November! Hoorah! Today marks my 4 month point on my mission. I can hardly believe that exactly 4 months ago I was going through orientation at the MTC. So weird.
This week was the first real rain we've had since I've been on island. I was talking with Rich, and he said that since the rain is highly acidic, people who don't cover their heads go bald faster. He warned me that I should, therefore, always wear a helmet when I'm biking. Forget safety, I don't wanna be bald! The rain that we had wasn't that bad, just enough to require some rain gear. Elder Cox says that it can get really bad, with the gutters overflowing with water. In Kaoshuing, there is literally a storm drain every 5 feet. That should give you an idea of how bad it can get. He also says that those days are when hundreds of cockroaches pour out of the drains onto the street, like out of some horror movie.
Remember Zhou Dai Xuan, the 10 year old that was close to baptism? His uncle was concerned that we should slow down and make sure he understands fully. He later explained why: Zhou has High Functional Asperger's Syndrome. That was really cool to hear, because my dad also has Asperger's, and my brother has Autism. This is quite the confirmation to me that I am supposed to be here in this area to help him. It was nice to be able to talk openly with them about it, and know that they were comfortable sharing that information.
That same night, a small child who is two years old was running around being obnoxious. His dad (Zhou's uncle) grabbed him and said, "If you don't behave, we will send you out with these two elders to be a missionary with them." The boy's body went limp and he collapsed to the floor, sobbing. Probably the funniest thing I have ever seen.
I had companionship exchanges again, and this time I was with Elder Forbes in Nanzih. He has been on island for 6 months, and we just tore it up out there. I loved working with him. I was happy to get to know him because later there was some trouble and his companion had to go up to Taichung to pick up a new missionary, so Elder Forbes stayed with us for three days. Being in a tripanionship is so efficient. We talked to tons of people during that time, and had quite a bit of success.
Every six weeks is called a "move call". The point when a move call starts is when new missionaries come in, old missionaries go home, and missionaries staying here can get moved to new places or get new callings (district leader, zone leader, etc.). Today is the start of my second move call. Elder Forbes got a call two days ago saying that he would serve his fifth move call in Magong, a small island off the west coast that can only be reached by airplane. If you get called there, that is true banishment. Those people only come off the island for Zone conferences, and there are only two missionaries there at a time. There's a lot of negative stipulation about the island, many people kind of treat it as a big laugh. But Elder Forbes is being really positive about the whole thing. I know he's going to love it there because of his positive attitude.
A guy I know, Elder Olsen, went home today. Very conveniently, his bike was stolen two days before. You can't time it better than that! People will steal the bikes here with the locks on them. That's why it's really important to paint your bike and make it look old and beat up, as well as put it in a place where it's super inconvenient to steal.
On the last Sunday of October, the bishop's wife asked me to do something, and the only thing I could understand was "play piano". Elder Cox has started doing this annoying thing where he won't help me understand what they are saying, so I was as good as on my own. Since it had something to do with piano, I agreed to help out with whatever it was. She smiled and left, and Elder Cox left to a meeting, so I was running around with Rich trying to figure out what in the world I had just agreed to do. Brother Oba, an American in our ward, walked by at one point and said, "Hey Elder Jorgensen, I hear you have a new important role in the ward!", and then continued to walk off as I felt a boulder sink in my stomach. I ran up to him and said, "Brother Oba, I really have no idea what this important role is. Could you please inform me as to what's going on?" He looked at me kind of funny, and then told me that I was playing piano for the primary program in two weeks. Aah!
I'm struggling with having a good diet. Perhaps the one good thing I've been eating is soy milk. I didn't like it in America, but I really dig it here, and of course the big perk is that it's really cheap in comparison to regular milk. I also try to get fruit into my diet, but it's kind of expensive. We don't cook for ourselves at all, it's all street food. Street food is usually noodles or rice, some meat, and some vegetables, with an egg thrown in. Everything here is soaked in oil. The food tastes so good, but it's probably not doing good things to my body. And pretty much all the food here has some MSG in it. I'm allotted 6000 NT every month, but somehow I used it all up before the month was over, so I had to take out some personal funds for the last few days. I was able to pay myself back with the next month's funds, so I'm all good. Today I am planning to budget all of November so that this doesn't happen again. As far as weight goes, I'm staying pretty stagnant: I'm hovering around 165 pounds. People usually lose weight in this mission. Elder Cox's trainer lost 150 pounds over his mission. He didn't send any pictures of himself home the whole time, and on his last day bought a fitted suit so he looked really good when he came home. Apparently his parents didn't recognize him until he tapped his dad on the shoulder and said who he was.
Interesting fact of the day: Taiwan doesn't have tax returns. Instead, they have a lottery. Every receipt you get from any purchase in Taiwan is an entry into the Taiwan Lottery. You will often see welfare groups standing in front of malls asking for donations of receipts.
This week I was studying about faith, and I had some cool insights about what faith exactly is.
Many believe that merely having faith in Christ will grant us mercy. While faith is necessary, we do not believe this, so I asked myself, "What is true faith?"
I have faith in my mother. I believe that she gives me commandments and tells me to do certain things because she wants to teach me and protect me from harm. Now, let's say that my mom told me to get out of the middle of the street. There are two responses, faith and true faith. Faith is when I say, “Mom, I know and believe that you will protect me from danger,” and still remain in the middle of the road. True faith is when I immediately obey her words. I would like to say that the prior example is not faith at all, it is just a vain hope that my personal responsibility will be taken away. These people will recognize all too late that the car is coming and there is no one there to rescue them.
Perhaps this sounds rather morbid. Doesn't Christ have all power? Can't he rescue us from the consequences of sin? Yes. He can. . . . but only if we take some responsibility and learn from our actions. And this means that we are going to have to make some personal sacrifices, including giving up the things that God has told us is wrong. Faith is not just a belief; it is a principle of action.
One of the most detailed dissertations of faith in the scriptures is found in Alma 32. Verse 21 states: "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." As it says here, faith, in itself, is a hope and belief on the unseen. He continues in verses 26-27: "Now, as I said concerning faith- that it was not a perfect knowledge- even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words" (emphasis added).
In other words, the only way to know if something is true is to do it. This is pretty much a rule of thumb for life. I don't know if a bed is soft until I lay on it. I don't know that the tree at the MTC smells like cream soda until I go smell it. And I don't know that the Book of Mormon is true until I read it and pray about it. The thing about faith is that it should lead to a perfect knowledge. But if one does not act on their faith, they do not progress in their knowledge. "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).
Faith leads to action. The results of the action help us determine if the thing we have faith in is real.
Now let's say that you have gained a knowledge after this trial of your faith. Are we done? Faith has accomplished its purpose, right? No, merely knowing is still not enough. You must apply more faith! "And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life" (Alma 32:40). Faith is like a seed, and if you take time to nurture it, it will begin to grow, and you will know it is a good seed. As you continue to nurture it, your understanding will grow as the tree does, and you can eventually partake of the fruit. "Then, my brethren ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you" (Alma 32:43).
If you have planted this seed, do not neglect it! For soon the "sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root and it withers away... Ye will not nourish the tree; therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof" (Alma 32:38-39).
Believe in Christ. Then, do what He says. As you exercise your faith I promise that you will come to a perfect knowledge that He truly is your Savior and redeemer, and then shall "ye believe in a manner that ye can give place [in your hearts] for a portion of my words" (Alma 32:27).
What a good week. I love you all, and I hope you can see the Lord's hand in your life as I do in mine. What a great time to be alive! Until next week,
“Spending some time at the mural place, too bad it's getting torn down soon...”
“View over Nanzih from Elder Forbes apartment (15th floor).”
“Some pagodas and walkways in Zouying(?), beautiful!”
“Inside the subway with Elder Cox (Subways here are called MRT's).”