Saturday, January 26, 2013
6:25 A.M. Seattle Time
January 26, 2013
In a few hours I’ll be home and with my family. WOW. After a little prayer and thinking on this plane ride I’m feeling really good about what the next stage in life holds in store. I’ve got to use everything I’ve learned in these last 2 years to go be the person my Heavenly Father needs me to be. Nervous? Yes. Fearful? No. Full of hope and faith for what the future will hold in store.
I’m proud (the okay kind) for what I’ve done these last 2 years. I helped people change their lives. I represented Christ. I absorbed. I evolved. I changed through the atonement. I learned what it’s like to have the spirit, and I loved it. I know the Lord is pleased with my efforts. He confirmed that to me by the spirit. I desire to continue to serve Him. I have no regrets about my time as a missionary, and it feels amazing to say that. But I do not glory in myself, I glory in the fact that I answered a call, gave my entire heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord, and in turn accomplished His will and helped build His kingdom. I love Him with all my heart.
I feel like I left everything in Taiwan. Sweat, Tears, Energy, Love… everything, my heart. And in turn God is letting me take so much more home. What I’ve learned in these last 2 years couldn’t be learned from the teachings of the finest professors at the best universities in the world. No, I learned it on the streets of Taiwan, amid the exhaust of scooters and the smell of stinky tofu. Sweating on hot and humid Taiwan summer days or drenched in a heavy rain, all while talking to as many Taiwanese brothers and sisters as possible and testifying to them of Christ. I learned it when I looked Yang LiAn in the eyes and told her God loves her. I learned it when I placed my hands on Huang QingChuan’s head to give him a priesthood blessing and promised him an eternal family and the strength to quit smoking. I learned it as I witnessed the restored priesthood authority seal the Zhang family for eternity. I learned it as I testified to Zhang YanRou about the power of the atonement and how it allows us to change and overcome our weaknesses. I learned it when I raised my right arm to the square and having been commissioned of Jesus Christ baptized my brothers and sisters in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
One of those brothers being Guo BingJun who was born in Mainland China in 1930; I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1991, but I know I knew Brother Guo Long before we met in Taiwan or either of us came to this earth. I know I promised to bring him the gospel in the pre-earth life. I learned it and relearned it every time I looked a recent convert in the eyes following their reception of the Holy Ghost. I learned it every time I kneeled in anger toward God feeling he’d in some way shorted me or one of my investigators only to lose a wrestle, learn humility the hard way… again, and have a reconfirmation that God loves me and my investigators and as long as I’m doing my part the Lord will take care of the rest. I learned that when the vision of the person I want to become matches the vision of what He wants me to become, true happiness and progression are found.
The things I learned I know I’ll use forever. Taiwan will always be a part of me. This mission will always be a part of me. The name tag will soon come off, but the heart it hung over is changed forever. It will always be with me. I’m so grateful for literally every second of the last 2 years. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve loved serving Him.
Monday, January 21, 2013
This is it... the last week of my mission. In 5 days I'll be boarding an airplane bound for Salt Lake City. I never thought the day would come. As I look back on the last 2 years, the best word to describe my feelings is "gratitude." I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunity I've had to come on a mission, especially here to Taiwan to serve my brothers and sisters here on this wonderful island. I love Taiwan so much, especially the people here. I'm grateful and eternally indebted to my Savior Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for His love, His sacrifice, the sanctifying power of His atonement. I'm thankful for His life, His teachings, His example. My favorite scripture regarding missionary work is in Jacob 5:72 "And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things." I know that this is truly His work. I've felt Him laboring with me every step of the way as long as I've been doing the work the way He wants me to do it. I'm thankful I could labor in His vineyard and see first-hand His gospel change the lives of those I've come to love. I'm thankful for the change His gospel has brought to my life in the last 2 years. I've been blessed with a lot of success and miracles on my mission, and I know that every slightest bit of good that has happened is all because of Him. I love my Savior. It has been a blessing and a privilege to represent Him.
This last week was absolutely amazing. I couldn't have asked for much more in a last full week on mission. I'm dead tired! I really feel like I don't have anything left. I literally feel like I've got about 5 days worth of energy left to give. This is definitely the most tired I've been my entire life, but it is all so worth it. This week we had a zone conference and I was thankfully asked to be the translator for the native missionaries. In the past when I've been asked to be the translator I haven't been too thrilled, but the reason I was thankful this time around was that I knew if I wasn't translating there would be no way I could stay awake in the meeting. It went well and a lot of the native missionaries really like me as the translator because I like to throw in a few "smarter" remarks to keep them on their toes and make sure they're awake.
Let me tell you about last Monday. Several of my converts from TaoYuan came and took me and my companion to an awesome little town in the mountains called Pingxi. We ate some good food and then we made sky lanterns? I think that's what they'd be called in English... like the things in the movie Tangled. It was super fun. You can write your wishes or whatever you want on the side and then send it to the sky. I'll send pictures. It was a great day. It was super good to see these recent converts now holding the Melchizedek priesthood, holding good callings in the ward and a couple of them are preparing for eternal marriage!!! So COOL!!! I loved spending time with them and today for P-day we're heading down to TaoYuan to have a big meal with all of my converts, some members, and some former investigators. It should be a lot of fun. I'm so grateful for every single area I've been able to serve in. I know I was exactly where the Lord wanted me, serving with who He wanted me to be with, and meeting those whom He'd prepared me to meet.
On a tangent... our mission has our "weekly announcements'' read in district meetings. The announcements are put together by the mission president, his wife, and some of the office elders. I've always had a dream of getting my catch phrase ("That's so PMG"... PMG meaning Preach My Gospel) in the announcements but no one has been bold enough to try to put it on. This week we got a new "recorder,'' the elder that is in the office and deals with the records. He's a good friend and he got it on the announcements. I can end my mission happily now. My catch phrase was in the announcements. Dreams do come true.
This week's miracles were so awesome. One of my favorites took place while I was on exchanges in our neighboring area. We were heading back to SanChong to exchange back when we hit a red light. I instinctively turned to contact the man on the scooter next to me at the light, when out the of corner of my eye I saw a man standing at the cross walk waiting. I felt a super strong impression I needed to talk to him so I rode my bike up onto the sidewalk and began talking to him. His name was Whitney. I was talking to Whitney a little bit about English and him name, when out of the blue he said "I'm a member of your church." It shocked me a bit and I found out he was baptized 20 years ago, was active for about 13 and then has been inactive for the last 7 years or so. I talked to him more and found out he really has a testimony and really does want to come back. I set up a time for the Elders in that area to visit him the very next day. They did and said it went well and they're going to keep working with him. It was a great miracle. I know that Whitney was who God wanted me to talk to at that intersection, and hopefully Whitney will come back to the fold. It was a great miracle.
Another great miracle this week was Chris. Last week we were coming home late one night and said hi to the man we passed. He replied with a "Yo, wassup?" which let me know that I would immediately be friends with him. We didn't have a lot of time but we introduced ourselves, invited him to our English class, and that was it. Then Wednesday at English class he came, and was super cool. After class he invited us to play basketball with him on Saturday. We weren't so sure if it would be the best use of time but we also recognized that Chris is a really good potential investigator. We prayed about it and decided to go play ball with Chris... it was the right decision. We found out Chris was married, and has a 2 year old son. We had no idea he has a family. We were able to share with him a lot about how the gospel blesses our family and we learned his family really needs this at this time in his life. I feel like he was someone who would have rejected us right away if the first time we met with him we just started sharing the gospel, but I know God had prepared Chris and had allowed us through English class and basketball to have an open door to share more with Chris and his family. By the time we were done Saturday Chris became our new investigator, committed to praying daily for his family, and said that after Chinese new year we can begin meeting with him and his wife and son!! We'd been praying to find families and we had no idea we'd find such an amazing young family through the guy that gave us a "Yo, wassup?" on the street. It was great miracle. Just one of so many.
Our investigator Brother Chen, a.k.a. "Kites" is still so amazing. He came to church again this week and prayed that he could get baptized. He's absolutely golden. We were able to get a lot of investigators at church this last week and we have a lot of people progressing to baptism. I'm really excited. We started with NOTHING 4 months ago when I arrived in SanChong with a trainee who didn't speak a lick of Chinese to open it up. Now we've been able to help a father, the last non-member of his family, to be baptized, get the priesthood and they're currently working for the temple. We've been able to reactivate several priesthood members, and I'm leaving the area with some great investigators. I wouldn't be surprised if SanChong had 4 baptisms next transfer. It definitely has been the hardest area of my mission. We started from scratch, and every time it felt like things were coming together or investigators were getting close to baptism something seemed to go wrong. It felt like for most my time in SanChong we were fighting an uphill battle. But I also feel like this is where God needed me to be. I feel like I've learned more these few months than I ever did during the times on my mission where we were baptizing every other week. I came to SanChong and it had a "reputation." As a matter of fact, it lived up to it's reputation. It's busy, dirty, ghetto, hard, there's a huge lack of priesthood in the ward, and I love it with all my heart. I'd be lying if I said it was my favorite area, but I do know that the lessons I learned here on the streets of SanChong are things I couldn't learn in any university or in any other way.
Saturday was one of my favorite days ever on my mission. After studies we went out to eat with a bunch of converts and members from TuCheng. They are all so great and they gave us amazing food. It was so great to spend time with them. After that they came to the chapel with us where Elder Davidson and I performed for them the song he wrote. Then we met with "Kites" and had an amazing, spiritual lesson. It was great, and the coolest part is my last convert in TuCheng stayed back and was the member present for our lesson. It was so great to see Andy, the eternal investigator who feared commitment and fully living the gospel share with my current investigator the blessings that have come into his life by living the gospel and being baptized. I was teary eyed during the lesson. After that we went and played basketball with Chris (see story above). then we had another free meal with a member at a sushi place. She gave us SO much sushi. My companion and I could barely get it all down. It was so good!!! Then we went back to the chapel and had another great lesson with an investigator I began teaching when I first got here. He had disappeared for a while but he came back and set a new baptismal date and then came to church the next day. It was one of the best days ever. Tons of great miracles, really spiritual, really fun... pretty much sums up my entire mission! I love being a missionary!
Overall my last full week in Taiwan was great. I wouldn't have had it any other way. I lot of the cliche things of Taiwan happened as well. My last week included meeting with a Buddhist monk and teaching him the gospel, eating lots of stinky tofu, problems with Taiwanese girls liking us white missionaries too much, rain rain and more rain, and miracles miracles and miracles.
This is my last e-mail from Taiwan. It's bittersweet. I cannot wait to see you Saturday. In my planner for this week I wrote: Saturday afternoon "hug my family." I'm so excited. At the same time I don't want my mission to end. This truly has been an amazing two years. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for this mission. It means everything to me. Literally. I've given it my all, there's not much left to give. I've put in everything I've had to put it, and the Lord has done the rest. I love Him. I'm so thankful for Him. I can speak truthfully from my heart and say I have no regrets. That was the goal I had at the beginning of my mission, to be able to honestly say at the end that I have no regrets, and I don't. I love Taiwan, I love the gospel, and I love my Heavenly Father.
I love you all, and I will see you Saturday.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Doing the bus
Taking the bus
Me and Jason, one of my converts and good friends from TuCheng
A Taiwanese Elder I went on exchanges with... while on exchanges we went and got the sweet drink that I'm drinking in that pic
Lunch with Su family
Coldstone was buy one get one
my comp sippin his sidra
Wassup y'all. I am emailing you for the 2nd to last time in Taiwan.
This last week was one of my favorite weeks here in SanChong. We saw so many miracles. We had a lot of success and a lot of fun. One of the best parts of a mission winding to a close is I can call converts and friends from former areas. IT HAS BEEN GREAT. I love them all so much and I feel so blessed to have shared with them my testimony and helped them live the gospel. Today some members from TaoYuan are coming to take me and my companion to somewhere really fun for P-Day. Brother Tsai (the body guard), Brother Chen, and Brother You (who actually isn't "my convert" but I was the first TaoYuan missionary to contact him, then I taught him a lot on exchanges, and then did his baptismal interview) are all coming. All 3 of them now hold the Melchizedek priesthood. Nami, a female convert is also coming, and she is preparing to go on a mission. I'm so excited to see all of them, and I'm so excited to see that they are continuing to grow in the gospel.
This week one of my converts from TuCheng came and visited me during our weekly free English class. It was really fun and he was also interested in going on a mission and asked me lots of questions about missions. It was really great. I forced him to speak English to my family and recorded it on my camera. I'll show you it in a couple weeks. He's great.
Another cool thing was that my former companion from TuCheng Elder Su, now Brother Su came with his whole family to visit me and they took us out to eat. It was a lot of fun. His parents would not stop talking to me. They loved me because they are hardcore vegetarians and I told them I eat vegetarian most of the time on my mission. They wouldn't stop going off about it. They are great but I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Elder Su... haha. It was really funny.
This week was full of so many great miracles. One took place Monday night that I'd like to share. I was looking through our phone list of investigators and came across the name of Arty. I found Arty my first week in SanChong. He is a cool Filipino, but he stopped investigating and we hadn't contacted him in quite some time. I had a feeling I should call Arty. I didn't know why, but I acted. I called and talked to Arty a bit and checked to see if he was doing alright. I didn't really know what to say and I followed up a bit on whether or not he had read the Book of Mormon and whether or not he had been praying. Then all of a sudden he said he was with a friend right now who was a member of the Church. He said she wanted to talk to me. I talked to her a bit and found out she was baptized in the Philippines. She had since moved to Taiwan and used to have the English ward missionary's phone number, but had lost it. She had been wanting to know where and how to attend church in Taiwan. She had been looking for the missionaries for quite some time and so that night me calling was an answer to her prayers. It was really cool.
Another great miracle this week was that we were able to begin teaching one of the coolest people ever. His English name is Kites. Yes, I said Kites. He picked it because he likes to feel free, but knows that to feel most free you still need something to keep you grounded (like the string from the kite). I'm super ready to share an awesome string to gospel analogy. Anyways... he was a member from TaiChung's referral. He just got back from Vancouver Canada where he lived for one year. While there he met a Taiwanese girl studying there... a member of our church. They began dating and he came back and wanted to meet with missionaries. We met with him Saturday. Then Sunday he came to all 3 hours of church, loved it, and then stayed after to meet with us again. He set a baptismal date and wants to be baptized before he leaves for Japan in March. He's super golden, intelligent, cool, and will be a great asset to the church. I'm sad we started meeting with him this late in the transfer. He's so great, and I'm excited to meet with him and help him prepare as much as possible before I leave.
Another great miracle is that a less active member my trainee reactivated through his free English class he taught was called to be the Elder's quorum president this week. That's really cool. He was less active when my trainee started teaching the intermediate class, but my trainee invited him to church and started sharing some messages and he came back. Now he's an Elder's Quorum President. YEAH!
Our great investigator Jackie is still dealing with family opposition, but this week was really good. Last week we couldn't get ahold of him at all. He had disappeared. This week we were still having trouble getting ahold of him and on Wednesday we prayed really really hard just to have the chance to get ahold of him. Wednesday evening he called us. He said he let his friend borrow his phone the previous week and that's why he hadn't answered. It was so good to get back in contact with him.
Another great investigator, Brother Li, is making real progress. He's been praying and started looking for new work that will let him attend church on Sunday. He's been developing faith and after Chinese New Year he will be getting new work and be baptized as soon as possible after that. It's really exciting!
Overall this week was really fun, tiring, rewarding, and exciting. We found a lot of great new people with lots of potential. We had a lot of fire, which I really needed. I felt like the last little while I was too "busy'' making sure to do all the little things the mission wanted us to be doing, and I was forgetting what has helped me have the success that I've had on my mission. That being straight up hard work and focusing on my purpose as a missionary and my reason for coming on a mission. It felt good. I called it doing missionary work President Grimley style. Haha. It resulted in lots of awesome miracles and there is nothing more satisfying to come home DEAD tired after a long day's work, kneel down and give an accounting to the Lord of our day's doings.
This week also had its fair share of Taiwanese people doing funny things. I was on exchanges in another area this week and we went to a less active member lady's house for dinner. She was hilarious, a little crazy, and a great cook. At one point though I began talking to her about her fish because it was a Beta fish and I wanted to know how to say Beta fish in Chinese. She then mentioned in a joking manner that her fish hadn't been baptized, I told her it wouldn't be hard because he's already immersed in the water, then she asked me to baptize her fish. I, for obvious reasons, refused, but she persisted. When I continued to refuse she took it upon herself to baptize her fish. She stuck her finger in the water and touched the fish, then she put her other hand to the square and said "little blue fish..." and went on the say the baptism prayer. So borderline crazy less active member also baptized her fish this week. I wish I could count that in my key indicators, but "Little Blue Fish" hadn't had his baptismal interview so it didn't count.
I'm going to miss Taiwan and the people here SO MUCH. I love this place. I'm so thankful I was able to come here on a mission. I know it's exactly where I was supposed to be. I'm so grateful for missions. I'm especially grateful for grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends who all set an example to me by serving faithful missions. I absolutely love this gospel. I know the fullness including proper priesthood authority was restored by the Lord through His chosen latter-day prophet Joseph Smith... and it makes me excited! Families can be eternal, the fullness of the atonement can be used, salvation can be obtained!
It's wonderful and it's been an absolute privilege to share it.
I love you all.