Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mission Letter 3/23/2015

Dear everybody,

It's been a wonderful week in Yuli, aside from the fact that yesterday (this last Sunday) I had the (so-called) "privilege" of speaking in church. That was not fun. But that's okay. All the missionaries in this branch, because it's so small, have already spoken, most of them twice. I guess my turn had to come sometime. It was kind of interesting. It was my first time speaking in Taiwan, and thus my first talk given in Chinese. Thankfully they only asked me to speak for 10 minutes. 

On the bright side, last week we had a wonderful member of the ward take us out to a place about 30 minutes from the city center (by car) where we live, and then he drove us up to the top of the mountain to over look the valley. He said he'd come here many times before, both when he was growing up, and as an adult who returned to his hometown. He said the view of the valley was glorious. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, which we hadn't considered (either beforehand or while driving up the mountain), and when we reached the top...

...we discovered ourselves in a cloud; some of the thickest fog (if you could call it that) at the top. Even though we couldn't see anything, it was a lot of fun to be able to walk 30 feet from other people and suddenly not be able to see them. The member who took us up there was extremely disappointed and was like, I should have thought about this sooner. However, just when we started going down again, all the clouds magically cleared up and off the mountain, and we had a most excellent view of the valley. But that will be in a separate email, because I can only put one picture per email.

This past week has been simply horrifyingly warm; I don't know what I'll do when summer comes. It was up in the high 80's (F) this week, and outside, the sun was very bright and hot. So, I know that this year, this summer, will be my last on this planet because I am going to melt like the Wicked Witch of the west. Except that yesterday, it suddenly got cold and rainy again; so cold I even had to put on a light jacket over my short sleeve shirt. It was a welcome reprieve from the soon-arriving summer.

I had exchanges again this week. My companion for that day was one of the Taidong Zone Leaders (the other one from last time), and he "dies" in 3 weeks (that is missionary terminology for going home. You have birth, death, father, and then mothers, uncles, half brothers, step brothers, and a whole bunch of confusing relationships that eventually envelope the entire mission). But it's good; he's staving off "trunkiness," which is the term given to missionaries who get lazy or just are like--too excited to go home. Missionaries in their last couple transfers sometimes get "trunky," and become a nuisance to their companion. But my current companion is awesome and totally not trunky, so that's good.

Time truly flies out here. Well, I'm sure it's going about the same speed for all of you as well--but it's already the fourth week of the transfer! And March is almost over! And that means, by the last Sunday of March, we have to have enough Melchizedek Priesthood holders in church, and enough members in this District, to complete the application for a Stake, which the 70 of this area would like to hand deliver when he attends General Conference the first week in April. 

And we are so close! From the numbers I heard from our Branch Mission Leader last night, we've made it in terms of Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Of course, he doesn't actually have access to those numbers, it's just something he heard from someone pretty involved in this process. But tomorrow, we're going to a missionary meeting in Taidong (an all-day 9AM to 5PM zone conference), and I'm sure President Day will update us on the status of the Stake. We're so privileged to be here on the East Coast during this special time. It's truly amazing what's been happening in the past transfer as every missionary on the East Coast has been doing everything they can to establish a Stake here. If we meet the requirements in the next week and a half, which I think we will, then in June, they will hold a District Conference, and they'll send a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to come organize the Stake (I'm pretty sure only Apostles can organize stakes). Which will be simply amazing! Except by that time I'll have already transferred off the East Coast. After this transfer, so in two weeks, there's a chance that I'll move, but if I stay for one more transfer, it's almost definite that I'll move in 8 weeks. That's because my companion will be "dying," and they don't normally move dying missionaries, or keep companions together for 3 transfers. So I'll be out.

This week I wanted to talk a little bit about faith. It's a word we're all familiar with, and hear all the time--but what exactly does it mean? Moroni helps us out in Ether 12:

 6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

Faith is a hope for things which are not seen, which are true. So, by that definition, we can have faith in many things: faith in God, faith in Christ's Atonement, faith in the Plan of Salvation; but all of these things lead up to one central aspect of the gospel towards which we should direct our faith. Joseph Smith tells us in the Fourth Article of Faith:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ...

Faith in Jesus Christ envelops faith in everything else; the Atonement, his death and subsequent resurrection, his love for us, etc. In order for us to have faith in something, we must have somewhat of an understanding about that "something;" thus, in order for us to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must first understand about his life, his sacrifice, and his commandments. Learning these things will help us continue to develop faith, and since faith is a principle of action, can also help us change our lives to be more in accordance with his teachings.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I'll see how many pictures I can send now...

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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