Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blog Post #24: A Happy, Busy Elder

Dear People I Love,

I love you all! I've had a great week, and I'm excited to tell you all about my new companion, Elder Herrick! He is a great Missionary, and hates being in the sun as much as I do! To combat this, we are working on booking ourselves SOLID with lessons, and we're starting to get frighteningly close! I love how busy we are some days; we almost don't have time for finding! I realized that I am living with 3 Elders who have all been out over a year, and I love the opportunity this is to chat with them and figure out what works best out here! Elder Herrick firmly believes that every lesson ought to have a member of the Church present to help us teach, and I am realizing how true that is!

If the Missionaries in your area call you and ask you to fellowship with them, please do! Even when we're all speaking our native language, it's so much more effective to have a "regular person" there; someone without a nametag who just wants to be the your friend. If you haven't received a call from the Sisters or Elders, give them a call and tell them the next time you have an hour free. They will be super appreciative, and you will understand the Gospel better by helping to share it! It really is a win-win-win situation!

Maybe I'm soapboxing a litte bit, but the biggest help you can give a Missionary is your time. Food is also great, but we've got money to buy that. What we can't buy is an honest, friendly, cheerful, and excited friend explaining why they love church, and that's what we really need in this work. You don't have to have some huge conversion story, you don't need to be a scriptorian, you don't even need to feel like you have a super great testimony of the Gospel; you just need to know how living the teachings of Christ has blessed you.

Teaching Doctrines is easy. You can go learn all of them by opening up the scriptures. They are as simple as 1+1=2.

It's the Principles that make the difference.

The Principles are how 1+1=2. They're how you can recieve help from Heavenly Father. If you know anything about God, it's that He can help you. Missionaries will tell someone that the very first time they meet them, no matter who they are. We need your help to show these people how God helps us, how our Heavenly Father gives us the answers and the guidance that we need in this crazy, crazy world we live in. We need your help to express the gratitude you have for your Heavenly Father's help in buying groceries, picking up kids from school, doing laundry, or anything else that has helped you see the love of God in your life.

The biggest question every Missionary has is "How do I keep my Recent Converts active?". It doesn't matter if you baptise 1000 people, if none of them go on to enter the Temple. Heavenly Father helped me to understand the ways I can help the 5 young people in my Ward who have recently recieved Baptism and Confirmation, and through the Book of Mormon I have understood their situations better than I ever thought I could. I know that He can do the same for you; if you will let Him. Ask in faith, and with the intention to act on the answer given.

I know that what I have written here is true, and I write them in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder O'Gara

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blog Post #23: 42 is the answer...

Every 42 days (6 weeks) every Missionary in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may or may not move, except for those who are in their first 12 weeks, AKA Training.

I am not one of those that moved, but Elder Marrott was! My wonderful trainer, 馬長老 is off to the magical land of Sheung Shui, an area so northern that he can see Mainland in a couple places! I had a great time with him, and I know he's going to have a blast up there! He spent a few moves up there in the beginning of his mission.

My new companion is Elder Herrick from Orem, Utah! 何長老 has been doing International work for the past 4 moves (AKA my whole mission), so he is used to doing a lot of finding, which is what my area needs right now! He is a lot of fun, and hilarious from all accounts I've heard! I'm excited to spend the next while with him here in Tsim Sha Tsui!

On Sunday I baptized Cheung Wing Gin (Ben)! I did everything perfect the first time, but only because I practiced what I was supposed to say for like 5 hours last week! He is a great kid (14 years old), and I'm excited for him to become a strong part of the ward!

Exciting news from home as well; I have another nephew! My Hawai'ian Stepbrother and his wife just had their ninth baby! I haven't seen a picture of him yet, but I'm sure he's super cute.

My Sister, Number Five, just found out that she is pregnant with a boy! I was praying (no really, I was) for a niece, but I am going to love my other nephew a TON when I get home! I'm almost not dreading leaving HK just for the prospect of all the new people in my family!

This week has been good, a little crazy with the move, but good. I've been reading the Book of Mormon a ton, and one thing that really stood out was Alma 41:9-10. This is Alma talking to his son Corianton, who went chasing after a harlot named Isabel...

"9 And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.
10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness."

As Missionaries, we keep ourselves to super high standards, and keep the Commandments to the letter. That's where the Spirit of the Law, or the Higher Law comes in. Everyone can improve, even those who are doing super well. The great thing about improving, or "repenting", is that it helps you become closer to Heavenly Father. The bad become good by turning away from their sins, and the good become better by chipping away at the last bits of unrighteousness that are holding them down. Of course, no one can attain perfection in this life, but trying to do so is a GREAT goal that will last your whole life!

I love you all, and I hope that you're praying for me as hard as I'm praying for you! I know that what I'm doing is bringing people closer to their Father in Heaven, and I'm so excited that I get to do it!

Love, Elder O'Gara

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blog Post #22: In Memorium

Dear Family and Friends,

You may be surprised to hear that the title of this week's post is not referring directly to the mass murders that occurred nearly 600 Tuesday's ago. I did, in my own quiet way, honor the memories of the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who were killed that day and in the subsequent conflicts, but I feel that sharing any more of my feelings on that subject may breach the guidelines set forth in the Missionary Handbook that counsels me not to discuss politics.

The main topic of this week's letter to those I love is the 5th of the 5 Blessings. They are Health, Prosperity, Good Fortune, Happy Children, and Natural Death.

This week I was invited to attend a memorial service for Brother Lee, a member of our Ward that had been ill and unable to attend Church for a very long time. Missionaries are not often invited to go to such ceremonies, so Elder Marrott and I were deeply touched by the invitation extended to us by the deceased's niece. It was a very peaceful service in which Brother Lee was remembered, the goodness of God and the Plan of Salvation was extolled, and his mortal remains were taken to be protected until he is called up by the Father on Resurrection Morning.

The thing that makes Natural Death the 5th blessing, in my way of seeing things, is that it gives one time to reconcile oneself with God. As a person ages they begin to understand that their hour soon will come to lay down their bodies and prepare to meet their Lord. I'm sure this gives the aged time to ponder their lives and the chance to correct any mistakes they may have made.

Unfortunately, as we were all reminded as we mourned on Tuesday, not everyone is given the 5th Blessing. If you were to receive it, would you be ready to meet the Father? Are you confident that you would receive Eternal Life? I'm sure that, with the decades of quiet introspection that usually proceed natural death, all of us would be.

But what if you didn't pass in your sleep in the sunset of your life? If you were called back to the Judgement Seat tomorrow, would you be ready? My purpose is not to frighten you into action, but to cause you to search your soul and, if needed, correct yourself. Let me quote a book I've been reading recently to help me clarify my words;

Alma 34:34 "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."

The message here is very direct and simple to me; it doesn't matter what you outwardly do, but what you inwardly are. "That same spirit" means YOU. If you have no desire to follow God's commandments now, you won't in the next stage of your progression. If you "set at naught the things of God" now, you will not be given more of the things of God in the Post-Mortal world. To make it a bit more clear; if you cannot abide by the laws and statutes of America, then you cannot be a happy and free American. If you regard the laws as a cage that needs breaking out of, you will be punished and your liberty will be taken away. If you view these laws as a scaffold to help you grow upwards to fulfill your full potential, you will receive happiness, freedom, and be allowed to continue doing the things that make you happy.

If you cannot follow the commandments of God, you cannot dwell with Him. If you view the Word of Wisdom, the Laws of Chastity, of Tithing, of the Sabbath as a cage, then you will begin to grow bitter as you create an imagined prison around yourself. If you view these commandments as a scaffolding that ensures you are building yourself safely upward, and not dangerously outwards, you will feel yourself being added upon. I know that it's not easy to accept at first that the Gospel is a scaffold, not a cage, but I know that as you use the doctrines and principles taught to govern your life and guide each choice, our Heavenly Father will bless you with His Son's care and the Holy Spirit's guidance.

I hope to be ready to meet my Father when the time comes, and that each of you can also be so ready. I love you all, and I know that this is the Lord's Restored Gospel. Love it, live it, and you will receive true and unending joy and happiness.

Elder O'Gara

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blog Post #21

Dear People Whom I Love,

Today I got to jugar futbol (AKA da jeukbou) with the rest of the Missionaries in my Zone. All 20 of us met up at a park in Cheung Sha Wan and played 3 rounds of volleyball (there were 3 teams of 7 because a really cool member of the Church named Kenneth Fong came with us), then we played soccer. I loved it so much! If you're curious as to how soccer in a sauna would be, this is the place to experience it! I lose SO much water weight, and it's not uncommon for me to drink a gallon of water a day. That may sound excessive, but I still don't feel 100% hydrated at the end of the day, which means I always have water with my breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, let me talk a little about my diet. I typically have a few pieces of fruit or maybe curry fish and potatoes for breakfast. I used to do noodles for breakfast, which is delicious but SUPER time consuming. Lunch is noodles, curry fish and potatoes (if I didn't have it for breakfast), but most often I'll have vegetable stir-fry. I can eat a TON of veggies for lunch and still be hungry for dinner! Dinner is either noodles, veggie stir-fry, or chicken. If we eat out it'll typically be for dinner, and cost less than 3 US Dollars. I like to get almond flavored tofu (which is delicious), grass jelly (think not-sweet-mint jello), and fresh fruit. Also, I'll randomly add rice to any meal; as one of my Apartment Leader things I do is ensure we always have rice in the fridge if anyone wants it (which is usually at every meal, here in China).

On rare occasion (once or twice every six weeks) I will get a #7 with fries and fanta from McDonalds. I've done that 4 times so far; and I think I may have eaten more Big Macs on my Mission so far than I did in my entire life before my Mission. Don't worry, I saw "Supersize Me", I'm keeping it real. There's also a million bubble tea places around, so I'll occasionally get mango and red bean smoothies with fat tapioca pearls in them. Bubble tea is even more rare than McD's, though.

But usually I eat fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains. That's what I want you to remember about my diet.

Anyways, the work of a Missionary is tiring, but infinitely more rewarding than it is tiring! We have people coming to us slowly but surely, and they are great! We are helping people who are interested in the Gospel experience the power of Jesus Christ's Atonement. We help those who have strayed from the Gospel remember the peace, comfort, and happiness that knowing their purpose and potential brings. We help those who are strong members of the Church strengthen their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we help them know how they can share their joy and excitement with their friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We also work with many people who have just recently received Baptism to continue to grow closer to the Savior and understand His teachings better.

No matter what we do; we have one goal in mind; invite all people to come unto Christ. No one is perfect, so everyone can grow to understand and apply His teachings better, everyone can improve in some way, and everyone can share the peace and joy the Gospel brings with a few more people. That's why being a Missionary is great! I don't have to worry about school, my phone, my pet fish, my car, or anything else getting in the way of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ! This is an amazing experience! All I do all day is try to make everyone around me happier! No matter what you do or don't believe, that's got to sound pretty amazing.

I love this work! I know I have been called by God to help others accept His Son's Gospel. I have never seen either of Them face to face as Joseph Smith has, but I see the hand of the Creator of Heaven and Earth all around me. I feel it in the world around me, see it in the miracles that people take for granted, and experience it every day! This knowledge did not come because I had some huge amazing experience, but because everyday my faith is built line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. Conversion is not an event, it is a process. It may have a clear beginning, but it will never end.

I love you all. I know this work is true, and I invite all of you to pray and receive the answer that I have; that God has given us a modern-day prophet to lead, guide, and direct us to Life Eternal.

I write these things in the name of our Lord, Savior, and Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder O'Gara