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