Monday, May 25, 2015

Zone Conference, Exchanges, and Miracles

Dear Family,

I've returned this week from a FANTASTIC zone conference!!  I feel more spiritually rejuvenated now than ever, and I've been thankful to Heavenly Father in my daily prayers for what I've learned from this conference!  I know that as I heard the word of God, my determination  to share it with others increased dramatically.  Ever since Zone Conference, I have been sharing the message of the restoration with renewed faith, confidence, and vigor.  Just hearing so many testimonies has truly grown my faith, especially in the Doctrine of Christ as the one and only way to return to God, and as the path that I must encourage everyone to take.  I've realized again that this is a lot more urgent than I sometimes feel!
Oh, by the way, thank you so much for sending in those stories of my ancestors!  I had a vague idea that great grandma and grandpa had served in Raratonga, but I never knew about their adventures in leaving their farm and arriving at the island by rowboat and staying in Hawaii!  It was fascinating to hear, and one of the most fun zone conference activities I've ever participated in!  Man, I can't wait to get back into family history work when I return home.  Don't let me forget, okay?

This week, I conducted exchanges with Elder Lundahl-Wolford.  I brought him into my area while Elder Hanks worked with our District Leader, Elder Pierce in his area.    We had a great time, despite the fact that most of our appointments fell through.  We spent hours walking, busing, and walking some more, talking to people on the street, in shops, and at bus stops, trying to find new investigators.  Elder Lundahl-Wolford is very bold in proclaiming his purpose as a missionary, and to everyone he meets he extends the invitation to learn the gospel or to come to church.  He has a knack for becoming someone's best friend within seconds of meeting them, which is a characteristic I hope the Lord can help me to develop in myself, eventually!

I have seen several miracles this past week.  One of special importance to me was a lesson we had with a less-active sister with whom we've been meeting for several months.  I went into her home doubting that she even cared about the church any more.  Then, just as we were about to begin teaching her the lesson we'd prepared about baptism and enduring to the end, she shared her testimony of the Doctrine of Christ with us, and told us her plans to take her family to the temple next year!  I felt the Spirit very strongly, and Elder Hanks and I were able to testify to her, after a moment of silence, that her desire was righteous, and that the Lord will help her make a way to get to the temple, and open the hearts of her family members.  Maybe this doesn't seem miraculous, but the change in her heart is so evident, and the spiritual experience we shared together filled me with such joy that I know God's hand is over all things and at work in her life.

I've been inviting members to come to each of our lessons with investigators and recent converts.  Lately, we've been planning to have members at each lesson we teach.  So far, this desire of our hearts is mostly coming to pass.  There are just a few members here who have made themselves fully available to accompany us at any time of day, and others who are still trying to free up their schedules enough to meet with us.  I can see that the branch members in JB have a vision of the church growing stronger, and of sharing the gospel with others, for which I'm very grateful!  We missionaries, of course, are members of the Church, but serve with a different calling than the branch members we love and live among.  However, there must be a combination of members and missionaries if the church is to grow and the gospel is to be spread in the Lord's way.  I'm so thankful for all the help the branch members have given us, and I hope that we can continue to share spiritual and uplifting experiences with even more church members as together we share our testimonies with our friends and investigators, our brothers and sisters!

I love doing this work!  I love everything about it!  I also really love all of you!  I don't think I could ever express just how much I love you and how thankful I am to be a part of your family!

P.S.  I know it's been a long time, but pictures will have to wait, once again, until next week.  Have a great one!

Oh, and send my love to Brother Niederhauser, too!  I'm so sad to hear about Sister Niederhauser.  I was really looking forward to visiting the both of them as soon as I returned!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sitting on a telephone wire

Mom's note: 
As we talked with Brennan on Mother's Day, he told of a sight that would only be seen in Southeast Asia. He had us imagine a telephone wire, with dozens of birds perched on it -- a typical sight.  But now imagine the wire with dozens of . . . monkeys!

Brennan says: "I hope you can see all the monkeys. [The photo is not] good enough to show just how many there are, jumping around in the trees and hanging out on the power lines.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sabbath and Family History blessings

Dear Family,

My faith has increased this week as I've pondered and striven to teach the doctrine of keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  As I thought deeply about why I love the Sabbath, and what blessings have come into my life from striving to hallow it, I rediscovered a strong part of my testimony.  I have strengthened faith that the Lord will help to prepare people for baptism and confirmation as they keep the Sabbath Day holy.  I feel my faith burning a little more brightly inside when I think of the Sabbath Day.  I now have a strong desire to teach all of my investigators and recent converts all about it!
Did you know that the first presidency of the Church is focusing heavily on teaching the importance of the Sabbath day around the world?  Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "Learning to hallow the Sabbath Day will increase faith across the world."  "I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.  With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, 'What sign do I want to give to God?' That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear."  "True believers keep the Sabbath Day holy."
I wish everyone would just read understand this part of Preach My Gospel:
Our Sabbath-day behavior is a reflection of our commitment to honor and worship God. By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we show God our willingness to keep our covenants. Each Sabbath day we go to the Lord’s house to worship Him. While there we partake of the sacrament to remember Jesus Christ and His Atonement. We renew our covenants and show that we are willing to repent of our sins and mistakes.
On this day, we enjoy a rest from our labors. As we attend Church services and worship together, we strengthen each other. We are renewed by our association with friends and family. Our faith is strengthened as we study the scriptures and learn more about the restored gospel.
When a community or nation grows careless in its Sabbath activities, its religious life decays and all aspects of life are negatively affected. The blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath day holy are lost. We should refrain from shopping on the Sabbath and participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath.
Latter-day Saints should set this holy day apart from activities of the world by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving, service, and family-centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath. As Church members endeavor to make their Sabbath activities compatible with the intent and Spirit of the Lord, their lives will be filled with joy and peace.

Recently, I have invited church members to become involved in missionary work by inviting them to first begin on their own family history work, then asking if they know anyone else who has family records or might be interested in learning about family history or the temple.  So far, we haven't had any solid referrals, but I believe that as church members, especially our recent converts, point themselves toward the temple and catch the spirit of Elijah they will also feel a desire to share the joy they feel with others.  I certainly do!  I can't wait to get back into family history work after I conclude my mission service here!

This week has been great!  I feel more closely connected to the vision of the mission leadership than at any other point, because we had Assistant exchanges on Tuesday, personal interviews with President Mains on Wednesday, and Mission Leadership Council on Thursday!  It was great!  This week's MLC in Singapore was, once again, an amazing spiritual learning experience for me.  This was Elder Hanks' first MLC, and he was basically jumping up and down for excitement after the meeting was over!  (I felt the same thing, but inside. :)

Elder Hanks and I will be conducting a Zone Council tomorrow.  Our goal is to help the missionaries of our zone catch the vision of the Singapore Mission Plan, and gain an increased sense of urgency to find 2 new investigators per week, baptize one investigator per month, and teach the doctrine of the Sabbath Day clearly.  Pray that all goes well for us and our zone members! (Or, as we say here, "Help us pray." It's a direct grammatical translation from Malaysian Chinese.)
Thanks for all you do and who you are, and all my love!


Picking Sour Mangos.  Yum!

Elder Hanks with 100Plus, my favorite Asian drink, at the Singapore Stake Center.

Elder Hanks has really good balance!