Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb 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

pictures 21 feb 2012

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.

Feb 21, 2012

William Preston Vernon
Feb 19 (5 days ago)

to me
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

Pictures, Feb 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. 

Feb 13, 2012

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

Feb 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