Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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

March 18, 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!
Elder Vernon
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

T ECONOMY                   TERMINAL 2     TERMINAL INTL
           NON SMOKING      MEAL                          NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         10:55 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING 747-400
T ECONOMY                   TERMINAL 3     TERMINAL 1    

Monday, March 12, 2012

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

March 4, 2012

Hello Family!
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.