Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Hey there everyone,

Well, I didn't talk much on the phone about the missionary work over the last week, so here's what's been going on:

(name) got married on Christmas. We met with him Wednesday before he left and checked up on his word of wisdom progress. He said he wasn't able to completely quit yet, but he reduced his smoking all the way from three packs in two days to three cigarettes in a day. We're planning to talk to him tonight and find out if he's completely quit yet. I once again am amazed by this man. The willpower it takes to change your life so much in so little time is truly incredible. I am confident it's because he has felt the influence of the Spirit telling him this is true and good, and he's willing to pay any price to grow closer to his Father in Heaven. The one obstacle is still the Sabbath Day. He told us he's going to use some of his special vacation time to take three hours off on Sundays and then work the rest of the day. While that's a great effort, we're going to have to teach him that the Sabbath Day means a complete rest from all labor. Our bishopric member, Brother (name), said "Oh, yeah, that's no problem!" kind of is. I realized in personal study that the scriptures and prophets and Preach My Gospel are all very clear that we are to rest from labor on the Sabbath. I've been praying very hard that after conquering the word of wisdom his faith will be strong enough to do whatever it takes to keep the Sabbath day holy. I am so excited to help him prepare for baptism; he's so willing and ready.

Our other investigator right now is (name). He's really great--he came to our ward's Christmas party and got to know some more ward members. He was taking notes during Sunday School in the back of his Gospel Principles book. We just need to teach him often, in little bites of truth, because he's not really able to remember a whole lot of new things at once. But he's really willing to be baptized. He says baptism is important because we become God's people and we can help God do His work. I just want to make sure he's converted to the Savior, and not to the missionaries, so we're really emphasizing the importance of reading the Book of Mormon.

It's so exciting to be a part of this glorious work. I hope none of you are offended when I say I'm not the least bit homesick right now. I loved talking to you all and hearing your voices, and now I'm just feeling ready to keep going. I can't BELIEVE I'm already 1/4 of the way through. I feel like I just started. I didn't have time to really bear testimony or anything on the phone, but I definitely know that this is where the Lord wants me to be. His hand has upheld me and led me every minute of every day, and I feel like I'm a very changed person. I want to keep changing; this is the time I'm being molded into the man God wants me to be.

And speaking of change...I really just can't get over how different everybody except Dad sounded. Sorry Dad. But I'll be honest, when I heard Megan saying hi in the background and I said "Hey, everybody's there!" it was because she sounded like Aunt Shanny. o_O I bet Megan and Kelsi are tall now, Dillon's probably got a better not have a moustache.

So I've been realizing recently as I've worked with less active members that there is basically one common thread: the first things they stopped doing were reading their scriptures and praying every day. I don't think I really realized before how vital that daily spiritual nourishment is. Not that I think any of you would do this, but just remember to never, ever, ever convince yourself there's no time for scripture study, prayer, or going to church. You'll starve your spirit!

Well, today we went out to a barbecue restaurant again. This one even had the option to order marshmallows on sticks :) or cream cheese wrapped in wonton wrappers. It was so good. But I feel like between today's beef-fest and Thursday's all-you-can-eat steak, I've eaten the better part of a cow myself. Can't be healthy for you.

So on that Thursday Christmas activity I got to see a lot of people I haven't seen since the MTC, which was fun. We also went to Lugang, which is an old 1700s Taiwanese town. There were, of course, tons of tourist shops, but we went and visited this old temple. It was really cool, because it looked and felt like an ancient Chinese mansion with the courtyard and the log interiors to the buildings. I wish I could describe it, because my camera battery died before I could take any pictures of it. :( We also visited a giant Buddah statue. Inside were some stories from the life of Buddah. Legend says when he was born he took seven steps to the east, stood on a lily flower, and pointed to the heavens and said some deep philosophical something. It was a lot of fun to go see some of those cultural sites around Taiwan. Then to end the night we had a Christmas devotional at the mission office chapel.

Well, that's about it this week. I love you all a lot.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It sounds like everybody's glad to have some relaxation after a stressful week at school. That's really funny about having 18 priests. I really hope that all of them serve missions. My mission has already changed me in so many ways; I see now why Elder Holland spoke so strongly about the miracle that it is to serve a mission. I agree with him.

Dill, you definitely deserve a break to calm your brain down. That reminds me of how during my first couple move calls I would dream about doing missionary work. For instance, I'd be trying to convince somebody to meet with us or worrying about how to help some investigator overcome his problems (only to wake up and realize I had no idea who I'd been dreaming about).

Kelsi, Taiwanese celebrate Christmas much like most of America celebrates Christmas. They put up Santa Claus statues and Christmas trees, have big sales in the department stores, play music about Santa Claus in other words, only the commercial aspect of the holiday. Christians are very few in this enormous city, so most people don't really know or care about the real reason for the holiday. And that's why I'm here--to help them know about it!

Well, it's been an interesting week. I've been with Elder Perry for a week now, and he's really focused on helping people have a lasting conversion, which is great. We actually have a ton of less active members here because some people got baptized without any kind of testimony of these things. One thing we're trying to work on together is working harder to hit the goals we set. We actually had our worst week ever for adding new investigators, which was making me depressed and feeling like I was failing the Lord and everyone else. Our week B, (name), is avoiding us because his parents oppose anything to do with Christianity. Then this morning I read in Alma 26, where Ammon glories in the Lord for the blessings they received. Even though they were cast into prison and spit upon and everything else, Ammon barely mentions those things. He focuses on how gloriously blessed they were to bring souls unto Christ and see these people's faithfulness in enduring to the end. It made me realize that yes, there are things I need to improve on, but I can't always be looking at what's wrong. The Lord gave us many great blessings this week as well.

One of those blessings is (name) (yes, last week I wrote his name wrong). He amazes me every time with how much faith he has. We found out this week that before we made contact with him he was praying to God to help him know Him and know how to follow Him. A couple days later, I called his name from our cell phone referrals and he was willing to set right up. That blew me away to hear that. The Lord truly answered this man's prayer and sent us to give him the truth he was seeking! And he loves it. He still can't come to church because of work, but he said starting in January he can start requesting time off on Sunday to come to church. He's actually getting married on Christmas in a chapel in Tainan (our chapel, even though neither he nor his fiancee are members).

Another awesome story: when we shared the word of wisdom with him, he said he really liked to drink coffee and he smoked a lot. We asked him if he believed this commandment was from God, and he said he did. Two days later we met with him to help him set a quit-smoking plan and he said he hadn't touched coffee since our last lesson. We asked him to set a goal for when he would quit smoking and he said "Hmm...well, how about tomorrow?" And he wrote it down. We'll be following up this afternoon to see how it went, but this man has enormous faith in his Heavenly Father and his Savior. He really desires to do what's right, and he has the will to act on that desire.

Another surprise blessing yesterday was that a group of five college students just randomly showed up at church. They said they were doing a report on our church's missionaries, so they wanted to come and see what our church was like. It was really unexpected. After church we shared with them the message of the restoration and gave them each a Book of Mormon, and I think several of them definitely have actual interest in the gospel.

So I know there's a lot I need to be better at, but I'm also humbled and awed by how greatly the Lord has blessed me. I've already had the privilege of helping two people come unto their Savior, and I have faith I will be able to help many more in the future. I know this is God's work. I know He loves me and all of His children whom I serve, and He will never leave me if I am constantly seeking His guidance.

Actually, I just remembered our mission is doing some sort of top-secret Christmas mission conference, which will last all day this Thursday. I have no idea what it could be, but it should be interesting.

In other news, this week was the COLDEST week I've ever experienced in Taiwan. It was raining, wind was blowing hard, and it was both humid and cold. So even though I was wearing long johns and a long-sleeve shirt, it was really darn cold. We had dinner with the Li family on Thursday and they picked up my jacket and said "This isn't going to keep you warm!" And gave me one of their coats. I really tried to refuse it, but they said they had a bunch just like it that they never use, and if I didn't take it they would put it in a bag and hang it on my bike handlebars. (-_-) So it was embarrassing, but that coat was very helpful and it could not have come at a better time. These people are so good and Christlike.

Well, I can't really think of much else to say. I guess I'll wrap this up. I love you all so much, and I'm looking forward to talking to you on Christmas. But I still expect a letter waiting for me on the next preparation day. ;) I love our stake as well, and I don't know how I could possibly thank everyone. I got the package from Emily Freeman with notes from a bunch of people in our stake. I plan to send a thank you card, but if you see anyone who sent me a note, please tell them thank you from Elder Durrant!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Someday I'll run out of clever subjects for these lettters

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Or maybe it is over there in the States. Here it's basically just 7-eleven and McDonald's that really even acknowledge it's Christmastime. Well, and the Ward--they're planning a big, elaborate Christmas party, which they'll hold on Christmas Day. Not sure why they'd do that. But they did. I guess in Taiwan it's not like in America, where nobody wants to leave their houses on Christmas.

For you youngsters tuning in, an Area Book is this gigantic binder where missionaries keep records of anyone they've ever taught. There are records from around twenty years ago. It's supposedly a gold mine for finding people who maybe weren't prepared to be baptized back then, but are now. I haven't had a whole ton of success from it so far, but I'm sure there are people in there who are ready.

About the pancakes, yeah, the $380 is Taiwanese dollars. The exchange rate is about 1 USD = 33 NTD. So that's about ten or eleven USD. But as my trainer told me, you don't want to go exchanging things into USD or else you'll go broke quickly, since we get our money according to living costs in Taiwan. I think of it more like this: I can get about 200 pancakes out of that bag of mix, meaning I spend roughly $2 on breakfast each morning. A typical breakfast costs around $50. :D That lets me save up money for more barbecue restaurants!

Well, we got a surprise Saturday night; Elder Gardner is being moved to NanTun (still in Taichung City), and he'll be a district leader over there. I'm kinda sad, because I really consider Elder Gardner a good friend, but we'll continue to do the Lord's work no matter where we're called. My new companion is Elder Perry. I don't really know him, and his train doesn't get here for another couple hours, so more on him next week.

(name) is a week B now (meaning he'll be baptized on Christmas), and he's been keeping the commandments we've taught him so far. He was a little confused about the word of wisdom, because he likes to drink tea and coffee, but he's been living it so far. He's a really shy kid, so probably the biggest obstacle is getting him to speak up so we can find out what he truly feels and believes. He's a big fan of one-word answers to questions, so we've had to become big fans of multiple follow-up questions. I'm really excited for him; he seems to really have a desire to learn more.

We've also found a new investigator this week who's really great. His name is (name), and he's a really humble and nice man. He was actually a member referral from another area, and he set right up to meet with us. He has a Christian background and he's really desirous to get closer to God, so he has been more than willing to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and repent. His challenge, I think, will be Sabbath Day. The place he works is busiest on weekends, so they won't let him take those two days off. But we shared 1Nephi 3:7 with him and he really committed to do what it took to keep the Sabbath holy. I'm really excited for him as well.

I wanted to share a little experience from this last Friday. We just got out of a lesson with a Mr. (name), who we strongly committed to pray about Joseph Smith (he's a Christian and doesn't believe the authority to baptize was ever taken from the earth). The Spirit was really strong in that lesson, and afterward I felt like there was nothing we couldn't do. I'd be circling around an intersection talking to people, trying to invite them to meet with us, and even if they drove off in my face I was just filled with love and faith that we would still find new investigators that day. I share this experience because it helped me remember that whenever we feel discouraged or hopeless or angry, or whenever we think badly of other people, we don't have the Spirit. The Spirit will fill us literally to overflowing with faith and hope and charity. There will be no room for those dark thoughts Satan wants us to have. I testify that Heavenly Father has sent us His Spirit to give us a "perfect brightness of hope" and "a love of God and of all men" (see 2Nephi 31:20). If you ever feel those depressing feelings, pray or read the scriptures or sing a hymn until the Spirit fills you up with light. You will have the strength to conquer any challenge or temptation.

I sure love all of you. I pray for you every day. I'll talk to you again next week!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy December!

Hello everyone!

Well, this week was kind of fun. We had our ups and downs as usual, but we've found some really great people. The man I told you about last week, (name), came to church on Sunday and said it was really enlightening and uplifting. We taught him the third Preach My Gospel lesson and committed him to keep working toward his baptismal goal of Christmas Day, and he said he would without hesitation. He's truly a great man, very desirous to follow the Savior. We also got another new investigator to church for his first time: (name). No relation to the other Mister (name). He's this super old beibei who we visited on Wednesday and we didn't think he would come. He kept saying "yeah, yeah, if I have time I'll go check it out." Then out of the blue he showed up half an hour early on Sunday and stayed for all three hours. I like him; he's still not really sure how to pray, though. His prayers are almost always: "Our Heavenly Father, I thank thee, I ask thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." We tell him every single time to say something specific he's thankful for or is asking for, but he doesn't ever remember. :)

This week's food story is much better than last week. Last Monday after writing to you, the two of us went to Fengjia, the other area in our district, and the four of us Elders went to this great barbecue restaurant. They have this barbecue right in front of you with charcoal briquettes and everything and bring you as much meat as you want and you just grill it yourself. It was so good. It's kind of sad because I doubt that's even legal for you to cook your own food in America, so we won't be able to find a place like that for me to take you to when I get home. Then today we got pizzas and took them to our apartment and the four of us played Chinese Chess, which is actually pretty fun. Yeah, if you can't tell already, preparation day is usually the day missionaries eat a lot of expensive food. But that barbecue place was so, so good.

I'm really not thinking of too much more to write about this week. I'll upload some pictures while I think.

The baptism picture is (name) and his friend (name), who baptized him.

Well, I'm really not sure there's much else for me to talk about this week. I have about four minutes left.

I think I'll just bear my testimony to all of you that the promise in Doctrine and Covenants 84 is real--the Lord will go before our face. He will be on our right hand and on our left. His Spirit will be in our heart and his angels will be round about us. God lives and this is his work. Through the atonement of His beloved son Jesus Christ, each of us will be resurrected and will inherit a reward according to our actions in this life. We must press forward continually, never sacrificing what matters most for what we think we want now.

I love you all so much. I know the Lord is watching over you.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Guess what I had for Thanksgiving dinner? beef fried rice. :) Actually, on Sunday I cooked up the mac-n-cheese you sent me, so I might just count that as my Thanksgiving. I'm not complaining. It sounds like all of you had a good break, even if it was just a little uneventful.

Things have been going really well here in Donghai. We've actually seen some incredible miracles from the Lord. After weeks of little success, we suddenly had an outpouring from the windows of heaven. We were focusing hard on adding new investigators and meeting with them and getting them to come to church, and the Lord was blessing us to find 7-10 new investigators every day. Several of these people met with us and came to church and they are so well prepared! They remind me of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants that says they are "kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it." One is named (name), and he's around 45 years old. We were teaching him the first lesson, on the part about Jesus Christ's ministry, and he said, "Elders, could I ask you a question? How could I get on this path back to God and follow Jesus Christ? I really do want to--I want to change my life. How can I do that?" I think most missionaries would kill to find an investigator who asks such a question. :D So we shared a scripture to answer his question, from 2 Nephi 31. We told him that the first step in following Jesus Christ is to be baptized through His restored authority. He accepted a goal to be baptized on Christmas Day! He truly is a gift from Heavenly Father, and I am excited to see him progress, because he's so willing and desirous.

Another really great investigator is (name). He's nineteen and he's studying at a nearby hospital. He met with us on Saturday and he said he'd be too busy to come to church, but we testified that Heavenly Father would help him accomplish whatever it was he needed to do if he would show his faith by coming to church. He hesitated, then pulled out a stack of papers with a ton of medical terms and abbreviations he had to memorize (in English) and said he had to memorize it all by Monday. I felt defeated and was about to leave it at "Well, we still welcome you to come," when he said "But ok, I'll come." So he came to all three hours of church and said he felt really peaceful and enlightened there. So I'm really excited to find out how the Lord blessed him for his faith in sacrificing that time. He's got a goal to be baptized on 12/18.

This week has really reaffirmed my testimony that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us. We are His servants and He will not leave us if we are constantly seeking His help and guidance. It reminds me of a scripture I read in personal study this morning in Mosiah 29:20 (I think), which says that in every case, the Lord extends His arm of mercy to all who put their trust in Him. That was paraphrased, because I only have a Chinese Book of Mormon with me, but I know that the Lord has blessed us exceedingly this week. These people are His precious sheep, and He's helped us to find them and bring them back to Him.

Well, what else happened....Meg, I might be just a little jealous about the lasagna, but I'm pretty darn happy right now. This morning our district leader, who used to serve in our area, showed us this store where they sell imported stuff from the Philippines and America. I found one of those gigantic bags of Krusteaz pancake mix like they sell at Costco. I wanted to hug that bag of pancake mix, but instead I just bought it for $380. That sounds like a lot, but that's like a week's worth of breakfast money paying for probably six months of breakfasts. I am so excited. :D Did you know they have Costco in Taiwan? Yeah. A member gave us a tray of Costco muffins one time; I nearly cried for joy.

So now I guess I can talk about the weather. :D It's been pretty chilly sometimes. Yeah, 66 degrees seems like pittance to you, but when it's cold, humid, and super windy, it gets kinda uncomfortable. People always see me with just my windbreaker jacket and say "Aren't you cold?!" ...they've got their big marshmallow winter coats and gloves on. I just kinda smile and say "Where I come from, it's snowing right now."

Well, that letter was a bit longer than usual. I hope that's satisfactory. Did I ever tell you that a few weeks ago I ate stinky tofu for the first time? Our new member, Gary, who at the time was still an investigator, brought a bag of stinky tofu and said if I didn't eat some he wouldn't get baptized. :P It tasted a little like eating Dillon's socks after he's been running track. Seriously, that stuff reeks. I shudder to think how they make it. O_o| At least he didn't make me eat pig blood cake.

Well, that's all for this week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey again!

Hey there my family! Today's the beginning of another move call, and I'm staying in Donghai with Elder Gardner. I'm sorry I didn't talk to you on the phone Friday night--my body went really haywire on Friday and I was violently puking all over the place. Literally. In a garbage can on the bus, in sewer wasn't pretty. So I'm afraid that thought kind of left my mind. But I'm better now. Priesthood blessing + the might of Pepto-Bismol = miracle!

Well, things have been going okay here. We actually had a baptism Saturday night. I'll send a picture next week. It was really great to see how much the ward loves him. He really enjoys family history, and Sister Zhou, who challenged him to be baptized, loves to praise him and say how he has a gift for being able to read really old journals and records for family history. We're continuing to work hard and look for those people who are ready and willing. I know that the Lord prepares His children to receive the truth. If we are worthy and diligent, He will lead us to find them.

Well, I'm really sorry I didn't have that much to say this week. Other than our baptism, we've been getting bombarded with some big disappointments. But I have faith that Heavenly Father is mindful of us and is involved in this work. He has promised his angels to be round about us to bear us up, and I'm sure that applies to all of you as well.

So this week is Thanksgiving, huh? That's so weird. It really snuck up. Next thing we know, it'll be Christmas. Actually, Christmas being on a Saturday, President Bishop is challenging us to find lots of people who will get baptized on Christmas Day. :D

Oh, and don't worry about getting me stuff for Christmas. Maybe you could just make copies of our classical music and Tabernacle Choir CDs and send them on over. Do we have the Come Thou Fount CD?

Well, it's about time for me to wrap up. I'm sorry again that I didn't have much to say this week. It's too bad I didn't get to see the services, but the church policies are there for a reason, right? I love you all so much and I will talk to you again in just one short week.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Guess who this email is from

Yay! You're all so smart! Unless you said somebody other than Carter. :-\ In that case, I kind of pity you.

(Most of Carter’s letter not included in this blog due to the content being very personal and meant for family…sorry)

Well, we have a brother getting baptized this Saturday night. His name is (name), and I think I told you a little about him last week. He's already a part of the ward, basically, so I'm really looking forward to seeing him make this sacred covenant with Heavenly Father. Actually, he's getting baptized because one of our members, Sister (name), challenged him to be baptized and then called us to tell us about it. :D It really strengthened my testimony that this work is not the work of full-time missionaries. We all need to work together to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." I'd challenge everyone who reads this paragraph (too late, you already read it!) to prayerfully contemplate how they can invite a friend or family member to come to know the gospel. I know everyone has them. Set some goals to help this person know the matchless joy and love that comes from Jesus Christ, and I promise you you will also feel the immense joy promised in Doctrine and Covenants.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weekly Letter, a little late

Hey everyone, it's me again! I'm sitting here in my internet cafe at 5:42 because we got back from the temple kind of late. I'm sorry therefore if this letter is short, because preparation day ends at 6:00. I didn't even have time to buy groceries, so it looks like when I finish my oatmeal I'll eat ramen for breakfast. :o) But it was so worth it! It has been a long time since I've been to the temple, and the Spirit there was so refreshing. It was so great to spend time in the one place on Earth where I can be that near to my Heavenly Father.

Things have been going well here. Last night an "eternal investigator" (one who's been coming to church for ten years) passed his baptismal interview. (name), plans to be baptized next Saturday. It's been really fun to see him discover the testimony he didn't know he had. He thought he doubted Joseph Smith, but he said the Book of Mormon was definitely true. Then he realized that he therefore didn't doubt Joseph Smith at all. I love how the gospel can really change people for the better.

Zone Conference was a lot of fun. I learned so much there about the importance of setting goals and making plans, and then being accountable for those goals to someone (usually the Lord). I read a quote in the Liahona by an Apostle a few weeks ago that said, in essence, if we don't set and strive for meaningful goals, it's like we spend our life running up and down a football field and never cross the goal line. It's so true. That's an invaluable lesson I've learned on my mission --this time is so precious which we've been given, and we have to use it to its fullest by setting good goals and striving to achieve them. I remember Mom teaching us this very principle in Family Home Evening once, but I didn't take it to heart like I should have. Preach My Gospel says goals are acts of faith and reflect our vision of where we want to be or what we want to become. So yeah, I really loved this zone conference. And the singing went great, I think. We sang Our Savior's Love, and the Spirit was pretty strong. Go read the words to that hymn. I never paid much attention to it before, but it's a really beautiful scripture. I do know that the Savior loves each and every one of us.

Well, Mom and Dad may have mentioned I called home today. I guess Dillon was at school. Don't worry, I'll be calling at Christmas too. Just remember Alma 36:3 and that Jesus Christ our Savior took upon Himself every pain we've ever felt. Turn to Him. I'm not wasting my time out here--I know without a doubt that this is the truth, and though we are at times tried, the Savior stands with open arms to receive us and to heal us.

Well, the time is far spent. Sorry about that, I was cut short fifteen minutes. I want you all to know how much I love you. So very much. I pray for each of you and I know that Heavenly Father is taking care of you. I look forward to talking to you all again next week!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy November

BRRRR!!! It really does get really cold around here when the wind starts blowing really hard and the humidity is as high as normal. So I'm thankful we actually did pack that long underwear instead of laughing it off as unnecessary. Well, I'm happy to read another letter from you all and hear you're doing well. It sounds like everyone was really busy this week. And yeah, people sometimes like to comment about my "jin se de tou fa" (gold hair).

Well, next off I want to say thank you all for that great package! I was not expecting it at all, and it could not have come at a better time. See, we got home and the guan-li-yuan (security guard) gave us the package. I was surprised and happy to see it, but we had to go plan for the day, and after that I called that golden family to follow up on their Book of Mormon reading. The mom answered and kind of politely but curtly told me they weren't really interested in joining our church because they can't commit to the rules, and they'll continue to slowly study our church "when they have time." She didn't even want to let us come visit again because it makes them "too tired." So it was about 10 pm and I was really devastated. I poured my soul out to them about how vital it was that they read and pray about the Book of Mormon...and they didn't do it. They didn't even want to try. So I kind of wandered around the house and saw your package. I can't tell you how glad it made me to open that up and see how much you all love me ;) Even the really simple things, like the hot cocoa, the sugarfree drink mix, and the mac-and-cheese, were just great. I was just saying the other day how I missed mac and cheese. Thank you all so much for thinking of me and putting the time in to send me that package. Now I just need to make sure I discipline myself and don't eat all that candy in one day. :D And I figured out Dad's cryptic message: "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." That's the truth right there. And Dill, I loved the animal cracker. Is that going to be your trademark from now on?
I'm still sad the (name) family doesn't want the greatest thing I could ever give them, but I know that the Lord is pleased with me. Preach My Gospel says a successful missionary is measured by his devotion, diligence, and commitment to Heavenly Father's work. It's interesting that our latest district training meeting was about how to help people commit to read the Book of Mormon. PMG calls it "your most effective resource in conversion." It is vital that people read and pray about the Book of Mormon every single day and gain that conviction that it is true. No matter how eloquent or good looking the missionary is, nobody will be truly and lastingly converted until they receive that spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon's truth. So I know you all study the scriptures every day, but I just really want to encourage you to read at least a little part of the Book of Mormon every day, even if most of your study time is in another book of scripture. I know that that book is God's word, and no other book can help you get closer to God.

This week we met with a doctor studying law (so his English is really good) who is a devout Christian. He had serious doubts about our church because he said there was no evidence that the baptismal authority was ever taken away. He stubbornly insisted the Bible was the one and only word of God, and nothing could be better. The Spirit directed us to ask him how he knew the Bible and Christianity were right, and he really opened up his feelings to us. I could tell he loved the Bible and had a true testimony of it. Then we bore testimony that the Book of Mormon was just as good, and he could feel just as passionately that it was true if he'd sincerely read and pray. I saw a change come over him and he said he'd do it--he'd put his doubts aside and really seek that answer. That was a great lesson.

Well, this is a long letter, but hopefully you won't mind. I have a lot to say this time, I guess. Did I mention our district is singing at zone conference next week? We found this really beautiful arrangement of Our Savior's Love and I Feel My Savior's Love. It's really great, and I'm excited for the chance to perform it.

I'm trying to think of some fun cultural thing to share this week. I can't really think of one, so I'll just wrap things up. I sure love all of you. Have I ever said that before? I know that this work is true, and I am helping Heavenly Father to bring about His work and His glory. Always make the Savior the center of your life, and He will support you in your trials. I love you all!



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy End of October!

Hey everyone! Here we are again, another week gone by. As usual, I'm so glad to read your letters and the great things that have happened to you this week.

Well, this last week we got to have interviews with President Bishop for the first time since I got on island. I really enjoyed it; he's a really great man. I know he's been called of God and he receives revelation for us to help us become the best we can be. We also had a training meeting with our zone in which we focused on the role of prayer in people's conversion. One big thing we have to deal with here is that many people don't really understand that prayer is a literal two-way communication with the creator of the universe. They don't realize the peace and outpouring of love that can come from sincere communication with Heavenly Father. So I've been working hard this week to really help people understand these principles and help them desire to pray.

Sunday was a great day too, because we've now got many people who look promising for baptism! In our mission, the baptismal goal corresponds to a letter, so a week A is being baptized this week, week B is next week, and so on. Week C means they've been to church at least once, because they have to come at least three times to be baptized. Well, we met with a brother on Sunday night who set a week B goal, we have two people in week C, and most exciting for me, a member referred a family of four to us, and they came to church. They're so awesome! The dad kept saying the atmosphere at church was so peaceful and made him feel good, and the mom was socializing with the Relief Society sisters. Our only worry is that they're interested in the church because they want their teenage sons to go to BYU-Hawaii, but I really feel like they could all be baptized this move call. I'm so glad that the Lord is blessing us to know lots of choice souls and help them return to Him.

Well, here's some fun news for me--Donghai is a food paradise. Mostly it's too expensive for any day but preparation day, so last week after emailing you, we went to an all you can eat hot pot place, which also had lots of fruit, free drinks, chocolate fountain...oh, it was good. And I took full advantage of that hot pot this time. There was this family at the table next to us who kept giving me funny looks when I'd come back with yet another plate piled with raw vegetables and meat. :D

We also found out this morning that the Elders in our district have been asked by Sister Bishop to do a musical number at zone conference in a couple weeks. That will be kind of fun to do a quartet, so I'm kind of excited.

I want to bear testimony to you once again that the Lord is ever mindful of you. He is always there to help you overcome any problem or challenge in your way. He will help you find a way to accomplish anything He commands, even if it takes a few tries to find that way. Nephi had to try three times, but he found that way. President Hoer, the one before President Bishop, had a motto-- you ban fa* (sounds like yo bahn fah), which means "there is a way." Christ is that ban fa. His Atonement will heal any wound and make every unfair thing right again.
I love you all so much. I pray for you every night, and I know the Lord is keeping you safe and well. He's certainly keeping me safe and well. Study those scriptures (and Preach My Gospel) and love one another! I'll talk to you next week!

Love, Carter

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Boy, those subject lines are getting more and more boring and redundant. ;) How is everybody?! I'm so glad to read your letter every week and see the good things that are happening to all of you.

Yeah, October 10th is a big holiday, but I don't think it's the Independence Day. They just call it Twin Ten Day (Shuang Shi Jie), and it's a big time for families to all get together and barbecue, stuff like that. It's supposed to be a lucky day to get married as well. But yes, this next Chinese New Year will be enormous, because it will be the year 100 in Taiwan.

It's like the fruit lover's paradise here. Mangoes are out of season now, but I hear oranges start coming in abundance during the winter. Peaches...I am still searching for them. So I'm not jealous, but I am really hungry now. To get my stuff to Donghai we sent it through just a delivery service called T-Join. They were a little rough with my bike. :( And I loved my two move calls with Elder Bickmore! I learned so much from him, and we had a lot of fun. Actually, it was sort of like being around Dillon again, because our personalities were very similar and we even said the same thing simultaneously a couple times. Except it wasn't as fun as being with Dillon, of course. :)

Well, it's been a great week here in Donghai. We've seen a lot of success just in the last few days. This area is basically on a big hill, and we've had to bike to the top of the hill a couple times already. It's a killer going up, but lots of fun coming down! I just basically coast until I break the sound barrier and then start to slow down. :) Just kidding. And the weather is starting to get chillier and more windy. Who'd have thought I could be riding my bike around Taiwan and start to shiver? And not during a typhoon, either. Elder Gardner is from Rexburg, Idaho. This is actually only his seventh move call, so we're kind of both learning together. He's great though. He already has a clear idea of his purpose as a missionary and we're working hard to invite Heavenly Father's children to come back to Him. I'll try to send a picture of the two of us together next week.

We've been working with a couple of men this week, both of whom have a desire for baptism, but both also have an obstacle keeping them from it right now. Brother (name) is a really nice and humble man who wants what's best for his family, but he's addicted to cigarettes and doesn't feel like he'll be ready to be baptized this month. He says by the end of the year he can do it. Brother (name) used to believe YiGuanDao, so although he says he's left it and he wants to join our church, he still doesn't really believe Jesus is his Savior. That, of course, is a prerequisite to passing a baptismal interview.

This week I've had the chance to eat some interesting things, ranging from shark to Subway to tofu noodles. The shark and tofu noodles were at a member's house--a really nice family. The old grandpa kept teasing us, trying to convince us the dumplings had dog meat in them. They didn't. And there's a Subway in our area, so I got to eat a real turkey sandwich for the first time in a long time. It was good, but don't misunderstand me; I love Taiwanese food. The rare American stuff like chicken nuggets or McDonald's are exceptions to the norm. Here's a fun cultural thing for you today: I'm-a gonna teach you some Taiwanese (the language). The word for an old guy or a grandpa is beibei (sounds like bay bay) and the word for an old lady or a grandma is amah. Or you can call your own grandpa Ah-gong (that's a long o, like in Rome). See, TaiYu isn't a written language, so I'm just spelling them how they sound. Next time you see G+G, call them Ah-gong and Amah, see what they say. :o)

Well, my time's getting short. I sure love each and every one of you. I admire how you are so diligent every day in pressing forward, being anxiously engaged in good causes. I love how you take care of each other and love each other. Even amidst the growing persecution, we can have peace in the atonement of Jesus Christ. I love you!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 11, 2010

Hello again...but not from Donggang

Yes, that's right. I am not in Donggang anymore. Elder Bickmore is staying there for his FOURTH move call, and I have moved to Taizhong City! I'm out west in an area called DongHai, which means East Sea. And I'm in the west part of Taiwan. Go figure. Donggang means East Harbor, and that was in the west too. But yeah, here I am in a new internet cafe with my new companion, Elder Gardener. I meant to send you some pictures, but I forgot my cable, so next week will have to do. :) Never mind, Elder Gardener has a card reader he'll let me use. The pictures of the huge statue are at a Buddhist temple (miao) I took last preparation day. The big white statue is Mazu, and the happy fat Buddah is Mi-Le-Fo.

Well, my last week in Donggang was a good one. We continued to work hard and actually got a few of our investigators to come to conference. One lady didn't really like it. She made a beeline for the door right after the closing prayer. I thought it was absolutely amazing. I loved every second of it. Yes, there were bold words spoken against sin, but I loved what President Monson told us on Sunday morning: be grateful for the good in the world! It's a bad place, but there is still a lot of good going on. I realized I sometimes focus too much on what's wrong with the world and society than on what is good and praiseworthy.

And now I'm here in Donghai. See, the funny thing is that I didn't know I'd be moving until Saturday night at around 10pm. Up to that point, we thought for sure it would be Elder Bickmore moving, but the zone leaders called and said I'd be going to Taizhong City on Monday. So far it seems like a great place. There are a lot of good places to eat ( :D ) but more importantly, lots and lots of people who need the gospel. And here's another plus -- I'll get to go to the Taibei Temple this move call! I think it's sometime in November; we'll move our preparation day to Wednesday and go do a session at the temple. I'm excited for that. Excuse me while I go write my letter to President Bishop.

Well, I have about 8 minutes left. What fun things about Taiwan can I tell you? I'm drawing a blank. Here's something: my church building in Donggang was on the 2nd-4th floors of a high-rise that was 5 floors tall. Here in Donghai, our church is on the 19th floor of a big old high-rise. And apparently this area has a famous university, so it's somewhat of a college town.

Well, that's all my time for this week. I love you all so much, and I know Heavenly Father loves you even more! Have another great and fun week, and I'll talk to you again next Monday!



Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 4, 2010

With Love From Donggang

Well, it's been an interesting week. Last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Elder Bickmore had a huge training meeting up in Gaoxiong (Kaohsiung) and I spent the day in Chaozhou (chow joe) with a Taiwanese companion. It was fun--I spoke no English at all. However, his plans for the day consisted basically of 2-3 hours straight of street contacting. It was pretty well exhausting. Then on Friday we planned to meet with (name), that kid I told you about last week. Turns out his school inducted him into some program where he lives at the school and basically cannot leave until February. That was kind of disappointing, but at least I feel confident that he'll be baptized after this is over. I guess the disappointment was for myself not getting to see him be baptized.

Also, this week we've been praying and fasting like crazy for a girl who's been ready for baptism for about a year, but her dad won't let her. Her goal was to ask him last Friday, and on that day he still said no. It seems that sometimes the Lord wants to test our faith by not answering in the way or timeframe we expect, but I know that He will answer. It's just like Nephi getting the plates. He knew the Lord would provide a way for them to accomplish His commandments, but it took three tries to finally find that way.

Yesterday we also got to see one of our less-active members come back to church for the first time in a few years. He's a good man, he was just thinking that he didn't have time for church because he had to look for work. Our zone leader, who at the time was taking my place on exchanges, bore powerful testimony that he needed to switch that order of priority, and that if he started honoring his covenants again the Lord would help him find work. So he came. We're planning to visit him today and discuss how he felt at church. It's great to see people keep their commitments and return to their Savior.

Well, that's about it for my time this week. I love you all so much, and I look forward to reading next week's letter.

I love you!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 27, 2010

Here we are again

Wow! Another week gone by. They really seem to fly by way too fast. We're approaching the end of my second move call in Taiwan already. How'd you like those pictures of a flooded Donggang? It was kinda fun, even though I was soaked from the knees down. If I'd had a canoe you can bet I would have gone paddling around the streets, throwing lifesavers to people.

This week was a week of incredible miracles. We've been working hard for a couple weeks now to find investigators, and we've been sitting down and teaching very little. We pressed forward with faith that the Lord would give us success if we were diligent. Well, in the last two days we've seen the fruits of our labor. We started teaching a 17-year-old kid named (name) who I found last Tuesday, and he is so incredibly willing! He's excited to learn about the gospel, he came to stake conference yesterday and loved it. He is such a good kid, and he recognizes that this gospel is what will fill a void in his life.

We also met with a girl who wants really badly to be baptized, but her dad won't allow it until she's 18. We shared the story of Esther with her and testified that if she and the branch all fasted and prayed, she would be able to get her dad's permission. The Spirit was very strong, and I was just amazed by her faith and desire to be baptized.

Members have started giving us more referrals, we've been having good sit-down lessons with pretty solid investigators, and I've just been feeling like the Lord is pouring out His blessings on us. I know that the field is white already to harvest. It may be hard at times, but all we have to do is press forward through the hard times with an eye of faith, looking forward to the blessings that will come. That's why the scripture I want on my missionary plaque is 2 Nephi 4:20, 30. My God is my support, and I know that He will help us overcome any trial that comes our way.

Fun cultural thing for the day: last Wednesday was the Mid-Autumn Festival. The traditions on that day (9/22) include barbecueing out in front of your house and worshipping your ancestors. Ancestor worship (aka "baibai") takes many forms, but on the Mid-Autumn Festival it's usually buying stacks of paper "money" and burning it in a fire or putting a piece of fruit in the family shrine. It sure makes the air smokey when everyone is burning paper money or barbecueing. And people give away moon cakes on that day, so naturally every member of the branch had to give the missionaries about twenty of them. Our fridge is so full of moon cakes it's sagging. Just kidding.

Well, my time's up for this week. I love you all so much, and I pray for you every day. Please remember to study the scriptures and pray daily! Talk to you next week.



Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20, 2010

A Bit Waterlogged, but Doing Great

Well, as you probably saw, we did indeed have a monster typhoon yesterday. It was actually so bad here in the south we could not go out proselyting. The wind was just too strong--it was blowing trees over and everything. So we stayed in the apartment from noon until 9:00 and called. Called everyone--former investigators, current investigators, recent converts, stacks of contact cards...I almost lost my mind. Street contacting is so much more fun than that. And yes, now we have a nice flood in some areas of Donggang, up to my knees in the deepest parts. One of the main roads is also a river, with a current and everything.

I'm already short on time...where did it go? I want you all to know I love you and I have a testimony of Heavenly Father's love for each one of us individually. I know that anything that's important to you is important to Him, and He will hear your prayers. That's something most people in Taiwan don't understand right now, and we have to teach them--prayer is an actual two-way communication between you and your Heavenly Father. I want to challenge you all to try and make your prayers more meaningful. Also, get a Preach My Gospel and start using it for FHE or personal scripture study! It's a great tool and I know it will help you understand doctrines more clearly. Especially chapter 3. You can get a pdf on the church website, I think.

I love you all so much. Sorry for the shorter letter, expect a better one next week!

Love you!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

No Letter Today - September 20, 2010

Dear Brother and Sister Durrant:

Elder Durrant has asked that I relay a message to you since he will not be able to write you today. He and his companion are just fine and their apartment has not sustained damage in the typhoon yesterday but they are busily helping others dig out and there are no internet places open in their area. Evidently the south was hit the hardest and our missionaries here in Taichung are a little envious they didn’t get to see as much action. There seems to be the opportunity to provide much needed service now that the typhoon has headed west.

So we just want you to know you son is fine and will probably have some interesting news to share with you soon.

Warm regards,

Sister Greene

Taiwan Taichung Mission Secretary

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14, 2010

A Belated Letter

Yeah, sorry about that. We had a special zone conference yesterday with a member of the Asia Area Presidency, Elder Pratt. As a result, preparation day was moved to Tuesday. I hope you weren't too worried about me. :) That zone conference was really good. They're instituting a new sort of curriculum from Preach My Gospel to really help missionaries become more effective teachers. We talked a lot about how vitally important it is for people to be praying on their knees and understanding they're actually talking to Heavenly Father, as well as reading from the Book of Mormon and applying it to themselves. It was great--an answer to my prayers. And we got Subway for lunch! Mmmm...I'll tell you what, you don't know how good so many fresh veggies taste until you go a few months with only fried veggies. I was even eating the cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Yeah, I've become much less picky with my food. Do you happen to know if you can go lactose intolerant by going without milk for two years? Milk and cheese are soooo expensive here. I don't think I've had genuine cow milk once since the MTC--it's all soy milk. =D

Well it sounds like you're all doing well. You had Elder Holland and President Packer?? That's so awesome. I love Elder Holland's talks. I just wish he'd speak up and tell us all how he really feels.

I've had several varieties of Taiwanese shaved ice, and all are delicious beyond compare. One is the bingsha I told you about, which is like a Slurpee but with real fruit and MSG and all kinds of tasty stuff inside. The other's called a chuabing, which is shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, chopped mango, and a scoop of mango ice cream on top. Way good.

Well, this week has been a lot of fun. Still faithfully working to find those people who will be baptized this move call. I now sometimes meet people and start to contact them and they say "I know. You've talked to me three times in the last two weeks." Oh. You wanna come to church? I've seen so many miracles I can't begin to count them. One I see so very often is when I'm talking to an investigator or someone on the street and I don't completely understand the words they're saying, but I know what they mean. I will also sometimes be thinking what I can say to an investigator, drawing a total blank, and suddenly the perfect question just comes to my mind. That's the Spirit working through me, I know.

That reminds me, I gave my second priesthood blessing ever this week. Our Filipino member was in the Emergency Room a few nights ago and she asked us to give her a blessing. There are very few things more special than to start giving a blessing, feel your mind go blank of your own thoughts, and just start saying the words that flow to your mouth. That's what it felt like--the words didn't even really pass through my brain. She's doing fine, by the way. She's so solid; every Fast Sunday she gets up and bears a really powerful testimony.

Last Sunday I also got to go up to the mountains to visit some less active members. Taiwan's mountains are so cool, and the people are also so great up there. They're Taiwan's native people, so they've got a completely different language from Chinese or Taiwanese, and they have aboriginal art and stuff. Way cool. If I ever go there on a preparation day, I'll take pictures so you can see.

I love you all, and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Remember, Heavenly Father loves you!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 6, 2010

The Rain Came Down and the Flood Came Up

But the house on the rock stood still! ;) So yes, the typhoon. Just a disclaimer for the future: you don't have to worry about me the next time you hear something like that. They still send us out proselyting unless it's seriously too dangerous. Then our leaders order us to stay in our apartments and call investigators or something. So yeah, don't worry in the future if a typhoon or earthquake comes. I mean, we get some of each every year. This year's typhoon was actually not that great as typhoons go. We'd have periods of really heavy rain and wind for about 15 minutes, then it would almost stop raining. Then it would start up raining again, then stop. It didn't even flood the streets. Apparently last year on 8/8 they had a huge typhoon and there was water up to my waist. This year was really mild.

As for the language, I'd say it's getting better and better. I'm finding myself able to understand what people say to me nearly all the time, or at least know what they mean. I'm learning even more vocabulary for the missionary lessons, etc. It's a real blessing of the Lord--I may have had the gift of tongues at the MTC, but nothing makes that gift take off like being surrounded by the language and talking to the people all day every day.

We met this really cool kid yesterday. He's about a year younger than Dillon. We taught him the first lesson, which is about the Restoration. At the end, we asked him when we could meet again to teach him more and he said "Can you teach me right now?" Really super willing. His only obstacle so far is that his parents don't want him being baptized, because they already did their religion's baptismal-like thing to him when he was a baby, and he can't go join another church. Yeah, Taiwan has some strange religions. There's one called YiGuanDao that basically believes everything. They believe in five holy people, including Buddah, Mohammad, and Jesus. Basically their thing is that all those people are the same and all taught God's truth. I'm so glad our church has the testimonies of two separate nations that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. He was not just some good teacher who's on the same level as Buddah. He's our God, our Master. It's out of love for Him that I came out here and work my hardest every day.

Well, I guess I'll close then. I sure love each of you, and I know Heavenly Father is watching out for you. Keep up your daily scripture study. That is truly vital, trust me. You need that constant nourishment to protect yourself from the tricks of the adversary. I love you all so much and I'll talk to you again next week!



Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 30, 2010

Hello again!

Hey everyone! It's so great to read your letters. I'm glad to hear how much Heavenly Father has been blessing you all. He's certainly blessed us a TON this week.

I'll start out with the Q&A time. The name (name) is three characters. The first one is his surname, so we call him (name),(Brother name). The last two are his given name. For example, my name is Ruan ZhiHao.

Prices are actually a lot cheaper here, but we live on less money, too. Examples: the bingsha goes from about $20-30, which in American money is less than a dollar. Like, 80 cents. But that's pretty expensive for a drink. A cup of wintermelon tea costs $10, or about a quarter. A meal at McDonald's is $100, or about 3 USD. Most meals cost between 60 and 80 kuai (dollars).
Yes, that's Elder Bickmore. We're going to be together for another move call. He's close to his 1.5 mark--he came out a year before I did, end of April. I'm still learning Chinese, yes. We have an hour in the mornings for language study, along with any time left at lunch if you eat fast enough. The mission gave us these books that help us learn vocabulary and phrases useful for learning the five Preach My Gospel Lessons. Reaaaally handy.

Heh...(name) is just funny. He was so excited at that baptism. In answer to Mom's question, that's what we were laughing at. Don't worry, he was reverent for the one that's going on the announcement board in the church. Speaking of which, have I told you our church is inside a high-rise? The first floor sells bedding, the fifth floor is a cram school (bu-xi-ban), and we're sandwiched in between. It's interesting.

Well, this week was a lot of fun. We set a goal to add 56 new investigators this week, which is really really high. Higher than when we had the Assistant to the President with us. We prayed hard, talked to everyone we saw, and the Lord blessed us to find 60 new investigators. That was such a huge testimony builder to me. I know when we focus on a worthy goal, pray for the Lord's help to achieve it, and then do all we possibly can, He will help us achieve it. I want to challenge each of you to think of a goal you want to achieve in the next month or term or whatever, set small goals to help you reach it, and work toward it, relying on the Lord to help you achieve it. I know that as you do so you will find that the Lord is actively involved in your life, and He wants to help you become better through these goals. Are you all willing to do that?
Speaking of commitments, how's scripture study going? Is everyone doing it daily? And the Elder Bednar thing has audio? That's cool--I just thought it was something he wrote for the Ensign. Be sure to tell me how the scripture study and listening to "Things as they Really Are" went when you write me next week. :)

I'm trying to think here...Oh yeah! It's time for weird-stuff-I-ate corner! This week it was octopus. And a shrimp with its head and beady eyeballs still on. I had to pull his head, legs, and shell off. Yeah...weird. But the octopus was surprisingly not that bad. Just a little weird texture. But I don't think I'll order seafood chow mein again anytime soon. Anyway, keep track of these. When I get home we're going to the Asian Buffet and Dad and Dillon are going to keep their vow to try the weird stuff I've eaten. >:)

One minute left. I sure love all of you! It is so much fun to read your letters every week and know you're doing well. Remember your Savior always! Rely on him and don't neglect that daily spiritual nourishment.

Love you all!


Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

Weekly Report from Donggang

Well, it's been a really great week here. As you'll notice, I've attached a couple of pictures of a baptismal service! Yep, (name) is now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's great, the branch loves him, and we're so glad the Lord blessed us to meet him. In fact, watching him be baptized in that little swimming-pool font and hear him bear his testimony afterward was an experience I won't forget. The Spirit was so strong. He has come to know his Father in Heaven and his Savior and make sacred covenants with them. These are experiences I'd never get to have anywhere else, and I thank the Lord every day that I've been blessed to come here to Taiwan and share the gospel. I know that that's what I've been sent out here to do--help more people accept that same gift. They're out there, and I just have to work my hardest and I'll be able to find them.

I also have had some real faith building experiences this week. In fact, just last night we had a goal to get six new investigators and things weren't going very well. I was starting to get discouraged, which you don't want to do. That's a lack of faith. So I prayed hard that I would have the faith and confidence to find those who were ready. About three minutes later, a guy called me over as I was riding by and asked if he and his two sons could come to English class. I set him up to meet with us and he set a baptismal goal. Three new investigators. It was truly a tender mercy of the Lord.

Now I'm running kind of low on time. Some fun-side stuff this week. I tried bingsha for the first time, which is this really tasty milkshakey thingy (to use a Dillon term). So good. What else? 4 minutes.

That's going to be it for the week. I love you all so much. I still pray for you every night. Please continue to study the scriptures every day, sitting up and writing your thoughts in a journal. I know that as you do you will, as Mom said, feel the love of the Savior and feel that the scriptures were written specifically for you. They were. Please also remember to read Elder Bednar's article. And about school--have fun with it. Do the very best you can, but don't worry yourself too much over it.

Love you all.


Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010

The Work Goes On

Hey there everybody! I'm finally getting around to email for this week. My companion and I just got back from a little day trip town to Kending, a really famous beach at the very southernmost U of Taiwan. We met the two Elders down there and had some pizza, went exploring by the beach, and stuff like that. I'll send you the pictures next week; I left my camera cable at the apartment.

As for luggage and bike, when you move the mission pays to ship your bike and two pieces of luggage to your new area. However, it looks like the pattern in Donggang is that everyone stays for at least two move calls, so I don't know if I have to worry about that until October.

The date sounds fun. That movie wasn't out before I left, but the previews looked cool--lots of awesome shots of China. And it has Jackie Chan. It's funny Megan mentioned Spongebob in Chinese, because Spongebob characters are all over in Taiwan. I had no idea it was this big. I even see stuff like sponge-shaped wafer cookies in 7-eleven and such. Weird. As for the Chinese and subs, I sure hope I'd understand it! The Beijing Chinese has a really thick accent... As for the Church News article, I agree. At the MTC they warned us that this language is a gift from the Lord and we better not go and forget it after these two years.

Megan--I've got a little bit of disappointing news about your kimono. Kimonos are Japanese. Um....but I'll sure look for one. I hear the last day on island (long way to go, I don't think about it yet) they take you to the Taibei Temple, Taibei 101, and lots of tourist shops, so on that day if I see a kimono I will definitely buy it. And squeeeeeze it into my suitcase. :)

Ok, I don't think I missed anything. As for what's been going on here in Donggang--we almost had a baptism. Don't worry, he just moved it back to this coming Saturday since he was going to be out of town on Sunday. And our mission wants to avoid like the plague baptizing someone and waiting more than a couple days to confirm them. He's awesome though, and the branch loves him. Our ward mission leader came with us the last time we met with Lin HongWen and gave him a triple combination with his testimony and a nice new tie. So great. He really was a golden find. He really didn't have any problems accepting anything. We were a little scared he'd reject tithing, but we taught him and he said sure, it made sense to him. Love it. So you really can expect an account of the baptism, and a picture of said baptism, next preparation day.

The trip to Kending (first syllable rhymes with gun, ding sounds like it looks) today was kind of fun. It was a super long bus ride, but we went down by the beach and explored some of the big rock formations, took some cool pictures, and such. People were giving us funnier looks than usual seeing us in our missionary clothes down by the beach. This Australian guy commented on our being all dressed up and asked if we were working there somewhere. One of the other Elders said "Sort of--we're missionaries." The guy said "Oh, cool," and walked speedily in a different direction. :o)

This week I want to share a testimony that the Lord truly does see fit at times to try our faith. On Sunday we were having a real struggle to add new investigators. We felt like we were working really hard and everything, but nobody wanted to add. Several people on scooters choose to run red lights rather than talk to me. Others resolutely ignore my existence. I still love those people, but it was kind of getting us down. In the last twenty minutes of the day, however, the Lord sent me a family and a group of four friends--six new investigators right in a row. That was a witness to me that the Lord will always bless us, but it may not be until we've proven to Him we're willing to do absolutely everything it's humanly possible to do. Then He steps in and you achieve far beyond the level of "humanly possible."

Megan and Dillon kind of expressed some worries about school. This is my advice right here. If you manage your time well and do all you can do, the Lord will consecrate your efforts for righteous purposes. Just remember what President Hinckley said--pray to the Lord as if everything depended on Him, and then go out and work like everything depended on you.

Well, it's about that time again. Before I close, though, I have one commitment nobody has mentioned--who read that Elder Bednar article? It's from the June Ensign, and it's entitled "Things As They Really Are."

I love you all so much. Please continue to keep me posted on things that are going on there, especially spiritual experiences. Share with me how the Lord has been blessing your life! That is, along with the fun stuff. You notice I do that, right? A little of both?

Love you


Monday, August 9, 2010

August 9, 2010

Hello again, everyone! Boy, these weeks are going fast. So much has been happening out here.
Thanks for reading the scripture I talked about. It really helps me in times of hardship--and believe me, you have them on a mission. Often. I believe Preach My Gospel has a quote from one of the prophets saying that the secret to missionary work is WORK. It's a lot of work. But it's so worth it. How about that Elder Bednar talk? I really feel like it's important to read that talk and ponder what Elder Bednar is telling us. It actually made me realize that the things that just don't matter should not take a lot of our time. That's all I'll say...please read it!

Some great news this week: Brother (name) is getting baptized this Friday! He passed his baptismal interview and is excited to be baptized. It's been so awesome to go from meeting with him for the first time all the way to this point. I believe this is why the intro to Preach My Gospel says there is no more compelling work than [missionary work], nor any which brings greater satisfaction. Seeing a person convert to their Lord Jesus Christ is a very wonderful experience. I'd imagine the only thing sweeter (and the thing I'm hoping I get to do just once in these two years) would be to see a family I baptize get sealed in the temple together.

Something else kinda fun this week was that Thursday night and Friday during the day we had exchanges with the Assistants to the President. Those Elders work so hard and also push us to work our hardest. I believe the day we had Elder Taylor with us, the three of us added about 25 new investigators between 2:30 and 8:00 (we had to drop off and pick up his companion, who was doing exchanges with the Pingdong Elders). It really made me realize I have a lot I need to improve on. But that's what the exchanges were for. Elder Taylor really helped me improve my contacting and also gave me a great example of talking to everyone. Everyone. We seriously were outside McDonalds for half an hour because Elder Taylor talks to everyone he sees. So I did too. And it felt awesome to kneel down at the end of the day and really tell the Lord I had not missed talking to anyone He placed in my path.

So this week I didn't really have a weird food I ate, but I've noticed I'm sooo much less picky about what I eat now. I'm sure by the end of this time, I'll be even less picky. Megan was talking about eating chao mian (chow mein), and I remembered how before my mission I was careful to eat only the noodles and not the cabbage or onions. Now I eat stuff with onions, peppers, and other stuff I have no idea what it is. It happens when you love the people who give you the food. You'd eat anything just so you don't hurt their feelings.

What fun cultural stuff can I share this week? Oh yes! For weeks I've wanted to share this but forgot each time. So I think Dillon and Megan and Kelsi would be a little disappointed to visit Taiwan. At least once a day we hear a little melody playing on the street--some happy little melody. It's not the ice cream truck, though. It's the garbage truck! See, it's gotta be a happy place if even the garbage truck sings a little song as it drives along. Actually, it's so people know they need to come outside with their garbage and throw it in the truck. The workers don't do that for you here.

Six minutes. What else, what else. One fun little thing--I learned a saying from the assistants that they like to use to get people to actually come to their appointments. "Yi yan ji chu, si ma nan zhui." Don't worry about how to say that. ;-) It means "one word already gone out, a team of four horses is hard to catch." Or basically once you've said something, you can't recall it.
Apparently in ancient China there was a king who condemned a man to death for a crime, but the man fled. The king sent four horses out, one in each direction, to catch the man and kill him. While they were gone, they found out it was a different guy, and that the other one was innocent. However, one of the horsemen caught the man and executed him. Sad story, but when you commit somebody and get really serious, stare them in the eye, and say that phrase, they're likely to show up to the appointment. Kinda makes them shudder. It's funny. They also have like an ultra pinky promise I'll tell you about later.

I love you all so much! Next week you can expect to hear about the baptism. I love reading your letters. Keep strong in the gospel, read your scriptures, pray, and all that!



Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2, 2010

It's hard to believe that another week has gone by already! It seems like I just got here in Donggang and now I'm starting the third week. As usual, I love reading your letters to me and hearing that everything is going well. It sounds like you're doing all kinds of fun stuff.

Yes, President Uchtdorf's grandsons just finished their missions here in Taiwan. See what I mean about it running in families? I'd imagine he had to get special permission from a member of the First Presidency to come pick them up, though. From the little they told us in the orientation, he gave a really cool fireside to all the missionaries in Taiwan, as well as a special thing for all the members in Taiwan. Aaaaawesome.

The weather report really said we were having a lot of rain? Really? Weird. By my estimation it only rained constantly for the last eight or so days. :D Yes, it was soaking down here. I bought me a set of raingear--pants and jacket--and wore it pretty much all day every day last week. The next purchase will be a pair of boots to go over my shoes. By the time I got home some days, every step was a little squelchy sound. But it's fun to try contacting in the rain. Sometimes people will come under an awning and listen to me just so we can get out of the rain.

Now I want to talk real quick about some of our investigators. The Lord has been truly blessing us this week to find and teach a lot of people. We had seven investigators at church, which is probably more than this little branch has seen in awhile. And guess what? We're planning to baptize on the 14th of this month! (name) is his name, and he's just amazing. He's excited to be baptized, he's living the commandments, and at church yesterday he was introducing himself to people as "Brother Lin". It's his second time at church. We're planning to get his interview set up this weekend and he can be baptized next Saturday. I'm so excited. He's such a nice guy, loves church, reads his Book of Mormon every day.

Another tender mercy--this week's English class. We had 13 people show up! It was a huge improvement over last week's 3. Several of them are really nice and were interested in our Gospel share about the Plan of Salvation. One, (name), was taking notes, actively answering questions, and volunteered to say the closing prayer--he's never prayed before, either.
I'll get back to answering some more questions in a minute, but I feel like my last few letters haven't been as spiritual. Probably mainly because at the MTC, that was the only thing I could think of, and now I'm here on the other side of the world eating pig feet and biking all over southern Taiwan. But I want you all to know my testimony that the Lord loves us and is mindful of us grows every day. When you keep his commandments, including those in, say, Preach My Gospel (if you're a missionary), He blesses you in abundance. In D&C it says He calls upon the weak things of the world to go and "thrash the nations with the power of my Spirit." I am a weak thing, but with the Lord I have been able to do things way beyond my own ability.

Think of Alma's counsel to his sons Shiblon and Helaman. Read it together, if you would. I believe it's Alma 36:3--the part about whosover will put their trust in the Lord will be supported in all their trials and troubles and afflictions. I know it's true. I was having a hard time at first talking to everyone I saw. Everyone. Like literally, if you're biking to visit a member and there's some old guy sitting on his porch smoking, you hit the brakes and you talk to him. That was hard for me, initially. But the Lord answered my prayers and now I truly want to share with everyone, because He's blessed me to feel a little of His true love for them.

Finally, I'd invite my brother and sisters to read Elder Bednar's talk in the June Ensign--"Things as they Really Are." I'm not implying anything here, I just really loved it and think we can all evaluate ourselves according to the standards he discusses. Can you all do that for me? I'll be following up next week. Preach My Gospel says if you don't follow up, there's no point in asking someone to commit.

Well, I have eight minutes left, so I'll talk a little more about some humorous things that happened this week. Well, there was the time we were looking for the address of a former investigator, biking around some decrepit old streets. We hear a dog start barking, then three, then like six. Around the corner comes the freaking Bumpus Hound pack, all running at us. I believe I broke my landspeed record that day. Elder Bickmore says his last companion kept a wooden bat on his bike, called it his "bludger beater," and saved it for just such occasions. I might have to start doing so myself.

What else?...I'm always careful around traffic, so no worry there. Also no need to worry about peanut butter. My companion knows where to buy a can of peanut butter the size of those cans of rice and instant potatoes in our storage room. I'll keep thinking though.

Well, that's going to be it for this week. I love you all so much, and I'm always excited to read your letters and tell you how the Lord's work is going here. By the way, our mission clarifies family as parents and siblings, with regard to emailing me at this address. Sorry! Maybe they can email you, and you can paraphrase to me what they said.

Love you all!!!


Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26, 2010

It's that time of week again!

Hey there everyone! Sorry, this week's letter's going to be a little shorter, since I had to wrestle with the pictures a few times. But they say a picture's worth a thousand words, and I sent you like a finity of them. =)

It's great to get your letters every week. I know I say that every week, but I don't want you to go thinking I get sick of reading them. I don't! Really, they could be a little longer now that you're not limited by characters and I have an extra half hour. Just if you want. Not complaining.

Well, yeah, I'm here in Donggang, which took about three hours from Taizhong city. The first leg was a train from Taizhong to Gaoxiong (aka Kaohsiung, which sounds nothing like it looks =/ ), followed by a bus from there to Donggang. Yeah, I did indeed see much of the country that day. It's been raining pretty much every day in the last week. In fact, yesterday and Saturday we had huge lightning storms, thunder louder than I've probably ever heard before, and rain so hard it was flooding the streets. Elder Bickmore tells me that's not even the most fun I'll have--it's Typhoon season right about now. :o) But it's really beautiful down here. On the west we have the sea, and on the east you can see the mountains on a clear day.

In answer to Kelsi's questions, I have one companion--threesomes are kind of rare. Yes, I have my bike. It's really shuai (good lookin'), but I had to spray paint it in places because a bike that shuai is more likely to be stolen. :( I love it though. Even though it took me like a week to stop looking like Kirby on The Best Two Years.

The work's going great. We have several investigators who are pretty darn solid, a few of which I found myself. I'm so excited to keep teaching them and then see them get baptized. The cool thing here, and I dunno if I already told you this, is that we challenge to baptism when we first contact them on the street. We ask them if next month on x day, if they feel this message is true, would they be willing to accept the gift of baptism. That tells us whether they have real intent to act and also tells them right up front why we want to meet with them. It's awesome. Can't nobody say the Taizhong mission is ashamed to baptize. And Elder Bickmore and I have a goal to help four people accept baptism in this six-week move call.

I still spend portions of my day when Elder Bickmore is calling our investigator list chasing scooters at red lights. There are sooo many scooters here. I've almost never contacted a person in a car because there is almost always a handful of scooters at any given intersection. And the traffic--so crazy. Dillon was right, if they have a red light but think they can make it, they'll just go. Traffic signs, lanes, everything is apparently a suggestion. But I've seen amazingly few accidents. o_O Maybe the Taiwanese have super powers?

Time for weird-stuff-Carter-ate-this-week Corner! This will be a regular feature, I'm sure. The highlight of the week was just last night at a branch activity. See, if you hold back to be polite and let others eat first, Sister Chen grabs your bowl and heaps it high with a little of everything. Everything. Including stuff I have no idea what it is. But if you don't finish the whole bowl, that's really rude because you're kind of saying you don't like the food. So, out of love for my branch, I ate everything. Including what I later found out was pig feet. Yep, that's this week's Weird Food. It had a little meat, but was mostly a mouthful of chewy fat.

Hopefully that won't scare Dillon away from a Chinese speaking mission ;D (by the way, I'm not actually trying to pressure you to go Chinese speaking, Dill--I just think it would be funny to both know Chinese, m'kay?). One weird thing I actually really like now is called Donggua cha, or Wintermelon Tea. Don't worry, it has no tea leaves, so it's word of wisdom approved. The first time I drank it, it was freaking weird. But the second time it became one of my favorite drinks. Tastes like honey graham crackers.

Well, I'm down to three minutes. I better wrap up. Go ahead and keep asking me questions in your letters, because I forget what I have and have not explained already. I love all of you so much! I'll talk to you next week.


Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

Greetings from Donggang!!

Hello everybody! Or should I say good night? If I'm not mistaken, it's about 10pm on Sunday for you, am I right? I'm here in Taiwan and it's noon on Monday.

Oh man, what a week it's been! I have about 45 minutes left on this computer--we're sitting in some kind of arcade, and you put a 10-kuai coin into a machine next to the computer and it gives you an hour. I'll have to write my letter to President Bishop later, but compared to the MTC this is a freaking luxury! Well, the plane ride to Taiwan was indeed long, but I slept part of the way. After dinner they shut off all the lights, so I thought eh...what the hey, I'll sleep. I woke up and looked out the window and saw a huge city way below me, but I knew it wasn't Taibei. I looked on the little touch screen TV in front of me and found out I was looking out over Tokyo.

Long story short, we landed in Taibei, met President and Sister Bishop and the two assistants, and loaded our stuff into a bus and traveled to Taizhong city for another two hours. We did some orientation stuff, they gave us our new name badges, stuff like that. The next day was a lot of orientation, but President Bishop treated us to a nice lunch and dinner. Lunch was a hot pot, which I've never been to before. For those of you who don't know, they stick a pot of soup on a hot element in front of you and you go get meat and noodles and veggies and stick it all in the pot and let it boil. It was quite good.

After dinner, President Bishop announced we were going to go out to the Taizhong night market and "Dan Jones" it up. Dan Jones was one of the Church's earliest missionaries, and since he was a shorter fellow, when he went to Wales he grabbed a soap box and stood up on it. Yep. I stood atop a soap box with a Chinese Book of Mormon in my hand and told all those people my testimony. After I got down (it was kind of fun, but I ran out of stuff to say pretty quickly), a more experienced missionary grabbed me and we went street contacting all around that busy market. We were able to get seventeen people's information, and all of them committed to a baptismal date in August. Now don't be fooled by that--It's highly possible most of them gave me wrong numbers or will refuse to talk to the missionaries when they call, but it was still a great experience. Preach My Gospel says "no effort is wasted." Statistically speaking, about one of those people will actually make it all the way to baptism. So it was all worth it if that happens!

The next day we met our new companions and headed off to our new areas. My companion's name is Elder Bickmore, from North Carolina. I'm here in Donggang, which is the second farthest south area in the mission. Let me tell you, it's so great, but soooo different! Yes, the humidity is all I dreamed it would be and more. I seriously think I'm sweating every minute of the day except in my cold shower and when we're sitting in our air conditioned room. We have to run for half an hour three days of the week and lift weights the other three. Those runs frickin kill me, but it's getting easier every time. I'm convinced I'm going to weigh no more than 150 by the time I come home. I'll look like Dillon. O_O (just kidding)

Down here we have two missionaries--Elder Bickmore and myself. We have a branch of roughly 30 members if I were to guess. They're all so nice! The Branch President and his wife, President and Sister (name) (that's pronounced like the Chun family in our ward) have one son who is serving a mission in Taibei, and they're incredibly nice people. Actually, the whole branch is really sweet. They all say my Chinese is really good for being in Taiwan for five days, and that I don't have as strong of a foreigner accent. I keep telling them it's the Lord's gift.

Well, I'd better wrap up. I'll try and download my pictures and send them after I write my letter to President Bishop. If you don't get them this week, I'll try again next week. Never mind, I thought the meter said 21 but it actually said 27. :)

What else to write about? I've gotten so used to the MTC's push-along system I don't know what to do. Street contacting is always interesting. Whenever there's a red light I run up to a man on a scooter (because we can't talk to women without our companion right there in arm's reach) and try and get him to pull to the side of the road and listen to me. I usually fail pretty miserably at that. They tell me they don't have time or "bu yong" which means "no use". :P I'll keep trying, though. I know the Lord's preparing people for me to find. We're actually teaching a kid right now who seems pretty interested. He came to church for three hours and then met with us afterward to hear the first lesson!
Now it really is time to go. I love you all so much. I pray for you every day. I know that the Lord is the one who supports us in all our afflictions, and if you turn to Him, He waits with open arms to receive you.

Love you all,


PS Next time you watch The Best Two Years, you can laugh at that scene where Kirby is riding his bike over the bridge and he looks all awkward. That's me right now. Yep. I have a feeling that will be enormously funny to me when I see it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Greetings from the MTC! For the last time

Hey there everybody! I really can't believe another week has gone by. The last week at the MTC, no less. It's kinda funny; I think when I first entered the MTC my brain didn't really believe that I'd ever be leaving. But here it is! I'm so excited. I can't wait to see people's lives change as a result of this gospel. I've been truly blessed to have this opportunity to learn and grow at the MTC. I've been blessed to meet lots of wonderful people.

You wanted me to share whatever cultural things I learned, and I will doubtless learn a whole lot in the weeks and months to come, but Brother Hodges, one of our teachers, did tell us a little about Taiwan's weather. He said yes, the summers are sweltering hot because of the humidity. We already knew that. He said we'll be drinking lots of bingsha, which is like a shaved ice drink with real fruit and stuff. In short, he called it Gaorong Guodu (Celestial Kingdom). But what we didn't know is that Taiwan in the winter is also incredibly super cold, again because of the humidity. Sure, it might be fifty degrees Fahrenheit, but you swim in fifty degree water for awhile and it's freaking cold. He said maybe if we're down way south it won't be so bad, but up around Taizhong city and Taibei area, it can get incredibly cold.

So yesterday we had a real treat. It was our last Sunday Night Fireside, and while we were singing the prelude everyone stood up and Dallin H Oaks walked in the room. He actually didn't speak to us (I mean, he just did so a couple weeks ago). Instead, he was there to hear his daughter Jenny Oaks Baker speak and perform for us. And if you look up her name, you'll find out she's one of America's most accomplished violinists. It was so cool. She played five or six numbers for us and gave short speaking segments in between to introduce why the next song had so much meaning to her. The Spirit was very strong, and it was a real privilege to hear her perform for us.

What you heard about the Taizhong mission is correct. It is indeed an awesome mission. It's incredible to hear Brother Hodges talk about all he did on his mission--stuff like talking to a guy on a motorcycle at a stop light who pulled over to hear his message and committed to baptism right then and there. He was baptized three weeks later. There are countless other stories like it. I'm really convinced that the Chinese are "white already to harvest." England had its time, now it's South America. I'm betting China and other far Eastern countries are next. Dill, I get the feeling you'll be going Chinese speaking, because it really seems to run in families. :o) Brother Hodges has a twin brother who went to Taibei. Just saying, it's a possibility. Especially if mainland China opens its doors soon.

Well, I think that's just about everything. I've got just a little bit of time left. I'm all packed up and barely within the luggage weight limits. Remember that the church is true, and don't ever let anything or anyone be more important to you than the gospel. Our Savior loves each of us and stands with open arms to help us overcome anything at all, including our sadnesses and trials. When you feel like something's too much to bear, pray to God in Christ's name to strengthen you. I love you all!


Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5, 2010

It's so great to hear from you all! Thanks for your nice letter yet again, and your wishes of a good Fourth of July. I hope you all had a good one as well. It sounds like everyone had a fun week. Mom, Dad, thank you (and also thank Grandma and Grandpa) for your testimonies of tithing. I'm so glad to hear that Heavenly Father is blessing you all right now. I know He's blessing me.

And I also want to say, last week I didn't have enough time, but THANK YOU Mom for taking that challenge and sharing your experience with me! I'm so glad to hear that you're having such great spiritual experiences. I know when I came here and started studying like that, I also experienced more personal connections with the spirit. The rest of haven't even mentioned it once! I'm so excited to hear how this studying has blessed your lives, but you aren't telling me. Do it this week, even on vacation. Ten to twenty minutes a day really isn't that much, but you'll find the payout is so much more than what you put in. Remember what Alma said about your little faith tree: if you don't constantly nourish it, when the hot sun (trials) comes along, the roots wither and the tree dies. Do it, you'll love it!

So Saturday night we had kind of a fun opportunity; at 8:30 they had a fireside for us called "The Standard of Truth" and it was all about the world events that culminated in the Restoration. You know, the Reformation, the American Revolution, and all that. After that, at 10:00 they let us stand at the MTC's southern campus and watch the BYU stadium of fire fireworks. It was pretty fun, though we were all a little tired later that day.

This is my last week at the MTC. So weird! I think this week our teachers will give us what we need to know about the culture and stuff in Taiwan. We really have been blessed with two awesome teachers. Brother Hodges, the one in the conference Ensign, was apparently a superstar baptizer in Taizhong. I want you all to know, though, that I'm committed to use this last week to work my very hardest. If the MTC's like a race, I'm not going to stop running on the last leg--I'm going to sprint, and I know the Lord will bless me for that.

I'll admit it's a little nerve-wracking knowing that in about eight days my responsibility truly begins. I'll be expected to talk to everyone and find those that Heavenly Father has prepared for me. But you know what? I have faith. Faith that Heavenly Father is of course fully aware that I'm not that great right now at talking to people. Faith that in spite of that, He'll make me into the servant He wants me to be. I know if I rely on Him and on my Savior, there's no reason to be afraid. 1Nephi 3:7.

Thanks for your faith and support. Know that the Lord loves and blesses each and every one of us. And do my challenge!!!

Love you,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 28, 2010

Well, this week was pretty special.. Why, you ask? Oh, no particular reason.. Except that it was the new mission president seminar and we had apostles at the MTC.. Of course, their building was walled off and locked up so we couldn't see them.. However, one day after class, on the way to lunch, we came out the door and looked to our right and there was Elder Nelson talking to a group of missionaries.. We went over there and some of my district got to shake his hand--I unfortunately didn't get to, because more people kept coming and he kind of didn't want to be there all day shaking hands, so he and his wife skidaddled.. But it's not a big deal; I still got to see him in person!

Then on Friday evening Elder Oaks spoke at a special devotional.. It was pretty cool.. He talked about what makes our church different from others, and that we're not just another Christian church among huuuunnnnddddreds (this computer is really annoying.. it does that like every thirty seconds).. I wish I could go into more detail, but I want to get to other cool stuff that happened.. After the devotional, we did indeed get to meet President and Sister Bishop.. They are both very good people.. I'm so excited to get out there and actually start helping people get baptized! That's actually one thiiiinnnngggg (oh my annoying, this computer) that President Bishop told us..

We have 156 missionaries in Taizhong, and there's a tradition of inviting to baptism early.. He said we baptize in Taizhong.. As for the travel plan, I'm not entirely sure yet.. They haven't told me anything; I wasn't aware that my date had changed, and they haven't said if we could call from the airport. I'll be sure to let you know when I find out.. Oh, and today we got the chance to go help clean the Provo Temple.. That's why this letter's so late this week.. It was kinda fun.. We just cleaned a bunch of lockers, nothing reall exciting.. But that's (finally) enough about me!

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010

Hello again! Man, I don't know about you, but to me it seems like the weeks just fly by. It seems like I was just writing you a letter a short time ago. It's really good to read your letters--you may have noticed this letter is early, because the Provo Temple is closed for the remainder of my stay at the MTC. P-days are now actually p-days. Hm. But the good news is they've assigned our district to go next Monday and help clean the temple while it's closed! They're going to give us white work clothes and everything. One of our branch presidency members said, "You're going to clean the temple? It's already clean, isn't it?" But that's going to be a pretty cool experience, I think. This computer is being annoying. When I press the period it puts in two, and when I press enter to start a new paragraph it doesn't do anything. :( So I will go ahead and save this draft, go get my haircut, and come back and finish my letter.

I want to share this scripture, which gives me strength and hope when things are just a little down. D&C 121:7-9 "My son [or daughter], peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends [and family] do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands." That's the truth. Heavenly father loves each and every one of us and is mindful of us every minute of every day. So I hope every one of you are happy! Even when you have one of those days we all have, where nothing seems to go right. Know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of hope, joy, and light. Anytime you feel discouraged, gloomy, or depressed, turn to the Lord in prayer, because those feelings are not of Him. He gives us hard times for but a moment, and then rewards us for enduring well.

This week we have the awesome opportunity of having the new mission president seminar take place at the MTC. The First Presidency and many of the Twelve will be here at some point during the week, though the MTC is unfortunately closing the building to missionaries so we don't go a-hunting for Thomas S. Monson. However, on Friday night they're having a special devotional for the missionaries and new mission presidents. I have a good feeling that it could be the prophet speaking. I hope. Oh, and yesterday I got released as district leader. They're doing four weeks at a time instead of six so that more missionaries get a chance to serve as leaders. It was a great growth opportunity for me, and I really learned to love my district and serve them.

It is so crazy to think that I only have three weeks left. There's so much I don't know, and yet right now I feel like I want to get out there. Don't worry--I'm not wasting any time trunking. In fact, I'm going to work harder in these last weeks than in the first eight combined, because Heavenly Father has truly blessed me with the gift of tongues and increased my ability to learn this language. I'm so excited to get out there, though. I want to teach somebody who has never heard this gospel and watch them come to know their Father and Savior and make their first covenant with Them in the waters of baptism. So. Excited.

I promise you all that if you take ten or fifteen [or more] minutes a day to sit at a desk with a notebook and really study the scriptures, recording the thoughts and impressions that come to you, your days will go so much better and you'll feel like your spiritual battery is charged for the day. Let me know!

I love you all very much. I look forward to your letter every week. Always maintain a firm faith in your Savior Jesus Christ and you will always be led to happiness. Also know that I am putting forth my very best effort for the Lord and I won't waste any of this precious little time He's given me to be a missionary.