Li hou! (Taiwanese for "hello!")
This week was awesome. Too much happened this week, and I'm going to try to mention as much of it as I can.
First I've gotta apologize to all those who have sent me letters and have not gotten a reply yet. Upon being in the mission field, time has become increasingly restricted for stuff like writing letters and grocery shopping. Part of the problem is that I'm not very good at prioritizing, and I'm trying to work on that right now so that I can have more room to reply to your letters. Thank you so much for all the kind words of encouragement you've sent, it makes me feel special and reinvigorated to do this work. I'm so grateful I have such awesome friends!
One thing I failed to mention last week was that during my companion exchange we went to a member's house and ate a traditional Taiwanese dinner with them. One of the dishes was made of these large, flat, rubbery brown strips which I later came to find out was a kind of fungus. I actually liked it a lot; it was my favorite food on the table (besides the rice of course!). I've gotten to the point where I prefer using chopsticks instead of fork and spoon to eat. Chopsticks are super fang bian (convenient). One thing that I had to learn is that you do not bring the chopsticks from the bowl to your mouth; you actually bring the bowl up to your mouth and scoop the food with the chopsticks. You actually want less distance between the food and you. But don't lean down over the bowl, that's rude!
We had Zone conference this week. There are only four of these per year, and zone conference is split up into two areas: south and north. So I attended the south zone conference. I saw Elders Fronk and Raley there, and was very surprised to see Sister Chord there since she actually is in the north, but was teaching a class for the south conference. Sister Chord told me she sent my little sister a letter, complete with a lot of stickers, so I can't wait to hear how Britta likes it. She also told me that my super buff MTC companion since he has been here shrunk two neck sizes. We don't eat that much food in Taiwan (except when you are visiting people, and then they try to blow up your stomach with all kinds of dong xi ["stuff"]). And Sister Newman, of course, is on fire. She is a mega missionary. I always knew her to throw her entire self into everything she does.
During Zone conference they have a section where the trainer missionaries introduce their new companions that are fresh in the mission field. So Elder Cox prepared a very sweet ditty about me, in which he recounted an experience we had a week ago where a guy we were talking with turned to me and said, "You have very beautiful eyes." He went on to say that the reason my eyes are "beautiful" is because I have the Light of Christ in me, and people can see it. He really put a lot of effort into the introduction, and I am really grateful to have such an awesome companion (even if he doomed me to teasing from the other elders for the rest of my mission).
And Elder Cox, Elder Fronk, his trainer Elder Harper, and I sang "Come thou Fount" for Conference! Totally fun.
One good quote from the Conference: "Stress comes when your goals and your behavior are not aligned."
In Preach My Gospel, the missionary manual, it says in the first chapter that everyone at some point in their life wonders what their purpose is, and where they are going after this life. In Taiwan, however, that's not the case. You ask them if they have ever thought about their purpose, and they say no. You ask them if they ever wondered about where they are going after they die, and they say no. You ask them what they think makes them happy, and nine times out of ten they will say money. This makes things difficult because I've always valued the gospel on the spiritual level, but now I have to make it appeal to someone who lives and thinks in the current, physical realm. Doctrine like eternal families and everlasting salvation don't work. Instead, showing them how the gospel can strengthen our families now and how Christ's atonement can help us have happiness and success now is the better approach. It's helped me really widen my understanding of the gospel as well as distinguish the specific needs of investigators.
And the best part of the week: Rich got baptized!!! It was amazing to see his countenance change. He is totally solid, and to hear him bear his testimony afterwards was truly incredible. He has changed so much. On Sunday he was confirmed a member of the church, an ordinance following baptism where the individual receives a blessing and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He also qualified to have the Priesthood and will be receiving that next Sunday. He is so happy! We are thrilled to see the progress he is making. This week we talked to an American who told us he feels sorry for us Mormons because we are "forced to go around knocking door to door" doing missionary work. I felt sad for him because he doesn't know what it feels like to watch someone come closer to Christ and see the hand of God work miracles in their life. Just seeing Rich take that step made this whole mission worth it, and I am humbled and honored that I can continue to perform as an instrument in the Lord's hands.
Shout out to by bro Dillon, going to Xalapa, Mexico! And my other bro Collin, going to Sierra Leone Freetown! So many of my good buddies are going on missions, it's crazy. I'm so excited for all of you!
I love you, and remember, red lights at intersections are a suggestion, not a requirement. I think. At least in Taiwan. A lot of people seem to think so.
“Hanging out with Elders Fronk and Harper on P-day.” (Preparation Day)
“The entrance to our apartment building.”
Rich gets baptized!
“I love the happy look on his face, absolutely priceless. That’s the moment I live for.”