Sunday, May 26, 2013

20 May 2013

When Elder Bean arrived on island, he did a short activity with Elder Hellberg, in which Elder Bean had his first experience contacting people in Taiwan. According to his rendition of the event, the experience was marred by Elder Hellberg's ridiculously good looks. Many people approached them, asking excitedly if he was the actor that played Peeta in the recent movie The Hunger Games. They then insisted on having pictures with him. Poor Elder Hellberg, he's just too handsome for his own good.

You know how students in Asia are very diligent? I've always known it was because much pressure is put on them by the schools and parents, but I just learned of a particular strategy they use: Every student's test scores are posted in the local newspaper. Its main purpose is for the advertising of schools (IE, "Look at our school, our student's score the highest!"), but this naturally puts a ton of pressure on the individual student because they don't want their family name to "lose face". Nuts.

The rain has really kicked in. We've been having severe thunderstorms and floods recently, and one morning we woke up to the sound of the loudest thunder I have ever heard in my life. Imagine a body builder slamming a cake pan against tile floor as hard as he can, and amplify that by 1000. And then do that over and over and over again. It lasted for a good hour. When it rains out here, the city basically turns off. Nobody is out on the streets (understandably: when it rains, it rains). So we end up making a lot of calls and tracting. The hope is that somebody will take pity on you and let you into their home. In fact, a lot of people become investigators because they usually have had an experience where they have seen the missionaries riding their bikes in a typhoon, so they really come to respect us.

I am still English Leader. They're doing pretty well, we had another attendance spike from 24 to 37 last week, and I'm hoping a lot of those new students carry over into the next week. I think I've really earned a lot of the missionaries trust, which is absolutely crucial to a program's success. We are just one big round of sharing and receiving ideas and constructive criticism, so we are improving a lot! I'm glad to be working with so many fantastic missionaries.

We picked up an investigator this week, his name is Kevin. And talk about SMART. My father has been sending me letters that have talked about science and its relationship with religion, so I was more than ready when Kevin started pulling out things like "Occam's razor" and Pascal's theories on economics. Clearly, my dad was inspired to write about that stuff, because I was able to address all of his concerns and perfectly understand where he was coming from. In the end, he actually agreed to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Pretty amazing.

Elder Erekson got a call the other day from four girls on a conference call, asking if we could go to their party. When we said no, they asked us for our personal Facebook addresses. "Um, here's our English Class Facebook!" They weren't thrilled about that. To add on to that, there was a member family trying really hard to hook us up with their daughter and niece: "I want them to go to America because I like American boys better."

On Wednesday, all four of us local Elders were biking home, when suddenly this guy in a van drove up beside us and started shouting through a megaphone, "Go go go go go go go GO GO GO!" He started accelerating and we found ourselves in a really fast van-bike drag race. And I'm happy to say we beat him. Take that!

Brother Shi got baptized!!! Woohoo!!! Because our church building is so weird, we do not have a baptismal font, so we used a puny swimming pool instead. Because Brother Shi is so tall, he had to basically crumple himself into a ball to go all the way under the water and fit in the pool. Regardless, I'm super happy for his decision. I hope he continues on to be an active member, as I know he will be very blessed if he does so.

Elder Erekson is the bomb! I'm so grateful to be working with him. This is his first movecall as District Leader, let alone senior companion, so we are having a great time figuring things out. We laugh and sing a lot together, we get along well. We are trying to write a few songs right now; we'll try to get the album published by the end of next month. First things first: where can I get a good tape recorder?

Hope all is well back at the home front! I love you all! Stay cool (It's too hot here! Appreciate the cold weather while you can!).


-Elder Jorgensen


“My desk space.”


“Elder Erekson photo-bombing my camera.”


“Brother Shi and party.”


“Sister Christensen and her new trainee, Sister Burr.”


“Brother Wu, our Ward Mission Leader.”


“Brother Yang, a super super nice guy who is a ward missionary.”


“Baptism font, so puny!”


“The Gangshan crew.”


“It's Adventure Time! This cartoon is incredibly popular in Taiwan.”

13 May 2013

The lease for our Gangshan apartment ends in December, and apparently our landlord is very eager and proactive in selling off the place. The office elders forgot to tell us that realtors were going to be coming to look at our apartment. So imagine our surprise when we hear the doorbell ring. We never get any visitors! We were actually in the middle of cleaning, so we quickly tried to make the house look a little presentable and then opened the door. And then here they were, just walking in through our front door snapping pictures. After a quick phone call to the office, we realized the situation, and began running to the other rooms that they hadn't seen yet, making beds and tidying our desks. Unfortunately, our front room smelled weird because we had made a piñata there a few days ago. The place was just a mess. But they just smiled and thanked us for our time, and then walked back out. Over the last few days more and more realtors keep coming in. I'm sure they are in cahoots with the apartment complex security guard, because they always seem to show up right when we walk in the door. It's pretty annoying actually.

It was my birthday this week, and it was a very fun one! On Monday, the ward threw a surprise party for me during a Single member activity. They came waltzing in with a cake and lots of fruit. It was fun to spend that time with my ward family. Then on Tuesday, I had a Zone Training Meeting, and it was both my birthday and one of the senior couple missionary's birthday. He was turning 71. His wife brought a huge Costco cake! During another meeting, President Bishop walks around the corner whistling "Happy Birthday", grabs my arm, takes me over to the meeting room, and has everyone there sing to me. I feel really loved and appreciated, even in a foreign land.  I'm grateful for all my wonderful friends and leaders out here.

We wrapped up the last movecall with a huge English party, where we showed them how Americans celebrate birthdays (no, I was not throwing myself a birthday party. We said it was everyone's birthday.).  We made several piñatas (one coated in duct-tape for the adult guys), played musical chairs, passed around wrapped presents, and ate cake! During the musical chairs portion, I played piano, and I guess I left an impression on one father there, because he brought his 5-year-old daughter up to me and asked me to give her piano lessons every week. Naturally, as a missionary, I couldn't agree, but I'm flattered that they considered me capable of teaching their daughter. Just to serve though, I taught her for about ten minutes, and I found I really enjoyed it. Maybe I'll teach piano after my mission...

I got a new companion today, and it's actually someone I knew from in the MTC. Elder Erekson is super nice, super diligent, super visionary, and super AWESOME! I'm thrilled to have this time to work with him. We are going to have a great time in Gangshan together. Meanwhile, Elder Jensen is training a new missionary, so we are all together in a 4-man apartment. Cool beans.

Even out here in Taiwan, Mother’s day is an important holiday, enough for investigators to tell us they have to stay home from church to be with their mothers. I don't blame them: I wish I could be home to show my appreciation for my mother. I just want everyone out there to know that I have the best mom in the entire universe, and she can't be beat! I'm a little prejudiced, I know, but I speak the truth. I love my mom so much!!! She has helped me through thick and thin, has pulled me up when I have fallen down, and serves me continually, especially when I am not looking. She has been my inspiration to become a better missionary, a better son, a better man, and a better disciple of Christ. I am thankful for her devoted service to her fellow man and her solid testimony. I hope and dream of becoming like her someday. I love you mom!!!

Happy Mother’s Day!


-Elder Jorgensen

6 May 2013

Monumental news of the week: I used a squatter toilet for the first time. They are everywhere in Taiwan, but I've been avoiding using them, for obvious reasons. But unfortunately, I really had to go, and it was the only option. I will graciously save you from a description of the event. Let me just say that I am so glad we have toilets you can conveniently sit on... what a blessing!

We're starting to gear up for the next movecall, and rumors are flying. Our 4-man apartment got reduced to a 2-man, but we still have two cell phones (usually it's one per companionship). The office never asked for the other one back, so we had the feeling that we were going to go back to a 4-man pretty soon. Plus, because of that sudden exchange with the assistants, I was pretty sure Elder Jensen was going to train a new missionary next movecall. So I wasn't surprised when he got a phone call the other night telling him that he was training. We then asked the office if I was going to move, and they said that I was staying here, confirming that we were going back to a 4-man. Which now opens up the further possibility that I may become senior companion next movecall. Now I'm worried: I feel totally inadequate. I believe I could do it, but my Chinese is lacking. I still don't understand a lot. I can speak the missionary vocabulary (gospel stuff), but when I branch out and have ordinary conversation, I can't do it. It's especially bad when they are bearing out their heart and soul to you in a lesson and you have no idea what they are saying. Our job is to help our investigators see how the gospel can help them, but I can't do that if I don't know what their problem is. It's looking like a lot of diligent language study and faith from now on. Of course, if I get a native Taiwanese companion, that would solve the problem. But we'll see how next week plays out.

I went on exchanges with Elder Hoer this week. Elder Hoer was the previous assistant to the President, but now he's in my district, so I had the opportunity to go do some good missionary work with him. Something I learned is that he just enjoys every aspect of the work. He has fun! He'll be singing and ringing his bell like crazy, and talking to everyone as if they were his best friend. It made me want to make all my communications with everyone more authentic. The only barrier with that is, again, ability with the language. I can't be myself if I can't speak what I want to say. But at least I can smile, so I'm good there.

Towards the end of our exchange, we bought some drinks, and the guy told us that it wasn't tea. As many of you probably know, LDS members do not drink tea made out of tea leaves (black, green, etc.). We drank a little bit, and Elder Hoer was immediately unsure about it. He said it tasted a lot like tea, but at the same time, the guy insisted it was not "tea leaf tea". It was until we drained half of our cups that Elder Hoer decided we had better not drink anymore. I guess I'll just have to be much more careful in the future.

Saw a woman this week wearing a T-shirt that said, "I'm proud to be a man." This explains why I see so many T-shirts out here with bad words and/or gibberish on them. They likely have no idea what they're wearing.

Elder Jensen and I went to visit a recent convert that hasn't been coming to church for a long time. When we came up to him, he said he was busy, and that he couldn't talk with us. We asked if we could share a short scripture with him that we had prepared, and I guess he felt like he could open up and be honest at that point, because he started telling us a ton of reasons why he wasn't going to church. He told us that he never really got an answer that the Book of Mormon is true, that the gods have been blessing him with really good business, and that he sees these other gods all the time. As we talked with him, he was completely opposed to everything we said, and continued to unload argument after argument on us. The conversation took wild tangents, and I can just remember the Spirit saying clearly to me, "Testify." So I did. I looked at him right in the eye, and told him I knew with all my heart that this church is true, and told him that he could know too. Sadly, he didn't listen: I could see an argument forming in his eyes even as I bore testimony. So we left. He turned around in a huff and started working on one of his machines in his workshop. As we walked out, I just turned around and said, "You know, we love you, Brother Zhan. We love you. I hope you remember that." He kind of stopped and looked at me for a moment. I just gave him a quick little smile and walked out. I don't know if he will ever have interest in going back to church, but at least we gave him an opportunity to know that we are always there for him, waiting with open arms.

Sometimes we think we have made too many mistakes to be able to receive God's forgiveness. While repentance may be hard, I can tell you that there is always a way back. He wants us to come back. All we need to do is turn over our will to His, and let Him change us. Life is so much better if we are obedient and humble. If you live in darkness or fear, please don't continue to stay there. Turn towards the light! Search the scriptures, pray, seek help from your church leaders! The Lord's hand is stretched out still, and we just have to take that step and grab on. He loves us!

Have a wonderful week, love,

-Elder Jorgensen

Cooking tip: Next time you make hamburgers, don't put on ketchup and mustard. Lather on some Peanut Butter. It has to be concentrated and a little sweet (like Skippy or Jif). It is SO GOOD, and it's a crowd pleaser out here in Taiwan.


“My personal motto that I came up with this week. Very motivating. :)”

29 April 2013

Spending the week in a tri-panionship is really, well, confusing. Since Elder Fiso had left, we combined both areas into one huge one (one of the largest in the mission), and had only a week to get familiar with the newly acquired half since Elder Wu was going back home. This means learning about the current investigators, recent converts, and less actives that they had been working with, along with getting familiar with the roads and addresses. Needless to say, it was a little stressful, but it looks like we managed. Elder Wu is gone now, and we have pretty much successfully integrated the new area into our work. Looking good!

But if a tri-panionship is nuts, imagine being in a quad-panionship. I'm pretty sure we were in the first quad-panionship in the history of the mission when the assistants to the President went on (eek!) surprise exchanges with us. We just get this phone call on Thursday morning from Elder Allen, saying, "Hey, we're here!" Apparently they forgot to call us and tell us they were coming. Thank goodness we had a decent plan put together though. It turned out to be a very productive day, in which we had five lessons, 160 people contacted, and 13 set up lessons. It was fun to be working with Elder Allen again, and we were able to catch up since the time when he had been my Zone Leader back in Lingya.

Something I've been noticing about my associations with Taiwanese is that they have a hard time guessing our ages. I would guess this would be true in just about every situation in which multiple ethnicities are present, but it's still really funny when they ask how many kids I have, assuming that I'm already old enough to be far along in marriage. One fun game that missionaries play before lessons is having the investigator or members guess how old we are. I usually get either 25 or 16.

I've been getting lots of opportunities to use my piano skills lately. I walked into church on Sunday, and was immediately approached by one of the counselors of the Bishopric, asking me to play piano for the meeting. It's really funny how this has happened in every area I've been in, and many missionary meetings as well. I'm so glad I have this wonderful talent, it's a fun and easy way to serve, and it seems like there is a big demand for it. So for those of you out there who are contemplating dropping a musical instrument, don't do it! Just put in the effort of practicing, and it will seriously pay off in the future.

Looks like I've got a short letter this week... Sorry about that. Hope all is well, and remember, pig intestines are not all that bad! Try it in a stew sometime.


-Elder Jorgensen


“KFC is here, check it out!”



“Jua Bing (Green Onion Pancake) is pretty good with a fried egg and spinach on top.”


“Check this out! It's Rich!!!!! WHOOHOO! He's serving up in Taichung right now.”

23 April 2013

This week had some interesting moments on the road. One day I was making phone calls at an intersection when some Thai bike riders stopped and saluted me. All their cheeks were caked on with some white powder... One of them walked up to me, conjured a bottle out of his back pocket, sprayed out what I realized to be baby powder, and proceeded to attempt to slap some on my face. I pushed his arms away, saying "bu yong!" ("No use!", a common form of rejection). He kept trying to force his way to rubbing my cheeks in the stuff, mumbling a weird mixture of Thai, English, and Mandarin. He eventually stopped when I told him, "Sorry, I have sensitive skin. I'll get a rash." Which now I realize that excuse seems really stupid. But I didn't want the whole situation to be awkward, so I went to shake his hand. However, after I was done and tried to pull away, he kept holding onto my hand. I seriously broke out into a cold sweat. Elder Jensen, noticing the situation, told the guy that we had an appointment, and pulled me away.

Then on Friday I was contacting an intersection, when I saw this Taiwanese guy with a dog on his scooter, so I decided to go talk to him. I said, "Hey, Li hou!" ("Hello!"), but he didn't look at me. So I said, "Ni de gou, hao piao liang." ("Your dog is beautiful.") 

Suddenly he just rounded on me and said, in perfect English, "Look, what you're doing here is dangerous and irresponsible! Get off the road, you're endangering people's lives! Oh, and by the way, back **** off."

I was shocked. Dude, the guy wasn't supposed to be able to speak English, and here he is going out of his way to tell me in my native tongue to "back **** off." I said to him, "Do you know why we go on missions?"

"I don't care about your stupid mission. I care about people's safety."

I just looked at him and said, "I care about your spiritual safety, my friend." But he didn't seem to like that answer. And then the light turned green, and away he flew, revving his little scooter engine angrily.

And then we knocked on the door of a mid-twenties girl named Penny on Sunday. The contact seemed to go well: she showed interest in our English class and seemed fine with having the sisters visit her sometime. We swapped contact information, and afterwards walked a little bit up the street to write down her address. But then she came outside after a couple minutes and started talking to us again. Elder Jensen and I, sensing a problem, told her we needed to leave and biked off to a faraway location. About an hour later, we get a call on our cell phone from a woman asking for "Ge Zhang Lao" (me). We asked her who she was, but didn't tell us until we had asked the question several times. When we found out it was Penny, we kindly told her we couldn't talk and hung up. Thus followed some text messages from her. Oh boy. We asked the sisters to call her and tell her that we don't date while we are on missions. That seemed to have done the trick!

...When I imagined the hard stuff that I would face on a mission, I pictured getting doors slammed in my face. As it turns out, missions are a lot more crazy and intense!

By the way, in English, we often use the word "maw", as in: "The boss mawed out his disobedient employee." "Maw" is actually derived from Mandarin Chinese. There is a popular tongue twister that Chinese kids say, where the last line says, "ma1 ma1 ma4 ma3", or "Mother scolds the horse." The "ma" with the falling tone (signified by the "4") means "to scold".

Some sad news: Brother Ke, the guy who we taught in Lingya who got baptized, never got confirmed (recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost). Apparently his parents found out about his baptism right after and were really mad about it. So he stopped answering the missionaries' calls and simply disappeared. Really, really depressing.

BUT. Brother Chen from Lingya got baptized and confirmed!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!! He got baptized during General Conference weekend, but I never got to attend because I didn't know it was happening. But he's super happy, and he's doing great!

AND Rich is serving as a temporary missionary for three weeks up in Taichung!!! I love that guy!

We had Zone Conference this week, and I had the wonderful opportunity of playing the piano for a special musical number. President Bishop later used my piano playing ability as an object lesson to teach about our use of agency. Person #1 wants to be able to play the piano, but isn't willing to confine himself to practicing. Wanting freedom, he hardly practices at all, instead doing as he desired, such as playing with friends and taking naps, etc. Person #2, however, is willing to sacrifice his other choices and applies himself to practicing the piano. He doesn't want to be there practicing, of course, but he pushes himself to keep going, even though it seems to be restricting his freedom to choose other things to do. Years later, both these people want to perform in a piano concert. Person #1, who didn't use his agency correctly earlier on in life, does not have the freedom of playing a good piano piece, pretty much limited to "Chopsticks". But Person #2, who practiced hard, sacrificing much time and energy, suddenly has much freedom, being able to play many pieces from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, or even improvise some songs of his own.

This is very similar to the Plan of Salvation. God gives us commandments, not to restrict us, but to grant us freedom. If we give our agency over to the Father, we will find that in the end we have much more freedom than those who disobey his commandments. Sure, those that disobey seem to be having fun right now, but their fun will be short-lived, and their freedom will be limited in the eternities. Your choices now determine the freedom you will have in heaven.

I want all of you to know that I know the message that I am sharing is true. It is absolutely true. I won't say I have never doubted it (in fact, I've never doubted it more than when I've been on my mission), but every time I do have doubts I try my faith: in return, God grants me understanding and knowledge. I may doubt on facts here and there, but this I do know: That Christ lives! He lives today, and He, Himself, is the true director of this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And nothing, save it be my own disobedience to the commandments of God, can or will take my testimony away. I am proud to be a Mormon!

I love you!

-Elder Jorgensen


“Check out that sunburn. People here say the sun has ‘teeth’.”


“My two companions!”


Where we meet for church.


“Dig the 'stache?”


“Had some fun with the camera...”

15 April 2013

So this week opened with rumors about North Korea proclaiming war on South Korea. An interesting issue indeed, but as missionaries, we don't know anything about political issues. We are even asked to not talk about them for security reasons. I just find it interesting how "out of the loop" we are when it comes to world news. But this is good, because it gives us reason to really focus on our work without worldly distractions.

I'll admit it, I was pretty stressed this week. Our numbers were bad the week previous, and as the days dragged on, our trajectory for this week was looking worse. I recall writing in my journal in frustration, "What do I do!?!?" I didn't know how we could improve our situation, except to just have faith and pray for blessings. Then on Friday, Elder Jensen suggested that we fast. For those of you who are not familiar with "fasting", it is an expression of faith in which we sacrifice two meals and prayerfully ask, or thank God for, particular blessings. In this case, I decided that I wanted to fast for knowledge on how to "find happiness in the work", something I've struggled with since coming to Gangshan. I didn't feel right fasting for more investigators; I felt we weren't having investigators because God was testing our faith and patience. So instead, I wanted to know how I could endure the trial better.

The following day was the first three sessions of the General Conference broadcast, and beforehand Elder Jensen and I contacted people at an intersection near the church building. After a while, I received a shock when I saw three familiar people walking towards us and shouting my name: it was Sister Zhang, her daughter Amy, and Sister Wu! I was immediately overjoyed to see them. They are great friends! And this wasn't all: in the afternoon session of Conference I saw my friend Katie singing in the choir! How happy I was to see such familiar, dear faces!

So what was God trying to tell me? I suppose there are several conclusions you could draw... One possible conclusion is that I need to cherish the friends I have, which is definitely true, but that doesn't exactly make my situation better while I am in Gangshan. Perhaps the more reasonable conclusion is that I need to make more friends here. As I make more friends in my area, I will grow to love and enjoy the work more, because I'm doing the work for people I know and care about.

So I applied the idea in my relationship with Elder Jensen. I tried to find more connections with him, and build up a friendship. Our personalities are pretty contrasted, but we found little bridges that made our unity better. We quickly found ourselves singing songs as we rode our bikes around.

And then, when I finally learned a little bit how to have some happiness in the work, that was when we were blessed. We found a sweet older couple who had met with missionaries back in 2008, and have been reading the Book of Mormon ever since. We found a very nice man who wants to go to our English class. We were actually able to start setting up appointments with those we talked to on the road. The thing is, it's always great fun to receive blessings, but the trick is to find happiness in the work itself. Finding enjoyment in the output, that's the natural man. But when you learn to find happiness in the input: now that's the characteristic we all must strive for.

I love all of you, and I'm glad to hear about so many people starting to serve missions! This is a wonderful work, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. As mentioned in Conference, I will be doing my best to make sure that I "[will] not die with the music still in [me]." I love the Lord, I know He loves me, and I know He loves you too. May His spirit be with you always,


-Elder Jorgensen


“Oh noes, time for a haircut!”