Greetings from Lingya!
This week on Wednesday I hit my one month marker in Taiwan. It's really hard to believe that I've been here this long; the time really flies by super-fast. Then again, I feel like I've been here for eternity too, it's quite confusing actually. The days are slow, the weeks are fast.
Rich had his baptismal interview, and he was found prepared and ready for it! He has really been working hard, and we have been excited and proud of his hard work in preparing to take part in this ordinance of salvation. It's incredible to see a guy who has seriously been investigating the church for eight years suddenly understand the gospel and thereafter exponentially grow in his testimony. One of the coolest things about Rich is that he seeks out missionary opportunities. One night we were going to meet with him at a Mai Dang Lao (McDonald's), and we arrived seeing him waving his arms and pointing at a nearby occupied table. We discovered he had started talking to this random guy and introduced the gospel to him, and the guy was remarkably receptive to what we said afterwards because Rich had done such a good job talking with him. In fact, we barely taught anything, he pretty much covered the whole lesson. I am convinced that God gave us this experience, not only to introduce to this man the gospel, but even more so to help Rich discover the strength of his testimony. Rich has been making visible leaps and bounds in his faith every day, and I am sure he will be a great leader in the future. This Saturday is his baptism, and I'm so excited!
One of our investigators took us to this restaurant that was called "Psalms 23", clearly sponsored by a Christian church. They gave us free Dong Guo cha (Melon tea) because we "knew the scripture".
By the way, Dong Guo cha is THE BEST. Sooo good—probably because it's chock full of brown sugar. (Perhaps you have heard already that there are some things that LDS members do not eat or drink, and that tea is one food we should not consume. I suppose I should mention here that Mormons can drink tea, as long as it is not "cha ye de cha", or tea leaf tea. So herbal tea is fine, but red, green, or black tea is not okay to drink.)
Taiwanese people are very friendly. They will usually hold some kind of conversation, even if they aren't interested in talking with missionaries. Some may even write down their name and a fake phone number because they don't want you to lose face. If they do reject you, the most they do is ignore you, never rude words or extreme reactions. I can count on my fingers on one hand how many rude responses I've got in the last month.
However. Foreigners are quite different. They know who we are, because Mormon missionaries like us are everywhere. And the responses we get from them are on opposite ends of the spectrum: either they are super nice and talk with you for half an hour or they do a vulgar hand gesture or curse at you. It's really just a toss-up. We met one nice one this week, his name is Travis and he's from California. He talked with us for a full hour, and what was pretty incredible was that he held a lot of the same beliefs as us, but came to those beliefs on his own.
For all males that are trying to get a permanent residence permit in Taiwan, pretty much the only thing you can do for work to qualify is teach English for five years. So you meet a lot of foreign guys here teaching English. There is a LOT of English schools out here in the city.
One day I was teaching English class, and after it was over I got in a discussion with one of the older students. Meanwhile, I could see two teenage girls out of the corner of my eye, and it appeared to me that they were egging each other on to talk to me. Eventually the younger one came over with a phone and asked if I had a Facebook. Oh. I didn't really know what to say exactly, because I have to be really careful about how I associate with girls. I told her I did have a profile, but that I wouldn't be on it for two years. I think that was a good way to handle it: they seemed a little disappointed. It's hard being a missionary and not being friends with girls... I feel that it's something that's not really in my nature, but it's necessary for my protection and staying focused on my purpose. At any rate, I'm going to follow the rules the best I can because I need all the divine assistance and blessings I can get.
I had a companion exchange this week, in which our Zone leaders and we trade off a companion for a day. It's a good way for people to get new ideas from each other and learn a little more about how to be effective missionaries. I had a few opportunities to teach lessons that day, and Elder Bailey, the Zone Leader who was with me, said he was very impressed with my ability to understand and speak the language. The next day he was inspired to issue me a challenge: Currently I am working on something called Phase 1, a book that is full of vocabulary, phrases, and scriptures from the missionary lessons in the mission language. I originally had a goal to memorize all the stuff in it by the end of January, which I was struggling to see how I was going to accomplish it anyway. Elder Bailey wanted me to cut that goal in half. He is my leader, and he has the authority to receive revelation on my behalf, so I know that he was inspired to give me that invitation. And I know that God prepares a way to accomplish every commandment he gives us. So I have to step forward in faith. This is scary, it's like leaping into the dark, but I'm going to do it. I trust I'm not being led off a cliff, but rather that I'm jumping onto safe ground.
The other night I was lying in bed talking with my companion, and we were talking about our mothers. I told him about how my little brother is autistic, and how my mom spent a lot of her time every single day to work with him on developing his communication skills. My brother would play little games with her, and I would get jealous. I would ask her if I could play with her too. So my mom made time to play with me every day as well. I said that my mom just did her best to be there for me and love me all the time. And then something just hit me. "Man, I miss my mom." And then I just started sobbing. I remembered all the little things that she did for me every day, never thinking of herself and the many things she had to do. I was always a priority to her. And I was so undeserving; I did so little in return. She really is amazing, beyond comprehension. It's sad that it takes separation from loved ones to fully appreciate the role they played in your life. I look forward to the day when I can come back and give her a big hug and tell her I love her.
General Conference was great, a mighty spiritual feast. Now that I've seen it, I'd like to recommend to you friends some great talks to look up on www.lds.org. If you are not a member of the Church, and you'd like to better understand what I'm doing as a missionary, check out Russell M. Nelson's talk in the Saturday Morning session. For our beliefs about our relationship with Christ (this is just amazing, it's a must see), go see Jeffery R. Holland's talk in the Sunday Morning session.
I think one of the biggest things I learned from conference was taking our relationship with the Lord seriously. Just as Christ asked the apostle Peter, he now asks us "Do you love me?" If we do, how committed are we in that answer? Do we love him, or do we love him with every fiber and sinew of our being? How do we show that love? How do we grow that love? Please, if you have some time, watch Jeffery R. Holland's talk. It illustrates this point so powerfully, I cannot do it justice.
I loved this quote as well: "God is never hidden, but sometimes we are" (Henry B. Eyring, Sunday Morning session).
I love you all, and hope you have another great week! I remind you that if you want to ask me questions or comment, feel free to do so here or on my Facebook profile. All those messages will be forwarded to me.