Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 64, in which we eat miracle cornbread and in which my heart has never felt more hope in the midst of a seemingly hopele

Serving a mission in Macau is unique in many ways, one of them being that you're very isolated from the rest of the mission. There are 10 full-time missionaries here right now, and we're really close. Wow, do I love these missionaries. They are so fun, so hard-working, and so in love with this work and the people. It's such a pleasure to be here. We had a district potluck lunch today, so everyone brought whatever food they had available... needless to say, we had a pretty interesting array of sustenance. I've had two packets of cornbread mix sitting temptingly on the counter for about two months now, so we went down to brave the Macau kitchen and cook them. To describe the Macau oven as temperamental would not an exaggeration. Anyways, I was a little worried about the cornbread. And you might shake your head and say to yourself, "Good grief, Sister Cutler, you are a ridiculous person" but Sister L and I bowed our heads in prayer to bless that cornbread as it cooked. And it was miraculous. It cooked in 10 minutes (the packet said 16-18 minutes) and was beautiful. Perfect. I was almost in tears as I took it out of the oven. Cornbread with honey butter. It really was like a mouthful of warm, loving Virginia. What a wonderful day.

I think I will remember this week for the rest of my life. No, not because of the cornbread. But because of what I've learned and what I've seen as I've been working with one of the less-active members in our branch. She joined the church many years ago and then when she moved to Macau she lost the church and slowly forgot everything she'd learned. I've worked with her regularly since I came (six months ago!) and I love this sister so much. She recently has had really awful marriage problems, and I won't go into much detail, but it is absolutely heart-wrenching. She has lost all that is dear to her and is on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Satan is just getting to her, taking away all of her hope, leading her to make bad choices and think bad thoughts. We visited her earlier this week and read with her in 2 Nephi 4, and as we talked about trusting in Jesus Christ and his atonement, the Spirit was there more strongly than any other lesson I've ever had. I don't want to sound like a drama queen, but this is real, I really saw it. When we got there, it was dark and Satan was there. And when we sang a hymn and prayed together, it was like a wave of something more powerful than light came through and swept that darkness away. It was the power of God, I know it.

Sunday evenings are always exhausting because we have evening church and don't eat dinner until about 9, and then we still have to do planning and lots of preparation. I was so tired, and that's when she called me in tears and told me that she'd never felt more alone or hopeless. She was by herself because her husband took away her baby, the baby that her entire life has revolved around. And it was all I could do to not start crying too, but God gave me the strength that I needed. I've promised her over and over again that God will help her, that she needs to trust him and put her faith in him. And I've been believing this promise on one level, a very general one. But I had to decide this week whether or not I really believed what I was saying. If I didn't believe it, then I had to stop saying it, because empty promises will only make things worse in the long run. So I did a lot of thinking. And I decided that I really did believe it. No, I knew it. I'd witnessed God's power too many times to not believe it. And then I decided that my attitude needed to reflect this belief. And that decision changed this entire week for me.

It could have been one of the saddest, most hopeless weeks of my life. But instead, I've felt the Savior's strength more than ever before. I've been able to think clearly and be guided while talking to her. I've never been in a situation similar to hers. I really had no idea what to say. But every time I've opened my mouth, the right thing has come out. And it's not from me, it really isn't. I don't say this to say Wow look at me I'm so wise and have all the answers. Because I really don't. It's God and he is wise enough to work through silly, imperfect people like me.

My heart has felt so much sorrow for my sister this week. She really is my sister, and although we come from very different backgrounds and have very different experiences, I feel so close to her and I love her so much. This is a huge blessing, and also a huge challenge--loving people this much. I can't imagine how God must feel. He knows each of us infinitely and intimately, and loves us for who we are. How it must hurt him when we hurt. But the joy that he feels when we have joy must be worth it for him. I love my Father in Heaven, and I know he is real. He loves this sister infinitely more than I do, and I know that he will take care of her better than I ever can. This is his work.

Week 63, in which I feel a little heat coming from that refiner's fire, and in which I think my WPM count is getting smaller

I don't know how I'll survive going back to college one day, my typing ability (as well as my spelling ability) has been degenerating rapidly, especially over the past couple of months. That's life, I suppose.

Also, I recently realized that "That's life" has become my new catchphrase, and I keep saying it after something unfortunate has happened. I guess that shows you what my concept of life is. Pretty sad. So now I'm trying to turn it around by saying, "Now THAT'S life!" every time something good happens.

Well, this week has been a trial of our faith, but I just keep saying, "FEEL THE BURN!" every time that refiner's fire starts licking at our ankles. Lots of cancelled lessons, lots of plans and goals not happening, and then throw in all of those little things that aren't stressful by themselves but added all together it gets a little frustrating... But you know what! I'm feeling pretty calm and faithful and I know it's all going to be okay. I made a new resolve last week to really work on faith, having a more faithful and positive attitude... so naturally something problematic has to happen, otherwise how would I learn to have more faith, right? Some miracles are waiting... just around the riverbend! So I'll just enjoy the heat from this refiner's fire... hey, maybe I'll even get a tan! People here keep telling me that I'm really REALLY white. "Casper!" they call me. Well, I'll show them!

But seriously, I was pondering the whole refiner's fire analogy a lot this week, and it really makes so much sense. Each of us has this innate potential as a spirit child of our Heavenly Father. So just like a chunk of gold fresh from the ground, all that worth is already there. But it takes heat and pressure to get out all the dirt and dross. And when you invest the time, effort, and resources to really make that gold pure, then you have an incredibly valuable product. The value was there all along, but it's the refining process that brings out the worth. And in the same way, Heavenly Father invests time and effort and resources to refine us, because he knows we can be better and purer than we are. So sure we have to endure heat and pressure (I've felt it a lot this week!) but it's so worth it. And Heavenly Father does it because he loves us and wants us to be the best we can be. I'm so grateful for this time I've had on the mission--I'm far from being pure gold, but a lot closer than I was last year!

Elder S's Chinese is so great, as well as his English. But when he jumps back and forth too much, he gets a little confused. Yesterday he was trying to tell me that someone's secret had gotten out, and he said, "They've given the cat away." I wouldn't laugh as hard if I didn't have the same experience sometimes.

T-shirt of the week: "Shoop. It's time to pay. A fun time. I thought you said you want to change?" I love shooping, it's one of my favorite things to do!

A while ago, I suggested that we do a combined branch talent show, all of the Chinese members and the Filipina members together! And so naturally, since it was my idea, I ended up being put in charge of the whole thing haha. It was a blessed way to end this slightly disappointing week, one of the most wonderful church activities I've ever attended. There was so much inter-branch unity and everyone cheered and supported everyone else. Isn't that wonderful--we don't have to speak the same language to love and encourage each other. We had so many different acts: Christmas songs on the saxophone, piano duets, break-dancing, Gangam style (whatever that is and however you spell it)... The 10 full-time missionaries wrote a rap called "It's Easy to be a Missionary" and I don't want to brag, but it was a HUGE hit. So many people told me that I was 'fly' afterwards. And you know what? I think they're right. It was such a warm, loving atmosphere, and I'll definitely remember it as one of my favorite mission moments.

Great news! Next week Elder Wilson of the Quorum of the Seventy is coming on a mission tour, and so that means I get to go to a special leadership meeting in Hong Kong with him and Sister Wilson and President and Sister Hawks! I am so excited, it's going to be some major spiritual revelation time! And then they'll be meeting with all the different zones in the mission. Zones usually consist of about 45 missionaries, but since Macau is small, our zone consists of 12. That means we'll have some real one-on-one time with Elder Wilson! And boy do I have some big questions for him. The meeting will last all day, and I am just so excited. I love being a missionary! I love being here in Macau and goodness gracious do I love my Savior, for making all of this possible!

Week 62, in which we be gangstas in the hood, and in which the potential for miracles is so thick that you could cut it with a knife

Yo yo yo! Pardon me, I'm feeling particularly hoodlum-esque at the moment. The first and second branches will be having a talent show this weekend, so we missionaries have been working on a performance that will knock their socks off. We spent a while brainstorming, and eventually decided to write a rap called 'It's easy to be a missionary.' It's all about member-missionary work, and it's gonna be off tha hook. I'm so excited for our performance, I know it's going to be a hit. Some of the missionaries in the district aren't natural rappers, but you know what, we have faith that we'll bring down tha house. Downside: last night we all laid awake for hours (exaggeration) because we couldn't get our different raps out of heads. Upside: the same thing will probably happen to the members. They'll have "It's easy to be a missionary, all ya gotta do is not be scary" running through their heads all day and night, and then they'll go out and start sharing the gospel with everybody! It'll be great.

T-shirt of the week: 'The difference between style and fashion is vanity.' It's a little vague; I'm not quite sure which one is vain and which isn't. Another interesting one: this shirt had a giant skull on it, and on the skull's forehead was written: 'One hand washes the other.' Creepy.

Sister C went back to Hong Kong this week, so I have yet another new companion! Sister L has been out for about 11 months and I lived with her when I was in Kwun Tong, so we already knew each other. Her Chinese name is 'Lau,' so that'll be the second Sister Lau I've served with! We had a crazy evening on Thursday, the first day that she arrived. We had a member visit scheduled, and they took us out to Pizza Hut! Yeah, you might not think that's anything special, but Pizza Hut here is FINE DINING. There were chandeliers and fancy utensils and millions of people waiting for their reservations. Yeah. The word 'hut' would usually connote more humble circumstances, but I suppose that it doesn't mean much to the Chinese. Anyways, we had to wait FOREVER (yeah, on a Thursday night, so strange). We finally got to our table and the waiters started bringing out the fancy pastas and the cheesy mashed potatoes and the salads and the meatballs (where's the pizza? I just wanna have some meat lovers'!)... and then our investigator called to tell us that she showed up to her appointment early and that she was at the church with a friend who wanted to meet us. So we ate as quickly as we can, and when they finally brought out the pizza (seafood special) we took some to go. And then we RAN for about 15 minutes all the way back to the church. Shouldn't have eaten that last helping of mashed potatoes. Anyways, we got there and Sister J and her friend had already left. I was so sad. But then Sister J said that she'd come back to see us! So we taught her about the commandment of Tithing, and wow was it the easiest lesson ever. Here's how it went:

Me: Today we're going to talk about Tithing. What does the word 'tithing' mean to you?

Sister J: Heavenly Father gives us so many blessings, and then we give ten percent of our income to help him, and then he gives us even more.

Me: And that's our lesson today, thanks for coming.

Well, more or less how our lesson was. She's wonderful. And although we didn't meet her friend on Thursday, she came to church on Sunday! H is a really wonderful, powerful woman. She has been a widow for many years, and never remarried after her husband left. She is working to support her two children, whom she absolutely loves. And she really has a desire to know the truth and to come closer to Jesus Christ. We talked about eternal families, and how God has made a way to take our earthly families and make them heavenly, and tears came to her eyes. Mine as well, actually. I felt even more love for my family as we were teaching. Really, there's nothing more special to me than you all, Mom, Dad, Rebecca, Rachel, Rowan, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles. I love you so much and I'm so grateful that we really can have eternity together. Important things will take us away from each other during our lives, but it's only for a short time, and if we endure it well, it'll all work out!

Sister D and Brother R made it back to the Philippines this week, and I think the highlight of my week was when Sister A (one of my favorite people ever) called them on Saturday morning! The signal was really poor, but they talked long enough for Sister D to say that they'd located the church in their area and that they'd attend on Sunday morning. And I gave Sister A the biggest hug and just danced around in the lobby for a couple seconds because wow am I so happy! I don't know what'll happen for the rest of my mission, but if no one else even wants to talk to me for the next 4 months, I'll still feel like this time was more than worth it. I'd serve 20 missions if I knew that Sister D and Brother R were at the end of it. I love their little family so much.

Another interesting moment of the week: had my first really Jehovah's Witnesses encounter! Ask me about it when I get home, it was great!

I love being here--my mission has never been more full of joy. And yes, we're having miracles, but I don't know if that's exactly why I'm so happy. We still have trials and I still lose my temper and get impatient and have bad days... but I think I've really changed. I'm not the same as I was at the beginning of my mission. I'm not as worried or nervous or anxious. And I think it's because I've learned to trust Heavenly Father more. He really is there, and he's waiting to help us. Elder Lee once told Elder Packer that, "The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning. You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you." And that has always been my trouble too, but as we read the scriptures and really pray and come closer to God, then we really can develop more of that faith. Sure, I have no idea what classes I'll take or where I'll live or what I'll do with my life when my mission finishes... but I can walk to the edge of the light (the end of my mission) and into the darkness (BYU) and then the path will come. And I'm not worried about it. I love my Savior so much, because he already walked my path for me anyways. He knows the way, and he'll show me the way, one step at a time.

Week 61, in which our beautiful family gets baptized, and in which I'm more tired than I've ever been, even after my movie marathons with Sarah during freshman year

I am so tired. SO. TIRED. I spent about two hours last night just laying in bed and walking around the apartment eating crackers. Stress combined with a killer headache and a hard mattress (but hey, at least I have a mattress, right!) doesn't make for the best sleep.

And that's it for my complaining. I said I'd limit myself to three sentences, so I'm not going to count the SO and the TIRED as sentences. Really, I'm probably the most blessed missionary in the world right now. Sister D and Brother R, our sweet little family, got baptized yesterday, along with another sister named L (although for some reason I always call her 'Victory' haha). It was such a special experience. After Brother R was baptized, he was just glowing. He was dripping wet, but he came out and watched as Sister D was baptized. The love in the room was tangible, and I could hardly hold back my tears. I am so proud of them. Their faith and love for the Lord is so strong, and they will go on to change lives as they serve within their family and the church.

One of the factors that played in my decision to serve a mission was that Dad was taught by sister missionaries, and so many blessings have come to me because of their service. I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted so badly to teach a father. And even though I'm not a perfect missionary and I can be silly and frustrating sometimes, our merciful Heavenly Father blessed me with that opportunity. I told this to Brother R last night after church. They don't realize now all the blessings that are in store for them. But I know that they're coming. I love this family so much. I could go on and on, but neither a 10-page essay nor a masters dissertation nor a three-volume novel could accurately express my feelings on the subject. They have a special part in my life, and I am so excited to hear all about their future. We gave them the illustrated Book of Mormon storybook for baby A, and we wrote little messages for her inside. I'm so excited to watch her grow up and be baptized by her father and serve a mission and get married in the temple. I love this family.

The members were so excited and emotional yesterday. So many people came to support Sister D and Brother R and Sister L. Some of the members brought refreshments, and some of them even bought church clothes for them to wear. I love these members so much, and I'm so grateful for their service. They are wonderful examples to me, and I have learned so much from serving with them.

In other news, although I've been serving as an English-speaking missionary for five months, my English is still steadily declining. A couple of days ago, I told Sister P (one of the sisters I live with) that I felt as 'fit as a whistle.' And I described someone as 'bones and skin' instead of 'skin and bones.' Honestly, I've had to consider changing my focus from editing to something else... Maybe I'll finally fulfill Dad's dreams and become an engineer. The RM version of myself would fit right in: awkward, poor spelling skills, super nerdy. Wow, I'm sorry, that was rude. Plus, it's not really true, Dad has great spelling skills, and he's probably more socially adept than I am at this point. I mean sure, if we're talking about our recent lessons or food or how to improve member-missionary cooperation, I'm a great conversationalist. But if it's anything else--politics, celebrities, the weather--well, let's just face facts: I'm awkward. Bright side: I don't have to worry about that for months and months!

T-shirt of the week: "Comes when the true value is asked of it." Yeah, I don't even know.

We had a really challenging lesson Saturday night. We met for the first time with an investigator that the missionaries had taught once before I arrived in March. A M just showed up to church and then texted us the next day to ask if she could see us. She's Indonesian, so she doesn't know English, just Chinese. I walked out into the lobby and said hello, asked how she was doing. And she told me that her mom had just passed away in Indonesia. I had no idea what to say. I just stood there and hugged her for a long time while she was crying, praying with all my heart for some kind of inspiration or guidance or something. We shared some scriptures with her and sung 'Abide with Me.' And although the Lord's resources are limited to this white girl with limited Chinese and a Filipina with no Chinese or Indonesian, I think he helped her. She's so special, and she has such great faith. I'm struggling to know how to help her, but I know

Week 60, in which I LOVE FAMILIES!!!!!!!!! And in which I have this weird craving for Nilla Wafers. Oh how I miss them.

Did you know that in the Philippines, they pronounce 'wafers' like 'wah-fers'? Tomato, tomah-to, wafer, wah-fer. The Brits certainly have had a profound influence on the Tagalog language, and I suppose that's why I get along so well with the Filipinas. I think I'll write my thesis on that next year.

I hope you know that I'm joking.

T-shirt of the week: 'I HEART JUSTIN BIEBER.' I'd completely forgotten that he existed. Is he still famous? And the other t-shirt of the week: "Nobody's equal. Kiss somebody 'SHINY,' that's my philosophy." These shirts never cease to amuse me.

This week I received an amazing, beautiful gift (and by 'gift,' I mean I paid precious money for it, but anyways). A three-column, Chinese characters, Cantonese ping-yam, and English Book of Mormon! Language study has never been more fun! I can read the entire Book of Mormon introduction in Chinese characters now! It really is a miracle, and wow are characters addictive! I've been practicing writing as well, and now everywhere I go I look at characters and practice writing them with my finger. I love Chinese!

Anyways, this week has been so full of miracles that I can't even believe it! Firstly, Sister D and Brother R, our beautiful, beautiful family. They have to leave on the 27th, because their visas are running out. But on Saturday night, they called us because they had a question about baptism. So Sunday morning, we met with them, and turns out their question was, "Can we be baptized before we go home?" They'd talked together and prayed, and they felt like that was the direction that their family should go. As we've talked with them since then, I have been so amazed over and over again at the miraculous change that has taken place in their lives. I keep asking God, "How is it done? How do you do it?" Because it's certainly not Sister C or me. Only God could touch someone's heart this deeply. Brother R has always been quiet and a little more hesitant about the entire process, but we met with them this morning and he shared with us about a special experience that he had last night. He got out of bed last night after the others were asleep, knelt down, and prayed. And when he was done, he knew what he needed to do. He said, "If the Book of Mormon and these commandments were revealed through Joseph Smith, then he must be a prophet, and this really must be the restored church of Jesus Christ. I think I believe it." They both are so humble and full of love. When talking about tithing, Sister D said, "When I learned about tithing, I already knew it really. It's like this: if you have, you give to God. And if you can help other people, why would you want to keep it to yourself?"

I thank them over and over again, and they keep saying, "No, why are you thanking us? You're the one who is teaching us." But honestly, they have taught me so much. I've learned about humility and true charity. And they've been a beautiful example of a loving, united marriage. They support each other, period. Sister D says over and over again, "I am him and he is me and we are one." I love this family so much, it's hard to even express it. I just reread this paragraph and feel so frustrated because I can't put what I'm feeling in words. In the Bible, it describes this feeling as, "Peace that passeth all understanding." And that's what I feel right now. There really aren't words in the English language (or Chinese language or any other language for that matter) that can explain or contain the feeling that comes when we serve Heavenly Father and love his children. And it has nothing to do with my own abilities, because on my own I'm really not much. But that's what I love about the gospel. With God, we don't have to do it on our own, and our own abilities don't have anything to do with it. I love this work so much, and I'm grateful that it doesn't have to end when my 18 months are up. No way am I stopping here! I love this work. I know that God lives, that he's in charge, and that he loves his children.

Week 59, in which I eat a fish eyeball (not my first one either) and in which the identity of the mystery recorder man is only partially revealed


It's true. I ate a fish eyeball, and I did it of my own accord. It's average tasting. Really salty. I think it grossed out my companion a little, but it's whatever.

T-shirt of the week: It has a picture of two men with looooong beards, and their beards are entwined together. It reads, "Two beards are better than one." I agree.

We visited Sister D and Brother R and baby A several times this week, and wow do I love this family. They are the sweetest, most unified family I've ever met, and even though we're the ones teaching the lessons, I'm learning so much from their examples. I think that's the best kind of teaching situation, when everyone learns together. They've faced so many trials, and the more I get to know them, the more I admire and love them. Our trials in life can either soften our hearts or harden our hearts, depending on how we choose to think of them. As we humble ourselves and trust in the will of our Heavenly Father, we can endure our trials and still have inner peace and happiness. But if we turn inwards, focus on how we think things should be, then we'll never find satisfaction, and we'll constantly be thinking about the difference between how things are and how we want them to be. Sister D and Brother R accept God's will, full stop. All the time. And although their circumstances are challenging, and at times seemingly impossible to overcome, they don't give up, and they don't let fear ruin their marriage. I love them so much, and I'm so grateful that God has put them in my path, because my life has definitely changed because of them.

A few nights ago, I had twenty minutes or so before bedtime, so I went out onto the balcony and played my harmonica (yeah, we have a balcony, is that cool or what?). I played some hymns, whatever songs came into my head, and after I played 'Ye Elders of Israel' (classic! I love that hymn) I paused to ponder something deep and profound... when 'Ye Elders of Israel' echoed in the wind from somewhere above me. At first I thought I was mistaken, but then I heard it again! The mysterious recorder man was playing it back to me! Did I tell you about the mysterious recorder man before? We hear him every week or so, playing all sorts of little diddies from somewhere near our apartment. I looked around at all the nearby buildings, and at first I couldn't locate the source of the music. But then I saw him in the opposite building, several floors above us. Well, I saw his shadow as his head swayed to the music. He transitioned smoothly into Amazing Grace, and I jumped right in, and it was just the neatest moment ever! Like out of a movie or something! After several minutes of playing, he came out onto his balcony and waved at me, and I waved back at him! I couldn't see his face--he was just a black silhouette against the bright light of his apartment. He continued playing as we turned off our lights and went to bed. As we fell asleep to the sound of his recorder, I smiled. Only on the mission.

As we've taught D and R, and as I've thought of my own family this week, I've felt more and more gratitude toward our Heavenly Father for the plan that he has for each of us. After we taught them about this plan of salvation, Sister D told us, "I don't fear death anymore after this lesson. I always was worried that if I died, I might accidentally end up in hell, but now I realize that as long as we're doing our best here on earth, that it will all end up okay." I am so grateful that we could come down to this earth, because there's no other way to learn the things that I've learned. And the more I study the scriptures, the more sure I am that there's a purpose to this life, and that life doesn't end at death. This life is just a tiny point in eternity. We can return to live with our Heavenly Father again, our perfect and loving creator, and with Jesus Christ, our older brother and Savior. Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, so that we too could overcome our mistakes and death. And I love him so much. I look forward to the day when I can see him again and thank him personally for all that he has done for me and my family. I am so grateful that, through this plan of God, we can be with our families forever. I know with all my heart that is true, and so it's not hard for me to be away from them for this short 18 months. I love my Father in Heaven, my Savior, and my beautiful family!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Week 58, in which we had so many miracles!!!!!!!!!!! And in which I love Macau. And the people. And the food. Did I mention all the miracles? AND FAMILIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Teaching Sister C all about the Plan of Salvation
I am drinking Orange Juice...and I like it...MIRACLE!
Two Brits celebrating the 4th?!

Do you know what the best feeling in the world is? It's the feeling of wanting to be exactly where you are. I've never felt so content, so happy, and so exactly where I need to be. I love Sister C, and I love these people. We've been praying so hard to find families to teach, and since I arrived, we've only been teaching single women or women with families in the Philippines. But this week we found THREE families. THREE. It was absolutely incredible. We've been floating in the air for several days now.

One of the members, Sister M, met Sister D and Brother R and baby A on Wednesday, and on Thursday invited them to eat lunch with us. They came and we had a great time, shared a spiritual message, and it was a really special experience. They are the sweetest family. Brother R is shy, but Sister D is very friendly and loving. And Airees? ADORABLE. And SO fat. The first time we met, Sister D told us that we felt like old friends, and she was right. We all love each other so much already. We ate lunch with them again today and taught them about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and they really felt the Spirit. They offered us tea, and when we told her that we don't drink tea, coffee, or alcohol, she said, "Well, I guess that means this is the last time I'm drinking tea!" They are such a beautiful family, and I am so excited for the day when they can be sealed together as an eternal family.

I've learned over and over again on my mission that family is the most important thing. I knew it before, but I learn it again every time I read emails from home, every time I study the scriptures, every time I teach about the Plan of Happiness that God has for us. I've never felt more gratitude to Heavenly Father or to my parents here on earth. Family is the greatest source of joy, and when families are founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ, then sickness or death or unemployment can come, but the family will survive and be stronger because of that trial. I love my family so much! Mom, Dad, Bec, Rachel, Rowan, that means you! Oh, and grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles (yes, even uncles), you too!

T-shirt of the week: 'A Dear Hunter.' What does it mean? And here's another one for you. (Sarah, I think you can imagine the voice I used when I read this t-shirt. My companion didn't get it.) It had Hello Kitty wearing a Batman suit and paper bag over his head. It said, "I am Batman." Yes, the bag was covering his head, so that means that I am now able to recognize Hello Kitty just from his feet. China'll do that to you. Oh, also I just realized that Hello Kitty is probably a girl, not a boy. Oh well.

So I lost a member somewhere in Macau this week. Yeah, I felt pretty bad. We brought a new member named D over from Hong Kong (she has to wait here for her visa), and she came with us to the church. By the time we were done at the church, it was too late for us to help her find President M's house, where she was staying, so we showed her the bus, wrote down the bus stop name, and told the members at her boarding house to go wait at the bus stop for her. She didn't have a phone card that worked in Macau yet, but I thought the plan was fool-proof. (haha, I just wrote full-proof, that's ironic.) Boy, was I wrong. She missed the stop! So the members waited there for a while, and at about 10:30 they called us to say that they still hadn't found her. We said SO many prayers for Sister D--she was lost in a new country filled with people that she doesn't understand. I thought she'd be pretty terrified. But after we prayed, I felt really calm, and I figured that it'd turn out okay.

The next morning Sister D called us from the member's house and told us what had happened. Apparently she missed the stop and stayed on the bus as it went all the way around Macau and Taipa again. So more than an hour passed before she made it back around to that stop. She got off, but by that time the members had left. So she stood there for a while, not knowing what to do, when she saw a Filipina walk by. She asked her if she knew of a boarding house where she could just spend the night at. The Filipina said, "Yes! Come with me!" Turns out that the Filipina was Sister M, a member, and she took D straight to President M's house! What a miracle. Sister D said that even though she had no idea what to do, she felt so calm the entire time and knew that it would all be okay. Such a blessing. God really takes care of his children.

We had so many amazingly spiritual lessons this week, but one of the most amazing lessons was with Sister G. She loves the gospel and feels the Spirit so strongly. She has changed so much from her past self--drinking, smoking, doing drugs, in and out of jail. But she has turned around and wants to follow Jesus Christ and have an eternal family one day. When we teach, Sister C teaches in Tagalog while I teach in English. But during this lesson with Sister G, I understood everything that was being said. I didn't know the words that they were saying, but I knew what they were talking about and was able to teach in complete unity with Sister C. It was a miracle, how well everything flowed and made sense and fit perfectly with what Sister G needed to hear. Heavenly Father was guiding that lesson, there's no other explanation. I love teaching, and I especially love teaching the gospel.

Anyways, those are just a couple of the miracles that we've experienced this week. I am so grateful to be here. It just keeps getting better.

Week 57, in which I went an entire week without a peanut butter sandwich, and in which I learn some lessons about charity.

 Sister C with me outside the Church building

Parking outside the Church  

Macau at its finest

It's true. An entire week without a peanut butter sandwich. Why, you may ask, would I do that to myself? Well, because Park-N-Shop was out of bread. Yeah. Preposterous. That'd never happen in good ol' US of A. There are entire AISLES of bread (Haha, I almost typed 'isles,' which I'd really like actually, an isle of bread' yum!) in America. Here? One measly, poorly-stocked shelf right next to the only slightly less poorly stocked shelf of cereal. But no worries, there's an entire aisle of RICE. Ah, gotta love Asia.

T-shirt of the week: On this shirt was the CUTEST little kitten wearing clothes. It said, "Benign hereafter." I liked it. The other t-shirt said, "Run Around Naked." But that doesn't make sense. Why would one write that on a t-shirt? Wouldn't it make more sense to tattoo it on one's torso or something? Huh, whatever.

I love the sisters in my apartment. There are six of us right now, and we all share a bedroom and a study. That means we spend quite a bit of time together, and sometimes we get a little bit silly. We frequently share our dreams during our morning exercise time, and this week I actually remembered one of my dreams! It was pretty long, so I'll just give you the short version. I was back in Calc class with Mr. Olivo, and in my dream he had the most magnificent rat-tail I'd ever seen. He turned back our homework, which for some reason I wasn't able to complete, so I got a zero. Sister Wilcox (one of the sisters in our apartment), was walking around asking, "Did anybody else get 10 extra credit points? Turns out she'd gotten a perfect score PLUS 10 extra credit points. Why? Well, before she'd turned in her homework, she put a sticker that said 'PERFECT' on her paper. And while grading the homework, Mr. Olivo wrote next to the sticker, "Actually, yes, you're right." And I was just so annoyed with Sister Wilcox the whole time. Calling all aspiring Freuds, analyze that one for me!

But no worries, I actually really love Sister Wilcox. We've started to do this thing in the apartment whenever the other sisters come in the door. When we hear their keys jingling, we run over and turn off the lights and then we lie down on the floor pretending to be dead. It is so funny, and I've almost bumped my head on the table or a chair twice now because of it, but no matter. People probably expect me to come home all mature and everything, but I think they might be sorely disappointed.

I wrote to President Hawks last week about one of our investigators who is really struggling to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and he wrote back this week with some ideas. He signed his email with 'Gods speed.' I'd always seen it written as 'Godspeed' and seeing it written that way really made me think. 'Godspeed' means that we want God to help us go somewhere in a quick manner, right? But God's speed? I suppose that would mean that we want to get where we're going at the speed that God thinks we should go at. And that's the way it should be. I always think, "Well, I want this to happen this week, and that means that by next month it'll be time for this, and then I can do that and that and when I'm 105 I'll pass away in my bed from old age and it'll just be perfect." (No, I don't always think about the age I want to die at, that's weird. It was just an example.) But I really need to get better at accepting the Lord's timing.

You know what might be the most challenging trial in the mission? LACK OF SLEEP. No worries, I go to bed right on time every night, wake up on time every morning, but wow am I tired! Physically, mentally, spiritually, ecumenically... grammatically (actually, I really am, my English is suffering!). That means that one of the hardest things to make myself do every day is floss. DON'T WORRY Dad, I still floss daily. But it is so hard! It's the last thing I do before I go to bed, and it takes every ounce of mental will power to do it. But hey, my teeth are worth it.

The work has been going slower than I'd like it to go (then again, God's speed, right?). But this week I just had what was definitely the most spiritually powerful lesson I've ever experienced. The sister we taught has had drug and drinking problems since age 11, spent some time in prison and rehab. She was rejected by many of her family members because she's a lesbian, and her family has TONS of other issues. But she decided that she needed to change, get on the straight and narrow, and find God. She prayed for a sign, and shortly afterwards met missionaries. We shared Mosiah 5:7 with her, and explained how we can become born again through baptism. She had tears in her eyes, and I did too. I can't even explain how special that lesson was--the rest of the day I was just glowing inside. I love this sister so much, and I'm not even scared to teach her about the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom or anything because I know that God knows her and has provided a way for her to come back despite any challenges she has. It's amazing, the moments of love that you feel on the mission. Before the mission, I thought that all day everyday would feel this way, I'd always be just so happy and it would be so easy to love everybody. But it's not like that. It's hard to love people sometimes. But with this sister, it was so easy. And I know it's not because I tried to love her. That kind of love didn't come from inside. The love just filled me, came in from an external source. I know it's charity, and it was a miracle. I want that feeling again and again. I love that sister, and I love Macau and I love struggling and having hard times because it helps me to change. I love this mission and I love the Lord!