Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Which is a holiday they don't celebrate in Taiwan, but I hear you folks in America think it's big business. Just kidding. Well, here I am again at the start of yet another week. This week went by so darn fast, I almost can't believe it.

So, first off, I have some beautiful and exciting news: we have a Costco in our area here!!! It's a huge deal, I don't think you even know. It's famous all throughout Tainan, and people come from all over to shop there. As for me, I enjoyed a week of Costco muffin breakfasts, a gigantic carton of milk, and a ton of spaghetti for Sunday dinners. Not even to mention free samples and giant slices of Hawaiian pizza. It's funny; when you write about shopping at Costco, you use all the really big, heavy words in your vocabulary.

Anyway, on a little more serious note, being a zone leader is really hard. I knew it would be, but it's a lot of stress to have to think about not only our own area but also everyone in the zone. I'm constantly agonizing over members of our zone who it seems are not obedient to the rules, or who are trying hard but still have low numbers. I feel like I don't naturally have the characteristics of an effective leader, and I have to learn how to acquire those. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, because I'm not; I love this chance to serve, it's just that I guess I didn't realize before that it's hard work to lead a zone. I really desire my zone members to have success and it's my responsibility to help them do so.

This week I went over to GueiRen and did companion exchanges with one of our district leaders, who's also training. It was fun, and I learned a lot from this Elder. I also learned a bit more on how to lead. I suppose the Lord doesn't always call those who are already qualified to serve in a position, but often calls those who need more practice and training. I think that's the case with me.

This area has some really great investigators, though. The members are also great. This morning we went and did some service for a member named Brother (name) (no, he's not Taiwanese) and moved furniture for him. Yesterday we went to a barbecue with the (name) family--the husband's Filipino and the wife's Taiwanese--where we met several of Brother (name) Filipino friends and gave them copies of "Ang Aklat ni Mormon." Several of them have great potential, I think. Most of them are here working for three years, in which time they won't get to see their wives and children. That would be really tough. So we'll see if we can bring them the light of the gospel.

Elder Braby's a great Elder. He's very good at working with members--getting to know them, building relations with them, but not wasting the Lord's time doing so. He's also incredibly good at doing impressions of people, mostly other missionaries. It's pretty funny when he does his Elder Cocke. I also can't remember if I told you or not, but Elder Perry is in my zone. He's on his last move call now.

Well, I think that's about all I have to say this week. Tomorrow we will be attending a mission tour by Elder Gerritt Gong of the Seventy. That should be really good. I expect to learn a lot. I sure love you all, and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Till then,

Love you,

Monday, October 24, 2011

You’ll never guess where I am this week

So I'll just tell you. Yes, true to the guesses by all of you and by myself, I finally got kicked out of Tanzi. I was sad to go, but it had to happen. Elder Larson didn't want me to go, which I'll take as a compliment. :) And now I'm writing to you from...Tainan. Yep, I got sent back to nearly the exact same area as I was in before. Nearly eleven months ago I moved to the Tainan 3rd ward, and now I'm in the 4th ward. Same chapel. Same city. But now I'm a zone leader. Yeah, I got a call from President Bishop on Saturday night at about 10:00 and he asked me to lead the Tainan zone. My companion and fellow zone leader is Elder Steven Braby, who came on island the same time as I did.

I'm actually really excited to be back here and have the chance to see my recent converts, to serve my fellow missionaries, and so forth. I'm pretty nervous because I want to be a good leader and I'm not totally sure what I'm doing. But that's what scriptures and prayer and a companion are for, right? To answer your question, Dad, we don't find out who's moving until Saturday night (under usual circumstances) and then the move happens on Monday. I took the train from Taizhong to Tainan at 10:15 this morning. So yeah, that's the big news on this side of the pond.

So, I actually have several funny stories that all happened this week. The first was on Wednesday when Elder Larson and I were tracting some houses before English Class. We knocked on this door and we saw a guy down the hall take a look at us and then run back behind the wall (he was in a shirt and tighty-whiteys). He came back a few seconds later with pants on and ran to the door, and I could tell right away he was drunk as a skunk. He couldn't even focus his eyes on me. But he started yelling at us, insulting us, and basically acting like a guy trying to pick a bar fight. Finally we both decided to just leave, so we said we welcomed him to church and backed away while he yelled something about how Adam and Eve's kids couldn't have possibly had kids together. So there was him, little ball of sunshine.

Then on Friday we were heading to an appointment with the (name) family at night, and I saw two white people with a little stand of magazines on the corner and they said hello to me, so we turned around to talk to them. Just my luck, they weren't innocent magazine salespeople at all, but two Jehovah's Witnesses trying to rope the Filipinos into a "Bible study class." (-_-' ) I felt like Alma and Amulek contending with Zeezrom, because the guy kept asking us questions that he already knew the answer to, trying to cross us in our words. He'd be like "Hm. Ah. That's so interesting, because I just read this part in the Bible..." and pulled out his Watchtower Bible. But I know that God fulfilled his promise that we were not confounded before men. We were both given the words to say, and in the end we were able to just bear pure testimony and leave--if not friends, then at least not enemies. Don't worry, I don't go looking for bible bashes.

The last story is good and funny, not just a "poor Elder Durrant" story. We were teaching (name) and his Filipino grandpa, who is actually super interested in the Book of Mormon. We taught them the kingdoms of glory, telling them that the first kingdom was like the sun, and we're the most happy there, the second is like the moon, not as good as number one, and the third is like the stars, and the sinners go there. (name)was falling asleep because it was about 8:30, so Elder Larson said, "Hey, which kingdom do you want to go to?"
(name): "Number three."
Grandpa: "Number three? Why do you select number three? Why do you do that?"
(name): "I like the stars."
Grandpa: "You cannot select number three! You select number three, you go to hell!"
Elder Larson and I were laughing so hard. If you don't find it funny, have Dillon read it to you in a Filipino accent (sounds like India, more or less).

Anyway, those are my fun stories for the week. Our investigators are doing well. (name)'s grandpa was the surprise investigator who really has a lot of interest. He was so excited to get a Book of Mormon, and he read nine pages even though it's a little tough for him to read English. Elder Larson's going to give him a Tagalog copy. He also would have come to Stake Conference if (name) hadn't slept too late--they were going to ride their bikes there together. It's really cool to see that the Lord is preparing the hearts of the children of men. We may find them in the most unexpected of places, but if we're always looking, we'll find them.

Fun bit of trivia: I'm now in the same apartment Elder Bickmore was in when he was my zone leader. We've got a pretty nice little setup. We're in the An-nan District of Tainan City, which is a lot of countryside and stuff. Elder Braby is from Sandy. I'm pretty excited to be working with him. We'll just have to rely on the Lord to do all we can to help our missionaries hit their own goals. President Bishop is big on that--hitting your own goals.

Well, that letter was exceptionally long. You should be proud of me. I love you all so much, and I wish you well in the coming week. Talk to you next week!


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Weekly Report

Hello everybody! It's me again. Can you believe it's Monday AGAIN? Can you believe it's the last week of the move call AGAIN?

Well, it's the last week of the move call. I hate to say it, but I think it's my last one in Tanzi. I don't want to leave. But after such a long time in one area, it's pretty likely. I don't want to dwell on that, so I'm going to move on.
We've seen a lot of success this week by working with the Bishop. We asked him what he'd like us to do to strengthen the ward and he gave us a list of many 12-25 year old less-active young men who either need to advance in the priesthood or prepare to serve a mission. We've met with many of those people already, one of them came to sacrament meeting yesterday, and we've found two new investigators already. The mother and younger brother of one of the less active members are really desirous to learn more about the gospel, especially because the father of the family passed away only a few days before we went by to visit. The timing could only have been set up by God himself. We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and she read the whole thing by our next visit. At that time she said she wants to completely get rid of all the idols in their house and start to believe in Jesus Christ. I could hardly believe my ears. Usually people are telling me that their ancestors have passed down these traditions for hundreds of years and they can't change now. I wish I could tell them that my ancestors had a tradition of showering once a year and using outhouses, but that doesn't mean I need to follow their tradition. But I don't think they'd take that the right way, so I don't say it. Anyway, she seems really great, and she really desires to follow Jesus Christ.

This week we've actually been really struggling to help our investigators progress. Those we have don't seem willing to be baptized anytime soon. We've really seen a lot of blessings this week in finding new investigators, but we're struggling to find people who will really progress. But then I received a tender mercy during Sunday's personal study. Feeling just a little down after having nobody at church, I read Alma 8. I didn't especially plan it; it was just the next chapter in my daily reading. But it was full of words of comfort and counsel from a loving Father to me. I read that when I am feeling "weighed down with sorrow," I must remember that I have "great cause to rejoice." The Lord is mindful of me and loves me completely. He counseled me to try "another way" (verse 18). So even though I am often disappointed by my mistakes, I can have a fullness of joy in knowing that I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do. The angel told Alma to lift up his head and rejoice, because he had been faithful in keeping the commandments of God. That message filled me with hope, and I too know that my Father loves me and is pleased with me even when things are a little rough.

Well, I'd better wrap up for the week. Who knows what surprises and wonders await us in the next week? We'll find out.

Love you all so much!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Double Ten Day!

Happy Double Ten Day to you. This holiday is very significant to the Taiwanese because, for one, two tens is apparently very lucky. For another, it's like the Fourth of July in America. This holiday is their national birthday. On October 10, 1911, the revolution began which eventually overthrew the Qing Dynasty and established the Republic of China. This is also their centennial celebration of that day. So there's a ton of people getting married today. To celebrate, the Elders in our district went out and did some barbecuing. It was delectable but expensive.

Just a quick explanation--last preparation day we had a zone activity in which we went to a theme park in Houli, which is north of Fengyuan. But only our district showed up. It was so cool, because rain threatened all morning, so almost nobody else came. There were no lines for anything at all. We rode the bumper cars for an hour and rode the roller coaster three times in a row. It was fun, but I'm worried my gut is growing weak from underuse. I got seriously nauseated after a couple of the rides. I hope it isn't true.

So this week was awesome, but it went really fast. Especially with ten hours of General Conference, which was amazing. I really gained a lot of personal revelation, especially regarding how to teach by the Spirit and how to teach people about the Book of Mormon.

We had many miracles this week. I'll just share one or two. Last week we met a man on the street and set an appointment to meet at his house. We went there at the appointed time and only his parents were there. His dad was extremely rude to me and said that his son (who's at least thirty) didn't want anything to do with Christians and turned us away. I'm not proud of it, but I'll admit I was kind of angry. As we were unlocking our bikes I heard a voice I recognized and I looked up to see a former investigator talking to Elder Larson. He was musing about how he always seems to run into us missionaries when he's feeling down and talking about how he wants to come to church, but he has to find new work first, because his current work won't let him. We talked to him, invited him for baptism, and set a time to meet with him. I was very humbled by this experience because it taught me yet again that the Lord is going to put us where He needs us when He needs us there. We didn't go to that house for the guy who set up with us. We went so we could be in this former investigator's path. I shouldn't have let my faith waver for even a second.

I feel great. I'm doing what I love to do. The language, with Heavenly Father's help, is coming more and more easily. People often comment on how I don't speak with a foreigner's accent and on how I can read and write quite a few characters. I don't say that to boast of myself, but to glory in God. The gift of tongues is real. I've pondered a few times what changes I hope you all, including my ward family, will notice in me when I get back. I hope I'm more charitable. I hope I'm more humble. I hope I have learned to set goals and work hard for those goals and not procrastinate. I hope I'll have learned a lot more of the basic and precious doctrines of our church than I ever knew before. So far, on each of these, I feel I've made great progress from who I was before my mission. I've still got a way to go, which is fine because I've still got time. I've got to make this time count.

We're still working with some of those investigators. Brother (name) is still trying to realize that he knows the Book of Mormon is true. The (name) boys think they're not ready for baptism and their mother agrees, so we're trying hard to help them work through that. Sometimes I feel like my weaknesses are too great for me to bear, but I have faith in the promise given in Ether 12:27 that my weaknesses will eventually become strengths. I don't know what else I could have done to help them get baptized before their parents go out of town this weekend. They'll be gone for several months.

Well, time to wrap up. I sure love you all so much. I love to read your emails and write you my own each week. Stay strong and have fun. I'll talk to you next week.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Conference Weekend!

Hello everybody! So good to hear from you all! Sorry this email is so late. We had a rockin' preparation day, so it's about 3:30 right now in Taiwan. I hope you all enjoyed conference. I want to enjoy it so badly! I can hardly wait for this Saturday.

Well, this week was really good, but also really hard. We struggled big time on our key indicators, even though we were working hard every day. That's a big lesson I've learned on my mission--there are going to be ups and downs even when you are being exactly obedient and as diligent as you know how to be. This came to me when I read the story of Abinadi. When he died, he may have thought that he failed and that nobody was converted, but Alma was, and he baptized 204 other people. Contrast that with Ammon, who baptized an entire kingdom of Lamanites. God isn't going to love Ammon more than Abinadi. Both performed the work they were called to perform. I know that the Lord loves us all, and He will not shield any one of us from pain or trial, even if we're being very good.

Brother (name), the bishop's wife's friend from work, is doing really well. He told us that he's had experiences with prayer, scripture study, and church attendance that made him feel he was receiving revelation. I feel we will be able to help him be baptized, mainly because of all the support and encouragement from his member friend. She shares scriptures and experiences with him at work. I really feel that once a person refers a friend to the missionaries and sees the person progress, that member then gets excited about the gospel and the friend's progress. I hope each of you will think hard about which friends you have who you could invite to church or to a youth activity. I know we all have nonmember friends.

Well, time's almost up. I love you all so much and I'll talk to you again next week!