Saturday, December 13, 2014

365 days later

Well, as of today I've been home from Hong Kong for 365 days. Sometimes it feels like it has been 10 minutes. But then I speak Cantonese and it sounds like I've been home for decades! In 365 days, not one day has passed without me thinking about my missionthe people, the miracles, my daily doses of failure. I am grateful every day for the opportunities I had to wake up and do hard things even when I was terrified or exhausted. I'm grateful for the ridiculous stories and unbelievable experiences. And I'm grateful for the beautiful people that God put in my path, because they changed me.

In the past year, I've learned about my relationship with the Savior and what he has done for me. But today I wanted to share two experiences that really touched me. The first happened at girls camp this summer; I went to help out mom as a camp leader (although a lot of the girls just thought I was another camper; turns out I look 16 years old). During one activity, we had sentences written out, and they filled in the blanks with their answers. One sentence was, "Because of Jesus Christ, I am _______." These young girls' answers revealed incredible spiritual depth: brave, alive, whole, talented, saved, loved. One girl's answer has stuck with me ever since:

"Because of Jesus Christ, I am needed." 

One of my greatest fears is the feeling of helplessness: when someone I care about is struggling, and I can't do anything about it; when my skill set is just not enough; or when I'm too tired or weak to make a difference. Since being home, I've struggled with those feelings. But that 14-year-old girl had it right. Because Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins and shortcomings, he made salvation possible. He could help each one of us on his own; he could perform miracles and do it all himself. But he knows that, by using us to fulfill his purposes, we can learn charity and become strong. And so he chooses to need us. He gives us opportunities to make a difference, to help others. Isn't that the best kind of person? The kind who makes those around them feel needed, useful, essential?

But really, it isn't in our power to heal the world. Our role is to bring others to Jesus Christ and to come to him ourselves. That is the way to find complete healing and to learn true charity. I read Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place this summer, and in her book she talks about overcoming the seemingly impossible challenge of forgiving a former concentration camp guard. She said that, by herself, forgiveness and healing was impossible:

"And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself." 

It was at the BYU Museum of Art's Sacred Gifts exhibit that I learned more about this principle of healing. The first time I saw Christus Consolator, I admired Carl Bloch's talent, the color, the significance of the chosen scene. But every time after that, my experience was different. Each time I sat in front of the painting, I pondered which of the depicted worshipers I was that day.

And soon I saw those worshipers in each person at the exhibitthere was the widow, the fatherless, the sinner, the tired, the lonely, the skeptic. All were seeking Christ, and all had burdens to lay at his feet. I reflected on my tendency to judge, to think unkind things, and I realized that everyone at some point is suffering, alone, and heavy-laden. They are all at various stages in their journey toward healing, toward their Savior.

Even those who have hurt me or my loved ones need healing, and I must seek to forgive them and allow them to move forward. If I hold on to their past mistakes, I am denying them the opportunity to changeI am dismissing the Savior's ability to help them. As I looked back at the painting, I saw the Savior looking back at me, with his arms outstretched. He seemed to be saying, "Will you let them come?" And then, "Will you come?"

During this Christmas season, I've thought a lot about healing. Heaven knows I need it! I've made some real dumb mistakes in the past 365 days, and based on current trends, it's safe to say I'll be making a bunch more in the foreseeable future. And so we celebrate his birth and his life, because he came to save "with healing in his wings."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

With the dawn of redeeming grace.

Well, I'm home! The past week has been a whirlwind of preparations for Christmas, and sometimes I still can't quite accept the fact that I'm home. I'm no longer in Hong Kong; I'm no longer a full-time missionary. The work will continue, but I won't be there for it. The adjustment is hard. Sometimes I make little comments in Chinese that no one understands. There are times when I just wander around the house, wondering what to do. I'll turn on a song and then turn it off five seconds later because it reminds me of the time before my mission and it makes me feel uncomfortable. But what a blessing it is to come home at Christmas! And what a blessing to be surrounded by the people that I love the most.

I've been meaning to share a special moment I had on my last night in Hong Kong, but, as usual, I'm struggling to put it into words! I'll try my best. President and Sister Hawks took all of us departing missionaries to Victoria Peak over on Hong Kong Island. After dinner, we walked a ways to a quiet stretch of road overlooking the city. It was dark and cold and windy, so few people were around. We stood there, lined up against the railing, talking and reminiscing; but after several minutes, conversation gave way to silence, and a reverence came over us all as we pondered all that had happened to us here in Hong Kong. 

As we looked over the city, the millions of dots of light, I thought about the people that each light represented.  I thought of the 7 million people in Hong Kong, the vast majority of whom I've never met. I thought of the people I had met, whose lives I've influenced and who've influenced my life. My heart felt a deep sense of completion, of mourning, and of gratitude--the feeling was heavy and surreal. Without really thinking, I broke the silence with something like, "We should sing." So there we were, a small group of old, tired missionaries, singing Silent Night to an entire city of people whom we loved,  people who were going about their lives, quite as usual, completely unaware of the sacred moment taking place 1800 feet above them. I've sung that song a hundred times, and will likely sing it hundreds more throughout my life, but never will it be quite as beautiful or poignant as that time on the Peak. 

That song seemed to put into words our whole reason for being there, the reason for all that has happened to me in the past 18 months. It all comes back to the birth of our Savior. Christ, the Savior is born--the dawn of redeeming grace. Because of the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hope is kindled. We can hope for change, for a better world, for the future. We can hope that good will win and that light will overcome darkness. Luke 1:78-79 says, "The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." 

Let me tell you, very rarely were the nights silent in this bustling, loud, bright city. As we walked back to catch the bus, I thought about Bethlehem and what it must have been like on that night when Christ was born. It was probably much like Hong Kong in some ways--filled with people from all over, each with their own problems, their own reasons for being there. Most were likely unaware of the miracle that was taking place within their city walls. But that miracle would change their lives if they'd let it. And that miracle, the humble birth of the Redeemer of the world, can change our lives, if we let it. Believe me, it is changing mine. It doesn't matter where we have been or how dark it seems right now, because when we let Christ change us, the future will be filled with light and hope and heavenly peace.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week 76, in which I resent the impossibility of accurately capturing in words what I'm feeling right now.

Well, this is it. I just had my final interview with President Hawks, and I can't believe that this is my last email, but it is. I don't know how to say what I want to say. I don't know how the prophets did it, spending their lives trying to describe what God has done for them. It would just get exhausting after a while! And no matter how many times you rephrase or rewrite what you've written, it's never quite the truth. But you have to keep trying, because you've just got to tell people about it. 

We met with Brother J, our hobbit investigator, this week, and oh how I love this man. He told us all about his childhood as we were reading together in 1 Nephi 3. The Book of Mormon has a way of opening people up and touching their hearts. He said, "I was born in Hong Kong, but during the conflict with Japan we moved to Mainland. During the Communist revolution, we moved back down and settled here in our village. I've lived in this house since then, but because of my childhood experiences, I've never felt like I'm home. I've never been able to put down roots and feel at home where I am. But I hope... I hope that your church can give me a place to put down my roots deep. I think it could be here. It could be like..." Me: "A family?" Him: "Yes, that's exactly it. Family." That's the miracle of the gospel. It allows you to bloom where you're planted, wherever you're planted. We can't always change our situation. But we can always change ourselves and meet the expectations of our Maker. Oh, Dearest Brother Jdoesn't know how high he can grow, what he can be, what adventures his Father wants to take him on. 

We had a hilarious encounter on the light rail train the other day that just sums up the ridiculousness of being a foreigner missionary who speaks Chinese in Hong Kong. A crazy-looking, extremely smelly man comes on the train and as soon as he sees us, his eyes light up. He makes his way over and I mutter something like, "Okay. Here we go again." He opens his mouth, which contained approximately three teeth. His front tooth was SO long. Then, with a rather insane smile, he spoke in relatively good English.

Old Man: Where are you from?
Sister Morgan: America. 
OM: America... You should have stayed there. Obama is there.
SM: Yes.
OM: (looking at our name tags) I believe in God.
SM: Good.
OM: But I don't believe in Jesus. 
Me: Well, we believe in God and Jesus.
OM: In Hong Kong, money is important.
Me: Mmmmm.
OM: YES, money is the most important. Then health is second.

At this point, a young, chubby boy in a school uniform looks at us and says, determinedly,

Boy: Good. Afternoon.
SM: Good afternoon!
Boy: You come from where?
SM: America.
Boy: America... New York is in America. (As you can tell, Chinese people like to show us that they're familiar with things from America.)
Me: Yes, that's right.
Boy: The buses are like buildings.
OM: (in a tone of disgust, mutters to himself) The buses are like buildings... Money is important! It would be great if you could give me some money!
Boy: The weather today is cold.
Me: Yes, it is. It is great. (I thought he said 'Good,' not 'Cold.')
Boy: No, it's cold. Because December is winter.
OM: (realizing that we're not even paying attention to him, turns to the little boy) Money is important, little boy!
Boy: (squaring his shoulders in a determined, heroic manner) NO.
Me: How old are you?
Boy: Twelve. 
OM: (as the train stops at the next station, and they're alighting) Money is important!
Boy: Bye bye.

The entire train watched this exchange with mixed amusement, confusion, and annoyance. Oh, need I even say why it is that I love and will miss the Hong Kong people?

Quote of the week, from a recent district meeting: "Sometimes when I'm in the shower, Elder F wants to put on his face cream, so he knocks on the door and I get mad and think, 'This has nothing to do with his face, he just wants to get on my nerves.'" Thanks, Elder P.

I attended my last mission leadership council on Wednesday, and at one point in the meeting, President Hawks talked about his call as a mission president. He said, "Elders and sisters, as your mission president, my primary goal is for you to be changed. I want you to leave this mission a completely different person from when you came. And I don't want you to ever be the same again." As he said this, tears came into my eyes. It has happened. I'm not the same as when I came. I'm far from where I want to be, but I'm where I need to be, and I'm not going back. Heavenly Father is a miracle worker. I don't know how he does it, but when we let him, he changes us. 

Sunday night we had My Conversion Fireside, where every departing missionary is allowed to invite a recent convert to share their testimonies, and lots of investigators and members come to listen. I'd asked Sister H (from Macau, she's working here in Hong Kong now!) to speak for me, but then her employer wouldn't let her. I didn't know who else to invite, but when I walked into the Mission Office on Wednesday, I saw Sister N, a recent convert from Macau! She's moving to Russia, but she said she'd be here until Monday morning! She was baptized before I got to Macau, but I worked with her a lot and I absolutely love her. She spoke and shared the most beautiful testimony about trials and the mercy of God. It sure was a tender mercy for me. I'd really wanted someone from Macau to speak, because Macau has so many special memories for me, and the Lord provided a way. I got to see Sister C (my companion when I was in Kwun Tong) and S, one of the members that I worked with a lot in Kwun Tong, and wow was it hard to say goodbye to Sister C. I will miss her so much, she will always be a dear, dear friend to me. All in all, it was a perfect evening. Just icing on the cake.

The last experience I want to share is one of the most humbling, special experiences that I've had on my entire mission. A month or so ago, we visited a family in the ward who hasn't been to church in a long time. We ate dinner with them, and I loved them right from the start. I feel like I love each person that we work with, but this family was different. I felt like the brother was my brother, that the sister was my sister, and wow do I love their little children. I wanted so much to help them, but I did nothing. We just shared a little spiritual message and ate dinner and left. Didn't ask any questions, offer much help. As we walked to the bus afterwards, I felt like an absolute failure, like I'd just wasted our chance. I prayed so hard for weeks after, just asking God to forgive me for being selfish and scared, and I did feel a lot more peace after that. But Heavenly Father didn't stop there. He gave me another chance.

I prayed and fasted so hard before we visited the sister, just hoping that God would tell us what to say. We spent a while planning, but it was so hard, nothing was coming. In the end, we just decided to each think of some personal experiences to share and some scriptures, and we each wrote down a couple. When we got there, she was so nice and sweet. She's so worn down by taking care of her children. Her husband works long hours, and she is just endlessly patient with him and their children. But from the moment we sat down on the floor, I had no idea what to say. I felt so stupid, everyone kept looking at me, and I just could not speak to save my life. I felt like I was a brand new missionary, and kept thinking, "Good grief Sister Cutler, what is wrong with you? Have you been a missionary for 17 months or haven't you? And you don't know how to fix this?" I just kept telling her that we loved her and her family. Then I opened up the Book of Mormon, trying to find the scripture that I'd been thinking of, one that I share all the time, and then all of a sudden, I couldn't remember if it was in 1 Nephi or 2 Nephi, and then I just opened up to a different one, 1 Nephi 21:14-16. We shared it, and then the Spirit just filled the room. I asked her what they were struggling with, why they'd decided to stop coming to church, and she explained it and was so grateful for our love and concern. She said that those verses were a good reminder that they haven't been forgotten. It'll take time for them to be able to start attending church again, but she is so happy to have us come visit and share all the missionary lessons and help them. She felt the Spirit, and she knew she was loved. It didn't matter that I was likely the most ineloquent person in all of Hong Kong at that moment, because the Lord took over. He sent the Spirit and taught all of us in that moment. I don't know how he filled me with so much love for this family. I don't know how he touched her heart the way he did. I don't know what the future holds for this family or for Tuen Mun or for me, but I know it will be glorious. I know this because I know God lives. And because he lives, the future is glorious. Things are better than ever before, and things will be better eternally. 

President Hawks said that some returned missionaries look back on their missions longingly and say, "Those were the best two years of my life." He said, "That makes me sad. The best two years should always be the last two years of your life." I'm determined to be that way. This has been the best almost 18 months of my life, but the next 18 will be better. And I know that's true because I know God lives and loves his children. I don't know the meaning of all things, but this much I do know. And that is enough. 
Good bye Hong Kong

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 74, in which I am absolutely FREEZING COLD, and in which we find Bilbo Baggins.

Clarification: it is only when I go indoors that I'm freezing cold. Outside is lovely, like Virginia in early May (all you need is a light jacket! name that movie). But for some reason the Chinese people like to crank up the air conditioning to the point that I can barely move my fingers and I almost feel like not typing this email. But I'll endure.

T-shirt of the week! I think it might be for a good cause, but I can't be sure. "Rocku, Keogae, Jazz, Rock acanst ranism." 

We've had some rough moments this week. Sister N, who was planning to get baptized in January, cancelled her lesson last week, didn't come to church on Sunday, and isn't answering the phone. We're not sure what is going on, and we're really worried about her. But Sister M and I both feel like God is taking care of things. I'm so grateful for him. Sometimes when you care about someone, you want to just be with them all the time, helping them and keeping them safe and happy, but you can't do that. That won't really help them in the long run anyways. So we're just doing our best to trust the Lord with it, and things will work out.

Do you remember H, the Filipina sister that was baptized in Macau? I talked to her on the phone this week! She is working in Hong Kong now, and she's still going to church and reading the Book of Mormon every day--I'm so proud of her!

Sister M and I taught English class on Friday, and it was so fun! Our topic was "Breaking News!" and we taught all about what the news is like in America. Then we broke off into groups and each came up with our own news report, which we then shared with the rest of the class. It was so funny, and our news stories ranged from deathly typhoons to Justin Beiber in McDonalds fighting over a Big Mac to an escaped convict who used a spoon to dig himself out of prison just so that he could steal a Book of Mormon (he didn't realize that missionaries give them away for free). 

I met Sister L's mom yesterday! She is here visiting family, and when she walked into the church, she gave me the biggest hug! It was almost as good as having MY mom walk into the church! She's such a sweetheart. When she left, she said, "See you in Canada!" I guess I'll have to get up there someday.

Miracle! We were wandering through one of the villages near the church the other day, knocking on doors and evading dangerous bees and barking dogs, when we happened upon the Burrow. Or Bilbo's Hobbit Hole. Well, not quite, no round door, and it's not in the side of a hill. But it is the cutest little cottage I've ever seen. It is surrounded by flowers, and on one side is the most beautiful tree with fantastic branches that embrace this whole house and create a little canopy under which one can sit and, say, teach the gospel. We knocked on the door, and who should come out but the cutest, old man with a gap in his teeth and the sweetest smile. Brother J really is the Chinese version of Bilbo. He's 72, divorced, and lives by himself. He traverses the countryside with his pack and stick, and he chuckles in the most hobbit-like way, I can't get over it. He was so willing to sit down with us under his canopy, and he listened so intently as we taught about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He was so grateful when we gave him his own copy of the Book of Mormon, and tried to pay us $100 for it. We said no, obviously. 

The next time we visited, we brought one of our members, and they are already the best of friends. Brother J is so humble, he kept saying that he didn't know why God would send so many wonderful people into this poor village to find a lonely, little man like him. He then said, "Many years ago, as I was lying in bed one night, I thought to myself, 'I'd really like a Book of Mormon.' I didn't really know much about it back then, but I never tried to get one. And now God has sent one to me!" I almost cried as he was saying that. I still don't understand why I'm so blessed to witness miracles like this. Heavenly Father's plan for his children is so absolutely perfect, beyond comprehension, and yet so simple. I need to be needed, to share my beliefs, to feel useful, and Brother J needs a Book of Mormon and someone to tell him he's a child of God. So God sends us to him, two birds with one stone. I'm blown away sometimes. You'd think after being a missionary for so long I'd just get used to miracles. But I still can't get over it! And I don't ever want to get over it. Heavenly Father lives! He loves us! I don't know much, but this much I know.

Week 73, in which it turns out that people in Hong Kong actually count differently than the rest of the world does.

So I'm officially 23, and it feels just like 22 except when people call me pohpoh, which in Chinese means grandma. Yeah, thanks guys.

T-shirt of the week: "Honey Buns do what good." AH MAN what does that even mean? The next one: "It thinks about the nature of the earth." I don't know what that means either, but it had a kitten on it.

My birthday was an adventure, to be sure. We had one appointment scheduled, but that fell through, so we did finding all day. I think 'searching' would be a better term, though, because we didn't find much! We were wandering around T Village for hours searching for a few members who haven't been to church in a really long time. We literally spent hours looking for house number 125, and we could NOT find it! We found number 127 and number 130 and number 123, but good grief, I'm pretty sure 125 doesn't exist. Or it's hidden under a giant pile of rubbish or in a bamboo thicket. I wish you could see these places, they're incredible. You get off the light rail train in the middle of some apartment buildings in the city, walk through a random construction site for about 10 minutes, and then take a sharp left-turn down into the banana trees, and then you're there. Some of these houses, honestly, I don't know how they stay up... sheer willpower or magic or something. And the numbering system is ridiculous. We could never find house number one. The first number we could find was 14... then 23... right across the street was 82... turn left and you see 247...   And no one knows how the number system works or what their neighbors names are! 

We asked so many people for help. Some of them stopped and tried to help (they all said, "Well, why don't you call them?" "Their phone number isn't working." "Oh... have you actually tried it?" "Yes, we have. That's how we know it isn't working." "Oh... have you tried asking someone?" "Yes, that's what we're doing right now."). But quite a few people just completely ignored us. We got to house number 124 (so close!) and I saw someone in the window looking out at us, so I said, "Excuse me, but we need some help, we're trying to find--" and then she just disappeared. Her dog kept barking, but she would not even look at us. So yes, that was a little frustrating. The way many Chinese people here interact with strangers is so cold, and I think a lot of the reason is because they just expect other people to be cold back. They're so suspicious and on edge whenever you talk or smile, and really it is just a cold feeling. And only the gospel, the pure love of Jesus Christ, can ever change that. So we just gotta keep going! 

But a couple great miracles happened that day. The first: we met the sweetest girl, S, who is about 16 years old and just adorable. She came with us to a youth BBQ on Saturday, and she was so shy, but I think she would really like to get involved with the youth and make friends in the church. I love her already.

The next miracle: I was so happy. Sure, we spent hours wandering around, getting ignored by people and not having much success, but I felt like I was walking on air. I felt so grateful for everything: the blue sky, the big banana leaves, the way the dogs didn't chase after us in an angry fashion, the escape from the noisy city, the weird old guys on bikes carrying huge random pieces of sheet metal and bamboo... It's such a special place, Hong Kong. I love it. Sure, we might not have made much progress, but I felt at peace. I think that's one of the greatest gifts the gospel gives to me: internal peace. No matter what the outside world brings, I can feel good inside. And one of the other greatest gifts? Hope for a better world, a brighter future. I'm scared to go home and leave missionary life behind, but God's plan isn't to have us peak at the age of 23. No, it gets better, and harder, and more worthwhile each day. So when it's done, it's done, but not until then! I love this place, and I love this work, and I love my Savior, because he's the one that brought me here.

Week 72, in which I learn more than I knew before about how much I don't know.

What, week 72?! UGH this is the worst. Whose idea was it to number my emails anyways? I can't believe it's mid-November--I feel so old! Seriously, I'm one of the oldest missionaries here right now. Hong Kong is filled with peppy, super cool 19-year-old sisters, and I feel like the awkward old lady in the corner, SO last year, just like Angry Birds or Twilight or JBiebs. (Actually, let's be real, I have no idea what's cool and what's not anymore, I'm just guessing.) Anyways, that's enough about that.

T-shirt of the week: this one's just a little weird, I don't know. It says, "Mind if I have a bite?" Oh, and on the way to the library I saw a shirt that said, "WINNING," and it reminded me of that celebrity whose name I cannot remember who said that a lot. 

This week I learned several things. The first is how simple this gospel really is. In K T, they had a gospel class every Wednesday night, and we called it the Kolob class, because they just loved to get into deep, ridiculous doctrinal speculations. Sometimes people just look for the most complicated things and debate these minor points and get all caught up in things that aren't as important. But really, it's simple. We had a lesson with Sister N this week, and we set up three chairs in the room, each several feet further away than the one before. On the first chair we put a mint; on the second, an onion (our fridge has a limited variety of food, okay?); on the third, three delicious homemade cookies (courtesy of Betty Crocker cookie mix). And we asked Sister N which one she wanted. After asking if the mint was some kind of medicine (as if that would make a difference in her decision?), she said that she wanted the cookie. We pointed out that she'd have to put out extra effort to get it, wouldn't it just be easier to settle for the onion? But she walked all the way over to go get the cookie. (This object lesson is more poignant because earlier this year she had a stroke which left her unable to walk for quite a while; but in the past few months, she has been able to go from using a walker to walking without any help at a completely normal pace. Miracle? Absolutely.) Isn't this life the same way? Our joy is positively correlated with the effort that we put forth. 

But the trick is this: as Elder Joseph B. Worthlin said it, "Those who make happiness their chief objective in life are bound to fail." In our leadership meeting this week, we discussed this quote, and I've thought about it ever since. It seems so illogical, but it makes sense to me. Who was the happiest person to ever live? I'd say it was Jesus Christ. Yes, he experienced all the pain and suffering for all of our sins and our trials. But because of that deep understanding and capability to feel pain, his understanding of true joy was more complete and perfect than any other person who has ever lived. A newborn baby can only experience so much joy, because he has no real understanding of what joy isn't. But Christ completely understands what it means to have a fullness of joy. And what brought him a fullness of joy? Doing the will of the Father. When we turn our will over to Heavenly Father, he can make so much more out of us than we ever could. If our focus is always on getting the things that will make us happiest, we'll fail. But if we focus on doing what God wants us to do, we can't help but be happy. And it's a real happiness too, not anything that the world can give us. I've only started to understand this concept, and I feel like the more I figure out, the more I realize I don't understand! But I guess that's life, right? I wonder if there's ever a point in the eternities where that reverses? Probably not. Which is great.

We had another great lesson this week--we had a family home evening with a member family, the bishop's family, C (who recently got baptized), and C's dad, who doesn't really know much about the gospel. We taught about how important the simple, basic gospel habits are, and compared our lives to Jenga. If we remove just one block, it doesn't seem to make a big difference, right? Just like not reading scriptures for a day or two doesn't seem to make a difference either. But as you keep removing blocks one at a time, the tower becomes less stable, and you realize the difference that one little block can make. We talked about Helaman 5:12, about building ourselves on a sure foundation, on Jesus Christ; when we do so, the storms are still going to come, but we won't fall. And again, it hit me how simple the gospel really is. It all comes back to these simple building blocks. That's what builds a powerful testimony, consistently making small, daily decisions to build on Christ. Just like Aristotle said, "We become what we repeatedly do." 

Well, now that I've written way more than I planned to about all that, we're headed to buy Christmas presents! Thank you to Granny Kate and to Uncle Marcus for the package and birthday card, I'll open them on Wednesday! I love you all, hope you have a great week!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Week 71, in which I celebrated Halloween, faced more killer bees, and met Mister O

Happy November! Turn on the Christmas music! Sorry this email is later than usual--our P-day changed to Thursday so that we can go to the temple! I'm so excited, I haven't been for six months now!

This week we had a couple really good t-shirts of the week. The first: "Captain American." Nice try. The second: "Let's go to space, brother." The third (worn by a Chinese woman): "Black girls rock." 

I've had several moments this week that took me back to my childhood... We celebrated Halloween by switching clothes with the other sisters in our apartment. I dressed up as Sister T, and I must say that I love her style. We discussed our past Halloween costumes over lunch, so naturally we ended up talking about my awkward years when I dressed up as a stoplight... and a mailbox. And a few days ago we were walking to the church when I noticed a stick lying on the sidewalk. My first thought? That stick would make a perfect Harry Potter wand. Oh yeah, those were the days, when you'd go out searching for the perfect stick to use as a wand! Not too fat, nice and straight, a little flexible, 11 1/2 inches long. Classic.

We had another encounter with the killer hornets outside our house. Last time we were merciful... we caught him in a cup and then freed him out in the wild. But this time, I had had enough. That was the last straw. The audacity, coming in again after we'd gone to all the trouble to free him. He came in right during our evening planning, so I just went to bed early and prayed SO hard that he would just die in the night. I prayed and prayed and prayed. But when I came out in the morning, I could still hear his merciless buzzing. He was camped out in the corner right behind my desk. So after much squealing and close calls, we caught him in a cup and then tied him in a grocery bag and then smushed him. That's what they call karma. Or something.

Anyways, this experience taught me an eternal principle. Heavenly Father heard my prayer, I know that for sure. But why didn't he answer it? Why didn't he just get rid of the bee? That's not usually how he works. God typically doesn't just take our problems away. How are we ever supposed to learn and grow and man up and just kill the bee ourselves if he just takes away our problems every time, as soon as we ask? So instead of killing the bee, he gave us the courage and protection that we needed to kill the bee ourselves. I'm grateful God does that. Otherwise I'd just chicken out of everything and never learn or grow.

And for all those who think me wimpy for being so scared of this bee, I want you to know that he was aggressive! And Dad told me that people have DIED from the aggressive Mainland bees! They're much meaner than the tame, Virginian bees. So yeah. 

Mister O is the friend of J, the old man who wants us to ride motorcycles with him. But he's much more normal than J. J brought him to the church the other day, so we gave them a tour. During the middle of the tour, J insisted that we go take pictures in the lobby immediately, "before all the people come" (it was a Thursday morning... no one was coming). So then we took pictures, and I must say they turned out quite awkwardly haha. As they left the chapel, J turned around and said, as he creeped backwards and waved extravagantly, "For you... sweet... lovings. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEET lovings." Yes. I almost died.

We were having a rather fruitless afternoon of finding in drizzling rain a few days ago, and right before we went home, Sister C (one of our members) appeared out of nowhere and said, "Come here quick!" She pulled us into 7-11 and bought us ice cream. What a blessing! Heavenly Father really does look after us missionaries, sending angels in all forms to brighten up our day. Sometimes those angels are named after fruit, and sometimes they are just sweet, loving members who have experienced finding before and know that it's hard. But he always sends them right when they're needed. 

Week 70, in which I see some miracles (no surprises there) and in which I experience the first human car-wash. Yeah, it's weird.

Remember how I got my hair cut last week? Well, it turned out great, but let me tell you, it was the weirdest experience EVER. First, the majority of hair stylists in Hong Kong are men, so that's weird. When I first got there, they led me to the back corner were there was a strange chair resembling a dentist's chair, but with a weird sink contraption where my head was. It wasn't a normal shampooing chair, no. This was the Human Car-Wash 2000. I didn't really know what was going on (strangely enough, I didn't understand most of the technical terms the dude was saying... I need to brush up on my hair-cutting vocabulary). The man handed me some earplugs and gestured for me to put them in my ears. After I did that, I laid down and he put my hair into this sink thing and put a lid over it that framed my face and covered my hair. And then these lights started going off and a weird beeping noise started and these jets started spraying my head at a rather alarming pressure! My head started being moved up and down and back and forth, and the jets kept spraying from different directions, first hot water and then cold water. I was trying so hard to not laugh and my neck started hurting after a while because my head kept getting jerked up and down. This machine lasted for over ten minutes, and it felt like ETERNITY! Then it finally ends and I keep trying to just get up and out of there, but the hair guy keeps stopping me to do things like towel-dry my hair (weird) and fish my earplugs out of the sink (they got shot out by the water jets). But he finally let me go. When I got to the mirror, I almost burst out laughing again--my hair was a MESS! It was so knotted and frizzy and horrible! And then the guy spent at least 15 minutes combing my hair and watching a Korean rock concert on the tv. But finally he cut my hair and it turned out fine. It was a very... interesting experience, and I think it set the tone for the rest of the week.

That night we had a really cool miracle! We were trying to find a less-active family who hasn't been to church in a couple of years. We got past the apartment guards (the first miracle) and then we found the right door and they were home (the second miracle). They were so nice (the fourth miracle) and turns out they don't even LIVE there anymore; they were just visiting a family member who lives there now. That's the best miracle! We just happened to drop by at the exact time that they were visiting. That's miraculous. I love that feeling, when I realize that Heavenly Father really is guiding us. I don't always know if he is, but it's experiences like this that really build my trust in Him.

We had a really funny visit with an old pohpo this week. A member invited us to go visit the old lady that lives next door to her, but wow was she not interested in having us there haha. Here's how our conversation went: "Thanks so much for letting us visit you today!" "I don't have anything else to do!" "Could we open with a prayer?" "I don't like to pray!" "Oh, you don't have to pray, I can pray." "I don't want to pray!" "You don't have to, I can do it." "Okay, but I don't want to pray." "Okay, you don't have to, I can do it." "I can't pray!" "Don't worry, I'll say it." "What!?" "I'm going to say a prayer." "Okay!" Later... "We picked out a hymn to sing for you, is that okay?" "I don't know how to sing!" "You don't have to sing, we can do it." "I never sing!" "You don't have to sing, we can sing." "I won't sing!" "Okay, we can sing though." "Okay, but I won't sing!" "Okay, we're going to sing now..." Later... "And Heavenly Father loves and teaches us just like you love and teach your children." "What?! I didn't teach my kids anything!" "I'm sure you helped them learn how to be good people and help others and be good parents." "No, I didn't help them at all! They figured it out by themselves!" "Well, I'm sure you help your grandchildren now." "Nope, not at all! I don't tell them anything useful!" "And you're humble too!" Anyways, it was a fun lesson, but I don't think we'll be getting frequent visitor passes any time soon.

We had a miracle walk-in family this week! And they are so cute: they have two daughters that are 4 and 6, and they all stayed for our English class. We met them after a few tough days of finding, so I really feel like Heavenly Father answered our prayers and is aware of our work.

Anyways, I had about 5 more miracles I wanted to write about, but I'm out of time. We're going ice skating now, so I'll talk to you next week! I love you!