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