Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Dear Family and Friends,

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Best wishes to all.  Drink some egg nog, gain some weight, and have some fun!  

 We went Christmas Caroling this past week.  We visited some member’s homes and sang Christmas Carols.  Some neighbors were not too pleased with us, but we didn't care.  

 We picked up a new investigator this week.  He is 16, and a nice kid.  He really liked us, and he has interest to learn more. He has a very colorful past.  He was a triad at one point, and he has broken a commandment or two.  But we talked to him about repentance.  He told us that he quit the triads because his late grandma appeared to him in a dream and told him to stop affiliating with that stuff. He definitely has potential to change.  

 This week, I will celebrate Christmas by going to an activity at our Stake Center.  It's 7 hours long and it's all about Christmas.  It should be good!  We are also going to a picnic activity with our ward.  Today we will celebrate a little bit by getting together as a zone and watching the 2013 slide show of our Mission!  I will also celebrate by buying stuff.  The malls are crowded here on Christmas!  Just like America.  Basically it's like I never even left home. :)  


Elder Phillips

 Dear Friends and Family, 

This past week was just great!  On Christmas Day, we went to the Stake Center and our apartment worked at a station where people had to shoot balls in a hoop to win.  It was kind of like a carnival.  Very fun.  We also got to talk to a lot of people who might not listen in a different circumstance because it was Christmas Day.

On the 26th, we went on a ward picnic.  We did a bit of hiking and BBQ.  We had investigators and less active members come, and I think they had a good time. 

On a bit of a sadder note, we ran into an old investigator on the street who stopped contact with us.  He is an older guy.  Elder Woodburn and Elder Fong (the missionaries previously in Wuh Dihp) found him on the street.  They said at that time he looked like a homeless guy, but as they continued to meet he cleaned up a bit.  Then he dropped us.  Elder Falk and I ran into him yesterday, and we recognized each other.  He was friendly at first, so we tried to get him to come back to church, but he just kept asking for money.  Eventually we just told him we had to go to church because he only wanted us to give him money. 

This morning, we attended seminary.  The young men in Butterfly Ward are pretty funny.  They have a hard time staying awake in seminary, but I did too when I went through it.  Teenagers are just the same everywhere, I suppose.  After Seminary, we were walking home, and we ran into our investigator who has a baptismal date but ignores our calls.  We called out to him and he was on his way to school, he completely ignored us.  He looked like he hadn't slept in days.  Just weeks before, he was hugging us and telling us how sorry he was for being so busy, now he is back to ignoring us.  (Ha, that last sentence just sounded like some teenage girl getting played by the captain of the football team in high school) but that is what it's like much of the time for missionaries. 

It's not all bad though.  We had two new investigators come to church this past Sunday.  Their names are Miss Jaak and Penny Jaak.  Penny is Miss Jaak's nine year old son.  Miss Jaak said she really doesn't have interest in church, but we think she wants her son to participate in the church because it is a good influence and will give him good standards.  He really seemed to enjoy church!  We will see what happens there! 

On another positive note, New Years is coming up.  My New Year Resolutions are the same as last year: Getting a six pack, working on my extended eye contact with strangers, and of course taking more long romantic walks on the beach. Haha, hope no one takes that seriously! Love you!

Elder Phillips

Visiting and Old Folks Home

In our college T-shirts. The Elder in white shirt is so faded, but he attends in Texas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Messages from home...Sweet!!!

I want to thank everyone who sent me letters or packages.  I will email you personally also, but thank you very much!!

Mom & Dad,  All the gifts you sent were great!! Grandpa and Grandma Larson also sent me that church history book which is really awesome!  It's called the Joseph Smith Papers.

(Portion of recent correspondence between Elder Phillips and another set of grandparents,  Nani & Papa Phillips  - his dad's parents)

Dear Elder Zachary,

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.  I know there must be many hard days, but they help us all to grow stronger and they make the good days even sweeter.  We are so proud of you and the strength you have.  We were talking to a counselor in our Stake presidency, your old neighbor, Brother Nuttall.  He is friends with Elder David A. Bednar, who has the assignment over the Missionary Committee. He said, as the names of each prospective missionary comes up on the computer screen, they are inspired to select the mission he will serve in.....

You are in Hong Kong because it is the best place for YOU and will be a blessing throughout the rest of your life. So, on your worst days, gird up your loins, put on the whole armor of God, march out there and serve the people of Hong Kong, even those who don't know how much they need gospel in their lives...You and all the other missionaries are beacons of light in an ever darkening world. So, keep shining with your good example, powerful teaching, good works of service, and love for those you serve.  We love you!!

Nani and Papa

(Elder Phillips response)

Dear Nani and Papa,

I really appreciate the gift!  I also really appreciate your email.  I remember Brother Nuttall!  That's really cool.  That's interesting that Elder Bednar said that... I definitely know the call I have is of God.  I really love Hong Kong.  Thanks so much for your great examples in my life.  Thanks for raising my Dad.  I'm sure he was a pain in the butt, but he has been a great Dad to me, so I know you must have taught him a lot. 

Elder Phillips

Dear Friends and Family,

One thing that happened last week is that the Church floor flooded! Somebody left a hose on in the utility room and we came in the next day to a flooded floor! We mopped it all out and wiped it up. 

A couple P Days ago we went on a hike.  It is called Ching Saan. There is a Buddhist Monastery at the top which is one of the oldest in Hong Kong.  There, Bruce Lee filmed the opening scene to his movie: Enter the Dragon.  I have some pictures of the event that I will send. 

A funny thing that happened is when I saw another missionary's investigators at a church fireside, I invited them to attend our ward's game night.  I was mostly kidding,  but they actually showed up!  They are brother and sister, named Andy and Christina.

Hong Kong celebrates Christmas!  It isn't as big here as it is in the U.S., but a lot of people here love Christmas.  Christmas is really popular on the island. Out in Tuen Muhn it will still be pretty cool, though. 

A great family in the Butterfly Ward moved this past week.  It is the Kidd Family.  Brother Kidd is an American who served in Hong Kong 10 years ago.  He married a Chinese woman named Angel, and they have two "mixie" kids here in Hong Kong.  Anyway, they decided to move to the International Branch at Hong Kong island. Brother Kidd's Cantonese is probably close to perfect, but I'm sure he'd like to go to church speaking English. The Kidd family are great people, we are sad the moved, but I wish them the best. 

That's all for now. Love you all!!

Elder Phillips

Monday, December 9, 2013

Short update this week...mailing/email address included

(Excerpt from letter to parents)

I don't have much time left to write for weekly update today, I'm sorry. 

I got  G & G Surlin's and Aunt Rebecca's package, I will be sure to let them know.

Transfers are tomorrow, so hopefully Elder Falk and I will still be comps!  There is a good chance we will be.

I won't get  to Skype  for Christmas, but I will get to phone call!  

That's cool about Pati and Kent helping out with Volleyball!! 

Things are good here! Sorry so short I'll write more next time.

Love you!
Elder Phillips

(Mom, I bought a cardigan.  It's pretty sweet!)

Mailing address:
Elder Zachry Aaron Phillips
China Hong Kong Mission
18 Dorset Crescent
Kowloon City
Hong Kong

or email:

Elder Phillips would love to hear from you :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ward Pot Luck...much more than a meal :)

Dear Friends and Family,

For Thanksgiving in Hong Kong I got to celebrate by eating a meal with our entire zone of missionaries.   Our responsibility was to make mashed potatoes for 26 people.  We made a lot more than was needed, but better safe than sorry.  They turned out really well.

We had a ward Pot Luck this week.  Two of our investigators came and we taught them each after.  It was a great event!!

I'm excited for Christmas!  A lot of people celebrate it here.  We ate at the Au family's house again and they have a Christmas tree and everything.  The members here are already starting to give us Christmas presents.  They know how much Christmas means to us, so it's a really nice thing to see them caring so much and offering us presents (usually food! no complaints).

I thought about not sharing this story, but I decided I will.  We met a white guy on the street the other day.  He is about 50 and all tatted up; he informed us he hates all religion.  He spoke to us in English, because after 15 years of living in Hong Kong, he still does not know a lick of Chinese.  He told us how arrogant we are for thinking our ideas are better than Chinese philosophy. He told us how delusional we were.  He told us how we knew nothing about our own religion, particularly Joseph Smith.  He cussed at us, yelled, told us our religion would be illegal in 20 years (because he doesn't believe in freedom of belief either) and slandered us with his thoughts on our religion. 

Our response consisted of this:  If you want to study a religion or belief objectively, you cannot learn about it from the source who is trying to convince you with all their might and wit that the belief is false, evil, and wrong.  He had obviously done so, as all of his ideas are ones I've heard before from South Park, the Internet, or other people who are against this church. 

Hard as we tried to tell him the source of our was no use...everything we said was lost on this man.  Although we remained calm, I walked away fuming in my heart.  
Later I encountered a scripture that helped me a lot.  It is in the Bible, John 15.  It reads:

18. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

20. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.

I lost my anger.  Contention is of the devil.  And I will give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

Love you all,

Elder Phillips

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Dear Friends and Family,

I have a pretty sweet story to tell.  It's simple but it's actually a postive Misionary story.

A family in our ward invited a long lost less active to come to church.  We ourselves had no record of the man because he moved at one point and a phone number was changed, thus a lost sheep.  But the family in our ward (the Au family who fed us steak the other night) invited this less active man to come to church.  Well, he came.  He also brought his wife and two kids!  The wife is not a member.  His two kids are only 2 years old and 8 months old.  He is a very nice guy.  The sister missionaries will teach his wife. 

This upcoming week is Thanksgiving!  We have a lot of activities this week.  I'm pretty excited to celebreate.  We have 5 solid investigators now.  We have:

 1) Uncle Fighter.  He likes to invite us to yam chah a lot.  It is not an ideal setting to teach.  It is always noisy at yam chah.  He has come to church a couple times now.  He thinks church is boring.  He is a funny guy, though. He is 50ish and he just loves to talk.

  2) Rose.  She is 50 something and she has a lot of knowledge about Christianity.  She likes listening to a lot of different preachers.  She has heard from a few preachers that our Church is a cult and evil church.  But she still meets with us, so she must not think so.  She is hard to get to come out to church. She's a very nice lady. 

 3) A-Fung.  He is 19 and he works.  He has come to church 5 times now.  He says he comes to feel the Spirit.  He has some great potential. 

4) Henry (Hin-jai).  He is 11 years old.  He is in a good position to join the church because he lives with his Grandma who is a less active member but just recently started coming back.  His aunt is also a member.  His parents seem okay if he joins the church, so that's good.  Usually parents freak out about their kids joining this church.  I think it is tithing that makes them freak out.  People in Hong Kong are very concerned about money.  There are some pretty hefty bills to pay here if you have kids.  Apartments are outrageously expensive.  Anyway. 

5) Aaron.  Aaron investigated before.  Elder Woodburn and I  found him.  He is a great kid, he really likes us.  But he dropped off for some reason.  Not totally sure why.  But now he's back.  We will see how things turn out. 

Love you all.

Love, Elder Phillips

Monday, November 18, 2013

Half Empty or Half Full???

Dear Friends and Family,

This week has been very good.  I have two  stories for you.  They aren't like miracle stories, but they are stories of us getting rejected. So prepare to have a laugh or two.  I'll throw in a couple of actually uplifting stories at the end.  

The first story is about us visiting a less active member.  I had never met him, and I heard he was trouble, but we decided to give him a surprise visit, anyway...

We show up to his apartment and knock on the door.  His wife answers.  She says he is taking a shower.  We ask if we can come in and wait.  She says okay.  So we get inside and talk to his wife and kids.  His kids were 18 and 20 years old, and they were very nice. His wife gave us some apple juice to drink.  Things were looking good!... 
...But then, Brother ____ comes out of the shower, in his towel, and puts a shirt on.  Then he stands by us and leans down and asks us if we can tell the church to never visit or contact him again. Awkward.  So my companion finished his apple juice right then and there.  I left my cup half full (I figured if I left it half full they would have a debate about whether it was half full or half empty for the rest of the night, plus they wouldn't want to waste it because it was a substantial amount of apple juice, but they wouldn't want to drink it because my germs were on it.  In this way, I got my revenge). But we left.  And we were standing at the elevator, still shocked from what just happen.  His son comes running out holding my Book of Mormon and folder I had forgotten..oops.  We told his son to call us if he has interest.  Anyway that's rejection #1. 

Story number 2.  We were on the street talking to a nice guy about our age.   He was a great contact.  At the end of our meeting with him, some guy rolled up in this expensive car and before he turns he rolls his window down, points as us and says: "Don't listen to them! They're Mormons!"  We were kind of already saying goodbye to the guy we were talking to, so we just kind of said yeah we don't know who this guy in the car is.  We parted company with the contact, then the guy who pointed and yelled was still waiting to turn.  We had to walk towards his car to get to the destination, so as we were walking towards him he says, in English this time: "In the name of Jesus Christ, I condemn you!"  It was pretty venomous! But after it I couldn't help but burst out laughing.  He was probably a pasteur or something. 

There is a nick name for the mormon church that is pretty unfortunate.  The pinyin is something like: "Mo-meun-gaau."  It is a transliteration, but Mo also comes from the word Mogwai which means devil.  Gaau means a church or religious sect.  So this nickname means Devil's Church.  Very unfortunate.  So usually people have heard this nickname, and it's not like in the States where we can just embrace the nickname Mormon.  

Anyway those are the two funny stories of the week.  Here is a nice story.  Last night we had dinner with a less active lady.  She is very nice.  Her grandson lives with her.  He is 11 and we are just starting to teach him.  He could have a ton of potential.  

Missionary work is doing better in Butterfly with sisters here.  We can cover more ground.  Less active work is better because we can focus on guys and they can focus on girls.  It gives us less ground to cover and more ability to focus our efforts where it counts most!

So things are good.  I'm happy out here.  I'm lucky to have such great support back home form all of you.  I love you all!

Love, Elder Phillips

P.S.  I loved Dad's Capture the Flag story, so funny! Dad is such a trickster:)
Yeah the steak was delicious!  I will venture to try more authemtic foods once I can read more characters.  Otherwise I'll just be pointing at a menu saying I want this, and I might end up with some pig fetus on my plate.  The worst rumor here foodwise has to do with monkeys.  It never happens in Hong Kong, but apparently in Mainland China some people will take a live monkey, split its head open and poor some boiling water on the brain.  And then eat the brain with the monkeys body still there...Yikes!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Christmas Goal

Dear Friends and Family,

I am going to attempt to summarize the last two weeks.  I apologize for missing last week.  We had to change our schedule for our temple trip.  Speaking of which, the temple trip was great!

I found out the Hong Kong temple covers 15 different languages.  I'm glad I got called out here to serve. The East is a completely different world.  Different philosophy, different way of thinking, it's really crazy.  Hong Kong is pretty special because it has huge Western influence as well as its Eastern traditions.  Pretty cool.

Here is a funny story.  My companion and I went into a Common Shop to buy an ink refill for my companion's pen.  He looked at some other pens while we were there.  He found the very pen that he owned, and showed me.

Then, like a kleptomaniac (jk) he slips the store's pen into his shirt pocket not realizing that it wasn't his pen.  I did not see him do this, so we walk out of that store with stolen merchandise.

Later at night, my companion pulls the pen out of his pocket, but he sees his real pen sitting on his desk. They are the same pen, but his pen has a white tip at the end, while the stolen one had a blue tip.  He compared the two, and when he realized what happened we rushed back to the store to pay for the pen, but it was closed.  My companion  says he did not sleep well that night.  We were able to return in though, the next day.

Here is my companion's own words on the events that transpired: "I've never stolen anything in my life, but apparently I have subconscious thief tendencies, so who knows what I've stolen so far in my life?" Funny story.

Right now, our ward has a goal to have 2 baptisms before Christmas.  Speaking honestly, there are some naysayers in our ward whose names will not be recorded, but I am not one of them.  Our ward has not seen a baptism in almost 2 years, but it's about to change.  I am sure of it.

We also got to eat dinner with a family in our ward this past week.  They made us steak!  It was the most delicious thing I've tasted in a long time.  What a blast.  The people in our ward are amazing people.  Surely their faith towards missionary work and in God will be rewarded in no time.  I still don't totally understand why this area is weak for missionary work.  I think it is our geography, our area is extremely small.  But I know we can accomplish the goal here.  We need it, the people deserve it.

There was no storm here!  We had a level 1 typhoon warning only, which is really weak.  Just some gusts of wind and nothing more.  Hopefully James is okay over there in the Philippines. Hope to hear more from him and that area soon.

Mom, thanks a lot for finding those books for me.   JP helped me pick one out. I will tell you which one it is.  JP has given me some awesome advice for learning Chinese so I'm really grateful he did this before me.

Anyway I love you all. Thanks for praying for us! I've added some pictures

Elder Phillips

My old Zone Leader named Elder Lee.  He is from Hong Kong. I took some pictures with him before he left.

My companion and I with a recently re-activated man.

The Au Familie's son named Jing Jing or Jacob.  Jacob has really gotten to like me because I've been to their house three times now.  He's a great kid!

I sent some pictures of our steak dinner at the Au house, it was just such a special and rare moment.  I could not pass it up.

Another picture is of a Catching Fire poster.  So sad I have to miss the opening of it.  The poster was inside a movie theater that we could see from Mcdonalds.

An Investigator!

One is our Halloween special.  Elder Lee actually looks like he is wearing a costume, the rest of us just look like goons.

One is with the Poon Family.  I might have already sent it, if so my bad.  We ate with them a while ago they were super nice.  Great family.

The rest are various pictures we took at Star Avenue.  It is a big tourist attraction in Hong Kong, but I've never been so we went.  There's a statue of Bruce Lee in a couple of the pictures.  While we were there a lot of mainlanders wanted to take pictures with the foreigners.  They kicked Elder Lee out of the photo because he was Asian.  Poor elder Lee.

 Anyway that's all for now. Bye!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Busy Week!

Hey Mom & Dad,

I don't have much time to write this week.  I'm out of time I am sorry.  Tell everyone sorry.  I have temple day next week so my P day will not be until Thursday.  So no need to worry! I've included some pictures.

I have taught a lot of people here in Hong Kong.  We run into a lot of eccentric ones, they have the best stories   It is pretty interesting. We found a potential investigator this week for another mission area.  She believes her house to be haunted, she wanted us to "cleanse" her house of it.  She is not in my area so I'm going to leave the cleansing to the missionaries in her area :) Meanwhile most of the rest of Hong Kong is too busy working from sun up until sun down, very truly working themselves to death. 

Dad's Duck hunt has turned him... he sounds like such a hick right now, ha.  That's so cool that Amanda Poppe was called to Mesa, AZ. Tell our friends there to feed her dinner! The picture of all of you on your friend trip looks beautiful! 

Anyway that is all, next week will be longer:) 
Love Elder Phillips



Monday, October 21, 2013

Trip to the Island!

Dear Friends and Family,

This week was the first full week I've had with Elder Falk.  It has been good.  Yes Mom,  I'm very happy, and yes the sister missionaries definitely like it here because they got our two best investigators!  And we did another turnover with them from a lady we just found recently.   Anyway when Elder Falk came into the area he told me that among mission areas Butterfly (Wuh Dihp) is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, areas in Hong Kong.  No area in Hong Kong is easy, but apparently it's super hard here.  That's fine by me, I've never experienced anything different.  The rest of my mission will be a piece of cake compared to Butterfly :)

We had general conference last week and yesterday we had stake conference, Elder Falk hasn't been to our ward's regular sacrament meeting yet.  Oh well, he will get a chance next week!  

Today we went to Hong Kong island for P Day.  The island is much different from my area.  This is the first time I've been to the island on my mission, it's crazy.  I feel like everyone speaks English on the island. That's just an exaggeration but definitely more here than in the New Territories. 

Our Stake President in the New Territories is named President Chan.  I met his son in the MTC, so when I talked to him we got a picture together.  He is such an awesome guy.  

This week we went out finding a bit.  We met a guy named A-Tai.  He doesn't believe in God, he believes in himself.  Usually believing in yourself has a positive connotation, but when we hear it as missionaries it just means they're atheist.  But we met him on two different occasions, and he still wouldn't give us his number. It's okay, we told him if we run into him a third time he has to meet with us because it's definitely divine providence.  They just don't think they need us, but it's ironic because they probably need it more.  But despite failures, we continue on.  Any missionary effort is not really a failure :)

Happy Birthday Mom!  you are getting so old!  Just kidding.  Love ya!

Elder Phillips

Monday, October 14, 2013

Butterfly Theory :) New Pictures Too!

Dear Friends and Family,

 It has been a good week.  Lot's of changes.  I got a new companion and he was in the same MTC group as my last companion.  So he's still pretty young.  I thought up a theory of why they send young missionaries to butterfly.  This place is called butterfly right?  So it's like all these new missionaries come here in their cocoons, but by the end of their time here they have hatched into a beautiful butterfly...Pretty foofy theory right?  I thought so, too.

Being in a tri-companionship with two other missionaries was pretty interesting.  We were covering two areas so there were some scheduling conflicts, but I survived.  I'm just glad to be back with one other companion again.  My new companion's name is Elder Falk.  He is district leader so I think he will stay here for a long time.  We will see.  

We have sister missionaries in Butterfly now.  They stole all our good investigators!  Just kidding, I'm not mad.  But really it's a lot easier to find girls to teach than guys. They're just nicer.  

Mom I don't care what you think about my stylish clothes.  You're probably just jealous.  I was going to send you a pair, but now consider it undone.  (he is talking about goofy red pants he bought in Hong Kong :) 
We also got to watch general conference.  That was a great experience.  It's so much better as a missionary.  I was actually really enjoying it.  We got a new shipment of elders in who got to see it twice.  Once in the MTC and once in the field because they show it one week late here!  Pretty lucky.

I am going to send you a few pictures. 

One is with a family we ate dinner with last night.  The new sister missionaries as well as my new companion are in this one.

One of them is with a previous less active who is now again active in the church.  He's such a cool guy.  I'm not sure why he stopped going to church, because he has such a great testimony.  Hopefully he get's a calling soon.  He is awesome. 

 When I was in a tri panionship with this younger kid named Peter, who is an investigator.


One is new comp. Elder Falk and I.

Another is a pic of some old buses in Hong Kong.  We went to a museum about buses.  I know it sounds boring, but let me assure you just the opposite is true.  You would be shocked at the rich heritage of buses and their cultural significance in Hong Kong.


One is with my old MTC companion.  My new companion actually trained my old MTC companion.  And furthermore, my trainer was MTC companions with my new companion Elder Falk.  Pretty crazy.  He has had every companion I've had.  

Another is with a member named Tony.  He is wearing a red Cardigan.  He is another awesome dude.  He is in Tuen Muhn Ward but he really liked me for some reason.

Another is a picture of some steak.  This was two P days ago, I believe.  The guy in our apartment named Elder McCleary was going home so we celebrated his last P Day with steak.  Pretty awesome. 

There should be another picture with a youth in my ward.  He gave me his sweater and I gave him my suit and we took a picture.  His name is Timothy Chan.  Pretty awesome!

Got to go. Love you all!

Elder Phillips

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crazy Week!!

Dear Friends and Family,

This week has been insane.  I will tell you first off, that my companion is no longer with me.  He got a special call to be a DBC elder who take care of missionary housing and distribution, so he left early to do extra training.  It's good for him because of his knee problem.  He will get to drive now.  Right now I am in charge of the Wuh Dihp area.  It's pretty scary.
 I am in a tri-panionship with my Zone leaders, so the three of us cover two areas.  It's pretty strange.  There's a lot more stress on me, but if anyone can handle it, it's God, and he is on my side.

I will be getting a new companion this Thursday.  I am pretty sure I am staying in Wuh Dihp because my companion already left, and it's pretty rare to white wash an area. We will see.

We are getting sister missionaries in our area this Thursday, and we have to turn over all of our good investigators.  So sad.  But I'm happy for those sisters because they will have a jump start in this area.  We will just have to start from square one
One of my new companions is leaving this Thursday.  We had a pretty funny scare the other day.  He bought an airsoft gun and he was carrying it in his bag to give it to someone to send home, but he left it on the train! He freaked out  and ran as fast as he could after the train but on the way he dropped his other bag and some of his personal belongings went flying. Poor guy.  But luckily he found out his airsoft gun was actually in the bag he had on him.   Anyway it all turned out okay.

We haven't watched General Conference yet.  They don't stream it live to us we just watch it a week late. I'm hoping they have some inspiring words for us!

Mom, I haven't got your package yet, but I got the pictures and everything of Corey's family visit!  They were fun to see!

The mission area I'm in is really young so a lot of change is happening,  So it's going to be interesting.
I have to go!  Love you!

Elder Phillips

Monday, September 30, 2013

Elder Phillips sent some pictures :)

Dear Friends and Family,

Sorry everyone, this is going to be short.  I keep getting rushed for time. 

We had companion exchanges this week.  My companion went with my old buddy from the MTC named Elder Walter.  A guy named Elder Wong came with me.  He was born in Canada, but his dad spake Cantonese to him growing up so his language skills are basically perfect.  We decided to go night finding, it can get a little sketchy in Hong Kong.  We ran into a guy that was less active for three years apparently.  I asked him why he stopped coming to church.  He had some crazy answer,  it was pretty weird.  We still taught him and got his contact info, it was not in our records.  Maybe we will see him again, I don't know.  He wasn't a crazy guy or anything, he just had a lot of crazy ideas.  Not sure if I want to meet him again or not :)

Other than that, transfers are next week.  I think I will be staying here in Wuh Dihp, but you never know what will happen.  I can't believe it has already been nine weeks, almost. 

Some people have asked me if they think I will come back to Hong Kong, so I'll write it to everyone.  I would like to come back and live here temporarily, but I would not want to live here permanently.  We talk to a lot of old people in our area because a lot of people in the outskirts of Hong Kong are old people.  And they are the only ones who don't have to work or go to school.  It's kinda sad, a lot of them are basically just forgotten by their family. So I think they go a little nuts.  They just walk around Hong Kong all day.  Then they sleep.

I've seen some pretty pathetic sights, like this old couple were watching a guy in the park fix something for two hours.  We walked by and we walked back two hours later and they were still there. They have nothing to do!  

That's all I got for today, it turned out to be longer than I thought because I haven't gotten kicked off yet.  Awesome!  Love you.

Elder Phillips

Dear Mom and Dad
(excerpt from letter)
I got Lexi's package.  Can you tell her for me, I am too short on time.  Tell her I love her and those mint Oreos were so great.  But the best were their letters!! I will write them next week. 

Thanks for fasting for me!  Our ward here is doing a fast too.  Sweet I can't wait to send my next letter to you all when Corey's family vist.  It sounds like you guys get to feed the missionaries a ton.  I bet they're grateful!  The other day, a member from my companion's old area came and found us and took us to eat.  Turns out I knew their son because he is serving a mission in Provo, and when I was in the MTC I met him at the temple and talked with him since he is from Hong Kong.  But they gave us dinner and also bought us a ton of groceries.  Anyway got to go!

Elder Phillips

Here are some pictures, the first one is a view from our window, we live on the 31st floor of a building. Check out the Red cropped them on the streets of Hong Kong...ha :) 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mid Autumn Festival...very fun day!

Dear Friends and Family,

I apologize for last week's letter.  We got jipped by this guy at the library who only gave us one hour instead of two.  So the letter ended pretty abruptly. 

This past week was pretty great.  In China they celebrate this holiday called Mid Autumn Festival.  A family from the ward invited us over to eat.  It was a very fun day!  Oh and by the way, the second story I was supposed to tell that I didn't was just about this  crazy guy that followed us around after we said hi to him.  He followed us around and called my companion fat for like twenty minutes.  Some people...  But no matter how much we get stepped on, there's always someone who got stepped on more.  He got spit on and despite doing the greatest service to mankind. He was ignored, rejected, and killed for his cause.  So I don't have it so bad.

The week was a little rough pertaining to missionary work.  A lot of appointments fell through.  The ward is starting to fast for us.  This ward hasn't had a baptism for a long time, apparently.  It's hard work here in Hong Kong, the work progresses here very slowly. 

This past week was also mission tour!  An Area Seventy came and trained us along with his wife and our mission president and his wife.  We were trained the entire day and it was pretty great.  It's nice to get together with other missionaries once in a while, because they know what you're going through! 

We also had a typhoon.  People in Hong Kong  made the typhoon sound so intimidating, rumouring to last 24 hours and to be the biggest typhoon in Hong Kong in 30 years, but we all slept through it and by morning it was gone.  Anyway that's all for today.  Love you!

Elder Phillips

Mom Dad JP and Andrea,
(excerpt from email)

It's exciting for me to hear that you guys are all together!  First I'll try to answer JP's questions from his email.  JP, we study language for one hour a day.  During that time I do Cantonese sounds and tones to improve my accent and pronunciation and what not.  I also study flashcards, make new flashcards, look things up in the dictionary that I've heard but didn't understand, and I read this grammar book that's really helpful.  When I do personal study, I read the romanization of Chinese characters and sometimes just the characters.  I don't know if you had this on your mission, but we have a Book of Mormon that has the Chinese Characters, romanization, and English all next to each other.  I also will get up an hour early to study whatever Chinese stuff I'm lacking in.  The most useful thing though is going to church because I write down stuff I hear that I don't understand and ask a native after church to help me out with it.  If I end up training, I think I'll make my trainee speak Cantonese much more.  My companion says he's never seen somebody pick it up faster than I have.  I shouldn't get prideful though, because I feel like an idiot talking to native speakers all the time.

Yeah the typhoon was nothing.  The only damage it caused was extra leaves in all the public pools.  Pretty lame, I was hoping for something bigger.  It's funny my companion and I were secretly hoping the typhoon would come before church so that we wouldn't have to go to church. ha :)  I bet JP and Andrea can attest to the fact that the Sabbath is not a day of rest if you're a missionary!  But church still happened and it turned out all right. 

This week was Mid Autumn Festival!  How was mid autumn festival in China town JP?  It was crazy here!  A family had us eat and afterwards they took us and walked down this pier.  The beach was decked with people!  If I didn't know better I would have thought it was some weird hippie gathering.  I ate some traditional Chinese food this past week, so that has been fun.  This lady in our ward gave us this herb called Chrysanthemum and we made it into tea.  It wasn't too bad! 

I have to tell you about the people here in Hong Kong.   People suffocate themselves with their work or school.  We had an investigator that slept for four hours every night, and he is just a student.  A less active we meet with works for 80 some hours a week.  But the sad thing is that they choose to be busy with just work and school.  Plenty of members are able to go to church on Sunday and not work and still be fine.  I think that that's all there is for them: work. 

This week on Mid Autumn Festival my companion and I tried our hand at tai chi.  We see a lot of old people doing it and we decided to go there for our exercise and ask to join them.  They let us, so we just try to copy what they do.  If any of you have seen the Cartoon Avatar: the Last Airbender, it looks like what the water benders do when they bend water.  I really like that show.

I have to go, but I hope you guys have a great time in Wisconsin!  Love you!

Elder Phillips

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tired...but Happy :)

Dear Friends and Family,

I'm pretty tired this week.  A lot of good things happened though. We got to go to the temple for one!   So that was really good.  I didn't think I would get that many opportunities to go here, but I can go once every 9 weeks or so.  

The area is doing great. We have built it up a lot with the Lord's help.  We have quite a few investigators too.  We've met a lot of nicer people, and that's a real relief.  We are getting  a few baptismal dates set and we are really praying for the baptisms to happen.  This area really needs them.  It hasn't had a baptism in a very long time, but hopefully that will change soon.  

This coming up week is Mid Autumn Festival.  It's a big holiday here and people get with their families and eat moon cakes.  We are eating with a family from our ward so I may have some awesome food story to tell you next week.  

Mom & Dad,  I'm pretty jealous that you get to hangout with Jp and his family!  You should ask JP all about his mission so that afterwards you can tell me about it.  When does Corey and his family come to visit? 

The weather is getting less hot.  Some people say it gets cold here but I don't think it'll be that bad.  

To answer your question; my Cantonese is coming along really good.  People are shocked with how fast I'm getting it.  I still can't understand people perfectly but if I had to train somebody I could do it.  I've definitely felt so much help with the language.  But now that I know more Cantonese I can realize when people are insulting me and it stings a little bit.  On September 11th this random guy talked to us and asked if we were Americans and then added, I hate Americans, it was kinda sad... 

I'm super excited for the rest of my mission and then to return home.  I'm not missing it yet, but there's a lot of things I took for granted that I wish I hadn't.  You and Dad were great parents.  I bet you're great missionaries too!  

I will let you know when Lexi's  package makes it

Love you all!
Elder Phillips

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Trying to converse in Cantonese...let's just say it can be humbling :)

Dear Friends and Family,

I'm doing great this week.  My companion and I went to a spot we usually don't go to for finding people to talk to.  I discovered why we never go there, because we hiked up this huge hill amongst a ton of Buddhist monasteries and only ran into 4 or so people while we were there.  The monasteries were really cool.  In one of them we heard monks singing/chanting some of their religion's hymns as we passed by.  Very neat.  

My companion has a really bad knee problem sadly.  I feel so bad for him, but he endures it well.  He can't get surgery because the surgery will require him to be in a wheelchair for a year.  So his only options are do an online mission at the MTC or stay in Hong Kong.  Understandably, he chooses to stay in Hong Kong.  

Some people really praise my language skills and some just laugh and make fun.  So I just have zero pride now.  The other day finding we ran into one of our less actives and he talked to us for a while.  He just made fun of our Cantonese. Another guy we talked to did the same thing!  Even a lady at Circle K harassed us a bit.  So I just get humbled every day.  But it's all for the best.  This week has been good.  As far as missionary work goes, we did great.  Just got to keep it up.  

One day this week I was feeling pretty down.  Just feeling wimpy and inadequate to speak this language and what not.  But in our personal time at night I decided to watch the Joseph Smith movie.  I watched all the trials and struggles others were put through in order to help this gospel go forward.  And one quote hit me really hard.  It's a quote by Joseph Smith who himself suffered a lot of persecution and trials, it goes like this: "Shall we not go on in so great a cause?"  After I heard that I felt peaceful.  I felt something tell me that I was going to be fine.  I'm glad to be out here.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Elder Phillips learns what Yam chah is...

Hello Friends and Family,

This week has been pretty great.  Here is a story about how I almost broke the Word of Wisdom.  For those who don't know most Latter Day Saints don't  smoke, drink alcohol, drink coffee/tea, or do any type of illegal drugs.  I won't explain it all, so please don't think that I've just explained in full the Word of Wisdom.  Anyway, we went out to yam chah the other day. Yam chah is a Chinese tradition where people get together at a time between breakfast and lunch and sit down and drink tea and stuff themselves with food.  Yam Chah literally means drink tea, so it's expected that the tea plays a pretty big role in yam chah.  So we went to yam chah with a potential investigator and a church member.  The church member left to go back home and get something.  So we were left alone with our potential investigator.  We explained to him that we can't drink most types of tea because we have a code of health in our church that teaches not to.  He understood, but we told him we can drink fa chah which is flower tea.  Flower tea is totally adhering to the Word of Wisdom so we told him he could order that and we could drink it.  So he orders it and the waitress puts two tea pots on our table.  One is full of the tea, the other is hot tea water.  My companion and I quickly filled our cups with hot tea water just in case the tea was not okay, but the potential investigator still insisted.  So he took the tea pot and topped our hot water off with the tea, and urged us to drink.  We were just about to, and our member comes in and says Elders!  Wait!  This is not okay!  And he dumps our tea cups out into an empty bowl on the table.

Pretty great!  We didn't eat anything to strange at yam chah.  But I was eating a dessert and realized at the end there is a thin film of paper on the bottom of the pastry, so I'd been eating paper along with the dessert.  Oops!  We've found a new investigator.  His name is Aaron!  I don't know if I've mentioned him yet, but he is 17 and a very nice kid.   We took him to see a baptism on Sunday though and afterwards he said: "I don't want to do that!"  It was pretty funny.  In the baptism the girl had really long hair so it floated to the top when the guy was trying to submerge her.  They had to redo it like three times.  But maybe he will change his mind later.  so that's Aaron!

One guy we meet with once a week is a guy named Celvin.  He is this 17 year old guy who has absolutely zero interest in the gospel.  But he likes the missionaries so he comes to Games Night at the Church and I play chess with him.  He was beating my companion too badly so I started playing with him.  But since I started playing he has not beat me yet!  So he's going to keep trying.  He likes to speak English and he has the best English I've heard in Hong Kong.  I think he watches a lot of American TV  because he adopted somewhat of a gangster type of accent.  If I didn't know him better I would have thought he was American.  But he's a very smart guy.  Hopefully he will develop some interest one day.  Until then I'll just keep playing him in Chess.

That's about all I have time for.  Love you all!

Elder Phillips

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hong Kong week two!! The two Elders in Wuh Dihp are working hard :)

Dear Friends and Family,

I lost tracks of how many weeks I've been out, I'll leave it up to my mom to count them from now on.  Hong Kong is a great place.  Everything is cheaper except living expenses. Luckily I don't have to worry about that.  :)  I've found that Anti-Mormonism is pretty common here.  And the people in Hong Kong will believe some crazy rumours about the church for some reason.  Most people haven't heard of the Church, but the ones who have have heard about it because they attended Christian schools where they taught them the Mormon church is "chehgaau" or "evil church."

 It's pretty great to be a missionary.  It's definitely hard, but I just try to focus on the positive things.  THe biggest challenge is the language barrier.   Hopefully  I can very quickly understand everything the ward members are saying.  I bore my testimony yesterday in church.  And they were very impressed.  One thing I said when I was up there is a Chinese proverb which goes like this : po fu chahm jau.  It means break kettle sink ship, literally.  The story behind it is that a Chinese general was about to go into battle with his army.  The enemy army outnumbered them.  But the general did this.  He said:  Spend this day eating yourself full and getting rest.  His troops did so and the next day they crossed the river into battle.  Right after they crossed however, the general commanded them to sink their ships and get rid of everything they had except for their weapons and each other.  So they did and were left with nothing.  They went to battle and fought and won, because there was no other option but death.  I compared that to my mission, and said that I was not going to turn back.  My teacher at the MTC taught us that proverb and I took it to heart.  I am in this for the next two years no matter what.

We spend a lot of our days finding.  And it's very tiring and often discouraging because of the rejection we get.  But there are always blessings.  We met two new people who are potentially great investigators.  We didn't meet them through finding but they basically just fell into our hands through luck (divine providence).  It was great!

 We ate dinner with the Yau family last night and they gave me a lot of advice for Cantonese and they were super nice.  We eat Mcdonalds a lot because it is fast and cheap.  We can't always go home for dinner because it wastes so much time, so it's usually mcdonalds.  A big mac meal here is under three dollars!  Pretty sweet!  I am out of time but I love you all!  Thank you!
Elder Phillips

(excerpts from letter to parents)

Dear Mom & Dad

This week has been good!  It's good to be a missionary but I'm starting to realize the gravity of everything on my plate.  We are the only missionaries in Wuh Dihp  there are some discouraging things,  but I just want to prove to our ward members  here that we are good missionaries.  It's going good though.  My Cantonese is getting even better.   I am always tired here.  But always pretty happy.

I've realized how hard Hong Kong is.  I bet JP felt this in New York too, but especially in Hong Kong all of our work is street contacting.   Finding is hard and we have to do a lot of it because Wuh Dihp's investigator pool has been shrinking for a long time.  But I'm sure the Lord will bless us soon.  I'm sure he already has.

 We ate dinner with a family from the ward last night and they were really nice.  I could understand them almost always.  The one thing I get messed up on is when I focus really hard on what they are saying so I understand the individual word they say but as the sentence goes on I forget the word that they said because I'm too focused on what they are presently saying.  So it's a sometimes a puzzle figuring out what they're saying
 My companion said something really funny the other day.  He said: "Missionaries that go to North America have these amazing relationships with their converts for the rest of their lives.  Missionaries that go to South America and Africa have amazing miracle stories of baptizing hundreds of people.  Missionaries that go to Europe come back culturally enriched with a great, romantic language.  Missionaries that go to Asia just get humbled."  I thought it was really funny.   Some of the stuff we're up against is ridiculous.  But I know we can do it.  My goal is to be close to fluent in Cantonese by the end of my training.  So I have 12 weeks.  It seems like a lofty goal but I know the Lord is blessing the missionaries.  And I know I have a good aptitude to learn languages.  So I'm going to do it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hello Mom & Dad and Everyone :)

Sorry that I can't write two separate letters but I have too much to say in a short time.  When I arrived I wasn't too tired but the last few days have been more tiring.  Our apartment only has A/C when we sleep so it's very hot in the day.  

 My first area is the outermost area of Hong Kong.  It is called the New Territories.  My area is Wuh Dihp, which means Butterfly.  It has a reputation as the hardest area, and my trainer has only been out here for four months. He still doesn't understand all of what they say.  And we are the only two missionaries in Wuh Dihp.  Either God has forsaken Wuh Dihp, or he has a lot of faith in the two of us :) My companion  is a great guy, his name is Elder Woodburn.  Today I got separated from him because he got on the subway and somebody got between us and I ended up stuck at the station until the next stop.  Sad, but he just waited for me at the next stop. 

 Right now I am at the apple store.  We have taught a couple people so far.  One of them is an old guy who wants to get baptized so badly but he doesn't follow the word of wisdom totally yet.  We do a lot of less active work in Wuh Dihp so our other lesson was with a less active teenage guy named Victor.  He is super nice.  I found out that a lot of people in Hong Kong can be pretty mean.  But there is a rumour that people from mainland China are all really nice and all super open to learning about the church.  I didn't believe it until yesterday when we were out finding.  We were rejected so many times by the citizens of Hong Kong, but we met two ladies from Shen Zin which is a city in mainland very close to Hong Kong.  They were lost and needed a bus to Shen Zin. Luckily I understood their Mandarin because of the class I took in 9th grade.  They asked where the bus stop is. They also spoke a little bit of English so we could communicate.  We gave them locations to our church building and a restoration pamphlet.  They have our phone number but calling from mainland to Hong Kong is a long distance call so it's pretty pointless.  But they were the nicest people I've met since I've been here. 

I have some pretty big mood swings.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not a good missionary.  Sometimes I feel like I can communicate with the people perfectly.   My companion is very impressed with my Cantonese.  Our apartment is on the 31st floor of a building.  It's small but pretty nice.  The new territories are a lot less crowded.

 I went to church and understood quite a bit so it was nice.  It's great to be here though.  Hopefully soon I can eat some real Chinese food.  There is a McDonalds close to the church so if I ever miss home I'll just go there.  They play taylor swift and justin bieber there so it's pretty much the same as the U.S. there.  Anyway love you!  You are probably asleep when you get this but I'm doing great.  

Elder Phillips

                      Elder Phillips with President and Sister Hawks on the day he arrived in Hong Kong.