Jon has given me permission to post edited versions of his letters. We thought you might be interested.
July 30, 2007
Dear Tsev heeg (family),
They certainly know how to keep a person busy here at the Missionary
Hmong has an awesome vowel that sounds like an Australian guy saying “no.” Once I get tapes I shall demonstrate.
The spirit is so strong here; stronger and more constant than I’ve ever felt before. Kuv nyab zoo heev (I am doing great), and I love you all! I’m way excited to be a tubtxib (missionary)!
With buckets of love,
Date: Jul 31, 2007 10:12 AM
Subject: Greetings from the MTC!
On Sundays we mostly study and go to meetings. We study PMG, the scriptures, and language. My district has only four Elders; the only Elders in the MTC speaking Hmong.
We have time set aside each P-day to go to the temple.
Subject: Hurrah for
Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2007 14:45:13 +0000
This last week we got to go to the TRC, where we practiced meeting people, getting to know them, introducing our message, bearing our testimonies, and setting an appointment in Hmong with volunteers posing as potential investigators. We then practiced teaching the first lesson to the same volunteer (in English). It was one of the most spiritually charged experiences I've ever had! The week leading up to it I was a little nervous, especially because there is a camera in the corner of the room to my teacher can evaluate us and give us feedback. Thanks to my prayers, when I actually got into the room which we were to pretend was a park, I was at peace, and had no trouble communicating in the language. By the way, Hmong is a very difficult language. We have a couple "tone-twisters" that reminded me of that one Doug had for Chinese. I will let you hear them once I send home a tape, but one of them looks like this: Poj pom pog pov pob hauv pos. That means "The lady saw grandma throw a ball into the thorn bush". Crazy no?
Subject: Word from the field
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 15:25:00 +0000
That's right, even though I'm still in training, I am still an active missionary in the field. We have the opportunity to answer phones at the referral center and talk to people who saw a commercial about the church and want to receive a free Phau Ntawv Maumoos (BoM) or Bible. We get to answer questions they have about the church and bear our testimonies.
Pretty much my day to day activities include personal study, where I usually read the Phau Ntawv Maumoos in Hmoob and look up word that are used a lot that I don't know. I also do the same with a Hmoob copy of Book of Mormon Stories (the one which all the pictures). Sometime I just read the BoM in English, or do flashcards; it varies. I also have nrog tus khub kawm (companion study), where we set up lesson plans for the TRC. Our last experience at the TRC made use of my improvisational instincts. The investigator was supposed to be a Christian who was very familiar with the bible and had seen a TV special on Joseph Smith, but felt uncomfortable with the idea of a modern prophet. The volunteer must not have read the paper he was given because he said he was a Buddhist Hmong. There are almost no Buddhist Hmongs on the Earth. We had to completely change how we taught, and adjust for someone who had never really heard of God. 'Twas a challenge.
My companion is pretty cool. He fortunately does have a sense of humor.
Love you all!
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 8:55 AM
Nyob zoo sawv ntxov!
Starting tomorrow, my teacher will only speak Hmong, and we are to try to speak only Hmong, or at least as much as possible during class. Eep! The language is going pretty well I suppose. I can mostly understand everything when I read in the Book of Mormon Stories, or should I say the Cov Dabneeg Hauv Phau Ntawv Maumoos. Elder Vang is gone now, but he was a great help. I took some pictures at the temple, but I don't know when I can get them to you guys.
This week's TRC experience was great. The teaching part went very well, but the language part was interesting (in a somewhat unfortunate way). We were to role play picking up an investigator for church, and while on the bus, talk to them about their week, follow up on commitments, and if the commitment was not kept, resolve concerns, possible adjust the commitment, and extend it again---all in Hmong. We were reasonably prepared, but our volunteer playing the role of the investigator was a mumbler. A quiet mumbler with a very nasally voice. It was a tremendous challenge. After the simulation, I heard him say something in English and he was almost as difficult to understand.
When we teach, we don't memorize anything, with the exception of Joseph's description of the first vision. We prepare an outline of the things we want to cover, and the order in which we want to cover them, and decide generally who will discuss which topic. While we teach, we have to be willing and able to alter our plan on the fly, sometimes drastically, to meet the needs of the investigator, and his/her questions and concerns. We must treasure up a mountain of doctrinal knowledge and understanding so the Spirit can pull from it whatever will best help the investigator. It is challenging work, but I am determined to be an effective tool in the Master's hand.