Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011 - No Traffic Accidents--Just Spider Bites

Where to begin? I don't remember lots about this week, but I guess I'll take it day by day.

Last Monday was P-day.  We took this little mountain train up into a little mountain town called Neiwan. It's absolutely beautiful up there. It's actually a decent tourist attraction and they have a little street with a bunch of neat shops. They also have a couple really cool suspension bridges. We're talking the kind with wood planks that sway when you cross. They were really cool. Because we were up in the mountains I wanted to hike, so we found a cool trail and just started hiking. As we started hiking, I felt myself walk through a spider web. Then I felt a little bit later like I had been bit, but it didn't itch like the spider bites I've had before. Wake up Tuesday morning and my arm is HUGE!! Very swollen. We had to go into XinChu for district meeting and I called the mission Nurse. He told me to get the XinChu hospital immediately. They put me on some really expensive antibiotics and they've worked. My arm isn't swollen anymore and doesn't hurt anymore. I didn't see the spider I was bit by, but I still haven't been able to climb walls or shoot web, so I don't think It's the same one that bit Peter Parker.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was on exchanges. I was with an Elder Chung in Xiangshan. He's Taiwanese but he looks Filipino. It was fun because he is a really fun elder with a great sense of humor.

This week was also Mission Conference!!! We had Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy come and speak to us. It was awesome. It was fun to see all the missionaries in the mission, and to learn by the spirit. Elder Vandenberghe, my MTC companion is in the Zone neighboring ours. I've seen him once at zone conference, once at temple day, and then at mission conference. He's doing really well and it's funny because we're like best friends now. I can't wait to get an exchange or something later on and do real missionary work with that kid. It will be a lot of fun! looking forward to it.

This week the work has been great. We had the craziest day at church yesterday. My companion was sitting next to a less active who was back to church for the first time in a long time. He got up during the hymn between speakers and left. I had a strong feeling to go after him, and then I disregarded it, but then I got slapped with the spirit to go after him, so I turned to my companion who was a row back and across the aisle, and said I feel like we need to go after him. He was the one who had been sitting by him, and looked out the door of the chapel and said "He's just getting water." I turned back around and resumed my singing. Then my comp tapped my shoulder 30 seconds later and we went. He was trying to make a getaway and we convinced him to come back in, but I later realized that getting him back to the meeting wasn't why I was prompted to go after him. After we talked to him and got him back inside, we ran into another family who was leaving. My companion thought they were just some less actives but I suggested we talk to them. We found out they were not members, and that they came to check it out. We set up a time to visit them and teach them about the gospel.

So after that we're still outside while people are inside speaking, and I see a mom that I had contacted the night before on the street, show up with her husband and her son. We were able to be outside and show them where to go and how to get in, because of the original prompting to go after the less active that bolted. This family was able to make a lot of friends in the meetings that followed and we set up a time to go meet with them. It turned out to all work out amazingly. 

At the conclusion of the meeting a less active named Karen bolted out quick. I felt prompted to chase her down, so there we were outside again. Karen is in my English class. She's awesome, I invited my English class to church and she came. That's when we learned that she was a less active member. The missionaries before had never asked. So outside in the parking lot we talked to her a bit and found out her concern and why she doesn't like going to the last 2 hours of church. We began talking to her and explained how the atonement and God's plan allows us to be happy in this life, as well as the life to come, She said that she feels like she just has to wait until the next life to be happy. Then I asked if we could sing Be Still my Soul to her. The spirit was really, really strong, and it was amazing. I then asked if we could give her a Liahona article to read and so we met up with her later in the day and gave her that. I hope she'll be able to find the happiness this gospel brings.

Saturday the Zone Leaders gave us a ridiculous quota of New Investigators to find on Saturday and Sunday. It was higher than the mission's golden standard for a whole week, and they said they wanted it because our zone's numbers were down. Our numbers in Zhudong were fine but we knew that if they had prayerfully set this goal, that we would be able to achieve it. The only concern was that our Sunday was booked. So many appointments, and no time to find new investigators. We prayed hard that we'd still get our daily goal to what it needed to be to meet their invitation. We just didn't know how or where we'd find them, but we knew the Lord would provide a way. We went to visit one of our investigators we were scheduled to meet with, and what do you know? He's a Yuanzhumin (aboriginee), and they all have huge families. He wasn't able to meet with us, but we were able to teach a bunch of the other members of his family and set them up to meet with us all together today! I'm excited and the Lord provided a way to meet our goal. He literally just placed them in our path. It was amazing!!!

That's basically what I remember on the week. It was a good week, Mission conference was definitely the highlight. I'm glad my arm doesn't have to be amputated. I wouldn't mind a week where I'm not getting hit by cars or bit by spiders, but other than that all is well. My companion is starting to get a personality. Which is good, a big step in the right direction.

love you all
Elder White

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011 - Zhudong is on Fire!

(The tall building is Taipei 101)

Dear Friends and Family!

How are you all doing? This week was a really eventful week.

Wednesday we had temple day!!! It was fun going up to Taibei and going through the temple here in Taiwan. I look forward to the day I can go through the Chinese session, if my language ability ever gets there.

After the temple we went up Taibei 101 because it was an unbelievably clear day in Taibei which is really rare. That day from 2:00-2:30 was a drill the Taiwanese government did where everyone had to be indoors. We made it up 101 just in time to see it. It was amazing to look over this ridiculously busy city and see no movement, no people, no cars, scooters or buses. It looked like a HUGE ghost town. It was really cool. Then as soon as 2:30 hit, the streets were packed. It was an amazing view from the top of 101 after riding the worlds fastest elevator. My ears popped like 50 times on the way up. It was really cool to look over this beautiful area of the world in which I have the privilege of preaching the Gospel. It was a lot of fun, and from the top I could see out all the way to the ocean.

This week was a week of random people giving us free stuff, which is way cool. This old guy bought us a full roast duck, really delicious, really expensive. We met a family to investigate the gospel through our ukuleles. They own a little shop and studio where they teach ukulele, and so we went to visit them again. They informed us they don't want to investigate the gospel anymore, they just want to be our friends and play ukuleles with us. Because they felt bad they gave us a free ukulele book, so before I go to bed I practice a little ukulele. Other people have bought us fruit on the street, and members have given us food. It's been really cool!!

Saturday I was contacting a scooter on the side of the road. We were pulled over and it was a routine thing I do hundreds of times a week. All of a sudden I was rocked and I found myself on the ground, my head inches from a tire. I was hit, hit hard, by a truck. The roads are really narrow here, and there is often no way for 2 cars to get through, so they have to go slow and yield. But this guy just decided to fly through and as a result he caught the back half of my bike and sent me flying. The police came and the whole ordeal was crazy. I started yelling at the guy, and my companion, who is really timid was a bit taken back and was absolutely no help because he thought I shouldn't have been yelling at the guy. So that was no fun. The police made the guy pay to repair the bike, but the guy dished over a little bit of money and then took off. The Taiwanese police had no idea how to handle the situation. That little money covered a small amount of the repair, and the bike was still unrideable. I didn't want to put a bunch more money in an already horrible bike, so I'm having Elder Erickson send me an extra bike that's in Zhubei that one of the missionaries that just went home left behind. Two months on island, starting my 3rd bike. It's really annoying, and the whole situation was no fun.

After I got hit I hopped back up, and finished the contact with the guy I was contacting on the scooter. He thought that was funny. But overall I'm really bruised and sore.

This place is on fire!!! We're finding new investigators like crazy. A lot of them are so-so, but we've got to keep finding them to weed out the good from the bad. When I got here there were two people with baptismal dates. Now we have 16!! It makes all the difference to ask from the very first lesson.

The Zhang family we've begun teaching are my favorite people in the world. They have all committed firmly to baptism. Their daughter is being baptized June 4, and the mother, father, and 2 sons are being baptized on July 2nd. They're amazing. They are already a part of the ward. Last night we had a ward activity and they asked if they could participate. The parents sang a song that the daughter played the piano to, and the 2 sons each did piano songs. The father, English name "Alfred" referred to his wife as "Sister Zhang" last night. I loved it. They're the greatest! The cool thing too is because my companion has been here for 4 transfers, it's almost definite I'll be here at least through next transfer, so I'll get to see them from start to finish on the their journey. I love it. I can't wait for them to be an eternal family.

I was talking to the old man who bought us duck, just making small talk. He informed me he's a vegetarian, doesn't eat fish, meat that stuff. Then I told him "but you eat duck?" and his reply was "Well yeah, I'm a vegetarian not a Vegan." I liked that conversation. Another good old man convo was this mean old guy who I said was really handsome and I asked if he was in his 30's. He yelled at me and told me my eyes are really bad if I think he looks like he's in his 30's. He took the term crotchety old man to a new level.

Things are good (with the exception that I have a bike curse). I'm doing great. Zhudong is beautiful and the work here is going really well. The Elder whose bike I'm taking was hit 4 or 5 times on his mission. So it seems fitting that I inherit his horse.

Love you all. Stay in School. Don't do drugs or cigarettes.
Love Elder White

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17, 2011 - Finally!

Hello family and friends,

What a week. I don't know where to begin. I'm getting to you a couple days late this week because today is temple day! I'm hitting a bus up to Taipei and get to go to the house of the Lord up there. I'm really, really excited. It should be good.

I'll start by telling you a bit about my area. ZhuDong is small, one of the smallest areas of the mission population wise, and it is up in the mountains away from everyone. Our travel expenses to and from district meeting are RIDICULOUS. All my money goes to travel. But this place is gorgeous. It is so beautiful up here. It is a really, really cool little town, and the ward here is AMAZING. And... This place is really really beautiful. I'll get you pictures soon.

Last P-day, my companion, Elder Bogle, and I went and bought ukuleles. Neither of us had ever played them before, but seemed like they could be fun. Three days later we performed a musical number at our baptismal service. We played "Love One Another" and sang in English and Chinese. The ward loved it. They all clapped for us, not quite a standing ovation, but I think that's because I missed a chord change, so hopefully next time we'll get some of them on their feet. We also were riding and contacting this week when we saw a place with a bunch of ukuleles in the window. Of course we stopped and knocked. Reluctantly the guy let us in. We began talking to him about ukuleles, and then his wife and daughter came. We began sharing a spiritual message and found that they had both been to Salt Lake City in the 80's to visit and they had seen our temple. We're scheduled an appointment to come back soon to continue to discuss 4-stringed Hawaiian instruments and the gospel. Who'd have thought we'd meet investigators through the ukulele. The guy was really cool. He gave us a ukulele book they sell there, and told us we could run across the street and copy all the chord charts. He also invited us to play in a huge ukulele concert in Zhubei, with over 200 different people playing the ukulele throughout the night. We're hoping that he could become a progressing investigator with a date so that we could justify going and performing in a ukulele concert.

This week was filled with so many miracles. My testimony grew more this week than any other week of my life. I witnessed first hand the power of the Book of Mormon. We were meeting with Zhan Yan Roe (English name Zoe). The missionaries here had been meeting with her quite a bit and she has almost heard everything she needs for baptism, but she had a big concern. She told us her concern in the lesson and our member present and my comp shared really strong testimonies. I just had a really strong spiritual prompting to share a scripture. I shared it, and she got emotional. She said that before she was afraid of being baptized because of her concern, but she said as soon as she read that scripture she knew she could do it. She literally said, "OK I'm prepared. When can I be baptized?" The spirit in the room was indescribable. It was so amazing. The best part is that we've starting meeting her family and they've selected baptism dates. They all came to church Sunday and I absolutely love this family. I will do everything I can for this family to become eternal. I think it was the great 50 cent that said "baptize the Zhan family or die trying" That's my goal. I want them to be an eternal family so bad!

The family has a mom, dad, Zoe(18), and 2 younger brothers (17 and 12). The father's English name is Alfred and he is my favorite guy in the world. He's really smart, and this week in my English class I taught them about beat boxing and rapping. A lot of them had a hard time wrapping they're heads around the concept of rhyming words. I had them each write a rhyme and share it will me. They struggled badly. But then I got to Alfred. I knew I could count on Alfred to come through with a good rhyme because he's a really smart guy. This was his rhyme "I bought a fish, and it was stinky." I couldn't stop laughing. It was awful. Alfred and I have a secret handshake. I want it so badly for this family they are amazing.

Speaking of English class, last week some of them had questions about how mission calls work and stuff, and I referred them to my mission call video opening. One actually watched it and came back saying she felt the spirit. I was shocked. Then that night in English class I taught about Church. It was a powerful lesson. Then that lady came to church Sunday. I was thrilled!!! Then we found out that she was baptized 2 years ago. She just went immediately inactive and hasn't been to church in 2 years. It was a miracle!! She only came to Sacrament meeting, and I could tell she was a bit uncomfortable, but it was a miracle. She's been coming to English for a long time and no one even knew she was a member. It was awesome!

This week has been WET!!! Hardest rain of my life and my bike is having issues left and right. I'm barely holding up.

I met this probably late 40 year old guy with a buzzed head and then really long patch at the very back of the top of his head. It was unlike anything I've ever seen. I complimented his hair. Then he just started singing and dancing a song he made up that goes "Ugly in the face, handsome in the hair," As he's stroking his hair. Made my week.

This week was amazing, exhausting, and miracle filled. Zhudong is on fire. I'm loving it.

The church is true.
Love Elder White

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 9, 2011 1st Transfer

What an interesting week! I don't know where to begin.

I started the week in a tripanionship with myself (a first transfer missionary), my trainer (a district leader), and an Elder Jhou (a Taiwan native and a zone leader). It was pretty fun, and not the normal things a 1st transfer missionary sees.

After emailing last week I got a call from my mission president. President Grimley informed me that there was a missionary in Zhudong (a small mountain town about 30/40 minutes from Zhubei) who had been in a nasty bike crash, and that he needed to have surgery. He asked if I could pack a bag for 4 days and go down to Zhudong Thursday with the injured missionary's companion. I then got called from the assistants and was told to send all my bags to Zhudong, and that I'd be going down Wednesday for a permanant move.

So Zhudong is my new area. It's a tiny mountain town, with a lot of the aboriginal Taiwanese people who don't have any Chinese in them. They're Chinese is a little different, but I think their accent sounds pretty cool. Everyone thought that trainers and trainees would be together for 2 transfers, but I didn't even get a full one with my trainer. I'm a little bummed about it. Elder Erickson and I got along so well and we had a lot in common. I'll still get to see him because he got bumped up to zone leader and is still there in Zhubei, and that's my zone.

I think this transfer will be interesting. Me and my new companion, Elder Bogle, don't have much in common at all. I hope that we can just focus on our work, but it's going to be a bit of a lonely transfer because I'm up in the mountains where I don't have much interaction with missionaries other than my companion. His Chinese is amazing though because he's been with a lot of native companions. This zone is considered to be the "hard" area of the mission, and I just moved from Zhubei to an area that is even smaller and considered harder. It's going to be tough but I'm already excited about starting to serve here. The ward here is absolutely amazing, and I'm really looking forward to working with them. This place also feels like it didn't have much fire when I arrived, so I'm looking forward to bringing that.

The first day I got here we had to turn around and catch a bus to Xinchu for district meeting. While on the bus I decided to start talking to the man across the aisle from me. He was cool, and I started teaching him. By the time the bus got to the Xinchu station, I taught him and set him up as a new investigator. That right there really set the tone for the week. We had a cool week and saw a lot of miracles. My favorite part of the week was going on exchanges Friday in an area called Xiangshan. It was the most miracles I've seen in one day on the mission. So many people willing to hear the message we wanted to share with them, and we found a couple of absolutely golden people. That exchange alone made the whole dysfunctional week worth it.

So that's the gist this week. I've seen more miracles this week than any other week of my mission. I can actually feel the spirit working through me lately which is an amazing feeling. I think this transfer is going to bring about good things and I'll learn a lot.

And now to the highlight of my week. A lot of little kids on the street will point and say waiguo ren (which just means foreigner) or they'll say (meiguo ren) which means Americans, but last night I got one that I haven't got yet, one that I don't know if I'll get for the rest of the mission. A little 4-5 year old kid pointed to me on the street and said riben ren (Japanese). I laughed hard. That was a new one.

The other highlight of the week came on exchanges. I was intersection contacting (which entails picking an intersection, going up by a scooter, and trying to get them to pull over so you can share your message.) The intersections have timers so you can see how much time you're working with, and you just circle around the intersection for a couple hours. One red light I pulled up next to on old lady. They are the meanest people in Taiwan, Before I said anything, the first thing she said to me was in broken English. She said, "Don't speak." I still had about 45 seconds before the light changed, so I didn't follow her counsel, but by the end of the red light I got an old mean lady to give me a high five. Did she set a baptismal date? No. Did she set up a time we could teach her more? No. But I softened that bitter woman's heart through the power of high five.

This is my week.

Elder White

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 - Hello World

Hello world,

This week was interesting. It feel like last Monday was forever ago, and I don't remember a lot that happened. So I apologize in advance.

The work this week was pretty routine. We worked hard. The Lord blessed us when working hard wasn't enough. We had success.

The biggest news this week is that I have a new companion. One of the Zone leaders in the area adjacent to ours had to depart a week earlier than transfer's end because of military requirements, so his companion is in a tripanionship with us. His name is Elder Jhou. He is Taiwanese and he is funny. The mission also told Elder Jhou to ship all of his stuff down to our apartment, not just what he needed for a week. So I will not be in Zhubei next transfer. It was a good place to start the mission, and I can look back and honestly say that I'll be leaving Zhubei better than I found it. I still have one more week to go out and give it my best in Zhubei. It will be a good week, I can feel it.

The zone leaders came down and stayed over at our apartment the 2 nights before Elder Duff departed. The first day of it was spent on exchanges with Elder Duff. It was the oldest missionary in the mission (23), with me. I'm the youngest foreign missionary on Island right now. It was fun. The whole couple nights were a riot, as it has been all transfer as the 4 of us have run around preaching the gospel and having fun. It was weird to send a missionary up to the mission office to depart, especially just being on island 5 weeks. Also having a Taiwanese companion is something that doesn't happen for at least the first few transfers of your mission, so it was fun to have a week with him. On Elder Duff's last night we went up on the roof and made a little fire.

In Taiwan they love Italian food places. But it's funny because the Italian food at these places isn't very special at all. In America it would be considered a very, very sub-par Italian food place, but here they are considered to be really nice and special, so we ate at a couple this week with members/investigators who wanted to go out and eat with Elder Duff for his last week. So if anyone wants to make some money, start an Italian restaurant in Taiwan.

Chinese right now is interesting. I'm going through a phase this week where I'm either on, and they are understanding me and I'm speaking well or I'm completely off and it's rough and I feel stupid. Consistency would be nice, but it's just some growing pains in learning this language.

Taiwan is getting hotter. An older missionary once told me that there are 3 enemies to missionaries: dogs, girls, and summer. But we've been given things to fight these enemies: steel toed shoes, companions, and mango shaved ice. The latter is what I wish to speak about. Mango shaved ice is the best thing to ever happen. Taiwan has a beverage chain called CoCo's. They make mostly teas, but they also have a lot of juices that are really delicious. The best part, they are about the equivalent of $1 American dollar. It's like a better Jamba Juice at 20% of the price, and in the summer they have mango shaved ice. It just came out and it is delicious. I'm excited because apparently all the delicious and good fruit comes in the summer for really cheap.

Our golden family is still golden as ever. Last week we gave them the Family Proclamation, and when I went back this week it was on their fridge. Their only problem is coming to church because every weekend they go visit their grandma who is on her deathbed.

This week we also found a lost sheep. He was baptized 10 years ago and then went inactive. The last time he went to church was a few years ago. We're hoping to reactivate him. But he's hard to talk gospel with because he goes all over the place. Last week he informed us that a 14 magnitude earthquake is predicted to hit Taiwan May 11. A lot of people here are getting nervous about that. So wish this little island luck!

Things are good, we're going to have a fun, successful week.

Love you all,
Love Elder White