Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mission Letter 9/28/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been a wonderful week! There isn't any especially large news that really happened, aside from the fact that even now as I write this email, there is a typhoon hurling around us. Well, the strong part hasn't hit yet, but there's been rain and some wind gusts. Today could be pretty fun.


This past week was a little harder; First off, we got "fanged" a lot, which means a lot of people set up an appointment with us, and then later cancelled or didn't show up. My favorite instance from this past week was an investigator who we'd set up about a week ago, then we called the night before to confirm, she told us she was really excited to meet with us and go to the church and see what it was like and learn about this religion, and then next morning about three hours before the appointment, she cancelled. But that's okay; we're still living. If all the people we have set up for the next week go through, we should have an extremely busy week. We have a ton of appointments and not enough time almost.

All of our investigators are currently in the beginning stages of learning; they've only had one or two lessons, and have quite a ways to go before they can be baptized, but we're really excited to help them. The only sad thing is when you have an investigator who after a while just stops answering your phone calls and doesn't reply to your texts. It happens all the time, that someone will just completely disappear. Currently, we reported on six investigators during our last Coordination meeting with our Ward Mission Leader. Of all the missionaries in the ward, there are currently 18 investigators that we are meeting with in total. Some newer, some from longer ago, etc. But then in Priesthood meeting, our Ward Mission Leader announced that "the missionaries promised us that by the end of next month we can have 18 baptisms." Now, I'm not being too critical, but a lot of people won't make it all the way through the system, or they won't make it fast enough. But, I guess we have a goal now for our ward. So far this year, the ward has had 19 baptisms. And now, our Ward Mission Leader is trying to get at least 30 by the end of the year. We have work to do.

However, we were able to attend the temple to do baptisms for the dead this past week, and take two of our Recent Converts to the temple for the first time. It's always a cool opportunity to go to the temple, and especially take those who have recently be baptized; giving them a chance to start seeing some of the other ordinances of the gospel. Our Mission President has a really big goal right now of all RC's going to the temple within 30 days of their baptism, so that's what's been a big focus here.

This week is the Mid Autumn Festival here in Taiwan. And for some reason, it's a big deal. I'm not sure what its origin is, I'm not sure most Taiwanese people know what its origin is, but they're just happy because they get a three day vacation (the weekend and Monday), which is very uncommon in Taiwan (people here work A TON and get paid way little). But for some reason, during this festival, all the people go out and barbecue meat. They don't do BBQ much during the year, except during this festival, almost everyone is out on the streets with their little grills and sausages and other cuts of meat. The whole family is there, and it's really quite a sight. We went contacting a couple of families who were out BBQ'ing, and they didn't really care about religion but we got a couple of sausages out of it. (People in Taiwan really are very nice.)

RUSSIANS! And by that, I mean yesterday, right after we finished dinner, someone found us and was like, "There are two foreigners here, they want to know about the church, they speak English but not Chinese." So we went to find who these people were that wanted a tour of the church. Turns out, it's this nice old Russian couple who says, "We don't have many churches in Russia, so we wanted to learn more about this church and how it helps people, especially like, what morals it teaches." They didn't have much time, but we gave them a short tour and explained simply a few things and gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon in Russian (the only copy in the entire building, which was on display in a cabinet showing all the different languages that the Book of Mormon is translated into). They took our contact information but weren't really willing to give us theirs. Hopefully they read it and find missionaries again.

Transfers will be this Thursday. The missionaries will be coming, and I'm not moving, but my companion is leaving and training, so I'll have someone new soon. Exciting! And a little nerve wracking, too. I hope I get a good new Zone Leader companion. 

Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mission Letter 9/21/2015

Dear family and friends,

This past week was awesome! Fall is in the air... so it's still like, upward of 30 degrees Celsius during the day, but there's a cool breeze that just makes a missionary feel happy.




This week was different than most weeks. Because our investigator pool was pretty low (they all got baptized or vanished), we had lots of finding and street contacting to start our week off. But we saw some pretty cool miracles throughout the week. The first couple days of the week, we had hours of straight finding without anything to break it up, and by Saturday, we were scrambled to start and end each lesson on time, travel across the city in ten minutes in order to get to the next appointment and stay on schedule, etc.

One of the highlights of this week was that we met with a 72-year old Amah (grandmother) referral. Someone had met her on the street (and the reason she agreed to meet again was because she sees young people, wants to treat them as her own children and let them come inside an air conditioned home and eat food. So she met with us, gave us a bunch of food, and spake some Taiwanese to us (an old language in Taiwan, different from Chinese. All the older generation speaks it). She has a friend who often takes her to a church, but at that church they do what they consider the "gift of tongues," where they all seem to scream and wail and make their tongues do strange things and then say that they're speaking prophecies and revelations (but no one knows what they mean). She was kinda making fun of them and trying to imitate what they did for us by trilling her lips at a high pitch, shaking her arms, and nodding her head, before she would lean back and start chuckling. (An active, chuckling 72-year old Amah is quite cute.) But she came to church this week, asked if she could come back next week (of course, we said yes), and we're really excited for her! She also wants to take us out to dinner this week.

We bumped into an LA on the street. We've been trying to meet with her mother. The one we ran into is actually a student studying her last year of high school. Normally, on Sunday, she also has classes that don't let her come to church, but everything else had fallen off the radar, too (studying the scriptures, praying, etc.). But she was happy to see us, let us share a scripture with her, and set up to meet with her again. We've been trying to set up with the family forever, but the Mom has always been like, "we'll see you at church and set up a time then," or "can we just meet when church ends?" But now, we've found a way to go and meet them at a different time, something we've been trying to do for weeks. Another miracle.

One miracle we saw last night as we were trying to finish our week well was a lady who is not baptized but considers herself Christian and is willing to do basically everything we asked. We met her on the street, as she was going to get dinner. She has attended different churches in the past, but has not been baptized mainly because her father opposes it. But we had a lesson with her on the street, invited her to church (she said she'd come if she could this week), gave her a Book of Mormon (she said she'd read it), invited her to be baptized (we set a date for 11/4), and asked if we could meet again (we set up for tomorrow). So, basically, she's awesome.

Sometimes church is really boring. I probably shouldn't view it that way as a missionary, but in Taiwan, all the people here LOVE to tell stories. FOREVER. On, and on, and on, and it may not even be relevant. But if you ask one question, you should find yourself a chair, because they may embark on a 20 minute story. And the ward I'm in, Sacrament Meeting is notorious for going overtime, every week, by like 20 minutes. For some reason, this past week they set up 4 speakers. And by the time the first two were done, Sacrament Meeting should have been concluding. But they still let the other two speak, and so Sacrament Meeting just kept going and going. Both the investigators we brought to church fell asleep. But whatever. The classes were better, and they were able to stay awake in those.

Transfers were supposed to be this week. But because some missionaries have visa problems (again), and they're not sure when they're coming (a week, or maybe a whole transfer later), they'll probably push the transfer meeting back a little bit. It throws everything off.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mission Letter 9/14/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been a wonderful week! It's been lots of fun, and a little crazy. 

First off, Nathan was baptized this week! We were so excited! He's a ten year old kid, and his parents are members. He's been living with his grandparents, but his Mom just came back from Canada. While with his grandparents, he didn't go to church (they oppose it a little bit). But when his Mom returned, she started bringing him to church again, and now, a little over a month later, he's been baptized. He's a really cool kid, with a really fun personality. He has several friends at church, kids the same age as him, so that's really good. 



All of our good investigators, and the ones that had baptismal dates, have either been baptized or disappeared from the face of the earth. All of our other investigators are also really busy, or not answering our phone calls. So, we're back at square one now, in a sense. We will have tons of finding time in the coming couple weeks, as we try to find more investigators again to be baptized. 

But life is going really good! I'm happy, and the weather is getting better. It's been so comfortable this past week or so. When the summer was really hot, every time our ward mission leader saw us he would tell us hard we were working. He would tell the ward (during announcements, etc.) that missionary work during the summer was really hard because it's so hot and nobody wants to talk to you. But now the weather is better. Hopefully we can find more people will to stop longer and talk to us.

The Jin Hua ward where I'm currently serving wants to split by the end of the year. The only thing that's holding them back is a lack of worthy, full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Once they have enough (it's a ratio, but I'm not sure what the ratio is), the ward could split immediately. Wards in Taiwan are much smaller than those in the US; here, about 120 people is considered a large ward, ready to be split. Quite the difference from Utah. So we're doing our best to help people get the Melchizedek Priesthood and also find the less actives around here.

This week, we also had Outdoor Zone Conference! This is the first time I have ever gone to an "Outdoor Zone Conference;" the last time they had one was right before I arrived in Taiwan. We went and hiked up this mountain called Yang Ming Mountain. It's simply gorgeous! I have never hiked up there before. We all arrived at the Mission Office before 7 in the morning, and at 8 AM we finally departed. It was about an hour drive up a mountain, and down another side (many missionaries started feeling somewhat motion sick, including me, because it's been such a long time since I've been in a vehicle for an extended period of time. I never realized that after a while of not driving, you actually aren't used to driving again). Wherever we started the hike, it was close to the base. Either I've gotten really fit, or the mountain wasn't terribly tall. Still, it was a good hike, and we stopped at various points along the trail for some trainings. It was one of the best training meetings I've ever been too, and nature was simply stunning. It was nice being out of the busy, noisy, bad smelling city. We were originally scheduled to arrive home at 5 PM and then go back to our areas to keep doing missionary work, but we got back down at 7:20 PM, and then we went back to our areas. President Jergensen is very laid back about some things; he's an awesome guy. He's very on top of things, and very loving.

The time has flown by. Next week is transfers, and in all likelihood, my companion will transfer. If so, this will be the first time that I stay in an area for more than two transfers; up until now, I've been like a hot potato that just won't stay put. At the start of the next transfer, will be the start of my 10th transfer, and Elders in Taiwan have a total of 16 transfers during their mission. The time really is going by fast.

Scripture of the Day:
John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mission Letter 9/7/2015

Dear Family and Friends,

It was a most wonderful week! Not a ton happened, and I'm not quite sure where all the time went. It always feels like we're so busy, and at other times it feels like we've got absolutely nothing to do but go outside and walk/bike around talking to people for hours upon hours, but then before you know it, it's the end of the week. And especially as zone leaders, we have to follow up and then report on every missionary companionship in the zone, and it's then you realize, wow, I haven't talked to these people since last week. Whoops. Probably should have called them like, once.

We had the wonderful opportunity this week of taking one of our Recent Converts, Brother Li, to the temple to do baptisms for the dead for the first time! Because the temple isn't necessarily always busy, you have to schedule in advance to attend baptisms. Normally, the font is drained, but when you schedule they fill it up; they also don't like to fill it up for just one or two people; they prefer to have at least five. 

So last Sunday, we told Brother Li to plan on Tuesday night, since because of his work schedule, that's the only time in the near future where he would be able to attend. So we started about scheduling it with the temple. We only got in contact with the temple Tuesday afternoon, so it was from that moment on a scramble to find other people to attend with us (because now it was confirmed). So we called Brother Li to confirm him, but then he didn't answer his phone. Until about an hour before we were supposed to go to the temple. We also found another companionship with an RC that they could take to the temple. After dealing with that, we went to some other appointments before our scheduled time.

So when we finally came back, our RC was dressed in street clothes, shorts, and nike's. I took one look at him and thought, "Are we going to take him into the temple like that?" Apparently, he didn't realize we were going to the temple tonight; he thought we were just meeting with him. But anyway; we took him inside. In Utah, if you went into the temple like that, people would give you the strangest looks. But in Taiwan, I guess they're more used to the "new member" "I didn't know better" culture. So, we were able to do baptisms. But because we were only able to find 2 RC's instead of the desired 5, each of them were baptized and confirmed 20 times. Yes. Many times.

While we were there, another companionship of sisters brought their Recent Convert, a certain Filipino lady. She thought that it was tons of fun. Sometimes she came back up out of the water giggling, saying, "This is fun!" One time she told the guy baptizing her, "You're so strong." It was somewhat humorous.

It was also really cool for the baptizer. When he originally came to the temple, he had planned on doing Endowments. But then, after he had gotten changed, the temple workers asked for volunteers to do Initiatories. So he volunteered. After he had gotten changed, the temple workers once again were looking for a volunteer to come do the baptizing, because my companion and I were being the witnesses. So he volunteered again and changed his clothes for the third time. But while he was doing the baptisms, he saw a name that he recognized; his grandfather's grandfather. He had given the names to the temple because there were too many for him to do himself, and then that night, he had the opportunity to perform the ordinance for one of them. It was a really cool experience; we were all really touched.

Sister Ju, who was baptized last week, went to the US this week. She went to visit her boyfriend who lives in Arizona. She'll be gone for a little while, but when she comes back near the end of this month, we're going to help her get ready to go to the temple, too.

On another note, I don't teach English anymore. The English unit leader said it's because there are too many teachers and there's not a class for us to teach anymore, but I personally think it's because my English has gotten progressively worse and worse. When we got a senior missionary couple about a month ago (President Jergensen's in-laws), they took over our class and left us without anything to do. So now we just don't attend. But that's okay; we were running out of ideas of what to teach. It was getting very hard.

We also have a little ten year old kid named Nathan who is getting baptized next week! He passed his interview yesterday. He's so cool. His parents are both members (divorced, and now he lives with his Mom who is actually active). His Mom just returned from Canada; before that, he was living with his grandparents. So, now he's being introduced to church by his Mom, and next week he's getting baptized! We're so excited for him. He's a cool little kid.

Things are all going pretty good! It's always like, where does the time go? The transfer is drawing to an end, and I will (almost definitely) have a new companion. I will probably take over the area (making this the first time I stay in an area for more than three months) and will probably have to train a new zone leader. But anyway. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission
Sequoia.Ploeg@myLDSmail.net