Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sydney Mission Week 2

Hello Family!! :)

Wow, this week has FLOWN by!! It's been such an amazing week. As always, you can't have the ups without the downs, but the ups so far outweigh the downs, it's worth it every single day! The biggest up was standing in the Font with Hank (zhou zuhkai) and baptizing him. Even after only knowing me from one meeting, for some reason he wanted me to be the one to perform his baptism. It was a very special experience for both of us! I just attached some pictures of my companion and I, the views from our flat :), and the picture of us right before Hank's baptism. I am so lucky to live in this area. People always tell me the city is the best zone and I live in the best flat as well because it has the best view! And after being here for a couple weeks, I don't doubt that at all :) Of course all places are special, but It truly is humbling to come home at night and look over the entire city reaching out to the Harbor and just think of how many people live here and how small I am compared to the millions that live here. In answer to some of Michelle's questions:

How has your week been?  How is your studying going?  Are you starting to read from the Chinese Book of Mormon yet?  Any new favorite scriptures or insight?  How are things going with your investigator and her husband?  How is your area?  Are you getting to know things a bit more?  Any favorite experience this week

My week, as described earlier has been absolutely fantastic! :) Mamata and her husband are out on vacation for Christmas and I haven't been able to contact them again, however, I really hope when they come back they will want to come to some of the activities we have and become familiar with the Church because she has mentioned several times they are very lonely here in the City since they just moved here. My studying is absolutely sacred and awesome! I never have enough time to study all that I want to, and I see almost daily how my studies affect the things I teach or how I teach and find people. The Chinese Book of Mormon will be a long time in coming, if at all on the mission. President Howes has made mention there is no real need to learn Chinese characters while out here and especially not before I am very fluent in the language. I agree, I would much rather know how to speak the language than learn how to read it, and with the limited time I have, I need to continue to focus on learning and perfecting my speech. This has been really difficult actually. Even with having 2 native speakers, I am not able to use Cantonese a ton because we always teach in English in this area, find in English, and most often when we eat and associate with others, it is also in English. The only time for Cantonese is during language study and when I'm only talking with the few members who are from Hong Kong. 

However, I travelled with Elder Wan to a baptism yesterday of someone who he had taught previously before getting transferred here and it was an all-Cantonese branch. They were all very impressed with my ability to speak Cantonese and I was happy to find out that I could understand much of what they were saying. Of course there were a lot of words I didn't know, but I could get the general gist of what they were saying, so that made me really happy! It's just been difficult to adjust to not having 3 or so hours every day to study the language like I had in the MTC and to not use it as much because I need to be finding, teaching, and serving in the ward a lot. I have tons of new favorite scriptures and insights :) Today I really liked what is found in Acts 4:12. Because it goes along so well with 3 Nephi 31's message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe I'll bring my study journal next week and share some more thoughts and experiences. 

Our area is doing pretty well but we need to be better. We have a lot of people that dodge out on appointments and express interest at first but then fall away. I personally think it may be because we sometimes get too wrapped up in the signs and indicators rather than focusing on people. We often will treat people the same and say they have the same concerns as others, but I think a little more love and patient understanding would go a long way. Often I feel like our lessons are not as warm and friendly as they can be. We need to always be happy and warm and friendly, and even when people dont keep commitments at first we need to show forth love and concern. For instance, If someone is not wanting to come to church, which is a very important factor for them to progress, there is more than likely a bigger reason than "they were too tired." It's like an iceberg. People often mask off the true reasons for what they do by giving a different reason they didn't come. I think this is one thing we can work on in our zone is just being more happy and loving and concerned for people themselves rather than the small things. We need to not be so worried about the specifics that we lose out on the big picture. All of what we teach- Prayer, Scripture Study, Church attendance and so forth is to help people come closer to Christ. However, often we try to fix the small things such as waking people up by calling them for church, or sending them reminders to read and it seems as though we almost pressure them into things. I dont think this should be the case. People should gain the same desire we have for the Gospel. The gospel is something that is to be truly loved and once people gain a hold of how amazing of  a life it is, we wont have to keep reminding them or giving them assignments because they will progress more than we could begin to think possible. I saw this happen with Noy. She is from Taiwan and has really just "caught the fire." she now reads the book of mormon a lot and has lots of good questions and wants to learn. This is what I think we need to work on more as people and missionaries. Like I heard in the MTC- "the main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing." We cannot get caught up on the fact that someone has a difficulty with one commandment or another to realize that overcoming that one commandment isn't where the true source of the problem lies. If someone cannot overcome the desire to sleep rather than church it's because they don't realize how much church can help them. They don't feel it and see it. This is what we need to help them feel rather than just trying to fix the outward symptoms. It's like bandaging up a wound before it is cleaned. If we don't purge and help get rid of the larger and more dangerous problem (they lack the desire to come to Christ) then even if they are coming to church or If we "stop the bleeding" so to say, later with time, the problem will become much worse. I dont know if that's all truth or not, just my own personal opinion on how we should be a lot more loving to people in General. Christ never pressured anyone to do something against their will. He didn't try to persuade or coax through various ways. He taught the truth and allowed people the opportunity to see how much His life and teachings could bless theirs. 

Anyways, on a little lighter note, with the time remaining I'll talk a little bit about Sydney in general. This City is beautiful! I love every morning we can play touch rugby in the park and hear the birds and (monkeys on one occasion!) :) and just experience Sydney for the city that it is. The trains here are really slow actually, but one benefit of that is I can see the scenery around me more when I'm on them :) It's been interesting to learn of the different areas and districts. and it's been very cool to experience China-town in it's true measure :) There are SOOOO many different asian ethnicities here. There is a place called the dixon house which has about 12 different asian Restaurants that we like to go and eat at sometimes. It's very authentic! :) And by that I mean the Zone Leader- Elder AU really loves Pork Intestine soup. And so when he got it, He offered it to me and it wasn't too bad actually! Tasted like a hot dog haha :b not quite, but it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting. But there are tons of really good people there too. It's absolutely hilarious to see people's faces when I start speaking to them in Cantonese. I've had many people be really surprised and ask me why in the world I know Cantonese, so it sets up really well to talk about why I came out to be a missionary.

Love you all!  :)

Elder Shafer

Sunday, December 16, 2012

First Letter from Sydney

Hello Family!!! :)

Wow.... where do I begin?! The work here is SO intense! So for my area.... it's absolutely tiny haha :) I'm actually not in Corene's area, but we are in the same stake. I traveled to her stake to attend the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast with one of my investigators, Noy. That is where she came up to me and we had a slightly awkward moment where I had no idea who she was because it has been so long since I've seen her! But then we were able to have a nice chat afterward. 

My area is only about a 15 minute walking radius. This whole experience has been WAY different than I was first expecting. The city here is SOOOO busy! Everyone is working or in school or both and is absolutely busy all the time. I literally, have to walk next to every single person I talk to because not a single person will ever stop if you say hello. You have to just start walking next to them and talking. It's somewhat humorous actually the kinds of reactions people will give, I've literally had people start to jog so as to get away from me rather than just kindly asking me to not talk to them haha! People are normally pretty nice and friendly, but very very few have time to say more than "good mate, gotta go!" in response to my question of "hello! how's you're day going?" of course I've gotten a number of less-kind remarks but that's okay. There was one person though who is absolutely amazing! Her name is Mamata. She is from Nepal. I was just about to go into the Teaching Center (because we live in the City, we have a floor underneath the chapel where we teach our investigators) but then felt that I should talk to her as she was rushing up the street. I received the thought that I should talk to her even though I needed to enter for my lesson, and after asking her a few questions and inviting her to the Christmas Party, she informed me that her and her husband have only recently moved to Sydney and have been looking to make more friends. Later, when I talked to her on the phone she made mention that she often feels "spiritually low" and that she really looks forward to meeting with us and attending our Monday night weekly activities. She is extremely busy finishing work before Christmas, but she seems to be very anxious to meet with us and said she could "feel positive vibes" when I talk with her. I was so excited to see this miracle!! It proved to me that there are people who are looking to gain more happiness in their lives and are curious to learn about Jesus Christ. 

My trainer, Elder Wan, is from Hong Kong. The other two flat-mates are Elder Au, and Elder Haeata. Elder Wan and Elder Au actually studied English in Oregon, and then Studied at BYU Hawaii together! Elder Haeata is from Japan (He is STOKED Anika is going there!!) Almost as excited as I am! But more to come on that later :b Anyways, so I live in the most Asian apartment in the Zone!  We eat asian food every single day and I love it haha! :) They are all very good cooks so it's been nice to experience some authentic Chinese food. Hopefully I will learn how to cook like them and can whip up a dish or two. 

For my language....... A little discouraging because in this zone there are very few Cantonese people. Outside of my companion and Elder Au, there are 2 members that speak cantonese, but most of our investigators either only speak Mandarin, or Korean, or Thai. And English is almost always the second language for everyone in the Branch. The senior couple serving here are from Moses Lake, Washington! So that's kind of cool :)  Cantonese, I use it to speak in the flat (for the vocab that I have) but I dont know how much teaching I'll use it for until I get transfered maybe to the Cantonese branch. Every morning for exercise we play "touch" It's basically touch rugby and it's a lot of fun! It was a little weird at first getting used to the feel of a rugby ball instead of a football, but im starting to get the hang of it. 

I'm surprised how many people know of the Missionaries here actually. Almost everyone that has been here for a year or two has heard of them and they get a little embarrassed when I ask what about it they've heard. But I guess if they are walking to the same area for work that is right past our zone they would have seen the Missionaries because there are 12 missionaries assigned to this one branch of about 100 Members here. That's pretty crazy when you think of the fact that most wards are lucky to have a set of missionaries to themselves! 

Anyways, I only have 6 minutes left, so I want to say just a bit about Anika's mission Call, please let her know How very excited I am she got her mission call!! I was going to write a message to forward on, but I don't feel the best about that, so I'd better stay clear of the line and just ask you to pass on some words in this same letter.  Anika will be the best missionary to hit the field this century, I'm sure of it. She's so very prepared to serve and it's so awesome her and Miles (her brother) can serve at the same time! Tell him congrats as well!! :) 

The work is so tough, but it is absolutely worth it. Loving people regardless of their past, and helping them become better people for the future is something that cannot be adequately described by saying "it's the best feeling ever!" 


Elder Shafer

Its a small world after all....

We don't have an email from Elder Shafer yet, but our cousin Corene and her family are living in Sydney and look who they ran into at a Stake meeting.....

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kyle's New Mailing Address

Hi Everyone!

Now that Elder Shafer has left the MTC he has a new mailing address.  We will always update the sidebar with his most current mailing address, but just so everyone it is.

He had two mailing addresses.  One for letters, one for packages.

This is his mailing address for letters:

Elder Kyle Brandon Shafer
Australia Sydney Mission
PO Box 2723
Carlingford, New South Wales, 2118 

Thank you all for your love and support!

Kyle Leaves the MTC!

I just wanted to drop a couple more lines today since I have time to do so. The laundry is in the tumbler and I've got about 15 minutes before I need to get it and finish packing.  I am SO EXCITED to get on that plane! :) These past 12 weeks have been absolutely amazing here! As you can see from the pictures, We said goodbye to our teachers and the rest of our district last night (saturday for the teachers.) It was bittersweet because I feel like I'm leaving some of my best friends here since I spend at least 10 hours a day with my district and even more than that with my companion. But luckily, I will be seeing Elder White probably here in about 6 weeks. He's pretty nervous I think to have me leave because he doesn't feel really comfortable in his language yet, but he will get there! So I talked to my mate from Melbourne, AU yesterday and he was telling me about the "heaps of Huntsmans." Those are the spiders as big as a grown man's hand. He comforted me in letting me know they were everywhere :b I've actually come to grips with it though. I'll love Australia even though it has spiders almost as big as my face haha!  I'll give you my address for sending letters so you can put it on the blog in case anyone cares to send me some snail mail :b. I really hope sending mail isn't too spendy though! But I do want to hear from my close friends about their mission calls and their lives, so if you could get that up on the blog ASAP Michelle that'd be great, thanks!!! :) 

Last night we had the COOLEST recital. The BYU Men's choir came here and performed a Christmas recital. They are the world's largest men's choir, and all combined, weigh over 16 tons hahaha :b That's just some facts they gave us. Also, one of the people we taught for TRC is in the Men's choir and he gave a little 5 minute personal story of his life. He served in Hong Kong, but unfortunately, his Dad was pretty against the Church and his mom was fine with it, but didn't support him a ton. He talked about when he was a sophomore in High School, he met with the missionaries and gained a knowledge and testimony of Christ and wanted to be baptized but his Dad wouldn't let him. So he waited for over a year and then when his dad asked him what he wanted for Christmas the next year, he said : "Dad, the only gift I really want, is for you to let me be baptised." His Dad honored his request at that point and the rest is history! :) It's so great to hear of other people's conversion stories like that! Makes me so excited to bring others unto Christ so they can experience the same happiness and joy I experience from knowing what He did for me and being able to grow closer to Him.

We also had another really cool experience last night. In saying our goodbyes, we wanted to have a testimony meeting. There is always some time alloted after the Sunday night meetings to share with your district the things you learned and experienced that day, so we all decided to read "The Christmas Orange" story and share a christmas orange. Thanks for that package BTW Mom, I loved it!!! :) But anyways, after reading that story I was just sharing with them how grateful I was to have my family, my friends, my health, my life, and all the other things I have been so blessed to have. Not going to lie, I turned into a wreck talking about how what this little orphan boy wanted most was what I get to experience every single day of my life and how I feel so unworthy of all that I have been blessed with. Then for some reason, the idea came to my mind to talk about my beliefs regarding those who commit suicide. It was a completely random thought that I had no idea why it popped into my head, but I have learned that when the Spirit brings ideas to your mind, to always follow them. So I talked about how I dont believe a loving God and the Savior of the world, that either of them, would not be waiting with open arms of love to welcome those who take their life because of severe unhappiness and distress in this world. I just cant imagine from what I have come to know about Christ and My Father in Heaven, that they would punish those who take their own lives because of this depression and sadness. I didn't know why I had that thought, but later, when Sister Wright spoke up, she said "I didn't know I could have any more respect for you than I already did Elder Shafer, but I do now. I have had 3 really close friends who have commited suicide, and you have helped me receive comfort regarding them." Needless to say, I was really glad I followed that idea and talked about that subject even though it was really random. I want you all to know how much I have loved this experience here! Thank you all for your love, thoughts, and prayers in my behalf. I have seen the blessings that have come from your love and prayers toward me. I am so excited to be able to take this wonderful message of hope and peace to all the world. Sister Tai really touched my heart when she said goodbye and told us "I want to personally thank you for having the desire to learn MY language, and teach MY people. They need and deserve this gospel so much in their lives." She is such a kind person and has really helped me to love the Cantonese/ Chinese people! Can't wait to go out and serve them for 22 months!!!!!!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS SEASON! I dont know when I'll be able to write in AU, but I'll send ya'll a letter when I can!
Love you!
Elder Kyle Shafer

All of us at the Christmas light's on our last night together.

My two teachers, sister Farr (The white one :b) And Sister Tai (obviously, the native)

The pictures at the Map you requested! :)

Just saying our last goodbyes last night the Good ol' Tuhngbuhn (companion) way :)

This is how I wake up my companion if he doesn't get up on time ;) His mom sent him these blow-up hammers in order to keep the zone in control :b

Last time for Elder White and I at the temple here together. Sorry the pic is kinda weird, had to take it one handed because we couldn't find anyone at 7 Am in the freezing cold while it was snowing to stand outside and take a pic ;b

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 10

Hello Family! :)
This week has been another REALLY great week here! I'm definitely ready to go!  I think (I will know for sure on Tuesday), but I think I hit my weight goal! I've lost over 15 lbs here and I feel GREAT! :) That may just change with Michelle sending me the delicious treats she did this week though! :b Thanks for that!! I love the treats but even more than that, I loved the family pictures!!!! So I got my flight Itinerary.... :) I still wont know if I have my visa yet until maybe Thursday or Friday, but they told me, no news is good news! So I'll be hoping and praying that it comes through because there are a lot of Elders that have to wait for visa's and that would be rough. So here's how my flight will go...... see if you can do the math and figure out how long it will be because I don't know the exact time difference between here and AU. But I leave SLC airport at 5:22 pm. Stop in LA at 6:30 then get on the Flight to Sydney at 10:30! That will give me a lot of time to talk to people there and maybe hand out a pass along card or a copy of the Book of Mormon! :) Then I will arrive in Sydney at 8:40 on December the 12'th. So I think I lose a day because of time change, and I think I'll be traveling for well over 24 hours, but maybe if one of y'all could find out exactly how long I'll be in transit that'd be great because I wont know until I get my flight ticket next Monday. But I'm sure it will be a LOOOOOONG flight to say the least! I'm glad I get to go to the airport in the afternoon though rather than 4 AM like the Hong Kong Sisters. They get picked up here at the MTC at 4 AM. that would be REALLY rough haha! Especially because their flight isn't all that short either, it's pretty comparable. I will be calling home from the SLC airport I think. So I will call y'all at........ I'm not sure exactly when..... Because I get picked up by the Shuttle at 1:30 here... then about 30 mins to the Airport. maybe 45-1 hr for check-in and Security? so maybe call you about 3 pm my time (MDT) or so? That sounds about right to me. So if you could try to be at home about that time that would be good, and then If something comes up, at least you'll be at home and I can call later before I jump on the plane. If worst comes to worse, I will call in LA about 6:30 pm your time. But I will really try to call in SLC so I can chat with you ASAP :) Have any family that want to be there please be, but any friends they encourage me to not talk to, so its best if it were only family there :)  Today I'll need to be doing some packing and cleaning up my shoes and stuff, so I apologize if I don't send any written letters to family until maybe in AU because next Monday will be even more packed with me trying to pack the last couple things and make sure all is in order. I think this was all the "business" portion of my letter :) The Christmas Devotional was awesome!! I definitely was thinking about Mom and Dad being up at Laurie Kinsey's! It was really good though! Everything here is! :) My companion I can tell is starting to stress out about me leaving. For some reason he thinks he may not be able to function without me helping him with Cantonese and such, but he will be just fine! :) The language is really coming along well I feel like for our whole group. All 6 of us are really progressing because we are really dedicated and I attribute much of it to the prayers I know you are all offering in my behalf. I am really excited to have my first conversation with a true native Chinese person! :) I'll most likely choke up and forget everything I've learned, but I hope not! Also, try to think of some random sentences you may want me to teach you or you can try to test my language ability :) also, Mark, Mom, Dad, and Chris: I would love some ideas of casual conversation starters for on the airplane, in the airport or just mingling with others. Preferably what would you say if you only had 1 minute to get to know someone and invite them to meet with you? I'm not afraid to talk to people, I just want to make sure that I am saying the right thing and allowing them to make an educated decision whether or not they would like to hear more you know? So any help here would be greatly appreciated! I've gotta jump off, please make sure you don't send me anything past Thursday because I wont get any dear elder's past receiving the ones from Thursday and the Mail, I wont get anything past Saturday. So just no more letters or Dear Elder's after Thursday okay? :) Otherwise, you'll just be paying for extra postage hehe.
Love you all!!!

Elder Shafer

Elder Phelps and I.  He's going to the Philippines and is SUPER good at basketball.  He taught me a lot :)