I feel like this was a big turning point for SanChong. We turned a corner, and I don't ever want to look back. Opening an area that hasn't had missionaries (and the last time there were elders they did more harm than good) as well as training on top of that has been tiring and exhausting. I've seen miracles but I feel like sometimes I'm getting kicked when I'm down as well. There is all this negative hype about this area and I don't want to hear any more of it. I saw an old Taiwanese returned missionary who served in SanChong more than 2 years ago and talked to him about it. He said it's a "good luck" kind of place. It's been hard, there is no doubt about that, but I hope that by the time I leave here it's a thriving area with a good missionary-member relationship, some new convert priesthood holders, and a better feel about it. This week I think was a step in that direction.
Brother Zhang is a great humble man who we've been blessed to teach all the lessons to in a short amount of time. He was going to be baptized this coming weekend, but last Saturday he asked to postpone. It was disappointing, and it hurt, but I also feel like we were rushing things and I feel like this way he'll be able to develop a stronger relationship with the ward, and gain that stronger personal witness so that he'll be able to be the type of convert and priesthood holder this ward truly needs. He ran into a bit of opposition from friends or family. One of his largest concerns is that we don't believe in reincarnation. He's still willing to read, and pray, and come to church, therefore I'm not worried. It's impossible to sincerely do those three things and not be converted to the gospel. He attended stake conference with us at a faraway chapel this week. It was a great meeting and he really enjoyed it.
Brother Huang, the last non-member of his family that includes a wife and 4 kids, has been following our plan to quit smoking that we implemented with him a couple weeks ago. He has a lot of support from the ward. He has the prayers of many and he has a strong desire to kick the habit and be baptized a member so his family can progress eternally. This Monday we visited him and he had smoked only 1 cigarette. We gave him the best High Five ever and invited him to completely not smoke Tuesday. Tuesday when I called him to follow up he had not smoked a single cigarette. I know this gospel is true because it's all centered on the atonement. We come unto Christ, and he heals us. Whether it be repentance to overcome sin or our inadequacies, or rather to give us strength to overcome a life-long addiction, the atonement will take care of it all, as long as we're willing to put forth our required effort. We're so excited for Brother Huang, I feel like he's becoming happier and happier. I also feel like the blessing I gave him on our first day in the area is coming true. It truly increases my testimony of those things.
So this last week was one of the tougher weeks of my mission. With that said when Monday came around and it wasn't preparation day (because it's moved to Wednesday this week), it was a little bit... I don't know how to describe it. I just really felt I could have used a P-day. Either way I had a decision to make. I could spend this Monday feeling tired and sorry for myself that I have to go an extra two days before I can rest, or I could choose to be an agent, engaged in actively doing good and see the miracles that await. I thankfully chose the latter and what took place this last Monday was my best day in SanChong as a missionary. I felt like the missionary I was when I was in TaoYuan or TuCheng. I finally felt like I had somewhat of a foundation beneath me in SanChong and I wasn't running this race all uphill anymore.
Sunday night we we're going to eat dinner at our apartment. We were headed back when I felt that I saw someone I just had to talk to. I met brother Zhang, a really great kid who set up for the next day. It was a quick, yet spirit-led contact. The following morning I called to confirm the time we'd agreed upon and he asked if he could bring his friend... um.... of course! The two of them came and were really great. Both set baptismal dates and we're meeting with them again this week. That was the start of a "miracle Monday" as Elder Bogle and I used to call them when we were in the hills of ZhuDong. Then I get a call. It's from a Sister Qiu who is a member of the Tao3 ward. The ward I served in for 7 months! The Qiu family is one of my favorite families! She informed us she has friend who has some marital problems and didn't know where to turn. She told me that her husband had visited this friend the night before, gave him a Book of Mormon and told him he should meet with missionaries. I told her we'd give him a call and see if we could find a time. I called him that night. He said to come over right then. We did and had a great lesson. He was a nice and humble struggling father. His wife has moved out and he's on his own with his two young kids. It was an amazing referral. He'd already been reading the Book of Mormon.
That night I called the Qiu family to let them know (I know they don't live in my area, but it seemed appropriate). They were thrilled that we'd already met with him. I was able to talk to Brother Qiu who I used to play early morning basketball with and he said that we need to pray I can go back to Tao3 ward. It was really cool though to be able to still see miracles from developing trust and relationships with members months ago. The finding miracles continued to go on. Really too many to list. At 8:50 Monday night we were riding home and out of the corner of my eye, probably a hundred yards away in a park I saw a man. I felt like the spirit told us to go talk to him. We turned around and quickly met brother Chen. He's been to the chapel before for English class and we set up for the following night. Last night we met with him and shared the restoration. He loved it and is coming back again tonight. It is always great to act on a spiritual prompting and see a huge miracle because of it.
Then yesterday we were eating our dinner. We debated whether or not to eat inside or to eat outside at a park or to take it to the chapel because it was a little chilly last night. I don't like eating inside because it limits our opportunities to "talk to everyone" so to the park benches we went. We were having a great dinner when I noticed a high school student sitting on the bench next to us. I made eye contact with him and he quickly looked away. He seemed a little shy. I invited him to come sit with us and we struck up a conversation about God and the gospel. After teaching him how to pray and praying with him he said he had this amazing feeling he can't describe. I asked him if he thought us missionaries are capable of putting that feeling in him. He said of course not. I asked him if he thought he made the feeling happen. He said no. I asked him "well then where do you think the feeling came from?" He said he didn't know. I went on to explain it to be the Holy Ghost, sent from his Heavenly Father as a manifestation that He loves him, and that this is the path God has prepared for him. When we said our closing prayer he said the most sincere, 8 minute long prayer!!! It was great.
Also one other great miracle. I was on the subway here in Taiwan last week when I saw a man wearing a vintage, 1990's Utah Jazz hat. There is no bigger Utah Jazz fan in Taiwan at this time than myself. I was so thrilled to see the old man's tattered Utah Jazz hat I literally yelled in excitement. I went and talked to him. He didn't know what his hat said, nor did he have interest in the gospel. However, he did have interest in the 100 dollars NT($3 US) I offered him for his hat. I took it home, washed it, and sometimes wear it around the house as a reminder that Heavenly Father wants us to be happy in this work. This hat truly was one of His tender mercies.
While there were so many awesome miracles this week, there were still some great, and ridiculous rejections. I actually don't mind getting rejected on the street, it happens, it's just a part of the work, but I really can appreciate when the person rejecting me can make it creative. My companion calls them "Stretch-dads" people who make horrible excuses. He came up with this one night as he was contacting a man who was sitting on a bench. The man said he was busy and couldn't talk. My trainee asked him what he's busy with. He's just sitting on a bench. The man replied "I'm stretching" and rotated his arm a couple times. My comp busted up laughing and now we see what kind of great excuses we can get or what kind of "Stretch-dad's" we meet. I got a really good one on exchanges this last week. I contacted this kid and then asked him if we could sit down with him. He agreed and we sat down on a bench and began to share with him. He wasn't listening too intently, but we continued, just trying to give him a chance. Then, he pulled out his phone and said "Let me answer this" So we were like OK go ahead, but he didn't hit the answer key. Instead he dialed a number, then put the phone to his ear to CALL someone. I looked at the missionary I was with and we were both like "is this kid serious?" "Let me answer this, and then he makes a call. It was funny. Another great contact happened as I talked to a middle aged woman and she started trying to convert me to her branch of Buddhism. Her big selling point was that their branch of Buddhism was in 192 countries. She mentioned it about 5 times in her 2 minute pitch. I told her that is great. I then told her our church is in 193 countries. The Elder I was with struggled to keep a straight face. The woman and I politely ended the conversation, her agreeing to read a brochure I gave her.
I'm really thankful to be a missionary. I love every minute of this SUPER FAST experience. I feel like every second is so precious as it continues to fly by.
I love you all.