It’s been a great week so far! First off, I want to apologize for not writing yesterday. We had english class training that took up the majority of yesterday, so our P-day got moved to today. It’s raining a ton over here in Hanoi though, so I don’t think there will be much that we can do for P-day. That’s ok. Speaking of English class, I got to teach my first one last Wednesday. I’m a teacher in the intermediate class with Elder Toan and Elder Toai. However, before that, Elder Toan, who is the usual teacher, got sick. And since Elder Toai isn’t a native English speaker (he’s from Ho Chi Minh City) that means I had to teach the lesson. It wasn’t too bad because our lesson was centered around doing an introduction to a new English course that we’re adopting this week, so it wasn’t bad. Since Elder Toan was sick for the first half of last week, Elder Nguyen and I mainly stayed home, studied, and nursed him back to health. He’s all better now after we filled him up with Dayquil, Nyquil, and Alka-Seltzer 🙂
Elders Toan and Nguyen also had to go down to Ho Chi Minh city for a missionary leadership conference for a couple days, which meant that I went on an exchange with the other companionship here in Hanoi, Elder Khiem and Elder Thoai. They live in the Ha Dong district, which is about a 45 minute bike ride from where I live and where the church and mission office are. Needless to say, the bike ride was hot and hard, especially for a little shrimp like me with short legs and little skill in bicycling. But Ha Dong has a lot of perks to it that make the bike ride worth it, the most prominent being Pizza Hut and KFC! For the first time since I arrived, I got to have American food and it was pretty good. The pizza was actually a little funny, because Elder Thoai ordered it and he got the Seafood Black Pepper pizza…it was still good though. And then the KFC fried chicken sandwiches we ate more than made up for it. In addition to that, we also went to a family’s house for dinner. Their name is the Stephens family, and they’re Americans staying in Vietnam for the next decade or so for work. They live in an extremely wealthy part of Hanoi called Saputra or something like that, and we got to have spaghetti and chocolate cake and ice cream! I didn’t realize how much I missed Cookies and Cream ice cream until I had it that night.
All in all though, everything has been going well in terms of the work. We’ve taught lessons to recent converts and investigators, and over time I’ve been able to share and participate more in those lessons. My Vietnamese still needs work, but we’ve set a few goals to help me along with that. One of those goals is actually taking a day out of the week and speak nothing but Vietnamese. That day is actually today. It’s a little difficult following along with what Elder Nguyen and Elder Toan are saying, but I’m getting by. I think it’s helping a lot to immerse me in the language, and as I improve, we’ll take more days out of the week to speak only Vietnamese. Speaking of speaking Vietnamese, I was called by our ward translator (because we have a lot of American families in our branch and someone needs to translate for them during sacrament meeting) to translate for the forseeable future………..say what?!?! I don’t nearly enough Vietnamese. Now I’m not saying I won’t do it, I will. But if there was ever a time to excercise faith in God’s miracles and in the gift of tongues, now would be the time to do it. There’s some training involved, so hopefully I won’t completely make a fool of myself this next Sunday. Eh, who am I kidding, I probably will make a fool of myself. But it’ll be fun. At least we’ll have a lot of laughs.
In conclusion, I wanted to share a poem that my mom shared with me in a letter that has been especially meaningful to me this week as I’ve reflected on everything that’s happened so far:
I don’t ask to walk smooth paths nor bear an easy load,
I pray for strength and fortitude to climb the rock-strewn road,
Give me such courage so I can scale
The hardest peaks alone [or in this case with my companions],
And transform every stumbling block,
Into a stepping stone
I loved reading that quote and I’ve taken to carrying around with me in my bag everyday. I know that every trial we go through in life, big or small, significant or not, has the potential to help us learn and grow. Not all of the trials we struggle with are necessarily given to us by God. Whether we are at our best or at our worst, Satan is always there to try to put stumbling blocks in our path. But I know that God has the power to make good come out of every situation, and turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones. And I think the word “stepping” is so essential. Everything we improve on, we improve on a step at a time. It says in 2 Nephi Chapter 28 (quoting from Isaiah Chapter 29 i think) that we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…” So as I’ve looked at my mission and seen how fast the time has flown, and yet look forward and realize that I still have 23 months, I’ve seen how overwhelming it can be sometimes. So I’ve really taken this principle to heart, throwing myself into the work as best as I can and taking it a day at a time. And it’s made it a lot easier. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back and see the growth I’ve undergone. Thanks Mom for that poem.
It’s been great writing home to everyone and I hope you’re all doing well. I’m praying for you all to be safe and happy back at home. See you next week!
Love, Anh Ca Huy (Elder Phan)