Week 105: Last email – Homecoming

 

Well, this is it folks. Elder Phan dies this week (this is the Vienamese term presenting for something that is going to finish).

It’s such a weird feeling to reflect on because this has been my life for 2 years and it feels like absolutely nothing.

I still remember coming out on Day 1 like it was just yesterday…My brother just left on his mission last week and is now in the missionary training center in Provo, Utah learning how to be a missionary and speak Tagalog in preparation for going to the Philippines in 6 weeks. So it’s really fun to read his email and compare it to the very first email that I sent out. He’s gonna do great!

This week has just been a plethora of all sorts of happenings and activities. We had district P-Day on monday, where we all went golfing with the mission president’s son and then bowled, so that was super fun. At night we did manual labor, which is awesome because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that. We helped a member move houses.
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Tuesday we had Zone conference and it was my last conference and in my opinion probably the best one I’ve ever attended. It was so inspiring to listen to the stories, the testimonies, and the training and it was just what I needed to give me that extra spark to finish out the week with a bang.
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(picture: with new Mission President and his wife,  and Zone Conference Picture)
Wednesday was also super busy as we met with the mission president to plan the Mission Leadership Council, split with our district leader to cover multiple, simultaneous lessons and then teach English class. The sad part was my companion and I didn’t have enough time to really plan the English class together the week before, so we kinda just winged it. If there’s one thing I have a testimony of, it is of God’s grace and mercy when He sees that his servants are incapable. The class went super well in spite of the lack of preparation.

 

On Thursday we had exchanges with a set of zone leaders from Hồ Chi Minh City and the zone leader I went with is totally awesome. We had a lesson with our investigator who is preparing to get baptized this week and we taught about enduring to the end using the vision of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi 8 in the Book of Mormon. Basically, there are 4 types of people in that story, but I will just focus on 2. The first type of person is the one that makes it all the way to the end, to the tree of life (a representation of the love of God) and eats of the fruit (which is described as whiter, sweeter, and more beautiful than any other fruit). Then they look around at the people making fun of them and they feel ashamed and leave the tree and throw away the fruit to follow after those that made fun. The 2nd group also reached the tree and ate the fruit, but they stayed because they paid no attention to the haters and mockers. To tie that into enduring to the end, sometimes we make it all the way to the endpoint or the goal, but really the most important step you can take is choosing to STAY at that endpoint. What’s the point in getting baptized if you’re not going to stay true to your promises to God for the rest of your life? What’s the point in going on a mission if when you come home you begin to pay attention again to those that mock and then just fall away? All of us and all of our investigators need to understand that crucial point. In that lesson our member help shared the most powerful personal experience of how after she got married and divorced, she became less-active in the church. The Spirit flooded the room as she testified of the difficulty of not only leaving the “tree” for a time, but also finding her way back to the tree in spite of the “mocking.” It was a fire lesson!
                                                   (Mission Leadership Council pictures)
The next day we had Mission Leadership Council and it was so rewarding to listen to more stories, testimony, and training. That night we had our baptism!!! I never thought that we would be so lucky to see a final person join the church in my final week here! It was an amazing service and our investigator, Hiền, was just beaming! The next day was more exchanges with some other zone leaders. Nothing too special there.
My last Sunday was pretty emotional. We were running around doing all sorts of things for church. My companion confirmed Hiền as an official member of the church, I translated the testimonies of members that went up to share, our recent convert from Đà Nẵng came up to see us and attend church here, my companion and I taught the Gospel Principles class, we gave 2 blessings to members, and I said some good-byes to some of the members. If anything, going to church made the reality of going home all the more tangible and saying bye and getting gifts from these people is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s definitely harder leaving Vietnam than it was leaving America.
I guess to close, I just want to share my thanks and testimony with you all!
I’m grateful for anyone out there that reads these emails. There have been a lot more bad emails than good ones, but I hope that the good ones helped somebody out there with something they needed.
I’m grateful for my family for always worrying about me and sending me stuff to make sure I don’t starve here (although you’ll see that the opposite is actually more true).
I’ve been blessed to have great companions my whole mission and meet the greatest people ever in the world, and I grateful for that.
But most of all, I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father. If you’re reading this right now, I want you to know that He really does live! I know He does! He is mindful of everything you do and He is reaching out to you. Right now you are on a journey that is leading you towards the Tree of Life. The things that happen to you in your life are not circumstantial. They are all given to you by God to bless you and help you grow and become stronger. But the greatest thing that you could ever learn in your life is the joy that come from knowing that God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that they have provided a very specific plan for you and all your friends to help you live with Them for all eternity. He has revealed that plan to modern-day prophets that lead His church today. That church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My mission for 2 years, the church’s mission for the past 188 years, and God’s mission for all eternity is to serve, love, and invite all of His children to come back to Him and walk down the road that He has set before us.
I have learned for myself that this gospel is 100%, absolutely, unconditionally true in the purest sense of the word. I have felt His love, both for me and for others who may sometimes feel that they are not worthy of anyone’s love. It’s real and I know it. I’m going to adapt a quote from CS Lewis “I believe in [God] as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Being in the service of God for the past 2 years has expanded my vision and allowed me to see more. I don’t know everything, and I’m not perfect, but I do know perfectly that He’s there because based on what I’ve experienced here, there’s no way it could be otherwise.
And the most wonderful thing is you don’t have to take my word for it. Go find out for yourself. Talk to the LDS missionaries and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ and try to sincerely live it. Test God’s message and I promise He will make it up to you and bless you in ways that you would never be able to imagine. I say that humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I love you all very much and I’ll see you in a few days!
Elder Phan
PS:
Also, I totally forgot to mention that my homecoming speech in church will be taking place on the August 12th, all are invited.
– one at 8 am at the Higley Manor Ward –  3310 S Greenfield Rd , GILBERTArizona 85297
– one at 10:30 am at the Higley Groves ward. – 234 N. Greenfield Rd. Gilbert AZ 85234 

Week 103 and 104

 

You know what the worst thing about not emailing for 2 weeks is? It’s the torture of having to compact 2 weeks worth of experience into one email, and the fact that the things you learn each week on a mission is equivalent to the things you learn in a year normally mean that I have a lot of condensing to do.

So the last week we had a zone P-Day which was why I wasn’t able to email last week. We went to a place called the Perfume Pagoda, which was pretty cool. Pictures are attached below. After the P-Day my companion went with another missionary in our district down to Ho Chi Minh City to do training for zone conferences, while I stayed behind with our district leader to keep our areas going. It was really nice. We had plenty of lessons to keep us busy and were outside the entire time. We taught one of our investigators her last lesson before she is ready to be interviewed, so that was good. She will be getting baptized this week.
We also tracked down a “lost” investigator who wasn’t answering his phone or responding to text messages, and he worked in one of 3 convenience stores on a certain road, so we were able to track him down and it just happened to be his work shift. He came back to learn afterwards, so that was great!
Besides that we also had some fire lessons where I felt the Spirit just so powerfully as I testified. It felt like everything was just falling into place to help these people we were teaching understand the gospel. Besides lessons, we taught a lesson in church, I gave my final talk, and we had a lot of exchanges and splits with Elders to cover various lessons and do various trainings and whatnot. It’s all a mess, but it’s a celestial mess so it’s fine.
I love you all. Attached below are a lot of pictures!
Elder Phan
Some photos of our Zone P day trip and exchanges
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Week 102: Overkilling it

 

This was a pretty killer week. So we met with President Chiles one day to help him out with organizing zone conference and figuring out transfers and it took all in all about 8 hours. It was sooo long, and we’re not even done yet.

But the standout event of this week was something we called a super-exchange. So there’s a district of 6 missionaries, 4 elders and 2 sisters that, according to president Chiles was struggling to find new people, so he told us to try and do something about it. Solution: A super exchange. We went with the 2 zone leaders and the 2 sister training leaders and exchanged companions with each member of that district for a day to see what we could do to help them out. I got to go with my son Elder Thai and work in his area and it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. From the sounds of it, the other companionships found success in hashing out new ideas, getting work done, and in general just upping the drive and motivation over there. Hopefully it was helpful.
So yeah not too much new stuff going on. Just the usual missionary work. It’s rolling forward and I’m loving the work as usual. Spiritual insight for the week below:
We recently listened to a talk from Elder Maxwell, and in that talk he mentions people like Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Douglas MacArthurs, leaders who stand out in history for their personality, character and ability. We have Winston Churchills and Douglas MacArthurs in our lives. But Elder Maxwell continues on to talk about the power of meekness and how these great men in history were, in spite of all these honors and glories, lacking in meekness. I’ve found that meekness and humility is such a useful tool in trying to find where I fit in this mission, my life, and God’s plan. Like with Churchill and others, it’s presence or lack of it is so easily overlooked in the face of their “success.” And we in leadership positions who look for ability and capability so often miss that vital aspect in our missionaries. Maybe I’ve just grown up hypersensitive to pride, but I tend to be wary of people who offer comments, insight, or help under the guise of trying to be helpful but in the end comes off to me as trying to show off how much they know. To be fair though, I’d say 80% of people aren’t aware that they do that. So lesson for the week: The world will recognize you for for talents and abilities, but if there’s a pattern that I see too often, it’s that the side effect all too often is pride. But if you’re good at doing what you do, then it doesn’t really matter. So just keep in mind that if you’re going to strive to be a meek servant of the Lord, don’t expect fanfares or praise. People generally won’t notice you for it. But I can make this promise. Those who want to be “Winston Churchill” in life will receive their reward. Those who meekly strive to do the Lord’s will will also gain their reward. Whom do we try to please and which reward do we value more?
 
 
Love you all and talk to you next week!
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Pictures from our exchange
Generation pic of me and my 2 sons!
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Week 101: Where did everyone go?!?!

 

So I’m getting all these emails about people in my ward who left to go serve missions at the same time as me are now home from their missions. Compounded by the fact that other people I know are getting married, and that younger people I knew are now preparing for their missions (my brother included), let’s just say it’s a little stressful. My death day is coming hahaha. Ya’ll grow up so stinking fast in the past 2 years!

Not much happened that’s worth retelling this week. I figured if you’re on this email list, then you’re probably on the email list of other missionaries who write about what they did this past week too, and the combination of all the different names and activities kind of blur together to the point where you kind of just skim through all the emails. I know I do. I also know that a lot of these names mean more to me than to you, and however much I might try, I can never really come close to help ya’ll feel that same connection that I feel with these people or experience what I experience. Generally, you would just have to be a missionary to know what I mean. If anything, it’s a great excuse for me not to write a long general email. I guess the longer you’re out, the more lazy you get about compressing 7 great days into so many words. New missionaries beware!
A couple of noteworthy things that happened though were we got to see our new mission president in action. Being new, he’s relying more on us than usual, so we’re getting more assignments to help him out than we normally did. He’s an impressive, and his vision for moving the mission forward is motivating and exciting to see.
I’ll just finish with one little spiritual thought I had, as promised from last week. A truth that I learned this week came as I was lying in bed waiting to go to sleep (funny how revelation works like that). It kinda popped into my mind that Jesus Christ died for us, that Heavenly Father sacrificed his only Begotten Son for us. We hear that a lot so I won’t get into that. But after that thought, that’s when the revelation kicked in. It occurred to me that in the premortal existence, as we accepted God’s plan of salvation and “leapt for joy” WE, perhaps without fully understanding, also condemned Jesus Christ suffer the most terrible pain mankind may never know, as well sentencing him to complete that act by dying in one of the most cruel ways that could be concocted by the human mind. I can only imagine that private moment of contemplation He must have had as all His younger brothers and sisters around Him were celebrating the greatness of this plan, so caught up in their excitement that they didn’t take the time to fully think through the price of that happiness that He would have to pay. Not only did He sacrifice Himself for us, but WE also sacrificed Him so that WE could return to live with God again. He did it, and in doing so unlocked every single door for us so that we could return to our Heavenly Father. As I think about that as a missionary, I also think about the people we meet and the person I am and the can be in the future. Our purpose is to tell these people that the doors are unlocked, that Jesus did everything for them, they just need to walk through. And after the mission, my purpose is to make sure that I stay true to my own covenants. I already caused Christ so much pain in sacrificing Him the first time. I can only imagine the pain it would cause (or did cause) Him if I were to sacrifice Him in my life a second time by putting Him aside to chase the things of the world, leave the church, break commandments, etc. after my mission, similar to those who tried the fruit of the Tree of Life and were ashamed. In thinking about it with that perspective, it makes those covenants much more precious, and it helps build that wall to ensure that I will not sacrifice Him ever in my earthly life for something else less important.
 
Love you all!
Elder Phan
 
Pictures:
Pictures of our mission president’s dog
Our branch had a couple of baptisms this week!

Week 100: Everything went down!

 

Gaaaahhh this week was so good! Everything that could have possibly went down this week went down! Our investigator went down, district P-Day went down, our mission president down, an old companion of mine went down, I went down, and basically all our investigators and potential investigators were just down! It all went down!!!!

So on Monday we had district p-day and we called it B^4 (bowling, arcade basketball, bumper cars, and korean bbq). So that was a ton of fun and everybody was down! We visited a member that night named Super Quang that night because it’s been along time since he’s been visited. To make a long story short he hurt his hand on sunday and on monday we asked about it. The nickname Super Quang is well-earned. Basically, he was motoring on the road sunday morning and saw a man about to physically abuse his wife. So he pulls over and intervenes to try and protect this woman, only to have this husband throw a brick at his head! Luckily, the brick bounced off his helmet and ricocheted into his hand and that was the end of the story. When he asked him what happened, he responded “Don’t worry I’m ok.” When we asked about the couple, he said, “The wife is safe. The husband…I don’t know.” in my head I was like “…..Super Quang what did you do to the husband?!?!” It will remain a mystery.
On wednesday I did something that I haven’t done in more than a year: running. We woke up early to go run and it was probably one of the worst decisions I have ever made on my mission 😆😆😆. If you know me at all, then you will know that the only times I go run are when I am a. extremely upset about something or b. I’m getting chased by a giant animal that could possibly kill me. My goodness I was so sore for the next few days. Life was hard haha. That night we were teaching English class like usual when who should walk into the room but one of my old trainers Elder Toàn! That was an awesome surprise and it was great to be able to see him throughout the week at the church. We also contacted an English class student and invited him to learn more about the gospel and he accepted! We met the next day to have a lesson and spent 45 minutes on just the pre-mortal life because he had so many good questions! Then later that night I got sick and stayed sick for the next couple days (all better now though thanks to the plethora of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and sodium naproxen my parents gave me months ago. It came in clutch mom so thank you!)
Saturday was the day…Our investigator Nga got baptized! And our new mission president came to Vietnam! And our old mission president left Vietnam. It was a total roller coaster of emotions. I don’t want to get into it, but it was really special to have have a baptism for one thing, but to also have that be the send-off for our beloved President Hassell and a welcome gift for incoming President Chiles. There was a lot of crying involved, I’ll just say that. Since that day Elder Lam and I have had the chance to be around President Chiles a lot to talk to him and help orient him with some of his responsibilities and honestly he is awesome! He brought his dog along so we now have a mission mascot!
That was a quick summary of our week this week. I’m sorry I didn’t get to share too much in terms of spiritual growth this week so I will try to make it up next week. But I have TON of pictures, so stay tuned!
Love,
Elder Huy
Pictures:
The baptism
Toàn!
Super Quang
District P-Day
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Week 99: Kicking in the Afterburners

 

Great week this week! Our week was filled with all sorts of cool little things to do. First off, for P-Day we went and played golf with the elders of our district. Our golf place is totally clutch. I don’t know about any other golf places in the states for example because I never golfed before my mission, but ours has the little misters and fans set up for hot days, as well as complementary towelletes. They also provide free water and ice (which is not a thing in Vietnam btw) and one thing we like to do í order Pizza Hut (which they do have in Vietnam) and then just bring our own personal pizzas on in to the place to play and eat. The people are totally chill with it. On Tuesday we had zone conference and it was the most fun zone conference I have ever had! The downside is I had to bear my “final” testimony at the end of this zone conference Because I’m almost dead. It would’ve been more emotional if they hadn’t mistakenly called on me to bear a closing testimony the zone conference before that. Not to mention I bore closing testimony the last 2 mission leadership conferences as well. And next month will actually be my final missionary leadership conference and zone conference, so might as well tack on 2 more testimonies to the list. Haha I know this mission wants me to die, but making give the closing testimonies all the time just because I’m ALMOST dead isn’t going to make me die any faster lol. Besides that we also had exchanges with the zone leaders from Saigon and that was a lot of fun. My comp for the day is Elder Duy, and native from Hanoi and he is just the most lovable guy on the planet. Teaching with him was awesome. Then the big news, our investigator Nga went in to be interviewed for baptism this Wednesday and she passed! She’s getting baptized the 30th of this month! So excited for her!

We had some awesome little miracles, but I will just share about 2. So this Saturday we had this thing called missionary day, where a member would get to go with missionaries and do work with them for a day. We got paired up with this recent convert named Thanh and it was just awesome to be able to show a new member a day in the life of a missionary. I think it’s an eye-opener for him because I as a member had no idea about all the behind the scenes stuff that missionaries do. All members out there be warned: Missionaries do a lot more for you than just visiting you, teaching you lessons, and knocking on your neighbors doors. That’s the first experience. The second came up during a Skype lesson we had with our investigator in Đà Nẵng  that day. We were teaching about the plan of salvation and the purpose of mortality. We talked in particular about the trials we face and how those trials serve to help us grow and change to be stronger and better. As we shared with him, he expressed awe how young we were and the knowledge we had. One quote hit me: “You are all so young. There is no way you could know these things at your age because you just haven’t experienced it yet. The only way you could know is if God revealed it to you. I believe He did.” That was so powerful to me. Maybe it’s growing up in the church, but I’ve always just assumed that this was common knowledge for someone my age. How could someone not know that there is a purpose behind our struggles? How could someone not see that in the end we can benefit from these things. But seeing how awestruck this guy was at that simple truth that I’ve grown up with my whole life, I realized how precious that simple truth really is, and how much I’ve come to take it for granted just because I’ve been constantly exposed to it. Our ysa member who was with us for the day shared similar experiences of awe as he was investigating the church. It was an eye-opening perspective. And it makes the work that I’m doing sink all the more deep into my heart. Definitely never going to intentionally take that knowledge for granted again.
Missionary work is the greatest! I love my mission and I love the opportunity to serve these final weeks with all I got!
Loves,
Elder Phan
Pictures: Zone conference pictures, Elder Lâm and I’s matching Tiffany Blue ties (I just learned that color this week) at zone conference, exchanges with Elder Duy, missionary day with our member Em Thanh, and finally our recent convert Hòa (girl on the right), who also participated in the missionary day with a sister missionary. This is elder is proud of her!

Week 98: Who needs sleep? I do!

 

Greeeeeeaaaaaat week this week. First and foremost, happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there, but more specifically to my Dad. You’re awesome and I am grateful for everything you do for me!

This week was a lot of fun. Everything that could possible happen in a normal missionary work schedule happened, and it was great. A little bit of info on our investigators. So we have one named Nga who found out about the church through a Facebook media campaign about the Book of Mormon and for whatever reason she was interested in the book. So we met her and gave her one and started learning. That was in April, and now, she has a date for the end of this month and she is doing awesome! Her interview date is this thursday and I am super excited for her. Our other investigator is Vân Anh, who was introduced by a member back when Elder Stevenson came to Vietnam and when I invited her to learn she was not down. A week later at church, my companion invites her to learn and of course because he’s tall, white, and đẹp trai, she says yes. But over the weeks and months we’ve really seen her testimony of the Gospel (not my comp) grow, especially as she’s heard the testimonies of the members who have joined the church. She has a date for the 7 of July! Their lessons are going great and I am really looking forward to these next couple of weeks. The work is picking up a bit around here because it is now summertime and people are not quite as busy as they normally are, so that makes for a very happy and tired Elder Phan.
we also had exchanges this week with our district leader, so that was a lot of fun. It’s nice to get out of my usual area because it breaks the monotony of your everyday schedule and helps you dial back in when you return.
Sunday was killer. So with our mission we wake up an hour earlier than usual, and then in the middle of the day or so we take a mandatory nap. That did not happen on Sunday. We had church for 3 hours and then immediately went to have lunch at a part member family’s home, during which we were stuffed like dead turkeys with so much heavy food. So I was food coma’d. But then we had to go back to the church for a branch missionary meeting, which went overtime and so I hit a wall. And the wall just kept persisting as we planned for English class with the Sister missionaries for an hour. After that, the 6 missionaries in our district met together at a big park to invite people to our English class for 2 hours. That actually helped me snap out of it, but man was I tired by the end of it. Hahaha missionary work is great. I’ve learned a lot about the satisfaction that comes from working hard to be of service to other people. It makes everything worth it.
Love you all lotz and see you next week!
Elder Phan
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