Party, with most of the participants being Chinese, and a few being Filipino and Iban. It was a success; we had several songs, a fun game, and LOTS of food. There was even a guest Santa (one of our missionaries) and presents to be given as well. 
For some inexplicable reason, the Chinese group/Relief Society/they're-pretty-much-the-same-thing really and truly believes that I have a good singing voice. For those who know, you can testify that this be not true. However, they insisted that I sing for them; I managed to grab another elder to do a duet of 'Silent Night', as accompanied by his guitar playing. Super fun ;) 
This week I've learned a lot about God's love. It certainly is the stem and source of all life, energy, and light in our daily activities. When we are full of this love (in certain places known as charity), we can do WONDERS! One of the greatest by-products of God's love is His eager willingness to forgive. As we are filled with this love, we too will readily go forth and forgive others. It is a remarkable and beautiful and simple truth: God loves, and so should we. He loves us, not in spite of our weaknesses, but because of them. He loves us and has promised us time and time again that it was HE who not only gave us those weaknesses, but it is also HE who will help us to overcome them--or, rather, to take those weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
During this Christmas season, I've been reminded a lot about that love, and about the greatest expression thereof that God has given us: the gift of His Only Begotten Son, even Jesus Christ, who came to earth to save us from the woes of sin. I hope that, when you all get the time, you'll have the chance to ponder on this and reflect on our Savior and His love for you. Personally. Individually. Inexplicably. Eternally. Uniquely. You :)
Now it's time for me to get off of my soapbox. :) I wish you the greatest of weeks; I'm certainly looking forward to this one--get to fly on an airplane! Yes! Now all I need to do is pretend that, while it's in the night sky, it's a wish, and all will be well :) (for those of you that understand that subtle but wonderful reference, you should award yourselves with ice cream or something).
Love you all! God be with you till we chat again :)
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hello My Peeps!

Another day, another destiny! :) This week has been super awesome, despite the fact that our Relief Society insists on trying to find me a Filipino girlfriend. Oh well :) This week has been full of awesome experiences, particularly in helping me rededicate myself to being a better missionary. I had the opportunity this week to learn more about being bold versus being overbearing. The best place to learn more about this is Alma 38. Shiblon--he's such a stud! He's just a regular, average guy who was called to serve a mission, experienced some hardships on it, and received counsel and advice from his father. It's such a powerful and awesome scripture, and I invite all y'all to give it a read :) I particularly like the phrase "be diligent and temperate in all things". That diligent part is something that I've been working on. Sometimes I get frustrated when appointments fall through, when you spend a goodly portion of your day knocking doors and no one wants to hear about your message, when you feel that you're doing your best and yet can still do so much more. 
I know that feeling. I know it very well. I've experienced it several times. And yet the Lord can take those hard feelings, that bitterness, and make us into something more. He can mold us into the men and women that will best be able to serve Him. He hears the sincere desires of our hearts and the sincere prayers of our mouths, and He makes us more. I know that that's true--He makes us MORE. 
This Gospel is one of becoming. Becoming a better person, becoming happier and stronger and more faithful, becoming self-reliant and loving, becoming more like Christ--it is all about becoming. The greatest part of that--this is something I've come to realize more and more as I've striven to be 'diligent' and 'temperate' in ALL THINGS--is that we cannot do it by ourselves. We need help. We need Him. It's the greatest and most sublime truth this Gospel has to offer, and it's the source of so much peace for me as I ponder on how it can apply to myself, the people we're working with, my family, my friends, and everyone in general. It's awesome :)
I feel like I've been a little random and ramblesome in my thoughts today, but hey--that's me :) Have a wonderful day, my friends! I love you all so very much, and so does the Lord! He's always gonna be with you, even and especially when I can't hang out with all y'all. He is our greatest Friend, our greatest Confidante, our greatest Comforter, and, ultimately, our Savior and Redeemer who will help us through the darkest nights and brightest days :)
God be with you till next we chat,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hello from Miri! :)

Hello all! Another week has flown by here in the good ole Miri :) Not much to really report, other than a fantastic Thanksgiving lunch at Pizza Hut this past Thursday :) Mmmm, Thanksgiving :)
This past week I've come to learn more and more about the fact that the Lord really and truly does work in mysterious ways. He blesses us with the capacity to DO; He blesses us with the ability to LOVE; He motivates us when we are weak and unable. Take last night, for example. It had been a long day; I was a wee bit tired and worn from the day's work. That's not to say that it was a bad day--just a long one. Anywho, I decided that I needed to say a quick prayer; maybe that will help me feel better! I kneel down at my desk chair and begin offering up supplication to Heavenly Father. I testify to you all, brothers and sisters, that the power of prayer is REAL! I felt my burdens lifted, my cares and sorrows wiped away; I could feel the peace that I was longing to find. It was the most amazing and powerful sensation ever, and I treasure that small moment with all of my heart.
The Lord lives. He has a work for each of us to do, and He will always provide the means whereby we can do it. It is amazing and fun to see how He has been busy in the lives of others; I'm so grateful that He's not content leaving me alone, either. He always provides for some improvement or some chastening that I stand in need of, giving me the love and support necessary for me to truly make the change that will see me to better times and brighter days. I love Him so much; I love this Gospel so much; I love this work so much. Every tear, every bead of sweat, every tired muscle, every weary eye, every sore foot, every aching back--they're all worth it in the end. The joy that this work provides far outweighs gold, and is shinier too (in my opinion :) ).
I love you all! May God be with you till we meet again!
Mai Zhanglao :)

A few pics of Elder Mitchell on a jungle adventure.