Monday, March 31, 2014

We're finding investigators!

(No pictures this week) 
This week has been a very uplifting week with new investigators including some teenagers, a maybe Jehovah's Witness, and a Buddhist referral.

We were contacting one day not sure of what to do and we were going from house to house being rejected by mostly Buddhists. It's really amusing to hear what they say for rejection; they'll say, "I" or "We worship God." and shut the door. I just want to call out, "Hey no way! We do too! Can we talk about him with you and your family?" But the door is already closed or they look at you funny and slowly walk away. 

As we continued to knock on doors, we came to a house, knocked and an Indian man showed up at the door and said, "Would you like to come in?" We were both taken back a little to the immediate and warm invitation, but we accepted his offer and entered his home. We met his kids and looked over to see him on the couch looking at us with ready eyes; we sat down to join him. He asked us for our names and we for his and the first thing he said was, "What is the message you have to share with me?" Now both my companion and I are just like, "Whaaaatttt!!!" Haha - this is so great!
 I've never had an experience that has gone as smooth as this experience was going so I started to share about the importance of family to God and so on. Then at one point he asked, because we were talking about eternities and such, "Where will we live when we live for eternity?" or in other words, "Where will this place be?" I was kind of confused by the question because I didn't know if he wanted a simple answer or a deep answer. So I said with our Heavenly Father, but he asked the question again and I just plainly said, "Here on Earth after the Savior comes again." Which is the most basic answer I could give to such an interesting and profound question. He then beamed and said, "Yes! That's what I believe!" He then pulled out his Bible and talked about all the doctrine of Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible comparing bible translations and he agrees that the King James Bible is the most correct and really enjoyed what was in it. He also expressed that he had already met the missionaries before and actually had a Book of Mormon.

 I just want to thank any past missionaries who served here; you did a great job.  We continued to talk and he asked one of the greatest questions a missionary wants to hear, "What is the need for another book?" I understood that this man was a man who would follow doctrine given to him, so I shared Ephesians 37 showing him the reason and actual mention of the Book of Mormon found in the Bible. He was so intrigued by this, especially because the missionaries before had not shared this with him before, so he promised to find out and do research. At one point he actually said that he didn't give his all to find out the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; that to me says that he realizes that this is a big deal worth pursuing. The only down side is we think he is a Jehovah's Witness, but we are working on seeing how to show him in a loving way the truth of Jehovah, and that is being Jesus Christ. Leaving his home he invited us to come back and gave us his phone number saying, "Just give me a tinkle." I can't wait to give him a 'tinkle.' So funny, I think he meant "jingle" ! Awesome guy anyway! So awesome! 

Later in the week, we decided to call up a teenage boy we had met before and he invited us to play basketball with him and some friends the next morning and we accepted. That morning we met with him, his cousin, and a friend of his, and others, to play a few games of b-ball. We all had a great time, especially this old guy that was playing with us; he was sinking almost every three he made which was pretty humiliating on my part. But he was a cool old guy. We finished playing and most of the people left besides these three guys, so we invited us over to talk to them a little bit.
They all spoke English fluently, thankfully, so I was able to share with them from my heart the truthfulness of this gospel. They are all about 15 years old so to get started was a little rough to get them engaged with what I was saying, but as we continued to talk and share, I was able to engage them and help them understand by applying the story of Joseph Smith, the Restoration, and all that to them and tried to kind of put them in Joseph's shoes. That helped them understand the importance of the gospel and we were able to give the friend a Book of Mormon and asked them all to read it and think about it. It was really great because I was trying to help them understand what the truthfulness of the book of Mormon could feel like to them, so I said something along the lines of, "Have you guys ever been reading the Bible and something you read just goes BOOM (I made sort of an explosion sound) in your brain and you just think, ' Whoa! That's so cool?' Have you ever had that before?" The teenage boy we met with said, "Yes! I've had that before!" I then pointed out, "This is what the Book of Mormon can feel like when you read it!" They all seemed to really think that was funny but cool. We are really excited to meet with them next week and see if they had any cool experiences with the Book of Mormon. 

By the way, Sister Romney rocketh! (She's looking over my shoulder)

So our last investigator is a referral from a member so that makes it all the better! Sunday afternoon we went with him, his wife, and his son to a small city-town called Pandai Remis. There are about 0 Christians in this small area because they are mostly Buddhists and Hindus; to make it even better, this town is so small that very, very, VERY, few white people ever go there. Side-note, the word for white person in Hokin, a chinese dialect, is Amolan. As I was walking around this town, people were staring at me and saying over and over again, "Amolan." It's even funnier because they don't know that I can understand them which makes you feel really good about yourself. The only bad part about this story is that we had to buy our meal to eat, therefore I broke the Sabbath day. Uhhh-  Who would have known that the first time I break that commandment would be on my mission! It was all for a good cause- finding an investigator!  
But we found his friend and we shared a message about the plan of salvation and the man was so engaged with what we were sharing, he didn't take his eyes off of us. By the end of the hour and a half we spent with this man, he asked some questions that lead so well into the Restoration! We just didn't have time to share that message so we are saving that for next week.

I'm really excited for this upcoming weekend for several reasons which include: A baptism, General Conference, Easter Sunday, need there be anything more? I'll be sure to share all about it after it all happens! We have to wait for an entire week after you guys - until we can hear and watch General Conference, so I really can't wait to watch it! Love you all so much as always!

Also, Happy Birthday this week Amanda and Dad! Hope you have a wonderful day! 

Elder Hanks

Monday, March 24, 2014

It rained, I played the piano & why aren't they flooding to the church?

I have learned a very valuable lesson this week on the power of the Atonement that I would like to share, but before I do I'll share the other things of this week.

A less active we have been working with is having some problems with her testimony. She was baptized a few years ago, but there is one question that I have when I hear her talk about the gospel, "How in the world did she get baptized?" We have often met with her and have shared the message of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation, but she believes that God does not have a body, therefore, Joseph Smith didn't see Him, and she doesn't have a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. It testifies to me the importance of starting the process of conversion versus just getting baptized.  So, we showed her evidences in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that God has a body and she is currently looking within herself and praying about, whether or not God has a body. 

In other things, we have been in a drought a little bit, but we had a couple days of rain fall that have been very enjoyable. I'm just confused about peoples' attitude towards rain. Everyday they say, "It's really hot! Why can't it rain?!" Then when rain comes they are all really happy, but they will not do anything because, "It's raining." I don't get it. They want rain to come, but when it does they run away from it and into their houses! Haha, so funny!

We have been teaching an Ibon girl and we have her on date to be baptized on April 5th! She is on her way and there seems to be no problem. Because she is Ibon, she only speaks Malay, which I don't speak, so even though she is getting baptized next week, I don't really know if it counts for a baptism for me or   for me to even say that I taught her, because I couldn't teach her anything!  Just a thought for pondering :) But we are so excited for her baptism- so cross your fingers (and pray) it stays on track!

FHE was a blast to have with the branch. We played the animal game, if any of you have played that, and they absolutely loved it! Everyone was having a great time and enjoyed one another's company. 

Our branch pianist is in Japan this week and next week, so that means that I get to play the piano. I just want to express my greatest appreciation and love to those who encouraged me or taught me to play the piano!  Without you, the wonderful Sitiawan branch would have conducted Sacrament meeting without music to sing to this week! Haha- I didn't make too many mistakes, I have been practicing when I can! Of course, now is when you wish you would have taken piano lesson for more years that you actually did...

So, the power of the Atonement is real and I want to bear testimony of it. We had been trying our best all day to find people to teach and meet, but unfortunately only met with one or two people. Later, at dinner that night, a lady approached us and asked who we were and what we are doing. We explained who we were and our purpose. She seemed to take interest and asked about the church here. She asked, "How long have you been here? How big is your congregation?" I didn't know, so Elder Lee informed me that the church has been here for about 7 years and that we have about 40 active members. This woman looked shocked at the numbers we just shared with her. She then said, "you've been here for 7 years and only have 40 members?" I could see her interest wane and she thanked us and left.

On the bike ride home, I said to my companion, "Elder Lee, why don't people just flood to the gospel? Why don't they want to listen?" He then said, "I have a video to show you." We got home and he pulled out his phone. He then showed me a video called "Missionary Work and the Atonement." If you have not seen this video before, I highly recommend it. In fact, I insist you see it. In it, Elder Eyring and Elder Holland speak of the Atonement and it's connection with missionary work. I don't want to quote the entire video, but I then felt the power of the Atonement in my heart and I lost all feeling of pride, doubt, despair, etc. I just felt the love of the Savior and I felt ashamed to have lost a little faith. I am grateful that Elder Lee showed me that video and we are constantly praying for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help us become successful missionaries He wants us to become. 

I have learned that a successful missionary isn't one of many baptisms or investigators, but an obedient missionary. 

Love you

Elder Hanks

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dump trucks & Settlers of Catan

I'm beginning to feel the value of a mission - both the good things and the bad, but it's all really good. 
Their apartment-  not sure what kind of sarong/pant thing his companion is wearing...!

My Chinese has picked up and now that I feel better with the language again, both my companion and I will now begin to work on more companion-shared lessons where we both effectively teach and testify in unison and I feel like once we get that down, nothing can stop us in the work. 

I have begun to learn a lot and feel a lot of the power of missionary work in the field. We went contacting one day to try and take up some time until our next appointment. During that time, we had some great rejections from some of the people we tried to talk to, but it's all good. One of the houses we knocked on, a man came out and one of the first things he said was something along the lines of, "Not interested in church and Jesus Christ." I thought that that was our cue to leave, but my great companion just started to talk to him about our message and such. After talking to him for a little bit, he said he wasn't interested again but we kept talking to him. We both shared how important the gospel is and the blessings it contains. We ended up talking to this guy for over 30 minutes about the gospel and he accepted the Book of Mormon and 2 pamphlets we gave him agreeing for us to meet with him again later. Really neat contacting experience. That day we had some good contacts done. 

So, we have been having a drought here in Malaysia lately and  have been feeling the heat every time we go out. To our good fortune though, we had some rain storms this past weekend, the first rain storm had some good sized drops and wind to it, so when it hit we ducked into a local store to get out of the rain. Walking inside, we saw a sign that said, "Free eye test." Elder Lee knew that I had a bad eye, and he wanted to see if we could contact the girl working at the store, so I volunteered to have the test. After the test, she told me I had lazy eye...yea I know...but we talked to her for a while, but didn't get anywhere because she just wanted to sell me glasses for my lazy eye. So we stood up to leave when a big guy across the walkway motioned us to come over. We walked over and started talking to this man. Turns out, he is a member who hasn't been able to come to church because he is always working at the little phone booth he was in. He expressed his deep love for the gospel and he has great faith in obedience to the commandments and such, except coming to church, but near the end of our talk, he offered us a prayer right there in the store. Really cool guy.

A fun experience we had was riding in a big construction truck with a member this week. We were riding bikes down the street when a truck next to us honked his horn. We looked over to see one of our members in the driver's seat. He asked us if we wanted to come with him to a work sight and back real fast. Without even thinking, we said "yes." My first thought as soon as we got in the truck was, "What are you doing!"  But then I had the feeling that we should go with him, so I just sat there as we drove away. We went to the work site and back, and as the member was dropping off the massive pile of dirt he picked up, one of his co-workers pulled up next to us. We began talking and he said that he has been to our church before! We were stunned, got his name, number, and we have plans to meet with him later! Pretty cool experience that was both fun and rewarding! 
Ammon's companion

So, we have played settlers of Catan a couple times this week as sort of a lesson type atmosphere. With one of our investigators, we met at the church and set up the game to play. Before we played, however, we asked if we could share a message about the Plan of Salvation. With this investigator we began to teach the Plan of Salvation with him and at one point he said that his father had passed away a few years ago. Now, this investigator has interest in our church but is not so sure about being baptised. We taught him about how he can be with his father again and if he really wanted to, can help his father be baptised as well in the temple. This seemed to click something in his mind and he said he would really like that. We were able to commit him to baptism and he is currently thinking of a date to be baptized on. 

their Church building 

Love you all! 
Elder Hanks

Friday, March 14, 2014

Badminton is a real sport....

Sitiawan is just so hot all the time. I can't go anywhere outside without sweating to death it's just so hot. But I'm loving it here in my new small area. I'm starting to get the great feeling of doing missionary work that is supposed to be felt everyday of the mission. 

I've had some really good experiences lately,  such as an investigator no longer wanted us to teach her. We read with her out of the Book of Mormon last week and invited her to pray about it. When we came back later, she said she had talked to her pastor about the Book of Mormon and he told her it was not a book like the Bible and she should not read it. So she gave us back the Book and we haven't seen her since. But I pray that in the future she will have another chance to hear the gospel.

 A potential investigator we talked to in the past,  agreed to meet with us and we meet up. Elder Lee, being so skilled, mostly talked with him about life, work, and such, but then got into the gospel. This great man has never even heard of Jesus Christ, let alone pray. And as Elder Lee was talking about the gospel, this man was focused right on what Elder Lee was saying and I felt the power of the Spirit so strong walking away from that meeting. 

We have talked to a lot of our investigators about baptism and have helped a lot of them commit to baptism. Some with baptismal dates and some without. But I am happy to see many people wanting to make that next step with the Lord. I am even more impressed with the teenagers here in Sitiawan. They are so intuned with the Spirit that prompts them to learn about the gospel. We have several investigators who are young men, some women, who are being independent of their parents and wanting to learn about the gospel. It is so powerful to see these young people, younger than me, exercise a more independent faith and commitment than what I feel I only started to do as I prepared for my mission. 

So the other day, we were invited by an investigator to go and play some badminton. We agreed and the investigator picked us up. Arriving at the courts, I began to realize that badminton isn't a leisurely sport like my family plays in the back yard of our house; this is truly a sport over here. We played for a long time of intense high chips to hard spikes over the short net. I was sweating and struggling to keep up. But in the long run it was a really enjoyable experience. The investigator who invited us brought his older brother along and after we played until we were all tired and hungry, we sat down and read out of the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 31. Talking to them about baptism, we were able to bring the spirit enough to commit both of them to baptism. Just without a date. The investigator came to church for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed it. Elder Lee and I have such great hopes for the area of Sitiawan. 

I'm working hard with Elder Lee to learn Chinese, I'm trying to speak nothing but Chinese with him and it seems to be a big help. 

No pictures this week, trying to figure out the computers here still.

Sincerely, Elder Hanks

Monday, March 3, 2014

From East to West & how's my Chinese you ask?

out to lunch in Sibu

I am now serving in the far west part of Malaysia called Sitiawan.  Sitiawan is a very small city with about 32000 people. That's really small compared to my last area in Sibu with about 150,000 or something like that. My new companion is Elder Lee, a native elder from Singapore. He is fluent in Chinese and English and actually has been called to serve speaking Malay. It's really fun to have him as my new companion because he is so dang awesome!!! He is 24 years old and is a convert to the church with a great testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. 

So, now that I am in Sitiawan with a native companion who is fluent in Chinese, my first thoughts were, "My Chinese is going to excel like crazy." But not really. I guess for the first few days I was here, I felt intimidated by both the people and my companion. They all spoke perfect Chinese and I was the only one with broken Chinese. So for a couple of days I really struggled to speak the language. At one point when we were talking about the Book of Mormon with a less active, I was given the opportunity to explain about Lehi, something that I've done before in Sibu, but I was at a lost of words to do so. My companion apologized and even said, "His Chinese isn't that great." Which is true, my Chinese isn't great. Over the next couple of days I prayed fervently and studied diligently to receive the gift of tongues and speak Chinese. Sunday came along and I was still nervous, but I had the opportunity to bear my testimony and although it was a very simple one, it helped to know that my Chinese was still there and I had a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and that's all that really mattered. Ever since that moment, my Chinese has gotten much better and improved so much that last night during nightly planning, I said the closing prayer in Chinese and after it was done my companion looked at me and said, "Wow, you have really good Chinese." I'm excited to learn from him with his perfect Chinese and his amazing teaching skills.

So Sitiawan; like I said, it's really small but I already love it.
The few members we have in Sitiawan(about 75), are great and we know were all of them are. In Sibu, we didn't even know where a lot of our members were and tried hard to find them. There is about 25 active members who have amazing testimonies and out of this small branch have they done and are doing great things. They have seminary almost everyday and the branch council is a well put together council with a real feeling of going forth and doing the work the Lord wants us to do. I feel like if Sitiawan grew in membership, it would be a powerhouse for the gospel. 

Our church building is in a shop lot building so when we first pulled up to the Church I didn't even see it, but when you open the 'garage door' there is the sign that says, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' with church-like doors leading inside. It's so cool!!!! Still very small.

We already have a good size teaching pool to teach but we are always looking for more people to teach and find. Elder Lee and I share the same feeling of wanting to do as much as we can while we are here in Sitiawan. 

I'm glad I had the experiences I had in Sibu and I'm especially grateful I was able to spend so much time and have become close friends with the people in Sibu. I will miss them very much and I hope one day I can return there to see what things have transpired there. 

Good bye Sibu, Hello Sitiawan!