Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mission Letter 10/19/2015

Dear family and friends,

Last week was so BUSY! Between exchanges and meetings and other things, I had barely any time with my own companion in my own area. On Tuesday to Wednesday, we had an exchange, as well as on Thursday to Friday and Friday to Saturday. Because we have to do so many exchanges, and because the transfer is one week shorter than usual, we have to do several back to back exchanges. So, one of us will come home, and a couple hours later the other one will go out somewhere else. But it's a ton of fun; I get to see a lot of other places and work with a lot of other missionaries. 

I had an exchange with Luzhou this week, and got to be with an Elder from my MTC District for a week. It was a ton of fun! We were roommates in the MTC. It was a lot of fun to talk about how the mission has been going so far, how much we've changed, etc. Doing missionary work together was a lot of fun. Of the two of us in our MTC district, we were the two who had never learned Chinese before, and so it's really quite miraculous how comfortable we are now, walking together down the street, talking to random people in Chinese. Sometimes I think about it, and it's amazing to me how the language has come. Conversational, that is; start talking about jazz or engineering and I'll be completely lost again. 

I've seemed to come to a rather large barricade in the language; there are so many characters. I've been learning many of them, and I was on a roll for a little bit, but then I went back and started reviewing, and now I'm stuck on the same ones, over and over again, and lost the general push and desire to memorize because they're just not sticking. Learning to read and write Chinese is like learning a whole new language on top of learning to speak. I think it's harder than learning to speak. Yes, it's definitely harder. There are so many words that are pronounced the same but written differently! Written communication is still a work in progress.

The Zone Sister Training Leaders as well as us met together with the Stake President this week, to correlate the Stake's hopes and aspirations and help the missionaries in the zone work to accomplish those goals. We learnt that they've already applied to split the Stake. If it is approved by Church Headquarters, they'll take two stakes, in essence combine them and then split them into three. There will be some branches becoming wards here in Taipei (it's hard to imagine we still have any branches in this large city), and it's all really just exciting. So, it's not like the missionaries here are currently working toward a goal (because the deed's already been done), but they do not know that the goal existed or has already been met. So we'll hopefully use that as motivation for people. 

This past week we also went to a member's home and held family home evening, and she invited a less active to come. And our member that we invited to come with us to this member's home (because we can't visit a female without another male) brought a nonmember friend, so that was awesome, too! We had a fun family home evening, taught about patience and the Atonement, and then ate some of the best things on earth:

AUSTRALIAN MEAT PIES. This sister in the picture served a mission in Australia, and returned about 1 year ago (she's been baptized a little over three years). So she shares my love for meat pies, and she knew we were coming, so somehow she found a guy who sells them, and she cooked them for us. DELICIOUS.

This coming week is promising to be just as busy as last week. It's going to be a party again. I hope all is going well back home and in the ward! Thank you to all those who send me emails and letters! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mission Letter 10/12/2015

Dear family and friends,

It's been another wonderful week, filled with many busy things! This past week, we had a Preparation Day, a Zone Training Meeting, Interviews with President, and two days of General Conference, which just took a lot of time out of our week. But it was still awesome!

We started the week with Zone Training Meeting. This was kind of the first time where I took the lead during the meeting (because since my companion transferred, I'm now in a sense "training" a new Zone Leader, but he's doing fine), and it went pretty good. At the end of each month, the mission holds a Mission Leader Conference that all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders attend, and we receive trainings from President and Sister Jergensen, the Assistants, and the Temple Sisters (basically the sister equivalent of Assistants in our mission). Then, we take all of those trainings, and present them to our own zones, as well as adding in little things that we specifically plan for our individual zone. The meeting went really well.

They had this one part where they showed us a video of every missionary in the zone, and a picture of the time they were baptized. That was pretty special. It's been years since I've seen that picture, and it brought back a lot of memories. Their question to us was, what would your life be like without baptism? Why is baptism important to us, and to other people? It was a super good training, that gave all of us more motive to go out and invite other people to prepare for baptism.

We also had our interviews with President Jergensen this week, followed by an exchange with the Assistants. As Zone Leaders, we (are supposed to) go on exchanges with the Assistants once a transfer. Basically, it was a nice relaxing day out of my area where I got to see the Assistants' house. It's not exactly what you would call tidy and clean, but since they live down the street from where the mission stores all the furniture, they kinda sneakily took two small couches and placed them in their study room as the chair for their desk (as opposed to a regular chair). So now, they basically have "thrones" in their rooms. 

Nevertheless, it was an awesome opportunity to go teach some of their own investigators and less actives. Elder Huntsman used the word "friend" endlessly in talking to both of those we met with, which at first made me a little uncomfortable, just hearing him use the word in literally every other sentence, but I guess it made a point and an impression, that our investigators really must understand that we love them and have that at the center of our work, that we're trying to help them as friends, and not baptize them as businessmen.

We then had General Conference on Saturday (11AM-1PM, 2-4PM, 5-7PM, so basically the whole day) and Sunday (9-11AM, 12-2PM). The whole thing was awesome! A few of my favourite parts included these:

Elder Larry R. Lawrence:
Let's consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life.

When he met the Savior, he asked, "What lack I yet?"

Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man. "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me."

The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer.

President Harold B. Lee taught, "Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must [at] one time ask ourselves this question, 'What lack I yet?'"

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not "more" of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally,there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will "make weak things become strong." Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.

I learned in my life that we don't need to be "more" of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.

God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.

Right after the last session ended, after about 10 minutes, the broadcast switched to BYU TV which was broadcasting the football game, which was hilarious when that popped on the screen in the chapel, with full sound and screaming crowds. 

It's been a wonderful week. I'm really excited for this coming week, and helping our area get kicked back up again. 

The weather is getting cold. But if I think that this weather is cold, I'm going to DIE when I go back to Utah. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mission Letter 10/5/2015

Dear family and friends,

This week was awesome! A crazy, crazy week, but really good.

We started the week with a typhoon. We were once again required to stay inside during the evening hours. While the storm was pretty windy and rainy during the day, it got pretty crazy at 5 PM, so we were outside enjoying our P-Day until then. We ate lunch with some missionaries and members at a restaurant, and we sat and ate outside under a small pavilion. It was quite a once in a lifetime experience, devouring fried chicken in a typhoon. 

As we were returning home, we first took the Metro to the stop closest to our house (we were considering biking home from the church where we spent our Preparation Day, until we took one step outside and realized what the weather was really like). Then, as we ascended the escalator, the wind got stronger and stronger until we emerged from the exit. There were ceiling panels missing, wind gusting all over the place. So, naturally, we stepped straight outside and started heading for home. One man at the exit told us, "Wow, you're so brave!" To which we responded, "Want to come with us? It's only going to get worse." To which he agreed to accompany us.

About 1 minute into the journey, down comes this rotten board of wood from overhead, missing him by a couple feet and slamming into a car about six feet away from us. The same gust of wind snapped my name tag right off of my pocket and threw it thirty feet in another direction. There was no chance of finding it then; it was too dangerous to stay where we were. We took another alleyway that ran perpendicular to the wind direction. Another gust blew all the plates and glass cups onto the floor of every restaurant on the street (so we heard a whole bunch of glass breaking). But, we eventually made it home and bunkered up for the night. By the next morning, the whole typhoon had passed. As we returned to the church the way we had come the day before, we found my name tag, a whole couple streets away from where I had lost it. Now, that made me happy.

We had transfers, and my new companion is super awesome! His name is Elder Okeson. I'm not sure where he's from exactly; the longest his family has ever stayed in one place is Michigan, for 8 years, a long time ago, and now his family lives in China, and has been there for the past 8 years. But now he's here in Central Taipei, after spending most of his mission in very rural little places. He's been out on his mission just one transfer longer than I have, and he's awesome! I'm so excited for the coming transfer or two.

Because my former companion is training this transfer as well, he had meetings for a day, and I went on a temporary exchange--with Elder Welch, one of my friends from High School! That was awesome. I totally pulled some strings to get that one to happen; and by pulled some strings, I mean I asked the Assistant's and they were like, sure. So it wasn't that hard, but we had a party for a day.

We had Mission Leadership Council this week. President Jergensen is a mimimalist. He says, focus on just a few things but to do them like a Jedi Master. Now, that's just me putting words in his mouth, but that's the gist of things. So, formerly, our mission would track 28 key indicators on a weekly basis (and submit a report on things like lessons, how many Book of Mormons we gave out, how many baptisms, member visits, or new investigators we had, etc.), but now we will track 10 things. So that will be fun, and make counting up all those things much easier. SUPER EXCITING! President Jergensen is awesome. He's an awesome man. And an excellent Misison President. 

This week met a Brother Hu and Sister Zhang, and they are super awesome! We ran into them on the street on our way home one night. They are both exchange students studying in Taiwan for one semester. They are actually from China, and for the most part don't know about church. But the cool part? They want to know about church. So we invited them to the chapel to come do a temple tour (which is basically a tour of the chapel that's next door and a lesson about Christ). So they came, and were really touched by the story of Christ, and the concept of forgiveness. She said that because in China they are taught there is no God, it's hard for her to grasp the concept, but by the end she was somewhat weeping because she must have something in her life that's a little hard. But we're super excited to keep meeting with them and help them prepare for baptism before they go back to China. We gave them copies of the Book of Mormon (in simplified Chinese characters), and they basically started reading it instantly. It was so cool! Such a big miracle. 

And that was basically this week. Awesome! I am really excited for the coming couple of weeks, too. We will probably have tons of meetings this week as well. So, fun. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission