Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 11

Here are some pictures, first of all. I took them all today. One is all the languages of Book of Mormons I have in my backpack right now. One is the other 5 people in our house walking forward. One is a cool pillow I got for free at the grocery store (Sour Cream and Onion), and one is my desk. Oh, and then our sleeping arrangements. Anyway, this week has been a good one.

First of all, we played Steal the Flag at the Botanic Gardens, which was pretty fun. Then we had our first FHE with the YSA and a bunch of investigators, and it was also fun. I don't really remember the order things happened this week, so actually I'll just say things as I remember them.

One cool experience we had was we decided to take the bus somewhere instead of the MRT and when we got to the bus stop, there was a very drunk man there who recognized us. He was baptized a while ago, but fell away shortly thereafter, and he said he had recently prayed for God to show that he was there, and as he said it he "got six answers" (there were six of us elders). He went to the trash and threw away a bottle of liquor right there. The other companionship met with him, and hopefully he can make some changes in his life. He was a very interesting guy.

Another thing we've done a lot of this week (and every week from now on) is contacting. It's fun, but I'm bad at it. The mission has a goal of one BoM a day per companionship, and we definitely achieved that and more this week. I like to carry BoMs in a bunch of languages with me, so we've passed out English, Chinese, Bengali, and Tamil this week. Bengalis and Tamils are super nice, so if I'd carried more of those, we'd be passing out even more. We've also had our fair share of rejection, though (like people getting up and walking away when we sit by them, people shooing us away, etc.), but I read a scripture in the Sermon on the Mount, that pretty much said we should rejoice when people "revile" us. One of my favorite ways is bus stop contacting, where we pretend to be waitng for a bus, and between the three of us, ensure anyone who sits down is near one of us.

The food is also something that requires serious description, because I love to eat. For breakfast, usually I drink some chocolate milk and sometimes eat some Great Grains cereal. But the other meals, we usually eat out. One restaurant that was especially good was a Korean barbeque place, which was very expensive, but pretty dang good. Unfortunately, one companion of mine did not realize that the buffet meat was uncooked (we cooked it on this little thing on each table), and had a bunch of raw chicken. Yum. We also ate a bunch of prawns, squid, and clams there. And ice cream. Singapore ice cream toppings are not the best. Another thing I ate this week was sweet corn and yam flavored ice creams. For some reason, they seem to think corns and beans are desserts here. So I've eaten some good bean and corn desserts! I have yet to try durian, though.

We also got two investigators on baptismal date this week. We taught a bunch of lessons, and slowly I'm starting to understand more of what's going on. It's amazing to see how prepared some people really are. One investigator is very interested in prayer, and we watched the Joseph Smith video together, and he paid very close attention the whole time. It was really good. Another one wants to be baptized on her birthday. Another one came to church with us before we even ever met her. We also spaced on an appointment this week. In Chinese, you'd say "women fang le ta de gizi" meaning we unleashed her pigeons. :)

Transfer news happened and we are getting a bunch of English speaking missionaries soon. We won't be the youngest anymore! Nothing affecting any of us, of course, though. This Tuesday, we have another appointment to get the work permit, and we'll probably fly out a week after that. But we don't know. Our mission president said this is the most flexible mission in the world, and it really probably is. We often get our flights the day we leave to places. I hear my trainer is someone that's has success in even the areas other consider to be difficult, so I'm excited. Everyone says "he's the man". It'll be cool speaking Chinese all the time. His English is probably about where my Chinese is, I don't know.

One fun thing that happened today was that during a game of basketball, my companion, Elder Frey (who plays college basketball), went in for a dunk and came down with a large portion of the backboard. Oops. It was very funny, though.

On a more serious note, I did a split with a Malay elder to visit a less active member's house. He was Chinese, but didn't speak Chinese, only English. We ended up teaching him how to do stretches for his leg, which keeps him from Church. And then I unexpectedly got to give him a blessing. And he agreed to come to church next week with those elders. It was fun.

Well, that's all I can remember from now. Every day is super fun and lots of funny things happen and miracles happen all the time! Have a great week!

-Ge Zhanglao

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week 10

I'm trying to remember my last day at the MTC, it seems so long ago, but we got up and packed, and both the other two going to Singapore were feeling pretty sick, then we went to class, which was really weird since most everybody was gone. Elder Fletcher first left to his reassignment. Next, we were up, and we hurried around to get last-minute things done, and we went to the travel office. They gave us a bunch of forms. One of them was a work permit application, one was something telling us how to answer questions to get into Singapore. We rode up and met some really cool guys from Saudi Arabia. They were 18 years old, brothers from different wives of their father, studying abroad in Salt Lake and going home for the first time in a few months. One lady we talked to said she had a niece in our mission. Then we flew to LA and checked in and stuff. It was kind of scary because I just read on a paper we had that the airline we were transferring to had a carryon limit of 15 pounds, but they let us check in our carryons for free and she said though our backpacks were too heavy, it was okay.

Well, after I called you guys, we went to our flight to Hong Kong. It was definitely super long. And it was funny because when I told my companion that I didn't stand up once on the flight to Mumbai, he laughed and thought that was really dumb, but none of us stood up at all on the whole flight. We flew over Taiwan and Japan (and China, obviously). I also met a cool guy who was flying over to Asia to write a book about health care systems. We got to Hong Kong, and thought we'd have to hurry super fast, but we made our next flight in plenty of time.

One guy we talked to waiting for the flight was really nice, but then suddenly said he had to leave and just walked to the other side of the seating area. We then flew to Singapore over Vietnam. We didn't see pretty much of anything until we landed because it was super cloudy, though. We got in with our work permit applications without any problem, then got our luggage and our Mission President, his wife, the two assistants, and one Chinese Elder were all there. We took those pictures I sent you and ate at Burger King. Then we went with Elder Frey (the Chinese elder) to the church using the MRT and contacted a few people on the way. He's been out since November, and his Chinese is super good.

We heard the three areas we would be serving in and who the trainer is for each (but not which one we were assigned to yet). One is staying here in Singapore with Elder Frey, another was going to East Malaysia in Sibu, and one to open up Kuala Lumpur with a native Malaysian Chinese. There haven't been Mandarin missionaries there that anybody knows of.

At the Church, we had a little welcome orientation, where we met with President Mains and his wife and the financial elder. Apparently our mission has more senior couples than any other mission. And it's one of the most expensive missions for sure. Oh, and none of the areas we'll ever serve in has malaria, so that won't be a problem. And we're the first missionaries to do this work permit thing right when we get in, so we won't do via runs to Indonesia like most missionaries, which is apparently pretty lucky because many missionaries have been nearly arrested.

We also wrote talks for the next day that we all gave and then we went to the other church which is attached to a house we stayed at the next night. We ate at a good Chinese place, then we went back and slept.

I don't know why I'm going into such great detail. Anyway, the next day we had the program, we gave talks, we found out our assignments, but because work permits take 14 days to process, we will all be here at least a couple more weeks. Then the trainers flew back out to Sibu, where they've been. The work permit stuff was unexpected, I think. Flights are very easy to find, I think.

Then we hauled luggage across town on foot, on MRT, and on bus, and we sweated a TON. Our place is by the first church-ish, and it's pretty big (3 bathrooms, 2 large study rooms, we all sleep in the same room, a kitchen, big open area), so it can fit 6. There was Elder Frey and another companionship there before.

We ate some really good Chicken rice, which is something they said we'll eat more than anything here. We taught three lessons that night (well, I mostly observed). The first was a new investigator, but I don't think he's super interested. We taught about prayer. Next was a recent convert who needs to understand why we need the BoM and the restoration better. And last was a pretty great new investigator who agreed to pray daily, read the BoM, and go to church (she already took off work for next week!). I was very jet lagged though and nearly fell asleep. There were members at all those lessons, and they were nice.

We ate Subway after. Oh, and by the way, this was Elder Mitchell, Elder Frey, and me. Elder Sutherland has been tagging along with the other companionship. The next day we mostly just did doctor stuff (blood test, chest x-rays, etc) and study. Then we had a baptism that Elder Frey did, which the new investigator came to. On Sunday, we went to church, where the members are super nice, but I didn't understand some of the people. Others I can, though. There were a bunch of investigators they had met last Sunday at a place, so we went there contacting later in the evening. I definitely didn't say much contacting, but it was fun and we passed out a bunch of BoMs.

 Today is p-day and we're going to do capture the flag as a zone, I guess. Super exciting. Our Zone is all of Singapore, which right now includes the 6 of us and about 20 Malay elders and sisters, which are actually English speaking when they are in Singapore. I don't know what exactly's happening in the next few weeks, but as soon as our work permits are processed, I guess I'll be flying out to Kuala Lumpur to meet my trainer Elder Chong and start the work up there. I hear it's a really cool city, but nothing like Singapore, since even in KL, you can only drink bottled water. That's one nice thing about Singapore. Well, I probably included tons of unimportant details and forgot some of the cool things. Oh, well. Have a great week! -Ge Zhanglao

p.s. Oh, and the reason I talked about that random airport lady is because the very first sister we met at the baptism happened to be her niece.

I'm Here!

MTC Pictures

Week 9

This week has been a good one, but pretty crazy. We started off with our best Monday TRC lesson, I think, but it was a little embarassing because the video and audio quality weren't great, and we accidentally thought she said her name was "Fat" in Chinese, and I asked her how old she was because she sounded like 20, but after our 45 minute lesson, I'm pretty sure she was 60ish. And she laughed a lot at me. Oh, well.

We did hosting again, but I didn't host, since there were plenty of people and I already had that opportunity. But I did meet someone who has spent time in India and we reminisced a bit. We got another generation of Chinese people this week, and we are over 150 now, which is the most the MTC has ever had.

On Thursday we had in-field orientation all day, which was pretty dang long, but a good experience. I got to meet Elder Christensen from The District, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. We taught our last lessons to our investigators, and I think we covered the Law of Chastity pretty thoroughly to one (though not super well, probably), and the Atonement pretty well to another. And then we said goodbye to them the next day.

Yesterday, we had our departure devotional, and we are the biggest group to ever leave the MTC (974 this week), though I'm sure that will be broken in the next few weeks. The MTC is pretty crowded.

On our way to our temple walk, we were greeted by two protesters holding crosses and rambling on about how our church is evil, or whatever. We were nice to them, and as we left, we said "Have a great day!" and one said back to us "I'm having the best day of my life, because *I* have eternal life."

Also, we discovered this week that there are missionaries who stay 12 weeks here, they are learning French and Tahitian, in part to preserve the language, I guess. So we aren't the oldest people here!

The elder in our district who was going to stay extra time at the MTC is actually going to be able to go to a 6 week temporary reassignment in Salt Lake South after travelling to San Francisco to apply for his French passport, or something. Another elder will have to wait an extra week before getting a reassignment since his Australian visa still hasn't arrived. We had three missionaries leave last night in the middle of the night, and two will leave this night, then we leave, then one on the 18th. We have to do some strange splits to make it work, but I really think our district is one of the coolest ever since we're Chinese and going all over the world.

I'm super excited to go to Singapore, but hopefully we make all the flights. It's funny, but I'm the most experienced traveler of the three of us, so I have to be the expert.

We got some good pictures this week, but I'll just get them from other people and forward them eventually. We also taught our teacher as herself as a district, and though our lesson wasn't probably the best, I really thought the Spirit was present and am very grateful to have had that experience.

Week 8

Now to my week.

The coolest part happened last Monday when we got to clean the temple. Two people were security guards, the rest of us changed into white scrubs and got to work. We started in the bride's room, which is beautiful, and we did other rooms that only girls are usually in. Then me and another elder went downstairs to their shop where we took apart chairs they use in the sessions. It was super cool, and I've never explored so much of the temple, especially not in tennis shoes.

Another cool part of the week was the Tuesday devotional, but I can't remember it anymore, I just know I wrote down that I would talk about it. It was a good one, and our district discussion after was also very nice.

We hosted on Wednesday. I had four elders, three going Stateside (two going to the same mission, the other had to be bused down to West Campus) and the last went to Marshall Islands. It was weird because I'm pretty sure he and his dad were talking in a foreign language, but he told me he didn't know any other languages, so maybe it was some dialect of English I don't know.

I forgot if I told you, but one elder going to France has to stay here three more weeks! That sounds like no fun. It's because his French passport didn't work out (he is a French citizen).

The Fourth of July was fun because we heard an amazing flute player (flutist or something?) play a bunch of American songs and then we watched 17 Miracles and then we watched the Stadium of Fire fireworks and we had no bedtime! Going to bed at 11:45 is pretty dang late as a missionary. :D

We also got to teach an investigator in English this week because her husband came and he doesn't speak Chinese. I am so glad I don't have to preach in English, because I really think the Lord gives you power in the language he called you in. It's so much easier in Chinese, even though my vocabulary is very limited.

We got our travel plans this week and our group of three is going through LA then Hong Kong (only one hour there, which is not very long) to Singapore flying through Cathay Pacific, I believe. I'm excited. I get to be travel leader, so I assign companionships, which luckily for me, won't be too hard. I'm glad we're going to Hong Kong because my companion's brother just got back from his mission there two weeks before he got in the MTC and he really wanted to see Hong Kong.

Our mission president had a little letter for us which just said send everything not warm-weathery home and don't bring two bags.

One highlight of the week was doing a baptismal interview for someone in the district's version of one of our investigators, and she didn't pass, so I told her that she was good, she just had to meet with the mission president first, and they never set that up, but it is pretend land, so she's probably baptized by now. I'm glad I got that experience, though, it was good.

Yesterday I bore my testimony in Chinese in Sacrament Meeting, and it was weird thinking that last time we had fast Sunday the people there who bore testimonies seemed so amazing at Chinese, but now I realize they really weren't.

Well, that's all for now, only one more week!

Week 7

Can you believe this is my third to last letter here at the MTC? It's crazy to think I'll be teaching real investigators soon, without learning much more Chinese first. When I got to the MTC, I thought the older generation was great at Chinese and if I could just get to where they were, I'd be set. Now I realize just how little they knew.

Well, I'll start my post with the most exciting part of the week. We got our Chinese tags! Our tags already had "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in Chinese, but now we have the ones with our names in Chinese. My character is pretty cool, I'll maybe send a picture later. This week (we think), something even more exciting happens. We get our travel plans! That'll be fun to see, but ours is one of the few Chinese districts that isn't all going to the same mission, so it will be sad to realize how soon I leave my district.

Also this week, we three Singapore missionaries had a talk on Malaria with a doctor, which was fun. He also told us about other horrible sounding diseases we could get there, and Malaria sounds like the least of my worries. A teacher who served there told us not one of the missionaries ever took the pills (doxycycline) even once.

Today we get to clean the temple, which is pretty exciting, but it does take a long time, so that's why I'm writing this fairly early in the morning.

Oh, on Tuesday, we had Janice Kapp Perry do the devotional, and she was great, but the best part was definitely her husband. She told us the pick-up line that he first used on her (during music class, "Those lips look like they were made for more than playing the clarinet"), and then he quietly got up and grabbed her from behind and smooched her. Then later, we were singing a song and they had all the missionaries stand to sing it (and they always tell us not to stand when we sing). It may have been President Nalley's worst nightmare.

Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, my companion gave a talk. I think that means I may give one here, since there's only one more possible week. Also this week, we wondered why we haven't been asked to host yet, so we requested to, and we probably will only get to do it once before we go, which is sad. And Kirk has already done it!

Oh, and Elder Sheranian emailed me, and he is currently in Johor Bahru, which sounds pretty fun. He says they could use some Chinese speakers there. It is possible I'll serve there, since currently the MTC has 5 Singapore-bound Chinese speaking missionaries, which is probably like 1/2 of what's currently there. Only 15 more days until I'm there!!!!

Oh, I had a cough for a week or two, but it's pretty much over. And there was a balding elder somewhere in front of me to my right, I think. There was a red head two seats down from me.

Have a fun time at Hill Cumorah! I can't wait to find out what parts you'll be playing. Ge doesn't mean barge with my character, but even the native Mainland Chinese elders don't know what my character means.