Summarized Emails from Elder Chong for his 2nd year on his Chinese Speaking Mission in Manchester UK

This post is continued from his first year summary found here.

Mormon Missionary Movers
Week 54 (9 July 2013)

This past week we had a spiritually powerful lesson with an investigator named Yan. She is a devout Christian and was baptised into another church in China, but eventually became disgruntled with the conflicts and inconsistencies across different churches she went to in China. We have been meeting her for a while, but we have recently reached a roadblock as she has been unable to fully understand or accept the message of the Restoration that we share. We brought along Brother Cameron, a recent convert of two and a half years, who shared a powerful, heartfelt testimony of how he came to know of the truthfulness and importance of the Restored Church. Later on, Yan began to bring up her views on the multiplicity of churches and why she didn't think it was necessary to join the Restored Church. Brother Cameron proceeded to work a miracle that unfolded before our very eyes. He came up with a brilliant analogy and penned down a diagram for Yan. As Brother Cameron expounded upon the doctrine of the Restoration, I felt pure revelation and knowledge flowing into each of us present, and sat there almost feeling overpowered by the power of the Spirit of Revelation. Elder Nelson suddenly nudged me and ask why I had stopped translating, as I had been doing for the rest of the lesson. I whispered to him that I felt that Yan was understanding everything he was saying. Surely enough, as soon as Brother Cameron finished, Yan turned to me excitedly and asked if she could try explaining back to me everything she had just learnt from Brother Cameron. She then proceeded to summarise, in Chinese, his explanation with stunning exactness. She had a huge smile on her face, and told us that she finally understood the point we had been trying to make, and was thoroughly surprised herself that she was able to understand everything that Brother Cameron has said in English, especially because she had never been able to understand the English people we had brought in the past. What a wonderful manifestation of the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues!

On one particular day, Elder Nelson and I had plans to help a Chinese member named Rachel move out of her student accommodation into another block. She initially cancelled on us, but suddenly called us during the day to say that the lift had broken down and she needed our help more than ever. Thankfully, we had just heeded a prompting to speak to someone, which led to us missing our bus and staying instead in the area near her accommodation. We headed straight to her place and began to flex our Mormon Missionary Movers muscles. Miraculously, the lift started working! Even more miraculously, as soon as we were done helping her, we said our goodbyes and pushed the button to take the lift back down, we realised that the lift had broken down again! I almost could not believe it and checked with Elder Nelson if we had really taken the lift up. We ran back to tell Rachel what had just happened, and she knew immediately that the Lord had blessed her (probably because she had fed us just the day before).

As Elder Nelson and I reached the bottom of the stairs on our way out, Elder Nelson spotted a Chinese-looking girl struggling to carry a box. He immediately offered to help and rushed to her aid. She replied in accented English that confused Elder Nelson a little, so I began to speak to her in Chinese, only to realise quickly that she was, in fact, Vietnamese. We recovered quickly as I talked about the wonderful Vietnamese friends I had back home in Singapore. She was extremely relieved to receive our help, and we proceeded to help her move out of her flat as well. After we finished moving her belongings into her new room, we began to share more about what we do as missionaries, and she was very curious. Her name was Phuong and she was studying in a university in another city but staying in Liverpool. She did not have any religious beliefs, and was curious to listen to what we had to offer. We introduced her to on her laptop, only to discover that there was no Vietnamese version of! Nevertheless, we were able to use some Vietnamese member resources on and simple, basic English, and even some Vietnamese I was picking up from her (I found it to be vaguely similar to Cantonese) to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to her. She was very excited and asked how and when she could come to church and if we could teach her to pray. We ended with a kneeling prayer, and said our goodbyes after introducing her to Rachel, who was delighted to take her to church the following Sunday. What a wonderful blessing resulting from service!

Photos this week :
 Celebrating the 4th of July with the Americans!

Chinese food again!

Our District trip to the Museum in Liverpool with our Zone Leaders and Sam!

English Heat Wave
Week 55 (15 July 2013)

It is getting hot in England! Last Saturday we heard that it was purported to be the hottest day in England for the past 7 years. Apparently climatologists have informed England of an imminent heat wave. Temperatures are going up to about 35 degrees Celsius. It's still not as humid as Malaysia or Singapore so it's slightly more bearable, plus it does get a lot cooler at night than it does back home. I still prefer the temperature to be around 20 degrees though.

The English people are certainly enjoying the weather though! This much sun is really hard to come by. English Summer is usually about a week or two, so this is nice break for them. We've been taking advantage of the good weather by planning several outdoor activities with both members and investigators (those still learning about our church). We had a picnic at the famous Sefton Park on Saturday, and held a Family Home Evening at another park with some Chinese families and English friends on Sunday. I made what was probably equivalent to a barrel of fried rice, but nobody brought plates or cutlery, so we had to be creative in eating in.

 Sister Merrill ate it out of a cup using chips

Last week we were also treated to a delicious Chinese meal cooked by our investigator's husband. It also happened to be their 1st Anniversary! They cooked Elder Hawks' favourite water-boiled fish :) It was delicious!

These past few weeks I have been studying and reflecting on the significance of repentance as part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Faith unto repentance" is a phrase that frequently shows up in the Book of Mormon. As we read in Alma 34:16

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

When we truly believe in Jesus Christ, we are willing to make changes in our lives to live in accordance to His teachings. As Jesus Christ made clear in His sermon on the mount, as recorded in Matthew 7:21

Not every one that asaith unto me, bLord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that cdoeth the dwill of my Father which is in eheaven.

What is the will of the Father? The Book of Mormon makes this clear in 2 Nephi 31:11

 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

Being a follower and disciple of Christ requires constant change as we continue to put off our weaknesses and be sanctified by the Holy Ghost as we repent and live righteously. Too often as missionaries we meet people who think that followers of Jesus Christ live easy, happy lives doing anything they wish to do as long as they profess to believe in Christ. This is not so! Following Christ often involves identifying our weakness and striving to improve upon them. As Ether 12:27 puts it,

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them.

As we come unto Christ in humility, our weaknesses will become clearer to us. May we always strive to repent and to more fully live the teachings of Christ!

Transfer to Wrexham!
Week 56 (27 July 2013)

Big news! I've bee transferred out of Liverpool to Wrexham, North Wales! It is just south of Chester, England. I am excited to be in a new area! I am serving with a missionary who will be hitting his 6-month mark this transfer - Elder Goodman from Arizona. He's great! We are both very excited to serve together. I feel almost like a new missionary again, probably partially related to the fact that I was a new missionary in the field exactly a year ago, in a new area and in a 2-man flat. Elder Goodman and I are the only full-time missionaries in the Wrexham Ward, which isn't very big. There's about 50-60 people at church each Sunday, so it's very different from the Liverpool Ward.

As you would imagine, last week was a hectic week of saying goodbye the moment I was informed that I would be moved out of Liverpool. The real surprise was when we later discovered that Elder Nelson, my companion there, would be moving out too! That means that we were being "whitewashed", meaning that a completely different set of missionaries would take our place. Sister Loh from Singapore has replaced us, and she will be training a new Chinese-speaking Sister, Sister Jordan.

It was difficult to say goodbye to so many wonderful people in Liverpool. I will miss them greatly, but I will take the lessons that I've learnt in Liverpool and be a blessing to my new area!

I called the Bishop in Wrexham as soon as I arrived in Wrexham, and discovered that they just so happened to be in need of a temporary pianist/organist for sacrament meeting for the next 6 weeks. Since my transfer here will be for 6 weeks, the timing could not have been better.

Photos this week : Farewells with Members and Investigators

"E Major" and Yan Ling. Yan Ling (on the right) is getting baptised on the 10th of August! Her husband "E Major" is doing a masters in Music Composition!

Rikesh, originally from Nepal. Elder Nelson and I first spoke to Rikesh on the street. I thought he reminded me of Ern. We taught him once and then had the English-speaking Elders teach him. He's getting baptised this Saturday!

Sam & Beryl, two wonderful "mission mums" who take care of the missionaries in Liverpool Ward!

We had a game of football and then ate some kebabs with some members!

Farewell picnic organised by the Chinese members and friends!

Farewell to the Sisters in our District in Liverpool, who are now moving into our old flat!

A little farewell flag our investigator Amy's children made for us. They prepared a mini performance with a homemade tambourine and some games to say goodbye.

First Week In Wrexham!
Week 57 (29 July 2013)

Today is my 6th day in Wrexham and I am loving it! It's quite different from the cities I served in previously (Manchester, Preston, Liverpool) and the new possibilities and prospects are quite exciting. One refreshing change is that I now live right next to the chapel. No more long walks under the hot sun in our suits or missing the bus to church. Yeah!

Elder Goodman and I had a wonderful miracle on Friday. Our original plan was to simply have language study for an hour after companionship study. However, during our morning routine I felt strongly prompted to change our plans and go out finding instead. Both Elder Goodman and I felt good about this, and we left the flat excitedly. As we walked down a particular street, we saw a man trimming the hedges in his garden, and we offered our help. He said that he didn't need help with gardening, but we could help him with something else, and he invited us in. He introduced himself as Andy, the counsellor for the park next to our chapel and the surrounding community. He noted that our chapel was within the bounds of his responsibility, and he had been thinking hard about how he could contact our church, since the chapel is usually closed. He was most pleased to see us just walking right up to him! We exchanged numbers and promised to get him in touch with our Bishop. We told Andy that our church emphasises family values, and that we might be able to organise a family day in the park for members of the community. He spoke of his idea of introducing a land-sharing scheme to have younger members of the community form bonds with the older members of the community by having the young people plant vegetables in the gardens of the older residents. We saw this as a great Helping Hands opportunity and offered the help of our church. Andy was definitely most pleased!

I really believe now that you can find Chinese people everywhere and anywhere if you look hard enough. Within the past few days I've found at least 4 Chinese families living close to us. When I was in Liverpool I met a Chinese person who had lived in Mexico for several years. Chinese people seem to be quite the "wanderers among the nations" (guess the Bible reference!)

I can't remember if I mentioned it last week, but Wrexham is a bike area. Thankfully, however, Elder Goodman and I have mostly been walking and taking the bus. Today was the first time I actually rode the bike (to save time getting to the library). I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible about developing sore thighs and a raw butt.

Photos this week :

Baked eggplant with garlic & butter - Mom used to make this tasty snack. I tried it once previously and the eggplant came out black. I got it right this time though! Elder Goodman liked it :) 

African food! One of the members from the Ward is from Zambia, and she made us some classic Zambian food for tea. The green veggies were cooked with granite powder, and the white fluffy bit is made of maize meal (corn), but tastes and feels exactly like Malaysian ketupat! The lamb was also absolutely delicious. The noodles weren't exactly Zambian, but it was delicious all the same! 

Elder Goodman having lunch

Elder Goodman having a sandwich

Elder Goodman and I had a baptism in the Wrexham Ward on Saturday

My first attempt at homemade pancakes! I probably needed a better non-stick pan... It looks more like a giant cookie than a pancake. The rough exterior traps maple syrup better, though!

Exciting times in Wrexham
Week 58 (5 August 2013)

This past week in Wrexham has been an extremely busy one for Elder Goodman and me. The Lord is hastening His work in Wrexham, and Elder Goodman and I are meeting with many wonderful people, both Chinese and non-Chinese.

We had a great time last week when I cooked a load of fried rice with my newly acquired wok, and we went around giving out little boxes of fried rice to some of the friends we've made in the neighbourhood. One of them is a Thai mother who lives with an Englishman. We only formally met the Thai mother recently, but had known her partner/husband before that. We left him some fried rice, and she was the one who ate it after a long day of work. She was most grateful, and promised to make me some homemade Thai Green Curry in return! Hooray for Thai food! She brought her two children to church on Sunday and they had a lovely time at church.

Photos this week :

 District photo of my new District! Left to right: Me, Elder Goodman from Arizona USA, Elder Pywell from the UK, Elder Johnson from America, Sister Leslie from Utah USA, Sister Tolman from Logan Utah USA.

The British Pageant

The first-ever Mormon Pageant held outside of the USA began last week, and we had a chance to go watch it! We're watching it again this week too. Based on real diaries and records, the pageant celebrates the efforts of early Christian reformists in the UK, the journey of the early Mormon missionaries who arrived in the UK in the 1800s, and the lives of the many people who were converted and sailed to America to contribute to the westward migration of Mormons within America. It was amazing!
The pre-pageant activities held outside. There were various games and activities

Europe's largest marquee hired by the church to stage the performance

The inside of the marquee

Elder Goodman and I were treated to a homecooked Chinese meal on Saturday. It was the real deal - we had pork stomach with vegetables, chicken feet, deliciously steamed seabass, and bak choy. To top it off, we were treated to a very special soup made of grass gathered exclusively in our host's hometown in Canton. Everything was delicious! The funniest thing was probably the chicken feet. Those of you from home know that I don't really eat chicken feet, but with Elder Goodman my American companion, I pretended like I ate it all the time and gobbled a few down to encourage him to have some. He did haha.

Elder Goodman and I don't really use the bikes that often, but here's a photo of me with my bike anyway. Apparently Mormon missionaries on bikes are quite the icon in Taiwan!

Elder Goodman and I had some time to visit the St Giles Parish Church in Wrexham, apparently the largest Parish Church in Wales. The founding father of Yale University, Elihu Yale, is buried outside the church! A half-size replica of the clocktower can be found at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, which includes a stone cut out from the original church in Wrexham. It must be no coincidence that I'm serving in Wrexham at this time ;)

A very Busy Week indeed!
Week 59 (12 Aug 2013)

This week absolutely flew by. Elder Goodman and I have been all over the place. We had a Zone Meeting in Rhyl (North Wales), another trip to the British Pageant in Chorley, a Full Mission Conference at Manchester (the Apostles Elder Nelson and Elder Holland spoke!) and a baptism in Liverpool!

The Full Mission Conference on Thursday was spelndid! Two of the Apostles, Elder Nelson and Elder Holland came to speak in addition to Elder David F. Evans and Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy. I got lucky when we all stood to receive the Apostles when they walked in - Elder Holland stopped to shake my hand! I had been expecting a slap in the face and a firm reminder to stop slacking and work harder haha.

During his remarks, Elder Nelson made a comment that the Lord is bringing people of all nations to the British Isles to receive the Restored Gospel. Such a statement from the apostolic leader of the missionary programme in our church is a stirring validation of the work that I have been striving to do among the Chinese people in the UK. Elder Nelson spoke about the surpising success that missionaries in Finland had with African students at one point. Years later, Elder Nelson met a Ugandan ambassador who was converted in Finland as a student! All in all, the wonderful spirit felt at the Full Mission Conference has encouraged me to continue to work hard and bring many souls of all nationalities to Christ. It's no coincidence that in the past two weeks I have been reflecting upon the words of Alma in Mosiah 27:25, which says,

"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;"

Photos this week :
I ripped my trousers while playing a game with Elder Goodman at the British Pageant. As you can see, I could fit my hand through the rip. Thankfully, the fabric itself was not damaged, so I was able to stitch it back up the next morning. I added another layer of stitching for extra protection haha.

A funny placemat I saw at a carvery.

We were blessed with the wonderful baptism of Yan Ling in Liverpool on Saturday! Elder Hawks and I started teaching her in Liverpool several months ago, and after Elder Hawks left I continued teaching her with Elder Nelson. We had a very memorable lesson in which Yan Ling felt the Spirit so strongly that she was moved to tears, and subsequently felt ready to be baptised. Her progress towards baptism was smooth and exciting after that! Included in this photo are Yan Ling and her husband, "E Major" who is majoring in a Master's degree in Music Composition! We were once treated to a performance of his works in their home. It was superb!

Yan Ling was part of a double baptism at Liverpool. It was truly a day to be remembered!

Yesterday, I taught the Gospel Principles lesson to 3 Chinese families at Church. I began to speak about my ancesters who left China to find a better life, and related it to the Chinese families who have made many sacrifices to move to the UK with the hope of providing a better life for their children. As I spoke, I related this our Heavenly Father, who made the greatest sacrifice for all of us, His children, by sending His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us, so that we may one day return to our Heavenly Father. My heart was moved as I spoke, and I felt the Holy Ghost confirm this truth to me. We are truly blessed to have Jesus Christ as our Saviour!

Vietnamese Food
Week 60 (19 August 2013)

This past week has been a blast! I had an exchange in Chester for about 3 days, I attended a Chinese Planning Meeting at the Mission Home (where all 14 Chinese-speaking missionaries in the mission get together to plan an upcoming mission-wide activity - the best bit being lunch at the end) and I had Vietnamese food!!!!

On Tuesday, I went to Chester for an exchange with Elder Johnson, who is from California. We were going around speaking to people near the chapel in the evening, and we started speaking to a group of 13-year-old boys. They were quite cheeky, but we were able to quickly make friends with them. Eventually, we brought them on a tour of our chapel. We were very blessed to have our mission president, President Preston, speak to them briefly, because he happened to be at the chapel to speak to Elder Johnson. After that, I was able to speak to the 13-year-olds and share with them why I believe in God and why am I serving a mission. Many of them had questions about life, and I was able to answer many of their questions - the serious questions, at least - using the Book of Mormon and some Bible stories. I am just grateful for the year that I spent teaching in Singapore where I taught boys basically of the same age group. It definitely helped me be able to make sure that they behaved in the chapel haha.

We invited the boys to play chair football with us the next day, and a number of them came with other friends. Before we finished playing chair football, some of the boys said that they needed to go home for tea soon, and wanted us to teach them more about Jesus Christ before they had to leave. What a huge blessing!

On Saturday, we held our Chinese Planning Meeting at the Mission Home. Elder Greenland, who served with me for a transfer and a half when he first came to the UK, drove me and our companions to the mission home. It was about an hour's drive from Wrexham to the mission home, but Elder Greenland decided to take the "shorter distance" route to conserve mileage, which meant that we were driving through sinuous country roads instead of the motorway. Coupled with the fact that Elder Greenland is an insane driver, it was basically a hay ride. It was loads of fun, especially since Elder Greenland and I had the opportunity to reminiscence together. It was probably even more entertaining for my companion Elder Goodman, who was most amused by my screaming whenever Elder Greenland made a crazy turn.

The Chinese Planning Meeting was great! Even more so because I'm not the one in charge this time ha! This time round, we're doing a carnival theme with a focus on helping families have fun. It's going to be great!

At the end of the meeting, we were treated to Indian food for lunch. It was delicious! Elder Zavala, Elder Hawks and I had a great time catching up over the dining table. The car ride back to Wrexham had a lot less screaming because I was overcome by a "food coma" and slept through most of the ride. Basically, "AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!!"s where replaced by "Ahhhhhhh~"s

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a Vietnamese man at the train station while we were waiting for the train, and we had a great conversation. Elder Goodman and I visited him on Saturday night, and he invited us back on Sunday evening to have some Pho (pronounced "fuh") - Vietnamese beef noodles! He used rice noodles, which were basically kuey teow back home. Oh how that made me miss the food back home. The Pho was delicious!

This past week I spent some time studying the book of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. In Chapter 4, we read of the Nephites gathering into one city, and preparing provisions to last 7 years to fight off the secret combination led by Giddianhi. Because they had done this (in addition to repenting and praying for the Lord's help), Giddianhi and his army of plunderers were forced to attack the Nephites in order to obtain food. In so doing, Giddianhi was eventually killed, and his successor Zeramnihah attempted to besiege the Nephite city to starve them out. However, since the Nephites had prepared provision to last 7 years, Zeramnihah ended up starving his own army, and as they attempted to retreat, they were pursued and defeated by the Nephites.

On the other hand, in Jeremiah 52 of the Old Testament in the Holy Bible, we see the opposite happen, where the Chaldeans' siege of Jerusalem succeeds, and Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians.

This comparison made me think about how we should be prepared to face a spiritual siege. There may come a time when we face a disproportionate amount of trials or challenges. Will we have sufficient faith to bear them when the time comes? This was a question Elder goodman and I posed to some of the people we met during the past week. More importantly, how can each of us increase our faith and strength in preparation for difficult times ahead? That is the question I'll leave everyone to consider.

Photos this week :
Some of the 13-year-olds Elder  Johnson and I played chair football with

Elder Johnson and I

Elder Goodman and I at the Mission Home

Elder Goodman tries Pho for the first time!

Moth Attack!
Week 61 (28 Aug 2013)

I ended up not having time to email on Tuesday because we were just booked with appointments, so I'm emailing today (Wednesday) instead. I hit my 14th month mark today! I'm just getting older and older.

The past week has been a blast! We kicked off the week with a Church History Tour, which brought us missionaries throughout the mission to Liverpool, Preston, and finally Downham to visit various sites significant to the early history of our church in the UK. We had a great time. The trip also allowed me to catch up with most of my previous companions - Elder Zavala, Elder Greenland, Elder Hawks and Elder Nelson, which was a real treat!

We were told to pack a light lunch for the church history tour, so Elder Goodman and I packed it.... in our tummies. I made a massive breakfast for Elder Goodman and myself.

Elder Zavala stands next to a model of the Titanic at the Liverpool Maritime Museum, which we visited as part of the tour

Another interesting find in the museum, which goes to show just how inspired the Word of Wisdom is ;)

Elder Zavala and I took a photo together at the bridge over the River Ribble in Preston, where the first Mormon baptisms in the UK took place. It definitely brought back many memories of the time when we served together in Preston :') 
The classic British telephone booth in Downham, once again visited by me almost exactly a year later.

We were blessed also with the opportunity to enjoy more homecooked Chinese food from a mother from Fujian. We joined her in rolling up sweet potato balls, or "fan1 shu2 wan2", which is a traditional dish from Fu Qing. We then came back for another glorious Chinese feast!

Me with the sweet potato dough and the oyster filling we put inside.

Making sweet potato dumplings!

Chinese feast!

Goodman and I have been joking quite a bit about how well our missionary flat will hold up in a zombie apocalypse. It was put to the test recently when we were struck by a moth apocalypse! Every night, after we're done proselyting for the day, at least 3 or 4 moths will fly into flat, and we've developed increasingly creative ways to hunt them down and keep our flat moth-free.

I used the rubber band technique Ern learned from uncle Sa Pek, which Ern later taught me. It's deadly accurate and highly effective!

Elder Goodman made a blow gun out of a plastic pipe-like handle and some stationary. He was definitely having a lot of fun

I caught a photo of the blow gun in action - you can see the moth thrown by the impact onto the wall, while the dart is already falling to the ground

Elder Goodman admiring his handiwork

We decided to feed the moths to the spider that had a web near our backyard.

This Tuesday, we had a fantastic District Meeting, which focused on recognising the blessings that the Holy Ghost brings to each of us. May we always remember the blessings we have received, and record them down in our journals!

The District (plus Zone Leaders) Lunch we had after the meeting

We have many other exciting teaching opportunities which we are looking forward to for the remainder of the week. Next week is transfers again, so I'll be emailing either on Wednesday or Thursday. 

Week 62 (9 Sep 2013)

Hello Everyone!

To make up for missing out on the general email on Week 62, here are some photos of what I was up to during my last week in Wrexham:

As you can see, Elder Goodman and I had a BBQ!!!!

We were invited by a friend to have a BBQ in her front yard, so we went over.

 It was a great experience, because while we were enjoying the BBQ we spoke to a few of her neighbours, one of whom was still coping with her daughter's death in a car accident years ago. We were able to teach her about life after death and justice from the Book of Mormon. After that, our friend took us round the neighbourhood to meet some of her neighbours. It was great fun!

The BBQ did require some work on our part - we had to cycle uphill for several miles to get there. We definitely worked up a good appetite. It was definitely worth it, plus the scenery was great and we took some photos along the way:

Wrexham was beautiful indeed!

Finally, here's a photo of something Elder Goodman and I did every week while we were serving in Wrexham together:
- Homemade Pizza!!!-

We each prepare our own half of the pizza. Confession: The left half is mine.

Whitewashing Oldham
Week 63 (9 Sep 2013)

I apologise for not sending the general email last week. It was transfers, and during our email day my companion and I were pressed for time, so I wasn't able to send it off.

I am now serving in Oldham! It's a nice town not too far from Manchester. I am now serving with Elder Hare!
- Elder Hare -

Elder Hare is originally from Hawaii, but was adopted by a Taiwanese mother and American father. We're really excited to serve together this transfer!

Elder Hare and I are opening up a new Chinese area in Oldham. There aren't any Chinese students here, so we mainly go around hunting for Chinese families and Chinese chippies. It's like a treasure hunt!

We got to know the owners of a Chinese Chippy just across the street from our new flat. They're from Hong Kong, and we've been making friends with them. A few days ago I made some Singapore Chicken Curry with the packet of spices the Grant family from Singapore sent me

 It was pretty delicious!

We shared it with the chippy owners, who were delighted. Elder Hare asked if we could take a photo at the Chippy, so we did

- Elder Hare and I at the Chippy -

It's been a fun ween going around getting to know Oldham and where all the Chinese people are. In the process, we came across Costco! We went in for some cheap pizza and hotdogs.

- Elder Hare in Costco -

It was an interesting experience when we found the Costco. We were walking back to our flat for tea when we saw the huge Costco sign peeking over the horizon. We went in and coincidentally met some of the local church members. We joined them and got to know a little bit more of Oldham. We later spoke to some Chinese people who were also shopping and dining at Costco!

Our new flat in Oldham is nice, although we're still getting everything organised since we've moved in. We've tidied it up significantly, so I should be able to send photos next week.

In the meantime, here's a sample of Elder Hare's breakfast I made for him:


We're working hard in Oldham, and the Lord has been guiding us to more and more people. There's a lot for us to discover and to learn, which is most thrilling! We look forward to our transfer in Oldham.

Other random photos:

- Elder Hare took a photo of me while we were emailing -

- "Elder Chong the missionary" photo -

The invitation card I designed for the upcoming Chinese Activity in Liverpool this month!

Chinese Hunting in Oldham
Week 64 (16 Sep 2013)

This past week has been a busy one for me and Elder Hare. We've been going all around Oldham speaking to people at Chinese Chippies, and the experience has been great.

In one particularly memorable instance, Elder Hare and I visited a Chinese chippy not too far from our flat that we had visited before. Our first visit had established our presence, and although we weren't enthusiastically welcomed, the owners were friendly towards us. The second time Elder Hare and I visited, we had Elder Hare's ukulele, which we used to entertain both the chippy's many customers and the owner's 3 year old son. Elder Hare and I gradually began to split into two roles - I played peekaboo with the boy over the counter while Elder Hare played the ukulele and spoke to customers. Once there were no longer any customers, one of the workers, a middle-aged Cantonese mother, opened up and asked me how she can improve her relationship with her wayward 17-year-old son. She spoke about her concerns for her son and her yearning to overcome the generation gap and become closer to him. I very excitedly shared with her how my own experiences and growth in the church has helped me and my family, and how during my time as a missionary I've also seen how the teachings of Jesus Christ has helped other families struggling with their teenage sons. The mother was quite pleased and we set up a time to meet her son. We are so excited!

I've been doing a lot of cooking this past week, here are some samples:

Pre-seasoned roast chicken given to us by a family which we put in the oven to cook. I made homemade mash and crisps to go with it. I have to say - I'm getting reasonably good at making mashed potatoes ^^, Elder Hare gave the brilliant suggestion of frying the potato skin in oil to make crisps. It was absolutely yummy!

We did have a little misadventure with the chicken though - I used the fan oven instead of the grill, so the chicken was overcooked and almost combusting in the oven. Thankfully we smelled the smoke early on and switched off the oven. We did set off a few smoke alarms in the process though XD


I also had a chance to make some Chinese-ish food.

Stir-fried chicken & mushroom (with onions and soy sauce) and vegetables with prawn. I'm getting hungry just thinking about what I cooked @_@

Elder Bytheway went on exchanges with me! It's great to serve in the same ward as Elder Bytheway again :D Among all our Zone Leaders in our mission so far, Elder Bytheway is probably the most enthusiastic about Chinese missionary work. He wants to go to the Chinese activity in Liverpool this weekend so badly!

Since Elder Hare and I opened up a new flat, we took time to make the flat more missionary-ish by constructing a huge map to put pins on.

During our first week in Oldham, Elder Hare and I started obtaining supplies to make the big map. Among other things, we went to a few stores in a shopping centre and asked if they had used cardboard boxes we could take. We finally found a store that still had some boxes left, and we asked for 5 massive boxes. Hauling these gi-normous boxes onto the bus and back to our flat was a great conversation starter haha.

We then took time to piece together the cardboard as a backing for our map.

Elder Hare provides a scale.

The remaining work including piecing together the map and outlining our area boundaries. The most exciting part was finally putting the pins on the map indicating key locations (especially all the Chinese Chippies we've spotted in Oldham!)


During my exchange with Elder Bytheway last week, we taught a lesson with a Chinese mother. At the beginning of the lesson, she seemed really distant, and we felt as if something was bothering her. We read through some verses from the Book of Mormon, and asked a few questions as the Spirit directed us, and discovered that she was simplybored by the monotony of staying home and caring for her two young children every day. We were prompted to introduce her to Family History, which quickly launched into a lively discussion about her family history and mine (many thanks to Dad for doing plenty of research both in the past and in the present and sending me all the information!).

Eventually, we were able to talk about going to the Temple as a goal, and that marriage and baptism would fall into place when she has the goal of going to the Temple some day. To our astonishment, on Sunday when the Chinese mother and her partner attended church, all of the sacrament meeting talks were focused on temples and family history. What a miracle!

I know that Heavenly Father is guiding Elder Hare and I in the work that we've been called to do. I hope that everyone can catch the excitement for Family History as we have too!

Mid-Autumn Festival
Week 65 (23 Sep 2013)

My apologies for the late email - the main internet server for all the libraries in Oldham was acting up on Monday, so we weren't able to email that day. I was then tied up with District Leaders Council Meeting yesterday, which took up almost the whole day, so there was no time left to email. We did have a great tea appointment with an English family in Oldham who haven't come to church in a long time. They would like to come back in the future but there are a few things holding them back. They really enjoyed having us over, though! Their youngest daughter, who is 15, claimed she didn't believe in God, and we were able to have a great conversation to help her understand how prayer and reading from the Book of Mormon can help her gain faith in God. We'll be visiting her family again on Friday to follow-up on what we invited her to read!

So last week was Mid-Autumn Festival! I had the great opportunity to have some home-made mooncakes from a Chinese mother whom we're teaching. Mmmmm....


We then had our mission-wide Chinese activity, which was an absolute blast! 

The Mission hired a coach which took a large number of Chinese students, families and missionaries to Liverpool for the Mid-Autumn celebration.

Many people showed up from various parts of the Mission. The activity was carnival-themed, so we started off with chili dogs for everyone, and then proceeded to have many games.

There was dress-up photo-taking....



...which included an Elders vs Sisters round!

Which was totally unfair! (The Elders were completely crushed)

There was also a sack race 
I was able to narrowly win the sack race by getting in front of Elder Greenland (3rd from the left) and blocking him hehe ^^,

....and many other games!

The best part for me, however, was being able to catch up with all the friends I had made with people from areas where I had previously served

A couple of Chinese families I had served in Wrexham came!

A total of 6 Chinese families came from Wrexham, 5 of whom I had met before, which was fantastic! I was absolutely overjoyed :D

Jason and Siti were also able to come from Preston, which was a real treat!

Not to mention Lawrence, who had just returned from China to Liverpool. I used to teach his mother every week in Liverpool and he would come to church with us!

Amy, with her 6 children (just like our family!) Only 2 of her children are in the photo, one of whom had just gotten in a fight with his brother (and lost). Yup, that's definitely Amy's family haha!

And of course, none other than Brother Romero, from Ecuador! Brother Romero would often take missionaries out on "Kebab-tisms" in Liverpool where he'd make quick detours while giving us lifts in order to buy us some kebabs!

I was able to go around taking photos and catching up with old friends, as well as meet new friends!

We ended the evening with a group photo followed by a powerful testimony meeting, in which Yan Ling and Wu shared their conversion experience and what they had learnt. I had taught Yan Ling for about 6 months and she was baptised recently!

Elder Hare and I are now back in Oldham and working hard. We haven't been able to start teaching any new Chinese families yet, but were are making friends with an increasing number of them, which is exciting! In the meantime, here are some other photos from the past week:

Elder Hare and I have been using his Ukulele as a way to start conversations and entertain people

My new District in Oldham

The Chinese-speaking missionaries of the England Manchester Mission, with our Mission President & Wife. 6 Americans, 1 El Salvadorian-American, 1 Taiwanese-American, 1 Hawaiian, 1 Mix-of-everything, 1 Taiwanese, 1 Hong Konger, 1 Singaporean and 1 Malaysian!

With the must-have "Chinese" shot!

Ukulele Madness
Week 66 (30 Sep 2013)

This past week, Elder Hare purchased an additional Ukulele so that I can borrow his while we're serving together. We are now the roaming musician missionaries of Oldham!

We've been visiting various Chinese takeaways to play music for and chat with both customers and the Chinese owners alike!

Elder Hare performs for the Chinese takeaway across the street from our flat

It's a nice twist to missionary work, because now people stop us on the street to ask if we can play them something. We'd play them some songs, and then share more about why we've both come a long way to the UK to share the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Music brings both of us lots of joy, but Jesus Christ brings us even more joy!

Also, I spent the past 2 weeks putting together a comic for the Oldham Ward, where I am currently serving.

Back in action!

Here is the finished product :

We handed out photocopies of the comic to the church members on Sunday before the services started.

That Sunday happened to be Fast & Testimony meeting, and our Ward Mission Leader went up to bear his testimony of how he related very strongly to the quote by Elder Nelson that "the Lord is moving people from all parts of the world to this small island [of the UK]." and how many of these people are brought here to be taught the Restored Gospel that is not available in their own countries. He also related very strongly to the statement in the comic that "the Spirit is a universal language." I was simply thrilled to know that I was able to put my cartooning skills to good use once again :)

On Sunday, Elder Hare and I had the opportunity to have tea with a family from Ghana.

They had a sort of chilli called "shitoh" that is very similar to belachan which we love to include in our cooking back home! They gave me a whole jar to take back to the flat ^^,

Also, here's the latest companionship photo for Elder Hare and me :)

Thanks for all of your prayers and emails. Happy birthday in advance to Dad and Su this week!

Comments by Dad : On 5th October there was a surprise email from Elder Chong with the following contents :

Hello Everyone!

Surprise! I have special permission from President Preston to email today, because Elder Hare and I have just uploaded a video onto Youtube!

I wrote a song called 你为什么不接受洗礼? (Why Won't You Be Baptised?) and recorded it with Elder Hare. Our goal is to make it go viral, so start watching it and sharing it with everyone!

Here is the link to the video:

Hope you enjoy it! Start spreading it around!

Much Love,
Elder Chong

At the end of the video, his Mormon profile web address is given which can be read by clicking here.

We're On Youtube!
Week 67 (7 Oct 2013)

What an exciting week we've had. Elder Hare and I gained President Preston's permission to record a song I wrote called 你为什么不接受洗礼?(Why Won't You Be Baptised?) and put it on Youtube. It's spreading all over the Mission right now!

Our goal is to make the video go viral, so we'll need everyone's help to share it. It's best to watch it on a computer so that the annotations and lyrics will appear, and on the Youtube website itself so that the view count is accounted for.

Here's the link:

This past weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to watch General Conference. I really enjoyed the Sunday morning session, which was filled with many moving talks, especially President Monson's. I was very impressed by Elder Holland's stirring, more sensitive talk. I don't think he pounded the pulpit with his fist this time haha. I absolutely loved Elder Richard G. Scott's talk. I've definitely gained a much deeper appreciation for his talks since I've started serving a full-time missionary. His talks are so full of a deep, emotional and spiritual conviction that lends power to his words. His dissection of the account of the Ammonites in the Book of Mormon and how it relates to protection against past sins was no less than amazing!

So at the start of General Conference, I thought about my old journal and how I filled it with all sorts of notes from past General Conference broadcasts. However, I never go back to read them! Hence, I came up with an idea to make my General Conference notes more memorable:

I decided to sketch the speakers and write down just one key phrase that really stood out to me to help me remember the rest of the talk!

The best thing about this idea is the fact that it kept me awake, attentive and engaged. I not only had to keep looking at the screen to sketch their faces, but I also had to pay attention to the talk so that I could write down the key phrases! Instead of falling asleep after 3 speakers, I had something to do that kept me both entertained and attentive. I can proudly say that I remember the topic and key message of every talk that I did the sketch for!

I'm considering making this my new General Conference tradition ;)

I'm definitely looking forward to the week ahead. We're coming to the end of this transfer, but Elder Hare and I feel that we should be able to stay another transfer together in Oldham. We'll find out when we get transfer calls this Saturday! Since transfers are coming up, I'll be emailing on either Wednesday or Thursday next week.

Lots of Photo
Week 68 (16 Oct 2013)

We had a very eventful week and a half. I'll have to use lots of photos.

First of all, last Saturday I went back to Liverpool for the baptism of Black, whom I found and taught with Elder Hawks and Elder Nelson during my time in Liverpool!

On the same day there was another baptism in Wrexham of a Chinese woman from Zimbabwe named Shuetyee, whom I found and taught with Elder Goodman more than 6 weeks ago in Wrexham. She was the one who treated us to a frontyard barbecue! Unfortunately I was not able to attend her baptism because I had to be at Liverpool for Black's baptism! Nevertheless, 2 baptisms in one day was definitely a real early birthday treat!

Earlier last week Elder Hare and I were also able to help a member of the ward move. At the end of it we presented them some homemade certificates for their help in missionary work, including driving us, teaching with us and feeding us!

Here's a random photo of Elder Hare and I with some Romanians on the streets of Oldham. Elder Hare's ukuleles are a fantastic tool that helps us start conversations!

A few days ago we went out to the boonies to help a family move into their new home by scraping the old wallpaper off. Before we were able to help, some professional plumbing and rewiring needed to be done, so we had some time to explore the surroundings.

As you can see in the background of the above photo, this is the reason why the family decided to move there.
We went off on a trek to enjoy the pretty scenery and talk to a few people. I took Elder Hare's ukulele with me!

This is how I hunt Chinese people with Elder Hare in Oldham

Elder Hare and I stopped to take a new companionship photo:

We stopped to take a group photo. I had to put some stuff in my pockets so it looks like I have a big tummy haha

This photo has a bit of the nice hilly scenery behind us, and also Elder Kulygin with food in his mouth :)

Elder Bytheway and Elder Kulygin had fun with a giant rotating "lazy susan"

Elder Bytheway has had enough:

How about some Kungfu?

We found a fancy swing as well. If you look closely at this photo, you'll notice that my body is all blurred but the camera managed to capture my face clearly. I must be photogenic ^^,

Boy Band cover photo:

We found some sheep!

We took the divine mandate to "Feed My Sheep" quite literally:

Here's an attempt at outdoor modeling:

We came across a bridge that crossed a pretty little stream

Elder Kulygin found a nice bit of elevation. Here he looks as if we caught him about to pee in the grass haha

And here are some photos of the scenery we were treated to, which were very much what I pictured England to be like when I received my Mission Call:

And that wraps up our little trip to Narnia!

Elder Hare and I have definitely been seeing much success in our missionary efforts among the Chinese people in Oldham. We've built many good friendships with Chinese takeaway owners, and we do get a fair bit of free food and drinks, but more importantly, we are seeing how the Lord is softening their hearts and preparing them for His Restored Gospel. So many of them have questions about life, or have needs in their lives that can only be filled by Christ, the Bread of Life. As more of them have begun to warm up towards us, we have been able to start blessing them through the teachings of Jesus Christ. What a blessing it is!

Many Happy Returns
Week 69 (23 Oct 2013)

I'm officially 23 now!

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes. I'm a little pressed for time today, so the email will have to be short, but here are some photos of what I've been up to during my birthday weekend:

Nerf gun war with a family! Complete with scopes and everything O_O

I was also able to celebrate my birthday with the Whitehouse family. The wife, Lianne, is best of friends with Kerrin Henly Royle, who once served in the Singapore/Malaysia mission!

After that, Elder Hare and I went to a birthday party at a member's home (we helped the father set up a marquee for his daughter's 16th birthday! They got me a cake with a dynamite-like candle!

 The birthday girl with us
And on Sunday I was treated to some African food!

Post Birthday
Week 70 (29 Oct 2013)

Elder Hare and I have been extremely busy going around visiting our Chinese friends around Oldham this past week. We absolutely love it and we're seeing the Lord's hand in the work that we're doing.
This week I was excited to meet Elder Suriyachan, a new missionary from Thailand! He is serving in an area not too far from me, and he reminded me of Shuan quite a bit when I met him at a Zone Meeting!

Elder Suriyachan in the centre, with various photobombers in the background

I was also able to receive my birthday presents at the Zone Meeting! 
Hollister cologne from Su! I'll be making a lot more new friends now haha!

 Packets of Bak Kut Teh seasoning from Dad! I don't really have the time to cook them, but I'll get our Chinese friends to cook it for me hehe ^^,

1TB External Hard Disk from Dad! Definitely useful long after my Mission is over!

Two new ties from Jonny Liu! Yeah!
During the week we received a phone call from one of our friends who owns a Chinese Chippy. He asked us to come over that evening to have a meal with them and teach his children more about Jesus Christ!
Elder Hare and I got to have a behind-the-scenes look at the Chinese chippy

Here's Elder Hare serving customers chips. I had the opportunity to learn more cooking skills from the chefs in the kitchen! 
 Knowing my deep and abiding love for eating prawns, our friends made us some chilli garlic king prawns. Yummy :)

 We had the opportunity to take photos of their massive Lego Star Wars collection too!

They had a lot more than what I fit in the photos! They had the RAAC Transport plane, a couple of other vehicles, and even the Death Star, which will be opened only during Christmas! 
And here's a random photo of me at the bus station

In Remembrance of Mom
Week 71 (4 Nov 2013)

Very unfortunately, my camera has malfunctioned and the lenses are jammed, so I have not been able to take any photos with my camera. I've been using Elder Hare's camera to take photos, but for some reason, the computer I'm using today isn't picking up his memory card, so this week's email will have to be words only.

I would like to share some special experiences I had recently:

A few weeks ago Elder Hare and I visited a Thai cafe after a meeting. We had made friends with the Thai owner of the cafe, named Ambidextrous Lass (name ridiculously changed). As we were speaking with her we got permission to call Elder Suriyachan (the new Thai missionary who looks like Shuan) and have him speak to her over the phone in their native tongue. They had a brief, excited chat, and Elder Hare and I were able to finish our conversation with Ambidextrous Lass (she gave us some free pies to help us through the day too). This past Saturday, Elder Suriyachan excitedly came up to me and thanked me for calling him that day. He shared how he was going through a difficult time that day - he felt inadequate, that he didn't know English well enough to serve here, and he really wanted to go back to Thailand and serve his mission there. It was at that point when he was feeling down that he received the phone call from us and had a chance to speak to Ambidextrous Lass in Thai! He said he felt like he was speaking to family when he spoke with her. I was so grateful to be able to see how a simple phone call uplifted another missionary.

On Saturday, we went to teach a young Chinese mother named Galvanised Yacht (name ridiculously changed). Galvanised Yacht had a Christian mother in China, and already has a belief in God. The lesson went very well as we introduced the Godhead (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost) and bore our testimony of the blessings Gospel. At the end, we invited Galvanised Yacht to be baptised, and she said that she felt she needed more time. However, as she offered the closing prayer she kept pausing and struggling with words. After she finished, she shared with us how she found it strange that as she tried to pray she felt very emotional, to the point of crying. We excitedly turned to Helaman 5:30, which describes a group of people who heard the voice of God for the first time:

"And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul-"

We explained to Galvanised Yacht how the voice of God, through the Holy Ghost, "did pierce even to the very soul". She told us that the scripture described her feelings exactly, and proceeded to ask us more about baptism. She asked us to help prepare her for baptism! The Spirit which we felt during the lesson had left a lasting impression on all of us, and the light of Christ is beginning to shine greater in her eyes.

It is truly a privilege to serve God at this time. I'm coming to a point in my mission where I have to start thinking about a lot of things that I'll need to do after I complete my mission, like how I'm going to find a wife haha. In all seriousness though, I've seen so many miracles on my mission and I continue to see them each day. Life after my mission will be somewhat different, but I do hope that I will be able to successfully take the lessons I've learnt here and apply to them to the rest of my life ahead.

This week we celebrate Shuan's birthday (Happy Birthday Shuan!), and we also remember the passing of Mom on the 6th of November. An interesting coincidence occurred this past week: my Adidas watch, which was Mom's last gift to me before I embarked on my full-time mission, died. I tried getting the battery replaced but it seems that there is a problem in the circuitry, which is pointless to spend money repairing. It's much cheaper to simply buy a new watch. A friend from the church gave me his watch, so I'm wearing both at the moment. One to tell the time and the other to remember Mom. Only a few people have noticed hehe. When they do ask, it's a great way to start a conversation about Mom's passing, which then allows me to bring up the hope of life after death through Christ and the perpetuation of family relationships beyond the grave. Yeah! V( ^__^ )V

I have said this before, but all that I have in this life, I owe to God, who in turn has given to me through Mom. I would not have the opportunity to touch lives through God's Word if not for the upbringing that Mom provided for me. I realised this even more greatly than before as I've spent time serving God in the UK, away from family and friends. God has been kind to me, as I've found new family and friends here, but I will always have Mom in my heart, spurring me on to be the best that I can be, which was all that she ever desired of me.

I know that just as both the Bible and the Book of Mormon decree, Christ has conquered death for us, and through Him we can conquer ourselves and become like Him. Mom set the example of a true disciple of Christ, in spite of all of her fears and challenges. I am confident that Mom's last wish was for us, her children, her most cherished gems, to continue her legacy of discipleship. She endured her own Gethsemane as Christ did His during His infinite sacrifice, and we will find moments where we will walk a similar path. May we always follow Mom's example of turning to Christ and relying on Him, our sure foundation, which will never fail us.

The Tale Of Two Fathers
Week 72 (12 Nov 2013)

First of all, Happy Birthday to Ying Er today!

Elder Hare and I have been very busy this past week, as usual. We continue to see God's power in the work that we do each day, and we continue to see how inadequate we are and how little we can achieve without Him.

This week I've been thinking about two fathers I've met recently. They are of similar age, and both of them run businesses of their own. Each of them has a family of their own as well.

The first man owns a big, reputable business with many branches and has made a lot of hard-earned money. He is well-known in the local community and is respected for his achievements.

The second man owns a small business and earns a fair amount of money. His business isn't as successful as the first man, nor is he as renown as the first man is, but there is a crucial difference between the two of them.

While the first man focuses all his energy on his work and his business and his reputation, the second man focuses on his family and sees work as simply a means to support his family.

When asked how he felt when his first child was born, the first man replied that when the baby's birth was imminent, he told his wife that she had better have the child on his day off so that it wouldn't interrupt his work. After all, his business was completely dependent on him. And so the baby was delivered on his day off.

The second man replied that when his first child was born, his whole life changed. He made the occasion as memorable as possible, and when he finally held his first child in his hand, he wept tears of joy for the first time in his life. He realised that nothing would ever be the same as before. He explained that becoming a father was very different from becoming a husband. After all the child was completely dependent on him. He had experienced a humbling epiphany, and his emotions welled up even as he spoke.

The difference in the way I felt when I spoke to these two men was so apparent. While I respected the achievements of the first man, I had no admiration for him at all. He was weighed down by the stress of his work and his position, and he was also very bitter about the things competitors or troublesome employees had done in the past. On the other hand, the second man was simply a joy to talk to. I've seen how hard he works for his children, and also how he treats them. I had both respect and admiration for him, for his pride and joy are clearly centred on his achievements within the walls of his own home.

Both of these men had much advice to tell me, but I learnt less from what they told me than what I learnt from their examples.

Here are some photos of what I've been up to for the past few weeks, as taken by Elder Hare's camera:

Hot pot with a happy Chinese family!

Free food from a Chinese takeaway that appreciates our missionary efforts!

 Helping a member of our church sandpaper her door frame. We've been going over to help strip wall paper, sweep and mop up plaster dust and various other odd jobs. I've learnt a lot about what renovating a home entails - excessive stress on both your mind and your wallet!

Admiring the scenery in Delph, a village not far from Oldham :

Making homemade ice-cream sundaes with members of the local congregation

Learning jazz piano with the help of another missionary!

Celebrating Guy Fawkes' Night, also commonly referred to locally as Bonfire Night, which involves plenty of sparklers and fireworks...

And socialising...

... with the youth of the Oldham Ward! 

Meeting more Chinese families in Oldham and enjoying some home-cooked Chinese food

Teaching children the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Friend magazine

Playing Ukuleles with people in town and sharing the Gospel with them!

We're almost like the Pied Piper in some estates

There's also nothing like breaking our fasts with a traditional English Sunday Roast Dinner!

... and getting free Lego stuff from a friendly Lego collector!

As you can see from many of the photos above, Elder Hare and I are being fed quite well in Oldham, so please help make sure that the missionaries where you are living are being fed well too!

Weight Gain Woes
Week 73 (18 Nov 2013)

Elder Hare and I had an interesting experience this week as we've learnt how God works through our weaknesses.

On Friday, Elder Hare and I went to a nearby library to type some stuff up for an assignment from the Assistants to our Mission President. When we arrived at the library, I realised, to my horror, that I had left the phone in our flat that morning. As a result, we had to cut short the time we would spend in the library so as to allow us sufficient time to return to our flat to retrieve our phone and then head to our next appointment.

While we were leaving the library, Elder Hare started a conversation with a Chinese-looking woman, and quickly discovered that she was Malaysian! I had a great chat with her and discovered that she was originally from Johor and married an Englishman. She has been living in the UK for over 40 years and is now widowed. She was so friendly and we visited her in her home the next day. It was nice to speak to her because she was from an educated English-speaking family, just like Dad's family, and hearing her accent reminded me of my uncles and cousins! Our new friend ended up hurting herself before our visit the following day, and when we dropped by we were able to give her a priesthood blessing and also a copy of the Book of Mormon to read while she stays in. It was really interesting to note that we would never have met her if had not needed to leave the library earlier than expected!

Photos of the week :

District Photo!

This past week, Elder Hare and I had the chance to cook some Malaysian food using the spices Su and Jay sent me last year. We were graciously hosted by Sister Amuah, from Ghana, who provided all the necessary ingredients for us 
Sister Amuah, with me in the background

Black Pepper Chicken and Malaysian Sambal Tumis!

 Elder Hare and I cut up the vegetables for the Sambal and Black Pepper Chicken, while Sister Amuah went out to get some chicken fillets.

We started cooking as soon as she returned!

The finished product: 
 Sambal Tumis, consisting of okra, long beans, flat beans, eggplant, and prawns. Mmmmm....

Makan! ("Eat" in Malay)

Wow. The Sambal Tumis was SPICY. Even Sister Amuah, who eats spicy food quite often, said that it was too spicy for her. I haven't had real spicy food for a long time, since people eat differently in the UK. I was sweating behind the ears and my nose was completely cleared. No tears though. I think the last time I teared up from eating spicy food was when I had that Indonesian Ayam Penyet in Singapore. That was vicious. Unfortunately we forgot to take a photo of me while I was putting down that Sambal Tumis.

While Elder Hare and I were out proselyting on Saturday, we met a man who was so excited to see us with the ukuleles that he ran back to his house and came back with a mandolin, which he simply gave to Elder Hare! 
 Elder Hare with his new friend and mandolin
Showing off our new proselyting gear with the Sisters.

On Sunday, we visited a Chinese takeaway, and the chefs made some Beef Hor Fun for me and Elder Hare. It's the closest thing to Char Kuey Teow that I've had in the UK so far!

And finally, for a more shallow bit of news: as you might have noticed from the title (as well as from all the photos I've been sending involving lots of food), I've been undergoing some weight gain woes lately. I first noticed that my trousers and shirt collars were getting a little tight. Then I started comparing my latest photos with some old photos. 

Compare my facial structure in this photo taken just yesterday with the next, taken at the airport when I left Singapore 
I also definitely had a much slimmer waistline before I came to the UK!

The last straw was when I spent a few mornings patching up 3 sets of trousers that had ripped in embarrassing places from the strain of exceeding tightness!

It definitely makes for a good laugh, if not for how worrying it is that I might not be able to fit into the clothes I came on my mission with if I keep putting on weight! I started increasing the intensity of my morning exercise this past week. Now I'll just have to maintain it over the course of the next month so that buying new clothes for Christmas will be a treat and not a necessity!!!!

Elder Hare and I are coming to the end of our 2nd transfer in Oldham. Next week is transfers, so I will be emailing either on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on whether we stay in Oldham together or not. I've definitely had a great time in Oldham, and I would be absolutely shattered if I don't get to spend Christmas in Oldham next transfer, but I will go where the Lord wants me to go!

Farewell Oldham
Week 74 (28 Nov 2013)

We've reached the end of yet another transfer, and I've been transferred back to the area I first started serving my mission - the Manchester YSA! Elder Hare will be staying in Oldham and Elder Hawks, whom I served with in Liverpool, will be moving from Manchester YSA to Oldham for the next transfer. My current companion is Elder Greenland, whom I served with last Christmas when he was a fresh new missionary! I don't have any new photos with him yet, but I'll send a photo as a reminder of who he is when I get to email again on Monday.
This past week was a lot of farewells for me in the blessed land of Oldham. I'm pressed for time today because I have to go to the chapel with Elder Greenland to prepare for a baptism this evening (they're already working me hard in Manchester!) so I won't be able to write much, but here are a couple of photos:

One of our Chinese friends made some 豆沙包, or red bean "pau" (Chinese steamed buns) and added a cute touch - hedgehog designs! Apparently she worked at a bakery before!

 We went to visit our friends the Sham family (who own the best Chinese takeaway in Royton - so go buy food from them!) earlier during the week, and they had some crab waiting for me and Elder Hare!

They also had a lobster waiting for us to come back and eat the next day....

This is Isaac, a deacon from the Oldham Ward whom Elder Hare and I have been helping to learn Chinese, which he's studying at school! Apparently he was able to get a good grade for Chinese recently, so hopefully that helped to assure the Oldham Ward that we actually know Chinese haha

Me and Elijah, a convert from Ghana!

Me and the Amuah family. Sister Amuah, who is not in this photo, was the one who hosted me and Elder Hare for us to cook that vicious sweat-inducing Malaysian sambal tumis that we had previously (see Week 73) 
The Shaw family! Elder Hare and I had tea with them about 2 weeks ago and we had a great jamming session with Brother Shaw who brought his guitar out!

Bishop Ashworth's family. I just want to make a special mention of how great he is as a Bishop and also as a father (and I'm saying that not only because he's now part of the email list haha)
While I was packing my stuff in preparation to leave Oldham, Elder Hare decided to go through his own stuff to re-evaluate what he should still keep. I tried out one of his old suits (he's lost a lot of weight since he entered the mission field) 

I managed to fit both legs into his trousers' pantleg

And this is how I'll be dressed in the future if I'm not diligent with my morning exercise routine!
One of the last few things I got to do in Oldham was go to a nice chinese restaurant with the Sham family, with a ride back and everything! Yeah!

It's the end of all our tea appointments with members of the church now that I've been transferred back to the YSA Ward. Elder Greenland and I are planning to eat as healthily as we can afford (both financially and time-wise). I've also found some skipping rope in the Manchester flat, and with the exercise routine that Elder Greenland and I have planned out, I should be able to lose enough weight to not only be able to run after and hunt down Chinese people in Manchester more quickly, but also be able to buy clothes during the Boxing Day sales that I can actually fit into after my mission. Yeah! V(^_^)V
More to come about my adventures back in Manchester next Monday. 

Return to Manchester YSA
Week 75 (2 Dec 2013)

So I'm back serving in the Manchester YSA Ward now, with Elder Greenland, whom I served with last Christmas! It's been great.... except for our flat. Wow, the flat needs a lot of cleaning. It's a nice flat, but very poorly maintained. Elder Greenland and I have been doing some deep cleaning. There's a lot of rubbish and stuff that needs to be thrown out. I only finally managed to clear my study desk today. Last week I spent a few evening clearing the kitchen counters, which are about 60% visible now. Our bedroom is going to need a lot of work. There's a whole garage sale underneath my bed. We've decided to put all the old clothes that previous missionaries left behind into one big bag and take it to Cash 4 Clothes and see if we can get enough money to buy new companionship ties haha. I took some photos of our flat before we started cleaning (or cleansing, really) so when we're done some time next year I'll send some before-and-after photos.
Speaking of before-and-after, after the horrendous realisation of weight-gain episode a few weeks ago, Elder Greenland and I have resolved to almost literally work our butts off in the morning. We've made plans to run in the morning about 3 times a week, which we've been able to maintain up to this point, and then do weights and other strength exercises on the days (apart from the Sabbath) that we're not running. I've definitely been feeling a lot healthier. On top of all this we're switching to brown rice and plenty of fruits and fruit juices (which is becoming a nightmare to carry back from the store). Vegetables are a little bit expensive. It costs about a pound for just 2 stalks of Bak Choy. No wonder nobody wants to eat vegetables!
All this is being done so that when I Skype home on Christmas, nobody is going to need to comment on my weight gain and take up precious conversation time hah!
Onto how the missionary work is going in Manchester... it's crunch time for most of the Chinese university students that we're meeting at this time, as most people are squeezing out dissertations and preparing for presentations this week. In the weeks that follow, there'll be a Christmas break, and a lot of these students will be going away on holiday, so we're going to hope that this is the Lord's way of sifting out the ones who aren't yet prepared to hear our message haha. I've almost forgotten what it's like to speak to people who are my age. It's a nice treat to be able to work with university students again. We definitely don't have to deal with rowdy children while teaching lessons now. Yeah! V( ^__^ )V
Unfortunately since my camera is pretty much broken and I no longer have Elder Hare to help me take photos with his camera, I don't have any photos for this email this time. I'll see if I can get Elder Greenland's help until I either fix my camera or get it replaced!

Busy in Manchester

Week 76 (9 Dec 2013)
Elder Greenland and I have been very busy roaming the streets of Manchester talking to people this past week. It's been a great experience reuniting with Elder Greenland, whom I served with last Christmas. We've already been having some great experiences as we've been out on the streets. Here's one:
Last night Elder Greenland and I were out street contacting (talking to people on the street to find those who are interested in learning more from us) in the rain. We decided to start at one end of a rather long, busy street in the university area and street contact our way to the other end. Along the way, we felt prompted to make a detour onto a rather quiet street, which seemed pointless at first because our whole point of being out on the streets was to talk to people. Nevertheless, we trudged on and finally met a young man on the street named Minotaur Salmon (name ridiculously changed), who was on crutches. We spoke to him and offered help. Elder Greenland carried his bag while I sheltered him with my umbrella. Minotaur Salmon had suffered a stress fracture on his foot and, having spent 4 hours at the hospital, had to walk home for about an hour because he didn't have a bus pass or any money on him. He was having the worst day of his life. He almost couldn't believe we were offering him help. We had a great conversation as we walked him home for about 50 minutes. It was really nice to know that the Lord led us to someone in need that evening.
Some good news: while I still struggle to sort out my malfunctioning camera, Elder Greenland has agreed to let me use his camera to take photos!

Elaine's baptism, which happened about 2 weeks ago. She was found and taught before I came back to the YSA Ward.

Evangeline (who was baptised earlier this year after having been taught for 3 years) made us some egg tarts! We gobbled them up in minutes.

 Pesto rice, a dish I threw together this transfer that we've been having about twice a week. Basically it's (brown) rice with peppers, onions, chicken and sausages, mixed with green pesto.

Last week Elder Greenland and I went to the City Centre in Manchester to take a look at the German market. There was a nativity that reminded me of what we had back home.
Me and the nativity in the background.

There were also bratwurst sausages going for £4.50. Definitely overpriced but the smell was irresistible O_O

There was a stall selling metal art, with all sorts of interesting sculptures!

As part of our push for a healthier diet, Elder Greenland and I have made it a point to purchase fruit juice.

Elder Greenland took a random photo of the streets in Manchester. I love the sunset colours! This will give those of you from back home an idea of the environment in which I'm serving.

We had the Zone Leaders over at our flat for a meal the other day. I whipped up some omelette, chinese leaf and stir-fried chicken to go with rice. Elder Bytheway, whom I'm serving in the same ward with for the 3rd time, was most excited V( ^__^ )

My £6 Primark messenger bag which I've been using finally fell apart, having lasted a few months. I had to get a new bag, so I got another £6 Primark messenger bag to hopefully last the next 6 months heh heh.

This is what I have to look at every morning when Elder Bluebeard - I mean Elder Greenland is shaving

More food! Stir-fried chicken with cucumber omelet and leftover buttered rice and pesto rice. The heart-shaped one was for Elder Greenland ;) 
Since we work with Chinese students in general, Elder Greenland and I get some really funny texts every now and then. Here's an example of a friend telling us that he'll presumably get in touch with his classmate

We decided to re-enact how it would look like:

 We've also seen some pretty interesting reasons to not meet with us:

This morning during our mandatory (and very necessary) flat cleaning, I finally cleared out the junk from underneath my bed, which was all there when I moved in. I took a photo of all the stuff I found. Evidently, Sisters aren't necessarily the best at keeping their flats tidy either hurhurhur...

And finally, my latest comic which I drew for the YSA Ward! 

(Click the Cartoon to see it in full size)

Christmastime Is Near
Week 77 (18 Dec 2013)

I apologise for the late email this week - yesterday was our special Christmas Training at our Mission President's home, so our Preparation Day got shifted to Tuesday.
I also have to apologise for not being able to provide photos in this week's email - I forgot to ask Elder Greenland to bring his camera to the library so I can get the photos we've taken this past week!
First, some practicalities that need to be discussed with the family:
We need to organise when we'll have our Chong family (including the extended family) Skype/Google Hangout for Christmas. I told Su about this, but I'll repeat it here - I get Christmas Eve off after 4pm local time, the whole of Christmas Day off, and Boxing Day (the 26th) off up till 6pm local time. However on Boxing Day I'll most likely be shopping to take advantage of the massive sales and discounts that will be all around the UK on Boxing Day, so it will probably be best to have our Hangout on Christmas Day like last year. Please let me know latest by next Monday (the 23rd) when the whole family can be available to do a Google Hangout in terms of UK local time, and I'll try to plan accordingly. We don't have many families with whom we can spend Christmas Day in their homes because we're in the YSA Ward, but there are members from nearby Wards plus a Senior Missionary Couple in the Ward who are helping out, and we have some Chinese students who will be around that I could perhaps chat using their laptops if the necessity arises. So let me know what time I need to be online!
My remaining email time is limited, so I will just share some insights I gained while interviewing someone who was preparing for baptism:
During the interview, we discussed the doctrine and reasoning behind what we call the Law of Chastity. For my friends who are unfamiliar with Mormon lingo, this is a strict requirement to keep sexual relationships solely within the bounds of a legal and lawful marriage between a man and a woman. In other words, premarital sex and cohabitation are violations of the law of chastity.
As I spoke to the person being interviewed about the Law of Chastity, he raised a question about why premarital sex is against the Law of Chastity. This led to a discussion on the sanctity of marriage. In almost all traditional cultures of the world, regardless of religion, there is some form of ceremonial marriage that is performed and observed. It is my belief that this is the case because marriage, which we believe to be ordained of God, is a practice that has been passed down since the beginning of the world. 

However, today secular marriages are becoming increasingly irrelevant as cohabitation and civil partnerships have begun to arise - meaning more couples are living together and having families without being married. From a secular point of view there is really no significance to marriage if it is just a ceremonial union of two partners who vow to stick to each other till death do them part. There really isn't much of a difference between an unmarried couple living together compared to a married couple in this sense. After all, a secular marriage is pretty much nothing more than a piece of paper.

On the other hand, we Mormons have an understanding of the significance of an eternal marriage: a divinely-sanctioned union where a couple commit to being together for all time and eternity, even after death, thereafter "sealed" together through the power of God. This sacred union as we understand it allows for and is in fact intended for the continual and everlasting progression of the couple. This is connected to an understanding that the power of procreation is God-given, and is meant to be kept within the bonds of marriage as defined by God. The concept of an eternal marriage makes the marriage both more significant and more meaningful.

 So that was the little bit of insight that I gained as I answered his question. It definitely deepened my appreciation for God's marvellous plan!

Happy Christmas!!!!
Week 78 (23 Dec 2013)

Christmastime is here! Everyone is super excited; the joyful Christmas season is truly here - as you can tell by our Mission President's socks:

This Christmas is going to be my best one yet! Here's why:
We started off December with the baptism of our friend Lam from Hong Kong

He was originally taught by Elder Hawks (my ex-companion who's now taking my place serving in Oldham). He had previously been baptised into another church in Hong Kong, and received an answer from God when he prayed to ask why he needed to be baptised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Also, Elder Hare bought me a Ukulele for Christmas!!!! 
I've figured out a few Christmas songs, which I'll demonstrate during our family Google Hangout on Christmas Day! ;)
I helped organise a Chinese hotpot gathering at the chapel two Saturdays ago. I was originally meant to be away on exchange, but the other missionaries who were there phoned me and said I needed to be there because nobody knew how exactly to make hotpot....

.... the truth is, I didn't really have any idea either - nor did our Chinese friends who showed up! Nevertheless I successfully stumbled my way through it by sheer determination and "winging it" thanks to my experience with guessing and figuring out Mom's recipes. It was pretty delicious :)
Our Mission President and Wife also held a Mission Home Christmas Training for two weeks so that everyone in the Mission has a chance to go to the Mission Home to celebrate Christmas. As part of our preparation, we had to get a gift for a gift exchange game.
This is what I brought: 
I wanted to bring a ridiculously long box of Jaffa Cakes which I brought to last year's Christmas training, but sadly it wasn't sold at the store I went to.
We had a great training by President Preston on the meaning of Christmas; instead of reading the Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2, we studied Luke Chapter 22, which tells us of Jesus Christ's introduction of the sacrament to His Apostles, followed by His everlasting, atoning sacrifice and suffering for us in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we remember our Saviour's birth this Christmas, it is more important to remember the core of His divine mission - to Atone for all of our sins.
Upon closing his training, President Preston remarked that "Man shall not live by bread alone - that's why we've prepared turkey!" 


After our gluttonous feast, Elder Greenland attempted to pretend to be me:

 Like father like son?

Elder Greenland and I have also been up to various things as we've been busy working hard in Manchester.

Our evenings once we're back in the flat consist mainly of dozens of phone calls to set up appointments and invite people to our activities

We also took a photo to commemorate our second time serving together:

I had an exchange with Elder Bytheway! This is the third time we're serving in the same area at the same time (four if you count the MTC). I was in the process of making him our traditional "exchange omelet" when we had to quickly end the exchange, hence the apron and the plastic container.

 Elder Greenland took the infamous "duckface" to a new level

I also developed a new dish - Red Pesto Rice! It's not very different from my Green Pesto Rice though. I occasionally call it "Malaysian Pesto Rice". When questioned about what makes it Malaysian, my simple reply is "Pesto rice prepared by a Malaysian!". The same goes with my "Malaysian Sandwiches" and "Malaysian fried rice" hahaha

 And finally, Elder Greenland and I successfully cleaned out the flat to make room for Santa Claus!

Before (when I just arrived in Manchester) and After for the kitchen. We had to throw out a lot of stuff, reorganise a few things, and replace several lightbulbs. We can actually feel the Spirit in our flat now! 
Here's the secret to effective cleaning (as taught to me by a former landlord):
Baby wipes! I solemnly testify that you can even clean a nuclear fallout with baby wipes. The only downside is that when Elder Greenland and I buy baby wipes people might mistake us for a gay couple that just adopted :/
Speaking of clean-it-all baby wipes, I wish to end this email with my testimony that our Saviour Jesus Christ's atonement truly saves us all from our sins and weakness. Though our sins may be a scarlet (plus grease stains and grime), through our one and only Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, they can be made white as snow. May we all remember our Great Mediator's pinnacle event in His life - His great Atoning Sacrifice, even as we remember His miraculous birth this Christmas Season.
Happy Christmas!

Much Love,
Elder Chong 张长老

Happy Christmas and New Year!!!!
Week 79 (30 Dec 2013)

Happy Christmas everyone!

As you can see, we were all set to celebrate this past week:

Non-alcoholic Shloer!!!!

Elder Greenland and I spent 2 nights with 4 other Elders from the District in their flat for Christmas. Here's a photo we took in the van they drove us in :

An Englishman, a Canadian, an American, a Chinese/Malaysian, a Ginger, and an African - it's like the start of a bad joke hahaha.

Christmas was also a time of farewell for Elder Ford (for those of you who know him). I managed to take a photo with him a few days before he completed his two-year mission:

As you can see, either I'm really short or he's really tall. Or both.

And of course : Christmas presents! 
Obviously, not all of the above were mine. These was shared between 6 Elders, one of whom received 11 packages!!!!

And now.... a chain of Christmas Day unwrapping-presents selfies :

1. A gift from the youth of the Manchester Stake:
With a funny kind of scarf :

 ... yeah I'm probably not going to wear it out proselyting....

2, A gift bag from President & Sister Preston:

Definitely no hope of going on a diet this Christmas season!

3. A gift from a member of the Ward: 

4. A Christmas goody bag from Sister Preston :

5. Fancy socks from Elder Chaproniere from our District :

6. A letter from my Stake President and his wife :
 ...with a reminder to keep workingrd ;)

 A Christmas card from the Amuah family!
Thanks, Amuah family!

8. And finally... the parcel from Su 姐!

I had to open it with a knife!

Covered by the socks: a month's supply of Pokki (or a day's, depending on the situation)

My favorite :
A canteen tie! No longer will I need to get up for a drink of water during those long meetings.

Also, check out this fun T-shirt Elder Chaproniere got for Christmas!

And the giant Christmas Cracker we had

This Christmas was also particularly special, because we had a special visit from Jason and Siti from Preston!
A year ago, during the Christmas season, Elder Greenland and I found Jason and Siti (separately) while we were serving together in Preston. Since then they were taught by missionaries, and both of them were baptised earlier this year. They came down to Manchester to visit us - the first missionaries they met! Now that's a true Christmas gift.

We went to a Thai restaurant together with our friend Ally who is learning more about the church :

Jason and Siti later went on a split with Elder Greenland and me to do missionary work. What a treat!

Our Ward Mission Leader Christian also took us missionaries out to an all-you-can-eat breakfast at a carvery as a treat for the hard work we've put in:

And finally, a photo of a little yellow man high five-ing another little yellow man!

Happy Christmas

Comments from Elder Chong's father :
This blog post will continue in another new post earmarked to contain reports of the last 6 months of his mission which ends in June 2014. .

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