The biggest celebration of the whole year is now underway here in Taiwan. The shops are closed, there are fireworks going off all around at random hours, and the work of the Lord is still rolling on.
Well, my new companion Elder Jensen is from Alabama. He is indeed the one who got into the MTC six weeks before me. He's going home in April. Sometimes President Bishop does that--gives some Elders the last move call or two to serve as a zone leader. I'm sure Elder Jensen could have been a zone leader long ago, except he was needed in the office. He is planning on studying accounting at BYU when he gets back, he's the youngest of three children, and he, like myself, lost a ton of weight on his mission.
I thought I'd tell you all some of the traditions of Chinese New Year. Last night we had dinner with the Bishop and his family, and there are a couple of special foods that they always eat on New Year's Eve (last night). One is called nian cai (or "year vegetable"). It's basically a stalk of spinach with the root still on the bottom, and the tradition is that you eat it starting at the root and work your way up, and you can't bite it until the whole thing is in your mouth, because it represents your life. After you've eaten the nian cai you can count that you've gotten a year older; everyone gets a year older on the same day, so if you count by the Chinese standard, a baby born two days before New Year would be counted as two years old a week later, because he's one year old when he's born and two years old at the new year. Crazy.
The other traditional food is called nian gao, or year cake. It's this sticky, sweet cake the consistency of Jell-o, which is then covered in a very thin shell and fried. It's very tasty. I don't think there's any significance to it except that it's yummy.
This last week was pretty successful. We were blessed to find many more new investigators, including yet another very nice family. The problem is that most people are telling us lately that they can't meet again until after the New Year. So lots of people have potential, but we have to kind of wait for a few days. The 19-year-old and his brother have been meeting with us this week. They're pretty cool still, but I can't figure out where their real interest is. Are they genuinely interested, or just wanting to learn about our beliefs? I don't really know, but they are willing to read the Book of Mormon and pray, and that's one of the most important battles. It's like Alma says to Helaman in Alma 37: "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." Those who read and pray bring about great changes in their lives. Those who stop doing those things find out that their spirituality dies quickly. Joseph Smith said it too, that a great ship can be influenced by a very small helm. So as long as they're doing those things, I believe they can progress.
We also started meeting with an investigator who just called me up on Tuesday saying that he wanted to meet. Turned out that he was almost baptized about six months ago, but because of a back problem he couldn't come to church for awhile. He's a little bit special, but definitely still accountable and needs baptism. Actually, we didn't even really invite him that first lesson, because we wanted to first make sure he needed it, but after the lesson he said "So, when can I get baptized? I really want the gift of the Holy Ghost." It blew me away for a second, I just kind of looked at him, blinking. Then we invited him for a goal in February so he can first reestablish a pattern of coming to church each week.
Well, that's about all for this week. We're looking forward to a great new week, new year, a zone conference on Thursday, and lots of proselyting.
Talk to you again next week,