But some of us our still optimistically packing our bags, in the hope that before Friday, they'll tell us, "Your Visas came! You're leaving this Friday!" We also took our final district pictures, etc. We can dream, right? Actually, we're pretty hopeful, because they didn't cancel our tickets (found out today) and so if our visas come any time between now and Thursday evening, we're out of here.
It's sad news, and it took a while to handle, because we were all so excited to be leaving on the 5th, and we were planning on packing our bags, we were in In Field, and then this! So it was a little disappointing, but we're dealing with it. The harder part is that we don't know when our next opportunity to leave will be, because we'll miss the transfer, our President is leaving the country for a Mission President conference, and our Visas still have to come.
Hello, everyone!So, last Friday, my whole district went to In-Field Orientation, because this coming Friday we're leaving the MTC. In Field Orientation is an all day class, starting at 8 AM and going until 5:30 PM, with breakout sessions. At about 4:30 PM, right after we'd finished watching their "play" production on missionary work (a really cheesy demonstration of how to work with members and the various ward parts), they told us, "Every missionary going to Taiwan, please report to the Travel Office right now." So we went down there, frightened and worried, half suspecting the news, and were told "You're Visas didn't come, so you're not leaving this Friday." Crushed! We all slowly meandered back to In-Field Orientation. As we returned to the class, 31 missionaries trickled into the room, all a little down.
We're onto our fifth teacher. That's because the first ones keep leaving or getting transferred, not because this is normal procedure. Our first teacher finally left because he just graduated and got a job teaching at a school. Our substitute teacher was also another class' teacher, so they tried to get him out of there as soon as possible. The other teacher we started with got a new district to teach, so she's no longer with our class but with new missionaries. That brings the count to 3 down. Our 4th teacher, who was with us from the very first day until now, was just moved to another district. The Chinese department here is seeming to run out of teachers, because they asked a Returned Missionary, who returned a very long time ago, to come back to the MTC for a little bit to help them keep up. So that's our 5th teacher. Our district seriously went through a little bit of teacher withdrawals, but we're good now. The new teacher is growing on us.
At In Field Orientation, one of the segments was on Working with Members. They taught us the crucial role that members play in the conversion process, and how important working with the members is. They told us how important it was to gain a relationship with the ward we were working with and how crucial gaining the members' trust was. They also told us how crucial it was for members to be involved in missionary work, inviting their friends and acquaintances to meet with the missionaries, as well as fellowship converts and investigators. One goal as a missionary is to have as many discussions as possible with a member present. So, to summarize, members are really important.
Sharing the gospel isn't just helping others have a happier life. In Preach My Gospel, it says that our purpose as missionaries is to "open the doors to the Celestial Kingdom." One of our teachers said, "I'm from a family of 9 children. How many of those do you want to see in the Celestial Kingdom? 6 or 7? That's a majority, after all. No! You want all of them there. So does Heavenly Father." And that's why this work is so important.I watched Elder David A. Bednar's Christmas Devotional again, "The Character of Christ." It's just so good, there's so much in it, that you get something new every time. I have two things to share from it:
1) How to take notes on talks. He said, some of us are bad at taking notes. We try to write a history of the whole talk. They try to make a "large plates," the ones where Nephi wrote the whole history. But what's going to happen to those notes? Think about three questions, will you ever be able to capture everything, will you ever use those notes again, and one month from now, will you even know where they are? No! Now how stupid is that, to take notes that you won't use, and in a month you won't know where they are. What we need to do is make the "small plates," the precious, simple truths revealed to us by the Holy Ghost. Those are the only things we need, and they are most important to us.
2) There's a large difference between having a testimony and being converted to the Lord. Having a testimony is not enough. People with testimonies can fall away from the Church, but people who are converted never will. What is conversion? If testimony is knowing truth (through the Spirit), conversion is consistently being true to what you know.
That's a pretty long letter. Have a great week! Hopefully the next letter will be from Taiwan (if our visas come)!
Elder Sequoia Ploeg
Taiwan Taipei Mission