Monday, December 30, 2013

One Christmas down, one to go!

I am celebrating my first Christmas in Sibu, East Malaysia! While back home there is probably lots of snow, here we have rain, but fortunately there is not too much of it!

So Christmas morning I woke up to cook some delicious Apple French Toast for our apartment. Unfortunately the only French bread we could find was the kind that already had garlic on it... haha.. I used it anyway! It turned out great for using garlic bread! My mom usually fixes Apple french toast back home every Christmas morning so it made me feel a little closer to home.

We opened presents from our families & from the "secret Santa" we did between the elders in our apartment. I gave my companion a sweet yellow watch because yellow is his favorite color & I gave a saurong to another elder. (I'll have to send a picture of that so you know what I'm talking about)  My companion gave me a good lookin t-shirt  but it's too small so I'll wear it as my workout shirt so that it makes me look more buff!

I got mostly food from my family- which I'm so glad they did! I didn't realize how much I miss simple american food like granola!

Practicing for the Christmas party
We had tried to go out Christmas eve to do some American style Christmas caroling. We rode out with 4 other Elders to an area & knocked on some gates, but not one person came out! They all looked out their windows (probably got sacred with 6 americans outside) & then went away! We tried for 2 hours & finally gave up but with smiles on our faces! It is amazing to see how different things are here!

Last night we had an activity to watch a Church movie with some members. We watched Ephraims Rescue, which I hadn't seen yet. It has a lot of power in it & I really felt the spirit- I loved it! Great movie!

I love knowing Chinese! We had a young woman who was telling the Elders how cute they were but none of the Elders could understand her, but I could! I guess with the Chinese girls in the area, I am ranked #2 as the most handsome Elder! hahah ! Sweet!

Love you all, Hope you all had a great Christmas!
Playing cups! So Fun!

Everyone takes their shoes off at the church - for everything!
I love having church in my socks! 

Service project for a sister, cleaning her windows, which as you can see, was very difficult!
(Thanks to  Sis. Beus for taking all these pictures of  Elder Hanks!) 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PBS TV segment showed this weekend

Ammon's segment for the PBS Religion & Ethics showed this weekend. His 'interview' didn't make the cut but you do see him & some of his MTC district on film a couple of times during the first half of the story!

Mormon Missionary Expansion is the title of the segment shown Dec 18, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tri-language Christmas party & I think we had spies!

Even though Christmas is just around the corner & a lot of you are probably enjoying the "winter wonderland" - I'm am enjoying my  "wet & wetter wonderland"!
This past week we had a branch Christmas party with all 3 of the Sibu branches! It was crazy chaos having Chinese, Malay & Iban people all trying to enjoy a Christmas spirit!  It was great - next time try that at your ward party having it in 3 different languages! A lot of people came though, including a lot of potential investigators & we hope to be able to follow up & start adding more investigators to our teaching pool!
One of our current investigators is on date to be baptized on January 4th but she has hurt her back pretty bad. She has continued to progress & has come to church so we really didn't have any concern until we didn't see her at church this week. We hope her back isn't a bigger problem & we are praying for her daily & I feel confident that she will be ready by January!
Guess which Christmas tree was decorated by the Iban branch ?!

a branch member made the ornaments for their tree

We have been working considerably hard to increase the activity of he less active. We have been constantly visiting this older couple with several daughters & they are all members but aren't very active. So when they come to church the increase our branch attendance to 45 people! Which has been the highest number since my companion came to Sibu, which when he started the branch was like at 15! So that was awesome!
We hope this family will stay open hearted & if they come, they will be a great addition to our branch!

So this past week 3 people that no one has ever seen before came to our family home evening! We were excited & gave them a tour of our church. We all felt the spirit strong & we were excited to follow up with them. Later in the week though, we found out that the Methodist church is sending spies to church to see what we are doing & what our beliefs are! Haha, I guess we need to be more aware of who comes into the church asking weird questions like how many people are coming to our church....!

Well, I can't wait for Christmas. We are doing Secret Santa gifts for the other Elders in our apartment. I'm really excited to give gifts but also excited to receive some too! I think it will help me feel not so far away from home. Most Chinese people really don't love Christmas like we do, so not a lot of them have an actual Christmas tree in their home.
I have lots of Asians staring at me & its hilarious, but it makes it easier for me to approach them because they will actually keep their attention on me. The kids over here are hilarious too & make everything even better!
Wish you all a Merry Christmas & enjoy a  white one too for me!
Elder Hanks

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

homesick & monsoon season

This is what monsoon weather looks like !
(I don't think his shoes are going to last very long BUT glad he has a helmet! - & wears it! ) 
First of all, my 2nd Christmas package made it though customs so I will have 2 presents to open, one from you and one from Amanda! Thanks! I'm excited to see what you sent!

2nd- Malaysia is wet! It rains here so often! Pretty much every day. Last week we went to a burger place for some food, which is run right outside the owner's house. So as we pulled up, we saw that their whole front yard was flooded. This is how it goes in monsoon season!

Ok, so I have been feeling pretty homesick this last week.
Our investigator that we were so excited about, who seemed so promising, informed us after our first lesson with him, that he was going out of town until April!!! Who does that..... besides missionaries! So we were pretty disappointed we won't be seeing him for a long time. But we are hopping that we gave him a great experience with the church so when he comes back he will still have some interest.

I have been in SMS-ing (mission version of messaging someone)  the Chinese guy we handed a Book of Mormon to on our flight to Singapore.  I asked him if I could send the missionaries over to his house in Hong Kong. We'll see what he says! All I know is his first name so hopefully he will respond back!

We had some time on our hands this week so we began calling people from the "potential" list. We called several people- either getting no response or they say they wouldn't come to church because of work & stuff. So on Sunday we went to our normal meetings & had just arrived home when the other elders in our apartment got a phone call that an extremely less active member decided to go to church. For them, this was a miracle! So they were so excited, the left for their Sacrament meeting.
I was so discouraged and was homesick, tired & bummed out, it was hard to want to do anything. A minute later we got a phone call from a sister, who we had apparently called earlier in the week, inviting her to come to church (she said she was busy-  when Chinese people say they are busy, I think they really aren't)
anyway - she was AT our church!  We were "WHAT?!" She said she was there right now, so we told her to wait & we ran right over to the church.  We found her waiting for the other branches meeting to start.
As we talked to her, she said she wasn't planning on coming to Church but her friend invited her at the last minute.  We look over &  the friend of hers was the  "miracle" & "extremely inactive" member that the other Elders had  ran to go meet!  She had noticed the address of the church was the same address we had given her earlier in the week- so she called us! We were able to talk to her for a while & gave her a Book of Mormon. We had been short of our goal of how many copies of the Book of Mormon we wanted to pass out by 1 - so now we had meet our goal! We were able to set an appointment to see her next Sunday, so we are excited to see where this goes!

I miss you all & hope you have a fun Christmas Season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weird, interesting week with a dead next door neighbor

Hey everyone! Happy late Thanksgiving!

So this week has been very interesting & different! 

I never told you about my companion - it's Elder Earl! The cool thing is that I met his parents when I was at the Hill Cumorah Pageant this summer! 
I got my first package from you & loved the Chopsticks! and the kids will love the Pez dispensers!  (this was his christmas package! not a Welcome to Sibu package!- good thing a 2nd package was sent  later or the kid would have nothing to open on Christmas!) 

So first, the random guy who came to church last week has become an investigator & looks pretty promising right now. We are hoping to teach him & prepare him for a "white" christmas baptism! Our Zone has 21 people on track to be baptized by the 21 of December so we are hoping we can do something with our investigator this month too!

Thanksgiving was great! We biked to a senior couples apartment for turkey & such! It was so good & reminded me of home. On the way there it was POURING rain & the side walks are made with tile! (not a great idea in the first place) On on the way there, 2 elders that we were riding with slid & burned! They were ok but it was crazy funny to watch it happen, like in slow motion funny! This is the kind of mission experience I thought I would have! Biking in monsoon season! 

Since being here, I have tried a bunch of food & am getting used to talking to a bunch of random people and I am loving things here in Sibu! We are starting to have more & more people become more interested in the church. A lot of people here actually know who we are. We often ask people, "Have you ever seen people like us before?" & they go "Yeah, riding the bikes around!" Yep! that's who we are - the guys that just constantly ride our bikes around!  

A cool thing about Sibu, is the night market downtown! There is this parking lot that they use during the day for businesses & stuff and then every night, all these Chinese & Malay people come out of nowhere & set up these shops and sell anything! T-shirts, food - pig snout!,  purses, souvenirs, .. We had a member with us & bought some kind of gummy food thing. It looked pretty good so I tried it. I don't know what it was or what it was filled with but this weird bitter-sour soy sauce stuff goes all over my hand & it was terrible!  

We have been serving a member of our branch by pulling the weeds in her yard. During our weed pulling, her brother, who isn't a member pulls up & starts talking to us. We were really excited to talk to him ! After a while he looked  at me & said" You know, you look like Eminem." I was like "What?!" He said,  "Yeah, yo do, just more clean cut & good looking." Haha! I have never been called that - but ok!  Then later, when I turned to look at him again, he said, "whoa, from the side you look like that American Pie Guy." ( I don't even know who that is, so if you do, let me know !)  We were able to talk to him later about the church & we got him to let us call him & set up a time to come & teach him! Except, I'm not quite sure if he was drunk or not! haha! oh well! 

So the weird & sad thing about this week! We come home from church Sunday & find this guy outside our house & another guy with him.  (So our house is like one house split into 2 different living spaces)  So one of the guys starts to ask us about our building neighbor & when was the last time we saw him. We have never met him or even seen him, so we don't know who or what they are talking about. One of the guys is his friend & our building neighbors wife had called him to go check on his friend, our neighbor. So the friend eventually goes into the house & finds that the guy had taken his own life by breathing the fumes from some coals he had lit. So we are there & the friends call the police & for 2 hours we watched the police do their thing, they asked us a few questions, cleared out the "apartment" & it was just so weird. Here we are missionaries with a message of joy & we lived right next door to someone who probably needed it! Crazy. So later we took a picture of Christ over to his family, who were all gathering at his apartment. Crazy. 

So we are trying to get the members wanting to come to FHE more. So since it's Christmas time we think we are going to teach about service & the value it has. So we are thinking of making a small christmas tree & over the next few weeks, for every act of service the members do for someone else, they get to add a decoration to it. Then we will present our service tree at the Christmas party we are having in a few weeks to show how much service they have done. What do you think? We were trying to make FHE fun so if you have any ideas for a powerful, spiritual lesson, let me know! 

Anyway, hoping & praying for my first baptism! 
It's still hot over here & I hope you guys are enjoying the snow if you have it yet- because I won't for 2 years!
Love you all & miss you too! 
Elder Hanks

Monday, November 25, 2013

Airport Missionary work & My first area is.....?

(excerpts from Elder Hanks' first email from Singapore:)
I have arrived! First I want to tell you of some of the great things that happened BEFORE I even got to my mission!

So we get to the airport & me & my companion, Elder Flynn decide to say a quick prayer & see if we could find anyone to talk to. We saw an older couple sitting next to a gate waiting for their flight, so we decided to talk to them. We struck up a conversation with them & discovered that they were members, so that was a bummer... (for brand new missionaries..!) BUT we told them that we were going to Singapore & they knew a lady that lived there so we got a referral out of it ! So I can't wait to see what happens with that!

After they left, it was time to call my family!!! I loved talking to them! Outside the windows of the airport I could actually see the Bountiful temple that I went to with my family, so I felt like I was that much closer to my family while I was talking to them! We talked for about an hour & 20 minutes, which was great!

After I hung up, my companion was still talking to his family, so I noticed a lady walking around looking for someplace to sit. There were plenty of seats open, so I said a silent prayer that she would end up sitting on the bench of seats that I was on. So I strategically scooted over 2 seats, so I would be close, but no too close... you know what I mean ! And in an answer to my prayer, she sat down just where I wanted her too!
I now I'm thinking how can I start a conversation with her? I see this stuffed monkey key chain on one of her bags so I commented on it & it turns out that it is from a music band that she plays for & they play gigs in like churches! So I ask her more about it & learn that she is from Spain, living in LA & was a Catholic. So we talk about her church & the role it has had in her life (which seemed more cultural than religious) when she asked "So what makes your church different?" I just thought "Oh Man! Thank you Heavenly Father!" So I asked her if she knew about Joseph Smith & the restoration of the Church. She was so fascinated that a 14 yr old boy could know that a church was true & that I could too at 18! So we read Mosiah 10:4-5 & then I asked her if she would be willing to read the Book of Mormon & she said she would & I gave her one! Sweet!! I haven't even left Utah & I have already placed a Book of Mormon!

So we get to LA & call my family to tell them what had happened back in SLC. As I am finishing up my conversation, an airport employee walks up to me & my companion & asks "You believe in Jesus Christ right?"  So I say to my mom & dad " Mom, Dad, I gotta go!"  So it turns out he saw a companionship of missionaries last week & thought we were the same ones, so that's why he talked to us so straightforward! Haha! Found out he was Christian & had been looking into other churches. He didn't have time to talk, since he was working, & didn't want his boss to see him talking in case he could get fired, so my companion talked briefly about the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ & Joseph Smith . We gave him a Book of Mormon with a pass along card!  TWO BOOKS DOWN!

So now we are boarding our flight to Hong Kong & we notice that there is someone sitting in between me & my companion! So we decide that who ever it is, is going to get a real serving of the gospel! Turns out it is a Chinese guy! So using our newly acquired MTC Mandarin Chinese, we end up talking a good amount of time with him! (the flight was like 16 -19 hours long or something!)  He brought up an experience of watching a religious TV program & how it sparked a little religious interest in him. It seemed that he was really interested in our Book of Mormon. So since I had a Chinese one with me, I had him read the introduction & he really liked it. He later mentioned that he should give the book back to me but we insisted that he keep it! He was so surprised  & so grateful, he took that book off the plane clinging it to his chest!

So there are 3 miracles when the Lord helped & answered our prayers!

So I have been assigned to serve my first area in the country of Malaysia, so I am writing you from SIBU MALAYSIA! Look it up on Google Maps !

Yesterday in church I was introduced to the 39 people who were attending that day! It was kind scary for me to see so few people there! Take the first 2 rows of probably churches in UT and get rid of all the other rows of people -  thats what it looked like to me! We have a good amount of members- just not active!
There was a guy there that was new, no one had ever seen him before- he was just walking past the church & thought he should come in! We invited him & he stayed for gospel principles & priesthood ! We set up an appointment to see him on Thurs.
In the MTC they stress the importance of members & so I hope we can find a bank of strong members to work with, but it looks like that is our focus- to reactivate the less active! My companion said that this branch really depends on the missionaries to keep things going!

This mission is going to be hard, but I am grateful for all your support! I would LOVE to hear from you!
Elder Hanks

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Leaving on a jet plane...!

Well, this is my last official full day here at the MTC in beautiful, snowy Provo! My experience here has been a perfect one and I am so glad that I accepted the call to serve.

This past week has been about preparation, departure devotionals and packing! What a stressful week & I'm not even done packing yet!

Last night I said good-bye to 2 elders who have been in my district the whole time I have been here. I know that they are already busy with the work the Lord has called them to do. But before they left we had to celebrate the day! So, thanks to several of our great moms, the the spirit of the other elders, we had a farewell bash that we have all been dreaming of for the past 9 weeks!

It started out with ALL the food being gathered in the hall for all to gather & eat! We had quite a crowd gather & our party began! Everyone was enjoying cakes, chips & dip, cider ... but they did not expect a pinata! And not just any pinata... a minion pinata! Everyone was so excited, but we didn't have anything to hit it with. We used to have a mini bat but that went missing a few weeks ago. Fortunately an Elder let us borrow his toy Thor Hammer. We all felt like we should be in the next Avengers movie! Candy was all over & people were having the time of their lives !
We even pulled out some bubbly cider & headed to the the showers where we shook it up & opened the lid & sprayed everyone! We partied from 9:45 til 10:30 so we were all in bed on time too ! I really don't know how  that worked out, especially since we got everything clean up by then too, so go team !

So a tradition that has been adopted by the Mandarin speakers is to take some planks of wood & to record our history in the MTC on them- we call them "the plates". We have plates from previous elders & now we are writing down a few events that transpired while we were here, including Nerfridays & our record time in setting up the auditorium for devotionals! It is really cool to look at them & think that other people will read them & know who we are & some of the things we did. I now understand a little bit of how Nephi & all the other prophets were feeling when they wrote on their plates.

So setting up the auditorium for devotionals.. for the past 9 weeks, we had the service project of setting up the gym to seat everyone for evening devotionals on Sunday and Tuesday. My district was in charge of the podium & stage part where the speakers & leaders sit. At first we just took our time but eventually it turned into a race against time! So this past Sunday we got our fastest time ever-  7min. 30 sec. ! We had so much fun & a great attitude about doing it, the staff lady over it decided to take all our names & start an MTC race log to see who could set the stage up the fastest! How cool is that that our district got to start a new MTC tradition! So maybe when I'm 50 I'll come back here & see if our names are still there!

So I leave the MTC Tues at 12:30 and begin my travels to Singapore! I am so excited to go!  I am so blessed to have been here in the MTC the time that I have! I have made so many friends & have ran into old ones too. The Love of our Savior helps us to so easily bond with those around us, even though they may be from another country or speak a different language.  I can't wait to get out in the field!

Lastly, we heard from the PBS Religion & Ethics show and all they said is that our episode will probably air sometime during the 2nd week of December.

Thanks for all your support in writing to me while I was in the MTC !  Keep the letters coming!

Tahitian Sisters who gave Ammon a puka shell necklace before leaving- a Tahitian tradition

Monday, November 11, 2013

TV show, MTC count down & Travel Plans- Aaaahhhh!

Funny story to start with- my district was over at the Provo temple grounds taking pictures in front of the temple. So I was just laying on the grass when this cute down syndrome kid comes over & sits down on my back! We all thought it so funny so we kept taking pictures with him! Then he starts to give me a noogie as we're taking pictures! It was hilarious, we all couldn't stop laughing- til the noogie was a little too hard on my head! Finally his mom came over and called the whole game off. haha ! He was such a cute kid, yeah funny story!

So on Wednesday, when we arrived at class, there was an intimidating man standing at our door way. I was a little nervous for he looked too much "all business". He asked me where a certain Elder of our district was, I told him I didn't know, but soon this Elder showed up & started to leave with this man. The Elder then says to me "Elder Hanks, you have to come with me." I now thought that I was in trouble for sure!! (Those NerF-ridays!) We were pulled into another classroom with two Sisters from another district. This man sat down, looked at us and them seemed to all at once, melt into someone friendly! He explained to us that we were a specially selected group that was going to be filmed for a PBS program called " Religion and Ethics weekly News". We all got really excited! We were told they were coming on Monday (Nov. 11), so on Friday, we were pulled into a conference room and we 'practiced being interviewed' on all sorts of things! Setting the bar way high for what we thought this things was going to be!
So, Monday rolls around and all eight of us, who are now pretending to be companions and that we are all in the same district, go into this way decorated room that was put together for this taping, and the PBS people come in.
So we put on our best faces & start answering his questions. After about 5 minutes, he says "Well, I don't want to take up all your study time. So thanks." and leaves!  haha! All of us were like "What?!" You're done?! Seriously?! " We all thought it was going to be like some 20/20 , 60 minutes interview thing, but no, he walks in, asks a few of us some questions and leaves! Alright, whatever! But I WAS interviewed so maybe I'll make national television - like 3 seconds..- who knows! They said they would let us know when it was going to air.

In other news.... I feel like my teaching skills are sky-rocketing while my English skills have crashed & burned!.
This last week with an "investigator" we have been trying to commit him to baptism the past couple of lessons without success. So for this particular lesson, we planned all these scriptures to really nail him on baptism, but when it came to the lesson, it was sounding like all the same old stuff we had already taught. So as my companion was teaching, I was really thinking on how we could make this lesson different. I remembered that he had read through 1 nephi 17 by himself, and I felt I should ask him what his favorite part of the gospel was so far that we had discussed. he told us that is was the fact that he and his family can change and become better.
At that moment, Lehi popped into my head! I immediately told him that his feelings were awesome and that there was someone else with similar feelings! So we turned to 1 nephi 8, where Lehi is having the vision of the Tree of Life & he expresses his desire to have his family partake & enjoy the joy that he was feeling.
So we quickly explained that the Tree of Life was the gospel & the joy it brings into our hearts and that he and Lehi had the same desires for their families!
He got excited and so did we, and we continued for another minute and then I asked him "Just like Lehi go to the tree of life, how can we get to the 'tree' ?"  He smiled & said "Baptism?" "YES!!" He smiled, I smiled, my companion smiled... the whole world smiled... haha!  I asked him in that moment if he was willing to be baptized & he said Yes!  How awesome was that!

In final news.... got my travel plans! I am leaving on the 19th from the MTC at 12:30 & my flight leaves at 6:00pm, so expect a phone call sometime between then!

Looks like a "staged" nap to me...!

I hear Singapore calling ! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 5 Top 10 list

Top 10 Highlights of Elder Hanks' week:
1)  "accidentally" tore pages out of his scriptures so we had to send him a new set! He is super excited to
     start marking up a new set with all the scriptural and doctrinal insights he is gaining at the MTC !
2) Ran into Elder Clarke who was his District Leader at the Hill Cumorah Pageant! So fun to have the
    brotherhood of the work crew to keep blessing his life! Too bad Elder Hanks didn't have his camera to
    get a pix  !
3) Ran into his cousin, Sis. Ashley Hanks who is going to Argentina!
4) Had a new group of Elders move into the dorm room next to Elder Hanks. This group stays up late
   making noise &  makes it hard for Ammon's room to get to sleep some nights. It's great to have neighbors
   again & they are a pretty fun group of Elders learning Korean.
5) He & his companion were made Zone Leaders. Currently they have 12 sisters & 6 Elders in his Zone but
    will be at 13 Sisters & 10 Elders after Wednesday!
6) He will get to "Host" or greet the new missionaries at the curb as the come to the MTC this Wednesday
    for the first time & Elder Hanks is really excited to help escort the new missionaries & give them the tour
    of the MTC.
7) He & his companion skyped with a member in Taiwan this past week. (to practice their Chinese I
    assume). They were having a discussion on church attendance when the member spoke a really "long
    Chinese sentence" of which Ammon understood the member to say that he did not go to church. They
    proceeded to give the member a discussion about the importance of church attendance.  Later, the
    teacher that was observing their conversation, let them know that the rest of the "long sentence" was that
    the church building was too far away for the member to attend church. Haha.. these poor Elders... telling
    the member to go to church when it's probably not possible for him to get there. Hopefully the member
    was understanding of these 2 young white Americans, learning Chinese, telling him about the importance
    of going to church!
8) Elder Hanks was able to carry on a 30 minute conversation with his Chinese teacher all IN Chinese &
    understood everything! He was even able to share some scriptures in Chinese. He was so excited !
9) He is learning through the life experiences of other missionaries that he is a very blessed missionary!
10) On his way to the Provo temple, he saw a protester on the corner of the MTC & the Provo temple. The
    protester was yelling at the missionaries & anyone else driving by ! Ammon felt sorry for the guys
    misunderstandings & for missing the truth. Good thing he had some experience with protesters at the
    Pageant to prepare him for things like this. Even in Singapore he may experience "protesters" who may  
    yell & even spit at the Missionaries for what we believe.

There's leaves falling behind me you say...?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weeks 3 & 4 - A Mad-lib letter & NerFridays

This is a summary of weeks 3 & 4 for Elder Hanks at the MTC -

I sent him a letter, (I wrote as if he were writing it, and then left blanks for him to fill in - such as "my favorite thing at the MTC has been ______" ) trying to get more details about what he does exactly at the MTC.

So.... here are some snippets from the letter:
"The food here is pretty good and my favorite meal has been tomato basil soup. My favorite thing at the MTC so far has been the gym!  I get up at 6:25am and do push ups. I have 2 hours of free (he wrote study)  time before lunch and 0 hours of free time before dinner.
On Sundays we have just sacrament meeting with a lot of time to study. We don't  have Sunday school and we do  have priesthood, the teachers are the branch presidency.
You asked how my Chinese is coming, it's coming pretty well. I can kind of teach a lesson on  Heavenly Father in Chinese.
I get 30 minutes of gym time everyday & I usually play volleyball or lift weights.
I get to go to the temple once a week.
Being district leader has been hard but also rewarding because of all the things it has taught me.
Right now I am studying the principles of Missionary Fundamentals and one of the goals we have as a district is  to be on time and to speak our language.
I am sleeping ok but feel like I never get enough sleep.  The best package you have sent me so far has been the nerf guns and halloween decorations. The bulletin board pins you sent me were freaking awesome!!  (I went to All A Dollar & found random toys & glued tack pins to them- the best one was a squishy sumo wrestler & a Superman ! ) 
One time I have really felt the Spirit here was when  I was listening to Elder Gifford Nelson when he said "This is our testimony that we give of Him.." That line is also used in the final scenes of the Hill Cumorah Pageant,  right before Christ appears. It was if I was right back at the true hill.
Well, this has been the  best  way to write a letter! Mom should write these for me more  often!

Week 4 update from a quick, short letter to his dad:
I feel good & strong in the language.
The MTC is great & so convenient.
The food is pretty dang good, actually!
I am restarting the BOM and I have already picked up on some great doctrine & principles I didn't see before.
The Spirit is always present.
I am working hard to be productive & the Lord is definitely helping me with that
I am exercising as much as I can (I don't want to gain a lot of weight)
My companion was made district leader yesterday!

One of these things is not like the others....! Hanging on a P-day



His Chinese teacher went to Davis High & knows Elder Hanks' older sister.
Yes they have matching ties & it looks like Elder Hanks has been to the MTC barber!

Elder Hanks & Elder Atkinson (friend from Davis High)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sept 30,2013 MTC week 2 - Life lessons!

Edited excerpts from Elder Hanks' 2nd week at the MTC:  

"Well, Sunday was probably the most stressful day so far. There is this Elder who is in our district who I think is very smart and very intuitive, but thinks way to much with his head rather than feeling with his heart when it comes to spiritual and social things. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy. So on Sunday we had time set apart for a district discussion/lesson. 

I gave the lesson and taught how we, as missionaries, shouldn't just do good but be good.  I asked why a missionary was here on a mission and then I wrote on the board "Because God asked me to come here".  I felt the spirit prompting me to then ask, what could be better about this statement. Everyone was really great in responding.. I then erased the word "come" and wrote in "be" so the sentence then read " Because God asked me to be here". I could see every ones eyes open and I felt the spirit start to enter the room. 

Well this missionary was trying to correct my punctuation errors, such as not having a period at the end of my sentence.. and then began to express  how my lesson was demeaning the word "come" and my suggestion of the word "be" was the better way to go falsified the idea of "coming unto Christ". I immediately felt the spirit leave. I tried hard to recover the Spirit and moved on to other goals that our district needed to talk about.

Some of the other missionaries in my district tried to support and clarify the idea I was trying to get across, but this missionary would not have it. It was suggested that we pray to bring the Spirit back.  One of the sweet Sis. missionaries in the district started to sing "Savior, Redeemer of my Soul" which has been a song associated with many spiritual experiences in my life. I was blessed to begin to feel the spirit again. 

I couldn't get out of my mind the way the Spirit had left our lesson and ruined my Sunday. I couldn't focus, couldn't eat (luckily it was fast Sunday anyway). Later that night I prayed for guidance about what to do with this awkward situation. I stayed up for a good 2 hours stuck in despair. 

Finally Monday morning the answer comes to me. I got the feeling that I need to apologize to my district... did I feel like I did something wrong? No.  Did I feel like I could have been better? Yes.  So later that morning I apologized to my district for not being able to help keep the Spirit in our lesson.  Many members of the district came up to me afterward and expressed thanks for doing what I did. Today is a good day." 

(Many great life lessons Elder Hanks is learning !)
Elder Hanks & Elder Merrill (From Hill Cumorah Work Crew) on their way to a devoational at the Marriott Center

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sept 27, 2013 - 1st Week & District Leader

The first, quick, short, email we got from Elder Hanks was the day after he arrived in the MTC. 
"I'm doing great! The first moment I walked into class my teachers started speaking chinese like none other! Because of my background (taking chinese in high school) I knew a fair amount of what he was telling and asking us to do. My companion is awesome!!!! He is cool and is easy to talk to. 
I have been able to meet up with plenty of people from school so I'm feeling pretty welcomed here. " 

The first true email arrived today (Monday) from Elder Hanks first week in the MTC! Here's a few exerpts from his email:

"So on with the good stuff. It is so hard! Hunter & Max you may want to learn a different language because I've realized how unromantic Mandarin Chinese really is! It just sounds like you  are sleep talking. Yeah, true story. 
My companion is from Syracuse, UT and we have a ton in common and we love what we do. But it is still hard. I've never done anything so hard. The language is hard. I have been having a really hard time learning the language lately. At the beginning I was excelling like crazy and then it just stopped....hopefully it will start to flow over the next few weeks.

We taught our first and second lesson this last week. It was a nightmare! We have to say it all in chinese and we don't know any chinese. So he will just sit there looking at us with those piercing, scary, blue eyes while we fumble through books trying to find the right word, phrase or tone. It's insane. But I could tell from our second lesson that we got better so I have a growing confidence that we will continue to get better. 

So on day two, I got called as District Leader! AHHHHH! I'm so stressed. I'm the leader of the only district who has been here for less than a week. All the other districts in our zone have been here for 6 weeks and they will all leave in 3 weeks and we'll then be the "veterans" for the new missionaries.

Last thing, I went through the Provo temple, I felt the Spirit so strong. It was incredible."

Elder Hanks' District

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sept 18th, 2013 - MTC drop off !

Elder Hanks & his dad overlooking the MTC before we drive across the street!
Here we go!
Elder Hanks' adventure begins!
Elder Hanks was up at 6:30am this morning! Added a few church songs to his ipod, had a few crepes for breakfast & off we headed to the MTC in Provo. Of course we had to do all the typical things you do before hitting the MTC....lunch somewhere (where you also see 50 other missionaries doing the same thing with their families1) a stop at the Provo temple for pictures & the final tearful hugs before you make that final approach to the MTC.

Sept 18, 2013 - How much does it weigh?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sept 12, 2013 - Packing and a haircut...oh my!

Books so far! 12 more pounds of books coming from the MTC!

2 suits, 2 pair shoes, 12 pairs of socks,10 pairs of pants,
 9 white shirts, too many ties to count, 3 piece luggage I ready yet?

Packing up my desk....:(

Oh man.... here it goes, I'm not looking!
I hope my mom knows what she is doing!

Not so bad- for a non-professional

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sept 5, 2013 - Where in the world am I going?

So you can have an idea where I am going... 
There are a couple of languages spoken in my mission - English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil and Iban. Malay and Iban are mainly spoken in Malaysia. English is spoken in most businesses and is taught in school. Some chinese youth are fluent in 3 languages: Mandarin, English and Malay. There are alot of missionaries going right now that are speaking english. Some have even gotten phone calls from the Mission Pres. asking them to come early. I have not heard about very many Mandarin missionaries, have to admit, I'm kinda nervous and wondering about that. It will be interesting and fun to see how many Mandarin missionaries there are! I will get to experience year round warm,80 degree, tropical weather because Singapore is so close to the equator. But it also rains alot and I have been told that during the monsoon season, when I transfer areas, I should put my clothes and stuff in plastic baggies and garbage bags before putting them in my suitcase as a way to keep them from getting soaked as we transfer.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sept 1, 2013 - The countdown has begun!

So Sept has arrived, which begins the countdown- the real countdown to leaving for the MTC! There will be another countdown to leave for Singapore. Two immunizations left- influenza & a polio booster. I also recieved my first letter from my mission President, Pres. Mains, from Pennsylvania. He has been there close to a year, so I should have him as a President my whole mission. So we are having 2 open houses- Saturday Sept 14th is for friends & neighbors from 6-8 and an open house on Sunday for just my family. 18 days!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Typhoid fever time!

So this week I have to start taking 4 pills, every other day for my typhoid fever immunizations! Hope I remember!  Can't eat an hour before I take them or for 2 hours after i take them.... thats a problem !  when will that be.. 3 am?! (PS this was a test post to see if our blog is working1)