Monday, September 22, 2014

Mission Letter 9/22/2014

Hello from Sunny Southern California, everybody!

So, tomorrow marks my first week in a strange land, in a completely different environment. There have been things I expected, and a lot more things about missionary life that I haven't expected.

For starters, we run every morning. Every. Except Sunday, of course. That all was expected. But California is extraordinarily hilly, I don't know who thought that would be a funny joke. That part wasn't expected.

Next, we talk to a lot of people, people in their driveways, people in their doors, people walking down the street, people walking down the highway. That was expected. Them not liking Mormons (like, a lot) or pretending you don't exist or ignoring you or slamming doors in your face or just simply walking away from you suddenly? That part wasn't expected.

Thirdly, people say missions are hard. Yes, I expected that. But after two months in the MTC, surrounded constantly by spiritual people, nice people, and always happy people, people who teach you, attending devotionals, singing hymns and praying together, always being surrounded by missionaries, to coming here, it's a major culture shock. I didn't realize that it was as hard as it is, and the more I'm out here, the more appreciative I become of the MTC and what an uplifting place it really is. Even though I was really happy to leave, I'm so glad I had the time there. So the "hard" part that everyone talks about missions? That part wasn't expected.

Finally, missionaries are always exhausted. I knew I would be tired, because walking around all day, doing missionary stuff, because we're out until 9 PM, sometimes 9:30, I expected all of this. But coming home, and three minutes after lying down on my bed, being asleep (that was on my second day)? When 6:30 AM comes, you wish the clock would maybe go back another hour so you could catch up on some sleep? That part wasn't expected.

But it's cool out here. I get to see the ocean, feel the breeze, and depending on where we're at in our area, I get to smell the ocean, and it's really nice. However, last week, this place (I'm in Del Mar, if you're interested on where I'm at) had one of the hottest weeks in a while, and it was stifling, and humid, but now it's cooled off, and it's become very comfortable. The temperature is always around about 78-84 Fahrenheit in the daytime now.

I actually have two companions; the three of us from the MTC that came to this mission, I think all of us just got placed in tripanionships, because they have no idea when we'll leave. So we're just going to be sitting cozy until I finally depart for Taiwan.

I actually got really lucky; President Kendrick, the mission president here, told us when they picked us up from the airport, about the different areas. One is further inland, really hot, and I'm not sure if they have a car. Elder Casper got assigned to that area. But I'm right on Oceanside, in one of the more temperate parts of the mission, we have a full time car, so basically, in this mission, I think I live in the lap of luxury.

But it's still exhausting.

Ahh, the airport! Yes. When we arrived, I didn't know the Mission President's name. I didn't know what he looked like, or how we were going to find him. And our flight landed a little early, so we grabbed our luggage, and then stood in the terminal like a group of deer in the headlights. Waiting, trying to decide, do we want to call someone? Should we go outside? Should we walk up an down the terminal? So after about 5 minutes, we spotted the couple wearing name tags, and that was exciting because we knew who they were. Then they took us back down to the Mission Office, for about a 15 minute orientation and interviews, then they sent us on our way.

Eating at members houses: yes, I very much like it. We've eaten with a member every night except one, so far. The food thus far has been very good, even things I didn't like to eat before (like certain cheeses that everyone seems to put on their salads). I believe there is a scripture in 1 Nephi, where Nephi says they ate raw meat, and it was made to "taste sweet unto them." And I'm hoping that's the same for missionaries; I haven't had a bad member meal yet.

A little bit about the MTC. It was an amazing experience. I was happy to leave, but I'm also really happy I got the chance to be there, and being there for two months wasn't a bad thing, either. It was really amazing. The spiritual strength gained from just being together with other missionaries, learning together, teaching and always studying the gospel, it was just really cool to observe the effects it had, the things we learned, the knowledge we already had. I know that there's a lot of strength that comes from reading the scriptures; because they contain the Words of Life. As long as we observe to do that which is written in them, our lives will be happier, more blessed, and we'll be better able to bless the lives of others.

One thing that I believe everyone should strive to develop is Christlike Attributes. There's a section in Preach My Gospel by that name, and I love that section, because if we could develop all those attributes just a little bit, we would be such amazing people. I think everyone should read it, and study the scriptures listed in it, because it's one part of living the gospel. Becoming like Christ, and Enduring to the End.

Anyway, it's been a good week. My visa is supposed to come in about 2 weeks, maybe sooner, that would be nice. It's a shame I don't get to talk Chinese to almost anyone here, even though there's a goodly amount of them around. In fact, our neighbor is from China, so I had about a 1.5 hour conversation with her last week, not entirely in Chinese, but about half. It was good to practice a little bit, and she's agreed to every-so-often continue to help me practice. (Language study has changed dramatically since leaving the MTC. It's a lot harder.) But I'm excited for here, and to soon go to Taiwan.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission