Cantonese is a difficult language for a “gwailo” to learn. It is a colloquial language that changes, with new words and new sayings created by each new generation. Because the language is so difficult, even unintelligible, for a new missionary, he (or she) was always first paired with an experienced missionary that had been in the field for at least one year and had developed a working knowledge of the language. The senior missionary blessed with the responsibility of training a new missionary was recognized as the new missionary’s father (or mother). The just-off-the-boat Hong Kong missionary, also known as a “greenie,” was very much like a newborn, unable to communicate and dependent on their first companion.
Brig’s mission father was a nineteen-year-old from Gunnison, Utah named Elder Jensen. Elder Jensen was a model missionary with aspirations of becoming an AP for his next assignment. He was not at all intimidated by the responsibility of having to teach the Gospel with the Brigham Young. In fact, Elder Jensen took every opportunity to show Brig, and anyone else who was interested, how much stronger his faith was, and how much more spiritual he was, than his illustrious companion. To his credit, Brig never took Elder Jensen’s bait. In those early days, Brig was able to stay in character as a humble servant of the Lord and endured Elder Jensen’s behavior as part of his punishment for the sins he had committed.
However, Elder Jensen’s self-righteousness eventually wore Brig down. After the initial enthusiasm and excitement of being in Hong Kong had passed, Brig felt the full impact of culture shock. He became depressed when he realized that this would be his home, and his life, for the next two years. After just four weeks Brig wanted out and contemplated forfeiting his inheritance, taking the next flight home, and letting the chips fall where they would. But Brig had inherited his forefathers’ strong will and fierce determination. Being stubborn was a trait that helped him complete many demanding climbs and allowed him to endure the last year preparing for his mission. He would finish what he started, or die trying. His only goal in life was to endure. Like a new prison inmate, he would do his time and look forward to being free again, one day.