Sunday, February 23, 2014

Letter Home #98: The Man Called J.R. Holland (Part One)

Dear People,

Last night I went to a Fireside, a conference of sorts, with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as the keynote speaker. It was outstanding! He's a master of public speaking, and even though I was at a remote broadcast location (but still only an hour away from him), I felt so much power and authority in his words. He is truly an amazing person.

The best part, however, is that I get to meet him in person tomorrow! One benefit of being a Missionary is that lots of people take pity on me for being away from home, in a place where I can't read half of everything, and I've probably got parasites from the water, air, food, and living conditions. These people that take pity on me usually give me more food, but a two hour meeting with one of the fifteen most influential people in the organization I work for is just as good. I'll be sure to talk about it next week.


Elder Holland spoke for the 65th Anniversary of Missionary work in Hong Kong. He spoke of the early pioneers in the church from those times, and how all of us today are pioneers. Obviously it's in different ways; we don't wade through rice paddies to find people anymore, we don't build chapels with our own hands these days, and we certainly don't stumble across hidden villages in the jungle as often as they used to, but we are still pioneers in three specific ways.

First, like all generations of the Lord's people, we have been called to "flee Babylon", to leave behind the evils of the world, forge our path into the wilderness, and create our own bastion of virtue. In ancient times that involved leaving Egypt and wandering for forty years, but even Jerusalem fell. What makes us special today is that we have the call to turn against "Babylon", to fight it and to ensure that righteousness stands firm.

Second, we are pioneers because we live in the greatest period of time in the history of the world. We have the promise that our efforts will not fail, that we will succeed in establishing "Zion", the place of God's people, and that He will accept our efforts. We can take comfort in knowing that our homes can become strongholds of righteousness, places of safety against those who desire to bring us down.

Third, we are the first period of time called to prepare the Church to be recognized, endorsed  and accepted by Jesus Christ. No other group of God's people has had this challenge, and we cannot fail at it. We believe that Jesus Christ will come again to the Earth, and that He will personally require an accounting from each of us in furthering His work.

Hopefully the meeting gets put online somewhere so that you can hear his words.

The work is moving forward in Yuen Long. Soccer Star said the words "I want to be baptized" (the word for "want" being "要", the same character for "need"). He's scheduled for my last Sunday in Hong Kong, so it's looking like we're going to have a fantastic end to this chapter of my life. Dog Lady and Roommate are getting closer to baptism; we finally showed her in the Bible and Book of Mormon where it proves that animals do not burn in Hell (whoever dreamed up that false idea was an evil genius), so we're hoping we can give them a goal to be baptized. 

Overall, I love everything! My comp is great, my area is great, my bike is great. Everything is good. Let's just keep praying that I keep going strong and finish up with a bang!

Elder J.E. O'Gara

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letter Home #97: And Then There Were Four

Dear People,

When I last wrote there were five of us living in the Kam Tin house, serving the greater Yuen Long area, taking guesses as to who would be the new Elder coming in to be Elder Wong's companion...

Joke's on us! I am Elder Wong's new companion! Kam Tin, as a Missionary Area, is officially closed! There wasn't enough work going on in Yuen Long 1 and Kam Tin to justify having 4 Missionaries running around, so they combined them and gave me a bike!

I cannot express my elation! Elder Wong is super energized, and the cousin of some people I enjoyed being around in my last area, so I'm pretty dang satisfied with how my last move is looking. Good area, good comp, not too much leadership responsibility, and a bike! With the cool weather warnings coming up, I feel like I'm serving in America!

But yeah, my Mission is right where I want it to be, I can't think of anything that would make it better, and I'm just really really happy to be here today! With all the fun and adventures I hear about back home, I'm glad I'm doing something worthwhile that will help me become a useful and contributing member of the human race. 

If any of you have any requests for souvenirs, email them to me or send me a little cash in an envelope if it's an expensive thing. Also, you can stop sending me packages; I'm afraid if they get held up in the mail I'll miss them. I'm almost home, so if there's something you want to give me put it in a closet for 60 days. No, I'm not counting, but part of my subconscious mind is hiding a ticking time bomb that's going to explode my brain if I don't baptize thousands before it hits zero. Please pray for my safety and sanity.

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Letter Home #96: Shocked Disbelief

Dear People,

Last night I got a call from President Hawks, the man in charge of the 150 of us Missionaries here in Hong Kong. Here's how the call went;

Elder Salty: How do you say C-O-A-X?
*My phone rings*
Me: Oh crap, shut up right now!
Elder Salty: What happens?
Me: Hello, President Hawks, I am Elder O'Gara, how can I help you?
The Hawk: Hello, Elder O'Gara, are you on Facebook right now?
Me: No, Sir, I am not.
The Hawk: Good, because you haven't been authorized for that yet. Is someone back home doing Facebook for you?
Me: Actually, I recieved some additional revelation from the Lord instructing me to use Facebook for Missionary work.
The Hawk: Well, you might want to go back on that one (he chuckles).
Me: I asked my mother to friend my Recent Converts so I can keep track of them, so she's working it for me. Is there anything else I can do for you tonight?
The Hawk: Nope, just stay focused and stay off Facebook. Good night.
Elder Salty: BWAHAHAHAHA! I think that when you answer the phone you will die!

So yeah, my mom is trying to get me killed. It's like whatever, it's not the first time. [I am innocent, I always make it clear that it is NOT Elder O'Gara but his mother on his account! In fact some of you have msg'd with me on JE's account over the last year and a half.]


It was an eventful as stink week. [no clue folks, this is how it came] Elder Wong got sick for 4 days, and the day before he was scheduled to visit the Hospital; his companion got transferred to the office to be Housing Coordinator. So you know who got to go with him to sit in the E.R. Fever Patient Zone for 4 hours. Fortunately, I passed out and caught some z's while Elder Wong told Elder Handsome the story line of the entire Kingdom Hearts Series up to when Elder Wong left. And then he was in the exam room for literally 3 minutes. Fortunately, he's a local, so the visit only cost $100 HK (thank you, socialized medicine and taxes). 

But yeah, we didn't do a lot this week; everything is still closed from New Year, including every single Mom&Pop Restaurant in my area. The only thing I hate more than McDonalds is the fact that they upped the prices 50% on everything. These first world problems are killing me; I gotta move to Mainland.

But really, I might.

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Letter Home #95: Dragon Horse Energy

Dear People,


Dragon Horse Energy! It actually means "I bless you to have the energy of a dragon and the stamina of a horse for this coming New Year", but if the Holy Ghost is coming down in the form of a duck, I can say strange things too, right?


This was a super fun week! We went up to Lok Ma Chau, which I thought might be a HUGE waste of time (an hour by bus each way), but I didn't feel the Holy Spirit telling me not to do it, so I did what every young-twenties guy does and went for it! We ended up (on our way to the lookout where you can see Shenzhen SUPER clearly) bumping into an older gentleman sweeping up firecracker dust (there's buckets of it lying around everywhere right now). Our Mission President had encouraged us to talk less about the Church and just learn about Chinese New Year. We awkwardly started a conversation about Chinese Culture, and he invited us in, introduced us to his wife, told us that he's the Dean of Faculty of the College of Technology at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (the Mission President's old job back at BYU), and then invited us back on Sunday night for a dinner with "50-60 faculty and students"!

You know we went!

It was awesome! We did Chinese BBQ (think BBQ forks, meat balls, fish balls, cocktail weiners, pork chops, sweet potatoes, etc), and then for dinner had what sounds like "Poon Choy". They take a bunch of cooked meats, throw them in a metal bowl, and then, right before serving, boil it so that everything is painfully hot! We had shrimp and clam meat on top of pork and chicken on top of pork skin and mushrooms on top of Daikon Radish, all in a salty peanut-based soup. I'm DEFINITELY going to celebrate Chinese New Year with Poon Choy for the rest of my life!

We chatted with around a dozen people, all of whom were terrified of us at first and then warmed up, including an Australian guy who grew up in a "strict Lutheran town". I'm pretty sure he's here to escape the clutches of Christianity... Ha! You gotta go to Mainland China for that one, boy-o! But he was super nice, and told us how impressed he is with "you guys' language learning program". I wasn't sure how to not sound like a whack-o while telling him it was the Holy Spirit that made it work, so I just told him something like "well, duh, we live and work out here!". Which is also a big part of why we have good language.

That's about it for this week; the work was slow on account of New Year sending everyone to Mainland. I can't blame them, it sounds like an awesome place!

Elder JE O'Gara

P.S. The nice Chinese Lady in this video taught me Cantonese. She's actually from Hawaii, but she served in Yuen Long years and years and years ago. It's kind of strange to see her here in my record books, not gonna lie.