Monday, April 14, 2014

April 13 2014 Letter

Hey Family!

So this past week has been as it feels always a week of difficulties, challenges, and burdens. But that I have grown and have been so spiritually fed, it is amazing.

I don't know about you, but when General Conference comes I love it so much. Maybe just being a missionary has allowed me to appreciate it on a galactic scale. 

So yes we get to listen to all of the sessions over the span of Saturday and Sunday. They set it up in the chapel building having Chinese in the cultural hall and then English in a classroom. Needless to say, yes I watched English (ain't no way I am going to watch Chinese. Sorry but I am not a native). But so it started Saturday with 2-4, then 4:30-6:30, then 7-9 (the Sisters do not get to watch Priesthood session, so they leave at this point). Then Sunday is 8:30-12:30 (yeah pretty much no real break, just a straight shot through). 

I won't lie but I feel like my 6th move call will go down in my books as probably one of my most difficult and trying times ever. The morning of conference ended up being hard and we didn't get a lot done that morning, just mainly trying to make some calls. I ended up not being hungry at lunch. And this is my prelude into General Conference.

When I went to General Conference it literally just rocketed me into outer space with so much hope, so much desire to improve and change, and so much motivation. Sadly the talk I was looking forward to listen to (Elder Bednar) because you mentioned it, I actually didn't get to listen to all of it because at the latter half of it Brother NNN had just gotten to the church, so I needed to go out and get him, get him set up sitting by Elder Chen in the Chinese session (and thank goodness he came before President Monson's talk, and he stayed for the second Sunday session).

For me though I feel that one of my actual favorite and most inspiring talks was by Elder Nelson. Which is surprising because as of the past few years he hasn't been one who has touched and reached out to me. But this time it felt like what he was sharing was what I exactly needed. I hadn't ever really formulated it in my mind, but I know now more than ever I need to develop my faith greater than ever in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Which is why I feel that Priesthood Session ended up being a power play for me. Elder Oaks taught for me became very informative and opened up greater understanding. Then it just took off from there as it move through Elder Hallstrom to Elder Ridd, then onto the First Presidency. What it taught me and has helped to really give me the greatest direction in how I want to improve right now starts with the Book of Mormon. I am committing greater than ever with a much more fiery passion to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning, but with this specific focus: building upon the rock of our Redeemer. This comes from Elder Andersen's talk to read the Book of Mormon to strengthen trust and faith. By strengthening and developing my faith in Christ it will help me to have greater courage in facing my fears (whether from temptation and sin to things I don't like or are uncomfortable). And by this courage I will have greater virtue and I feel self-confidence. Then by this I may more powerfully testify, teach, and preach the gospel. I will not feel burdened down and letting the rocks of mistakes, past sins, current temptations and weaknesses get at me and pummel my foundation into dust. For I will be built upon the rock of Christ. So this is my current undertaking and what I am working towards (by the way Priesthood session ended up being the session I took the most notes on, 6 pages).

As for the work here in Zhanghua. Yes I am staying in Zhanghua. Elder Chen moved to Yuanshan (that was the neighboring area my MTC companion Elder Turner was trained in). Elder Oldham (who is actually quite funny is moving from Yuanshan) is moving to Zhanghua to become my new companion. I think he is only one move call behind me. So you got me senior on my 7th with Elder Oldham just on his 6th. We are going to have a hard fun time. Sadly our new investigators has been harder this last move call and is something I will focus and pray more than ever that we can find. That is why I am undertaking the improvement and change to myself to read the Book of Mormon to strengthen my faith and testimony. So I can more fully let the Spirit into my life to guide and direct us. Brother NNN is having his baptismal goal moved back a week. He isn't quite there. He is coming to the baptismal service on Saturday and will have a baptismal interview after the service with Elder Kou. I pray for him always. But this is a lot of my doings here on the island of Taiwan.

Dad, Mom, family, I love you all so much. There isn't a day that goes by I don't think of you. You have some invites as well from Elder Ballard to study Preach My Gospel (something I need to improve upon) and to share with your missionary ;)

Love you so much!

Elder Roo

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 6, 2014 Letter

Hey Dad! where to begin? 

So this past week I went on exchanges with Elder Kou, my district leader. I went to his area and mainly we did a lot of LA hunting to go find out their situation and if they even still lived there. It rained that day and I only had my rain jacket with me, so my pants got all wet. But later in the afternoon my pants dried. Funniest thing though is that my bike is still so filthy from that day. There is dirt pretty much all over the back part of the frame, the fenders, and even on my box.

Thursday came and that was Elder Chen's birthday (very close with mine, dui bu dui?). But so at first Elder Chen told me he was turning 25. Wednesday night after English some members who were helping me to go get a cake and stuff were asking what age would he be. We finally got a hold of Elder Chen's backpack to see his ID card and check. Because Taiwan uses a year system for when the country was formed, that is what the ID card said, year 78. But because it is 2014 and the year 103, the members got their numbers backwards coming to the conclusion that he would be turning 26. So we got the cake and everything with the numbers 26. Thursday night is our Book of Mormon class, so after the class we brought out the cake and everything with 26. And then Elder Chen said I am turning 25. Oops, :/ We all had a good laugh though and I am sure he will remember it. Another thing that a member gave him was this huge party popper (hence the picture) because Elder Chen hates pretty much all types of party poppers (even the little small ones). I really want to pop this big one on the last day of the move call on our roof. It is Elder Chen's though, but I think I can convince him to do it ;)

Friday came and RRR (not baptized, waiting until he graduates, wasn't even me that found him, but just was in the process along the way to help him) came up to Zhanghua in the morning. We had lunch together with him as well as Brother ZZZ. Afterwards he helped to sit in on our lesson and teach Brother ZZZ the 3rd lesson. We also watched a few Mormon messages with them. Then RRR had to leave to get his train going back down to Jiayi where he would have dinner with Elder Mudrow and Elder Hansen. It was really fun to see him and he also brought me square cookies as well as pineapple cake. The Taiwanese love giving little gifts to everyone. It's crazy! We have so much food at our apartment now.

Afterwards in the afternoon the Assistants came down and went on exchanges with the Zhanghua 1 and 2 wards elders (me and Elder Chen and then Elder Kou and Elder Chiang). So at first Elder Yang went with Elder Chen and I to visit some LAs and contact. Learned a lot from him especially some other ways to try and contact people in a more simple way. Afterwards that night we came back because Elder Edwards (he was in my area for 9 months) really wanted to go out with Elder Chen and I we met back at the church and out of happen chance me, Elder Edwards, and Elder Kou went out with the car to go to a lesson by the train station. But so this investigator we met with was mine and Elder Chen's investigator but actually lives in Elder Kou and Chiang's area. So we had been planning to hand him over, and this opportunity worked out best so that Elder Kou could come, introduce himself, and let Brother NNN get to know him. The lesson was a little off, but still good, but at the same time Brother NNN was still feeling very nervous about going to church and feeling scared. He is one that will need a lot of help in distilling hope and faith in him. But I learned a really cool example I have been using a lot to teach about needing in our lives scriptures, prayer, and church. Using the Book of Mormon, I first try to balance it on one finger. This is as if you only had one of those three things in your life. Then use two fingers. Both times it is nearly impossible to balance the book. But when you use three fingers and explain this is like when you are doing those three things in your life there is balance for the book and that is when peace, happiness, and the blessings come.

Saturday we had a service project. Once a year all of Taiwan go to their graves and clean them and then as well do some ancestral worship stuff. We however, come and serve, helping to clean graves or clean up the areas around. So all of Saturday morning we went and did this. It was neat to see all the different graves and how they are very much different from what ours are like. We visited an LA afterwards. I mainly used my time Saturday night writing our progress record and making phone calls (I managed to confirm 2 people for church the next day, 1 of which came and then set up 2 lessons for tomorrow, one of which I have really high hopes for).

Now as for Brother ZZZ he is progressing. He needs to just have commandments taught to him, the big ones being Law of Chastity, Tithing and Fast, and then Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. Our plan is to have him ready for a baptismal interview at the end of this week. I have been praying a lot for him and specifically fasted for him yesterday that his desire to drink tea would leave him. Since last Wednesday to now he has been keeping the Word of Wisdom. It's a matter now of really helping him to develop more and more faith and see the blessings that come from the Word of Wisdom. He already knows more about why not to drink coffee or black tea, but it is more the green tea is for him a problem. I really testified to him the importance of knowing Joseph Smith is a prophet and how that will build and stabilize that the WoW is a commandment from God. I really hope he continues to progress well and be ready for his date, but a part of me feels we may need to push back by one week so everything doesn't get too rushed. He is really great guy though and good friend, really fun to talk with and he comes to a lot of activities and church.

So this is pretty much what my week has been like. We are coming up on the end of the transfer now and it will be General Conference (which I am really looking forward to! :D ).

Love you so much!

Elder Roo

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Letter to Dad - March 30

Hey Dad!

So first I feel to talk to you about your testimony sharing with your boss and the lady who is native Chinese. Good for you, never let an opportunity drop to share and testify. This brings to mind though what you were talking about with China and their ban on religion. Besides China banning the sharing and proselyting of religion, did you know that there are actually no chapel buildings or anything in mainland China? I have now slowly over the last while found more things out about what is going on in the world (really as a missionary you become so isolated from the world and have no idea what is going on). About Russia and Ukraine it wasn't until about 3 weeks ago when we went to visit the 80 year old man we are helping to prepare to go to the temple that learned a little about it. We were sitting with him while he was eating dinner (he lives at a old person home up on 八卦山, so it is quite a little exerting bike ride to get up, but you come down so fast, like I have gotten up to 37 mph) and they have the TV on with news and it was showing some other country news broadcast comparing Ukraine's forces to Russia's forces. Then just yesterday from a couple of Americans who teach English here that come to church I found out more what exactly has been going down with those countries. 

The second thing is I don't know if you have noticed what has been going on in Taibei, but pretty much it is what is all over the news as of late and on a lot of peoples minds. That is the the Taiwanese president is actually from mainland China and is considering giving control of Taiwan back to China, which means China's laws would be enforced here in Taiwan, which means us missionaries as well as all chapels and even probably the temple would be breaking the law. So that is why not last Sunday, but before the previous Sunday I had gotten a call from my leader that Sister Blickenstaff was inviting every missionary that Sunday to fast for Taiwan. We continue to work and as well pray that things will work for the best and that the Lord's work will be able to continue to progress forward here in Taiwan. We have great goals for the next 5 years we are working towards (namely the biggest is getting to 20 stakes here in Taiwan as well as a second temple in Gaoxiong).

Dad I fully agree with you about forgiving myself and forgetting my past mistakes and such. It was actually interesting that it felt like I got a double-header this past week with getting one letter on Wednesday and then the next on Thursday (both of the big ones with talks in them). Needless to say I am striving to digest and embrace everything that was said in the letters. I actually am still studying on Matthew 11:28-30. I am still in the process of writing down a lot of my thoughts and understanding from those verses. So hopefully next week I will have that more ready to share.

I have come to create a positive label to tell myself each day. It is this: I am a virtuous son of God with my own unique attributes and weaknesses, striving along the path of joy to grow and improve, who hopes to live my best so that my Heavenly Father rejoices each day of my life. Sometimes I shorten it and tell myself just the first part when I really need to bolster myself.

But so things have been progressing and improving. Brother YYY we have met with a couple times this past week. We taught him more fully the Plan of Salvation and as well as taught him the Word of Wisdom. Right now his challenges are with coffee and tea. Mainly more about tea. He still doesn't know exactly why green tea is not ok to drink. But we have invited him to commit this week to obey the Word of Wisdom and see what differences there are or if there are blessings he sees. He has progressed so much in his development and faith of praying and reading though, which makes me so happy. He understands to go and pray about the questions he has (like as well pertaining to resurrection and reincarnation) and we taught how to study the scriptures more effectively (he almost every day reads the Book of Mormon). I pray and hope he will be prepared and ready for his goal on 4/19. It's a matter of also being able to teach him all the lessons and that he is keeping and obeying the commandments. 

So this past week QQQ came up to 彰化 and saw me. Quick note about QQQ and then as well as RRR. Both are not baptized yet. Yes RRR from Jiayi is not baptized. He is waiting to graduate first in May. I actually will see RRR on Friday because it is spring break and he is coming up to 彰化. But so QQQ came up and we had dinner together and we had a really great time talking and especially seeing how he is doing lately. If you don't remember QQQ is the one Elder Mudrow and I tracted into and were the first Elders to teach him the gospel. He told me about how one week he had been given the invite from Elder Mudrow and Elder Hansen to read Moroni 10. Up to this point he was having the feeling about maybe getting baptized. But after reading through Moroni 10 he said he said the greatest reassurance that it was true, that what he had been learning was right and felt such a good warm and peaceful feeling. So he really wants to get baptized now. The thing that is holding back right now is his parents opposing, especially his mom. It makes me so sad how many people I meet with and their parents oppose so fiercely that they don't dare do anything. But QQQ is 19 right now so he has to wait until he is 20 to make the choice for himself and not need his parents consent, or he is going to Australia in July and can maybe get baptized there (I don't know the missionaries rules about parental consent there). I am so excited and happy for him though. He bought and gave me these two canisters of Baked Wheat Cookies (they are actually really good, like Wheat thins, only a bit thicker) that are only in Jiayi.

There were a few more experiences I wanted to share but I will have to write them down in my journal and maybe another time will get them told to you. It seems like so much there is never enough time to do anything or study all that I want or write down all that I want. Ughhh....Oh well that is about cherishing what you have and what is given you.

Lastly my personal feelings is that I would love to find someone who I baptize and help to fully come unto Christ and endure to the end. But at the same time I feel like I am more like one those few who is there at vital moments to teach or testify to progress someone along their path. Especially a few experiences from this past week and even my mission time have shown how much I am not the one baptizing but helping in vital areas.

Love you so so much!\

Elder Roo

Letter to Dad - March 23

Hey Dad!

Hmm, where to begin? Definitely I feel the tender mercies of the Lord continuously in my life and see so much, so many times when He reaches out to me. Thank you for what you have shared with me. Lots of things you share with me I strive to do. I actually had the thought go through me last week about a previous letter you sent about asking if I am doing what the Lord has asked me to do, am I doing my best, and are people accepting my message.

I really had thoughts a lot directed towards the second question, about am I doing my best. That is the thing that sometimes gets me. I never really know if I am actually doing my best. Because of how deep sometimes my sense of perfectionism can run, I can't see clearly and understand that I am giving and doing my best. I constantly see others and see what is being done around me and immediately feel that I need to be doing that as well and that my work I have been giving is not satisfactory as I am not doing that (sometimes these are things I had already learned of before or had already seen done before). And so it sometimes gets hard for me to really tell myself to calm down and know I have been giving my best.

One thing about church and befriending those around us. President Blickenstaff actually came out and said that for the 3 hours of church we companionships are not allowed to separate from each other and that we must sit side by side, even in sacrament meeting. He said he had been seeing one too many problems to come out and give this rule. So we still strive to befriend and help those around us. But we also call on our RCs as well as LAs to help in befriending, accompanying, and sitting by those in the ward.

So this past week as I have mentioned has been a week of great strengths as well as some further furnace time to really put me on the right path of recovery and improvement.

Tuesday came and that day Elder Kou (my district leader) had scheduled to do companion exchanges with us. Elder Kou came to our area and I went to his with his companion Elder Chiang (a native companion, whose English is just about the same as Elder Chen or maybe a little better). As we started the day out I was still feeling down. But as we progressed on and seeing Elder Chiang with his love and desire he has helped to start to heal me. By the time night came and we came home I was doing a lot better. But I still didn't know a lot about Elder Chiang himself. It is actually really amazing how much I don't know about people and how often my first views of someone can be quite wrong. One instance was before with Elder Watson on exchanges. And now this instance. I thought Elder Chiang was probably some 18-19 year old native who had just gotten done training (yes he actually had just gotten done training). Turns out that he is actually 25 and has already graduated in civil engineering and has also done his military service as well. And that part of his family is inactive even though he was born into the covenant. From this experience and exchange it helped to revitalize a lot the desire and fire within me to go out and serve and help others.

Also during that Wednesday with Elder Chiang we went to visit a potential investigator who is an artist. He has a pet weiner dog who I was pretty much playing with and petting the whole time while we talked with him and got to know him. Needless to say I think that dachsund really loved me because he might not have had that much attention or love in a long time. I did try to pick him up and give him a hug at the end of the lesson, but the guy quickly told me not to do that because he is scared of heights. :( Oh well, I did get to pet him a lot though and learned how to say weiner dog in Chinese now.

Thursday came and it was Birthday day (thanks for singing to me and everything, the time you sang actually was when I took those few pictures I have sent with everything I got). Also thank you for going to the temple and praying for me. But so originally Zone Conference was going to be in Yuanlin, so we would need to take a train ride to get to the chapel there. But instead they changed the location to our chapel here in Zhanghua. So Elder Chen and I took a nice 2 minute walk to the chapel to attend Zone Conference (I got to wear my new suit). Zone Conference for me was really great in overall but still had some parts that nicked at my feelings of worry and stress. Large parts of time when ever leaders go on over expectations or numbers it can get to me sometimes pretty hard with my stress and worries. But it was still good. The assistants taught and reviewed over our morning schedule, emphasizing Elder Holland's statement saying "you tell me how your morning goes at 6:30 am and I will tell you how the rest of your day goes". President Blickenstaff in particular focused on teaching the doctrine of Christ and had us split into groups discussing 2nd Nephi 31 in the aspect of before baptism to after baptism. I was studying after baptism, then what? and right out the start I noticed in verse 3 it talking about the Lord will bring light to understanding. It made think on how we come to know things to a point to prepare for and receive baptism. But afterwards we still continue to learn and grow. It is like the sun as it progresses and rises more and more is illuminated (like our knowledge and understanding) until it progresses to noon day where it shines the brightest and in a sense is perfect (like what we are progressing towards).

Right now Elder Chen and I are working with a really solid investigator. He had a baptismal date for this Saturday, but we have pushed it back to April 19 (together with him we have set this date). We reviewed the first lesson yesterday and watched the Restoration video. He has been doing really good of trying to read the Book of Mormon each day, has been praying, and even praying asking questions about what we have taught and shared. He has come to church 3 times and he frequently comes and attends other activities. We introduced the Plan of Salvation to him and plan to continue on teaching him to help him reach his goal in April.

I am striving to work towards really having that true joy and happiness. To be happy each day.  President Blickenstaff actually mentioned in ZC about a talk by P. Uchtdorf on love that got me interested and I have copied over to my external drive now so I can print it off later to study.

I love you and miss always!

Elder Roo