Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mission Letter 2/23/2015

Hello, everybody!

First of all: a smal side note. The Taiwanese people in the past two weeks have been busy planting rice all over the place. See picture in next email.

It's been the most amazing food filled week over here in Taiwan. Why? 過年 (Guonian)! Also known as Chinese New Year. And during Chinese New Year, everyone on the island (and probably in China as well) leaves wherever they currently live (so, Taipei) and return to their "home city" (which is always from the middle of Taiwan, south; almost no one's "hometown" is in Taipei) and party with their family for a week. So, being here in Yuli, there are many people who call this their hometown.

Thus this was the busiest week of the entire year in Yuli; or at least, so it seemed. Cars filled the normally quiet city, they put traffic cones up and down the main road, people walking everywhere, missionaries having a grand old time talking to people--who all seem to be from Taipei. Finding people who actually lived in Yuli was somewhat of a hardship this week. You walk down the street talking to people, and they're all from Taipei. You go tracting, and Taipei people and people who returned home for Guonian answer. They stuff family members into every corner of the house, as the people come back to their hometown, usually to their parent's home, and bring their children, and they somehow all manage to squeeze sometimes 15 people into one house that normally accomodates four.

Guonian meant good food; because they celebrate by eating good food as a family. Usually cooked at home. It's the best eating week for missionaries, because in Taiwan, very rarely do the members invite us to dinner (unlike the US), but Guonian is when they feed us grandly.

CAPTION: At one of the member's homes in Fuli, and yes, that is a whole fish slapped onto a plate.

We also went up to this tiny litle place called Chishang this past week. First of all, our area is GIANT; because it's the east coast, there's not a ton of members. This place is about 30-40 minutes from Yuli, by train. There is not a single active member that lives in that city, but there are several less actives who we were sent on a mission by the branch president to find. We did find one less-active; she still likes the church, but she hasn't come for about 8 years. She was baptized while living in Taipei, and then moved down here, came for a little bit, and eventually just started "not having enough time." We're hoping we can get her coming back to church soon; the only problem for us is that we almost never go out to Chishang, because it's so far away from where we live. While we were there, however, we borrowed a member's bikes; tiny, cute little things. They were interesting to ride. See next email's picture.

It's already the last week of the transfer! It flew by so fast! And, as usual, no one in the mission currently has any idea if they're transferring or not; that's because "transfer calls" don't come until Wednesday night, and then transfers are on Friday morning. But, more likely than not, neither my companion nor I will be transferring because on average, at least in this mission, you are with every companion for about 2 transfers. Which leaves us together for another transfer, and then we'll see whether I leave Yuli or whether he does.

Being Guonian, lots of members from Taipei came back to Yuli. Which made some things very interesting; at church yesterday, there were about 9 adult members actually living within the Yuli branch boundaries at church; and then about 30 members from Taipei who came back. But there were so few Melchizedek Priesthood holders at church (or any priesthood holders), they didn't know who to give talks to. So, the missionaries basically ran church. I played the piano, Sister Sorenson lead the music and gave a prayer, Sister Van Tonder gave a talk, and Elder Rasmussen blessed the sacrament, gave a talk, and taught Gospel Principles class. Because there were so few members at church to teach lessons, they had everyone meet together for all the meetings to minimize teachers (or rather, use the only ones they had).

Also, during the week, we got a random phone call from someone we didn't know; the number wasn't one we'd called recently, so we were just completely confused. We answered, and the man said he was a "Brother Zhou," who wanted to give us a dinner; he set up a time and a place at a hot pot restaurant. We showed up, not knowing whether to expect a former investigator, a less active, or someone else entirely. We got there, and the man greeted us, telling us that he was from Taipei and came back for Guonian; apparently, every year he feeds the missionaries when he comes back. So nice of him! Also, the hot pot was just totally amazing.

Because it's Chinese New Year, there have been fireworks, rockets, and firecrackers going off sporadically, every hour of the day, everyday of the week. It's kinda fun; you just start ignoring them. There's small children in the park, comletely unsupervised, setting off aerial fireworks in every direction (whether that actually be up into the air or horizontally across the park) and you think, well, that's a little dangerous; let's not contact here.

This week, I'd like to discuss something that James E. Talmage mentions in his book, Jesus the Christ. It's concerning the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. He points out that, in the miracle, he left most of the "doing stuff" parts up to the actual people present. For example, we see in the Gospel of John Chapter 11:

 34 And said, Where have ye laid him?
 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.
 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

Elder Talmage points out that Jesus could already know where Lazarus was laid, and he could have performed any miracle to move the stone out of the way and loose Lazarus from the grave clothes. But he let the people, the family, take actions first, which demonstrate their faith; and then was the miracle performed in only doing what the people themselves couldn't do.

There's a "parable," if you want to call it that, that my companion often likes to tell people on the street. He tells people, that God often relies on us to first take action. He is a very much "rely on yourself" kind of God, and then he helps us. He says, "As missionaries, we don't go to the chapel and sit down and pray, 'Dear Heavenly Father, please bless that some people with interest in the gospel will walk in through the door to talk to us.' Instead, we go out on the street, shaking hands with every person we can, trying to share our message." So, basically, as we work for ourselves, we can then ask the Lord "that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul" (2 Nephi 32:9). So, Go Forth and Do!

I hope you all have a most wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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