Elder Christopher Gong
Early in my mission, I was moved to the rural mountain town of QiShan in southern Taiwan. The branch was small but full of faith and love. One day, after seeking referrals in church, Andy Weng bounced up to us followed by his sister Emily. He said “We know someone who needs the gospel. It’s our Uncle. He just got out of jail on probation because he needs heart surgery. It’s perfect!”A little bit apprehensive, we set up a time for later that week.
I’ll always remember the first time we saw Brother Guo. He was slouched back against his motorcycle, stone faced and chain smoking. He wouldn’t come into the house for the lesson, so we taught him standing up outside by his motorcycle. We shared about our loving Heavenly Father and that through reading the Book of Mormon and praying, we can know He is there and feel his love. Emily shared her favorite scriptures and bore testimony. After loving persuasion from Andy and Emily, Brother Guo reluctantly set another time.
The next time we met, I was startled to see there was something different about him. “You’ve been reading and praying, haven’t you?” I said. “Every single day,” he said gruffly, but his eyes smiled just a little, and Andy and Emily were beaming. My companion and I sat at the Weng family dinner table, listening to stories and trying (and failing) to avoid getting served pig foot soup. Dishes were cleared, and we started the lesson with song and prayer. My first move companion bore testimony of the atonement in his first move Chinese. As everyone listened intently, straining to better understand, an amazing thing happened. The spirit filled the room, and we could tell Brother Guo’s heart was touched.
Over the next few weeks, Brother Guo read and prayed daily. He came to church with his supportive family. He struggled with and eventually overcame his addictions. We saw his heart softened, and the light in his eyes grow brighter and brighter. But because of his traditional beliefs and opposition from other relatives, he was still unwilling to commit to baptism.
As we were leaving after one appointment, Brother Guo exchanged some quick words in Taiwanese with his older sister. She said “Andy told him that missionaries can give blessings. He’s going into surgery this week, and he’s worried. Can you give him a blessing?” He may have been worried, but we were terrified. We could barely communicate, and neither of us had ever given a blessing in Chinese before. We knelt together in prayer. And then, in their broken down storeroom, with our broken Chinese, we performed the blessing.
We saw Brother Guo at church the next Sunday. He looked tired and walked slowly. After church, he pulled us aside. One night after his surgery, he had woken up with throbbing chest pains. Desperately, he prayed for help. The pains subsided. He was grateful and humble, and asked to be baptized.
So that's why I chose Ezekiel 36:26-28. as my mission scripture.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
May we all continue to have mighty changes of heart.
Love, Elder Gong
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
This is a story from a friend of mine named Chris Gong, who's currently serving a mission somewhere in Taiwan (sorry, I can never remember missions more specific than the country). His emails are generally quite short (this one is exceptionally long by his standards) but poignant is always a good word to describe them. Here is his most recent email, in full. I love it.