Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family,
 
         I laughed after that call, that was my bad. Next time we can pay more attention to how long my card will let us talk so no cut off. Not a big deal, I can call again in about six months. But I love you! I realized that you may be feeling bad because of the lack of mail down here, but I don't, so don't. I'll get stuff late, that is all. Honestly, you have no reason to feel bad for me right now, I love my mission and I love teaching people and having so many interesting experiences and opportunities to grow. If you have any other questions, ask them. I'm sorry my emails lack soMetimes, I'll try to improve them but it is hard to remember what happens.
       Christmas Eve we had our branch activity, which the missionaries performed in. I already told you some of this stuff but I'll write it again. Our play basically made fun of missionaries and our really bad Chinese, you can probably find the song we sang, "Duibuqi" by an English band Transistion,  or look up "wo de zhongwen bu hao"               (  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XTBwvi0h2E ) . But I guess you won't get it, but my Chinese speaking friends will if they read this.
     Anyway, Christmas I made pancakes, which my comp didn't like too much so I got to eat a lot and feel really American. Except the box came with a package of honey and not syrup, which doesn't seem to exist in Taiwan, no one knows what it is. Christmas day we knocked doors mostly, ate a big dinner with this family that included nothing you would associate with Christmas, then knocked more doors, No sucess at all. That is pretty much how things are going down here, really slow and the most difficult part for me is feeling like I am accomplishing anything because we don't see a lot of results from our efforts.
      So that is one lesson I am learning. This week I feel like I was really hit with the importance of patience. Definitely learning the skill of persisting in doing something even if you aren't seeing much come out of it. If you don't have a testimony that this work is true, missionary work becomes impossible, or at least pretty painful. I can't imagine anyone doing this for some other motive,
     Things are getting better with the companion, slowly. Before, I have been able to develop friendships with the companions I had, we really got along well and were effective because of it. This transfer I may be able to avoid arguments and any conflict, but I feel like no matter what I do I can't get my companion to actually like me, which I guess is tolerable but certainly not ideal. I don't think the culture difference is an excuse because I have been fine with other Taiwanese, and I have been told I'm about as Taiwanese as any American missionary gets. Anyway, I don't really know how to explain the whole situation so I probalby won't.  The last few weeks have just been full of a lot of little lessons and a ton of humility.
     The pictures are my last night in Taibei with Elder Chen, and Christmas morning with our lovely paper tree. Found the hat at our chapel, pretty excited.

Okay that is all I got for now. I love you so much, thank you for all the support. Things are going great on my end. Merry Christmas!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Family,
 
Thanks for the update, that is super exciting about Drew and Stanford. Tell him not to feel too full of himself. I feel like the firefighter thing sounds awesome too though. The rest of you need to get some more exciting things happening in your life.
 
Christmas call still not totally sure when, I'll call you either Sunday afternoon my time (between 9-11 Saturday night for you) or Monday morning my time (4-6 Sunday afternoon for you). I hope one of those times work out for us, and for you. If the call doesn't come Saturday that means it will Sunday. I'm sorry if that is a little inconvenient but it is the best I got right now. Sorry, but I'm excited to talk to you!
 
This week has been real good, pretty warm, not too many problems. Had some of the longer and more grueling bike rides of my mission, going to visit these families out in the boonies, who of course end up not being there. It feels like lately we have put in a ton of work and aren't really seeing any sort of results (that is just kind of how this job goes, but more so lately). But that is okay, I am learning a lot. This week was super humbling for me, realizing more and more everyday how not good I am at half the stuff I need to do to be effective, making some good changes but the process is slow. Trying to focus on smiling more, kind of a lifelong problem of mine. My companion certainly is willing to help me see where I can improve, which at first I didn't like but as soon as I decided to just take his advice and change I realized that I really did need to become better. Stupid ego getting in the way of improving. Humility is key for me right now, I think that people will rarely provide criticism, whether rude or not, unless it is their honest opinion and has some truth in it somewhere that can help you be better.
 
I'm trying to think of a cool story to share from this week but I can't pick a specific one. All our investigators right now have some major problems they need to overcome in their lives, trying to help them has not been straightforward and is forcing me to teach differently. We need some miracles, for them and for us. The past few weeks have really been a test of faith for me, and I predict the next few weeks will be as well, but this is all good for me when I think about it, just not always easy to push through in the moment. Sorry, I realize that is lacking in details and slightly cryptic. I love the missionary experience overall so far, I want to make a list of all the valuable skills I feel I am developing. There are a lot.
 
Okay so I'll talk to you this weekend, I'll call the house phone and the cell phone if the house doesn't answer. I love you, thanks so much for everything you have and still do for me. Because I am in the south, mail and stuff takes a few weeks longer to get here just because they have to send it again down to us from the office in taibei. So I might not get the stuff for a little while, or letters. But I think they all get here eventually. No pictures this week.
 
Okay cool Bye!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Family,

Sounds like a big week at home. I'm glad everything is still okay, that Trav is safe, sorry that Drew is sick. Some interesting stories, though. I don't think I have ever had a human bite like that, sounds nasty.
Sorry I don't always respond to all of what you write me, but I hope you know that I love reading about how things are going. Your emails are really great, so just because I don't always comment much doesn't mean I don't appreciate them. Tell Ashley I loved hearing from her and will write her a letter (eventually - it is hard to make promises on time).

So my life is going real well right now. I am working hard here in Taidong, but it is so different. Taipei was so full of people and buildings and when we went to find people on the street we weren't literally having to find people, like physically. There just aren't a lot of people around down here, at least that are available to talk to you. It has been kind of a hard week, I was so used to being able to just go out and work crazy hard and talk to a million people and then probably see some success if you spent enough time, but here you can go out all day and not talk to that many people and then not really see any results. The work is just different down here, it will take getting used to more than anything else I think.

Also, I have been deceived.  It isn't actually any warmer in the south. Well, it probably is, but it is still real cold and rainy. Except then we had a day where it was sunny and perfect, so maybe it is just temperamental. Either way, it is pretty here. Because our area is so spread out and there is not really one part that will for sure have people to talk to, we do a lot more bike riding than before. A lot of rice fields and stuff, feels like I'm back in Toufen.

There are a lot of aborigine Taiwanese here, which is interesting. So many of their cultural things, like art and stuff, and even the way they look, remind me a lot of native Americans. Most of them are Catholic, because of missionaries from a long time ago who converted all the natives. So I have gotten to talk more about the restoration than I usually do, because for the majority of people I talked to in other places the restoration doesn't have a lot of meaning because they really don't know too much about Jesus Christ at all to begin with. So that is one change down here.

My companion is great. He is 27, and it really shows in the way he does the work, he is just more mature about it than other missionaries. Everything is just more deliberate, and slower paced. He is a convert, and because of that he has a huge focus on our lessons. He really strives to be a great teacher, and feels like we weren't successful if we leave any lesson without creating some sort of change in our investigators. I think I will be able to learn a lot from him. He has been kind to me so far. All is well.

I have been feeling really humbled lately, and it has been good to have all these opportunities to learn so much. I wish I could write more about everything that has happened, or even remember everything that has happened. But I am overall feeling so blessed in so many ways and I know the Lord is helping me grow. It is hard because in all the time I have spent in Taiwan so far, I still haven't really gotten to see anyone make permanent changes in their lives, really become different because of what I am doing, at least in measurable ways. But I know you can't fall into the trap of trying to measure the immeasurable effects of missionary work. I just have learn to trust that, assuming I work hard and do what I have been taught and asked to do, the results I have are exactly what are expected by the Lord. True for all I do, not just missionary work. I have been focusing on using more faith lately, and it has been amazing what I've learned. Pray for us to have some miracles down here, we need them and they can happen if we have the faith.

Okay, thanks for keeping me updated on home, I love you all so much. I still don't know the details about the Christmas call, but I will hopefully let you know soon(?). I would guess it will be Christmas for you, probably about the time you would normally get this email, because that would be p day for us. Don't worry about sending a lot of stuff. I might buy myself some overly priced cereal and some milk from a cow, we'll see. I don't feel homesick at all, don't worry. Not sarcastic.

Love,
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, December 4, 2011

 Hello! Happy Birthday Dad! Yay!
Sorry not a lot of time and a lot to say

       So this week had its ups and downs for sure. We had a ton of lessons which was super cool and I definitely feel more comfortable as a teacher than I used to. Because my companion has so little experience I got to take the big part of the lessons, but no problem now. I think one of the coolest parts of this transfer was getting to see Elder Chen grow. I feel like I have really gotten to be a part of his conversion process, since he is such a new member. But it is amazing to see how sharing your testimony with others really strengthens your own conviction. He has become such a stronger missionary and member because of all the work he has done.






Me and Elder Chen hiking on P-day








     Saturday our investigator didn't show up for his baptism. So sad, and even worse is that I don't get to work with him and figure out why because I am moving and they are closing my area. I feel so odd, we killed ourselves this transfer to get some momentum in Neihu and establish a teaching pool, find some new investigators, etc. I feel like I have done so much of the grunt work and when things were just starting to pick up, they have to close it down and let it all die out. So that is sad, but I am sure that things are all for the best. Just not enough elders to go around. I am also sure that Zhang Dixiong, our guy who didn't show to his baptism, will be okay in the end, that this is just part of the process of him accepting the gospel in the end. It is just sad to see all this work, on his part and ours, not pay off, but then again you can't really measure the effects of what you do and I am at peace with what I did in Neihu. I definitely left the area stronger than I found it. I am really going to miss it here though.

     On the brighter side, I won't be spending the holidays in Taibei. I am being moved down to Taidong, the farthest south city in our mission, down on the other end of the island. This morning I had a several hour train ride and I'm actually writing this in Hualien, about halfway down the island. Taidong is one of the biggest touristy parts of Taiwan, supposedly really beautiful, like Hawaii is what I hear. Much warmer, more tropical, probably not so much rain, definitely more rural. It will be a big change from Taibei. However, I am super excited and really lucky, the entire east coast of Taiwan is where all the beautiful, scenic stuff is, but no one lives there so very few missionaries get the opportunity to serve in these areas. So I am really privileged.

        My new companion is Elder Shu, a Taiwanese whom I still don't know too well but I am told he is a great teacher so I'm excited. I am loving having all these natives, I think it must be helping me learn Chinese a lot faster. And it is going to be a big relief to not be senior companion anymore, not that I will slack off. So definitely a lot of things to look forward to this transfer.

       Okay not too much time left, I will be sending a package home with presents and stuff, mostly just cheap Taiwanese stuff, not to anyone specifically you can just pick what you want.
Love you all! Thanks for everything.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hello,

It has been a really good week again. It is so funny, I feel like it was just barely Halloween and I wasn't doing anything different, now it is Thanksgiving and I didn't do anything different. Not complaining at all, just saying, I didn't even realize it was Thanksgiving until most of the way through the day. Funny how that just dropped off my list of important things, although once I remembered I started trying to think of all the things I was thankful for and there really are too many, I feel so blessed, and especially right now being a missionary. I have it really good.

This week we got to have some really fun days where we had nothing scheduled, no lessons or anything, so we just got to go out and talk to people on the streets all day. It is the kind of day that I probably would have found really miserable at the very beginning of my mission, having no breaks aside from meals and being rejected over and over. But in all honesty I loved it, and it just amazes me how much I have already changed over these few months I have been able to be a missionary. We even got to sing with someone on the street. We brought our hymnbooks and decided we were going to find someone who was willing to sing a hymn with us, and I talked to a girl who was on her way to an opera competition so we sang her "Angels We Have Heard on High". She even sang with us after the first verse. A lot of weird looks from all the people walking by, but fun and hopefully she felt good because of it. I have a million stories I could tell but it is hard to remember them all, it is just really great to be able to share the gospel with so many people. I love just getting down to work and doing everything I can to accomplish my goals and help people accept the gospel. I have never been able to go to bed with so much satisfaction in what I did during the day, but also so absolutely beat and ready to collapse. It is a good feeling for sure.

Last night we got to eat with a member. She made us this big homemade chinese meal, so much food but some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. I don't know what kind of fish it was but it was amazing. I wish I could learn to cook some of this stuff and make it when I get home, but there is probably no way that will happen. My companion makes me noodle dishes all the time that are really good, I could probably learn some of those. Living with a Taiwanese is great. Found out this week he also speaks Japanese and Taiyu, a native dialect here, so between the two of us there aren't too many people we talk to who can't be invited to learn more. I have been running into more and more white people, but for the most part they aren't as nice or willing to talk to me. I am really so grateful I am where I am and get to do what I am doing.

Assuming there are no problems, we should have a baptism this week. Our investigator needed another interview because of some more serious sins, so that slowed up the process a week, but now he is clear so we are really hoping he will go through with it. This week I had some different emotions. There are some of our investigators who haven't been meeting with us, haven't kept various committments, didn't come to church, etc. When these things happened, I felt this really deep sadness, which is weird because I really don't feel like I get sad too easily. But I just felt so hurt for them. They are chosing not to do these things that will bring so many blessings. This one family might be losing interest, and they are going to miss out on an opportunity to be together forever. These people don't understand fully what they are going to miss. There is nothing that could make me feel worse than seeing these people I love and am trying so hard to help choose to not do what is best for them. It is so hard to accept that they have their agency. So I feel like maybe this is kind of what parents feel like when kids don't do what is right or do something stupid. Or how Heavenly Father feels when we choose not to do what it takes to receive what he wants. In the same way, we don't fully understand what he is offering and what we are rejecting when we don't choose to follow the Savior. Anyway, it was just a new experience for me to feel so deeply sad. Missions really have a lot of ups and downs.

I am glad everything is going so well at home. Dad, this thing with the Chinese guys sounds super cool, I really hope it works out. I really love you all, thanks for everything you do!

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Hello,
So glad to hear from you, sounds like life is normal and good there. Drew's road trip sounds awesome, I would love to do that someday. I'll be honest, I totally forgot it was almost Thanksgiving, there is really no sign of it here. Some places that want to look American have Christmas decorations, but for the most part I have heard that Christmas won't be very big either. Anyway, everyday I am so grateful to be here on a mission. Still loving it. So everyday is like Thanksgiving, right?
About the Christmas stuff, really don't feel like you have to send much. I actually already spent money on a cd player so that is taken care of. I got my clippers to work again so no problems there. And there are some new rules with music, or at least rules my trainer definitely didn't know, so apparently Enya is not okay. Sorry, I hope you didn't buy any yet. However, hymns are okay,  but I already have a lot of mo tab so maybe you could send some southern baptist choir type music, as long as they are hymns and are about Jesus I'm pretty sure it is okay. Something with soul. Just to switch it up. Also maybe some classical guitar or violin or something. That is all I can think of. I will pick a missionary scripture soon. Not right now though. I will, I promise. Oh, also about Valeria and Megan, they can probably drop stuff off at the office, but I am pretty sure that visiting me is not allowed.
This week was really cool, the weather keeps getting colder and the rain is very heavy at times and pretty consistent. I still feel like Taiwan is beautiful though, even when it is all gray and rainy. I have been totally soaked most of the time. The cheap rain gear I bought has been wrecked and made useless. I don't mind being so wet all the time, the only problem is that it drives people off the streets and makes it so much harder to find new investigators. However, we did really well this week and we were able to see miracles as we worked hard, found a lot of really great people to teach. I feel like I am getting better and better at pretty much every phase of the work, slowly and mostly because I mess something up and thus learn why/how to do it the right way. It is humbling but I'm learning a lot. It is really still just fun for me to talk to people, especially because I am starting to understand what they say, a least more that I used to. Best of all, we might be having a baptism this week. An investigator whose only problem has been that he still smoked. But at the beginning of this transfer we sat down with him and just outlined the plan to overcome addictive substances from Preach My Gospel, nothing special on our part. However, he just decided right there and committed to quit, and he has. From that day on he hasn't smoked, he is super repentant and really relies on the Savior. It has been amazing to me to see his faith, so assuming everything goes to plan and there are no problems this week, he should get baptized. Really cool.
Got to eat at a lot of cool restaurants this week. There is a lady in the ward who loves to feed us. A couple of nice Japanese restaurants, a Thai place, plus homemade Taiwanese stuff, all of it so delicious. They have you boil these super thin pieces of steak in this broth stuff real quick and then dip it in raw egg and eat it. I feel like it would be worth it to come on a mission here just because of all the food members have given me. I really do feel like this is the best mission there is. Really I think just being on a mission is the best.
I love you all, I hope everything keeps going well at home. Keep me updated. Thanks for all the prayers and support.
Love Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 13, 2011

LEARNING CURVE

Hello again,
 
I know I just wrote, but I get to again because things are back to normal now. Everything is going great, I am feeling great about our area. So far I haven't messed it up too much I think. My senior companions have really being doing more than I thought, so these first few days were pretty tough. I had no idea how much it really took to do everything that needs to be done to keep all your investigators progressing and keep finding new ones and basically be a real missionary, but I am glad that I am learning now. I have been feeling real stressed lately with the newfound responsibility, but turns out it isn't really that bad when you keep the right attitude. I feel like everything I have learned so far on my mission is stuff I have already been taught but never really learned for myself. Few completely new revelations, more like a gradual, experiential understanding of things like the importance of attitude or faith or other basic things like that.
 
I am getting along super well with my companion. I think he may be the first missionary that is on his own list of recent converts to teach. I love him though, it has been so fun to work with him. The other day he asked me, just to be sure, if our church believed in the resurrection. So we have some work to do, but he is still a better missionary than others I have met despite his newness and he has no hesitation about his testimony so you can't beat that. Most of the English he knows is from songs (he was a DJ at a club here before), so not always clean but sometimes we'll be riding our bikes and he will sing some really random song by like Limp Bizkit or Elton John or anyone else, I just can't help but laugh, I think you have to hear him to really understand. But things are great, and yes, to answer your question, such companionships still can be effective. I hope.
 
As for Christmas, all I can think of are some Enya cd's. And maybe I will spend some money and buy myself a cd player. But ya, Enya is allowed, so that would be good. Other than that, there is really nothing I can't get here if I really want it, just stuff like peanut butter and cereal is super expensive so I don't.
 
Had a catastrophe with trying to cut my own hair last night. I unwisely bought the cheapest pair of clippers at the store, probably some made-in-Taiwan piece of junk, and they broke after about 20 seconds of cutting. So that left me with half long hair and half short, and the rest of the job up to my companion and scissors and it went not well at all. So today we will go to a place and maybe have to get my head basically shaved, which is not really missionary appropriate but is the best option at this point. Sticky situation, hopefully I don't get in any trouble or look like a skinhead. Funny though!
 
Glad to hear from you, love you all so much. Thanks for keeping me updated on things at home! hope everything goes well.
Elder Braithwaite

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SENIOR COMPANION

Family,
The reason I am writing today is because we get to go to the temple, so schedule is different. Really excited!
    So this week has been interesting, a lot of changes. My companion had to go home a few days earlier than he thought, so Saturday I packed up and moved in with the elders that live in central Taipei by the temple-- stayed with them and then with some other elders in the area for three nights. Just kind of doing the same old missionary stuff but in downtown Taipei instead of Neihu, waiting around for President to figure out what to do with me. The options were give me a duanchuan (a Taiwanese member who is willing to be a missionary for a month or so) or close my area. In the end he chose the duanchuan, so I met him on Tuesday morning. The thing about duanchuans is they aren't really trained in how to be a missionary, so they are kind of like brand new missionaries, except they didn't  get the MTC. Anyway, it is kind of a big responsibility for me because this makes me senior companion, which is something that wouldn't usually be expected of a missionary till they have been on the island for at least 6 months, and even that is early. Plus I still don't really speak Chinese, and we whitewashed this area two weeks ago, so I am still not really familiar with it, the ward, or the few investigators we have.
     Neihu has a pretty long history of struggling, and had no elders for a long time, so I am really hoping I can keep my area alive. I think we will be fine, my companion is great. He was baptized in September, so he has a really good testimony and a lot of fire for the work, even if he is still a little less established doctrinally. His English is probably even less than my Chinese, so communication is slightly limited at times. But we really get along well and I know that we will be fine, the Lord trusts us, just kind of a little stressed right now.
     I don't have a lot of time today, just want to say everything is going fine. With every week, including the MTC, I like being a missionary more and more. I think that is because it just continuously gets better as you get more effective, I feel like I am slowly becoming a missionary who can actually help people. I am really glad I have this opportunity.
     Can't really think of anything big to report on, at least that I would have time to explain. Every week so much happens, it is hard to summarize it all, or remember it all. Investigators all doing pretty well. It has been raining pretty hard, apparently this is the start of a pretty typical, wet Taipei winter. Saw a huge spider, legspan much bigger than my hand, probably would take a chunk of skin if it bit you. Comp said it was poisonous, pretty cool, maybe next week I'll send pictures.
Love you all, thanks so much!
Elder Braithwaite

Monday, October 31, 2011

HELLO FROM NEIHU

 
This has been a pretty crazy week. Things are totally different here, like I expected but still... Neihu is great, real pretty, I am indeed in the rich part of the city, or one of them. Lots of nice restaurants, fancy looking apartments and shopping, a lot of city parks and lakes, etc.  The name means something like "inner lake". Plus a Costco, Anything obviously American like that is a sign that the area is wealthy.
 
   I have never been as tired as I was this week. Our area is full of hills, constantly riding up and down is starting to get to my legs, I need to get in better shape. We have been working crazy hard here, because the area needs it. It has quite a history of either bad elders of no elders at all (it was closed for a while).  It just reopened last transfer but both elders were super excited to go home because it was their last transfer, so they honestly didn't get too much done. That that may explain why they whitewashed my companion and me here, get some new perspective. So hopefully we can build some momentum. Basically it means that we are riding around the busy part of the city a lot, just talking to everyone, trying to find people to teach (although this is what you do all the time anywhere in this mission, just a little more so right now).
 
In addition to all this, we got a surprise call about halfway into this week. Turns out my companion is going into the army about a year and a half earlier than he was expecting (service is mandatory for young men in Taiwan), so his mission is over in about 9 days (he had about a year left). At this point I am not sure what will happen, it will be interesting to see what President Grimley does. I was liking having a native companion, although his English is so good and he would rather speak that, which is way lame and not helpful for me. He isn't really patient with me either, so it has been real hard to get him to speak to me in Chinese even though I know that will help. I feel like I am living with a slightly crazy person, but crazy in a subtle way. But I really do like him, he is a good missionary and it will be sad to see him leave.
 
I really feel good being in the city though. So different from Toufen. Here we have actually skyscrapers, lots of classy looking business buildings and rich looking guys in suits, but regardless people are still willing to listen. I was worried that the wealth might make things more difficult. 
 
The weather has been more like what I expected for Taiwan, lots of rain and gray, really cool temperature. I feel so good now, no more sweating all the time, although I guess I am still wet anyway. But I really like the rain, so far. The members in our new ward have been super welcoming, feeding me a ton and all that. Even took me out to get pasta, which is a really big deal here. Italian food is the new hip (and expensive) thing to eat. Also got taken to this super nice Korean restaurant, the most Asiany meal I have had so far. Super flavorful, really fun but once again I feel bad at how expensive it all is. But when people want to feed you it is more polite to just let them, and futile to try to refuse anyway.
 
We do have some good investigators right now, especially this family we met. They have a beautiful house and a little boy and girl.  The dad says he just wants us to come teach his kids good things, says he really likes church. They love everything we teach. Really hoping they can make it to baptism, so far it seems like they will. So a lot of hope there. Also, we are meeting with a 40+ year old man who has been meeting with the missionaries for years, not baptized because he has never quit smoking. We basically told him he was going to quit now, and he just committed and hasn't for about 5 days now. We will see what happens with him, but we believe he can do it. I am really hoping for a lot of miracles this transfer. 
 
Went on exchanges this week with my Zone leader up in Shiling, really fun.  Just going crazy talking to a million people on the street, so fun, especially when people listen. We taught a lesson to a man whose family life was awful -- wife and daughter with psychological problems who couldn't get along. Eventually she divorced him. He couldn't sleep for months because of stress. He went to Buddhist monks but they told him they couldn't help him because the "evil spirit" they sensed that was antagonizing him was too big. Finally he was planning on committing suicide the next day, but he had heard of Jesus and decided to try praying and see if he could help. That night he slept for the first time in months. Now he is meeting with the missionaries. Cool story, the gospel is for everyone and the Lord is preparing people to hear it. 
 
My district includes a lot of different areas, but interestingly 3 of us here went to Lone Peak and had the same Chinese class, sort of --me, Elder Phelps, and Elder White. Just a small world I guess, but it was good to see some people from home, and I will get to see them a lot.
 
Okay, that is all for now, I don't think I have anything else. Sounds like things are okay at home, I hope all the trips and stuff go well! I love you all, thank you for eveything you did to get me here.
 
Elder Braithwaite
 


Monday, October 24, 2011

BACK TO TAIPEI

Family
Okay so I am still writing from Toufen but it will be the last time. In an hour I am getting on a train to go back to Taipei! My new area is called Neihu, I don't know much about it except that it is in the city and will be very different from here. Toufen is a dinky, dirty little city (I love it) surrounded by lots of mountains and rural areas. Taipei should be a really interesting change, like starting a brand new mission. I also know Neihu has a Costco.

It has been great being with Elder Childs. It is so funny that he knew Elder Porter, small world. I have learned a lot from him, he has been really great. But I am super excited for my new companion, Elder Yu, he is a bendi (native) and that means a lot more Chinese for me (although I talked to him and his English is pretty good). We are whitewashing, means neither of us are currently in the area so we will get there and both have to figure it out.

This week has been good, we found a lot of new investigators. Most interesting was this guy from Australia, 40-something, ex mafia (Toufen is apparently the Taiwanese mafia center, although we never see anything to hint at that), teaches English as well as plays World of Warcraft professionally, wouldn't meet with us after dark because he doesn't trust this city because of the mafia thing, also doesn't like Taiwanese. He has been smoking for decades, but he really wants to be baptized. Pray for some miracles here. We also met this guy, Sayi, from Sri Lanka, had to leave because of terrorism, came to Taiwan because he found a job as a "motorcycle acrobat". Wasn't super interested in the gospel, but it was his birthday so he took us to McDonalds and bought us corn soup. He couldn't come to church because he had a show, and his schedule was unpredictable because he goes to Vietnam to visit his girlfriend there. I was just thinking, I will probably never get another chance to  meet so many interesting people and have conversations with complete strangers like I do now.

This week I got to go up to a little city in the mountains with some members, went out to lunch, saw some Buddhist temples barely visible in the jungly mountainside, it was way cool. This country is beautiful. They fed me fish eyes, finally. I looked back over the things I have eaten my first 6 weeks here: snails, eyes, little baby squids, blood (in several different forms, really popular here), stinky tofu (hunk of tofu that smells like sewer), chicken butt, thousand year old egg (brined? egg that is all black, the yolk is this nasty green slime, worst thing I think so far), fried pig skin oil (still not sure how they did that, something about boiling the skin to get the oil), and chicken testicles. I think that is it for now. Not quite sure what else is left, except for insects, maybe brain. I'll stay on the lookout.
I went on exchages this week with the Miaoli elders again, this time Elder Su, whom I love, a native, English isn't great. We were sitting on this bus winding through the mountains and started talking about chinese names, and I told him the one my MTC teacher gave me to see if it was good. He told me it didn't really have a lot of meaning, but that I was lucky because I can pick my own name. I asked him to help me but he said I should do it myself. He told me how the name both shows your hopes and also helps you achieve them, and that I should find my own name because it will mean more that way. Then all of a sudden in English he said, "What vision do you have for yourself?" Really made me think. And honestly, that was hard, and I couldn't think of a way to give a simple answer. So I decided that I really need to think about that, figure out what vision I have for myself, find a name. But then I also got thinking how often names are mentioned in the scriptures, and how important it is that we have all taken on the name of Christ. Shows what hope we have, and also helps us acheive that goal. What better self vision is there? Anyway, just a cool pondering experience.

So, I am excited to head north to Neihu, it will be an brand new adventure. Will really miss the people here, but most of them said they would add me on "faceuhbookuh" anyway, so no worries. I still feel so privIleged to be here doing what I am. Thanks for all the support and I love you!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, October 16, 2011




Family,
 
It has been another really good week. It is amazing how much I have learned in the last 5 weeks, this transfer is almost over and it is astounding to me what a difference there is between where I was as far as language, teaching skills, knowing what is going on, etc. and where I am now. Still making mistakes, with wrong tones you change "the BoM and Bible are similar" to slang for "the BoM and Bible are lesbian", and in the first vision one tone changes "this is my beloved Son" to "this is my midget", both of which I mistakes I made this week (only in role plays, thank goodness). Next week I may be writing from a different area, we'll see what happens. It is really not for sure, but I would love to stay here in Toufen. It is such a dinky, dirty little city and there really isn't anything special about it, but I love it and I love our members and our investigators (even though none of them will come to church! stinkers).
 
Things have been pretty normal here. Weather has been so nice, fall has arrived and it is just perfect. Real cloudy and warm, always like it is about to rain, but you don't constantly sweat anymore. My companion says it feels a lot like Oregon (where he is from). With all the plants and green around in our area, it almost looks like it too. My companion got hit by a car earlier this week, but he is fine. It wasn't really too bad, but it still scared me. I guess I will get used to that, riding our bikes in this traffic is still a little iffy sometimes but it has to be done. But, I did buy a hot pink storage box and stuck it on my bike with a bunch of zipties, so at least I am lookin stylish.
 
We walked into a McDonalds this week and there were about 30-40 junior high students, all of whom seemed to notice us but were trying not to look/stare. Finally one decided to say "hello"  because everyone knows how to say that, and we said hello back and everyone in the room got all giggly. Just a weird situation, but it is so funny to me how interesting people here think white people are. They are actually kind of racist, there used to be a black elder in this area and people were apparently a little scared. They don't really like dark skin, like black or Filipino or Thai, etc. But, there is this toothpaste that you see everywhere called "hei ren" which is literally "black man" with a picture of a smiling black man in a top hat on the front. While it does seem like black people often have nice teeth, I don't think this marketing scheme would be as appropriate in the US.
 
Investigators are all doing well, we worry a lot but a lot of them still seem to have genuine interest. I contacted a 18 year old kid the other day who set up with us, and it turned out to be a really cool lesson. We shared about baptism, and he was completely willing to do that if it would help him understand God. He says he really wants to know if God is real. We asked him to say the closing prayer, and even though he was super nervous he did, after thinking for a long time he said "Heavenly Father ...... from now on I promise I will try my best to get to know you, in the name of Jesus Christ amen".  So simple, but I was just really struck with the humility and honesty, we get to talk to a lot of people but not all of them will be as earnest about it. It really is such a privilege to get to see people take these first steps towards an understanding of Heavenly Father. I get to see so many amazing things every day, God is helping His work move along and I get a front row seat.
 
Sorry, I forgot my camera cord, so no pictures. I wanted to send one I took while on exchanges in Miaoli, this town up in the mountains in our district, but I guess next week. Today we are hoping to go up to Nanzhuang, this old town with some temples and stuff. Some members didn't have school so they wanted to hang out with us since it is our p day. It is so funny, members here are literally friends, not just friendly with the missionaries. They would choose to hang out with us on a free day. But anyway, thanks for sending me those articles and for writing, I love hearing from you all. Oh, do you have pictures from our Costa Rica trip somewhere, like digital copies or printed out? That is the memory card I have, so I don't know if I can delete them.
 
Okay, I love you all so much, thanks for the support!
 
Elder Braithwaite
 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This week has been great. Loved Conference, we missionaries just watched it in English on the internet (makes me glad I'm somewhere with easily accessable computers - wouldn't have gotten much out of the Chinese one). I really loved every single talk, I am not going to try to write to you what I thought because I wouldn't know where to start. I think every year I get more out of Conference, and every year I feel like it gets shorter. And it may be just me, but I also felt like every talk was super applicable to missionaries specifically. They really are emphasizing spreading the gospel right now. It makes me so grateful to have this oppotunity.

The language is coming fine, I feel like I'm making progress. I have started taking a more active part in the lessons, I taught one pretty much by myself because my companion decided to just entertain this lady's little kids and leave me to teach without his help. I can get my part out fine, but when I ask for questions or thoughts they will just go off and I won't know what they are saying, so I will just look at their facial expressions and try to respond accordingly, but basically just hope they didn't say anything too important and keep going with the lesson. Not the most effective teacher yet, but that is about the best I can do right now.

We had to pretty much drop 3 of our investigators this week. They just couldn't get over only being able to worship Heavenly Father. It is sad to see, but I know that God is aware of them and that this experience with the missionaries could be important for them accepting the gospel at another time, whether here or after this life. However, we now have two investigators from mainland China, which is really cool. You want to have investigators from there because odds are that they plan to move back someday, and you want them to bring the Church with them, especially while there are no missionaries. Anyway, one of these ladies saw the big Jesus Christ characters stuck on the windows of our chapel (the second floor of this dinky building above the bus station), said she recognized the name, and just walked up to the church to see what it was. It is so crazy to me how little the Chinese people really know about Jesus Christ and even about religion in general, but at least some of them are genuinely curious. I feel so priviledged to teach the gospel to someone who literally doesn't know anything about Jesus. Whether they accept the gospel or not, it is amazing opportunity to give someone their first exposure to the Savior, let alone to be a part of the spreading of the gospel to China, in a more indirect way. But I am confident that God is preparing those people and that someday the gospel will be there. The church will need a lot of Mandarin missionaries then, hope they'll let me come again when that day comes.

I think one of the greatest blessings of being on a mission is the study time, I get to spend a couple of hours every day just studying the gospel and the scriptures, I probably will never have time to spend so long doing this when I come home. And every day I get so much out of it. I have gained such a testimony of scripture study already and hope that my studies will only continue to improve.

Okay sorry no cool stories this week, I will try harder next week. Thanks for everything you do. Love you all!

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, October 2, 2011

AUTUMN

Hello
Been another good week. First, thanks for getting all those addresses for me. I need to write a bunch of them. Also, Thanks for keeping me updated on everything. Sounds like life at home is great. Mom, I have some friends also running that Halloween Half, you remember Amanda? Sounds like fun, I almost signed up last year. This week in English class I brought family pictures and introduced you all, one lady said you "have a very nice figure". So keep running I guess. I am really glad, our mission has a rule that you run every morning, we don't have time to run more than 1 or 2 miles but that is still better than nothing. I have been trying barefoot lately but I don't really have good form, do you think you could send me some condensed instructions on how to do it correctly?

The weather is finally being appropriate for missionary work. Raining and super windy. So strong, it will come in these big gusts and literally stop your bike from moving forward at all, feels like running into something. It is funny, but at least a really good workout, riding anywhere is like going uphill because I swear it is always blowing against us and not with us. It is nice, been a lot cooler than my first few weeks, autumn is here. Also had some typical 'getting chased by packs of dogs' experiences. All the exercise we get here and the nonstop sweating makes me so hungry. Members really always feed us so that is good. I go through a jar of peanut butter every few days, just eat it with a spoon. So delicious. Oh and they have this canned peanut soup here, just a can full of milk and peanuts, the nuts are all soft so you can just drink it, I think that I made that sound kind of gross but they are my new favorite thing.

Our investigators are all struggling with the same problem, can't do the first commandment, they all don't think they can give up their other gods. We asked one of them, St. Anders (a lot of them just have us use their English name) what other gods he still believes in, we were just listing all these different ones, mazu, pusa, etc. He believed in them all. So then we got to Buddha and he was like, "Oh no, I don't believe in Buddha, he wasn't married and I know you can't go to the celestial kingdom unless you are married." I had to try not to laugh, I guess that for him that doesn't come off as illogical as it does for me. But anyway, that is where pretty much everyone is at right now, a bunch of them are losing desire to continue meeting with us because of it. It is a little discouraging, we don't really know what else we can do. Just keep praying for them, this isn't really something we can help them ease into, like slowly giving up cigarettes, they just kind of have to decide.

We rode up to San Wan, a little town up in the mountains, no real success because up there everyone  was old and even more deeply Buddhist than down in Toufen, but it was really pretty, everything is so green. All the old people here, like even the super old ones, are out all day picking vegetables and fruit in these little farms they will squeeze between houses and buildings. I asked one lady what the most precious thing in her life was, expecting an answer like family or peace (common answers here) and she said "biological life". A lot of people here really care about being in touch with nature. It is so interesting, just different.

I haven't seen Conference yet, we don't get it for a week. But I am super excited. I always love Conference, but I feel like it will be even more meaningful for me this time, being on a mission.

Okay, that is all I can think of. Are you getting the pictures I am sending? I need to carry my camera around more. I love you all! Thanks for the support.

Elder Braithwaite

Monday, September 26, 2011

DAN JONES-ING


Hey tell Drew I say Happy Birthday! And also Rebekah. Someone in my English class (we teach English once a week as community service) is named Becca. I love the English names people pick for themselves here. They don't care if the name doesn't match their gender, it is just whatever sounds pretty to them. Like Eugene or Tenor. Anyway, I would write Drew but I don't know where he is. I am assuming it is still Haiti. For some reason I thought he was still somewhere in the States.
Hey so I don't know if there is any way for you to figure this out, but someone should google the population of Toufen for me, I am kind of curious. It is crazy to think that me and my companion are the only elders, really almost the only foreigners in this city, and that our area is even bigger -- about a 45 minute bus ride up into the mountains that includes a bunch of other rural towns we never go to due to inconvenience. We were sitting outside eating dinner a couple of nights ago and I was just looking at all the people and it is crazy that there are only two of us given the responsibility to teach all of them. Really makes you realize how small the Church is.

We rode our bikes to the beach last p day, pretty fun, there was a typhoon right before I got on island so the beaches are kind of ugly right now. Not sure yet what we will do today, maybe go look at these statues of some Buddhist gods over in Zhunan, I am not sure what their names are but they are about a hundred feet tall, pretty cool. Just a sign of how many different gods there are here. There are Buddhist temples all over the place. Our area is more traditional and Buddhist than Taibei, according to my companion. One of the biggest problems right now is that all our investigators don't understand the first commandment. I always thought that as a missionary my investigators would struggle with the word of wisdom or law of chastity, not this. We will tell them that if they know the Book of Mormon is true, they will know that there God is their Heavenly Father, Jesus is their Savior, Joseph Smith is a prophet, and they will totally accept and believe that, but they just don't understand the concept of God having one way. Or more specifically, they think that His one way is every way, that any road will take you where you should go. They have no problem with other things being true in addition to this. It is really difficult to get them to understand why the gospel implies that Christ in not only a good path but the only path. They just don't have the same mindset as westerners who readily accept an "either, or" view of things instead of "this and that both".

I wish you could all be here with me, I want you to experience this place. I say this every week, but the fruit is so great. And I don't think anywhere has nicer people in general. Although the more I go out and talk to people, the more I find that some people really are not nice at all. But still love it so much.

 One thing we do here is called "Dan Jones"ing. It means that you find somewhere where a lot of people are gathered together and can't instantly escape and you get their attention and yell something about the gospel to them all.
 The most common example is at a stoplight, when all the scooters line up waiting for the light to go green. You walk out into the street and have about 30-45 seconds to preach repentance. They have you do this from the first day, good for getting rid of new missionaries nervousness.    Anyway, this week we rode our bikes past a junior high school, all the students (at least 1000) were sitting outside in the courtyard for an assembly or something. We waited till their principal finished and all the kids stood up, and then I got up and stood on the school fence for a Dan Jones, shouted repentance to them all, probably looked pretty ridiculous but who knows, they might have been touched. Just one more way to keep it interesting.

The work is steady, and we definitely have plenty to do. We need some help right now with our investigators,  need to help them develop testimonies and have personal spiritual experiences. But we have a lot of faith in them. This gospel is making real differences in real people's lives. I love it, I feel like the next two years are going to fly by. The language is rough for sure, but I have no doubt I will get it eventually, and so far I have been able to do alright regardless. Thanks for all the support, I love you all so much, especially Drew because he is the birthday boy!

Elder Braithwaite

Monday, September 19, 2011

Adjusting to the Food & Culture


Hey there,
Things are still going great here. This week was definitely interesting. It was the mid autumn festival, a relatively big holiday here, so we were invited over to eat a lot. I've been told missionaries eat so much they can barely move when Chinese new year comes. We went to a couple of ward bbqs in the area, which was fun because we got to get out of the city and up into the mountains a little, so pretty and green.

Had some good/weird stuff, I really liked the grilled bamboo stalks, but the one thing worth mentioning is this strange looking black/dark red nugget on a stick, the other missionaries made me eat it before they would tell me what it was. It was really odd, kind of glued my teeth together. Turns out it was blood --somehow they get it into a gelatinous form to eat.  It tasted/felt about how I would have expected coagulated blood to feel/taste, maybe a little sweeter I guess. Whenever we are invited over to eat, they just won't stop feeding us. Really nice, but just too much food.
 
The little kids here are great, they love to play with us, really think arm hair is cool since they don't often see it. This one boy played with mine for like a half hour straight. Last night after dinner at our branch mission leaders house, he took us up to the floor above him and made us do some karaoke with all his drunk neighbors, which was certainly a funny experience.

I did get my bike - painted it up real ugly.  It is such a blessing to be on a bike mission, I think that is one of my favorite parts so far, just getting to bike around the city or the more rural parts, it really lets you absorb more. 


















 
Work is going fine. Still working hard on the language, it will just take a while. But our investigators are all doing pretty well, we are really pleased with their progression. We are working  hard to increase our teaching pool, which means a lot of street contacting. I think this will be true no matter what area I am in in this mission, because there are always so many people around in these cities. There is nothing more awkward than missionaries, I think. It is so great -- I walk up to strangers and ask, Are you happy today? What are your thoughts on God? I can imagine what I would do if I were Taiwanese and a tall white sweaty guy with an almost unintelligible accent did that to me. I love it though.
   I got to see some pretty cool lessons this week, people really understanding why this might be important. It is interesting, people here don't really think about "deep" things as much as westerners (for the most part),  like the purpose of life, or where we go after death. Mostly they care about what can help them now.
  I went on exchanges with my zone leader, so I had to take a train up to Zhubei, about 30-45 minutes away. The train ride was pretty, we got to look out at the ocean for part of it. It just kind of hit me that China was about 80 miles in that direction. They put you to work so fast, I didn't really have time to sit down and think about where I am. But I am so lucky to be here. I love talking to people, I know that by spreading this message I will be able to help others. I see the blessings it has brought to the members in our little branch here and it makes me feel so happy. A lot of the families live in these dinky little apartments, no nice things, no space, but they are so happy. Just cover the walls with pictures of Jesus or the Temple and you won't notice that they are old and dirty. Still willing to share what they have with the missionaries. A nice reminder of what will really bring happiness. 

   Thanks for all the support and love. If you want to send me everyone else's letters, through email would be best. I love you all so much.
Elder Braithwaite
 


 
From my apartment window
 
Elder Childs & me


Sunday, September 11, 2011

FIRST WEEK IN TAIWAN

Family,
Monday is my P day, but I guess you will be getting these emails Sunday afternoon or evening. Anyway, plan on that.
Taiwan is great so far! The flight over was very long, but it was also a good experience We had a handful of successful contacting experiences.  This one family really loved everthing we had to say, they were so great. And I was happy with the amount of my words Chinese people were able to understand. It is crazy, I talked to a man from mainland China, and he had literally never heard of Jesus Christ. I understand not knowing much about Jesus, but not recognizing the name? I thought maybe they at least knew about that from a history class or something, but nope. That place is nuts.
Anyway, we arrived here, spent a few days in the mission home right next to the temple in Taipei. President Grimley is great, he is going to be a really awesome mission president for me. We got to visit some different places with him, the Chang Kai Shek memorial, Taiwan Mission dedicatory prayer site, etc. Plus we got to contact in the city some, it is crazy there, but so fun. Taipei is just like you would expect any tropical crowded Asian city to be; a million scooters and people and just stuff going on everywhere. The people are what has made it great so far, they are so polite. They will stop and talk with you a lot more often than I expected, and they are never rude. The meanest rejection I have gotten is they pretend like they can't hear you. They really are just kind people here.
My area is Toufen, about two hours southeast of Taipei. Everyone told me I was going out to a rural area, but I found out that just means not as crazy big as Taipei. There are still a million people and buildings and stuff. Our area does include a bunch of the mountainous parts though, so maybe sometimes we'll be out there. My trainer is Elder Childs. So far he has been great, he really knows how to teach and contact and I will be able to learn a lot from him. He happens to be possibly the only other redhead in the mission, so of course we are companions. We live on the seventh floor of a building, right above the strip club owned by the mafia here.
Our little branch here is wonderful, I love them already. I got up on Sunday to introduce myself and bear testimony and I couldn't help but smile.  As I'm speaking my awful Chinese there is a sea of Asian people just smiling up at me, trying to encourage me, giving thumbs up and just being so friendly. All the kids want to play with me and the people will sit by me and tell me how good my language is.  I think kindness comes before honesty here sometimes, but that's okay. Today we are going to some sort of barbeque with our members, for the mid autumn festival. Apparently they love to feed the missionaries here too, so don't worry. One man already brought over stinky tofu for me to try, just this hunk of warm tofu in this brown broth stuff. It really wasn't too bad tasting, but it definitely does smell like an open sewer or a garbage disposal or something, just awful.
We have some good investigators, a lot of hope right now. The main difficulty is with the su brother and sister. They are super Buddhist and so they have this belief that everything is good, any good path leads to God, etc., so we need to help them develop faith in Christ. Apparently that is pretty common here, believing that any way is good. If you try to talk to the Buddhist monks they will basically tell you that. This one would not stop talking to us about it -  we had to just walk away. But I have been told I am in a particularly Buddhist area, so I will probably have plenty of experiences with that.
It is still hard to believe I am here. Riding our bikes through the streets and dodging the traffic, just seeing that everything is in Chinese and that I don't know what people are saying to me --  I can't really take it all in but I love it. Definitely haven't stopped sweating since I got here, it has been cloudy and a little rainy, but so warm and humid, pretty much what I was expecting. Food has been good too, it is super cheap so we just eat out every meal, saves time and money and is better than what we could cook ourselves. And don't worry, there is plenty of normal stuff like peanut butter and milk and whatever, so I'll be fine. The fruit is delicious, probably the best part.  There are fruit stands all over the place.
 If anyone wants to write me, my address is just the mission office, and postage should be a 98 cent stamp:

Elder Braithwaite #10642
Taiwan Taibei Mission
4F #24 Lane 183 Jinhua Street
DaAn District Taibei, Taiwan

Okay I feel like I have a million things I could say but that is enough for now. It is going to be a long time before I feel comfortable with all this, it has definitely been humbling to finally get here, but I have faith that I will slowly get better at all this. Thanks for keeping me updated, I am allowed to get and answer emails from family, so feel free to send emails before today for me to read. I love you!

Elder Braithwaite

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final Week in the MTC

Ni Hao

This week has been good. Our travel plans came -- it is pretty crazy to think I am actually going to leave, that a week from now I'll be on the opposite side of the planet. The plan is to leave Salt Lake at 11:30 next Tuesday, have a five hour layover at LAX, then a 14-15 hour flight that gets us to Taipei about 29 hours later, by Taiwan's time. If I get to call in an airport, it will probably be from Salt Lake between 8:30 and 10, or in LA between 2-6 (mountain time). So I guess maybe be available at those time, I don't know, they don't really tell us anything.
Super excited. It is going to be great to actually be doing what I am supposed to be doing, instead of sitting in classrooms and stuff.
I don't have too much to say. Thanks for the ukulele, if I can fit it in my suitcase I really will try to learn it over the next two years. It really probably would be a good street contacting tool. Right now I still don't really know how to play, but I'm working on it. Also, I would love it if you sent me crochet stuff, as long as you also provided instructions, because I don't know how. You're right, that would probably be a good conversation starter on the plane.
Thanks for everything. Still learning a lot. I'm not going to quit this last week, I feel like there is still a lot of improving I can do while at the MTC. I have loved my time here, you can learn so much if you are just willing to try. Attitude is everything in this place, or anywhere I guess.
Love you all! Next time I write I should have more to say.

Elder Braithwaite


Elders Braithwaite and Reynolds



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2 WEEKS TILL TAIWAN

Ni hao
Hey so I have two weeks left. Super excited now. Have you gotten a letter from my mission president or anything? Because a lot of the other moms have written and said they have. So ya just wondering.
Don't worry about me missing the MTC, as great at this place is. That wasn't meant to be sarcastic. I feel like a lot of missionaries like being here less and less as time goes on, but I think it really has grown on me with each week, which is kind of backwards. So it might actually be slightly sad to leave, except not really because I will go to Taiwan. But just in case, I took an empty box of grape nuts from the cafeteria and made it into a scripture case for my Moermenjing, so I will always have a little bit of the MTC with me.
One elder in my district got unexpected early travel plans and left yesterday (going to Leeds England, speaking chinese), so his companion, Elder Griffith, is now with Elder Reynolds and me. So the tripanionship has been fun so far, a nice change of pace.
I got to sing in church with a few other elders, I like singing in Chinese a lot more than English, just more interesting. We sang "Lord I would Follow Thee." It has been fun to slowly convert more of the things I do and say into another language. I can't wait to be forced to go completely without English.

Everything else is going fine. I think one of the greatest blessings of being a missionary (at least, so far) is just how much time I get every day to study the scriptures and words of the prophets. Even though we have hours every day set aside for this purpose, I still feel like I never have enough time to read everything I would like to. It is so great to really learn and connect different ideas and feel strengthened by the scriptures. They really do bring a power into my life.

Next week I should be able to write home about travel plans, assuming everythng goes according to schedule. Until then, I really intend to push myself harder than I have been. I really want to hit the ground running when I get there.
Thanks for everything you do, I really appreciate all the support everyone has given me. Oh and sorry, I promise I will pick a scripture for my plaque sometime. Still trying to narrow it down.

 Okay that is all I can think of, I love you all and am really glad to hear from you so often! Thanks for everything.
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FORD VP'S VISIT MTC

Ni hao,
I hope everything is still going well at home. It sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun. I am really jealous of all the hiking/enjoying the outdoors in general. I think that is probably what I miss the most so far. Besides family, right?
This week has been slightly more eventful. Earlier this week I got called down to the mysterious A-hall rooms in building 1M, which are all the administration offices. This man from the church's PR department had to tell me about something they wanted to do with my district. Every year, the church buys thousands of cars from Ford for missionaries, so I guess every once in a while some executives from Ford come visit Salt Lake and renegotiate contracts and see what this church could be doing with so many new cars. Anyways, these guys got a tour around SL with Elder Holland and Elder Scott, then went and ate lunch with Cecil Samuelson at BYU, then got sent to go visit our district at the MTC. It makes sense to someone I guess. But apparently they (church pr) chose our district out of all 2600 missionaries at the MTC to represent the church's missionary force because they heard we were the best. So that was really cool, made me feel good.
So these executives came and visited us and asked us some questions and we demonstrated some Chinese (a member of the 70 was supposed to come too but he had to go out of town at the last minute). I loved hearing their reactions. They thought it was so cool when they found out that we weren't paid, that we had been waiting to go on missions for years, that we were willing to give up school and everything else, that we didn't choose to go to Taiwan but believed we were called by a prophet, etc. But the best part was what they had said after they left (one of the church guys came back and told us later). My companion had been asked to bear his testimony to them (in Chinese), and they said that even though they had no idea what he said they could feel something, and they could tell that whatever he was saying meant everything to him. So cool. One man also commented that he saw his 20 year old son smile about once a month if that, and would give anything to see him as happy as we all were. And that made me realize, I can do so much proselyting simply by being happy and letting people see that. These men didn't know what we said (and we technically weren't even allowed to proselyte to them) but they were still able to notice how much our faith meant to us and how happy it made us, and they specifically said they wish they could have that. It reminds me of that St. Francis quote, preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words. Anyways, just gave me a new perspective.
So the church people said they were really happy with the example we set, that we really helped them negotiate the contract. The true motive's revealed.  I know that success as a missionary isn't measured by baptisms, but now, even if I don't baptize anyone, I can still feel successful because at least I helped save the church money on car insurance or something.
Other than that, nothing much is new, still just working hard. We had a cool devotional about missionary work (surprise!), and how all the great missionaries in the scriptures frequently use the word "perhaps", like "perhaps we could bring some soul to repentance" or "perhaps we could be an instrument in the hands of God." Even though these people gave their entire lives to the Lord and his work and did eveything they should, they understood that there was no guarantee of success because it is based on the agency of others. In Jacob 5, the Lord himself even does everything he can to help his olive trees that "perhaps" they may bring forth fruit. Even he doesn't have a formula for success in this work. We can do our best, but there is no way to ensure results of your efforts. The point is that you give everything and expect nothing in return, kind of contradictory but also how it has to be.
And I think this makes sense in every area of life too, that we should do everything we can to serve the Lord and others, and never really expect to be loved by men for our efforts or to receive blessings or anything like that. The real definition of "success" is knowing that our efforts are making Heavenly Father proud, and that knowledge should always be enough.
Anyways, sorry if this week's letter was kind of long. It is weird actually having a story to tell for once, I don't know what I'll do in a few weeks. I love you all, thanks for everything. Oh, they took our picture with the Ford guys, I'll send it home sometime.
I love you all, keep me updated on life!
Bai Zhanglao

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MTC - WEEK SEVEN

Ni hao,
I feel really bad but I still have nothing new to say. I still love being here and I still feel like I am learning a lot. But I honestly can't think of anything new to tell you that I haven't already said.
Still love all the devotionals. We really are so lucky to hear from so many great speakers. I think this will be one of the things I will really miss when I'm in the field.
My companion and I have been trying to use chopsticks to eat pretty much everything, which has been difficult but usually makes our meals more entertaining. We carry them around in our shirt pockets so everyone knows we are the most Asian white guys here.
I started trying to teach myself characters, which has been really fun. It may not be the most necessary thing right now, but I am super excited to be able to learn to read so I wanted to get a head start. Chinese is so pretty.
The younger generation of elders came in this week. It is a little weird to see them and think that, hardly over a month ago, I was that awkward and confused about everything that was going on. Sometimes it feels like I am barely making any progress at all, and this makes it really easy to get frustrated and discouraged. I'm think I'm starting to realize how much patience it is going to take to learn a language. But the new elders coming in made me think about how far I've come in the last 7 weeks. Even though I barely know any Chinese, I do know significantly more than I did 2 months ago. I think it really is almost impossible to see yourself grow, not only in a language ability, but in anything. Just like when, as a kid, you don't notice when you grow taller because it occurs so gradually. So even though my growth has been small, it is nice to be reminded that there has been some.
Anyway, sorry this letter is so lame. Next week maybe I'll type up my notes from a devotional or something. But there just isn't anything to report. Our schedule is monotonous but effective (I hope). I know the Lord is helping me and every other missionary (as well as everyone else) become what he intends for us to become, as long as we are willing to work. Work is the power that makes God's blessings operative.
Thanks for all the love and support. I pray for you all daily and I love you so much. And I promise I will have more to say when I get to Taiwan.
Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

PONCHOS

Ni Hao,
Nothing new to report. Everything is fine, I really love being here. I really learn so much every single day.
This week our ponchos finally came. My companion and I asked his mom to send us some a while ago. We wear them in the cafeteria, we were sick of occasionally spilling something on our shirts. And not only do they protect us from our inability to eat in sunday clothes, but they make us look super cool too! Most people can't help but feel envious (or confused). When your schedule gets so predictable, you find ways to make little things more enjoyable I guess.
Since I really don't have anything to say, I guess I could write something I learned. I was reading that talk by President Packer called "Candle of the Lord", and even though I have read it before I was really impressed with this comment:
"The skeptic will say that to bear testimony when you may not know you possess one is to condition yourself; that the response is manufactured. Well, one thing for sure, the skeptic will never know... Can you not see that that is where testimony is hidden, protected perfectly from the insincere, from the intellectual, from the mere experimenter, the arrogant, the faithless, the proud? It will not come to them.
The Spirit and testimony of Christ will come to you for the most part when, and remain with you only if, you share it. In that process is the very essense of the gospel.
Is not this a perfect demonstration of Christianity? You cannot find it, nor keep it, nor enlarge it unless and until you are willing to share it. It is by giving it away freely that it becomes yours."

I don't know why this was such a revelation for me, but it was. And I think that this really doesn't only apply to developing testimony either, but developing anything.This really is the core of our message, when you think about it, and it is such a beautiful thought, the idea that what you give away is what becomes yours, and what you keep for yourself is what you never truly have. We shouldn't only share our testimony, but our time, our energy, our love, and really our entire lives with God and with others. I think Christ himself really summarized this idea most clearly in Matt. 16:25: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." And of course, His life was the perfect example of this principle. I guess I just realized I can be giving so much more of myself to the Lord and to his work than I currently am.
I think the real thing I learn here is how much I still have to learn, and I know that sounds kind of cliche but it is true. And I'm sure I still have no idea how little I really know, it will probably be a pretty big shock once I get off the plane in Taiwan. But I guess if I can be sure I'm doing everything I can to live this principle, then the Lord will be proud, and that really goes for everyone, not just missionaries.

I love you all so much. I love learning this language and trying to be a missionary. Thanks for everything!
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

HALF - WAY!

Zenmeyang?
   Everything is coming along great, I wish I was learning faster but hey, what can you do. I am enjoying teaching though, I feel like, even though I can't really speak, I can at least be enthusiastic and fun in my lessons. Object lessons are coming along fairly well. I can't wait to teach real investigators though. The ones here laugh at us a lot, sometimes in a good way but also sometimes not. This week in one of our lessons we were supposed to teach about receiving personal revelation through the book of Mormon, but "qishi" (revelation) is only different from "discrimination" by one tone, and we are still not very good at tones, so our investigators were a little confused. 'Personal discrimination' is just not the same thing. I'm sure I will have many stories similar to this over the next two years.
   The older generation of elders left today at four in the morning. It was really interesting to see how they were taking it, I think they have been here for so long that it felt like they would never leave. You can just tell that almost none of them really felt ready to go teach in Chinese. But being humble is a necessity anyway, so that is probably good. It is weird being the "older" generation now though, the ones who need to know what is going on and understand Chinese and stuff. Time to put it into gear I guess. If we actually leave on time, we will be flying to Taiwan six weeks from today. Still seems pretty far away, but it probably will go fast.
Since they left, we had to get new district leaders and stuff, and they picked me, which I'm a little confused about since my Chinese is mediocre at best and I'm definitely not the most spiritual or obedient. Maybe they're hoping the extra responsibility will help me catch up to everyone else.
   The temple re-opened this week though. That really is a blessing, I didn't realize that I had been missing it since I've been so busy. But it is so peaceful, such a good opportunity.
   Thanks for the legos and slinky and stuff. We are accumulating so much weird stuff here. Everyone here thinks I get the best packages, my stuff is always really entertaining. But this other guy got a little electronic puppy thing, it walks and barks and stuff. It is fun to send it under the occupied stalls in the bathroom and let it bark at people, we have had some good reactions. Oh also, about those cherries: So we got those and everyone started devouring them, they were so delicious. We got through about 3/4 of them and then someone found a little white maggot/worm thing on one, and we looked at the bottom of the container and there were probably 15 or 20 little guys wiggling around. I wonder how many I ate. But I guess at least we knew that the cherries were fresh...
   Oh also, mom, it's really cool that you were quoted in the paper about that ukulele camp. I especially like what you said. "It's amazing". How profound..... But it did sound like fun. I hope you guys are all having a fun summer! It sounds like you have found cool things to do.
   Keep me updated with everything at home! I love you all so much. I am so glad that I can be here and feel the spirit so strongly. I know that this is the Lord's work. Thanks for helping me get to this point in my life.

Wo feichang ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WEEK FOUR

Jiating,
Four weeks down, about seven or eight to go. We figured out our MTC time is about a tenth of our mission. Sort of like a tithe we get to pay before actually being missionaries.

But things are going great here. I feel more comfortable with the language every day, but not by much. I'm enjoying myself though! And I feel like the majority of the important things I learn really aren't related to Chinese, which is how it is supposed to be for sure.

Things at home sound great. I bet the reunion was fun, it sounded great. Mom, that is really cool that you are going to ukulele camp. I wish I could play that, I remember reading about an elder in Taiwan who used his ukulele for street contacting. Maybe you should see if you can find some missionary opportunities through your new skills.

We try to find ways to make things interesting here. We all tried brushing each others teeth, it's harder than you would think.

My companion's mom sent me figs, I guess he told her I like them, so don't worry about getting me more anytime soon, I've got plenty. Also, I got Nam's chicken. Tell her thanks for me, it was great. She is really sneaky hiding it like that.
I wish I had more interesting things to talk about. My district leader is apparently now a star in China, about a week after we entered the MTC a video he and his friends made in their Chinese class at Harvard went viral over there, apparently they got like tens of millions of views. His parents get called almost everyday be people trying to talk to him. Anyway, you should look the video up, Huafu Huaning Ni or something (a play on the Beijing Olympics opening song), it probably won't be popular on youtube, becuase no one in China has watched it there since they aren't allowed to. But anyways, I really can't think of anything more interesting to say. I'm done with soccer, I have started running with these guys who are really into it, ironmans and stuff, hopefully this will keep me in shape until Taiwan.

I love you all, thanks for writing me. If you want to help, send me creative ideas for object lessons that would be effective for teaching the doctrines in ch. 3 of PMG to children. We are always looking for ways to make our lessons more fun, and anything that would apply to children would help us since that is how basic our language skills are. Tomorrow we are going to teach one of our "investigators", Gao Hai Quan, about sin using that toy hamburger you sent me. That should be really effective, right? It is kind of fun to teach the gospel so simply, it helps you remember what is really important about it. I think it would be fun to teach a primary class someday. The basics are what makes our message true.

Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WEEK THREE

Nimen Hao,
Thanks for sending me all the stuff I need. That is probably really annoying for you, but I appreciate it.
I hope Dad is doing okay. It doesn't sound too serious, but I'll be praying for him anyway.
Nothing new here, really. The devotionals are great, along with personal scripture study time they are the highlightS of my week. I feel like I always learn so much from them. Our Fourth of July one was particuarly fun. Some people talk about how powerful it is when all the missionaries get together and sing "Called to Serve", but I can testify that it is equally impressive when we all sing "Yankee Doodle" together. (Except the line "and with the girls be handy" seemed a little ironic given our current circumstances.)
The only really notable speaker we have had is Elder Bednar, but everyone else has been great too.
It's true that this place is fairly similar to a minimum security prison. We all have to wear the same thing, have scheduled meals with dissapointing food, scheduled exercise time outside, are never alone unless we are in the bathroom, and we aren't allowed to leave our little half-mile square radius. The only difference is that we aren't allowed to have visitors. And that we're here by choice. But I guess that really makes all the difference.
In all honesty, everything really is great here, I'm not trying to complain and I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Except Taiwan, I suppose. But what I mean is I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Today my companion and I were walking and trying to figure out a word in Chinese, and the guy in front of us turned around and told us. He was from Hong Kong, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, and was headed to New York to speak English, which he could barely speak. It makes you wonder why the Lord would want a native chinese speaker from Hong Kong to learn English and preach in America and want a bunch of immature native english speakers from America to learn Chinese and preach in Taiwan. But I know there must be a reason.
There is one guy in our zone from French Polynesia who came here and is learning English and Mandarin at once. So I guess it could be worse. He's a stud.
The spirit is so strong here, I'm learning so much. I have such a greater love for the scriptures, prayer, pondering, and repentance, among other things. I feel like this has been such a great humbling experience so far. For reals. I have so much to learn and so far to go. But I know I'm not doing it alone, I guess none of us really do anything alone. The Lord is always with us, that means more to me now than it used to.
I love you all, thanks for supporting me and thanks for all the great lessons you teach me.
Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite