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,