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