Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mission Letter 2/16/2015

Hello, everybody!

First of all, I started off last week on Preparation Day by biking and hiking approximately 2 million miles up Everest. Well, not quite; but the bike/hike took all day and we gained a considerable amount of elevation. But it was so beautiful! And there were almost no other people there on the trail. We also passed a couple waterfalls. Yuli is just surrounded by so many beautiful things; the East Coast of Taiwan, particularly in the more rural areas like Yuli, is a treasure trove of scenic locations. So many missionaries in this mission never have the opportunity to be on the East Coast; I feel extremely privileged!

(Consider the fact that when we started, we were even lower than the elevation of that river in the background. I'll send a couple more photos, but only one fits per email.)

After that day's activities, and a couple other times this week, we had a "qingke," which means a member fed us for dinner. Now, as a missionary in Taiwan, we almost always eat at restaurants on the street or the like. Which is good; you pay a certain amount of money, and it limits your intake... When we go to members houses, we feel no restriction on eating; in fact, we feel obligated to at least try everything, and if they take us to a restaurant, finish everything. Which means that I eat more than I should when a member gives us food, because missionaries typically have an inability to control how much we eat. Oh well. Everyone tells me, "You still have quite some time on your mission. It's the last 6 months you have to worry about."

Here in Taiwan, GuoNian is approaching (Chinese New Year); in fact, it starts this Wednesday. So, for the past couple of weeks, students have been on Winter Break (because in Taiwan, of course, it's not in line with Christmas but rather with GuoNian). In Yuli, many of the students go out of the city to what could be considered "boarding high schools" and just come back on the weekends. But now, many of them seem bored out of their minds. But we have this one youth in our ward; last week he asked us on Wednesday to open the church for him so he could go practice the piano. He spent the entire day there; from just before noon until 9 PM; helping us with 2 lessons, and attending English Class. He's a really cool kid; WAY dedicated to the piano. Really good, too. It's just something he loves, I guess.

As for English Class, because Yuli is a tiny, tiny place, it doesn't always have many people who attend. Before I arrived, they kinda got things going a bit; now, we have a teacher for every class, in the hope that given a couple weeks, we'll be able to build up a student base. So this week, I taught an Intermediate Class; which meant I did one on one tutoring with one of the sister's investigators. His English truly is spectacular; he can't understand a full sentence I say, and he can't speak a full sentence, but he can read and write almost flawlessly. Apparently lots of Chinese are this way; they can learn the language, but they have no one to practice it with; they can understand words and sentences, but they don't know quite how they're pronounced. So, until I get more students in my class, we'll be learning lots and lots of pronunciation rules, as well as listening skills.

And that student also happened to have his baptismal service this week! He was one of the Sister's baptisms. Here in Yuli, in our rented church that is above an internet cafe, we have another portable "kiddy-pool" as our baptismal font. When he was baptized, the baptizer, said the prayer, and then (almost violently) extraordinarily swiftly (blink your eyes and you would've missed it) threw him under the water and pulled him up; now, everyone was standing on one side facing the font, except for Elder Rasmussen and me, who were standing at the head; bad place. Water EVERYWHERE, particularly on us two. We were drenched in our suits. Everyone started chuckling a little when they looked at us as we shuffled to a different spot because the baptism had to be redone (he didn't completely go under; his foot floated up, every time until about the 5th or 6th time).

Then I had Exchanges in Taidong (or, as the English is weirdly translated, Taitung) with the Zone Leaders. It was fun. I get the best of both worlds; the small beauty of Yuli, and occasionally the busy hustle of Taidong City.

That night while I was there, at about 4:08 in the morning, I was rudely awakened by my body, bed, the apartment, and the whole island of Taiwan being shaken for what felt like at least 20 seconds. It startled me to death; I was lying in bed like, "What is happening?" It was only after about 15 seconds where I was like, "Oh! Earthquake!" and then proceeded to stay in my bed until it was over. I don't know if that was the best reaction; but no one else in the area seemed to be worried about it in the slightest. Later we discovered that the epicenter, which was offshore by Hualien, had experienced an approximately 6.4 earthquake; but the highest felt on land was about 4.1. Still; it impressed me (finding out later), that the earthquake was felt along the entire coast of Taiwan. Maybe Taiwan is just that small... I don't know.

We have new missionaries finally coming! 10 visas were approved (so, not all of them are coming yet, there's still another odd 16 or so plus whatever more will soon be added to the piling list for next transfer), and they should be arriving for our transfer meeting in about a week and a half. I probably won't move; missionaries here are typically with companions for 2 transfers, unless they "go eternal" which would be 3 or more transfers. The mission is hoping that the rest will also get their visas before transfers, or we'll have to close down/consolidate another couple areas.

Shout out to all the friends who have been emailing me; many of whom are missionaries or are preparing to depart. Recently I've started reading through the Doctrine and Covenants; it's been a long time since I've read that, and I thought it was about time for me to refresh. I ran across this section this morning, which everybody knows about, but I thought I'd refresh everyone's mind with a thought about missionary work. From D&C 18:

 10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
 11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
 12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
 13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
 14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
 15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
 16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

Now, missionaries are missionaries. Everyone should serve a mission--it's first of all, an incredible experience, in addition to being a lot of fun (they're always emphasizing to us finding joy in the journey, not planning for the future that will never be). Think about the promise God has given us; if we labor all our days in preaching the gospel and bring only one soul back to God, think of the joy we will have if we save many! Remember that God usually influences people not by the thousands, not by hundreds, but one at a time. We all want to have a major influence over others; we all want to baptize millions of people, we all want to bring the entire ward to activity, and have no less active members; but it starts with one person.

"Every member, a missionary!" said President David O. Mckay. Everyone knows someone who is perhaps struggling in their testimony, or isn't a member. And remember, missionary work isn't only to those who don't come to church; missionaries visit members! They visit very active ones, too! To be a member missionary, you can first come up with a list of names of people who aren't members or aren't at the strongest point in their testimony; a relative, a co-worker, a friend who's recently had a death in the family, a baby, or recently moved, etc. Member missionary work can be as simple as hometeaching and visiting teaching. It starts with small things, and grows. Remember the joy of the shepherd who left the ninety and nine to find the one lost sheep, "And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost" (Luke 15:6).

I hope you all have a most wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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