Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

I just realized I have quite a bit to write to you...I completely forgot to tell you about our Christmas Activity we had last Thursday! I was the captain of our bus...which only meant that I had to take head counts and if anyone got left behind it was my fault. I did get to talk on the microphone though. :) We went to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County. It was kind of cloudy, but it was still a very beautiful day. I actually really liked this year's activity because Sun Moon Lake and the two other stops around it are up in the mountains where it's really clear and beautiful. We took a mission picture at the pagoda and then went to another temple and then to a little touristy town where we could buy souvenirs. Like I told you, I was intending to buy some souvenirs, but there was nothing I really wanted there. If I'm going to spend my money, I want something I like that I could keep in my house always. I was looking for some Chinese wall scrolls, but mostly all they had was aborigine stuff that looked just like what you could buy in Moab or Mexico, etc. What more evidence do you need? The Book of Mormon says that Hagoth sailed away and nobody knows where they ended up. Looks like some of them ended up on Taiwan.

Then for dinner we went to the Taichung Steak House like last year. It was really tasty. Especially because this year I avoided the steaks and went for stuff like Mongolian barbecue. Finally, we returned to the mission office chapel and had a Christmas devotional, and then we rode our bus all the way back home. It was a lot of fun, especially just getting to see all the other missionaries, like Elder Larson, Elder Mohr, and Elder Turk. I'll send an email of pictures later.

We're seeing some great blessings in terms of our investigators, too. Brother (name) is willing to be baptized this Saturday...he just needs to tell his parents. They said he could come to church, so I hope and pray that they won't oppose him making his own decision on baptism. We were blessed to find a family of former investigators and started teaching them, too. They've been Christian for four years now, and all because the wife had a dream one night that the Holy Ghost spoke to her. So she instantly converted to Christ and convinced her whole family to go with her. They don't have a church, really--she doesn't think it's important, because as long as you just believe in Jesus you're saved. Didn't He Himself say that not everybody who says "Lord, Lord" will enter into His kingdom, but he who doeth the will of the Father? They're a really nice family, though, and I think they have a lot of potential.

We just got back from a Christmas dinner at a barbecue place, which was very tasty. I ate a lot of sushi and grilled meat.
Well, I think that's just about it. I love you all so much and I'll talk to you again next week.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas from Me to Y'all

Hello everyone! We just got back from a pretty successful zone activity. It was very simple; we just kind of ate pizza and chicken together, but it was great to get the zone together. We were also able to present a tool we created to help them get more member referrals. It's like a little worksheet where members can write names of friends they can invite to hear the gospel, methods they can use, and a place to write a goal of when they're going to do it. I was really excited for it, because 1) It took me a long time to write it all out in Chinese and 2) The idea came like a blast of revelation when I was studying really hard in Preach My Gospel for a way to help our area and the whole zone find more solid new investigators. So I was pleased that it worked out so well.

This week is going to go so fast, I can tell. This Thursday is the ultra-secret Christmas devotional, and all I know about it is that I have to be at the Tainan train station at 4:30 in the morning. Should be a lot of fun.

This week was fun, but also kind of stressful. One kind of fun thing we did was we went with a member to go caroling to some old people. The unfortunate part was that we didn't have time to really teach them much, and none of them lived in our own area. But it was a good opportunity to do some service. One of the old ladies was super happy to have us over, she was laughing and swaying along while we were singing. We said happy Christmas (i.e. Merry Christmas, but in Chinese you say happy Christmas) and she said "Yeah! Happy, happy, everybody's happy!" It was cute. We also had a pretty successful leadership training meeting. I was worried about our presentation, but after a lot of study and prayer we put together a presentation that went pretty well. Our topic was on helping investigators receive revelation through prayer, and we focused our training on helping people have a desire to pray about the Book of Mormon. It turned out pretty well, thanks to the Spirit.

Our investigators are having some troubles right now, actually. I mean, investigators always have problems, but we're trying really hard not to let them drop out. One kid is scared of his family even though he's never actually told them he wants to get baptized. Another guy who quit using drugs so he could get baptized started smoking. I feel confident we can help these and other people get baptized, but I'm really sweating over helping everyone in the zone baptize. I've got to lead by example, but I still don't feel like I'm good enough to do so. Oh well. Luckily we can have faith in Christ instead of faith in ourselves.

I'm sorry this week's letter is kind of short. We're a little short on time today. I hope you have a Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hello again, everyone

Greetings from your favorite missionary in the Taiwan Taichung mission. :)

The thing about Christmas...yeah, it's sad. Like, if you look at Christmas displays in Asia, there is no whiff of anything religious anywhere. It's all Santa and presents. I saw some decorations in a Mos Burger the other day which had a Santa face and the words "Merry XMos." That's three strikes in a row: Santa, X instead of Christ, and inserting their product name. I'm kind of contemplating doing away completely with Santa when I have my own kids. When you think about it, Santa is like idol worship. People leave offerings of cookies and milk to a fat guy who sneaks into their house and leaves them loot. It's so similar to certain forms of Daoism. Anyway, that's another story for another day. Maybe just read 3 Nephi or Luke, because if the world won't remember Christ, at least we will. :)

A couple funny stories about McDonald's I never told you before: 1. Taiwan does Coke cups too. This summer I earned several of those gluttony trophies--all you have to do is buy a "MegaMac" value meal (a 4-patty Big Mac) and upgrade to large. Whoof. My poor heart. 2. A couple weeks ago there was a huge line at Mai-Dang-Lao (McDonald's). The quarter-pounder had just been introduced and they were giving a free one to everybody who would pose for a picture with it. We refused. After all, we're representatives of Jesus Christ, and we're not going to end up on some advertisement for quarter pounders.

This was a hectic week. I felt like it slipped right by and we didn't get nearly everything done that we needed to do. We have several investigators who are doing really well and progressing to be baptized on Christmas Eve. I'm a little worried because we haven't had many new investigators lately, so our pool of investigators is not as full as I'd like it. We're going to work hard to find more this week, though. One of the miracles was that the (name) Family came to church for the third time yesterday. This guy has made a great change in the month we've known him. The first time we met with him he had some crazy YiGuanDao beliefs, and he believed his daughter had been to heaven and talked to spirits and all sorts of weird craziness. The last couple times at church he hasn't mentioned YiGuanDao once, and he even said he'd be baptized when he knows that this church is true. Wow! He's been bringing two of his three kids each time (different two each time). I think he's afraid of his wife, though, because he won't let us come over to his house to teach him and we've never met her. He says she's a very devout YiGuanDao. We'll see what we can do for them.

This week we'll be having a leadership training meeting, and for the first time I'll have to participate in it instead of just going along for the ride. Each zone leader companionship presents a one-hour training session on some aspect of missionary work. Our topic is helping investigators receive revelation through prayer. I'm excited for this; I definitely feel like it's a challenge at times to help investigators really understand what prayer actually is. In the culture of Daoism and Buddhism, you just go to the miao and use incense and pray to the gods there when you need help, but nobody really gets that there is a God in Heaven who is listening to every prayer and will answer them through His own method. To be fair, I don't think I developed a really good habit of prayer until I became a missionary (and I sometimes still don't pray as well as I ought to).

How fast time goes...the Christmas activity is almost here already. Scary. My time is getting shorter, so I feel an even more urgent need to baptize more people. I've got to find those families! We're still working with the (name) family. The boys are awesome as always, and the mom is also really cool. The dad knows what's right and what he ought to do, but for some reason he's not doing it. I think he even wants to change the way his life is right now, but maybe he's just not motivated enough to act. We're going to try and get those boys to come to church and seminary and start showing a good example to their parents. I think the mom could come around really easily if she can find a way to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

That's all the time I have this week. I love you all so much and I hope you all have a fantastic week.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy December!

I learned something funny recently that made me think of you. In Taiwan older people will say they have "lao hua yan," which just refers to how older people often start to get farsighted. But it's funny because that literally translates to "old flower eyes." I don't know why, but I think it's funny anyway. I might call you old flower eyes sometimes. ;)

Well, this was a really good week. Elder Braby and I are still in Tainan. We just got back from the train station, where we had some all you can eat pizza with some of the other Elders. I'm feeling really excited for this month, because we have some great goals that are going to be tough, but I feel we can hit. We've started a sort of weekly zone newsletter, which I wrote during my dinner yesterday and copied today. I think it'll be a big help. We're working on really fostering some zone unity and getting people excited to hit our goals. We've named our zone "Team Tainan." I remember in an interview several months ago I asked President Bishop how I can personally have more urgency and fire in my work. He told me that the key was to have a goal or vision of where I want to be, and then work my hardest toward that goal. I think that applies to a zone, a family, a ward, a school, or any group. If you all have a common goal that you all want really badly to accomplish, you'll be much more united and more willing to work hard.

And (name) was baptized and confirmed this weekend! He looked so happy. He's really felt the Spirit testify strongly to him of the truth of our message, I can tell. It's truly been a miracle to see him baptized, because for those two weeks we were afraid he was gone completely and we didn't have his address. But the Lord told us not to give up on him, and because of some inspiration in personal study, good plans in companion study, and a spiritual atmosphere in his lessons, we were able to teach him exactly what he needed to know and he felt the Spirit. That personal study time is vital. I am confident that the Lord will prepare His worthy servants who obediently study in the morning with the things they will need during the day. And that's not just for missionaries. Starting the day with scripture study is ideal for everyone. I'm really happy I got to know Brother (Name) and help him be baptized. He'll be a great member. Sorry, I forgot my camera today. I'll send you a picture next week.

We're working with a couple of wonderful families right now. The (name) family (did I tell you about them already? the family with three sons?) is doing well. I think we're getting the ward pumped up to rescue this family, and we're also working on getting the boys involved in church activities like seminary where they can meet friends. They're such a good family. Turns out the mom is baptized as well, so we've just got to get those parents active and get them to bring their whole family to church. I love them a lot, and I want really badly to help them get baptized before my time in Tainan is over.

Well, it's about time to wrap up, I guess. It's good to write to you all. I love you and I pray for you as always.