Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mission Letter 12/28/2015 "Back into Taipei"

Dear family and friends,

This week has been pretty awesome! And so incredibly busy. And tiring. And I've been running around all over the place. But it's been extremely fun. Here's a blow-by-blow of the week:

Monday: It was a P-Day. But, just like the last 8 P-Days, we went to the Mission Office, and instead of choir, practiced another missionary's Nativity Play, which was to be presented the next day at the Mission Christmas Conference. Elder Anderton, a theatre enthusiast and perfectionist, mixed the stories of the Nativity and Elder Holland's narration of his first Christmas away from home (on a mission), and portrayed those in a play with musical background (including a piano, cello, guitar, and a violin, the music being arranged and directed by myself). So, that was all day.

Tuesday: Back into Taipei again to attend the Mission Christmas Conference at the American Center. It was also an all-day activity, and super fun. A few trainings, but mostly talent shows, musical performances, the Nativity Play, and a walk to the site where Taiwan was dedicated for missionary work. It was an awesome day, with super good food. A high class buffet lunch, and it was just amazing.

​CAPTION: The cast of the Nativity play, and the "orchestra" members.

Wednesday: Back into Taipei for a District Leader Training Meeting, now that I'm the District Leader in my new area. This isn't my first time being district leader, so it was basically "come hear what you've heard before," but regardless, it was pretty fun, I guess. At night, when we finally got back into our area, it was time for English Class, so no proselyting that day either.

Thursday: Weekly Planning Session takes up the majority of the afternoon. At night time though, it was: yep. Back into Taipei for a choir performance. We went to Banqiao, and the ward arranged for us to show up at the train station and stand outside and sing Christmas songs on the corner to people walking by. So, without piano or stuff (we brought one but there were no plugs for the keyboard), we sang our program a capella in the misty rain. It was kinda fun, got a little bit of a crowd. Mostly ward members. They also handed out tracts and fliers to people walking by.

Friday: It was a good day. In the evening, we went back into Taipei for a baptism in my old area. There was a family (three people) who we were working with who passed their interviews and were baptized on Christmas Day! The family comprised of a father, mother, and 11-year old daughter were super cool, and it was awesome to be able to return for the baptism. We also had one other investigator who we were working with get baptized on the same day, during the same service. Black, is his name, and I had the honor of baptizing him. So, an all around good day.

Saturday: Dare you guess? Back into Taipei for another choir performance at night. Our very last one! Choir has been super fun, but it's also been draining, and taking a lot of time out of missionary work in my own area. But it was great. Also got to Skype home! It was soo good to talk to my family. Really had a fun time chatting.

Sunday: The first day we didn't return to Taipei. But we were late to church, after a mad scramble which involved catching the wrong bus and then having to take a Taxi to make up for the wrong way we went. But it was fine.

Well, my time is about up. That's how this week went. This coming week should be even more fun, as we actually start working in our own area more. 

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mission Letter 12/21/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week has been most wonderful! And most busy! Between choir performances, companion exchanges, and trainer training meetings, I've just been up and down all over the place.

So, there were like, 5 elders coming in this transfer. One from Sweden, one from the US, and then three Taiwanese native missionaries (of which one or two are visa waiters for other countries, probably the US). So, with that news came all the anticipation over who I was going to train. Wth that many native missionaries entering our mission, the chances were pretty high that I would be training one of them. I was pretty excited to drastically improve my Chinese in the coming 12 weeeks. And back to this story in a minute...

Monday: one of the missionaries in our mission is putting together a live nativity, mixed with a Missionary's Christmas experience, for our mission conference. It's a very inspired production. The missionary who put it together is super into theatre, and is doing awesome at getting those emotions out of people. And it just so happens the production is a musical, and he asked me to do the music. So, on Monday I spent the whole day rehearsing. That was a long P-day.

Tuesday: We had our last district meeting of the transfer. There were two sisters going home in our district, and many of us transferring, so the district leader planned for us to make brownies and share about mission experiences. I don't know if that was the vision the mission had for us, or the topic, but it was a swell time anyway.

Wednesday I had a trainer meeting for the afternoon. Then we had our English Class party. We talked about Christmas. Our station in the rotation taught about caroling, and we discussed and learned the song, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." That was fun. It's cool, using songs to teach English. Most people didn't know what it meant to "call someone names." It's amazing the English you can teach out of the most simple things.

Thursday was transfers. And of course, I got paired up with the guy from Sweden. Turns out, he's also half Taiwanese, like me. So together, we make up one full Taiwanese person and one full Euorpean. It's super cool, especially introducing ourselves on the street. "Are you from Utah?" "Well, actually..."

I'll take a better picture of us in the coming week.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was full of choir performances, with as much proselyting as we could fit in between the extensive travel times. President was forced to keep me in Taipei, simply because I'm kinda running the choir. So, that's what he did. But, I'm almost positive that he stuck me in the farthest away corner, because I'm totally the one who is traveling the longest and always home late. But it's okay. Performances end after this week, and life will be stress free again!

I love my mission. Life is going good. I love my new area and my new ward. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Mission Letter 12/7/2015

Dear family and friends,

Yet another week has come and gone, just like that. 

My companion and I had exchanges with another companionship in our zone this week.

This is Elder Bell, serving in Xizhi, the most rural part of our zone. Going there is always a treat because all the buildings are shorter, there are more mountains, less cars, more air, etc. Elder Bell is currently on his third transfer of his mission. Young guy, in terms of mission age. But he's super cool, and so is his current companion. Exchanges are always a fun opportunity to learn from the other companionship, and also to train and improve skills. 

Choir performances have started. In the past weekend, we had three performances (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights). The first time we ran the entire program without stopping... was at our first performance. And it somehow went surprisingly smoothly. Watching all the effort that was put into planning out and organizing the performance end so well is very satisfying. We pulled the entire program together in about 4.5 weeks (got the music, learned the songs, practiced the conducting and instrumentalists, soloists, narration, etc). We still have many performances in the coming three weeks around Taipei. Hopefully all the members will invite their friends and neighbors to the performances.

This coming Sunday, our Stake (the Central Taipei Stake) and the East Taipei Stake are holding a special combined Stake Conference.... to SPLIT THE STAKES! WOOT! The two stakes are going to combine and then split into three, the North, East, and Central Taipei Stakes (yes, the naming here is extremely creative). And the following week is transfers. If all goes according to the normal time schedule, I'm due to leave. But we don't know if President will leave me for an extra one because of the Christmas Choir (if I left and didn't participate anymore, the Christmas choir would end because I play half the songs). 

It rained this Sunday, so church attendance was smaller than usual. Significantly. Investigator attendance was even less. Whenever it rains here, all the people take shelter and don't go outside. But hopefully next week, the investigator family that we've been working with, will be able to come to church again. This past week we had the opportunity of actually going to their house to visit them (in Taiwan, it's very rare that we will ever visit anyone in their home, usually people will set up at the church or at something near their house like a McDonald's). We're encouraged to meet in people's houses, so as to have an opportunity to particularly bring the Spirit into their home. It was a great lesson. We're hoping to help them be baptized on Christmas. They're scared of it being a little fast, but they do feel like the church has made changes in their lives. The Mom has already read all the way through to Mosiah in like, a month. Super cool!

Not much more to report on this week. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mission Letter 11/30/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week was super busy, and had a wide variety of activities that took up a lot of our time. 

On Monday, it was P-Day. We had choir practice. Our second to last practice before our first performance. The time is coming. So is the stress.

On Tuesday, Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited. The entire mission came to the Mission Headquarters, and we all sat in the chapel to listen to his training. We filled the entire chapel (but didn't spill into the cultural hall). No one sings as loudly or as powerfully as a group of 200 missionaries, shoulder to shoulder in a chapel. I was asked to play the organ for the day, which was also really fun for me. The choir performed, the training was super good.

One of the things that I learned most from the training was about how to help people keep commitments. That's one of the most important things in missionary work, is commitments. Regardless of whether we're working with less actives, investigators, or members, almost every lesson, you will hear the word, "Invite." This word's meaning completely changed for me here on the mission. In every interaction, we invite people to act. Unless people act, they won't change. One privilege we have as missionaries is to promise blessings for action. That's truly amazing; we can promise people that as they obey certain commitments or commandments, things in their life will change, and we can promise specific blessings. 

Wednesday we went on exchanges with the Assistants. They did this strange thing where we both stayed the night at their area. Our areas almost border each other, so going back to our area to do missionary work during the day isn't too hard; nevertheless, we spent most of the time in their area. Which was ok; we got a pizza lunch buffet from that. Members in Taiwan are super nice; they were eating lunch, and any companionship they saw walking by outside was invited in (when you're around the temple, that's quite a few companionships). 

Thursday wasn't terribly special. 

Friday was Mission Leadership Council. There's some really cool stuff that they taught us about obedience, faith, and also just finding people to teach. They related missionary work to fishing. And when we go finding, we go fishing, but not gutting, scaling, cooking, and selling. Just finding. When we're teaching on the street, we're not trying to convert them, just trying to help them have a second chance to meet with us someday, and learn more. The mission thing here is that in the first lesson, we invite to baptism. So, on the street, the main topic of the conversation is baptism, and how it will change their life. The vision is that every person that we have a conversation with on the street is invited to baptism (and, at very best, sets a date). 

Saturday was a day full of finding. What we did was put into practice everything that we learnt about yesterday. We actually had a pretty successful finding day, but many of the people we met are also referrals to give away.

Sunday was awesome. We had an investigator family that we're currently working with come to church. It was also the Primary program, which was fun. It always is. The children were cute, the investigators enjoyed it, etc. We're so excited for this one family. The goal for them is to be baptized on Christmas, so now we're just trying to meet with them often enough to get all the lessons finished.

Everything is going well. It's incredible that it's almost Christmas time. Feels a little surreal. This coming week, our choir performances start. Music is an incredible way to meet new people and bring the Spirit. So excited!

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mission Letter 11/23/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week has been amazing! In addition to finding tons of people.

The choir is coming along well. Regardless of the fact that we had 3 practices before our first performance (which is tomorrow for Elder Stevenson, the new Apostle), it's going well! And starting next Friday and Saturday, and lasting through the rest of December, we'll have performances every weekend throughout all of Taipei. It should be a blast.

This week was really busy. We had so many exchanges with other missionary companionships. We had an exchange with the Xizhi, Sanchong, and Songshan missionaries. Two of those were on consecutive days, with only a 30 minute "switching" time in between. For each of those exchanges, my companion left the area, and I stayed. So, that was fun, staying in the area and running it all week long, and my companion was on like, a vacation touring various cities. But that's okay; last time we had such a busy week, I was the one who got to leave the area every time.

This week, we did not have many lessons set up. So, we had a lot of finding time. It's incredible, living and proselyting in the middle of the city, how many people we meet that don't actually live in our area. I don't know if I've ever given out so many referrals before. But we meet some super cool people, too.

Last week, we ran into this 18 year old kid who is a student at the National Taiwan University, the best school in Taiwan. He is also doing an internship on the side. So, he's incredibly smart, and usually everyone in Taiwan is incredibly busy. But the most amazing thing was that he was first off, interested in learning about the gospel. He said he was looking for a religion, that his mother was Christian, but he was still trying out others. He said he had time Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, in addition to the weekend, to meet. So, super rare, and super cool.

We have an investigator, his name is Brother Huang. He is the friend of a member, and he has been Christian in another church for 3 years. He still retains some of his Buddhist ideas though. And his biggest problem is smoking. He's very willing to be baptized again into our church (though we can never get through a full discussion with him, he talks so much), but the only obstacle is the cigarettes. He has no self confidence, etc. He wants 5 months to prepare. So we set a goal for April 6, 2016. But this week, he went two days without smoking, and he's not sure how, either. It's amazing! He normally smokes over 10 per day, but now he's seeing some success. Hopefully we'll be able to move his baptismal date up a bit.

The family that we're working with came to church again this week. They're super awesome! But super busy, that we never have time to meet with them, they only come to church. But next week is the Primary program, and hopefully their 11 year old daughter will be participating in the performance! That'll be super good for both her, and the family (parents) to watch.

Not much else happened this week. 

Scripture of the Week: 2 Nephi 2:27

 27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mission Letter 11/16/2015

Dear family and friends,

We had our first choir rehearsal for the Missionary Christmas Choir. Our first performance is in three weeks, which will have given us in total four times where we met together to practice. But that's okay; I believe in simplicity, as long as it sounds good. So, all the songs we are performing are pretty simple, as long as we can learn those, we'll be good.

The Christmas choir is going to be such an awesome missionary opportunity. We already have about 8 or so events, whether those be wards inviting us to perform in their chapels, or outside events (we're scheduled to attend a Lion's Club event called, "Discovering Families," where there should be over 2000 people attending. We'll perform 4 15-minute segments over a 3 hour period, and in between, we'll go contacting all the families in attendance. It's going to be great!

We taught English Class this week. It's been a long time. Last transfer, they took out one group of missionaries from this area or this English unit, so we're finally needed again. But it was a nice respite (racking your brain every week for a new way to teach English can cause quite the headache, because you feel bad if you do thing they have done before). When we start teaching next week, it will also probably be the Kids class, which basically means minimal preparation and maximum singing in class. Any ideas on how to teach small children English?

We have a member of the Quorum of the Twelve coming in two weeks. Elder Stevenson, whose son is serving in the Taiwan Taizhong Mission, will also do a mission tour and training here in Taipei, since he's going to be here. So, we're looking forward to seeing him! The entire mission will be coming together (at once) for this activity. That's is literally something I have NEVER seen before, the entire mission in one place. Closest I've ever seen was half the mission in one place.

There is this foreigner who has been in Taiwan practicing his Chinese. He's been here for a month, and has lots of time, so he has offered to go with us to many of our lessons. Which is pretty cool. He also attends church with us afterwards in Chinese, just to kind of practice listening. His Chinese is really good, but his speaking is a little halting. But it's been lots of fun chatting with him and meeting with him, too. It will be fun using Chinese after the mission. 

This week we met with this investigator (a Christian of three years or so) who is telling us how the Plan of Salvation really ought to be. When my companion and I teach the plan of salvation, we have these little cards with pictures (like Premortal life, the Spirit World, etc.) that we've been using. When we placed them down on the table, we asked him to try putting them in order. After his attempt, we made a few minor corrections and began to explain each. At which point he put them back in his original order (which included placing the "Judgment" card over the "Life on Earth" spot, explaining that the reason things happened to us was because we were being judged. Some people also get a second chance, according to him, being born again and repeating the process until they do what they were supposed to do). When he finished, we were out of time (he talks a  lot) and we said we'd discuss this lesson more next time. To which he responded, "You don't need to waste your time teaching me this, I already understand it all." We'll keep working with him, if he's willing to learn some more. He's a really nice guy, and a member referral. He's really willing to come to church and everything (he likes the feeling of our church better). We'll see how he does.

We have this family who came to church. They are super cool! I think I talked about them last week. They have an 11 year old daughter. We met with them before church and shared the message of the Restoration, and a little bit about church history. We gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon, and they seem to perfectly understand its purpose, and are willing to read it. They're doing so well! Their daughter should be participating in the Primary program next week during Sacrament Meeting! We currently have their baptismal date goal scheduled for Christmas. That would be the best present of all.

Scripture of the Day: Jeremiah 29
 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
 14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord...

I read a Liahona article a few weeks ago which talked of he Lord "being found of us." It says, the Lord is not trying to hide. Kind of like parents playing hide and seek with children, they hide in places where they'll be found. The Lord wants us to find him, so we must diligently seek him out.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mission Letter 11/9/2015

Dear family and friends,

This past week has been pretty glorious! Compared to last week, it felt like we had way more time (simply because we had way fewer appointments), but it seems like our finding this week was really pretty poor. My companion and I have been trying to figure out, what's missing in the way we approach people? Or, how to help people have more of a desire to talk to us? We're trying to focus on getting some new investigators. But we do have some pretty good people right now; including the family which I talked about last week. They came to church yesterday! It was awesome! We had 5 investigators come to church yesterday. Hopefully we can keep them coming and help all of them prepare to be baptized.

On Friday night, as we were outside on the street contacting, we saw a white guy walk past us, and we were like, "Hello!" And he replied, "Hi, Elders." So we were like, he must be Mormon. Turns out, he was! Here in Taiwan for a business trip, he comes from a place just south of Provo. I forgot what it was called (geography is not my strong point). He had barely arrived in Taiwan that day, and he's only here for a couple days before flying off to another Asian country. I think that must be a pretty cool thing, wherever you go in the world, you can run into missionaries.

The really funny part is that we ran into him again the following night, at McDonald's (we were there for a lesson, he was there for dinner). So we chatted with him briefly before going home for the night, swapped phone numbers, and left him directions to get to the church and the time of the English services. It was pretty cool.

We literally had so many appointments cancel on us on Saturday. We were originally supposed to be very busy throughout the day. We had 6 appointments, and then lunch and dinner, taking most of our time up that day. But, about two hours before each appointment, without fail 5 of the 6 called to cancel. The one that we did meet with, we did not set up ourselves (our ward mission leader set it up for us and then told us to just attend and teach something). After they had all cancelled, we took a few minutes to call some people, and set one person up for thirty minutes later. When we got there, after 10 minutes, he still hadn't shown up. And he never did.

President asked me to set up the Missionary Christmas Choir. So, in all my spare time and mealtimes I've been writing musical arrangements of Christmas songs. We've been finding music, and my head has just been filled with notes flying here and there. Our first practice is today (in about 20 minutes) and we'll see how many people show up (and actually have musical ability). I can't wait to see if the music I wrote in my head actually sounds the same coming out of people's mouths.

Transfers were this week. My companion and I are still together, no changes there. Our zone shrunk a little bit as some areas were closed. Next transfer, though, tons of people are going home, so the mission is going to shrink some. If things are normal, I'll probably move, too, because I've now been here for 4 transfers. I've loved this area since I've been here, and the ward has been so awesome to us, too. I'll be sad to go. But that's something to think about 6 weeks from now.

Aside from lots of biking around, not a ton happened this week. And because I have choir practice in about 10 minutes, this email is just a tad shorter.

I hope you guys all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mission Letter 11/2/2015

Dear family and friends,

Trick or treat! Apparently it was Halloween last what, Saturday? We didn't even realize here until the next day. 

We saw some amazing miracles this past week. The Lord has poured out so many blessings on us this past (shortened) week, and time has truly been flying! This week is already transfers again! It's amazing sometimes, just how satisfying and happy missionary work can be. (I've also discovered, a lot of the time it's just a conscious decision, and even if I want to be angry or pity myself, I try to "turn off" that part of my thinking and focus on whatever task is at hand instead.)

We were booked to the brim this past week. Since emailing last Wednesday, I believe we had about 5 hours total to go finding; 5 hours where we didn't have any appointments or meetings or meals. That is very uncommon. This past week, we were truly busy. Throughout the week, we met with 10 different investigators (or investigator families) and 10 different Recent Converts or Less Actives. We also had a few more lessons outside of that, simply from finding people on the street.

One of the biggest miracles of the week was that we found a family. They're so amazing! In fact, it was them who proactively contacted us. It was apparently someone that we met on the street around two months ago, who had set up with us, and then cancelled last minute. Since that happens to us so much in Taiwan, we didn't really think twice about it, nor did we pursue contacting her again. But last week, she texted me saying that "so and so has come out of the hospital, and now I have time to meet with you guys, I don't know when you are available?" She didn't sign her name, and it wasn't saved in the phone, so we didn't even know that piece of information. But we set up a time via text to meet with her at the chapel. 

The day rolls around, and about 20 minutes before the appointment, she calls saying she's arrived. It was a good thing we'd already gotten out of a lesson at the chapel about 3 minutes beforehand. We cross over to where she was and discover, wow! She brought her husband and 11-year-old daughter, too! That day we decided to do a temple tour, and it was an amazing lesson. We helped her and her family understand the important role of Jesus Christ, baptism, the Atonement, and then we set a baptismal goal date with the family: Christmas. We really hope to help the whole family get baptized at the same time.

The Mom of the family actually has a member friend, who lives about 2 hours away from here in Taipei. Over 10 years ago, this friend invited our new investigator to come to church, and she did a couple times. But then she got busy and stopped. But now, she feels like she wants her daughter to find some new friends, have the environment of the church around her, and be happier in life, so the family decided to come investigate the church. It's quite the miracle! 

At the chapel here, because it's right next to the temple, the mission takes advantage of using it as a finding tool. Since there is no visitor's center, the mission tries to set up certain areas for similar uses or purposes. For example, everyday there is a set of sister missionaries at the church, giving "temple tours." Of course, that's just a tour of the church while looking at the temple through the window, and looking at pictures of Christ and hearing about the gospel. My companion and I, living just about the closest to the church, use the temple tours all the time to teach lessons to both our investigators and less actives. We've probably attended more temple tours than any other companionship in the mission.

Recently, since the temple sisters know we've seen more tours than just about anyone else, they've started asking us to lead the tours when we bring our investigators. It's pretty fun. There are various hallways themed to different parts of the gospel. There's the Jesus Christ hallway, which has pictures ordered chronologically, outlining His birth, His growing up, His mortal ministry, His Atonement, the Second Coming, and baptism. Then you have the Restored Gospel hallway, which outlines prophets, the organization of Christ's church, the Joseph Smith story, and The Church Today. You have the Book of Mormon hallway, with pictures illustrating various Book of Mormon stories. You have the hallway adjacent to the temple, with a row of windows from which you can look at the temple. So even though there is no fancy decoration or interactive displays, you can get quite a bit out of a temple tour, especially with the Spirit. 

Every time I get to do a baptismal interview, it's a rather amazing experience. I get to see first hand a change in people; in the way they conduct their lives, in their commitment to follow God, and in their desire to learn more about the gospel. Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing a baptismal candidate. She passed! She'll be baptized on Tuesday. There's just something thrilling about people being baptized, even if they're not your investigator. But, sometimes even better than baptisms, is going to the temple.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Remember to be happy, and take time each day to think about all the blessing the Lord has given us. If you're upset, just take a moment to look around you, perhaps at a tree, a mountain, or the sky, and then think of how wondrous and awesome that object is; how magnificent, complex, and miraculous it is. The grand majesty of a mountain, or perhaps the scientific wonder of the sun. It's all very cool.

Have a good week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mission Letter 10/19/2015

Dear family and friends,

Last week was so BUSY! Between exchanges and meetings and other things, I had barely any time with my own companion in my own area. On Tuesday to Wednesday, we had an exchange, as well as on Thursday to Friday and Friday to Saturday. Because we have to do so many exchanges, and because the transfer is one week shorter than usual, we have to do several back to back exchanges. So, one of us will come home, and a couple hours later the other one will go out somewhere else. But it's a ton of fun; I get to see a lot of other places and work with a lot of other missionaries. 

I had an exchange with Luzhou this week, and got to be with an Elder from my MTC District for a week. It was a ton of fun! We were roommates in the MTC. It was a lot of fun to talk about how the mission has been going so far, how much we've changed, etc. Doing missionary work together was a lot of fun. Of the two of us in our MTC district, we were the two who had never learned Chinese before, and so it's really quite miraculous how comfortable we are now, walking together down the street, talking to random people in Chinese. Sometimes I think about it, and it's amazing to me how the language has come. Conversational, that is; start talking about jazz or engineering and I'll be completely lost again. 

I've seemed to come to a rather large barricade in the language; there are so many characters. I've been learning many of them, and I was on a roll for a little bit, but then I went back and started reviewing, and now I'm stuck on the same ones, over and over again, and lost the general push and desire to memorize because they're just not sticking. Learning to read and write Chinese is like learning a whole new language on top of learning to speak. I think it's harder than learning to speak. Yes, it's definitely harder. There are so many words that are pronounced the same but written differently! Written communication is still a work in progress.

The Zone Sister Training Leaders as well as us met together with the Stake President this week, to correlate the Stake's hopes and aspirations and help the missionaries in the zone work to accomplish those goals. We learnt that they've already applied to split the Stake. If it is approved by Church Headquarters, they'll take two stakes, in essence combine them and then split them into three. There will be some branches becoming wards here in Taipei (it's hard to imagine we still have any branches in this large city), and it's all really just exciting. So, it's not like the missionaries here are currently working toward a goal (because the deed's already been done), but they do not know that the goal existed or has already been met. So we'll hopefully use that as motivation for people. 

This past week we also went to a member's home and held family home evening, and she invited a less active to come. And our member that we invited to come with us to this member's home (because we can't visit a female without another male) brought a nonmember friend, so that was awesome, too! We had a fun family home evening, taught about patience and the Atonement, and then ate some of the best things on earth:

AUSTRALIAN MEAT PIES. This sister in the picture served a mission in Australia, and returned about 1 year ago (she's been baptized a little over three years). So she shares my love for meat pies, and she knew we were coming, so somehow she found a guy who sells them, and she cooked them for us. DELICIOUS.

This coming week is promising to be just as busy as last week. It's going to be a party again. I hope all is going well back home and in the ward! Thank you to all those who send me emails and letters! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mission Letter 10/12/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been another wonderful week, filled with many busy things! This past week, we had a Preparation Day, a Zone Training Meeting, Interviews with President, and two days of General Conference, which just took a lot of time out of our week. But it was still awesome!

We started the week with Zone Training Meeting. This was kind of the first time where I took the lead during the meeting (because since my companion transferred, I'm now in a sense "training" a new Zone Leader, but he's doing fine), and it went pretty good. At the end of each month, the mission holds a Mission Leader Conference that all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders attend, and we receive trainings from President and Sister Jergensen, the Assistants, and the Temple Sisters (basically the sister equivalent of Assistants in our mission). Then, we take all of those trainings, and present them to our own zones, as well as adding in little things that we specifically plan for our individual zone. The meeting went really well.

They had this one part where they showed us a video of every missionary in the zone, and a picture of the time they were baptized. That was pretty special. It's been years since I've seen that picture, and it brought back a lot of memories. Their question to us was, what would your life be like without baptism? Why is baptism important to us, and to other people? It was a super good training, that gave all of us more motive to go out and invite other people to prepare for baptism.

We also had our interviews with President Jergensen this week, followed by an exchange with the Assistants. As Zone Leaders, we (are supposed to) go on exchanges with the Assistants once a transfer. Basically, it was a nice relaxing day out of my area where I got to see the Assistants' house. It's not exactly what you would call tidy and clean, but since they live down the street from where the mission stores all the furniture, they kinda sneakily took two small couches and placed them in their study room as the chair for their desk (as opposed to a regular chair). So now, they basically have "thrones" in their rooms. 

Nevertheless, it was an awesome opportunity to go teach some of their own investigators and less actives. Elder Huntsman used the word "friend" endlessly in talking to both of those we met with, which at first made me a little uncomfortable, just hearing him use the word in literally every other sentence, but I guess it made a point and an impression, that our investigators really must understand that we love them and have that at the center of our work, that we're trying to help them as friends, and not baptize them as businessmen.

We then had General Conference on Saturday (11AM-1PM, 2-4PM, 5-7PM, so basically the whole day) and Sunday (9-11AM, 12-2PM). The whole thing was awesome! A few of my favourite parts included these:

Elder Larry R. Lawrence:
Let's consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life.

When he met the Savior, he asked, "What lack I yet?"

Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man. "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me."

The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer.

President Harold B. Lee taught, "Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must [at] one time ask ourselves this question, 'What lack I yet?'"

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not "more" of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally,there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will "make weak things become strong." Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.

I learned in my life that we don't need to be "more" of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.

God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.

Right after the last session ended, after about 10 minutes, the broadcast switched to BYU TV which was broadcasting the football game, which was hilarious when that popped on the screen in the chapel, with full sound and screaming crowds. 

It's been a wonderful week. I'm really excited for this coming week, and helping our area get kicked back up again. 

The weather is getting cold. But if I think that this weather is cold, I'm going to DIE when I go back to Utah. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mission Letter 10/5/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week was awesome! A crazy, crazy week, but really good.

We started the week with a typhoon. We were once again required to stay inside during the evening hours. While the storm was pretty windy and rainy during the day, it got pretty crazy at 5 PM, so we were outside enjoying our P-Day until then. We ate lunch with some missionaries and members at a restaurant, and we sat and ate outside under a small pavilion. It was quite a once in a lifetime experience, devouring fried chicken in a typhoon. 

As we were returning home, we first took the Metro to the stop closest to our house (we were considering biking home from the church where we spent our Preparation Day, until we took one step outside and realized what the weather was really like). Then, as we ascended the escalator, the wind got stronger and stronger until we emerged from the exit. There were ceiling panels missing, wind gusting all over the place. So, naturally, we stepped straight outside and started heading for home. One man at the exit told us, "Wow, you're so brave!" To which we responded, "Want to come with us? It's only going to get worse." To which he agreed to accompany us.

About 1 minute into the journey, down comes this rotten board of wood from overhead, missing him by a couple feet and slamming into a car about six feet away from us. The same gust of wind snapped my name tag right off of my pocket and threw it thirty feet in another direction. There was no chance of finding it then; it was too dangerous to stay where we were. We took another alleyway that ran perpendicular to the wind direction. Another gust blew all the plates and glass cups onto the floor of every restaurant on the street (so we heard a whole bunch of glass breaking). But, we eventually made it home and bunkered up for the night. By the next morning, the whole typhoon had passed. As we returned to the church the way we had come the day before, we found my name tag, a whole couple streets away from where I had lost it. Now, that made me happy.

We had transfers, and my new companion is super awesome! His name is Elder Okeson. I'm not sure where he's from exactly; the longest his family has ever stayed in one place is Michigan, for 8 years, a long time ago, and now his family lives in China, and has been there for the past 8 years. But now he's here in Central Taipei, after spending most of his mission in very rural little places. He's been out on his mission just one transfer longer than I have, and he's awesome! I'm so excited for the coming transfer or two.

Because my former companion is training this transfer as well, he had meetings for a day, and I went on a temporary exchange--with Elder Welch, one of my friends from High School! That was awesome. I totally pulled some strings to get that one to happen; and by pulled some strings, I mean I asked the Assistant's and they were like, sure. So it wasn't that hard, but we had a party for a day.

We had Mission Leadership Council this week. President Jergensen is a mimimalist. He says, focus on just a few things but to do them like a Jedi Master. Now, that's just me putting words in his mouth, but that's the gist of things. So, formerly, our mission would track 28 key indicators on a weekly basis (and submit a report on things like lessons, how many Book of Mormons we gave out, how many baptisms, member visits, or new investigators we had, etc.), but now we will track 10 things. So that will be fun, and make counting up all those things much easier. SUPER EXCITING! President Jergensen is awesome. He's an awesome man. And an excellent Misison President. 

This week met a Brother Hu and Sister Zhang, and they are super awesome! We ran into them on the street on our way home one night. They are both exchange students studying in Taiwan for one semester. They are actually from China, and for the most part don't know about church. But the cool part? They want to know about church. So we invited them to the chapel to come do a temple tour (which is basically a tour of the chapel that's next door and a lesson about Christ). So they came, and were really touched by the story of Christ, and the concept of forgiveness. She said that because in China they are taught there is no God, it's hard for her to grasp the concept, but by the end she was somewhat weeping because she must have something in her life that's a little hard. But we're super excited to keep meeting with them and help them prepare for baptism before they go back to China. We gave them copies of the Book of Mormon (in simplified Chinese characters), and they basically started reading it instantly. It was so cool! Such a big miracle. 

And that was basically this week. Awesome! I am really excited for the coming couple of weeks, too. We will probably have tons of meetings this week as well. So, fun. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mission Letter 9/28/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been a wonderful week! There isn't any especially large news that really happened, aside from the fact that even now as I write this email, there is a typhoon hurling around us. Well, the strong part hasn't hit yet, but there's been rain and some wind gusts. Today could be pretty fun.

This past week was a little harder; First off, we got "fanged" a lot, which means a lot of people set up an appointment with us, and then later cancelled or didn't show up. My favorite instance from this past week was an investigator who we'd set up about a week ago, then we called the night before to confirm, she told us she was really excited to meet with us and go to the church and see what it was like and learn about this religion, and then next morning about three hours before the appointment, she cancelled. But that's okay; we're still living. If all the people we have set up for the next week go through, we should have an extremely busy week. We have a ton of appointments and not enough time almost.

All of our investigators are currently in the beginning stages of learning; they've only had one or two lessons, and have quite a ways to go before they can be baptized, but we're really excited to help them. The only sad thing is when you have an investigator who after a while just stops answering your phone calls and doesn't reply to your texts. It happens all the time, that someone will just completely disappear. Currently, we reported on six investigators during our last Coordination meeting with our Ward Mission Leader. Of all the missionaries in the ward, there are currently 18 investigators that we are meeting with in total. Some newer, some from longer ago, etc. But then in Priesthood meeting, our Ward Mission Leader announced that "the missionaries promised us that by the end of next month we can have 18 baptisms." Now, I'm not being too critical, but a lot of people won't make it all the way through the system, or they won't make it fast enough. But, I guess we have a goal now for our ward. So far this year, the ward has had 19 baptisms. And now, our Ward Mission Leader is trying to get at least 30 by the end of the year. We have work to do.

However, we were able to attend the temple to do baptisms for the dead this past week, and take two of our Recent Converts to the temple for the first time. It's always a cool opportunity to go to the temple, and especially take those who have recently be baptized; giving them a chance to start seeing some of the other ordinances of the gospel. Our Mission President has a really big goal right now of all RC's going to the temple within 30 days of their baptism, so that's what's been a big focus here.

This week is the Mid Autumn Festival here in Taiwan. And for some reason, it's a big deal. I'm not sure what its origin is, I'm not sure most Taiwanese people know what its origin is, but they're just happy because they get a three day vacation (the weekend and Monday), which is very uncommon in Taiwan (people here work A TON and get paid way little). But for some reason, during this festival, all the people go out and barbecue meat. They don't do BBQ much during the year, except during this festival, almost everyone is out on the streets with their little grills and sausages and other cuts of meat. The whole family is there, and it's really quite a sight. We went contacting a couple of families who were out BBQ'ing, and they didn't really care about religion but we got a couple of sausages out of it. (People in Taiwan really are very nice.)

RUSSIANS! And by that, I mean yesterday, right after we finished dinner, someone found us and was like, "There are two foreigners here, they want to know about the church, they speak English but not Chinese." So we went to find who these people were that wanted a tour of the church. Turns out, it's this nice old Russian couple who says, "We don't have many churches in Russia, so we wanted to learn more about this church and how it helps people, especially like, what morals it teaches." They didn't have much time, but we gave them a short tour and explained simply a few things and gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon in Russian (the only copy in the entire building, which was on display in a cabinet showing all the different languages that the Book of Mormon is translated into). They took our contact information but weren't really willing to give us theirs. Hopefully they read it and find missionaries again.

Transfers will be this Thursday. The missionaries will be coming, and I'm not moving, but my companion is leaving and training, so I'll have someone new soon. Exciting! And a little nerve wracking, too. I hope I get a good new Zone Leader companion. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mission Letter 9/21/2015

Dear family and friends,

This past week was awesome! Fall is in the air... so it's still like, upward of 30 degrees Celsius during the day, but there's a cool breeze that just makes a missionary feel happy.

This week was different than most weeks. Because our investigator pool was pretty low (they all got baptized or vanished), we had lots of finding and street contacting to start our week off. But we saw some pretty cool miracles throughout the week. The first couple days of the week, we had hours of straight finding without anything to break it up, and by Saturday, we were scrambled to start and end each lesson on time, travel across the city in ten minutes in order to get to the next appointment and stay on schedule, etc.

One of the highlights of this week was that we met with a 72-year old Amah (grandmother) referral. Someone had met her on the street (and the reason she agreed to meet again was because she sees young people, wants to treat them as her own children and let them come inside an air conditioned home and eat food. So she met with us, gave us a bunch of food, and spake some Taiwanese to us (an old language in Taiwan, different from Chinese. All the older generation speaks it). She has a friend who often takes her to a church, but at that church they do what they consider the "gift of tongues," where they all seem to scream and wail and make their tongues do strange things and then say that they're speaking prophecies and revelations (but no one knows what they mean). She was kinda making fun of them and trying to imitate what they did for us by trilling her lips at a high pitch, shaking her arms, and nodding her head, before she would lean back and start chuckling. (An active, chuckling 72-year old Amah is quite cute.) But she came to church this week, asked if she could come back next week (of course, we said yes), and we're really excited for her! She also wants to take us out to dinner this week.

We bumped into an LA on the street. We've been trying to meet with her mother. The one we ran into is actually a student studying her last year of high school. Normally, on Sunday, she also has classes that don't let her come to church, but everything else had fallen off the radar, too (studying the scriptures, praying, etc.). But she was happy to see us, let us share a scripture with her, and set up to meet with her again. We've been trying to set up with the family forever, but the Mom has always been like, "we'll see you at church and set up a time then," or "can we just meet when church ends?" But now, we've found a way to go and meet them at a different time, something we've been trying to do for weeks. Another miracle.

One miracle we saw last night as we were trying to finish our week well was a lady who is not baptized but considers herself Christian and is willing to do basically everything we asked. We met her on the street, as she was going to get dinner. She has attended different churches in the past, but has not been baptized mainly because her father opposes it. But we had a lesson with her on the street, invited her to church (she said she'd come if she could this week), gave her a Book of Mormon (she said she'd read it), invited her to be baptized (we set a date for 11/4), and asked if we could meet again (we set up for tomorrow). So, basically, she's awesome.

Sometimes church is really boring. I probably shouldn't view it that way as a missionary, but in Taiwan, all the people here LOVE to tell stories. FOREVER. On, and on, and on, and it may not even be relevant. But if you ask one question, you should find yourself a chair, because they may embark on a 20 minute story. And the ward I'm in, Sacrament Meeting is notorious for going overtime, every week, by like 20 minutes. For some reason, this past week they set up 4 speakers. And by the time the first two were done, Sacrament Meeting should have been concluding. But they still let the other two speak, and so Sacrament Meeting just kept going and going. Both the investigators we brought to church fell asleep. But whatever. The classes were better, and they were able to stay awake in those.

Transfers were supposed to be this week. But because some missionaries have visa problems (again), and they're not sure when they're coming (a week, or maybe a whole transfer later), they'll probably push the transfer meeting back a little bit. It throws everything off.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mission Letter 9/14/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been a wonderful week! It's been lots of fun, and a little crazy. 

First off, Nathan was baptized this week! We were so excited! He's a ten year old kid, and his parents are members. He's been living with his grandparents, but his Mom just came back from Canada. While with his grandparents, he didn't go to church (they oppose it a little bit). But when his Mom returned, she started bringing him to church again, and now, a little over a month later, he's been baptized. He's a really cool kid, with a really fun personality. He has several friends at church, kids the same age as him, so that's really good. 

All of our good investigators, and the ones that had baptismal dates, have either been baptized or disappeared from the face of the earth. All of our other investigators are also really busy, or not answering our phone calls. So, we're back at square one now, in a sense. We will have tons of finding time in the coming couple weeks, as we try to find more investigators again to be baptized. 

But life is going really good! I'm happy, and the weather is getting better. It's been so comfortable this past week or so. When the summer was really hot, every time our ward mission leader saw us he would tell us hard we were working. He would tell the ward (during announcements, etc.) that missionary work during the summer was really hard because it's so hot and nobody wants to talk to you. But now the weather is better. Hopefully we can find more people will to stop longer and talk to us.

The Jin Hua ward where I'm currently serving wants to split by the end of the year. The only thing that's holding them back is a lack of worthy, full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Once they have enough (it's a ratio, but I'm not sure what the ratio is), the ward could split immediately. Wards in Taiwan are much smaller than those in the US; here, about 120 people is considered a large ward, ready to be split. Quite the difference from Utah. So we're doing our best to help people get the Melchizedek Priesthood and also find the less actives around here.

This week, we also had Outdoor Zone Conference! This is the first time I have ever gone to an "Outdoor Zone Conference;" the last time they had one was right before I arrived in Taiwan. We went and hiked up this mountain called Yang Ming Mountain. It's simply gorgeous! I have never hiked up there before. We all arrived at the Mission Office before 7 in the morning, and at 8 AM we finally departed. It was about an hour drive up a mountain, and down another side (many missionaries started feeling somewhat motion sick, including me, because it's been such a long time since I've been in a vehicle for an extended period of time. I never realized that after a while of not driving, you actually aren't used to driving again). Wherever we started the hike, it was close to the base. Either I've gotten really fit, or the mountain wasn't terribly tall. Still, it was a good hike, and we stopped at various points along the trail for some trainings. It was one of the best training meetings I've ever been too, and nature was simply stunning. It was nice being out of the busy, noisy, bad smelling city. We were originally scheduled to arrive home at 5 PM and then go back to our areas to keep doing missionary work, but we got back down at 7:20 PM, and then we went back to our areas. President Jergensen is very laid back about some things; he's an awesome guy. He's very on top of things, and very loving.

The time has flown by. Next week is transfers, and in all likelihood, my companion will transfer. If so, this will be the first time that I stay in an area for more than two transfers; up until now, I've been like a hot potato that just won't stay put. At the start of the next transfer, will be the start of my 10th transfer, and Elders in Taiwan have a total of 16 transfers during their mission. The time really is going by fast.

Scripture of the Day:
John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mission Letter 9/7/2015

Dear Family and Friends,

It was a most wonderful week! Not a ton happened, and I'm not quite sure where all the time went. It always feels like we're so busy, and at other times it feels like we've got absolutely nothing to do but go outside and walk/bike around talking to people for hours upon hours, but then before you know it, it's the end of the week. And especially as zone leaders, we have to follow up and then report on every missionary companionship in the zone, and it's then you realize, wow, I haven't talked to these people since last week. Whoops. Probably should have called them like, once.

We had the wonderful opportunity this week of taking one of our Recent Converts, Brother Li, to the temple to do baptisms for the dead for the first time! Because the temple isn't necessarily always busy, you have to schedule in advance to attend baptisms. Normally, the font is drained, but when you schedule they fill it up; they also don't like to fill it up for just one or two people; they prefer to have at least five. 

So last Sunday, we told Brother Li to plan on Tuesday night, since because of his work schedule, that's the only time in the near future where he would be able to attend. So we started about scheduling it with the temple. We only got in contact with the temple Tuesday afternoon, so it was from that moment on a scramble to find other people to attend with us (because now it was confirmed). So we called Brother Li to confirm him, but then he didn't answer his phone. Until about an hour before we were supposed to go to the temple. We also found another companionship with an RC that they could take to the temple. After dealing with that, we went to some other appointments before our scheduled time.

So when we finally came back, our RC was dressed in street clothes, shorts, and nike's. I took one look at him and thought, "Are we going to take him into the temple like that?" Apparently, he didn't realize we were going to the temple tonight; he thought we were just meeting with him. But anyway; we took him inside. In Utah, if you went into the temple like that, people would give you the strangest looks. But in Taiwan, I guess they're more used to the "new member" "I didn't know better" culture. So, we were able to do baptisms. But because we were only able to find 2 RC's instead of the desired 5, each of them were baptized and confirmed 20 times. Yes. Many times.

While we were there, another companionship of sisters brought their Recent Convert, a certain Filipino lady. She thought that it was tons of fun. Sometimes she came back up out of the water giggling, saying, "This is fun!" One time she told the guy baptizing her, "You're so strong." It was somewhat humorous.

It was also really cool for the baptizer. When he originally came to the temple, he had planned on doing Endowments. But then, after he had gotten changed, the temple workers asked for volunteers to do Initiatories. So he volunteered. After he had gotten changed, the temple workers once again were looking for a volunteer to come do the baptizing, because my companion and I were being the witnesses. So he volunteered again and changed his clothes for the third time. But while he was doing the baptisms, he saw a name that he recognized; his grandfather's grandfather. He had given the names to the temple because there were too many for him to do himself, and then that night, he had the opportunity to perform the ordinance for one of them. It was a really cool experience; we were all really touched.

Sister Ju, who was baptized last week, went to the US this week. She went to visit her boyfriend who lives in Arizona. She'll be gone for a little while, but when she comes back near the end of this month, we're going to help her get ready to go to the temple, too.

On another note, I don't teach English anymore. The English unit leader said it's because there are too many teachers and there's not a class for us to teach anymore, but I personally think it's because my English has gotten progressively worse and worse. When we got a senior missionary couple about a month ago (President Jergensen's in-laws), they took over our class and left us without anything to do. So now we just don't attend. But that's okay; we were running out of ideas of what to teach. It was getting very hard.

We also have a little ten year old kid named Nathan who is getting baptized next week! He passed his interview yesterday. He's so cool. His parents are both members (divorced, and now he lives with his Mom who is actually active). His Mom just returned from Canada; before that, he was living with his grandparents. So, now he's being introduced to church by his Mom, and next week he's getting baptized! We're so excited for him. He's a cool little kid.

Things are all going pretty good! It's always like, where does the time go? The transfer is drawing to an end, and I will (almost definitely) have a new companion. I will probably take over the area (making this the first time I stay in an area for more than three months) and will probably have to train a new zone leader. But anyway. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Monday, August 31, 2015

Mission Letter 8/31/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week was pretty awesome. 

My companion got dragged into a Tsunami. And by that, I mean that our mission has an activity that they seem to do on about a yearly basis, where they take a group of about 20 missionaries (either because they're awesome, motivated missionaries who are good at finding or because they're struggling and they need some help) and they stick them together and put them all in one place to go finding for a week and help boost the area. So, my companion was asked to participate, and he went off to Xinzhu City for a week (well, 4-5 days) to go find all day every day. One of the Zone Leaders had to stay behind, so I stayed in my area, and was put into a companionship with another Elder whose companion also went to the Tsunami. He had a mini missionary with him, so we were a tripanionship, and when I could find someone to go with me, I let them go off to their area.

As a result of the Tsunami, I got tossed around from companionship to companionship. I spent the four different nights with four different missionaries, going on exchanges all the time to get to all the appointments that I had. Because we live right next to the Office Elders, and they're in a tripanionship (due to some new office elders being trained), I would take a different one each night to go out and meet with people. Afterward, I would either stay the night at their house or meet up again with my original tripanionship. So that was pretty fun, getting tossed around and not really having a companion for a week.

Our investigator, Sister Ju, was baptized this week! We're so excited for her. When we first met her, she had walked into the church building by herself on the night of English class, looking to learn more about the church (not English). So, we started meeting with her, and now, about 2 months later, she's baptized!

But now she's going to be gone for about three weeks because she's a flight attendant, and she's got some flights that take her very far away for a very long period of time. But that's okay. As soon as she comes back, we're going to start helping her prepare to go do baptisms for the dead in the temple.

Our recent convert, Brother Li, was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday, and received his temple recommend! We're so excited for him. We originally asked him to speak at Sister Ju's baptismal service today (he was baptized two weeks ago), but he works the night shift, and after he got off work at 8 AM, he went to sleep for a little bit and slept right through the baptism. So he wasn't there; but he came to church anyway, and was sustained by the ward to be ordained to the office of a Priest, and after church he was ordained and immediately interviewed for the temple (our Bishop is so busy, he works really hard and is always forgetting stuff, so we're always showing up trying to get him to do stuff like interviews, ordinations, signing forms, etc. I feel bad for him). But because of his work schedule, it is hard to find a time for him to go to the temple (because of the temple's limited schedule). We're going to see if we can take him tomorrow...

Scripture of the Day:

D&C 138:
 29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
 30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness,even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
 31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
 32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
 33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin,vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

There is missionary work happening amongst the dead. But the only way they can receive the ordinances of salvation is through the work that we do here on earth. And even better, serving in temples helps us in our own conversion. So we do our best to help RC's (and all members) to attend the temple, frequently.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mission Letter 8/24/2015

Dear family and friends,


It feels like not much really happened this week. Things just kinda went a little slower. We didn't teach as many lessons, find as many people, or have any baptisms or people being interviewed. We had a couple exchanges, so we were out of our area for a bit, but other than that... I guess we could have done a little better in our area, but sometimes the week just doesn't go quite as you would hope. We still talked to tons of people, but sometimes they'll be willing to talk for a few moments and give us their phone number, but not really say a prayer or have a lesson but just say, "Call me another day." That has happened a lot this week, along with many of the people we met simply not living in our area. We give out tons of referrals here, but we've been trying to find places where we can talk to lots of people and help our own area more; by finding places where the people who are outside actually live nearby. It's been getting a little better.

When you live basically in the dead center of the city (at least, that's how it feels), you find people who come from all over the place to the center to do "stuff" (literally what they say in Chinese; "I have stuff"). So sometimes, finding people in your own area is hard. Most of the people who have been baptized recently were all referrals given to us, not people we found on the street. But we've got some of those, too.

Our investigator Sister Ju will be baptized next Sunday before church, confirmed during church, then have her temple recommend interview after church, and probably go with us to the temple to do baptisms the following Thursday. Our Recent Converts should be getting ready to go to the temple in a week and a half. We are really excited for them. It's just so cool watching people progress!

This week was rather wet. It rained almost every day. Which wasn't bad; it kept the temperature a little cooler. It just meant that after it finished raining, I was still wet, and my shoes would stay wet for the rest of the day. Not the most comfortable thing in the world... But on Tuesday, we went to a park (大安森林公園) to go hand out fliers for English Class, and it was pouring rain, and at one point we were under a small shelter, talking to two Taiwanese people, and it was thundering and lightning all around us, and all of a sudden there is a flash followed immediately by the sound, and it's extremely loud, and it was probably 200 meters away from us. It was definitely in the park; another sister companionship who was in the park said that they saw the lightning strike in the park (I think it was a light pole). So that was exhilarating...

The mission recently got a new set of Senior Missionaries, Elder and Sister McComber. Actually, they are Sister Jergensen's (the mission president's wife) parents. So, basically their whole family is in Taiwan. But now they teach the Advanced English class instead of us, which leaves us without a job except to sit at the front desk when students come in and to take their information and make sure they go to the right class. So that's fun. We are going to have to find new ways to make this an effective use of our time.

Taiwanese people have this nasty habit of "placing us pigeons" (standing us up). That means they set up a time with us, and then they confirm that time with us, and then they don't come. And that happens way too often. Sometimes, on a daily basis. Lots of people often tell us that they will come to church, too; and then they'll just be like, an hour and a half late, or not come all together. But whatever. After a year of being in Taiwan, I'm pretty used to it.

Also, my companion got in a car crash last Monday. Don't worry; he's almost completely unharmed, aside from a small scratch on his arm from where he hit the road after falling off his bike. Now, the car did not hit him; he hit the car. And did some damage to that car;

The damage he did was to the door; the damage to the front by the light was already there. The driver then called the police. I didn't realize until ten minutes later that that was what we were waiting for. I expected, "swap phone numbers, I'll get it fixed, and give you the price later." Instead, the police were called, then the man blamed us for all the damage (the bike didn't even hit his car, it was Elder Varney's right arm that impacted the right door and that was all), and then the police took us to the station, and then they took everyone's "testimony," and the whole deal lasted five hours and ten minutes and was extremely boring, and the worst thing was that it was our P-Day, so we didn't really have a P-day last week. In the end, the man wasn't really satisfied; I think he thought the police were going to solve his problems, but at the end they literally sent us away saying, "Now you two go handle it. This we'll just put in the files." But whatever. A big fiasco for nothing.

Thought of the Week: Psalm 23.
 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mission Letter 8/10/2015

Dear family and friends,

Hello again! It was a truly magnificent typhoon that hit Taiwan this past week. It put us out of business for one day. It struck at night, but carried on throughout the whole next day. So Friday night, when we were out proselyting, it was pretty windy, and people were starting to disappear. There was no rain at the time, so we were still out contacting and teaching lessons, but we did watch some metal roofing pieces falling from apartments on our way home, and that was a little scary, because it was only about 50 feet in front of us. It was then that I wanted to be inside.

The typhoon hit early Saturday morning. It woke us up at about 3 AM because of the sound of the wind howling through all the holes in our house and between the buildings. It's not like our house has a ton of holes, don't get me wrong; but every crack through the windows, through our front door, etc. So, it was whistling, and strong, and rain was pounding against our windows, and it was causing quite a ruckus. We weren't sure when it had started, and when it would end, or how hard it was hitting Taiwan, or where the center was (because we don't really watch TV or read news or hear anything). So, they didn't tell us it was a Typhoon Day (no leaving the apartment) until around 10:45 AM, which is right before studies end. All missionaries are in their houses until 11 AM in this mission, so they waited to make the decision until then. 

But in the morning, we all have exercises. We weren't planning on leaving the apartment to go play basketball at the church, but then another companionship called the President and asked if we could play longer since we probably wouldn't be going outside. He gave his permission for us to play an extra hour; so a member came and drove us from our home to the church, and home again when we were done. There was no one out on the roads, but there were some trees, stairs, and other random stuff. It was pretty fun. But after that, we were in our houses until 7 PM, when we were allowed to go out again.

So our apartment looks pretty clean and in order right now, thanks to a whole day of cleaning and calling people and organizing, etc. Being inside for a whole day (literally, in one room, our apartment doesn't have any walls or anything, it is just one room) drove us all crazy. Feeling lazy, slothful, not wanting to do anything, but really wanting to go outside. It was a reminder that a whole day of doing nothing really isn't fun. 

CAPTION: We ate dinner with some investigators, other missionaries in the District, and the President and his wife showed up, too. We were passing out English Class flyers, so the President's children came with us, but as for the rest of the family, it was simply coincidence that we chose to eat at the same restaurant.

This past week we had the opportunity to attend the New Convert Temple Night with two of our recent converts. Because I've never lived around Taipei or had the opportunity to participate in this activity, it was quite the new experience for me. I've also never been to the baptistry in the Taipei Temple before, but having the opportunity to go with RC's was a tremendous blessing. I just love the feeling of the temple, and being able to go with our RC's gave me a greater desire to help all of our RC's be able to attend, and also help LA's to go as well. They don't allow missionaries to be in the font or do the baptizing, but we can help with the other parts like witnesses, confirmations, and recorder. Which was really cool. I got to be recorder for the confirmations room, and got to do a few confirmations myself (in Chinese). It was really cool, and I can't wait for the next time I can go to the temple again.

I have heard from more than one person here that all the McDonald's stores are closing in America, and so they'll be closing in Taiwan, too. Truth or myth? The funny thing was that it was more than one person, so I don't know if it's exaggeration or reality. Either way.

This coming week or two is looking really good; we had two people have their baptismal interviews in the last week, and this coming week we will have two baptisms; one on Wednesday night (it will be the spiritual share for our English Class) and one on Saturday night. Then next week, we should have another baptism. All these investigators are really amazing and I love all of them, and I'm also excited to help them immediately start preparing for the temple. One of these investigators getting baptized is the daughter of a somewhat less active member, so we're going to work on getting them to the temple, together.

This coming week is transfers. We don't expect any in our companionship; we've only been together for one. If my companion or I transfer, I will be extremely surprised. However, training calls have gone out already for the mission. We'll have some "fresh blood" in our zone. 

That's all for this week! I'm really happy right now, and I love my area, and my companions, Elder Chen is seriously a funny guy, and really fun to be around, and while I hope he gets his visa soon, I'll be sad to see him leave. But life is good!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mission Letter 8/3/2015

Hello, everybody!

It's been a most wonderful week! Lots of things have been happening, and also nothing at the same time. But life's good! And I'm happier in this area than I have been in... just kidding. I love all my areas. But I'm truly "satisfied" right now, in this one.

I guess the title of this email ought to be, "Then two became three!" Sounds like a post-wedding announcement, doesn't it?

So on Thursday, during Weekly Planning Session, we got a phone call from the Mission Office, and the Recorder told us, "Come to the office RIGHT NOW, we have something to give you." So like obedient little missionaries, we went straight outside, got on our bikes, and rode as fast as we could to the mission office. When we arrived, all sweaty and tired, Elder Shelton was like, "Your new companion!" 

His name is Elder Chen, but we call him "Shuai Zhang Lao," which basically means Elder Handsome. It's not as weird in Chinese as it sounds in English. Don't worry. But he's a visa waiter for New Zealand; he got on a plane to Hong Kong to transfer to New Zealand, but in Hong Kong, they stopped him and put him on a plane right back. So now he's with us until his visa gets cleared up. He's awesome! He's so full of energy and is very enthusiastic as a missionary. We love having him around. 

In the next three weeks, we should have three baptisms at the rate of one per week. First, a Sister Huang, who is a girl whose mother is a member of about two years, and this girl has attended church for about half a year, so it's about time she met with the missionaries and got baptized. She was introduced to us when a member dragged her over to us halfway through church and said, "This is Sister Huang, she wants to get baptized, will you meet with her after church?" Basically dragged, but only because she's shy and a little immature. But she passed her interview yesterday, so all is well!

Next, we have a Brother Li, who's met with missionaries for like two years, and his girlfriend is a missionary in New York. He never really had interest, but in the past month, he has started meeting with missionaries, and preparing for baptism. He says he's prepared now, and has been for a long time. Anyway.

Then Sister Ju will be baptized this month. She's truly awesome, and we've become such good friends with her. She's really cool. She says that getting baptized for her isn't a question at all. She's very prepared, if you ask me. She's really cool, but will be going out of the country for a week next week (she's a flight attendant, so she's always on the move, with the most awful work schedules, too).

This morning, for exercise, our whole district, and some members, went to a nearby park to play Ultimate Frisbee. We play three times a week. But today, even President Jergensen and Sister Jergensen came (as invited). It was a ton of fun, though in total we had 20 people on a relatively small field. Still a party. The President and his family have fun; they build really good relationships with people. I probably mostly feel this now that I live like, next door (figuratively, but only barely) and see him like every other day.

I have gone on so many companion exchanges in the past three weeks. Like, around six times; twice a week, which makes you feel like you're barely even in your area. But it's good. Exchanges have been really insightful.

Thought of the day: 

Judges 7:21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp...

In this story, Gideon leads an army of 300 men against the Moabites, described as "innumberable grasshoppers." And they had victory, because the Lord helped them accomplish an impossible task; they would have had no chance on their own, but as they all "stood every man in his place," they had success. As they did their own duty and job (and not someone else's), the Lord helped them and they accomplished the task at hand. They weren't looking at the bishop and saying, "If I were him, I would do this," or, "If I were the bishop, I could have more of an influence." Or anything like that. As they do their part, they work together, for the success of all.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission