Monday, April 30, 2012

Greetings from Planet DouLiu

This week we're excited to report that our investigator (name) is progressing toward his baptismal goal of next Friday. He's been coming to church every week and reading the Book of Mormon daily. He's a very humble man, and even though it's taken a long time to teach him everything, I feel he is really willing and desirous to be baptized. We're hoping that after he's baptized his family members will start to have some interest in learning more. His mom even said that if his temper gets better after his baptism she might consider looking into our church.

 We've also started to find some really great newer investigators. Two students from mainland China started meeting with us this week, and while I was in HuWei on exchanges Elder Wong and Elder Lyman met with them and they expressed their desire to be baptized. They've had very very minimal contact with Christianity or religion of any sort in China, but they told Elder Wong they want to be baptized and they know what they have to do to get it. I'm really actually quite fascinated with the church in China.

 Here's some stuff I've learned by asking Elder and Sister Lin, who just spent the last year serving a mission there (not a proselyting mission, more of a take care of the members mission).

 * There are more members of our church in mainland China than in Taiwan.

 * You are allowed to be baptized as long as you have a family member who is also a member, otherwise you have to go to Hong Kong to be baptized.

 * Members are not allowed to openly talk about the church to their friends, but I think if the friend asks, the member can answer his questions.

 Pretty cool stuff. I'd love to someday be able to participate in bringing the gospel to the people of China, even if it's just as a senior missionary with my wife many years down the road.

 One more cool miracle story. This week at English class one of the regular students came, but came about half an hour late. Nobody else had come, so I was just calling some referrals and so forth. Anyway, when I was starting the class discussion she said "Actually, I was hoping you could just tell me more about your church." She said last week when she was feeling sad, she tried a personal prayer, which she'd never done before, and she truly felt like God answered her prayer and comforted her. We're really looking forward to continuing to teach her, because she really seems to have much more interest than ever before.

 Anyway, I'd better wrap up. I sure love you all! I hope this week goes great for all of you.

 Love, Carter

Monday, April 23, 2012

The weekly report, volume 100+

Hello everybody!

This was a great week. Sister (Name)’s baptism went really well. I was worried about all the multiple things that could have gone wrong, like possibly she didn't realize that she was going to be dunked in water or something like that. However, the Holy Ghost just came upon me and I felt at peace. I knew it would turn out all right. And it did. President and Sister Bishop got to come and attend, which was really a great experience. And even though the baptism was at a weird time (5:00 on Friday afternoon), lots of people were able to attend and welcome her to the branch. I love how the gospel unites and completes families. Brother (name) was so happy to have his wife baptized, and he was telling President Bishop and me that he really hopes to have his kids come back next. The Spirit was very strong during that service, and I am so happy I got to be a part of it.

I'd like to share two fun miracle stories for the week. One was a man we met on Thursday for the first time. He told us right at the start that the reason he wanted to meet with us was to see if we could help him understand if some things he'd been thinking about were right. I asked him what he meant, so he showed us some pictures that a friend had sent him. They were pictures of the universe, of galaxies and planets and billions of stars. He said, "Ever since seeing this I've been thinking that there must be a force or a Being who created all of this. It couldn't possibly have just come from nothing." We showed him Alma chapter 30, when Alma tells Korihor that all things are a sign that there is a God. He understood it right away. Throughout the lesson it became apparent that he is very well prepared. There were several times during the lesson that I got a big grin on my face so big I couldn't wipe it off, and I felt like jumping up and hugging the man. Everything he said was exactly the OPPOSITE of the frustrating things that people always say to us. He told us he has three kids because he feels families are the most important unit of society, and that if families fail, society will be destroyed. He said he feels real happiness does not come from money or big houses, and that people who ask him to design huge expensive houses are really still just as empty inside. He thinks it's impossible that there's more than one god and they're all equally good to worship, "Because if they're both different, how could they both be right?" We fasted for him this last weekend, so I am hoping we can help him and his family come to church and be baptized. He certainly belongs in our church! I'm not thinking of myself here, but I am hoping and praying as hard as I can that this is the family that is the answer to my prayers and fasting to be able to help a family be baptized. We'll see what happens.

The other miracle was last night. "Grampa (name)" is another of President Bishop's converts from so long ago, but he's been active ever since his baptism. His wife just got baptized at the start of this year, and his kids are all less active. We went to look for Grampa's son, but they weren't home. Our backup was a less-active we'd never met, also named Sister (name). We knocked on her door, but nobody was home. As we rode away, we saw Grampa (name) walking the other way, and decided to say hi to him before we left. When we told him who we were looking for, he said "No, that's wrong. Her house is over here, and she's home." He walked us over to the next street, and sure enough we found this Sister (name). Grampa (name) was willing to go in with us so that we could go in, and while Sister (name) was getting us drinks, Grampa (name) sat down and started offering us some peanuts which were on the table. I was a little confused as to why he was offering us somebody else's food...until I realized that she was his daughter. She seemed pretty nice, and she's willing to have us over another day. She said the main reason she doesn't come to church is because she likes to sleep late, so we'll see if we can help her and her sons turn that around and come to church with her parents. I'm so glad the Spirit guided us and Grampa (name) to be in exactly the right place at the right time for him to show us where his daughter lived; otherwise we might have gone home and never known she was just one street away.

Final story. On a missionary's last zone conference, he or she gives a short talk called a "reflection," which is supposed to be about his or her mission experience and testimony. Yes, darn it all, I had to give my reflection on Wednesday. I never thought my time would come, and it came so quickly. I had planned to share some experiences and testimony, and then share verses 4 and 5 of "How Firm a Foundation" and share about how Mom's passing was a big trial that the Lord helped me overcome. Then right before my turn, another sister who is also going home got up and shared the same thing. Complete with "How Firm a Foundation" and her mother passing away. Strange coincidence, but it all turned out well anyway. I'd encourage you all to read those verses, because they're the ones we don't sing very often (i.e. ever).

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow.
For I will be with thee, thy sorrows to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The fire shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The Lord is with us in every trial. As we rely on him, no trial can hurt us. We will be made stronger and more perfect as a result, as long as we just trust him and hold on to the iron rod. I love you all so much. Sorry this letter was so long. Beware of eye strain from reading too much! Talk to you next week.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Here we are together...

Hello again everybody! I had a great spring break too! I spent it preaching the gospel. Actually, to tell you the truth, I'm a little sad this week because I'm starting to get "death threat" emails and letters from the mission office. Today they want me to send in a miracle story and pictures for my own "funeral/eulogy." (-_-) But no matter.

I hope to be able to see my converts and their posterity strong in the church years down the road. Several times during conference the speaker discussed whether or not it was really worth all that trouble to save just one soul. The answer is yes, not just because every soul is precious to God, but because one soul, after about four generations, becomes one thousand souls. It was truly a reminder to me that while yes, I still hope to baptize a whole family and I will still try to do so, I won't be too sad if it doesn't happen. In the long run, the single people I baptized or the part-member families I completed have the potential to be sealed in the temple and years later their righteous posterity will be strong members of the church in Taiwan. I was so grateful to get that reminder that the Lord has many great things in store for each individual I've helped to be baptized.

Well, it's been a great week. We've continued working with (name), President Bishop's convert, and his wife. This week she passed a baptismal interview and she is going to be baptized this week! It's been a really special experience to be able to work with them. President Bishop was starting to tear up at Branch Conference yesterday when he was telling us how grateful he is to the Lord and to us for helping Brother (name) come back and now to help his wife be baptized. I don't deserve any thanks, really. I think what really happened was the Spirit worked on him and he himself made the decision to humble himself and come back. We just happened to be the missionaries serving here when that happened. It's been so much fun working with this family, though. Brother (name) is really funny; he loves to practice his English on us and to make up songs to the tune of "How Firm a Foundation" about missionaries coming over to his house. He's 90 years old but still really active. He rides his bike over to a section of road by a bridge and voluntarily sweeps the road and plants flowers and generally beautifies the area. I still have a hard time believing he's really 90, but there you have it.

Another investigator, (name), is also progressing pretty well. He's a member referral, the one whose right leg and arm are recovering from paralysis. He came to church again this week and really enjoyed his experience. He's having a tough time remembering some of the things we teach him, like the premortal life. We taught it to him five times and then asked if he understood where we were before we were born. He said "Nobody knows. I might have lived in Japan or America or even Africa, I don't know." We taught it to him again. Anyway, he's doing well. He's very humble and willing to learn and keep commitments, so I have high hopes that he can be baptized. We hope to teach and baptize his whole family, actually.

Other than that, I don't have a whole lot left to report for the week. This week is zone conference, which I always look forward to. Zone conference really helps to charge me up and renew my fire to do missionary work. So I guess that's all for the week. I love you all and I pray for you. I know Heavenly Father is blessing you all so much. I'll talk to you again next week!


Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter

Hello everybody! A very happy Easter to you all. Just like last year, we missionaries seemed to be just about the only ones who even remembered or cared about Easter. But it was a happy one, nonetheless, because we got to watch General Conference!

… That's a big problem in Taiwan, you know. Most people are of the opinion that churches are exactly like hammers--there's no need to go telling people yours is better than theirs, because they all accomplish exactly the same purpose. But we know it's not the same, and anyone who really takes a look will know it too. I just wish more people would honestly consider the message we bring them instead of turning up their noses and saying it's exactly like Buddhism, Daoism, Catholicism, Islam, and every other religion because they all tell people to do good things. If that's the defining characteristic of a religion, you can count the girl scouts and the NRA as well. I too am so happy to be blessed to be a part of this church where I know who I am, why I'm here, and where I go when I die. I know that salvation can only come through the Holy Messiah, who gave His life to save us from our fallen state.

Yep, it was move call this week. Elder Wong and I are still here, but Elder Van Noy left (obviously--he's headed home) and Elder Smith moved up to Taizhong. They put the two of us in charge of all of DouLiu, which I'll admit is a bit of a relief. It was getting tough to proselyte in the northern third of DouLiu while they took the more populous two thirds. I'll have to get to know the other half of the area now, but Elder Van Noy took me on exchanges to his area last Friday to help show me around and introduce me to a few investigators. Actually, all three of the investigators we met with kind of broke up with him. They each expressed their thanks for him coming to teach them, but that they'd like for us to stop coming over because they don't intend to change their religion. Sad. I hope it wasn't my fault for being there.

Well, this week was good but very busy. A lot of things took up our time, so it felt like our numbers were pretty low. But all these things were important and necessary, so it's not like we did anything we ought not. On Wednesday we went to JiaYi for the annual grave-sweeping service activity. I can't remember if I told you this last year, but every year on or around April 5, people go clean off the graves of their ancestors and do a little baibai (ancestor worship) as well. We go and help clean the graves of people who don't have living descendants cleaning them. So that was fun to provide this service and let people see the love of the Savior in action. The not-so-fun part was having my skin attacked by thorny vines.

Then of course we had General Conference. I loved it so much. I felt like many of the messages shared were spoken directly to me in answer to my questions and needs. I loved President Uchtdorf's priesthood session message about remembering the "why" of our callings. That helped me a lot. I also loved the several messages about teaching children (or investigators) according to their needs and helping them internalize the doctrine. It was an amazing conference, made better by the fact that five of our investigators were able to come and listen to the prophets.

Some of the people we've been working with lately all of a sudden started to avoid us or say that we were giving them too much pressure. I don't know what happened, because I thought we were taking it pretty slow with these people. So that was a little unsettling. But we have many other promising investigators. One man came to conference on Sunday morning and then brought his wife and kids to the fireside we held that night. They actually seem very promising. He told us that as he heard the prophets speak, it was as though he was hearing the voice of God. Pretty cool, huh? He's of another Christian faith.

Another investigator who came to church was (name), the member referral who is partly paralyzed due to a car accident. On Tuesday when we met with him, Elder Wong asked him to invite his family to sit with us, and as a result we ended up teaching not just one person, but four. His brother, cousin, and 6-year-old son all came and sat with us, and they all seem like very humble and open people. They were listening very closely to what we were sharing with them. So I have a lot of hope for the upcoming move call. Hopefully we'll be able to baptize a couple of families. There's nothing I want more than to serve the Lord to the best of my ability right up to the end, and I'm going to need His help to be able to do so. Please continue to pray for me; I'm definitely going to need it.

Choose the right!


Monday, April 2, 2012

4/2/2012 Letter to Family

Hello again everybody! Hard to believe another week has gone by. We're starting the last week of my 15th move call. Gulp.

The things that went well this week were in the referrals and new investigators. We added four new investigators from member referrals this week, all of whom seem to have really great potential. One of them met our recent convert at their physical therapy place and he's really willing to start coming to church next week. He was in a car accident six years ago and he is still unable to work because his right leg is paralyzed and his right arm moves very slowly. He's very humble and willing to learn (though at times his attention span is a little short).

We also were blessed with a great miracle last night. We were at a branch activity waiting for our investigators to show, and after some time it became apparent that they weren't coming. We were about to leave when a sister walked through the door with two young men, about twenty years old. She introduced them to us, told us that their family runs a breakfast shop at which she's a frequent customer. They both attended the fireside and made friends with lots of members, and afterward we were able to share with them a message about prayer and the Book of Mormon. It was a real testimony to me that the Lord will put prepared souls in our path or us in theirs. Even though none of our other investigators came, the Lord put those two young men right where He knew we'd be.

Our main progressing investigator, Brother (name), is doing really well. He has started to receive revelation through prayer. He told us he prayed about the plan of salvation, and afterward had a thought that the straight line we described made more sense than a continuous circle (i.e. reincarnation). We are going to work very hard to teach him all the reasons why he should want to come to conference this weekend instead of going to JiaYi to visit his girlfriend. He really seems to be progressing, though. I think one of the sweetest things about missionary work is the blessing we have to watch someone's gradual change. The first time we met with him he was very closed off and quiet, and slowly over the course of a few weeks he's started to really open up his feelings to us, telling us he gets a different feeling from us than from people of other religions. It's a miracle to watch the light slowly start to appear in someone's eyes and countenance as they start to live the commandments and doctrines we teach them.

One other thing we're doing this Sunday is a branch fireside. The four of us missionaries planned a big family home evening activity and we've been inviting the members to invite friends to this activity to give them some exposure to the church. We're going to do it just like an FHE, with a lesson and a game and food and so forth. I'm really impressed with how this branch is doing so well with referrals lately. Our investigator pool right now consists largely of member referrals. That's the way it's supposed to be!

One other cool story before I close. I don't know if I told you, but back in Tainan Elder Jensen and I found a family named the (name) Family--a young married couple with a two-year-old daughter. At the time I was praying hard in nearly every prayer that that family could be baptized. It was a real spiritual wrestle, I wanted so badly to baptize them. Eventually I left. Fast forward to two nights ago: Saturday night Elder Jensen (with special permission from the assistants) called me to tell me that the dad of that family got baptized! The wife refused to keep meeting with the missionaries, but that man is now a member of the church. It was just a testimony to me that the Lord did answer my prayers on their behalf. I believe that in the future, if he stays strong, she will eventually soften her heart and follow him. I am just so happy that I could be a part in helping them progress on the path to exaltation.

Keep me in your prayers; I'll keep you in mine. :D


Monday, March 26, 2012


Hmm. What is there to say about this week? It was a lot better than last week, for sure. We found quite a few new investigators. It's interesting how the Lord has so many ways to lead us to find people to teach. We found some of these people by visiting less actives, some by tracting, some by visiting a former investigator and finding his dad at home...we've really been seeing the blessings this week; the fruits of our labors are finally coming forth.

One of our investigators is coming along really well. His name is Brother (name), and he's a referral from another member who is his co-worker. At first he was really closed off and shy around us, but over the course of meeting with him, I feel like he's grown to trust us more, and he's comfortable saying the things he's thinking or feeling. He's starting to keep commitments, like coming to church and praying, and I feel that he has a lot of potential. So we'll keep meeting with him and helping him gain a witness that the Book of Mormon is true.

Another exciting thing is happening with a member referral. We visited a recent convert, Sister (name), who said that she has a friend at her physical therapy place with whom she's been talking about the church. He told her he'd really like to come if there was somebody who could drive him, because he was injured in a car accident some time ago. He's got a wife and kids. We haven't met him yet, but it sounds like he and his whole family have a lot of potential. We do indeed have a member with a car who lives right by them, so we'll see what happens this week.

We're also trying to teach the wife of (name), President Bishop's convert. He's started coming to church regularly again, and President Bishop really wants us to baptize his wife. Problem is she's deaf-mute, can't read, and can't understand sign language. But just like President Bishop said, "Τ獺みΤ快猭!" Meaning, where there's faith there is a way. It's basically the slogan of the mission. So we'll try to think of some way to teach her...probably through heavy use of pictures and rudimentary sign language. Heh. She's been coming to church with her husband, so she basically qualifies on that regard, but I don't know if she got much out of it. The Relief Society sisters were really nice to her.

Well, that's about all I can think of to write at this time. Apparently this week is General Conference, huh? That's interesting...I thought it was on the first full weekend in April, but apparently not this year. We're getting it one week later, as always, on April 7 and 8. It'll be my last conference in Taiwan...gulp. But anyway, I sure love you all a lot.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Luck O' The Irish

No, they don't have any mention of St. Patrick's day here. I only remembered because Elder Smith's parents sent him a package with a green tie and tons of peeps and jelly beans and stuff. Heh.

Well, this week had its ups and downs. We had kind of a bitter tragedy with Brother (name). He had to have an emergency heart surgery in Taibei, so in a matter of two days we went from planning a baptism to suddenly having no investigators. It was pretty hard. He's still good; he called me after the surgery and said he can come back at the end of April, so we're going to try and get the missionaries in Taibei to baptize him. I just find the whole thing very fishy indeed. Not that I think he'd lie to me, but it might be his family. I mean, how do you only find out about a major heart surgery two days before it happens, and then how do you talk on the phone hours after coming out of the operating room? Sigh...I don't know what happened. The point is he didn't get baptized but I think he still can in the future.

We had some miracles happen with our less-actives, though. Old Man (name), President Bishop's convert, came to church yesterday! It was his first time back in years, and he paid his tithing at the start of priesthood meeting. During the week we and the Branch President visited him, and he said "I'm coming to church this Sunday. I'm going to drive myself. My daughter doesn't want to let me because of my high blood pressure, but I'm coming anyway!" And come he did. I was bursting with joy to see him there all dressed in his suit. I knew that we were at least doing something right to play a part in his return to activity. It was the Spirit that did the real work, but I was so happy to be a part of this process. We're going to see if his wife is baptizable, too.
I'm not sure what else to say this week. We've been struggling hard to find new investigators, but so far they haven't been coming. Actually, one cool miracle that did happen was that we were not looking good to have investigators at church on Sunday. We'd tried everything we knew to do, so we just prayed hard on Sunday morning that those who had agreed to come would indeed come. Then while we waited on the steps of the chapel, one of our members came and told us that his friend who we've been teaching would be coming in just a couple of minutes. He did come, and he stayed for sacrament meeting and then had to leave. It was another great testimony to me that Heavenly Father does hear our prayers. We'll have to keep working with Brother (name) to help him understand church a little better and to have the right attitude and expectations when he comes, but he's one step closer to God now.

I've learned this week that we have to be patient even when things seem hard. We have to learn to accept the Lord's timing even when we would rather have what we want right now. I still believe He will help us baptize before I leave DouLiu, but I need to remember not to get anxious or frustrated when it doesn't all come at once. It's not an easy lesson to learn, but I read a talk this morning by President Uchtdorf that reminded me that we are indeed loved by God, and He has never forgotten us. I know he loves me and fully understands that I have weaknesses, and if I endure it well He will help us to see the fruits of our labors before the end. And as Ammon says, those fruits are not few, but many!

I love you all very much. I am always happy to hear from you each week and to share with you what's been happening here in Taiwan. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf. I'll need them more than ever now so I can finish off in a manner pleasing to Heavenly Father. I love you and I'll talk to you again next week!