Chúc mừng năm mới – Happy Tết

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Happy Vietnamese New Year to everybody with best wishes in everything

This is going to be a really quick because we’re going with our mission president to another city today to visit a lone member and do some ministering. Wish us luck!

The week has been slow and fast with no in between,  haha. Because it’s the Lunar New Year holiday (Tết), there’s literally nobody in the city. There was one day where we were so bored we walked to our mission office instead of biked in the hopes of running across someone we could contact. There was another time where we decided to explore to see if there were any other contacting places we could try and we found a park, but turns out it wasn’t a park, it was a straight-up zoo! I don’t know how we made the mistake of it being a normal park, but let me just say in our defense that is was the most well-disguised zoo that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was also the most decrepit, but that’s not important. It wasn’t P-Day and we were there to look for ready and prepared souls, not look at sad, malnourished animals *tear shed for the sad malnourished animals*.
But in addition to the general boredom, we also got to have zone conference. My companion and I translated the whole 6 hours or so of the conference from English to Vietnamese and by the end I got a bad cough. It’s still here. Vietnamese is great and I love it, but after 6 hours of speaking it like a machine gun to try and keep up, it does a number on your throat. Props to my companion for being there right along with me👏.
Besides zone conference, we also had the opportunity to go with our mission president to the hometown way out in the countryside provinces of one of our native missionaries. It was awesome! It was much more what I imagined Vietnam to be like with all the green hills, unpaved mountain roads, lush jungle foliage, and actual villages made up of wooden huts. I commented to our driver a we passed through all of this that there was no way this could not have been the work of a supreme Creator.
That’s all I have time for today, but love you all and hope you have a great week.
Elder Phan
Picture :
Vietnam Hanoi Mission ‘s  missionaries –  on New Year Day
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Week 79 : Prepare for Vietnamese New Year (Tết)

 

Not too much happened this week. It’s Tết, aka the Vietnamese new year, so everyone in the city is starting to go home to their home towns, which by extension means that we about to have almost no one to teach or find this week. I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to be doing for the nxt week or so. Might as well try to do what we can right?

This week we welcomed 2 more missionaries into our district, Elder Thái my old trainee who has now been serving for a year and his new trainee, Elder Long, a native from Saigon who will be going off later in the coming months to serve in Provo, UT. Now our district totals 10 missionaries. And our entire district serves in a branch of about 70 members…it’s a lot haha.
Besides that, we also got an assignment from President to go and pick up another missionary from the airport. He was supposed to land at 9:55 pm, and we waited until around 11:45 and he never showed up. So we decided to call it and go home and we didn’t get home and get to bed until 1 in the morning. By far the longest day of my mission and we still got to wake up early in the morning to get ready for church. It wasn’t until later that we found out that he missed his flight and didn’t come into Hanoi until 1:30. As of right now…we’re still trying to locate him, so keep him in your prayers.
That’s basically all for this week. Love you all!
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Helping a member move houses during the week.
Thanks to my brother for the new shirt.
The American U-haul is a deceitful name because U are not actually hauling that much. Try the ACTUAL U-haul method, Mormon handcart pioneer-style. This was legitimately the only thing we had to move all the stuff. It was fun.
Next, Sunday before Tết, most of the missionaries came to church in our traditional Vietnamese tunics and it was awesome!
Also, doges!

Week 78 : Missionary experiences

 

WHHOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

I’m sorry if it’s a little unconventional to open up an email like that (persona of a dignified representative to Jesus Christ and all that), but seriously everyone, if I had one word to summarize this past week, it would be that.
I swear our area is the bomb! So many miracles, so much work, and I’m so tired, but it’s awesome. As a quick summary, we had our Mission Leadership Conference this week, where the leadership in the mission come together to council about how the work is going. My companion and I had to go on exchanges with all of our zone leaders this week as well, and that was over a 3 day period, so we basically emptied out the rest of our week to fill those 3 days with appointments to keep them busy. On top of that, we’ve had to do some in-depth ministering to some other missionaries in our zone that required some extra temporary companion exchanges (I won’t go into the details), but suffice to say I’ve had 6 different companions this week before coming back with good old Elder Lâm, my main man.
I’ve never been so tired my whole mission, but some of the craziest miracles happened. I’ll share 2:
My comp and I exchanged with 2 zone leaders from Saigon. My comp and one ZL went to find a less-active member at his house and then go teach a recent convert, but the LA was at work and when they called him, he was not down to meet, and then the RC cancelled. So while one Elder was on the phone talking to him, the other saw this guy watching them and just walked up him and talked to him. He shared that they were missionaries and sharing with people about how to come closer to Christ through baptism, and this guy asked how that all works. My comp intended to set up a return appointment, but the guy out-invited him and just said, come in and teach me now. Their recent convert just cancelled so suddenly they had a free hour, so they were like, “Ok why not.” You gotta understand how rare this happens in Vietnam, to be invited in on the spot to share a message. That in and of itself is a miracle. But get this, in the middle of their lesson, who should randomly walk into the house but the LA. And he just sat down and started helping teach the lesson to his neighbor. So the guy becomes a new investigator, and afterwards, the elders talked to the LA to figure out what happened, and he said after hanging up the phone, he just had this feeling that he couldn’t shake, that these elders came all the way over to see him, and he blew them off. So he came home (in the middle of work) to talk to us and then he gave the visiting ZL his jacket to keep him warm. The Spirit works miracles.
Experience 2: On my end, I went with the other ZL, who is a native Vietnamese member from Hanoi named Elder Duy. Our area covers his home branch, so in our lessons, he got to see his old friends and teach a few. Technically we’re not supposed to reconnect him with his old relations from before his mission to help him focus on the the work and not get distracted, but our mission president gave us the green light. But get this, after a lesson at the church, we walk down the stairs and who should we run into but his little sister, who is not a member, who somehow got word that he was in town and came to the church to see if she could see him. When I saw her, I was like “shoot” because missionaries are also not allowed to accept visit from family for the same reasons listed above, but then the mission president again okay’d it and it was a sweet reunion for those 2. To make a long story short, they had had some family struggles ever since he left on his mission, and the little sister has actually met with missionaries to learn before, but just wasn’t ready at that time. So we felt prompted to invite her to come up with us to another room in the church to learn again. That lesson was so powerful. There were tears shed as they talked to each other and worked out the family issues and then also as this brother testified to his little sister of the blessings of the work he’s doing and the blessings the gospel can have on her life. In the end, she agreed to learn again and is now a new investigator. I talked to this Vietnamese ZL after the lesson and asked him how he felt, and he said he did not feel distracted in any way whatsoever. God works in mysterious ways.
So 2 completely unexpected new investigators! And the fun don’t stop there. We met with 2 other people, one who wants to go to BYU for college and actually knew who Mormons were (that’s 1 in like 10 million here is Vietnam), and he’s super down to join the church. +1 new investigator.
Then when church rolled around, we had 4 investigators come, one of whom brought a friend! The friend loved church so we invited them to come eat at a members house for dinner and taught both at the same time and the friend was super down to learn more. +1 new investigator.
So as a general total for this transfer, we are now working with 12 investigators, most of whom are pretty solid. I get too excited over this sometimes that I have to remind myself that this is not our success or the results of our hard work. I was lying in bed last night and couldn’t go to sleep because I was just thinking about all these new people and how happy I was, and then I had to remind myself that all the credit goes to God. Like the prophet Ammon said “I do not boast in my own strength or in my own wisdom; but behold my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God…for in HIS strength I can do all things …” As missionaries, we really ought to take a back seat in terms of the spotlight and constantly remind ourselves that the success of coming closer to God belongs first to the person that is learning, not so much to us as the teachers, and second to God because he is the author of all of this. When we remember in humility that this is His work and that we are meant to invite OTHERS to come unto Christ by helping THEM receive the restored gospel. It has nothing to do with us as missionaries. We’re just the instrument, and it don’t matter how pretty or old or expensive that instrument is, it does nothing of itself until there’s a maestro to play it. And I know God is the ultimate maestro, able to make any instrument in his hands sound good to get done what He needs to get done. I wonder what I ever did to deserve to be in the right place at the right time to witness miracle after miracle, and the only conclusion I can see is that it’s nothing to do with my ability (whatever ability that may be😅), but rather it’s all God’s grace and mercy. It’s really is a humbling experience to be His instrument and see him bring about results by putting you through the grind.
I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith to conclude what I’ve written here: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain…knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.” This work is true.
Love,
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Our awesome members during a missionary farewell (the girl in the yellow got called to serve in Saigon)
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Lunch during exchanges at a steakhouse
2 doges (fyi I love dogs)
An event at the church where we make new years cakes (bánh chưng)  to give to homeless and poor people
Us and our investigator (the one in the brown), and her friend that she invited to church, who is now also a new investigator
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Week 77 : Services

 

Great week this week! Sorry because I don’t have a lot of time today. We gotta go help the sister missionaries move their house. But everything is super good! We’re doing great, the work is great. I’ll make it up to ya’ll next week!

Pictures:
Times City, my old area, getting decorated for Vietnamese New year
Some pictures of our service project and for some reason the people had a crossbow…
Finally a video of us translating a devotional
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Week 76: Miracles happen always

 

This week was awesome! The first thing I am going to talk about is our goals. We set a high bar of 7 new investigators this weeks, which is more investigators than I have ever planned to get in a week and in a lot of cases more investigators that we usually plan to get in a month! But this week was special because our focus in the mission is changing so that we find families.

Finding a family to teach is a tough challenge what with the culture here. It’s hard enough to help an individual accept and change thousands of years of basically naturally ingrained Asian traditional beliefs to come into the gospel. A family?

It takes nothing short of a miracle. But boy has this week been a week of miracles. At this point our mission president felt that we are well established enough to really find those families who are prepared. My companion and I took that goal to heart and over the past couple weeks found a couple of potential families to teach. By the end of this past week, we’ve got 2! One is a family that lives in our apartment and we decided we wanted all our bases covered so we invited our mission president to come in and help us out in the lesson. It was awesome! I swear having him in the room helped so much to bring a certain degree of experience and maturity to the meeting. The Spirit was also there!

We also have another family, the parents of a less-active member who I feel is really only less active because she works for a government institution and therefore is restricted in her ability to attend church. It’s been like that for the past 3 years, but we got to visit her and the Spirit in the home was very palpable.
To finish off our new investigator list, we met a former investigator just last night who we’ve been trying to contact but he’s dodged us on the phone because he’s a really busy guy. So we swung by his address that we had written down and found out it didn’t exist, so we called him and asked why his address doesn’t exist, to which he then told us it doesn’t matter because he’s out of town for work. It was the last day of the week and we were bummed that he was out because he was our last hope in getting our goal, but we decided to just swing by another similarly named road that might be the right one and see if his house was there. We found the right number, which was a ghetto sort of radio shack where you can buy lot of computer equipment stuff. It was also closed, but we decided to knock anyways for the sake of seeing if maybe any of his family was home was we could contact and invite to church. We waited 10 minutes and what do you know, he comes out and opens the door. We didn’t bother addressing the elephant in the room that he tried to swerve us and just talked to him about relearning again. He really does believe in the stuff that he learned before with past missionaries, so he accepted.
In the end we ended our week with 6/7.
Another story worth sharing was a lesson we had with our investigator Hòa. So she’s been progressing really well, we just need her to be getting spiritual experiences with her prayers and scripture reading and she got one. She got on the bus early one morning and because she was in a rush, she was eating not so good leftovers from the days before and it started to make her stomach ache. So while on the bus, she thought, “I might as well pray”. Literally 30 seconds after she prayed, the ache went away and never came back and she was super surprised. When she shared that in the beginning of our lesson she said “I think that might have been from God.” It was hard not to fist pump, I was so excited for her. It was a great lesson too.
So that all the time I have to talk about this week but we had a ton of other stuff happen! Miracles are happening left and right!
Love you all,
Elder Phan
Pictures: In preparation for the coming Vietnamese New Year, my companion and I bought áo dài, a traditional formal Vietnamese tunic. It could arguably be called a dress, but what can I say, this dress looks good on Elders
An attempt of mine to recreate In n Out Animal style fries. It don’t look that good, but it was pretty decent.
“A red sun rises…”
4 of us rating our skin tones

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Week 75: Solid week

 

So before anything, I just wanted to give a quick birthday shout out to my dad! Dad, I sent you the personal video already, but just so everyone reading this email can know, you’re a pretty great dad and I’m grateful for all that you do for us and for the church. You’re a great example for me.

This week was super solid. We have an investigator named Hòa who we were able to meet 3 times this week. She’s super awesome and is keeping our commitments. What I love about teaching her, and this may have nothing to do with her as an investigator, but just with the way that Elder Lam and I teach together, but no minute is wasted. Everything we’ve taught, we’ve taken the time to do so thoroughly and make sure she understands the lessons, and it’s been a very spiritually edifying experience for all of us.
So to all the missionaries and future missionaries: teach your investigators thoroughly, simply, and clearly. Ultimately, yes, they are baptized based on their faith, not on what they know, but they deserve to understand clearly what they are committing to.
Missionaries will be held accountable in the future for poor teaching skills or not sufficiently preparing their investigator because they went too fast and “taught lessons instead of people” for the sake of a baptism. So if you’re one of those people who wants to baptize or baptizes someone in 3 weeks or even less…be warned, that person better be the most prepared person you have ever seen to commit to enduring to the end. We don’t teach, serve, and baptize people so that they can leave God behind a few months or years down the road. Obviously there are a lot of factors that go into that, but we have an obligation as missionaries to do all that WE can do to love our investigators enough to prepare them as much as we can for their future in the church. Don’t assume they’re set just because all their lessons are taught to them and they smile everytime they see you and tell you they want to get baptized. The Lord decides their readiness, so pray to Him and ask Him if you did a good enough job with those under your stewardship and see what He tells you in terms of their readiness.
I’m not sure why I wrote that, so maybe somebody somewhere on this email list that is currently serving a mission or planning on it needed to hear it. I’m grateful to be serving a mission and helping these people come closer to Christ. “Nuff said.
Love,
Elder Phan
Pictures: Not much for today. This is just a pic of me and one of our RCs named  Thái.
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Week 73-74 : Happy New Year 2018

So it’s been 2 weeks so first off, let me just say Merry Belated Christmas and Happy Belated New Years to all the wonderful people on this email list. You’re all great and I hope this last year was as good to you as it was for me. Back in the day, if I didn’t email for 2 weeks straight I’d go super in-depth on everything we did because, you know, you wanna update everyone at home about all the stuff that’s going on. Now…I’ll be honest, unless I’ve learned something super cool in the last week, I feel pretty lazy about telling about all the things that have been happening. This problem is especially compounded when there’s just too much to talk about. So here’s a list of our various activities the past 2 weeks:

1. Christmas was awesome with a branch Christmas party
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2. We helped arrange this giant dinner with a ton of members. The gist of it is we have a few less-actives that we have been trying to bring back, and a big reason they are less-active is because with so many new people being baptized in the time they haven’t been at church, the times where they do come, everyone is basically a stranger to them. So we arranged this dinner and invited our less-actives and a few recent converts and regular members. Our investigator also happened to be there and it was a huge success to see everyone’s friend base expand.
3. We flew down South and had exchanges with the zone leaders down there and we were also conscripted to do a training in their zone conferences on bold invitations. I did my training on John Chapter 4, and I won’t go into too much detail about it, but if anyone wants to read it and guess how Christ’s boldness converted the woman at the well, please feel free to email me.
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4. I am now 20 years old! The members in our branch surprised us with a cake and some presents and being around the people I love the most definitely made it the best Birthday ever.
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5. We had our zone p-day where we went to this place called ninh bình. It was awesome scenery and it’s where they filmed the new king kong movie. So we basically got to be on set.
5. New Years was pretty normal, we didn’t do anything crazy out of the ordinary there
6. As one of our new Assistant to the President responsibilities, he’s asked us to start making some videos to put on our branch and english class facebook concerning Christmas, English Class, and Vietnamese new year. So if you wanna make my companion go viral, go check our English class video under the some along the lines of “free english group hanoi lds”
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6. We got a new investigator named Hòa and she’s pretty good. I’ll attach a picture below.
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Love you all!
Elder Phan

Week 69: Merry Christmas

 

Not too much time this week so I will apologize in advance for that. We had a good week! We’ve got a few families that we have lined that will hopefully choose to learn, so that’s fun. Never taught a family before. Besides that, we’re pretty excited for Christmas coming up. The branch hear has been gearing up for a big end of the year Christmas party. There’s still a lot of money left over in our branch budget that will have to get returned if we don’t use it by the end of the year, so we’re gonna make this Christmas party a good one. I’m excited for it all to go down. I’ll see if I can get some good pictures. But I hope that everyone has an amazing Christmas!

Pictures:
At the piano
A cat backpack!
Picking up a new Elder

Week 68: What a week!

What a week!

We’ve been busier this week than any other time in my mission that I can remember! Maybe it’s cause this area is so rich, maybe it’s the drive to do more than we thought we could do before, maybe it’s because our missionary skills are getting a tad better, I don’t know. But it’s been rewarding. We set some pretty ambitious goals as a companionship this week and to be completely honest with you all, we didn’t come anywhere close to it hahaha. What can I say? You can put in all the work and be busy and feel that satisfaction of a hard day’s work, as well as God’s approval for your sacrifices for that day, and still not the numbers you were looking for. It increses my testimony that this work is about souls, not the number of people you have ready for baptism.
In reflecting this week about this work and the toll that it takes on us as servants of Jesus Christ, I’ve found that it would be easy to focus too much on feeling that because of lack of numbers, it would be easy for missionaries to feel discouraged and think, “Why don’t I have more investigators? If our message is so great and, more importantly, true, then why aren’t people just walking into this baptismal font by the thousands?” In other words, why is this so hard??? I read a talk from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland this week that shed some light on this subject. He talked about the Savior and his Atonement, the gravity of it, and what that means for us as spiritual witnesses and storytellers of that event and sacrifice. He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane as He took upon himself the sins of all the world, so much so that He bled from every pore; He was smitten, tortured, and spat upon by those who did not understand or chose not to understand who He was and the purpose of His mission; He was led up to the hill and, as a final sacrifice, was crucified. During that process of Atonement that none of us can really understand, He was recorded to say things such as “Father, if thou be willing, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done” and “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
So what does that have tro do with missionary work? To paraphrase Elder Holland, he says that missionary work is not easy because SALVATION IS NOT A CHEAP EXPERIENCE! The work of enduring through life’s trials was never easy, nor was it ever meant to be. How could we ever think it would be easy for us when it was NEVER easy for Him. Even Christ, the greatest of all of us, saw it fit to ask God, in a sense, “Why is this so hard?” so it’s no wonder why many aspects of life, missionary work or otherwise, and ultimately salvation shouldn’t also be difficult. To quote from Elder Holland, “If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way…When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.” I remember reading in Paul’s epistle to the Phillipians: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Phillipians 1:29)
I can definitely say that a knowledge and faith in that has increased my capacity to cope with life’s trials, but only to hope, but to find joy in it! We can get all weighed down by the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice that sometimes we forget why He did it. He did it so that we may, in the end, receive everlasting joy! That’s the message that we as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints live and preach everyday for 2 years, and as members of this church for the rest of our lives. I’ve seen evidence of that in my life. Just last night as I was lying on my bed and thinking about the work we’ve been doing, I noticed how much my charity has grown towards others (remember this is something I’ve been working on for a looong time). I LOVE the people I am serving. I know I’ve said that in my past few emails and at this point it may sound corny, but it’s so true. There’s this feeling in my chest that just feels like it’s always expanding, to the point where there’s not enough room to contain it, and no matter how much I try and express that out loud to try to vent some of the pressure, nothing happens. Words can’t adequately describe the feeling of love you get towards others while you’re on your mission. It’s like the Source of that love is infinite or something🤔🤔🤔
I am absolutely convinced that in your 20-21 years of living on this Earth, the people that you meet on your mission will be the best people you will ever meet up to that point. One of the ironies of that is you only get to spend 2 years with the greatest people ever whom you love so very much, but the important thing is you get to feel that way towards them through constant service. If you’ve ever wondered what the Celestial Kingdom feels like, try serving a mission with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, and God will give you a glimpse of what it’s like. That gratitude and appreciation and love that you receive through service and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes all the struggles of missionary work worth it. So take joy in your struggles because the rewards more than make up for it. And in the end, all this is possible because we have a loving Heavenly Father who sent His Son down to the Earth to atone for our sins. And as his representatives here on the Earth, we honor that sacrifice through our service.
Have a great week everybody!
Elder Phan
Pictures:
A few pictures of us with some of the recent converts,
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Week 67 : New companion

 

So this has been a great week. My new companion Elder Lam is great and we are getting some good work done together. This week we got a new investigator, a guy from the Phillipines named Jason who is living in Vietnam for the long term. He’s really cool. He’s seen a ton of stuff about the church, the stuff put on by the church, but also a TON of the anti-Mormon material out there. What I love about his reaction is that when he saw that, he said, “That can’t be right…” so he called us up and asked to learn more about what we were about. It was a great lesson and he’s down to learn more about the gospel.

This past week we’ve also been trying to do the #LighttheWorld campaign and it’s been a ton of fun trying to think of different ways to serve other people according to the recommendations of the program. If you haven’t checked out #LighttheWorld or done it yet, please do it! I recommend it so much! For those want to start, here is the link for day 4:
Besides that, funny story from this week. My last P-Day with Elder DQ, we had a pretty outdoor day, so we changed out of our normal white shirt and tie attire into more exercise appropriate clothing. During our P-Day, we got a call from the mission office telling us that there was a lesson that had to be taught over skype and that no one else was available to do it, so we had to. Based on where we were, we had no time to go home and change, so we just booked it to the mission office by bus and called a senior missionary in the office telling her we’re coming in hot in basketball shorts and sweats, is that ok? and she was like “Absolutely not.” What ended up happening was that we borrowed 2 of her husband’s white shirts and ties and just threw those on. Luckily, the camera is positioned where the investigator wouldn’t see our bottom half. We were all ready for the lesson and then………technical issues canceled our lesson. But it was all good.
It’s been a good week this week and I’m looking forward to the next one. Blare out the Christmas music back at home for me!
Love,
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Our Skype lesson attire
Losing Elder Luc (far left) because of transfer calls.
Losing Elder Tri, my old trainer, who has completed his mission and is now home in Texas. 2 years of worthy service brother!
Various pictures of us with our English class and some members!
My new companion, Elder Lam!
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