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