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!

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Week 7!!!!!!! (photos included :D)

Dear all,

It's been about 7 weeks since I left on a mission now and I'm about 4 weeks into the Mission Field. Since I can still count those weeks I believe I can consider myself a fresh missionary. Every week is exciting to me and I look forward to doing the Lord's work each day. 

Each morning this week I've been consciously telling myself to think about the people I teach (instead of thinking about how sweet the feeling of going back to bed at night will be). As missionaries, we learn that we are entitled to revelation from God concerning the people we teach. There have been several instances where, during my personal study in the morning, I would come across chapters in the scriptures which I would find to be perfect for a particular person my companion and I are teaching. There have also been times when Elder Peterson and I both have the same idea(s) for each person we teach when we plan our lessons during companionship study. It is a most wonderful feeling to know that we are instruments in the Lord's hands!

One of the things I've noticed as a missionary is that I'm more aware of the dreams that I have and I find that I can remember my dreams more often. Perhaps it is because I now follow a regular pattern of (sufficient) sleep; perhaps it is because dreams are about the only true personal time I have left as a missionary to do whatever I want, and so I am more inclined to remember them. If the latter is true, then perhaps it is rather unfortunate that I've been starting to get "missionary dreams," which is basically dreams in which I am a missionary.

I'm pretty sure that all missionaries inevitably have missionary dreams. I've heard of some missionaries talking in their sleep, and in their sleep-talk they invite people to learn about God. My companion Elder Peterson told me that he's usually dressed as a missionary in his dreams. I haven't noticed that yet - perhaps I'll pay attention tonight.

So in my dreams I can remember my identity and responsibility as a missionary, even though I may not necessarily be engaged in missionary activities in the dream. For example, there have been several dreams in which I was back home having a good time with my friends, and then I would suddenly realise, to my horror, that I was still a missionary. I would then panic, because I started to wonder how I would explain to my Mission President the reason for my absence from the mission field. Such dreams usually jerk me awake (like the one in which the Lord appeared and told me to "Get To Work!"). Recently I had a dream about one of my friends from KL, whom I gave a copy of the Book of Mormon many years ago. In the dream I discovered that his family had been reading the Book of Mormon together every night, even though they couldn't quite understand it, and they were delighted to know that I could share more with them about what it was. The dream stopped at that point, so unfortunately I wasn't able to practise teaching in my dreams...

Another rather amusing dream I had recently taught me a lesson. In order for the dream to make sense I must provide the context: recently the senior couple missionaries, Elder and Sister McArthur, bought us a massive bag of pancake mix. It was and still is a wonderful treat, and I woefully asked Elder Peterson if I would have to leave the bag of pancake mix behind in our flat if I get transferred out about 2 weeks from now. He said, half-jokingly, that I can try packing it in my bag if I so desperately want to bring it to my next area.

And so in the dream, I was back in the MTC and was just about to leave, and that very same bag of pancake mix was among one of my possessions in the MTC. In the dream, everyone was preparing to leave the MTC and there was very little time to pack. However, I wasted most of the time in my dream trying to figure out how I could pack the gargantuan bag of pancake mix into my luggage. As a result, I was not properly prepared to leave the MTC!

As I thought about the dream after I awoke, I realised that it made a good analogy of our lives. We learn both from the Bible and the Book of Mormon that we should not set our hearts upon worldly possessions. There are many nice things in this world (like ice-cream) but if we let them distract us from our spiritual progression, we would be missing the whole point of our mortal existence, for this life is the time for us to prepare to meet God. In my dream, I was so concerned with trying to bring my bag of pancake mix along that I was not prepared to leave the MTC. Likewise, if we focus on obtaining worldly possessions and fail to treasure up the spiritual things, we would hardly be prepared to meet God at the end of our lives! Indeed, we
learn in the New Testament that Christ taught that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God!

[I hereby dub the above dream as the Parable of Elder Chong and the Pancake Mix]

In my recent personal study I came across Jacob 4:14, which reads: "But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble."

As I understand it, this verse refers to the Jews, who, in their pride, believed themselves to be above the simple teachings that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the basic principles of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. As a result, they descended into a prideful, intellectual, rather than a humble and spiritual  study of the gospel. From this sprang the overt emphasis on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, an attitude which Christ condemned during His ministry on the Earth.

So it is with us when we occasionally tire of what we deem to be the repetitious gospel of Jesus Christ - the aforementioned five principles and ordinances of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, upon which His gospel is founded. We start to think that we are ready for so-called "deep doctrine" that tends to dwell excessively on little details such as Kolob, how Christ could be born of the Virgin Mary and so on. Very often, these things are nice to know but do little to draw us nearer to our Saviour.

On the other hand, when we focus more on the true doctrine of Christ, of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, we are more likely to make progress on that strait and narrow path leading us back to our Heavenly Father. By focusing our study on the gift of the Holy Ghost, for example, we can learn how to be more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, so that we can receive the necessary guidance, comfort, and even warnings that will help us stay on the right course in the journey of this mortal life.

This verse has renewed my desire to focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both for my own growth as well as the growth of those whom I have been called to teach.

I would also like to share a short miracle - just one among the many that I've been blessed to have recognised out on the field this week. One evening my companion and I ended a lesson late (some call this a greenie mistake, but I think it's more of an Elder Chong mistake) and we were not sure if the bus to get back to our flat was going to arrive on time. I said a silent prayer in my heart asking God to help us get home on time, and shortly after, a car pulled over in front of us, and the man driving it called out, "Elders! Can I give you a lift back to your flat so that you can get back on time? Don't want you to turn into pumpkins!"

The funny thing was that Elder Peterson and I were just joking about turning into pumpkins if we didn't make it back into our flat before 9.30pm. We thanked the driver, Brother Warren from London, and got in. Brother Warren happened to be visiting his mother in the area and had been to the temple at Chorley with her. Truly, I know that because Brother Warren had righteously made a trip to the temple with his mother, God was able to guide him to us!

I leave with you my testimony that the Lord's work will not be stopped, and that He does sustain His servants. It is my privilege and joy to be engaged in His work!

Much love,
Elder Chong
A photo of the Chinese-speaking missionaries (and some English-speaking companions) in the England Manchester Mission!

 My Mickey Mouse-shaped blister on my heel. Very amusing.

Me cooking in our flat
The many different types of breakfasts I've been cooking for myself and my companion in the morning :D

Monday, August 06, 2012

Week 6!!!!!!

Hello again! :D

So it's now my 6th week since being called as a missionary and I've been out on the mission field for about 3 weeks, which means that I've reach the mid-point of the transfer cycle. Things are going very well and I've continued to enjoy myself out here.

This week I was able to experience my very first exchange with my District leader, Elder Herrin. His companion, Elder Kulygin, and I took each others' places for about 2 days and 1 night, meaning that I went over to Elder Herrin's area while Elder Kulygin came over to my area to be Elder Peterson's companion. For those unfamiliar with missionary activities, exchanges are for the purposes of training and learning, and so I was with Elder Herrin to learn from him.

The exchange was exciting for me because being with Elder Herrin meant that I was proselyting among all the English people and not just the Chinese people which was my usual responsibility. Hence, we spoke to EVERYONE we could while on the street. We were in a residential area so it was actually possible to speak to every visible person on the street. (I'm not sure how that works in the city where you have thousands of people out on the street; I imagine that standing on a stool and preaching at the top of my lungs, waving the Book of Mormon in the air, would be an amusing way to try to share our message with everyone on the street) 

One fun thing about proselyting in an area where there aren't many people on the street is that Elder Herrin and, by extension, I, would sometimes have to run in order to catch up with people little far off. Occasionally we would have to leap over fences if necessary. I figure that the trick is to be able to do it in such a way that you do not look like you are about to assault somebody. Nevertheless, after much running and leaping about, we were on one occasion able to catch up with someone who turned out to be interested in our message, and we were able to teach her about God and the Restoration on the spot. It just goes to show that running about (in the most dignified manner I can muster) and appearing to some as a frenzied fanatic is small price to pay to be able to find just that one person who is waiting to hear and be blessed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Speaking of prices to pay, during the exchange I developed a new blister in addition to the 4 I already had as a new missionary. I took it as a symbol of my spiritual growth during the exchange. That's not to say that I expect all my spiritual growth will be manifest in new blisters though - I'd probably be disfigured beyond recognition within a month of my mission if that was the case. Anyway, Elder Herrin noticed that I was limping/hopping while running in an attempt to minimise the pain coming from the blisters. 

"Are you all right?" He asked.

"It's okay, it's only pain," I replied.

He later told me during our exchange inventory (where we evaluate our performance during the exchange and discuss what we've learnt) that "it's okay, it's only pain" was the one line he would use to sum up my attitude that he saw in me as a missionary. 

Christ Himself bore the sins and grief of the world, suffering pain beyond human comprehension such that all of God's children may be saved from physical death and spiritual death, if they would only come unto Him. As a missionary, I think that a couple of blisters is a pretty good bargain if it means that I'm able to help guide some of God's children to eternal salvation!

So it is with life. The trials and tribulations of life will pass us by, just as my physical pain from the blister will eventually go away once I form mighty calluses on my feet.  We emerge stronger and wiser (I hope) and as a result become closer to our Heavenly Father. The trials of mortality are small price to pay for eternal life in God's Kingdom! Moreover, Christ through His Atonement offers us a 100% discount on the price of sin, if only we would repent and rely on Him. Surely that's a bargain nobody could resist!

On a side note: according to Elder Herrin, I shouted in my sleep at about 2am during the exchange. I remember waking up at 2am but I don't remember shouting. I'm guessing that I probably had failed that night to repent for my mistakes made during the day. Whoops XD

Before I sign off I would like to share my testimony of faith, and in particular, how faith needs to be tested. We grow our faith by exercising it, as with both physical strength as well as intellectual
knowledge. In Alma 32 to read of the prophet Alma's discourse on faith, and how it is a seed that needs to be constantly nourished. We nourish our faith by keeping the commandments of God and constantly looking towards our Saviour. There are many moments in our lives where our faith will be tested. I sincerely hope that when the storms come, our faith will have grown into a solid tree and not remain a fragile sapling to be beaten down! Here on my mission, the collective faith of both me and my companion has been tested several times, and thus far we have been frequently blessed with almost immediate, visible results from our faith. On the other hand, there have been times where we have not seen the results. I know that in these cases we were either unable to recognise the results, or God wanted to test our faith a little longer. I pray that all of us will have that strength to willingly and bravely accept that challenge, to allow ourselves to be stretched in order to grow spiritually.

I know that God lives and He loves us. I know that when we exercise faith in Him, we can more fully feel His love for us. I love God, and I love all of you. I love a bit of ice-cream every now and then too and I am glad that God gives us little treats like that in life. I pray that we can all recognise those little treats when they come to us. I close this email and my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Amen.

Much love,
Elder Chong