恭喜发财！GongXiFaCai! Happy New Year!!
Chinese New Year is a great, fun time, with a lot of celebrating, feasting, and well-wishing! However, everyone is so caught up in all that other fun stuff, so they all have no time to hear the gospel. I find it kind of ironic and disappointing that people are getting busy with making preparations to welcome in a new year, looking forward to peace, prosperity, and hope in new opportunities, but they just don't know that what we want so much to share with them is a message that, if accepted, will bring more peace, hope, and prosperity than anything else. Last year, Chinese New Year turned our area of JB into a ghost town, leaving us with no work to do, other than making endless phone calls. (I think it was a tender mercy that the Lord Gave us a mountainous pile of former/potential investigators to call through last year, because two of the four Elders in our house were sick in bed, and we were all rather frustrated that going outside to find people was almost completely fruitless.) This year, we're going to combat the daily duldrums with what Elder Mitchell calls Operation ஹலோ. (ஹலோ, "Vanakkam", is Tamil for "hello.") This means that we have been finding as many non-Chinese investigators as possible, so that we'll still have people to meet with in the next few weeks. We've met several people from the Philippines, India, Nepal, and Korea, whom we'll be sharing the gospel with for a while now. Wish me luck!
I'll share again a part of my letter to President Mains:
I focused this week on teaching for understanding. I tried not to view myself as a teacher, with a lesson to prepare and deliver eloquently to a student, but to keep in mind what our investigators might be feeling as I shared with them truth that has brought so much peace and happiness to me. As I tried to see through the eyes of our investigators, and as I remembered that they are all beloved children of my Heavenly Father, I found the Spirit teaching more powerfully and clearly through me and Elder Mitchell.
To show my love for the Savior, I tried to lose my own will in order to adopt his. Previously, I thought I was pretty good at doing this, but I've come to realize that I'm a lot more self-centered and stubborn than I like to think I am. I have been praying for the strength and faith to accept and do the Lord's will instead of my own. I believe that's the only way that I will accomplish all that the Lord has for me to do while I serve him in this capacity.
I have been striving to live the missionary schedule more fully. I have been keeping mealtimes, studies, and lessons to the proper time frame, but I'm also looking for more opportunities to spend more time filling the funnel. Elder Mitchell and I have been typically taking less than the full hour for meals, and eating outside, so that we can talk to more people. I'm trying to develop the habit of not turning off the "missionary mode" when we eat or stop for something.
I've seen a lot of miracles this week. One that I remember in particular was meeting a former investigator at her hotel. She referred her boss to us, and had him join our first discussion. During the course of the discussion, he demanded the most attention, because of his many questions about our beliefs. We had not prepared specifically to answer any of the questions he was asking us, but Elder Mitchell and I both felt comfortable and confident in our responses. I know it was because the Holy Ghost was there, giving us what to say, testifying of truth, and even protecting us against some of the tricky questions he was asking. The former investigator has expressed a renewed interest in learning about the Church and searching for truth! We'll be meeting with her again in the next few weeks.
Things are still going well in JB. In fact, we now have a lot more appointments with investigators and potential investigators than when I came in just two months ago. Elder Lundahl-Wolford and Elder Pierce's area has seen a great improvement, as well. Our enthusiasm to do the work of the Lord is high, and still increasing! We are building our faith that miracles are just waiting to happen as we open our mouths!
[[I do feel an enthusiasm to do the work, but in the last few days, I've also felt a bit overwhelmed. I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly what's stressing me out, but I know I've just been feeling inadequate. I feel such a responsibility to lead my zone righteously, but sometimes it's hard to know if I'm being successful, and it's hard to work closely with missionaries who live far away from me. Elder Mitchell is a fantastic companion. He has a lot of strengths that are just what the missionaries in our zone need, but it's been hard lately to see what I contribute to our companionship and to our zone. I think the biggest question I've been asking is, "how can I learn to recognize whose ideas are right/more true, and what things I should avoid?" Several times in these past weeks, I've listened to an idea from another missionary, about how they teach, or study, etc. and thought, "That's a really good idea. I like it!" Then, when I've shared it with Elder Mitchell, he's shown me that the idea the other missionary brought probably wouldn't be very wise, for one reason or another, I've had to agree with him, as well. I've been worrying about whether I'm just too trusting of what everybody says, or if I can't really discern good ideas from bad ideas, or if my love for people just blinds me to any ways that I could help them improve or change. I just see the good in people, and think everybody's right, and I agree with ideas they have, unless it's obviously disobedient, etc. but my companion doesn't always agree with everyone. I trust that a lot of things he does are wise and tactful, however. It's hard because I feel that I'm not a good judge of what's good and what's not. In my patriarchal blessing, I was blessed to be able to discern between the truths of God and the theories of men, but I don't feel very perceptive. I don't want to burden you with my stress, but I'd love to hear if you've had similar experiences, or have any suggestions for me. I'll also try to nail down what I'm worried about, specifiacally, so I can talk to President Mains about it in my interview tomorrow. Thank you so much!!]]
Thanks for all the pictures and all your constant support, love and prayers!!Well, time's running out. For now, 新年快乐!
My love always,Brennan