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The Happy Ho – Chapter 6.8

The Buddha finished his mission with little fanfare. He didn’t quite reach the mission baptism record, but he was still one of the strongest performers of his time. Unbeknownst to his missionary colleagues, the Buddha had also succeeded in establishing a new and unique way of moving 14K contraband throughout Hong Kong. Two more 14K triad members were now undercover serving missions, one a Sister. The other would be Brig’s new companion.

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As Buddha wrapped-up his mission Brig became panic-stricken. How would he be able to return to regular missionary work, now that he had broken just about every rule in the missionary handbook, and once again enjoyed the pleasures of sin? The Buddha reassured him that he, and God, had a plan for Brig. On the night of call-outs, the evening before the Buddha’s last day, Brig learned that his new companion would be a new bundeih missionary. AP Firth conveyed that this was a massive blessing that Brig should be grateful for. In the history of the church, no native English-speaking missionary had ever been blessed with the responsibility of being the first companion to a native. New Hongkie missionaries had to be handled with great care as they often quit within the first three months. But, according to AP Firth, President Woodley was so impressed with Brig’s language skills that he had been inspired to pair Brig with another bundeih missionary.

Miraculously, the Buddha had a history with Brig’s next companion and had baptized the young man two years ago. The Buddha denied having any influence on President Woodley’s decision. “It is a miracle Elder,” he said, with a wink and his trademark laugh. “Keep this to yourself, but Elder Chow is, in fact, an old friend. He will treat you right, or I’ll have him killed.”

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Brig’s new companion, Elder “Samson” Chow, arrived the next day. Brig recognized immediately how different Samson and the Buddha were. Chow was an exercise maniac, built like a tank, had no sense of humor, kept to himself, and was highly disciplined. On their first night together, Brig noticed a myriad of colorful tattoos showing through Elder Chow’s garments.

“Wow, Elder! What are those?” Brig asked, genuinely interested.

“Mistakes,” was all Elder Chow would say.

Although the Buddha had finished his mission, he visited Elders Young and Chow often. Occasionally the Buddha brought alcohol that only he and Brig would imbibe. Samson didn’t drink. “My body is a temple,” he would say without sarcasm, causing Brig and Buddha to laugh hysterically. Sometimes the Buddha brought boxes of The Book of Mormon, explaining that Hong Kong church members had donated the books for the exclusive use of Elder Chow. They contained the “testimonies” of church members that supported Elder Chow.

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“Seems racist,” Brig cracked.

“We Chinese didn’t ask to be superior. God just made us this way. It’s our burden,” the Buddha replied, remembering Brig’s ‘White Man’s Burden’ comment from a few weeks earlier.

Despite Brig’s persistence, Elder Chow would not warm up to him. It wasn’t that Elder Chow was mean or rude. On the contrary, he was uncomfortably subservient. When Brig asked him why, Chow explained that his role was not to question, but to serve, and since Brig was the senior missionary, he was his leader. Chow was particularly submissive when Buddha was around. When Brig asked the Buddha, “What the hell is going on?” the Buddha laughed but secretly cautioned Brig not to get too personal with Samson. “He’s a private guy. It’s the way he is.”

One cold evening in December, Brig and Chow were walking to an appointment that Samson had made in a place called Tin Heng town. Tin Heng was a typical cluster of old homes that were unique only in that they were about as far North as you could travel in Hong Kong without crossing over into China. Although the British had returned Hong Kong to China years earlier, there was still a boundary that separated the two, and they were practically standing on it.

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The smell of fire mixed with animal manure permeated the air. Somewhere nearby a large dog barked. They were walking down a narrow dirt path when a group of mean looking young men, much like the ones Brig had encountered a few weeks ago with Buddha, blocked their way.

Brig looked questioningly at Chow.

“When I tell you to run, you run. We’ll meet back at the apartment,” Chow whispered. Brig was shocked by Samson’s display of authority and decisiveness and was surprised again when Chow addressed the crowd in what Brig assumed was Mandarin.

Brig couldn’t understand a word, but Chow’s posture and tone of voice told Brig that things weren’t going their way. One of the thugs walked forward and pointed menacingly at Brig, saying something that made his associates laugh.

Brig looked over at Chow to see if he might translate but was met with a look that sent chills down Brig’s back. “Run,” Chow said, as the group attacked. Except Chow didn’t run, which confused Brig. Chow had thrown his books to the ground and had assumed a stance which Brig would later describe as “Kung Fu-like.” As the mob quickly closed the gap, Chow looked over to see that Brig was still standing at his side, paralyzed.

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“Run!” Chow repeated.

Brig had never been a fighter, but neither was he a coward, and he was not about to leave his companion to fend for himself. Brig set his feet in the dirt, as he had seen Samson do, and raised his fists up in front of him, taking what he imagined was a fighter’s stance. Brig was overwhelmed immediately, pummeled to the ground, unable to get off a single punch. The last thing he remembered, before losing consciousness was looking up through the chaos of his beating and seeing Chow’s body moving faster than humanly possible, three of his attackers lying at his feet.

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