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 !