Monday, May 4, 2015

"That Aint the Language they taught me in the MTC"

Hello everyone!
Well it happened! I am actually in Hong Kong!! :) It is such a beautiful city! The flight here was horrible, SO much turbulence! But luckily I made it! The first few days we stayed at the mission home. Our mission president is awesome! My area is Pok Fu Lam which is at the bottom of Hong Kong Island. My companion is Sister Richardson from Kaysville, Utah and we have gotten along great! :) We have a lot in common and have had so much fun! I love her to death! She is an awesome trainer and has been out for 8 months. 

We don't live in our area, we live in West Point so we take a siu ba (little bus) to our area everyday. We share an apartment with 2 other sisters, both from Utah as well. Our apartment is TINY haha! But we make it work :) The bishop asked me to introduce myself and bear my testimony on Sunday. I think it went ok, everyone said I did good but I'm pretty sure they were just being nice! :P Like the title of my email says, Cantonese is so crazy haha! It will take a long time for me to understand people because they talk so fast! Also, in my ward there is a lot of deaf people so on top of Cantonese I will be learning Chinese Sign Language!! :P And no, it is not the same as ASL haha. So I have my work cut out for me here! But our ward is awesome! They are so loving and welcoming. They have such strong faith and testimonies and are always willing to help with missionary work! 

This week we did a lot! We did a lot of finding. We don't knock doors like most missions. We just have to find people on the street or bus or subways to talk to. The culture here will be really hard to get used to because the people just completely ignore you if they aren't interested. We've had people tell us to go away but most people just completely ignore you. So that's been hard to get used to! But we worked at the Welcome Center this week which is like a mini vistior center. We stand on the street, passing out flyers and try to pull people in for tours and stuff. On Saturday for service, we volunteered at a handicapped home. We made flowers with them, sang songs, and played counting games. It was really fun! :) We also taught English class which was cool!

Our area is known in the mission as the area where there are always so many investigators and baptisms. Right now we have 2 girls with baptismal dates! :) Cinny is 19 and will get baptized in a few weeks. She is so sweet and really faithful! And Tiffany is 14 and will be baptized in June, I haven't met her yet. We are also teaching a single mom, Ng Siuje, and her two kids Cindy (6) and Yellick (8). They are Catholic and really interested in the gospel! We are working with other investigators and have a lot of less actives. 

I'm still getting over jet lag and adjusting but I'm healthy and my spirits are high! :) Hong Kong is a wonderful place and I'm so excited to be here! Thank you for all the love and support- I'm sorry I can't always email each of you back personally. The gospel is true and I'm so happy to be a part of it! 
Sister Escher 

Honk King Here I Come!

Hello everyone! 
Well THIS IS IT. In less than 48 hours I will be on my way to the airport! Ahhh! Pretty crazy! I have LOVED my time here at the MTC, it's been a great nine weeks, but it is now my time to report to Hong Kong! I am super nervous but I am mostly very, very, very excited! :) 

This week went by very fast. It was filled with lots of "lasts" and cleaning, packing, and organizing. We had In-Field Orientation which is an all day orientation of classes and lectures to prepare us for the field. It was long but really good! I learned a lot, met new people, and got to practice street contacting and teaching! :) The only downer part was it was all in English so it wasn't what I am going to be experiencing but it was still good. English is nice because you get to say and explain exactly what you want haha :) Also our investigators, Walter and Bill, committed to baptism this week! Yay! :) It took a lot of hard work and pushing but we did it! 

We had to say goodbye to our teachers which was so sad! We LOVE them and have been so fun to work with! Luckily, Sister Chan got back from HK just in time for us to say goodbye, we really missed her! We had a testimony meeting in Cantonese and my companion and I cried the whole time haha! (we are the only girls :P) I shared that I remember the first day, being so scared and our teacher Sister Chan talked in straight Cantonese and we all looked like we were about to burst into tears. But now we can understand 85-90% of what our teachers say and we could have a testimony meeting in full Cantonese! It has been amazing to see our improvement over these past few weeks. The gift of tongues is REAL! 

I have loved my experience here at the MTC! It really is such a special place. Everyone is worthy to be here and has a desire to serve Heavenly Father. The temple is the only other place comparable to that. The Spirit is so strong all the time and everyone is accepting and loving! Sometimes I just looked around and was amazed at what I am a part of. I am so grateful for the time I had here, for the people I met, and the things I learned! 

I have learned so much here but I just wanted to share a few of the big ones. At the MTC I have learned patience and love. I have become better at being patient with myself and with others. I have always loved reading scriptures and found great comfort in them but now I have a much greater appreciation and love for them especially the Book of Mormon! I have learned how to apply it to myself and my situation better. I am more sensitive to the Spirit and really strive to follow his promptings. My relationship with Heavenly Father was really good before but it is incredible now and will only get stronger from here :) I talk to Him all day, everyday and my love for Him and my Savior Jesus Christ has deepened. He is willing to help me, all I have to do is ask for it. Although I am terrified to go to HK and not speak the language very well and not know anyone, I am comforted in the fact that I will have my Father in Heaven with me always. He knows what His children need, I am simply the tool He is using to find them. Everything I have learned up to this point, language and spiritually wise, is thanks to Him! I am determined to be the best missionary I can be and to not allign His will with mine but to allign my will to His. During personal study this week I was searching for a scripture that could be a motivation for when I go to Hong Kong. I found one in D&C 19:24 and replaced Christ's name with mine so it reads: "I am Cassie Escher, I came by the will of my Father and I do His will." And I love that! That is my goal as a missionary :) 

Thank you for all your love, support, and prayers! I really appreciate it! Well, the next time I will be able to email will be from Hong Kong!! :) Everyone have a good week! I will talk to you soon!
Love, Sister Escher 

Last P Day at the MTC!

Leih houh!
Wow! Today is my last P-day here at the MTC! My time is almost up here. It's so bittersweet! I have loved my time here, but I am ready to go to HK! I've known for five months I would be serving in HK but I think it's finally setting in because it's so close now! :) Pretty crazy! 

We got our travel plans!!! :) We leave a week from today (Monday, April 27th)! We leave SLC at noon, fly to Seattle, have an hour layover, and then go straight to HK! We checked with the travel office today and our visas and passports all passed, so we are ready to go! :) This week will probably feel super slow but at the same time it will be really busy having to pack, clean, and organize everything! We heard there is a Cafe Rio in the airport so we are hoping that is true! ;) I have also been praying for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone in the airport or on the plane so hopefully God will place someone in my path! 

This week was a good week! Sister Chan (one of our language teachers) had to fly to HK for a family emergency and isn't sure when she will be back. We have missed her a lot this week and we really hope we get to see her before we leave! Our whole schedule got switched and we've had 2 subsitutes this week- one speaks Cantonese and the other doesn't. But the good thing with that is we got to teach an "investigator" in English!!! :) Haha I was so excited! Because although I can teach and testify somewhat in Cantonese I can never fully say what I want to or share experiences because I have a limited vocab pool right now. So it was great in English to understand what the investigator is actually saying and to be able to express what I want haha! :) So that was fun for us! 

Our district got asked to be traffic hosts this week! We had a blast! :) Unfortunately, it decided to snow on Wednesday again so we froze! But we got to wear these huge, yellow, reflector coats and use walkie talkies! We thought we looked pretty sweet :) I'll try to get the pic, only one person had their camera. We are hoping to host again this week, we really like doing it! 

Another big thing that happened this week is we had a new district join our zone! It's a pretty unique situation because usually your district all speak the same language but between the ten of them, they are learning 4 languages! So it's been pretty crazy! Since we are the Sister Training Leaders we had to give them an orientation with the zone leaders and we've had tons of meetings this week. We got 4 new sisters! Sister Johansen is from Utah going to Washington speaking Cambodian, Sister Xiong is from Alaska going to Cambodia, Sister Lim is from the Philipines going to Hong Kong, and Sister Dao is from Colorado going to Vietnam. They are all really sweet and fun, we have enjoyed getting to know them :) We have had to help them out a lot this week because two of the girls are having extreme homesickness. It's been fun being a leader and helping the new ones! 

Sorry this is so long! Just one more thing I want to share about this week. For the devotional, we had Elder Zwick of the seventy and his wife come. They gave great talks on hope and the Atonement. At the end of the talk, Elder Zwick invited his handicapped son, Scotty, to come up. He is physcially (slightly) and mentally challenged. Elder Zwick said, "Scotty what do you see out there?" Then Scotty said, "Missionaries!!" with a huge smile. Elder Zwick asked him to bear his testimony. He said, "I love Jesus Christ and I love missionaries. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." Everyone in the audience was in tears at this point and the Spirit was so strong! Later, in our district review of the meeting our branch president pointed out that Scotty had only said two things but the Spirit that was there was incredible! He told us that that is how the Spirit works so when we get to HK we just need to make sure the Spirit is there and not to worry about our Cantonese. We could say two sentances but as long as the Spirit is there, he will make up the rest! That made me feel so much better and have hope for the language! :) 

Thank you so much for all the prayers and support! Elder Zwick also said that he was in a temple session with the First Presidency and they gave a special prayer for missionaries. Wow! I am so humbled that millions of people (including you!) who are praying for me and for the mission force!
So thank you so much! The work is true :) Our branch president allows us to email the Saturday before we leave as well so I'll send a short email then. Everyone have an awesome week! 

Love, Sister Escher 

Farewell & Trainers for Now

Leih houh! 
Here we are at the start of another week- it'll be 7 weeks for me on Wednesday! Pretty crazy! :) I will be leaving for Hong Kong two weeks from today! We get travel plans this week!!! This is getting real!! 

It wasn't a super exciting week but we got to do some new things which is always nice to change up the schedule a bit. We got to be hosts (people who welcome the new missionaries this week) which was SO fun! :) I have been waiting to do that since I got here haha! Unfortunately, it decided to snow that day so it was super windy and cold but it was still awesome! I hosted a girl from North Dakota going to Japan and a girl from Hawaii going to St. George. It brought be back to my first day just how numb you are and you have no idea what was going on so it was fun to tell them how awesome the MTC is and make them feel comfortable and welcome here! :) 

This week we also had our first TRC Skype! After a certain amount of weeks, you stop doing in-person TRC on Saturdays and switch to Skype on Mondays. We get to Skype with members from Hong Kong! :) The girl we got was awesome! Her name was Crystal, she served a mission in Thailand, and she lives in HK with her family! We had an awesome discussion about enduring to the end, she was a lot of fun to talk to! We have our second one tonight and our last one next week. 

Also this week Sister Villasin and I were called to be our zone's Sister Training Leaders! :) I am super excited about that! We had to go to a bunch of leadership trainings with the Branch Presidency. This week we have a lot of councils and meetings to attend as well as welcoming new sisters we are getting. We have 4 sisters coming in this week- 1 going to Hong Kong, 1 going to Cambodia, 1 going to Washington (Cambodian speaking) and another going to Vietnam! That will be super fun! :) 

This morning at 3am we got up to say goodbye to our wonderful Thai roommates who we've grown so close with. It was SUPER sad and hard to see them go but they will do amazing things in Thailand!! It's amazing how much we've all grown and learned these past 7 weeks together! Sadly, our roommate parties will not be the same but the Lord needs them now! Good luck Sister Hayes, Sister Beckstrand, and Sister Mags- we love you! :) 

Again, thank you for all the continued love and support! It's amazing to be a missionary and a part of the Lord's work! It is definitely rolling forth! Everyone have a fantastic week! 

Love, Sister Escher 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Cantonese, Conference and Easter!!!

Jousahn! (Good morning! :) 

Wow, another week down at the MTC. On Wednesday, I will have finished 2/3 of my time here. Six weeks down, three to go. I'm still content with being here but I'm sure I'll start getting anxious to get to HK this next week or so! 

Cantonese was a little frustrating this week because we were introduced to some new grammar structures that just go right over my head! :P The grammar structure of Cantonese is completely opposite of English so that's hard to wrap your brain around. But I am still learning a lot and trying my best! We learned how to teach the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity in Cantonese which made for some pretty funny/awkward word mix-ups ;) 

But what an INCREDIBLE weekend we had here at the MTC! :) My spirit got very spiritually nourished! General Conference was as amazing as always! And there is nothing more powerful than sitting with God's army of missionaries listening to our living prophet speak. I honestly cannot choose just one talk that was my favorite, they were all so great! But some ones I liked best were Elder Renlund, Elder Causse, Elder Holland, and Elder Andersen. If you didn't watch all of Conference I invite you to get on and watch the talks! Very, very inspired leaders we have today!

I was so excited about Pres. Monson's announcement of temples in Haiti, Ivory Coast in Africa, and Thailand! What was so crazy about Thailand is this week I was talking to my roommates who are going to Thailand and they were saying they wished they had a temple in their mission. And I said, "I have a feeling you will get one soon. What if they announced that in Conference this weekend?! That'd be so crazy!!" (I was half serious and half kidding!) Haha so we were all quite surprised when the announcement came. All the Thai missionaries were screaming and crying and so happy! It is so great being a missionary during these times when the Lord is hastening His work! Not only through missionaries but through the building of temples.

Even though I missed out on some fun, family Easter traditions it was a great experience to celebrate it here and it'll be one that I'll never forget! :) Everyone wore cute Easter colors and we got to take a walk around the campus and to the temple. The Provo temple is seriously SO gorgeous right now with all the colorful flowers blooming- pictures just don't do it justice! I loved all the talks given in Conference about His resurrection and the sacredness and importance of that great event. There is a large picture in one of the foyers of the resurrected Christ appearing to Mary at the tomb. I was looking at it when I had a distinct impression. I remembered the scripture "He is not here, for He is risen." And then the thought, "Because He is risen, you are here" entered my thoughts. It was a very profound and beautiful thought from the Spirit. I am HERE on Earth and HERE on a mission for one reason only. That reason is because Jesus Christ lives today!! Because of Him, death has no sting, the grave has no victory, and our sins will be forgiven and forgotten by God. WOW! What a special gift we are given by our loving Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for His Atonement! May we always remember it. 

Another great thing that happened this weekend is that on Sunday night instead of having a devotional, VOCAL POINT came and performed for us!!!! I was SOO excited when I found out!! For those of you that don't know, they are the BYU men's  A Capella group. If you have never heard of them, drop what you are doing and youtube them RIGHT NOW. Seriously, so good!! :) Haha! They sang hymns and non hymns (it was pretty funny seeing how excited a bunch of missionaries got to hear something besides hymns ;) and shared experiences from their missions since they are all RMs. Their words were really inspiring! 

Anyways, it was a fabulous weekend with Easter and Conference and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! Shout out to my little sister Shaylie who is getting baptized on Saturday! :) I am so excited she is making this decision. It is the first step to a blessed and happy life in the gospel. I love you and am so proud of you Shay! Wish I could be there! 

Thank you for all the love and support. Have a great week everyone!
Love, Sister Escher 

P Day = Laundry Day!

Easter Care Package- thanks mom!

Beautiful Easter Flowers on the temple grounds!

My MTC Schedule.
Happy Easter from our Cantonese district!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

One Month Down!

Family and friends! 
Hard to believe I have completed one month of my mission already! The MTC is still great and I am having awesome experiences :) It's amazing how much I've learned in that time- language and gospel wise. 

This week we continued teaching our 3 investigators. Most of my week consisted of learning the Plan of Salvation lesson in Cantonese. It's difficult because there's a lot of hard vocab and sometimes they don't understand so you have to explain it. But this week I made the whole Plan of Salvation in cutouts. I drew pictures, cut them out, laminated them, and even copied Cantonese characters onto them so the investigators can read them. That was pretty fun! :) We also started memorizing the first vision in Cantonese as a district. I'm excited for when I will be able to recite that! In my personal study I've started studying Christ-like attributes I want to develop and that's been great. Preach My Gospel has an awesome section on that if you want to take a look at it :) 

Our devotional this week was Brother Clarke who is the Church's missionary department director. He gave an awesome talk on not letting Satan affect you. He said, "Don't let Satan push your buttons. He will do everything he can to give you grief and stop the work of God." He explained that as a missionary he whispers things to make us feel inferior to others, want to give up, and other things that aren't true. This applies to life in general as well. He told us when that happens to stand and say, "NO, Satan. I CAN do this! I am a disciple of Christ and have been set apart to preach His gospel." It was a talk I needed to hear and it was a great one! So don't let Satan push your buttons :) 

Oh! This week was my first time seeing a protester in front of the MTC haha! Apparently it happens often which I didn't know. There was an old man outside carrying a cross and American flag yelling at all the missionaries and saying crazy weird stuff. He was pretty intense! Just goes to show that there is and always will be opposition against the Church. I love that no one was phased or reacted to it, in fact we were excited to get entertainment haha! ;) I think of Elder Holland's quote that "If this were not the true Church of God, the adversary would not try so hard to bring us down." And I know that is true! That's kind of a random thing that happened this week haha!  

Only 13 days until Conference! I am seriously SO dang excited! :) Rumor has it that President Uchtdorf is coming for an Easter message in a few weeks, not sure if that's true haha. But I hope it is, he is my favorite! I love that the MTC and temple grounds are blooming with signs of spring! We are so close to spring and Easter :) It has been so pretty and warm lately, we love it! It's amazing to be among so many faithful, worthy missionaries and the work is definitely rolling forth. The kingdom of God is growing and I love being a part of it! 

Have a fantastic week everyone! 
Love, Sister Escher 

Monday, March 23, 2015

MTC week #3

Leih houh ngoh chan ngoi gathing tuhnmaaih paahg yauh! 
(Hello my dear family and friends!)

It has been an amazing week here at the MTC! I can't believe that on Wednesday it will be my 3 week mark and that I'll be 1/3 of the way done with my time here! This week has defintely been the fastest week so far. 

First off, we got three new investigators- Yanni, Bill, and Walter! It has been so fun to see how much better I can communicate with them every time we visit. Yanni and Bill have been very receptive and great to work with! Walter on the other hand hasn't been keeping his commitments and seems to be lacking interest for the gospel. But we are still working on him! Actually during his lesson this week, I had a cool experience. We were teaching him and I got a prompting from the Spirit to ask him to come to church right in the middle of a lesson! I didn't think I should because we had planned to give another commitment and I wasn't sure if I knew how to ask in Cantonese but I did anyway. And he said yes! :) We were so excited! We will find out this week if he actually went. But it was such a realization for me that the Spirit does work through me for these people. 

My accomplishment this week was I can now pray in Cantonese with no notes and I memorized the missionary purpose in Cantonese! So that was good :) It's coming along well, my biggest struggle is the tones and pronunciation. In fact, there's an elder in our district who had a funny experience this week with tones. He was teaching a lesson and meant to say, "Jesus Christ is God's son." But instead he said, "Jesus Christ is God's coconut." she was super confused and showed them a picture of a coconut so they could realize what they had said. Hahaha! Turns out that son and coconut are the EXACT same weird but with a different tone! So if you get the tone wrong you get the word wrong :P That's the hardest part for sure! 

We had our first TRC this week, which is on Saturday mornings we go to the resource center and get to teach a member lesson. They are volunteers who speak your mission language- so usually RMs that are attending BYU or live close by. So it was a different experience teaching someone who doesn't know anything about the church. So we got to know them then left a short message about faith. Afterwards they evaluate how you did. Our reviews were pretty good for our first time! :) I still have plenty to improve on though. My new goal for this week is to just open my mouth and speak because sometimes I am afraid I'll say the word wrong or the structure but that's the best way to practice.  

The highlight of this week for me was definitely Tuesday night. Elder Quentin L. Cook (of the Twelve) came for our devotional!! :) We sat four rows away from the pulpit and the Spirit was so strong! He gave an amazing message personally for the missionaries, it was great! So that was awesome but an even better part was the testimony meeting me had after. It was just with the girls in our zone and the Spirit was so strong from the meeting. Sister Weaver (branch presidency member's wife) asked that we bear our testimony of the Savior. It was probably one of the most powerful meetings I have ever been in! We were all bawling haha and it was so amazing. I just wanted to share a few thoughts I had about the Savior in hopes that you can feel the same Spirit. 

Someone once told me that every time Jesus Christ looks at the wounds in His hands, He thinks of YOU. And I love that! I think sometimes we think of the Atonement as Jesus taking on the sins and pains of the world, which He did. But we need to realize and understand that He did it for us personally. Every pain, sickness, sin, temptation, or trial you've ever felt, He has felt it too. He knows what you've been through. And what amazes me is that He loves us so much that He volunteered to do that. He knew we would be imperfect and ungrateful but HE DID IT ANYWAY. One of my favorite quotes is from Elder Okazaki and it says, "Christ is not waiting for us to be perfect. Because perfect people don't need a Savior. He is the Lord of the living and the living make mistakes. He wants us in our imperfections, our sorrows, our brokenness, and our grief." He wants us to be happy, to repent, and come unto Him. I have such a strong testimony of the Atonement and am so grateful for my brother, friend, and Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves each of us perfectly. And I promise you if you turn your life over to Him, He will guide you and comfort you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thank you for all the continued love and support! Have a great week!

Love, Sister Escher