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