Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mission Letter 6/20/216

Dear family and friends,

This week was super awesome! Super fun. It started with an exchange to Miaoli. It's just to the south of my area, and it's the area of our mission right next to the Taizhong Mission Boundaries. I went and spent the day with Elder Nielson, who was in my generation (meaning we came on island at the same time. That also means we both go home together). It was a fun day. It's always relaxing being in someone else's area; you get to follow them around and just teach people without worrying about anything else. 

During the exchange, we had a lesson with one of their investigators; a musician studying music in the US. She's back in Taiwan for summer vacation. Since we were at the church, we exchanged small performances on the piano, and it was super fun. There's to "you never know when your talents will help you do missionary work." Following, we had a lesson about the Plan of Salvation, focusing on the fact that God is our Father, and wants to help us. 

It's one of my favorite analogies to use. Because God is our Father, he wants us to be happy, and to be like he is. After all, is that not any parents hopes for their children? But, parents cannot do everything for their kids, otherwise they'll never learn. Like learning to ride a bike. Parents won't do it for us; but they'll teach us how, and when we fall (not if we fall, when we fall, because challenges will definitely come), they help us back up and keep going. God is the same way; he'll give us advice and help us, comfort us, but he cannot do things for us. So we just have to learn to do things His way, and everything will work out. 

We also had exchanges with the Zone Leaders. During the exchange, we had to go up to Zhubei for a Zone Conference. President and the office elders all came down for a full day of trainings. There were four topics that got hit on: eliminating pride, eliminating negative thinking, diversifying teaching methods, and reaching the key indicators (which are the mission's goals for performance; goals on how many lessons to teach, etc.). It was a super good, well thought out training. And there were three zones in attendance, so a pretty big crowd. Here's a selfie I snapped during a roleplay:


So, all is going well here on this tiny, but super hot and very populated ocean island! It's almost scary how small Taiwan is. But I love this place. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mission Letter 5/30/2016 The Final Countdown

Dear family and friends, 

It's the final countdown! This week I passed my 50 Day mark (as my sister so kindly reminded me in emails today). But this week was awesome. 

First off, I started the week eating a meal with my Aunt. That was a ton of fun; my cousin came, as well as my uncle. We went to a super good buffet, and this was the first time I really had a chance to have a sit down conversation with my Taiwanese side of the family. It was super cool! Now that I can speak to them and have a normal conversation about normal topics. It's a cool feeling. In addition to the Taiwanese just being super hospitable to people in general, there's a special connection to them, simply from just being family. 



We got to participate this past weekend in Taiwan's "Missionary Work in Taiwan 60 Year Anniversary Devotional." That was a super cool experience. Because we were in the choir (you may remember we participated in one event last week, this week we had another two performances and two devotional meetings), we got to listen to various stories, talks, and songs. It was an awesome meeting, with the first missionary to come to Taiwan in attendance, a member from the Asia Area Presidency, etc. Above is a picture of all those who were involved (including the missionaries who sang in the choir). 



This meeting was not only for members who lived in the Taipei area, but was broadcast to all the Stake Centers in Taiwan and could be watched online. One of the members, while she was watching, recognized some of us on the screen of her cell phone and quickly took a snapshot to show us (above). So that was cool. All of us got broadcast all over Taiwan. 

The other Elders who are in this ward with us had another baptism this week! The ward is pumped. They're getting so good at being open and friendly, etc. They've now had three baptisms in two months or so, and another two or so that are pretty solid coming up. The members here are awesome, and such good friends with each other and the missionaries now. I really do love this ward. And I've been here for so long. They all want me to "die" here (dying for missionaries means ending their missions in a certain place), because they know I only have one transfer left. Transfers are this Thursday; we shall see what happens to me.

I was reading the scriptures today, and I was really impressed with the Lord's example of prayer. In Matthew 14, it reads:

 23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

He took the time to have some privacy. He went up into a holy place. And he took his time in prayer. We all ought to find time to do that; to not make prayer a hurried thing, to take some time alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the world and family and take some time for quiet contemplation. It is the best way to receive inspiration. 

The mission is going well. The miracles keep coming. The Sanxia area is booming. The Lord is pouring blessings out all over this place. The weather is getting hot. And life is good.

Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mission Letter 5/16/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week was an awesome week! And I turned 20. I feel so old. Especially now that I'm both 20, and going home soon. Everyone just seems that much younger than me. 


​CAPTION: Eating at a wonderful burger place on my birthday. The Zone Leaders and the Sisters came to celebrate together. 

So, for my birthday, we ate burgers one night and then an all-you-can-eat hot pot for lunch the next day. I stuffed my face with way more food than I should have, but hey! It was my birthday. So we celebrated. It just so happened that we were on exchanges with the Zone Leaders out of our area, so more missionaries could come celebrate together. It was fun. 

Our investigator, Jacky, is getting baptized this week! I'm so excited for him. He's so cool. He passed his baptismal interview this week, came to church, and is starting to feel more and more comfortable in a church environment. He really was the smoothest sailing investigator I have ever had. No major questions, no major problems, and everything went just fine. 

Speaking of his interview, during his interview Taiwan had an earthquake. A 5.8 on the north side of the island. By the time it reached us, it was about a 3.8. But still. Shook the highrise we were in (during his interview). Just one of your average fun shakes that keep life interesting. Nobody even panicked during the earthquake. Everyone just remained in their seats (probably watching if anyone else was going to get up screaming and running). During earthquakes here, it's usually, "see if anyone else is panicking, and if they are, follow them." 

We have another golden investigator, Brother Rao. He showed up at church this week (at our invite) in a nice long-sleeve collared shirt, tie and dress slacks. He's been meeting with us 2x per week, he keeps the Book of Mormon with him 24/7, reads it and feels better, and just progresses so quickly in general. He's so cool! I'm positive that he will also get baptized, and pretty quickly, too. He even drove Jacky home after church this week.

Singing. The missionary choir joined with the member choir for a practice last night. Man, it sounds good! In total now, there are probably about 100 people in the choir. It's an impressive sounding choir. We perform next week at a place called The Grand Hotel in Taipei. It's been a lot of fun, doing a lot of stuff with music during my mission, too.

Have a wonderful week!

Love, 
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mission Letter 5/9/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week was pretty awesome. So many blessings in our area. (I'm sorry, is that bad grammar? I can't even tell anymore, my ability to sense if something sounds right or not has completely been thrown off. Wish me luck.)

Today I get to Skype  my family. In fact, Ill be doing that in about half an hour. So this email may be pretty short. 


​CAPTION: I'm pretty sure, I have not been trained in the art of "selfie" picture taking. I don't feel like pictures of me look like I actually look in real life. But whatever. In the city where I serve, there is a pretty new University Campus, complete with a artificial lake. After finishing dinner early, we went to watch ducks for a few minutes. 

This week was awesome! We had a Zone Conference training on Tuesday by Elder Wong of the Seventy, of the Asia Area Presidency. He's Cantonese, and a convert to the church. It amazes me how you can take someone who was a convert to the church, and after several years, turn him into an incredibly spiritual Seventy. He had some awesome trainings, on which I took lots of notes. He's a funny man, too; he kept making jokes. Particularly stereotypical things about Utahns. He can do that because he is based in Hong Kong. But he talked a lot about what it means to teach and edify. Most of the training about edify was understand what the word means in English and Chinese, and thus get a better understanding of the word. He tore the word and characters apart, and spent probably about 40 minutes talking about Edify. It was a super cool training, and when you look at a concept from different languages, you learn a lot, too.

We finished teaching all the lessons to our investigator Jacky this week. I'm so excited for his baptism! He has his interview next week. I think the reason teaching him has been such a smooth process is because he has a member friend. One of his fellow classmates from Jr. High School is now serving a mission, and because he'd been invited to church activities and other things, this time when he ran into the missionaries, he was prepared and willing to learn. That means his first contact with the church was at least 6 years ago. We're so excited for him. 

That's something I've learned in missionary work. As a missionary, you want action, results, in a very short amount of time. That's good; it happens often, too. Because we're in an area for such a short time, we want to see something change before we leave. But for people who are our friends (us being members in general), sometimes they're not going to meet the missionaries and be baptized a month later. But, we can start the process now, and then maybe those six years will start counting down from now. 

There is a proverb that says, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." So go plant that tree. 

Have a wonderful week!

Love, 
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mission Letters 5/2/2016

Dear family and friends,

And just like that, April is gone. They say April showers bring May flowers, but in Taiwan, it's more like April downpours bring May thunderstorms which bring June typhoons. It's just always raining. But that's nice; it keeps the temperature under control. 


​CAPTION: Fear not, we are not in a pub. This is an all you can eat brick pizza house. Delicious!

This week my companion and I worked really hard. And the results of all of our efforts thus far have been amazing! We had a lot of lessons this week, and I've just seen so much change during the time I've been in this area. Change in the ward and in my own area. Especially since we whitewashed, meaning we came in and started fresh in the area. It's been so cool watching the change in investigators and ward members, as we've gotten to know them and become friends with them. People just open up. You make so many friends on a mission. 

We have an investigator, Jacky. He's literally the coolest guy ever. He's got a friend that's Mormon, that's his initial and repeated contact with the church. But we've been meeting with him, and he's been accepting all that we've been teaching him. It's been one of the smoothest teaching processes I've ever participated in. He's set a time for a baptismal interview, and if he passes, he'll be baptized in 3 more weeks. We're so excited! 

As is the ward. Until the other companionship of elders had a baptism two weeks ago, the ward hadn't had a baptism in over a year. They were a ward very familiar with each other, but a little ignorant of new people who we'd bring to church. They'd say hi, but that's about it. But now, the ward is getting better and better at just swarming the people we bring to church. It's so cool! The ward's new saying (about baptisms) is, "We've had one, now we'll have two, then three, then four!" And it's looking more and more like it all the time. 

We have a new investigator Sister Jiang, who the ward simply loves. People keep telling us, "She's prepared. She's totally getting baptized." She has all the right questions, met with us on a Saturday and then came to church on Sunday, and enjoyed everything about it. Willing to read the scriptures, set a baptismal goal, and feels golden in every way shape and form. We're so excited for her!

This week's been great. Today the missionary choir for the 60th Anniversary of missionary work in Taiwan starts practicing. Hopefully that's not too stressful. 

Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mission Letter 4/4/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week was pretty good. Sometimes weeks feel so long and so short, I don't actually remember what happened.

So here's a quick summary of this week:

Monday: We were going have a dinner with our Stake President's family. They are one of the biggest families in Taiwan, 6 kids. Typical Mormons (which is not so typical in Taiwan, they still only have two to three on average). But the Mom just had her sixth child about a month or two ago. So, when we were asking if we could go visit them, somehow we offered our service as chefs for the family for the night. They accepted, said, "send us the list of ingredients, and then we'll get them ready for you." So we spent last week trying to decide on a menu. It was super hard. Finally, I decided to make a meal that Dad often used to make at home: steak, mashed potatoes, and boiled sweet carrots. 

But we wanted the meal to be good and very American, so we went to Costco for the steak (Costco is literally the best place on earth, it's like walking into America but you don't need a passport, just a membership) because at Costco, everything is imported from America. We bought the smallest pack they had (it had 8 thick slabs of meat in it). Then we cooked steak for the Stake President's family (get it? Elder Reintjes and I think we're so punny). Mashed potatoes with butter and milk, and boiled carrots (with sugar instead of salt). They loved it! They were like, how did you make the mashed potatoes so good? The steak is so juicy! Sweet carrots? It was all so foreign to them. But we had an excellent meeting with the family, and an excellent discussion with the Stake President about how to get missionary work moving. 


​CAPTION: My companion and I in our house. Yes. Cute.

Tuesday: we met with our favorite investigator family. They are the ones who have been christian for over 25 years, but are starting to learn about our church. We had a good discussion, sharing about the plan of salvation and continuing to answer many of their questions. Hopefully the kids enjoy it, too. 

Wednesday: English Class! It's struggling. Not many new students come, sometimes old ones leave. We just can't seem to get over 20 students. But we keep advertising it! Every time we talk to them, we give them an English flier. Especially if they're not interested in the gospel, then they definitely get the flier.  English Class is still one of the most effective missionary tools in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. It brings so many baptisms. 

Saturday: We met with an LA referral from another city. He's come to our patch of the garden for college. He was baptized a year before he moved here, and when he came, he stopped attending church mainly because he didn't know where it was. But now he's been found! And he's super cool, and he loves church, and he's going to be fully active again real soon, I'm pretty sure. 

Sunday was the new member and investigator fireside the mission holds every month in Taipei. Originally, the Elder in charge of the music said to me, "You've probably played the music at every fireside you've ever attended. So I don't want you to play anything this time so you can have a break." About a week later, he called again and asked me to play for the whole thing and accompany a couple other performers. I didn't mind. It was fun. And I got to use the organ, which is always a treat.

The sun was out this week. At least, it didn't rain. That was a blessing; there were so many more people outside on the streets (at any time during the day), so finding was much more effective and not so draining this week. I love being a missionary. I am so excited for a couple of our investigators as they continue preparing to be baptized, especially the family.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mission Letter 3/28/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week has been super...interesting. Perhaps one of the longest, most tedious, weeks of my mission. As missionaries, in Taiwan especially, we are used to getting rejected a decent amount, but we are also used to frequent success in street contacting, setting up lessons, and teaching the gospel. Unlike many missions in the world which have seemingly stagnated, stuck in an everlasting tracting phase, we are blessed in Taiwan to serve in a place where people are usually willing to talk to us, for the most part. 

But this past week was so rough. Rejection upon rejection upon no one wanting to give us even 5 seconds. It gets old when the only thing you say to people is, "Hello! How are you?" for hours, and the only response you get from everyone walking by is, "不用," (bu yong) which basically means, "No." Translated literally it comes out to "No use." I'll explain more after the following picture:


​CAPTION: Me wearing the most stylish face mask you've ever seen, along with my companion at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, close to the Taiwan Taipei Temple. Pretty cool. Super big.

This week, my companion and I decided to clear out our investigator pool. There were several "eternal investigators" (people who have met with missionaries for long periods of time without progression) that we met with for the last time this week. We did such a good job of dropping non-progressing investigators, that we have almost no investigators left. 

That left us with bounteous periods of finding time. Most days this week, we had over five hours of walking up and down streets. Now, Sanxia, while tons and tons of people live here, it's not a big place. Most of the buildings here are 14-26 stories tall, and house hundreds of units and thousands of people. So you'll most likely never run into the same people, but it's not like there is that much variety in finding, either. 

First off, this past Friday marked the first day of sun after a 35 day streak of daily rain. At least, that's what I've heard. Feels about right, though.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were super rough. In total, we had 19 hours on the street, talking to people, and in total had one person actually have a lesson with us on the street. That was rough, because that means the rest of the time was just waving at people busily walking by us without stopping. 

That much time with that little result leaves one thinking, what am I doing here? Am I doing something wrong? Are the people just a "hardened people?" Are we in the wrong place? Why is this week so different from every other week?

That's about this week in a nutshell. Too much thinking about everything, over analyzing, and not much getting done. 

Until Sunday night. We saw so many big miracles on Sunday night. It started at 7 PM, when we ran into the wife and children of one of our investigators, Brother Lin. He is the one who has been looking for the truth for 25 years. The whole family is Christian, but because of some things that happened at their last church, their pastor didn't welcome them anymore. And when they left, none of the members went looking for them, or anything. And then they met us. The husband has slowly been having all of his questions answered by the gospel. It's amazing how long God has been preparing their family. And now that they've run into their special set of circumstances, the time is right for them as a family to get to know the gospel. The wife has some awesome questions, too, that the gospel answers. We will meet with the whole family this Tuesday, at the Bishop's home. We're super excited.

Sunday night at 8PM, we met with a referral that another set of Elders contacted in Banqiao. His name is Ricky. Turns out, he had a friend in Junior High that was a Mormon and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. One of his ex-girlfriends was also Mormon, and he's been to church a few times, activities a few times, and the Taiwan Temple Grounds a few times. He is so prepared to hear the gospel, it's not even funny. He got fellowshipped really well by the members who attended the lesson with us, he has a baptismal date goal, and is super willing to keep learning. I'm confident that he too, will get baptized. 

So, after a week that felt like it was a total failure, it turned out to be one of the most miraculous weeks of my mission. I am confident that both Brother Lin and his family, as well as Jacky will get baptized in the next two months. And I am so excited. Because I know how the gospel will bless their lives.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I sure will!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net