Monday, July 28, 2014

7/28/2014 Mission Letter

Hello, everybody!

This week has been another hectic one. The MTC is such a routine, same thing every day place, that I begin to lose track of what day it is here. Every day feels the same, because it is. Monday is the new Saturday, and Saturday is just another weekday (Monday is Prep Day). I was writing in my journal about something I thought had happened that morning, and then realized that had happened the previous day (how embarrassing!).

I'm playing the piano a ton here. Since we can't listen to music, and we're not allowed to listen to Music and the Spoken Word on Sundays in our classroom (we used to, until they told us no), so we're very music deprived. So a few times a week, we just go during lunch or dinner to an empty classroom with a piano and just play for a while. They asked me to play in Sacrament Meeting again, and then in Priesthood Meeting, and then they asked me to do a musical number in Sacrament, and then another Elder from a different Mandarin District asked me to accompany him in a musical number. So, yeah. Lots of piano, and very little time to practice. It's really fun, though.

This week my district started something called TRC's, or Teaching Resource Center. Once a week, the whole district goes down to the building it's held in, and we have appointments with real members, instead of acting investigators. We still speak entirely in Chinese, and we practice different techniques (as they are told us, each week) like How to Begin Teaching, How to Receive Revelation through Prayer, etc. All these people are volunteers who come to the MTC to do this, so they're all members, usually returned missionaries who served in Taiwan or Mandarin Speaking. However, they're allowed to bring friends that are nonmembers, and someone did this last week. But we didn't get to teach him, someone else in our district did.

TRC's are also great because we can just talk to members without explaining basic principles to them, we can ask them for advice for our missions, and just have a casual atmosphere that is really fun and enjoyable. They're quickly becoming one of my favourite things here in the MTC.

This coming Wednesday, my district (along with some others) were assigned Hosting responsibilities. You have no idea how excited we are. We get to stand on the corner and yank other missionaries away from their families. I know it's hard for families, and that may have sounded a little callous, but we love seeing new missionaries here. We're just really excited for them, and sometimes we see people we know. We're like, "Welcome! You're gonna have a GREAT time." And they're like, "Sniffle." But we're really excited to host and bring in the new missionaries. For the past couple weeks, we've just been people watching--we stand by the door and watch them all come in, see the different reactions and their faces. It's great, because we've done it and we know what being in the MTC is like.

Last night we had the first movie night they've had since I've been here in the MTC (the first week I came in, they didn't do them because the building was being renovated). Most of my district went and saw an MTC devotional from a couple of years ago that the MTC filmed. It was a Christmas Sunday devotional, and Elder Bednar came to the MTC. He gave an hour and a half long talk on the Character of Christ. It's one of the most amazing talks I've ever heard. It's so long and good, I really can't do it justice in an email, and I don't know if it's circulating out in the real world somewhere. But the main point of the talk is that Jesus Christ turns out in love and comfort to others, when the natural man would turn in.

Read Matthew 4:2-11. Note that after the 40 days and nights of fasting, it says that the devil tempted Christ. But all those temptations were secondary temptations. The main temptation is in verse 3: "If thou be the son of God,..." And after the Devil is finished tempting him and leaves, verse 11 says that "angels came and ministered unto him." Except that that verse is translated wrong. Look at the footnote, which says that, "And now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him [John]." Even after what he went through, after the temptations, and when most people would want to turn inward, he turns out and helps other people.

Still no pictures, I need to get an SD card to USB converter in order to put them into the computer.

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Monday, July 21, 2014

2/21/2014 Mission Letter

Ni hao, everybody!

This week has been another busy one, because there is no such thing as a non busy week in the MTC. We have 3 to 6 hours of classroom instruction time everyday (all in Chinese), and we have teaching appointments where we practice our teaching (also in Chinese) on different investigators. This week we taught Gao Dixiong, who stopped meeting with us on Friday. We'll get two new people to teach this week.

Our District (of 11 missionaries, 8 Elders and 3 Sisters) are growing so close together. It's amazing how well we get along and we all love each other, except that we can't say that to the sisters because it's "San Shi San!" San shi san, or 33, is the page in the missionary handbook that talks about relationships with people of the opposite gender. So, if anyone sees any flirting, people will start randomly yelling out, "SAN SHI SAN!" It's become kind of a joke, but it's hilarious.

Chinese is getting better. Two days ago, Brother Durrant did a teaching demonstration for us by teaching Sister Luo (who is from China). They talked about around half of the first discussion, him teaching her about prayer, the nature of God, etc. all in Chinese. And I understood ALL OF IT. Though casual conversation is the main difficulty, I've been one of the fastest learners of Chinese in the class. All except for two of the Elders in the class (me and Elder McNeil) have had Chinese classes before, which makes things disheartening sometimes when you feel like everyone else is comprehending and you're being left behind in the dust. But I've figured out a pretty good study pattern. So, I'm doing pretty well in the language.

For the past two weeks, the building that our devotionals and meetings are held in has been closed for renovation/resurfacing of the basketball court. So all our devotionals have been held in the BYU Marriott Center. So every Sunday and Tuesday, it's quite a sight as about 3200 missionaries from both the MTC's Main Campus and West Campus stream out of the complex and across the street and parking lot to the Marriott Center. It's like a never ending trail of ants across the entire parking lot. However, the building is being reopened on Tuesday, so we won't be crossing anymore.

This past week one of the other districts that's been here about 7 weeks got their itineraries. It's kinda bitter sweet, because when we arrived, we looked up to them. They looked like they'd been here forever. They seem much older and wiser than us; they don't feel like they've been here such a short time. So now that they're leaving, it's kinda like loosing your mission parents. It'll be sad, but we're excited for them.

During Priesthood Meeting yesterday, Brother Williams (my 10th Grade English teacher) gave the lesson. He talked about the Doctrine of Christ: 1) Faith, 2) Repentance, 3) Baptism, and 4) Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Now there is one more that isn't in the 4th Article of Faith, and that is 5) Endure to the End. But how do we endure to the end? By repeating all the first principles that got us to this point. The Doctrine of Christ is recursive and interrelated. After baptism, to endure to the end we must continue to exercise 1) Faith, continually 2) Repent, continue to make covenants and commitments through 3) Partaking of the Sacrament, and 4) Obeying the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Remember to consult the Lord in everything. There are so many times that we're supposed to pray here, it's not even funny.

Sorry there are still no pictures, the MTC computers don't have an SD card slot, so I'll have to figure out another way to send them.

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Monday, July 14, 2014

7/14/2014 Mission Letter

Good morning, everyone!

Today is my first Preparation Day in the MTC. It's a busy one too, let me tell you. We have so many things we need to do, the least of which is not laundry. But I get one hour per week on the computer doing personal things (such as writing letters). And that hour is almost up.

The MTC is an awesome place. I don't know quite how to describe it. It's somewhat like EFY, except everyone is way more focused. We still have a lot of fun, but we are also learning a lot. It's cool being surrounded by missionaries who are ready to go and serve the Lord.

Chinese is difficult. The first day I arrived, my host dragged my luggage as I went around getting my tags, info, keys, and language materials. Those materials are bigger than my backpack was going to school on a regular day! But they're good. Every time we're in class, the teacher speaks only in Chinese. While I'm learning words and how to say them, my biggest struggle is comprehending what is being spoken. It takes so long to translate the words one by one in my head. But everyone (meaning those who have been here longer than I have) keeps telling me that the gift of tongues is real, so I'll just rely on the Lord and do my best to learn the language on my own.

So I arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday our teacher told us we'd be teaching an investigator on Friday. Yes, two days after I arrived I had to teach a lesson with my companion. IN CHINESE. That was one of the most intimidating things I've ever done. Because the investigator (at least pretended to) did not understand a word of English. And then we had to teach another lesson on Saturday. And another one today (Monday). At least my companion, Elder Shoop, understands Chinese pretty okay. He took 3 years in High School (which doesn't mean much sometimes, but he has quite the edge on me).

Mr. Williams, my 10th Grade English Teacher, is in my Branch Presidency. In fact, he interviewed me yesterday. It was quite the opportunity. It's strange seeing him outside of a school setting where he can be religious rather then "separation of church and state," but it was awesome nonetheless.

President Teng, our branch president, is also a way cool guy. And his wife. They're both Chinese. And they are like, some of my newest favorite people ever. I met them during Sacrament meeting yesterday.

Ooh, Sacrament Meeting. Every missionary must prepare a talk every Sunday, and then in Sacrament meeting, the one conducting will announce who's speaking. No prior warning. And the talks must be given in Chinese. It's quite the experience. 

My classroom teacher, Ruan Laoshi (Teacher Durrant), is also just one of the most amazing guys ever. He's really nice, patient, and willing to teach us stuff. He teaches Chinese, and he teaches us missionary and gospel principles (also in Chinese). He's one of the nicest people I've ever met though.

Oh, yes. My Chinese name. It is Liao Zhanglao (Liao is fourth tone). I could change it if I wanted, but I like it. 

They have crammed so much into the first half week here in the MTC. So many gospel principles have been taught to us so far; we had a devotional last night at the Marriott Center which was focused on charity and Christlike attributes. It was a really good devotional; he talked about how he learned to develop charity for the people he was serving. He said we simply have to pray to develop charity, and then do our part in working for it. 

We can't expect God to help us with anything until we first make an effort to try ourselves. They tell us that the gift of tongues is real if we do our part for it. So I'm doing my best. I have a little notebook that I'm putting words in and stuff (I wish I had been smart enough to bring a notebook with me).

Anyway. I'm pumped about my mission. It's going great so far. It's harder for the families and friends who send off a missionary than it is for the missionary themselves. I'm always busy and occupied; they don't leave us any time at all to feel homesick. But by 9 weeks, I think we're all going to be completely insane (us Chinese missionaries in the residences). We'll be ready to get out of here by September.

I'll send pictures next time I write. I forgot to bring my camera and connector today. 

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Elder Ploeg's Contact Information

Email Address:

MTC Mailing Address:
Elder Sequoia Chin Ploeg
2007 N 900 E Unit  10
Provo UT 84602

Taiwan Taipei Mission Mailing Address: