Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just Chillin' Here in PuLi

Elders of Taichung!

Dear Family and Friends,
 Hey everyone!  How's it going today?  It's a chilly one here today in PuLi, snowing up in the higher mountains, and it almost feels like I'm back in good ol' Utah.  It was great talking with you all last week and getting the latest update on life.  From that point on I received lots of Christmas cards from family and friends and I just want to express my gratitude and love to you all for your 關心.  Sorry I don't know how to best term that word... (love and care ).  Look forward to a 'thank you' card in a few weeks.  
So other than batting the cold we were battling to find some new investigators.  We are looking forward to the baptism of Brother Xu this week, and look forward to helping his two sons work  towards baptism in the coming weeks.  Being on the downhill end of the mission with only a few months left, I've been pondering a lot lately on how I can exert all I have to establish and strengthen the church in PuLi, as well as in my own life. I thought and thought and thought, and ended up setting a bunch of goals for the things I want to accomplish as a missionary in the year 2013, as well as for the rest of the year.  Meaningful goals and careful planning are critical to accomplish our desires in life.  As the new year rolls around it is a great time to ponder on what we have accomplished in the previous year, and where we can improve for the upcoming  year.   As I have pondered on the year of 2012 I have made some goals to help me magnify my calling and to see real growth within the branch here in PuLi and in my own life in the gospel.  The point I want to focus on today is faith.  I hope this doesn't feel like a talk, I just want to write something for you all.  Faith is the first principle of the gospel, and leads us to take action.  It leads us to repent, it leads us to serve, it leads us to live better lives.  The scriptures have many examples who show great faith: Nephi, Ether, Alma, Ammon, etc... and  I love each of their examples.  One scripture in particular I like is Moroni 7:33, "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me."  Woah, that is a wonderful promised blessing.  If we have faith, we can accomplish anything.  I hope that at we all can reflect on this past year and set goals for the year 2013, and then act in faith to accomplish these goals.  Setting goals, making plans, and taking actions have helped me progress as an individual in the gospel, and I know it can help you all too.  Spencer, look at your email for a special letter :)  I know that with faith we can accomplish great things.  I know that as we have faith, repent, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will experience true happiness in our lives and with our families forever.  It's true, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass."  I love you all!    

With Tons of Love,
Elder Nick Smith

Monday, December 24, 2012

It Was Merry Talkin' to You!

Family and Friends,

No official letter this week from Elder Smith but we did have a wonderful skype/video call with Nick Sunday evening our time (it was his regular p-day, Monday there). He is looking well and enjoying a new area and his first Taiwanese companion who has just been out in the field 3 months and is 18 years old. Elder Smith would like to wish all family and friend a Merry Christmas and thanks you for any and all prayers offered in his behalf. We are amazed at how well he can speak the Mandarin language and realize that small decisions like taking a language in high school for credit, was a means to helping him prepare for this opportunity to share the gospel with the people of Taiwan. Elder Smith has 5 more months left and is going strong! 

Merry Christmas from our family to each of you,

The Smiths
All decked out in a new suit! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Christmas from PuLi

Do I look like I've been "Naughty" or "Nice"? HO HO HO!
Dear Family and Friends,?
So, this letter will be rather short.  So news came out and yes, I have moved to PuLi.  I have a new companion, Elder Shang, and yes he is my first Taiwanese companion :)  He is super awesome and we've gotten along really well so far. 
As for news, I will be Skyping you all next Monday :) can't wait to hear and see you all.  We'll do it around 10:30 or 11 in our time on Monday so it'll be Sunday I don't know what time there.  Just be ready.  I sent two unexpected "Christmas packages" home.  Be prepared!  The items inside you'll love. Talk to you next week,
Merry Christmas
With Tons of Love,
Elder Nick Smith

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Monkey Business

P-day excurtion (check out the city in the distance--it's white, already to harvest)

Dear family and friends,
Hey!  How's it going everyone?  December is finally here!  It just doesn't feel like it yet... snow, Christmas decorations, everything we don't have.  However, the Christmas music has kept me in the Christmas mode ever since Halloween ended so that has been nice.  It is always so nice to hear from you all and the updates on everything.  Not a whole lot has changed for us here in the "Small Harbor," but was overall a pretty great week.
Monday we began on the top of "Monkey Mountain" where we spent the day hiking with the monkeys.  I've never played with monkeys before in my life so it was quite fun/scary.  We had a great proselyting day by going to visit with Brother Chen.  He has still been struggling to quit smoking and so we visited and lifted up his spirits, boosting up his faith to throw this trial out the window.  We also visited with a member of our ward who actually got in a scooter accident going to church so we visited him and gave him a priesthood blessing.  We ended the night by english proselyting in the GuiLin Nightmarket. 
Tuesday we had a great District Training Meeting where I taught about how we can better strengthen our recent converts.  I found a little "diamond" and taught that teaching the Doctrine of Christ will do more to strengthen the trust between us missionaries and the members and bump up the desire to do missionary work.  So that is what we focused on.  Then we went on Zone Leader exchanges and Elder Allen came on over to the XiaoGang with me where we got to work.  He is such an awesome missionary and such a great example to me in the work.  He is a pretty young missionary and I was privileged to learn a lot from him.  
Wednesday, not a lot happened.  We had interviews with President Bishop along with planner checks.  We then had a short amount of time to proselyte before teaching english.
Thursday our teaching pool was pretty low and so we went out and hit the streets contacting, searching for those prepared souls to hear the gospel.
Friday we had visited with a Brother Wu, and investigator who has lots and lots of questions about Christianity.  He was born as a Christian but has had lots and lots of doubts, and lots and lots of questions about everything.  Well, he really really really likes to talk, and every question he brings up, the restored gospel can answer them--its just he isn't very willing to let us missionaries talk.  It's been rough these past few times visiting with him, and so we're hoping that during the next time we visit him, we can just lay it straight and teach him the one message that will answer and make straight every question he has.  We then had a ward dinner party and had several investigators lined up to attend, but upon arrival, none of them showed up.  But all was well . . . the sister missionaries were at the church and needed a baptismal interview, so I was glad I was there ready to go.
Saturday began by attending the funeral of a member who recently passed away.  Although he wasn't a relative of mine, it was comforting to know of Heavenly Father's Plan and for the knowledge about it.  I'm grateful that death isn't the end and that there is more to experience in the life to come.  It was very comforting to know that this old "bei bei" is in a better place, resting from the trials and challenges that he faced during the later part of his life.  The Plan is real! And it's our role as missionaries to spread this message so that all can have a fair chance to return to live with their God.  I'm grateful for this time I have to share what I know to be true, to share that "Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father's plan."  There is no greater joy than helping these Taiwanese make that step closer to their Heavenly Father.  
I love His plan, I love His work, and I love you all.  
With Tons of Love,
Elder Nick Smith

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ba-da-boom, Ba-da-Boom

Speak no evil, Hear no evil, See no evil!
Dear Family and Friends,
Hello, hello, hello!  How's it all going for you all?  From what I heard, all is well back in the USA.  It was sad to about the "minivan-funeral" in the family.  Tears were shed as I saw the photo of that big truck drive away, taking it away from us.  It will never be forgotten may it rest in peace.  Sounds like you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving  week.  All went well here in the XiaoGang this past week so lets get on into it.    
Monday was a pretty great day!  Headed downtown, bought an early Christmas that is very "suiting," and then we visited with our investigator Brother Chen.  We taught him the Law of Tithing and Law of the Fast and is willing to live and keep these commandments, despite current challenges.  He's got great faith and a desire to change his life around.  He's doing pretty good, still working a few things out with him and will be looking good for baptism here in the next few weeks.
Wednesday we visited with one of the recent converts here and began teaching him his new member lessons.  He has been super busy with work every since I got here and we finally found a time to begin.  He is super great, his testimony has increased a lot these past few months, and is working towards going to the temple in a few weeks.  Super good!  
Thanksgiving Thursday was super great!  That turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, apple pie with whipped cream tasted so so good.  However, there were a few alterations a.k.a Subway.  That was the closest thing we could get to a thanksgiving dinner, but it was delicious.  Today we were able to visit with a ward family, Yang family, and strengthen our relationship with them.  It is always good to hear the testimonies and conversion stories of families.  We taught them the Plan of Salvation and they will be working towards and doing what is necessary to live obtain the celestial kingdom as a family.    
Saturday was a super rushed day.  As a missionary in Taiwan riding a bicycle is super convenient when proselyting on the scooter infested roads, but when it comes to cruising across the map in jam packed times, the level of inconvenience steps down a few levels.  We began at the church for the baptism of two sisters.  From the baptismal service we rushed across the map to visit with a Brother Guo, a man we have visited with a few times.  He has had some experiences in the past and just feels that prayer is ineffective.  We did the best we could to teach the ins and outs of prayer, and we're hoping that he sees the effectiveness that comes from prayer.  From there we traveled to our secondary area GuiLin and visited with a young family where only the mom and the kids are members.  We taught them the Plan of Salvation and encouraged the mom to share the blessings of the gospel with her husband.  Miracles can and will come if we have faith and show our desire.  We were surprised on the way out as she "qing'd" us Korean food for dinner.  After stuffing up we traveled back to our land and visited/ate dinner with another part-member family and got to know them better than we did before.  We then had to cruise on over to the KFC here and we visited with and talked to him about the importance of modern revelation.  We had taught a portion of the Plan of Salvation earlier on and had some doubts about the pre-mortal life.  We talked about modern revelation, brought it back to the Restoration, and then finished teaching the Plan of Salvation.  He's doing pretty well and he really likes learning and adding onto what he already knows.  He just is needs to add oil in the most important areas of all, reading and praying.  
Our focus as a mission for this past week was charity and finding service opportunities.  During the week we were able to find quite a few unplanned chances to serve and it just felt super good to do.  "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."  We all have opportunities daily where we can serve and help another.  They may be hard to find, but as we see others and their situations as God sees them, they will pop out like a soar them.  Serving just feels good, and I'm glad I have this time to serve not only my God, but also the people of Taiwan.  "Seek and ye shall find..."    
With Tons of Love,
Elder Nick Smith

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Almost hit my nose in the face...Happy Thanksgiving!

Visiting Brother Hua in the hospital
Dear everybody!
Stuffing, potatoes, and turkey, OH MY!  It's Thanksgiving time!  The holiday season has begun so you better start to bundle on up cause "baby it's cold outside."  This week was amazing, a bit chilly for me, but all in all, all is well.  I'm glad to hear that things have "chilled" down a bit with you all and it was so good to hear from you.  I hope you are all doing well, if not, then I hope things start going will for you here in the next little while.  As I think I said a few weeks ago there is a lot to be thankful for at this time of year, and hopefully I can share a few things today.  
This week started out super good by going to Lotus Pond up in downtown GaoXiong to do some looking around and then to go visit Brother Hua in the hospital.  It was so good to see his face again and just talk and catch up with him.  He already had a date scheduled to get surgery to get his knee replaced and he also found out he had an irregular heartbeat, so I'm not sure what they do with that.  Other than that he is doing great and I'm glad I had the chance to see him again.  
We have been blessed to be working with Brother Chen, these past few weeks and in just a short time we have seen a "new creature" within him.  He has a huge desire to change himself and come unto Christ.  We have taught all he needs to be prepared for his interview, except law of tithing and fasting, and he is willing to live and accept it all.  He has realized he has weaknesses and that he isn't perfect, but he is trying his best.  This week he shared with us a story which truly reflected his desire to change and become better.  He had gone a few days without smoking and was doing really well, until finally he just had this strong urge to smoke.  He fell in, relapsed, and just felt super bad awful afterwards.  He couldn't take it anymore and finally went over to his member friend's home and said he needed help.  His member friend talked about priesthood blessings and then offered one to him.  There is already a strong relationship between those two which I think has made all the difference in Brother Chen's progress.  If all goes well this next week he will be good for an interview and then his baptism next week.  We're really excited for him!  He has truly progressed so much in such a short amount of time.  
I love the scripture Ether 12:27, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;  for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will i make weak things become strong unto them."  Weaknesses, everybody has them.  We are promised that if we humble ourselves, have faith in Christ, our weaknesses will become our strengths.  I truly love this principle and know that it is true.  I have seen it applied in my own life, and especially in the life of Brother Chen.  
There is so much to be grateful for at this time of season.  Reflecting back on this past year and a half as a missionary, I have learned so much as a representative of Jesus Christ and as a fellow student of the gospel that I am grateful for.  I'm grateful for my wonderful family and the examples they are to me, especially my mom and dad.  I truly have been "born of goodly parents" and I'm grateful for the love they have expressed towards me throughout my life.  I'm grateful for my siblings and for the support and love they show to me.  In addition, I'm grateful for my loving Father in Heaven who has provided a wonderful plan for me in this life.  I'm grateful for His Son, Jesus Christ, and for the sacrifice He made for me.  I'm grateful that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can be forgiven, making it possible to return to live with my Heavenly Father again.  I'm grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the peace, joy, and freedom it has given me in my life.  I'm grateful for the scriptures.  They truly have guided me down a happy road and helped me find true peace and happiness in this life.  I'm grateful for each and everyone of you and for the impact you have had on my life.  I love you all! Enjoy this holiday season for me!  
With Tons of Love,
Elder Nick Smith