Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week 35, in which I see into the future, and boy does it look good!

Hello everyone! Can you believe it's week 35?! Yeah, me neither! Time is flying, and we're already facing moves calls again in less than a week. I'm praying to stay in Kwun Tong, but we'll see what the Lord has in store. I know his plan will be the best, so I should probably just pray that he does what he wants to do! That's what prayer's all about, aligning my will with him, giving him an opportunity to educate my desires, and showing my willingness to do what is best.

T-shirts of the week! First one isn't really funny... it's just that I don't really understand why it exists. It says, "Hits the grass beneath a tree, we're having so much fun now. The traveler is sleeping under a tree. Happy now..." The other one is DEFINITELY a t-shirt, although too often people here in Hong Kong get shirts and dresses confused, so that was interesting. Anyways, it says, "SNARL EXTRA. UK." Yeah, I don't know either.

So we taught two girls this week named A and L, and WOW are they awesome! Naturally, they aren't from our area, so we'll be turning them over to the missionaries from that area, but the first lesson was so good. We taught about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they were just so accepting and it made so much sense to them. And the best part was at the end, when I told them that we'd give them each a Book of Mormon, Alison said, "Really?!!!!" She was so excited! And then they scheduled us for Thursday, two days later, so we met with them and the elders from Alison's home town, and we watched the movie about Joseph Smith. And afterwards, Alison asked if we were baptized and what it means. And after we explained it, I asked them if they wanted to be baptized, and both of them said yes! They said that the way the felt at the church was different from anywhere else, and that the message made so much sense and felt so right. Just like it says in Doctrine and Covenants section 8, God will tell us in our minds and in our hearts what is right. I am so excited for both of them!

We went finding a lot this week, and we met the cutest little boy in the whole world! Most little kids are really shy around foreigners, but this kid was so friendly and outgoing. He was about three or four years old, but he kept running around us and hugging my knees and asking to look at my planner (which has a picture of Jesus on it). And then he started trying to pick up my skirt, which I stopped pretty quick haha. His mom kept telling him, "Tell big sister that you're sorry!" But every time she said that, he'd turn to me and say, "Hello Kitty! Hello Kitty!" It was so adorable!"

So in English class on Wednesday, the word of the day was whoop-dee-doo. It really confused them for a while, but I think eventually they figured out how to use it. And then Elder Parry said, "Here's how you use it. (he walks up to me and looks really upset) Sister Cutler, my mom just died!" And then everyone looks at me, and naturally I'm not going to say, "Whoop-dee-doo," especially because he'd just barely received a Valentine's card from her that very day (his only Valentine, although that's one more Valentine than I got haha, so I guess I shouldn't make fun of him). So I said, "Oh Elder Parry, I'm so sorry!" And he kept trying ("Sister Cutler, I broke my arm" "Sister Cutler, I have an incurable disease") but I was not going to say it haha. So he finally turns to P, our English class regular, and says, "P, I just scratched my finger a little bit" and P says, so naturally, without even looking up, "Whoop-dee-doo."

In other news, I ate snake last week! It was delicious. Oh yeah, and then after that, the snake wrangler (yeah, he catches snakes and cooks them for a living) let me hold a snake. And by hold, I mean it was wrapped around my neck and slithering around and WOW was that a weird feeling!

So last night I was doing math for fun. It's true Dad! But here's what I figured out. So there's about 6.5 billion people in the world, right? And when I was in the MTC, there were 50,000 missionaries in the world (I'm sure there are tons more now, but I don't know the number). So that means there are 13,000 people for every one missionary! But here's the crazy part. Hong Kong has about 7 million people, with only 100 missionaries. That means 70,000 people per missionary! Granted, some of those people are already members of the church, but still, we have a lot of work to do! And we need lots more missionaries to do it! I am so excited to see what happens in the next few years with missionary work, because everything is growing so fast! It's such a blessing to be a missionary at this time, with so much change and progression. I love it!

So we were visiting with a less active member last week, and she was sharing a bunch of scriptures she'd been reading recently, and then she'd ask us our thoughts about them. Well, some of the verses were really great, but some of them... so random. One of them was Helaman 3:36, about the pride of the people of Nephi, and it was so hard to think of anything worthwhile to say, so when she asked me about my thoughts, I said, "Siusam, mhou giungouh. Yuhgwo mhaih, leihge lihngwan wuih hou ngaaihim." Yeah, that's probably not funny to you. It's a quote from the Cantonese version of the Joseph Smith movie, the part where the preacher is talking to Joseph and he says, "Beware of pride. Your soul is in danger" or something like that (clearly I watch it more in Chinese than in English). We quote that part of the movie all the time, and so Sister Chan and I almost died just trying to suppress our laughter. It was so funny. Just trust me. It was funny.

I went to a RS meeting with the General Board last year at BYU, and Sister Staples said something that I've been thinking about so much recently. She said that our calling is to join the rescue, to save souls. And then she said, "You... you will be rescued by your calling." And it's true. I feel like this calling as a missionary has changed me more than anyone else. I still have so many imperfections, obviously, but I feel like a different person. And I'm so glad. I'm not ever going back to how I was before, that's for sure! I know what's most important, I've figured it out. I think the thing that I've learned most about this mission is the importance of eternal families. I can't express how important it is to me, I don't have the time or the eloquence, but nothing else matters if you don't have eternal family. Nothing, not work, not money, not nice clothes, not position or power or anything else. It's all about family! Mom, Dad, Rebecca, Rachel Rowan, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (SHOUT OUT TO JESSE AND DREW!), I love you all so much! Thanks for the prayers, letters, support, everything. I am so grateful Heavenly Father put us together, and I'm so excited for eternity together!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Week 34: in which I learn some stuff and do some stuff and eat some stuff... oh yeah, and by the way, Helen got baptized!

It's true! She's baptized! Yesterday was such a good day! She was just glowing from excitement, and seemed like a little girl! How good it was to see her go into the water, a little nervous, a little uncomfortable (the water wasn't very warm...), and come out of the water so happy, so calm, and so sure of who she is. Baptism is such a blessing, a chance to start over, to be completely clean. Everyone deserves another chance, and I'm so happy that Helen took that chance! YAY baptism!

he work this past week was slower than usual due to Chinese New Year. It's a big family holiday, which meant it was almost impossible to schedule people. We spent some time with members and a lot of time trying to go finding. On Wednesday, we knew we'd have to spend most of the day finding, so we went up to Diamond Hill, 5 MTR stops away from Kwun Tong, and then we walked all the way back to the church, finding along the way! It was so fun! Diamond Hill, Choi Hung, Kowloon Bay, Ngau Tau Kok, and Kwun Tong. And we didn't use a map book at all! It was a great adventure, and we met some really good people.

One thing that I really like about Chinese New Year is that they have all of these little phrases that you say whenever you meet people; when someone says a phrase to you, you're supposed to say a different one back to them. The most common one is "Sanlihn faailohk" meaning "Happy New Year." And then there's "Santai gihnhong" which means "Body health." And then they get a little stranger and more fun! Like "Gunghei faatchoi" which means "Congratulations, make money." And then "Chingcheun seuhngjyu" meaning something like "years like springtime always around you." And how about "Yatfahn fongseuhn" meaning "sails have wind always," or (my personal favorite) "Yuyu dakseui" meaning "fish fish have water." That one's pretty clever too, because 'seui' means water, but it can also represent money, so it's a way of wishing people good fortune, but I always like to imagine a bunch of fish trying to swim in money. We missionaries have started translating them into English, and we'll say things to people like, "May your sails always have wind" and "May your fish always have water" or "May your fish always have money." And since a lot of people here understand English okay, they know what we're saying, but they don't always realize that we're alluding to those New Year's phrases. Maybe it's not that funny if you aren't actually here doing it... just trust me, it's funny.

So by Friday night, I was feeling pretty frustrated due to the lack of work. We taught very few lessons, spent all of Monday cleaning our apartment, and spent all of Thursday at a missionary meeting and doing studies. Then on Friday, the only lesson that we had scheduled didn't happen. So yeah, I was just bummed out and frustrated and trying not to let it bother me, but not doing a very good job. It was about 8 pm, and we were about to go home to make some calls and organize our records, but then for some reason we decided to just stay at the church and make calls there. And as we were doing that, the elders walked into the building with a girl and her mom. They'd been out finding, and they invited the mother and daughter to come in and take a tour of the building. And turns out, we'd met that girl the week before in a park and we taught her a lesson about prayer! So we showed them around the church and the mom said that she'd come to church when she had a Sunday off of work! And if that wasn't crazy enough, we saw the girl again the NEXT DAY in the market! I know that she's special, and that Heavenly Father is preparing her to hear the gospel. The elders had a miracle night too, because they went finding for 45 minutes and almost every single person they talked to was willing to come back to the church! So after the girl and mom left, they gave us another girl and her boyfriend! We showed them around the church and then talked with them for about 10 minutes about prayer! And then that girl came to church on Sunday, and we're seeing her again tonight! I love to see the miracles that come from finding.

Like I said before, we had a multi-zone training meeting on Thursday, and it was awesome. I learned so much, and one of my favorite things that our mission president said was (and I paraphrase), "We cannot be casual with missionary work. The world's values have changed, and to many, it's not cool to care too much. The world values casualness, comfort, and convenience. Those things aren't necessarily bad, but many people now value casualness over duty, comfort over hard work, convenience over obedience. I don't think the Atonement was casual, comfortable, or convenient. But Christ did it because it was necessary for the salvation of souls, and he loved us enough to do it. Missionary work is not casual, comfortable, or convenient, but it is also necessary for the salvation of souls. Do you love your fellowmen (and your Savior) enough to do it?"

So yes, sometimes this missionary stuff is awkward or tiring, and sometimes I get really grumpy or hungry. But wow, when you see someone get baptized, or you "just happen" to bump into someone that you met a week ago, or you see any other miracle or evidence of God's hand in your life, WOW are those little challenges worth it! This is so fun! I think of the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Life is full of miracles, and this time in Hong Kong has really opened my eyes to them. I love it! I love Hong Kong and Chinese and weird food and crazy people and normal people and cute little babies and street markets full of gross, just-slaughtered animals and my family and Heavenly Father and this church and the Book of Mormon and miracles and... well, you get the idea.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Week 33: in which I got stuck in an elevator, during which time I had the most ridiculously missionary-esque thoughts. It has happened, ladies and gentlemen. I've now become the missionary I always made fun of.

That happens to me so much actually--I make fun of someone, and then I become that person. Like when I first got to BYU, I always made fun of the stereotypical BYU students. And then I became one. I guess God is just doing his best to help me be more humbled. And wow is he GOOD at what he does! It's okay though, I love being the missionary I always made fun of--you know, the one whose entire letter consists of spiritual things or my favorite scriptures or insights from my revered mission president. And I do it without even thinking, but then I look back over my letter (checking punctuation and such; I just can't seem to kick the habit, nor do I really want to) and realize that I might as well just send it to the Ensign instead of to my former roommate. But it's whatever, I pretty much love it.

So we got in the elevator the other day, and there were two men a little older than us already in there. One of them, the scrawny one, was sure in a hurry. He was jumping up and down and muttering under his breath. The other guy, the buff, chill one, said good morning to us and gave that guy a weird look. As the elevator was going down, it stopped at floor 7, but I suppose the person who'd summoned it had just got into the adjacent elevator. So the doors closed ominously... and the elevator didn't move. It just sat there on floor 7. We didn't notice for a second, but then the scrawny guy made a noise of confusion, followed by a cry of alarm and a stream of swear words. He's pretty fluent in English. Anyways, he pressed all the buttons on the elevator, but the only one that did anything was the open doors button. The doors opened about 4 inches, and closed after a few seconds. So he pressed it again and started pulling really, really hard. Of course, it didn't really do anything. Like I mentioned, he was pretty scrawny. So after a few attempts, the buff guy kind of sighed, shrugged at us, grabbed the door, and YANKED it open! He pulled the door right off the track, so the top part of the door was open all the way while the bottom part was still mostly closed! So we all look at each other, then look back at the door, and the scrawny guy's gone. He BOOKED it. The three of us just stepped daintily out of the door and acted like nothing had happened. But the great thing is, I did not freak out at all. As soon as I realized that the doors were stuck closed, I had this thought: "Gee, I sure hope we're stuck in here for a couple of hours so that we can teach these two guys the missionary lessons and invite them to be baptized." And then I had this thought: "Wow, that really is a great idea!" And then I had this thought: "Oh. Dear. Sister Cutler. What has happened to you?" And then I had this thought: "Wow. I just referred to myself as Sister Cutler." So yes, like I said, I have become the missionary I always made fun of. And I love it!

In other news, Helen is getting baptized this Sunday! I am so excited for her! And she has taught me an important lesson. She first met missionaries over a year ago, and they never thought she'd get baptized. When we told one of them that she was getting baptized, he was shocked! So I've changed my thinking. I know now that everyone can change, anyone can make it. Some people need more time than others, but we can never pass final judgment. We can never say, "Oh, they'll never make it. They'll never want it." Because Heavenly Father sent each of his children here having already prepared a way for each of them to get back to him. No one is too far gone. I have a new wave of hope, and it affects the way I teach people and the way I go finding. Everyone is a child of God, and they used to live with him. And somewhere in their heart is a little part that remembers how he feels, and they'll follow that little part, and it will eventually lead them to His church and to Him.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 32: in which I remember the negative effect Excedrin has on me, and in which Aslan visits Hong Kong

Hello everyone! I can't believe it's February already! I'm having such a great time here and Sister Chan is just amazing!

 First off, I woke up with a killer headache/backache/shoulder ache this morning. I've been dealing with this for about a month now, I just can't figure out how to sleep comfortably. But anyways, I didn't want it to ruin our P-day, so I took some Excedrin and did some praying. And now my shoulders feel fine... but my arms and hands are shaking like crazy! So that's why this email will be shorter than usual haha. It's so difficult to type like this! So I hope you all appreciate the pain I'm going through to write this! :)

T-shirts of the week: The first one is black with huge red print that says, "THE PROOF OF GOLD IS FIRE." I don't really understand what that means. Is it some sort of reference to alchemy? Or is it chemistry? I think in chemistry there's some sort of chemical number called proof? Right? Or maybe I'm way off. Or maybe it has no meaning, just like most of the shirts here. And the second shirt I almost bought. It says, "Let the child techno." I totally agree! Who won't let those poor children techno?!

So a member of the ward told me that David Beckham's contract ended with LA and now he's playing for France? PSD? Is this true?! Please, someone inform me!!!

So Sister Chan and I have been going through a phase where we sing even more than usual. Our latest favorite thing to do is sing 'Ye Elders of Israel' really loudly in the elevator. We always hope that the people in the adjacent elevator can hear us and feel the Spirit as we sing. Actually, a lot of strange things happen in our elevators. So in our building, we have four elevators. Two go to the even numbered floors, and two go to the odd numbered floors. We're on floor 17, so last week we were waiting for the elevators, when we hear a mysterious DING. We look at each other in surprise, and then slowly turn to look at the even numbered elevators. And slowly, eerily, one of the even numbered elevators opens. We look at each other, unsure of what to do. But then in a split second we decide, and book it for the elevator. And as it descends, it feels as if we're entering another world. We brace ourselves (literally, we were in the corners of the elevator bracing ourselves; it's a good thing no one else came in, because it would have looked ridiculous) and I turn to Sister Chan and say, "Sister Chan. Do you know where we're going right now?" She looks at me and says, "Somewhere we've never been before." And I say, "Yes. Narnia." As we exit the elevator, somehow, everything is different, strange, mysterious. And the entire day was full of strange, mysterious things. But the most mysterious and miraculous and amazing thing? Wow, here's a story I've been waiting all week to tell you.

So after we did email last week, we went shopping in Mong Kok. A CRAZY CRAZY PLACE. We went into this mall that was more like a maze, so many things and so many people. And Mong Kok is known for thieves and pickpockets, so I held my bag on my front so that no one could steal anything. But I was pulling out my wallet to buy something when, come to find out, it wasn't in my bag! It had disappeared! I was terrified, because it had EVERYTHING--credit cards, debit card, Hong Kong id card, cash, the copy of my passport. I started shaking, but then I took a few really deep breaths and retraced my steps. We asked everyone if they'd seen it, but everyone said it was stolen for sure, that I'd never get it back. We went into a corner and said a prayer, the most desperate prayer I've probably ever prayed. But nothing. No luck. We talked to the guards and turned in a report. And then I cried a lot, facing into a corner so that hopefully no one would see me. And I prayed and prayed, but I just knew it was gone. We decided to hope against hope and check one more time. Without really thinking, I started checking in trashcans, and then Sister Chan decided we should go to the bathroom. Well, it wasn't in there, but as we left, we noticed a cleaning lady walking into a stairwell with a bunch of trashbags. So we follow her and ask if she'd seen a wallet. And she opened a big trash bag and pulled out my wallet! And it still had EVERYTHING inside. I burst into tears again and gave the lady a huge hug (I think I scared her actually haha) and told her she had answered my prayer. It was a miracle, really. There is no way to explain it. I have no idea how my wallet got out of my bag, but I do know one thing for sure: Heavenly Father is VERY aware of me and wants to bless me. Anyways, we were definitely in Narnia, because only Aslan could have pulled off something like that.

Anyways, in other news H___ is well on her way to getting baptized! We taught her the first three lessons last week and she loved it! I'm so excited for her, and this week we're meeting twice to get her ready for her interview. And on Friday she's buying us Pizza Hut! Real Pizza Hut PIZZA! I haven't had that in forever.

Well, I'd better go, we're headed to the mission office to pick up mail. I love you all so much! I'm having the craziest, most wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience ever!