Sunday, May 6, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
William will arrive in SLC airport from Taiwan on Tuesday April 10 at 10:35 pm. We will be honoring him with the following homecoming events.
Thursday April 12 from 6:00-8:00 at the home of Fern Vernon 1680 North 1550 East Provo, Utah
Friday April 13, from 6:00-8:00 pm at the home of Scott and Miriam Frazier 913 Sunburst Lane, Alpine, Utah.
You are invited to come and visit William at either or both of these.
William will be the speaker in the Moyle Park Ward Sacrament Service on Sunday April 15 at 11:00 am.
Thursday April 12 from 6:00-8:00 at the home of Fern Vernon 1680 North 1550 East Provo, Utah
Friday April 13, from 6:00-8:00 pm at the home of Scott and Miriam Frazier 913 Sunburst Lane, Alpine, Utah.
You are invited to come and visit William at either or both of these.
William will be the speaker in the Moyle Park Ward Sacrament Service on Sunday April 15 at 11:00 am.
Well, my mission is now coming to an end. The cycle is coming to a full circle with an interesting little twist on the end. Elder Taylor will be training! I'm so excited for him. The last sunday on taiwan will be my fifth conference as a missionary. Starting the third year as a missionary is really interesting. I got a little sick a couple weeks ago, and I joked that all of my vaccinations were probably toast by now. It's already been over two years since I had my shots. It's gone very fast. On the other hand I still feel like I've lived in taiwan for about five years. Time on a mission is not easy to explain.
Sister Huang is so awesome. She's passed her interview now, and is probably going to be baptized this friday or saturday. Right after we pick up the new missionary, we're going to see a baptism, and introduce him to puli. What a lucky little goober he's going to be to be placed here in his first area. I hope they can finish what we've started. Puli will keep growing, the church will be established.
A couple other miracles. Sister Huang is actually friends with Jin Shui's mom, Wang mama. From sister Huangs example, and the difference she's seen in her son, Wang mama has decided she's willing to be baptized now. She can't quite meet the qualifications yet, but she's going to be baptized soon.
Last week at church we had 41 total, but we had 11 investigators at church. They just kept coming in. I've never seen so many investigators. I hope we don't swamp the branch!
Brother Chen, a miracle investigator, who has been progressing really well, set a goal for the 21st, and is working hard to quit an almost 50 habit of smoking and drinking. He has had such faith, and feels the spirit. Never have I had investigators so sensitive to the spirit. Now every time we meet with him, we share our testimonies, and then he says "can I share my testimony? Ever since I've found this church, my life has been blessed, no longer do I live in fear and darkness, but I find that every day is filled with joy, and I don't have to worry as much, because heavenly father is looking out for us." He was the man who through the pamphlet away after I contacted him on the street, and then felt strangely that he should go find it and come to church. His daughter at that time was having a serious heart surgery, and he started praying intently for her to be safe. She had a succesfull surgery, and he's really happy.
We went up to the college to meet with our other Brother Chen, Jeff. He's on the school ping pong team. And likes studying english. He's a fun investigator. The miracle came when last time Jeff was late, and we were stuck waiting for him at the college. We started talking to every student. we got rejected hard core by like 5 in a row. They wouldn't even take the free english class! I was about to get discouraged and just call referrals or something, when I decided to contact one more kid.
He was Golden!
His name is Jesse, he grew up in Thailand, and speaks english as his native language, but he's taiwanese. He's super spiritual, and loves christianity because he grew up going to a catholic school. He came to church, loved it. We met after and I told him about the restoration, and I was surprised at his answer. he said "I can feel already that this church is where it's at. I'm really sensitive to spiritual things, and as you tell me about these prophets, and coming to church today, I just feel like this is right." We invited him to be baptized on the 21st, and he said, "I'm down." I don't how familiar you are with the Preach my Gospel videos, but he reminds me a lot of German.
President Bishop's promise proves true. He said "Every time somebody returns to activity in the church, they bring somebody with them that could be baptized." A lady from the ward just randomly came back to activity a month or two, and when we kept strengthening her, and asking for referrals, she showed up with Huang Long Yi, here cute little nephew. He's golden and wants to be baptized as well.
This last transfer, as I've been able to call all the recent converts on my list, I can't explain the type of happiness that comes, when I call a convert, and they know it's me before I even tell them, and they tell how they are still going to church and active. I also can't describe the kind of grief that comes when your converts aren't active. but I know Heavenly father will bless them. I really hope to see all of my precious converts again someday. In the celestial kingdom, and the temple. Seeing recent converts endure to the end probably has been the happiest thing of my mission.
We're all really excited. This week is the week of the RHINO! (I had a pretty cool dream a couple weeks ago that involved a rhino, a car, and a horse.) We set a goal to add 80 potential investigators, and leave a huge old pot of investies for the new missionary. I really have learned this last transfer that you can set high goals, and hit them. Heavenly Father has blessed us exceedingly.
I'm excited for conference!
Love, Elder Vernon.
p.s. Last preparation day I went to an amusement park in our area. It was so much fun! We missed the first bus, so the next bus got us to the park at 2:30. There were no lines whatsoever, and the park was pretty small. We ran as fast as we could from ride to ride, till we had hit every ride worth going on in less than 2 hours. We booked it down to catch the bus at 4:30, and barely made it. After a little ways down the mountain, I looked in the back and realized our phone wasn't there :0 ! I left it in the park. We bailed from the bus, and started the walk back up the park. We knew we wouldn't make it before the park closed, and couldn't do missionary work without our phone, and couldn't spend another day coming back to find it. So we prayed. The very next car we waved down was more than willing to drive us up to the park, and we referred him to missionaries in Taibei, because I remembered the Preach my Gospel story about the guy from mexico who drove two missionaries in the rain and then was baptized. We found the phone without any problems. They called and asked each ride if there was a phone. Elder Vernon had left it next to the drop tower! Doh!
Heavenly Father really answers prayers. What a fun little miracle to find our phone and still get safely home. On the bus back, there was a family from chicago that seemed interested in the gospel. Bearing my testimony powerfully to them in English reminded me that there will still be chances for missionary work after my mission. It was fun. we touched base in puli at 5:59 and were able to start proselyting at 6!
p.p.s. Last saturday we had quite the experience. There's a park in the middle of puli. There was a chinese instrument orchestra performing that night, we went and asked the guy in charge, and while they were warming up, I played my violin for the people in the park. It was such a fun experience to spread the gospel by sharing music. I played some traditional taiwanese songs, and then a hymn, and invited everybody to come to church. Elder Taylor meanwhile was busy handing out plan of salvation pamphlets, and adding new investigators.
Oh, I'm so excited. My recent convert from zhanghua came out to visit me a couple weeks ago. Huang Yi li. He's such a cool guy. I love him. What a solid recent convert. He bought me an erhu! I'm so excited to learn to play it and appreciate a little bit more of the Chinese Culture!
p.p.p.s. I got a little Times New Roman Daddy-Announcement that Parley was engaged! Why is nobody else telling me about this? This is big deal eh? I thought somebody would have e-mailed me and filled me in with the deets! Is dis for reals?
Oh well. I'll be home soon. Love, Elder Willabop
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Here's a picture of our newest member in Puli Branch. He's such a solid kid. I know he'll make a great missionary someday! We took him out proselyting with us the day he was confirmed, and he bore a really solid testimony to a less active brother about baptism. We are working hard, and seeing good miracles and results. our other investigator sister Huang who is an amazing woman in her 50's just had her baptismal interview. I hope to see her baptized soon as well. Perhaps on the day we watch conference, Saturday the seventh, or the eigth.
Enjoy conference. Good luck!
Love, Elder Vernon
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Hi, I had to write a miracle story and send it in for the end of our mission thingy. and that took all my time.
Things are great. Puli is on fire!!!!
There were 65 people at sacrament meeting yesterday! That was so much fun. President Tang came up to me afterward and thanked the missionaries for their efforts. He said it looked like a ward!
I was so happy. on saturday night we were invited to help set up chairs. Me and Elder Taylor both decided that "If you build it, they will come." so we set up a bunch of chairs! we set up 70. Nobody else thought we were going to fill it. But it looked really full on sunday!
It was a really really good meeting. Our mission presidency 1st counselor President Chen who I had worked with in Gaoxiong came back to puli with his wife and kid. I didn't know that Pres. Chen opened Puli! 32 years ago he was the first missionary here. when his son was called on a mission, his first area was puli. They came back to visit, and bore such powerful testimony of the Lord's work and how Puli was a wonderful place and would see many blessings. I was very touched as well as many of our members and investigators. What an amazing example of selfless service that man is.
We're doing well.
Jin shui's baptism was moved back to this saturday, but in the process we invited his mom powerfully to work towards baptism and she is willing. I am excited to see her progress as well. Our other good investigator who's got a date is Sister Huang, for the 31st. She has a lot of faith. We often go and serve her, pulling weeds and working in her field. I think she will make a great member!
Keep up the good work, and see you soon!
Here are Elder Vernon's current flight plans. They have changed twice already, so do double check. He will arrive in SLC April 10 at 10:26 pm.
EVA AIR 10APR TAIPEI SAN FRANCIS CA 750P 345P
BR 18 TUESDAY TAIWAN TAOYUAN SAN FRANCISCO
T ECONOMY TERMINAL 2 TERMINAL INTL
NON SMOKING MEAL NON STOP
RESERVATION CONFIRMED 10:55 DURATION
AIRCRAFT: BOEING 747-400
UNITED AIRLINES 10APR SAN FRANCIS CA SALT LAKE C UT 735P 1026P
UA 6418 TUESDAY SAN FRANCISCO SALT LAKE CITY
T ECONOMY TERMINAL 3 TERMINAL 1
Monday, March 12, 2012
Today was fun, we took a 25 mile bike ride around puli to look at some of the scenery and religious sites.
The first place was the chung tai buddhist monastery. That place is massive. It looks like something out of a movie. Then we went to the big golden buddha, and then a white buddhist tower.
Then it started raining and that was fun.
I don't have much time to e-mail today, but I want to let you know a little bit about the miracles that are happening in Puli.
56 people to sacrament meeting!!! I was so excited. We were so blessed by Heavenly Father.
I counted 42 during the sacrament. But I knew that we could break 50, so I was pleading with Heavenly Father, and then one of our recent converts came in late with his mom, who's less active. Then the former Branch President walked in with his family, a visiting family from Zhanghua, and then Justin our investigator walked in late to make 50. That was it. I've never seen the members so excited at church before. Everybody was talking to our investigators, and helping them have a good experience. We had 7 investigators at church!
Recently I've felt like I've really shifted my focus to establishing the church in Puli. I've never been so involved in helping build up the church unit where I serve. It's so much fun. Actually, you have to think and plan and worry a lot more than just the good ole find teach and baptize. But it's rewarding too. I've felt like some of these successes we are making with the branch will make a lasting influence. an influence that I hope will keep on building and growing after I leave.
Our little buddy Jin shui passed a baptismal interview, but because he has class next sunday morning, we decided to baptize him sunday night, and then wait a week for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I'm excited to see him get baptized. He'll make a good little addition to our primary, and soon be a deacon in the ward! His mom attended church with us this sunday, and she happened to already have 3 or 4 people she knew at church too.
I had a funny experience in my last lesson with Jin shui, I have had the wonderful chance to call some of my recent converts this last move call. During Jin Shui's lesson, my recent convert zeng wei zhe, who is also 11 but lives in gaoxiong, called us. I put the phone on speaker and invited him to share his testimony of baptism and going to church. Of course, he did a stellar job. That kid is sooooo cool. I've never seen anybody quite like him when it comes to faith. I think it really helped our investigator to hear the testimony of another little kid in the southern part of taiwan who was baptized with no support from his family.
Our only other investigator with a baptismal date is Sister Huang. She's awesome. I think she'll make a really good member. She was just soaking in all the talks at church, and even though she had to leave a little bit early to feed her dogs, I'm sure she had a great experience.
Chen baba moved to Taoyuan to work. We won't be seeing much of him. I'm worried about him. I don't think he'll have much chance to progress in the gospel now, but we'll leave it up to the Lord in his wisdom, and pray that he won't lose any ground with his testimony.
Albert didn't answer his phone for a week, and then came back and found us right after church and said he wanted to meet. He told me he had decided not to be a part of the church right now, and wouldn't be able to meet with us anymore. I was sad, but I stuck him to a commitment to read, pray and gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We'll see how he does. It's all up to him now. I think he will join the church some day.
As far as working with members and Less Actives, we've witnessed some rather big miracles. I feel the members are more and more willing to come with us to do missionary work. I love working with members. It's such a good opportunity to strengthen them. For example,
working with our ward mission leader, we invited him to come with us to visit brother Shi, the less active melchizedek priesthood holder we've been working with.
Brother Shi's faith has been growing so much! Last week I ordered 4 chinese copies of Preach my Gospel to give to members or my recent converts. I had the feeling I should give him one. But I ignored it. the next day it came back even stronger, so I dropped a Preach my Gospel off at his house, with an encouraging note inside it. He used to be the Ward Mission Leader so I figured he would like it. This week when we went to visit I could literally see a difference in his countenance. He welcomed us in and said he had read all the way through chapters 1 2 and 3, and was starting on chapter 4 about the spirit. I really like this man. He's not my recent convert. There's no glory for bringing somebody back to church like there is for baptizing them. But I feel quite a connection to him. We decided to review the section in lesson 5 with him about the temple. (p.s. I love lesson five from Preach my Gospel. During the first of my mission I didn't think I would ever really use it much. But I've found that you can never go wrong teaching a Less Active or Active or New Member parts from lesson five. It really gives them something to look forward too. I think it's one of my favorite parts of Preach my Gospel now.)
Anyways, we had our ward mission leader share his testimony of temple work, and realized that he actually hadn't been to the temple in quite some time, and his recommend needed to be renewed. So by taking the member with us to teach a lesson, we were able to strengthen him in the process, and the feeling when we got both the active and less active melchizedek priesthood holders to commit to trying to prepare to go to the temple was a miraculous one. It was almost as if I could feel the church being established.
Another miracle, was that I was able to go on exchanges with my old companion Elder Petters! He is now my zone leader, and he came out to puli to check up on me. We tore it up that day and got 7 new investigators in one night somehow, and helped jin shui pass an interview. I learned a lot from him, and I'm so grateful I was able to be his companion. However, the memory I loved most was when we went to visit brother Liao Yong Song.
We've been visited this man weekly for about a month or so, and he's warmed up to us and other members quite a bit. I love him so much and I wish I could just help him come back to church right now. But I believe the future will see brother Liao go to church in puli again.
The first time I met with brother liao a month or two ago, I felt like I should share a scripture with him. But I was too bu hao yi si (embarrassed) to share it with him because I thought it would be kind of harsh. It's the scripture in Mosiah 27 where it says Alma and the sons of Mosiah went around repairing all the wrongs they had done to people, and preaching the word of god. This time meeting with him I felt again like we should share it with him. So we called him to repentance, and with love in our hearts said, "Brother Liao, whether you like it or not, when you left the church here you damaged the faith of many many people. This is something for which the Lord will hold you accountable. There really will be a judgement when you have to appear before the Lord, and unless you repent now and start repairing the mistakes you've made, that won't be a pleasant experience."
He said one of the first really sincere prayers I've heard him say at the end of the lesson, and in the middle of his prayer, he said "Heavenly Father, I'm sorry I haven't gone to church all these years." then he stopped for a while and I knew the spirit was speaking to him. He started to cry and then finished his prayer. We testified that the feeling was the Holy Ghost, and that he needed to come to church. He didn't agree to come yet, but I hope he'll come soon.
I love you all, endure to the end, and so will I!
Love, Elder Vernon
Sunday, March 4, 2012
I'm really excited to tell you about all the good things that are happening.
but we've hit a couple hard things, and also some good ones. Our good friend Albert Lin, who had decided to be baptized on the 10th of this month, decided to not go through with it. He knows the church is true, but he doesn't feel like he has a strong enough testimony of the Book of Mormon yet. he's waiting for some type of miraculous experience. He also was dealing with a huge amount of opposition. I felt as if Satan was throwing everything he had at Albert, with excuses and concerns. All which seemed really daunting and real, but I knew as soon as he was baptized and received the Holy Ghost, would all vanish into thin air. He's still reading and praying somewhat, and willing to meet, but I'm really worried for him. We had a crucial lesson where we invited him and tried to persuade him repeatedly to accept baptism, but he still was set on dropping his goal. I don't think I've ever felt more sad on my mission. Because I see in him a future church leader/ stake president. But we're meeting with him tonight and of course we'll invite him again and see where he's at. Our other best investigator Brother Chen, who has already gained a testimony of Prayer, and scriptures, church, has hit a wall. He does construction work and they have to work every sunday. He's asked his boss already for work off, and his boss's attitude is "Yeah, go ahead. You can rest whenever you want, but don't worry about coming back, we'll find somebody else. They're family really needs a good supporting job right now. We've promised him that God would help him find a better job if he is willing to give up this one in order to keep the sabbath day holy, but he doesn't quite have that faith yet. I've never felt such an intense battle against Satan as here in the last month or two of my mission. I literally feel as if at times I am doing hand to hand combat with Satan, for the souls of the people in this area. And when you lose and then he laughs in your face, I can't even describe what kind of a feeling that is. Disgust, Hate, and Incredible Sadness. It helps you feel a lot more for what Nephi, and Lehi went through with Laman and Lemuel. Alma also had many similar experiences. I love this part of Chapter 8 of Alma that says:
"Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma. Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance."
I feel the same way in Puli. Satan has some holds here in this area. He has a couple favorite lies he loves to spread in this branch. He says "Oh, Puli will never grow into a ward. Everybody goes less active eventually. Nobody in this place has faith." I am so sick of his lies. I can't tell you how happy I would be if I could but free one or two people from that sort of trap, and rescue them. Some less actives may be a ways away from coming back, however I know the Lord always provides a way.
Just like Alma, when he finally gave up hope, the people had spit upon him, rejected him. He left and then the angel of the Lord, (the same angel that had first visited him) came back and told him the Lord would prepare a way. What faith Alma had that when he had this message delivered he "speedily" returned to the city, and went through by the southern way and met Amulek.
I just read a very very similar experience to Alma's and mine. It was the experience of my great great great grandfather Parley P. Pratt that I read in his autobiography. I brought his autobiography on my mission, I hardly ever find time to read it, but the times that I do, it really helps me gain faith to be a better missionary.
Here's the experience of him and the city of Toronto. Which I found amazingly similar to Alma in Ammonihah, and I hope to me in Puli.
First of all he needed two dollars to get a steamer across lake ontario, but he was completely without money, and a complete stranger in the place. He says
"I pondered what I should do. I had many times received answers to prayer in such matters; but now it seemed hard to exercise faith, because I was among strangers and entirely unknown. Ther Spirit seemed to whisper to me to try the Lord, and see if anything was too hard for him, that I might know and trust Him under all circumstances. I retired to a secret place in a forest and prayed to the Lord for money to enable to me to cross the lake.I then entered Hamilton and commenced to chat with some of the people. I had not tarried many minutes before I was accosted by a stranger, who inquired my name and where I was going. He also asked me if I did not want some money. I said yes. He then gave me ten dollars and a letter of introduction to John Taylor, of Toronto, where I arrived the same evening."
He tried to preach for a while in Toronto, but was absolutely refused hospitality.
"Rather an unpromising beginning, thought I, considering the prophecies on my head concerning Toronto. ..."
He was planning on leaving, and had his hand on the baggage to go back when he overheard Mrs. Taylor talking to somebody, a Mrs. Watson who had been moved upon by the spirit to take a walk right then to visit the taylors. Mrs. Watson was more than willing to take him in and also desired to be baptized after hearing his testimony of the Restoration.
From that small beginning, eventually he saw huge miracles. Not the least of which is baptizing Brother John Taylor, The Fieldings, who later had some connections with church leadership, and many many other prepared souls in Toronto.
One little blessing is that now John Taylors descendants are all in the church. Including his direct descendant Elder Michael John Taylor who is now my companion in Puli! I shared that story with Elder Taylor yesterday, and now we're excited that we've basically got the dream team backing us up. I know that as long as we're worthy, try as hard as we can and focus and pray, we will be able to see the fulfilment of all the miracles pronounced on my head by a blessing from Elder Stark. One of which said that there were many prepared to receive the gospel in Puli, and that the time spent here in Puli would be worth more than the rest of my whole mission put together!
So, here we go to another week. Onward Christian Soldiers! I'm on the front lines, but we can do it. I'm teamed up with the best. I really felt the spirit so strong in a lesson last week when Elder Taylor bore his testimony.
We have a cute little investigator named Jin Shui (his name's pretty fitting I think for someone who we met and he gets baptized without a hitch. It means gold, water), he's eleven. The only thing is, his mom said she was a member, was baptized. She hasn't been since high school. but she didn't have a record. we had the mission recorder look. So now we're trying to prepare her to be baptized too! I was very pleased that yesterday he was able to make a good friend in the ward, the cutest little chubby kid with glasses. They had a great time sitting together and teasing other primary kids together. The ward should be able to take good care of him after I leave.
There are so many miracles. Maybe it's because puli is a smaller isolated place. But almost every investigator we bring to church seems to have a connection to one of the members, and thus automatically has a friend.
One other investigator, Sister Huang, the one we go and serve in her extremely weedy fields, came to church, and met her old teacher, and had a great experience.
Thank you for your prayers and help! Continue to help pray for the people of puli to be set free from Satan's grasp, and accept the gospel.
Love Elder Vernon.
p.s. I hope you remember how when we ran races I would always have a little left to sprint at the end. That's how my mission will be too. My companion and I just set a goal for this week, that if we say a movie quote, something about home or babylon (the outside world) we have to drop and do 15 pushups on the spot. I think it will be kind of fun. I can do it, but he sure likes his movie quotes. haha.
p.p.s. Another funny thing was I went to get the mail the other day, and was so excited to see a letter. But then it said to Elder Taylor. I grumbled and said, "who's writing Elder Taylor, huh?" I looked at the return address and there was a nice little sticker that said "Vaughn J. Featherstone" Turns out His Granps used to be a General Authority! we teased him that he couldn't write back because that would be writing "directly to a general authority" which is prohibited in the missionary handbook. He contended that emeritus doesn't count.
Monday, February 27, 2012
We rejuvenated the work in Puli last week! We saw many many miracles.
Church was good with an attendance of 47 again. the new stake President Chen Jing Yun also came to Puli last week and shared his testimony with us.
We had 4 investigators at church, Justin came. Howard came and brought little Lucas. If I didn't know Howard I would have thought he was a member! He looks so good in a shirt and tie.
The other two investigators will hopefully be getting baptized soon. One was our good friend Albert Lin, and one was our little friend Wang Jin Shui.
Albert is really awesome. He has come to church 3 times now, and knows he wants to follow Jesus Christ. However he's not quite sure if he has a testimony yet, or wants to be baptized. But he says really good prayers, and has a strong desire to have God's direction in life. On friday I had the most amazing exchange with Elder Farr, and as we met with Albert we promised him a lot of blessings, that if he was baptized now, when he went to the army he would have protection and guidance of the spirit. He set a date for the 10th of march. He still has a lot of stuff to learn before he can hit that goal though. We'd be really grateful for prayers in his behalf.
Wang Jin shui set a goal for the 17th. He is the best little kid. He just loves us missionaries, and we are trying hard to get him some more friends in the ward. His mom is all for him getting baptized. we still haven't figured out if she's a member or not. Hopefully she'll be able to stop working on sundays so that she can come to church with us as well!
Chen baba is still doing well. He's got sabbath day concerns though. If you think about it, the sabbath day is asking more of people than tithing. I think even if his boss allowed him to rest sundays, he might work if he had the chance because he needs the money.
He has such a strong testimony, and I really want him to be able to overcome these last couple concerns before he's on his way to enduring conversion and baptism. When we last met with him, we gave him a pamphlet about how to improve family communication, and I think it helped quite a bit. I bore testimony that the spirit can help us know what to say that will bless our family the very most.
I learned so much from Elder Farr on exchanges. he was such an exemplary zone leader. I felt my testimony strengthened by his example of diligence and love of the Lord. Now Elder Farr moved to pingdong, and one of my other former companions, Elder Petters moved over to Nantou to be my zone leader. What a great opportunity to study more from this wonderful mission leader. I'm really excited for this chance. Elder Stark moved to my old area, Lingya district of Gaoxiong. I miss that place. I told him all about the members and how great the bishop was. I'm really excited for him to go there and help strengthen my recent convert brother zhu.
I will definitely miss Elder Stark. He's going to do great things for the mission. And I'm glad he doesn't live too far from home. We'll be able to hang out in a year and a half.
My new companion is now Elder Michael John Taylor from Bountiful, Utah. He used to be in my zone in Zhanghua. Because of a couple exchanges I've served with him before and I'm excited to serve with him for a whole 6 weeks. he's really enthusiastic, focused and obedient. It's going to be a good last final battle in Puli here.
I will work as hard as I can to hit all of my goals.
Keep things under control back home. There's been a rash of injuries. I'm still being protected pretty well over here.
Love, Elder Vernon
Friday, February 24, 2012
Feb 19 (5 days ago)
I hope Alan and Daddy will be alright. That's kind of scary! I hope it won't leave any permanent problems for Alan.
Things in puli are good. But they'll be better this week. We're feeling a lot of opposition, running into some problems. We also have been having a hard time focusing last week. However, we've set some goals and made some plans, and we both want to hit this next week out of the park, and work as hard as we can for elder Stark's last week in Puli. Elder Stark is becoming more and more of a good friend to me. He's been sick this past week, and i've felt a little lazy.
Heavenly Father continues to bless us with many investigators though. I hope they can continue to progress.
I'm a little bummed that Brother Chen wasn't able to come to church. We worked and worked and prayed. His wife started gettting annoyed that we were visiting so much. Her voice is really really high and piercing, and she doesn't listen, she just talks talks talks talks. So there's basically no way of communicating with her. I don't know what to do about that. We could use some prayers in behalf of the chen family.
This week was stake conference. It was a really wonderful blessing to see all of the members from zhanghua again. It made me feel good that they remembered me, and I was very happy to see them, especially my recent convert Huang Yi Li. I was touched by our Asia area seventy Pres. Watson who said, nothing is as wonderful as bringing somebody into the gospel. And seeing them endure to the end.
Love Elder Vernon
p.s. Today we went to a really beautiful sheep pasture/ tourist area way up in the mountains of our area. I'll send you a picture or two.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Today we went to the Bug Museum! How awesome that they have a bug museum in Puli. I've always loved insects and spiders. I saw so many cool things. They had a whole painting of Napoleon on a horse that was made out of pasting different parts of butterfly wings together. They also had the biggest beetles and spiders ever. I loved the place you could walk around and the butterflies would land on you.
Justin also took us up to a waterfall last week. We asked him if he wanted to be baptized in the pool there, I think he was a little tempted. Haha. that would be awesome. I may fall short of my mission goal of baptizing somebody in the ocean. Puli is the one place in Taiwan that doesn't border sea. But the mountain waterfall pool would do.
The chapel here is really beautiful.
Puli's on fire! Investigators just kept on walking in, I was so excited to see 8 investigators come to church, all three of our recent converts, and two less active Melchizedek Priesthood holders we've been working with. We had 47 total to sacrament meeting which is getting dangerously close to my goal of having a consistent 50.
One was a Lin Dixiong, and the other was the brother Shi I talked about last week, who wanted to bring his son. I was worried that the little kid might have thought it was boring, and that he wouldn't come back consistently. But I guess he's really started to change, and I'm so happy. Once again, he welcomed us in to meet, and once again they were two of the first there. He used to be the ward mission leader, so we invited him to sit next to one of our investigators, and he did a great job of fellowshipping.
I'm so excited to tell you about all the miracles in puli, the people, and my personal growth.
One fun experience this week was the opportunity to meet with Howard and his wife Gloria, and their cute little baby Lucas who was born in Orem. They have such a cute family. We met at Gloria's Parent's home in Puli which was really pretty. It looked like an american cabin on the inside with more wood than I'd ever seen in a home in taiwan before.
Anyways, Howard is so good. I feel like he's very prepared to receive the gospel. What a fun chance it was to meet with them and share my testimony of the gospel, and invite them to attend church and pray together as a family.
I also want to share what I shared with some of the missionaries in our zone for District Training Meeting. It was really blessed by the spirit.
The more I do missionary work, the more I find that no one thing is nearly as important as a burning testimony of the restoration. You may be the best teacher, the best at chinese, have many other gifts, but if you don't KNOW that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, it's all going to seem empty. On the other hand if you can barely speak, but you bear pure and simple testimony that Joseph Smith Truly was a prophet of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ was restored on this earth, It's game over.
I invited each missionary to renew their testimony of the Restoration. I'm so excited to report that I did that myself. As I prayed and read Joseph Smith's history, I felt like I was seeing and old friend. I felt refreshed, I knew I had a testimony, and it was strengthened and renewed.
I gave the example of our testimonies are like milk. They have expiration dates. We don't want to go sharing old sour milk with everybody, we want fresh testimonies.
I also invited each missionary to not only share what they learned in personal study with their companion, but to bear their testimony to their companion in each companion study. As I've done this, I've felt a lot stronger companionship unity. It's been fun. I also invited to evaluate with our companion after each contact together.
The people of Puli
1. Elder Stark. He's such a good missionary, I learn a lot from him every day. I also learn a lot about him every day. I wish I was more like him. I tend to take any cool things I've done or strong points and brag about them, or put them in front. I'm really impressed that he never brags about accomplishments or things he's done. I learn something new every day, for example, the fact that he could dunk a 10 foot hoop when he was a sophomore, or played volleyball for one of the best high school teams in the nation, those only came out after three weeks together! I still think I may have seen him before my mission. But I'm glad that we didn't know each other well before our mission, because I'm a different person now. I can't believe how people put up with me how self centered I was back then.
I'm really really pleased. More than any time before in my mission, I feel like we're working at 100%. I know that it's because he's humble, and I'm trying to become more humble than I've ever been before. I still have a long way to go. But we are able to play off of each others strengths and work 50 50.
2. The Branch President,
I had so much fun just talking to the branch president one day. After he helped us teach a recent convert lesson, I talked to him for a long time about the branch, about puli, and about how to build more faith in the members. I really hope I'll be able to strengthen not only his faith in this branch, but also strengthen the entire place. I told him of our goal to have three stakes in puli, and a puli temple. I think he thought that was funny. Not as funny as when I wrote my own name wrong on the progress record just for fun, and they all thought I did it by accident, and said, "I know chinese is hard, but you can look at your own nametag right?" haha.
3. Our investigators/friends
Justin is an eternal investigator. I don't know why he's not baptized yet, but he's basically an active member. I hope he is able to make that covenant before I leave Puli. He's such a great guy. I know he'll make a solid member.
We've seen so many miracles with Chen baba. he's cut smoking now in a week from 50 to 10. We all prayed so hard for him to be able to make it to church on Sunday. He has to go up in the morning and pick lettuce to sell to restaurants. when it came about 8:00 on Sunday morning, he knew he wasn't going to get done in time for church, when he received a little inspiration, that he could finish the other half after church. He had never thought of that before. We were so happy when him and his son (a less active member) came to sacrament. He really felt the spirit at church. This investigator is unbelievable. we visited him that night, and he said the two words that always came to his mind whenever he thought about church were zhen de. (true) He says he knows that it's true.
we also had a zeng jiemei, zhang dixiong (that makes stone sculptures as work), lin dixiong, liu bei bei (he can't speak very good Chinese, like most old people, but is really willing for some reason. He reminds me a lot of mom) also came to church on Sunday. A new blessing is brother Zhan. We were riding down the street and he jumped out and waved both hands over his head just to say hi to us. That's how we met him. He's a cute little 45 year old guy who got in a really serious car accident and now is a little slow. He forgot a lot of things. We bore testimony to him of the restoration, and he made a decision to come to church.
I know that blessings come from humility. On Sunday morning before church, I prayed and told Heavenly Father that if we were able to see success I promised I wouldn't think it was because of myself, or try and say I was amazing or anything. I know success is just a blessing from God.
Then at dinner I turned on a conference CD that mom sent me, while I was cooking, and listened. D. Todd Christofferson's talk on repentance really struck me deep, and I knelt down and repented of not keeping two commandments that I teach on a daily basis. I had had too many half hearted prayers recently, and too many studies gone by without really drinking deep from the scriptures. I had forgotten that these were commandments to me as well as the people I teach. After I prayed I felt a cleansing feeling and knew I'd been forgiven. I also felt like I was fully charged and ready to blast some people with the spirit.
That night the first referral I called was a lady who had been contacted by a member on facebook. I asked her if she could join the church and she said, yeah!
then we decided to go tracting, the first door we went into revealed a 60 year old man who had suffered a stroke laying on a bed. we went in and sat with him and told him he was really handsome. he just loved it. It was hard to see how this was helping our goals for the day, but I felt really good when I was with him, and I felt like it was something Jesus would do was to minister to him. So we stayed and visited for a while. Then when the mom came home, turns out he was a member that moved up from Jia Yi, and wasn't on the record. the mom was too, but hadn't been to church in a long time. They had a little boy who wasn't baptized yet. we asked him if he wanted to be baptized and join the church, He and the mom both said, "Willing!"
Monday, February 6, 2012
Well, we've got our work cut out for us.
I was disappointed when 16 of our active members didn't show up to church. We only had about 5 people there right at nine. We had to pass the sacrament because there weren't enough priesthood brethren there.
But we had 38 people to sacrament meeting, which isn't too bad. Not too good either, but it's not as bad as I thought it might be.
I had a wonderful interview with president Bishop this week. I asked him how I could focus till the end of my mission, and he encouraged me to set goals for what I want to accomplish while I am in Puli.
I've come up now with 3 main goals in Puli.
1. By the time I leave I want sacrament attendance to be averaging around 50
2. I want to help 3 less active Melchizedek Priesthood holders return to full activity.
3. Baptize a Family
I know that by focusing on and hitting these goals, not only will I stay focused on my mission, but I think these could really leave a lasting effect in the branch.
Some stories of who we've been working with lately.
Close to our home, there is a less active family, the Dad has the Melchizedek Priesthood. My companion said he was always unwilling. We went to visit him and my companion was right. Not willing to pray, Not willing to let us in or meet with us. We kind of just informed him that we would be visiting again later, and left at that. Then we visited again and it was the same. But this time I lost my patience with him. He threw out the excuse that "I'm spending all of my time taking care of my kid, that's all I care about, I don't have time to go to church or think about that stuff."
I told him rather sternly that "If you really cared about your kid, you would bring him to church! If you really cared about your kid, you wouldn't stunt his spiritual growth by not teaching him the gospel. You know the gospel blesses families, It's not fair to your child to not teach him the gospel." then we left.
On saturday we were riding to his house, and Elder Stark and I were trying to guess what excuse he would say when we knocked on the door. Imagine our surprise when he opens the door and the first words out of his mouth were "I'll be at church tomorrow, and I'm bringing my son." He was there earlier than we were!
One of the Less Active Former Branch Presidents came to church yesterday with his wife. They are such amazing people, I don't know how they ever decided to not come to church. He didn't just come, but he came and helped fellowsip less actives. During Fast and Testimony meeting there was a big lull, and then Sister Huang, (the wife) decided to go up and bear her testimony. She shared a beautiful testimony and expressed love for the branch and the gospel.
My favorite testimony on sunday though was our branch presidents. He bore a really powerful testimony of the gospel. He said "we can't leave all the teaching of our children on moral issues to the schools. There's no way they can do it. We have to bring our children to church, and also teach them ourselves."
Another little miracle was while the branch president and his wife were sharing their testimonies, My investigator turned to me, and said, "Hey! They were my English teachers 10 years ago!"
This investigator, Lin jun liang is an awesome kid. He's the same age as me, and he's waiting to go into the army right now. Some awesome Elder in the Taibei mission decided to ask him for his information right as he was boarding the train to come back to puli. and when we called him he was more than willing to set up and meet. He's searching for God's direction in his life. We are trying now to go meet his family because I hope his entire family can be as excited about the message as he is. Anyways, the Branch President, and Relief Society president were his english teachers when he was little, and they were also excited to see him and did a great job of fellowshipping him. Also a tender mercy was one of our members is working in the field he is studying, and was more than willing to talk to him about his future and what decisions to make about college and so forth.
After church he told me he felt like the gospel could bless him in every aspect of his life.
We had 3 investigators at church, one old man that can't really speak chinese that we found at the park. I don't know why he wants to come to church, but he had a desire. so he came dressed up.
And one other man who just got out of jail. He had been preached to in the jail by some minister, and now had a desire to change his life and become christian. I don't know why I had so many of these investigators in zhanghua. At one point we had 3 progressing investigators that had just gotten out of jail. I usually find that these investigators have a hard time keeping commitments. Usually as soon as they find work they aren't willing to meet anymore. But I hope this Wu dixiong can endure to the end.
We were really sad that our main investigator, brother Chen didn't come to church. Because his father in law passed away, they had to stay up all night watching over the dead body. Taiwanese funerals are very complicated and have a lot of interesting rituals. Anyways he stayed up all night, got home at 7:30 am and was planning on church at 9, but fell asleep. we called his kid, but the kid didn't dare wake him up. I wouldn't either. Waking up pirates is a bad idea.
Anyways, he's making great strides. He didn't believe he could quit binlang. Later he told us that for three days straight he his teeth just started hurting, and his stomach started hurting. He couldn't eat any betelnut without his stomach hurting worse, and his teeth hurt to chew it. So after not being able to eat it for 3 days he just decided he didn't need to eat it at all, and quit. Haha, I know that prayers can be answered.
His big three were betelnut, tea, and smoking. We're helping him with smoking right now. He smokes about 50 cigarettes a day on average. The plan went from 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, to 5 in 14 days. It's going to take a lot of faith! But I know he can do it if anybody can. Tea is going to be a struggle too. Even if he travels, he has to take tea leaves from Puli, because he says the other places' tea doesn't taste as good. haha.
we helped him do the math and if he quits these habits he'll save approximately 3,500 US dollars a year!
Right now our greatest hope is that the mother as well will be prepared for the gospel message, perhaps by the passing of her father.
Yesterday, Elder Stark got a feeling to go visit one of our Less Active former branch presidents (yeah, I don't think one of the former branch presidents is active). Turns out he had passed away last month at about the age of 85. His daughter (Less Active) and wife (not a member) had just returned home, and hadn't yet told anybody about his passing. As we met with them and shared the plan of salvation, I felt prompted to share what Elizabeth and Seth had just gone through, and paraphrased some of their beautiful testimonies. They were really touched.
That same day I was going through a huge pile of old records in our apartment and organizing it, and I stumbled across a record of missionary visits with this less active man over the years. It was so special to be able to read about missionaries visits with him, and somehow I felt close to this old member of the church whom I had never met. He would welcome missionaries over, show them his plants and garden that he was growing, but didn't really want to read scriptures or go to church or pray.
I wonder what happens when we pass away in that state. Will we still be able to change? What will it be like in the spirit world? For some reason I feel slow to judge him though, because only God knows his heart when he left this world. The feeling I got is that this old brother Wang is going to be on our team. And he can do a lot more for the branch of Puli in the Spirit world under the direction of the Holy Ghost than he could have here on earth.
We're all doing well. Elder Stark is the man. I appreciate him a lot and I'm sure we'll be great friends after our missions. We are both from Alpine anyways. Alpine's a good place! We've got a whole set of really good missionaries in this mission from Alpine.
He always teases me that I'll be married by the time he gets home. I just tease him that he'll probably get called to be an assistant and then go straight from assistant to mission president in China and marry some asian woman. He didn't think it was very funny.
Well, life goes on! Set goals and make plans,
I love you,
love, Elder Vernon
Monday, January 30, 2012
Puli is doing great. We got 41 people at sacrament meeting. Our goal was for 42. We would have gotten 42 if you count the handicapped lady in the parking lot. (She came down from Taibei, but had nobody to help her get her electric wheelchair from the back of her car. She honked but nobody came down. We finally went down, and by the time we helped her get upstairs, sacrament was over. Hahahaha. However, serving people pays off. We helped her get back into her car after the meeting as well. In return she gave us a big referral of her little brother's family. Many of the children had heard all the missionary lessons before, and had wanted to be baptized, but their parents said they were too young.)
Anyways, I love the meetings at Puli. Even though there's not as many people, the spirit really has seemed to bless our sacrament meetings these last two weeks. I know we'll keep on rising.
I especially love the Branch President here, Tang Huizhang. I feel like he's doing such a good job taking care of this branch. I just hope we can be a blessing to him and not a burden. I feel like if we could just really build his faith in this area, and really convert him the missionary efforts here, it could change the whole place.
I'm really grateful for the members here, and how hard they are working to establish the branch and keep it going.
This sunday we saw a lot of blessings. We prayed to have investigators come to church, and we started getting worried when one by one they said they couldn't.
But during sacrament meeting, the mother of two of our youth came to church. Her daughter is really active, and her son is a punk that sleeps in every week. But we started to focus on him and try to rescue him. I was really glad to see all three of them at church. I know that the promised blessings she heard in church, about raising teenagers really helped her have a desire to bring them to church. We ate at their house during chinese new year, and I asked where her husband was. Unfortunately he passed away over ten years ago. We testified to her of temples and families being together, and I was also able to share about my brother in law, who eventually was willing to join the church after being a part member family for 13 years. At church she was dressed up and looked as if she were the relief society president. For some reason that night I promised her that one day she would be able to take her children to the temple and be sealed as an eternal family. I was so happy to see our branch president ask her when she was going to be baptized. what a cool branch president!
The other investigator was a miracle too. Justin one of our few english class students. He comes about every week, and missionaries have shared the lessons with him many times. I don't know what his iceberg is yet, but he must have one. He's aobut 40 and not married yet, because he says he can't find anybody that understands him in puli. He lived in New York for 15 years. Last week at English we promised him that if he starts taking the lessons with us again, and reads and prays, he'll find somebody that could be his wife. He came all dressed up to church too. We played tennis with him this morning.
The last investigator was named Howard Kuan. I was so excited to see howard from the MTC walk into sacrament meeting! And it was so fun to be in taiwan able communicate in chinese with him, and see him as an investigator. Here's his story, About 2 and a half years ago, he wanted to go to business school, and he had heard about BYU. But to go to BYU he needed something called an ecclesiastical endorsement. haha. It is so weird to see it all from his taiwanese perspective. So he found the local branch president (Tang Huizhang) and then went to BYU. Even though he never joined the LDS church while he was in Utah, he always had really good feelings towards the church and said BYU was a blessing in his life. he would volunteer at the MTC on saturdays to be an "investigator" for the new missionaries speaking chinese. That's where Mom and I met Howard. Now for nearly two years mom has been forwarding him my e-mails about missionary work in Taiwan. I knew he lives in xinzhu, so I thought It would be impossible to run into him, but turns out his wife is from puli, and he came back for new years. So he's back in xinzhu now, but he said he was excited to go to church there, and to meet with the missionaries. He'll probably come back to puli every now and then too.
I think he's really prepared to receive the gospel.
I love investigators like these. Even though it's a little bit annoying when people don't get baptized really fast, I feel like when these three people join the church, they will be really strong members, and establish the church wherever they are.
Our main investigator right now is still Chen Baba. He still looks more like a pirate than ever! Oh it's so funny. He's the best investigator I've ever had. He was unable to come to church yesterday because chen mama's father is in the hospital. It doesn't look very good, their basically just making sure accompanying him on his last road. Last night we met with them, and then near the end of the lesson, the kid said "I don't know if it's just chance or what, but I just opened my Book of Mormon and saw this scripture." Of course it was Alma 40:11. We read it together, and it helped them alot.
My companion is doing well. I think he had a hard week last week, But it's nothing we can't work with. He's really good at being a missionary, and I'm consistently impressed by his maturity and understanding of how to establish the church.
Another good thing that happened was we visited the first counselor. We expressed a lot of gratitude for his service in the church, shared our testimonies of Jesus Christ, and then asked him to bear his testimony to us. I was really touched as our less active first counselor shared a sweet testimony that he knew the church was true, and that it would bless his family. He came to church on sunday dressed in a suit. It felt really good to see the full branch presidency up there rather than two. I hope he's able to stay.
Nearing the end of my mission, things seem to just be getting better and better. There are so many sweet tender mercies. I was also really blessed to be able to see my recent convert Wang Yu Li, who happened to come by puli and see me. he leaves to the philipinnes MTC this friday, and will be in Taibei as a missionary within the month of February! How Cool to be doing missionary work here at the same time as Elder Wang. I didn't think that I made much of a difference when teaching him, because he was an eternal investigator, and too stubborn to join the church. One day I shared with him a silly example, that when you go to a sporting event, wouldn't it be silly to close your eyes the whole time, and not watch the event. You could still have the environment, hear the crowd, but you would miss out on the biggest reason you're there. The same with coming to church for a year and not getting baptized.
He said he still remembered that little example from a trainee who probably couldn't express it very clearly. We have a bigger influence on those we teach than we might think.
I was wondering what I was going to do with my bike at the end of my mission. Before Wang Yu Li left, I asked him if he could use a bike, turns out he needed one. So though I might die, my noble steed will continue to do missionary work, this time on the north side of the island. I'm excited to send it up to taibei for him to use!
Well, I'm out of time. By the way, we had a baptism. A cute little 8 year old kid Liu Guan Lin. We didn't really do much for it, his grandma brings him to church and has been teaching him since he was born. All we had to do was teach him some stuff and baptize him.
The baptism was great, we did a musical number, and I made Elder Stark sing! haha, he didn't want to but I used unrighteous dominion, coercion and compulsion and he did a wonderful job!
I know Liu didi will be a great member of the church and endure to the end. I am excited for 10 or 11 years from now when he goes on a mission. Who knows, we might have hit our goal of the puli temple by then!
Love, Elder Vernon
Monday, January 23, 2012
I love it here! Heavenly Father really knows what he's doing when he sends missionaries to certain areas. I couldn't think of a better place to end my mission than in Puli. It's so beautiful. Sorry I didn't bring my pictures today, but I'll send some to you in a bit.
I also really miss my old area Zhanghua. I really miss the bishop, the ward. As I've served I've just felt more and more love for the members of the church in Taiwan. I don't think I'll ever in my whole life be half as amazing as some of these people. Almost all of them are converts, part member family. And many of those have family members very opposed to them joining the church. I also miss my old companion, Elder Petters. His biggest strength was accountability. He was very strict with himself, set very realistic goals that could help us work harder, and then was personally accountable to them all. It was something I really needed to learn. I seem to fall more under the category of setting really high unrealistic goals, having a lot of faith, not really hitting them, and then saying, "oh well, at least I worked hard." I know Elder Petters and Elder Boud will do well in Zhanghua as zone leaders.
I got a little taste of what it would be like to go home when I dropped from zone leader to a regular companionship. I got home at night, finished planning, and then realized I didn't have to call and do follow-ups with any missionaries. It was weird. I felt like I should be doing something to help the zone, but I couldn't really. I think it will be like that when I go home. Just feel like there's a hundred things I should be doing, but can't, and it just feels weird and uncomfortable. Oh well.
I was soon able to channel all my focus on this wonderful area, and now I feel like we know what the Lord wants us to do here.
Alright, so now I'll talk about my new area.
1st the companion.
I'm more impressed by Elder Stark every day. He's amazing. I can't find one thing to complain about, and I'm pretty picky about companions. It's only his third transfer, but his characters are almost as good as mine. He speaks well too. He loves the people, is obedient and works hard.
2nd the place.
I'm finally serving in what I thought taiwan would look like before I came here. I'll admit I was a little depressed when I ended up serving in big dirty cities when I thought I would be riding through green rice fields and palm trees. But puli is beautiful. The palm trees are actually betelnut trees. I wish I could take burn down all the binlang trees in the whole place. Gross.
There are a lot of aboriginal taiwanese people here. It's kind of fun to try and tell which people are original taiwanese, and which ones came over from China. The Native Taiwanese are all christian, all drink and smoke and eat betelnut, and don't speak taiwanese. There's a rich culture here in Puli.
3rd the Branch
I'm still getting used to saying branch, I'm so used to saying ward.
I'm so impressed by the members of this branch. They have a lot of faith. Even though there are a LOT of less actives, that used to be active, there are still some really strong members.
We met with the Branch President, President Tang. he's amazing. Turns out his family was one of the very first baptized in Taiwan. He also loves to sing! I told him I loved to play violin, and he invited me to play in sacrament meeting. So I asked him what his favorite hymn was, and he asked if I could play "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd."
We asked which less actives we could go try to go and focus on, he said the first counselor of the branch presidency... Haha. Hopefully we'll get him back soon. We're working with a lot of less actives that have the Melchizedek Priesthood, even that have been endowed before. It's in a way easier because they know it's true, they're just not coming for some reason.
Part member families are a gold mine here.
This saturday, the little grandson of one of our best members is getting baptized. He's only 8 and really cute.
A less active young man named Chen Jing Sheng who reminds me a lot of Andrew started coming to our weekly YM YW activity. His Dad was really opposed to the church originally, but somehow when missionaries came to their house a few weeks ago, he felt like he should let them in and listen. As he began to pray he felt the spirit, and now he is extremely willing. He's trying to quit smoking, tea, and binlang now to hit his baptismal goal of the 18th of February. Haha, When we were helping him make a "quit chewing betelnut" plan, He said he would cut it down to only spending a couple hundred dollars on betelnut that week. My companion thought he said that he was going to cut it down to eating a couple hundred, so he said "how do you eat so much binlang!?"
The best part is that this man looks and talks exactly like a pirate. I feel like he just jumped out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I can't stop laughing every time we meet with him. Haha.
Me and my companion have two big goals right now. Baptize a family. and Strengthen the members. If anybody has any ideas of how to strengthen small branches, or how to really get members fired up about helping each other and doing missionary work, I would LOVE to hear them!
I find that the sweetest moments come when I take time to really get to know the members, and love them. When they know the missionaries, it feels more like we're all on the same team.
I was really touched by a couple things.
Our second counselor helped us peike the whole friday night, and we knew he probably hadn't eaten yet, so we bought a little KFC snack box and brought it to him. I could tell he was really excited to eat it. Then at the last house we visited, this poor less active woman. Her husband not a member, her entire family really sick, but she lost her job, and couldn't stop coughing, and didn't have enough money for the doctor, (that means she really didn't have money, because doctors here are uber cheap). I couldn't really help in any other way, so we played a hymn for her on my violin, and she seemed to be in better spirits afterward. Then Zhou Dixiong, our second counselor gave his KFC box to one of the little girls, and for some reason It just really touched me, I know that many members in Taiwan are doing all they can to help other members, and be christlike.
Another thing I've learned on my mission is what kind of a member I want to be. I ran into a missionary who returned to taiwan after a couple years, and was so surprised and sad to see that almost all of his recent converts were gone, the less actives brought back gone, and that some other people had gone less active. He told me that if I ever wanted to do less active work, you don't have to go far. The most effective way is to get them before they leave. It's a lot easier than going to find them a couple years later when they've already been away from the influence of the spirit for that long. I think it's really true. There are many different types of members.
There are Disappeared members, just names on the ward list. There are Less active members that don't want to come back, there are Partly active people that want to come back, but only make it like once a month. Then there are Hollow Members. People that come to church, and look active on the outside, but are already going less active in their hearts and mind. Then they miss one sunday, and realize nothing that bad happened. Miss a couple more and realize nobody even cares, and then they're gone. We definitely have some of those here in Puli. I think there are some in every ward.
Then there are the average active members who come every week and do their calling, but not much else. Then there are proactive members who do their callings really well and help others, and then there are Radioactive members, who are involved. Do missionary work. Everybody they come in contact to feels their testimony and wants to be around them, and come to church with them.
I want to always be a radioactive mebmer when I go home.
Well, my time's up. Goodbye, more next week!
Love, Elder Vernon
Monday, January 16, 2012
Today's e-mail won't be really long.
I really appreciated hearing about President Allred's dream. That makes me think differently of a lot of experiences on my mission.
I am now finished being a zone leader. It was different. It was very fun to serve the zone members, get to know them. I'll never forget the wonderful lessons I learned. Especially from my companions as zone leaders. They were all incredible missionaries. Elder Geddes, Elder Wheeler, Elder Zhuang, and Elder Petters.
I'm also really relieved to be just a normal companionship with no leadership responsibilities. I'll have time to focus all my efforts on establishing the church in my area.
My new area is perfect. It's the place I always wished I could serve in. I moved to puli, a little place surrounded by beautiful green mountains! I love seeing the mountains. The area is really pretty, the people are nice, the branch is struggling. I always wanted to serve in a really rural area, with a branch that was not very strong. I've always been blessed with the very best wards, and bishops. Puli should be quite the adventure.
I'll miss zhanghua, I've attached a picture of the Bishop, The Ward mission leader, and I. We went on member exchanges last night again. I'm not sure how many member exchanges we'll be able to get here, we only have like five or so active brethren. But, I'm really excited to find teach and baptize in this area until the end of my mission. Endure to the end!
My new companion is named Elder Jeffrey Stark. He's from a nice little place called Alpine, Utah. (Mountainville 3rd ward, Alpine Stake). We're going to be having a lot of good times here in puli.
I'm really happy for all the family. Sounds like everybody is doing okay, moving on with life. Would it be mean to say it feels like all of you at home seem to be moving at a slower time frame than I? Somehow I have this weird expectation to come home and everything is the same. Missions are kind of like Narnia, where I come out of the wardrobe and 5 minutes hasn't gone by. we'll see.
My plans for improving puli start with having good companionship unity, talking to everybody in the whole place and inviting them to church, loving the members like my own family, and focusing on finding a family. We're also going to be praying our guts out for all the people here to be ready for the gospel. I would really appreciate it if we had your prayers for puli. For the church to be established here in the tops of the mountains! I have a goal that one day I will look at puli and see a temple on one of the green hills. (There's plenty of temples, but none of them are ours, they're buddhist or daoist or confucionist.)
We love you.
I was really happy to see both of my RC's from Zhanghua, Huang yi li and wu rong tai come to church yesterday. They are both doing very well. Huang Yi Li went to the Taibei temple and did baptisms for the dead on saturday. He passed the sacrament on sunday. He is reading through the Book of Mormon a second time, the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus the Christ, and the Bible. I think he'll be able to get the Melchizedek Priesthood before long. I'm a little more worried about Wu Rong Tai, but I set a goal with him that we would both read through the book of Mormon by the 11th of April. It happens to be his birthday, and the day I go home. he's ahead of me right now, I find it hard to read through it quickly in chinese. I like to look up what the characters I don't know mean.
I love all y'alls! Keep up the good work. Don't ever give up.
There's this weird feeling I have on a mission. As I go to sleep at night, I know I'm extremely tired. But I also feel that if I needed to I could get up and run a 5k. I think of that every night. how tired I am, but if I really needed to I could get up right then and I would have the strength to run a marathon. I know this is a manifestation of the calling of a missionary. Like it says in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, unto the renewing of their bodies. I would run a marathon or two to find a family ready to be baptized and strengthen the branch right now!
Love Elder Vernon/ Wen Zhanglao
Monday, January 9, 2012
11:18 PM (19 hours ago)
Well family, I'm sitting here in zhanghua. I've now been here six months. I don't know how much longer I'll be here. I feel like I might stay a little longer, but it's all really uncertain. I might move. we'll find out this saturday I am really excited to work hard wherever I'll be serving. I've really loved being a zone leader. I think it's possible I might still be a zone leader. I think that would be very exciting. But I would also enjoy being a regular companionship again, with enough time to read through the Book of Mormon in Chinese. Haha.
Today we are going to have a zone activity! All get together and spray paint/tye dye t-shirts, and then all head over to a hot pot.
This Month's focus is finding families.
Elder Petters and I prayed for a way to fire up the zone to find more new investigators, and the way we thought of was to focus on finding families. It seems to have been working well. The best part is that Elder Petters and I have been able to teach families recently! We have about 5 families that we're working with. The Wang, Zheng, Ruan, Lai, and Jin families. Families seem to progress really slowly. Only the Zheng family has come to church yet so far. Also, chinese new year is on it's way, so that makes it hard to find alot of time to meet with people.
It was so amazing to see the miracles that the Lord gave us, as soon as we were willing to pray, and spend time actually trying to find investigators. I think it's easy to get way to caught up in thinking about the places we're going, things we need to do, and leave prepared people behind us. If the Lord knows we'll talk to all the people in our path, he'll place a lot more prepared souls there. I'm so grateful I have a good companion that recognized this too. My companion said "I obviously have bad days, where I don't feel like doing the work, but I can't let that affect how many people I talk to. Because I've already committed to the Lord to put in two years, so no matter how I feel, I'm going to talk to everybody every day. so I have a hard time relating to those missionaries that aren't motivated, or refuse to talk to everyone about the gospel."
I love sharing good finding stories, they build faith.
We went on exchanges with the 3rd ward elders last week. We decided to leave Elder Harper in his area to let him build faith in himself as a senior companion for the day. I went over, and we had a lot of fun being companions again for a day. He's grown so much, and he's such a great missionary. they had been praying all that week for a Lin Family to teach. when one of their appointments fell through we went tracting and the first family we ran into was willing to set up a time to meet, and their name was lin. On the way home, we had a little bit of time left, and as we were going back I saw a house that I felt like we should tract. So we went back and knocked on the door. A whole family was inside including the ama. They were really willing to let us sit down and meet them. They said the father of the family, (grandpa) had passed away, and he was the only christian in the whole family, everybody else was buddhist. But he was christian and he loved music. So I pulled out my violin, and Elder Harper sang with me "families can be together forever." They were willing to meet again too.
But just yesterday we had a really cool experience. We had just evaluated our plans and decided that we had have to travel directly over to visit a certain less active. But halfway there, I was passing this guy on the side of the road, and something about his posture, or the way he was walking just made me really want to talk to him. I don't know why. We pulled over, and the first thing my companion asked was "Is your last name Wu?" He had no idea why that name popped into his head. The guy said, Yeah, that is my last name. And then I recognized from his face that I had seen him before. He was the older brother of one of our active members, Wu dixiong. When we had gone to visit Wu Dixiong before, I had asked both times for referalls, and encouraged him to share the gospel with his family. We had gone and asked his brother if he wanted to meet with us, but he had refused and said he had no interest whatsoever in the message. but he had changed somehow. we asked him how he was, he said he had just broken up with his 3-year girlfriend. He was really prepared to hear that there was a God in Heaven that loved him. And a place to worship him that could bring peace to our souls, and more direction to our lives. He was really willing to set up a time to meet, and said he would go home and start asking his brother more about the church. What a good support system. I'm really excited to meet with him.
I know Heavenly Father answers prayers. Let me know how things are going on at home.
I played a killer game of badminton with these 60 year old guys today. Let me know in there's anybody that needs to get smoked real bad in rackyball when I get home.
Hittle ELder William Vernon
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Hello Fam. Happy New Years. Did you all play monopoly again this year? "Hey Kelly, d'ya wanna merge?" haha.
Over here, we are most excited about how finding families has blessed us. we got 16 new investigators this week! We also got a family to church! The Zheng Family came. I contacted the Dad a long time ago with Elder Wheeler. But we just started meeting with them a week or two ago. He says he has no interest at all in the church, but he was willing to take his wife, and I think he enjoyed it. He's a really open, funny business man with lots of tattoos, and two children. They own a coffee shop right next to the KFC. We were fasting that they would have a good experience, and we were amazed at how specifically the Lord answered our prayers. The members of our ward were so radioactive!! I was impressed, the Dad had at least 5 friends in the ward before he left, and the sisters and relief society were all over the mom. The two kids didn't come, because they are addicted to video games. It's sad to see a 13 year old boy and 16 year old girl playing computer all day. Oh well. Hopefully the gospel will help them with that.
A couple other miracles we've witnessed recently.
On Saturday we invited the whole zone to join in a competition to see how many families we could talk to in one day. A family only counts as a Father, Mother, and child present. If you contact the family and extend an invitation it's one point, If you set up the whole family for a time to meet it's three points. We contacted 17 families that day, but the first ward sisters beat us out, they got 24 points.
It was a fun new years eve.
On Saturday two of the investigators were brothers. About 40 years old, we tracted into their house and sat down with them. One had some discernable mental problems, he liked to talk. The older brother didn't talk much at all, but had some physical problems, He couldn't stop moving his head, and twitching his arm.
We visited the next day, and weren't really expecting much. We sat down for a little bit, but the little brother just kept talking about unrelated things, and wouldn't listen. The older brother would just get up and walk around randomly during the lesson. I didn't feel very focused. We had already been fasting for nearly 24 hours, and it smelled like smoke, and we were about to leave. But then the story from preach my gospel popped into my mind about the two missionaries who were meeting with a mom, and there were kids running around screaming, and it was hot, but because he listened, the mom told him that she had gained a testimony. I feel like it was the spirit prompting me to give them a chance. I pulled out the Book of Mormon, and gave it to him. We opened up to 3 Nephi 11, verse three about them feeling the spirit. we asked him "have you ever felt that feeling before?" As we sat and waited for his answer, it was amazing how the spirit entered the lesson. He stopped twitching, His brother stopped talking. When he finally answered with a "yes," he looked up with tears in his eyes. We asked if he was feeling it right then, and again he said yes. The little brother then told us seemingly out of nowhere that their mother had died recently and they really missed her. we testified that families could be together forever, and the spirit was really strong. They both could not deny the feelings of the spirit. So we invited them to church, they accepted. Invited them to be baptized later this month, they accepted.
That night we had some time, and we went to visit somebody I had contacted on the street. He turned out to have a nephew that was a returned missionary, and studying at BYU Hawaii. He said his wife and kids were all members of a different christian church. He said he just couldn't bring himself to join their church, or be buddhist or daoist, because he hadn't felt that they were true. he said he needed to feel for himself and gain a testimony before believing. We asked him "when you pray about the book of Mormon and feel it is true will you be baptized?" He said he would if he felt it was true.
Our new member Huang Yi Li is more solid than ever. I saw him paying his tithing on sunday, and is set up for a temple recommend interview. We've never reminded him about church since he was baptized. He is growing into a fully active functional ward member, and it is so fun to be a part of. Whenever we reteach him the commandments in new member lessons, he says, "I've made a covenant with God, of course I'm going to keep it."
I'm much more worried about our other new member Wu Rong Tai. He was ready to come to church on sunday, but the member who was supposed to pick him up stayed up till four the night before and then slept in. :( when we tried to send somebody else over, he had already made up his mind that he wasn't going to go to church that day. I would appreciate prayers for him.
We've been working with the ward so much better recently. I feel like ever since we baptized prepared people, the ward's trust in us has grown. We're getting more and more excited for chinese new year!
Love, Elder Vernon