Monday, July 10, 2017

July 9, 2017: Last Transfer: Week 1

Hi everyone, 
This past week was pretty incredible. We had 6 baptisms in one weekend for the City Branch. Definitely a new record.
We found out at 10.45pm the night before the baptism that the Prospect chapel (where we always do baptisms) was booked for a wedding the entire Saturday. Then we found out that the Firle chapel, the next closest one, was booked at the exact same time we had scheduled our baptism. We decided to hold the baptism at Firle chapel earlier in the day. We had to let everyone know the change in location and time the day of, and then my companions and I raced over to the chapel to fill the font but couldn't get a key to unlock it until an hour before the baptism started. We started filling up buckets and dumping them in the font while the main pipe was pumping water in at the same time. Meanwhile we had to call all our investigators to coordinate rides for them to the new chapel since none of them have cars. And we had to ransack our own closets and the Prospect chapel for baptism clothes for 10 people. Needless to say it was one of the more stressful days of my mission. Coordinating logistics is so fun. 
The baptism ended up going perfectly. Some of the newer recent converts in the branch had the opportunity to baptize for the first time, and the whole program was fantastic. 
We (my companions and I) taught Scott and James, who were part of the 6 baptized that day. It's been amazing to see the growth and progression in these young men and women. They are all such incredible examples to me. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2, 2017

This last week was fantastic. We received transfer information last night: I will be with Elder Pickett and Elder Lam again for another transfer in the City Zone, my last one. By the end of my mission my longest area will be here, North Adelaide. I will have been here for 6 transfers: 9 months. This is my favorite area by far: I feel I've experienced the most growth in myself and seen the most growth in people here. And I feel like I've contributed more here than anywhere else. 
Last Sunday Chris, my friend (recent convert) from Malaysia who we baptized on my birthday, taught for the first time in Elders Quorum. He was recently called as an Elders Quorum teacher, a responsibility he felt was intimidating at first, but he gladly accepted the opportunity. Chris taught about baptism: what we promise when we get baptized, the role of witnesses at a baptism, and how to perform the ordinance properly. He smashed it (Aussie slang for "He did fantastic"). I sat back and reflected for a moment, just looking at Chris and thinking how far he's come. Chris was standing up front wearing the blue tie I gave him when he was baptized, energetically pacing back and forth as he taught, writing on the board, answering questions from the class. It felt so fulfilling to see him in the right place with the right people, enthusiastically teaching what he first learned himself not long ago. I look up to Chris--he's a great man.
I know not every person I've baptized is a rock-solid member; they have some development to undergo, just like we all do. But to see those I've taught who excel and rise up to become someone so much more amazing, confident, and brilliant than they were at the start--that's when I feel at peace; that's when I feel I've fulfilled my mission; that's when I know the time and sacrifices I've given have been worth it. That's a positive influence that will last long after I'm gone. 
We have 2 baptisms in our area this weekend (Chinese investigators my companions and I have been teaching) and the City Zone (the zone is made up of 20 missionaries) will baptize 5 in total this weekend. Our City Zone goal for the year is 60 baptisms, and we'll be at 25 after this weekend. That's how many the city zone had the entire year of 2016, but now we've done that in only 6 months. Light the fire! 🔥
As far as what I've learned the past few months: I feel I've taken on the role of a parent so many times. Ministering one-on-one to missionaries who are struggling, often to the point of tears--I've learned to understand, to love, to feel, even to shed tears with them. Those are experiences I never would have had without a mission. Without those experiences I never would have found my true self. I've been given opportunities to encourage people when they're at their lowest, to congratulate when they're at their highest, and to motivate when they're in-between. I need a lot more development myself as far as Christlike attributes go. I've changed even though I don't see all of it--it's difficult to see it in ourselves because change is so gradual, almost imperceptible. But I know I have grown. It's been such a privilege to serve a mission. 
I'll be bearing my leaver's testimony in MLC tomorrow. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere. It feels like you start off on this grand adventure: you discover new lands, new people, learn to conquer new challenges. And then suddenly, you find yourself in the last chapter, wondering what happened to the future, and then the storybook shuts all too suddenly. But I know it's time to move on. I have 6 weeks left and I'm prepared to smash it 😉 I'm not done baptizing yet. I'm not done teaching yet. I'm not done training yet. I'll be alive and awake here until the day I die, the day I step on that plane and cross over into a new life. I'm so excited to see you and the family when I get back. I love you so much. Don't ever forget that :) Have a fantastic week.

Elder Koch

1. Hot Pot. A traditional Chinese favorite. Complete with pork blood, duck intestines, and cow stomach.
2. Me with Elder Kuru, a missionary I trained. He's now a zone leader and will be going up to serve in Alice Springs this week.
3. Zone temple day
4. Recent Convert temple night

June 25, 2017

I don't have time to think about home during the day since we're so busy, always on the go, baptizing people, teaching people, giving trainings, talking with President about missionaries and plans for the City, and on and on. But recently, every night when I lay down to go to sleep I start to feel the imminently approaching future of my family, of BYU, of working, of dating for marriage, etc. I feel excited but nervous at the same time--like butterflies in my stomach. I've become so familiar and comfortable with missionary life--it's a world of its own--that imagining the future of being a normal person in a normal lifestyle is just so strange. I had an interview with President Parker a few days ago and it felt strange after I walked out and realized that the majority of our conversation wasn't missionary work, it wasn't the City Zone, it wasn't anything really mission-related--it was about college and dating girls. We also talked about who could replace me when I die and how important the Atonement of Jesus Christ is as a focus for the remainder of the foundation I've been laying for my life here. Next week I'll attend my last MLC (Missionary Leadership Council) where I'll bear my Leaver's Testimony. Far out, that's crazy. I don't like the feeling of of all these "lasts" but I look forward to the future. I know it'll be great. 
Anyway, here are some updates for the week:
We baptized Pisith ("Pee-sith") from Cambodia. He's here studying agribusiness. His story is really cool: Pisith first met missionaries in Cambodia and attended English Classes the missionaries provided there. He had a few Mormon friends and had gone to church with them a couple times. When he came to Australia, he first met the Elderson Rundle Mall (where we stand holding iPads and contact the people walking past us). I was on Rundle Mall when he was found, but I don't know who originally contacted him. 
Later Elder Pickett and I called a man named "Pisith" from the potential investigators we found on Rundle Mall. We set up an appointment with him over the phone. Later that week we met a man named Pisith on North Terrace (a main street in the city) and invited him to come see the visiting center. He said his name was Pisith and he already had an appointment there next week. Elder Pickett and I looked at each other and nodded with the facial expression of, "Truuue...". Pisith came to his appointment and we taught him the "Godhead and Prayer" lesson we've taught 5 billion times, and it went well. Nothing spectacular or incredible, but it was good. We found out he lived pretty far north of the city and I thought we were going to have to refer him to the missionaries up in his area since the City Branch was only available for Chinese-speaking people if they live outside the City. But Pisith started coming to nearly every activity at the City Branch--family home evening, English Class, Book of Mormon Class, and Church on Sunday. We talked with President Scott and President Parker, and eventually the decision was made that the City Branch would be open to all international students. We taught Pisith the remaining lessons, and due to some circumstances we weren't able to do his baptism interview until the day of his baptism, 30 minutes before it was scheduled to start. He passed with flying colors and was baptized by Shawn (a convert of 3 years) then confirmed the next day by Chris, a recent convert Elder Ruppe and I baptized in January. 
The week leading up to Pisith's baptism was one of the most stressful weeks of my mission: We had done our best to prepare him, but he got lost on the way to the chapel for his baptism interview but thankfully some Elders were on the same bus he was and they escorted him to the chapel. Then his interview was done the day of as we were filling the font. On top of that, our area (North Adelaide) has baptized every single month for the past 6 months, and Pisith was our last hope for the month of June since all our other friends on date had to be postponed. We needed to help bring someone to baptism this month. But he came through. I know Heavenly Father heard my prayers as I was feeling stressed out, asking for Him to help everything work out. And it did. Perfectly.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 28, 2017

My spiritual highlight this week was seeing our investigator Yuntao and Grenfell's investigator Jason get baptized and confirmed. One month ago Elder Pickett and I were standing outside the teaching center just about to go in to teach two of our investigators, Bryan and Chen. We had an appointment with Yuntao (a potential investigator then) the next day but for whatever reason Yuntao walked up to us outside and started speaking with us. He must've forgotten his appointment was the next day, but we thought we would just take him up and teach him with Bryan and Chen since he was here anyway. We planned to teach Bryan and Chen the Word of Wisdom, but we thought that wouldn't be ideal for Yuntao since he hadn't even been taught how to pray yet. We called all the Elder companionships in the city to help us teach Yuntao separately but none of them were available. So Yuntao jumped in on Bryan and Chen's Word of Wisdom lesson. We had two members there to help us teach, and all of the investigators accepted to live the Word of Wisdom. 
We sent Yuntao a message shortly after to set up his next lesson, and he responded back: "Sorry, I'm not interested in religion". A couple days later we were sending messages to remind our teaching pool about Church the next day. We thought we'd invite Yuntao to church also even though he said he wasn't interested. And he came. He met the members at church and he felt something different that he hadn't felt before. Ever since that day, we taught him the remainder of the lessons and his understanding grew as he applied the gospel in his life. He gained a testimony and became the most solid investigator in our teaching pool. And then he was baptized two days ago.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Forever Friends, Brothers in Christ

Chris, Lei, Lanhao, Peng, Elder Ruppe, and Elder Koch

May 21, 2017: A Handwritten Letter!

Teaching Center Tour

The Church's teaching center in downtown Adelaide where missionaries teach the gospel to those they find on the streets.  Complete with beautiful displays, artwork, informational videos, interactive iPads, and classrooms for instruction. 

Easter Celebration: Chinese Branch

The new City Business District Branch...Everyone worked together to put together a wonderful Easter gathering with a special message shared about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Mother's Day 2017 Skype with Family

Elder Koch shares some Mandarin phrases used while street contacting.

May 14, 2017

1. When you get sick, Elder Li is always there for you.
2. Chinese rice and chicken.
3. Planning action points and trainings, etc.

May 7, 2017

Yesterday Lanhao and two other recent converts received the Melchizedek Priesthood. I felt so happy and inspired to see how much Lanhao has progressed since we first met him. I still vividly remember the first day Elder Ruppe and I found him on the street. He's come so far...He bears his testimony of how he's received answers to his personal prayers every fast Sunday in sacrament meeting and he's always the first to answer questions in Gospel Principles and Elders Quorum. 
I look back on my entire mission and I realize Heavenly Father saved the best experiences for last. A reward always comes after the trial of my faith. 
We had 6 investigators at sacrament meeting yesterday which is an all-time high on my mission so far. We fasted this past week to be able to bring investigators to sacrament meeting, and it worked. We are preparing several friends for baptism on May 27th
There are now 5 Chinese/Taiwanese missionaries in the City Zone. Pretty soon, us white guys will be taken out of here haha. When I opened my mission call I never would have predicted that I would gain such an appreciation and fondness for the Chinese culture but I'm so glad I have. I'd rather come home with a Chinese accent than an Australian one. 
On Friday we had a 12-hour training, appropriately called "Boot Camp #3", where the assistants, President Parker, Sister Parker, and us zone leaders give trainings the entire day (besides breaks for meals). They gave us flu shots while we were there and of course I ended up getting sick (sorry for the brief email today, I feel pretty out of it), but alas, what can you do? 
Anyway, I will be handwriting a letter for the family which I'll probably scan and send via email like Dad did for me a few weeks ago. Hopefully you can decipher it. 
I love you Mom, and I wouldn't be the same person I am right now without you. I'm excited to see you on Mother's Day :) 

April 11, 2017

Transfers were this past Monday, and my companion Elder Ruppe, who I had been with for the past 4.5 months, is the new assistant. My new companion is Elder Pickett from Idaho. He's a great missionary--he loves to work hard, and he has a great sense of humor. I feel more stress now than ever before taking over the City Zone because there are so many important things to take care of. Our phone lights up with texts and calls like no tomorrow--you would think we were receptionists in a doctor's office. I have much more empathy for Dad now and I appreciate what he does on another level now that I've experienced a portion of what his life is like. 
On the bright side, we had a baptism of three Chinese people this past weekend. We baptized Sun (pronounced "soon"), another companionship baptized Francis, and another companionship baptized Aaron. Sun went up to bear his testimony after he was baptized and started out a bit nervous (his English is pretty basic), but all the sudden whips out of his pocket a piece of paper with a scripture on it and reads, "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." -1 Nephi 1:20 and shares his testimony of how grateful he was that Heavenly Father prepared and "chose" to give him the opportunity meet with the missionaries so he could learn the gospel. Elder Ruppe and I didn't even tell him he would have the chance to bear his testimony at the baptism and we didn't know he was reading the Book of Mormon that intently. We were very impressed. I'll get some photos of him from Elder Ruppe so I can send them to you. 

April 2, 2017

Drawings we do to explain the basics of the Plan of Salvation, Prophets, Apostasy, and Prayer...

March 26, 2017

This past weekend we baptized another Chinese brother named Jerry. Jerry is a hilarious Chinese guy in his early 20's who always makes us laugh. When we first met him, he was at a level 1/10 on the scale of being a solid investigator. He could hardly speak any English and he smoked 30 cigarettes a day. The first time he came to church, he had to step outside three times to smoke. We challenged him to be baptized in two weeks on the 25th of March. Right after we taught him the Restoration, we immediately taught him the Word of Wisdom. We brought Chinese members with us to nearly every lesson and they helped out heaps with translating for us and Jerry. Jerry cut down 5 cigarettes almost every day and in two weeks he had completely quit smoking. Right before he went in for his baptism interview, he handed me his last pack of cigarettes and told me he was done. I never thought I'd be so happy to hold a pack of cigarettes in my hand; I chucked them in the trash can with joy.
Jerry passed his interview and was baptized last Saturday. Lanhao, our recent convert, baptized him. After he was baptized Jerry said he felt peaceful, like he had nothing in the world to worry about. He said "Today is PERFECT! WAN MEI!" (wan mei means "perfect" in Chinese). He was confirmed on Sunday by our Elders Quorum President, Shawn Ye, who is also from China. I've gained a testimony of miracles on my mission. My companion and I talked about how we never would've expected that man to get baptized. But Heavenly Father has proven to me that even things I doubt He can make happen. He supported Jerry in giving up smoking--it was a challenge for him. He blessed us with members to translate for Jerry--we never would have been able to communicate without them. He blessed us with the opportunity to learn Mandarin so we could teach Jerry the little we knew in his own language. And He blessed us to meet Jerry on the street in the first place. 
I'm so grateful for the miracles I've seen here. I've experienced struggles and trials on my mission, but I went through them so I could experience pure joy in the end. I know Jesus Christ offers us peace and transformation through the power of His Atonement. I know the Church has been restored which gives us access to that Atonement. I'm grateful for you and the rest of my family who have shown me what happiness is. I look forward to seeing you in a few months. I love you!

March 23, 2017: New Chinese Branch

The opening day of the Chinese Branch was fantastic. There were 120 people in attendance (a good amount of visitors came, so the regular attendance will likely be around 80 in the coming weeks). We had sacrament meeting, and all of our recent converts participated in preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament. It's incredible to see how far they've come.
It was so hot in the building because we're still waiting for the air conditioning to be installed (we have one room with air conditioning), so we opened all the windows. Elder O'Riordan (a Seventy) came and spoke at our sacrament meeting along with Summer (our Chinese Relief Society President, in photo below), President Korte (our Stake President), and President Scott (our Branch President). Gospel principles class was 100% Mandarin, so I picked up a few new words. Occasionally someone will make a joke in the class and there'll be an outburst of laughter, and my companion and I will smile and look around thinking, What is happening? What's so funny around here?
Elders Quorum was in 100% Chinese as well; our recent converts are preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood this April, so Elders Quorum is Melchizedek Priesthood preparation class.
The members prepared lunch for everyone after church and we all had the opportunity to talk with the recent converts. During the lunch Jerry, our investigator who is working to quit smoking so he can be baptized this Saturday, came up to us and said, "This Saturday4pm. shi li ("she-lee" -- baptism). I will quit smoking."
I've seen miracles in my mission but never before so frequent and powerful. I've never seen change and transformation so powerful and bright as I have these past few months. Heavenly Father prepares his children but he also prepares us to take care of them. I'm so grateful Heavenly Father gave me the opportunity to witness Chris, Lei, Lanhao, Ian, and soon Jerry, transform from common men into priesthood holders who bless the sacrament and share their sincere testimonies in front of a congregation. Pure joy doesn't come from putting effort into ourselves but from putting effort into building our brothers and sisters. It is then that we see who they really are; it is then that we see who we really are. It is then that we realize what Heavenly Father has in store for us.
Elder Koch   

Link to Story:

March 15, 2017

We're currently teaching several investigators on baptismal date. One of them is Jerry, a hilarious college student from China. He loves to make jokes. The other day he came to sacrament meeting for the first time (he asked his boss to switch his shifts on Sunday so he could come, but he didn't set an alarm. He explained that he normally sleeps in late, but for some reason that morning he just woke up and couldn't fall back asleep. Heavenly Father doesn't sit back and let coincidences happen, he makes sure people get where they need to be :). When the deacons began passing the sacrament, he started looking around panicked, and whisper-yelled "What's going on?! What do I need to do?!" I tried to explain in Chinese what the sacrament was but I quickly realized it's nearly impossible to pronounce the tones correctly when you whisper. Thankfully I had my Mandarin language study notebook with me, and I flipped open to a page that said in Chinese, "We eat bread drink water remember Jesus Christ's Atoning Sacrifice". Jerry's face went, Ahhhh, as he said "ming bai, ming bai" (I understand, I understand). The whole scene was hilarious, and we still joke about it all the time. Jerry has been working hard to cut back his smoking so he can be baptized on the 25th this month. I have faith that he can do it, because I've witnessed the power of the Atonement in how it transforms people, and Jerry's countenance is already beginning to brighten. 
I'll keep you updated as we go; the City Branch begins this Sunday so I'll have plenty of stories to share next Monday.

Teaching the Plan of Salvation to Jerry (he insisted we get a photo)

Summer, our Relief Society President in the branch (she's only been a member for one year). She helps us teach our investigators all the time (and does a great job at translating for us). 

March 5, 2017

This past week has been great. Yesterday Lanhao received the Aaronic Priesthood. The City Branch building will officially open on March 19, which is the first day church will be held. We had coordination meeting there the other day (there's no furniture yet, it's still full of open rooms) and went on a tour of the building. We've been meeting with Prospect Ward until the building opens, but yesterday the City Branch members and us missionaries went into another room for Elders Quorum. Jax, a Taiwanese returned missionary, taught the lesson and 100% of the discussion was in Chinese. I could pick out a few words like "prophet", "apostasy", "priesthood", etc., but other than that, I felt like I was attending a church in full-on China. It motivates me to learn Mandarin more quickly. I'll most likely be here in the City teaching Chinese people until the end of my mission (President Parker likes to keep stability in the City Zone).
There are so many things I want to tell you and show you, but it's difficult with the limited communication we have. I hope the kids are doing well. How has Mason been doing in his teenage years? 
I'm glad to see you've been enjoying some cool hikes with Addie; I'm keen to come along when I get home :)
Thank you for the pictures--I'll upload some more today. I've been enjoying my mission more than ever these last 3 months: I've witnessed our recent converts baptize their brothers, recent converts give talks at baptisms less than 2 months after their own, and a Chinese Utah develop before my eyes. Yesterday two more young Chinese men were baptized--after their baptism, we saw a group of 10-12 Chinese recent converts walking out of church together, all baptized within the last 3 months. They looked like a band of Stripling Warriors, converted young men with bright futures ahead of them. We watched them walk away together and said, "Look, there goes the City Branch. We're living in a Chinese Utah." I can't wait to see what these young men do and how they develop over the next 5 months.  
I love you Mom! Thanks for all your love and support, you really are the best. 我爱你 (Or in other words, "I love you" :)

Elder Koch

February 26, 2017

I'd like to share with you the events of the past few weeks as well as my testimony of the reality of miracles. Four weeks ago we were walking along King William St., a main street in the middle of the city. A young Chinese man walked off a bus in our direction, busy looking at his phone, but he made quick eye contact with us and gave a little head nod, as if to say hello to a friend he already knew. He kept walking quickly in the opposite direction and we didn't get a chance to stop him. We reached the street intersection and stopped to wait for the light. After waiting for a minute, I looked around and saw the same man walking back towards us. It seemed he had lost his way but realized where he was going now. I nudged my companion and said, "Hey, let's go talk to that guy." The light went green and we crossed the street with him, and only had the chance to have a 30-second conversation. We invited him to our Teaching Center down the street and asked if we could keep in contact with him. He took my planner and pen out of my hands and wrote down his phone number and his name, "Lanhao". 
A couple days later we were walking around North Adelaide with about 10 minutes before 9pm, the time we go back to the flat. Street contacting at that time of night is pretty useless, so I pulled out my planner and saw Lanhao's name. I remembered he seemed like a pretty cool guy who would be keen to meet us again so we gave him a call and set up an appointment. Lei and Chris (two of our recent converts) came along with us to our first lesson with Lanhao. We asked Lanhao why he wanted to meet with us, and he said, "I don't really know, I just thought you seemed like cool guys and I wanted to make some new friends." In my mind I immediately thought, Great, we'll see how useful this turns out to be. 
Lanhao had no belief in God to begin with, but he was willing to learn. We taught him who Heavenly Father was, who he was as a son of God, his relationship with his older brother Jesus Christ, and how he could receive answers to his prayers through the Holy Ghost. The next time we met, we asked him what he remembered from the last lesson, and he said, "Everything." He then went on to give us the clearest, simplest, most powerful explanation of how he knows he is a son of God, a child of a loving Father in Heaven who loves him so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to set an example and take away our guilt if we ask forgiveness. He shared how when we pray to Heavenly Father, He will give us an answer through the Holy Ghost, who gives us thoughts in our minds and feelings in our heart to teach us what is true. Lanhao decided to be baptized on February 19th. After the lesson was over and we had said goodbye, my companion and I immediately dropped to our knees and said a prayer of gratitude, thanking Heavenly Father for sending Lanhao to us and for answering his prayers.
We continued to meet with Lanhao over the course of the next 3 weeks and taught him all the remaining lessons. Over the course of teaching him, we marveled at the incredible answers he would give us to the questions we asked--it was as if he learned things before we even taught them. I distinctly remember him saying in one of his prayers, "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending me to meet my brothers Ruppe and Koch. Thank you for teaching me your commandments. I will keep them so I can follow your Son, Jesus Christ and become a better person. I know the Church is true. I am excited to do my baptism and  make the right choices so I can have eternal life and live in the Celestial Kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Three weeks after we found him, Lanhao was baptized by another one of our recent converts, Chris. I felt the Spirit stronger at Lanhao's baptism than any baptism before--I felt incredible joy seeing Chris, a man who had gone through the same journey and was baptized and received the priesthood just one month ago, baptize one of his brothers. 
At the end of the baptismal service Lanhao shared his testimony. He shared how he had lived in Adelaide for the past 2 years and had never felt so alone--he hadn't ever been back to visit his family in China during that time. But when he found his family in the Church and learned the gospel, he finally found what a true family is. He feels excited for his future and wants to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of his life so he can receive all the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for him.

I want you to know that I have seen miracles. I have witnessed people change and grow more in three weeks than they ever have in the last 20 years of their lives because of the gospel. I have seen the light in their eyes shine brighter and brighter as they use the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no other path to greater happiness than the one Heavenly Father has laid out for us. I know Jesus Christ loves you and me; I know He lived and died, then lived again. I know He lives now. You are more special than you think you are: don't ever forget who you are or where you came from and what Heavenly Father has in store for you. His blessings are worth more than anything else this world has to offer. Not everything here lasts forever, but eternal joy always will. 

February 19, 2017

We had the best baptism ever this past weekend--our recent convert, Chris (baptized one month ago) baptized our investigator Lanhao ("Lahn-How") yesterday, and another recent convert named Peng baptized another companionship's investigator named Cale. I'll go into more detail soon, as President Parker asked me to prepare a summary of the baptism with photos for him which I'll send to you as well. 

​The big group picture--
From left to right:
1) Elder Salcedo, 2) Elder Ruppe, 3) Lanhao, 4) Cale, 5) Peng (Recent Convert, baptized Cale), 6) Chris (Recent Convert, baptized Lanhao), 7) Elder Koch, 8) Elder Chen

February 5, 2017

I hope you've been having a splendid week. Recently we've been having some interesting weather here in the summer--it's supposed to be blazing hot all the time, but one day the sun will scorch us and the next two days it'll rain. We got a leak in our roof this morning: Elder Li (the Chinese Elder in our flat) woke up from his dream of being in the rain to feel real water streaming down from the ceiling onto his face.
The City Branch will open on February 19th. The building (comprised of office spaces) is on one of the busiest streets in the City. In our new place we'll have church on Sunday, a new Teaching Center, YSA FHE, English Class, Institute, Games Night, etc. We'll have classes in both Mandarin Chinese and English at Church, and the branch members will mostly be Chinese/Asian students. Part of the building will be a place where the YSA can study outside of school throughout the week. Our branch president served a mission in Taiwan, so he's a great help to us and the members. We're extremely excited for the upcoming events. 
One day last week we came home at night to find 3 out of our 4 bikes were stolen. (Our front yard has a fence around it, but my bike was the only one locked up.) The same night our two most solid Chinese investigators who had come to church 4 times and were planning to be baptized that weekend sent us a message and said they didn't want to learn anymore. We were all so frustrated with the series of disappointments, and we felt like we didn't have much going for us. My companion and I prayed that night, asking Heavenly Father to help us make up for what had happened. We didn't know why we were experiencing so many letdowns that week, but we knew we had to humble ourselves and work harder to help those Heavenly Father had prepared for us. 
The next day, we taught our new investigator, Lanhao. The first time we taught him, he didn't have a belief in God, but he was willing to learn. We asked him what he remembered from the last lesson, and he said, "Everything." He then went on to give us the clearest, simplest, most powerful explanation of how he knows he is a son of God, a child of a loving Father in Heaven who loves him so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to set an example and take away our guilt if we ask forgiveness. He shared how when we pray to Heavenly Father, He will give us an answer through the Holy Ghost, who gives us thoughts in our minds and feelings in our heart to teach us what is true. Lanhao decided to be baptized on February 18th, the week the City Branch will open. After the lesson was over and we had said goodbye, my companion and I immediately dropped to our knees and said a prayer of gratitude, thanking Heavenly Father for sending Lanhao to us and for answering his prayers.

 6 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.
 7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.
-Jacob 4: 6-7

I know Heavenly Father watches over His children and does what is best for them. I know He is merciful and hears our prayers. Not one day goes by that He does not feel your needs, your worries, your happiness, your desires, and your hopes for the future. Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ are filled with a perfect love, a love so powerful that if we could all emulate just a spark of their feelings for us toward each other, the whole world would be full of light. Always remember who you are and where you came from. That simple understanding wipes away doubt from our decisions and uncertainty from our future. I know Jesus Christ lives, and the power of His Atonement is real. I have experienced it myself and I have seen His loving light transform others.  

February 2, 2017

Everything here is fantastic. The City Branch will open on February 19th, and we will tentatively be having 5 people confirmed the opening day. I have come to see how quickly Heavenly Father's work springs forward when we are all aligned, from the missionaries up to the prophet and Jesus Christ.
This week my spiritual highlight was teaching our new investigator, Lanhao. We met Lanhao (from China) on the street, and at our first lesson with him last week he said he decided to meet with us "because you were nice guys, and I wanted to make new friends." Initially we were worried that was all his motivation was, but we had both Lei and Chris--our Chinese recent converts baptized in January--with us at our first lesson, and Lanhao felt something inside when Lei and Chris shared their experiences. At our very next lesson, Lanhao decided to be baptized on the 18th of February. Lanhao was a miracle because a couple of our other investigators on baptismal date dropped us the same week. I know Heavenly Father always provides opportunities for us when others are taken away, because He knows who is ready now.