It's Christmas morning here in Taipei! I don't know if anyone but me and my companion are aware that it's Christmas, but we're excited! I'm thankful for the opportunity to be serving the Lord this Christmas. I most definitely miss you all, but I know I'm where the Lord wants me to be today.
This last week was pretty good. Our area is doing really well. It doesn't feel anything like an area that was just opened 3 short months ago. It's now a very successful and fruitful area of the mission and there is no chance it will be closed down anytime soon (as many areas that are opened are then closed down a couple transfers later.) That was my biggest goal for opening this area, help SanChong become a strong area. It's crazy to think we started with nothing. Now we have an awesome recent convert, and we've got a solid pool of investigators. Right now we have 3 people that are basically ready for baptism, but they all have small things they need to overcome.
Brother Zhang is great. He lives the commandments. He reads, prays, comes to church. He's got a testimony. He desires eternal life, he desires the gift of the Holy Ghost, but every time we bring up baptism he gets really scared. The feeling in the room immediately changes. We've gone over what "baptism" is multiple times. We've talked about its importance. He's attended 2 baptismal services. But there is some concern there that we don't know about. We'll continue to work with him.
Brother Li is really great. He was baptized last year in TaiChung with his then wife, but they were never confirmed. They are since divorced, but still like a married couple? His ex-wife was recently baptized AND confirmed and then moved to SanChong. We meet with Brother Li often. He's reading and praying, he's living all the commandments and really wants to be baptized. He's willing to be baptized as soon as he can get work off on Sundays, but he's unable to do this until after February next year. We're encouraging him to quit his job and work for a few months for his father until he can find work that will allow him to take Sundays off. I really hope that he will take this path. I've prayed about it a lot and I feel like this is what the Lord wants him to do. We've encouraged him to pray about it and so now it's between him and God. We'll see how he uses his agency. Pray for him.
Brother Zhu is a 16 year old kid who is golden. He's an intelligent kid with great English and a great testimony. He really wants to follow Christ and really wants to be baptized. He's got one major problem. His family are all extremely devout Buddhist. The kind that have deep hatred toward Christianity. He hasn't told his parents he's meeting with us and coming to church. He's told us if he tells them it will result in him no longer being able to learn and come to church. We need his parent's permission for baptism, so we really need a miracle. He is an amazing investigator.
This week my stomach was having the same problems it had a few weeks ago. It actually never fully went away but it definitely came back in full swing this time around. It was really getting to me so I went to the doctor on Friday. This doctor seemed a million times better than the one I went to last time. Last time we had to spend about 3 hours in total traveling to and from the doctor and waiting to be seen, then the doctor saw me for about 60 seconds and gave me some drowsy tums-type medicine that didn't do much. It wasn't a pleasant experience but the mission president's wife refers everyone to that hospital because they all are able to speak English there. I didn't want to go through that kind of experience again so I decided I'd just go to the clinic by our house, because I speak Chinese anyway. The entire trip took a total of 15 minutes. I was able to find out what was actually wrong with my stomach, and I got medicine that was non-drowsy and actually worked. My stomach feels a lot better now so that was great!
This week our ward put on a Christmas party. It was really great. Lots of good food and fun. I invited the English class I teach on Wednesday night to come and a bunch of them unexpectedly did. It was really great. There were lots of non-members, investigators, and less active members there who were able to come and learn a bit more about this holiday. It was a great activity and I'm glad our ward puts in a lot of effort to have these ward parties. Although the ward is really small they help unite the ward. Plus nothing says Christmas dinner like steamed rice and tofu.
My current companion wrote a song in the MTC called "Perfect Love" This week I put piano to it. We then performed it at the ward Christmas party. It went so well we got asked to perform it at the other branch that uses our building's Christmas party as well. Then Monday we performed it in front of all the missionaries at the mission Christmas talent show. It's been fun. I remember as a kid always arguing with mom about how much I hated piano lessons, and then mom would tell me how I would use piano on my mission, and I argued that I wouldn't. Well I never did need it. I thought I had won the debate. But lately I've used it a bit and I've been asked to play at a baptism in our ward Friday night. Yikes. You win mom. I'll send you my companion's song lyrics, they're really great.
Yesterday was our Mission's "Christmas Party.'' The senior missionaries put in a ton of effort to provide an American style Christmas lunch. It was so great! Stuffing, Yams, Turkey (Which is a rarity in Taiwan, most Taiwanese people haven't eaten turkey before.) It was a great meal and senior missionaries are the best! My favorite part though was right at the end. After the lunch, talent show, and watching the missionary choir perform their Christmas program for what felt like the 30th time this month, President Day addressed us. He talked about the spirit of Christmas and just about some different things. It was such a powerful and moving talk. The spirit was so strong, and I received a spiritual confirmation that this is where I need to be right now. This Christmas away from home is so much harder than last year's, knowing that I could be there with you all right now had I not chosen to extend an extra transfer. But after yesterday there is no doubt I'm where the Lord intended me to be at this time. Therefore I also need to be doing the things the Lord wants me to do in these last few weeks. My gift to the Lord this year is going to be going all out this last month of my mission.
Yesterday our bishop had us over for dinner. It was great. There was a special spirit in his humble home as we played and visited with their family. His 4 kids are the greatest! They are so cute. They had us and an investigator family over for a family home evening and pizza. Then we sang hymns together around their piano. I don't know how to explain it, but somehow me, my companion, and bishop singing Silent Night in Chinese helped me feel the spirit of Christmas stronger than anything else this year. It was a special experience, and it was a really great way to spend Christmas Eve.
Being Elder Davidson's companion is great. Besides him being such a humble and loving person, and genuinely fun to be around, there are also some other perks. His step mother is Taiwanese and from Taipei, so many members know her. Because they know her they are especially good to Elder Davidson. Sometimes to the tune of giving him all kinds of Christmas gifts and food. This last week his mom's friends from another ward came and gave him all kinds of amazing food and snacks (including Costco muffins!!!) and as his companion I also get to reap the benefits of his step mother's Taiwaneseism!
I can't believe time is going by so fast. It's been a special blessing to serve in Taiwan and to serve the Lord. I'm so grateful we can celebrate the birth of our Savior, Redeemer, and King. Today for Christmas P-day an Elder Relyea and I are going to go all over Taipei on a day long quest to find and drink egg nog. We don't know where we can buy egg nog, but we won't stop til we've had Christmas egg nog.... unless it hits 6 p.m. because that's when p-day ends. We've secured a Costco card, though we've yet to find transportation to Costco, but things are looking up as far as the chances of drinking that amazing seasonal beverage. We made egg nog a key indicator in our planner today, set a goal, made plans to achieve the goal... I'll admit I haven't prayed for it, but minus the absence of prayer I've done everything Preach My Gospel tells me I must do to achieve this goal. Wish us luck.
I love you all! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!
Love, Elder White
p.s. When I was with Elder Peterson, my trainee, we created a "prayer board" on which we would write specific things to pray for. It started working and so we started praying for even more things... all of which were happening, even the weirder ones. Then the unthinkable happened. The week before move calls we put up a bunch of move call specific things to pray for. We thought we'd really test it out. Then everything we prayed for happened at move calls. Including specific companions, missionaries in our district to stay that we all thought would move, and Elder Peterson to go to a specific area and serve around specific people. It all happened. We were shocked. Lately we added to the prayer list that we wanted the Mission President to approve the use of mormon.org and lds.org on p-day so we can go and listen to talks and use those things. Yesterday at the mission party President Day gave a sheet of instructions from the Brethren saying they want every missionary to become familiar with mormon.org and every week spend at least one hour on it. Also they approved the usage of lds.org. Elder Peterson and I went nuts. The prayer board is amazing. And Elder Davidson has really run away with the prayer board. He's added a lot of great stuff and at this rate, Tim Tebow will be baptized a member of our church. Look for it to happen... I'm serious.