Well I survived transfers. Elder Wan and I are in the same spot and will be for the next 5 weeks. This next transfer is one week shorter because of the mass influx of missionaries we will be receiving in the upcoming march. Everyone keeps saying jokes about leadership positions and all, but realistically, I think they will need to be desperate and have me train next transfer. We will see though, the Lord's will be done, not mine.
The last week with the Kangaroos was amazing!! SOOO Much fun and a really cool experience, I'll send some pictures for sure! Elder Au, the other Hong Kong elder left yesterday. My companion was a bit sad because they have been best friends for about 4 years, but they both admit that it was for the best. He's a really good missionary and will do a lot to benefit the new zone. With his leaving, a new zone leader came into our area. His name is Elder Imeson and he's from Star Valley, Wyoming. So now I'm finally not out numbered 3 to 1 on Asian culture vs western culture debates haha :) we all get along really well and he has served here in the city before so the members were really excited he has come back. This transfer we are all expecting some big things to happen and they already have started off great! With the holiday season (most people are out of school) our numbers in the city have dropped a bit, and we have had a bit of a droop in our missionary unity and mood in the zone the past little while, but with some really good trainings, some change in the area, and each of us just sharpening up a bit, I think we are in store for some really great things to happen this next transfer! We are really trying to focus a lot more on members and helping build up the ward in addition to bringing in new members because we have found that flooding the branch with heaps of new, pretty fragile members, and had a crippling effect on the overall branch. I guess there has been a trend in the zone to bring in new converts, but then they drop off the focus once they are baptized and unfortunately are easily forgotten. This, and some other minor things that can be tuned up have hurt our relationship with the branch. After all, it's pretty hard for a struggling little ysa branch to keep up with 13 full throttle missionaries wanting to surge the work forward. For example, last year we had 67 baptisms that we brought in the branch, but the total branch membership right now is only about 150 or so. Many people have gone back to their home countries for sure, but there are also too many that have fallen through the cracks, and so we have started to put a much bigger emphasis on just helping ward members. Meeting them for lessons and just trying to provide service and counsel any way that we can. To aid in this, Elder Wan and I are trying to meet with 1 ward member each day to develop a better relationship with them, and hopefully help them have the desire to share the gospel with others and also help us through fellowship. The main goal is to help ward members trust and join in the work we are trying to accomplish rather than be burdened by us. I've already seen the success stories! Even though I am really new, many ward members can finally pronounce my name correctly.... almost :) It's quite hard for Vietnamese and Thai people to pronounce the "sha" portion haha. But I've found when I have called members, or talked to them at activities and just asked about their lives, what they like to do, why they came to AU and other things, they are a lot more inclined to talk, and lo and behold, they will start coming to more activities, bring their friends to them, and walla! Referalls and fellowshippers! :) There is one member who recently came to me talking about her computer being broken and asked me which new laptop she should buy because she doesnt have a lot of money. It put me in a bit of an awkward spot because I can't really support any specific brand or reccomend her to make purchases, but it showed at least that she had developed some trust in me that she was willing to listen to my opinions when her money was on the line. Also, we have seen an increase of food that ends up in the fridge with our name on it as well hahaha :) These aren't the main reasons why developing a good relationship with members is important, but I'm not going to deny there are some good side effects as well! :)
This last sunday we had a national stake conference broadcast from SLC. All of the members gathered in their stake centers and watched a satellite broadcast for stake conference in which President Baxter of the 70, Elder Christofferson, and President Monson spoke. IT WAS AMAZING :) On the bus ride over there (we had to charter a bus because so few members have cars) I met one of the first members ever to be baptized in Rwanda! There are only two branches in the country and her parents and her were some of the first members. I was pretty honored and excited to be able to learn about her culture and why she joined the church. That is one of the things im most grateful for over here is learning about other people. The world is SOOOO much bigger and more diverse than I had originally thought and being over here has made me realize how much God loves each and every one of His children and that the Lord doesn't care near as much as where people were as where they are now, and He doesn't focus as much as where people are now as to where they can be. I want to develop that same vision. To truly see people for their potential, not their past or present. There is a really good poem I have been trying to memorize called "the fellowship of the unashamed" One of the lines in it states "my past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure." I love this line because it talks directly of the benefits of having faith in Christ. If we truly have faith in Him, then we know because of Him, our past is redeemed upon our conditions of repentance, we understand better our present situations and trials, and we know with Faith on Him, things in the future will always be for our benefit.
This new transfer I have a greater desire to make gratitude my attitude. Elder Wan gave a really good district training about how humility and being grateful for things in our lives bring us greater and lasting happiness. I want this more in my life. I want to not only be happy and grateful when things are good, but also to be grateful for the good in my life at all times. And even though bad will enter in my life as I keep going against the world, that I will always be happy and optimistic knowing that I am doing what is right. I have realized more recently the true reality and power through temptation that satan can have on people, however with that, I have been able to see how quickly his power can be changed and how miniscule it is in comparison to righteousness and the power of the Savior. Seeing how years of satan trying to make us unhappy, feel guilty, discouraged and all other kinds of bad can be washed away and purified in one moment by baptism, and that for a moment, those people feel in the midst of heaven shows to me the power that light and righteousness have in our lives. This work is so crucial and so true. I love being able to read and understand more and more the Plan of Salvation. I think I have likely read D&C 76 about 5 or 6 times since starting my mission and each time I am able to understand a little more about the necessity of our lives and of the life after this. Another section I found that goes along with this section so well is section 88. There is not enough time for me to write about the comparisons and insights I gained, but maybe try reading these two sections yourself and see what you can get out of the importance of following Christ while on the earth, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ purifies us and helps us to become accustomed to the Laws we must keep to live in God's presence.
I love you all so much and am so grateful for all you do to help me and support me. I am sorry to hear about the health conditions of those at home and will keep them all in my prayers and thoughts. I give a challenge to all who read this letter :) Read your patriarchal blessing this week and look for any specific words that are repeated. I found one word that was repeated 5 times that brought a much greater insight to me about myself. Try it out :) Love you all!