Sunday, December 29, 2013

Letter Home #90: What's This? What's This! There's something in the Air!

Dear People,

Last week after email we went to Muji (think Japanese Minimalist IKEA focused more on Stationery) to grab some supplies & winter clothes. I didn't need anything, and Elder Mak had already paid so we were standing near each other casually looking at the toiletries when he tapped me on the shoulder.

"Elder O'Gara" he said "What's this?"

"A Razor, for one time or two times use" I replied.

"But" he said, pointing to the label "For Woo-Man?".

I started at him blankly, and then laughed louder than one ought to in a crowded public place on Festivus (which I am TOTALLY celebrating when I grow up!). See, Elder Mak has no sisters, and Asians don't have much hair anyways (you can tell most girls here don't shave their legs because they'll have three or four hairs about one shade darker than their skin on their shins), so he had NO clue what was going on. I explained to him about racial differences and he mostly got it after that.


Lots of people asked in emails about my Christmas, so here it is!

Monday - Festivus! We had the eating of Chinese food, but only a half-hearted feat of strength and no airing of grievances. New holidays just get no love. Maybe next year will be better. We also had the Zone Activity in which we snacked, played games, and watched the slideshow the Office Elders put together.

Wednesday - Stake Activity! The 6 congregations in the western New Territories got together for a 7 hour activity that was AWESOME! We played games, pulled people off the streets into the activity, taught mini-lessons all over the place, got free dinner (BBQ pork and Soy Chicken on rice, of course!), and listened to a really good Choir (Song of the Heart Singers).

Thursday - We had our Ward BBQ and Hike in which we spent the day making sure all of the people we've been teaching the Gospel to are getting integrated and accepted into the Yuen Long 1 congregation. It was lots of fun, and here's a bit of Chinese Culture for you, with Chicken Wings to give some perspective!

Yeah, Baby Pigeons are delicious, if not the most horrible thing I've ever eaten. Totally beats out shark fin soup. Yes, I've had both (Shark Fin Soup was an accident, and not as immediately terrible, but does have higher elements of fridge horror).

Saturday - We couldn't celebrate my Birthday on my Birthday, so we went to Gin Curry after English Class. I prefer Thai Curry, but Japanese is still good!
Elder Wong and I split the Mt. Fuji 1.5 Kilo monster meal! It was pathetic; I could pound one by myself and then go for icecream. Tasty, but not scary. Our friend had told us she'd not been able to finish it with 4 other girls. 2 Missionaries > 5 Teenage Girls, take note. The best part was, after that we had to run back to the Church, and I got to do something I've been DYING to do for ages!

I rode Elder Wong's bike home! It was the best day of my LIFE!

Sunday - YEAH! My Birthday! I had been awake for 3 hours before anyone said it (I like to see how long it takes people to remember), and had a good time at Church. I taught A 17-year-old kid how to tie a Bow Tie after the meeting, it was lots of fun. That night we took a couple of our friends to a musical Fireside in Wan Chai in which 2 Piano Performance Majors from BYU improved new arrangements for 15 Christmas carols. It was glorious. 

Today - Preparation Day and Pay Day! Does it get better than that? Of course it does; I get to do Missionary Work tonight!

Who's with me?

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letter Home #89: An Infamous Miracle

Dear People,

My En-Ga-Lish is very poor-laaaa!

But really, I'm losing words like made. The other day my comp and I were mocking a new advertising scheme, and I said that when Chinese people try too hard to be creative something "terribly wonderful... Awfully amazing...An Infamous Miracle?..." happens.

An Infamous Miracle?

I can't figure it out, and neither can he, but we're working on it.


We've been meeting regularly with two gentlemen, Mr Chu and Mr L. Mr L has been kind of "meh" about keeping commitments, and then last night our lesson fell flat on its face in the first 35 seconds or so after the opening prayer (which is when we ran out to grab another copy of the pamphlet he was supposed to read to prep him for our lesson). HOWEVER, because Heavenly Father loves Mr L and wants him to be Baptized, He helped us piece everything back together so that we could help Mr L have a desire to come to keep his commitments! He still didn't agree to come to Church, but he's getting closer to accepting a challenge!

Apparently today is Festivus... My comp's family loves Seinfeld, and so we're going to eat Chinese food (which is easily done), have a Feat of Strength (which I can do), and then an Airing of Grievances (I'm scared of that one). I'm not sure what's expected to happen, so I'm hesitant...

Pray for me.

But really, focus your prayers on the people in the Phillipines that are still sad, hungry, and cold (does it get cold in the Philipines?).

I'm loving the New Territories, especially because it's semi-abandoned; most of the people here are literally insane (our local asylum is ACTUALLY overflowing with inmates), or they're really really really interested in the Gospel. sometimes the crazy people are interested, which causes problems. But it's nothing I can't handle, for I can do all things in Christ, which strengthens me!

Elder J.E. O'Gara

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Letter Home #88: A Father's Influence

Dear People,

Here's an excerpt from what I got from my Dad last week

Did I tell you I’ve found a replacement for NanShan Mountain? It’s about 5K from the house and a pretty good climb once you get there. There is a great looking loop that will get me about a 35K bike ride, the mountain will be the first leg of the ride. As I give it a try and explore a little, I’ll keep you posted. Could be a good one to try when you get here.   

This was my reply

The bike ride sounds good, but don't plan anything too crazy, I'm not sure if I'll have any bike muscles left unless they call me tomorrow and say I'm going to Yuen Long.

Any guesses on where I am right now?

Say hello to the new Yuen Long District Leader! I live in the Gam Tin apartment with my entire District; Yuen Long 1 (us), Yuen Long 2 (a pair of locals that I knew fairly well before they started their Missions), and Gam Tin (Elder Mak from Sha Tin and Elder Wong who I met earlier this year before he started his Mission). The only person I wasn't already friends with was my new comp, Elder Beautiful. Wanna see a picture?

Yeah, he got fairly ill, so we missed Church yesterday, but right after I took this picture he got up and ate a small bowl of rice, so he's better now. I got my studies done, organized all of our Ward Member Records by geographical location, made a super legit planner cover (Christmas and Western New Year AND Chinese New Year themed!), and then took a nap for an hour. I would have cleaned the house, but that's not really something you're supposed to do on Sunday.

I live in pretty much the nicest place in the Mission; it's the 3rd floor and roof of a village house in Downtown Gam Tin. First, let me tell you about the location...

Pretend that I started my Mission in Downtown Seattle, with lots of hustle and bustle and pollution. Then, I moved to Lakewood, still a city, but less intense. After that, pretend I went to Tacoma, a more intense city, and figured I'd probably finish my Mission there. Then I randomly got called to the metropolis of Ellensburg. Yeah, I seriously feel like I'm walking the streets of Ellensburg or Grangeville, but to be more honest it's more like Kooskia, Kamiah, or Red River. It's tiny, and has kind of a quaint, home-town, kind of feel to it. It's cool, but NOT Hong Kong! My paradigm has been shifted by this town, and also the house.


The house is awesome. We have a proper kitchen (the fridge, counter, and stove make a triangle), six bunk beds in what used to be a sun room (lots of curtains, now), and an office on our roof. And a rusty grill on our roof, I'm thinking tinfoil dinners might be in order next week. The only downside is that our stove is induction, so we can't use the beautiful nonstick pan I found while cleaning the kitchen. First World Problems, right?

I promise next week will be more Gospel related!

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letter Home #87:Festive Cheer and Eternal Happiness

Dear People Whom I Love,




My favorite time of year is finally here again, and, as a Christian Missionary, you can bet that I am excited beyond belief, reason, or doubt to be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ at the time of year where we commemorate and celebrate His birth! Being on a Mission reminds me more than ever of what the real "reason for the season" is... Partially because I'm too poor to buy gifts.

But really, when you're out preaching all day and people don't want to listen and it's 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, it's hard to stay cheerful. But, when it's dropped to 50 degrees and 50 percent humidity, and you can open every single street contact with "Merry Christmas! I'd like to tell you the glad Message of Christ's Birth!", things just get so much happier and better all of a sudden!

There are challenges in all of our lives (like stopping strangers on the street using a foreign language), there are trials that we're not sure we can overcome (like 8 hours of street finding in the heat), and there are little problems weighing on our minds that are just there to give us stomach ulcers (like where I'll live, study, or get married after I get home). All of these things melt away when you remember that it doesn't matter.

Because Christ was born, He was able to perform an infinite and perfect Atonement. This means that, no matter what happens, it's all good! Jesus loves us, and if we do our best then He'll teach us how to do everything else. I, of myself, learn languages very quickly, but without little promptings here and there, I wouldn't have had nearly as much focus or success in learning Chinese. I pick up on people's feelings really quickly sometimes, but I've felt that ability be magnified beyond my imagination while I've been here in Hong Kong.

The Atonement isn't just some long past event that gives us hope for some event far in the distant future! It was made for you, personally, to use every day!

Act Like It!

Because God loves you, His Child, He sent our Brother to experience this mortal life and give us a perfect example! Isn't that something to be grateful for, and to show your gratitude for? We don't all need to start filling in Mission Applications, just go out and find some good to do! It's all around, it doesn't take much looking to find it, either. It could be the guy ringing the annoying bell outside of Wal Mart, the lady inside who's knocked over a pyramid of oranges, or the glum clerk bagging your groceries.

There are opportunities right in our way to show our gratitude towards Christ and our devotion to Him, and I hope we'll all take them.

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Letter Home #86: Never Fear

Dear People,
Elder Tall is here, to save the day, taloo-talay! I, like a noob, left my card reader AND USB cable at the apartment. But, what's this, Elder Tall, sitting next to me, pulls out nothing but a USB card reader! 

The Turkey Day Report is saved!Inline image 1

We have here the pies, jello, coco rice, and whipped cream.

And on the savory side we've got The Turkey, half a dozen pizzas, the salad, and the stuffing & dressing in the distance.

Now, let's take a look at that turkey that was brined for 24 hours, and then cooked for 4 (convection ovens cook a lot faster than anticipated!)!

How cute, it even has a little tan line from where I tied the wings onto the body! And look at that crispy golden-brown skin! It must have been basted every 30 minutes in it's own juices to make it so luscious! 

What did the Tolo Harbor Zone think?

Let's just say there weren't any complaints :D

Remember to be thankful, and go do some good in the world today!

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Letter Home #85: My Favorite Color!

Dear People,


Finally, after the long wait, I get to make orange things again! HK doesn't believe in orange leaves, but they sure have pumpkins! And, at $15 for one that is the PERFECT size for a pie, I am SO making one for our Thanksgiving feast! And of course, you all know that I, the overly-Irish-for-how-Welsh-I-am chef, will be providing the mashed potatoes.



People have it in their heads that I'm the best cook in Tolo Harbor Zone (which, judging by how horribly I butchered Mac N Cheese from a box last night, I hope isn't the case) so I got assigned to do the turkey! I'm extremely excited, only slightly nervous, and REALLY glad my loving Dad taught me how to do poultry (sorry, Mom, there are no big paper bags to cook birds using your method), and that I've had ample chances to practice chickens and ducks!


That being said, let's have some Missionary-like words about Thanksgiving Day.

So, we all have many many many things to be grateful for, but this video put into perspective for me why I ought to be grateful for these things.

Ya see, I was taught to say "Thank you, Mommy", or "Thank you, Daddy", or "Thanks, Mrs. Wilson", whenever anyone did anything for me. However, as a kid I had no clue what at all went on in the world around me. The small home that was provided was indeed my world, and I truly believed that everything in it was for my own use, and all my needs would unquestionably be provided for, without hesitation. I was so unaware of how it all came to be.

Now, as a young adult, I'm starting to have that awakening, thanks to this amazing experience I'm having out here on my Mission.

I know how hard it was for my mom to keep an interesting amount and variety of food in the pantry and fridge. I'm painfully aware of how much it costs to replace a can of chocolate syrup that was supposed to last two months until someone drank the whole thing in one sitting. I'm aware of how long it takes to do laundry, and how expensive detergent and bleach are. I've had glimpses at electrical, gas, plumbing, rent, and repair bills, all of which are more than I can quite process.

I'm on the threshold of the oblivious world of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. The reality of providing is pressing upon me fast; I'm learning how much of a struggle it is to teach people the Gospel clearly, and can barely fathom the feat it must be to raise them at the same time. I'm more and more conscious of the pressure that's coming my way as I prepare to go home, get married, and have children.

And I am so excited to get there.

But I'm mostly looking forward to the 4 1/2 months I have left to forget myself, forget everything that lies ahead, and worry, ponder, and pray about the salvation of the people I teach. I'm glad that I have this time to be out here serving, and I'm more than happy to give up participating in the happiness going on in my family; because I know I'm doing something of Eternal worth.

That's what I'm most grateful for.

Elder O'Gara

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Letter Home #84: A Rough Week

Dear People,

It's been hard. All I know is that serious calamities are going down in the Philippines and I all I know is that they just got devastated. All I could read in Chinese was that there was death and raping, neither of which are things I like to hear about.

Thankfully, my mom sent me a news link saying all the Missionaries are accounted for, and the Church has cranked it up to 11 to get relief to those people. It's good to know that even though a lot of my friends who are serving out there were extremely distressed, they're all ready to jump into the Helping Hands vests and get to work.

It's been a great week here in HK. We had rain for half of last week (the outside edge of the storm that hit the Philippines), which brought back many happy Washington memories. I love grey skies better than blue, call me crazy.

We went to the Temple today, so time's a little short, but one of these days I might be able to crank out a high-quality sermon like my other Missionary friends send me.

Don't hold your breath, it could end up being a long time...

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Letter Home #83: Equivalencies of Time

Dear People,

I left on April 11th, 2012.

Number 5 told Dad and I that she was pregnant at our last dinner together on April 7th, 2012, or thereabouts.

Now, the aforementioned baby just had his first Birthday Party.

What is going on in America?!?

Really, I'm constantly shocked at how the time here moves so fast and yet so slow! In my head he's still not really born yet, even though I get pictures of him monthly (kind of awkward, now that I put it down in type...), and 19 months have elapsed from that point? 19 months used to be a painfully long amount of time, and now it's just about nothing? I realized that we're almost done with this move, which is insane!


We had a Parting-the-Red-Sea Status Miracle this week; Elder Mohk and I only had 2 hours of street contacting time on Thursday because we had Weekly Planning, a Lesson, and a Dinner Appointment. Somehow, in those 2 hours we were able to follow the Lord's guidance well enough to find 2 young men who were willing to sit and chat about the Gospel, and then reschedule us for another meeting! I'd yet to see that much success in such a short period of time!

One of the kids met with us at the scheduled time, and the other didn't show up (which is fairly standard for HK people), but I'm confident that both of them will find the time to meet with us again very soon.

The Work of God Continues, and Worlds and Lives Abound,
Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Letter Home #82: Oops

Dear People,

Blame my mother.

She sent me lots of pictures of my family, and of course I had to email them and tell them how awesome they are, and then before I knew it I had 4 minutes left to type this.

Things are going well with Elder Mohk; we're working hard on training and pulling out power statements (because it's a bit redundant to tell someone you're a Missionary when they can plainly see that you definitely aren't a tourist). For some reason part of the culture here in the China Hong Kong Mission is to tell people you're a Missionary, and I've never really understood why.

PingPongStar was baptized by his great uncle yesterday, and when he came out of the water he hugged Uncle, and then did a jumping fist pump and said "Woo! Oh Yeah!". I've never seen someone be so excited to be baptized (or throw so much water out of the font)! He's a great kid (he's two years older than me...) and I hope that he goes to Japan for the Olympics so I can be super proud of my Recent Convert.

It'd be a dream come true.

Elder JE O'Gara

Monday, October 28, 2013

Letter Home #81: Move and Monkeys

Dear People,

But didn't I just get a new companion?

I did, and we are still together, and we are still serving Tai Wai, but now we live in Ma On Shan. It's a nicer house, and only 6:24 farther each way and $3.5 each way, and I get to live with Elder Mohk's MTC companion; Elder Samoa, and his trainer, Elder... Smiles. Yeah, that about describes my new flatmates. I'm the only non-Utah guy in the place, which makes me feel special. I'm not sure why, I'm pretty much going home to Utah (except that southern Idaho has more potato farms).

And the other part? MONKEYS! I really can't get enough of monkeys, and now that I know that there are some so close to my chapel I might go finding there a lot! Not really; they live around an old (and abandoned, as we discovered) village and the nearby water treatment plant, so it's not a prime area for proselyting. They are super cute however, and this big male missing his right arm perched on top of a fence and glowered at us until we went away. I bet he's got an amazing life story.


Back to Missionary Work!

Yesterday the twins were Confirmed and Received the Gift of the Holy Ghost! I didn't perform the Ordinance (although I think I feel comfortable enough with my Chinese to try), but I did get to stand in the circle that laid our hands upon their heads. The Baptism was the little sister first, but the Confirmation was in proper age order... Not that anyone can really tell whom is whom. They gave me two little 3 inch tall statues; a clear snake and a blue duck, and said "Thank you, we're gifting this to you". I asked them who was represented by the snake and who was represented by the duck and they just looked at each other like twins do and said "Uh, neither? It's just a gift". Sometimes I read too deep into the meaning of things.

Earlier this week Mr Ping Pong Star got back from his tournament in Mainland (when I asked if he won first place he half scoffed half chuckled and said "Of Course!" in English) and passed his Baptismal Interview! His great uncle (grand uncle? I don't remember the English for it) will baptize him next week, which will be amazing! He's probably one of the funnest people I've met here in HK, and hopefully one of these days we'll get around to playing table tennis together. Is it a good sign that I can't find time to play games with my investigators?

The work is moving along nicely; it was pretty slow last week, but it's picked up now and is moving along quite well! We're still looking for more people to talk to every day; but I know they're out there, somewhere, looking for the Gospel. I just have to remind myself of what we say on the harder days;

Every time a Hong Kong Missionary hears "I'm Too Busy!", another person gets baptized down in South America.

It helps me sleep at night; knowing that someone out there is having outrageous amounts of success and baptisms.

Elder O'Gara

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Letter Home #80: A week of fun

Dear People,

This week Elder Mohk and I had a lot of fun! Suit Season has officially started, so until the Prophet addresses us again and the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is reconvened, we are a suit jacket wearing Mission! Now, don't any of you fret, it's forecasted to stay below 30 this week (and only hit 29 once!) [30 = 86] and the humidity is only going to hit 80%. Honestly, I feel glad for my jacket when it's the night time and we're contacting people; we get a fairly chill sea breeze off the Tolo Harbor.


This is my dog. I found him on the street and decided that he was mine. He was super happy to see me, which is another reason he's mine. He was too arthritic to walk the hour back to the Chapel (we took a bus), so I told him to stay there. We'll see if someone else has decided that he belongs to them when we go back to Kwong Yuen tonight.

This week we made chicken curry for dinner...

...and fried rice! Both were super yummy, and Elder Mohk is learning how to cook fairly quickly, I expect him to be a certified chef when he's done with his training.

That's about all for this week. There's been a lot of sweating, a lot of walking, a little bit of teaching, and a really good dinner last night that I totally forgot to take pictures of! Maybe next time, right? Let's hope so.

I love you all, have a great week, and remember to pray often; it's what allows God to speak with you!

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Letter Home #79: I Love General Conference

Dear People,

I loved General Conference, but first let me show a photo of what occured after the afternoon session on Sunday.

I baptized the twins! Elder Healthy was supposed to baptize the younger one, but, wait, who's that?

Let me introduce Elder Mohk! He's yet to have been a whole week on the Continent of Asia, but he is jazzed to be here! The bowl of noodles ended up mostly uneaten, but that's because I ordered them too hot. I think I need to let my trainee make more of his own decisions...

Our first week has been full of fun, including Amandine, french beans with almonds and lemon juice. There's also been crazy people, anti-Mormons calling us on the phone, and the usual fun that happens here in HK.

Elder Healthy went to Macau to open a new companionship there. It's the land of many dinner appointments, even more cheap buffets, and a lot of bus riding with little walking in between. Remember how I was whining about being fat? Yeah, that'll be Elder Healthy when he gets out of Macau in 2 months.


Now, back to General Conference, and the two major revelations I received that I'd like to share with all of my readers.

The first is the Age Change that happened a year ago (I was in HK at that time as well). I dreaded it. We'd have a bunch of idiot kids junking up the Mission, breaking all of the infrastructure we've built with the wards and branches here, being obnoxiously disobedient, and generally making the lives of us older Missionaries harder.

On Saturday, however, I was reminded of the principle that "The word of God is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to the wicked". That hit me with new clarity that it specifically refers to the Age Change. I had been showing my unrighteousness by showing my resentment, and had failed to remember the one thing that makes the Church so loved by some and so hated by others.

Our standards don't change.

The only difference between before and now is we've got 18 year old Elders and 19 year old Sisters. They are all still required to live the same standards of worthiness, receive the same preparation and training, and do the same work as us old fogies. They may be younger, there may be a maturity gap, but the work of God still requires people who follow the higher law as taught by Jesus Christ.

The second revelation I had goes back 8 years to a deep-seated uneasiness I've felt ever since I attended a youth meeting of another faith. At the end of the virtually universal Christian meeting of praying, singing hymns, and reading the Bible, we all sat in a circle and talked about our walk with Jesus. We don't talk about anything called that in the Church, and it threw me off. As the people with all complete and restored Gospel, oughtn't we to talk about this kind of thing?

We do, a ton actually, I just didn't realize it until I heard a speaker use the phrase "walk with Christ" in Conference this weekend. See, the kids at that meeting way back all those years ago in the sixth grade talked about how much they were drawing closer to Jesus, how much they were trying more to love Jesus, and a lot of other things focused on the Savior that we also talk about. The thing that threw me off, I just realized, was that all the talk was focused solely on Christ.

As Christians, we Mormons do focus a lot on Christ. Like the Book of Mormon says;

2 Nephi 25:26

26 And we talk of Christwe rejoice in Christwe preach of Christwe prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
Our Eternal focus, however, is God the Father. We know that we can only return to our Father through the Atonement of Christ, that only through His redeeming grace can we receive everlasting happiness with our family members, but we keep in mind that the Savior is not the ultimate goal.

Returning to the presence of God, with the help of His Beloved Son, is our goal, the purpose of our creation, and the reason Jesus Christ atoned for our sins.

Now I'm beginning to understand it.

Elder J.E. O'Gara

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Letter Home #78: Eighteen Down, Seven Million to Go

Dear Beloved People,
I am rapidly approaching my 18 month mark! I have completed an entire Sister Mission! My official fly-home day is April 18th, 2014, but I plan on hanging out in Mainland with my father for a few days (but I'll be home for my brother's 37th birthday party). I am so fat!

Last week I went on a hike all the way up (but not across) Ma On Shan! I still have blue eyes! And a cut on my lip!

I made traditional Irish style potato pancakes called "fadge" every day last week as kind of a "Chef's Challenge". They are delicious, and easy to make once you mess it up three days in a row! Y'all can count on eating them for breakfast if you ever spend the night at the Elder O'Gara house.

I also made a cheese cake for my flat mates. Keebler Ready-Made Graham Cracker crusts cost as much as a Supersize Big Mac meal, not that I eat a lot of either. It had the texture of cottage cheese, but was still tasty! Thanks to my mom for the recipe! I am so fat!

I thought that horseshoe crabs were endangered and moray eels were threatened, but you can order both at the restaurant where a member bought us brunch today, so maybe I'm wrong.

Regardless, I'm loving life, loving the work, and loving my time here in HK! I'm ready to "crank it up to 11" for the next six months, we'll see how close I get to my goal of 7,000,000 baptisms! I've already been asked to suit up next Sunday, so I'll send pictures of that with my next letter home! I hope everyone in the States, Mexico, Germany, Mainland China, Morocco, and anywhere this is read are happy and well!


Elder Jonathan Enoch O'Gara (and Elder Healthy)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Letter Home #77: The ID Card

Dear People,

Today we got Elder Healthy his temporary ID so that we can go back to the "DMV squared" status License Office in a few P-Days to get the real one. It's no big deal, and it is actually super non-convenient to lose the ID card here, so it's best that we get this taken cared of quick.

Quick Miracle Update!
Two of our boys fell off the face of the Earth last week, and yesterday they showed up for Church randomly! Everyone in the Ward treated them like celebrities, so hopefully we can give them new goals for being baptized. One committed to October 20th, the other isn't quite ready for a goal yet. Right now the Tai Wai Ward is scheduled to have 3 Convert Baptisms on October 13th, 1 on October 20th, and another on November 10th. The second boy who showed up for Church will also be in that time period, and I'm sure the Tai Wai Sisters will be able to find a woman or two that will want to be baptized during that time as well. I love Missionary work!

Elder JE O'Gara

Monday, September 23, 2013

Letter Home #76:Usagi means Bunny

Dear People,

I just lived through Severe Typhoon Usagi, a double-eyed monster that was the worst storm in 50 years. My rating?

Two thumbs down! Down on the Kowloon Peninsula (where my 13th story apartment is), she didn't really do anything! I've seen worse tropical disturbances. When I was doing the weekly call-in report last night my Zone Leader (Elder Gwo from my Missionary Training Center days) was legitimately afraid for his safety so he went into the bathroom (no windows) halfway through reporting numbers. The people out west got hit harder, but I'm not in contact with anybody in Kwun Tong, so I can't really report about that one.

Besides the weak storm, we had two special meetings this week! On Tuesday we had a Mission-Wide Leadership Training Meeting in which the 44 of us in attendance got 3 hours of time listening to (Elder) Larry Wilson, the Asia Area Seventy (the leader of Missionary work for all of the continent, except for Japan). It was really good, and I learned a ton about being a more Christlike leader. I took 3 pages of notes.

And if that wasn't good enough, on Friday the Tolo Harbor Zone and half of the Kowloon Zone (crazily enough, there were 44 Missionaries in attendance at that one as well) met with Elder Wilson again! I got 6 1/2 pages of notes from training we recieved, which brings me to almost 10 pages of notes for the week, not counting what I got during Personal Study. Not too shabby.

The most important thing I learned is that sincerity moves this work along, and sarcasm kills it. I'm afraid that I've been getting them rather out of balance recently, and it was good to be reminded gently that this isn't the work of Elder JE O'Gara, this is the work of Jesus Christ. It's easy to be Christlike when you're comforting a Missionary who's had a rough week or giving a blessing to someone that's got serious problems going on, but what really counts is the little interactions you have with people all throughout the day. If you don't instinctively do what Christ would, you're falling short of the expectation and need to correct your course. It's good to receive a reminder that my course is straying a bit, and I intend to act on it.

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Letter Home #75: The Tai Wai Day

Dear People,

So, some of you "dear people" have been wondering what a Tai Wai day is like. I've decided to be boring and regurgitate my planner into this post.

0700 Wake up, run to MacPhearson Park, run around, do push ups, run back home
0730 Eat Cornflakes with soymilk and cheap protein powder, shower, iron my clothes, get ready for the day
0830 Read the Bible, Book of Mormon, etc for an hour
0930 Talk with my Komp about the things we need to do that day
1030 Start Language study and throw my beans into a pot to boil so they'll be edible for...
1130 Lunch! Virtually always at our apartment in Mong Kok
1230 Go to Mong Kok East Station, catch the train up to Tai Wai
1300 Get working! We usually do "street contacting", where we walk around a place talking to everyone we see and inviting them to learn about Jesus Christ and our message. We average 2 lessons a day, which is pretty good.
1830 Dinner, usually greasy duck on rice, but I also like sweet n sour pork on rice and eggplant/ground beef sludge on rice. All three are pretty traditional.
1930 We try to schedule a lesson with someone and get a member of our congregation to help us out.
2030 Beep our card at Mei Lam Estate on the special machine that gives us a $1 discount for walking 1 KM to Tai Wai Station
2100 Get home, right records of what we've done today and schedule people for the rest of the week!
2200 Write in my journal, brush teeth, clean up my desk & living room, and if there's time I'll play a round or two of Chinese Chess. I have no skill or tactics, but I don't always get smashed. But I usually do.
2300 Go to sleep, prepare to wash, rinse, and repeat.

Today is Preparation Day, so we're going to see if there's anywhere in the huge Langham Place Mall where I can get a couple new white shirts for a not-outrageous price. Please, wish me luck! I promise to do something cool one of these days, and post photos of it. I've got a plan for 10 month that should be pretty awesome. October?

Elder JE O'Gara