Monday, February 24, 2014

2 Bike Wrecks and a transfer (ahhh!)

Transfers came this week and I got the news that I would be leaving the wonderful area of Sibu! It's sad to leave such a wonderful place, especially with so much going on. I'm going to be transferred to a little area on the opposite side of the mission called Sitiawan. It's the smallest area in the mission a Chinese Elder can work in, so I'm a little surprised it's my second area. But I hope that there is a very special purpose in my going there. I'm going to miss Elder Earl though, he has been just so great!  I hope that the work in Sibu will grow immensely while he continues to serve here in Sibu.  (Sibu is in East Malaysia, his new area in Sitiawan is in West Malaysia) 

Some fun things that has happened here in Sibu over the last couple of days include dropping an investigator, being involved in two bike accidents in less than an hour, a new great investigator, and of course I'm getting transferred.

So, first the investigator. We have been working with him for a while now and he stopped progressing for a while because he was out of town. Now that he is back -  he won't stop calling us, literally. He had been calling us for a while wanting to just hang out with us. During one of these calls he informed us that he wanted to go proselyting with us; okay no problem. So we met up with him and started on our way to our first appointment which was a good distance away.
 He followed us there on his moto at like 5 miles an hour and as soon as we got there he said, "Okay I'm going home." So he left!  We met with our appointment, had a great time, and then left. Later we get a phone call from this investigator who followed us and then left - and he said that he wanted to meet up again. We had time and we were on the way to the church, so we told him to meet us there so we could talk about the gospel. We brought a member with us to meet with him and teach him a lesson and when he showed up he said he wanted to go to the nearby stadium and jog around the track!  I asked why because we thought he wanted to discuss the gospel. Super weird,  but we finally got him in the church. I was on exchanges this day with a malay elder so it was all up to me to do this lesson. 
As I tried to have a good lesson, this investigator was completely silent; wouldn't answer my questions, nothing!  So after a very awkward hour, we ended and left the lesson. He kept calling us several times a day for a few days,  when he called one day and said we should go exercise at the stadium together. I told him that we didn't have time to but we can set up a time to meet and such. He then said to me, "You know that your church isn't true right?" He then asked to talk to my companion. I handed Elder Earl the phone so the investigator could say the same thing to Elder Earl. Elder Earl being so skilled said, "Oh really? Did you ask God? Did you pray about it?" He responded, "No." "Well, I know my church is true." Before long the investigator just hung up the phone. We thought that would be the last of him, but he has kept calling us several times a day still!  

Some of the Elders from Sibu Jaya invited us up to there area to teach a Chinese lady they had been trying to work with. We went up there and met this sweet sister. This sister was very quiet but loved the gospel. We taught the Restoration and she took it all in. Near the end of our lesson, I gave her a Book of Mormon to read and she loved the book. As we were leaving she kept shaking my hand and saying, "Thank you for giving me this book. I'm so happy!!!!" It was so beautiful to see such a love for the Book of Mormon in this sister's eyes. We called her two days later to follow up with her and she said that she had already read to 2 Nephi. Awesome! Can't wait to hear what will be going on with her and her progress in the gospel.

So, the bike accidents; one wasn't my fault and the other was. We were on exchanges (only weird things happen on exchanges), I was with Elder Kehl and Elder Olivares. We were on the way to the church for a social activity, Elder Olivares was in front, then me, then Elder Kehl. Elder Olivares rode past the red light at an intersection and rode ahead while Elder Kehl and I had to wait at the light. We were parked next to a truck and the common thing to do was to grab on to the side of the truck to get more speed. We grabbed on, me in front, and picked up some speed. When I was satisfied with the speed I had ( and it wasn't even that fast anyways!)  I let go. But Elder Kehl wanted to keep going. The road was already pretty narrow and as Elder Kehl kept holding on, he kept going faster until his front tire was rubbing my back tire. I could feel them rubbing when I felt a jolt on my bike and then nothing. I turned around in time to see Elder Kehl fly over his bike and crash on the road luckily sliding onto the grass nearby. He had actually flown over his handle bars and landed on my back tire as I was riding. I have a mudguard there so his body was actually on the tire, but he broke the guard and fell onto the asphalt. I was totally fine and didn't even fall but he ended up with some scrapes and bruises but is alright- haha - dangerous stuff when missionaries bike ride! 

The next accident happened a few minutes later. We switched back to normal companionships, I was with Elder Earl, and Elder Olivares decided to come with us to an appointment. We were on the side of the road passing cars which where stopped because of a red light. There were some guys doing something sketchy on the side of the road, which caused me to look over at them just long enough for me to be too distracte! haha -  I was looking over at them when I looked forward again I saw a parked truck on the side of the road about 12 yards ahead of me! With how fast I was going, I knew I couldn't evade it, but I still tried my best to dodge it!  As I tried to turn out of the way, my handle bar smashed into the back corner of the truck and smashed the tail light. The owner of the car was the guy doing sketchy things on the side of the road and he walked over and seeing the damage I did - was not happy. I immediately said to him, "How much money do I owe you?" The guy kept looking at the car still not that happy looking when he looked at me and something went on in his head that he all of a sudden looked calm. He looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it." I was shocked. "Really?" I said. "Don't worry about it." he said again. He then walked back to doing the sketchy thing he was doing before. It was super weird but I'm just glad that I didn't get hurt or do any more damage than I really did. 

Well, I'm off so Sitiawan! I'm excited for a great new start in a new area and I hope that I may be the best Sitiawan missionary that I can be! 

Love you all!

Elder Hanks

Monday, February 17, 2014

1st email: Spider and stolen bike helmets! 2nd email- Finished my training & transfers are coming !

Feb 10th email: 
Chinese New Year has begun to die down, but I feel like it is building up for the last day of Chinese New Year; the 15th. Just like the first day of Chinese New Year with all the fireworks and firecrackers firing off, I feel like the last day of Chinese New Year will be another night with little sleep. some of these picture cannot quite capture the brilliance of that first day of Chinese New Year, but I am dead serious when I say that fireworks and firecrackers were being fired off at every house, except ours. 

Some fun things that happened this week, one morning as Elder Earl and I were getting ready to head out, Elder Earl was sitting on the couch next to me when he just started making a weird screaming sound. I though Elder Earl was being his funny-self when he said, "Spider!" I thought, "Oh brother, just smash it." I stood up and told Elder Earl to smash it when I got behind the couch to see a spider a little smaller than my hand sitting behind the couch. I realized we would need more assistance with handling the situation. Calling on other elders' assistance, we took on the task of getting the spider, but this spider was trained. We grabbed an empty container to trap it in, when, with great speed, the spider ran under the couch. We would not let him escape. We moved the couch and it would charge at us, then right before it got to us would turn back and get back under the couch we moved. For the next ten minutes of moving the couch back and forth and the spider charging then retreating, we slammed the container over the spider trapping it and sealing the container, disposed of it. It was pretty fun.
Looking for the giant spider!
check out the size of the bugs over here! 

One other event that happened, Yesterday, as we were getting ready to leave the Church and head home, a really nice BMW drove into the church. By the way, people who drive cars like that are RICH. This car drove around the church once, and our District President was a little uneasy. The car drove around the church again, and when I tried to look into the window to see who it was, all I saw was two people in the car with some sort of hat on. It was really weird shaped. Seeing them drive around again, the District President exclaimed, "your bikes! are they stealing your bikes?" the BMW drove out of the parking lot and away while we when to look to see if our bikes were okay. We had locked the bikes up so they were okay, but our helmets were gone...they stole our helmets. That doesn't really make sense, because if you are driving a BMW there is no way that you need or would even want to steal bike helmets. We went upstairs and watched some of the security cameras of them driving away. Couldn't really get information to track them down, but our night guard was determined to do something. So as he's working on that, I'm just kind of grateful that nothing really bad was stolen. So we got to buy some new helmets. fun stuff. 
looking at security images of our helmets getting stolen 

So, the investigator we had on date for this Saturday has been changed to another date, the 8th of March. They didn't come to church last week and we figured that if they just missed once for Chinese New Year and they come next week and so on, they could still be baptized the 15th of February. But, after telling us that they would come this Sunday, they did not come. We felt prompted to go over to their house and tell them that we could not baptize them this Saturday. It was really hard telling them that their date has been changed and they looked devastated, but I think the Spirit was with them and we explained to them that this is for the best. So they are now looking forward to the 8th of March and they hope that I will baptize them. We have transfers between now and then, so unless I get transferred, I will hopefully have my first baptism next month.

One other cool experience that I want to share is pretty cool. Several weeks ago, a member brought her friend to church. Her friend, a non-member really liked church especially primary for her kids, but for some reason never came back. For a week or so after her first coming to church, we couldn't find her or call her, we didn't have her number. When we just happened to run into her and the mall with her husband. We talked and was able to get her number. Several weeks later, and after many attempts to meet with her, we called her this past week and she said she was going to that member's home in whom she was friends with. I asked if it was ok if we came and she was okay with it; called the member and got a time to be there. That day, I went on exchanges with Elder Sessions, a Malay Elder. We went over and shared a message about the Book of Mormon and the blessings of the Gospel on families. We felt the Spirit very strong that morning and gave her a Book of Mormon to read. This past Sunday was testimony meeting for our branch. The member whom we were with when we taught bore her testimony and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity she had to be with us when we taught her friend. She than, after the meeting, told the senior missionaries she wanted to bring her friend over to her house every Saturday morning and have a lesson with us. I am so excited to teach this sister. She has such a wonderful Spirit and I can see her having great blessings from the gospel.

Well, that was a long email and if you read it all, great! If you didn't, I understand. But I hope you just know that I'm grateful to be on a mission here in Sibu, and miracles really do happen.

Love you all!!! 
Elder Hanks

Feb 17th email :

Finishing up training last week was rewarding in it's fullest. I really enjoyed training with Elder Earl, but with that extra hour of studying taken away, now we have so much more time to go proselyting and I'm loving it!!!
Chinese New Year has ended, but because of the rich abundance of food, we still eat. Also, with Chinese New Year being over, when we call to set up appointments, people now know that we are not just coming over to 'gong xi fa cai' but to actually teach a lesson.

One of the great lessons we had this week is of a Less Active and a potential investigator. We went with a member to visit and talk with this less active who lives right next door to a investigator we have. The investigator's wife was with this less active and we had a long talk getting to know one another. When we began discussing the Book of Mormon, the potential investigator was very interested with it. What typically happens when we turn to a scripture and share it is the individual will read it and then listen, but not this lady. This sister would read the scripture we wanted to share and then continue to read it and ask questions. They were great questions and before we could even answer the less active began answering her questions and they had a little 'Book of Mormon discussion." I was way impressed and we are hoping to help the less active come back to church and be the fellowshipper for this sister to help her and her family come closer to Christ.

Valentine's was this past week and I was able to go on splits to a wedding!!! I went on splits with Elder Wilson, a cool Malay-speaking elder, and we arrived at an apartment complex where the wedding was happening. We walked into their little apartment and there we ate food before the ceremony. The bride and groom walked in and sat down joining the circle of people. I don't speak Malay so I didn't understand what was being said as they talked and spoke with each other. They asked for our senior missionary, Elder Beus, to say a special prayer blessing them and their marriage. After the prayer, the Ibon branch president began speaking to the couple about marriage and other things. Before long, and after a lot of advice given, apparently they were married; and I didn't even know it...grrr... But it was great to see a young couple get married and advice was given on eventually going to the temple and being sealed. So cool.

On another split with Elder Scott, we stayed in my area and had a wide variety of food which included the delicacies of deer to the weirdness of carrot milk. One of the potential investigators we met with that day whom we have been meeting with for a while, finally accepted us teaching him about the gospel and we have an appointment with him tomorrow! So excited! If he were to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, because he is Buddhist, he would be a strong member, I believe. 

We have been working hard this week to try and meet with as many people as we can, especially with training being done and our having an extra hour of proselyting. And I was able to see some of the fruits of our labors. Yesterday, for sacrament meeting, we had 48 people attend sacrament meeting, which is the highest attendance we have ever had being here in Sibu. It was great to see, but it was also sad to see more than 50% of them leave right after sacrament meeting. We'll have to work on that. ;)

This week may be the last week of Elder Earl and I being here together in Sibu. Transfers are this week and we are sure that one of us will be leaving. It's sad too, we now have two investigators on date for next month, less actives we are excited to work with, and many new investigators to help come closer to Christ. I love Elder Earl and I was so happy to be his trainee and him being my first companion. I'm always going to miss him and I will be sure to stay in contact with him throughout the mission. He is such a great guy and I'm even more grateful I was able to meet his parents in New York this past summer at the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Now that our companionship is coming to an end, I'm really nervous on whether or not I will be staying and taking over an area, or moving areas and starting new in a new area. Really nervous but excited! Love you all and Happy Valentine's day! 

With this Holiday of love, I just want to emphasize and bear testimony that the Savior Jesus Christ knows and loves each and every one of us. I have been blessed this past week of feeling that love abundantly in the work. I'm grateful to have served here in Sibu and we will see where the Lord wants me to serve next.

Elder Hanks

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gong Xi Fa Cai ! Happy Chinese New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai ! The traditional way of wishing a happy & successful new year! With Chinese New Year starting this past week - it was been a crazy week ! 

Starting with the night of Chinese New Year, we had heard that we would not be able to sleep because of the amount of fireworks that were going to be going off. So that night, we went to bed on time and did all that we were supposed to do as missionaries. As we were going to bed, there were some fireworks outside & it was kinda loud, but not too bad as to prevent us from sleeping. Around 11:00pm however, there began to be an intensified quantity of fire works being shot off and for the next hour fireworks continuously increased until it was just too tempting to look outside. There is a balcony in our apartment that we went outside to watch as the fireworks just went off at almost every house in Sibu! Then 12;00 came and every single Chinese person in Sibu lit off any form of fire thing that they had and Sibu lit up like the sun in mid day (OK not quite that bright but you get the picture!) It was so bright & so loud, I took pictures without my flash & they turned out great (those will be sent later) and I could not even hear anyone talk to me unless they were yelling right next to my ear! It was that loud! I have never seen so many fireworks in one place! This made New Years in America look like a candle and a 1/2 ! 

The next few day we have not been able to teach any lessons, but we have not stopped visiting people for Chinese New Year. At each home they have a table just foll of little cakes, cookies, treats, meats...anything you can think of. When you go in they just give you drinks & expect you to eat AND if you don't eat, it creates this awkward environment- so then you eat! It hasn't been hard to eat so much delicious food for so long- but it is getting hard on my body. I think I am starting to have some food based mood swings!? Is that possible? And my stomach is starting to have some complaints too! And New Year lasts another week & a half- how am I going to do it? I am getting Hong Boa's which are red envelopes of money, which the married & older Chinese people give out to young kids & single people who visit their houses. It is almost worse to reject those than the food- Chinese culture! 

We have an investigator on date for next Saturday to be baptized & it all looks really good! We are going to continue visiting them often this week & read the Book of Mormon with them- They love it when we do that! Even when we just drop by to visit, they will grab their Book of Mormon & say "Dushu" - which means study or read. I can't wait to see them enter the waters of Baptism. 

With Chinese New Year we are meeting a lot of new people & finding many less active members. This is a great time of the year!

When I get back to the States, Chinese New Year is definitely going to be a tradition in my family! It will be so great! 
Love you all & wishing you all the best in this Year of the Horse! 
Elder Hanks
The food tables set out in peoples homes for Chinese New Year