What a loooooong week. Very, very busy.
So I have to tell you about what learning the language is like. Imagine being dunked into a cold lake. Yep. You are placed into this environment where everyone only speaks Chinese, except for a few occasional English words for clarification. Our first day, our teacher walked in and gave us all of our instructions for our first assignment in fluent Mandarin. Imagine then, 11 pairs of wide, glazed over eyes. Thus, the teachers have to pantomime a lot of their words as they say them; they get a pretty good workout!
So here's the philosophy: if we devote all of our time to listening to and speaking Chinese, then the Spirit will kick in and grant us the gift of tongues. Fact: No ordinary 19 year old teenager can learn this language on their own in twelve weeks. But, with the Lord's help, we can accomplish anything that is in line with His will. And right now He wants me to learn Mandarin. The Lord qualifies whom He calls. I've learned way more here in six weeks than I learned in High School Chinese class in three years.
Just to give you an idea, at six weeks I'm expected to be able to speak 70% of the time in Mandarin. Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure on us missionaries. The crazy thing is that last year they were running a pilot program where the Chinese speakers only had nine weeks, not twelve. Yes, reliance on the Spirit is completely necessary to be successful. This. Is. Hard. It means giving all your energy to doing this stuff, then praying that the Lord can help you the rest of the way. We have to completely eliminate any sense of pride inside us, which is difficult for me. Unfortunately, I can be pretty self-centered.
And now for some other things...
The chief of security here is this huge, bald dude that constantly scowls. We think he was a Navy Seal. But the thing that makes him so epically awesome is his name: Magnum Angus. Ooooh yeah. He was born for his job!
Another Elder in my district is running a blog, and he's going to Taichung as well. Check out www.blakeraley.com if you'd like (there's probably more pictures of me there, because I'm not the one holding the camera).
In the scriptures, particularly 1 Corinthians 13, it talks about how Charity is the best Christ like attribute we can have. Charity is the eternal love that God has for his children. When we have Charity, we want to serve those around us the best we possibly can because we love them and want them to be happy. I'm trying hard to develop this characteristic in myself. My companion and I have been pushing ourselves to do little planned acts of service for others in our district, like compliments and little notes about how we appreciate their examples and things they did. This is easy in itself, but the hard thing is delivering these compliments in secret. I've learned that the best acts of service are the ones where the recipient never finds out who served them. Being in drama, I love the applause after a performance. It's addicting. If you are not careful, your main motivation for acting would change from entertaining people to getting recognition. When you eliminate the possibility of recognition, you focus more on your love for the person, and therefore the act of kindness is much more sincere. I hope I can embody that kind of love in myself as I serve others. I have a feeling it's gonna take my whole life long. But it's worth it, because "charity never faileth". As a missionary, I can teach them and help them and bear my testimony all I want, but if love is not present, it all is in vain. With charity, I can succeed in accomplishing my purpose to invite and help others to come unto Christ.
We had a cloudy day yesterday. Man, I miss Washington.
I sent an SD card with about 230 pictures home today, so you all will have those to look forward to pretty soon!
And one more fun fact: If you want to say hello in Thai, just say "So what eh cup!"
I love you all, and I wish you all the best! Until next week,