Elder Edwards loves to exercise. Being the future kicker for the BYU football team comes at a heavy price. We spend many mornings waking up 30 minutes early to go run stairs and hills. We do a variety of other exercises as well; it hurts to sit down. I have been working that Gluteus to the Maximus.
I got to meet the legendary Jeff, a recent convert that lives up here in Changhua. Elder Dailey has told me a lot about him. Apparently for Christmas, because missionaries are lonely and away from home, Jeff decided to cheer them up and thereafter donned a Santa suit, yelling lots of "ho-ho-ho"'s and swinging a huge bag above his head. He has really good English and will even use some modern urban vocabulary, such as, "Dude, that's flippin' knarly, man." It is seriously a jolt when you hear words like that coming from a Taiwanese.
I went on exchanges with my new Zone Leader on my second day with Elder Teng. He is an ABC (Taiwanese term for "American Born Chinese") who grew up in Redmond, Washington. He and I had an interesting lesson: we went up into the mountains to visit a polygamist family who was investigating the church. Most of the children were already baptized, but the parents and a couple of their sons were not. According to the missionary manual Preach My Gospel, we are strictly not allowed to baptize polygamist individuals unless they divorce from their additional spouses. We would be fine talking about this had not the family seemed so happy and full of love already. But the family was so warm and welcoming, and it seemed that they all had really solid family relationships, so we didn't want to step forward and break all that up. Elder Teng and his companion chose to wait until the parents decide they want to get baptized, before they drop that bomb.
I have to say that Elder Edwards is amazing. Never in my life have I felt more inadequate or undeserving. Just serving with him in the first day was a good reality-check for me, concerning my level of diligence and whether I truly was or wasn't putting my best work forward. When I was on exchanges with Elder Teng on my second day, he specifically asked me to be supportive of Elder Edwards and give him all that I have. I felt, and still feel, that I want to do this. Elder Edwards has told me many times that he really wants to give all of himself to the work. I want to be there to support him, because he deserves a supportive companion. But it requires much effort on my part, and even more help from God Himself. I prayed really hard the third night, and afterwards I wrote down, "I'm going to have a rough time this move call, but I will learn a lot, as long as I put the effort in and am humble enough to accept that I have weaknesses, and then move forward and change them into strengths." And I have certainly seen that over the past few days. As I have given all my energy of heart, Elder Edwards and I have been blessed with many miracles: We had 30 lessons this week, and a whopping eight investigators at church. We also had two members give us the names of their friends whom they are wanting us to visit, some of the first "member referrals" that Elder Edwards and I have gotten on our missions.
I was reading my notes from a talk given by Elder Bednar, and I had written, "Strive with unwearied diligence." I looked up "weary" in the Topical Guide of the LDS Gospel Library, and came across Alma 37:34, which reads: "Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls." Being stressed about not meeting expectations, this scripture was a tremendous comfort to me. I found that as long as I was humble and worked my best, I could have peace of heart and mind, and would not have to worry.
When I talk about the Atonement in lessons, I often talk about how I wasn't a very obedient, nice son to my mother. I regret the nature of my conduct at home for the majority of my life. I wish I had been more appreciative and loving of my mother, but instead I was often a pretty big self-conceited jerk. I talk about how the Atonement has helped me take that desire to change and help me learn and grow from my experiences. While my relationship with mom has improved, I do admit that I am still learning, and will probably continue to learn and improve throughout eternity. I hope, though, that I can be a much better son when I return from my mission. I remember being at that last FHE in Lingya and sitting next to Sister Zhang, and feeling just for a moment this incredible urge to put my arm around her and thank her for all that she has done for me. I think back to my feelings toward mom before my mission, and I wonder, "Why did I not have that strong feeling to do that for my own mother before? What is different now?" The Atonement has changed me. My love for her has grown. I know that when I see her at the airport when I return that I will throw my arms around her and cry and thank her for always being there for me. I love my mother!
I know God loves each and every one of us, and really wants us to be happy. I'm so glad that I have a friend to turn to whenever I am having a hard time. But why only talk with Him then? Why not every second of every day, thanking the Great Creator that has given us our precious life and everything that we behold around us? We are so blessed. My eyes have just begun to open to see the infinite number of gifts my Father has given me. I am grateful for his mercy, grace, and tremendous love.
“Elder Edwards and I!”
“My new desk space.”
“Elder Edward's family. The guy with the red Tee in the middle was one of my teachers in the MTC.”
“The view outside of our apartment in Changhua. Just had some fresh rain.”
“Check out this old picture from the previous Christmas. There's Grandpa Elder Jackson!”