The last time I emailed was last week, Tuesday, Christmas Day. Obviously the highlight of any missionary's Christmas is talking to their family. I love each of you and you all sounded so great. In the most undistracted and un-homesick way possible I say: I can't wait to see you all in a few short weeks!!! It was great to speak with you.
We started Christmas day with big dreams and high hopes. The goal: to drink egg nog. We didn't know where to find this delicious seasonal beverage here in Taiwan but we had a goal, a vision, faith, and a Costco card. We were sure our Christmas dreams would come true. In the end there is literally NO egg nog in Taiwan. We came up short but a Costco pizza did provide a nice Christmas dinner as 6 missionaries huddled around a Costco indoor picnic table. It will be a Christmas I probably won't ever forget. That night we came back to our area and Christmas caroled while passing out flyers to the free English class we teach. It was a good day.
In other news our apartment is haunted and I think I saw the ghost this last week. There was an old man that died in there 2 weeks before we moved in. Taiwanese tradition says that because he died alone and with no one to watch for him, he'll often come back to the apartment he died in and continue to mourn. Then again, Taiwanese tradition also says Jesus isn't the Savior and Redeemer of the world, so I'm not sure how much I'm believing it. All I do know is I'm about 60 percent sure I saw a ghost.
One of the biggest highlights this week was continuing to work with Zhang Hao Ren, the young man that we reactivated who has been doing so great since we reactivated him. He celebrated his birthday with a little get together at his house that he invited us to. We stopped by to say hi and to give him a small gift and he said the most exciting thing about turning 14 was that he could be ordained a teacher in the priesthood and prepare sacrament. Great answer!! I wish that had been my answer at 14, but I don't think it was. Although you can't blame me, I lived in Idaho at 14, and that's the age you can start drivers ed.
Weeks ago in an interview with the mission president, he invited me to make cookies and take them to the less active members. The next day Elder Peterson and I went to the store and realized we don't know how to make cookies, nor did we want to spend the necessary time to make them. Last week I was feeling guilty about not having done the invite from the mission president so we decided to make cookies Saturday. Since neither me nor my companion knew how we called someone we thought would know how... the sister missionaries. To our dismay, no sister missionaries in our entire zone had a cookie recipe. I thought baking cookies was what sister missionaries do EVERY preparation day. I was without recipe, but what my companion and I did have was faith. We decided to move forward with our plans and make cookies from scratch. We went to the store and grabbed all of the premade cookies boxes (oreos, chips ahoy, etc.) and we looked at what ingredients make up those cookies to give us some idea what our cookies should have. Because several of the ingredients needed for cookies (sugar, eggs, milk) were also in the Egg Nog recipe we obtained Christmas Day we also decided that we would not be denied egg nog this holiday season and attempted to make some egg nog as well. The egg nog recipe was a 5 star recipe... and the egg nog we made was probably about 3.5 stars. Needless to say, we were very satisfied. We also were ready to begin making our cookies from scratch.
Somewhere we went wrong though. I think it was because we discovered my companion added 10 times the suggested amount of baking powder. The cookies... were... bitter. We put in a lot of effort (sugar) to try to save them and what resulted was a flavor phenomenon. The cookie we created would start out sweet, then get bitter, but then somehow return to being sweet, only to leave a bitter taste in the mouth when it was all said and done. Although we had no recipe and the cookies didn't taste especially good there was one ingredient that we used plenty of... LOVE. And although there were 2 people out of the 30 or so that ate the cookies who actually liked them, it was the thought that counted. It was a great adventure and probably the last time I ever try to make cookies from scratch.
Sunday was a great day. Our amazing investigator Jackie came to church again. He is GOLDEN. His only problem is his parents who are devout Buddhists. He's ready to be baptized, but he hasn't even told his parents he's meeting with missionaries because he say if he does he'll never be allowed to come back to church or to meet again. Pray for him.
We also have other great investigators with little obstacles that are holding them back in a big way. We need miracles. They need faith to see miracles. I hope we can continue to help them and that they can wisely use their agency.
Speaking of miracles we were coming home late Saturday night and realized we had no food for the next day. We needed a miracle. We went to church hopeful. When church ended and lunch time came, we found ourselves in the church kitchen. Of course the only thing the sister missionaries were willing to share from their bounteous feast was the cookies we made and gave to them... and I didn't want any of that. Just when I thought all hope was lost, in walked the Relief Society president saying she had a gift for us. She then opened a cupboard to reveal tortilla chips. We were wide eyed as she told us these were for us. My companion said that it was an answer to his prayers, and then she said she had another answer to his prayers. She opened the fridge to reveal SALSA. She gave us chips and salsa. Mexican food. That's hard to come by in these parts. It was so great. I haven't had salsa in..... well I've been in Taiwan for 2 years, so at least that long.
Yesterday we had our district meeting. This month's topic is finding and using the plan of salvation to focus on the family as we find. I had each member of my district share testimony of how the gospel has blessed their family and encouraged them to share that same testimony with those they meet on the street. The spirit was strong, but it made me even MORE grateful for my parents and my family. I know that success in the family takes effort, and I'm super thankful for the effort my parents have put into having a successful and happy marriage and family. You are great examples to me. I want to thank you for creating a loving and happy home to be raised in. Thank you for raising me in the gospel while still giving me agency and making sure I found my own testimony. Thank you for being fun, trusting, and laid back, while still ensuring we were living gospel standards and being decent people. Thank you for pushing me academically and in other activities while still allowing me to choose what I wanted to pursue and do extracurricularly (except a few years of early morning piano practice... that was manipulation.) I'm super thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what it has done for our family. I love each of you. See you soon;)
I know I'm where I'm supposed to be. This mission has without a doubt been the greatest experience of my life. I've learned so many things I don't feel I could have learned any other way. I'm not just talking about Chinese. This mission has shifted the way I view the world around me, has solidified my personal relationship with my Father in heaven, has given me a greater appreciation of life and the things in life that are important. I've been edified, enlightened, and uplifted constantly for 2 years and it's shaped me into the man the Lord wants me to become. I'm not there yet, but this mission has pointed me in the right direction. I know I couldn't do it without my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love Him. I know this is His church and His gospel. I know He is the way, the ONLY WAY. I'm so thankful I've been able serve Him and help others know Him.