Monday, May 30, 2011

Hi there, my family!

Hello from Taiwan...again! As I predicted, this last week went crazily fast. It's great to hear from you all again and tell you how things have been going here in Tanzi.

I was wondering if you've been having a cold spring, because all the pictures in the conference Liahona were snowy and cloudy. Speaking of the conference Liahona, that was the most breathtaking cover to a Liahona/Ensign I've ever seen. And I also saw three people I knew inside. All from our ward. Maybe you already know, but if you don't, see if you can "I spy" Elder and Sister Caldwell and Elder Eythan Barney on the inside. That was kind of fun.

Before I forget, you asked me to just tell you if I need anything. This isn't a need, per se, but the next time you happen to send something my way I'd love more music. Especially a greater variety of Mormon Tabernacle Choir and possibly some EFY music if you have any. Like I said, not a big deal, but it'd be nice to have. :)

This week we had the great privilege of having a mission conference on Friday with Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy as the main speaker. It was a really awesome conference, and I learned a lot about how to be a better teacher. His main topic or theme was basically that we missionaries are not teaching anything new or foreign to these people. These are they who are choice sons and daughters of God, who received their first lessons in the world of spirits. He focused on how we can focus on helping people feel the Spirit, which will contact their spirits and uncover what is already there. That, I think, is why people always say that the Spirit feels good, because it's how they used to feel living in Heavenly Father's presence.

This week was also the baptism of (name). He's doing really well. He's got a lot of friends and when he bore his testimony at the baptism he was kind of shy and didn't know what to say, but I felt that he really has changed and he really does know this church is true. The only reason he wasn't confirmed is because his mother is in the hospital very unexpectedly, and he had to go take care of her. I have no doubt that next week he'll be able to be confirmed. I'm so glad because we've gone a long time without baptizing, and (name) is a very good young man who was well prepared to receive the gospel.

We've been seeing progress with many of our other investigators as well. One man we found on the street, who happens to be the cousin of an active member in the ward, has been meeting with us more and more frequently. His name is (name), and he's really seeking truth and meaning in his life. He's gone through some hard times--his mom died from cancer last year--and I feel like he knows what we teach is good. The only problem is that he is very unmotivated. He says sometimes he just doesn't want to care about whether or not God exists. I think he'll be fine, we just have to help him change that way of thinking and see that what he's been searching for is right here in front of him. Today we're going to focus on prayer, so we'll see how it goes.

Brother (name) is doing well. We met with him on Friday and it turns out he's not as willing to be baptized as we were hoping. He says being an investigator is good enough for him. I'm afraid we didn't have the time to really overcome this concern, but we'll continue to help him. His daughter and wife both really want him to be baptized, so their love for him will certainly be a key factor.

Well, that's about all I have this week. It sure is good to talk to you all each week. Know that I love you and I pray for you every night.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy May 23, everybody!

Hello again at the end of another short week! And the beginning of probably an even shorter one (more on that later). It's so good to hear from you all!

I love studying the New Testament. Especially when I study it alongside Jesus the Christ. I'll admit, when you first gave me that book I didn't have a great desire to read it. On my mission, though, it's one of the most amazing books I've ever read. Elder Talmage really has a way of putting it into context and helping me really understand what happened in the life of Jesus Christ.

The exciting news this week is that (name) is going to be baptized this weekend. He had his test this last weekend, so he couldn't come to church, but we're good to go for this week. I feel like the Lord has really blessed us with him. We've gone quite a while without baptizing, and it's a real blessing to have an investigator who is willing and who has good friends at church. We're also planning to meet with him this week with the Bishop as our peike (the member who accompanies you in the lesson), so that should be a good opportunity for the Bishop to get to know him and also to give him some advice and so forth. He's a good kid. I just feel strongly that this week we have to focus hard on two things: helping him really feel the reality and importance of the atonement in his life, and helping him get set on the track to enduring to the end. I want to point him to the priesthood, the temple, and callings at the early stages so that he will join the church to stay.

The Lord has given us many wonderful blessings and miracles. Satan would tempt me to believe there have been no miracles, but this is a lie. For instance, the one person we had at church is a man named Xie MingKen. His wife and daughter are both members, but they've been less active for awhile. They recently started coming back, and he wants to be baptized and join his family. He doesn't have a goal currently, but that's just because he can't meet until Friday. He's been to church many times, so depending on how much he knows already he can drop in and be baptized soon. I know the Lord has seen our efforts and has showered blessings upon us.

Though I am one of the weakest of the weak things of the world, He gives me strength to do things far beyond my ability. For instance, I've made a decision that this time I'm going to be the best district leader I can possibly be. I'm afraid most of my life callings have been basically like an assignment to take care of such and such duty, but I haven't given my all to those callings. I've decided I'm going to do all I can to lift, inspire, and bless my district and give my all to my investigators as well.

It's been super rainy for the last couple of days. Apparently there's a typhoon coming soon, so we keep having spurts of downpour followed by a little sunshine and then swirly clouds and then more downpour. But typhoons in the Taizhong area are nothing compared to typhoons way down south in Donggang.

Anyway, some cool news this week: on Friday we're having a mission conference, and Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy is coming to visit. We also have a combined district training meeting on Tuesday, so that's why I said this week will be going fast. I'm really looking forward to it; I think it will be a really spiritually renewing experience.

That's...about it. We're just going to bike up to Fengyuan today and eat an all-you-can-eat hot pot with Elders Nelson and Perkins. Elder Perkins is a trainee, so we'll see if he can eat very much. I guess I'll leave it at that today. I sure love all of you and I love to hear from you. Remember to endure to the end at school and so on. I'll talk to you again next week.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekly Letter to Family, May 16, 2011

Well, things have been going well this week. Our investigator with a week B goal, (name), passed his baptismal interview and came to church for his third time this week. He would have rolled into week A (translation: get baptized this week) if it weren't for the fact that he's got a big test all day Saturday and all morning Sunday. So even if we did get him baptized on Friday or late on Saturday he wouldn't be able to be confirmed for a whole week. But he's still really willing and he's doing well. I'm confident he will be baptized this month on the 28th. The only thing I'm a little worried about with him is that when he comes to church it seems like he is pretty irreverent and rowdy during classes. I'm just a little concerned he's not getting baptized to grow closer to God, but so that he can be with friends. I'm not saying having friends is bad or anything, but we will focus this week on helping him to really feel the serious and sacred nature of the covenant he is going to be making at the end of this month.

We're also working hard to help complete part member families. So far we've got some really promising looking families who want to return to activity and who have family who haven't been baptized. It looks like the time has passed for me to baptize a whole family and see them sealed in the temple. But I'm fine with that--it had to have been Heavenly Father's will, because I feel like I really worked my hardest this first year. If nothing else, I'll fly back to Taiwan on my own wallet to see a family I baptized get sealed together.

I just want to say that being a missionary is the sweetest joy I've ever experienced so far in my life. In the process of sacrificing my entire will to my Heavenly Father and doing what He wants me to do for His glory, I am becoming the man he wants me to be. I got a letter this week from Elder Turk, and inside was a photocopy of a testimony written by (name). You remember him? He was about to be baptized in Tainan and I got emergency moved. This testimony just filled my heart with joy as I read the words of that man I love so much telling the story of how he got into a car crash which severely impaired his movement (he always did walk with a limp, and he had a bad back). Afterward he was depressed and tried to find fulfillment in attending Buddhist and Confucian religious meetings, but not until Elder Turk and I introduced him to the Book of Mormon did he find something that satisfied his hunger for something more.

I know that the message I bring is real, is true, and will heal all the nations of the world as they convert to their Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

I love you all so very much. I'll talk to you again next week; I'm sure it won't seem like very long at all! :)


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Here I am talking to you again

Well, I only have a few minutes now, so I'll have to copy and paste what I wrote for my President's email:

(name) is doing well. He was already on his way to church when I called him Sunday morning, and I think he's enjoying himself at church more and more. We're working on helping him really feel what the atonement is about so that he can develop a stronger testimony. Just as you told us today, I want to help him gain a lasting conversion, and I think as he builds good friendships with good LDS young men he can develop just such a testimony.

We have a few other great investigators, most of whom were member referrals. Both 9-year-old (name) and 60-something-year-old (name) were referred by our second counselor in the Bishopric, who just called us and said he'd been thinking of some less active families and invited them to come back to church, and they were willing to come. They're great people. I haven't had a whole lot of chances to meet with and get to know them, but these families are very desirous to return to activity and really endure to the end.

We had another investigator named (name) who is really well prepared. He meets with us and reads the Book of Mormon because he has a feeling when he does so that is unlike anything he's felt before. He was confirmed to come to church by a member on Saturday night, but then didn't show on Sunday. I called him all throughout the day and he never did answer the phone. So that was disappointing, but we'll get in touch with him and set a new goal to help him work toward baptism.

I totally agree with what Dad said to all of us this morning--a testimony is not something that can be gained and then you're good to go. It has to be constantly nourished like a little plant, or it will wither away and die and nothing will be left. I'm so glad that I have this chance to be the voice and hands of the Lord in Taiwan. I get to bear my testimony hundreds of times a week, thousands of times per transfer. I love this work so much. I said that when I talked to you, but I know that this is true. God lives and His Son Jesus Christ, who is the literal God of this world, suffered Himself to come into the world and sacrifice His life to save us. We, worthless as we are, were worth it to Him.

I love you all, and I'll talk to you next week!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy almost Mother's Day!

Hi everybody! How are you all doing this week? It's so good to hear from you again...but seriously, has it really been a week? I swear it's only been a couple of days.

Well, things have been going well here in Tanzi. We're almost at the end of my seventh move call out of sixteen. It's so weird to think how fast the time is going. I want there to be no mistaking it, I love-love-love being a missionary. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the most rewarding. This is the time when you become who the Lord wants to make of you (or at least, get on the right track). Girls, even if you don't decide to go on a mission (though I think you'd love it), look for a man who didn't just go on a mission, but was changed by his mission in all the right ways.

I finished the Book of Mormon this week. Over the past three months of studying, marking, and pondering the Book of Mormon, my testimony of this marvelous book has grown immensely. Something that impressed me today was how Moroni really knew what it meant to endure to the end of his ministry. He still had a little time left, and instead of resting he wrote just a little more, and as a result we have the sacrament prayers, a discourse on infant baptism, and of course Moroni's promise at the very end. We can all learn from him and push forward, not resting until the very end comes. I also took Moroni's exhortation to ask God the Eternal Father if the Book of Mormon is true, and I had a very special and spiritual experience. I don't recall ever feeling the Spirit so intensely testify to me that that book is the very word of God. There is no doubt that the Book of Mormon is the word of God given to us in these days to convince us to come to Jesus Christ and be baptized in His restored church.

We're also still struggling to help our investigators progress. The fifteen year old who is going to be a daddy soon can't legally get married until he's sixteen. We want to help him gain a desire to be baptized that is so strong he'll do anything it takes to get that privilege. We have a lot of great people we're working with, but they all have something or other in their way. We also have some new ones who I can see starting to progress this week. So I'm sorry I don't have lots of investigator news to update you on today.

Love you so much!