It's the last week of November, so why is it still so blazing hot outside? The leaves haven't even started changing color yet.
I made an interesting discovery this week: the moon rises sideways in Taiwan. If you think about it, it makes sense: depending on your orientation on the surface of the earth, you are going to see the sun rise at a different angle. For example, if at the equator the light is on the bottom side of the moon, on the North Pole you will see the light on the left, whereas on the south pole you will see the light on the right. Pretty radical, eh?
I was playing senior companion for a week, and I remember one particular day when suddenly Elder Cox disappears from behind me. I thought perhaps he had gone down a side road to contact someone or something, so I just stopped at the main intersection that I was at and waited at the street corner, biking a little up and down the road I had just come through to try and find him. About five minutes went by, and I started feeling super worried. We are always supposed to stay within sight and sound of our companion, and I had no idea where he was. And then I remembered what Elder Cox had trained me to do if I got separated: Go to the nearest 7-Eleven and use my pay phone card to call his cell phone. But then I remembered with a jolt that I was senior companion this week, therefore I had the phone. And then I calmed down with the thought that he would go to a 7 and call me. I panicked again: I had the call card, he didn't. I waited five more minutes. During that time I was reading through my missionary handbook about what to do in this situation, and it says that we are to notify the mission president immediately if we get separated. I didn't want to call, but I needed to do the right thing... So I said a prayer, and asked Heavenly Father what I should do. The clear answer in my mind was, "Call President Bishop." Ironically, as soon as I pick up the phone and start dialing, here comes Elder Cox slowly coasting around the corner up to me. I was relieved, and then all of a sudden I was really peeved. I didn't talk to him for a while after that. I was super grateful I found him, but he was so nonchalant about it that I was even a little angry. It turned out that he was contacting someone, and it just went super long, and he thought that I could see him.
I realize I haven't talked too much about my day to day life as a missionary. I'll try to start including a little tidbit each week. Something that makes our mission different and special in comparison to other areas around the world is that we contact a ton of people. In areas in the United States, a good week is talking to about 20-30 people on the street. In our mission, we typically talk to 300-400 per week. The reason is the super high density of people, and also the fact that most people drive scooters, which makes conversation very easy. We do try to contact cars as well, but usually the people inside are less than willing to roll down their windows. People on scooters don't have much of an escape. The only way they can get out of a conversation is to be rude, and thankfully, people here often don't like to do that. So contacting on the streets is preferred. On the other hand, we rarely, if ever, knock on doors. Everyone is so busy, they're never home. Everyone is either at work or on the street.
One thing we are encouraged to do is to memorize the first vision, Joseph Smith's experience in which God the Father and His Son appeared to him. The account, if said in his words, have a lot of power, and is the optimal way of introducing our message that this church is the restored Church of Jesus Christ as it was when Christ was on the earth. I quote: "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.... When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose countenances and glory defy all description.... One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other, 'Joseph, this is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!'" Elder Cox says that when he recites it on the street, the common response he gets is that "Joseph saw aliens". I guess it does sound a little like that. It's kind of sad, though, that they miss the meaning of the story.
In Taiwanese schools, they teach the children that the smartest people in the world are the Jews. In a close second place is the Taiwanese, and Americans take the bronze.
The baptism was fantastic. I had been fretting about the thing all week: the baptism prayer is specific, and must be done word perfect and I had never done it before, let alone in Chinese. It was a huge blessing to take part in a musical number preceding the ordinance; it helped me calm down and focus better. Elder Hellberg is a beast at the guitar, and we played a Primary song together that ended up making Sister Liu, the woman getting baptized, cry a lot. The ordinance itself went well. I remembered her full name and the whole prayer, and did what some people was the smoothest baptism they had ever seen. Man, I don't understand why I get so worried about stuff. It usually ends up just fine. I was very blessed and honored to do that for Sister Liu. She's truly converted to the gospel, and I was happy to help her make the important step of baptism towards her eternal salvation.
Happy Thanksgiving! I went to Brother Oba's house and had a feast with practically half the ward. I spent half of it talking with Sister Jiang and trying to learn Chinese words for different foods, and the other half talking music with Sister Liu (turns out she's really into classical music). Rich was there, and he is doing great! A big reason for his depression was that he wanted to go to the United States and study English in New York, and he even got accepted by a college too, but the government threw away his Passport and his Visa paperwork, saying that he thought he was a spy. He's doing better now, mostly because he and Brother Oba are working together to figure out what went wrong and try again. Brother Oba works in AIT (America In Taiwan), and is able to help out a lot with this stuff.
The following is some scripture study I did, and I apologize in advance for the tricky vocabulary. This is more geared towards those who are members of the LDS Church, but I think everybody can benefit from this information. I'll try to make this as easily understandable as possible, but if you don't understand something, still have questions, or would like to read the referenced scriptures online, I would invite you to go to www.mormon.org or www.lds.org for help and reference.
My dad had sent me a letter a while back with an invitation to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:52, with a few questions, one of them being: "What is meant to be 'ordained and sealed' in this context?" It is interesting that the word "sealed" is used. In all ordinances (acts done by priesthood, including baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, administration of the sacrament, etc.), the ordinance is not valid/complete until the Holy Spirit of Promise has "sealed" the ordinance (see verse 53). The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost's role of telling us if an ordinance you have taken part in is accepted by God, or in other words, a witness that your action is valid. For example, when you are baptized, if you were ready to receive baptism at that time, you will feel a divine witness that you did the right thing (it's hard to describe the feelings of the Spirit; suffice it to say that they are feelings that are indescribable and cannot be forged or duplicated by man). So if we take this into context, I would think that this verse refers to men who have been ordained and sealed by the Spirit of Promise to the office of the Priesthood.
I took this a little deeper: according to Preach My Gospel, the missionary manual, we should receive this divine witness both when taking part in and performing ordinances. When I baptized Sister Liu, I felt powerfully for a moment that I had performed the baptism correctly. When performing ordinances, we should receive a witness ourselves that we exercised the Priesthood worthily and correctly carried out the ordinance. It is possible that you can perform ordinances unworthily and therefore not receive that witness, but this would be to your own condemnation, and would not affect the recipient of the ordinance. This is why someone who may have blessed the sacrament unworthily will not affect the actual power of the ordinance, and the people partaking of it can still feel be cleansed from sin and feel the Spirit.
In summation: The Holy Ghost witnesses to us that we took part in or performed ordinances correctly and worthily.
Congrats to CaryLynn!! Woohoo, California Spanish speaking! Where in California? We have people here with relatives in California; I'd love to send over some names to look for.
Who's ready for December!? Hope all is well, and I love each and every one of you!
“Baptism of Sister Liu.”
This one made his mama cry.