Monday, July 28, 2014

Selamat Hari Rayah!

Today marks the first day of Hari Rayah--in other words, the month of Ramadan (the month of fasting in the Islamic religion) has come to an end, and everyone's going to be throwing parties like crazy. Selamat Hari Rayah! (For those of you Bahasa speakers, I apologize if I spelled it wrong).
Well, folks, this week's been good. And crazy. And fast. And everything. Earlier this past week we had a lesson very similar to Ammon's first lesson with King Lamoni. If you recall, King Lamoni was quite impressed with the strapping young Nephite missionary before him, and so he offered Ammon his daughters as wives. 
Yeah, so we went to this house. The guy there was really nice, but he mentioned something about his daughters entertaining us and then he disappeared. We had a nice, rather awkward conversation with his daughter as we were waiting for him to return. We waited for a long time, and stretched out the conversation to an uncomfortable length. Finally we asked if we could talk to her dad, and she went to go get him...but instead came back with her younger sister. Fun stuff. We were much quicker to the draw on Round 2--this girl, who was only 14, was asked within the first five minutes of our conversation to go get her dad, because we'd like to talk to him. He finally showed up and we told him we'd be back another day.
Just another awkward experience in the lives of the Kuching Chinese elders.
In other news, I've had a chance to study more and more about the Christlike attribute of patience. I've realized that it's something that I really lack, and that it's something I really need. As I've been studying more and more about it, I've come to realize that the Lord is SO patient with all of us. All of our faults, all of our weaknesses, all of our misguided desires--He's so loving and so patient with us. Why? Because He loves us. He died for us. He gave everything for us, and He isn't going to let that sacrifice go to waste. He's going to wait on us and be patient with us as long as the laws of justice and mercy allow; He's going to be our friend in the good and the bad times. I'm truly grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ, and for the fact that He truly is so patient with me.
I love you all so very much, and hope that you have a tremendously great and grand week! Keep on keepin' on lah! :)
Mai Zhanglao

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hashtagging Our Way to Fame and Glory

Friends, family, and associates,
To be quite honest with y'all, there's not really any good reason why this particular post is named the way it is. Frankly, I reckon I was just looking for an excuse to use "hashtag" as a verb. There ya go :)
Today's not going to be a super long or in-depth letter, but there is one quick experience I'd like to share. Lately me and my companion have striven to be in the right place at the right time. Yesterday, after a small planning session, we were on our way to a dinner appointment. There was a lady walking along the side of the road up ahead of us; I thought that we should go talk to her. As we were about to pull over to start talking to her, she approached us and starting talking to us. We had a great conversation--she was a very brilliant woman with a very firm belief in Christ. She shared with us about the recent deaths of her parents and two siblings. I didn't really know what to say, but I could feel how strongly she believed in Jesus Christ, and I could feel His love for her. In very simple and brief words, I explained that I too had lost a sibling and that I knew that God has a plan for all of us. I don't know what that plan is, nor do I know why sometimes it has to have such hard and hurtful things inside of it, but I do know that there is a plan, and that no matter what church we're a member of, Christ died for all of us. She was tearing up as she talked about her family, and I started getting a little choked-up when I shared my bit. There was a special spirit there, and I'm so glad that the Lord gave us the opportunity to have that experience.
That's something that I've really started coming to understand this past week: The fact that no matter who we are, or what church or religion we affiliate with, or where we're from, or who our family is, Jesus Christ died for us. He died for me. He died for YOU, whoever you might be or wherever you might be from. Whether or not someone has accepted the fulness of the Gospel, or partaken of the ordinances of salvation, or read the Book of Mormon--He loves them all. He loves us all. I know that that's true :)
Have a wonderful week, errbody! Keep on keepin' on! I love you all and hope that you are able to feel of our Savior's love this upcoming week :)
Doubt not, but be believing,
Mai Zhanglao :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Some Things I Learned from a Buddhist Monk

To All Who May Be Concerned:
At long last the drought has ended and I'm writing another blogpost. I suppose some of you might be disappointed at this point, but oh well. You can skim read, if you so choose :)
The past few weeks have been great and grand. We just had transfers this past week, and there have been some new faces here in Kuching, as well as some old ones leaving. Change has never been my strong suit, but it's really great to have a new burst of missionary excitement here. It certainly helps keep the work moving forward :)
So last Thursday night (or maybe it was Friday night? Time kind of blurs these days :) ), we were at an Indian restaurant. (Fun fact/Sidenote: My mission has helped me develop a great love for most types of Indian food. I'm a big roti fan myself, and you can never go wrong with some good ole murtabak ayam :) ). As we were finishing up in there, a large party of Buddhists entered the room. In their midst were two legit monks--dressed up in authentic garb, fresh from Nepal/Tibet. I had the chance to talk to one of them. He taught me a couple of things about MEDITATION.
It's something that I've never really thought about before, but since he shared what he did with me, it's been on my mind a lot lately. Essentially (if I understood him correctly), meditation is focusing on one object and letting go of all external cares and worries. It's about finding inner peace and happiness despite the surroundings beyond you. He also stated something quite profound, "Meditation is acting with awareness." 
Acting with awareness; focusing on one object and letting go of all other worries and cares; finding inner peace and happiness--all of this sounds something similar to the Gospel quest we've all commenced at baptism. Although I do not agree with every single teaching the monk proposed, I believe that he has found a pearl of great price, and I hope to be able to use what light he has to increase my own testimony and connection with the Savior. Using our agency righteously (aka acting with awareness), we are able to focus our desires and our lives on one object (aka Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement), finding the inner peace and happiness we need.
This past week I've had a chance to see what happens when people are acting with such awareness, when they are doing all they can to build their testimonies and their connections with heaven. I've also been able to see what happens when people act without thinking at all. It is tragic, but it can be learned from as well. The Lord would have us grow from our sorrows. The Lord would have us learn from those lessons in life that aren't always the happiest or the brightest. The Lord would not leave us alone in them, either--if we aren't afraid to keep holding onto Him, even and especially when He's all we've got to hold onto, then He certainly won't be afraid to hold on even tighter.
I dunno if this makes any sense, but I do have a burning testimony that the Lord loves each and every one of us. The adversary of agency, even the fallen son of the morning, is a very real being, and his power is great, but every time I'm reminded of him and all the rotten things he has caused in this world, I'm reminded of an example my dad gave to me when I was younger and still struggling to find my own personal testimony: "Light and darkness cannot coexist. If you turn on a lightswitch, the darkness in the room must flee. It can't stay. They can't coexist. You just have to turn on the light."
I sure do love Buddhist monks, and if I wasn't already converted to the fulness of the Gospel, I might consider studying in greater depth all of their teachings. For now, though, I'm going to focus on becoming better at meditating--at acting with awareness, focusing on things that matter most, and finding that inner peace and happiness that God would have all of us possess (see 2 Nephi 2:25).
I love you all, and hope you have a marvelous day and week! Keep on keepin' on! :)
Mai Zhanglao

Service project with a machete