Monday, April 30, 2012

Short and Sweet but not as Sweet as Pineapple!

Check out the view!
Hello Family,
How is it going this week?  Can you believe it?  It's May!  Spring time is in the air and will always be that way here in HengChun.  Springtime brings forth all assortments of candy, I mean fruit, such as pineapple.  Well with spring time and May rolling on by, that only means one other thing, "things" will be winding down here pretty soon... So on with this week! 
The highlight of this week happened Friday night on exchanges with Elder Hermansen.  We visited Zheng dx talked about baptism again.  He had the "oh-not-this-lesson-again" look on his face as we began teaching him.  To keep things short and sweet, he accepted a baptismal goal for the 12th of May.  He knows he needs to be baptized, and he knows that he will receive more blessings now in his life than he would if he is baptized later on down the road.  However, parental permission comes in the way, but we promised him that as he shows his faith, the Lord will prepare a way for him to be keep His commandments (baptism) and read 1 Nephi 3:7 with him.  We gave him a deadline for May 1st to get permission.  One of my dear friends sent me a letter this past week and mentioned a lot about faith to me.  He shared Ether 12:14 with me which talks about how it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that changed the hearts of the Lamanites.  Well, this scripture definately applies, and has been applied to this situation.  Zheng dx's father's heart will and can be changed by his faith, along with the faith of us two missionaries.  I know that with faith miracles can happen.  I know that God will prepare a way to accomplish the things that he has commanded.  I look forward to tonight to hear that Zheng dx got permission for baptism. 
Sorry this letter is a short.  I love you all, miss you all, and hope you are all doing super well.  With faith, anything is possible.
Love the One and Only,
p.s. pictures will actually be coming next week.  Look foward to seeing pictures from home as well :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Time flies by on wings of lightning" --高長老

Check out these flip flops (ha ha)
Dear family and friends,
How is everything going for you all?  Life is going pretty well here for me and my companion.  The weather is beautiful, the sky is blue, its literally 'forever spring' here, and life as a missionary couldn't get any better.  April is almost completed which is unreal to me.  In the words of one of my previous companions, "Time flies by on wings of lightning" --高長老.  Well, not much else so lets go on with this past week.
First of all,辛苦我們!  To be honest, English does not have a good translation for that.  To put it basic terms, this week was rough. Thursday was an awesome day to have Zone Conference.  We of course had to take the super comfortable bus ride up to GaoXiong to enjoy this wonderful day together as a Zone.  This month we are focused on Prophets, and I learned so much about the role of the prophets.  President Thomas S. Monson has been called of God to lead, guide, and direct this church.  He is also the only individual who has the authority to receive revelation from God for the world.  We as missionaries and brethren in the priesthood hold same exact priesthood he has, but he holds all the keys and is the only authorized to exercise them all.  I am glad to know that he is not just a wise man of intelligence, who knows how use his words to 'trick' men.  He is a man called of God to receive inspiration and revelation for us in this day and age. 
Saturday was another great day to go preach the gospel to the aborigines.  Took a wonderful bike ride on up to their village high on the mountain top.  We first visited my best friend in the entire world, Brother Hua, to see how he has been lately.  He got moved places for his work because fires have been going off here due to the lack of rain, so he has been stationed there on weekends unable to leave to come to church.  He is still super amazing and told his work that he was done at the end of May so he can come to church.  Love this man!  Turns out all the people we ran into last week either weren't home, or they wouldn't pick up except for one man.  We were able to visit with him and talked about who God is and how we can establish a relationship with Him.  This man was willing to pray with us and let us teach, but he has a lot of ways of thinking that will take quite a while to change.  That's ok though cause the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant for everyone!  No matter the situation!
Sunday was busy busy busy.  First of all, church was incredible.  It all began as I saw a tall, white man walk into our church.  He was a missionary 7-8 years ago and served in this same area.  I forgot his english name just because all the ward members called him by his chinese name.  Turns out he lives in Centerville, my hometown.  (Yes mom, we did take a picture together and I gave him our home info and he said he would call/stop by to say hello).  From there it was just a busy busy day full of visiting less active members along with recent converts.  The reason why church was incredible was due to the fact that one of the talks given in sacrament meeting on how every members can be missionaries.  I feel like that pumped the ward members up to start doing missionary work, which will obviously help fulfill our purpose as missionaries which is to find, teach, and baptize.  I look forward to seeing some success with the ward members in the coming weeks.
As I said a bit early, things have been a bit rough down here in the south of Taiwan.  However, I absolutely love the words of my amazing trainer, Elder Johnson, which say, "Tough times go away, tough people don't."  We as missionaries only have so much time to serve the Lord.  Times are rough, but yes they will go away.  I have found that although it is rough, it has been worth every single second.  I love this time serving here in Taiwan!  I love you all!  Til next week...
Love the One and Only,
p.s. (ANSWERS TO MOM"S QUESTIONS)--I am in a pretty large apartment, but there is only the two of us, which means we have lots of open space.  Plans on calling home for Mothers Day--I'm not sure exactly which date, but I'm planning on skyping again. (please prepare questions for me unlike last time:) )  Extra money--i'm good.  Clothes--they'll survive for another year. Shoes are still in great condition.  Pictures of paradise will come next week!

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Week as a Trainer

Me with my Newbie Companion!
 Well 11 long months have gone be super fast.  Almost too fast.  However, I am enjoying and soaking in every moment I have gotten.  HengChun is a beautiful place, but also an extremely hot place.  Lately the winds have slowed down and the heat is just beating us down.  But I love it!  This week was a wonderful week with my new companion.  Seeing how life was when I first got on the island until right now has helped me see a change that went by almost unnoticable.  I am doing my best to make his transition nice and smooth, giving him some fun, wonderful moments whenever I can.  This week we had a few experiences that neither one of us had gone through before.  
 We did have a few learning experiences this week.  I'll just share one of them with you today.  It began on Thursday afternoon.  A church member that was baptized here in HengChun recently died due to cancer.  Thursday was the day they had assigned to bury his ashes, but since he was a member of the church the family invited us and Brother Wang to participate in the funeral and give a blessing.  It was the first time either of us had participated in dedicating a grave, and we were a little unsure about what to expect. They buried his ashes and then Brother Wang gave the prayer.  It was so powerful to hear the prayer that was given to protect the tomb and ashes until the resurrection.  It hit me hard, even though he was cremated, that he will one day rise at the resurrection with a immortal body.  I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all men, good and evil, will receive the blessing of resurrection.  Christ broke the bands of death so that we can accomplish the plan that God has given us, to return to live with Him.
 Saturday we took a nice long bike ride up the mountains to proselyte to the Aborigines.  It has been a long long time since missionaries have been there to proselyte, so we decided to change it up a bit.  We ran into a lot of cool people, some without interest, but the people there were willing to stop and talk with us for a bit.  Turns out we will be going back up this saturday to visit with a few of those people.
What an awesome week!  My companion and I learned so much from one another this week.  What to do, and what not to do.  We are loving this time we have together, even thought it just started, and I look forward to the upcoming weeks we have.  I know that we(I) have been called by a prophet of God to gather in His sheep.  It's hard some times, really hard, but it is definately worth it.  I love this gospel and I love my Savior Jesus Christ.  I'm truly grateful that he atoned for all mankind so that we can repent, become clean, and return to live with our Father in Heaven.  I'm grateful for this short time I have to share this knowledge to the people here.  I love you all!
 Love the One and Only,

Monday, April 9, 2012

The voice of the Spirit is soft and small, the counsel of our prophet is given to all

Elder Smith's buddy
Dear everyone,
"Where are you going?  Please take a seat!"--My favorite old man (attached is a picture of us together).  What I take from his favorite english phrases are, "Time...where are you going?  Please take a seat and rest a while.  You're going too fast."  I honestly feel like conference was a few weeks ago, and now its back again, but I'm grateful to have been able to take counsel from the prophet and and apostles of this church (and obviously those other leaders who were inspired to share messages with us as well).  This week was busy, super busy, and I'm glad it was that way.
Monday began with a lot of preparing and cleaning.  As for proselyting, we did the usual...find to teach.  We went out looking like crazy and talked to all we could!  After we contacted this young man, we headed on our way.  Turns out we were going against the traffic, so we slowly went our way.  This younger man came riding towards and I just had the thought "he's lost".  So I stopped and basically said to him, "you're lost aren't you."  Turns out he was from China, he was lost, and was looking for a certain place.  Quickly gave him directions and went on his way.  Even though we was in a rush, and from China, I was so grateful for heading to that super small prompting from the Holy Ghost.  I've been thinking back to that experience and it helped me realized how sometimes we do overlook those small and subtle promptings from the Holy Ghost, and how we take them to be from ourselves.  That was one humbling experience that I had this past week.
Tuesday began bright and early on a bus up to GaoXiong for a meeting for all those who will be training.  Learned quite a bit and was grateful for the counsel I received.  We then booked it on over to DongGang for our DTM where we discussed "Finding Joy in the Work."  There is so much to be grateful for and so much that brings me joy as missionary.  Even though rejection comes left and right, there are lots of other things (including old men who yell "Where are you going? Please take a seat!" whenever he sees you).  I was then fotunate enough to return to home with the Legend (a.k.a. Elder Hermansen) who helps bring joy into this work.  We were able to joyously spread the gospel in the short amount of time we had together. 
(Wednesday and Thursday were spent traveling)
Friday I met my new best friend Elder Taylor.  He is my new missionary, from Draper Utah, and I look forward to spending these next 12 weeks with him.  We have already and some adventures so far (being told we have bad luck because the creases in our fingers don't line up) and a wonderful 10 hour break to watch General Conference.  I loved the inspired words that each individual gave to us including the two word sermon from President Ucthdorf to "STOP IT!" as well as the wonderful words from Elder Holland "Don't delay...its getting late."  Many other things were shared and many areas where I personally can improve.  I only have 6 months to do so before next conference. 
I am so grateful for our wonderful prophet Thomas S. Monson and for the counsel he gave to us this past weekend.  I know that he is called of God to lead and guide and direct the Lord's church today.  I also know that he is an inspired man of God.  I know that this is the Lord's true church on the earth today and that through faith, repentence, baptism/renewing our covenants, receiving and seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end will lead to us to a never ending state of happiness with our families and our Father in Heaven.  I'm grateful for the knowledge of this gospel, and that now is the time to prepare to meet God.  It doesn't start tomorrow or next week, it starts now!  I love you all, miss you all, but I love this call to serve.
Love, Elder Smith 司馬長老
p.s. check this out its the website of Brother Wang in the branch here
p.s.s. Here's a quick joke for y'all.  What's the quickest way to trim your garden? Put Julia in the driver seat.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April + General Conference + Newbee = Lovin' Life!

East Wall with tourists from China
P-day sightseeing with Elder Garey and other cool Elders
Oops! A slight plumbing setback!
Hello everyone,
Well how have you all been?  Things are going great here in HengChun and I just want to wish you all a happy April and I hope you all enjoyed General Conference this past week.  I won't be able to see my hometown or hear from the prophets until this coming weekend, which I have been waiting for every since last November.  Well this week went by really fast and went pretty well too. 
Monday was a great day to spend with my awesome companion Elder Garey going around to each of the entrances to the great wall of HengChun to take pictures.  I attached one with a bunch of the tourists at the East wall.  As we began proselyting, we were able to visit with one of our recent converts, an 8 year old kid, and we were just astounded at what activity he has been doing lately.  He made a bunch of flashcards and wrote certain things he had to do on them.  For example, one card said "Name off 5 of God's commandments," and he would do so.  I don't know what made him want to do that, but I think that every 8 year old kid should be doing the same thing. 
Tuesday was a great day to go on exchanges with Elder Morgan.  He has been in Taiwan for a total of 5 weeks and is absolutly loving it.  It was great to help him, as district leader, pass of his language evaluation.  It made me think back when I had was constantly preparing for those same exact evaluations.  It was great to be sitting on the other side of the table this time.  Because of the evaluation pass off and a few other things, we weren't able to do a whole lot of proselyting together, but we worked our best together that night. 
Well, I'm sorry.  Lately I haven't had a ton of time to write you all.  Right now I only have ten minutes, so I'll get to my last point I want to share.  So yesterday (Sunday night) we got done with planning and I immediately got a call from Elder Hermansen, in my district. He asked me if I had got "the call."  I said not yet, ended the call, and continued doing what I was doing.  I kept getting calls from him, each time, asking me if I had got "the call" yet. And I'd give the same response, "No I haven't got the call yet."  Well, earlier in the week this same Elder told me to try out eating some chocolate sticks with peanut butter, so I decided to use that as a way to mess with him.  So I called Elder Hermansen back and said, "Guess what......(long pause)... you were right.......(another long pause)... these chocolate sticks really are good with peanut butter." Ha Ha . . .  And as I said that I heard a beep on the phone and checked it out.  It was "the call."  I answered and it was President Bishop giving me the call to train this next coming transfer (which is this week).  I gladly accepted "the call" and went on with the rest of the night.  Yeah, that's basically my story for you all today :)
Well, I'm sad this will be my last week with Elder Garey, but I'm looking forward to my time with a brand new missionary.  I don't have much time to say much else.  Love you all!
p.s. Elder Garey broke his sink as he was praying; package stuff--still haven't gotten birthday package... next package: anything delicious that me and my trainee would love to eat ! 
Love, Elder Smith 司馬長老