After much preparation, the young self-proclaimed Emperor of The Han Dynastory is now serving a full-time mission to the UK with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He will return in 2014.

Hello!

Welcome to the Han Dynastory!

As I am now serving a full-time mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have left this blog under the stewardship of a family member, who may post updates on how I'm doing as he/she sees fit.

Enjoy your stay!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week 17 (My 22nd Birthday)


Hi Everyone!

It's been a fantastic week! Elder Zavala and I are helping two people
prepare for baptism here in Preston, and another person I previously
taught in Manchester is getting baptised! We've been able to see how
much their lives have changed as they've received the Restored Gospel
of Jesus Christ in their lives.

The other highlight of the week would be celebrating my 22nd birthday,
of course. Since I stay in a four-man flat, I decided to prepare a
feast. I had to start preparing the ingredients about 2 days before my
birthday because I dont' have a huge chunk of time to prepare meals
each day.

I had loads of fun preparing the meal! As a missionary I no longer
have time to draw comics or write music, so cooking is about the final
frontier for me to be creative.


 
 


As you can see in the photos the menu went like this:

Starters:
- Garlic bread (readymade)
- Cream of mushroom soup (made from scratch - I remembered to sift the
flour this time so it didn't have weird lumps in it like the first
time I cooked it at home)
- Salad (readymade, but I added some yellow peppers and olive oil)

Main course:
- Pork chops (marinated overnight with salt, pepper, herbs, lee and
perrin sauce and olive oil; slow cooked in onions and canned lentil
soup for 11 hours)
- Potato and carrot mash (I boiled the carrots and potatoes for a
longer period of time than when I first attempted it for Elder Zavalas
birthday, so I think it was slightly better this time; I would like
Mom to teach me how to make mashed potato fluffy like the one she
makes though)

Dessert:
- Hot chocolate fudge cake (readymade)
- Ice cream (readymade)

Drinks:
- Shloer (sparkling grape juice)

More Photos :




That was probably the fanciest meal I've ever prepared in my entire
life, and my flatmates loved it. Elder Davis claimed it was the
fanciest meal he's ever eaten in his life. I daresay the soup was a
success, and Elder Herrin was convinced that it tasted better and
better the longer we kept it (it lasted us about 3 days).

Anyway, we're planning to prepare a Thanksgiving feast towards the end
of this Transfer hehe. Setting goals and making plans are a huge part
of a missionary's life, and we're definitely going to apply it well to
our upcoming Thanksgiving feast hehe.

By the way, I would like to attempt to cook Nasi Lemak and/or
Hainanese Chicken Rice for my flatmates one of these days, so if
someone could send me the recipes, I would appreciate it very much!

Much love,
Elder Chong

 

 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Week 16! (Elder Zavala's Birthday Feast)


Hello again everyone!

Yesterday was Elder Zavala's birthday, and since we are living in a (posh) four-man flat with two other missionaries, we decided to FEAST.

 

We marinated 12 pieces of pork steak the night before (and then slow cooked it in french onion soup and some vegetables in the morning before we left for Church. When we came back, I made some potatoes and carrots mash (my first attempt) to go with the pork. We had some readymade salad and some toasted bread to go with everything as well. It was DELICIOUS. It was probably the most elaborate meal ever prepared by Elders in the history of the England Manchester Mission.
 



The best part, however, was probably the readymade, microwaveable Hot Chocolate Fudge Cake (drowned in custard) that we had after the main course (it was followed up with chocolate mousse as well).

Mmm...


So in last week's email I wrote about The Voice Of Reason that the four of us Elders staying together decided to appoint while going grocery shopping. Well, we're not sure how effective it works.


"Hey, check this out - we can get 3 hot chocolate fudge cakes for less than 5 pounds!"


"Uhm, haven't we bought quite enough snacks and desserts already? It would be stupid if we have more snacks and desserts than we have actual food. Besides, we haven't even finished those 44 packs of crisps we bought!"


"Elder, it would be stupid NOT to buy it."


In another instance:


"Elders - these Jaffa cakes are going at a discount!"


"Uh oh."


*pause*


"Better buy eight!"


So there we go.


In other news, Elder Zavala and I have been working very hard! I'm Elder Zavala's follow-up trainer, and I've been able to observe how much he has grown as a missionary since the time when he first entered the field. He is a very diligent missionary and together, we've been able to witness many miracles as we've heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost while going about the Lord's work.


He is also working very hard to improve his Chinese, and he's improving! He's even teaching himself how to read and write Chinese characters (which the MTC didn't teach him).


Speaking about language, I set up an appointment to teach English to an owner of a Chinese restaurant (whom Elder Chan had previously shared the Gospel with). In return, she's providing us with a meal :D


I look forward to hearing from you again next week (and celebrating my birthday on Friday heh heh). Shuan, Ern, and Ray - please take good care of Mom. Also, keep the home tidy and clean so that the Spirit can more fully reside with the family ;) Take care!


Much love,

Elder Chong

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Week 15! (Training Elder Zavala)

Hello Everyone!

This week is Transfer Week again. Alas, my dear follow-up trainer Elder Chan has been called to serve his final transfer as a missionary in Liverpool, where he will be follow-up training one of the two missionaries who were first trained by Elder Cai in Manchester. As a result, my Mission President has assigned me to remain in Preston to follow-up train Elder Zavala!


I've only just barely completed my own training (First 12 Weeks) and now I've been called to train a new missionary! All I can say is that I'm *definitely* going to need the Lord's help in this calling. My own First 12 Weeks was pretty unstable - for various reasons, I served with at least 5 different companions at varying lengths of time all within my first 2 Transfers. Most new missionaries usually stay with their Trainer for the first 2 Transfers. Nevertheless, I see it as a great benefit, for I have been blessed to have picked up skills from 5 highly fantastic, experienced missionaries!


Exciting news this/last week! I've finally attended a baptism for the first time on my Mission! A girl from China named Kai Ge was baptized last week in Manchester. Elder Peterson and I first began teaching her about 2 months ago, and then Elder Cai and I continued to teach her. After I transferred over to Preston, Elder Cai and the other 2 new missionaries continued to teach her, and she was baptised last week! I had to rush to Manchester from Preston in order to attend the baptismal service, and I arrived just as the baptismal service began. After the baptism, Kai Ge was extremely happy, and her countenance was truly shining with the Light of Christ. I was overjoyed to see her begin a new life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ :) 



This is a photo I took with Kai Ge after the baptism
This General Conference was historic! President Monson's announcement about the new age requirement for missionaries caused quite a stir. Elders can now serve at the age of 18 whereas Sisters can now serve at the age of 19! As missionaries we were silently cheering when we heard the announcement :D To our amusement,one of the Apostles later mentioned that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the first of the 19-year old Elders in their mission in England when the age requirement for Elders was first lowered to 19 in the 1960s.

A couple of funny things happened last week - while I was out sharing the Gospel on the streets I met an interesting man. Our conversation started off all right, but he dropped a rude remark as he left. I wasn't really bothered, since that happens quite often, but what made him interesting was that an hour later, while I was still proselyting further down the street, he tapped me on the shoulder and swiftly pushed a small parcel into my hands. He muttered a brief apology for being rude earlier and hurried off. I was too startled to respond in those short moments, and I wasn't able to speak to him because I had to rush to an appointment. However I did take a look at the parcel as I was walking. The parcel contained a card he bought (addressed to "Whoever You Are") with his written apology for being rude.


The parcel also contained a box of mint-filled chocolates.


Truly, missionaries have the most interesting experiences.


Speaking of interesting experiences, I fell sick last week. I probably caught a cold. My nose went completely haywire for a few days, and it was particularly bad one day. I asked Elder Chan and Elder Zavala for a priesthood blessing in the morning, which they willingly gave.
During the blessing Elder Chan promised me that my illness would not interfere with the missionary work that I would do during the rest of the day. Sure enough, not long after I stepped out of the flat and began speaking to people, I wasn't bothered by my cold at all. The Lord wasn't going to let a cold prevent me from carrying out His work!

Has anyone wondered how 5 missionaries buy groceries when they pool their money together? This might give you an idea: 



We bought 44 packs of crisps for 5 pounds haha! Needless to say, we decided that in the future, we will need to appoint one of us to be The Voice of Reason when we go shopping for groceries together.

More food photos:

 

I took Mom's advice and tossed in some slices of melon
into the cardboard strips (high bran) I had for breakfast. It was great :]



I have been cooking a few Chinese meals for my flatmates. Last week I successfully concocted our family favourite - corn soup! Complete with starch and eggs :) It sure reminded me of home :) They loved the Chinese cabbage I stir-fried as well. I can't wait to let them try the buttered stir-fried string beans I cooked a few times in Manchester - some of the Elders in Manchester who tried it called me up later to ask me how to cook it. 



In this photo, I made use of a slow-cooker we obtained to cook some pork with readymade black bean sauce, garlic, sichuan peppers and star anis (I'm not sure about the spelling). It smelled REALLY GOOD. But after tasting it, I think I threw in too much of the sichuan peppers and star anis, and too little salt. Elder Chan, the only other missionary who could truly evaluate my Chinese cooking, agreed that it somehow smelled a lot better than it tasted XD The dish in my right hand is some stir fried brocolli, cauliflower and carrots (with garlic).
 

My last photo with Elder Chan before he transferred to Liverpool. I am going to miss him. He is only missionary in the entire mission that I could speak to in (Malaysian slash Hong Kong slash Cantonese-ish) Mandarin in the flat, and he's going home this November :(

We're going to get our shopping done in a moment (although we haven't appointed The Voice of Reason yet) so I need to go. I'll be having P-day on Monday in just a few days, so I hope to be able to hear from all of you soon! Take care!



Much love,

Elder Chong

Monday, October 01, 2012

Week 14! (Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!)

Hello everyone!

This week, Elder Chan, Elder Zavala and I moved to a new flat, which is possibly the most posh flat in the entire England Manchester Mission. We are sharing the flat with our Zone Leaders, Elder Delaibatiki (from New Zealand) and Elder Herrin (from Utah). Elder Herrin was formerly my District Leader when I was serving in Manchester - the one I woke up in the middle of the night during the exchange because I apparently shouted in my sleep XD


The new flat is FANTASTIC. The kitchen is huge and it even has an island - my dream kitchen! The carpets are very nice, there's a fireplace, and there's even a jacuuzi/bathtub/shower! We just cleaned up the new flat this morning, so you'll probably see the huge mess that was in our new flat in the photos I attached :P


I DID get the mooncakes!!!! The timing was very good. Normally, anything that gets sent to the Mission Office only reaches the missionaries during Multi-Zone Trainings or Zone Conferences, which occur only once every 6 weeks. However, the Office Elders helped us move into our new flat, so they brought the package to me! Hence, we were able to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by eating mooncakes last night :D


Thanks so much for the mooncakes AND the milo, Mom! Elder Chan was overjoyed when I shared the mooncakes with everyone - he hasn't had mooncakes for nearly 2 years XD Both Elder Chan and Elder Delaibatiki were also delighted to be able to share some of the Milo!

About to enjoy the mooncakes together
An overjoyed me with the package AND a letter from my friend :D
Me messing around with Elder Chan's fake glasses

I'm off to do some massive grocery shopping now. Have a great week, everyone!

Much love,

Elder Chong

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 13! (Greetings from Preston!)

Greetings from Preston!

I've officially moved to Preston and I'm now serving with Elder Chan from Hong Kong and Elder Zavala from Utah!




The world is incredibly small! As most of you with Facebook might know by now, Elder Zavala's sister served in the same mission as Sujie! I got the email from Sujie with the cute sisters & brothers photos. Elder Zavala also got a long email with many photos of Sisters Zavala and Chong's mission.


This is where the world gets even smaller - Elder Chan knows one of the Sisters in one of the photos Sister Zavala took during her mission. Apparently Sister Hui was a close friend of Elder Chan's sister! Even better - if you haven't found out already, Jonny Liu was Elder Zavala's MTC teacher! It's definitely no coincidence that Elder Chan, Elder Zavala and I are all serving together here in Preston :)


It is getting COLD here in England. The temperature is hovering just over 10 degrees Celcius here. The missionaries from Utah tell me that although England has relatively warmer temperatures compared to Utah, the cold here really bites because it's a lot more humid here. I'm not sure how much longer I'm still going to be glad that England isn't as hot and humid as Malaysia and Singapore XD


To answer Sujie's question about what I put in Elder Cai's omelette, I think I sliced up some onions, peppers, mushrooms and sausages. I surrounded it with slices of apple, and topped it with a little heart clumsily fashioned out of part of the apple core :P I would say the omelette consisted of 10% food and 90% admiration for Elder Cai. By the way, have I mentioned how great a missionary Elder Cai is?


(I wrote that last sentence to appease Elder Cai, although it IS true)


It's interesting how Mom described me as her sunshine baby in her recent email. People have pointed out that my smile is rather... intense. My Mission President, President Preston, once asked me if I could frown, just to see if it was actually possible. Elder Cai described my smiles in my photos as 170%, whereas when I'm not deliberately smiling my smile is at least at 120%. Other people have told me that they want to laugh just looking at my smile. As it gets rainy-er and colder here in England I hope I can continue to bring sunshine to the people here!


In case Mom might be wondering what language is spoken between a Malaysian, an American, and a Hong Kong, all of whom are serving a mandarin-speaking mission together, I will attempt to describe how it is like.


My first instinct is to speak English with Elder Zavala, who in turn actively strives to speak Mandarin to improve his grasp of the language. I speak to Elder Chan in increasingly inaccurate mandarin (I've come to realise just how Hong Kong-ish Malaysian mandarin is the more I speak to him) and occasionally, for no apparently reason, in English with an increasingly Hong Kong-ish accent. Elder Chan has in turn picked up a bit of the Liverpool accent in his English, which is funny (where else will you hear a mix of the Hong Kong and Liverpool accent?). We occasionally speak some Cantonese too, which is funny.


Elder Sapaden and I. He's a brilliant pianist, and for a Multi-Zone Training he improvised a combination of two hymns while I conducted the choir :) Elder Cai told me it was the first time 2 musically trained missionaries were present in a single training. What a blessing!

Some Chinese food I cooked with Elder Cai :)

I have to go now. Hope to hear from all of you soon!

Much love,

Elder Chong

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 12!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello everyone!

Big news! It's been confirmed that I will be transferring to Preston this week. Elder Cai will indeed be training 2 of the incoming new missionaries, while Elder Chan will train another, as well as follow-up train me (I have 3 out fo 12 weeks left of in-field training). 

I am really going to miss serving with Elder Cai. It is unlikely that we will ever serve together again, because he will be finishing his mission in December, and he will likely be training the new missionaries from now till December. Not only have I learnt a LOT from Elder Cai, but I have also found him utterly hilarious. Those two incoming trainees are very blessed to have him as their trainer!

Manchester has been great. There are so many Chinese students pouring in that we Chinese-speaking missionaries have a lot of work to do! There are many people who are waiting to hear the word of God.

It seems I'm not able to read any of your emails this week since none have arrived during or before my email time today. I look forward to reading your emails next week!

Much love,
Elder Chong
Plenty of photos this week!
The McArthurs are the senior couple missionaries serving in the ward. Their home is always open to the YSA and we often teach people at their place. They cook delicious meals for all the YSA every Sunday!
This is me and Jordan, a member in the ward I'm serving in. He has been a great help with the missionary work and has recently submitted his own mission papers!
Me and Helen. Helen was one of the teachers in the MTC and she is also in the ward I'm serving in. She is an amazing person! If every member of our church were like her we'd all be translated like the city of Enoch.
Elder Cai wearing our "roleplaying face" which we use when we practise teaching lessons  
A photos of Elder Cai and I with Anny, another person we have been teaching.  
This is Fiona (someone we are teaching) and me. Elder Cai is convinced that we look like we could be siblings. I'll let you decide from the photo.
Having a kebab! There are plenty of takeaway shops here in Manchester where we can get kebabs :D  
A photo of me with a giant banana at one of the homes we were teaching at!  
I had loads of pasta this week - I cooked a large pot of sauce (lasted me about 5-6 meals). I chopped up some onions, mushrooms and peppers and cooked them with readymade sauce and some minced beef, then made meatballs out of the remaining minced beef. We actually didn't have any flour in our flat for me to make meatballs, but thanks to Elder Cai's ingenuity, he suggested that I could try using the pancake mix I had instead. Mmmmm..... (PS Mom: I bought readymade salad to go with my pasta! Aren't you proud that I proactively eat my vegetables? :P)

Some High Bran cereal I bought to load up on fibre in the morning. Elder Cai insists that it is shredded cardboard. (They taste almost like it, to be honest)
An omelette I cooked for Elder Cai one morning to show my appreciation for him ;P  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 11!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello everyone!
It just struck me a few days ago, when someone asked me how long I've been out on a mission, that I've been out for more than 2 months. Time goes by so quickly here that I simply cannot afford to waste any time. As missionaries, the time we have on our missions is the Lord's time, and hence we ought to make the best use of these very short 2 years to labour in the Lord's vineyard.
The missionary work in the area is visibly beginning to move forward - plenty of students are coming in to Manchester to begin their studies this month. Elder Cai and I have been very busy going from appointment to appointment and talking to people on the street. There's nothing better than coming back to the flat at the end of a busy day knowing that we've done all that we could to share the gospel and to invite others to come unto Christ.
To answer Mom's question about what language Elder Cai and I use between ourselves, it would be mainly American English XD Elder Cai's first language is English, although his spoken Chinese is pretty solid. We occasionally switch to Chinese without realising it, though. There was a time when we were roleplaying to practise teaching a lesson during our Companionship Study. We were speaking in English at first, but halfway through we both switched to Chinese without realising it :P Elder Cai speaks Cantonese as well, and is able to briefly share the gospel in Cantonese when we're out on the streets. However, he often uses Cantonese to joke. Speaking of joking, the two of us have an inside joke about "Immoral People." For some reason, we found it extremely funny to come up with descriptions of "Immoral People," or "Bu4 Dao4 De2 De Ren2" in Chinese. We laughed for a good 5 minutes when we first came up with it and still laugh over it whenever one of us brings it up. I'm not sure how funny you may find it, but here are some examples:
1. People who don't recycle "Bu4 huan2 bao3 de ren2"
2. People who only eat meat and no vegetables
3. People who pick only the prawns from a vegetable dish
4. People who brush their teeth without toothpaste
5. People who skip a shower
6. People who eat a bit of your egg when you offer them some of your instant noodles
During the week I had a dream in which I did something wrong and tried to cover up my mistake. As a result, the event snowballed in my dream, and by the time the alarm rang and I woke up, I was extremely exhausted and exTREMELY relieved that it was all but a bad dream. Let that be a lesson to all of us not to try to cover up our mistakes but to come clean about them!
Last Monday I learnt an important lesson about murmuring, or NOT murmuring, to be precise. Elder Cai and I had finished our Preparation Time and were going about proselyting. People were very quick to reject us that day, and I was getting frustrated. I voiced my frustrations to Elder Cai, lamenting how difficult it was to find Chinese people who were truly interested in learning about Jesus Christ. Just minutes later, we came across a young man who was interested, and we taught a lesson about God on the spot. Throughout that lesson I felt as if God was rebuking me for my impatience, and needless to say, I didn't complain during the rest of the week!
I would like to point out, however, that "success" in a mission is not measured by the number of people missionaries are able to teach, bring to church or baptise. Instead, a successful missionary is someone who is committed to doing the Lord's work, someone who stays worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and to heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Being a successful, committed missionary isn't a smooth-sailing task, however. We learn from the examples of the sons of Mosiah, who are among the greatest missionaries noted in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 26:27, Ammon notes, "Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success."
We learn many valuable things about missionary work from this verse alone. Firstly, we learn that Ammon and his brethren were not immune to disappointment. Their hearts were "depressed," and they "were about to turn back." Ammon and his brethren were amazing missionaries, but they had to face disappointment, just as we struggle in our lives as we try to follow Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we learn the value of heeding the Lord's counsel. They were about to turn back, but they heeded the Lord's counsel to continue to preach to the Lamanites. Likewise, we must continue to heed the counsel of the Holy Ghost when we face challenges in our lives. It is easy for us to feel resentful when we are faced with difficulties, and this often encourages us to disregard and become deaf to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Finally, the Lord didn't tell Ammon and his brethren that they would have an easy time either; He did quite the opposite, in fact. He counseled them to "bear with patience [their] afflictions". Patience, Elder Chong! Patience!
I know that our Saviour and Lord understands all of us individually. He loves us and wants us to be happy. True happiness comes when we live the teachings of Jesus Christ and have the eternal perspective in mind. I leave with you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Much love,
Elder Chong

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 10!!!!!!!!!!


Elder Cai before his mission, when he did some modeling. I'll be sure to get a signed copy from him soon!
One of my favourite photos of Elder Cai and I :)


A photo of a missionary outing to a Pizza Hut Buffet on transfer day :D

With Tereza, someone we taught, who has since moved to Norwich.














Dear all,

Today marks the first official day of my 2nd transfer cycle. Elder Cai and I spent the last week adjusting to each others' habits and teaching styles, as well as re-establishing expectations with the people Elder Peterson and I had previously been teaching in the area. Elder Cai had served in this area for several transfers previously, and hence knows the area and the members very well. He knows a couple of great locations to speak to people!

I am truly blessed to be follow-up trained by Elder Cai, not only because he is such an excellent example of a missionary, but also because there is no day that goes by without laughter. The magnitude of his wittiness is just about equal to that of his boldness and diligence as a missionary. His cooking is also amazing, although I like to tell others that his cooking is 60% ego, 30% MSG and 10% actual food.

Sujie, I thought it was pretty funny when you mentioned how you and Jay had cravings for eggs after seeing the photos in one of my previous emails. I learnt from both Elder Peterson and Elder Cai that when a missionary goes tracting, he can spot a Chinese home by observing the rubbish they leave outside - if there are plenty of empty egg cartons, the home is almost guaranteed to be Chinese!

Also, Elder Cai confirmed that Zavala is indeed coming into the England Manchester Mission as a mandarin-chinese speaking missionary! I'm pretty sure that during our 2 years here in England we'll be able to continue the Zavala & Chong legacy!

This past week the missionary week in the area has been relatively slow. I believe that Elder Cai and I have been working harder than ever, but the past week has been crunch time for most of the Chinese people in the area. Many graduate students are about to submit their dissertations, while the new students who are taking English classes have to submit papers, prepare oral presentations and so on. Hence, many people are just too busy to meet us or to listen to the message from God that we share.

The current situation reminded me of the time before my mission, when I was an extremely busy student in Junior College. At the height of my busyness in school, I often neglected my personal study of the Book of Mormon, as well as Institute attendance, and I paid the spiritual price for my negligence. I had daily reading of the Psalms with my girlfriend at that time, but I have learnt that studying the Bible alone and not in addition to the Book of Mormon cannot bring us as much spiritual nourishment as studying both together. Although the Bible is the word of God, there is, to date, truly no book better than the Book of Mormon. I urge all of you to make meaningful study of the Book of Mormon an essential part of your everyday routine. When we study the Book of Mormon each day and seek to apply the principles we learn from it, we will be able to see many positive changes in our lives. More importantly, we invite the Spirit to be with us, therefore allowing us to more fully receive God's blessings.

Ern and Ray, make daily Book of Mormon study a habit now - you will not regret it! Even though you have plenty of things to study for school, it is important to place a higher priority on the word of God. When you sincerely study and ponder the teachings in the Book of Mormon, your mind is enlightened by the Spirit, and as a side bonus, this will be a great help to you when you focus on your secular studies later. I personally studied the Book of Mormon every day during my O Level period so many years ago, and in no way did that negatively affect my results, so I invite you to do the same!

I have to go now. I leave you my testimony that God watches over us always, and we can find happiness by aligning our will to His. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Much love,
Elder Chong

Monday, September 03, 2012

Week 9!!!!!!!!!

With my first trainer, Elder  Peterson
With Sister Amanda Loh from Singapore!
Hello everyone!

I apologise for the late email. This week is transfer week, so Preparation Time on Monday was taken away and changed into Transfer Time on Wednesday, and so I have to email on Thursday.

This transfer cycle, I will be serving with Elder Cai in the YSA Ward in Manchester, which is the same area in which I served with Elder Peterson. Elder Peterson went home a week before the actual transfer week because he had to get ready for school, so I spent the past week with my Zone Leaders at that time, who were Elder Sanders and Elder Cai. This transfer cycle, Elder Cai has been released from his calling as Zone Leader (he was euphoric when he found out) and is now my follow-up trainer. However, 3 new Chinese-speaking Elders will be coming in from Provo in the middle of the transfer, and since we are only left with 2 experienced Chinese-speaking Elders (Elder Cai, my current companion, and Elder Chan from Hong Kong), it is likely that Elder Cai will train 2 of the incoming Elders, while Elder Chan will train 1. Our guess is that I might go over to join Elder Chan to finish my training. Of course, these plans could change at any point in time, but if it does happen, it would mean that by the end of my 12-week in-field training period, I will have been trained by 4 different missionaries!

Elder Cai, my new companion, is an AMAZING missionary. He is 6 foot 3, and was born in Shen Zhen, China, and when he was 11 he moved with his family to the "Holy City of Las Vegas", as he likes to put it. It was there that he and his parents met the missionaries and joined the Church. Today, he is very much half-American and half-Chinese in his ways, which is an intersting mix. At this point, English is his first language, though he is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. He is very bold and direct in his missionary work, which is very different from Elder Peterson, who was more inclined towards a friendlier and softer approach to missionary work. Of course, that's not to say that Elder Cai isn't friendly. He has a hilarious talent at making people feel uncomfortable or awkward, thanks to his height and also the fact that he enjoys deliberately making people feel awkward. I cannot even begin to describe what it's like serving with Elder Cai. All I can say is that he is a fantastic missionary and I'm learning a lot from him. I'm thoroughly enjoying serving with him!

By the way, Elder Cai did some modelling before his mission. His pre-mission modelling photos can be found here
http://www.modelmayhem.com/yunzuocai

I find it interesting that Elder Cai is from Shen Zhen. About 7 years ago I had a dream in which I started calling one of my best friends Shen Zhen.. I woke up remembering that I had called my friend Shen Zhen, and I felt odd because I had never heard the term Shen Zhen before. Maybe that was a foretelling of how I would be serving with a missionary from Shen Zhen!

Speaking about dreams, in one of my recent dreams I was in a massive YSA Ward slumber party, and we were all getting up to go to Church on Sunday. I think it is good reflection of how all the members in the YSA Ward are starting to come back from their summer break. We have been having very low Church attendance in the ward, as is expected for a YSA Ward in a University area in the summer. Everyone is starting to come back as September approaches! This includes many Chinese students as well, and so Elder Cai and I are gearing up to go out and do a lot of finding and teaching!

I don't have much time for email today, so I have to sign off soon. I attached 2 photos, one with my first trainer, Elder  Peterson, and one with Sister Amanda Loh from Singapore! She just came out of the MTC and into the field yesterday and will be serving in the same ward as Elder Cai and me.

I know that God loves us all and is ready to bless us if we will seek His will. I leave you this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Much love,
Elder Chong

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week 8!!!!!!!!

Hike up Mt. Snowdon
Hello everyone!

I am now in my 8th week as a missionary set apart to serve our Lord and Saviour. I have been out in the mission field for nearly 5 weeks and will be reaching the end of my very first transfer cycle (each transfer cycle lasts 6 weeks). Nobody but the Lord knows at this time which area I will serve in during the next transfer cycle, but I'm sure I'm going to love it no matter where I serve :)

Speaking of transfer cycles, my companion and trainer, Elder Peterson, will be undergoing a very special transfer this week - he is going to be transferred to Highland, Utah. In other words, he's going home!

I think I haven't written much about Elder Peterson so far. He's from Utah and has moved more than 10 times, has three adopted younger siblings, of which one is a little girl from Taiwan. He came here as a Mandarin Chinese-speaking missionary and is able to speak Chinese pretty well. He previously served for quite a while with a missionary from Hong Kong and as a result has developed great Chinese cooking skills and an appetite for spicy food. He has also realised that taking a shower at night is a very Asian thing. He played American Football before his mission and is trying to get back into shape before heading back. He put himself on a diet and insists that I stop cooking such hearty breakfasts for him in the morning. Unfortunately for him, we were treated to a most wonderful Chinese buffet lunch the other day and we decided to go back to the same place for lunch with some other missionaries today. Moreover, an amazing member who helps us immensely in missionary work gave us enchiladas yesterday. Elder Peterson is definitely fighting a losing battle as far as I can see.

This week we missionaries in the England Manchester Mission were treated to a once-in-a-mission experience - we went hiking! President Preston declared the past few weeks as a time to rededicate and recommit ourselves to the service of God. As a result, we were given a trip to the temple at Chorley and were given an opportunity to hike up Mt. Snowdon in Wales!

The hike was amazing. For starters, the climate here is much cooler than in Malaysia, and so it was much more pleasant than climbing any mountain in the heat back home. The trail was also more rocky than muddy, and shorter than the misadventure of our climb up Gunung Nuang back in Malaysia. There were steep points along the trail we took for Mt Snowdon as well, but for the most part I found it to be a relatively gentle climb most of the way.

The best part, however, was the view. Most hikes in Malaysia are done through the endless rainforests, and it is nearly impossible to get a panoramic view of the mountain range. As we climbed Mt. Snowdon, we had a fantastic view of everything around us, including the sheep who were clearly better hikers than we were. (On a side note, the sheep made the hike more exciting - wherever the trail was easier we'd find a minefield of sheep poo)

We were pretty lucky too - we didn't encounter much rain, which was a great blessing considering how notoriously temperamental English (or in this case, Welsh) weather is. In any case, I included a couple of photos I took during the hike, one of which I hope would make Yale-NUS College proud :P 

During the hike I got to speak to Elder (Jared) Sapaden, who is from London. For those of you in Singapore, Elder Sapaden was from Brother Kevin Koh's ward! In fact, Elder Sapaden was taught by Brother Koh in Young Men's! Help tell Brother Koh that Elder Sapaden says hi! Elder Sapaden's parents are from the Philippines, and he is serving as an English-speaking missionary in the England Manchester Mission, currently serving on the Isle of Man this transfer cycle. He had previously served with Elder Peterson for a bit, and as a result learnt how to have Gospel conversations in Chinese! He shared with me how it was a miracle that he was sent to the Isle of Man, because President Preston, who acts on divine revelation to decide which areas each missionary is sent to, was prompted to send Elder Sapaden to the Isle of Man. When  Elder Sapaden arrived on the island, he discovered that 1 in 9 on the Isle of Man are Filipinos! Moreover, the Chinese he picked up from Elder Peterson allowed him to find and teach a Chinese man as well! Truly the Lord knows all things, and as long as we trust in His infinite wisdom and obey His will, we can be blessed to witness many miracles.

I'm glad to know that Mom was able to have a good rest by staying at Sister Ren Fen's home. I hope the Seow children behaved a little better knowing that they had a guest in their house!

Mom, you will probably be astounded by how proactive I am in eating fruit here on my mission. I know how you always said back home that you'd have to cut fruits and put them on the table for us, otherwise we boys would never bother to have fruits. Here on my mission, my companion loves to eat fruits, and so whenever we buy groceries on P-days we get plenty of fruits. As you probably saw in some of the photos of the breakfasts I cook, grapes are a main part of our diet :P

Being a missionary has also encouraged me to be as creative with food as possible, for the sheer fun of it. Yesterday I mixed some banana into our pancake mix, with some delicious results :D There have been occasions where creative cooking can backfire - I still remember the time I cooked apples with beef and other vegetables.

I had another memorable dream recently - I was living in a nice house and invited a friend and her parents to come over to enjoy a meal that I had prepared. It was a dream, so I had excellent cooking skills. I put in a lot of effort to prepare the meal for them, but to my dismay, my friend's parents were too busy arguing over something during the meal that they couldn't enjoy the food!

So it is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are invited by Him to feast upon His words, to partake of the Bread of Life and His Living Waters, never to hunger and never to thirst again. However, if we let our personal trifles distract us, we deny ourselves this wonderful opportunity. How sad he would be, just as I was sad to see the meal I had prepared gone to waste!

I'm running out of time, but I want you to know that I love you all. I received the news about Ee-poh and will write more about it next time. Truly, God's plan of salvation is a wonderful plan!

Much Love,
Elder Chong