I have always enjoyed writing poems. Yet oft times I feel like the servant with one talent in the parable of the talents, feeling so ashamed or afraid he’ll lose it, he hid it. Jesus once said: “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life shall find it.” (Matt 10:39). Re-reading this verse during and after my mission helped me realize that as I ‘lose’ or consecrated my all (including all my talents, however few) into the service of God, I shall find ‘it’. ‘It’ being more talents. ‘It’ being the unlimited potential we inherently have. ‘It’ being God’s approval. ‘It’ being a life in accordance to God’s great plan of happiness, harmonizing ourselves with the full measure of our creation, and as a ruler over many things. I’ve come to understand that this is why God’s true church is also truly a missionary church. It is because there isn’t any other way for us to be really happy unless we are grounded upon the sure foundation of diamond truth, which is “things as they really are, and things as they really will be.” (Jacob 4:13). One of these eternal realities that really dawned upon me on my mission, is how central Christ and His doctrine is in relation to everything, literally. He is the creator of all things, our Saviour and Redeemer. He really does desire our eternal exaltation. To quote from one of my poems:
“Little wonder why missionaries are called
For the Lord really does know better.
For can the framed advice the framer of matter
In the matters of what truly matters?”
I am glad that I went on a mission. I have no regrets for making that decision, nor qualms in strongly encouraging all to make such a decision in spite of circumstances. I must admit that I truly felt unprepared initially. Back in those days, I felt as if I was drowning daily in a sea of inadequacies and like a ticking implosion with hands and feet. Yet I am so glad for companions who care; who cared enough to lift up my hands when they started to hang down, but also to cut me down when my ego started to heave beyond its bounds. I had 12 companions in total and each individual experience with them was truly a lesson in humility. I learned to be more patient. I learned to learn, to be happy, and to be focussed on the work plus much more! (Is it so surprising that God expects us to each find an eternal companion? One who can continue to aid Him in our personal learning and refining processes? Nope, and I’m glad many of my companions are on the same page!)
I have also come to appreciate how actively engaged God is in His work and His glory. As a missionary, I was unconsciously guilty of thinking to myself (as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise): “Good job Elder Ng! YOU are the lead actor and God is merely playing a supporting role in this baptism”. Oh how wrong I was! I am reminded of a wonderful Chinese couple, quite elderly but very healthy. They were from Beijing and were attending the Seventh Day Adventist church, which they couldn’t find in Oakland. Their sister was a member of our church but she was very elderly and less active. We started teaching them but it wasn’t the right time yet. They eventually faded into the quiet pages of the area book until 9 months later, my phone rang. Incredibly, it was the wife. We had left her a Book of Mormon and now she and her husband were receptive and teeming with questions. They were baptized 4 weeks later and I was very grateful that God allowed me that experience. It is truly God who prepares His children. We are his instruments and not the other way around. He will lead them to us or us to them according to our faith and diligence.
I never really enjoyed listening to General Conference talks before my mission and ironically, that is one of the things I’ve come to enjoy the most on my mission. I would listen to them daily during any free time I had, even in the showers! The universe of my understanding began to expand as my heart became receptive to eternal truths taught by the very mouthpieces of God themselves. They have been an inspirational milestone in moulding my perspective even today. I felt as if I was tutored from on high, creating a reservoir of truths that I could draw upon at any time of the day and in any situation. The word ‘true’ is truly a word that requires real effort to say despite the brevity of its enunciation and the effortlessness of its pronunciation. I’m glad I can openly declare the truthfulness of the gospel principles today, something that really challenged me at the beginning of my missionary endeavours, because I opened my heart to the prophets and apostles of God.
I have also come to love the people of Oakland. I’ve seen that mighty change of heart within me. I could never have said something like that before. It was just too hard. It was too hard to empathize with the homeless who litter the streets of Oakland; too hard to understand the Chinese population, especially the elderly, who did not understand the dealings of that God who created them. It was too hard to love the members, who were finding it hard to love even amongst themselves. Why, then, love strangers who were our investigators? Indeed it was hard, but the hardest thing was not them, but my own heart. A heart so hardened and set, it must first be broken. Little wonder why it took true humility for me to finally say: “Dear Father, Thy will be done” or more specifically “Thy work be done”, for it was me and me alone who could allow God to work within me with His shovel of the spirit as He commences His excavating, making room for a greatly enlarged soul and even a new heart.
Lastly, I would just like to end on a reminiscent note with just a small part in one of my poems:
“I’ve come to count the seagulls
And love the lovely Californian view.
The field was white to harvest
And the sheaves are not a few.
The soul of man is so precious
So great is even one.
My heart was filled to brimming
As I reminisced their starting run.
I pray thee dear Father
To bless us this day
With precious perspective
To light up the way.
Lead us home to thee
In the sidereal heavens above.
Please land our souls in heaven
After our short sojourn here on earth.”
My prayer and testimony is that we can all return to our heavenly home above. There really is more to this life, because this life doesn’t end with mortality. I know our Saviour loves every one of us in spite of our looks, social standing, and even our gospel understanding and faithfulness. We are all already valued as great in His eyes. It does not and will not fluctuate like the stock market. Yet that is no grounds for amnesty when we choose to come out in open rebellion against our Heavenly Father. I know that this life really is the time for us to choose to whom we belong, God or the devil. Because no decision is also a decision, let us choose not, to not choose. May we always learn to not only shelf away our pride, but to let it self-destruct in frustration that we are truly sovereigns of our own free agency. I love my mission. It was not only the best two years of my life but the best two years for my life. I learned so much about how much I have yet to learn. I may not know exactly what the future may hold, but I know that they are anything but dark days. They may be stern days with regards to the days prior to or during the second coming, but they are anything but dark with the advent of the light of the world coming to reign personally upon the earth in paradisiacal glory. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His only true and living church upon the earth, restored by the hands of His servant Joseph smith and led by His authorized leaders today. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and is convincing evidence for Christ because it teaches of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so convincingly. I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real, because I have really felt it in my life and especially so on my mission. Yet whether we feel it, understand it or accept it, or not, Christ had already paid the price required for us to become clean through the Atonement. Will we not accept the blessings of such an infinite sacrifice? I testify that God loves us, and that Christ loves us, and that we must and can love them too, because they first loved us.
Oakland Inter-ward Auditorium
The reminiscent MTC days
With our Mission President and his wife
Sometimes, God takes care of everything for you.
I love baptisms!
Hiking is fun.
District Christmas Dinner.
My farewell at the English class.