Mission Letters home from Elder Shuan Chong for Year 2

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His mission letters sent during his Year 1 on a mission can be read at another post from the top or bottom.

17 July 2017
Transfer 9 Week 4

Hi everyone!

We started the week with interviews with President and Sister Stevens. It was great to see them again just 3 days after zone conference. We were told to read a talk from Oct 2016 General Conference titled "Am I Good Enough? Will I Make it?" by Elder J. Devin Cornish. That's a question I ask myself a lot on a mission. There's a lot of responsibilities to fulfil and expectations to meet. Sometimes things are going really well and it feels great, but sometimes it feels like everything is going against what I try to do. It's in those challenging times when I really grow. It's no fun, but when I look back, I'm glad I went through it.

Being the fourth week in Luton, I'm starting to get used to getting around without needing to think so much of where I'm going. As such, I begin to notice more random things around me:

It says "LUXURY STUDENT LIVING". Elder Egger and I didn't think it looked very luxurious heheh.

There's almost every kind of name you can think of for streets in England!

We had exchanges again this week! We took a bus down to Dunstable. The bus took a special bus way just for buses

I just thought it was cool.

I was with Elder Stern for a day. It was really fun. He's from Canada! Till now I cannot differentiate the Canadian accent from Americans. Someone on the street managed to get it though!

 Here's another random thing we found:
Speed limit of 5 miles per hour!

We met up with the others for lunch at KFC. 
Where Elder Egger lives in Austria, the closest KFC is 6 hours!

We had a dinner appointment in the evening and the member brought us to a carvery. I've never been to one, but it was delicious, and affordable too! 
After dinner we went for free flow ice cream! :)

Hopefully I won't have to patronise this store at Dunstable... 

We found a really cool track in Luton this week when moving around this week:

The tall trees and green tracks reminded me of route marches back in the military. Can't say I miss that haha. I feel like I'm walking just as much if not even more! This time however, with purpose :P

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

25 July 2017
Transfer 9 Week 5

Dear all,

The week was rather interesting. We received an additional companion Elder Gato! He's half Japanese, half Italian, but comes from Brazil. He's called to the mission as a Portuguese speaking missionary but had to learn English. Along the way he has learned Spanish as well! It has been a blessing to have him here because we have quite a number of Portuguese and Spanish speaking people that we're teaching here. Here's one of them:

 We've been having a lot of fun especially during meal times..,

He cooked Brazilian food for us!

There have quite a number of members passing away in the ward recently. We helped out with a funeral on Wednesday. The member who passed away was 96! During the funeral I had the chance to interact with many of the older members who knew her. It was nice to see so many old stalwart members. They had endless amounts of lovely stories to tell. I really love funerals at church that are like that, a celebration of the life of the person. 

On Sunday, President and Sister Otterson from the London Temple stopped by our ward to speak as they had a meeting further up north. President Otterson said it would be nicer if we actually had more funerals at church. Not because we want more people passing away, but because it would mean fewer members becoming inactive before the point of their death. It would mean there are more people enduring to the end!

He also shared a few things about the gospel. He related it to how he loved to exercise and was doing a lot of aerobic exercises but not strength exercises. So he decided to start by doing push ups. He could barely do 1 push up and that was it! Rather embarrassed about it, he pushed himself to improve by doing increasing amounts of half push ups (on the knees) every day. It got to a point where he wanted to improve faster and he did more than he should which strained his back muscle and caused pain. 

He related this experience to our spiritual muscles. If we do not exercise our spiritual muscles, they will lose its strength. When we want to exercise the spiritual muscles, it must also be done gradually. We cannot rush it, it comes line upon line, precept upon precept (2 Nephi 28:30) He went on to speak about "Jacob's ladder" in Genesis 28 in which Jacob in a vision, sees a ladder from earth reaching heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. He said that each step in that ladder represents the covenants that we make. Each covenant we make lifts us higher towards not just salvation, but exaltation. Step by step we make it back!

We had a ward BBQ during the week, and guess what? It rained! But here's the solution...

And of course we ate indoors: 

After eating, they did salsa dancing as an activity...
We missionaries didn't dance haha. I'm sure it probably says somewhere in white handbook that we can't ;)

After the BBQ, they gave us almost all the leftovers! I bet we had to most packed missionary fridge in the whole mission!

 The weather right now is kind of weird:
Other than the rain from time to time, it's usually sunny but with cold wind. So, we feel cool, but get a little sunburned on the face!

With the rain and sun though, the plants are really flourishing... and thus the talents of those with green thumbs begin to shine. We visited one of the members and they were really incredible at gardening! 

That's a massive cucumber!

It's a lot of work to have such a nice garden! It really takes a lot of effort and attention. I think success in life is just the same. There's no short cut. It's just the same for spiritual things as President Otterson taught. However, I believe there are still tricks and life hacks that make it a little easier. For example, this is how the member avoids having to water too many plants:

The bottles hanging above the plants have holes that allow the water to drip constantly! It's cheap and brilliant!

Have a great week ahead!

Elder Chong

2 Aug 2017
Transfer 9 Week 6

Dear All,

Another transfer has gone by so quickly. They say time flies when you're really busy. Luton has proven to be such. The next transfer will be a 7 week transfer! We'll see how fast this one goes since it's actually longer haha.

So I've figured out that something to do in Luton, but it's in the chapel! We have a pool table and foosball table here! We played it last P-day!

Elder Egger was so good at foosball! We defeated the other Elders from Dunstable! :)

We have seen quite a few miracles this week! Here's one:
He walked into church on his own, seeking to be baptised by someone holding the proper priesthood authority! He already committed on his own to keep the Sabbath Day before we taught it!
Here's another friend of ours! He somehow got hold of one of the pass-along cards, went online and wanted to learn more! So he got our contact online and called us! The Lord is truly preparing people to receive the gospel!

Here's one last miracle:

It's the biggest rainbow I've ever seen! It's blur because it was taken from the car, while we were on exchanges in St. Albans!
I was with Elder O'Hare and we talked to many people on the streets. It was tiring but fun. At the end of the day we had dinner with a family from Italy:
 We had Lasagna! :D

I had the opportunity to cook for a family in the ward and their friends this week:

 I'm glad to say it was all finished!

It just so happen that most of the families we visited this week had animals:

Although the cat was pretty nice. I'm still a dog person :)

Here's another animal we saw in the library in town:

The school summer holidays are happening now so there are many events going on. I wish I could have gone into that inflatable whale like the kids!

One key thing I've learned this week is that faith is a choice when adversity comes. The families I've been with faced many challenges but they endured whatever came at them with faith! Not just faith in anything, but faith in Jesus Christ:

"12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." Helaman 5:12

I know that when we build our faith in Jesus Christ, we will not fall!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

8 Aug 2017
Transfer 10 Week 1

Hi everyone!

It has been a really packed week. We've been so busy but it feels really fulfilling.

On P-day we played Monopoly!

It was a special Zelda version which is pretty cool, but it doesn't change how intense the game gets haha. Elder Egger won in the end!

I'm still in a Trio and my new companion is Elder Birch from Florida! I wanted him to have a fantastic first day in the area but all of our appointments on that day got cancelled. To make it worse, we got caught in heavy rain unprepared!
There was a point where we just looked at each other and laughed at how ridiculous the day was!

Though it was a sad and wet start, the rest of the week was amazing!

There were many teaching and service opportunities throughout the week, it felt great! There comes a point when the people we teach aren't just people learning about the restored gospel, but also friends. There are many people prepared to receive the gospel, but many of them don't know it. It is such a wonderful feeling when they realise it though!

Speaking of friends, here's a highlight of my week!
Some friends I taught in London came to visit me! It is the first time I met them after baptism. There is really a difference! I was so happy to see them again!

One of the tasks we had for service was to clear this pile of rocks and concrete in a back garden. I have no idea how it got there.
But we moved stone by stone into a skip at the front of the house. Some rocks were so huge we had to break it down using a sledge hammer and pick axe!
It was tiring but we completed it eventually!

There's a lot of pressure to come up with good district photos right now. Here's one I like!

Don't have a lot of time to type more this week but will try better next week!

Elder Chong

15 Aug 2017
Transer 10 Week 2

Hi Everyone!

For most of my mission, week 2 of the transfers always seemed pretty jinxed. It would always be that difficult week for different reasons. It could be overwhelming rejection, unpleasant disagreements with companions, falling through of almost all appointments etc.

For this past week it was to do with planning and managing time. I wouldn't say I'm terrible at planning my time, but this week was really putting it to the test. Something I have always tried to work on is reacting quickly and positively to unforeseen circumstances that turn my plans upside down. In other words, not crying over spilt milk. Since it's not something I can choose to improve on at any time, I guess I'm grateful for the challenge that came this week that allowed me to grow a little.

So this is what happened: we were supposed to have exchanges with the zone leaders in St. Albans on Wednesday, and then Zone Conference on Friday at St. Albans as well. The week was planned out pretty will and all set, but on Tuesday, a member called up asking for help with moving homes. It was actually an emergency so we requested to move the exchange to Thursday instead. Thankfully it worked out! We were also able to move all of our appointments.

It was one of the most intense service I've ever done. We had to rush with the moving to save money on the rented movers truck. It was a family of 4 children, which meant a ton of stuff too! It reminded me of the time I moved from Malaysia to Singapore, from a big place to a tiny place. What made it difficult was that they were keeping almost everything! Somehow we managed to fit everything in. No photos of this because there simply wasn't time. We didn't even have time to eat lunch which made it really difficult as well. It reached a point where I simply could not lift certain things. It was strange feeling that much fatigue. The last time I felt that was in the army. After the service we rushed back, got changed and went for our appointments.

On Thursday, morning on the way to St. Albans, I thought all was well until I remembered a member was going to bring lunch to the chapel for us. >.< She didn't have a hand phone and to cut a long story short, I had to make many calls just to figure it all out. Finally I was able to begin exchanges with a peace of mind!

It was a perfectly sunny day on Thursday. I was so glad we weren't doing it on Wednesday because it rained ALL day. And as with a typical exchange there's plenty of finding, so I was spared :)

Something interesting that happened while I was finding with Elder Leone. We were having a conversation with a person, and a member walked by and helped us by bearing his testimony! We also learned that he was going shopping and needed help! He told us that he had been praying for help with shopping as he dreaded carrying the groceries up the hill which he lived on. I was glad to help him because he was so old. Many times while walking he would wobble and almost fall...
This is a picture with him!
He kind of has dementia which is really sad and also funny sometimes. For example, he used to have a car which he could drive down to get his groceries with. He does not have it anymore and tells everyone it was stolen. However, the truth is that he parked it somewhere and forgot where it was parked >.< I was glad to be able to help him that day.

Zone conference on Friday was amazing! 

We had the stake president from Northampton Stake share some ideas on how we can work better with members. Statistics have proven the missionary work is increases dramatically when members are involved. I think everyone knows that but it's just getting down to making it work! There were many powerful testimonies shared during the meeting. Perhaps too powerful... because the meeting was ending much later than I expected and we had an appointment! Thankfully we were able to change it to an online lesson which we started right after the meeting ended. Thank goodness for technology!

The same person we had the lesson online with was to have a lesson and an interview at the chapel on Saturday afternoon. I thought all was well until we realised that we did not have the chapel key. We had lent it to one of the members of the ward who was all the way at Chorley for the British Pageant. The solution was to ask another member to help open the chapel, but many of them were at the Pageant as well! Thankfully after many more phone calls a member helped us to unlock the chapel.

The final "hiccup" on Sunday was pretty cool. A former investigator called us, saying that he had went to the Chapel at Luton before but has since moved to somewhere near Manchester. Somehow he has gained a testimony of the restored church and wants to be baptised, and also have his cousin who he's living with be taught and baptised. In addition, he wanted his cousin in New York to be taught and baptised! The only problem? He didn't speak very good English and I'm terrible at understanding people on the phone. It may be small but I still feel that it was a miracle because all of a sudden I could understand him clearly on the phone and his situation. Eventually everything was settled!

What a week it has been! I think I'm actually improving as I never lost my patience at all during these hectic times. It would have been a completely different story if all this happened one year ago. I'm just glad I was able to do my best to help whoever needed help. I hope this week would be a little smoother! I don't want white hair so soon! :P

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

22 Aug 2017
Transfer 10 Week 3

Hi Everyone!

Many things have happened this week!

On Monday evening, we had a lesson with our Portuguese investigators. At the end of the lesson when we were about to go, they suddenly brought out food!
I noticed that Portuguese love to share food. It's actually part of their culture. My ward mission leader is also Portuguese and after he explained the history of Portugal it made a lot of sense. The oppression they they faced under a dictator in a way made them learn to take care of each other. They actually had a peaceful revolution in April 25 1974!

On Tuesday, we had to drop one of our investigators. He simply did not want to change his ways. It was a very pleasant last lesson where we agreed to disagree. I wish there were more of these than those of people ignoring us. Something I've learned from this person is the danger of replacing repentance with rationalising. He picked the commandments he liked and came up with excuses to not keep the others. I guess he's not quite prepared to change yet. We told him the church is always there, and that he has our phone number so he can always come back whenever he wants to make a change in his life. After we said goodbye, we watched him walk away... and lit a cigarette... :(

On Wednesday we had exchanges! I spent a whole day with Elder Yamada from Japan!
It was so fun to serve with him. He is full of faith and is always excited and positive about everything!
He got along with one of our investigators who's is actually pretty similar in nature!
You can see a little bit of our drawings to explain the different groups of people that were led to America that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. It's really so exciting to teach people who actually take the time to read!

At the end of the day, we were blessed with Costco Pizza!
The member who got it for us was truly inspired. She normally buys us 1 pizza which is more than enough. Somehow she decided to buy 2 when there were more missionaries because of exchanges! We didn't tell her there were more missionaries!

The day after our exchanges was interviews with President and Sister Stevens!
After looking at the photo, one of the missionaries commented that we're a super district instead of a zone. I found that to be rather true because we're quite few in number. However, we heard that there will be 32 missionaries coming in next transfer! Counting out the leaders in the mission, it probably means almost everyone will be training or follow-up training next transfer!

Here are some of the pictures I took on the train while on the way to interviews at St. Albans:

You know summer is ending when they start gathering in the hay into bales. I'm not looking forward to winter at all!!!

We had a miracle lesson after interviews as one of our investigators who dropped us last week decided to come back. To make it even better, his boss has allowed him to change his shifts so he could come to church for the first time this week!

On Friday, we had a lesson with another one of our investigators. After listening to his life story, it is difficult to not believe that God has led him to the church. He has been coming to church since February. He is waiting for the right time to be baptised... we're working on it!

After the lesson, we had to go to from the chapel to a member's home to do some service. There's another miracle there. As we were waiting at the bus stop, it began to drizzle. As soon as started to rain, a member stopped in front of us and told us to get in. We were saved by that ride! We were completely unprepared for the rain. It was totally sunny that day, and because of that:
Rainbow! :)

My most spiritual experience in the week was on Sunday once again. This is actually related to last week when we learned of a member of the ward who had a strong testimony of the gospel and lived all of the commandments which she knew except one, which was coming to church. What has prevented her is the severe social anxiety she has and it's the worst I've ever seen. We were given permission by bishop to administer the sacrament. She had not partook of it for almost 2 years and broke down in tears when we offered it. We did so, shared a spiritual thought and gave her a blessing. This week, when we went to visit her again, she was completely different. No longer depressed, but bright and full of hope. It was as if there was a glow in her countenance.

This experience reminded me of one of the people I taught a while back. During that time, I saw a gradual change in her which was amazing. This time, I saw an almost immediate change. Partaking of the sacrament renews the covenants that we made at baptism. It is as if we're being baptised again. This experience made it very obvious for me.

Ok, the final news is that our trio is now disbanded. Elder Gato has been reassigned to the Joao Pessoa, Brazil mission. This is what happened on his last day in the England London Mission:
Now it's just Elder Birch and I. It's kind of strange for me having been in trio for so long, but I'm looking forward to the remaining 4 weeks with Elder Birch in this transfer!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

29 Aug 2017
Transfer 10 Week 4

Dear All,

It has been a wonderful week! I cooked a lot more than usual, and taught Elder Birch along the way. I thought of it as an investment so that maybe one day he could cook for me! :)

The first thing I taught was pasta! We made a large batch which lasted us a few days.

We also made chicken curry from home:

 It wasn't kept very long :P

We had a tiny district meeting this week, as the zone leaders were not able to join us. It was fun though!
We figured out how to take a picture from above!

We began exchanges right after district meeting. I was with Elder Stern for a day. He's from Alberta Canada. He actually knows the other missionaries from Canada that are serving in the same mission! In fact, they all competed against each other in basketball! One of them is my previous companion from my 5th transfer Elder Bourne!

We had a lesson with our friend who was baptised last Sunday. Instead of us teaching everything, we had him teach us the Plan of Salvation!
We're so happy for him. He was confirmed on Sunday! We've been teaching him how to use the gospel library app on his iPhone and he loves it. He tells us of the things that he's been reading. He started mentioning some deeper gospel principles and we eventually realised he had been reading Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage!

Whilst still on exchanges we also did some service for a member. The difficulties that come with old age have prevented him from working on his garden, so we helped him out:

By accident, I plucked out one of their plants thinking it was a weed. >.<
It was an over grown low plant and so I thought it was a weed. I should have realised that because it was so easy to pluck out. There's a tendency for weeds to be difficult to get out and the plants that people actually want being fragile.

The district wanted something Singaporean/Malaysian so I made them Tau Yew Bak, or braised pork belly:

I did it in the slow cooker we have in the flat. It's so easy and effortless! I think Elder Yamada loved the dish the most haha.

Sunday was the best day of the week as usual. We actually had a miracle too! A young lady came to church on her own. She was actually the granddaughter of the member who passed away recently. After the funeral, she became curious why her Nan loved the church so much, so she came to find out and loved it! In Sunday School, the lesson was about the Word of Wisdom and she had actually quit smoking 2 days prior! We're excited to meet her again this coming week.

After church, we had lunch with some members and our recent convert:
The members had served in the mission office in the Scotland Ireland Mission about 5 years ago. They told us many interesting stories. They remembered many of the names of the missionaries and their quirks. The things we do and the way we act can really leave a lasting impression on others!

This past week, Elder Birch and I have tried to learn more about the lives of the people we meet. It was incredible. It not only helped us to get to know them, but also know how the gospel can change their lives. Many of them become much more receptive. One such was a lady we met in town. When we talked about church and a belief in God, she had some things to say and wanted to walk away. We then asked about her family and her a bit of her life. A whole new world opened up. We were invited to visit her and her family at her home a few days later. When we arrived at the door, we hear one of the children say "Mom, the bible bashers are here!". We could tell they weren't very keen to have us over, but we did what we thought to be right.

Later on the mom told us that her partner and children actually enjoyed our visit, which is unusual because her partner doesn't let religious people in. They actually look forward to us coming again! I am pretty sure they felt the Spirit!

Well that's all for the week! Here's something random I caught on camera at the chapel:

It was a spider spinning up a bug that got caught in its web. It was much like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings on a smaller scale.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

5 Sep 2017
Transfer 10 Week 5

Hi Everyone!

It seems to be getting slightly colder right now. The spiders probably feel it and are trying to get indoors:

The spiders here are way bigger than those at home. I sometimes worry they'll crawl into my mouth when I sleep! The place I've found to have the most spiders was in Cambridge when I was there a year ago. There were spiders everywhere! I almost always walked into spider webs every day.

Apart from the cold that reminds us that summer is ending, the hay fever is also a good reminder. Poor Elder Birch had to deal with that. We agreed that falling sick as a missionary is the worst thing ever. It's always a mental battle thinking whether you're really ill or being lazy.

This past week has been very dramatic. I don't even know how to put it in words. I've been reminded this week how much of an effect words can have. We somehow saw a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements happening in front of us. Many times it was because of differences in language and culture. Apparently it has been a concern in church and there was a video series made titled 'Unity in Diversity'. It was mentioned the September Ensign magazine titled "We Can Do Better: Welcoming Others into the Fold"

Having different companions from many different parts of the world, I've learned how much of a challenge it can be. The easiest way I've found to overcome it so far is by seeking to understand more than to be understood.

Something else that's been on my mind this week is the appreciation for the technology we have right now.
Travelling is definitely so much easier than before. As much as the busses here are rarely on time, at least they're still there.
 I don't waste time getting lost with google maps on my tablet.

Communicating with others is also very convenient! We had a short meeting as a zone via skype.

I would describe the facial expressions as "in a meeting".

There are of course dangers and distractions that come with the improper use of technology, as with any tools. (2 Nephi 2:11) There are restrictions as missionaries that prevent that, which I find is helping me to learn to balance the use of technology, and still keep my head in the real world. I was told that the virtual world tends to be way more fast paced and exciting than the real world, which leads to many becoming disinterested in the real things that are going on. For others, it is like a way of escaping the problems in reality. I'm definitely not perfect in using technology wisely, but I've been learning.

Comparing now and before, I'm learning to enjoy social interactions...
and taking pictures! :) 
 I finally got the chance to take Elder Birch up the hill to see the valley of Luton.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

12 Sep 2017
Transfer 10 Week 6

Hi everyone,

Sorry but this email is going to be really short!

Elder Birch and I thought of ways to include part member families, less actives and some investigators. We realised the common interest was sports. So we tried it out last Monday:

It went pretty well for a start, but we're thinking we should change it to another day as Monday is for family home evening.

The highlight of my week was being able to go to London for a day to attend a meeting!

I felt right at home along Exhibition Road and at the Hyde Park Chapel.
During lunch break, I got to meet some special people!
It is always a joy to reunite with friends I've taught, and to see that they're doing well!
I also got to reunite with a majority of those from my MTC district!
They were amazing at the MTC, and are even more so now!
Here's the rest of the missionaries!
That's my sling bag in the picture. Oops!

I've learned a lot from the meeting. It helped me to understand why we do certain things in the mission and how I can better use those things to help other missionaries.

The theme for me this week is service. I've learned a lot better how I can serve other missionaries. It's such a strange thing, the more I serve others, the happier I become.

Here's a little update from the kitchen:

We made rice porridge with pork meatballs! It was nice to have it for dinner during the cold rainy nights. That pot fed us quite a lot! Our purpose for making it though, was to share some with an adult member who had his tonsils taken out. It was difficult for him to eat anything after the surgery and was becoming malnourished, so I decided to share what helped me when I had all 4 wisdom teeth taken out at one go. He liked it so much he asked for the recipe! It's great that he liked it, because I don't have a recipe haha!

Every Sunday after church, we go out with our ward mission leader visiting the sick and afflicted. We've had many spiritual experiences doing so, and have seen many lives being uplifted. I never knew just how much a visit can mean to someone. Here's one of the members we visited:
It was special this week because it was her 80th birthday! She had invited us to her birthday party at the care home. She said it would be on Sunday so we thought it would be just nice since we visit her on Sunday anyway. It turned out it was on Saturday! She's does get confused a lot! But she was kind enough to save us some cake!

General Conference is coming so soon! I just thought of how incredibly sharp the Prophet and Apostles are for their age. That is truly a blessing from God. Speaking of which, Elder Holland will be visiting our mission tomorrow. We're so excited about that! Will share more next week!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

20 Sep 2017
Transfer 10 Week 7

Hi everyone!

It was a fantastic last week of the transfer! Elder Holland visited us on Tuesday. The Hyde Park Chapel was under renovation works so we used a lecture hall at Imperial College. Before the meeting began, we had to opportunity to shake his hand. During that time, I was playing prelude music on a keyboard. At the end of it, he came up to me to give me yet another handshake for playing the keyboard! He said "You get double" and "Good thing your mother made you practice!" He's so funny, but that last statement he made is so true. I wanted to give up playing the piano after the first few lessons when I was 7, but mom kind of forced me to continue. When I was about 14 and it got a little more difficult, I wanted to give up again, and mom revealed to me that all she wanted was for us children to be able to play hymns at church. So I did work hard to be able to do just that, but by the time I was able to play all the hymns, I was also able to play many of the songs I liked and ended up loving to play the piano!

Elder Holland spoke of the calling we have as missionaries. How we are like mini apostles. He said they cannot fulfil their calling without us. It is quite impossible for just 12 men to preach the gospel to the whole world! He said they see us the same way we see our investigators. When we leave an area, we hope that the people that we have taught continue to stay active. When we return home from our mission, the apostles hope that we stay active! He told us that we must never stop studying the Book of Mormon. In all his 29 official years as a general authority, and many unofficial years before that, he never once had to discipline any member that had been faithfully studying the Book of Mormon.

He then went on to give an amazing lecture on the Book of Mormon and also bore powerful testimony. In his candid way of saying things, he said if we were ever in the sound of his voice at the end of his life, the last thing he would say is that it is all true. We closed the meeting with hymn 131 specifically chosen by him.

It has been such a wonderful blessing to be visited by 2 apostles in such a short period of time. The one thing in common I realised is their emphasis on keeping our testimonies strong through studying the Book of Mormon.

Right after the meeting, we went out to take a picture as a mission. I don't have it yet, but this is the aftermath:
 I got to meet past companions:

 It didn't feel right not to take one with my current companion!
Many of my past companions are not around any more. It felt strange not seeing them around. I guess that's normal having served for slightly over a year now.

There were many spiritual experiences this past week apart from the visit from Elder Holland. The ones I enjoy most are those in the lessons with people we taught. One of my favourite moments are those when we find answers to questions from the Book of Mormon. It is so powerful.

For our last district lunch, we had fish and chips!
At first I was the only one who wanted it (I have been craving it for a long time), but somehow they all changed their minds and got it too. It was good!

In every transfer with each companion, there would always be something that someone says that would be stuck in our heads for a loooong time. For this transfer, it is "3 for 2 pounds strawberries!" In town centre where we talk to many people, there is a fruit stand and the fruit seller constantly repeats this phrase in a very unique way. His repetition eventually got to us and we decided to buy some!
It was 3 of those punnets for 2 pounds! So cheap! Basically they were clearing off the last of the strawberries! We enjoyed it so much. Strawberries are a special fruit to me. They represent mom's love for me. Strawberries aren't cheap back home, but mom would always look out for a discount and buy them when they're on sale. On evenings where we would stay up talking, we would make strawberry smoothies or slice them into heart shapes and eat them with vanilla ice cream... while the others are sleeping so they won't be jealous :)

It's too bad there are no more strawberries on sale, because it's the end of summer! I'm getting transferred to a new area in a new season. It's going to be great!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

27 Sep 2017
Transfer 11 Week 1

Dear all,

To best word to sum up the past week is 'turmoil'. It seems that whenever I start getting comfortable and settled with the place I'm at and the things I need to do, something will come and I have to figure it out again!

So what hit me last week was first, knowing that after Stake Conference back home, the boundaries for the wards have been redrawn and I'll be going home to a new ward. It'll be strange but it'll probably just feel like another transfer when I go home, only I won't be getting transferred out any time soon!

The other big news that came was that I had to move out of Luton to Canterbury, and I'll be taking a new missionary with me. Which means I'll be going to a new area without a missionary already there to help me figure out the area! It's scary but exciting too!

Canterbury would be my 5th area. It's always been sad leaving. I've never felt finished, whenever I had to leave an area. There's always so much more that I want to accomplish but I guess the Lord has other plans.

The last thing we did as a district at Luton on P-day was to go bowling!

 Here are our scores at the end:
I was so rusty I couldn't even get above 100. I'd say I did pretty well without my glasses though!

During moves on Wednesday, I met some special guests!!!
One of my previous companions and his brother were visiting from Germany! It really made my day meeting them!

I had to go to Hyde Park Chapel to wait for the new missionaries to arrive. This was one of the largest groups ever! I think it was 32 new missionaries coming in. That's the largest President and Sister Stevens have ever received. It was so huge that the Preston MTC (missionary training centre) could not accommodate all of them, so the 17 were trained at Provo MTC and 15 were trained at Preston MTC.

At our meeting at Hyde Park Chapel, there came a point where all of us trainers stood in front of the new missionaries and President Stevens would announce who would be paired with who. It felt so strange standing in front and being picked out. Slowly the group of us became smaller and smaller... and I couldn't believe that fact that I was the last one standing!!! That's when I really hoped the phrase 'saving the best for last' applied!

My new companion is Elder Miller from Salt Lake City, Utah! That's so cool!
We headed off to our new area right away!

Here's what we had with us...
The 2 of us somehow moved 6 suitcases from London to Canterbury during peak hour. At the end, I told Elder Miller "Never again!... if I could avoid it." We both noticed the stark difference of the people at London as we were travelling compared to those when we arrived at Canterbury. In short, the people at Canterbury are really nice and helpful! The moment we got off the train station, about 5 people told us where the lift was so we didn't have to climb the stairs.

Canterbury is pretty interesting. I was told Canterbury to the Church of England is like Salt Lake City to the LDS Church. I don't really know my way around much but will figure it out soon!

I'm out of time but here are many firsts of Elder Miller on the mission field!
First District Meeting:
 First dinner appointment with our Ward Mission Leader:
 First lesson:
 First service project:
 And first cooked meal!

 Of course it had to be something Asian such as sweet and sour chicken! ;)

I'm loving it here so far and hope to see great things happen here!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

3 Oct 2017
Transfer 11 Week 2

Hi everyone!

All I was looking forward to last week was General Conference it was soooo amazing! I'll talk a little bit more about it later.

We're pretty much settled in already and we did much finding and exploring at the same time this past week. We tried finding better routes to get to certain places and it didn't always work so well...
Things aren't always as they seem on the map!

We are also trying very hard to work with the members here. We tried stopping by some of them. One of them has a very unique interest...

Don't worry, it's an airsoft gun. i.e. it shoots little plastic bullets. However, one wouldn't want to be shot in close range by the sniper rifle I was holding. The member actually goes on skirmishes with a team!

Elder Miller also looked through the scope and made a remark "if only we had scopes that helped pick out people who are prepared to receive the gospel." I'm sure every missionary felt that way at some point or another! :)

Here's our district picture for the week:
The theme was eternity :P

As far as stuff from the kitchen, this is the best thing we had last week:
Fried rice! I haven't had a companion who hasn't liked it... yet. Haha we'll see! I could mess up one day.

We also had dinner as a ward mission team before correlation:
Everyone's happier in a meeting after having a meal. That's a fact. It's very different from ward councils held right after church!

Ok, last of the food pictures:

The priesthood brethren of the ward have a tradition of having breakfast together before watching the re-broadcast of the general priesthood session on Sunday morning. It was so good!

Alright, on to spiritual food!

I don't think I've ever enjoyed conference as much as I did this time. Many of my questions and concerns were answered and addressed. I haven't watched the Sunday Afternoon session yet but thus far there has been a recurring theme of service, sacrifice, and keeping our testimonies strong by reading the Book of Mormon. I really loved the Sunday morning session because all my favourite hymns were sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. :)

I loved the way a few speakers taught about light and truth, using the solar system. At this point, I feel that I am enjoying much of this light. As a mission, we've been studying a chapter or 2 in the Book of Mormon each day, and highlighting references to Christ and doctrines and principles. As small and simple as it is, it is changing my life, even on a mission. The effort to pick out those things alone has helped me gain so much knowledge and truth about the Savior. As promised by one of the speakers, the more we learn and study about the life of Christ, the more our faith and testimonies grow. I feel a greater desire to do good and forsake sin, and it becomes a virtual cycle! light is added line upon line, precept upon precept. Elder Miller and I watched some really good videos explaining light and truth right before conference. It's in gospel library-->videos-->Doctrine and Covenants Videos--> Light and Truth, Part 1 and Light and Truth, Part 2. Those videos made a lasting impression on me ever since I watched it 10 years ago in seminary.

As missionaries, we try really hard to help others receive more of this light. Unfortunately many are comfortable being in the shadow. But oh how amazing it is to see one slowly get out of the darkness! The only ones I've been able to help, were those who had humility, that were willing to try and experiment upon the words of God. (Alma 32)

I've come out of conference all in all, having increased hope, and a greater desire to be a better person. I pray and hope that everyone will feel the same! These are challenging and dark days, but truth will prevail! Hang in there!

Elder Chong

10 Oct 2017
Transfer 11 Week 3

Hi everyone,

This email is going to be short, but It's been a busy week!

On P-day, we kind of wondered around town. It's really nice. There's just old buildings everywhere, that it's kind of taken for granted. Here's the Westgate tower:
It was built in 1380!

We met up with some other missionaries too!
There's one street that is much like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. I'll try and take a picture next time!

On Tuesday we had exchanges with the zone leaders at Ashford.
It was a good day of talking to people on the streets. The people seemed to have good moods that day, probably because it was sunny!
At the end of the day, we had dinner with their ward mission leader, a recent convert and the sister missionaries in the ward. Talk about a missionary party!

At the end of exchanges. We always go through an evaluation. It's really helpful to stop and think what areas we can improve on. There's always something to work on!

On Thursday we had zone conference!
It was at Hyde Park Chapel and took a long time to get there! We had to pack breakfast just to be safe:
It was a strange combination of hard boiled eggs, plain bread and fruits!

Here's a picture at zone conference itself:
 I loved the training that was given. They always seem to be exactly what we need!

We've been trying hard to work with members in our area. So far it's been going well!

There's always a special spirit in members' homes. The most ideal for us missionaries is teaching in the homes of members. It's not easy to coordinate but it's always well worth it!

Sometimes it's not easy to get to their homes too...
But it's all fun! We enjoy every moment we can. When things get tough, we make the best out of it and move on.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

17 Oct 2017
Transfer 11 Week 4

Hi Everyone,

Last week was great! We went to do some sightseeing on P-day.

Here's one of the random ancient things scattered around Canterbury. It was near the train station:
There's now a small park behind those walls.

We took a train down south to see the White Cliffs of Dover!

 It goes down really low!
It was pretty dangerous because of the strong wind. At one point there was a really strong gust of wind that cause a few of us to nearly fall down. Good thing we weren't standing by the cliffs at that time!

It was really refreshing to see the sea after such a long time. We were pretty much at the south most part of the mission boundaries and could even see France!
 We ate at Wetherspoons after:
One of the highlights of the week was the 3 week meeting at London for the new missionaries. I told Elder Miller it would be the last time his group would all get together unless an apostle comes visiting again.

It's a massive group!

The other highlight of the week was a special broadcast throughout Europe where Elder M. Russell Ballard and members of the Area Presidency spoke to us. It was so good! One of the key things shared that I remember was gaining a firm testimony through studying the Book of Mormon, making the Sabbath Day a delight and how miracles have not ceased.

Elder Ballard shared his experience when he was assigned to bring relief to Ethiopia in 1984.  During that time many people were dying because of a great famine there. The church had gathered donations and Elder Ballard was sent with someone else for all the official stuff. Elder Ballard saw that they had brought physical relief through the donations but wished in his heart that the gospel could be brought to the people of the country. He found out that there was a member in the country and somehow managed to find him. The 3 of them had sacrament together the next Sunday in that member's home. They had a short testimony meeting during which Elder Ballard felt prompted to pronounce a blessing upon the land. He did so. That night, he prayed at 1am, pleading to God to bring forth rain. At 3am, there were thunderclaps heard. During the rest of the time he was there, it rained every day! He reminded us that miracles have not ceased today! He told us "Miracles come when we are on our knees and pray to know the mind and do the will of God."

There was one thing that Elder Ballard mentioned many times throughout his talk,  was to find quiet time to sit down and reflect on our lives, reassess if our priorities are right and if the things that are dominating our energy lead us to salvation. Life today is so fast paced and busy, setting aside time to do that is so crucial! I hope everyone can make the time to do that.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

24 Oct 2017
Transfer 11 Week 5

Hi Everyone,

This transfer is really short! It's a 5 week transfer. Also, transfers are now on Tuesdays so our P-days during transfer week are still on Monday.

We explored town a little more last P-day. We went up the Westgate Towers!

That's the stuff they had inside. We also went atop which had a really nice view fo the Cathedral and town!

 So there used to be jail cells in the tower...
 But some have escaped before:
 This is how high it is:
As mentioned, someone jumped off and landed in a hay cart which helped him survive. I think that idea was used in a computer game called "Assassin's Creed"

If you noticed, we were wearing short sleeves that day. It was abnormally warm! We were told it was due to pollution from a storm that hit a nearby country, and fires in another country, and somehow the wind brought it all here. We had red sun in the evening:
The rest of the days were all pretty different. The worst was on Saturday where it was super windy and rain on and off throughout the day. We did catch a rainbow though:
There were many miracles with talking to people on the streets the past week. One of them even came to church! We've also been working with less actives and we're beginning to see some fruit from our labours. A member came back for the first time in over 20 years! She may not have noticed it, but I certainly saw a small change in her countenance at the end of church. We're really hoping to see things move forward this next transfer! Unfortunately, Elder Miller will be moving out and I'll be receiving a new companion. 5 Weeks is a really short time but I've really enjoyed it!

I'm out of time right now, but have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

P.S. We were walking home one night and there were fire works!

31 Oct 2017
Transfer 12 Week 1

Hi Everyone!

Being Elder Miller's last P-Day in Canterbury, we had to be sure to go to the Cathedral! 

The Cathedral was massive! I can't put all the photos here. I felt like I was visiting Hogwarts! That's one of the fantasy worlds I'd like to live in!
We were quite lucky as during the time of our visit, there was a choir practicing along with an organ. It was really nice.
A lady inside the Cathedral explained to us that the Cathedral, as well as all the old churches around Kent were built by Catholics, but are now owned by the Anglican Church. She even went on to describe how they took over... which I would not like to describe here.

We also had Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults in the ward. All of them who attended were recent converts! They're amazing people!
I took charge of the games and decided to play werewolf (something like mafia but better). It was so fun!!! It reminded me of the crazy rounds I had playing that with family.

So with transfers, this is our previous district...
 ...and here's our new district with the zone leaders!
We have Sister Ikavesa from Tonga! And my new companion Elder Örtegren from Denmark!

Here's one my favourite photos with Elder Örtegren so far:
Bringing spiritual healing to all in Canterbury! :P

What's great about Elder Örtegren? Everything! He's so brilliant and talented! He plays the piano by ear which is insane to me. He's my personal jukebox now heheh. One of the best things is well, is that he also cooks! Healthy too!
 This is compared to what I made:

My winter cravings are coming back. I really wanted to have soupy instant noodles!

We received a referral during the week and set out on what I'd like to call a side quest. The couple lived in our perspective, in the middle of nowhere!

It was nice to take a bus out of town and see the rest of our area though.

On a more spiritual note, we've had one of the best conversations I've ever had on the street last week. This person had a ton of questions and we somehow were able to answer all of them using the Book of Mormon, in a non-bashful way. He really liked the way we answered his questions, and agreed to meet up again, and he also came to church!

We've been focusing a lot as a district on being familiar with the Book of Mormon and using it to help the people we teach. All of us missionaries were asked to speak on Sunday, and I decided to speak about the Book of Mormon. I shared how I gained my testimony that it is true, and I'll share it here:

When I was about 15 years old, I was determined to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning till the end on my own. I was a pretty slow reader, and also had many distractions as a teenager. However, after about a year, I finally did it. (Yes, I did get through 2 Nephi.) 

I came to the last chapter where Moroni was about to seal up the records, but before he did, he left a promise to all who would read the book. He said:

"2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

Growing up in the church, I had heard many people mention the miraculous answers they have received. I wanted some sort of special experience myself, and so after reading that last chapter, I got on my knees and prayed, as sincerely as I could. I did not feel anything spectacular or out of the ordinary. I tried waiting a little longer, but still didn't feel like I received an answer I was expecting.

Eventually I did receive an answer. I cannot remember how long it took. But I will never forget the distinct impression I received that I knew to be the answer. I probably continued on reading in doctrine and covenants, and came across a verse early on in section 6 which reads:

"D&C 6:23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?"

When I read this verse, I began to think back on how I felt as I was reading the Book of Mormon. Peace was the best word to describe it. At that moment, I realised what God was trying to tell me; that as I was reading the Book of Mormon, I already knew it was true. I did not need a greater witness.

I'm grateful to be able to receive answers to prayers. Knowing that the Book of Mormon is the word of God has helped me build my faith in Jesus Christ, and know that He is our Saviour and Redeemer. The coming forth of the book is in itself a prophesy fulfilled, and I know that we can always trust in the Lord no matter how dark life may seem to get at times. For everything that He says will be fulfilled, even the triumph of good over evil.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

7 Nov 2017

Transfer 12 Week 2

Hi Everyone!

Ah, it was a rocky week, many ups and downs, but still fulfilling!

I find that the instant comfort I get as a missionary often comes from food haha. At our flat right now, the closest place to shop is LIDL. The fun thing about shopping there is every week, there will be 4 fresh foods and 4 meats that go really cheap. So Elder Örtegren and I would get those things and take up the challenge of making a meal out of it. Elder Örtegren is full of surprises. I just found out his mom is a chef and so he's picked up some pretty neat cooking skills. We bought some pork and minced beef last week that were on sale. He cooked the pork and here's what he made:
I'm blessed! :)

I cooked the minced beef and tried out lasagna for the first time!
It was...alright. Haha.

We got to have a meal with our ward mission leader:
 We discovered a weighing scale at his place!!!
That was before the meal. After was much higher! ;)

Here's our district meeting picture for the week...
I'm seriously out of ideas!

Here's the lowest point of the week:
We got caught in the rain :( All's good though! We haven't caught a cold!

It think the highlight for me was Sunday. I felt kind of exhausted from the week but really felt renewed after church. Elder Örtegren and I got to know one of the members much better. She basically shared her life story, which was full of challenges and many tragedies. However, as she faithfully kept going on, there were also many incredible miracles in her life. Those miracles and blessings only came as she stayed true to her faith and did her very best. It made me think of what if there were challenges in my life and I just gave up halfway through, I'd probably be losing out on blessings! That's my food for thought for the week.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

15 Nov 2017

Transfer 12 Week 3

Hi Everyone!

The past week has been filled with so much fun and excitement! My P-day is on Tuesday because we had interviews on Monday. Hence the later email.

We had an amazing zone conference last Tuesday!
I was quite surprised I actually knew a majority of the missionaries. It helps me not to feel so old in the mission haha. Sister Stevens was not able to join us this time. It felt so different!

Here's our zone on its own during a breakout session:

 It was also nice to be with my buddies from the MTC!
The day after zone conference was my birthday! It was actually a pretty packed day, so we didn't do anything particularly special. However, I did get 2 birthday cakes! First was during ward coordination meeting:

When we went back to the flat in the evening, another member stopped by and gave another red velvet cake! So much sugar haha!
I didn't have time to do a special dinner or anything, but I did have some serious craving for soup, so I just quickly made some:

 Since Tuesday was zone conference, I was also able to receive some mail from the office! :)
The rest of the week went pretty good. We are beginning to see who in our teaching pool are actually interested and committed and are doing our best to help them.

On Saturday, we went to help out with some painting for a disabled person:
The project was started sometime in September before I got here but I'm glad to say we finally finished it! I got a lot of the green paint on my nails and it looked like nail polish haha.

In the evening, the ward mission team met up at the ward mission leader's home for English roast!
It honestly felt like a continuation of the birthday celebration from Tuesday! :)

Sunday was really busy. I had to play the organ in sacrament meeting, teach the law of chastity in gospel principles class during the second hour, and then teach Young Men in the 3rd hour. I also had to help out with choir practice for something coming up in December! I must say it felt really fulfilling to serve. As a missionary, there's really a lot of opportunities to receive, as well as to give. I've learnt that the greatest joy really comes when we give.

As I mentioned, we had interviews yesterday... and Sister Stevens was back!
As you can see, the Christmas spirit is already kicking in! We have been working hard as a zone and expecting great things to happen in December! We're excited for it!

One of the best things that happened last week was at the end of zone conference, when President Stevens announced that our mission will be going to the London Temple in December for zone conference! Such a blessing!

A few months ago, at the end of a zone conference, while President Stevens was giving his closing remarks, I remember wishing for a moment how I wish an Apostle would visit, and at that moment President Stevens announced that Elder Holland would visit. This time, I was actually wishing I could go to the temple, and President announced the plans for December to go to the temple! I just feel so blessed!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

21 Nov 2017

Transfer 12 Week 4

Hi Everyone,

There were many things in the past week that just made me laugh. One of them was during a lesson. We were teaching about the restoration and our friend understood the pattern of apostasy and the starting of a new dispensation. Our conversation then went like this:

"So, we are in apostasy now yeah?"

"No, we have the priesthood and a living prophet today!"

"Really? Who? You?"

We laughed for a bit and then spoke about about Thomas S. Monson. It just hilarious being thought of as prophet. The reason he probably thought we're prophets is because of the priesthood blessing we gave him a day before that lesson. He came to the lesson looking extremely down and burdened. We felt prompted to give him a blessing after the lesson. He left that day looking so happy! He told us that right at the beginning of the lesson, he felt a surge of ideas come to him to help him with his problems. That's pretty amazing!

Apart from this friend, Elder Örtegren and I have also seen other people who felt really down when meeting with us, but leaving with more hope. One of them was a lady whom we met a week or so ago. She had a number of deaths in her family, and was not coping too well with it. She felt that meeting us was not by chance. We finally met her last week and taught the Plan of Salvation. She mentioned feeling very at peace after the lesson, like a warm blanket wrapped around her.

The last one was a man who comes from another country with a really strict religion. We met him on the streets last week and it was almost bashy but during the conversation we did figure out that he had many difficult things happen in his life and in his country, which has been causing him to doubt that God exists. We promised that we had answers to his doubts, which he agreed to meet us last weekend. The approach we had to take was rather different from normal because of his religious beliefs but he soon recognised that there were many similar beliefs. It led him to ask "so what is the difference?" We then testified of the Savior, and he asked us "how can I know?" to which we were able to introduce the Book of Mormon. He wants it in his language! He texted us a little while after we met him saying how comfortable he felt talking with us. I am pretty sure it's the Holy Ghost he felt when we testified of Jesus Christ.

It's really cool to see people have spiritual experiences without really recognising them, and it's really incredible when they begin to understand where it comes from!

Now for a little fun stuff starting from P-day, some missionaries from the zone came down to Canterbury!
 We had some pretty good food. I shared this platter with 3 others:
It turned out really affordable and filling when splitting it. It's actually a challenge from the restaurant. One can eat that platter for free if it's finished alone in 20 minutes! I probably could have done it if I were 7 years younger haha.

We also had exchanges at Ashford last week! I was with Elder Nelson from Canada!
He is incredible! I learned so much from him!
The next morning, we played football for exercise with members and their friends!

We were pretty lucky because the moment we finished, it rained the rest of the day!

Well, that's all for now. As the weather has been getting colder, the people have been as well. There's also fewer people on the streets right now. We're starting to shift more to knocking on doors which isn't my favorite, but I'm sure some good things will come out of it.

Here's a sign that helps us to know what kind of people we get to speak to on a particular street:

They are very nice people, just not very interested! :P

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

28 Nov 2017
Transfer 12 Week 5

Hi Everyone!

Sorry but this is going to be really short! There were internet problems...

We began sharing the "Light the World" initiative last week! It's the same as last year, where we invite everyone to do something to help or serve someone else every day starting 1 Dec till Christmas. Much like an advent calendar.We started sharing it right after our district meeting!

Something fun we've been doing during district meeting is scripture chase! I'm rather surprised how candy can make it so competitive! I'm am thrilled to know that the missionaries in the district are really good at scripture chase using the Book of Mormon.

The Christmas Spirit is really kicking in in town. The lights are all up and it's packed with people starting their Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is not celebrated here, but Black Friday is a huge thing. It's so huge it's not only Black Friday, but Black Friday week! So the discounts go for a week!

What my Elder Örtegren and I had for Thanksgiving was a simple Singapore Laksa, made with whatever ingredients we have. It was exactly the same but it tasted really good! During dinner we watched a movie about pioneers. That's what I felt most grateful for this Thanksgiving, for pioneers both from the past and in modern times!

Something really nice during the week, was a dinner at the chapel. There's a member who's husband doesn't like missionaries. So she can't really have us over. So we have dinner at the chapel! We were talking about Christmas during dinner and I learned about the origins of Boxing Day. In the past in England, the rich used to box up left over food from Christmas Day and give it to the poor. But now with benefits and stuff, everyone can pretty much get their own food, so it has shifted to discounts on merchandise. I thought that was pretty interesting.

Anyway, have a great week!

Elder Chong

5 Dec 2017
Transfer 12 Week 6

Hi Everyone!

It has been a very eventful week!

On P-day, we decided to go check out a forest! It was pretty cool with all the falling leaves!

 I didn't expect much but there were actually some fun things to do, such as climbing this fallen tree:
As we went around, I felt the terrain was really good for capture the flag or air-soft gun skirmishes. Lo and behold, we found a nerf gun bullet! haha. I didn't take a picture of it though, so no evidence.
We also discovered this curious wooden structure:

It reminded me of my jungle confidence course during officer cadet school training in Brunei where I had to build an A-frame and live in it for a few days. I don't think I could survive here though, it's too cold!

The last thing we wandered into was a herd of cows!
I'm sure some of you have watched this video of a guy playing a trombone and a herd of cows gathered round him. We tried doing that by making some sounds through clasped hands. Well, it didn't work. What actually attracted these young calves was our snacks! >.<

We had been notified by the office that we would be moving out of our flat on Friday. The flat we were staying in are for the senior couples in Canterbury. The new ones are coming in January and so we needed to give it up! Elder & Sister Rees from the office came down on Friday with the mission van:
 We moved our stuff to the new flat first, and realised some readjustments had to be made...

There were 2 bedrooms and we had to disassemble and reassemble one of them so the 2 beds could be in the same room. Good thing it was an IKEA product, it wasn't too much of a hassle.

The coolest thing in our flat is the awesome mirror:
The lights around it switch on and off by a motion sensor. Makes us feel posh! :P

Elder and Sister Rees brought us out for lunch during the move!
So kind of them! I must say, it felt like a family outing for us! I didn't realise how much I actually miss that. After that we returned to the old flat to give it a good clean. No pictures necessary heheh. However, Sister Rees did thank us for keeping it clean, especially the toilets. I have standards! ;)

Spending time with senior missionaries is a real treat. The fact that they are out here shows how dedicated they are to living the gospel, and they carry with them so much wisdom too. Elder Rees shared something that really impacted us. With reference to challenges that he and Sister Rees have gone through, he told us they learned that "time does not heal hearts, it's the Atonement of Jesus Christ that does". He went on to elaborate how on the contrary, the ill feelings we have can worsen over time. It was a very timely piece of wisdom for Elder Örtegren and I because for some reason, many of the people we have been in contact with or are teaching recently had someone close to them pass away. For one of them, it's losing 3 people in the past 3 months. Thankfully for her heart is not hardened and bitter, and she is willing to find out where true peace comes from.

Being December now, we helped the ward set up a Nativity display outside the chapel:

The bishop also printed and laminated the daily suggestions for the Christmas initiative Light the World. We put it up on the fence:
 Here's the complete product:
It even has lights that automatically switch on at night! If you notice carefully, you can see that there are transparent acrylic walls. In previous years, someone stole baby Jesus! >.<

We had stake conference during the weekend! It was up at Gillingham and it was really difficult getting rides for our friends there but in the end we managed to pull it off! The stress was very similar to my days back in the military, coordinating transport and times for exercises. I felt a sense of accomplishment as everything worked out in the end.

As it's the Christmas season, stake conference here was really unique. The choir director attends Canterbury Ward and requested me to help accompany the choir on the piano. As such, my companion was dragged into singing in the choir. Because of transport, our ward mission leader and others got involved as well. In the end, the whole mission team in the ward were involved with stake choir! :P
They weren't 100% keen but they did have a lot of fun in the end! :)

For a rather small stake as it is, I was surprised how large the choir was, we didn't even have enough seats on the stand! It was very nice to have so much support. Our stake president absolutely loves music and he planned in so much music for the Sunday session. There was a musical number almost every 2 speakers. It was so nice! The meeting didn't feel that long too!

In the evening, we had dinner together as a mission team, being the last Sunday of the transfer:
It was awesome!

Well, that's all the big stuff that happened during the week. I must say, Elder Örtegren's family have been really kind. His mom sent a package with a unique advent calendar, one for him and one for me!
 It's like Christmas every day! The first thing I want to do every morning is open up one of the gifts! :P
Elder Örtegren's uncle also gave him pizza money lol. We used it on the night of moving as we were too tired to cook and didn't have food anyway!
We were very grateful and happy to receive it. We ordered stuffed crust. It was heavenly! The delivery man really noticed our joy. He said we were the nicest people he has met all evening!

Got to go now, have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

12 Dec 2017
Transfer 13 Week 1

Hi Everyone!

Last week was a blast! First off, we finally got proper pots and pans for our flat as it uses an induction cooker, and we had no induction cooker. So we were eating sandwiches for almost all our meals until we found time and approval to get the proper pans. Here's our first cooked meal!

Our spinach was going bad, so Elder Örtegren was desperate to use it up as we could not keep it any longer. So we had a salad with spinach, stir fried mushrooms with spinach, and some pork chops with spinach as a garnish! :)
The meal was prepared completely by Elder Örtegren. It was done real quick too! His mother is a chef so that's probably why. But he said when he helped out in the kitchen back home he was always told he did things too slow haha.

Here's our district picture for the week:
Our zone leader celebrated his 20th birthday! So we got him a cake! We had to go to a small shop to get a lighter for the candles. When I asked for one, the shopkeeper told me "sorry, we can only sell lighters to those 18 and older". Elder Örtegren and I laughed so hard! But yes, I had to show him my ID to proof I was way above 18. We learned that this shopkeeper went to Malaysia before and is also from Denmark! We didn't have time to speak to him more but we're definitely going back.

We had our ward Christmas party last Saturday and it was really fun! We were asked to do quite some stuff to help out..
We helped out with setting up the tables. It looked great!
 Here are Santa's true elves:
Before the party started, we went out as a mission team to invite our everyone in the neighbourhood to our Christmas Carol Concert this coming Sunday:

Our hands were freezing! We couldn't wear our gloves because it was difficult to separate the flyers.

Here are pictures from the party!

 We had a special visitor too!
 There wasn't a photo taking session, but the elves get special treatment! ;)
 Here's the missionary crew:
We got our ward mission leader that cool jumper haha!

On a more spiritual note for the week, I taught chapter 42 in gospel principles last Sunday about the gathering of Israel. I had so much fun preparing and teaching the lesson. Probably for the first time in my life, I actually used the index from the Book of Mormon. I was amazed how prophecies of the gathering are found throughout the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible. The most interesting scripture I found was in 3 Nephi 21:1-7 where Christ gave the Nephites a sign that the work of gathering Israel would have commenced, and that is when their record will be made known to the Gentiles. In other words, when the Book of Mormon comes forth. I just found it exciting to realise that we are living in a time when the prophecy of the gathering of Israel is being fulfilled! It's hard work I must say!

That's all I have for now. As a bonus, it snowed last Sunday!

It was heavy everywhere but Canterbury, but oh well! Better than nothing!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Chong

19 Dec 2017
Transfer 13 Week 2

Hi Everyone!

Last week was really good, even though it rained alot!

It rained the whole of P-day which made it really difficult shopping. Good thing we got this what we call a "granny trolley". After the move, we are now a little further from the best (cheapest) place to shop for groceries, hence we got the trolley to make the journey back from shopping less torturous. Our ward mission leader despises it and said he better not see us with that haha.

Elder Örtegren made a Danish dish which was really nice:
I can't remember what it's called. It is a rice porridge cooked in milk topped with cinnamon sugar and a knob of butter. It was really nice for a cold day!

We helped out with young men on Wednesday:
Well, I guess it's more accurate to say young man instead of men. We had a short spiritual thought and then played 2 games. The first is called D-I-E. It's like playing table tennis with a football on the floor, and if you mess up you get a letter. When you mess up 3 times and spell D-I-E then this happens:
 Everyone gets a chance! I can't kick balls and never got a hit haha.

The second game we played was human hungry hippos!
It is actually really tiring! But is was really fun. I wish there were more youth here. I know for myself that it was easier living the gospel when there are more peers doing the same.

The highlight of the week was going to the London Temple! It is a Christmas gift from President and Sister Stevens as they had to seek permission since we have to leave our mission boundaries. It was a 2 hour+ journey by train. When we switched to the last train, we went into one of the carriages and saw this:
 A carriage full of missionaries!
Here's the Canterbury Crew :)
 There wasn't time to go around taking photos but here's one I quickly took:
I don't think I'll ever get to go the temple with so many missionaries ever again. It was special being in the celestial room filled with missionaries from all over the world. We had lunch and Christmas devotional after the session in the morning. The London South Mission office team kindly offered to prepare lunch for us!
It was really nice! I met an Elder from my MTC group too which was really cool!
All in all it was a wonderful experience. I didn't manage to get the picture we took with a few zones at the temple, but we did take one on the way back as a zone at the train station:
The day felt really really short because of so much travelling. We were exhausted by the end of the day because we had to wake up at 4.45am! But it was totally worth it!

The last highlight at the end of the week was the Christmas Carol Concert. It was a stake event and we have been helping out with it the past few weeks.

It was a real success in the end! We were expecting 40 to 60 people but the chapel was filled and we had to open up the partition! We were glad, and exhausted too. Because although it is a stake activity. This was the crew that put it all together:
Between the 4 of us, we planned the whole program, did the powerpoint slides, flyers, decorations, lighting, music, refreshments etc. It was really fulfilling! Good thing it's only once a year though!

I'm really looking forward to Christmas! Have a wonderful time!


Elder Chong

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