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!
“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...”