Monday, April 28, 2014

District Conference= Hastening the work, even with some local monkeys

April 26 2014 letter

We had our district conference this past week in Ipoh. I love going to Ipoh. The members there are awesome!!! I went on exchanges with the elders there and met some of the members and I just want to let you all know that the faith here of the members is tremendous!!! I can't believe the faith that they have, it makes me consider and think about my own faith and how I can match theirs. They are always so happy to be a member of this true church and it's great to see the gospel working in their lives. In Ipoh on Saturday and Sunday, the topic of the conference was Hastening the Work. There is something definitely happening in the world today that requires the work of every available hand to step up and pitch in. We cannot stand idly near by and cheer others on as they indulge in the joy of this work.

Being in Malaysia and seeing the small quantity of members here, it is made clear to me that we need more souls saved now than ever before and the demand for member missionaries is steadily increasing. You do not have to talk to everyone that you meet and share the gospel with them right on the spot like us regular missionaries do everyday. Missionaries are full-time teachers and that is our calling. However, members have a full-time calling as full-time finders. Imagine if every member tried to find one person a week or even a month for the rest of the year? The church would most definitely double by the end of the year. I think it's a great idea that M. Russell Ballard shared this past General Conference, to set a date, prayerfully, and then go about trying to reach that goal; you will reach it. 

Want to hear about some bible bashing? So a while ago we knocked on an Indian man's door and he welcomed us in on the spot and asked us what our message was. We were surprised at this man's directness and very excited about teaching him. This past week we visited him for the third time. This man is a Jehovah's Witness and his intent in meeting with us is to show us the flaws of the church and convert us to his beliefs. We spent an entire hour talking and, not quite, arguing about the scriptures in the Bible. It was hard for me to just bear my testimony because he just wouldn't listen and just interrupt. There are two main points that he is having a hard time accepting to help him understand that Joseph Smith is a prophet; polygamy and our church before having a militia. According to Jesus Christ's words in the New Testament, both the concept of taking multiple wives and taking up arms is a sin and cannot be in the true church of God. It's hard to proove to him that polygamy was once acceptable in our church and no longer is because we believe in revelation from God. It's a little easier to explain the taking up arms. But the bottom line is that he has had a book of Mormon for a while, but just won't read it. He has read many histories and other things from his own church's website, but he won't read the Book of Mormon. He told us to come back to his house next week and show him the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. So okay, we are going this Friday and we are just going to focus on him reading the Book of Mormon. 
I would like to know about what you all think about these two principles that he has brought up. What do you think? 
I am glad that we are meeting with him though, because he always shares these scriptures with us that he hopes will tear down my faith, but it actually continues to build it up! I love it! 

Our brightest investigator,  A____, is looking good for baptism this next month, May 10th and we are so excited for them.  They passed their interview Yesterday and we will begin the preparations immediately, okay maybe not that fast. but still. This has been a great area to work in with the great Ipoh district and it's fantastic members, and the wonderful Sitiawan branch with it's miracles happening weekly. We are receiving some referrals from investigators and members all around and we are kind of confused on who we should go for because there's so many and it's hard to meet. 

I'll explain some of the pictures from the past two weeks.

M____, the first person I have ever baptized left for Kuching this past week so I will probably never see her again. We went over to her Aunt's place, Sister L____, and had a delicious dinner and shared the importance of enduring to the end. Her younger brother, K____, has given us a referral so we have one more Ibon to teach the gospel to! We are hoping to build the Ibon Kingdom here in Sitiawan! But I gave M____ a picture of her baptism, a CTR ring and wished her good luck because that's about all I can do. She is going to do great though.

Last week, an investigator, A ____, brought us to Pangkor Island, a tropical gettaway in Malaysia. It was a beautiful sight and we have a potential investigator from A____ to start teaching soon. No, I'm not talking about the monkeys we met while we were there although I'm pretty sure the chief  monkey mentioned baptism or something? I don't know, haha -   I'll have to go follow up with their Book of Mormon reading.
On Easter Sunday we had all the youth of the Branch come over to our place and we cooked dinner for them. We had a great time, ate Japanese noodles and cookies. Delicious!

Something I want to mention is that the door on our church is awesome, the key hole is. Whenever I open it I feel like Harry Potter in the first book with that ancient key. Just wanted to show you what I feel like whenever I unlock the Church.

With all these things going on lately, I've realized how COOL the gospel is. No other church, no other gospel, has the absolute astounding things that this gospel has that we can give to others. Just thinking about prophets, priesthood, new scripture, revelations, direct communication with God, a Savior, it's just all so amazing to me. Love it all! 
You are all so amazing and I can feel your prayers. Just know that they are being answered, I know they are.

Elder Hanks

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conference is the BEST!

General Conference was the best!!!! We watched it on Saturday and Sunday and the Spirit was filling my soul, even though only a few people actually showed up to watch. I learned so much from all the wonderful talks given and I can't wait until next Sunday where our Branch will come to watch the Priesthood Session together! Two more wonderful hours of the spirit to look forward to!!! So on Saturday, we didn't have a lot of people come to watch, only like five people to the english, two or three to the Chinese, and none to the Malay; the Ibon members had some problems and had to go away to Ipoh for the weekend so they will come and watch it next week. On Sunday, our Branch all showed up to watch the morning Session and they seemed to enjoy it ( ._ .) and it was a good first Session. We had our family history director from Ipoh visiting us at that time and she taught us A LOT about family history regardless of how experienced we were in family history. yep.  When the Sunday afternoon session started, people slowly started to leave until there were only a few left in the building. This picture of my companion and I, that's where everyone who speaks English goes to watch conference. It's okay though, because as you can tell we are excited to be there!

After going about doing other things after conference had ended, we had english class later in the evening. We got started and had in attendance, 2 members, 3 little kids, and a new person who was a friend of one of the members. We got started and I took the lead in teaching the kids English while Elder Lee taught the new kid. It was fun teaching them because we practiced reading out of the Hymn book on the song, "I Am a Child of God." they seemed to really like it and as we continued to read, I listened over to Elder Lee and heard him start to talk about the gospel to this new student. My only thoughts were of a little prayer, "Go Elder Lee!" and asking for the Spirit to touch this new kids heart. I continued to work with the kids and we had a lot of fun. I gave them a 'homework' assignment to borrow the hymn book and review the words to the song so that next week we can sing it. They all looked pretty excited about it and said they would come back. As I was wrapping up the lesson with them, I listened again to Elder Lee and this new boy talk. The boy had an interesting look on his face as he continued to listen to Elder Lee talk and invite him to keep coming to learn English and the gospel, he seemed almost like he wanted to say something. The next chance he had to speak, he said, "Actually, I wanted to just come and see how it was just for today." My heart sunk to his words, but I kept listening as he then said, "But I think I want to keep coming now every week. I really like this." My heart did a 180 and turned into joy. We finished English class with 3 happy kids studying a hymn and a new investigator for next week. Awesome.

But this day doesn't stop there. We had planned earlier in the week to plan and teach a lesson to a member family whose oldest daughter is leaving this week into the mission heading to Boston, Massachusetts. We wanted to give her a 'missionary experience' before she got to the MTC. We had planned on talking about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon and the blessings it brings. We started out sharing 2 Nephi 31:20 and as we kind of expected from this family, some jokes were tossed around and they didn't really focus on the Spirit that was trying to come into the room. But we kept trying to focus and we directed them to the Spirit that comes from having a missionary in the home and more importantly, the blessings and knowledge that come from the Book of Mormon. The Spirit began to enter the room and I felt impressed to share my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I spoke about how they will soon have a missionary in their family and the diligent work she will be doing in studying the words of the Lord everyday. I spoke about how much I love it when I get an email or a letter from a friend or family member in which they share some of the things that they have been studying in the Book of Mormon, because they teach and share with me what they have learned. At this moment, the thought of my two wonderful younger brothers, Hunter and Max, came into my mind and a silent prayer entered my heart of, "I hope they are reading the Book of Mormon daily." As I thought about them and how much they mean to me, the gosh dang tears came to my eyes and started to blind me. I couldn't really see what was going on in front of me or what everyone was doing, but I kept going and finished with a smile on my face expressing the love I have for the Book of Mormon. 
I wiped the tears from my eyes to see the father of the home, who is usually cracking a joke and always smiling, with a face of tenderness and spiritual peace. I didn't think I would ever see the look that he had on his face, but he looked like the Spirit was in his heart and was intune with its promptings. We invited the parents to begin to read the Book of Mormon together everyday and we are hoping to go back on Wednesday and see how they are doing. They have a great family and I love them all very much! 

One other last story I want to share. We were contacting around an area we have never been before and stopped at a little drink booth to get some drinks to cool off. We started talking with the girl behind the table when an elderly man walked behind her to get around the booth when he looked up and saw my companion and I standing there. He looked a little taken aback and said, "Are you the Mormons?" We paused and I said with a little boldness in my voice, "Yes sir we are." He man then exclaimed, "I don't believe in Mormonism." I only said then asked, "I'm sorry. What have you heard about us? Anything good or bad?" He then said, "I don't believe in Mormonism because you believe in two Gods. I believe in Jesus Christ and God." He then turned to walk away as I cried out, "Sir, we also believe in Jesus Christ and God. We only believe in one God and I don't know who told you that about our church but that is false." He looked a little surprised at what I said, but then exercising the Malaysian stubbornness that is so abundant here, he just turned to walk away and didn't bother to look back. 
This experience really saddens me because people here really don't understand who we are or what we really believe in. They don't know the truth when it is placed before them. I look back on that experience and with the teachings given my M. Russell Ballard in this past General Conference, I now know that, although I wasn't necessarily wrong in admitting we were mormons, it would have been better to declare ourselves as the formal and right name given to us by our Savior himself, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Althought this is a sad experience that shows how little people understand here, I am grateful to get an idea of what we need to do to help people understand. 

I am learning a lot everyday and with this recent General Conference I am excited to use what I have learned until in six months we will all receive further counsel. Love you all! 
Elder Hanks

Monday, April 7, 2014

25 scoops & I finally got wet

I was really loving this past week for many reasons that included General Conference, my dad and Sister's birthday, one of my best friends birthday, Zone Conference in Singapore, and most of all a baptism! 

With General Conference, because we are ahead of America when it comes to time, we have to wait a week until we can watch it at the church as a Branch. It's going to be a party and they are going to be showing it in Chinese, English and Malay. We have just a few members who only speak Malay and when it was announced that they were only going to have Chinese and English, I later asked why we didn't have Malay. He explained that they didn't have another tv or video player. I thought, "Hey! We have one at our house and these members deserve to hear our prophet speak to them!" So I offered to bring our missionary tv and video player to the church this weekend so the members can come and watch. I learned that Sitiawan before actually had 2 groups! A Malay group and a Chinese group. But after a while, the Malay-speaking people just stopped coming so the Chinese group became a branch and now we only have one branch.

We had our Zone Conference this past week in Singapore and I just want to say that Singapore is amazing! The only thing people usually do in Singapore is shopping, touring, or working; that's really it. But once you stick a big group of missionaries in Singapore, it gets pretty fun! There is an ice cream place near the stake center that has a challenge that if you eat 25 scoops of ice cream in 25 minutes, it's free. Two of our elders, Elder Moala and Elder Mayo took on the challenge. It was a very intense to watch, especially since if you fail, the ice cream is like almost $100! Once the challenge started, we learned that the two Elders didn't have any money on them so we pushed them on. Elder Moala is a huge Samoan elder, so he downed this thing and finished in 21 minutes! So intense to watch! So fun!

The Zone Conference itself was inspiring and it's so strengthening to see so many missionaries all gathered together with the same purpose to bring others closer to Christ and to hear of their ideas that they have coming up with. I love Zone conference! 

We went back on exchanges to visit that Jehovah's witness. I have found out the reason why he let us in so quickly in the first place: to convert us to the 'truth.' Now, this man is a great man who knows a lot about the Bible, but only the Bible. He doesn't believe that there could possibly be anymore than the Bible. Last time we met with him I shared Ephesians 37 about the stick of Joseph and Judah, and this time he had a paper with him he had printed out from his church's website. He read it with us and some of the things he said were true like how God wants us all to be united together, but he failed to answer our questions or even identify what the sticks were. I asked him and he said, "Maybe the Ephesians took two stick and wrote on it and put them together!" It was kind of a mental face-slap. He then went on to say that the Bible is the only word of God and we are all to be united in one faith under it. My Zone leader who was with me at the time asked a wonderful question, "If we are all to be united under the Bible, how come there are so many churches that have risen up that use only the Bible?" This man was stuck and he escaped by saying, "I'll answer that in a minute." He never answered.... But he still wants us to come back again so we are going to go over one more time with love and see if we can get him progressing at all. Jehovah's Witnesses are great.

So, we had been having great success working with the Malay speaking family in our branch. The mother of the house has had her niece over staying with them until the end of April until she goes back to East Malaysia. For the past few weeks we have been visiting them to do recent convert lessons to her son, K. But her niece has always sat in with our lessons and pretty soon we just started teaching her lessons. We had got her on date this last week for April 5th and after all the reviewing we did and practice interviews, Elder Lee asked her who she would like to baptize her and so my shock and awe she picked me!!! Just a side note, I have not spoken that much at all when we taught because I don't speak Malay; I would just say something in English and then my companion would translate for me, so this was a huge surprise to me!!!!! We got all the preparations ready and on April 5th she was baptized by me. The even cooler part of it was I didn't baptize her in English or Chinese, but I looked out of a Indonesian Doctrine and Covenants at the baptismal prayer(side-note: Indonesian and Malay are very similar. People understand both if you can speak one) and to baptize her I read the prayer and did it all in not even my mission language! It was such a cool experience! Seeing her come out of the water and being a part of it was just magnificent!!! The Spirit was so strong and on the 6th of April, she was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! I think that is so cool to see that happen!!! I am so blessed that I was able to be a part of that! I would not have had this opportunity without my companion helping in Malay. 
Me and my companion are going to work super hard these next 6 weeks and see if we can get another one!  This really is the true church and the Restored church of Jesus Christ! 

(Hey another Hill Cumorah Work Crew member?!   -  got to find out who this is...) 

There is not much more to report because that was the highlight of my week! Hope you all enjoyed conference as don't spoil it too much for me! Love you all!

Elder Hanks