Monday, September 29, 2014

9/29/2014 Mission Letter

Hello, everybody!

It feels like this week has flown by. I've now been in California for about two weeks, and the days are starting to go a little faster now. When I first arrived, I felt like those were the longest days of my life, because we were always doing something, and it felt like we were still out in the middle of the night after everybody had gone to bed! But it was only until 9 PM, and I'm getting more adjusted to it here.

I'm so spoiled here in California. My tripanionship has a full time car, we get fed by members almost every night, and I haven't eaten anything really weird yet (except I had olives the other day for the first time, they're much saltier than I thought). The temperature is a comfortable 78 now, during the day, so everything is just beautiful.

So, because I'm just a visa waiter, the mission president here placed me into a tripanionship (the same happened with the other 2 Taiwan missionaries that came here with me). My companions have recently (about 2 months ago) been assigned by the mission president to learn Farsi. There are a lot of Iranians here, and so learning the language opens up many more opportunities to teach the gospel around here. In fact, the ward that I'm currently serving in has it's meetings translated into Farsi. There's a couple members here who translate during the meeting, and Farsi people have little headsets they can listen to. Then, in Sunday School, there's a Farsi Group where the class (taught by people who only know English) is also translated into Farsi. So, I'm surrounded by Farsi.

But, there's also a lot of people here in California who are immigrants from China. The other day, my companions and I were walking in the street at night contacting, and we got a call. It was from the Sister Missionaries who also serve in this ward, and they'd run into a lady who spoke Chinese and no English, and so they phoned me to talk to her. Communication, particularly over a phone, was very difficult; I could barely understand what she was saying. But it was good enough that we set up an appointment for the next night, in that same park they were walking in. I tried to get her address and phone number so we could contact her if we couldn't find her, but she told me she didn't have a phone and didn't know her address, "Just meet me in the park tomorrow." I asked her name, and over the phone, it sounded like "Yi Wai."

So, that's what we did. The Sister missionaries went, and I went on Splits with a member of the ward, Bro. Floyd, who lived in China for 5 years after minoring in Chinese at BYU. So we had two Chinese communicators, which was excellent, because he understood everything about the casual stuff she was saying that I didn't. We asked what her name was, and she said, to spell it phonetically, "Tee Why." We weren't sure what that meant, so we said, "What character?" She tried to write on our hands, like Chinese people do, but Bro. Floyd told her to write it on his iPad instead. She wrote out, T. Y. Which we thought was pretty funny that it had taken us so long to get to the simple English. You just don't expect that, you know?

Either way, we started teaching. That night was pretty cool; I was able to get through the entire first lesson in Chinese. It was an incredibly cool experience. Especially having the opportunity to use my Chinese, I enjoyed it incredibly. We gave her a Book of Mormon again, because the first night, the sisters had tried to give her one, and she got really excited and tried to give it back, and they didn't understand why. 

The following night, we met with her again, this time with the actual Chinese missionaries from San Diego. We got to the root of her concern with the book. In Chinese, the book is called Mo'ermenjing. And the word for devil is Mogui. So she was very concerned that the book we'd given her, "Another Testament of Jesus Christ," sounded like "The Devil's Gate Scripture." Along with the fact that she wasn't a Christian in China, like half a year ago, and now she's was trying to find a church, and she was like, "I just found out about the Bible, and now there's another one?" But she is just the sweetest lady, and Is really awesome. I enjoyed having the opportunity to teach her that one lesson, because at the second one, we "transferred" her, you could say, to the Full-Time Chinese missionaries.

As for my visa, still not much word. We know that it's coming; my mission president said that, "We are making major strides in getting them [the 31 Taiwan visa waiting missionaries] here.  Things have been cleared with the consulate in San Francisco, and now we are waiting for the processing of the visas here at the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs." So, progress is being made!

During church yesterday, the lesson was about the Godhead. The fact that they are three separate people with a unified purpose. There's a quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, which states, "Three glorious persons comprise the Godhead... They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each one possesses the same divine nature, knows all things, and has all power. Each one has the same character, the same perfections, and the same attributes. Because of this perfect unity, they are spoken of as being one God."

Knowing this makes the Holy Ghost all the more special. As members of the church, we have all been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Our job now is to heed its promptings, because if we ignore them, often the Holy Ghost will move away until we seek it again. But as we listen more, we recognize more and more the promptings it gives us, and we then feel like we have it more often, as we heed its voice. It's an amazing gift, knowing that one of the Godhead, that has the same nature, knows all things, and has all power has been promised as our constant companion.

While I was in the MTC, someone once said that, "The Holy Ghost never withdraws itself from us. We withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost." Imagine the Holy Ghost as a point with a radius. These are the boundaries, the standards, etc., things we must do to have his companionship. Now imagine ourselves as a point, somewhere within this boundary. But when we don't feel the Holy Ghost, it's not because the boundaries have changed, it's because we've moved ourselves outside of them. What we then must do is move ourselves back inside that boundary.

I'm really enjoying my mission, temporarily here in California, and soon to be in Taiwan. I truly am excited to be serving here, and it's already been a great experience, even in this short time. But hey, in about 10 days, I'll be at the 3 month mark, meaning my mission will be 1/8 complete.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Temporarily California Carlsbad Mission
Taiwan Taipei Mission