Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mission Letter 3/16/2015

Dear everybody,

It's been another wonderful little week here in Yuli! I love this little town. It's tiny, and everybody already knows us! It's an interesting feeling. I heard an Elder describe it like this; it's not about finding people, it's about telling them why they should meet with you again. It's not about giving them a Book of Mormon, it's about convincing them that the one they already have in their house truly is the Word of God.

This past week we had Zone Training Meeting down in Taidong. So we got on an hour-and-a-bit long train ride down there, then a member picked us up at the train station for a 15 minute drive to the church, where we had a 3 and a half hour meeting, and then returned back to Yuli. While in Taidong, we took a picture with the entire zone together:

Yes. That is our zone. It is the smallest in the mission. There are only two companionships more in this Zone than there were in my last District in Taipei, which we were pretty sure was the largest District in the mission. But it's awesome; the East Coast is awesome, and we're so close to a Stake!

Our lovely little city has been getting a considerable amount of attention recently, thanks to the current push for the Hualien Stake. Last week, on Saturday night, we had a Stake Priesthood Meeting in Yuli. That means, Melchizedek Priesthood holders from the entire Hualien District (which is from Hualien all the way to Taidong, a 3 hour train ride by the fastest train on the East Coast here) drove our took the train out to this little city of Yuli. That's over a 2 hour car ride from Hualien, over a 2 hour car ride from Taidong. At this meeting, we also had in attendance President Day, Mission President, and Elder Ruan, of the Area 70, from Taizhong.

I would definitely say that the Priesthood Meeting last week was one of the most incredible meetings I've ever attended. It was such an amazing thing--having 105 Priesthood men from all over the East Coast (and Taiwan), crammed into our beloved little chapel.

When we were asked by President Chen (the Branch President here) to set up the chapel, we pulled every single chair from every single room in the church into the chapel; there wasn't another seat in the building. We were ordered in advance to check the microphones, the water, water cups, bathrooms, paper towels, toilet paper, and make the floors "spotless." Then, in our little rented chapel room, we filled every seat, and a couple people stood. The entire chapel was full; and when all those men were meeting, hearing talks, and singing (the singing--wow!); it was just an incredible meeting. Everyone is really excited and pushing really hard for meeting the requirements to have a Stake here, by the time General Conference comes around.

This past week, I went on exchanges with the Taidong Zone Leaders. I stayed in my area, and my companion (the District Leader) went down to Taidong with the other zone leader. So, here in Yuli, I was with a certain Elder Taulepa. He's Tongan, but he lives in Australia. In fact, he lives in the same Stake I used to. And, he said that when I first arrived in Taiwan, he had seen me before, but he couldn't figure out where, until I said I lived before in Australia. We spent some time, figuring out the people we knew in common, and finally, it hit him where he had seen me (unfortunately, I didn't remember him).

Once upon a time, in Australia, my Stake did a little "Christmas Cantata." That involved a choir, and a small sketch. So, off to the side, was a "home" setting, with a grandpa, a big sister, and a little brother (which was the role I was playing in the performance). Then, on the chapel stand, was a choir, and the performance went back and forth between the two. Turns out, that "big sister" who was sitting next to me, is Elder Taulepa's little sister. Wow! And he remembered that from like, 10 years ago. Amazing.

Right now, the mission has a lot of unexperienced, comparatively "new" missionaries. Just under two years ago, there was a large influx of new missionaries (particularly Elders), and then there was a period of like, six months where there were only a couple new Elders. So currently, almost every leadership position is held by missionaries who go home in 3 to 4 months. Almost all the Zone Leaders, both the Assistants, several District Leaders, go home in very short order. And then there's a large gap to the next set of missionaries. So we're going to be losing a lot of experience in this mission pretty soon. It's almost somewhat scary.

My last companion, Elder Rasmussen, when we had dinners with members, would always eat the most. He would just be packing it down; eating and eating, long after the rest of us had stopped. He got a reputation amongst the members; when they set the table, they would give him the largest plate. And now he's transferred, and my companion eats way less. So the members have kinda turned to me, to take Elder Rasmussen's place. The Sisters and my compnion eat even less than they did before, it seems, and the members just kinda tell me, "You're taking Elder Rasmussen's place." It's rather funny--and painful at times...

This past week, I read a talk by President Ezra Taft Benson; it's called, "Beware of Pride." It was an excellent talk! It provided lots of things to think about. Pride is deadly; and it's a very big deal. In President Benson's talk, he said, "Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion." That was one of his closing lines. Why is pride something talked about so much? Because not having it is a qualification for salvation:

Alma 5:28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.

Remember the pride cycle of the Book of Mormon? It eventually destroyed an entire civilization:

Moroni 8:27 ...Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the  Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.

What is pride? President Benson said that the central feature of pride is emnity, which he said was hatred towards, hostility to, or a state of opposition, toward God and fellowman.

One of my favorite quotes (since I read it the other day) is that of C.S. Lewis, who said, "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.... Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone." The proud think more on what others will think of them, than what God will think of them.

President Benson said something that I think helps us judge whether we're are being prideful or not; "Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest." So, basically, before doing something, evaulate your motives, and then re-evaluate what you're going to do.

Humility is one of the most signature features of Jesus Christ's life. He humbly submitted to Heavenly Father's will; he was a King, but lived as a Wanderer. He never reviled those who reviled him. Humility is something we should all seek after.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I'm really excited for Conference coming up!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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