Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy 感恩節 (Thanksgiving)!

Hello again from my side of the pond! Happy Thanksgiving to y'all. My Thanksgiving dinner was a tasty bian-dang, which is kind of like Panda Express. You get rice, three kinds of vegetables, and some kind of meat, like a fried chicken steak or beef or whatever. Mine was beef steak with black pepper sauce. Yum. I've gotta learn to make some of my favorite Chinese foods so I can still enjoy them in America. Have any of you ever tried curry? It's delicious.

I love reading stories of Book of Mormon missionaries. It really does humble me to remember that nothing I go through can compare to what Alma, Abinadi, Amulek, Ammon, Aaron, Nephi and Lehi suffered just so they could save the souls of some of their brethren. I just realized how many great missionaries' names started with A. Hm.

I am indeed excited for Christmas. Christmas will hopefully be the day that one or more people receive the best gift of all--the gift of the Holy Ghost. We're working with a guy right now who has more faith in Christ and more desire to be baptized than I think I've ever seen in anyone before. His obstacle is he's working through an addiction to drugs, but he really feels he can be ready for baptism on Christmas Eve. We hope so as well.

This week was power week, and we really saw some amazing miracles. Yeah, I said it again, but who can deny that they're miracles? Thursday was power "flood the Earth with the Book of Mormon" day, where we tried to place as many copies of the Book of Mormon as possible. Technically, we don't track that number anymore, but we did it for this one day. We placed over 1000 copies with about 80 companionships. We were giving them to people as we tracted, we gave them to people at the restaurants where we always was a lot of fun. And on Friday we did "power member splits day."

Elder Braby met with some progressing investigators with one member as his companion, and another member went with me to go visit a couple of new investigators we were scheduled to meet at their homes. One of these was the (name) family (pronounced like Jung--that last part sounds like the end of the word 'stung'). I found them a week ago as I was calling former investigator records. The record said it was a family of five and when I called them they were willing to meet. When we got there on Friday night, it turned out that the dad and the oldest son were already baptized. The mom and the two younger sons haven't yet. The mom wasn't there, but we taught a simple lesson to the dad and the three boys, who are in 5th, 8th, and 9th grade. They are such a cool family. The boys were all really respectful and they read the scriptures with us and answered our questions. Brother (name) said he's been teaching his boys to pray every night even though they haven't been coming to church. I have really high hopes that as we work hard and have members involved in the teaching process, we can help this family return to activity and get everybody baptized so that they can prepare for a sealing in the temple.

Brother (name) is good to go for his baptism this Saturday. He's doing so well--the members love him and he showed up early to set up the chairs. If that isn't a miracle story, then I don't know what is. I'm so happy that he's going to enter into this covenant with our Heavenly Father. We've also got a couple of other great investigators who are looking solid to be baptized in December. The Lord's been blessing us richly these past couple of weeks.

I don't really know what else to say. Today Elder Braby and I are probably going to take it a little easy, write some letters, clean the apartment, and maybe watch the Thomas S. Monson documentary, "On the Lord's Errand." I'm kind of amassing a sizable library of church media. It's great. Have you ever seen "Special Witnesses of Christ"? It's the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve bearing testimony of various gospel topics (for instance, President Hinckley standing in the Sacred Grove bears testimony of the First Vision, Elder Holland standing in the Garden of Gethsemane testifies of the Atonement). Great stuff. Great for family home evenings.

Well, that's about it I suppose. I sure love you all very much. I know that the Lord's watching over each and every one of us. Remember that even the strongest testimony will die very quickly if not nourished daily by personal prayer and scripture study.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Hello there everyone

Top of the Monday to you. It's great to hear from you all this week.

Thanksgiving crept up on me last year, but this year a few people have been reminding me of it. We do run into foreigners once in awhile. Every Sunday, actually. The Tainan Fourth Ward has Sunday School classes in English and an interpreter at Sacrament Meeting, so we have about three families of Americans in our ward. Or should I say, three American men who married Asian women and are living in Taiwan. They're all really nice though.

The car horn honking...once in awhile we'll get an American who rides by flipping us off and yells something, but he's going so fast I can't make it out. It's more funny than offensive. We also get a lot of groups of Taiwanese teenagers who ride by on their white scooters and yell "HELLO HOW ARE YOUUU!" It's pretty hilarious.

Zone leading is going pretty well so far. I am still trying to get used to it all, but I have had a lot of support from President Bishop. I love that man. Elder Braby is from Sandy, UT, and he's been in Tainan for three months longer than I have. He's a great missionary, and he had a lot of success in his previous area because he worked really well with the ward members to get people baptized. Exchanges work like this: we'll usually go once or twice a move call with each Elder companionship, and one of us will go to the other area with the senior companion and the other will take the junior companion to our area.

On your mission did you have two zone leaders per zone? That's the way ours is; Elder Braby and I are the zone leaders, but it seems in some missions they just have one zone leader. In our zone we have 20 missionaries (well, 19 now that one of the Elders left early). There are eight zones in the Taichung mission: North Taichung, Taichung, ZhangHua, NanTou, Jia-Yi, Tainan, West Gaoxiong, East Gaoxiong. I actually don't know how many missionaries in the mission. A lot more now that we've had so many new missionaries come in.

Answers to questions I have been asked:

1. My mission is going really well. There are hard times and happy times, but I regret nothing so far.

2. I've taught a lot of people, but families...fewer than I'd wish for. A lot of people think their family would be angry if they tried to share the gospel with them.

3. School is so much more stressful than a mission. And not nearly as satisfying.

4. The language is working pretty well. Actually, I feel like I need to study it harder. I feel like I'm busier than ever and I haven't been studying enough.

5. Last year I tried to get a flu shot, but I didn't know how to say it. I went to the doctor and used the phone dictionary to show the word, and I said "I need this." They looked at me kind of funny, but took my 150 kuai and sat me down. Before he needled me he asked me why I didn't look like I had any symptoms. My eyes got all wide and I said "I'm not sick yet! I need the thingy that makes it so I won't get sick!" He said "Oooooh! That! That's only 50 kuai." And he gave me 100 kuai. I still shudder to think what kind of sicko shot he was about to give me. O_O

6. The Lord called me to be a missionary for two years. I want to give it my all for those two years, so I don't dwell on coming home. I know the day will come, and when it's time I'll be happy for that as well. The Lord wants me to be a missionary, but then He also wants me to move on to the next phase of life.

7. Yes. In fact, if anyone wanted to come here on a graduation trip or just a vacation, I'd be happy to play tour guide. I also hope to be able to come back and see some people/families I baptized sealed in the temple.

This was an excellent week. On Tuesday night I had a dream that we found that investigator who disappeared, overcame his concern, and he was baptized the next week. Elder Braby and I both felt that I had that dream for a reason, so we kept trying to get ahold of him. Wednesday night he finally answered the phone, and on Thursday we met with him. We were able to share a scripture with him that answered his concern and helped him feel the Spirit really strongly. In his closing prayer he thanked Heavenly Father for the Spirit and how he could feel such a happy feeling. He wants to be baptized next Saturday. I thank my Heavenly Father that He told us not to quit trying even though Brother (name) hadn't answered his phone for nearly two weeks.

We're seeing a lot of success this week with our investigators. I love these people so much. What makes me happiest is to see them start to really love coming to church and reading the scriptures and praying. We have several people who are firm on their decision to be baptized in December, and I'm feeling really confident we'll see a white Christmas Eve (baptism) and one or more confirmations on Christmas Day. I'm finding that leading a zone is very much outside of my comfort level, but I am grateful to the Lord for giving me this opportunity to serve others. I find that my love grows and grows as I think about and serve 18 other missionaries. The Lord is helping me to fill a position that I of myself have no power to fill.

I'm not sure what else to write...and my time's almost up as is. I guess I'll wrap things up for now. I love you all so much. Know that I am always praying for all of you and that I know the Lord is with us when we go through trials in life.

I love you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekly report November 14, 2011

I cannot even believe it's been another week. I think I've been twice as busy, so time has been flying by at at least double the speed.

It's been a great week, mostly. We had another investigator just up and disappear. I hate it so much when that happens--they refuse to answer your calls or anything. It's so sad because if they would just talk to us maybe we could resolve their concern. But the Taiwanese culture is about "face" (just another word for pride). If you can't keep a commandment or you are afraid to get baptized you just try to avoid seeing the missionaries ever again so you don't lose face. I love these people too much to just let them vanish. We'll be praying that we just run into him on the road this week.

We have some really promising investigators, though. One is a nineteen year old kid who likes coming to church and has been willing to live every commandment we've taught him so far...except baptism. He's afraid his family would oppose. We're working to help him work through that. Another man has been struggling for a long time with a heroine addiction. We met with him and the bishop, and that man has more faith than I've seen in a lot of active members. He wants very badly to be baptized and begin a new life; he wants to wash away his past sins. He believes in the power of Christ's atonement. We gave him the 12 Steps to Addiction Recovery workbook made by the church, and he currently has a goal to be baptized on Christmas Eve. There are some really great people here in Tainan, and I'm loving the chance to work with them.

Not sure what else to report on. Hm. I got to go on exchanges with Elder Dong this week. He's the district leader and he's in my old area of the Tainan 3rd ward. It was fun; I got to go see some old investigators and I got to visit my recent convert and good friend (name). They're trying to slowly convert his wife, because the other three in the family are all baptized. She's super fierce, though. Yells a lot. But she's got a good heart, so I think with time she will come around.

It rained a ton this last week. My goodness. Thursday it rained all day long without ceasing, and all the investigators who set up to meet with us released our pigeons (it's a Chinese expression that means stood us up; didn't come to their appointment). However, Heavenly Father answered our prayers. It was really cold and rainy after lunch and we prayed that either the rain would stop or we'd be strengthened to be able to work anyway. Shortly after our prayer, we felt that the rain was a little warmer and just a bit lighter.

I'm afraid that's all I can think to say about this week. Sorry this letter's a little shorter. I want you to know I love you all so much, and I pray for you. Have fun and good luck in this week's day-to-day.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Hello again

Hi there, everyone! Our week was great as well, but as usual super busy.

I learned something funny last week: it's apparently very bad luck to give someone a clock as a gift. You never ever do that. It apparently sounds like a curse that you want the person to die. I don't quite get it, but some people take it very seriously. Seems a missionary once gave one of our investigators a clock because he said he had trouble getting up on time for church. He told us he was seriously weirded out by it.

By the way, I'm jealous of the fuji apples. Good fujis are really expensive here. Then again, I won't complain, because where in America can you find guavas or mangoes?

This week we had a meeting with Elder Gerritt Gong of the Seventy. It was a really great meeting, and he emphasized that all of us need to learn the first vision and the invitation for baptism word for word as it is written in Preach My Gospel so that we can tell them to investigators with power and feeling. "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by one holding priesthood authority from God?" I also learned a lot about leadership, because he held a Q&A session at the end and one Elder asked exactly the question I wanted to ask--what makes a good leader, or what are some attributes I can develop in myself to be a more inspiring leader? Elder Gong didn't even say this, but the Holy Ghost brought to my mind President Monson. Have you ever heard anybody say they don't like President Monson? No. People will follow him to the ends of the earth for two reasons: one, they feel that he truly, completely, and honestly loves them, and two, because they trust him and believe that his counsel is inspired of God. So I really pondered that a lot and thought about how I can emulate him in any way.

This week we saw some miracles (there I said it again...) in finding. I went on exchanges twice in a row, both times bringing the junior companion to our area. It was an adventure, because I didn't really know the area very well still. However, with both missionaries we contacted a person who turned out to be really awesome and very well prepared to hear the gospel. One is a 19-year-old kid. He came to church on Sunday and heard the law of chastity in his first Sunday School lesson. I was kinda worried that he wouldn't take it well, but after church he told us how great he thinks it is, and he said "I learned an important truth today. I agree with this law."

The other guy is about forty-something and unmarried. He told us in our first meeting that he met with us because he wants to know his purpose in life. He said usually he comes home from work and smokes and drinks and watches TV until it's time to go to sleep, then he wakes up, goes to work, and repeats day after day. He felt like it was pointless and self-destructive, and then we happened to talk to him and invite him to come unto Christ and he accepted. I remember that contact. I saw him standing outside 7-Eleven and the Spirit nudged me to talk to him. I kind of rode past him and the Spirit pressed again (still very gently, but distinctly), so I hit the brakes and turned around, getting to him just as he was starting up his scooter and getting ready to go. Elder Haag, the Elder I was exchanging with, came over with me and we taught this man about the restoration of the one and only true church on the earth.

He set up to meet, and on Saturday night we learned just how prepared he is to receive the gospel. We introduced the Book of Mormon, and before we even had time to say we would give him one, he said, "Can I buy one from you? I really want to read it." Few things put a smile on a missionary's face like teaching somebody who's that willing and desirous to draw near unto God. It makes a thousand rejections worth it. It makes me feel like Aaron teaching the Lamanite king in Alma 22, when the king says "What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God...Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy." That's the mark of an honestly repentant soul. He's willing to pay any price to be reconciled with God.

I think the biggest challenge of being a zone leader is that I feel a strong personal burden to help my zone members succeed. When numbers are sinking, faith is diminishing. I want to be a good leader and rekindle the fire of faith in those I serve. I'm just not sure I know how. However, I have faith that Heavenly Father will be with me and will inspire me. He always has in the past. He's pretty reliable that way. ;)

Well, I'm basically out of time now. I love telling miracle stories, though. Miracles, miracles, miracles. They really build my faith. I think I said the word about five times in this one email. :)

I love you all so much. I love this work so much. I know that Heavenly Father is blessing all of us in diverse ways. He lives, and His Son Jesus Christ lives. I know they appeared to a young boy named Joseph Smith in a grove of trees. I'll talk to you all again next week!

Love, Carter