Monday, February 24, 2014

"I Think I'm Quite Ready for Another Adventure..."-Bilbo Baggins

To My Fellow Hobbits:
Once upon a time, back in first grade, I dressed up as Bilbo Baggins for a Red Ribbon Week activity (or maybe it was Halloween...can't quite recall...whoops ;) ). Anywho, even before that, I was in love with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and so I find it only fitting to draw inspiration from them. The name of this here blogspot is one such quote. And it perfectly describes my feelings for the upcoming week, because guess what?!?! I'm being transferred!! Crazy, huh? :)
After a little over 6 months here in Miri, I'm bound for Kuching. (Fun fact: In Bahasa Melayu, the word 'kuching/kucing' means cat. If you scroll through the photos I've sent in the past, you'll have seen that I've been to this city once, and it truly does have a lot of cats...and not just live ones, but stone statues too. Fun fun fun :) )
Anywho, tomorrow afternoon I'm bound for 'the promised land'/Kuching. It's going to be an awesome adventure, and I'm very excited to begin it! But as I do so, I can't help but marvel at the ache that's in my heart at leaving Miri. I've come to love the people here with all of my heart. They are so precious to me, and they have come to own a special place in my heart. There are some that say that, because I teared up yesterday as I was giving a departing testimony during Sacrament Meeting, I need to hand in my man-card. But for all of you out there with that mentality: "Nanren ku, bushi zui." Boom. Roasted :)
I will miss Miri a whole lot, and I have said and will say many, many prayers on behalf of the wonderful people here. That won't ever stop. Miri has become my home, and our wonderful little Chinese/English branch has become my family. I love them, plain and simple :)
I'm so grateful for the Plan of Salvation. It ensures that we won't just live with family forever. It guarantees that friends will live with us too. After all, we are all one big family, all of us direct descendants, sons and daughters, of our Heavenly Father. He is eager to bless us and wants for the whole human family to be sealed together in one great, neverending round. That is the work of temples. That is the work of missionaries. That is the work of love. That is the work of God. As I said: I'm SO grateful for the Plan of Salvation. Death or departure from an area aren't the end of friendships or love. They're just a little hurdle that, through the enabling power of the Atonement, can be mounted and conquered. 
I love you all, and hope that you have a tremendously grand and great week! Keep on keepin' on! Remember who you are and what you stand for! In the words of some clever missionaries from past years: The Book is blue and the Church is true! :)
Zai jian to Miri, ni hao ma to Kuching :)
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Week, Another Foot Fungus :)

Yes, as the title states, the Funk (as it's lovingly called here in our mission) has decided to ravage my feet again. Super awesome...not.
Anywho, this has been a good week. Chinese New Year is still going on strong; we had our branch's Chinese New Year Party this past Saturday night. That was super fun, and I got ang pao! (For those of you who know what those are :) ). Another fun fact about Chinese New Year: Me and my companion are currently having a debate as to which of us is Mariah Carey and which of us is Whitney Houston in the song "When You Believe" from the Prince of Egypt. Pretty fun :) Now that you've had an awkward glimpse into the unknown lives of missionaries, we'll be moving on.... :)
This morning during Personal Study, I had the opportunity to read from Jacob 1:7, which says:
"Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness."
We can cross-reference this scripture to D&C 84:23-25. I won't quote it right now, but you should definitely go read it. In it, we learn that the "rest" that Jacob speaks of and that the Lord talks to Joseph Smith about is actually the "fulness of His glory". The Lord was, in the days when the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, trying to have them seek His face. He wanted the children of Israel to stand in His presence, sanctified and holy. They hardened their hearts, though, and were unable to endure His presence. 
However, we, in this day and age, with all of the covenants and blessings, even the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, at our disposal, need not be hardened in our hearts. As we learn from the song, "Sweet Hour of Prayer": "...He bids me seek His face, believe His word, and trust His grace". As we do these things, we will enter into the rest of the Lord, even the fulness of His glory. 
I love you all and hope that you have a magnificent week! Remember who you are and what you stand for! :)
Till we chat again,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

GongXi FaCai!!! :):):):)

Wo de Renmin, Nimen Hao! :)
This past week ushers in the Year of the Horse--say hello to Ma Nian! :) I've seen more fireworks and had my ears deafened more times in these past few days than I ever had before in my entire life. The New Year started on January 31st, promptly at 12:00 a.m. I was woken up by what sounded like a battle raging outside of our house. Thanks to the fact that we live in a two-story house, I was able to crawl out of bed and watch the fireworks show. It was AMAZING. Fireworks flaring into life from one end of the horizon to the other. As I stood there, watching the pyrotechnics display with child-like awe, I couldn't help but reflect on the wonder and majesty those fireworks embodied. They are man's attempts (powerful, it's true, but compared to God's works, rather vain) to replicate what must surely have been the glory and power of the Creation. Flashes of lights, bursts of man-made thunder--the awe they inspired within me brought to mind the joy and happiness that the Lord must feel when He creates something new--anything from a planet to a flower to a bird to the most precious of all His creations: us :)
Anywho, I had the chance to read from 2 Nephi 26 this past week. The tail-end of that chapter has so much power in it! The Lord commands none to leave Him; He invites ALL to come unto Him. He then gives us commandments that are the requirements we must follow to not only COME unto Him, but to STAY with Him and to BECOME like Him. That's what He wants us to do after all--He has prepared mansions for us. He doesn't want them to be like a hotel you visit for a brief vacation; He means for them to become the homes we dwell in for the eternities.
In order to become like Him, we have to make some changes. I've learned a lot about change this week, most especially from my bike. Believe it or not, sometimes bikes can be a PAIN in the rear end, in more ways than one. Take, for instance, the absolute pain it is when your gears start acting up and grinding almost every single time you pedal. Or the fact that they have problems switching properly. In short, it looks like in the upcoming weeks Elder Mitchell is going to have to be purchasing some new materials for his bike.
It was interesting, though, that all of these problems with my bike could have been avoided. I remember quite distinctly several times, as I biked back and forth throughout Miri, the thought coming to me: "You might want to try switching your gears." Clever little me replied: "I don't really want to. 1) Switching gears is a pain; B) If I stay in this one high gear all the time, I'll get bigger muscles and look kooler and will be able to pedal faster."
That whole little mental conversation occurred multiple times, and all those times the second voice was the one that won out. Now I'm paying the price for it (literally as well as figuratively).
Now, what can be learned from this: Sometimes God wants us to CHANGE. New thought? Nope. Prophets from Adam to Thomas S. Monson have been declaring this sober truth for millenia. Some people call it repentance, some people call it conversion, some call it being born again, some call it finding God in their lives. One way or another, God will have a humble people. One way or another, He will refine us. What does refining mean? Heating up gold hot enough and long enough for the dross and gunk inside to float up to the top and BURN OFF. I dunno about you, but that sounds like a very painful thing. 
I should have switched gears more often. I shouldn't have remained in one single gear for most of my time, because it ended up wearing out and becoming useless. The Lord would have us still ride our spiritual bikes, but we also need to have different sets of gears that we can call upon. Spiritual reserves that draw from the same source, but that are modified to the circumstances at present. Sometimes we need a higher gear of spirituality to make it through the dark days ahead; sometimes we need a lower gear as we deal with friends and associates that don't see eye to eye. Sometimes, we need that specific type of 'gear' that helps us know when we are in the wrong and when we need to change and realign our lives to His will.
Either way, I encourage all of us to further study and learn about this whole thing known as REPENTANCE. CHANGE. CONVERSION. BECOMING LIKE HIM. That's what this life is all about after all, isn't it? :)
I hope that you all have a great day and week! Remember who you are and Who you stand for! :)
Till we chat again,
Mai Zhanglao :)