Monday, February 23, 2015

I'm a Dancing Lion!

Feb 22, 2015 
Yes! It was Chinese New Year this past week and what a fun experience it was!  There was fireworks, food, red, hong bao's, money, gold, laughter, food, firecrackers, lion dances, greetings, food, music, dancing, explosions, food, gatherings, no stores to buy anything, food(are you seeing a pattern here?) and many other reasons to celebrate! 

Awesome Miri Chinese District!

The Chinese New Year is all about prosperity and good luck. The Chinese people often give oranges out because they are a symbol of good luck and fortune. Other traditions of Chinese New Year is the hong bao(red envelope). In order to help you get a good start to a new year the seniors in the Chinese culture give the youngsters all of these red envelopes with money in it. We have received quite a bit of Hong Bao's so far in the first 4 days; there are 10 more days to go- this is going to be a fun week! Chinese traditions are great! 

(I had to bring a lion head to church, but didn't know how to carry it. So I rode this to the church. We got a lot of attention from everyone. They all loved it.)

There is such a great feeling of being welcomed into homes by so many people over Chinese New Year! Once you are in a home,  other people come in and it's just like being in a house full of all of these potential investigators-  which is exactly what it is! I am grateful for Chinese New year. It's been a great experience for us missionaries to branch out to those around us. 

So this upcoming week we are going to be in Singapore for our zone conference. I am excited for this zone conference because we are going to be able to watch "Meet the Mormons" and I have been looking forward to watching this movie for so long! I hope I will learn something great from this zone conference and my spirit will be lifted by inspiring talks and being with all the other great missionaries! 

We were in a home of a Buddhist friend so I spoke to one of her relatives who was there and who has seen us before. She knew we taught free English class and wished to attend, but was under the impression that we only teach English from the Bible and nothing else. I told her more about what we do in English class and what we as missionaries do. This helped her open up and she said she would be willing to come to English class now! With that concern out of the way she continued on and shared with me that she had a secret interest to read a little from the Bible to learn what it was teaching.  This was a great window for us to share with her about teaching opportunities and how we love sharing what we believe with others. She really appreciated that and I then had to leave. It was a great chance to share with someone our beliefs in a way that she could greatly benefit from.

It has been a great week of Chinese New Year and I look forward to more luck and prosperity.

Elder Hanks

Chinese New Year & putting God first

Feb 15, 2015 
This has been a most interesting week in which I Elder South and I have put a lot of our time and effort into doing the will of the Lord and not seeing too much come out of it. A big factor of this unfortunate turn of events is the Chinese New Year coming up! For all the Chinese people we teach and visit, it becomes hard for them to put God first, but when it is all said and done,  we know God will be the one most important above all.

A great teaching experience we had with this principle was this past week as we have been teaching this investigator for a while and there has been no real progression in him. We were beginning to think we should 'freeze' him until he is ready, when he asked us why he needed to obey the commandment of God. We told him why and he used some excuse like "everybody is different and it's hard to follow God." My amazing companion Elder South then taught and testified that God is one being and He is the only one that matters and he would not command us to do something if he didn't think EVERYONE could do it. That struck our investigator deep and he is now making changes to his job so he can attend church. Awesome!

Elder South is a great missionary and has an amazing insight when it comes to the gospel and he is just really funny! I love the guy! 

(We were practicing an object lesson where you light a tea bag on fire in your hand. You freak out because it looks like it's going to burn down and scorch your hand, but just before it gets to your hand if you have 'faith' the bag flies upward and leaves you unscathed. )
He and I gave a training this past week in zone meeting and it was a really fun and spiritual atmosphere. We emphasized developing the faith to find people to teach by just sharing with people what we love about the gospel. Too many times do we not find those people who are prepared because they don't see any relevance of the gospel to themselves because we don't share our testimony with them. Ever since then many great things have happened.

Some miracles we have witnessed this week include contacting in a place farther away from our usual location. During our finding we talked to a younger woman who is from the Philippines and has actually attended the church there; for 5 years but never got baptized! She accepted the invitation for us to come back. So cool!

The other miracle was yesterday. We finished our Sunday night by visiting a less active and her older brother who is not a member. Near the beginning of our meeting with them a group of the brother's friends  came in and joined in. They asked us what we are doing in Malaysia and Elder South and I hit them hard with what we came to Malaysia and Singapore to share. After a 45 minute discussion with them all 4 of the brother's friends and the brother himself agreed to meet with us next week and talk about the gospel more! We were so excited to come home and report that to our leaders. Good stuff is happening to us here in Miri, we are just afraid of the great business that is coming with Chinese New Year.

I'm both excited and nervous for the Chinese New Year events that are coming this week. We will see what will happens and how it affects our work. 

The hong bao envelope we received from the Buddhist Conference last week

The Chinese missionaries in Miri.

Elder Hanks

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Buddhist Conference & a $50.00 Book of Mormon for free!

It was a great week this past week as I have enjoyed getting to know my companion Elder South more than ever before and he is a hilarious guy! He does all of these funny voices to say what he's thinking and it's hilarious to listen to. I'm always so surprised by the sounds he can make and I love him a ton. He's from Idaho and a big family. He's the youngest and he is the greatest companion ever ; he's the shortest one I've had so far but he's the best with a great testimony and all the energy that comes with that! 

Well, Chinese New Year is coming up and our current investigators are having a harder and harder time meeting with us. I've been thinking about this for a while, and together with Elder South we have decided to go to a new area that we feel has been very scarcely touched by missionaries before. This has lead to many people being receptive to us and one in particular I can share. 

We knocked a house last week and a man let us in and we talked on the porch of his home. We shared with him the Book of Mormon and he tried to give us $50! We kindly declined but he insisted. We told him we will come back another day and 'collect' it. He agreed. We came back on the appointed day and knocked. A woman(his wife) answered the door and she heard about us from her husband. At first she didn't really seem all that interested to allow us to talk to her, but she soon let us in. We talked to her and she explained that she wanted her husband to receive help because he has some addictions. She was being so open with all the problems they have as a couple and this addiction has caused for them. At one point in the conversation I just bore strong testimony that the message of this gospel has the power to heal her husband of this addiction he has been dealing with and to also heal her of the heart ache she has been going through. After I shared this with her her eyes got big and she said, "How?!" 
We left her house with a return appointment for this Tuesday and we are confident this is what Heavenly Father has prepared her and her husband for. We are just happy to be His tools.

Over the past few months we have been serving at a recycling center owned by a Buddhist organization called Tzu Chi. (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Miri liaison, Miri, Malaysia)

  It's a great organization that does much welfare service like the church does. We have been serving there for so long that when Tzu Chi was holding its annual conference to share and discuss all that they accomplished in the past year they invited us missionaries to attend. They had invited the Senior couple, the Risers, to speak to the public, but because the public is Chinese and mostly Buddhist, the position got handed to me to "speak their language"! 

We arrived and they had a wonderful display of things they did in their organization. When we wanted to go upstairs my companion and I were escorted upstairs where there was a line of Tzu Chi volunteers clapping their hands and singing to welcome us. They gave us gifts and a little light. We then were taken to the front row where we sat next to an important monk who was in attendance. The program started and they showed videos of all the great service they have been doing and their accomplishments. There were dances and Buddhist prayers and songs sung. It was a spectacular display of culture and I was somewhat captivated by it all. Then came the time when they explained our service we have been doing for Tzu Chi and annouced, "We would like to welcome a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints tonight, Elder Hanks." The spotlight hit my back as I stood up and with the other missionaries in attendance walked to the stage. We received a great round of applause and shared with all of these people what we do in the Church and our relationship with this great organization. The people were all welcoming and nice which helped me stay calm in front of the cameras that were just fixed on us. It was a really cool event, a little long, but really cool.

Other news, our air conditioner broke in our bedroom so every night we put our mattresses in our study room where a nice air conditioner is - It's a little packed, but it works.

It's been a really fun week and I love working with my companion - He is really awesome. I'm also very excited for this upcoming zone conference because we get to watch the new movie, "Meet the Mormons." Whoa!!! Well, new to us! 
Everything is just great here in Miri

Elder Hanks

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Companion, 3 hour church and prayer works!

It has been a fun week here in Miri as I have been able to welcome the newest member of our district, my companion, Elder South to the district!  He is a great elder and has a lot of energy!. He reminds me of a little ball just buzzing with energy and does not know how to get all of his energy out of him! It's kind of fun to watch. But he is so great and awesome and I am so excited and grateful to be his companion.

Elder South! 
Our church is growing here in Miri and in order to fulfill all the needs of the branch with so many English and Chinese speakers we have changed the time to a half hour earlier and extended our meeting time to 3 hours. We usually would have sacrament meeting and then every other week switch between sunday school and a priesthood /relief society hour. So now we are just doing both every week like we should be! For the first week(yesterday) we expected fewer people to come and we were right. Fewer people did come, but we are looking to the future with great attitudes and we all felt like the  3 hour block was really good in teaching us the things we want ourselves and our members/investigators to learn. 

A good story I want to include in today's email has to do with our studying in Teachings of the Prophets: Ezra Taft Benson. We studied chapter 1 about the power of prayer and some of the things that we should all be doing with prayer is 1)  pray often, 2) in a good location,  3) listen, 4) pray with specifics in mind, and 5) prepare for prayer. I loved it and I applied those principles to a prayer last week. (I was still with Elder Geilman at the time when this happened.)  We were going to a designated area to contact and in our prayer before we left the house we were pondering the place we were to go and what we were going to do. In the prayer I remember asking specifically for someone to open their gate and to receive us to listen to our message. 
We arrived at our designated area and knocked no more than the 3rd house (which was literally like 5 minutes) and an older man came over to the gate. We talked for a while through his gate and when we introduced ourselves as missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints he opened his gate and let us in! We sat with him and began a good conversation.

So long Elder Geilman! 
This man was a roman catholic but has not been to church for 12 years because he didn't think the church he went to was true and because missionaries of other churches has visited him before he didn't know what to do. He then continued on to explain that he didn't think his previous church was true because the priest offended him. His son passed away before he was baptized so when the father - the man we were talking to, went to the priest to ask if his son (who was Christian at heart) could be buried in the Christian graveyard the priest refused and told others that it was a lesson to teach him to baptize his other kids. We told this man about the power of this true gospel, the promise we have that we can live with our families forever, shared with him the Book of Mormon, and told him that his son could still be baptized. He listened to us and agreed to us coming back in the future as he continues to read the Book of Mormon.

Miracles are happening here in Miri and with Chinese New Year coming up we are trying our best to make sure we are known, and then people will invite us over to their place for the new year. Also this week I'm speaking/interpreting at a large dinner gathering for a large Asia-wide recycling organization called Tzu Chi where we have been volunteering and doing service. I'm a little bit nervous but I'm looking forward to it with hopes this will help us and the Church be better known among all of Miri and maybe even parts of Asia. 
These are a couple of Iban ties I  bought recently! 

Things are going well and I'm looking forward to my time with Elder South.

Love Elder Hanks