Monday, January 27, 2014

I Wanna Kno-o-ow, Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

To All Y'all:
What is up, my friends? I hope that this past week has been good to you. As for us here in Malaysia, we've been soaked to the bone MULTIPLE TIMES. :) It rains cats and dogs at least once every day :) It's pretty awesome. Rumors are that once Chinese New Year comes and goes, the rain will not be as fierce. Speaking of Chinese New Year: It's this week! I'm super stoked! There are going to be lots of fireworks and lots of food and it's gonna be one big party for the next two weeks :)
This past week we experienced a pretty kool miracle. We had THREE less active lessons in one day! For some missionaries and in some missions that number might not be significant, but for this mission and for this area it was a pretty big deal. I attribute it all to a decision that was made earlier that day and the night before: Me and my companion decided to turn things over to the Lord.
The Lord's been teaching me this lesson for some time now. The past few nights I've been praying specifically for the ability to love the Lord more than anything or anyone else; for the ability to have that pure love, even charity, fill and swell within my heart and pour out onto all other aspects of my life. He's answered my prayer! I have felt happier and more uplifted and stronger than I have in some time. I don't really know how to put this feeling into words: It's like being in a place that you've been before, nice and comfortable and warm and safe, after a long journey. Maybe it's like coming home after a gloomy, rainy day and sitting down in front of the fireplace to dry off. Maybe it's like a hug from an old friend. Or maybe it's like sitting in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon, listening to Sounds of the Sabbath in the background. Perhaps it's like taking a hike through the rolling hills of the Sawtooth Mountains with your brother, seeing the grandeur and beauty of God's creations. Maybe it's like the feeling of coming home to be with family and friends again after a long week of studies at BYU.
Maybe it's a feeling that is so unique to every individual that my vain attempts to put it into words are just that: vain. The Lord works with each of us individually, His Atonement is a personal power, and His love for us is so unique that what I feel is certainly not what you might be feeling as He opens the windows of heaven and blesses your soul. However, no matter how God communicates with you the indescribable, unfathomable, and neverending love He truly does have for you, I know that He DOES and WILL communicate it to you. I know that as you ask Him, "with all the energy of soul" as we learn from Moroni 7:45-48, to fill you with this love, you will FEEL it :) You will see the difference in your lives. You will know the difference in your heart, in your mind, in your thoughts. For me, this has to be the greatest and most convincing evidence of the divinity of God, the divinity of this work, and the reality of the things we teach and talk about every day. It passes all my understanding :)
I love you all, and pray for you. I know that the Lord will watch over and protect you. I know that He is very aware of all of our circumstances and situations. I know that He wishes to bless us with peace and with love, and we can have that blessing if we will but ask for it and strive to be worthy of it. 
I know that He loves you, and that He is our Father in Heaven. :)
I love you all, and look forward to chatting again!
May God be with y'all,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Leanin' On The Everlastin' Arm :)

To All M'Peeps and Homeslicedawgs,
Another week, another destiny! Well, good news is I survived transfers and have lived to tell another tale! I'm still here in good ole Miri, movin' right along :)
Today I'd like to share with you all the adventure from last night that me and my companion had. It had been a crazy day to start off with. My companion reached his nineteenth year of age, which was pretty exciting :) In addition to that, Church, and practicing a song for Chinese New Year with the other elders (it's gonna be a party, that's fo sho), we had a less active lesson that night. We'd invited one of our active members to attend; she happily agreed to, in addition to bringing three additional Relief Society members with her. The house was pretty packed. We were teaching not only our less active members in the household, but also the nonmember husband who likes to refer to me as a 'monkey' (you may be asking yourself why. I'll tell you: I've always had an admiration for those old men that, whenever they can tell a joke or something like that, will rapidly, almost without thinking about it, wink their eye. Dunno why I've always admired it, but I have. Don't be hatin'. Anywho, I've been working on mastering this trait, and I've been putting it into practice in our lessons, particularly in this home, since I get a reaction from this old guy. For some reason it reminds him of a yeah...that happens...anywho, moving on :) )
We started teaching about the reason God created this earth, and then moved onto a lesson on the Godhead: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. One of these sisters that accompanied us to teach this family is rather headstrong and argumentative, and quickly she and the nonmember husband were in a debate on having faith. We missionaries were doing our best to try and regain control of what I thought was a swiftly-spiraling-downward-kind-of-lesson. They continued their discussion, which I thought at several points would turn into a shouting match. At long last control was semi-regained, and we came to the close of the lesson. We explained that this nonmember had felt the Spirit before, and it would be through that same Spirit that he received the answer he needed. That member that I've been telling you about then started talking about prayer. I gulped and hoped that things would work out okay; "The elders can teach you how to pray!" was what I heard (though it was in Chinese). 
Yes, yes we can teach you how to pray! I went over and kneeled by the man, and I said a slow and simple prayer. He repeated after me, and when he didn't understand my accent or tones, the sister who had been debating with him helped him out. At the close of the prayer and as we were all preparing to leave the house, the less active wife shook my hand and then clasped it tightly in both of hers. Her face was beaming; her smile was huge! All she could say was 'Xiexie'/Thank You, but I didn't miss the fact that, when she released my hand, she held up her index finger. "Xiexie, xiexie nimen."
I was later able to make amends with the member that helped us teach. She explained to me that part of Chinese culture is making sure that what you're saying gets through the stubborn head of certain old Chinese men. She really had been doing her best to help, and it was because of her persistence that the nonmember's heart was softened. She then went on to explain that that was one of the first (if not the first) prayers he had ever said in his entire life (this is also supported by the index finger that our dear less active wife held up).
I learned a lot from that lesson. I learned that I don't understand: A) A whole lot about Chinese culture; 2) A whole lot of the Chinese language; and III) God's marvelous works and wonders. The Lord is in control, and He works through any and all means that He can. He understands the hearts and thoughts, and He knew that that wonderful sister's intentions were pure and good. He showed me that I don't understand everything or know how to say everything, and that it wasn't the missionaries that softened the old man's heart, but the Spirit combined with the powerful words and testimony of that sister. I am humbled to be working alongside such wonderful Church members that GET IT. I'm humbled to be working in the service of a King who knows our inadequacies and loves us despite (or maybe because) of them. I'm humbled to have seen a man change that small aspect of his life and exercise faith in a Being he can't see. I'm humbled to have seen the absolute joy and wonder in the face of his wife, who has at long last seen an answer to a long-pled prayer: "Please let my husband be able to pray." The look of joy and happiness on her face is something that my heart can never forget; I have learned for myself that the Spirit truly is the Teacher, and we are simply mouthpieces. And sometimes it's not even the missionaries that are the mouthpieces at all.
I don't know what specific spiritual principle can be gleaned from this; I personally have learned a lot from it, and I hope that by sharing it with all y'all it will be able to benefit you in some aspect of your lives. :) 
I love you all and look forward to chatting with you again next week!
God be with you till we meet again :)
Zai jian,
Mai Zhanglao

Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy Happy Happy Day :)

Hello To All My Peoples :)
We come to the end (or is it the beginning?) of yet another glorious week here in Malaysia. The sunsets are still as beautiful as ever, the rain is as wet as ever, and the Chinese is as fast as ever. But that's what makes Malaysia so great :) 
This past week we had the chance to fly out to Singapore for Zone Conference. We had one of the local General Authorities from the Asia Area--Elder Larry Wilson--come and be our special guest at Zone Conference. He emphasized the importance of reading the Book of Mormon, particularly with the investigators and less actives that we teach. Since that time till now I've definitely had my testimony of the divine calling of our General Authorities reiterated. Let me explain what I mean :)
My companion and I traveled forth to an investigator's house a couple of nights ago (yes, we finally have investigators! The drought is over! :) ); we'd decided beforehand to try out Elder Wilson's idea of reading the Book of Mormon with him, starting from page 1. As the lesson progressed, the man expressed several times that he was a sinner, and that he didn't feel that God would answer his prayers. We started off with verse one, but as he talked about prayer we felt that we needed to start sharing in verse 5, concerning Lehi's experience with prayer. We shared that Lehi prayed for his people and had a specific revelation because of his faith in God.
The man became kind of quiet. " God answered his prayer?"
We nodded. "Yep, He did."
"But wasn't this guy a sinner?"
We smiled. "Yes--yes he was!"
Have you ever seen it, that wonderful moment when something finally 'clicks' for someone and their eyes light up and they smile oh-so-serenely? It is one of the greatest moments I have ever had as a missionary. I know that the Spirit was testifying to him at that moment that what we were saying is TRUE.
Folks, I know that it is. I've been studying the Book of Mormon more seriously and more frequently since Christmas, and I have felt a very real power come into my life. I have felt the light of Christ magnifying its way through the corridors of my soul. I have felt the love of God for the people that we share the Book of Mormon with. It has so much power! Last night me and the other Chinese elders here in Miri counseled together about starting up a Book of Mormon Study Class for our branch members. As we did it, I felt the excitement building inside of me as we discussed what Joseph Smith calls "the most correct of any book on earth" (or something to that effect :) ). 
I testify that the Book of Mormon is true. Maybe my testimony of the Book of Mormon isn't quite the caliber that Nephi's is, or Moroni's, or any of the other prophets that participated in the writing and bringing forth of it...but it is MY testimony. I've found out for MYSELF. And I know that you can too. As you take the time to prayerfully and carefully study this wonderful volume of scripture, fears will subside, courage will be fortified, faith will blossom and grow, hope will shine forth, and charity will radiate from God to you, and from you to others. I know that the Book of Mormon has that power, because I've experienced it for myself. And now I, along with every other modern-day prophet, apostle, and servant of the Lord, as well as most (if not all) of the ancient-day seers and revelators, invite YOU to read it. If you have before, if you already have a testimony thereof, if you feel like you're 'good' (as they'd say here in Malaysia and Singapore, "No need lah!"), then I invite you to reread it. I've read it multiple times in my own life, and each time a new layer of understanding is met and a new revelation is gleaned. 
I love you all and hope that you have the greatest week evs :)
For now we part; I bid y'all a fond farewell! Xiage libai jian! :)
Mai Zhanglao :)
p.s. Next week I could be emailing you from a different location! We should be finding out transfers in the next few minutes! It's gonna be awesome! :)
p.p.s. The pics attached= My mission family tree!! Even though I'm in the middle, I'm the firstborn of my father and birthright son of this family :)
Went to the Butterfly Garden at the Singapore Airport; turns out that there are butterfly Mormons too! :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Here We Come 2014 :)

To all my adoring fans ;)
This past week has brought us to the beginning of January 2014! A New Year! This marks the beginning of my full, 365-days, 12-months straight, one complete numerical year as a missionary! As the Greeks would say it: "Whoopah!" :) And as the Chinese would say it: "Gan Bei!" :)
Fun fact: Throwing a New Years Party for Chinese, Iban, and Filipinos is a long and hard project, but well worth it. Especially the food turnout :) There was a LOT of it! The night of December 31st saw me gain a couple pounds; of that I'm pretty sure :)
This past New Year was kinda strange, mostly because I'm in Malaysia and not the States. It has been a little interesting of an experience, thinking back on New Years past, remembering all the times that me and my dad and my brother would play Lord of the Rings Monopoly till the New Year and then go out on the front porch and bang pots and pans together and make as much ruckus as possible to ring in the New Year. Fun fun fun :) I've missed it a lot, but the New Year Party we had here, as well as all the new possibilities and adventures this upcoming year are going to bring surely outweigh any longings I do have.
The past week went well; we've been busy at work here in Miri inviting others to come unto Christ. Me and my companion had a pretty kool experience last night. We had a scheduled appointment with a less-active at 7:00; however, by the time 6:30 rolled around we found ourselves biking in the midst of a kampung neighborhood, completely lost and turned around. We decided to head in the general direction of this less active's house, sticking to roads that were well-lit and that would take us generally towards where we needed to go. We biked for a good while, and covered a good amount of ground, but eventually found ourselves at a dead-end road that was good for nothing ;) 
We turned our bikes around and saw another little road that led off in another direction. However, there were people back at the end of this other little road. Maybe they could help us? We crossed a stream using a wooden plank and then climbed up a small incline to reach these people clustered together, smoking and talking whilst revving their moto engines. 
We went up to one and said, "Can you help us? We're looking for (such-and-such place)."
He smiled, "Just go to the highway."
Gulping, I nodded and said, "Yeah...but where's the highway?"
He shrewdly smiled again and said, "Follow me."
Now: In normal situations I would like to caution against doing what me and my companion did. But whatevs. Anywho, he started off on his moto, and we followed. He took us along a winding trek through the midst of the kampung, eventually bringing us to the highway. We thanked him profusely, and after he had biked away and we had gone a little farther ourselves in the direction of the less active's house, we pulled over and said a prayer of gratitude.
I learned a valuable lesson from this story, a lesson that has played quite nicely into my Personal Studies these past few days. Me and my companion had to go as far as we possibly could, and it was then and only then that we received the help we needed. The Lord expects us to take what we've learned, our talents and our abilities, our strengths and even our weaknesses, our love and our service, and use those things to go as far as we can, to do His will to the best of our ability. Then, as we place trust and confidence and faith and hope in Him, He carries us the rest of the way.
This past week I've learned lots about TRUSTING in Him, having FAITH in Him, and recognizing that it is through Him that we are able to succeed (Preach My Gospel and True to the Faith both term this final qualification as HUMILITY). Trust, Faith, Humility. Recognizing that the Lord is our source of strength, trusting in His judgments, following Him in faith into the uncertainties ahead. I must be honest, I've not always been good at this. I have a very logical mind that likes to know every last little detail of a venture before I embark on it (although there are the occasional times when I completely abandon logic and dive headlong into a project without really pondering or thinking about it at all). In either scenario, I either demand for all of the facts or for none of them, both of which are really rash and foolish.  I've been taught and chastened and corrected and instructed this week on how to better TRUST and have FAITH in Christ while relying HUMBLY on His merits and mercy. It is at times a challenge, releasing your hold on what you think is correct and letting the Lord have His way...but I'm coming to learn that this is the way we need to go. I'm by no means perfect at this; I have a feeling there will still be several more Personal Studies dedicated to this topic and several experiences amongst the people that confirm its reality in the near future. However, I am very grateful that I am being given the opportunity to learn about these things and grow in their knowledge. 
I'm so grateful for this Gospel. It fills me with a peace found nowhere else (yep, the peace this Gospel brings is even more powerful than that really kool feeling you get when watching one of those really profound and epic moments in the Lord of the Rings :) ). It fills me with a desire to be better, even when I think I'm doing pretty good meself. It fills me with a hope that death does not separate us forever. It fills me with a faith that buoys me up and helps me to see the good in life. It fills my heart and my might and my mind and my strength and my soul. It fills me. That's about the only way I can accurately describe it: The Gospel fills me :)
I love you all. I'm so grateful for your friendship and your examples to me, which keep me going when times are hard. I'm so grateful for your light that you let shine for others. I'm so grateful for all y'all and hope you had a very Merry New Year ;)
Till we chat again,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao :)