Out with the old ways, in with the new... That's something I've had to really ponder as I've tried getting used to my new area, Fengyuan. I guess the key is figuring out which old ways need to be thrown out, because my past experiences have served well in some situations.
Remember how I was feeling waaaay back when I started serving in Hengchun, six months ago? I felt pretty hopeless and tired. I had a desire to serve, and I believed that we could baptize, but I also felt like baptism wouldn't happen anytime soon. I had some faith, but I had no hope.
As a district leader, my responsibility is to bless, inspire, and motivate the missionaries in my area. To do this, I've really tried to make friends with each missionary. The common thread I've found is that they feel quite the same as how I felt in Hengchun. I love each of these missionaries, and they are all so faithful and have wonderful desires to serve the Lord, and I'm excited to help them build more hope for success in the work. The first step for building hope is establishing a clear vision. I asked each Elder and Sister to write down their vision for their area, something that inspires them, and put it in a place where they can see it every day. For example, I wrote "Eternal Families at the Gaoxiong Temple," meaning a new temple would be built. This motivates me to talk to more people, work harder, and smile bigger. It's been going pretty well, and this week we're going to start making plans to achieve these visions.
Every Tuesday we have District Training Meetings (DTM), where the district leader gives some training/presentation. Before, the meetings were held in English. But the morning of my first DTM, my Zone Leaders called and told me there was a "rule change: if there are native Taiwanese in your district, you have to do the meeting in Chinese". So that day I ran a 1 1/2 hour meeting in Mandarin.
On the note of speaking long periods of time in Chinese, the bishop asked me to speak on Sunday about Christmas for seven minutes, so I did that on my first church service here. Both of these experiences have helped me to see that I have really come a long way with my Chinese, and it brings me a lot of relief and gratitude for God's blessings. He truly has helped me much in learning this language.
The new ward is interesting, because 60% of the members are returned missionaries. However, only about 15% of the members are actively attending church—a further testament that I must be on my guard when I come home, because the trials don't end. The adversary is really good at lulling people into a false sense of security, and I plan to never fall into that trap.
Elder Claflin is the man! As it turns out, his dad is the guy who plays the investigator in the movie The Best Two Years. Super cool. What I like most about Elder Claflin is that he is very humble. He is a consecrated missionary, and really focuses his thoughts to the Lord and His work. You can see it in the way he acts. I'm really happy to be companions with him; this past week was an absolute blast.
I had a weird thought this morning... I might only have two more companions after Elder Claflin. Scary!!! I'm trying to enjoy every moment I have, because every minute out here is precious. I LOVE MY MISSION!!!
“Some members in Hengchun branch. Left to right: Brother Xu, President Zung and his wife, me and the Xu girls, Sister Xu, and Sister Cai and her daughter.”
“From left going clockwise: Yu Ting (Lisa), Elder Wadley, Ming Yan (investigator), Sister Huang, and me.”
“Look at that tree's roots!”
“Beware of dogs.”