Monday, January 28, 2013

Week 31: in which my interactions with men are more awkward than usual, and in which I hope for things which are not seen which are true

Hello everyone! It's another beautiful, sunny day in Hong Kong! And good news! I get another move in Kwun Tong with Sister Chan! Oh, I am so so happy to be with her again. In fact, last week I prayed and told Heavenly Father that if he let me stay another move with her in Kwun Tong, I'd give up chocolate for the entire move. So now, I'm proud to say that I've been chocolate-free for five days now. Yes. It's pretty miraculous, right? Only five weeks and two days to go!

T-shirt of the week: I think this one might be Twilight inspired? Anyways, it's black, with big, bold, silver letters saying "The Right to Twinkle." And then I saw this girl wearing a super girly outfit, including a pink tutu (yes, it's true), wearing a shirt that said, "Today I am a boy." And then a little boy wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine shirt! Super cute! It said "Really Useful Engine" on the front, and then all over it had the names of Thomas's friends... Jumes and Pelhev? I always thought it was James and Percy, but maybe I'm wrong? The best thing about these shirts is that, even when they make sense, the chances that the people wearing them understand what they say are very, very slim.

I wish you all could meet A__.  I'm pretty sure his name is A__, but it's so hard to understand him because he always speaks in English, and he always sounds drunk, so it's almost impossible to understand him. Anyways, he's this pretty old guy with the longest eyebrow hairs I've ever seen. Sometimes he comes to church, and he always talks with the missionaries. He hasn't come for a while, but on Sunday he came and, well, let's just say I'm planning to avoid him from now on haha. Here's the conversation:

A: (after sacrament meeting): Sister... Cutler... you... have changed.

Me: Oh, okay? (trying to find a way out of the conversation)

A: Your... nose. It is more... outstanding.

Me: What? Thank you? Okay? (runs away)

A: (before Sunday School he sees me eating crackers): Are... you hungry?

Me (while eating): Uh, yes.

A: Do... you... have food? To eat?

Me (while eating): Uh... yes?

A: Oh... because... if not... I would... buy you lunch.

Me: No thank you.

A: (after Sunday School, as I'm leaving the room): Sister... Cutler.

Me: Yes?

A: You've changed.

Me: Since the beginning of class?

A: Yes. You... are... more beautiful.

Me: Oh. Okay. (runs away)

Haha, yeah. Fortunately the only people who hit on me are 60 years old. . So I was sitting in the building that Saturday night, and one of the young men came in and said, "There are some foreigners outside in the parking lot." So I went out with a couple investigators and members, and there were about five men standing out there with backpacks on. They were all early to mid 20's, rugged, tall, white, and spoke English. Apparently one of them had served his mission here a while ago, and so they were all visiting. So I invited them in and then we all stood there awkwardly for a second, me with all the Asians on one side, and all the white boys on the other. And then one of them asks, "So are you all members or investigators?" And clearly, CLEARLY he was talking to the people I was standing with. But I, being COMPLETELY awkward and uncomfortable and flustered, say, "I'm a mission--- uh hm... (cough cough)." Then I just kind of edged out of the room... and then booked it down the hall. Haha it was so funny! Gosh, I don't know what I'm going to do when I get back to BYU, so many tall, white boys speaking English! Save me!!!!

So last week we met with a pastor, kind of accidentally. We'd scheduled to meet a woman I'd contacted on a bus, super nice, super sweet. And then we showed up and turns out we were meeting with her AND her pastor haha. So that was unexpected, to say the least. They were both very kind and genuinely interested in what we believe. He, however, was kind of condescending. He told us that it's really great that we're out here, preaching the gospel, inviting others to come unto Christ. He said, "Just make sure that you're preaching proper interpretations of scripture." He said that the Book of Mormon may be good literature (he isn't sure since he hasn't read it yet), but that nothing is as true as the Bible. I explained that if the Bible and the Book of Mormon are both words from prophets, then the Book of Mormon definitely is as true and as important as the Bible. And I told him that he can find out for himself if it's true, and that if it is true, then that means this world has a living prophet with as much power and authority and wisdom as Moses or Abraham. He invited me to study the Bible more, and I invited him to read the Book of Mormon with an open mind. I know that if he does, he'll see that it is just as true as the Bible. Sometimes my testimony is shaky, and sometimes my faith is small. But I know without a doubt that the Book of Mormon could not have come anywhere but from God. It is true, and it is evidence that Joseph Smith is a prophet called of God. When I read the Book of Mormon, I can feel peace and joy and enlightenment. It makes sense in my mind and feels right in my heart--what more evidence could one ask for?

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary! It's so hard! All the time! I'm tired, disheartened, confused. And then I'm happy, full of peace, calm, and sure. And the peace that comes from the gospel passes understanding. I don't need to understand all right now--that comes with time. But we can always have the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus is our Savior and that he loves and knows each of us. I love you all so much! Thank you for your prayers and letters and love! Onward and upward! Let's go!

Dinner at the American Club at the Exchange Tower 

Les Miserables is here

 Reunion with Sister Law

Dinner out with the district 

Mirrored Ceilings!

Tim Tam Slam anyone?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 30: in which I teach a Queen song to small children, and in which I figure out a little more about "the real world"

Hello everyone! It's P-day again! We're going on a hike this afternoon to Lion's Rock, so I'm wearing jeans! It's so weird. I feel more constricted than I've felt in months. But I also feel so so free!!! As we were walking down the hill from our apartment to the market, I felt like running and jumping off things. So it's probably a good thing that we wear skirts all the time--it keeps me dignified
Today's t-shirt of the week is currently being worn by my lovely companion, Sister Chan! It's pink and black, and says, "Women drss alike all over the world. They drss to annoy other women." I love it. It's so sassy that it doesn't even matter that 'dress' is spelled wrong.

So kids English class might be one of my favorite times of the week. Either that, or my most dreaded time of the week. It's funny how you can't always distinguish between anticipation and dread. On any given Saturday, we could have anywhere from one to ten kids, ages ranging from one to ten, and hyperness ranging from one to a gazillion. The sound of the day for this week's class was 'long i.' We usually practice reading simple words with flash cards, teach them about eight new vocabulary words, watch a short video, and then learn a song. So since it was 'long i' day, naturally I thought of the song, "I like to ride my bicycle. I like to ride my bike. I like to ride my bicycle. I like to ride it where I like." SO MANY LONG I SOUNDS! It was perfect, and the kids loved it.

This week has been even more exhausting than usual, which means I've been crazier and weirder than usual. Sometimes I'll be totally fine, and then all of a sudden I'll just get this weird look in my eye and start singing songs from musicals under my breath and I won't be able to sit still. And then I'll crash and fall asleep in the middle of language study. It's a good thing Sister Chan loves me haha. After an especially long day, we were kneeling down to pray. I rested my head on the floor to start out with, but as soon as I started saying the prayer, I picked my head up... and bumped right into Sister Chan's head. So we just sat there, trying really hard not to laugh, for about 10 seconds. And then we just couldn't hold it anymore and we cracked up right there with our eyes closed for a good minute or so. I like to think that Heavenly Father was laughing with us, that it was just part of the prayer. And then the next day, while Sister Chan was praying, I fell asleep. Like, really asleep. I didn't hear her say Amen, and I just kept kneeling there with my eyes closed until she finally woke me up haha.

One of the ward members has become one of our really good friends. She's so willing to help and always calls to check on how we're doing, to see if we need help. We just love her! One day she helped us while we were teaching English to A, one of our investigators, and I was teaching some opposites like hot/cold, big/small. When I taught near/far, I started singing the song from Titanic (Near, Far, wherever you are...) and they thought it was just the funniest thing. And so one night I called this ward member, and she said that she'd been feeling really unhappy today. She started crying and telling me all of these problems, saying that she knew that God prompted me to call her because she needed someone to talk to. So we talked for a while, and I asked her if she wanted us to sing a hymn for her. She said, "No, but could you sing Titanic for me?" And with no hesitation, I put on my best Celine Dion impression and sang "My Heart Will Go On" right there into the phone. Sister Chan and the other sisters in our apartment and I had the giggles for about an hour afterwards. The things we do as missionaries...

Jesse and Drew, I usually boast about my missionary cousins about once or twice a day, and last week I was talking about how Drew is in Spain and Jesse is in Africa to a couple of our members, A and L. And A said, with a huge smile on her face, "Wow, Africa! Wow! Jesse must be so much smarter than you!" And I said, laughing, "Yes, he definitely is." She said, "No, really! He must be way smarter than you, and stronger, and more spiritual too!" And I said, still laughing, "I know, it's so true!" And she said, "No, I mean it! I mean Hong Kong is really easy compared to Africa. He's so much braver!" And it's so true haha :) I love you two so much! Keep being awesome!

Do you remember me talking about the girl we visited in the hospital? Well, we went and visited her again recently, but this time was very different. She has been in a coma for almost a month now, and her brain is no longer active; basically, her body is still alive, but it just felt like her soul was gone. We visited with her older sister, who kept talking to S like she could hear, even though the doctors all said that there's no way she could hear now. And there was just a strange, overwhelming calm in the room, a calm that was heavy, like a really thick blanket pushing down on us. I didn't really know what to do. I felt like I should say something, but I wouldn't even know what to say in English, much less in Chinese. So I just suggested we sing a hymn. We sang, "Nearer My God to Thee," and the last verse really touched me in a new way. "Or if on joyful wings, Cleaving the sky, Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upward I fly, Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee." And I knew that S was listening from wherever her soul was. I just felt it. The other side has never felt so real before; the veil has never been so thin for me. It reminded me of something Elder Holland said once, something that I've been thinking about a lot recently: "The mission is as close to the 'real world' as you can get." Since we are trying to just focus on what God wants us to do, the world's distractions are eliminated, and I can see more clearly than ever what really matters, what is REAL. All that matters are the things that are eternal. This life is just a tiny point on the eternal timeline, so why worry about things that end with this life? Family and God, that's what matters. I've never been so grateful for my family, and I've never felt closer to Heavenly Father. I've never felt my weaknesses so keenly, but I've never felt God's love for me so strongly. That's what this life is about--we had to leave our Heavenly Father's presence so that we could learn how to come back. This life is about constantly getting nearer to God, and that's all we're trying to invite others to do. I love this mission so much! I'm so tired, and maybe a little crazier than before, and I feel like my body is slowly breaking down, but it's so worth it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Week 29: in which I become MORE than a missionary, and in which I've played I Can Go The Distance about 100 times on my harmonica. It was sorely needed.

Hello everyone! It has been another wonderful, crazy, chaotic, emotional roller coaster in Kwun Tong! I already know that I won't be able to fully convey the magnitude of this week's events, but I'll try my best anyways!

First of all, I realize that I've slacked in the t-shirt of the week area... So to make up for it, this week isn't actually a t-shirt--it's better. PANTS! Yes, on the back of a po-po's (grandma's) pants was written, in beautiful glittery pink words, ROCKET SALAD FOR YOU. Yeah, ponder it for a while. And when you figure out what it means, let me know.

The mission has been pretty crazy for a while, ever since they announced the age change for missionaries. So many new missionaries will be coming in, that they've had to change the MTC schedule, shortening the time each missionary is there. And that means that the moves schedule for the mission has changed too. So starting in April, we'll be moving every 9 weeks instead of every 6! This is an important time in the history of this mission, and I'm here to see it! And thank goodness they changed the moves schedule, because I just found out that, if they didn't, I'd be flying home ON CHRISTMAS DAY. Yeah, how lame is that! But instead, my death date is December 13th! That means I'll be home in time for Christmas!!!

I love speaking English with Cantonese people, because sometimes you hear the funniest things. For example, yesterday during companionship study, Sister Chan said 'disgusting' instead of 'discussing,' which was absolutely adorable. And then H, the woman who is planning on getting baptized next month, told us that it was 'agrazing mace' that brought us together. I was touched, in addition to being greatly amused. Or like the other day when K, one of the young men in our ward, told me that he wanted to become Octopus Price. And it took me only about five seconds to figure out that he meant Optimus Prime. Which actually made me pretty proud, considering I haven't had any sort of contact with such media for about six months.

Of course, I have my difficulties when speaking Cantonese too. Here's a really great example. So every night we send out a scripture text, which Sister Chan always sends, since I don't really know how to text characters. But one evening it was my turn to pick the scripture, and I picked Jacob 3:2, which says, "O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever." It's good, don't you think? but I told Sister Chan in Cantonese which scripture to send, and obviously we had a miscommunication, so she ended up sending Jacob 2:5... Yeah. It says, "But behold, hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and very abominable unto God." Yeah. We sent that to about 30 people hahahaha. It was so bad, but SO funny. We sent out another text later, explaining the mistake, and hopefully no one will take it personally, but it was pretty hilarious. And a great learning experience. Maybe I need to keep practicing my numbers in Cantonese?

Actually, I've recently become really addicted to learning Cantonese. Sure, before I liked studying, and I knew that it was important to be able to communicate and whatnot. But with Sister Chan as my companion, I feel like my language has skyrocketed, and I just LOVE it. Cantonese has so many fun phrases and idioms and the way the words are made up of parts with individual meanings, and how the characters are made up of more than one character and when you read you say it differently from when you speak... There are so many linguistic papers that I'm just DYING to write. I suppose it will have to wait for a year or so. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. But here's my favorite phrase I've learned recently: lengjai mhoyih dahng faahn sihk. Meaning literally, "Handsome boys can't fill you like rice." Yeah, there's no chance that I'll use that on my mission, but I just love how idioms so clearly reflect the values and customs of the culture! So cool. I could get my PhD just studying idioms, and I'd be happy forever.

Of course, I'm doing my part and teaching Sister Chan some of my favorite phrases, including, "Bump that!" "Let's bounce!" And I'm teaching her about how sometimes we can combine two words to make a new one. Our newest one? NINJANARY. Yes. A ninja missionary. It's our companionship goal this week to become more ninja-like in our finding. And WOW have we had some interesting finding experiences recently. Honestly, if you add up all the rude people I've ever met in my whole life, including my mission up to this past December, it would not come even close to the number of rude people we've met in the past week haha. But you know what? God has blessed me so much. He's given me a thicker skin, a softer heart, more guts, and a really crummy memory! Before my mission, I struggled with taking things personally, and if someone was rude to me, I had a hard time forgiving them. But here, it just rolls right off my back. I'm like one of those punching dolls, you know the ones that you hit down, but just bounce right back up? I walk up to one person, stick out my hand and introduce myself, get blown off, and walk right up to the next person! And I love each one of them! And at the end of the day, I can't remember the details of any of my encounters with rude people. It's such a blessing. And some days we'll go finding and it will feel like we had no success that day. But then something will always happen that night, like someone will call us out of the blue to schedule us, or we'll meet some really awesome person, and we know it's a blessing from God for working hard. I love it!

We had a really... interesting finding time earlier this week. We talked with a girl named W out by the soccer fields for about 20 minutes, and she seemed GOLDEN. So good. She said she didn't really believe there was a God, but she was really interested in talking with us. She was super sweet, so funny. She asked really good questions, and she seemed like she understood everything we were saying. We taught a lesson, and she even offered a prayer at the end! We gave her our number so that we could schedule to meet with her again, and then she used her phone to call us so that we could have her number. So she called. And the phone rang. And a name came up on the screen of our phone. It said M W. We were very surprised, but played it off like nothing had happened. Then we booked it back to the church and pulled out the member records. And there she was. W. Age 14. Baptized 4 years ago. I ALMOST DIED haha. We got totally played by a 14-year-old! One SMART 14-year-old who hasn't been to church for a few years now. So yeah, for the rest of the night, we'd be doing something, and then we'd turn to each other and say, "What in the WORLD!" And just start laughing again. It was so weird! But one thing I know for sure. God was leading us that day. We only talked to two people while finding (well, only two people who wanted to talk back haha), and one of them just happened to be a member? Yeah, not a coincidence. That's something I've learned, that sometimes we have our plans, how we want to go around doing our Heavenly Father's work. And sure, they're good plans. Like that day, we planned to find someone new to teach, someone with gospel interest. And that's a good plan, right? But it wasn't what God planned for us that day, and it's not what he planned for Winnie. He knows what's going on, and he'll lead us where he needs us to be, even if we don't know that we're being led. I love it! I love seeing miracles! And I know that for every miracle I recognize, there are about three or four or a hundred that happen all around me that I never even notice. It's awesome.

Anyways, a lot of other things happened this week that I don't have time to write down, so I'll write more of them next P-day. The other day, we were walking home from an appointment with a woman who... well, let's just say it was a rough appointment haha. And we saw a cruise ship going by. I turned to Sister Chan and said, "Sister Chan. This has been a rough day. Let me treat you to a cruise around the Pacific. I'll just call President Hawks and let him know that we're taking a P-week. I'm sure he'll be fine with it." We talked with our zone leaders, and they decided that we'd turn it into a district activity, and all eight of us would just go on a cruise for a little bit to recover our strength. But we all knew, deep down, that even if it was an option, we wouldn't take it. Not in a million years. Because as tired as I am (and wow am I tired! People keep telling me I look like a panda because I have black eyes and a white face), I've never been so happy and at peace with where I am. We make mistakes a lot (Jacob 2:5, for example), but we're trying to be better and God knows it. He's infinitely patient with each one of us as we try to improve and overcome our weaknesses. I love this gospel, I love my Heavenly Father, I love Hong Kong! I love all of you! Friends, family, especially Elders Sumrak and Hooper, keep being wonderful! I'm so grateful for your support and examples and letters and love! Onward ever onward!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week 28, in which I escape the infamous Kwun Tong Grabbers and in which I love my companion even more than I did last week

First, how in the world do you punctuate Rodgers' and Hammerstein's? Do you just put one apostrophe after Hammerstein because they together possess the one musical? Or do each of them have their own apostrophe? Let's say I'm going by APA. Oh, I wish I had my editing books with me right now. Oh well, just please don't judge me for my poor punctuation usage... or for my (possibly unhealthy) obsession with correct punctuation.

Anyways, IT'S 2013!!!!!!!!!!!! AHH! So exciting!!! And I hit my 6 month mark two days ago! And I totally forgot about it until just now haha. And I'm starting to see the effects of being out so long... meaning, I'm forgetting words of songs and names of friends and quotes from movies. I forgot how to spell Shania Twain the other day, which was a shot to both my cultural knowledge and my spelling skills (which are also going downhill). And you know what. I love it!

Last week I bought a harmonica. It's awesome. It's red and shiny and has a button to change keys from normal to sharp, so I can play in any key, not just in the key of C. So during our lunch time, I always eat as fast as I can and then I serenade Sister Chan. She has one too (she was the one who inspired me to get one) so sometimes we try to play hymns and I'll try the alto line while she does soprano--it's hard! But we have so much fun. I love that girl, she's just the best companion ever. We laugh all the time and we're always so happy, even when times are hard. She teaches me all sorts of Cantonese phrases. The latest one is "gai tuhng ngaap gong" which literally means "chickens with ducks talking." You say it when two people are talking, but neither understands the other. Sometimes I feel that way when we're talking with the elders haha. Actually, our elders are really great. We have a lot of fun, especially at cheng-outs (when people invite us over for dinner). It's awesome to work together with so many amazing missionaries, because we get to hear about all of their successes, and really we're all doing the same work, so their success is our success! One missionary's mission is just one small part of an incredible, epic story, and I love having a role (however small) in this awesome work.

So this week I ate ostrich! It was delicious, just like chicken. And at the past two cheng-outs, members have tried to scare me by saying that next time they'll feed us snake. But you know what? Nothing scares me anymore. No food, no matter how gross, can frighten SISTER CUTLER. No. So I say, Snake? Bring it on! Snails? Mmmmm! Cockroaches? Okay! Ox intestines? Actually... give me another month for the intestines. But everything else, no problem.

So my area right now is Kwun Tong (pronounced 'goontong'), and we're infamous for two things: one, the ridiculously long set of stairs that leads up to our church; and two, the Kwun Tong Grabbers. Some say there's only one grabber, but others say we have three or four. No one really knows. One of them is the dancer, a crazy old guy with a huge smile, who will grab your hand and say, "Puhngyauh!" (friend) and will dance around with you and won't let go. He got me once, but I did a quick wrist-twist and escaped. He's relatively harmless and makes us laugh. But then there's the one who yells "HEY!" whenever we walk past, and one time we were waiting to meet a friend, he came up behind me and grabbed my shoulder, and that was a little scary. But he's pretty skinny looking, so I could probably take him if it came to it haha.

So this week I met Anisha, an awesome girl from BYU Hawaii. She's so fun! She's here to teach English for an internship, and so she helped us out for a few days while everything was getting set up for her job. She's absolutely the sweetest thing, and she helped our investigators so much! She doesn't speak a lick of Cantonese (yet!) but she is still so good at showing her love to the people here.

Speaking of our investigators, they've been having an especially hard time recently, struggling with faith, family, work, health... you name it, they got it. We have no idea how to help them, and I'm really starting to see that this isn't our work--it's God's. And it's so essential that we rely on him and trust him. Because what do I know? Not as much as I thought I did when I started this mission. The more I learn, the more I know I don't know. I just keep thinking that. The more I try to obey the commandments, the more I notice the things I do wrong. But you know what's awesome? Is that I'm not getting disheartened about it. I love what Dad told me in a letter once. He said that as he has gotten older, he hasn't made mistakes less often; in fact, it might be the other way around. But he has learned to repent more quickly, and that's what's important. God doesn't expect us to become perfect in one try--it's a process. So I imagine my mistakes as one line on a graph, and my repentance as another. And as long as my repentance line is constantly getting closer and closer to the mistakes line, then I'm doing okay. The ideal is to not make the mistake anymore, but we must have patience with ourselves.

So a couple weeks ago, I randomly called up Helen, a woman from our English class (we gave her a Book of Mormon a few months ago) to invite her to an activity, and she said, "Oh, by the way, I've been reading the Book of Mormon, and I want to get baptized on February 17th." I was like, "Uh, oh, what? Okay? Yeah! That's great! Sounds good!" Yeah! It's so awesome! Apparently, she has been talking to missionaries every now and then for over a year now, and they kept telling her that she should get baptized, but it wasn't until just recently that she felt ready. It's so awesome! It's the culmination of so many missionaries' effort. I love that I get to see the results of all their effort, because it helps me to realize that none of my effort is ever wasted. I may not be around to see the results of my work, so I just have to have faith that Heavenly Father knows what's going on, and that he'll take care of his children better than I ever could!

I love you all so much! Thank you for your prayers and support and letters and love! I love Hong Kong, the people, the food, the challenges and the successes and the miracles and the gospel and my Savior!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Week 27: in which I turn a new page in the greatest book I've ever read, uh, lived, and in which I eat even more food than last week

Hello everyone! Happy New Year!!!! I can't believe that tomorrow will be 2013, but boy am I excited! 13 has always been my lucky number, so this year is going to be the best one yet!

First things first: t-shirt of the week! So this week is kind of weird. The first time I read it, I didn't think much of it, but the more I thought about it, the more it gave me the shivers. It was black with creepy white writing, and it says, "It's pointless to play lullabies for someone who can't sleep." Yeah. I don't quite know what it means, but it's just weird.

We have been fed so much recently, it's ridiculous. And then throw in the candy from family, grandparents, members, the Pinegars, etc. and let's just say, I haven't felt hungry for days now. Some missionaries face the trial of starvation. I face the trial of feeling like I'm going to throw up after eating at a member's house, because they've stuffed us so much with delicious food. It's so fun going to cheng-outs (dinner appointments) with the elders, because we all try to encourage each other and cheer each other on. Because you have to eat it all, every time. After a particularly painful cheng out, one of the elders said, "Sister Cutler, I'm really impressed with your eating ability. You really threw down in there!" And I said, "It's a gift. And a curse." Because it's true, I've been blessed with the ability to eat more food than is natural or healthy or comfortable. But I'm just banking on the hope that I'll slim back down when I get back to America haha.

I've had a song stuck in my head all week, and for the life of me I can't remember what song it is! All I can remember is this: Doo bop, doo doo doo bop, doo doo doo doo bop, doo doo doo.... doo oo doo oo. I know, really helpful. I wish I could write out the beat to it, but if anyone figures it out, please let me know!

So yesterday as we were on the bus coming home from yet another cheng out, I saw this truck pass that said, "BABY CAT DOG SHOP." And I laughed so loud. It's so funny what a small change in punctuation or phrasing could do for that business. BABY, CAT, & DOG SHOP. BABY CATS AND DOGS SHOP. BABY CATS & DOGS SHOP. Are they in the kitten and puppy business, or do they actually sell small children? The world may never know.

So I had a miracle this week. Seriously, a really, undeniable answer to my prayer. So I have this awesome Indonesian nightie--it's called a mumu. Mine is bright purple. And apparently the dye isn't quite set in, because on Christmas Eve I washed it with this nice, light blue button-up blouse with French cuffs... and it got purple blotches all over it! I was so upset, mostly because I KNEW I shouldn't have washed them together! I kept getting this feeling that it was a bad idea, but I just ignored it (dumb) and washed it anyways. So I had no idea what to do because I'm just not as educated with these kinds of things as I should be, considering my gender (yes, perhaps that was a sexist comment? Oh well), and it was about 10:30 at night, and I was so sad and tired and my brain was melted from speaking Chinese all day. So I just put it back in the washing machine with more soap, and turned it on again. Then I prayed super, super hard. But see, the thing is, the whole time I was praying, I was thinking, "This will never work. It's not that I don't believe God can make my shirt clean, because I know he can. I just don't believe he will, because I'm so dumb. And because I don't believe he will, I guess I don't have any faith, so now my prayer definitely won't work." So I went to sleep feeling pretty bummed out. But I woke up on Christmas morning, and that's right! You guessed it! It was completely clean! A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! And here's what I learned. Faith isn't so much about having these big, overwhelming convictions. It's not about complete confidence or assurance, or emotional feeling. It's all about action motivated by hope. I didn't have a big, strong feeling that motivated my prayer. I didn't even really believe that it would work. I just hoped, and I hoped enough to actually pray about it. Sometimes the people we meet with tell us that they don't have enough faith yet, and that they want more faith first before they attend church or get baptized. But that's just the problem. You'll never have enough faith to get baptized until you actually get baptized. You'll never have enough faith to go on a mission until you actually do it. Faith isn't some sort of level, like a health bar in the corner of the screen on a video game. It's a spiritual gift that comes when you act on hope, without a sure knowledge of the truth. My faith wasn't an assurance that God would clean my shirt. It was a knowledge that he could and a hope that maybe he might, and a big enough hope that led me to actually ask him. And now my faith in the power of prayer has grown because I've had a real answer to a prayer. And I know it's a silly example, but it just goes to show that even the smallest, most trivial things are important to God if they're important to us. We're his children and he loves us, and he wants to show us his love so much. We just have to give him the opportunity. We have to act on our hope. We have to ask, and then do our part, and then hope. I love D&C 123:17, and I don't have my scriptures out, but it says something like, "Do all within your power, and then stand still, with the utmost assurance, and watch the hand of the Lord." I love that. Do all you can, and then stand still.

I love this mission! Our investigators have been struggling more than ever before, but I know that God knows them and has a plan for them. All I have to do is my best, and he'll take care of them. I love you all so much and am so grateful for your prayers and support! Have a Happy New Year and remember that every day is a new day! We're divine children of God, and we have bigger potential than we can even imagine, so don't ever feel like you can't change. You have infinite capacity to change and become better and happier. That's what this gospel and Christ's mission is all about: change!