Last 6 months of Elder Chong Woon Han's Chinese Speaking Mission in Manchester UK

Comments from Elder Chong's father :
This blog continues from the last blog post that started when he past his 1st year mark on his mission. It was created then as an appropriate half way marker but was also a practical need as the first blog post was getting too long to maneuver through the voluminous reports of his first year's weekly activities.

Now we find that half way through his 2nd year's report, an increased number of photos in his weekly mails has lengthened the blog to make it practical to divide again and create this new or 3rd blog post which would be a timely marker too as it will contain a report of his 'Last 6 months' of his voluntary full time mission of 2 years from the day he reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on 28 June 2012.

His Mission report to his family and friends continue...

Hello 2014!!!!
Week 80 (7 Jan 2014)

Elder Greenland and I have been having an absolute blast. Not only have we enjoyed celebrating the New Year, but we've been meeting a lot of Singaporeans in Manchester!
Last night was a special treat when we happened to speak to a Singaporean on the street, who told me that my friend from ACJC is now in Manchester! I got his phone number and called him immediately. 5 minutes later Elder Greenland and I were at Starbucks to meet up with my friend Ervine!

A very surprised but delighted Ervine
The New Year's has also been a time of much feasting, as I decided to buy some chicken wings with Elder Greenland. I threw together a marinade made of sugar, salt, black pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and honey. We left the chicken in the marinade for a few hours while we went out and worked, and then came back and put everything in the oven:

Happy New Year!
Our time of feasting also turned into a time of cleaning, because I accidentally spilled sugar all over the kitchen floor while making the marinade >_<

We don't have a mop, so I had to use dish washing fluid and a towel to clean up.

We also had a cookout with our Chinese friend. I did some microwave chicken wings and my favourite tofu and beansprouts dish, while she prepared some spicy beef and cooked lettuce with oyster sauce.

Speaking of food, Elder Greenland and I found a giant banana amongst the groceries we bought last week:

Two bananas joined into one!
Also, some great news! I managed to fix the watch that Mom gave me :)
After fiddling about with a lucky screwdriver I found in the flat, my watch is working once again! Hooray!

My diet's about to fly completely out of the window thanks to the delicious snacks Su sent me for Christmas:
Filling up paperwork is a lot more enjoyable when you have Pocky! Thanks, Su!
This past weekend Elder Greenland and I were also able to return to Liverpool to attend the baptism of August, whom he taught before transferring to Manchester:

 The trip to Liverpool was also a joyous reunion for me with Conrad, whom I baptised in Liverpool early last year. I was absolutely overjoyed to see him, because he just recently started coming back to church!

Also in the photo is Sister Loh, who will be completing her mission and returning to Singapore in February!
I also had the delight of solving an IQ puzzle during the past few days:

 I still have no clue how I did it though...

Remember this photo? 

Elder Greenland and I had a sleepover with 4 other missionaries from my District during Christmas and New Year's. We were allowed to watch appropriate movies during the time, so we watched Monster's University together. We decided to call ourselves the Oozma Kappa District! Complete with our own Oozma Kappa District caricature which I just had to draw:

Sadly, Elder Quaresma, Elder Pywell and Elder Noad will all be transferring to a new area this upcoming transfer on Wednesday, while Elder Chaproniere will be counted as part of another District from now on. (I'm staying in Manchester with Elder Greenland!)

Elder Pywell and Elder Chaproniere are a great help to the Mission, because they currently serve in the Mission Office. They help missionaries move in to new flats and also deliver parcels and packages, and basically take care of logistical needs of the Mission.

The Office Elders popped by last night to deliver an important document while I was cooking dinner
Just like the Office Elders, there are many people in our lives who work behind-the-scenes to help us. The greatest of them all is Jesus Christ, who died for us and atoned for our sins, and continues to bless, guide and protect us as we continue to follow His teachings. Let Him be the focus of our New Year's Resolutions for 2014!
And finally, for your entertainment, here are some photos illustrating the various uses of panoramic photo-taking with Elder Greenland's camera:

Sadly, (and obviously) I could not fit into the whole panoramic frame...
The photo below best illustrates how I see Elder Greenland every day.

Week 81 (13 Jan 2014)

This past week Elder Greenland and I have witnessed the flock of Chinese people heading to the libraries all around the university to study and prepare for their exams, which begin this week. Naturally, most people don't have much time to talk to us, but we've still found a few people who would like to learn more about God once the exams are over.

So with the exams just around the corner, Elder Greenland and I helped our friend Yellow Aardvark (name ridiculously changed) prepare for her exams by helping her go through her lecture notes to pick out key points and help her understand them better. It reminded me of my tutoring days just before I started serving my mission. Heavenly Father wasn't just helping me earn a bit more money then - He was preparing me to help out the university students I'd be working with in England! It just goes to show how important it is to develop skills and talents which we can use to boost the Lord's work.
Photos this week :
A view of Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. This was just a temporary set-up for the New Year. Nothing like the London Eye, of course.

Our dearly disbanded Oozma Kappa District (there's been a change in districts so all the missionaries in my new district are in the YSA Ward with me and Elder Greenland)

So I got new shoes last week! My left shoe had a gaping hole at the bottom, which was letting a lot of water in and getting my foot and sock soaked. And yes, the streets of Manchester/England are wet. I think a little bit of duct tape and some new in-soles will help the old pair of shoes last a little bit longer, but I got some nice new shoes anyway:

Hopefully they'll last long after my mission as I regularly switch between my new and old shoes for the remaining 6 months.
And now for some culinary delights...

Elder Greenland and I got some ready-made meringue for Christmas, so I decided to get creative with them - meringue with jam and clementines drizzled with nutella.
I also devised a new seafood rice vermicelli dish:

Basically it's rice vermicelli stir-fried with onions, mushrooms, prawns, seafood sticks and mussels. Threw in some egg at the end as well. All in all it only took about 30 minutes of preparation and cooking time (not counting defrosting the seafood of course). It was great! Next time I'll probably add some garlic and squeeze some lime over it as well.

This week (or next week) I'm probably going to attempt to cook Singapore Laksa using packet sauces. I'm organising a Singaporean/Malaysian night for all the Singaporeans and Malaysians I've met in Manchester so far in a few weeks, and we'll be having some Singaporean food!

Laksa Success!
Week 82 (20 Jan 2014)
This week I'd like to start my email with a photo of my dear companion Elder Greenland in the museum we visited after emailing last week:

We were also able to see the T-rex featured in the museum!

I wasn't sure what was more interesting - the T-rex or the conversation we had with the curator about Gnosticism.
Oh and guess what I found on Elder Greenland's To Do List in his Daily Planner?

A chocolate angel!

And about 10 seconds later.....

Yes, Elder Greenland loves chocolate. Check out his breakfast cereal:

In the meantime I've been having Weetabix with milk, honey and bananas... at least until this morning, when we realised we had run out of milk. So I made breakfast burritos out of some eggs, sausages and mushrooms and wraps. We, erm, forgot to take photos because we ate them in an instant.
This past week has also been a mentally strenuous one for me as I've been thinking hard about what to train the District on this week.

Hopefully the worn-out exterior of my Preach My Gospel manual sufficiently implies to you that I use it a lot in my missionary work. Because that's what I'm supposed to do.
Speaking of mentally strenuous activities, last week Elder Greenland and I continued to help out Yellow Aardvark (see Week 81) prepare for her exams by going through her lecture notes and extracting important information, and then tutor her. So in the past two weeks we've essentially taken a postgraduate module on Project Management, and taught it back to someone else.

I've definitely learnt a lot more about Management than I ever cared to know, but I did come to an interesting realisation: our Saviour Jesus Christ's example of leadership, as we learn in the scriptures, demonstrates the best style of leadership observed by management research in recent years. That's one more reason for us to trust in God's wisdom.
To finish, here are more photos of food:

The improved version of my seafood fried noodles. I used less oil and added some garlic to make it feel less greasy, and squeezed some lime over it. Mmmm.... During a visit to two Chinese mothers from Fu Jian 福建, I learnt that they make a similar dish in their province as well. I guess my Chinese blood is legitimate.

Oh, and I got to meet up with Jacinta, a former classmate from Singapore, last week! We cooked Laksa (a form of curry noodles for those who don't know what it is) at the Senior Missionary Couple's home to prepare me for the Singaporean/Malaysian Night I'm organising this Saturday.

Mmmmm... Success!

Singaporean Night!
Week 83 (27 Jan 2014)
This past weekend was an absolute blast! Our much-awaited Singaporean/Malaysian Night was held on Saturday evening, and we had a total of 10 Singaporeans/Malaysians (not counting myself), 2 Chinese, 6 missionaries, and 2 members of the Young Single Adult (YSA) Ward (from Spain and from the Philippines) and 1 member from Preston Ward (Siti from Thailand!). It was great!
My classmate Jacinta from ACJC in Singapore helped prepare the food with me, and we dished out an endless amount of Laksa:

Group photo:

One of the Singaporeans who attended had a very interesting connection to me: he was schoolmates with a member of our church named Margaux from Singapore, and while doing his National Service in Singapore he knew another member of our church: Michael Lee!!!! And then Matthew told me he knows Chris from his church in Singapore - Chris was my classmate in ACJC and is also one of my best buddies! The world is incredibly small! (or I guess Singapore is extremely small haha)
Speaking of a small world, does anyone remember Yan Ling? 
Yan Ling was taught and baptised when I was serving in Liverpool. She recently got a job in Manchester and needed a temporary place to stay.
Well, she and her husband are now staying with my friend Jacinta!

It's truly a blessing for me to be able to see friends I've made during different stages of my life get to know each other :)
On Saturday, Elder Greenland and I were also treated to a visit from Jason and Siti, whom Elder Greenland and I introduced to the church while serving in Preston over a year ago and have since been baptised. Jason was unable to stay for Singaporean night but Siti stayed for the fun :) Siti still remembers that the first thing I asked him when we met on the streets of Preston was whether he could cook Thai food. He had replied affirmatively and I promised that we would get together to cook, and I'll make some Malaysian food for him. Well, over a year later I've finally kept that promise XD

Elder Greenland, me, and Siti

On Sunday, Wang and Eva, both Chinese converts who were baptised in Liverpool, came down to visit Elder Greenland and I in Manchester, and they were able to join the YSA Ward Sunday Service. We then took them to see the new YSA building It was a real treat! They are such great examples of people who have truly been converted by the teachings and power of Jesus Christ.

 Now if only conversion was this easy...
My mission has truly been a process of conversion for me too: my accent is messed up, my waistline has expanded, my cooking skills have increased (which probably explains the earlier point), but most importantly, my faith in Jesus Christ and understanding of His teachings has increased dramatically! I am absolutely grateful for the opportunity that I've been given to serve our Lord for two years.
And now, to end off my email with some great news...
... Elder Greenland and I bought a vanilla-scented candle for our flat! Yeah!

Have a great week ahead, everyone! And Happy Chinese New Year in advance!

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!
Week 84 (3 Feb 2014)

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!
Elder Greenland and I have been very busy this past week with the much anticipated arrival of Chinese New Year. First, we buffed our nails...

The photo doesn't quite perfectly capture how shiny Elder Greenland's nails are, but you can kind of see it:

Many thanks to Jacinta who got us the nail buffer haha
We went to Chinatown last P-day to hunt for Loh Hei or Yee Sang, a traditional Singaporean/Malaysian Chinese New Year Dish that is far too troublesome to prepare from scratch by ourselves. We couldn't find it, but we happened to run into a few friends from Oldham! 
David Sham!

And Tingting and her family!

Chinese New Year is typically a time of reunion for both family and friends, so it was a real treat to start off last week like that!
Speaking of reunions, I obtained permission from President Preston during the week to phone my friend Li Hsing who is studying in Birmingham to invite her to the Chinese New Year dinner I was organising at the Pews' on Saturday. Li Hsing was unable to make it, but she informed me that two of our music friends are currently studying in Manchester! She passed me their details and I got in touch with Melvin, whom I knew through other music friends in ACJC back in Singapore, and Daniel, a music classmate of my cousin Ying Er in Singapore. I I almost could not believe I was meeting up with them in Manchester, of all places. They both came to the Chinese New Year dinner and we had a great time!
Funny story about Daniel... this whole time, he had thought that I was serving a mission in South Africa! Twice he bumped into Mormon Missionaries while on vacation in Spain and Italy, and both times he told the missionaries he had a Mormon friend serving a mission in South Africa haha! He was definitely surprised when he got a phone call from me in Manchester.

The Chinese New Year Dinner at the Pews on Saturday was a potluck, so everyone brought something to share.
 I prepared some Fried Bee Hoon (Singaporean Rice Vermicelli)

 Sister Pew prepared sushi-style rice crispies treats!

The ever-resourceful Daniel learnt how to make BA KWA (emphasis added) from Youtube! For those who do not know what Ba Kwa is, it is a kind of barbecued meat made from marinated mince, typically eaten during Chinese New Year in Malaysia and Singapore, and it is to die for.

Daniel and Jacinta cutting up his homemade Ba Kwa into bite-sized pieces.

Needless to say, the Ba Kwa was gone in an instant.
Melvin brought some classic Chicken Curry (no photo, unfortunately), and several Chinese students brought all kinds of different food.

As I mentioned earlier, Elder Greenland and I had embarked on a quest to obtain Loh Hei for the event. We weren't able to find it in Chinatown by ourselves, but during the week, I overheard two girls on the bus speaking in Singaporean accents. I struck up a conversation with them and they told me they knew where to get Loh Hei in Manchester! We confirmed it by going to the restaurant they suggested and we were able to order 2 sets of Loh Hei for Saturday. Yeah!
Daniel, Melvin and I setting up Loh Hei for the "prosperity toss", where everyone grabs a pair of chopsticks and lifts the food up as high as possible and drops it to mix the ingredients. As far as superstition goes, the higher you toss it, the more prosperous your year ahead will be.

Melvin helped us Google the Chinese sayings we were meant to say out loud as we prepared each ingredient that had a symbolic meaning.

Two prepared dishes of Loh Hei, surrounded by aluminum foil to ease the cleaning up later.

Unfortunately I don't have a video of the actual prosperity toss, but you can sort of see the end results in this photo: 
Bear in mind that we brought out the other dishes after the toss as shown in the above photo. Obviously, they didn't appear out of nowhere while we were doing the toss! (as much as I wish they did)
We had a good feast followed by some games, which made it the most memorable Chinese New Year celebration I've had on my Mission (possibly next to spraining my ankle while volunteering at a Chinese New Year exhibition in the Preston Museum last year)
Here's a group photo of all who attended:

No Chinese New Year is complete without fireworks and a feast at a restaurant. We met up with the Sham family to see the fireworks and head to a nearby Chinese restaurant.
Elder Greenland and I got stuck in the crowd and so we had to watch most of the fireworks from other people's camera screens haha 
Chinese New Year dinner:

Many thanks to the Shams for their kindness, as always!

All I could offer in return was a drawing that would hopefully bring them more customers to their takeaway in the year ahead ;) 

And now, more photos for your entertainment:
A new tie I got as a gift from Wang, a friend in Liverpool! 

This is what happens when your companion offers you an Oreo when both of you are at the desk, and because you haven't washed your hands you'd rather not accept the Oreo with your hands, but at the same time, you're too lazy to leave your seat: 

And this is what happens when your companion decides to toast an Oreo over the scented candle both of you bought together:

Oh yes, and here's a sequel to The Many Different Uses of a Panoramic Camera:

Owing to the many inquiries regarding my relationship with my Ukulele, which I carry with me almost everywhere, I wish to resolve, once and for all, a question Elder Greenland has been asked very frequently:
"Does he sleep with his Ukulele?"
Finally, a tip for all those born in the year of the Horse (including myself):
According to Chinese superstition, as I've learnt from various mainland Chinese friends, the year of your zodiac is typically an unlucky year for you. To counteract this, wear more red. Including red underwear, apparently.
Good luck.

Much Love,
Elder Chong 张长老

How To Put Your Bedsheets On!
Week 85 (10 Feb 2014)

This past week saw Elder Greenland and I cooking at different places. On Monday we went over to Jacinta's to have tea - we were treated to spicy food:

 Spicy fish and spicy green beans!

While finish the last bits of spicy fish I accidentally inhaled the chilli too quickly and had a rather fiery choking episode. No Heimlich manoeuvre was necessary, but much embarrassment ensued.
In return for Jacinta's kindness we helped her clean the kitchen:
Left: After wet wipes 
Right: Before wet wipes

Oh, and last week, Elder Greenland found something fun to do with the Ensign magazine:

I also had a funny episode 2 weeks ago when I accidentally left my missionary planner in the library. Elder Greenland and I went back to retrieve it, and ended up having a great conversation with the librarians, which led to us deciding to arrange for some Chinese cooking fun at the Pews last Tuesday!

The librarian and I preparing our dishes:

Here's a once-in-a-lifetime (according to Sister Pew) shot of Elder Pew taking part in the cooking!

I made stir-fried tofu and bean sprouts, and scrambled eggs with cucumber, while the librarian made a vegetable dish out of kale, mushrooms, fungus, ginger, garlic etc.

On Sunday, we brought Daniel to meet up with Jacinta to have tea. Daniel brought his Ba Kwa again (which was even better than last time!) while Elder Greenland and I helped Jacinta prepare a variety of stir-fried dishes. Jacinta then had us try out her oatmeal banana pancakes for dessert, which was superb!

In a movement to declare the freedom to cook and eat, Elder Greenland and I decided to take a photo of a Statue of Food Liberty: 

We had a great chat with Daniel after tea, where we nostalgically recalled the time when Ying Er and I revise for our A-Level Music examinations with him at our church Stake Centre in Singapore. Incredibly, he still remembered how he discovered, to his shock and surprise, that Ying Er and I chose not to study on Sundays because it is the Sabbath! Mormons are a crazy bunch indeed.

Notwithstanding our craziness, I have had the delight of being able to introduce our faith and church to a fellow Malaysian recently. Already a Christian, he was curious to find out more about the Book of Mormon and how it relates to the Bible. He has come to church with us for two Sundays in a row, and he can see quite clearly now that everything in our faith - our beliefs, our practices, basically hinges on our belief in the Book of Mormon as God's Word. It's up to him now to pray and ask God to know if the Book of Mormon is truly the Word of God!

To finish this week's email, I'd like to share a string of photos of Elder Greenland demonstrating how to put your bedsheets on:

First, you wrap it around yourself:

 Leave enough room for your nose to stick out so you can still breathe:
 And then follow what he does in the string of photos below:

Fighting the End of Chinese New Year Cold... with Ice-cream!
Week 86 (17 Feb 2014)

Chinese New Year for me in the UK ended with a bang indeed this year with 100mph winds, a cold (probably related?), lots of food, a baptism, and a trip to the Preston England Temple!

As some of you might be aware of in the news, England's been going through a rather wet and windy spell, particularly down south, where much flooding has been occurring. Thankfully, I've been safe - Manchester has not had any flooding, although there was a particularly windy day:

A fallen tree we walked past one night after supposedly 100mph winds swept through Manchester.
Elder Greenland and I should consider holding "The End Is Near" signs when we go a-preaching on the streets haha.

Notwithstanding the crazy weather, Elder Greenland and I have been eating well:

 Oatmeal porridge with sausage, ham, and 老干妈 Lao Gan Ma (a Chinese chilli oil), which was a rather delectably interesting invention of Jacinta's.

We had various other meals with friends during this joyful Chinese New Year season of reunions:

... including with Melvin from ACJC in Singapore!

We were blessed to have a baptism last Thursday!
 Ally, a university student from China with no previous belief in God, made many changes in her life as she began to realise the richness of blessings she was experiencing as she started learning more about God and following His teachings. After her baptism, she was invited to share her testimony of her conversion experience. She was a little nervous at first and expected to only speak about 3 sentences, but when she stood in front of everyone, the Spirit gave her utterance, and she spoke in clear English for almost 10 minutes! As she spoke, Elder Greenland and I realised that there were so many things going on that helped her on her path to baptism that we weren't even fully aware of. Truly this is God's work and hearts can be changed by His power!

A few days after Ally's baptism, the Ward organised a trip to the Preston England Temple grounds to let new members of our church as well as other friends get a glimpse of the Temple and also to feel the special spirit there.

It was a special treat for me to bring fellow Malaysian Nigel to the Temple grounds:
Nigel is still learning more about what Mormonism is and is finding out for himself if it is truly God's way for us.

Ally didn't miss an opportunity to pose against the strikingly green grass surrounding the Temple!

It was an interesting experiencing going to the Temple - we were driving in rain and winds and weren't sure if the rain would clear up when we arrived at the Temple. However, I turned to Nigel and told him that the strong winds which hit us when we arrived at the Temple would blow all the rain clouds away. Surely enough - they did! We were able to walk around the Temple grounds and take photos in a brief, dry interlude!

Following the trip to the Temple, Nigel took Elder Greenland and I to a Malaysian fair in Manchester, where I got some Nasi Ayam! It was nice to be surrounded by Malaysian accents after a long time :) 
That was my £3.50 Malaysian fix for the week!

Unfortunately, Elder Greenland, who has been struggling with a mild cold for the past 2 weeks, finally passed it on to me. Hence, I decided to fight it with ice-cream: 
You don't say no when a member of the church offers to get you some ice-cream haha!

And finally... transfers are happening this Wednesday! I'll leave you all to find out what's happening to me this new transfer when I email again next week hehehe...

New Transfer!
Week 87 (25 Feb 2014)

This new week marks the beginning of my 15th transfer of my mission in the UK! I've been given a new assignment this transfer to serve as Zone Leader with Elder Bytheway, whom I've been waiting all my mission to serve with!

Elder Bytheway and I have served in the same area but with different companions 3 times on our mission. We were both in the MTC at the same time, and then served in Liverpool, Oldham, and Manchester at the same time.
My first exchange with Elder Bytheway while we were serving in Liverpool almost a year ago!

We're both extremely excited for this new transfer ahead. We share a flat with 2 other Elders: 
Left to right: Elder Bytheway, Elder Yates (USA), myself, Elder Pjetri (Albania)

Today was our first P-day together so we had a quick photoshoot: 

This new transfer, we also had to say goodbye to Sister Amanda Loh from Singapore, who has completed her 18-month mission in the UK!
Sister Loh's first day in the England Manchester Mission

Sister Loh's last day in the mission.

So last week we had a couple of interesting things happen. I was asked to baptise Ethan, a Chinese student, on Thursday. I don't have any photos of the event, but you can see Ethan in the photo below, taken during an evening meal we had at the Pews':
(Ethan is the 2nd from the right)

After his baptism, Ethan bore his testimony of how his life changed when he made the decision to follow Christ. It was very impressive!

Elder Bytheway and I were also able to visit my friend Melvin, who had some pineapple tarts from Singapore for us! 

I've plenty of hard work set out for me for the next 6 weeks. All sorts of exciting things will be happening this transfer! The good news is that Elder Bytheway and I have a car!
Elder Bytheway will have to do all the driving until I get my UK driver's license...

We had a rather sunny day today, which is a rarity in the UK, so here are some photos:

Driving To The Rainbow!
Week 88 (4 Mar 2014)

This past week Elder Bytheway and I got to drive to a rainbow!

Elder Bytheway and I also got to show off our matching ties (we realised that we have 4 matching ties)
We forgot to take more photos of the other days we wore matching ties though.

We did happen to take this photo (showing off a meal that 2 university students cooked for us with only a microwave and a George Foreman Grill) 

We were also blessed with a trip to the Preston Temple last Wednesday! It was a long-awaited trip for me as I haven't had the chance to go to the Temple in a while. The trip was a time of much-needed contemplation and reflection for me, and I also had the pleasure of putting together a choir to perform the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in English and German!

The Choir - You can see me holding up the chair I stood on to conduct the choir haha. Sister Preston recorded the performance of the hymn, and I think you can view it on Facebook - search for a group or page titled England Manchester Mission 2011-2014 or something like that. The video should be on it.

Some other random photos:

Elder Pjetri (from Albania) had some fun waistcoats so we had a photoshoot 

More food photos:

Elder Bytheway got some early birthday treats from Sam in Liverpool! Peanut Butter & Jelly cupcakes :)

Today was also the grand opening of the new church YSA Building in the middle of the university area in Manchester! I've been waiting for it to open since July 2012! Elder Bytheway and I spent quite some time sorting out a schedule for missionaries all around Manchester to come and help with the open house.

The new chapel:
It has an organ that can play hymns by itself!

There's a great view on the top floor (the building is 5 storeys high, plus a basement for the baptistry)

And here are a few photos of the people involved in the Open House:

 And, to end off, a compulsory selfie with my flatmate Elder Yates (from Utah):

Happy 21st Birthday Elder Bytheway!
Week 89 (10 Mar 2014)

This week was a week of birthdays! We had a couple of Chinese friends who celebrated their birthdays this week, one of whom invited us over to have a cookout at his place
Mmmm... good 'ol homecooked Chinese food. The noodle-looking dish is 鱼丝 Yu Si (or "fish strands") which is basically a kind of noodle made of fish and flour. It is apparently a local delicacy from the Birthday Boy's hometown in 广西 Guangxi, China.

With the new YSA Church Building opening on Oxford Road, Elder Bytheway and I were super busy organising missionary-led tours every day of the week. We were basically in and around the building from 10am to 9pm every day, which was exhausting, but so worth it at the same time. Not only were we able to give tours to many people who were interested in learning more about our church, we were also able to meet members of the church from areas Elder Bytheway and I previously served in!

 Here's Oliver and Pete from Oldham who came to visit!

Amidst our busy tour schedule we did find time to celebrate Elder Bytheway's 21st birthday!
Elder Bytheway and me 

The chocolate cheesecake that the Pews got for Elder Bytheway on his birthday

On the morning of Elder Bytheway's birthday, Elder Yates, Elder Pjetri and I decorated Elder Bytheway's desk while he was in the shower. We think we successfully surprised him!

Elder Bytheway's mom also sent some Spiderman-themed treats for his birthday (Elder Bytheway loves Spiderman). So we had a flat photoshoot that night!


A day after Elder Bytheway's birthday, I found him quietly reflecting on his past 21 years of life as he wrote his thoughts down in his journal:

In the meantime I improvised a quick pasta dish for our lunch:
Penne pasta mixed with green peppers, olive oil, basil and salt & pepper and ready-made cod fillets (with a sauce that came in the packet). Mmmm...

As much as Elder Bytheway and I have been having lots of fun serving together, we're also facing what is probably our most stressful transfer yet as missionaries. We have 1001 things to do with the opening of the new YSA Building, an upcoming mission-wide Chinese activity to plan, various Church musical performances I've been roped into, and also our regular leadership responsibilities. We've been kept extremely busy and have been stressed out several times, but we each know that no other companion would be able to help us through a time like this. We're the best combination to do this! I know that Heavenly Father sends us the people that we need to support us during different stages of our lives and I am truly grateful for His wisdom.

Char Kuey Teow!
Week 90 (17 Mar 2014)

Elder Bytheway says hi:
He's a real looker, isn't he?

It's been an exciting week for me and Elder Bytheway! We've seen the weather change from sunny to foggy and back to classic grey English overcast skies. Talking about the weather really does get conversations going around here.

Our highlight of the week would definitely be the baptism of Fred from Ghana:
Fred had the privilege of being the very first person to be baptised in our new building in Manchester! He bore testimony of his conversion right after his baptism, and shared how, when he was a child, he had a dream about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. When he awoke, he asked his mother who they were, and wanted to know how he could join them, because he felt very strongly that he wanted to join them in the dream. His mother pointed him to Christianity, and after many years of searching and attending various churches, Fred has found the strait and narrow path back to Heavenly Father!

Last P-day we were treated to lovely sunny weather, and so we went to a nearby park the relax! 

Elder Bytheway and Elder Yates were excited to play some American Football. Here are some action shots:

In the meantime, I relaxed on our little picnic mat (sent by Elder Bytheway's Mom!):
(I still had some work I had to sort out in that pink folder though)

This past week was also packed with 3 exchanges, which gave me the opportunity to work with other missionaries for a day each and learn from them. We had an exchange with the Assistants to the Mission President on Tuesday:
Left to Right (according to faces): Elder Bytheway, Elder Debenham, Elder Cox, me, Elder Walker

I spent a day with Elder Debenham and Elder Walker, both of whom are amazing missionaries!

Right after the exchange with the Assistants, Elder Bytheway and I drove to Macclesfield, a half-hour's drive away from Manchester... 

... and we had an exchange with the Elders in Macclesfield!
 Left to Right: Me, Elder Lesueur, Elder Norman

At the end of the week I had an exchange with Elder Robinson, who replaced me in my previous flat and is now serving with Elder Greenland. I don't have any photos of that exchange though.

During the exchanges Elder Bytheway made sure to carry out our flat tradition, which is the photo-taking of every visiting missionary with the "Randy Hat" (because Randy sounds like a classic Redneck name)

Elder Bytheway just about died laughing when he took my photos. (apparently he thought I looked like a Chinese girl with the Randy Hat on)

And now for more food photos:

Elder Bytheway and I got a hold of some of his favourite Instant Noodles at a Chinese store, so we cooked it with some Gyoza and cod fillets 

We had some Pocky (sent by Su姐 for Christmas) for dessert!

On Saturday we met up with some Singaporean friends and I tried out the Char Kuey Teow (a kind of fried noodle dish popular in Malaysia and Singapore) recipe Shuan sent me:

The chefs:

Before and after adding the sauces in:
It was actually pretty good! I never thought I would even eat Char Kuey Teow in the UK!

Here's a photo of Elder Bytheway's maiden experience with Char Kuey Teow:

We ended the evening meal with a quick performance of our church's children's song "I Feel My Saviour's Love" on the Ukulele.

Some bonus photos of us Elders in the flat this morning, celebrating the commencement of P-day by dancing the "Cat Daddy"
We had a fun-filled week indeed, but to close, I would like to share an uplifting experience I had while teaching a lesson on Saturday:

We brought an Italian man named Outrageous Fossil (name ridiculously changed) to the YSA Building 2 Saturdays ago. Outrageous Fossil loved it and attended Family Home Evening on Monday, followed by Fred's baptism on Thursday. We finally had the opportunity to have a lesson with him on Saturday evening. During the lesson, Outrageous Fossil opened up and shared how he had previously been a staunch atheist, completely confident that this life was it and all he had to rely on was his own strength and ability. However, upon his arrival in Manchester, his life quickly took a turn and he has begin to question his own view of life and God. He felt lost, and began to tear up as he shared his feelings with us. He said that when we first met him a week before, he noticed how happy we seemed as we were talking to people on the streets. His heart yearned for such happiness and he is already beginning to find much joy through participation in church activities.

Elder Bytheway and I boldly testified to Outrageous Fossil of a loving Heavenly Father who truly cares for him personally, and promised him that he will be able to recognise and receive divine guidance in his life. The influence of the Holy Spirit touched all of our hearts in the room and Outrageous Fossil helped us close the lesson perfectly with a most sincere prayer as we knelt together at the end.

The experience with Outrageous Fossil was particularly uplifting for me because I had met several people recently whilst street contacting who had relatively convincing arguments against either God or our church. Not that my faith and testimony were shaken by their words, but such experiences were certainly wearying spiritually. It was most refreshing to witness the early process of spiritual change in Outrageous Fossil's life, to see his humility and desire to know God. I have felt God's love for all His children radiate through the missionary work that I am an engaged in and I know that His love is infinite and everlasting.

More Adventures with the Randy Hat
Week 91 (24 Mar 2014)

The plane is getting uncomfortably close...

We've experienced all sorts of weather this week, in case you were wondering about the weather.... the temperature during the day has probably fluctuated between 4 degrees Celsius to about 18 degrees. It's been sunny and rainy and cloudy all in one day a few times. We got hailed on during the weekend too! Just when we thought we didn't need our umbrella...

So, a funny story this past week... Elder Bytheway and I have been working with a girl who turned quite a few heads when she came to visit the church once. Elder Bytheway and I have been joking quite a bit about it since we're working in the YSA (Young Single Adults) Ward. Comments like "well, if she gets baptised she probably won't belong to the YSA Ward for long..." 

Anyway, she shot us a text the other night when we were driving. I told Elder Bytheway about it and read out the text to him. Just as I was about to ask him what we wanted to text back, he reached over to play a CD. At that very moment when Elder Bytheway hit the play button, Elder Holland's voice boomed:

"Someone once said, TRUE LOVE..."

We just about died laughing.

(side note: it was a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at a General Conference)

Now for more photos:

Elder Bytheway and I threw together some Japanese instant noodles, Gyoza, prawns and clams for a delicious lunch last P-day 

We were swamped with lots of paperwork...

 ...and I snacked in the car (bad, bad idea)

 Elder Vaquera (from Spain)

Elder Nunes (from Brazil)

Elder Bytheway...

 and Elder Evans (from Utah)

I had a great exchange with Elder Evans on Saturday!
You can't but have a great exchange when you're dressed like this (no, we didn't proselyte with our shades on)

Elder Evans is a great missionary who is coming to the close of his mission very soon! We saw many miracles during our exchange together. In one particularly memorable incident, some members waved at us across the street in Manchester. We went and spoke to them, and they bought us milkshakes! It was funny because we were in a rush to meet someone, so we had to drink the milkshakes on the way.... in the pouring rain with no umbrellas! They were great milkshakes nonetheless. It later starting hailing on us, which was interesting, to say the least.
Me and Elder Evans at the end of the exchange.

The other evening, Elder Bytheway and I got back to the flat after a long and tiring day. For some reason, he fell up the stairs rather comically, such that he was laughing. Being the fantastic companion that I am, I ran to his aid by grabbing his camera : 
You can still see him holding the carton of milk he was chugging

More food photos:

We made seafood pasta! Spaghetti with bolognese sauce and scallops, mussels, prawns, squid... mmmm


For breakfast this morning, Elder Bytheway cooked Bratwurst sausages with mushrooms and "Devilled Eggs", where we boiled some eggs, cut them in half, removed the yolk and mixed the yolk with mayonaise and American mustard, which was stuffed back into the egg white. It was delicious :)

In closing I would like to share 2 special experiences I had last week:

Two weeks ago we had a spiritually powerful lesson with Lanky Noose (name ridiculously changed) in which we invited him to prayerfully read from the Book of Mormon every day to help cope with the stress of university coursework. This past week, he encountered difficulties with a circuit he had designed for his coursework, and spent many hours researching and re-designing the circuit. During this stressful period, he remembered our invitation to him, and he began to read the Book of Mormon each day. He later told us that while doing so, he felt a calm feeling of peace and assurance come upon him, helping him feel that everything will be okay! He has now felt the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon and with that, he knows that it is God's Word. He seems so much happier overall and he is now preparing for baptism next month!

This past week I was also able to witness the power of Priesthood blessings. We had a lesson with a Enigmatic Eel (name also ridiculously changed). She shared that she had been losing sleep over arguments with her parents over her future plans versus their plans for her. At the end of our lesson with her, we were prompted to offer her a Priesthood blessing of comfort and counsel. She accepted, and we lay our hands on her head and proceeded to pronounce upon her a blessing from our Heavenly Father. In the blessing, we were moved by the Holy Ghost to promise her that her parents' hearts will be softened, and that they will allow her to make her own decisions. Within an hour after our lesson with Enigmatic Eel, she phoned us to tell us that her mother had just called to tell her that her father has finally agreed with her personal decisions! What a miraculous manifestation of the power of God's Priesthood!

End of Transfer with Elder Bytheway T_T
Week 92 (31 Mar 2014)

We've come to the end of the transfer! Sadly, Elder Bytheway will be leaving :(
You can see he's in the process of packing.

It's been an action-packed week and we've had all sorts of things going on. We've been busy teaching and sharing the Gospel, of course, but at the same time we've managed to have some fun in between, as the photos this week will show...

1. I made a quick illustration of how the Book of Mormon came to us for a lesson we had with someone

2. Elder Bytheway and I had an appointment near the airport the other night, and since we didn't have enough time to go back to the flat to have tea, we bought some pizza and ate it in the car while watching planes fly by ;)

 Elder Bytheway loves watching planes so it was a real treat for him!

3. I gave myself a haircut (and made a clementine friend)

4. The Elders in our flat (Elders Bytheway, Yates & Pjetri) came up with a game during lunch time - they took turns throwing a ball at each other and trying to catch it. Each time someone missed, he would have to do the dishes until someone else misses and takes his place. It was quite intense! Their expressions were priceless:

5. Elder Bytheway fell down the stairs laughing when he came upstairs and saw me about to purge the toilet

 6. We had the baptism of Kiri! (stood in the very centre)

7. I met Bishop John Saunders, who was involved in the organisation of the very first Mormon Branch in Singapore!

8. We had a missionary-led Chinese Activity! It was Easter-themed, and we had about 80 people attend it in our new YSA Building in Manchester:

The woman on the left in the photo below is Sister Preston, wife of our Mission President, President Preston. She definitely keeps him in line!

The Chinese Activity was also a reunion for me and some Chinese friends I made while serving in other areas of the Mission:
Nick, whom I taught with Elder Zavala in Preston back in 2012

The Wu family from Liverpool

Conrad! Whom I taught and later baptised with Elder Hawks and Elder Nelson in Liverpool in 2013. He had a funny story to tell about the scar on his head - he was carrying some pizza he had bought, and when he climbed the stairs he tripped. In an effort to protect the pizza, he sacrificed his forehead! I probably would've done the same ;)

Here's a photo of all the Chinese-speaking missionaries who got together to organise the event:

9. We took part in the Manchester Stake Talent Night (I played the piano for someone who did an interpretive dance).

One of the performances was quite interesting: 

10. I improvised a quick meal with canned cream of mushroom soup with spaghetti and quorn (meat-free) meatballs!

11. I had Ba Kua!!!! (Thanks, Jacinta!)

 12. We took a photo of all the missionaries serving in the YSA Ward.

13. Elders Bytheway, Yates, Pjetri and I had some American food at a tea appointment with a member of the church!
BBQ chicken, potato salad, rolls, and corn!

Not forgetting jell-o!

 Elder Bytheway loved this sheep:

 It was British Mothers' Day so Elder Pjetri (and Elder Bytheway) Skyped with their families

Here's a photo to make Elder Bytheway's Mom proud!

14. Finally, since we're at the end of the transfer, we deep-cleaned our flat today!

Stay tuned next week to find out who my new companion this transfer will be!

New Transfer with Elder Caleria!
Week 93 (8 April 2014)

We're on to yet another new transfer and I'm staying in Manchester! Sadly, Elder Bytheway will no longer be serving with me and has been given a new assignment elsewhere in Manchester (but not far away!)

Elder Pjetri on the other hand has now been transferred to Blackpool. This leaves just Elder Yates and I to reminiscence the fun transfer we had as a flat.

Last P-Day, after emailing, we decided to go to TGI Friday's!

On the morning of transfers I prepared a warm breakfast for everyone. Here's Elder Yates holding up his plate: 

Then on Transfer Day itself, we attended the Transfer Meeting, where all missionaries getting moved get togetherto hear a few words from our Mission President, President Preston. The 4 of us had been rehearsing the hymn "Jesus of Nazareth" (hymn #181 in the church hymnal). Elder Yates led us with his brilliant solo voice, while we taught Elder Pjetri the Alto part and Elder Bytheway the Bass part, and I sang the Tenor part. It took us a lot of work, but we were pleased to perform our men's quartet rendition of the hymn in front of a large group of missionaries!

We even wore matching ties for the occasion:

 Farewell, Elder Bytheway!

So this new transfer, my companion is Elder Caleira, from Portugal!

We're already having lots of fun working together. His ability to speak Portuguese and Spanish has opened up a new realm of missionary work for us!
We're all geared up for a great transfer ahead

The car selfies haven't ended either: 
Unfortunately, neither Elder Caleira nor I  have a working camera! We are now relying on Elder Yates' camera to take all our crazy photos. Thanks Elder Yates!

Since it took me a while to finally ask Elder Yates if we could borrow his camera, we didn't take as many photos during the week, so I decided to take photos of us shopping for groceries on P-day, since I probably haven't sent such photos home before.


So there you go!

This past weekend was General Conference, so we were pleased to have the opportunity to listen to our Prophet and Apostles speak. We watched 2 live broadcasts and 2 delayed broadcasts. Unfortunately, we missionaries were unable to watch the Sunday Afternoon session because of scheduling difficulties. 

Continuing the tradition that I began last Conference in October to help myself stay awake all throughout 4 sessions of 2 hours of sitting down and listening to people speak, I took notes at Conference again!


I particularly enjoyed Elder Neil L. Andersen's talk about staying true to our beliefs (which was similar in essence to Elder Russel M. Nelson's talk). Elder Dallin H. Oaks' talk on the differing roles of men and women in the church was also particularly insightful. I probably laughed the hardest during Elder M. Russell Ballard's talk, in which he recounted how the skills he picked up as a full-time missionary in the past helped him pursue and later marry his wife. Hurhurhur...

Comments from Elder Chong's father :
This blog post will continue in another new post earmarked to contain reports of the last 2 months of his mission which ends in June 2014. 


Hao Ran Lai said...

Hey every Han's family member,

I hope you see this. I have thought of many ways to reach Han, and his blog has brought me to this family blog. Thanks for linking me from over there. :-)

My grave condolence to the passing to a great mum, first of all. She will also live in my memory forever. I remember the scene where she served the food and I enjoyed one dinner with the family, a cheerful one.

I hope Han is doing fine, stronger everyday, reaching his goal and fulfilling his dream.

Things are happening every day and as growing men we often wonder what lies ahead of us. I guess we'll find out eventually, as our paths cross and diverge repeatedly. Life is a crossroad, I guess we should cherish the moment we are able to meet rather than feeling sad about being apart.

The town has been quiet since the emperor of the Han Dynasty left in search of wisdom. We ignorant peasants await His return to tell the story of his (mis)adventure!

Hao Ran

Hao Ran Lai said...

Oh by the way I'm happy to find out we share the same craziness in 'photography'