I don't even know where to start with this week. It was just full of miracles and encouragement I can't quite explain. I'll start with the fun stuff though!!
About two days before Christmas, we had a zone Christmas party, which was basically 10 sisters and a million elders. It was really fun though! We played games, ate good food, and then everyone from the mission office came and visited us! One of the office senior missionaries, Elder James, did these awesome animated story telling performance of The Grinch, costume and all! It was one of the best things I've ever seen. You could tell he's been doing it for years, he had all the Dr Suess ryhmes down and everything!
Christmas Eve was one of my favorite days ever since I've been in HK. We taught a couple lessons, one of them being Jessica! She's 18 years old and she's is exactly what I imagine a typical Chinese teenager to be like in the best way. We were teaching her about prophets and I could see her starting to stress out when we were talking about modern-day prophets. She believes in prophets from the Bible, but she doesn't understand why we need them now. After we explain why, you could tell something was still wrong. Towards the end, I expressed to her that it was okay if she didn't believe now and that we don't expect her to believe unless she receives confirmation from the Holy Ghost. We then invited her to sincerely pray about Thomas S. Monson and his purpose as a prophet, and she accepted! She is so awesome, and I love how curious and logical she is about everything! She asks such great questions and it's amazing to see her progress as she learns more about the church, and more importantly as she grows closer to her Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. Afterwards, then we went less active finding. Many of them weren't home, but we visited one member who is a seminary teacher and is so encouraging about me learning Cantonese and helps me so much!! She reminds me of many other amazing seminary teachers I've had over the years. Also, as we were walking to this members home, we walked through a park and it looked like there were three different dance parties going on with mostly popos (chinese old ladies). One group was doing traditional taichi, the second group was doing this modern-day pop dance, and I can't even adequately explain the third one. They were all so different, it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Also, I was super exhausted at that point so it was even funnier to me at that time.
Christmas day was awesome!! I got to call my family, which was really fun! We taught a couple more lessons, and then we taught Yingmahn Baan (English Class) that evening! My comp and I taught the older class/people with more experience with English and it was so fun! It was this night that I met Becky. Now, I know I haven't been in HK for very long, but I highly doubt I will find a popo I love more than Becky. She is the sweetest person I have ever met, she's spunky, she goes to a lot of different kinds of classes because she loves to learn so much, she watches Ellen and America's Got Talent to learn English, and I don't know if I have met a person so cares so much about her family in my life. She's not interested in learning about the gospel right now, but she loves learning English and loves talking with sister missionaries! Teaching English class is probably one of my favorite parts of the week because you get to meet so many different kinds of people!
So earlier this week we taught Kary, who has met with missionaries before, lost interest, and then started showing interest again. We gave her a church tour and ended in front of the painting of Joseph Smith's First Vision. My comp then prompted me to talk about Joseph Smith's experience, where I found myself reciting Joseph Smith's First Vision in Cantonese for the first time to someone without messing up. The spirit was so strong and I bore my testimony about how I came to know this experience was true and how I came to know Joseph Smith was a prophet, and she wants to meet with us again! I hope she will continue to meet with us!
So earlier this week I was having a hard time with enjoying finding. No one was really wanting to talk to us or hear our message and approaching people is so out of my comfort zone. I don't know how many times I prayed in that 1 1/2 hour block we went finding that I would have a meaningful experience and find someone to talk to. The hymn "Lead Kindly Light" came to mind, specifically the words "The night is dark and I am far from home, lead thou me on." Suddenly I was reminded that while the night is dark (it was really was at the time) and Hong Kong is pretty far away from Florida, the Lord is on my side. This is His work, and He will lead me to those prepared souls ready to hear the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Towards the end, I felt like I needed to talk to this guy at a bus station, and we found out he's a Christian, but doesn't really go to church anymore. We shared with him a simple message about the restoration, and gave him a pamphlet and went on our way. The hymn and that contact were such a tender mercy to me and reminded me that this is the Lord's work and that people will be found in His time.
I am so grateful to be in Hong Kong at this time. I am so grateful to serve in an awesome ward to is so welcoming! I was invited to bear my testimony during sacrament meeting yesterday, so I did so in my simple Cantonese and even shared my favorite scripture and as I did so, I felt my mouth be filled with words, which was such a blessing since my cantonese is so limited. I was even asked to play the piano in Relief Society on Sunday (anyone who knows me well enough knows my piano-playing skills are not that great) and the Lord helped me so much with that too. I am so grateful for such awesome and encouraging ward members who are so awesome and supportive as I struggle and labor through learning Cantonese.
Well, that's all I have time for this week. Next week I'll include stuff about HK culture, because that's a whole other email in of itself. I love you all and I hope you all have a great week!!
Sister Leonard/ Leuih Ji Muih/ Sister Thunder (that's what my ward mission leader calls me since the Chinese character I was given means "thunder")
Monday, December 14, 2015
Alright y'all, it's the final countdown. We got our travel plans on Friday evening, and I leave for Hong Kong early Monday morning. I couldn't be anymore excited, nervous, freaked-out, and all of the above about anything ever.
This week has been a busy, but good one! I got sick again. The MTC is like a petri dish, and once one person is sick, everyone around you gets sick. It's the worst. But I've still been productive and the Lord has helped me so much! Also, Nyquil. :)
Also, we got our new name badges today! It's in English and Cantonese side by side! My chinese character the mission office gave me means "thunder." Pretty much the coolest character ever. How fitting ;)
So we've been teaching members in Hong Kong over skype these last 3 weeks, and it has been such an awesome experience!! I can't wait to teach Hong Kongese in person!
Also, over the last 2 weeks I have met 3 missionaries from MAINLAND CHINA. There aren't very many members in Mainland China, much less missionaries. But they just love the gospel so much and are so excited to go to their assigned mission areas. Also, I felt bad because they got really excited seeing our chinese missionary tags and started speaking to us in Mandarin, but we couldn't understand anything and explained we were learning Cantonese. Funniest part is that they tried to speak to my companion who was adopted from China, but knows hardly any Chinese and is the most Americanized person you'll probably meet. She felt really bad. I thought it was kinda funny though. :)
So I have had so much fear this week, which isn't a very good thing to have as a missionary. Once the reality set in that I will be teaching in Chinese in less than two weeks set in, I immediately wondered how I could do that. However, the Lord has commanded me to teach in Cantonese, and I know he wouldn't tell me to do anything I couldn't accomplish through Him, and that's what makes all the difference and gives me so much comfort. I know through Jesus Christ I will have the power to bring others unto Christ in Hong Kong as I speak my broken Cantonese. I am ready to work hard and enjoy my time out on the mission field. :)
I won't be able to email you for another two weeks since I leave early next Monday, but I love you all! Talk to y'all when I get to the Orient!
Me with our Sister Training Leaders, who just left for Cambodia and Washington State!
A final zone picture before 3 districts speaking Hmong and Cambodia left!
Celebrating Christmas early with the cute Christmas tree Sister Shiffert's (my comp.) mom sent!
New zone picture at the Provo temple! We got a new district of Thai speaking missionaries in our zone. We just have Cantonese, Thai, and Laotian left in our zone. :)