Week 65 : Great week

 

This week has been a great week. We did really good with our weekly goal this week of getting a new investigator and having two of our investigators attend church. It was awesome arranging the whole thing. We called members and made assignments in our branch missionary meeting to have certain members that we felt would get along with these investigators sit with them in church and be their friend. We told these members our investigators backgrounds and gave them certain questions they could ask. Some micro-managing went on in doing this, and normally I’m a person that hates micro-managing, but in this case it worked out super well when church time came around. Everything went great and our investigators had good experiences. Besides that we’ve had the opportunity to have tons of appointments across the board with members, less-actives, and investigators this week. It feels like we went from 0-100 and it’s a rush. Besides appointments, we also got to do exchanges with some of our district leaders and it was a great experience to be able to minister to them and help them out with their districts.
I just wanted to close with a statement by our mission president’s wife that I think is so profound and essential to understand for a missionary, or for anyone that is looking to “succeed” in life:
Sister Hassell: “This week I read a statement by Elder Henry B. Eyring.  He was talking about praying to know how to help his children find peace and happiness.
He said:
‘“At such moments, I cared less about being seen as a succesful parent, but I cared deeply about the success and well-being of my children.”’

So, I thought….how does that relate to us in our calling here?

It might look like this:

“At such moments, I  cared less about being seen as a successful branch builder, but I cared deeply about the success and well-being of the people I worked with, the people I contacted, the people I taught, [and the missionaries I train].”

I believe that this gradual change (changing from being keenly aware of one’s own performance in the eyes of God, to, instead, simply lovingly and humbly assisting others while consistently seeking God’s wisdom on how to proceed) is a key transformation in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

That’s all for this week!  Love you all!

Elder Phan

Pictures: I only have pictures of a lot of meal appointments we had, including one with our mission president

Week 64: UPs and DOWNs

Hi everybody,

This has been an up and down week. We’ll start with the downs. So I got pretty sick at the beginning of this last week, so I was in bed for a day or so with a high fever and headaches, but it’s been getting gradually better. We were still able to go teach English class, conduct zone conference, and then go to our missionary leadership council. We had a General Authority attending our zone conference and our missionary leadership council, Elder Meurs of the Quorum of the 70 (he’s on of the 70 in the presidency of the Asia Area). I know that may not make too much sense to those reading this email that are not LDS, but suffice to say he’s pretty important. Anyways things kinda peaked when I ended up getting this huge nose bleed in the middle of his training and had to step out because with all the symptoms I’ve been having and then the nosebleed, they sent me to a hospital to get me checked for dengue fever. After 3 hours at that place, I do not have dengue! So that’s a relief.

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Everything else is pretty good though. Elder Dong Quang and I are learning to teach better in unity and it’s been going much better. One general theme that I’ve seen this week is the presence of the Adversary all around us and within us. We’ve had a couple instances where doctrinal questions that have gotten in the way of faith.
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This week, I even got an email from someone who had seen my blog and was kind enough to take time to email me about how Joseph Smith is a fraud and that the Church and the Book of Mormon is not true. I don’t what else to say; it is. Analyze it and bring whatever “facts” you want, it does nothing when compared to the confirmation that I have received from God on high. This is true. I’ve read the Book of Mormon, I’ve prayed up to the Source of all truth to sincerely ask if the things I am learning and now teaching are true, and His answer has been a strong, warm affirmative. I know that if we take the time to read and study everyday and then ask Him, we will get that confirmation and our testimony will grow. When you have that witness from God, then “persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (The Standard of Truth).
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen
Elder Phan

Week 63 : Halloween

 

Week 62 : Cherish

 

So as you can tell from the subject, this week was pretty awesome!

Biggest thing that happened is that we finally found some investigators! Those potentials that we’ve been nourishing for the past couple weeks finally accepted to learn more about the gospel!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! It’s actually kinda pathetic how excited I am about this, but I think it’s merited right? South American missions can brag about having a ton of baptisms every week. Here in ‘Nam, I’m just happy that we get investigators to teach in the first place haha!
The first guy’s name is Ninh, who was a referral from Elders in another area. We met him and he’s pretty good. He transparent guy. We had a lesson planned with him last week, but he was a no show. This week though, he called us up out of nowhere and said he felt bad for not being able to show up for our lesson, and asked if we could meet that night, and we were like “You kidding?! Of course!” So we arranged an appointment and it was good!
The second guy is another referral from the other Elders that live in our apartment. They contacted him, spent some time nourishing him, and then passed him off to us when they found out he lived in our area. He’s awesome. He’s come to our English class and young single adult activities and loves it. He’s also super open and receptive to the spiritual thoughts that are shared during those activities, so we finally thought he was ready to be invited to learn more. We had a dinner appointment at a member’s house and afterwards shared a quick message with him about God’s plan of salvation for all His children and invited him to learn more. He said “sure of course!” So we were super stoked!
Besides that, I wanted to share one more fun story from this week. We dedicated an evening to go find some less-active members. The one in particular we were hoping to find has been a member for 9 years, so we went to the address that was on her record and it led us down this super sketchy alley. Like, imagine this alley came straight out of a horror film. It’s run-down, no lights whatsoever, and for some reason, when we walked down the alley all the noise of the traffic kinda faded away. Elder Dong Quang brought a flashlight and as we went down the alley, it led to a gate that was the entrance to a tiny half completed apartment building hiding in the back. Think of it like a haunted construction sight (again, there’s absolutely no light except for the one coming from the flashlight). So we’re standing at this gate deciding whether or not it’s worth risking our lives to go in here and check it, and right when I decided to step across to go into the building, we hear a little kid laugh and it’s one of those little kid laughs that also come straight out of a horror film. That laugh sent us over the edge and we booked it out of that alley as fast as we could! The kicker was that when we called this member later, it turns out she’s been living in Ho Chi Minh City for the past 8 years and is actually very active in the Tan Son Nhat branch, so…..yeah. Heart attack for nothing.
But it makes for a fun story. It’s times like these that you really cherish a mission. I recommend it😇. Sorry not  much in terms of spiritual lessons in this email, but it’s been a while since I shared a decent story. Hope all is well at home. Love ya’ll!
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Pics from our last P-Day where we went to an aquarium with a member
Flexing on all our fellow Bronies
The first Corgie I’ve seen here. It’s been way too long
A baptism at of the sister missionaries
A view of the water show outside our apartment at night
Our English class this week
Elder Son before he goes home

Week 61 : Trying hard

 

Hello everybody!

So we don’t have a lot of time to email today because of all the stuff we gotta do. Hopefully I can make this quick and still quality. We had a pretty full week this week. At the beginning of the week we got gently chastised by our mission president for the relatively low numbers coming from the Hanoi zone in terms of finding new investigators and progressing our current investigators to milestone events such as getting a set date for their baptism. So with that, we really kicked our efforts into overdrive this week in terms of finding because we’ve had no investigators for the past 4 or 5 weeks. God used that time to teach us some things, and now, through our mission president, He’s given us the green light “GO!” So we set out this week determined to find the ones God has prepared in our area to learn the Gospel. Remember how we got more work done setting up appointments and nourishing our potential investigators to be ready to learn last week in spite of all the conferences and meetings? Well this week we executed and tried to meet with 5 or 6 of them. By the end of this last week, still no new investigators (the definition of that is a potential investigator who is taught a lesson and then agrees on a specific day for a return appointment), so unfortunately, our reports to president this last week will still be 0. It’s tough, I’ll be honest. Some of these PIs are so great, they’ve been prepared by God and we’ve spent the past couple weeks becoming their friend and gaining their trust until we felt like we could sincerely invite them to learn. Unfortunately, one had to reschedule for us to meet him, one actually just moved out of our area and into another companionships area, and the others we actually DID get to meet have such inconsistent schedules that we couldn’t get a specific date for a return appointment from them. You ever feel like you’re stretching super hard and something that you really want is still just out of your reach? Yeah that’s us right now. I’ve learned more about patience this week than I have in the 5 weeks we haven’t had investigators. When you’re that close, sometimes you want to push them just a little harder to force them to commit to something. The temptation and desire is so real, but I’m grateful that we were able to suppress ourselves and exercise just a little more patience and continue to nourish and nudge rather than get ahead of ourselves and ruin things by shoving them into it. Christ is a source of hope, and right now, we’re relying a lot on hope that we’ll be able to make something of our area. If not this last week, then this week. And if not, I take comfort in the fact that as time continues to go on, they are just that much closer to progressing.
 Hopefully some of our branch activites will play a role in helping nourish these potential investigators though. Our branch opened up 2 new classes, a family history class put on by the senior couples that live in the same apartment complex as us and a book of mormon class, put on by the members. Both of them are valuable tools, and we were able to invite some of our PIs to attend. I’m especially pleased with the Book of Mormon class because it gets the members involved in the missionary work, whereas most of the other classes and activities are put on by the missionaries. It’s a good step to getting this branch to be more self-sufficient, rather than reliant on us missionaries, and plus understanding the Book of Mormon’s teachings, and more importantly how to apply it in our lives, is such an essential element in a person’s conversion to Christ. Another thing I was grateful for was the opportunity to get out of the drought and go on exchanges with one of our district leaders to his area. He was considerate enough to fill that day with appointments just for the exchange, and so we taught 3 recent converts and one of his investigators. It felt good to teach so many lessons.
I apologize if any part of this email feels like complaining, because that’s definitely not my intention. Just like every week on a mission, it was a good week, just not in the way I was expecting (as per usual😅). Because I don’t thank you all enough, I will thank you right now for being willing to sit and read and in a sense share this experience with me. For whatever reason, it takes a weight off my shoulders knowing that I can share with you all and that people take the time to read. I’m also grateful for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us this week because we’re gonna still be kicking itrr into high gear, and we’ll need all the help and grace we can get in order to get this area going.
Love you all and hope you have a great week! If you don’t, then make it a great week!
Elder Phan
Pictures.
1. A picture we snapped of a random couple about to get married I think. Probably my favorite picture from this week
2. Our district on the bridge
3. Our district and the Cau Giay district eating popeye’s together for lunch on P-Day
4 and 5. More pics of my crazy comp and our district
6. Our district with one of our PIs, Giang
7 and 8. Cat pics at a member’s house
Finally: Pictures of the all the attendees of the Hanoi branch’s first eveer Book of Mormon class. I guess you could say we made history
Oh and then a video of me failing at life

Week 60 : Conferences

 

Dear family and friends

This week has been pretty loaded. We had our mission leadership conference at the beginning of the week, and then our zone conference in the middle of the week, and then general conference (that’s a church-wide, world-wide event where the leaders of the church speak all the members around the world through broadcast), and then a slew of other various meetings with branch leadership and our district leaders. There’s been so much drowning in the Spirit and I’ve learned so much. With all of these conferences going on, we’ve had next to no time to look for new investigators or spend time looking after the area we’re working in, which is something that we’ve really needed to buckle down on for the last little while. Our mission president got us back on track and basically told us that we’ve actually been doing too much caring for the missionaries for our zone, and now it’s time to turn our attention more to finding those within our area who are ready to hear the message of the Gospel. That being said, in spite of all the crazy preparation we’ve had to do for all these councils and meetings and conferences, God seriously blessed us in terms of our area. In the few moments we had to work to our potential investigators, we got more progress done in this one week with the couple hours we had than we did in the past few weeks! It was awesome, and nothing short of a miracle. Hopefully we can keep this going into this next week.

As for the conferences, they were all so good. General conference was incredible and some of those talks were definitely inspiring for me. I know that all those talks had some piece of inspiration for everyone who listened and anyone will sit down and study those talks in the future. My heart goes out to President Monson, who is not in the best of health, and the family and friends of Elder Robert D. Hales, who passed away in between conference sessions.
I’m out of time, but let me just say that it’s been a fully sastisfying week and God’s hand has been in just about every second of it, if not to show me something, definitely for someone else. Always remember that if you’re feeling down on yourself because you can’t feel as if God is there influencing your life, it doesn’t mean He’s not there. He currently has 7 or 8 billion on the world that He is also working on, not to mention all the others in the spirit world. Something that you see and by extention may not learn much from, doesn’t mean that there’s not a lesson in there placed by God to be learned from another person. And on the flip side, you will learn so many lessons in the everyday walk and talk of things if you pay attention and ponder. I’ve seen so much evidence of this on my mission and in the lives of other people. God is here, and His influence is felt in everything we do here on the Earth. I challenge you to try and find and recognize Him. (Hint: Studying these general conference talks will help a lot😉)
Much love and good luck,
Elder Phan
Pictures: My favorite dog in Hanoi (mom and dad, if you need any ideas for a coming home present…😜😜😜), some pictures of the lake and a giant tree from our last P-Day, my companion with a burrito in his front pocket (it’s been a long time since we’ve had a good buritto {burrito? Idk how to spell spanish anymore}), my comp and I playing a little bit of dress-up before English class along with a kid in our branch who is awesome, a Hai Ba Trung district suit pic from Zone Conference, and finally THANG! my favorite member from Saigon who came up for a bit and we ran into him at the mission office!

Week 59 : I will go and do …

 

So before I say anything else, I want to say Happy Birthday to my little sister! Keep going and living Hannah!

So this week has been great. It’s been a continuation of a great transfer we’ve been having in general. We haven’t had any investigators, and therefore not too many chances to teach. But God has been good, and in the drought of having almost no chances to teach, I realized just this week over the past 3 weeks just how much He has been teaching me instead. Looking back in my journal and emails, I’ve see that I’ve learned more in these past three weeks than at any other point in time on my mission. I wish I had the time to write it all down, but unfortunately the reality is that email time and people’s attention spans would run out before I could do that. In general though, so many seemingly normal moments have become learning moments that I wonder what God is teaching me all this for.
One of the things Iearned is the nature of one’s conversion. Up here in the Hanoi branch, we have a lot of recent converts. Recent converts are awesome because in the beginning they are so strong. Generally, they actively come to church, they says their personal prayers, they read their scriptures, and take joy in their interactions with other members. They’re starting to realize the amazing things that this Gospel has to offer, and it’s becoming a part of their lives. They’re a lot like new missionaries actually, so I can say they have this thing called Recent Convert fire in them. Honestly, if you just sit and watch them do their thing at church, it really is a beautiful sight to see.
But like any fire, it dies out after a while if it’s not kept fed, and that’s another thing I’ve observed with less-active members here. Without going into too much detail, there’s a lot of reasons why strong RCs would go LA after 2, 3, 4 whatever years. I’m not one to judge or accuse because everyone has a different situation that I don’t fully understand, but I’d would say that something that makes it easier to step off the “strait and narrow path” is because the Gospel is only a part of their lives. It’s not just eating a slice of the best cake you’ve ever had and then leaving the rest. It’s like eating just that slice, and then abandoning the rest of the cake to go focus on things that don’t taste as good , like broccoli (ignore the irrelevant benefits of nutrition). It’s the same way here with RCs. Because they’ve had only a piece of the cake, when other things come up, like work, school, and whatnot, it draws their attention from the thing that actually matters most. For sure, it’s a high expectation to prioritize, but He promises us that if we prioritize him, He will help us take care of everything else, even the material things.
The difference between one who is tempted to less-activity in church and one who remains active throughout their lives is this: It’s not enough for the Gospel to just be a part of your life. Sometimes it’s not even enough to make it the center of your life. I’ve seen what happens to those who make the Gospel their lives, not just a part of their lives. It doesn’t mean we have to put EVERYTHING to the side to serve in the church. But the influences of the gospel permeates everything in their lives, and influences everything that they do. Through doing so, that’s when they truly realize the beauty of the Gospel and what it can do for their lives. My parents are 2 good examples. And when you realize that, how could you possibly walk away from that?
So how do you get to that point? Doing the basics and learning and remembering your experiences as you do those basics. Reading the scriptures and saying your daily prayers can be sweet experiences, especially when you find something to apply in your life and you do so. On those days where you don’t feel like going to church, go to church. The more you place God before other things, the more substantial your life will become. It’s hard a lot of the time, but God tries the faith of His followers. It’s easy to be faithful in the easy times. For those who are tried and still remain loyal to him, they are the happiest and most blessed in the end. In the Book of Mormon, a prophet teaches: “will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shallprepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
God may try us, but this is a promise from him, and if we want, we can try Him as well to see if this promise has fruit. As one of his representatives, I know that He will keep His promises if we keep ours. And that promise covers all aspects of our lives, from family, to work, to school, everything. Place Him first and He will help you with the rest.
Much love,
Elder Phan

Week 58: A Milestone

Hi everybody

So this week was a milestone week. I got yelled at and disrespected for the first time for being a missionary. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this day to happen??? I’ve heard tons of stories about Mormon misisonaries getting yelled at for being representatives of a “cult” and getting food thrown at them and basically being on the receiving end of all sorts of verbal and physical abuse, and I was excited for when it would come to be my turn and lo and behold the day came this last week! For the record, the reason why it’s taken so long is because obviously, this is a Buddhist country, so you’re not going to find many people, if any that have heard of the LDS church here, much less formulate a negative opinion of it, especially since it’s so new here. The second thing is generally Vietnamese people are very respectful, so they will go out of their way to avoid saying something disrepectful to you in order to save your honor, even if they aren’t interested in what you have to offer. Haha not this guy though!

So the story is we went to go look for a less-active member, a 15 year old kid. His mom also learned about the church for a bit, and even though she never joined, she loved the things missionaries in the past shared about Christ and she believes. Anyways, we found the house to pay him a visit and try to see what we could do to get to know him and see if he wanted to come back to church. There was another guy parked with his motoscooter in front of the house, so we kinda had to go around him order to ring the doorbell, and he asked us who we were and we told him we were friends of this less-active member from his Church. And as soon as this guy heard the word “church” he went off. Turns out he was Vu’s (the LA) dad and he HATES Christian religions. I couldn’t understand everything he said because for some reason when people speak angry Vietnamese, it becomes a completely foreign language to me, and plus some words got cut out because of my mental “missionary filter”. But we we understood enough and this guy was gesturing wildly enough to know that he was hurling some serious verbal expletives our way. Basically, he told us to get off his property and then starting yelling at Vu to come down the stairs so that he could rail on him.
On the one hand, it was an exciting experience, especially when I look back. In the moment however, I was seriously ticked at this man. There’s just something about a person standing in your way when you’re trying to bring one of God’s children back into the fold that really pushes one’s buttons. Luckily, our responses to him were for the most part courteous (while you can’t argue back when someone is yelling at you, there IS a certain amount of satisfaction in remaining dignified, respectful, and smiling while someone is ranting at you to show them that you’re unaffected by what their saying. Nevermind what you’re actually feeling inside). We wished him a good night and grinned at him and then got on our bikes and went on our way stewing on the inside.
It’s a hard pill to swallow when people don’t understand that all you wanna do is help others and make this world a better place, and so they’re haters. But when that happens, you just gotta stay positive and hold on to this attitude: Inline image 1
So for anyoone getting down on themselves because of the opinions of another person, chin up. God loves you and when all things are said and done, that’s all that matters. I heard a statement that said that “Christ had the most powerful self-worth of anybody on the planet”. Let Him be your example and let Him be your guide in happiness and self-worth, and I promise He will support you and uplift you through the hard times when nothing else can. Love you all!
Elder Phan
Pictures:
Just some semi-professional modeling and a baptism. It was an awesome baptismal service. The Ha Dong district and branch is the best! Keep it up ya’ll you’re doing awesome!

Week 57 : normal week

 

Hi everydody,

So this week was in a sense an odd sort of week. It was normal as far as normal missionary work goes with proselyting, teaching, and contacting to try and find new people to teach. The thing that made it different was how much we’ve talked and thought about all the missionaries in our zone. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happening and might happen in the future that’ll require a lot of adjustment from the missionaries here. We did a lot of companionship splits and exchanges this week to minister to missionaries and make sure that we’re all functioning together as a zone. One of the things that IU’ve had a lot of opportunities to teach over the past week and in turn learn is how important people are in this work, whether it be companions or investigators or even ourselves. One thing I’ve learned recently is God’s priorities in our relationships, concerning missinary work. The first is our relationship with him, second is our relationship with our companion, and finally is our relationship with the people we teach. It sounds funny, and I know it did for me when I first heard it, but one thing we’ve really tried emphasizing in our zone for the past few weks has been unity. God has called us to work in companionships of 2, and true success comes when you work with your companion in unity, not how many baptisms or how many investigators you have. One thing that I learned is that you don’t take your investigators home with you, you don’t take home baptisms, or the people that you met. But you DO take home the skills and the things that you have learned and that have changed you. Those are the things that will continue to influence you in your future life, and that is why I believe that ultimately the person that benefits the most from serving a mission is the one that serves one. Learning to work with another person in unity is such an eternal skill, and it’s absolutely essential for missionary work. That’s something that every new missionary needs to learn, that ultimately, their companion is more important than their investigators. I’ve seen missionaries who want to get out there and just work their hardest, which is an awesome desire, but they also have to realize that if their singular desire is to work hard, they are putting work before people, and I’ve seen that happen when missionaries put the work over the person that they should be closest with. It leads to a lot of “dragging this guy behind me while I’m trying to get things done”. It takes a ton of humility to bring it back a notch in order to see how you both can work together in unity before you go out and “get the work done” so to speak.

Along those lines I’ve also learned a lot about the danger of expectations. Usually we see that as a positive thing, but again, going back to the whole desire to work hard as a missionary. There can be a point where that is detrimental. We are counseled as missionaries to forget ourselves, to lay it all on the table before God, all of our desires and expectations, even the good ones. That includes giving up your desire to work hard as a missionary and be a good missionary. Sounds blasphemous eh? Haha I’ll explain. One thing I’ve learned as a missionary is that YOUR ONLY desire and expectation is to do what GOD wants you to do and learn what HE expects you to learn. Anything other we may have, no matter how good, is from us and therefore selfish in some way, shape, or form on our part. You have to give up everything. A new missionary may come out expecting for and from himself that he is going to hit the ground running and work his butt off, but then find out that maybe missionary isn’t all the grind that he expected, or that his trainer might not be that superhero missionary he expected, or whatever, and it’s a struggle for him to come to terms with what GOD needs him to learn at that time vs. what he wants to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hard work, but the Lord has lessons that he needs to teach everyone at certain times, and sometimes, at that moment, He doesn’t want you to work your butt off as much as he wants you to build your relationship with your comp. or develop efective study habits or build a more firm testimony in yourself before you help others. Everything revolves around Him and what He wants and needs from and for you. So as a missionary, your only expectation should be to do His will and learn the lessons He would have you learn. Like I said before, humility takes a huge part in that, but a person that is able to incorporate that humility and subject himself to God’s will and allow God to mold him into the potential image that he can become turns into something great. In the beginning of my mission, my biggest goal was to come home and be a master teacher. But as the months have gone by, my desires have changed and more than anything else, I want to become a Master Learner. A humble person is the one who learns the most.
Love you all so much and can’t wait to talk to you next week!
Elder Phan
Pictures: some goofy pictures of Elder Đông Quang and I and an awesome sunset by a lake that we walking by.

Week 56 : New companion

 

Hi family and friends,