Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hey so first I need to tell you. So because it was gGuonian a ton of people flooded the streets of this city, for vacation and to visit family and stuff. And my old companion from second transfer, the one who was a new convert and only part time missionary so he finished after that transfer, came down to find me. He said he missed me  and also that he was going to the US. It was fun to see him, but as we talked I realized he didn't have much of a plan, his plane gets to Salt Lake on Feb 6 (maybe 7th? I think it leaves here the 6th) and he is pretty much hoping to somehow find a language or esl school or something, and he doesn't know where he is going to live, or how long he will be there for. His English is not really super good either. So I told him to go to our house, and you could help him figure it all out. And let him live there for a little and then help him find some sort of English school if possible. He says if he can't find a school he will just stay for not long and then go home, but he hopes to stay for longer, like maybe a month or two. He was really grateful and is willing to pay you too, but I said you probably wouldn't want him to. Anyways, I realized we have no way to communicate because his plane arrives before next Monday and so I can't read your response, so I hope this is all okay with you. He is a good guy and I am assuming this is just an opportunity to make life at home more exciting for you, right? So you should probably talk to him, if you can, his email is (I think he may be able to figure out an email you send him, I gave him yours too.) Oh his english name is Daniel.
So this week was a fun week. We did get fed a lot, every day. Not nearly as bad as I was expecting, I had heard these horror stories from other missionaries of having to throw up between dinner appointments, we were okay though. Just uncomfortably full most of the week. Oddest thing I ate was probably this large intestine stuffed full of rice and small intestine, which really was good except it was real squishy. Also, Taidong has this weird local tradition where this week there will be a big festival thing where some volunteers wear basically nothing and stand before a crowd as everyone pays to throw fire crackers at them. They get to wave a branch to ward them off. I am still not sure what it represents, people have tried to explain it to me but it isn't logical. These people always get seriously injured have to go to the hospital afterwards, but apparently it is worth the money or maybe honor or something? I don't know.
We worked really hard this week but it was hard becuase almost everyone was from somewhere else, so they didn't want to talk to us. Most of our investigators also were doing family stuff all week or out of town so they also couldn't meet. I don't really have any impressive missionary stories to tell. Just still doing the same thing, trying to help these people study and keep them progressing. My companion is great though, he is a good example to me, works hard and has a good attitude. So that has been really good for me, a blessing for sure. Still love the work, even though it hasn't been easy to always stay positive. Learning a lot


For last p day we went to the mountain where there were monkeys everywhere, you could just pull over on the road and go play with them. Some were nice and let me pet them, some were really mean though and one was real angry and took some swipes at me when I didn't let go of the banana. It was fun. Felt really mystical being on a jungley mountain surrounded by monkeys.
Thats all I have time for. I love you, thanks for keeping me updated!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A lot has been going on lately. Things all sound great at home. Keep me updated. Also, thanks for sending that Vietnam story , I thought it was really interesting and included some things I have been needing to read. I had a firecracker experience too, Dad.  I happened to ride my bike by just as this man lit off these massive firecrackers about a foot away from me, bigger than anything legal in the US I am sure.  They really may have harmed my right eardrum and almost made me fall off my bike. It was hilarious but also really made my head hurt.
Things down here have been great. I am loving my new companion elder Liu. We get along really well, it is great to have a companion that I am just naturally friends with. And he is a good worker and will push me. Plus he sings well, missionaries sing songs at a couple of times through the day, but honestly the majority of Taiwanese are not very good at singing so it has been fun to sing on key again. I feel that things are going to pick up, we are going to see good improvement in the area. The branch is already responding more, and we've got some more good ideas for how to better work with them. This week I had some personal revelation and learned some things that I would write about if I had more time, but I feel that my attitude has changed and that always makes all the difference.
Our investigators are still doing well. I usually don't write to much about them because I have heard I am not supposed to include specific names and situations in these emails. I know some people in other parts of Taiwan that read my letters home so this might be the reason behind this rule, but if I use fake names I think I'm okay. We have one young investigator who could be baptized soon if his family will allow it, so please pray for the Apple family to realize how important this is to him. Other than that, everything is just trying to get these people through some problems and keep them progressing in their understanding.
Finding this week has been odd. Chinese New Year has started and our area, because it is way south and warmer than anywhere else, has tons of people visiting for the week. It is sunny and about 75 most days. So most of the people we talk to are from other areas of Taiwan and not super interested in talking or setting up with us. And Jackie Chan was here this week! I tried all week to contact into him but to no avail. Aparently he was filming something. Missed opportunity.
As far as Guonian goes, which is yesterday until Saturday, the members all want to feed us. Our meals have been planned out for weeks. We are being fed at least lunch and dinner every day this week. Our MM leader set this up, and in his wisdom he didn't let many members set breakfast appointments because he knew we would be fed so much at other meals that we would want eat in the mornings. Except yesterday we had appointments for all three, I didn't even know we were allowed to eat breakfast with members. Anyways, ridiculous amounts of food and they don't let you leave till you eat until you physically can't eat more. Scariest week of the year for missionaries. But there really is nothing more delicious than all this home made Chinese food.
I cant think of anything else for now. Oh actually tell elder Fergeson one of the spare bikes down at this chapel has his name signed on it, an old yellow and blue one, and it has come in handy many times. Riding it makes me feel like I am carrying on this legacy, there are like 15 missionaries that have signed it and how many transfers they had it. So that is fun.
Okay I love you all! Thanks for everything
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, January 15, 2012

(Me at a cafe on a mountain in this area, Taidong Valley)

   I am glad you got the package! I didn't know if it would get there because I left it up to my old companion and he is Taiwanese and didn't have my address, but I guess he figured it out somehow. I guess being Taiwanese doesn't really have anything to do with it. Anyway, you can pick who gets all the stuff, I don't really even remember it all. Send me a picture of the scripture that they gave you and I'll tell you what it is. That is really nice of them to bring you presents and to visit you! What good friends.

         By next week I will pick my plaque scripture. I just keep forgetting.
The Guonian stuff has been going on for a few weeks now. That is Chinese New Years. Anyways, most nights and days there have been firecrackers going off frequently, and we have been invited over to eat with different people most nights. Still have a week till the actual week long celebration starts. So that has made things interesting. However, a big problem for us is that the majority of our investigators are students at the college here in Taidong and they have winter break now, so they all went home for winter vacation to different parts of Taiwan, which means we have not a whole lot of lessons and probably a ton of free time to go find! So not really a problem, we are just going to have to get a little creative and think up some new ways to do this.

        I  am staying! Finally! It is such a blessing to not move. Elder Shu was great, he has been sent back to Taibei and I will not be seeing him (or anyone else in the mission because the South is isolated from all else) for a long time. But I am super excited about my new companion, Elder Liu, who I met in the MTC and we were in the same district for my first transfer on island so we have already worked together on exchanges back in Miaoli. Also, my very first night in Taiwan I worked with him and his companion, because your first night they send all the new missionaries out to work with some local Taibei elders for their first night of proselyting, so we got that too. He is an ABC from Provo and is one transfer older than me, so we have a very inexperienced companionship but there is nothing better than young missionaries anyway right? It can't be any less experienced missionaries together than my situation 2nd transfer so I think we'll be okay. I'm glad I am at least staying with a companion that knows Chinese, if not a native Taiwanese. But I already know that we get along real well and we are going to see miracles down here in Taidong for sure.
      I don't know what to tell you about all our investigators. We have plenty, many of whom we can't meet with because of the college situation, and many others I have no idea how to help because of some serious problems. But I feel like this transfer the one thing I have learned is how important it is to really love them. I was thinking about the shepherd/sheep analogy. It makes a lot more sense when you try doing everything you can to help these people- they become people you care so much about and just want to protect. I feel so sorry for all the struggles these people have and how the gospel could help them so much. So I am trying my best to feed the little flock we've got here but it's hard because I feel so inadequate all the time, I never know exactly what to do. These people all have such difficult things to face in their life and I'm just a kid that knows nothing. That is one reason I am glad I can trust the Savior and the gospel. I'm not such a great missionary or teacher but He doesn't have anything in Him to make my trust waiver. I think the reason God lets us know he is perfect is so we can trust Him, like a way to enable our faith.
     Not too much time, but thanks for everything! I am loving it all and I am very excited for this next transfer!
I love you!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I hope everything is going well at home, it sounds like everyone is doing okay. That is exciting about Ashley and Tim. Actually all of the normal stuff always sounds real exciting to me. My Christmas food is mostly gone, except for the cereal which is being saved. I can't believe you found another shirt! That makes me less worried.
         This week has been a good one. We had plenty of lessons scheduled and were stood up for almost all of them, which seems to be the case more and more for me in this area. But that's just how it goes. We had some opporunities to go to some of the farther away places in our area, some interesting tracting in these older cities closer to the mountains, just kind of have a weird atmosphere, feels so different from anything in American culture. It makes me think how odd it is that the story of Joseph Smith has made it over here and so many people believe it and have changed their lives because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not surprised, but it is amazing to me.
     We went fishing last p day with tremendous failure, so afterwards some members took us out to eat this big seafood meal that was really neat, if you like really seafoody things. Lots of interesting clam-like things and snails and stuff. But I went to the bathroom and they didn't have any soap, which is common here because people don't think you should wash your hands after going. So I went and asked the kitchen if I could have some soap, and the lady just smiled and said they didn't use any there. Cultural difference I guess? Sanitation is just not a focus here.
     Still loving the work and teaching people. We have some good investigators, less than we could but we are working on that. Probably no baptisms for a while, but that is okay, just keep chuggin along. Things have gotten slowly better with my companion too. Plenty of service opporunities right now because everyone cleans out their everything for Chinese New Year and so we get to help. We got to spend several hours scrubbing the church tiles with toothbrushes, which actually turned out to be really relaxing.
Overall, I feel like my faith has grown so much over these last few weeks. I can't believe I've been in the south for 6 weeks already. If time keeps going this fast my mission is going to be over before I know it. I know what I'm doing is the Lord's work and I am so glad I get to do it.
     I guess not a whole lot to report this week. It has been warmer lately, sunny and maybe 70 or so. They are flooding all the rice fields and planting I think. Makes me excited for things to get more permanently warm. I'll probably change my mind once summer comes though. Some types of the local fruit is starting to come and is delicious, stuff I haven't seen in the U.S. and don't know English names for. So there is one blessing of spring.
     Okay well thanks for everything! Transfers are this week, we'll see if I move again, I am really hoping not, this area might be hard for me but staying in an area is such a blessing. I love you!
Elder Braithwaite
Pictures:  1.Valley in Taidong 
              2.Us with an nice old aboriginie man at that celebration thing last week.
              3. Chicken foot

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

And Happy Birthday Travis! So big, Yay! I hope you all had fun, for us it was pretty normal. I did get to go to this native Taiwanese celebration, their calender has the same New Years as ours. It was real interesting, they fed us a ton, some of which was pretty similar to Chinese food and some a lot more odd, like the raw fish steak things or these things wrapped in leaves kind of like tamales but inside was this odd purple goop. I decided when you look closely their outfits look more like something South American, maybe Peru or something.

Also for New Years we got invited to this member's home, a real rich guy, super nice who gave us American food like pizza and salad and chicken. They all liked me because I wanted to eat the chicken foot. I'll send you a picture, they're fun looking, you just kind of suck until the fat and skin come off. But it was cool, there was a non-member family there too and we all got to go around and discuss how the church blessed us, a powerful lesson and afterwards the family set up with us. Cool stories, the church really will bring so many blessings.

This week we had some cool service opportunities. Cool story: the other elders in Taidong are teaching the coach of the junior high basketball team, and he lets them come once a week and teach his team a short lesson after practice. One week they taught about prayer, and one kid decided to go home and start doing it but didn't say anything of set up with them. Later, we contacted into the same kid on the street (not very likely), and he left us his information, and we were later able to set up and go visit him at his house. Now he is meeting with us to learn more. Cool process of giving him the opportunity to learn about the Savior, plus I think it is a miracle that a fourteen year old kid would be interested in what we have to share at all, I doubt I would have at fourteen. So this week we got to go play basketball with these kids for service.  It was fun to see that coaches are about the same whether they yell in English or Chinese. They loved me, but once again only because I'm tall. They all asked me what I eat, as if that was my secret.

This week we also got another cool service opportunity. We usually ask everyone we talk to if they could use any help of if we could serve them, but almost everybody says no. This week a real old lady said yes, so later we went to her apartment with four elders and a member and she took us to one of the dirtiest, oldest rooms I have seen. We spent hours cleaning it out, scrubbing all the walls and ceiling, and then giving it a new paint job. One of the most satisfying transformations I have ever seen, I am really mad I didn't take before and after pictures. I was the only one that could reach the high parts of the wall so I got to do a fun balancing act by standing on this ancient chair on top of an ancient stool. Anyway, it felt really good to just do some manual labor and  help out this old lady. We are going back next week to finish.

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to become over the next year, and I've got some real good goals. Overall I realized I still have so much to learn it is overwhelming. But we had this awesome lesson with our investigator Li, we just got to get down and really talk about why the Savior is important, what difference this makes. He has some physical handicaps, and the stories of healing, miracles, and resurrection have given him so much hope. It is so powerful to testify of the reality of the Atonement. So I realized, I may still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I do know that much. I know that the Atonement is real, and that it both heals and gives hope to anyone with the faith to truly believe. I am so thankful for the opportunity I get to spread the message that Jesus Christ is the Savior and that miracles are real. I know I am going to see a lot this year.

I love you all and am grateful for all the support! Oh yes the Chistmas stuff came. I got a ton of letters and the package don't worry. My companion laughed when he saw you sent so much peanut butter - I hope I don't make it sound like I am in a third world country. Peanut butter is at any grocery store. And I eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast, so don't send more of that. Also, the raisin bran shirt is being put away and not touched till I get home. Not risking it, also not amused. But really, thank you! It was fun to put the legos together. Yay, Christmas!

Okay love you!
Elder Braithwaite