Shirley's Farewell Address on Oct. 31, 2010
(Elwin and Shirley have been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hong Kong from Nov. 8, 2010 to May 7, 2012.)
I was like a child thinking this day was so far away and would never come. But time sure has caught up with us. Here we are, ready to go into MTC in 8 days. We are very excited to have this special opportunity to serve. It makes me think about what happened through out the years that brought me to this point.
It all started when I was 19 years old. I was introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ when 2 young missionaries knocked on our door in Taiwan. The Spirit impressed me that it was the right thing to do to join the church, but I was afraid. In our family my mom’s sister was the first person to embrace Christianity. The LDS church had just been introduced to Taiwan a few years earlier. I asked my mom what I should do. She told me to find out all about the church. If I could abide by their rules and guidelines, then, I should go ahead. With my parents’ support, my sister Alice and I were the first ones in Sung family to join the LDS church. My younger sister, Ling, joined the church a couple of years later. Throughout the years, I have tried to follow my mom’s words of wisdom and I know I’ve been greatly blessed because of it.
Elwin served a mission in Taiwan. We met at BYU and raised 4 children. Our 4 children served in Japan, Korea, Italy and Hawaii. I remember Nelson’s farewell address well as he said: I know y’all think I am going on a mission because of my parents, but I want y’all to know that I want to go, myself. That was my thinking. Since we had great influence on our children, I wanted our children to go out and found out for themselves if this was what they believed in and to conduct their lives in the manner that was pleasant unto God. They set a good example for me. I knew I wanted to serve a mission in my later years then.
About 2 years ago, Elwin and I went to China to teach as part of my sabbatical. This was the first time living in China for both of us. Little did we know that that experience changed our lives. My friend, Hazel, said it right on the button: I knew we lost you when you went to China. It was like a rude awakening. I saw the thirst in their eyes that they were looking for something. We knew we would go back to share the gospel with them.
My talk is based on Nephi 1:7: “…7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I awill go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no bcommandments unto the children of men, save he shall cprepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
Many of you know that we have anticipated this mission call since January this year. This scripture rang true in my ear as I contemplated the telephone call from Elder Kikuchi of the Seventy of the Church, to Elwin that the Hong Kong Temple is in need of a Mandarin Chinese speaking couple. I rationalized in my mind that he didn’t say when to go. Going on a mission has always been in our plan, but I wanted to work one more year at Dixie. After many prayers and fasting, I told our department head, about the possible calling and that I might be leaving. It was hard to leave a career I’ve working on for many years. But, I knew in my heart the Lord has a plan for us. Elwin also knew that the Lord had a plan for us. My love for the Lord, for my husband won me over. We decided that the Lord would provide a way for us to accomplish the thing he commanded us. By obeying the promptings, miracles started to unfold.
In preparing for this mission, we went through all the motions that all the missionaries in the Church had to do. We filled out applications, were interviewed by the Bishop, and resolved lots of other details. Then, an unexpected thing happened; Elwin failed the physical, which we never even thought was an issue. We pride ourselves to be healthy people. Neither one of us has had any physical ailments. Elwin ended up with a triple bypass 2 days after the stress test in early May. He was told that if one of the blockages in his heart triggered a heart attack, he would not even hit the ground before he was gone. I marveled at the mercy the Lord has for us. I had no doubt in my mind that following the Lord’s timetable was the right thing to do.
Do you remember back when you were on your mission, the joy you felt when you taught the Law of the Lord to someone who has never been taught about the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you remember the joy of being baptized, becoming a Deacon, or entering the Young Women’s program? For the Dixie College students, while you are doing your practicum, your student teaching, or teaching in your own classroom, remember how happy you were when you saw the light bulb came on in your students’ eyes? The scriptures tell us that “Men are that they might have joy” in 2 Nephi 2:25. This is the joy that we felt when we received the mission call from President Monson on the 20th of July. I know we’ll feel joy as we work in the Hong Kong Temple and feel the joy of the Chinese people when they come to the temple to be sealed as eternal families.
We know there are a lot of unknowns and challenges waiting for us. We lived in China for a year just two years ago. And I remember the inconveniences there. Elwin seems to deal with those daily things well. I need to remember Lot’s wife and not to look back and ask for things that I take for granted here or I may turn into a pillar of salt. And I know Elwin won’t bring back salt in his suitcase. Perhaps he could ship me back in a box like we did with my electric bicycle.
Another challenge is feeling inadequate with new and radically different callings. Hong Kong is a former English colony where they speak Cantonese. The Missionary Training Center has assigned a Hong Kong returned missionary to teach us Cantonese using Skype on the computer. It’s funny to have a white man teaching a Chinese how to speak Cantonese. The tutor is doing an excellent job. Elwin is doing quite well as he learned Chinese through English, and he understands tones. My Chinese tones came naturally. I never had to learn it. But Cantonese has 7 tones and I have to learn the tones because they are not the same as Mandarin. I have to put things in perspective. I could barely speak English when I went to BYU in my younger years. I’ve learned so much from my family, my friends and my students. I know my brothers and sisters in Hong Kong will help me with the language as you have helped me.
I’m sad to think about leaving our family and friends for 18 months. But I hope it’ll be like Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, Alma 17:2 - that we’ll find each other still strong in the gospel when we meet again. I hope and pray that my children and grandchildren will be well taken care of. I hope my hiking and walking buddies will continue to hike and walk and stay healthy. I hope my Dixie friends will continue to work hard to prepare their students to be the best teachers they can be.
I testify to you that God lives and loves us. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.