Sunday, August 26, 2012

Typhoons here are NUTS!

Dear Family and Friends,
Well, I gotta admit, this week was rough, but it was definitely worth it and we had some fun as we went along.  It was so great to hear from all of you and know how you all are doing.  All your stories, long and short, just give me an extra fire to go out each week and work even harder.  So thank you all!  Well, I don't know if you have heard about the typhoon that hit Taiwan this last week or not, but it completely flooded out HengChun and turns out the same typhoon turned around and is headed back to Taiwan.  I'm doing just fine, all is well, and hope to have the chance to head back down to that amazing place to do some service cleaning in the next few days here.  Well, now that that's said and done, let's get on with this week.
Monday not a whole lot happened besides visiting with a less active, Brother Hong.  We didn't have a whole lot of time to sit down with him, but had enough time to get to know the basics about him.  He is super busy with work, raising and taking care of fish, and so we look forward to strengthening his faith and testimony from here on out.
Tuesday began with our District Training Meeting and it was on sharing the blessings of the Book of Mormon.  What I have come to realize as I have been on my mission is that the Book of Mormon is just full and full of promised blessings.  Blessings were given to the righteous as they heeded the counsel from on high, and blessings were given to those who had a change of heart began to do so. In addition to to that, blessings will shed forth as we go and act on the principles and teachings from within.  One thing I would just invite all of you to do right now is to stop and think of the blessings that you have received from the Book of Mormon.  I then went on exchanges with Elder Garey's new missionary, Elder Robison, and we just had a great time together.  He is such a hard working missionary and focused on his purpose.  I just remember that exactly 1 year ago I was in his same shoes, fresh on the island of Taiwan.  We had a few great first lessons and they went great because we took what we learned from DTM and applied it into the lesson.  
Wednesday we visited with one of our progressing investigators, Brother Hong.  He is doing really awesome.  I'm sure I've talked about him before, he is in his 50s/60s.  Anyway, we focused the lesson on prophets with him, how they are called, their role, the benefits of listening to the words of the prophets, and then talked on how God through his prophets have testified of Christ.  Might sound like it was a super complex lesson, but the scriptures teach these truths plainly for all to understand.  We then talked about Christ's ministry and Him establishing his church in the America's, focusing on the power and authority.  He understood it all, but declined the invitation to be baptized saying that his time just wasn't up.  We're gonna still be working with him and strengthening his testimony on the Book of Mormon and prayer.  From what he has already gone through, he knows the importance of the Book of Mormon and that the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon was a miracle in and of itself.  Love this man!
Thursday was a long rough day (mainly due to the typhoon).  Let's just put it at that haha.  I had a another taste of the days I spent in HengChun, but it was only 1 day out of the week this time.
Friday was another long day, just because of the typhoon.  We spent a lot of time at a 7-11 making phone calls and then had some nice home grilled burgers done by our good ol' friend Ray (a 60+ year old Vietnam veteran from Kentucky).  Oh, you do not know how bad I miss those good ol' American burgers!  OH!  Anyway, he reminded us of all the good tasting food we have in America and also told us that we missionaries are crazy for proselyting in this typhoon.  He said something along the lines of, "You guys are either really religious or you are just crazy."  Went on telling us about a fella who actually passed away the night before cause the wind knocked off a sign from a building and landed on his car.  Mom, don't get nervous, the Lord will protect his missionaries.  Well, we went back out into the storm and got back to work and actually had a few lessons afterwards.  
Saturday was the best day of the week by far.  It began by visiting with another one of our progressors, Jay.  He is doing great and has recently discovered the help that comes from prayer.  He and his family have been discussing about purchasing a new car and going the that whole procedure, and he mentioned that prayer gave him more power in the decisions he has made so far and felt that God was backing him up..  Well, we testified that as he prays specifically about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith that he would get the same kind of feeling.  After his lesson we cruised on over to Elder Garey's area to do a baptismal interview for their investigator Liu bei bei, an 82 year old from China.  Love, this, man! and his accent!  At first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to understand him very well, cause is mainland accent was pretty thick, but thanks to the Spirit all went well.  He passed and I look forward to attend his baptism next week.  We cruised right on back and  visited with a former investigator named Jerry.  He recently became a Christian after the previous missionaries dropped him and now knows that he can't rely on himself anymore cause that has gotten him nowhere.  Jerry is your average heavy beetlenut chewer, smoker, and drinker, but he has a huge desire to give it all up.  We talked that it'll come through faith, reading and praying that he will receive God's help in quitting and coming to know the truth.  I hope to be able to share more about Jerry, he is honestly the world's funniest man alive!  We then cruised back on over to the church to do another baptismal interview for one of the sister's investigators.  Long story short, the process up to her baptismal interview was a miracle in and of itself.  She passed her interview and immediately attended the baptismal service of an investigator that Elder Christensen and I began visiting with and then turned on over to the sisters to finish off the rest.  Her name is Wu Dong Xian and there has been a huge change within her every since we turned her on over.  She is a lot more happy and giddy which is one blessing the gospel brings, eternal happiness.  
One thing I absolutely love about being a missionary and a member of this church is the knowledge I have of the gospel plan.  God gave us the gospel plan cause he knew it would bring us happiness.  The center of this gospel plan is His Son, Jesus Christ, and His atoning sacrifice.  It is through the Atonement that every unfair thing in life can be made right.  It has brought happiness to my life, it has brought happiness to the investigators I have worked with, and it will continue to bring happiness to the honest seekers of truth.  I also know that it will continue to bring happiness to each of you as well.  I love you all!! 
Love the One and Only,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fly like a butterfly . . . Sting like a bee!

With Elder Nikell

My Comp -- check out the meat!

With a fan!

Chillin' with fellow missionaries
How's it going again?  Feels like just yesterday that we talked and now we're back at it again.  Before I forget I just wanted to mention that I did get both packages, one from Nana and Papa K, and also from the family as well.  Thank you all so much for the goodies and other stuff inside.  It sounds like Aspen Grove was a blast for you all and I'm looking forward to getting those pictures.  Well, this was another fun week in XiaoGang, so let's get right on into it.
Monday night we visited with one of our really cool investigators, Brother Guo.  He is 16 years old, one of our fairly newer investigators, and super smart.  We shared with him the Plan of Salvation and everything just clicked within him.  He understood it all, but isn't quite sure whether it's true or not.  He is not your average 16 year old kid.  Every question we asked he sat and thought about it thoroughly, applying it to him and all this other stuff.  I definitely was not like him when I was 16.  Things will start clicking and making more sense as he searches for these answers through prayer and the scriptures, receiving them from the Holy Ghost.  
Tuesday found me back as District Leader, teaching the DTM and we focused on a part of Elder Bednar's talk entitled, "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary".  The part we focused on was "getting out of the way" of the Spirit.  The Holy Ghost is the true, ultimate teacher, and we as missionary's need to do our part to enable to let Him teach, and that is by getting out of the way.  I hope it was helpful for the members of this district, and it has been something that I have been trying to work on myself for a while now.  From there I went on Zone Leader exchanges with Elder Sanford and just had an awesome time.  We had an awesome lesson with a family, Hong family, we recently found and we mainly talked on the blessings that come from a family prayer.  Everything just flowed smoothly throughout the lesson.  The wife had mentioned that she had prayed before and even brought up some blessings it has given her: peach, comfort, and made things go a lot more smoothly.  The thing about prayer is that we can do it whenever, wherever, and as long as it is with real intent, we can receive those blessings.  We later on visited with one of the ward members, Brother Zheng, who was actually the first branch president for XiaoGang.  He talked about the long years of service for the branch/ward, and even sold his land to the church so that they could build a church there.  It was so good to hear the story of the start of the XiaoGang ward from the "founder" himself.  
Wednesday was a not as busy as the rest of the week, due to the exchanges, all the traveling, English proselyting, and English class.  However, there was some advice I was given by my zone leader Elder Sanford which goes along like this, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."  Other than it being used by Muhammad Ali, it has a lot to do with how we proselyted together.  
Thursday we visited again with our Brother Guo and he is just doing great.  We gave him the story of Ammon to read the last time we met with him, and he basically shared it with us as if he had known it his entire life.  He just absolutely loves reading books, and I can see why now.  We just had a great conversation about the importance of prayer, one thing that he finds awkward and hard to get into the habit of, but it will slowly come along.  We gave him a portion to read from Alma 42 to prepare him for our next lesson on justice and mercy.  
Friday we started on out by visiting a part member family.  Other than them throwing all this meat in our face (chicken, duck, goose, etc) we reviewed how their week went.  They mentioned that things have improved a lot for themselves as well as their business, and they feel that prayer has been a factor of that.  We then talked about how sometimes we feel we are far away from God and so that is why it is important to read the scriptures.  The prophet Joseph Smith talked about in the introduction of the Book of Mormon that we will get nearer to God as we apply the principles in our own lives.  That has a lot of power.  Not only do the principles help us get nearer to God, but they help us become more like Him as we apply them.  We then visited this Hong family again, and the lesson didn't go as smoothly as we expected it to go, but I'm just praying and hoping that even though we are terrible teachers that  the Holy Ghost touched their hearts teaching them what they needed to hear.  From there we visited a recent convert, Brother Lin, as well as a less active, Brother Wu.  We just got to know them a lot more and just were there to strengthen them.
Saturday was probably the funnest day I've had in a long time.  Today was 傳道日, which is missionary day.  It was a stake YM/YW activity and we got to talk the youth from all over West GaoXiong to our areas to proselyte.  I took around a 14 year old kid, Elder Fang, and had such a great time with him.  He was a bit shy, but I did the best I could to make things fun for him.  After we proselyted in XiaoGang for a while, the youth gathered together at a night market and we Dan Jones'd it up.  Oh it was so much fun!  It reminded me of the first time I Dan Jones'd, which was over a year ago when I first got on island.  It was really cool to think back to that day and to see the change in myself from that day.  I then took Elder Fang around the night market and we just went to town on all the people there.  Although everyone we contacted were referrals, it was just a blast to be doing the work with Elder Fang.  One thing I learned from this activity is that I'm grateful I am riding a bike everyday.  Walking and walking and walking just made me back and legs sore haha.  But it was for a good cause.
Sunday was a great day as always.  A few weeks ago while on exchanges, Elder Nickell and I visited with a recent convert and actually gave his sister/relative, Sister Wu, a baptismal goal and handed her on over to the sister missionaries.  Well, after a few weeks of teaching and strengthening and all that stuff, I did her baptismal interview and she passed.  The miracle that happened was all the events that led up to this very moment.  I won't go into detail on that right now, but it just goes to show that the Lord is always preparing people.  With Sister Wu, it began as she was a little girl as the missionaries taught her and her family.  After many years she is finally able to partake of the wonderful blessing of baptism and enter onto the path that leads back to our Heavenly Father.  More will come about the baptism next week.
That's about it for this week.  It's so great to hear from you each week and to hear what is going on clear on the other side of the world.  The goodies and stuff from the packages will be enjoyed and I cannot wait to hear from you all next week.  I love the land of XiaoGang and even more the land and people of Taiwan.  I love this opportunity I have to serve my God, and I'm grateful for the gospel plan of happiness we enjoy.  I love my family and the rest of you too!  Take care!
Love the One and Only,

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another fun and crazy week gone by . . .

Hello Family and Friends,
How are we all doing today?  Can you believe it?  August is almost halfway over which means that summer is almost at its close and school is on it's way.  Enjoy these last few weeks, and I know the family sure will/is at Aspen Grove.  Well, this week was a bit crazy so lets get right on into it.
So pretty much this entire week I got to spend time again with my previous companion, Elder Garey.  We found out last week that he would be training, and that his companion would be transferred a week earlier, and so that meant that Elder Garey would be spending the week with us.  Last week was crazy going to the train station, shipping of his companion’s stuff, and a lot more, so that is why last week's letter was a little shorter than normal.  Well, after we got all that taken care of we hit the road and got to work.  We ran into and talked to a lot of people, but not a lot were willing to meet with us.  Like everyday contacting people, I learn so much from taking these people's experiences, applying them to my own life and sharing how the gospel has helped me.  It has really helped me realize how much the gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life.  
Tuesday we began with a Zone Training Meeting and learned some new and possibly more effective ways to contact people on the streets.  I don't know how it is in other missions, but contacting at a stop light with 30 seconds is super rough.  In all honestly, it is one of the hardest things I have every done in my life.  Sounds strange, but it is.  However, this ZTM gave me some new ideas on how I can make it a lot better.  After that meeting we headed on back and we a delicious 便當 with Tyler (he says he added all of the family on facebook).  He then helped us accompany a lesson for that night with one of our investigators, Brother He.  His testimony really helped this man know that this message just isn't two white guys sharing this stuff for fun, but that it is true and that it has blessed him in his life.  The lesson was focused on the importance of reading and praying and how it relates to the Restoration, and what that all means.  
Wednesday was spent proselyting in Elder Garey's area, since he was unable to get a member to go out with him for the day, and it was great to visit with a few people I was able to visit with while I was on exchanges there.  I didn't know these investigators and less actives very well, but teaching once again with Elder Garey just felt good.  Just like the good 'ol days in HengChun.  Love that place!  We rushed from place to place, and then got ready for our English party.  Every 6 weeks, at the end of a move call, we have an "evaluation/party night."  The theme for this party was Pioneer Day.  We had some great activities going on, pin the ring on the bull (pin the tail on the donkey), a stick pull, square dancing, and a few more.  We then watched the movie Legacy about the pioneers and just had a great night with everyone.  
Thursday was a crazy day helping Elder Garey get together with his member companion for the day and then we traveled on down to our secondary area, Lin Yuan.  Well, long story short, every lesson that was planned down there fell through.  We spent some time searching for a few less actives down there before heading back on up to pick up Elder Garey.  Yeah, not a whole lot happened this day.
Friday began bright and early (4am) so that we could get everything all squared away so that Elder Garey could catch his train ride up to Taichung to pick up his new missionary.  Well, a lot of complications came up as we were on our way to the subway station to get to the train station, but when you are 有辦法, everything is possible.  Everything got taken care of all good, and other than being super tired the rest of the day, it was a great day.  Today we visited with an investigator, Brother Lin, that I had never been able to visit with.  He has been busy with work and school but we finally got to sit with him.  He had been taught a lot in the past, but all he really remembered was that he can't drink tea and coffee and can't buy things on sunday.  Well, we began from the start and he hadn't felt that God is his Heavenly Father.  Invited him to read and pray to know that He is.  He was willing and is willing to be baptized.  He said the only problems that will come up are not being able to live the WoW, as well as parent opposition.  A change can and will come as he reads, prays, developing his relationship with God.  God will provide a way to accomplish what he was asked us to do.  
Saturday we visited with our good friend Jay, our third visit with this guy, and watched the Restoration film to help him visualize it all, and then discussed what the Restoration means if it is true.  We also shared with him on how he can come to know and that it is only through the Book of Mormon that we can do so.  Last time we shared the Plan of Salvation because he was down cause his cousin died because of liver cancer.  He had lots of questions and we reemphasized that these things are true if the Book of Mormon is true.  He is great and has a huge desire to learn more and more.  
Sunday was super good for me.  I decided to do a special fast, even though last week was fast sunday, and saw the blessings that came from it.  A few of things came as I hoped they would, and a few others in a way that I didn't expect.  All in all, it strengthened my personal testimony on fasting and prayer, and the extra power that comes from it.  Had a great rest of the day just finding, working, sifting through the tares to find the wheat within.  
Wow, I am so grateful for this past week.  A lot of things happened this week, big and small, and they all really helped me and my testimony grow.  I know that the power of prayer is real.  I know that times are rough, and sometimes we feel distant from God; however, we can grow closer to Him through prayer and through reading the scriptures.  This church is true and that is all that matters!  I love you all and can't wait to hear from you all next week.  Take care!
Love the One and Only,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August brings an unexpected Father's Day!

Dear Family and Friends,
August is here which means school is rollin' up here pretty soon here.  I hope you all enjoy these last few weeks before it all starts.  Yesterday was actually Father's Day here in Taiwan so, "Dad, Happy Father's day!  You're the best!  Love you so much!"  Well, this week was really great, the catch is that not a whole lot of work with our investigators went on this week.  However, I'll share a few of the highlights of what went on this week.
We'll start with yesterday.  Yesterday, our newest member Brother Ke got the priesthood.  Yeah!  We were super excited for him, yet it still doesn't feel like he is a new member.  Ever since I moved to this area I have been a bit skeptical that he was an investigator and not a ward member.  The transition from him being an investigator to a member has been super smooth.  There seems to have been no transition at all really.  He is doing great and is a super strong new member.
Friday night we visited with another one of the recent converts in this area and retaught and reviewed parts of the Restoration and the moved on into the Plan of Salvation.  I was on exchanges with Elder Nickell at the time and long story short, his relative (not quite sure what relation she has with him) accepted to be baptized.  We did not see that coming at all, but she accepted!  We referred her to the sister missionaries to continue to help her down this path with her.
Um, that's about it.  Today we didn't have a whole lot of time to email due to a random change in our district, and having to work with that, but things are still going great.  It's been great to hear from the family and also to hear from each of my friends.  It's been great to see the change and growth within them and hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ can continue to do the same to each and everyone of us.  I love you all, and expect more next week.
Happy Father's Day DAD!
Elder Smith