Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekly Letter to Family 1/24/11

It's another preparation day already. That means I'm halfway through my first move call in Tainan. How weird!

It's so great to hear from you all again. I hope you know email is the first thing we do when we get out the door on preparation day.

The highlight of this week was, of course, the baptism of (name)! It was a great experience to see him enter the waters of baptism and make this covenant with his Heavenly Father. He showed up to his baptismal service wearing a really nice suit because, as he said, "Tonight is really important." I also had the unexpected but appreciated privilege of standing in the circle to confirm him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When the First Counselor said "receive the Holy Ghost" I myself felt the power of the Spirit come over me. I am so happy to see this wonderful brother be baptized unto repentance. He's already been bringing a friend to church and to his baptismal service, too. This baptism also really gave me a surge of faith that there are more like him in this big city of Tainan. They are ready to cling to the iron rod as soon as I can find them and tell them where it is.

[Admittedly, the waters of baptism for him were kinda shallow. Yeah, I started filling the font at 6 just like I was supposed to. Then we come back at 7 and this member says "Hey, you forgot to plug the drain, so the font just started filling." O.o Whoops. It all went ok, he just had to go for a second dunk.]

We've also been blessed to find some great new investigators and continue working with those who are progressing. I'll just share one experience with a new investigator. His name is Brother (name). We met him as a blessing for following the counsel from mission and ward leaders to visit all of our recent converts. (name) hasn't been to church or answered our phone calls in months, so we visited his house and his father was at home. We have been sharing the message of the Restoration with him, and probably my favorite part came at the beginning of the lesson. Brother (name) has some sort of affliction that makes him walk with a severe limp--it may be palsy, but I'm really not sure on my medical terms. When we told him God knows his name and loves him he got this look in his eye and he said "Me? God knows me?" He's one of the nicest and most humble people I've met in awhile, and I'm really looking forward to helping him come to his Savior Jesus Christ.

As for the pictures, I have one baptismal picture and then a few from last preparation day, when we visited this old Dutch fort. See, the Dutch were the first to really colonize Taiwan, and they provided the means for Chinese to come over and plant sugar cane. In the mid 1600s, a Japanese conqueror named Koxinga drove the Dutch out. So this fort was built by the Dutch as part of their East India Trading Company venture. The wall I'm looking at in the horizontal picture is the only remaining part of the original 400 year old wall. Cool, cool stuff. While there I also ate a shrimp roll that was absurdly expensive. Not quite so fun. :) It was tasty though.

I've been having my ups and downs just as usual this week, but I'm feeling great right now. There is nothing we can't do with the help and strength of the Lord.

Well, I'd better wrap up today's email. I sure love all of you. It was good to hear from you. Let us all press on in the work of the Lord.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Middle of January!

Hey there everyone! I can't believe yet another week has gone by and I'm sitting here in this smelly internet cafe writing you another email. I always love reading your letters.

Well, it's been a really great week. This week we've been keeping in touch with (name) every night, and he's doing really well. He's getting baptized this Saturday, and he told us he wants to meet with us beforehand so he's not late and he can get all ready. He's been continuing to share the gospel with his friend Sister (name), and she's been telling him she feels really good when she reads the Book of Mormon. It's so great to see not only the change that the gospel has wrought in his life, but also how he can't contain the joy that it brings and is anxious to share it with others. I'm really excited to see him enter the fold of God.

We've also been continuing to try and help the other Brother (name), who has twin 7-year-old sons. He, unfortunately, does not want to "rush into" anything and thinks he needs to "understand more deeply" this church before he will be baptized. I really feel like his deeper concern is something else--possibly fearing the ridicule and rejection of his parents and friends. I've been praying hard for inspiration for this man, and I want to continue trying to help him.
We've also been working with the man who read the entire Book of Mormon in two days. He seems to believe God exists, but thinks of him as cruel and unfair because his life has many challenges. We're going to focus on Christ's atonement and God's love for him and try to help him feel that comfort and strength that comes from trusting in God. That's what this is all about for me: I'm here to help people who've been living their lives all alone come to know that there is more peace and happiness awaiting them than they could possibly imagine if they will only turn to Jesus Christ, the life and light of the world.

I read a Liahona article this morning in personal study which kind of pertains to this. It was a member who is a rancher for sheep commenting on the parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10:1-18. She said that often her flocks are all mixed up with other sheep when they're watering, but all she has to do is call them and all of her sheep come running. They recognize her voice. This is why we are commanded to pray and read the Book of Mormon every single day. We need to come to know the voice of our Master so completely that the second he calls us we come running. We don't want to be caught mixed in with all the sheep that don't know him. And we want to be like sheep in that we run away immediately if someone who is not our Shepherd calls us. This means when temptation comes, we get out and we don't listen for even a minute. I love the fact that I am able to spend these years of my life helping others to feel the matchless joy that comes from turning to the Holy One of Israel.

I Love you all!!!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Go Team Tainan!

Hello there everybody! Here we are at the start of another glorious week. I attached the two pictures I didn't have time to download last week. One is everyone in the Taizhong mission from my MTC generation, the other is me with Elder Perry, my last companion. I was only with him for three weeks. It's great to read your letters.

In this mission every companionship has a senior companion, whose responsibility is to carry the cell phone, report on stuff, and take the blame when something goes wrong. Well, and kind of be the leader, but mostly we're pretty coequal on that front. Yes, Tainan is in the south. The train ride took about 2 hours. Fun fact: Taibei, Taizhong, and Tainan mean (respectively) Tai-north, Tai-middle, and Tai-south. There's also a Tai-east and Tai-west, but they're pretty small towns.

It's been a great first week here in Tainan City. I've learned a lot and met some wonderful people, and most importantly I've had the opportunity to find and teach many souls prepared by the Lord.

Elder Turk is from Texas, and this is his second move call on the island. He's an awesome missionary. He works hard every moment and is always striving to do everything he can for our investigators. It's been a great help to have him as a junior, because he's been able to show me around the area and I've been able to ease into the duties of being a senior. I think the best thing about serving with him is that we've been able to really try new things and work hard to always be guided by the Spirit. As a result, I believe we've truly seen some great miracles.

One of the miracles we've seen this week has been working with (name). Actually, the first time I even met him was when he came to his baptismal interview on Saturday, but he is truly well prepared by the Lord. He passed his interview and let Elder Bickmore (who's now one of my zone leaders) know that the reason he wants to be baptized is so he can have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then when he came to church on Sunday he brought his Christian girlfriend with him. This man is great, and he's going to be ready to be baptized on the 22nd.

Another person we've been working with is (name), who has twin boys who are seven years old. He's such a humble and nice man, truly desirous to know the truth. His obstacle is that he hasn't yet received an answer about whether these things are true. He believes they're good, but he doesn't know if they're true. We've really been trying to emphasize the role of the Holy Ghost and prayer in his conversion by helping him understand how to pray sincerely and how to recognize his answer when it comes. I feel like we'll see a miracle with this man; right now we just need to patiently and lovingly turn him to his Father in Heaven.

Finally, I'd like to share an experience I had this week. While handing out English flyers, a man walked up to me and wanted to ask me some questions about religion. We talked for a couple minutes and I felt like I needed to give him a Book of Mormon right there on the street. When he came to our first meeting he'd read the answers to all of the questions of the soul in the tract I gave him, and by the second day he'd read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, including the index and bible dictionary in the back. I'm really excited to work with him, because he's obviously been deeply pondering questions of the soul and he realizes that the Book of Mormon contains the answers.

I'm really grateful to the Lord for blessing us with countless miracles this week. I'm really feeling strongly that the Spirit is leading us in this work. One of the best feelings in the world to me is to look back and realize that a choice I made was a prompting of the Spirit and I followed it. I've been really trying to focus lately on following the promptings I receive without hesitation. I'm very humbled to be a part of the Lord's glorious work.

I am feeling so good right now. This is what missionary work is all about--it's about doing things with the Lord's help that would be impossible on our own, a.k.a. miracles. This is not a mundane, everyday work. This is calling on the powers of heaven to guide us and help us reap a great harvest!

I'm also really excited to serve in this district. Our zone leaders are in our district, and they're both hilarious. I got to go on exchanges Saturday with Elder Bickmore, and it was fun to serve with him again. We also have Sister Cooper, the black sister in the group picture I sent today. She absolutely cracks me up. I'm really looking forward to some great things here.

I love you all so much, and I'll talk to you again next week.

Stay strong.



Sunday, January 2, 2011

And a Happy New Year!

Hello there! It's me again, your favorite missionary serving in the Taizhong mission. I hope. It's a new year, with new goals, new plans, a new area, a new companion. Yep, today was move call day. On Saturday we got a call from our district leader telling me that I would be moving to Tainan City and I would be the senior companion. I'm kind of feeling a little overwhelmed--I myself haven't been out here THAT long, and now I'm a senior. My new companion's name is Elder Turk, and he's on his second move call (aka been here for six weeks). He seems like a really good missionary, so it's not like it's all on my shoulders. All the same, I was really surprised and a little nervous. But guess who my zone leader is? Yep--Elder Bickmore. I'm in his district, even. So that should be kind of fun.

As for Chinese New Year, it's not until the beginning of February, and even though I haven't experienced one, I've heard what it's like. It's basically a five-day celebration where people don't go to work and instead have parades and parties and get drunk and worship idols. You know. From what I hear, it's a huge deal.

Well, I'm not sure there's much more to say...I'm still a little in shock I think.

We've been continuing to work with (name), and he's actually progressing really well. When we first started to meet with him he didn't seem really interested and he would forget basically everything we taught him by the next visit. Now he's remembering lots of things and he's got a clear idea for why he wants to be baptized. "Well, of course we need baptism! We all make mistakes, and baptism helps us wash those away and start doing things for Heavenly Father." He's really a great person. I'm sad I won't get to be there for his baptism, but I'm satisfied with knowing that I did what I could to help him on the path back to his Father in Heaven.

Sorry, this is going to be a short letter this week. More to come next week.

I love you all so much! I'll talk to you next week after my first week of serving in Tainan.