Typhoon! Woohoo! ....unfortunately, we weren't really hit that bad at all in Hengchun. Everywhere north of us got hammered, but the only action we got was some strong winds. Ah well, maybe next time. Still pretty fun though!
In my song, I mention "A-ma's asking for your boxes." In Taiwan, you are paid for recycling. Old women typically earn a living here by asking everybody for recyclables. It's really funny to see an A-ma turning down a TV or some furniture over a few cardboard boxes.
We had interviews with President Blickenstaff this week, and it was a wonderful, rewarding experience. President Blickenstaff is truly an inspired man. Before the interview, he had us fill out a questionnaire, and one of the things he asked was: "What has been the most difficult aspect of your mission?" After some thought, I narrowed it down to "overcoming the natural man". Sometimes my motivation to sleep in a few extra minutes, be lazy, be prideful, and other destructive tendencies give my motivation to do good a run for its money. Lately I've been feeling like I'm in somewhat of a rut when it comes to missionary work, so when I realized that this was my problem, I was eager to talk about it with President. When I asked him how to overcome this stumbling block, he said to me that "all the self-motivation books out there all say the same thing: the key is to know who you are. When you understand your identity and purpose, you naturally will want to do good. You will be naturally motivated to act on that knowledge." He then counseled me to study my Patriarchal Blessing, a special blessing whose purpose is to tell you about your eternal identity. And interestingly, when I studied it this time around, many things just clicked, and my understanding was enlightened. Ever since then, I have felt much more of an urgency to stay diligent and focused, and the work has become much more enjoyable.
I loved something President Blickenstaff said in a short meeting beforehand: "The Lord does most of the work, but he's generous and lets us have most of the credit."
And I should give a shout-out to Sister Blickenstaff as well, who was eager and genuinely interested in getting to know me. I sat down in a sort of second interview with her as well, and we talked for a while about tender mercies I have received on my mission, as well as our families. She reminds me a ton of my own mother, which made me feel really blessed to be able to talk with her.
I still would not say that I am fluent at all with the language. In fact, I think my companion Elder Palmer, who's been out here for 3 months, already has Chinese ability that rivals mine. But I did have an experience this week that really comforted me about that. I mentioned before that there was this old man that we'd see all the time my first week here, who'd shout at us, "Very good!" One day we didn't see him, and then we saw a funeral party in front of his house. Funerals in Taiwan last forever, so about a week and a half later we ended up talking to some of the people at the party while we were going to see some church members who lived a few doors down. My companion spent time talking with the member children while I talked with the party people. For some reason, I could speak really fluently to them, and I have no idea why. I could even slip in quite a bit of Taiwanese, the local dialect, and they were all over themselves about it. They kept going back to the party and pulling other people out, telling them to "go talk to that white guy". After some time I was able to confirm that it was indeed the old man that we saw all the time who had died, and that the lady I was talking with the most was his daughter. Our conversation carried on for a good 20 minutes, which then I found a good opportunity to share the doctrine of eternal families with her. She seemed touched, and while she didn't have much interest in meeting with us, I can tell a seed was planted there. And I am so glad that I was living the way that I ought to receive the spiritual gift of tongues, which I know is the only reason why I was able to talk with them the way I did. I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost, and for miracles.
I started an "Achievement List" program, and I already have a bunch of subscribers within the mission. I'll send you an image of it so you can see what kinds of crazy stuff we want to say we did on our missions. :) By the way, I compiled this list with the previous Assistant to the President, Elder Hoer, who's super awesome. (I mention "Taike" in the achievements. A Taike is the equivalent of a sort of punk kid in America.)
DID HANS GET HIS MISSION CALL YET!?!?!?
Hope all is well back home. I miss you guys, but I want you to also know that I really love it out here. I love the work, and I'm so blessed to be a part of this. Thank you for all your prayers and love.