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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Elder Smith, November 2012
Hey Everyone!
What's up?  How's it all going?  Wow, a lot has gone by in just one week!  Snow is finally here...well, for some of us, and the elections have gone by.  Dad, congratulations on the big WIN!  I know you'll do great on the school board.  I don't really know what you'll be doing, but just go out and do what you know best.  As for Grandpa Kohkonen, 加油!  I saw some pictures of your leg and boy does that look painful.  Just know there is a young 20 year old praying for you on the other side of the world.  Well, this week was a bit crazy here in XiaoGang!  We were able to see the hand of the Lord many times helping us along the way.  Let's get on down with this week shall we?
Monday we were able to visit with one of our new investigators, Brother Chen.  He was referred to us by a member and absolutely loved the free feeling he had when attending church the previous day before.  His family has a Catholic background, but he has no firm religion and so he has lots and lots of questions.  We answered his biggest question by teaching him the role of prophets, priesthood authority, and the Restoration.  He has a huge desire to change his life around and to know for himself if these things are true.  Tuesday night we were able to visit with him again and to teach the rest of the message of the Restoration.  He still had lots of questions and they all led perfectly into the Plan of Salvation.  Both Saturday and Sunday we were able to teach him the Plan of Salvation and how the center of the plan is Jesus Christ.  It is through Christ and his Atonement that we are able to change our lives around.  Repent.  It may sound easy for some, but for others may seem impossible.  However, nothing is impossible with the Lord on your side.  With faith we can do accomplish anything.  
Thursday we were able to visit with our Brother Zhuang and shared with him the Plan of Salvation.  Since he has a pretty good knowledge of the Bible we figured we would use some parts from the Bible to back up the plan and to show how the Book of Mormon explains more about what the Bible says.  Well, didn't get too far (past pre-earth life) before running into some concerns.  One thing that I love most is that anyone can come to know if this message really is true or not.  It just comes with a personal desire and faith to take action.  And it will not come from what two white young boys say, but it will come by the Holy Ghost bearing witness of it's truthfulness, "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:5).   
I know today's email is a little short.  We are a little rushed today but I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Actually, I'm grateful for the decision I made to be baptized.  It was by that decision that I received the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  As long as I, and those who receive it, are worthy, we qualify for the continued guidance and help that the Holy Ghost brings us.  I'm grateful that the Holy Ghost has taught me truth throughout my life, leading me down the right path.  I know as we heed such promptings, we will be warned, guided, and protected.  I love you all.  Be safe.  Remember who you are and who you represent.
Love you all,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Safari Shorkel

GaiXiong 85, second tallest building in Taiwan

Costco Oatmeal is da best!
Hello, hello, hello!
Wow, it's November, this year is almost at it's end!  No better way to spend it with three of the best holidays ever: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. One down, three to go. What else does that mean?  7 months!  Uh oh...  Time just keeps sliding on by.  Well, this week went by really well.  Had some rough points along the way but saw some miracles make up for them. 
Monday for preparation day we went to the GaoXiong 85, the second tallest building in Taiwan, took some pics from the outside, and then went over to the Costco and bought enough oatmeal for the rest of my mission.  As our day started, we intended to visit a few less-actives for their birthdays, but ended up eating their birthday candy cause the member had moved several years earlier and there is no way to know where they moved.  We then tried a few other less active members, but again, couldn't find their homes.
Tuesday was an amazing day.  It began with an excellent District Training Meeting by Elder Garey.  Afterwards, we headed on up to downtown GaoXiong for Zone Scramble.  Today I went on up to ZuoYing with Elder Olsen, a missionary who actually heads on home this week.  It's been a while since I've gone on exchanges with a missionary older than I, and I learned so much in just that short amount of time.  We had a few lessons with less actives and investigators, and just enjoyed seeing the work done from an almost returned home missionary. I was so grateful to work around him for that day and learn from him.
Wednesday, Elder Olsen and I began off by visiting one of the members in their ward and cleaning his house.  Let's just say his house was a mess.  He has bad legs and isn't able to do much on his own and so trash and garbage and lot's of other stuff is just piled up.  The one thing that absolutely loves an environment like that is cockroaches.  I have never used so much RAID in one cleaning session in my entire life.  We had a great time and just wish we had more time to help clean his home.  We got a few other things ready for the missionaries coming in to whitewash the area and then exchanged back right in time for our English Halloween Party.  We had several activities that each missionary was in charge of and then at the end we all gathered in and shared about the Holy Ghost.  
Friday we were able to visit with a Brother Zeng, a kind of newer investigator and shared about the blessings of prayer and reading the scriptures.  Even though we don't have any huge problems or challenges in life, God still wants to hear from us.  Because he loves us, he has given us prophets and scriptures to help guide us in our lives, and when we do run into those problems and challenges we know how to take care of them.  He is a humble man willing to learn more.  We visited with Jerry as well and talked about Nephi and his faith in going and doing what the Lord has commanded.  He is still struggling to quit smoking and chewing betel nut, but through his faith in Christ he can do so.  
Saturday we were able to visit with another one of our comparatively new investigators, Brother Zhuang.  He began reading the Book of Mormon, but feels it's different than that of the Bible.  He's a pretty knowledgeable Christian and so we retouched on the authority, apostasy, and restoration of the Priesthood authority.  The lesson went great, but because of his Christian background it was hard for him to already go against what he has experienced in his life and to try it all out again basically.  All in all, it ended well and he is willing to pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  The invitation Moroni gives us simple, yet is to the point.  As we pray with real intent, having faith in Christ about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, we will receive an answer by the Holy Ghost that these things are true.  I personally do know these things are true and invite any and all who have some doubts or questions to read and pray.  It's just that simple, read and pray.
It was so great to come to church on Sunday, to rest from our labors (for a bit).  Because of time I won't be able to say much about it but miracles were seen as we attended church.  Investigators showed up, members introduced us to their friends they brought to church, and other members testified on how they took or invitation to share the gospel.  All our hard work during the week paid off during those 3 hours at church.  I know God lives and He knows each and everyone of us.  He is aware of our needs, concerns, and wants the best for us in life.  One thing I have learned a lot on my mission is that the Lord blesses us according to our patience and faith.  Times are rough, but as we push through with faith in Christ, we will overcome.  My time as a missionary has been rough, has been a huge trial, but I love it, every single bit of it.  I'm grateful for this privilege I have to be here in Xiaogang, I'm grateful for my Savior, and I'm grateful for each and every one of you. 
Love you all,