So, I moved. I felt a little bit like on the "Other Side of Heaven" when he was sad to leave, and crying. I felt just a little bit of that feeling yesterday. I've never felt anything like that before. It was a different kind of love, that only comes after you've spent all your time and efforts and sweated and done all you can, and then leave. I've never quite felt anything like it. The last six weeks have been the best of my life. Being a district leader was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I'll never forget that transfer with my district there, we helped seven really solid people enter the waters of baptism in the month of march. Three were Elder Mitchell and I's, and then the Elders and sisters each had two. The month of february our entire zone only had three baptisms. Anyways, the sisters also have a super golden family lined up to be baptized Wednsday. The family really wanted me to play violin at their baptism, and baptize them, so... I got special permission to go back on wednsday. Because it's only a twenty minute bike ride to my last area. I moved right into the thick of the second biggest city in Taiwan. I'm in Gaoxiong city, Lingya district. My new companion is Elder Farr, who was trained in the same area as I was, Fengyuan. He replaced me and was trained by Elder Kossman. He's all I could ask for in a companion. Really diligent, willing to work super hard every day, SYL with me, and wants to baptize. He came on island the same time as Elder Mitchell. It's about the same situation. He hasn't been able to have very many baptisms up to this point in his mission, and I really am more focused on baptizing now after some adjustments last transfer, so I hope we'll be able to see some success!
Anyways, I am going to miss Yuanshan a lot. The bishop was especially good. Things just seemed to click with him. I played violin with sister Koay on the piano (she was really good) at every single baptism, and then on sunday I was playing in another ward's sacrament meeting. Then my bishop came up to me, and said he had a feeling that I should play in our sacrament meeting too. So I got to play, and the spirit was really strong. My very favorite thing is when I stand up to play and I hear a bunch of noises, and talking, and fussing kids, and then I pull the first note out of a violin, and all other noise just drops away. It just feels so special. It becomes really quiet and the spirit is felt like no other way.
I've felt the spirit so strong in the last couple days. I have had an unbelievable amount of help from those on the other side of the veil. All the loose ends were tied up, and the time came to leave. I was able to see the Shi Brothers again, they were still solid, although some things had prevented them from coming to church for a couple weeks. Zhao Dixiong was able to get confirmed yesterday, and that night we sat down with him and his wife together, and taught about the temple, and they were both excited to make preparations to get the wife baptized and then go to the temple. (but they move really slowly. I had to push that guy to get him baptized, but now he's baptized and really solid.)
The day before I was able to go visit my very favorite new member, nine year old Zeng Wei Zhe, and took him to buy colored pencils to mark his scriptures. He read through the picture book of Mormon, and now he loves finding scriptures in the real Book of Mormon and coloring them. On the way to the bookstore we taught him how to contact people on the street and invite them to get baptized. He was amazing! After a couple contacts together, he asked us for more of the church flyers and then started contacting people by himself. It was actually really effective, because the cute little nine year old was hard to reject, and his testimony was really strong. We actually found some investigators from the people he contacted.
Leaving him behind was the hardest part. During sacrament they announced that I was moving, and I was sitting next to Wei Zhe. He looked up at me and said "You're moving?" I told him I was moving tomorrow. He asked "will you come back and see me every week?" I had to tell him probably not. And then I realized that he was going to cry, but he was trying to hide it. Anyways, he started crying, and then I did too. I'm going to miss that little kid. He's going to be the best missionary ever.
I don't really know what to say. I feel like I've been so blessed to move to this place. There are thousands upon thousands of people here. Mom would just die if she saw us weaving through the traffic on our bikes. It's one of my favorite things to weave through scooters and cars in downtown traffic on a bike, in a suit, with a violin on my back, a book of mormon in my box, a nametag on my pocket and a mission to fulfill. This area happens to have a huge cultural center where they have all the classical music concerts, and it would be a perfect place to play my violin outside to contact people. Yay!
Hi family! Things are good over here! None of the radiation or giant waves from Japan have got me. We did have two little tiny earthquakes though. We were teaching a really golden family the word of wisdom, And we said, "are you willing to keep the word of wisdom?" And the wife waited for a while and then said "....earthquake." At first I didn't feel it, so I was like "huh? what are you talking about? But then it got a little bigger to the point where it was kind of fun.
Then on Saturday morning, following up with our crazy investigator Jacky Gao, he said he had felt like there was an earthquake coming, but he didn't know if that was just a reaction from the Japan earthquake or not. Then the next day, Sunday night during a lesson, you can imagine my surprise when suddenly we feel an earthquake! ..............?????????????????????
Anyways, these are just hittle baby earthquakes,,,,,,,,,There's better things to talk about...
We got a baptism! Our nine year old investigator Zeng Wei Zhe missed his baptism last week. That got us a little bit worried. But, It was all according to the plan of Heavenly Father because having his baptism this week was infinitely better!
The biggest difference was that his Mother was able to bring him to the baptism that night. There was opposition that day. Planning session seemed long. I kept getting stupor of thoughts about investigators where I just didn't feel any inspiration, and was confused about what to do, and that made me kind of grumpy. And when I'm grumpy Elder Mitchell gets defensive. But it was all just Satan trying to make things bad. Then that night wei zhe's mom calls us and says "He's got a cold, he can't be baptized today." Good thing we were fasting for sister Bray and her family that day, so we could have extra power that day when we fasted and prayed for that investigator to be baptized. The mom called, it started raining. We pulled over to the side of the busy road, took off our helmets and bowed our heads in really sincere prayer. We prayed real hard, and then went to persuade the mom to let him be baptized that day. We called the member Wei Zhe is closest with, and he just happened to be driving home from work right past where they lived. We went in and kindly explained that there were already over 20 people expecting to attend the baptism tonight, and if they couldn't come, there would be no baptism. The mom admitted that besides the cold, the grandma opposed him getting baptized and didn't want him to go. But she agreed to go in and ask grandma one more time. We prayed real hard again, listening to her talk to the grandma in Taiwanese for a while, not understanding a word. Then she came back and said "OK" she could take him to the baptism. But then she couldn't find the church, and after a lot of stressful calls and explaining that she went to the wrong 7/11, we finally got them there and he was baptized.
A couple days before the bishop and his wife (Wei Zhe's primary teacher) had been walking at a nearby park, and happened to run into Wei Zhe. The bishop's wife felt a strong prompting to go to Wei Zhe's house and meet the mom. So they went and met. When the mom came to the baptism, it was arranged so well by the spirit. The bishop's wife gave a wonderful talk about the Holy Ghost, and testified that the Holy Ghost had prompted her to meet Wei Zhe's mom. As she was speaking I looked over and realized that Wei Zhe's mom was crying, a testimony that she too, felt the power of the Holy Ghost that evening. We invited her to come to church on Sunday, and she came. Last night we all ate dinner at the first counselor's house, and she was able to make good friends with them. We taught her the word of wisdom and she was willing. The first counselor's wife testified that if their whole family got baptized how much it would bless them. Miracles are happening! We are so excited to meet and start teaching the father when he comes home from prison next month. Hopefully this time he'll be able to live the word of wisdom, and get baptized.
Directly after Wei Zhe's baptism, the sisters had a wonderful baptism where two sisters were baptized. I had had the privilege of doing baptismal interviews with both, and they both had such strong testimonies. I had never heard a stronger testimony at a baptism than I did when these two sisters stood up and bore testimony of the true church. I was privileged to baptize one of them, and play violin at both baptisms with sister Koay on the piano. So many wonderful ward members attended both baptisms, and the spirit prevailed. As I stood in the bathroom about to change out of wet white clothes, I looked in the mirror and the thought entered my head that this was the happiest day of my life. I was so happy to see success in my district, three new latter-day saints. Especially happy that sister Bray could have that good experience to help her in a hard time. The new sister in my district, Sister Bray, her mother just passed away. :(
But....Our district is doing so well! This area of Sanmin and Yuanshan is so good. We set a district goal for 8 baptisms. Which seemed almost unreachable at one point. Now we near the end of the month, we have had five really solid baptisms. And, miracles continue to happen.
The San-min Elders are working with one investigator, Robin, that they hope to be able to baptize in a week. A goal, as soon as he develops enough faith to be willing to keep the law of chastity in his complex situation (his wife won't let him divorce, and he's had a girlfriend for ten years). I'll probably do a quick follow-up interview with him and then see how the second goes.
We went on companionship exchanges on Friday night. After the baptism, we switched, and I went with the short-term missionary Elder Chen. We got home, and then discovered I had left my keys at the church. So, we called the other Elders and told them to meet us at the church. When we got to the church though, we ran into the bishop who was just leaving. I sure love this bishop, he's just a really really really good guy. So, we got home really late, at about 10:40. oops.
Then the next day, we had a ward activity of walking around the lake at 5:40 in the morning. We had one investigator come, who likes to take walks in the mornings, so he came and walked around with us. I pulled a mommy and gave every one of the members a BOM pass a long card and invited them to give it away to a person they met walking around the lake. Li Shi Rong's wife is really amazing, she contacted a whole family and we were able to get their contact information and refer them to the sisters.
But, turns out the best member at fellowshipping our investigator turned out to be 90 year old Xie Bei Bei, who walked and talked with our investigator for the whole time, and then invited him over to his house later to eat, and then invited him to church. So, nobody is too old to do missionary work. Anways, we visited this investigator, Huang2 Xuan1 Rui4 later the next day, and we talked to him about getting baptized, and he told us he felt like he was ready to be baptized. So we'll see if he passes his baptismal interview tonight.
And another miracle, when we went on exchanges, Every single lesson we had that day, Elder Chen was able to provide exactly what the investigator needed. We visited our long term investigator Zhao Dixiong (that cuts hair) and Elder Chen, after meeting him for a little bit, bore testimony that he felt Zhao Dixiong was ready to be baptized. Zhao Dixiong has been a 3 year investigator. Elder Chen was also a three year investigator, and he encouraged him to get baptized.
today we went to Buddha mountain! (fo2 guang1 shan1) It was the biggest complex of Buddhist temples and stuff that is in Taiwan. It was really fun to see all the cool buildings and stuff, but I can only look at so many Buddhas before I get tired of it. I like Buddhism better than Taoism though. The Buddhist gods look peaceful, and the Taoist gods look kind of grotesque. But it was fun.
A good picture of my district, (Sister Koay from Malaysia that plays piano really well, sister Bray from Sandy who is good friends with the Mckinley's from Alpine, Elder Mitchell, Elijah the dog, my violin, Me, Elder Jensen-on the same transfer as I am, and Elder Chen who isn't a full time missionary, but volunteered as a short-time for one transfer.)
Sometimes when I come to e-mail I forget what was this week, and what was last week, and everything just blends together into time that goes too fast! This week I'll have been on my mission a year. That's really weird.
I really enjoy being a district leader. Our district is doing well, getting some baptisms. The other elders baptized a really solid guy named captain yang, and the sisters have two baptisms this week. And we should baptize indiana jones this week.
We only baptized one of our week A's, Parkson. It felt like Satan was trying everything he could to ruin this baptism. First of all, we went to get our week A nine year old Zeng Wei zhe to the baptism, and he was gone! His family members said he and his mom had all left to go to a buxi ban. it made us and also all the primary leaders that came to the baptism sad that he wasn't there. But Parkson was there and ready to get baptized so we baptized him. I played violin during the baptism, and during the number, the water finished draining in the font, (we should have waited until after the baptism to drain the font, or else played before the baptism) and it made a really loud sucking noise throughout the whole number. And then halfway through the piece my E-string snapped, that was surprising! But I kept playing and just had to make do with three strings instead of four. But overall the baptism went really well. Last week before the baptism, I was praying, and I just got a really worried feeling about Parkson, our week A. So I spent a personal study just thinking about him. Then when we met with him It was tempting to just say "woohoo, your getting baptized this week, lets just chat for a while or watch a movie." But because I had this worried feeling, I thought longer and realized we didn't know if he really had a strong enough testimony yet. We met with him a couple times and emphasized that he shouldn't get baptized because he was our friend, but because he felt the Spirit when he prayed, read the Book of Mormon, and came to church. turns out he actually had gained a testimony, but he was weak in a couple areas, for example he thought in the future that if he was really tired one sunday, he wouldn't need to get up early to make it to priesthood and sunday school. hopefully we cleared that up with him. Then on sunday morning I was a little bit worried when he didn't answer his phone. But by the time we got to the chapel he was already there in a suit tie and shoes that he went out and bought himself to look nice for church. He's way solid! As I watched parkson get baptized by one of my other new members, I realized it had been a long long time (since january 1st) since I had seen one of my investigators baptized. I felt the spirit so strong, and I felt like there was nothing quite so sweet as baptism on a mission. it's the fruit, or result of a lot of hard work. Now we've just got to work hard to find more, and to make sure that the "fruit remaineth."
Zeng wei zhe didn't make it to church either. I'm glad he didn't get baptized and then not confirmed. He should get baptized this friday no problem. The ward here is so great. they all have taken him in, and provided him with everything he needs to enjoy church.
This week we should be seeing some baptisms! Our 9 year old investigator Zeng Wei Zhe is super solid. he is good in the ward too! I feel confident this kid's faith will help him stay in the church, and even bring his whole family into it as well. His mom seems to have more and more interest as we talk to her. She kind of reminds me of Hallie.
Parkson, our twenty year old investigator is also really solid. The only problem is his family doesn't know that he's joining the church. oops. That's all right. We'll baptize him anyway, and hope he can overcome that problem later. I'll send you some baptismal pictures next week.
A week or so ago, I was praying, and I realized that I wasn't focused at all on my mission. So, this week I just worked really hard on focusing all my thoughts and words on my purpose, and baptizing people. I'm also really sad right now, because the Shi brothers, who we went to all this work, and fasted and prayed, and had a miracle baptism... they haven't come to church in a long time. And won't answer any phone calls or even meet with us. It's absolutely the worst feeling when recent converts disappear. I guess it would probably be even worse when you're a parent and your child disappears.
So, I've been in my area for a long time. I think I'll move next transfer. I've only been in two areas for the first half of my mission. The MTC, Fengyuan, and Yuanshan. In ten more days, I'll have been on my mission for a year. That's really weird. I really love Taiwan now. I love the people. Especially the really old ones and really young ones. I don't like the middle-aged men. Because I contact them all day every day, and hear the same lame excuses about not having any time or being buddhist over and over again. But, I'll keep contacting them, because I want to baptize a family.
One time, I was going to the bathroom at the SEVEN, (nobody ever says the 11 here, so 7-11 is just called the SEVEN. In English too. It's just become a word in their vocabulary, even the old people.) and when I got out there was a pudgy bald guy standing there. So I went up and starting joking with him. Then his wife came out of the seven, and I kept talking to them for a while. Then I told them that they should go to church and we would come visit them. The dad was a little hesitant, because he's buddhist, but that's okay, we went to visit them anyways. The spirit arranged things just right so a really awesome member, our elder's quorum president (Wu2 ming2 zheng4) was able to come with us and teach. The family is the Wang2 family, and turns out they are awesome. They have two sons, 18 and 16. The two sons both love playing violin, and the family is really rich, but also really nice, so they have like 6 expensive violins at their house. I had happened to bring my violin, so we sang hymns and played violin together. Then when we taught the first lesson, the mom was golden! The dad seemed pretty uninterested, but the mom understood it thoroughly and asked really good questions. Then when we taught the second lesson, the Mom was even better. She understood it all, asked good questions, and then later taught it to her children. We powerfully invited them to be baptized in a month at the end of the lesson. The dad said no, the mom said too fast, the kid asked what the Holy Ghost would feel like when he prayed about the Book of Mormon. So, pray for the Wang family. I want them to get baptized.
Also pray for Joyce Anderson. She's an investigator of the sisters that we found and referred to her, and she could get baptized except for her parents oppose.
I love you all! I hope that things are good at home.