Monday, September 29, 2014

Blessings are pouring in!

We have been so blessed this week with many of the Lord's miracles He has prepared for us. 

We are trying to perfect our area book this week as our wonderful mission president's wife has asked us to do and what a miracle that has been. We have been able to find 4 former investigators who still have interest to learn from it and our area book has really lost some weight this past week(I'm jealous- haha!). So that has helped us to improve our faith because we really need faith to have more miracles! 

One set back from our fantastic week was we had an investigator and an investigating family drop us on the same day which put a damper on things for a little bit. But my day was saved by a less active and his text to me later that night. He is 17 years old and has been less active for a very long time. He went to youth conference a few weeks ago and ever since then he's changed. He texted me that night and asked if he could come and do missionary work with us the next day. He did and he really enjoyed it so much. He wants to continue doing missionary work and wants to serve a mission later when he is older! Another miracle! He is just so awesome! 

On Friday we had a fireside we have been planning for a while. It was a fireside of 'Hold to the Rod.' Elder Roundy had a great idea from an EFY activity he did once. We blindfolded everyone and took them out into a park later in the evening as it was getting dark. We told everyone they couldn't take off their blindfolds and they couldn't talk(they talked anyways- haha!). Other than that they could do whatever they wanted to do. They wandered around the park aimlessly for about 20 minutes, all the while I stood next to a long railing in the park ringing a very small bike bell. After 20 minutes of ringing the bell occasionally a young women in the branch heard the bell and came over. The 'rod' has a little rise right in front of it and I stood there and watched her slowly walk up the rise and right to the rod. I grabbed her hand and whispered to her, "Hold to the Rod." She did so and continued down to the end where the 'tree of life' was there and someone took her blindfold off for her. Over the next 40 minutes everyone slowly started to make their way to the rod and cling to it. Everyone eventually got to the rod but it was so interesting to watch. Some people would grab onto the rod and go straight to the tree of life. Others would maybe let go or even start to go backwards. It was so interesting to watch and everyone learned from it as we taught a lesson about it afterwards. It was a great activity.

Finally we had a beautiful baptism this past weekend. If you remember back to July when we had a dance activity at the church - we had instructed the members to bring a friend to the activity. One member did and she (the investigator)  had fun, came to church regularly, was taught by us, and baptized this past weekend. It was so beautiful. Elder Roundy performed his first baptism and he did great! I was able to conduct the baptismal service and it was so fun! It was a very spiritual experience for her and she is so strong in the gospel. She now wants her mother and her brother to learn about the gospel too - so we are being prayerful for future baptisms! 

When I first got here to Sitiawan the branch had an average of 21 people to sacrament meeting. I has now DOUBLED! We had 40 people in Sacrament meeting this past week.  We went around one day, all afternoon, with the Young Womens President to visit all the YW explaining Personal Progress because they really don't know much about it. We are starting mutual this week and things are going to happen here! I can feel it! 

My faith really has been strengthened by seeing the fruits of our labors. We are working hard to help many come unto Christ and we feel like we can achieve our goals! 
testing out a translator for Sacrament meeting
playing archery.. 

I love you all and I'm so excited to get another year full of miracles! I'm always praying for you all and wish us luck! 

Elder Hanks

so serious  :) 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Time Flies!

I know I don't want to talk about it too much because it's so sad and such, but it's been a year- just sayin'


This week we went to Singapore for our September Zone Conference and it was all about building our faith so we can achieve our goal of baptisms for the year. We are all so excited about the goal and about achieving it. Elder Roundy and I have set high goals for Sitiawan and we are hoping to finish the process of making it a miracle area.  In order to do this we have been praying for miracles and we have had some this wonderful week. 
more beautiful moon cakes! Delicious! 
my companion, Elder Roundy while we were in Singapore
Improvements in our branch:
We are always looking to improve in our branch and its functions. Two weeks ago we had an American couple move to Sitiawan for work and this past week the sister was called as the Young Women's President in our Branch. She got right to work and is hoping to help all the Young Women do their Personal Progress. We are so excited and so are all the Young Women. They've never really had a chance to do personal progress so they can't wait to get started.
Our District President came to Sitiawan for the first time this year and was able to sit in and give counsel of what Sitiawan needed. It was great to have him because it allows him to see how we can improve and then to give counsel. That was a blessing. 

Wednesday morning we were in Singapore and we also had an appointment with an investigator that night!  It was the only day of the week he was available to meet so that's why we scheduled it for that day. We caught our afternoon flight to Ipoh and bused to Sitiawan. Taxied home, threw our luggage in the apartment,  then jump on our bikes and ride as fast as we could over to the church to arrive right on time for the investigator to walk up to the church. Talk about flying all over the world to spread the gospel! 
We had met this investigator right outside our church. He works right next door and we contacted him like two weeks ago. So he showed up today and we went inside to talk. He is amazing. We sat down and he just started pouring out his questions and concerns. One of the concerns he had was that he was afraid we wouldn't want to meet with him because he is Buddhist. We were like, "No! We'd love to keep meeting with you." He was happy about this and then the Spirit started to work in him as his questions got deeper and more spiritual. After some time he said, looking at us and pondering deeply, "You are special. Just REALLY special." This touched my heart, but then he said, "Why did you talk to me that day outside of the church? No one has ever said 'hi' to me like that before." The Spirit entered my heart and helped us continue to teach and talk to him about the church and his Heavenly Father. We talked for almost 2 hours and even then he still had questions to ask. We are meeting with him tomorrow and are so happy.
Moon Lantern Festival 

Less Actives: 
We had youth conference this past week and a lot of the youth in our branch went. Well we encouraged ALL of the youth, inactive or not,  to go to youth conference and all the ones that went had such a wonderful experience. All of them bore their testimony of the gospel at youth conference and they all came to church on Sunday excited and helping to pack the chapel full of people. We had a great turn out for church and sacrament meeting.

If the work continues to go like this we will have to expand our chapel by the end of the year. (Not literally,  but actually very close to something like that.)

I'm loving my mission so far. I am converted to this gospel and to God. He is my Heavenly Father.

I pray that my mission is just as great and even greater this next year than this past year has been. 

TRANSFERS- Just heard about transfers and I'm staying in Sitiawan for another transfer! Elder Roundy & I are so excited & have high goals to accomplish!

Lovin' Singapore! 

Love you all,

Your Singaporean/Malaysian Elder,

Elder Hanks

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Desire, Faith and Miracles

This week was all about desire and faith.

We have been teaching an investigator for a while and we decided to make a short, last-minute visit to his house to just talk. We interrupted his dinner as it was ending and we felt bad, but we talked to him about what he's been learning. As he was talking, he told us how he felt like he was ready. We were like "ready for what?"   "Baptism."  We were able to put him on date for baptism on the 25th of October and we are so excited for him. He has been investigating for 3 years and it's finally happening! We're so stoked and happy for him! 

Another cool investigator is now a family investigating!  We had met a man a few weeks ago and he became an investigator after we taught him a lesson outside his house. We did a quick stop by to see how he was doing one night and his entire family(wife and daughters) were home with him. We asked if we could share a message and they agreed. We talked about God and how He loves us so much. Also the Book of Mormon and mostly prayer. We invited the man to say a prayer for us and he did. He did so good and his wife and oldest daughter agreed to be taught. We are now teaching a lovely family. 

Other fun stuff, we contacted a bunch of Indonesians in the middle of the Jungle and gave them all Malay Books of Mormon. They loved it. We also started mutual this week and the first activity for mutual was making scripture cases.  I wasn't sure if they were very excited about it but the next minute everyone is asking for help making theirs because they all want one. It was a great success and we hope everyone had a great time.

We had zone meeting in Ipoh this last Tuesday and the topic of the meeting was faith and desire. From this meeting I've realized that these are two very important pieces that go together in harmony and are actually both necessary to each other. Faith is the belief in things that are not seen which are true. I have faith in this work and that it is the true work of God for the Salvation of His children, and I have faith that I can succeed in the work. But I had to reflect this week on my true desire to serve God. In D&C 18:28 it says "If they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature." 

I have faith in God that this is His work, but I found that my desire to serve His mission the way He wants me to wasn't that great as I thought it was. It took some great pondering (and humility) to just let go of all my 'ideas' and my 'opinions' on how I should serve a mission and just accept the way the Lord wants it done - through Preach My Gospel. I love that book now more than ever. Make sure you all have one because it's great! I read that thing like the Bible. As I have been studying and adopting Preach My Gospel into my teaching skills I have seen miracles in the work. 

This past Sunday in sacrament meeting we were having a normal sacrament meeting when one of our investigators on date for September 27th came with her mom and aunt(their first time). That was cool and I'll continue that in a moment. As sacrament continued on another old guy and his friend just walked in the chapel and sat down next to me. I had no idea who they were but welcomed them in. I had the blessing of giving a talk on faith and as I looked on the congregation I saw happy smiles from all the non-members present. After sacrament meeting we were running frantically all over the chapel to talk to all these new people. The old guy and his friend, apparently the old guy had been here before a long time ago and felt like bringing his friend, who just came from Sabah(East Malaysia), to church. His friend wants to meet with us and we hope to teach him. Our investigator's aunt was very impressed and liked what our church taught in sacrament meeting so she is considering learning and referred her 3 kids who are working in Singapore to be taught the lessons. Whoo!!! Miracles! I love them! 

I'm sorry I don't have pictures this week because I'm in Singapore and it's such a rush! 

This week in our Zone Conference we have Elder Allen, the Mission Director of the whole church (the top guy over ALL the missionaries) coming to talk to us this week. We are so excited to hear his counsel. I'll let you all know how it goes!

Love you all,
Elder Hanks

Monday, September 8, 2014

Moon Cakes, Festivals and we'll throw in a powerful testimony meeting too!

This week is the week of the Lantern and Moon Cake Festival. People every where are excited and all over the Moon Cake. Elder Roundy and I are addicted! They are these beautiful hand made cakes, that are expensive, but they are so delicious and full of different flavors. I love to get them and once I do I'm scared to eat it, because then I have to wait to get another one or go buy one myself!  They are really popular and just so good! We attended a Lantern Festival at a Buddhist Temple this week with an investigator and saw the fun ways people celebrate the Festival. The celebration continues this week and we are excited to see what comes!

We had planned to have a baptism this Saturday but due to some unfortunate school activities and such we had to move our investigators date back to the 27th of this month. She's okay with it and still really excited, as are we! 

I have finally figured out how to contact Buddhists in an effective way. Whenever you ask a Buddhist what religion are they use a phrase that directly translated means, "Worship God." We took a member (who recently returned from his mission in the Singapore mission) out contacting with us and we ran into such a situation. Before I could say anything the member said, "Oh really? We are too." I was kind of confused because we are not Buddhist, but they member soon followed up by saying, "We also worship God." Brilliant! Ever since then I have used this method for contacting Buddhists and every single one has agreed to let us come back and teach them sometime. 

I have loved just being bold in telling people who we are and what we are doing here in Malaysia. There is a surprisingly positive response and, for the most part, people have been more open to our message about the gospel. It's incredible. And with it being September, the year coming to an end soon, we are working harder than ever to get our faith and desire to serve the Lord on the same, but higher, level than they were before. It's a great feeling to be a missionary.

I am feeling more of the Spirit's guidance in the way we  teach. Several times this week have we gone into a lesson with a plan and I have just felt like we need to discuss something else and the way it goes is just phenomenal!!! The Spirit is so important in this work. Where would we be without it?

Our branch's seminary  finished this past week so Elder Roundy and I are going to start a weekly mutual for the youth to help them stay united and together,  and to bring their friends to the church more often.  It will be fun! 

These past few weeks we have begun to do an early morning class for the members that teaches gospel principles and doctrines. The purpose is to help answer the members questions, teach them to use their scriptures, and to get people to church a little earlier for church to start. 
On Sunday we the topic was how to give a powerful testimony/talk. The reason we felt prompted to do so was because  when some  members would give talks they will take a copy of Gospel Principles up on the stand and read it. So people were very happy that we talked about this principle because it clarified what to do every week on the stand and how they can do it themselves. We invited everyone at the end of the class to bear their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting and we had quite a response!
There wasn't enough time for everyone who wanted to bear their testimony to share it or anymore room for the Spirit to enter our hearts because our hearts would have exploded!!!! Members who were less active bore inspiring testimonies. Recent converts shared their conversion process. Active members about the 5 good points of a testimony. Even investigators bore testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I was going to break into tears, but then I remembered how if Chinese see you cry they will hold it against you forever, so I held the tears in long enough for no one to see. It was the most powerful sacrament meeting I have ever been in on my mission so far. Amazing!

I love you all and also moon cakes!

Elder Hanks

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nothing like hiking Malaysia!

I already knew that there are no "bad days" on a mission, but I never really learned how to treat all these other wonderful days as great days until now. We had many experiences where anyone could say, today was a bad day and we got nothing done, but it's not like that on a mission. We are always trying to go around "doing good" to those we come into contact with and we are seeing the blessings from it. 

On Saturday we had scheduled a branch activity where we would all meet at the church and go hiking to a local mountain. The theme of the activity was to Come Unto Christ. We had a great turn out of members and investigators to the activity and they all had a really good time!  (and it took an hour to hike up!)  The oldest member who came was in her upper 40's while the youngest person to hike up with us was 2!!! The 2 small kids walked with me the entire way and the girl would hold on to my backpack so I pulled her all the way up. We got to the top and we had some people give talks (we had previously asked them to) and their talks were wonderful. That was followed by a testimony meeting where-  although it wasn't quite the same as a Utah firesides-  it was still great! We then had everyone color these book marks that said Come Unto Christ and they all really liked it. We ate food and just had fun, I also did the ALS bucket challenge that someone challenged me to do. Yep, it's (the challenge)  made it all the way over here! 

The most trying day I had this week was definitely Saturday after the Branch activity when all of our appointments and plans fell through, but Elder Roundy and I kept reminding ourselves that it was okay, as long as we were doing our best to exercise our faith in this work. So although Saturday we didn't get that much done, Sunday was my favorite day of the week.

Our branch president was out of town this week and so we were assigned to cover the 2nd hour class for his wife and to also teach the 3rd hour class. During Sacrament meeting we had our three speakers give their talks, but they were all really short, so by 10:35 they were finished. The Branch's first counselor stood up and not knowing what to do asked me to stand and say a few words. As I began to talk to the branch about the power of testimonies, church, our family, our Savior, basically touching on everything- principles & doctrines,  in an orderly manner that when I finished speaking I had sufficiently used up the rest of the Sacrament hour as the counselor wanted me to do. I hope the branch knows how living these teachings can change their lives!  
Second hour was great as we taught about the creation and what it means to us to have a loving Heavenly Father who gave us a planet for our 'birthday.' That's a loving Father, don't you think?

Third hour was the best though. We had felt impressed to talk to the branch about temples and it's importance but we wanted them not only to know and think it was important, but to actually feel that it was important. So what we did is we cleared the upstairs classroom of the desks and left just the chairs in 2 rows and wrote on the board, "Please be quiet." As we let the members in who were waiting outside, we motioned them to be quiet and they saw the board and quietly walked in and sat down. As everyone came in and sat down quietly even the small kids there were really quiet as the Spirit entered the room. We all sat there for about 10 minutes in silence and we let the Spirit, through the still silence, touch the hearts of the branch there. After the prayer we asked them how they felt during the silence and they all agreed on "Peaceful." We explained that this is what the temple is like and what it does to us spiritually. The members asked great questions about the temple and we think they are thinking about going sometime. It was a really cool experience.

Last cool experience of the day also happened Yesterday. We have been teaching an investigator for a while and have been trying to get him to church but he has never come. So I felt impressed to text him to let us come over. He finally agreed and us 2 elders, with 3 members, all went over and just talked to him. When we first got there he was a little hesitant to let us in but did. Elder Roundy and I felt impressed to first talk about the temple with him, something he has never heard of before, and then be open with how we love him and want to help him. As we talked the Spirit entered the room and you could see his countenance change from being a little hesitant to being open and aware of what we were saying. He began to open up about concerns that he has and then said he was really happy we came over tonight. He then invited us over to his house the next day, today. So we are looking forward to that later this day. 

We are feeling the blessings of the Lord in every aspect of our work and I'm so grateful I have learned how to treat the days he has given me here in the field. 

Love you all and Happy Birthday Hailey!

 Elder Hanks
Serious badminton happening here!