Xinnian kuai le! Happy New Year!
This week was a good wrap up to the year. I must first say thank you so much for all the letters I received during the Christmas holiday. It truly brightened my spirits hen duo (a lot), and it helped me to feel that connection I have with each of your lives, despite the time and distance that keep my world and yours apart. I have a lot of good memories of my hometown, and I am grateful to be able to recall those a little bit over the holidays.
On the same note, I've been sending letters back to all who send me one. I must apologize though, it takes me awhile to respond (Mondays are the only day we are allowed to write letters, as well as take care of shopping and writing to family and such, so not much time!), and occasionally I'll get letters back saying they failed to find the person. (Sorry Amy, I'll try to resend my letter today.) If you haven't received a letter yet, be assured one is on the way!
Last week I sprained my ankle. It was during the caroling activity, and I had run a little bit only to roll my foot after tripping over some protruding stones on the sidewalk. I was a little nervous I had gotten a Jones fracture (the pain seemed to be focused to a point), so we went to the hospital the next day. We asked around where a doctor was, and an old man said, "Follow me!", got on his scooter, and took us to the hospital. He was so nice: he set up an appointment for me and took me to the orthopedic office. (We tried to give him some tracts when he left, but he just waved his hands and said, "Bu yong!" ["No use!"]). The doctor sent me to get an X-Ray, and the lady in there told my companion to leave. We were a little worried about this because we are always to be within sight and sound of our companion, and here I am being left alone with this lady. He and I exchanged a surprised look just before a giant metal door slid over the room entrance and separated us. The next few minutes that followed were very weird and, I'll admit, a little nerve-wracking. This seemed so against the rule book. I had never been separated from my companion except for once on my mission so far, and that time I was a couple button clicks away from dialing the mission president. Its crazy how used you get to having another person with you at all times, you kind of freak out when they disappear.
I got a great photo album from my family for Christmas! There is one particular photo in it that makes most Taiwanese folks laugh. For our family reunion, my dad printed photos of the members of the family who were gone on missions. They were all life size posters, of just the head and top of the torso. After showing a humored English class, they told me that in Taiwanese culture, you only see pictures like that if the person in the picture is dead.
Speaking of dead people, my companion and I went to go find a former investigator in our records. When we went to ask the security guard of the apartment complex if we could find "our good friend, Mr Li," he told us, "Mr Li is not here. He died." Oh. That's awkward. I can just imagine him thinking, "What kind of 'good friends' are you?"
I got to call my family this week! Skype is such a miracle. We are so blessed with the technology we have these days. It felt really good to see all of them, and I was touched to hear my little brothers say they were excited to serve a mission. They probably couldn't tell, but I was fighting tears as I told them they needed to serve a mission. This is, by far, the best thing I have ever done in my life. I am so thankful I made this decision. I can't relay even the smallest fraction of how much I've changed so far. I am a better person than I was before, and I hope to continue this progression into the man the Lord wants me to be.
The night after I called my family, I had my first dream in Chinese. In the dream, I had already been released from my mission, and I was at home in the kitchen with Dad. He was speaking into a giant brick phone, so clearly the phone was an important focal point of my dream. He was trying to set up a time to hang out with a friend for lunch, and his friend was Chinese. The man was speaking a lot of Chinglish (Chinese and English), and Dad was having a hard time understanding him, so he handed the phone to me and asked me to set it up. I continued to have a conversation in Chinese with the man, and the man said he was very impressed with my ability to speak Chinese that well. It was a very, very good dream. A definite milestone. I've been waiting for that moment for months. And the reason I had this dream was that I asked God for it. The night before, I asked Him if I could have a dream about how I could be a better missionary, and he gave me a dream showing me how far I've come. I take it to mean that I need to stop worrying too much about meeting my potential; I've been making good progress as it is.
Us Latter-Day Saints abide by a certain law called "The Word of Wisdom", which dictates rules about what we are and are not to eat. It's a health code of sorts. It stipulates five things we are not to eat, and they compose of the following: alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, coffee, and tea (tea leaf, not herbal tea). Elder Cox had introduced me to this awesome pear juice, and I've been drinking quite a bit of it. But when we went to lunch with a native today, he grabbed the glass I was filling and told me that the juice had black tea in it. Oh noes. I had him write down the character for tea and I'm going to memorize it so that I don't have another mishap.
And now for an announcement: My official release date has been moved from July 25th, 2014, to July 8th, 2014. Because of the recent age change for when missionaries are allowed to serve, there is a massive number of missionaries entering the MTC, so the MTC had to shift their schedule and shorten everyone's time there by three weeks. To accommodate this change, we are cutting a six week move call in half, which shortens my time to serve by three weeks. My thoughts on this... I'm not sure how I feel. It's just interesting to me right now, but I'm sure that as I get closer to the date, I'm going to wish I could have spent a little more time here. Taiwan truly is an amazing place.
We currently have four investigators with baptismal dates, one with a goal for the 12th of January, two others for the 19th, and Zhou Didi, the ten-year-old, for Valentine's Day. We're excited, and hopeful that they can hit their goals. It's a great time to be a missionary in Lingya!
I love all of you, and I wish you a wonderful year ahead.
“An English Flyer prototype I made. Oh, did I tell you I'm English Leader now? I basically just run the English program in my area, provide training, and plan English Proselyting events.”
“Check out the Instant Noodles isle. Cheap noodle paradise.”
“Elder Dailey's old companion from when he served in California.”
“No, I did not eat that whole burger by myself.”
“Street scene in Lingya.”