Week 49: Preparing for Hanoi Zone Conference

 

07/17/2017

Hey look at all those 7s! Nifty, that must mean it’s gonna be a lucky week this next week. As for this last week, it actually turned out to be one of those weeks where not too much happened. We have the Hanoi Zone Conference happening this Tuesday, so a lot of our time has been spent indoors preparing and planning (remember a couple weeks back when I said that missionary is a lot more indoor work than people expect? There you go).

I’ve felt pretty restless and itching to get out there and do normal missionary work, but sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet and do what you gotta do. One thing I’m definitely learning is that as a leader (or whatever excuse of a leader I may be😊) in the mission, your priority is not necessarily the investigators you teach as a companionship, but the missionaries that the Lord has charged you to take care of. It kinda follows along the same principles of being a trainer. Your trainee is your priority, not necessarily your investigators. It’s still something that I’m trying to figure. I wish by some magical way there was a means by which we could focus our attention on everything that we need to without compromising on the other things. Oh well, that how it is as humans😁

I guess the only huge thing I wanted to share this week was my experience with church lately. I seriously underestimated the power behind coming to church every week. Maybe it has something to do with going to small branch where you get to really know everyone on a personal level, but as I was sitting in church this week and just thinking to myself, I was noticed that I’ve been feeling different coming to church the past weeks. It’s a subtle difference, but there it was as I was listening to speaker and sitting in a position where I could see the entire congregation. I felt a great bubble of love towards all the people that I’ve had the opportunity to serve for the past 5 or so weeks. It’s something that I definitely I’ve taken for granted the past few months and even before my mission. I can’t describe it well, but after feeling that special Spirit, the rest of that Sacrament meeting hour, I couldn’t stop smiling.
I love the people in this Hanoi branch and I love being here.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any pictures to send home this week. Spending a lot of time indoors doesn’t give one a lot of opportunities to take cool pictures, but hopefully this lucky week will give me some good stuff to take a shot at. Love you all!
Elder Phan

Week 48: The lesson that I learned

 

This week was a very interesting week, and I learned a lot. I’ll talk a little about that after talking about how our week went.

So a lot of the usual stuff happened. We taught a few lessons throughout the week, had meetings, did some contacting, did English class, the usual. Our investigator pool is down to 1 person now. His name is Anh Son, but he’s super awesome. There was one day during the week where we actually taught twice in one day. It was weird, but it worked out and he’s progressing really well.
On Saturday, our branch had the baptism of one of the sister missionary’s investigators. They really work hard. I’m convinced that sister missionaries are given some sort of special powers that give them the ability to work as hard as 2 companionships of Elders. The baptismal service was awesome.
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Ok we got that done, now moving on the stuff I learned this week. Brace yourself because this is going to be a long one…
Essentially, Heavenly Father chastised me big time and I learned a hard lesson from Him on relying on and acting upon His spiritual promptings.
It all started when I forgot a folder full of records on the public bus (missionary work is big on record-keeping by the way). Those records were pretty important and a lot of it was private information of other people, so we called the Hanoi bus system and reported the missing folder, on the off-chance that someone might find it and turn it in. Later that day, we got a call back from the bus people, and during that conversation, I had absolutely no clue what this lady was saying to me.
All I got out of it was that we had to go to some address and then call a certain number. The audio on the phone was bad, this lady spoke like a Vietnamese machine gun, and I am garbage when it comes to spelling Vietnamese words from what I hear, so it was a bad time. Needless to say, the lady on the other end was very frustrated with me by the end. Nevertheless, I wrote what I thought I heard, and then we sacrificed an hour out of our day to look for this street name on our map. Turns out I had heard the name of street wrong over the phone, so after a 2nd call to the bus people, we got the right street name written down. Even then, the street was STILL not on our map, so we then called the missionaries working in the mission office to look that street up for us on Google maps. Thanks to their direction, we found the general vicinity of the street on our map in an area that was pretty far from where we were at the moment.
At that point, my companion started talking about going all the way over there to retrieve the records. By that time, I was seriously mad about the whole situation and how much time we were wasting in trying to find this place. We had already wasted an hour trying to find the general area, and now he was considering going there with no idea HOW we would get there, where EXACTLY the street was, much less the building itself, on the off-chance that the missing records MIGHT be there. In my mind, it was a total shot in the dark and therefore a complete waste of our time. I made those thoughts very clear to my comp, that losing those records really wasn’t too big of a deal. Almost everything in that folder could be easily replaced and redone, and whatever could not be replaced wasn’t absolutely essential that we have them. In my mind, it definitely wasn’t essential enough to justify going on this wild goose chase. Every single fiber of my natural man raged to stay put because that was what made the most sense to me. But we decided to pray about it, and as we prayed, I focused on letting go of what I wanted (and mind you, I wanted to stay put very very badly) and opening my mind and heart to what God wanted me to do. Looking back now, when I presented the Lord with those 2 options, go or stay, I got a clear answer. My frustrations were wiped away and replaced with a measured sense of peace towards the idea of going. In hindsight, it was a clear answer, but at the time, I interpreted it to mean that either option was fine, which I felt was completely unhelpful. In that moment of great need to know for sure what to do, I demanded a loud and clear answer from God.
So after stewing about it for a few minutes, I finally said “You know what, forget it. I can regret this later” and told my comp, let’s go get the records. To be completely honest, my main motivation for going was to settle the matter and prove to both of us this was a dead end.
In the end, it was God who proved me wrong. We ended up calling one more time and figuring out exactly where this place was, and then took a taxi there. Lo and behold, there was our folder of records. Elder Cong was ecstatic, but I felt more subdued as I realized that I was on the wrong side of God. Against all sense of human logic and judgment, God pulled off a small miracle to teach me the value of trusting in His promptings.
I see now that that answer I got was clear, I was just unwilling to act upon it. We give a lot of flak to Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon for seeing so many times in which God has worked His miracles in front of them, and yet they are “easy to forget the Lord their God”. Like, these guys have seen angels, and yet after that they still doubt His works. I always used to think they were such goofs for forgetting so easily. What I realized from this experience is that I’m a lot more like Laman and Lemuel than I thought, and now I don’t blame them so much. This isn’t the first time that I’ve clearly seen God’s hand in my life, and yet it seems like every single time another opportunity comes up to trust Him, I’m still skeptical.
A few months ago, an experienced missionary once asked me how, as you get farther along in your mission, do you differentiate between and continue to rely upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost rather than your own acquired experience. I’ve always been a huge champion of human ability and intellect, so the answer that I gave was that God works His miracles through the abilities of His servants. As we gain more experience, we give God more tools in which to work with. I’ve learned from this last experience that that is not always true. Sometimes, God throws you a curveball that defies anything logical. Obvious lesson that I’ve heard before, but He really hammered it into me this time. I’ve learned that I still have a long way to go in terms of humbling myself enough to follow His promptings without question.
So that’s what I learned this week. This email is crazy long already, so to those who made it all the way through to the end, congratulations and sorry it took so long. Thanks for bearing with me and allowing me to share this experience with you. Love you all and good luck with next week!
Love, Elder Phan
Pictures:
-A lunch appointment with some members
-Continuing on with the tradition of picking up dead animals, here’s a snail that my comp accidentally stepped on as we were walking
-A cool little hill that we found
-The wreckage of a tree in front of the church after a storm
-Our investigator, Anh Son, with Dung, a member (he’s the one in the glasses)
-“I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun…”
-A random pig we found tied up to a stop sign. I don’t think it’s future is going to be too bright. I felt kinda bad for it.

Week 47: Happy July 4th

 

It was a good week this week. Also very tiring, but I feel largely satisfied with the work we were able to do.

To start off, I got kinda sick this last Tuesday. Monday we went and got a late dinner of some street food. The place that we went to was safe (missionaries had eaten there before with no problems), but for whatever reason I got wrecked by whatever it was I chose to eat. So that Tuesday after, I woke up with some awesome stomach cramps and was kinda dragging myself around all morning. The climax was when we left our apartment to go to district meeting, and in the elevator, I had just enough time to say “Guys, I’m gonna throw up” before puking my guts out in front of everyone. I felt bad that they had to see that, but on the plus side, after throwing up, I felt a lot better, so we ended up getting to and sitting through the meeting ok. Afterwards I started feeling a little weak again, and when we finally got home in the early afternoon, I had to throw up once more. Luckily, we made it to a toilet before it all came out. At that point we figured it would probably be best for me to rest the rest of the day. Over the week, I’ve been feeling better and better, so it’s all good!
In terms of the work, we picked up a new investigator this week named Anh Hai. He lives in another missionary’s area, so we’ll have to transfer him over to them so that they can teach him, but he’s super awesome. He just called us up randomly one day and said that he was done with his college tests and was interested in learning more about our church! Seriously, I kid you not, having people that you contacted that call YOU back is rarer than diamonds, so we were super excited, and he’s awesome. My companion Elder Cong was unable to be there the day that we met him, but that’s okay, because that day we had a 24 hour companion exchange and for that day I got to be with my old trainer Elder Tri!!! Being back with him and serving with him, even for just a day, was a huge blessing for me. Even now that I’m 11 months in, he’s still probably the biggest example to me on my mission, and I always learn something new from him. I can say I had the best trainer in the mission, no offense to any of the other missionaries.
I actually didn’t realize that today was the 4th of July, but thankfully, my mom and dad were kind enough to remind me of it in their email to me this week, so happy 4th of July to everybody back in the States! The missionaries here as far as I know haven’t planned anything to celebrate. We’re technically not allowed to play with fireworks and stuff, but maybe we can make something work with Coke bottles and mentos or something. But that’s about all the interesting stuff for this week, so I’ll leave it at that. Love you all and have a good holiday!
Love,
Elder Phan
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Week 46: Another aspect of missionary works

 

Week 45 : transfer back to Hà Nội

 

Dear everybody

It was a very good week this week. Transfers officially happened this Thursday, which means I had to say bye to my companion Elder Thai, the missionaries in Saigon, and the members of the Tan Son Nhat branch. There seriously are some fantastic members here, and I was super sad to leave them all.

(last moment with and cả Thái and church member in Saigon)

On the bright side, I can’t tell you how great it was to come back to the Hanoi branch and see all my old friends from when I first started my mission. This place has grown so much since I was last here! So many new people in the branch that got baptized in recent months, so it’s a nice blend of old faces and new faces. I was lucky enough to come into the area at a time when our companionship was getting someone baptized this past Saurday, so that was really cool to see. I think an appropriate verse to describe the transition is best described by a scripture in the BOM, Alma  36:21-“Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”

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                      (my new companion, anh cả Công, the tallest one)
So yeah, it’s a good life right now, besides the fact that Hanoi is super hot and humid this time of year. We’ve had great cloud cover for the past few days though, so I’m grateful for that. My new companion, Elder Cong, is super awesome though. We get along super well and I’m excited to work with him. We haven’t had too much time going out so that I could get familiar with the new area, but all I know is we live in this giant complex called Times City, which is basically and super high-end mini-city Utopia complex inside on Hanoi. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s the best housing and area in the mission so far.
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                                                       ( Baptism of anh Giang in Hanoi)
As soon as I got here, the branch threw me under the bus and I got recruited to play the hymns in Sacrament the next day, as well as a special musical number that I had no time to prep for. The number all in all went well, but the pages kept blowing off the piano because of the air conditioner behind me, so I was playing and catching pages and holding them up all at the same time. Finally, one of the other Elders stepped in and held up the pages for me while I played on the piano. It was a fiasco, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, when you’re a missionary, you’re making a fool of yourself in one form or another, so at least I’m used to the humiliation at this point haha!
 
In other news, my old investigator down South, Anh Khoa, passed his baptismal interview and is getting baptized this next Sunday! Whoo-hoo! That’s another one for the books! I think that’s just about all for this week, but I hope everyone is doing great, as usual! I love you all (also as usual). Have a good Father’s Day to all the fathers out there and keep it real!
 
Love,
Elder Phan
 

 

Week 44: Transferring coming up

Hello everybody,

Pictures
-A Vietnamese bus bench, if you can even call it a bench. “Sit on the rod, the iron rod”
-Eating on the floor at a member’s home

Week 43 : Border Run again

 

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Week 42: Charity thought

Hello everybody

This’ll be a quicky today because for P-Day today we’re going to go eat at our investigator’s family’s house for the day, and he lives waaaaaaaaaayyy out of the city. It’s outside of mission boundaries, but our mission president gave us the go ahead to see if we can also share a message with his family and maybe get them interested in learning about the gospel as well. It’ll be a long ride, just for lunch, but hey, at least by the end of it we’ll be plenty hungry.

This week has been a great week! Our (former) investigator Anh Huy got baptized yesterday at 8 AM in the morning before church, and I was freaking out! Elder Thái and I were in charge of putting together the service and getting the whole thing arranged, and we thought everything was all good and set. 7:55 am Sunday morning, no one has shown up for the service except for a few missionaries and I was stressing out that no one was going to come support our investigator’s baptism. No worries though, because Mormon standard time dictates that everyone shows up at the last minute, and that’s literally what happened. By 8, everyone that needed to be there in order for the service to take place showed up, and more trickled after the service was beginning. The baptism went great, and his confirmation at the hand’s of Elder Thái also went well! It was a good experience all around.
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We’ve also finished teaching all the lessons to our other investigator, Anh Khoa, so now our future follow-up meetings with him will be to read with him from the Book of Mormon to help strengthen his faith and build his personal testimony. His baptismal date was scheduled for June 4th, but we’ll have to push it back a bit because he doesn’t feel quite ready yet. No worries.
Besides all the excitement with teaching and baptizing this week, I also had an opportunity to go on exchanges with our esteemed district leader, Elder Dông Quang, and I learned something new from it. Lately I’ve been trying to work on and acquire the gift of charity. One of the recommendations was to pray for it, and that’s what I’ve been doing, but Elder Dông Quang recommended that I actually go out there and put myself in/make situations in which I can feel charity. After all, praying and hoping is one thing, but one can’t just sit there and wait for things from God to come. Faith is a principle of belief AND action. You gotta go out and make things happens, and then will God bless your efforts. So I tried it a couple of time, and I can definitely say that I’m seeing results of feelings of charity much more quickly that I did when I  just prayed for it and then didn’t do anything about it. It was a cool thing to learn.
Hope everybody is having a good week! Evrything is going great here in ‘Nam. Rain’s good! Blessings are pouring down just as much as water is! Love you all!
Elder Phan
Video : Activity at English Class
(Notes: This English class is free and fun, you are all welcome to learn and to meet us )

 

Week 41: Blessing

Hello everybody,

-Dinner that we had at a potential investigators house. The food was sooo good!

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms.  This is the popular song named “Lòng Mẹ” (Mother’s Heart) many people know in Vietnam.  I love you mom.  Hannah sang it when she was 4.

 

This will be a quick email. I just finished skyping home to my family and it was awesome! Hanging up was a really hard thing to do, but it’s all good. I didn’t realize how socially awkward I’ve become. I don’t know how to talk to people anymore in English. It’s like when I first came to Vietnam and whenever I tried to talk to people about the church, my mind just blanked. Now it’s the other way around…

It was an incredible week this week and I wish I had time to tell you all about it, but I’m afraid I’m gonna have save it for next week. Actually, I might not even be able to email next week because we may or may not be going to an investigator’s family’s house outside of the city at that time. I don’t know, we still have to set it up, but he’s hoping to do it next Monday. Anyways, the work is going great. Our investigators baptismal dates are coming up, so we’re super excited about that. I’ll tell everyone more about it this week, but for now, just know that I love you all and more importantly God loves you all.
Hope to see you all next week!
Love, Elder Phan
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The family during Skype! And Andrew Y.
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