Sunday, September 27, 2015

Back to the Future

Wow.  It's been a while since my last email.  I really enjoyed P-Day last week Friday, and Saturday was good as well.  Our evening teacher, Sister Haws shared another great quote: Inadequacy is saying you can't do it, humility is saying that you can't do it without the Lord.  That is such a great quote, and I'll touch more upon it later on.  

As you know, Sundays in the MTC are very unique, but I'm definitely going to miss the fun feel they had.  The Sunday Evening Devotional was given by Lloyd Newell.  Some of you probably know who he is, but I had no idea.  They announced him as the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (coincidentally, Mormon Tabernacle Choir abbreviated is MTC, so he was very fun to hear from) but I still didn't know.  Then he went: "This is the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Music from this session is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir..."  Then it clicked.  The dude is practically the voice of General Conference!  He was sooo cool!  Because Brother Newell loves music, the devotional was centered upon it.  He led the choir in a few songs, to which they closed singing "Amen" just like the real MTC does in Conference.  He shared a video of Praise to The Man by the Choir that I highly recommend you go and watch.  It was pretty legendary.  He based his message on the hymn "How Firm a Foundation", explaining to us that we should fear not because the Lord knows us and He knows that we can do His will.  I knew that he gave a great talk, but I didn't know how inspirational it would be until now.  More on that later as well.  

Monday was travel day.  We got to call our families in Salt Lake City, and in San Francisco which felt so good.  And then all of a sudden, we weren't in America anymore.  It flew by so quickly.  I gave the title "Back to The Future" because we went back in time to San Fran, and then shot into the future with a 13 hour flight to New Zealand.  Gosh dang that was brutal.  We traveled for about a full day, but because of the time difference, we arrived in Australia on Wednesday.  The time difference really messes with you! 

On Day 1, we were met at the airport by President and Sister Checkets, who are very nice and they took all the new missionaries to the city in Sydney, where we met at the Hyde Park chapel (which is in a high rise building) for some briefing.  Then we went to a street corner, met up with another zone to sing some hymns and go soap boxing.  That was a very unique experience, because you typically don;t stand on a milk crate and preach in America.  

It's been an interesting few days.  At times, I felt like I was, still in America.  And then I'd look around me and realize that nope, I was definitely in a foreign country.  Some parts of the freeway reminded me of the drive into Chavez Ravine by Dodger Stadium.  Some of the plants here are the same as in Hawai'i, but the cities here are in no way comparable to Honolulu and Waikiki back home.  I haven't eaten dinner at members' houses yet, but I think, at least in my area right now, I should be eating pretty normal food.  

My companion, Elder Lamipeti is from Tonga and we live in an apartment in Dee Why.  The chapel is a decent 30 minute walk from the apartment, a little bit shorter if we're lucky and catch the bus a few blocks.  Because he's only 12 weeks out, and I'm a fresh few days out, guess what we get to do? Walk, walk, walk! We definitely get good exercise every day.  The only problem with this is that our area is gigantic.  Looking on the map and from what I know, we have members in Dee Why, Manly,  Brookvale,  Mona Vale, and Collaroy.  Those are all cities fairly close by, but we can go all the way to Avalon.  I haven't been that far north yet, so I'll try not to exaggerate, but I think our area takes up a good chunk of Hawai'i.  I'd say the drive from Mililani to La'ie is a little over half of our area.  So that's definitely interesting.  

We serve in the Harbour (that's another weird thing here: they spell stuff like that: harbour, flavour, etc.) North zone, Greenwhich District and Harbord Ward.  The ward is a good 90% Tongan, no joke.  The other 10% is Maori with a few "palangi's" as they say.  Sooo in a way, I kinda feel at home. but at the same time, a little out of place.  Elder Lamipeti can communicate with most of the members in Tongan, while I, the palangi, stand there and wait for them to speak in English again.  It really makes me thankful that I didn't have to learn another language though.  

Now, I'm gonna be honest, my first couple days here were kinda rough.  I struggled with the transition to being in a foreign country and I missed everything: my family, my friends, even silly things like American money, signs, and license plates.  It was a weird feeling because just a few days before, I was in Provo, with American companions, and I was loving life in the MTC.  I got pretty emotional every time I thought about it.  I told myself that like the MTC, I just needed to get to Sunday.  I made it to Sunday, and I really felt things change yesterday.  My attitude got a little better, and I began to feel a little more comfortable being in a foreign country.  I felt comfortable teaching the lessons, the only problem was I need to find people to teach.  But yesterday, I felt a shift.  I felt a little better talking to people on the streets and I know that it will continue to get better as I practice doing so.  

Which brings me back to my previous points.  I needed the Lord's help.  I needed to pray for help, peace, and comfort.  So that's exactly what I did.  But He knew me.  My attitude wasn't in the right place to receive that comfort at the time.  But yesterday, I did feel at peace.  I am very grateful that we can look to our Heavenly Father at any time and feel that comfort or get the guidance we need.  I know that if I am humble and continue to do the right thing, He will help me forget myself and go to work.  And that;s exactly what I need to do. 

I miss you all very much. but I know the next two years will be life changing for me, as well as the people I meet here in Australia.

Love you heaps!
Elder Muh

Word of the Week: "Boot" - The trunk of a car is called a boot here
Phrase of the Week: "How you going mate" - This is a very common thing to say, basically meaning how is your day
Sentence of the Week: "You twos just give me a ring and let me know when you need a lift" - Give me a call if you need a ride

My companion, Elder Lamipeti, and I

Friday, September 18, 2015

Week One Down

It's said that once you make it through Sunday night here in the MTC, the rest of your time flies by.  This is really true.  It's day 9, and I leave for Australia on Monday afternoon.  Craaazy! 

I've gotten pretty acclimated to the MTC and I really do love it here.  I'm definitely gonna miss it, but I am pretty excited to get to Australia.  It's funny because sometimes it feels like we're just at a huge youth conference, but then I'll look in the mirror, see my tag, and go "hey look, I'm a missionary!"  Still getting used to seeing that tag.  And referring to everyone as elder.  Haha that's really different.  

I still haven't met anybody from Hawai'i, but the cafeteria food has definitely helped with that.  On Saturday, we had fried noodles and egg rolls for dinner. Then Monday was teri burgers.  Just like home! Elder Tanner's family loves nori, so he gave me a package and oh my gosh it was greeeat!  I just sat there eating my nori while everybody gave me funny looks at what I was putting into my mouth.  A few of the elders on our floor tried it and hated it.  Hilarious.    

So my District and I have been exchanging culture lingo.  I've taught them howzit, shootz brah, cherry, and some other pidgin words/phrases.  I've adopted mainland language like sick, tight and dope.  Haha people speak a little weird up here.  They pronounce Uruguay, "you're-a-guay."  A couple of people have looked at me absolutely lost when I told them I'm from Hawai'i.  Like they've never heard of it before.  So then I tell them "uhhh the middle of the Pacific Ocean"? They typically will respond something like this: "ohhh Huh-why!"  People really need to learn how to say Hawai'i correctly here!  

Sunday was definitely an interesting Sabbath experience.  Everybody in the branch has to prepare a talk and then the branch presidency randomly selects a sister and an elder to speak during sacrament meeting.  There was so much suspense in that moment, but it really prepared you for when you're out in the field and the bishopric calls on you to speak.  I was asked to prepare a discussion for Priesthood later that afternoon and the topic was Recognizing and Understanding the Spirit, Chapter 4 in Preach My Gospel.  I feel like it was meant to be, because we had been learning about that topic for a few days and I had really been working on trying to learn and teach better by the Spirit.  Our Branch President, President Laney is like an insane scriptorian, so he really helped me out by listing a ton of scriptures on the board to go over.  He is so cool, he'll literally just recite off scriptures for us to read.  Sometimes, he'll even tell us what side of the page they're gonna be on.

Our Sunday Devotional was given by Brother Heaton, the MTC Director.  He really related his talk to how we can improve as missionaries.  He said two things that I really loved.  "Turn your umbrella upside down, because it is pouring rain" and "the secret isn't what you say, it's how you follow the Spirit."  Note that he spoke about personal revelation and the Spirit.  It's almost as if he was speaking directly to me.  

After our Sunday Devotional, all the missionaries chose a short film to watch.  One small note, all the films that they show cannot be seen anywhere else, they are MTC-exclusive.  Everyone recommended "Characters of Christ" by Elder Bednar. Holy smokes it was insane.  He basically makes you question where you are on the conversion pathway.  Are you truly converted yourself?  He teaches that in order to get rid of the natural man that we have in us, we need to turn outwards and always put others first.  It really made me question where I was spiritually and how I could improve.  

One thing I've learned in the MTC is that the Atonement is absolutely the center of everything.  It's the center of the Gospel, and the message that we are called to teach with others.  Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us so very much and that is why everything else about the gospel happened.  Our District Leader, Elder Nixon, shared something his mom told him before he left: "you can feel the love of my hugs through the Atonement".  Isn't that just so great? 

A few nights ago, we were challenged with the task of defining the Atonement.  My group came up with an analogy about a train.  Heavenly Father loves us so much that He had his Son, Jesus Christ, pay for all of our train tickets.  All we have to do is hop on that train and endure to the end.  If we get off the train to early, we simply get right back on the train again, because Christ has paid for all of our tickets, no matter how many times we need to get back on the train.  And that's the beauty of the Atonement and the repentance. 

Our Tuesday night devotional was pretty good, but what I enjoyed the most was singing "Called to Serve" with every single missionary.  Gosh dang that was so powerful.  Our closing hymn was "We'll Bring The World His Truth" and that was pretty cool too.  In the MTC, they change a few of the lyrics so that they fit our purpose.  One of them was: "we are now the Lord's missionaries."  Siiick!  

On Wednesday, our District was just chilling at lunch, eating our Navajo tacos (which were absolutely amazing and I ate two plates) when a member of the Seventy low key walks up and asks if he could eat with us.  So we're all like shootz, go right ahead!  At that point, we didn't know he was a Seventy yet.  Then he introduces himself as Elder Edward Dube from Zimbabwe, and says that he's a Seventy.  Sooo yeah like we ate lunch with a member of the Seventy.  He talked to us the whole time, sharing his thoughts about missionary work and a few scriptures as well.  Amazing.  

One last thought before I head out.  Gym time is so great for the soul.  I got to play basketball a few times here and it felt sooo good to be gettin' buckets.  

Word/Phrase/Thought/Quote of the Week: My hymn book was bookmarked to hymn number 98, "I Need Thee Every Hour" which just goes to show that the church is true (our District says that line at random times to summarize what we just learned). The title itself is inspiring.  We need to look unto Christ every single hour of our days for Him to guide us and to feel His Love.  

I should be in Australia the next time you hear from me.  Until next time, shootz!

Elder Muh 

The mandatory MTC map picture: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! 

The District with our so "boiz" morning teacher Brother Parry

The District at the Provo Temple

New companions Elder Larson and Elder Tanner

Friday, September 11, 2015

Day 3 in the MTC

The MTC so far has been absolutely incredible.  At times, it feels like BYU Basketball Camp.  Other times, an enormous Youth Conference.  But in actuality, it really is the extremely spiritual place that everybody talks about.  If you can imagine the most spiritual moment you've ever had in your life and then multiply that by 100, you'll find yourself somewhere in the MTC.  

You have your entire day for the next two or so weeks already scheduled out for you, and the first couple days I've just been trying to transition into that schedule.  I've gotten pretty acclimated, now I just got to figure out where the heck everything is on campus.  

My companion is Elder Hansen from Highland, Utah.  We followed each other on Instagram before our missions, so it's pretty neat we ended up as companions.  He went to Lone Peak, so that's pretty cool.  What's even more cool is that he loves basketball too, which is greeeaaat!  Our two roommates are Elder Blake and Elder Parkinson and they're pretty fun too.  The first night, we stayed up just talking about random stuff.  

It's a little funny because all the Utah Elders know literally everybody here (haha not really, it just seems like it sometimes) and then there's Elder Muh from Hawai'i.  We'll walk the halls and some of the Elders from my District will see missionaries from their stake of friends from around town.  I don't think there's another Elder here from Hawai'i.  If there is, I haven't met him yet.  But that's okay, because I have my li hing mui candy and generic POG in the cafeteria to keep me from getting homesick.  

The food in the cafeteria is pretty legit, it's nice to have everything there all ready for you to eat. It's not going to be like that in Australia, so I better enjoy it while it lasts!  The cafeteria reminds me of BYU Camp (especially since it's practically the same food) but the difference is at the MTC, there's close to 3,000 missionaries that need to be fed.  Also, Brother Stockdale, I've had the chocolate milk and it is amazing.    

On day 1, all the new missionaries met the MTC Presidency, but because there were too many of us, we had to split into two meetings.  The opening hymn was "Called to Serve" and even though it wasn't every single missionary here singing, it was still pretty dang powerful.  

Yesterday, we met our branch presidency for the first time and Elder Hansen and I were assigned to be the online coordinators for our District.  It's a pretty simple position because all we have to do is teach our District how to log onto the Missionary Portal and send our weekly email to the branch president.  

A lot of the MTC is just trying to retain as much of the information thrown at you.  It's really only day 2.5, so it still is a little overwhelming and stressful, but I think I'll get used to it soon.  One of the things that has been said a ton is our purpose as missionaries.  

"My purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end"

By the end of my two weeks here, I know this will be instilled in me, because it almost already is.  It's cool because our purpose is really straight forward, it's exactly what our job as missionaries is.  What we as missionaries need to realize though, is that this isn't our work.  This is Jesus Christ's work.  We have just been called as representatives of His church, and it is our privileged opportunity to represent Him on a daily to basis to carry out His work.  

Another big thing that I've come to learn is about the conversion process.  The diagram that corresponds with this process is a triangle that connects the Godhead with the missionaries, as well as the investigators.  Elder Holland teaches: "everything in the conversion process needs to happen to you before it can happen to them".  What he means by this is that I need to be a fully converted disciple of Christ myself, before I can convert an investigator to this church.  Today in class, I learned that when I introduce the Book of Mormon to someone, I'm not just telling them about a history book.  I am introducing that person to Jesus Christ, and that is so very true.  We are so blessed to be missionaries of the Lord's church because we do represent him, and we have the opportunity to introduce people to Jesus Christ every single day. 

Finally, I've learned a lot about personal revelation.  Much of my time as a missionary will involve me relying on the Spirit to direct me in where to go and what to teach.  Elder Bednar shared that when you receive a spiritual impression, you will know what to do.  He also tells that if you're trying to do your best and serve the Lord, things will turn out, and the Spirit will guide you.  

Next Friday, I'll have a full P-Day, so we get to go to the temple early in the morning and then exercise and do laundry.  A good thing about the MTC though is that you have scheduled gym time everyday, so you still get to exercise even though it isn't your P-Day.  

I look forward to talking to you guys again next Friday!

Elder Muh

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Elder Muh Enters the Missionary Training Center (MTC)

Please allow me a little "Mom Moment"...

Just before entering the MTC, Ernest gave Cameron a beautiful Father's Blessing.  Although we couldn't be with him in Utah, we were able to listen to the special blessing through speakerphone.  I am so grateful to have the priesthood in our lives and I know that blessing will be a strength to Cameron over the next two years.  We are so excited for Cameron and the wonderful growing experiences he will have.  Yes, we will miss our sweet boy, but we are happy for the choices he has made and the man he is growing into.  Thank you to all of you who have taken part in shaping him, mentoring him, teaching him, and loving him.  We have been overwhelmed with the love and support he has received.  We are truly blessed to have wonderful friends and family.

Elder Muh and Dad just before entering MTC


Elder Muh at MTC curbside

With cousins Malina and Keanu

Thanks for the awesome signs!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Australia, Here I Come!

Time definitely flies. It’s hard to believe I received my mission call over four months ago and almost a month ago, I went through the temple for the first time. Last Sunday, I gave my farewell talk in sacrament meeting, and today is my last full day in Hawai’i for the next two years.

The last few weeks have had a different feel; saying goodbye to relatives for two years and watching the countdown of the days to my MTC report date slowly get closer. This past week and a half has been a week of lasts for the next two years: my last Mililani football game, my last alma mater, my last UH football game, hanging out with all my friends for one last time, my last college football Saturday, and yes, watching my last BYU football game, for two years.

Tonight, I will sleep in my own bed for the last time in two years, and tomorrow will be the last time I attend church in my home ward as well.

I would like to take the time to thank everybody who has helped or supported me in my preparation to serve, along with those of you who I got to spend time with during my last few weeks.

Now, I’ve gotten a few questions about why I chose to serve my mission. Is it really worth it to postpone college for two years?

All worthy and able young men in the Mormon faith are commanded to serve full-time missions. I believe that those who are obedient to this call will be blessed in ways one cannot even imagine.

I was able to see some of those blessings this summer. I had been trying to find a job all summer and everything had fallen through. Then I was offered a temporary job for my last month here that was close to home, with great hours, and pay that was double than anything I would’ve earned working a different job. In hindsight, it was great to be able to attend my Boy Scout High Adventure, Ward Camp, and spend time with relatives because I did not have a job earlier in the summer. The job offer was truly a tender mercy from the Lord.

I haven’t served my mission yet, but in talking to those who have, they really describe their missions somewhere along the lines of “the best two years”. My dad has clarified that a mission isn’t necessarily the best two years of your life, but it will be the best two years for your life.

Growing up, I loved playing sports, especially basketball. Eventually, I reached a point where I knew that I needed to work harder in order to become a better basketball player. A lot of the workouts and practices were hard work. Similarly, missionary work is no easy job. Unlike training for basketball, I won’t be working on my footwork, improving my dribbling, or perfecting shots. I’ll be spending my days studying the scriptures, trying to find those who are ready to receive His Gospel, and sharing His message.

At the moment, I’m not too sure why I’ve been called to serve the Lord in the Australia Sydney North Mission. However, I strongly believe that over the course of the next two years, I will find out exactly why I was sent there. Heavenly Father knows who we are and what we need. He has prepared people in Australia for me to teach, but I have to be obedient and remain faithful in order to come in contact with those that he has prepared for me.

My final day before I get set apart as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will soon come to a close. I will be one day closer to the Missionary Training Center and another day closer to serving in Australia. I am very excited for the experiences that I have ahead of me, the opportunity that I have to learn and grow, and gain a stronger testimony of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the next two years, my mom will be running this blog. As I serve in different areas throughout Australia, my address will change, and you can find my current address here.  If you can't see the address, change your browser to web version, and it should appear.  You can also you shoot me an email, which will stay the same throughout my two years of missionary service.  Just a heads up, I'll only have an hour to email each week, so I apologize if I don't reply immediately.  

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures as I serve my mission in Australia!

-Elder Cameron Muh

Pictures from my mission farewell