Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mission Letter 4/13/2015

Dear everybody,

It's been an amazing week! In both Yuli and my new wonderful place, Zhongli! Zhongli is out somewhere near Taoyuan. I'm not entirely sure where it is... but I just know that I'm in it, and because it's a giant city (which I've never been in up to this point in my mission), I'm just kind of following my awesome new companion around. His name is Elder Ribar, by the way; he is one transfer "younger" than me; we met each other in the MTC, during my last three weeks there. He's from Indiana, and he's really cool.

Starting in Yuli, our golden investigator, Liu JM, had an excellent lesson. First off, she'd already read through Jacob now, and she didn't have any questions. In fact, she said that she'd also researched some other stuff (other books, we weren't sure which) which helped explain to her about why "wars in the Book of Mormon were necessary, why God lets them happen." It also explained some stuff about a premortal life and our purpose in life, which were completely in line with what we teach in the Plan of Salvation... I'm not sure which book she read, but it was awesome. So, she's "reading" and "churching." So we asked about how her praying was going. She told us that she did pray, and that she felt like God was answering her prayers; she related the following experience. 

"I was in bed the other day after a really bad day, and I was angry and frustrated and not feeling very peaceful. So then I prayed and told Heavenly Father, 'I don't feel happy. Help me forget this and sleep well.' About 10 minutes later, I felt much better; much happier, much more peaceful, and I was able to move on from that day." So, we're so pleased with the progress she's been making! But now that I've transferred, I know my old companion Elder Gonzalez and his trainee are going to take really good care of her.

When she found out I was transferring, she sent us a very nice text message wishing us well and also stating something else she'd learnt from the scriptures; "I understand now why God gives us challenges, and that we can overcome them." We sent back something like, "We're so pleased that you understand the scriptures and the gospel so well." She should be baptized next month. And then, to the temple! Which she heard about when our member who we brought along suddenly started talking about baptisms for the dead during the first lesson... Oh well.

But now I'm in Zhongli, with Elder Ribar, and in a much larger district than before. Yuli was a very small place. Zhongli is very big. But it's all very exciting. I don't know much about this place right now, but I'll know more next week and tell you then.

This past Saturday and Sunday we watched conference here in Taiwan, the re-broadcast. Because us missionaries do like to speak Chinese, but we prefer hearing conference in English, we end up watching conference together, and in the case of where I am right now, we watched it with the rest of the zone in English in Taoyuan. Imagine, if you would, 30 missionaries in a single room, watching conference, as many of the speakers (especially the first day) emphasize dating, marriage, and not waiting to long to find "the one" and take care of a family. It's during talks like this where all the missionaries point their fingers at the ones who go home in a month or two saying, "They're talking to you, Elder!"

But I think my favorite was President Uchtdorf's talk on Grace. Mostly because, as a missionary, I have encountered people, especially in the US, who use the term "grace" to say that we don't need to do anything else as people, because it'll do nothing for us. Some people take it to the extent that, if we truly believe Christ is our Savior, and have been "saved," if we killed someone and died the next day, we're still saved. 

I really love how President Uchtdorf said, "Dear brothers and sisters, living the gospel faithfully is not a burden. It is a joyful rehearsal—a preparation for inheriting the grand glory of the eternities. We seek to obey our Heavenly Father because our spirits will become more attuned to spiritual things." 

Brother Brad Wilcox said, "We are not trying to earn our way to heaven, we are learning heaven. We are preparing for it. The question, is not only, have you been saved by grace, but have you been changed by it?" (Paraphrased from, "His Grace is Sufficient," Brad Wilcox, not sure where.)

Equally significant is grace's role in our purpose on Earth. Pres. Uchtdorf said,"But the grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation—as wonderful as it is—does not fulfill the Father's aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. With the gift of God's grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward...

"Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God...

"Are we confident and comfortable in our good deeds, trusting in our own righteousness? Are we perhaps a little impatient with those who are not living up to our standards? Are we on autopilot, going through the motions, attending our meetings, yawning through Gospel Doctrine class, and perhaps checking our cell phones during sacrament service?"

May we be changed by grace, not just saved by it. May we more fully rely on the Atonement of Christ, not on what works we may be able to do. For, even if we spent our entire life in the service of God, yet we would be unprofitable servants. Grace is the only way we are saved, and it is a gift freely given to us by a loving God. May we take advantage of it!

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I will take a picture with my companion next week and sent it; the man who we asked to take it made every picture rather blurry. 

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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