Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mission Letter 3/28/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week has been super...interesting. Perhaps one of the longest, most tedious, weeks of my mission. As missionaries, in Taiwan especially, we are used to getting rejected a decent amount, but we are also used to frequent success in street contacting, setting up lessons, and teaching the gospel. Unlike many missions in the world which have seemingly stagnated, stuck in an everlasting tracting phase, we are blessed in Taiwan to serve in a place where people are usually willing to talk to us, for the most part. 

But this past week was so rough. Rejection upon rejection upon no one wanting to give us even 5 seconds. It gets old when the only thing you say to people is, "Hello! How are you?" for hours, and the only response you get from everyone walking by is, "不用," (bu yong) which basically means, "No." Translated literally it comes out to "No use." I'll explain more after the following picture:

​CAPTION: Me wearing the most stylish face mask you've ever seen, along with my companion at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, close to the Taiwan Taipei Temple. Pretty cool. Super big.

This week, my companion and I decided to clear out our investigator pool. There were several "eternal investigators" (people who have met with missionaries for long periods of time without progression) that we met with for the last time this week. We did such a good job of dropping non-progressing investigators, that we have almost no investigators left. 

That left us with bounteous periods of finding time. Most days this week, we had over five hours of walking up and down streets. Now, Sanxia, while tons and tons of people live here, it's not a big place. Most of the buildings here are 14-26 stories tall, and house hundreds of units and thousands of people. So you'll most likely never run into the same people, but it's not like there is that much variety in finding, either. 

First off, this past Friday marked the first day of sun after a 35 day streak of daily rain. At least, that's what I've heard. Feels about right, though.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were super rough. In total, we had 19 hours on the street, talking to people, and in total had one person actually have a lesson with us on the street. That was rough, because that means the rest of the time was just waving at people busily walking by us without stopping. 

That much time with that little result leaves one thinking, what am I doing here? Am I doing something wrong? Are the people just a "hardened people?" Are we in the wrong place? Why is this week so different from every other week?

That's about this week in a nutshell. Too much thinking about everything, over analyzing, and not much getting done. 

Until Sunday night. We saw so many big miracles on Sunday night. It started at 7 PM, when we ran into the wife and children of one of our investigators, Brother Lin. He is the one who has been looking for the truth for 25 years. The whole family is Christian, but because of some things that happened at their last church, their pastor didn't welcome them anymore. And when they left, none of the members went looking for them, or anything. And then they met us. The husband has slowly been having all of his questions answered by the gospel. It's amazing how long God has been preparing their family. And now that they've run into their special set of circumstances, the time is right for them as a family to get to know the gospel. The wife has some awesome questions, too, that the gospel answers. We will meet with the whole family this Tuesday, at the Bishop's home. We're super excited.

Sunday night at 8PM, we met with a referral that another set of Elders contacted in Banqiao. His name is Ricky. Turns out, he had a friend in Junior High that was a Mormon and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. One of his ex-girlfriends was also Mormon, and he's been to church a few times, activities a few times, and the Taiwan Temple Grounds a few times. He is so prepared to hear the gospel, it's not even funny. He got fellowshipped really well by the members who attended the lesson with us, he has a baptismal date goal, and is super willing to keep learning. I'm confident that he too, will get baptized. 

So, after a week that felt like it was a total failure, it turned out to be one of the most miraculous weeks of my mission. I am confident that both Brother Lin and his family, as well as Jacky will get baptized in the next two months. And I am so excited. Because I know how the gospel will bless their lives.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I sure will!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mission Letter 3/21/2016

Dear family ad friends,

This past week has been simply awesome. My companion and I are just such goofballs together; I don't know, we met each other and something just clicked. But we are able to get so much work done, as we laugh and have the greatest time of our lives doing missionary work. 

​CAPTION: My companion, Elder Reintjes, and myself, exploring the river banks of our area during dinner time. We got a good scare from a wild dog and got a way just in time. Turns out, he wasn't interested in us at all. 

We have an English Class in Sanxia. It's only been open for six months. We teach it in a nearby Community Center/Library. We have about 25 students in total among the four classes. The only difficult thing is that it's the same students every week, and there's never really any new ones. It's just kinda stagnated. Which is good that we have solid English students, but the real point of English Class is to have new people who we can also ask if they're interested in the gospel, because that's the real reason we teach English Class. But we got some new tracts recently, so we're working on promoting our English Class again. 

In our ward here in Sanxia, there are literally zero young men. At least, not active. I think there might be one or two LA young men. But since there are none, the ward doesn't even have a Young Men's program or Presidency (for good reason, I guess) ButElder Reintjes and I have been trying to build up the Young Men's Quorums by finding 12 year old children. Well, not literally. But we did meet a super cool 12 year old guy who was willing to learn more about the gospel. He was surprisingly mature, and his Chinese was so advanced I couldn't always understand what he was saying. We currently have 2 investigators who are 12 years old, hopefully we can continue meeting with them. 

Met with our Bishop this past week. We had dinner over at his house. He has the cutest, smallest, most active 8 year old son I have ever seen. Our Bishop has served as Bishop for close to 10 years, a SUPER long time. He's super awesome though. He was Bishop over a certain ward, and then the ward split, and he continued serving as bishop of the new ward. In Taiwan, there tends to be a habit of serving as bishop for super long periods of time because the smaller size of the wards, the general lack of brethren to fill all the various callings, etc. In Taiwan, once a ward reaches about 150 people, the ward splits. Very different from America. America has to be like, double that. But it's cool. Our Bishop is awesome, and his family is super cool. He works super hard. 

And then I caught a flu which knocked me out for two days. But I'm better now. My companion took real good care of me, and as I slept, he got tons of extra language study time. The trick now is to make sure he doesn't get sick. Even though we lost a couple days of the week, we still got a lot of work done, and met with several of our progressing investigators. The work is going well, I love Sanxia and Taiwan and the mission and my companion. 

Life's good! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mission Letter 3/14/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week was awesome. I originally thought spring was finally here, it had been sunny for a week and was getting quite warm, until it started pouring rain and getting cold again about halfway through the week. Today it feels like winter again. But that's okay! The longer I'm not sweating like a pig, the better. 

​CAPTION: The Tucheng District doing their very best Kung Fu poses.

This past week was transfers. The above picture is my District before transfers, at our last District Meeting. Since I was the District Leader (that changed during transfers, too), I made the executive decision that this meeting was also going to be memorable. So we held it outside. 

In the morning, the weather was great. As we approached noontime, it kinda became overcast. And by the time it was one o'clock, when district meeting starts, it was rather cloudy. We arrived at a park near the church, on a river, and the moment the meeting started, so did the rain. So we last minute changed locations to this place under a giant bridge. Still outdoors, just not quite as beautiful as originally planned. 

We then had a wonderful lesson on Moses 1, failure followed by success, God's ultimate plan and source of happiness (it's us), and all the beautiful parts of Creation. We had some time for personal reflection and prayer, as we spread out throughout the park (but of course, still within sight and sound of our respective companions). It was one of the best things of my life, having time to just go sit amongst nature, in a quite place (there's not much of that in Taiwan), and just be able to think and ponder and pray. I highly suggest doing it sometime.

Then Thursday was transfers. Training has ended! I said goodbye to Elder Falck, set him on a train across Taipei to Xizhi, and waited for my new companion to come to me. So I'm still here in Sanxia. My new companion is Elder Reintjes! He's a totally goofy, very energetic, excited, hard working missionary who has been in Taiwan for 5 months. Our goofiness complements each other. It's going to be an incredible transfer. 

​CAPTION: In the elevator after a nice rainy day. #selfietime

We worked really hard once we got put together. Having a missionary that's already trained is quite a different feeling. Yes, training was fun, but a little stressful. Now we can focus even more on the missionary work part, and we're excited to be in Sanxia. 

I'll report more on what's happening in our area next week. We're still trying to "refresh" the area, now that we're starting a new companionship. It's going to be awesome. The work of the Lord is not only fulfilling, but it's super fun, too. I've never had so much fun doing one thing in my life before. Yes, missionary work can be hard, but it is so rewarding; everyone is always trying to improve, you're always focused on people other than yourself and trying to help them improve, too. It's one of the best experiences in a lifetime.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mission Letter 3/7/2016

Dear family and friends,

This week was Stake Conference. Which for us, meant an hour commute into Taipei to a chapel that isn't in our Stake. Actually, it is basically the Church Headquarters in Taiwan. Because all the chapels in Taipei aren't big enough to hold a Stake, we all travel to the Service Center (which is also a chapel) for Stake Conference. That means, throughout the year, there are 5 Stakes which hold their stake conference there. It's a giant building, but it's quite a distance from our area.

We have this investigator, a Brother Lin. He is super cool. He joined a different church 25 years ago, while he was doing his military service, but from then till now, he's never felt like he's "felt" any sort of communication from God. He really wants to know which religion is true, because there are so many, which confuses him. He tells us that Buddhism and Daoism definitely can't be true, because of the changes to its doctrine throughout history. He understands the story of Joseph Smith, and has tons and tons of questions that other ministers and pastors would not or could not answer for him, but are one by one being answered here. It's amazing. He has a wife and two children, too. We haven't met with them, but they did come to a ward activity (which we ourselves were unfortunately unable to attend). But it seems like the ward did a good job of taking care of them.

We met a kid this week who met missionaries when he was in Junior High School, and they gave him a Book of Mormon. Eventually he lost contact with them, and now he's 18 years old, and we tracted into him the other day. Somehow we found out that he'd gone to activities at our church before (in a different location) and his Book of Mormon is "exactly the same as yours!" In fact, he's read the entire thing before. He considers himself Christian; he doesn't attend church, he's not baptized, and his father dislikes it all, but he himself believes and is willing to meet with us some more. So awesome! The father we can work on more later. 

Other than that, it's transfers this week. This Thursday one of us will leave the area (or both, maybe). Elder Falck asked President if he could stay in the area, and got the respones, "I can't let you and Elder Ploeg go eternal (go 3 transfers instead of 2), I want you to support whatever happens, but buckle up." Which put Elder Falck into a mind torment trying to figure out what that actually meant. 

The miracles keep coming. Sorry the letter isn't too long today. I hope all is well at home! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Sequoia Ploeg

Taiwan Taipei Mission