Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mission Letter 4/20/2015

Dear family and friends,

Hello! It's been another wonderful week here in Zhongli. In fact, about two hours ago, we had a pretty good earthquake that rocked us in our apartment during studies for about a minute, it felt. We live on the 7th floor of a 21 floor building, which made that earthquake pretty fun as we shook from side to side. But it wasn't bad. Absolutely no one was panicking; we looked out the window at the people just walking down the street as if nothing had happened. I guess earthquake's are pretty common in Taiwan.

When I got transferred here to Zhongli, I was made District Leader. That was about a week and a half ago. Four days after being assigned as District Leader, I had to do my first baptismal interview. There's no training for how to do these, no one told me how the process should go, so you might imagine how I felt, without any clue or hints on really how to hold a baptismal service, aside from the baptismal interview questions. But, I would say that with a lot of relying on the Spirit, and encouragement from my companion before the interview, the whole process went extremely smoothly. The interview took about an hour; I don't know how long most interviews take, or if I just talk a lot. But it was a really cool experience.

Then later that night, he called and asked me to baptize him! There on the left are the sisters that taught him, and on the right, obviously is me, and my new companion, Elder Ribar. It was a pretty cool day, and an awesome baptismal service. 

Here in Zhongli, we have an incredibly large English Class, especially compared to my previous areas. There were probably about 15-20 people in our Advanced Class, and there are 4 classes here in this area; Children, Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced. So, you might say we have a large English program here. And it makes classes a whole lot more fun (in my last area, the entire program probably had 10 people at the very most, and only 2-3 in Advanced class).

The English program here is truly an excellent finding tool. When students come to English, sometimes they bring friends, and the English program (while we do teach regular, conversational English), brings people into the church and into contact with missionaries. Every week, we have one hour of English, and then another half hour of Spiritual share, which is basically what the people who come to English class get to hear in exchange for their English education. But it's really cool, because we can then preach the gospel in a non-threatening way, and we're not having to chase people down the street in order to teach them.

Speaking of chasing people down the street, we had a truly funny experience this week with a guy named Brother Xin. At the beginning of last week, we ran into him on a street corner, where he stands and tries to convince people to buy houses. He wasn't busy, so we had a full lesson with him (about 45 minutes, in the park) and gave him a Book of Mormon; set a baptismal date, and got his phone number. A few hours after that, he sent us a text saying, "I suddenly have a desire to attend a Christian church, so I don't think I'll have an opportunity to go to your guys' church." We were like, what? We tried calling him, but he said he was busy and didn't want to talk to us, and hung up.

A few days later, we were walking down the same street, and we saw him there again. He also saw us... and suddenly got a frantic look on his face, ducked down, and started speed-walking/running in the opposite direction. We decided to just calmly walk--following him, in the same direction. He darted into a public restroom, came out, saw us approaching, and ran through the park, down a street, into a housing complex where we couldn't follow him. So, we're not sure what happened; but he doesn't want to talk to us anymore. It made for a really funny experience, though; a fully grown man running from two not-yet-20-year-old's. 

Met a guy in the English class last Wednesday. His name is Miles. He's not our investigator, but he's in a nearby area. He's an eternal investigator, and he knows it. When I talked to him, he told me, "Yeah, I'm an investigator, I've been an investigator for a long time, about two years." He's a pretty cool guy, who knows everything about what we teach, and the sisters who teach him call him a "Dry Mormon," because he still meets with them, he comes to church, etc., but he just hasn't been baptized. We hope that he'll soon find the desire to be baptized within him.

We also found and met with a awesome guy, a new investigator named Brother Huang. His view towards the gospel is that he wants proof of stuff (for example, he told us that people were looking for things like Noah's ark and evidence of the parting of the Red Sea). However, he is still willing to listen with an open mind. His current state of disbelief does not preclude him from learning and trying it out for himself (through prayer and reading). That's something I really appreciated about him, because I've had investigators who don't believe, and thus don't want to try to know for themselves. Those kinds of people, there's not much we can do to help them.

The way that we help them try is tell them to exercise a little bit of faith, just like Alma teaches us in Alma 32. I have come to understand that scripture in a new way since being on a mission. 

The way to understand for ourselves the reality of God and the truthfulness of the gospel is through CPR; Church, Pray, Read. But the thing is, we need to exercise that small particle of faith first; if we read without any intent to apply or learn, then we won't learn anything. If we pray without any expectation of an answer, or already dead set against the existence of a God, it's very hard for us to receive anything in return. We must exercise a little particle of faith, and then expend some effort through attending Church, Praying, and Reading the scriptures. If we do these things with a sincere heart and real intent, then we must receive an answer from God. And that is the only way.

I hope you all have a most excellent week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

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