Monday, April 29, 2013

Another week in the Promised Land

Well, where to really start? It was another full week. We spent a ton of time finding. Not a ton of success, but there are definitely some good potential. I'll try and give you the highlights from the week and most of them revolve around our time finding people to try and teach.

So in ShaTin, there is a giant racetrack. Horse racetrack. Reminiscent of Churchill Downs where they have the Kentucky Derby, and I can say that because I have been there (Thank you FFA) haha. Fun fact is in the 2008 Olympics, the equestrian events were here in ShaTin. But anyways, we were finding and we accidentally followed some contacts into the racetrack on race day. There were tons of people, so we just kept talking and talking and before we knew it, we were practically watching the race. Not the best place for missionaries to be. haha. So we booked it out of there and stuck to our normal area. Later that day, we had dinner at a member's house. They also invited a couple of other families over from the ward. There were a ton of people in that little apartment. Since there was so many people, they treated it like a special occasion and got some special food... See where this is going? The main course was baby pigeon!!! You heard that correctly, baby pigeon. How did I know that it was pigeon? Because the heads were also on the plates! Plus, my companion told me. haha. So that night I ate two baby pigeons. The worst part was that I rather enjoyed them. It was weird, as we left we saw a couple pigeons flying around. Then it clicked in my brain what I had eaten and I wanted to throw up.... Haha. But really, if you have the opportunity to eat baby pigeon, try it! Another little thing about the food here in HK, well maybe more about table manners. It isn't consider impolite to chew with your mouth open, so I'm still adjusting to that. Also when you eat meat, there are always bones. So what to do with these bones? You spit them onto the table of course! It is very different here... So that is my update on food. haha.

This week we found the sweetest family. I just met them on the street and started talking with them. Turns out the Mom is originally from Main Land and they have two kids. One is just a 9 month year old baby and he is the cutest. Langji as we call them. Means pretty boy. But this family talked to us for a while, then we invited them to come to the English class that we were teaching later that day. What was crazy is, they actually came! That never happens! After class, they told us they want us to come over for dinner next week. Talk about a miracle. I am looking forward to meeting with them more. Just one of the miracles finding.

This week we also started teaching another woman originally from Main Land, her name is Momo. She is also way cool. She is studying to be a nurse and was just another street contact. There is a joke in the mission that all mainlanders are golden. It is a huge generalization, but a ton of our investigators are originally from Main Land. So that is way cool.

Yesterday was Calla's confirmation. It was another special experience. Calla is a very special person. I haven't had the opportunity to teach her very much, but the hand of the Lord has really worked wonders for her. I have realized that sometimes it can be difficult seeing the blessings in our own lives, but as a missionary, we have the opportunity to see those blessings in the lives of others. Way cool. But Calla is great, she is even helping us get Avis, her younger brother, get ready to be baptized in late May. Avis is just as awesome. He is the equivalent to a Senior in High School. Super great. We are meeting with him a couple times this week. Really looking forward to that.

Things can be tough sometimes, but there are miracles happening everyday. They truly are. Sometimes you just have to push through the hard parts to realize it. I am starting to understand just a little as we go throughout our days. Cantonese is hard. But it will come. Just got to have patience, only problem is I want patience right now... I'll keep working on it. haha.

I hope these emails give you a small idea of how my weeks are, but truly it is hard to put into words this mission experience. Even when I get home, I don't think I could quite convey it. Just know that things here are great. Its hard, but it is worth it. This work is true. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't. Love you all.

Elder Woodburn

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 21, 2013 - We had a baptism!!

Family and Friends,

How is it going back in the states? You never really realize how great something is until it is gone. That includes America. haha. Ward members here always ask me what I think about Hong Kong and I respond in my broken Cantonese and say, " It's different..." Mainly because I can't expand on anything else and that it is so true. It is so different here. That being said, I do love it here. A love that I'm sure will continue to grow.

So about my week here. It all starts on Monday. We went to Mong Kok. It was the craziest, busiest, smelliest, places I have ever been in my life. I don't think there is anywhere in the world that could top it. We went down ladies street and just browsed around. They have so much fake designer stuff, Its ridiculous. Of course I couldn't not participate, so I bought a fake Versace belt for about $10 bucks American. Everything here is super cheap. It was a fun experience. We also went to a suit tailor with the other elders we live with. He goes home in a transfer so of course he had to stop in and get one! Monday was a fun day. I just really enjoyed seeing more of Hong Kong and it's people. Super fun, indescribable really. This place is just so different!

Tuesday we had a super important dinner appointment at our Stake Presidents house with our investigators Calla and Avis, along with their mom. Getting her mom to come was a big deal because she is a really intense Buddhist and is really not for her kids investigating the church. But she came, everyone had a great experience. I haven't the slightest clue what I ate and then we gave a short lesson. I wasn't sure how it went, but it's never a bad idea to have a Stake President at a lesson. We went home and as we got into bed, we got a text from Calla. She said that her mom was going to allow her to be baptized! This was a huge blessing. Calla is 24, but still wanted permission from her mom. So dinner was a success.

The rest of the week, all of our appointments fell through. So that means all day finding. I think that I have easily walked a marathon this week. Trying to talk with everyone. My approach is to be very direct as a we find new people to teach. Not out of choice, but because I can't say anything else. Sample conversation would be like this, translated of course,

"Hello! How is your day? Wow great! (regardless of what they said because I don't know what they said) Where are you heading (shake my head as if I understand)? Well, I am Elder Woodburn and I am a missionary! Ever seen us before?" By this point, most people have just put up their hand and ran off. Finding is hard work, but we do it a lot. So I'm sure by the end of my time here, I will be great at it. Practice, practice, practice. Nothing to do but try, right?

So that is how our week went. Saw a couple of really crazy people on the streets though. There was one guy who looked a lot like Buddha in a wheel chair who didn't have any legs. He rode up to us and just yelled, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" Then he rode away. Sort of weird. Finding is fun, because you never know what you will come across during the day.

Sunday was one of my favorite days yet. It was Calla's baptism. So we had everything set up and ready for the baptism with the help of the ward. Her mom even came, another little miracle. The service was great. There is something special about a baptism. Our Stake President did the ordinance, he has sort of been another family to Call and her little brother Avis. It was the first baptism our stake has had this year, and hopefully there will be many more to come!

Things are really starting to pick up for me I feel like. Things here are difficult, don't get me wrong, but it is all about attitude. Control what you can, forget about the rest. I still struggle to understand most of what is said. In the MTC, you develop a church centered vocabulary, but the world is not church centered. So I have been trying my best to learn "regular" vocabulary and phrases. Immersion does help to learn. There is nothing more frustrating than to not be able to read or write. Sometimes I feel trapped in my own head, but you don't always need words to show you care. That has what I have been focusing on. A smile goes a long way.

I love you all and I am doing so well. I wouldn't be able to do it without you and your support. A cool little quote from the D&C stands out, "Stand still and see the works of the Lord" His hand is in everything. I know that is true.

Elder Woodburn

Food with cooked with the head so you know what you are eating.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013

So how about that General Conference?? I realized that missionaries are always behind the times as far as movies and music, turns out that conference is the same here in HK! Conference is a special meeting, especially while here on a mission. We had a lot of investigators come and so we had to meet them, get them into the Cantonese room and sit them with a member, then we would go and watch it in a different room in English, then try and catch them before they left to see how their experience was. Crazy, huh? Well it was. We ended up doing member splits to get the job done. That was scary, because I hadn't met all of the investigators I taught before! My Cantonese is improving, but slowly. Still I have no idea what is going on outside of church, then in church I really only understand the topic of what is being spoken about. It will come... I hope. Haha. One lady that came to conference is a brand new investigator and this was her first experience at our church. We met up with her near the train station to show her where the chapel was. She is about 70 and her name is Gou Siuje. It took us 30 minutes to walk to the church that usually takes us 5 because she walked so slow! It was really funny I thought, as we slowly shuffled to conference. Conference really was awesome. Sister Dalton and Elder Hollands talks really have stood out in my mind. We truly have a prophet on the earth today as well as apostles and other inspired leaders. If you don't believe that, watch conference. It was a huge missionary tool we used this week.

So about the rest of the week. We spend a ton of time finding. We walk the river in our area for at least a few hours each day. It is tough because people don't really want to talk to missionaries. Regardless, we try each and everyday. I say "hello" or "how is your day?" to everyone I can. Most people pretend they can't hear you and just ignore you. A lot of people shake their heads at you or get the look on their face that says, "is he really talking to me?" It can be hard, but you only get better at things you continue to try and do. There was one exception this week to this though. It happened Friday night. I heard some people running to catch up with Elder Kho and I. Then they started yelling, "Elders! Elders!" I was super surprised, just because they were speaking English and calling us by our title. It was a short Filipino couple who are members and they are on vacation here in HK. They were so excited to see us and that we were doing the Lord's work. Both were converts to the church and are moving to LA soon. They were very nice. They even wanted pictures with us! So I'm pretty sure Elders Kho and I are on some random Filipino couples FB. So keep an eye out for us! haha. When we aren't out finding, we have spent most of our time teaching Avis and Peter. They are awesome. They have just been soaking it up. The cool thing is that Avis' older sister, Calla, is also and investigator. She is going to be baptized next week! Isn't that great? The companionship in Sha Tin had been working really hard, especially before I got here. We had the opportunity of teaching Calla last night. She is about 25 and is an art teacher. She is the nicest girl ever! She is having a hard time though because her mom is a really devout Buddhist. We had a great lesson with her and we will have dinner with her and her mom at our stake presidents apartment on Tuesday. Hopefully that goes well. The lesson was great though. I don't understand everything she says, but I knew enough to promise her everything will work out. I have been working really hard to learn vocab to share some of my experiences and it really payed off. It was a great great lesson.
You all are probably wondering about food and what it is like here in HK. Well it is so different than Panda Express, I will tell you that. Most of the time, I just try and not think about what it is that I am eating, but that doesn't always work because they put the head of what ever it is to show you! I have a picture to prove my point. I wouldn't say that I don't like the food, it is just that it is different. I do eat a lot at McDonald's, not just because it is something I like, but because a big mac meal is only $21HK, that isn't even $3 American! Perfect on a missionary budget. I'm not worried about gaining any weight here, just because we are out in the hot humid weather walking all day in suit coats. Gaining weight will be the least of my worries, especially this Summer. I eat enough at McDonald's that the cashier, Fun, knows exactly what I get each time. Big Mac meal, no cheese. She loves seeing us and is excited every time we pop in for lunch or dinner. It is quite the accomplishment, developing a reputation with a McDonald's crew halfway across the world, don't you think? Haha. Don't worry, I do eat healthy everywhere else, I promise!
Today Kho and I are going to Mong Kok, which is a super populated part of HK to check out some shops. I am so excited! It should be fun.
This week I read through the gospel of John. What an inspiring book! I know we have a Savior, His name is Jesus Christ. His gospel is true. It is why I'm a missionary.

愛 Love

基 Wuh Gei Him, My Chinese name. It means a foundation of humility.

Elder Woodburn

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8, 2013 - Hong Kong!

Well I am finally in China! Weird, I know. Everything is so different here. I can hardly even begin to explain what everything is like here, but I will try my best to paint you a picture. I'll start with the flight here.
Flying was straight insane! The flight from SLC to LAX was pretty normal. All the missionaries were spread out on the flight so we all took advantage of talking to "real" people. Nine weeks in the MTC will do that to a person. haha. I sat next to a guy heading to Miami to do a video shoot for some wake boarding thing. He was part of the camera crew. He was way interesting and I loved talking to him about it, but as soon as I said I was a missionary, he put his hat over his eyes and slept the rest of the way. Looking back, it was sort of a precursor to how my first week in HK would be. haha. But the flight was good. First time in two months I could just sit and relax. When we landed, it was sort of crazy trying to get everyone where we needed to be. There were 13 of us heading to HK. We looked sort of like cattle just being herded through the airport. haha. We found the international terminal and called our families. Best phone calls ever. While in the international terminal, people really noticed us. Mainly workers. They said how they have been seeing more and more of us missionaries coming through. It was cool to talk to them and just give them a two or three minute talk on why we are all going to Hong Kong to teach about Jesus Christ. One lady named Kenny, not the craziest name I have run across since leaving the MTC, was so excited to see us because she is taking the lessons now. Seeing her enthusiasm really got me excited. The flight to Hong Kong was LONG! All the missionaries sat together but I was on the edge next to a young Filipino guy. The entire 17 hours he blasted techno music through his headphones and played poker on the little tv. haha. I bought sleeping pills, but they didn't help at all! I only managed to sleep for maybe two and a half hours. The rest of the time I just read or talked with some other missionaries. I really liked watching the world map and seeing our progress. We flew over Canada, Alaska, Russia, Korea, and China. I guess that is sorta cool. It was to me, haha! We got through immigration and met President and Sister Hawks along with the APs. President Hawks is the best! They were so excited to see us. I guess we are the largest group to ever come at once to Hong Kong! That record will be broken in 9 weeks by the new Cantonese missionaries, but still, sorta cool. We stayed in Patron housing of the temple the first two nights in Hong Kong, which is right across the street from the temple. It was small and pretty cramped. The four elders shared a room with the stake presidency from Thailand. There is only one stake in Thailand. Another random fact. haha. But the Thai members and their families were crazy. The stake president didn't speak any English really, but he just kept feeling my arms and saying, "Whoa!!!!!! You strong like wood! You rugby?" Hahaha. Talk about a confidence booster! That seriously happened like 5 times the two days we lived with them. haha. During those first two days in HK, we received some mission orientation and training. We also went and got our HK identity cards. That was another crazy experience.... but besides that, we went and tracted in a park for a while. I learned there that I don't know Cantonese. My teachers lied to me! haha. I can talk, but only about church. I can't understand really anything. We did that for about 4 or 5 hours with no luck. I guess that is pretty typical here in Hong Kong though. While doing that, we met a girl named Fish. Yes, Fish.... haha. Then we went back to the church and taught English class. It is a super good way to introduce people to the church here, because they are so school driven. So we taught English class and after, I got to help the APs teach one of their investigators. Day 2 in HK and I was already teaching! It was a way cool experience. I didn't understand much, but I knew when to bear my testimony and that is what I did. She was very impressed that a white boy like me knows any Cantonese at all. Most people here are impressed that we know any at all, but most don't give you the time of day to show them you know any. The next day we got our areas and our trainers. I am in Sha Tin, which is in the new territories, but is still super populated. Not compared to HK island, but there are still sooooooo many people here. My trainer is elder Kho. He is from Pleasant Grove, UT and has only been out for 2 months. His first language was Cantonese though, so he pretty much understands everything that is going on. His parents are both from Hong Kong. Our apartment is the size of maybe the office and laundry room combined with the pantry and bathroom. Really small. We live with the ZL so there are 4 of us in the apartment. Our kitchen is the size of like a bunk bed and the bathroom is even smaller! I can stand in the middle of our bathroom and be able to touch all for walls! It is small but I really like it. It is on the 4th floor of an apartment building that is on top of New Town Mall. So not super high up, but we have a good view of the Sha Tin area. We taught a lesson to two investigators, Avis and Peter. We helped them with their English, they have big tests this month, and then taught them about baptism. I gave them an invitation and they accepted! That was really cool. I was very excited. Again, I don't really understand a lot, but know what topic we are usually on. haha. When we are not teaching, we are finding people to teach so for about 7 hours one day, we walked the river in our area trying to talk to people. Not one person would talk to us that day! To make things worse, it rained. And by rain, I mean straight poured! Like nothing I have ever seen before! It was a crazy day. My legs sort of felt like you usually do after a day at Disneyland. Just super exhausted. Up to that point, jet lag was rough, but with days like that, I had no problems sleeping. Sunday was another fun day. We committed 11 investigators to come to church but only 4 showed. Sort of disappointing, but we did what we could. The bishopric invited me to bear my testimony first. It was super nerve racking, but it went well. I didn't say anything ridiculous because of my tones, so that is a win in my book. Church was hard because I have no idea what is happening and it's church. The stuff I should understand. It is hard because it is so fast. Chinese is fast! Soooo fast. Did I mention that it is fast?!? haha. But really though, everyone talks like they are the roadrunner around here. We have conference next week. I hope it was good! I'm sure it was. I guess it takes a week for the church to pair up translations into Cantonese so it is a week later here. Now it is P-Day! After I email, we have a training back at the mission home. I am interested to hear how all the other missionaries are doing in their new areas. I think I gave a pretty good overview of my first week in Hong Kong. It is overwhelming for sure. Everything is different, but I am sure I am going to grow to love it. It finally hit me, I'm a missionary now. I'm doing it! The life is crazy, but so rewarding. Food is a whole other story I will share with you later. I think I have eaten at McDonald's 4 times already.... haha. The cashier is named Fun. Yes, Fun. haha Crazy names in HK. Fish, Fun, Apple. The list goes on and on. But really the food is good. I will explain more later.
This work is true. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't. These people need to hear the gospel because it changes lives. They will hear it in time. Right now it is in broken Canotones, but that doesn't make it any less true. Romans 8 has stuck out to me this week. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing!
I love you all so much!
Elder Woodburn
Wuh Jeung Louh