Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mission Letter 7/27/2015

Dear family and friends,

What an excellent (nevertheless short, due to Temple Day being last week, thus having a shorter elapsed period of time between the last email and now) week it has been!

We had a baptism this week! Brother Guo was baptized on Saturday, and barely made it to his confirmation on Sunday.

As for the baptismal service; sometimes I get a rather cold feeling from the ward. No one showed up aside from the ward mission leader, elders quorum president, one member of the bishopric, and about 5 other people. It was also planned in a very rush-rush way; the Ward Mission Leader said he'd set up everything, and when we showed up, every speaker was called upon from the attendees; none of them knew they were going to be sharing until they were invited at the service. So I was very disappointed and will do more of the setting up myself next time.

As for the confirmation, Brother Guo gave us quite a fright. His problem is that he works at a family restaurant, and doesn't normally get off work until after 2 PM, but church starts at 1:30 PM, so he leaves early at 1:00 to come to church. He normally makes it by 1:30, but sometimes he's a little late. Yesterday, he was a little later; we were waiting the whole time outside for him to come while they were doing announcements, and I prayed that he would be able to show up on time, and that there would be more announcements than usual, because evidently the rule is, if they don't show up before the Sacrament is finished, then they have to wait until the next week before they can be confirmed. But as long as they're present for the Sacrament, they can still get confirmed that Sunday. And yesterday, there were tons of announcements, and then before the meeting started, they also had a small announcement and "speech" of sorts for a recent convert who recently passed away (she was an older lady) and had her funeral yesterday (which we also attended).

Then they had the opening hymn, a few more announcements, then the Sacrament hymn started, and we were starting to give up hope; at least, I was. Then Elder Varney spotted him outside, walking slowly up to the church from the MRT with another one of our investigators. So we booked outside to drag him into the chapel, told him to run, and Elder Varney said, "Guo Di Xiong! You've got to get zhengshi'ed!" Some excellent Chinglish there (it means, you have to get confirmed), which was ok because his English is actually pretty good. So he was there, and he got confirmed, but the timing was literally "by the skin of our teeth."

We have some very awesome investigators with baptismal dates for August; at least two should be baptized, with the possibility of quite a few more. We have a Sister Ju, and a Sister Huang, and they're both progressing very nicely, and have a desire to be baptized, and are on schedule for their date, which is awesome and we're really excited for them. 

Sister Ju is actually a flight attendant, and she keeps bringing Elder Varney back Hello Kitty stuff from wherever she flies to, etc. Because, believe it or not (and this is extremely scary), my companion is a big fan of Hello Kitty, and he has stuff all over the house; posters, little stuffed animals, glasses (like cups), towels, and a shirt he acquired a couple weeks ago. But anyway. Our investigator just loves making fun of him, and it's quite hilarious.

Scripture of the Day: 2 Nephi2:26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

We are free forever, to act for ourselves, but the only thing we cannot escape is the punishment of the law at the great and last day. Prepare for it!

Life is good. I'm really enjoying my mission, and Taiwan, and time is truly flying fast. It's almost Christmas! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mission Letter 7/22/2015

Dear family and friends,

Hello! It has been a most excellent week and a half. So much has happened, and yet not a ton either. Today is Temple Day, which is really exciting, and then we are planning on going on a Gondola ride through mountains and meadows to a place where... I'm not sure. But it'll be a fun ride, anyway.

So the week started with a P-Day, at which time we visited with my aunt; I got permission from President to see her, so the sisters called her, told her that we were going to a certain park, and she came to find us. We originally planned to find a trail and go hiking, but then she told us that she knew of a trail to waterfall and that she would take us there. So all 8 of us missionaries (and a member who came along with us) set off after her up a mountain. 

After about ten minutes of going up this mountain, my aunt said that the trail didn't seem right; it was too steep, and becoming unfamiliar, and there was supposed to be a pavilion which we just hadn't hit yet. So she waved a car off to the side of the road, and asked directions. We were told that we had come to a fork and taken the wrong road, and were currently walking to a police shooting range. So we had to turn around and go back down. But our group of missionaries had been split up into fast walkers, medium, and slow; my aunt was at the bottom, but the slow ones ran up to get the medium ones to come back down. When we got to the medium ones, my aunt gets out of a car that she had just hitchhiked up to us in, and asks him to take us back down the mountain (we let the man go by himself, told him we'd just walk). She then proceeds to flag down another car to take a few people up to the fast walkers, and later I find out when she got to the top, she flagged down a car to bring the fast walkers down, and then flagged down yet another car to bring herself down. Everyone was pretty hysterical about what was all happening, as she waved down car after car after car. It was pretty hilarious.

This coming week, one of our investigators (Brother Guo) is getting baptized. He's been doing excellent; when I showed up, they'd already almost finished the lessons, and he just wanted to wait about a month to be baptized. So now it's this Saturday! We're really excited.

We have another investigator, Sister Che, who is doing excellent. She is a flight attendant, and she came to the church of her own accord wanting to meet with the missionaries. She was given a tract on the street a few months ago, and her friend is Mormon, and so she came wanting to learn. She's been so willing to meet and keep commitments, and she's doing awesome! The only obstacle is her work schedule, which means attending church takes a little bit of time. But she's been doing so well, and has committed to all the commandments, and her baptismal goal is for 8/16. So, we're really excited for her.

Elder Varney got in a bike crash the other day. A car pulled out of a small alleyway really quickly, and not looking for pedestrians or bikes, kinda placed himself in our path. Elder Varney was in front, and going pretty quickly. He slammed on his brakes, and his front brake was evidently better than his back brake because he flew over his bike, and next to the car. So he didn't really hit the car, but he still ended up on the ground, with a terrified driver running over to us. Elder Varney was like, "It's fine, I'm okay, can I give you a tract?" So we gave the man a couple tracts, he calmed down a bit, and left. And thus we continued, a little worse for wear, but still fine. 

Scripture thought of the day: Alma 26:37.

 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of everypeople, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

I hope you all have a most wonderful week! Not to long, and there will be another email from me!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mission Letter 7/13/2015

Dear family and friends,

Hello! This week was a blast. Quite literally. I can now say that I've lived through a typhoon, and while I did not see any swirling clouds, there were some pretty big gusts of wind that impeded my progress on my bike, and it rained for like a day straight, and this story is actually quite interesting:

So, the morning of the typhoon, the Assistants called my companion and told us there was a big typhoon coming, that the government was closed, and that everyone should cancel their appointments for the day. Two hours later, they told us that it didn't look to bad outside, but to be careful; the main part of the typhoon was delayed until 5 PM that afternoon, at which point people should probably start heading back inside. So that's what we did; we were out until 5 PM, and then our whole zone (the Central Taipei Zone) went inside. That night, the Assistants were like, "You did what?" So, due to a miscommunication, and no other updates, our whole zone went home early, but I guess we were supposed to be out still. Oh well. It happened. We'll avoid that next time; however, we all cleaned our apartments up really well. 

​CAPTION: Were we in a typhoon? Yes, yes we were. Were we wet? Yes, yes we were. 

Last Thursday, I hit my year mark on my mission. While that was a little frightening, it also does feel like it's been a long time. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't actually feel any different, and nothing is happening very differently. But time definitely does fly; it's hard to believe, it's almost Christmas again!

By the way, next week is Temple Day, which means our Preparation Day will be changed to Wednesday, so no need to be alarmed when I don't email on Monday. I'm still alive, I promise. 

Also, President Jergensen and his family have created a new website for the mission: . By the President's own description, "This website will simply contain pictures or videos of missionary events like meeting the Mission President's family, zone conferences, etc. We are simply wanting families and friends to get a taste of the wonderful things that you missionaries are experiencing." So, if you want to see more pictures of me, and the rest of the mission, you can see it there.

Every morning we wake up at around 5:50 AM, because my companion likes to exercise. I was totally not in the habit of getting up so early when I got here, but things have gotten better; usually our District will go to the park and play Ultimate Frisbee or go to the chapel and play basketball. Recently, we've been going to play basketball with the Mission President's two 15 year old twin sons. They love basketball. It's also fun because at our chapel, it's like the Church Headquarters for Taiwan; and it is the most used chapel I have ever seen; there are always people here. Perhaps they're playing ball, or having a couple families together for lunch in the kitchen, or using the family history center, or going to the Distribution Center, or just hanging around because they have boring lives, etc. So, in the mornings, you never know which Stake President or Elders Quorum President or which person from a random place in the city is going to be there playing basketball as well. It's pretty fun.

Our new Mission President is literally just so awesome. He's hilarious, too; he could have been a comedian in a former life. He has so much energy, and he has a much louder voice than President Day, and he's rather tall. But his family is so cool; half of them are in Taiwan right now, the rest are old (figuratively) and married. I'm so excited to see what he does in the future. 

This past week, I had my first Zone Training Meeting (kinda like a Zone Conference, except that the Mission President isn't present and doing trainings) as a Zone Leader. It went pretty well. The funny thing is that the Mission President actually was there; because we held it across the street from where he lives, and he's touring the mission, so he attended about half of our meeting. He brought his wife, too. And then the Assistants attended as well, because we were nearby, and then the Temple Sisters (the Sister equivalent of the Assistants... they are Office missionaries, of which in total there are 6. It means they work in the mission office.). 

Our meeting went really well; my companion and I planned a pretty cool analogy about the Message of the Restoration. In our zone, we have about 24 missionaries; to prepare for the meeting, we asked them all to forego brushing their teeth the morning of the meeting, but to bring their toothbrush. So, like obedient little robots, they all did. And for the whole meeting, we let them sit there with unbrushed teeth, until they'd basically forgot about it. And then the last training we did for the meeting, we reminded them that they hadn't brushed their teeth. We asked them how they felt; some of them said gross, many of them said they barely noticed anymore, after half a day and breakfast and everything. We told them that the unbrushed teeth is just like those people who have never heard the gospel or used the power of the Atonement (the toothpaste and brushing your teeth) to become clean. They don't know how it feels, or how they could feel; all clean and fresh again. They become accustomed to the burden of sin that they willingly (and, sometimes almost unknowingly) carry around. 

Then we asked everyone to get down on the ground and do as many push-ups as they could in 8 seconds. This represented their lifespan. And though they didn't know it, each pushup was a "sin." We added up all the pushups, and it came to 167. Then we pulled out the toothpaste, which we brought, and told them they were going to be allowed to brush their teeth, but only after the price had been paid; so we had an Elder Hsiao, a native, who we had asked in advance to do lots of pushups, and we had him do the same number of pushups for each person in order to receive their toothpaste. Thus the price had been paid, and we could become clean, through the Atonement and brushing our teeth. 

There were about three missionaries who didn't bring a toothbrush; because they forgot. However, we still had Elder Hsiao do their pushups, because the Atonement was still performed, regardless of whether or not they chose to take advantage of it. I thought it was a really good analogy, and I hope the zone felt it was pretty good, too. 

The Mission President's vision for the mission right now is this: every companionship have at least one baptism, every month. We have an investigator who will be getting baptized at the end of this month. When I arrived in the area, he had already finished all the lessons and passed his interview, so since I've been here I've met with him about twice, and we just kind of review some stuff. We (and he) are really excited for his baptism.

We have another awesome lady who is set to be baptized next month. She's a flight attendant for Eva Air, so coming to church is hard sometimes because of her schedule, but she's very accepting of everything we have taught, and she doesn't seem to have any problems with any commandments, seeing as she is vegan and has a Mormon boyfriend. So, we're really excited for her, too.

I hope you all have a most excellent week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Monday, July 6, 2015

Mission Letter 7/6/2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This week's letter is a little late in coming (like, three hours later than normal), and pretty short, because today a member from one of my companion's former areas came and took us out to a extremely fancy buffet. I know, the words fancy and buffet don't normally go together, but my goodness it was amazing. I am so literally full.

This week has been going pretty well. Our new Mission President arrived. He's so cool! President Jergensen brought half of his children along, too; the younger ones. He has 15 year old twins, and it's so strange seeing American teenagers. So totally completely different from the Taiwanese teenagers. President Jergensen's sons seem older, and more independent... perhaps it's just the culture. But yes, they are identical.

As for the new Mission President...he's younger. He acts younger, and has a much louder voice. He's a really fun, awesome guy, and it's totally different... he's like someone I imagined being one of my Young Men's leaders, and that's pretty cool. It's very different from President Day. They're both awesome, but they definitely do things differently.

We also had Mission Leadership Council, which is where all the Zone Leaders and the Assistants and the Mission President meet together, and basically tell the Zone Leaders how to do their job better, and what they want the mission to do. It was a pretty good meeting; lots of awesome trainings that I got to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a good deal of zone leaders from my "generation," meaning those who came out to Taiwan at the same time as I did. Probably about 40% of the Zone Leaders are just new ones, and pretty young, mission age wise. So that's cool.

Yesterday, on Sunday night, the mission held an Investigator and New Member fireside. This is a monthly fireside, and at the end, all the missionaries perform a choir musical number. The chapel that the fireside is held at is probably the only chapel in Taiwan to have an actual organ (all the rest just have pianos), so I literally grab every opportunity to play the organ as possible. And since I was asked to accompany for the night, I totally wrote up my own arrangement of "Come, Follow Me," and played that on the organ. You have no idea how happy it made me. I'm still smiling.

Yesterday at the church, we got a new investigator in a most interesting way. This 15 year old girl, who's mother is a member, was dragged by the arm after sacrament meeting to us, and this woman told us, "This is a Sister Huang, she wants to get baptized, will you please take her to Gospel Principles class and then teach her the first lesson after church?" The girl was being completely awkward about the whole thing, and we weren't entirely sure how to react. However, after church, we got to meet with her, and she opened up a bit more, and she actually does want to be baptized, which is good, too.

But other than that, this week has been pretty normal. Nothing terribly special, nothing terribly strange. It's been very hot. Very hot. And my bike has disappeared in the mail, it seems; it got sent from one place a week ago, but it has not yet arrived at my new area, and I'm a little concerned. We can still get around because I'm using a recently gone home missionary's bike, but I prefer mine. I don't like his. It's not extremely comfortable or smooth. But that's okay.

Scripture of the Week? D&C 50
 13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
 14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.
 22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

When one preaches/teaches by the Spirit, and feels the influence of the Spirit, you can be assured that the other party is feeling it, too; perhaps they just haven't recognized it. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission