Week 83 : A week in audio description

Hi Everybody,
(Please see my email for attached audio file of the week, sorry it audio file does not work here on blog)
A text we got from one of our members asking what “Heck” means. I just about died (in a good way) when I saw that text. For all aspiring Vietnamese learners out there, Vietnam has phrases with the equivalent meaning of “what the heck”. Cái gì cơ?! and Cái quái gì vậy?!
20180311-1
-A picture we got with the husband of the aunt who passed away. Professor Hoàng  Tụy, a famous Vietnamese and world mathematician who pioneered optimization algorithms (whatever that means) with other international mathematicians from Germany, Italy, and Russia.
20180311-2
-My little friend from the church. If anyone remembers a video from Christmas time where it was dark and there was a little kid saying merry Christmas, that’s her. She’s arguably my favorite toddler in Hanoi.
20180311-3
Cheers!
Elder Phan

Great Week

 

Hey everybody!

Super good week this week! Monday: We went out to eat Korean BBQ for P-day with 2 other elders in our district and then hung out with a member who came and visited from another city. At the end of the day we had a lesson with a less-active that we’ve been trying to bring back, and then we were set to leave, but both of our investigators Hòa and Thủy (I mentioned them in my email last week) randomly showed up to the branch YSA activity happening that night, so we had to stay to make sure that they were getting taken care of by the branch members and then left. Before bouncing however, I had to explain to the YSA (in Vietnamese) how to play this complex card game called Exploding Kittens because the cards they had were all in English. If you ever want a challenge on your mission, or just in life in general, try explaining to people how to play Exploding Kittens in their native language. If you can get down the complexities of that, you’re practically a native. I thought I did an ok job, but turns out 5-10 minutes after we left, the YSA gave up trying to figure it out and resorted to playing Uno. So I guess I’m not a native yet. That’s ok, it keeps me humble😅.
Tuesday we celebrated the 2 year anniversary of the mission opening for district meeting. The sister missionaries made some mean chocolate cake and I died (in a good way).
Wednesday we had English class as usual and our numbers went up by a lot this week, so that was a small miracle.
Thursday was good. We had 3 appointments, one with with a less-active who stood us up 6 times ina row before, but we finally got to meet him and it was a good lesson. Afterwards, he treated us out to lunch saying, “You guys have been experiencing Vietnam from the middle down. I’m going to show you Vietnam from the bottom up.” So he takes us to the second tallest skyscraper in Hanoi and treats us to lunch at this super-fancy chinese restaurant on the 36th floor. We barely order any food, but it totalled out to about 750,000 VND…let’s just say by comparison, the average that my companion and I spend to eat on the street is around 60,000 VND, and it’s much more filling. So I’m perfectly happy being in the lower middle class here.
Friday we had 3 meetings: English class meeting, mission leadership conference, and then branch missionary meeting. 3 meetings really takes it out of you. I died (in a bad way).
Saturday we had an elders quorum bbq at a members house and we went with 2 potential investigators and it was great! Great for them because they got to see the social aspect of the church and great for us because there were burgers, hot dogs, and homemade root beer!
Sunday we had another kick-Satan-in-the-mouth, Spirit-filled testimony meeting. The testimonies of God and Jesus Christ shared by the members here are so strong, I love it! Our appointment for the evening fell through, so we used that time to do some member stop-bys for those that we didn’t see at church. Along the way, we also stopped by our investigator’s house. He hasn’t been progressing because we wren’t able to meet him for the past month, but he was home during our stop-by and is actually still doing good. His desire to be baptized in still strong, maybe too strong because he wants to do it next Sunday and we were like, Whoa whoa whoa, you haven’t finished lesson 1 yet (we’ve only taught him once), you haven’t given up smoking or drinking, and you don’t even know what baptism is yet hahaha. I love him. He’s the definition of ‘faith is not a perfect knowledge’.
That’s all for this week. Hope you all have a great week!
Much love,
Elder Phan
20180212-2

Week 82: There is a moment

 

So Lunar New Year is finally winding down, which means we’re back at it again! This week has been really good. We had solid lessons with some of our investigators this week​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. I’ll tell one story and then I gotta dip. So our most progressing investigator is Hòa and she’s set to be baptized this month but there’s been a couple things we gotta help her resolve in order for her to be ready. We had a lesson with yesterday, her first lesson in 3 weeks because of the holiday and we were really brainstorming on what to do. We got a plan on what to teach her, and then talked about it with a member who was going to help us in the lesson. However, that member revealed some new information that let us know that the lesson we had planned was not what Hòa  needed at the moment. Basically, back in the day Hoa had this friend named Thuy that came to church once, but was trying to convince her not to learn about the church, and so hoa stopped learning for a while. When we heard that we freaked out because one of our investigators name is Thuy, and she happens to be a friend that Hoa brought to church! So we were like oh man she’s doesn’t want to learn she just wants to mess with the work! By that time, Hoa pulls up to the church…and we have no lesson plan.

Then here’s the kicker…she brought Thuy with her! So now we were doubly freaking out. We didn’t know what to teach Hoa, how to teach Hoa, and now she’s bringing in her apparently anti-Mormon friend who low-key doesn’t like us even though she’s technically an investigator. So we just went up and were praying super hard in our heads on the up those stairs that GOd would give us some sort of inspiration. We sat and talked a bit and then the lesson started and my oh my! The Spirit of revelation is soooooooooooo real. Jesus took the wheel and he drove that lesson like Lightning McQueen! To start off, we started the lesson really beating around the bush because Thuy was there and we weren’t sure how to handle it, but eventually we just went for it and pulled out the talk by Elder Joaquin E. Costa from last General Conference “To Friends and INvestigators of the Church” and talked about it and that lesson was straight fire. LIterally everything that was said and shared was exactly what she needed to address her current needs and it was the best lesson we’ve ever taught her and arguably one of the best lessons I’ve ever taught on my mission.
The final miracle, we decided to just address Thuy there and then we asked her how did she feel when she first came to church. And Thuy was like “I’ve only been to church once, so I don’t know.” We were confused and so was our member help because our member help told us that Thuy had come to the church multiple times for English class and such. So we asked again just to confirm, and still the same answer and then we turned to Hoa and she said, “Ooooohhh you’re talking about my other friend named Thuy.” And we were like, “Nuh-uh!!! You have 2 friends named Thuy?” to which she responded, “I actually have 5 friends named Thuy. The one that went to English class and this Thuy are 2 different people.” Oh man if I could describe how relieved I was to hear that, I would. My insides did a crazy happy dance! That sealed the deal, and the lesson continued to be fire.
It was so much better in the moment I’m telling you. This is why people go on mission, is moments like these. God really lives, and his Holy Spirit really does step in to help us in our time of greatest need. Amen
Pictures: missionaries after the new transfers and hanging out with our mission president for P-Day at Hải Phòng, a coastal city.
20180225-320180225-420180225-1

Week 81: Boredom

 

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 betweens haha. Because it’s the Lunar New Year holiday, 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 comapnion 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
20180218-1

Chúc mừng năm mới – Happy Tết

27972997_10214326868544412_4230979313319473975_n

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
27858618_10214326817383133_9024918282818295787_n27868034_10213441671667666_1472448287130205249_n27973446_10214326867624389_4526490933965855017_n(2)

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)
20180204-1
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
20180204-6

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
20180129-220180129-320180129-420180129-520180129-6

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

20180122-220180122-320180122-420180122-820180122-9

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.
20180115-1