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!!!