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