Monday, August 31, 2015

Mission Letter 8/31/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week was pretty awesome. 

My companion got dragged into a Tsunami. And by that, I mean that our mission has an activity that they seem to do on about a yearly basis, where they take a group of about 20 missionaries (either because they're awesome, motivated missionaries who are good at finding or because they're struggling and they need some help) and they stick them together and put them all in one place to go finding for a week and help boost the area. So, my companion was asked to participate, and he went off to Xinzhu City for a week (well, 4-5 days) to go find all day every day. One of the Zone Leaders had to stay behind, so I stayed in my area, and was put into a companionship with another Elder whose companion also went to the Tsunami. He had a mini missionary with him, so we were a tripanionship, and when I could find someone to go with me, I let them go off to their area.

As a result of the Tsunami, I got tossed around from companionship to companionship. I spent the four different nights with four different missionaries, going on exchanges all the time to get to all the appointments that I had. Because we live right next to the Office Elders, and they're in a tripanionship (due to some new office elders being trained), I would take a different one each night to go out and meet with people. Afterward, I would either stay the night at their house or meet up again with my original tripanionship. So that was pretty fun, getting tossed around and not really having a companion for a week.

Our investigator, Sister Ju, was baptized this week! We're so excited for her. When we first met her, she had walked into the church building by herself on the night of English class, looking to learn more about the church (not English). So, we started meeting with her, and now, about 2 months later, she's baptized!

But now she's going to be gone for about three weeks because she's a flight attendant, and she's got some flights that take her very far away for a very long period of time. But that's okay. As soon as she comes back, we're going to start helping her prepare to go do baptisms for the dead in the temple.

Our recent convert, Brother Li, was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday, and received his temple recommend! We're so excited for him. We originally asked him to speak at Sister Ju's baptismal service today (he was baptized two weeks ago), but he works the night shift, and after he got off work at 8 AM, he went to sleep for a little bit and slept right through the baptism. So he wasn't there; but he came to church anyway, and was sustained by the ward to be ordained to the office of a Priest, and after church he was ordained and immediately interviewed for the temple (our Bishop is so busy, he works really hard and is always forgetting stuff, so we're always showing up trying to get him to do stuff like interviews, ordinations, signing forms, etc. I feel bad for him). But because of his work schedule, it is hard to find a time for him to go to the temple (because of the temple's limited schedule). We're going to see if we can take him tomorrow...

Scripture of the Day:

D&C 138:
 29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
 30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness,even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
 31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
 32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
 33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin,vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

There is missionary work happening amongst the dead. But the only way they can receive the ordinances of salvation is through the work that we do here on earth. And even better, serving in temples helps us in our own conversion. So we do our best to help RC's (and all members) to attend the temple, frequently.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mission Letter 8/24/2015

Dear family and friends,


It feels like not much really happened this week. Things just kinda went a little slower. We didn't teach as many lessons, find as many people, or have any baptisms or people being interviewed. We had a couple exchanges, so we were out of our area for a bit, but other than that... I guess we could have done a little better in our area, but sometimes the week just doesn't go quite as you would hope. We still talked to tons of people, but sometimes they'll be willing to talk for a few moments and give us their phone number, but not really say a prayer or have a lesson but just say, "Call me another day." That has happened a lot this week, along with many of the people we met simply not living in our area. We give out tons of referrals here, but we've been trying to find places where we can talk to lots of people and help our own area more; by finding places where the people who are outside actually live nearby. It's been getting a little better.

When you live basically in the dead center of the city (at least, that's how it feels), you find people who come from all over the place to the center to do "stuff" (literally what they say in Chinese; "I have stuff"). So sometimes, finding people in your own area is hard. Most of the people who have been baptized recently were all referrals given to us, not people we found on the street. But we've got some of those, too.

Our investigator Sister Ju will be baptized next Sunday before church, confirmed during church, then have her temple recommend interview after church, and probably go with us to the temple to do baptisms the following Thursday. Our Recent Converts should be getting ready to go to the temple in a week and a half. We are really excited for them. It's just so cool watching people progress!

This week was rather wet. It rained almost every day. Which wasn't bad; it kept the temperature a little cooler. It just meant that after it finished raining, I was still wet, and my shoes would stay wet for the rest of the day. Not the most comfortable thing in the world... But on Tuesday, we went to a park (大安森林公園) to go hand out fliers for English Class, and it was pouring rain, and at one point we were under a small shelter, talking to two Taiwanese people, and it was thundering and lightning all around us, and all of a sudden there is a flash followed immediately by the sound, and it's extremely loud, and it was probably 200 meters away from us. It was definitely in the park; another sister companionship who was in the park said that they saw the lightning strike in the park (I think it was a light pole). So that was exhilarating...

The mission recently got a new set of Senior Missionaries, Elder and Sister McComber. Actually, they are Sister Jergensen's (the mission president's wife) parents. So, basically their whole family is in Taiwan. But now they teach the Advanced English class instead of us, which leaves us without a job except to sit at the front desk when students come in and to take their information and make sure they go to the right class. So that's fun. We are going to have to find new ways to make this an effective use of our time.

Taiwanese people have this nasty habit of "placing us pigeons" (standing us up). That means they set up a time with us, and then they confirm that time with us, and then they don't come. And that happens way too often. Sometimes, on a daily basis. Lots of people often tell us that they will come to church, too; and then they'll just be like, an hour and a half late, or not come all together. But whatever. After a year of being in Taiwan, I'm pretty used to it.

Also, my companion got in a car crash last Monday. Don't worry; he's almost completely unharmed, aside from a small scratch on his arm from where he hit the road after falling off his bike. Now, the car did not hit him; he hit the car. And did some damage to that car;

The damage he did was to the door; the damage to the front by the light was already there. The driver then called the police. I didn't realize until ten minutes later that that was what we were waiting for. I expected, "swap phone numbers, I'll get it fixed, and give you the price later." Instead, the police were called, then the man blamed us for all the damage (the bike didn't even hit his car, it was Elder Varney's right arm that impacted the right door and that was all), and then the police took us to the station, and then they took everyone's "testimony," and the whole deal lasted five hours and ten minutes and was extremely boring, and the worst thing was that it was our P-Day, so we didn't really have a P-day last week. In the end, the man wasn't really satisfied; I think he thought the police were going to solve his problems, but at the end they literally sent us away saying, "Now you two go handle it. This we'll just put in the files." But whatever. A big fiasco for nothing.

Thought of the Week: Psalm 23.
 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mission Letter 8/10/2015

Dear family and friends,

Hello again! It was a truly magnificent typhoon that hit Taiwan this past week. It put us out of business for one day. It struck at night, but carried on throughout the whole next day. So Friday night, when we were out proselyting, it was pretty windy, and people were starting to disappear. There was no rain at the time, so we were still out contacting and teaching lessons, but we did watch some metal roofing pieces falling from apartments on our way home, and that was a little scary, because it was only about 50 feet in front of us. It was then that I wanted to be inside.

The typhoon hit early Saturday morning. It woke us up at about 3 AM because of the sound of the wind howling through all the holes in our house and between the buildings. It's not like our house has a ton of holes, don't get me wrong; but every crack through the windows, through our front door, etc. So, it was whistling, and strong, and rain was pounding against our windows, and it was causing quite a ruckus. We weren't sure when it had started, and when it would end, or how hard it was hitting Taiwan, or where the center was (because we don't really watch TV or read news or hear anything). So, they didn't tell us it was a Typhoon Day (no leaving the apartment) until around 10:45 AM, which is right before studies end. All missionaries are in their houses until 11 AM in this mission, so they waited to make the decision until then. 

But in the morning, we all have exercises. We weren't planning on leaving the apartment to go play basketball at the church, but then another companionship called the President and asked if we could play longer since we probably wouldn't be going outside. He gave his permission for us to play an extra hour; so a member came and drove us from our home to the church, and home again when we were done. There was no one out on the roads, but there were some trees, stairs, and other random stuff. It was pretty fun. But after that, we were in our houses until 7 PM, when we were allowed to go out again.

So our apartment looks pretty clean and in order right now, thanks to a whole day of cleaning and calling people and organizing, etc. Being inside for a whole day (literally, in one room, our apartment doesn't have any walls or anything, it is just one room) drove us all crazy. Feeling lazy, slothful, not wanting to do anything, but really wanting to go outside. It was a reminder that a whole day of doing nothing really isn't fun. 

CAPTION: We ate dinner with some investigators, other missionaries in the District, and the President and his wife showed up, too. We were passing out English Class flyers, so the President's children came with us, but as for the rest of the family, it was simply coincidence that we chose to eat at the same restaurant.

This past week we had the opportunity to attend the New Convert Temple Night with two of our recent converts. Because I've never lived around Taipei or had the opportunity to participate in this activity, it was quite the new experience for me. I've also never been to the baptistry in the Taipei Temple before, but having the opportunity to go with RC's was a tremendous blessing. I just love the feeling of the temple, and being able to go with our RC's gave me a greater desire to help all of our RC's be able to attend, and also help LA's to go as well. They don't allow missionaries to be in the font or do the baptizing, but we can help with the other parts like witnesses, confirmations, and recorder. Which was really cool. I got to be recorder for the confirmations room, and got to do a few confirmations myself (in Chinese). It was really cool, and I can't wait for the next time I can go to the temple again.

I have heard from more than one person here that all the McDonald's stores are closing in America, and so they'll be closing in Taiwan, too. Truth or myth? The funny thing was that it was more than one person, so I don't know if it's exaggeration or reality. Either way.

This coming week or two is looking really good; we had two people have their baptismal interviews in the last week, and this coming week we will have two baptisms; one on Wednesday night (it will be the spiritual share for our English Class) and one on Saturday night. Then next week, we should have another baptism. All these investigators are really amazing and I love all of them, and I'm also excited to help them immediately start preparing for the temple. One of these investigators getting baptized is the daughter of a somewhat less active member, so we're going to work on getting them to the temple, together.

This coming week is transfers. We don't expect any in our companionship; we've only been together for one. If my companion or I transfer, I will be extremely surprised. However, training calls have gone out already for the mission. We'll have some "fresh blood" in our zone. 

That's all for this week! I'm really happy right now, and I love my area, and my companions, Elder Chen is seriously a funny guy, and really fun to be around, and while I hope he gets his visa soon, I'll be sad to see him leave. But life is good!

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mission Letter 8/3/2015

Hello, everybody!

It's been a most wonderful week! Lots of things have been happening, and also nothing at the same time. But life's good! And I'm happier in this area than I have been in... just kidding. I love all my areas. But I'm truly "satisfied" right now, in this one.

I guess the title of this email ought to be, "Then two became three!" Sounds like a post-wedding announcement, doesn't it?

So on Thursday, during Weekly Planning Session, we got a phone call from the Mission Office, and the Recorder told us, "Come to the office RIGHT NOW, we have something to give you." So like obedient little missionaries, we went straight outside, got on our bikes, and rode as fast as we could to the mission office. When we arrived, all sweaty and tired, Elder Shelton was like, "Your new companion!" 

His name is Elder Chen, but we call him "Shuai Zhang Lao," which basically means Elder Handsome. It's not as weird in Chinese as it sounds in English. Don't worry. But he's a visa waiter for New Zealand; he got on a plane to Hong Kong to transfer to New Zealand, but in Hong Kong, they stopped him and put him on a plane right back. So now he's with us until his visa gets cleared up. He's awesome! He's so full of energy and is very enthusiastic as a missionary. We love having him around. 

In the next three weeks, we should have three baptisms at the rate of one per week. First, a Sister Huang, who is a girl whose mother is a member of about two years, and this girl has attended church for about half a year, so it's about time she met with the missionaries and got baptized. She was introduced to us when a member dragged her over to us halfway through church and said, "This is Sister Huang, she wants to get baptized, will you meet with her after church?" Basically dragged, but only because she's shy and a little immature. But she passed her interview yesterday, so all is well!

Next, we have a Brother Li, who's met with missionaries for like two years, and his girlfriend is a missionary in New York. He never really had interest, but in the past month, he has started meeting with missionaries, and preparing for baptism. He says he's prepared now, and has been for a long time. Anyway.

Then Sister Ju will be baptized this month. She's truly awesome, and we've become such good friends with her. She's really cool. She says that getting baptized for her isn't a question at all. She's very prepared, if you ask me. She's really cool, but will be going out of the country for a week next week (she's a flight attendant, so she's always on the move, with the most awful work schedules, too).

This morning, for exercise, our whole district, and some members, went to a nearby park to play Ultimate Frisbee. We play three times a week. But today, even President Jergensen and Sister Jergensen came (as invited). It was a ton of fun, though in total we had 20 people on a relatively small field. Still a party. The President and his family have fun; they build really good relationships with people. I probably mostly feel this now that I live like, next door (figuratively, but only barely) and see him like every other day.

I have gone on so many companion exchanges in the past three weeks. Like, around six times; twice a week, which makes you feel like you're barely even in your area. But it's good. Exchanges have been really insightful.

Thought of the day: 

Judges 7:21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp...

In this story, Gideon leads an army of 300 men against the Moabites, described as "innumberable grasshoppers." And they had victory, because the Lord helped them accomplish an impossible task; they would have had no chance on their own, but as they all "stood every man in his place," they had success. As they did their own duty and job (and not someone else's), the Lord helped them and they accomplished the task at hand. They weren't looking at the bishop and saying, "If I were him, I would do this," or, "If I were the bishop, I could have more of an influence." Or anything like that. As they do their part, they work together, for the success of all.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission