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!