Monday, January 23, 2012

The Power of Prayer Brings the Power to Change

Well Hello,
To be honest, it feels like just yesterday that I emailed home.  Wow everything is just going by so fast right now.  I also hear that you will be hosting 2 Taiwanese students coming here soon.  That is so awesome!  You'll absolutely love them.  You'll have to tell me all about them.  I am super excited to tell about this week.  Some really strange things and some really awesome things happened, so here we go...
Monday for preparation day we just spent our hours with a few of the ward members who decided to move down to Australia.  We ate lunch together, some fried chicken (Anthony you would have loved it, its a billion times better than KFC), and some sushi that mom and dad would have absolutely loved.  After all that went on, we sat down with one of our really awesome/shy investigators, Zheng dx.  He is progressing pretty well, he just doesn't talk at all.  We taught him the Law of Chastity and Law of Tithing.  Super awesome and is super willing to keep these commandments.  We then ran into this really nice guy who wanted us to go over to his house right then so we could share a message about our church.  We got to his house and he started having us feel the temperature of the different types of floor in his house: tile, fake plasticy wood, and real wood.  Then he began showing us all the different idols he worships and how he worships them.  Without going into too much, things got pretty sketchy and he ended up just leaving.
Tuesday we began by helping the previous Branch President paint his house that he is building right now.  It was probably the most fun I've ever had painting in my life.  We then ate lunch with him and all his workers.  We tried teaching his workers a small message about the church, but they were too focused on trying to get us to drink, smoke, and eat binlang (the super nasty nut/drug everyone here eats).  Obviously as a missionary I wouldn't do those things, but I'm so glad I was taught from a young age on what is healthy and what isn't.  We then cruised on down to DTM and learned from our wonderful District Leader on the role of the Book of Mormon.  Well, today is the day that students began to not have school because of the Chinese New Year coming up.  We then headed to the courts to teach and contact all the many people playing basketball.  We had a lot of fun doing that, and then we taught one of our other investigators Emily on the Law of Tithing.  She really understood the need for this commandment and really grasps what we teach her, even though she is only 10 years old. 
Wednesday we sat down and taught one of my most favorite people I have met on my mission so far.  He is another one of our progressors, Hua dx, and he truly understands everything that we teach.  I think I may have mentioned him in last weeks letter, and so today we taught him the Plan of Salvation.  When we finished teaching I asked him what he the Plan of Salvation meant to him.  He said that he realizes that he needs to repent in order to return to live with God.  He truly understood why our life on earth is so important.  He told us that he was going to start repenting of his sins.  So awesome!  Well, from there we headed on over to English class where I taught about how 'Enlish is so confusing', the materials dad sent to me.  Haha the students absolutely hated it.  They were complaining on how English was so hard and stuff.  I'm just glad I already know it!
The best part about Thursday was that we sat down with Zheng dx, the shy one, and went over the baptismal interview questions.  You ask why?  Turns out that he wants to get baptized and is having his interview this weekend.  Prepared him for that, and is looking good for baptism.  The only problem that could cause him to not get baptized is the parents.  He is only 15 and needs parent permission, but his dad seems completely against us.  So we'll be praying that his dad softens his heart. 
Friday...Zheng dx passed his baptismal interview!!!  We are so excited for him and his growth in this gospel.  All he needs now is permission from his dad. 
Saturday was by far my favorite part of the week.  We sat down again with Hua dx and we began by giving him some talks on the church's stand on ancestral worship.  We gave him the articles and he began talking about ancestral worship.  Earlier this week we gave him some scriptures to read over, and one of them hit him really hard.  He said that last night, friday night, he read one of the scriptures and decided to pray about it.  He said after he prayed he had this really awesome feeling within him.  He said after he had that feeling, he decided to grab all his "bai bai" stuff (all the woship dolls, cups, trays, EVERTHING) and throw it all out.  He didn't want anything to do with that stuff anymore.  WOW!!!  Truly is a huge change for him in his life.  This was a huge testimony builder on prayer.  I know without a doubt that God really hears and answers each one of our prayers.  After that awesome moment we taught him about faith, repentance, and baptism.  The spirit truly was the teacher in that lesson and accepted the invitation to be baptized.  He is so ready and his testimony is already so strong. 
Sunday was Chinese New Year's Eve.  There were tons of people down in this super small town, but shops were closed and everyone was at home, making it a little harder to do anything but tract.  We were then invited to eat with two part member families to help build and strengthen their testimonies, along with helping the nonmembers. 
Well, this is has been an amazing time to work with these progressors, and has truly been a testimony builder.  A few months ago I expressed that nothing was going where I was at, no progressors or anything.  However, I shared that scripture on how we need to be patient, and the Lord will give us success.  I am now seeing that this blessing truly is coming to pass.  I am grateful for the testimony I have and I'm striving to strenghten it daily.  I'm grateful for this chance to serve and I love and miss you all. 
Love, Elder Smith

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year

Hello Everybody,
Hope you all had a wonderful Chinese New Year, cause I sure did!  This week couldn't have gone any better!  I not only learned so much about the chinese culture during the new Chinese year, but I also had the chance to see so much improvement from our wonderful investigator, Hua dx.  Before I jump into what happened this week, I just want to wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year!
Monday we had a member from Taipei come down and invited us to eat dinner with her and her family.  This is the only time her entire family is together, because of the Chinese New Year, and she has been working super hard to give them a chance to hear the gospel.  We ate dinner, chatted for a while with the family, and then shared a message with those who didn't run off.  The best thing we could do was plant the gospel seed inside of them, because they live all over Taiwan for work and school.
Tuesday was such an amazing day!  We headed up to MuDan, where all the Taiwanese aborigines live, to help our super awesome investigator, Hua dx, out.  He brought us up to his house so that we could help him throw out all of his Buddhist worshipping stuff.  On the way up he introduced us to his friends who he one day wants to share the gospel with.  We then got to his home and he had us pray so that he could clean/throw out the Buddhist stuff ok.  After all that happened he took us back to HengChun where we proselyted and visited a few of the recent converts here.  Not long after, a family from the ward took us to KenDing where they took us to go eat.  During the Chinese New Year, everyone wants to give us food and take us out to eat.  Its crazy!  Sad news, our investigator who we had planned to be baptized gave us a call and told us some news.  He had asked his dad for permission to be baptized, and his dad told him no.  We were sad, but we know that as we/he continues to show faith in Christ, the Lord will provide a way for him to be baptized. 
Wednesday was the busiest day down in our area.  It was the day where everyone decided to come tour the area of HengChun.  Tons of people to talk to which meant tons of referrals.  We did get to sit down with Hua dx to teach him a few more of the commandments.  He absolutely has no problem keeping the commandments.  He has told us if he is breaking one, he will immediately change and begin living that commandment.  I absolutely love this man!  After we visited him, we went tracting and found a pretty good family.  They are also Presbyterian, but as they read and pray about the Book of Mormon, they can come to know more about the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. 
Thursday found us up in GaoXiong for Zone Conference.  The focus was on promised blessings and exact obedience.  The biggest thing I learned from the conference is that it is super important to give promised blessings in contacting, teaching, in every situation we get.  If we don't, then it won't give these people a reason to change there lives, a reason to meet with us again.  We then came home with one of the Assistants, Elder Petterson, for Assistant Exchanges.
Friday, we sat down with our Hua dx and taught him the law of tithing.  I would just like to share his quote with you.  Its not word for word, but its pretty close.  He said, "Yeah I can definately keep it.  In Buddhism we pay money to buy "bai bai" things: the incense, the paper money, etc... but we end up burning it all in the end.  Paying our tithing to God makes a lot more sense.  For example, it goes to build churches, temples, to make Books of Mormon.  All these things we can actually use for our benefit."  He is so awesome, so awesome that we decided to put him through an interview for baptism right then and there.  Turns out he passed with flying colors!  He will be getting baptized here on February 11th, and we're so looking forward to it.  We then sat down with our Zheng dx and shared with him 1 Nephi 7:12.  We told him that as he continues to exercise his faith, the Lord will provide a way for him to be baptized.  He encouraged him to share his testimony and a few other things to help persuade his dad.  We're praying that his dad will soften his heart. 
Saturday we began by sitting down with another really good investigator named Alice.  It was the first time we had met with her, but she came to church last week and really seemed to like it.  She is the only Christian in her family, about Spencer's age.  She really knows a lot about Christ, and seemed pretty fascinated by the Book of Mormon.  She seems pretty golden to me... We asked her about baptism and she said, "when and what do I need to bring."  My companion responded by saying February 25th and all you need to bring is yourself, a towel, and some clean underwear haha.  We then traveled to a super far area, GangKou, where a member took us out to dinner and introduced us to some of her friends. 
Wow, I am absolutely loving life right now.  I'm grateful for the wonderful privilege I have to work in this beautiful area of HengChun.  I absolutely love the people here, and love those I have had the opportunity to serve with and introduce the gospel to.  Serving a mission isn't the easiest thing in life, but as we push forward "with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men" the Lord will be there to lead and guide us to success.  I absolutely love you all and wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year!
Love, Elder Smith

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Wish We Could Have Baptized Her in the Ocean :)

Beach in KenDing!
Baptism of Pan JM
Elder Field, Pan JM, Elder Smith (me!)
Hello Everyone,
This week was simply amazing and so I wanna get right on into it.  Our preparation day was spent relaxing on the beach in KenDing (down at the very very very bottom of Taiwan).  Wow it has been forever since I was last at a beach.  The weather was perfect and the waves kept on crashing in, oh I was so tempted to jump in and start swimming.  Maybe next time we can get away with it by having a baptism there... Anyway, after p-day was over, we had such a good lesson with one of our progressors, Zheng dx, on the word of wisdom.  He is super willing to live every commitment that we give him, and has no real problem with any of them.
Tuesday started off with a long and bumpy bus ride up to our District Training Meeting, and then an even longer, bumpier bus ride back to our area.  These bus rides are getting better and better, meaning I get less sick every time.  So later on that night we sat down with one of our less-active families and taught them about the heroes we have in our lives, Book of Mormon heroes, and then the best hero we could ever have, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This lesson really helped me realize all the heroes that I have and have had in my life. 
Wednesday we found a super super super awesome investigator.  Turns out that our plans for half the day fell through, and so it resulted in us contacting for half the day. If they hadn't fallen through, we probably never would have found this man.  He was helping with some construction on the super old wall that surrounds HengChun and he was resting in his car for a bit.  He is actually Presbytyrian? or Protestant.  I don't know what it is in English haha but yeah..  So we taught him the Message of the Restoration and he just went off on how it all made sense to him.  He was so awesome and wanted to come to church with us this Sunday!
Friday was my second favorite day of the week.  We ended up going on exchanges with the Zone Leaders, and who did I end up going with?... My trainer, Elder Johnson!  I was so excited to go back with him for a short while to proselyte just like the good ol' days.  I learned so much from him on how I can be a better missionary. 
Saturday, my favorite day of the week, we baptized Pan JM!!!  It was such a wonderful baptism and everything went so smoothly.  It could have been in the ocean, but the weather was too cold to do so.  Darn!  She was a bit nervous for it all, but all went well.  I'm so glad I've had the chance to see her change and to help her enter the path that leads back to our Heavenly Father.  
It has been such a wonderful week, and I hope for many more just like it.  I hope you all have fun in school, at work, etc... I'm grateful for all of your prayers and support!  
Love, Elder Smith

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rockin Here in HengChun

Hello everyone,
Happy Birthday MOM!!! I love you!  Hope you ate a lot of cake and ice cream for me.  Other than mom's birthday, it sounds like you all had a crazy week: snowboarding, starting college, kids being sick, listening to Air Supply.  As for me, this week was pretty crazy as well.  So lets get right on into it.
Tuesday morning started off by me waking up with a super soar throart.  Kind of makes speaking in chinese a little difficult.  We started our day off super good by teaching one of our eternal investigators, Pan jm, about a certain commandment along with the Atonement.  We gave her an awesome demonstration/parable (in chinese it's said biyu [bee you] so I don't really no what it means in english).  Without going into two much info, it just helped her see that we cannot get rid of those bad feelings that come from sin by ourself.  It is only through the Atonment that we can do so.  It really helped her see the importance of baptism as well.  She ended up picking her own baptismal date, which just so happens to be this coming weekend! She first needs her interview this Saturday.  Anyway, I then went on companion exchanges, with Elder White and we had such a fun time working hard down here in HengChun.  We ended up sitting down with another one of our progressing investigators and taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Invited him to be baptized, and he said sure.  We pretty much asked him when he wanted to be baptized, and we would help him prepare for that day.  He choose for this coming Saturday as well, but because he hasn't been to church enough, there was no way.  We told him we wished we could, but he needed more time to prepare. Set a goal with him, and we're now helping him prepare for that day. 
Wednesday didn't start off so well.  A long, super bumpy bus ride didn't really help the morning start off right.  By the time we got to the different area to exchange back, I was not doing so well.  I only had to do the exact same thing back to our area, so the entire day I was not feeling good at all.  After we got back to our area we sat down with one of our less-actives.  We did our best to strengthen him and help him come back, but we also gave him an invitiation to start bearing his testimony with his friends, sharing the gospel with them, inviting them to church, etc...  Then we had english class and I taught the advanced class, and some of the students just so happened to ask a few questions about some wording.  This might be hard to explain, so just have dad tell you what English stuff he sent me last week.  These students had the same problems, so thank you dad for sending those.  Inspiration right there...  So I'll be using those exercises again this coming week for English class.
Thursday and Friday were pretty rough days.  Tried our best to find new people, rescue less-actives, etc..
Saturday was Mom's birthday :)  Mom, just want you to know that my companion and I both sang happy birthday!  yeah...  Today, we found a really cool guy and ended up playing basketball with him for a bit.  After we were done, we shared with him the Message of the Restoration.  He will be going into dangbing, the required army service here, so it'll be rough to sit with him in the future, but he is willing to read when he can and then pray.  Then we went to Pan jm's baptismal interview and she passed.  We're so looking forward to her baptism this next weekend!
Well, this may sound weird, but I'm so grateful for the time I have each morning to have my personal study. This morning I realized so much about how this gospel has blessed my life, and that everything I have gone through in the past has helped refine me to who I am right now.  This time as a missionary will also refine me as to who I will become.  This is another reason why I am grateful to be here serving a mission.  I love you all!
Love, Elder Smith

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Dear Family and Friends,
These past weeks have been so wonderful!  Being able to celebrate Christmas and reflecting on the birth of our Savior.  Not only His birth, but His life and Atonement.  It is also a new year!  Such a great time to look back and make goals on where and how I can grow and improve.  I am so glad I was able to skype you all.  It was good to see all of your faces, especially Anthony's cause I haven't seen him in forever.  I'm glad to have you all a part of my family (hope that makes sense).  Speaking of family...Mom and Dad....HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!  I love you two and I am so grateful to have you as my parents.  I'm grateful for all you two have taught me, and I'm so grateful to have been brought him in this church.  Thank you two for your diligence, hard work, and patience with working and dealing with me.  Love you!  Well now on to this past week.
Tuesday we had such a powerful first lesson.  We sat down with a 15 year old boy, Zheng, that we ran into last week.  When we got there he was playing on his computer, like everyone else here in Taiwan.  As he sat down with us his older brother came out and just yelled at him and tore him down.  Telling him he is worthless, wasting time playing computer and then meeting with missionaries and not spending time on school.  This brother gave him so much crap that this boy started crying.  We settled things down and were able to teach him about God and how he is our Loving Heavenly Father.  It was so powerful and I know without a doubt that God knows each one of us.  He knows our struggles and our pains and is always there to help and lift us up. 
Wednesday, (Happy Anniversary) we taught one of our eternal investigators, Sister Pan.  We actually ended up using Anthony's demonstration with the spoons and cups.  This really helped her realize the importance of those three things.  We focused on faith with her and how pretty much everything we do is because of faith.  We read because we have faith we will learn new things and become closer to Christ.  We pray because we have faith that God listens and that he will answer our prayers.  She really saw the importacne of faith today, especially with keeping the commandments.  It all has to do with faith and expressing our love towards God.
Thursday I ended having to take an emergency trip to the dentist.  Super sketchy!  Anyway, even though I have weird pains in my mouth, I have no problems.  He then did something weird to my mouth and I ended up leaving the dentist in more pain then when I came (don't worry I'm fine now).  But today was mainly spent trying to rescue those less-actives and find the many people who were put through baptismal interviews and past, but never got baptized. 
Friday we had two awesome Plan of Salvation lessons.  One was with an investigator that I don't think I have mentioned before, Chen.  She has been super awesome and has read every day since we first met with here.  We taught half of the Plan of Salvation and emphazied why this life is so important.  Tried to give her a baptismal goal, but she will think about it because she doesn't want to give up "bai bai-ing", which is what they do here for the Buddhist/Daoist stuff.  The other lesson was with the 15 year old Zheng.  He has been wonderfing if God really exists, and so this lesson really helped him know that there is a purpose to his life and that God really does exist.
Well its a new year and I'm grateful to, in a sense, start all over.  Like my friend Elder Garlick said, its like the Atonement.  We can take what we have accomplished this past year to set goals and make plans for the year 2012.  I'm grateful for the Savior, for His life and His Atonement.  For the chance I have to continually change and become more like Him.  Serving a mission has definately helped me start to do that.  Love this opportunity to serve Him.  I love you all and wish you all a Happy New Year!
Love, Elder Smith