(Elder Coleman's former companion, Elder Hansen, encouraged him to write letters home in addition to the emails he sends weekly. Elder C has taken that advice to heart, and he has been sending home letters that are absolute treasures to us. Here are a few excerpts from some of his letters.)
Serving with Elder Wang is a privilege! Believe it or not 400+ missionaries have served from m a i n l a n d China already. I have never heard of one before, but there apparently are a ton! My companion is from Chengdu Sichuan-the place all the pandas are and where the spiciest food is! He first met the missionaries in Hong Kong, while he was on vacation with his mother. Two extremely tall missionaries, both from the States, stopped him and his mother on the street by speaking Chinese with them. One of them spoke only Cantonese, so when they found out that Elder Wang and his mom couldn't speak it, he allowed his companion to take over, who invited them to church on the next day. Elder Wang's mom forced him to go! He didn't really care for religion because in China, religion isn't even a thing. Until now Elder Wang's dad is a communist which Elder Wang immediately associates with being a nonbeliever. Anyway, after going back home, Elder Wang and his mom visited an LDS congregation - a group of 180+ active members, 80 to 90% of which are returned missionaries! They returned to Hong Kong a bit later to be baptized. That was four years ago. Elder Wang has been a missionary for half of his membership in the church!!! 14 August 2011 was the date he was baptized.
Anyway, I tell you all this as background because Elder Wang is one of the funniest guys I've ever met. He is truly good, and without guile. He says the funniest things in his broken English. Sometimes it comes out perfectly though. On our way to visit someone, Elder Wang contacted a guy from Switzerland. Elder Wang slowly began shifting the topic to the Gospel, and the man, anticipating Elder Wang's direction, said, "Don't talk to me about religion-I know you're Mormons, and I'm not interested." Afterward my companion felt a little down, so I said to him, "Don't worry-he didn't reject you-only your message!" Then, in a moment of clarity, Elder Wang responded: "He rejected me and the message! If you want to speak more generally, he rejected Jesus Christ." Wow.
On a more humorous note, this is what Elder Wang said to me today: "I have a very good idea. Instead of write down our contact number on all our cards, we should write it on your face! Then everyone would see it!" Haha! He's pretty funny. Another funny story- I found that Elder Wang's mini copy of the Old Testament misprinted Exodus a second time, in the back, where is Ezekiel is supposed to be. When I pointed it out, in his hilarious Chinese accent, he cried, "What?! This is I-ssue! This is a Prob-lem! I need to call someone!!! I want refund! " Oh man, we laughed for days about that one. Don't worry, I've recorded several of our conversations, and you'll be able to hear some when I get back :-)
Missions are great. They're hard. Following so many rules is hard. Talking to strangers is hard. Teaching people well is hard. But, boy, is it worth it! I have learned a very valuable lesson on my mission - to love my ___mission___ (can be replaced with anything in our lives) for what it is. If I CAN change something, such as having no people to teach, I work to change it with God's help. If I can't change it, such as a transfer, then I've learned to embrace it and love it for what it is. That is how I've been able to stay positive and energetic. I quit worrying about what my mission experience could have been or what I want it to be, and instead, I make the most out of the way life turns out. And so I've come to love it and cherish my experiences here.
On my mission I have come to a much greater understanding about our baptismal covenant. The most succinct place to find our baptismal covenant is (in my opinion) found in Doctrine and Covenants 20: 77-79, the sacrament prayers. I'll quote just a bit: "And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of Thy Son, and always remember Him, and keep his commandments, which He has given them." This is a huge promise! We covenant to obey God's commandments. Oftentimes, we take that to mean all of God's instructions to us. I personally believe so, too. Selective obedience is hardly obedience to God at all. However, this is something that can be hard at times! How can I keep this covenant if, for example, I always get upset with a spouse when he watches sports too much, especially on Sunday? How can I consider myself faithful when I so often forget to have Family Home Evening or family prayer? Etc. This covenant can lead us to be extremely hard on ourselves when we aren't perfect - thus breaking a commandment in and of itself! (See Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.") Yikes! However, I think there is one commandment I often think we overlook. Here are some references for you:
-D&C 19:13-15 "Therefore, I command you to repent."
-2 Nephi 31:11 "And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye."
-Moses 6: 47-58 " But God hath make known unto our Fathers that all men must repent...wherefore, teach it unto your children that all men everywhere must repent."
I have come to the conclusion that repent really means "reobey." We oftentimes view them as so different, so separate, but "to obey" and 'to repent" are motivated by faith in Jesus Christ, and both are commandments of God, and both result in the same end--humans keeping God's commands. They are sister principles. Inseparable. We obey until we fail, when we promptly repent. We repent until we are free of a sin--then we obey!
When we are baptized, we are motivated by our faith to repent then covenant with God we will keep his commandments. The Holy Ghost them comes to guide us and bless our lives with peace and joy, and guide us in safety's paths. We all will break those commandments. Sometimes we move off the path; at others we stumble and fall. So when God call us to repent, we are promising Him we won't give up--that we will keep trying and struggling until we make it. When we move off the path, our covenant is not broken- rather it is motivation and reminds us that we have promised God we will always come back. We promise we will always get back up. :) So we don't promise to be perfect, but to keep moving. A great example of this I found this morning in my personal study. In Mosiah 25 we find Alma the Elder/Older establishing a church of God amongst the now-united Nephites in Zarahemla. He baptizes them all in verses 17-18, yet in verse 22, we see what is constantly being taught is repentance. A pilot isn't concerned how many times his plane drifts off course as long as he corrects it each time it does move a degree off. For me, right now, I don't think I can successfully be 100% obedient, but I KNOW I can be 100% in repenting of each mistake/sin the Holy Ghost or others inform me of. So...REPENT! Establish a happy, joyful attitude of repentance! And each time you do, be happy for two reasons: 1- You're keeping your covenants; and 2- You're fully using Christ's atonement. He knew we were going to make mistakes. Might as well repent because He did it all for us already. Thank God for the matchless gift of His Son, who made it possible for us to learn from our mistakes/sins without being condemned by them.