Sunday, March 25, 2012

 
 
Hello family,
 
 Hey so this week was great! Got some good experiences, investigators making good progress and Brother Hong passed his baptismal interview! The guy who just finished his masters and is super cool. So if all goes without problem he should be baptized this Thursday. It has been cool to see his growth in the month that I have worked with him, went from a really normal guy, no real desire and didn't really think much about God, to someone who has real faith in a Heavenly Father. The thing that has made the difference with him really was just reading his scriptures and saying prayers. It is so simple but those things built faith in this guy who at first had none. Makes me realize how little missionaries really do in the conversion process. Without us I guess it wouldn't really happen, but in the end it absolutely is the Lord that gets it done. The converting power of the gospel is foolproof if people are willing to humbly do their part, do the simple little things. Applies to me too, I have realized. Feel like I am getting more and more converted to this gospel every day.
 
Met more interesting people this week. We have been having a lot of people give us free food. That is kind of a cultural thing, and I may or may not be taking advantage of it. I think I have gotten pretty effective at finding those nice people who will probably give you one of whatever they are selling just because you are white yet speak Chinese. Talked to this one guy who sells little fried bread things on the street all day and wanted to give us some. We sat down and taught him. His first prayer was "please help me spread my fried things to everyone, and help these guys spread their message to everyone, so we are both happy." I love the honesty in first prayers. Then this one guy from India, we sat down and taught a lesson to him. It was his only day off in weeks, he is here as a cook but lives in a dorm with a bunch of other Indian men and has no breaks and works crazy long hours. He is trying to make money for his family back in New Dehli. He won't see them for two years while he is on his contract here. He just seemed so exhausted. It just hit me, or I guess reaffirmed, it is so stupid to ever feel sad or sorry for yourself, there are so many people in the world who have it harder than you no matter how rough you think your life is. Just have to be humble and think about how great you really have it. I think that is one of the big things I am trying to learn on my mission, how to be happy regardless of circumstances, I am realizing that this really is a plausible skill. You really can pretty much always be happy if you are willing to count your blessings and have a good attitude.
 
We have some other cool families and investigators. The Qiu family came to church again, a single mom with two kids, which is super great and the kids love it so hopefully they will want to keep coming. Unfortunately it seems like a ton of the people we are teaching are gone next week, going to China or Hong Kong and other places. There is also a big thing coming up, I guess call it a tradition maybe, not really a holiday, where everyone goes and kind of worships at their ancestors graves, so a lot of people are on other parts of the island for the week. Overall it means I should get a lot of finding time this week which is great and a lot of fun. Finding ways to make things interesting.
 
Okay I love you!
 
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hey there
 
Sounds like all is well, as always. Mom, sounds like you are the most interesting right now.  When you go down to Arizona, you can tell Keith I spent some time a few months ago working with an Elder Vargha from his ward. I had to stay in his apartment when Elder Yu had to go home for military all of a sudden and I still hadn't been put with Daniel. I mean Elder Chen. Anyway, connection.
 
I looked at that scripture, yes it is Proverbs but you got the verse wrong, which is interesting because that is the only part that is not in characters so you should be able to read it, right? It is something about man and humble heart or something. Still not so good at the reading.
 
As for  St. Patrick's Day, I don't think they have any idea what that is here. Yes, the Irish population is relatively small. Oh another funny connection, this week I was in one of the chapels in Toayuan Shi for a training meeting and on their bulletin board was a picture of Sister Williams at the MTC! Small world, one of the girls in the picture was Taiwanese looking so I am guessing it was a missionary from that ward who happened to be in a room with her or something. Bet she didn't think strangers in Taiwan would have her picture hanging in their chapel.
 
This week was super! Saw a lot of good things happen. Tony Hong is done with his masters stuff (more or less) and will have more time now, he should be good to be baptized within a month or so. Lin and Kong, hot dog kids, decided that working until 3 in the morning and sleeping until 1 or 2 wasn't good for their health, so they are selling the stand and getting a job in a factory, which means they can come to church! It was cool to see them making such a good decision, and they really do want to come to church. And they are doing well on quiting smoking. I really want to help them, as I look at them I see that they are like a year younger than me but their lives are going in such a different direction, I can't help but think how different they would be if they believed in the savior, got some direction, maybe even served a mission. There are so many blessings of the gospel, it is a privilege to be able to spread them.
 
Some interesting lessons this week. One guy met with us but brought his Japanese girlfriend who spoke English and Japanese but no Chinese, the guy spoke Japanese and Chinese but no English. So when they talked they used Japanese, but to teach her we had to use English and for him use Chinese. So we made it through the lesson with one of us just talking in either Chinese or English and then the companion would just translate it into whichever wasn't said. They both were willing to pray and keep meeting, it is true that the Spirit is the same in every language.
 
Met a neat guy, young father, super successful businessman from Hong Kong with a really cute little girl named Angelique.  I talked to him really quick a few weeks back as he was getting into his Mercedes and he didn't have time but left a number (like tons of other people), but later he actually did set up and it turns out he is a great dad who sacrafices a ton for his family and is excited about getting involved in church. We prayed and he said he really could feel the power of it. Hopefully all goes well.
 
Taught a nice Aborigine family too. I don't see them as much here as I did down south, I kind of miss that because I really like the native Taiwanese. They are so nice, kind of remind me of a Polynesian culture in some ways. This old man had this rough but friendly feel about him, just sitting there with his big machete thing making cups out of stalks of bamboo, which he gave to us as gifts and are super cool. He took one and threw it against the floor just to prove it wouldn't break. Just kind of grumbles his Chinese, we can barely get anything he says. Anyway, we had this spiritual lesson and then invited him to be baptized, and he looked up and paused for a minute and then all concerned asked if the water was cold. We then spent several minutes discussing the temperature and how it would be a physically comfortable experience and he didn't need to worry. He was good with it, seems like the kind of guy that will do whatever as long as it seems good or his wife tells him to do it. She was a little more thoughtful about the idea of baptism, though, thought maybe she should ponder before just committing. Funny gender difference. But at least his concern was easier to resolve than something with the Word of Wisdom or tithing. He kept making cups.
 
Okay that is all for now I think. I feel like I always have more stuff I can say, especially stuff Iearned this week, but time is always not enough. Trying to improve these letters though, give you a better idea of what is going on with me. Sorry no pictures, I try to send some next week.
 
I love you!
 
Elder Braithwaite
 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hello
 
Mom, yes I usually have time to read all the e mails you send me, sending them this way is best. Sounds like the substitute teaching thing is fun, and everyone is doing well. I am glad my family is so great. I am learning more and more that just doing all the things that we have been asked to do absolutely does lead to a happy life, no question about that, so if you follow the prophets and the scriptures things all go okay.
 
Another good week overall. It got super cold, I was really surprised! I had to use my overcoat thing that has been nothing but deadweight since the start. I think it isn't that low temperature wise, just constantly raining and the air is so humid here anyway, the cold is so wet. I'd take Utah cold any day. Dry cold feels better. Times like just I just have to remember I'm lucky to not have to endure Canada or Russia or something.
 
Things are still going really well, and all these good people are still making good progress. Mark and Kong, the hot dog kids, committed to quit smoking and then actually did smoke less this week. We struggled getting people to church because of various reasons, but I think (hope) these are just blips and things are still going to go well with all these people. Hong, the guy working on his Masters, finished his thesis and will have a lot more time to meet now, and with how cool and humble he is I think he really could progress quickly assuming no problems. I am excited for all these people, I love getting to make all these friends even if most of the people I teach never end up accepting the gospel. 
 
Speaking of which, cool story; back in Neihu my second transfer. For the free English classes we teach weekly, we always share a gospel message at the end. I was teaching the beginners English class, and for the spiritual part I taught about the Book of Mormon. After, I asked if anyone would want to read it and no one really had any interest, but one girl, about 20 or so, was willing to take a copy and said she might look through it if she gets time. I left the area and obviously didn't think to much about that experience because I have given away plenty of Books of Mormon. But I remember this girl and her friends who came with her were really nice and our class was all friends. I just heard from the Sisters in that area that she ended up reading, wanting to learn more, and just barely got baptized. Super cool. I played a super small part in the process but an awesome reminder that you never know how much your little actions can effect the entire life of someone else. You realize, in the end all this is the Lord's work and the part you play is impossible to measure, but whether you are super successful or see no success has no reflection on your personal awesomeness, because any results "you" ever get are really just God helping and loving His children.
 
Again speaking of which, I thought a lot about love this week. This was actually because a tiny old man with a cane and white eyes, basically your stereotypical wise old chinese man, stopped me and told me in poor English "Thank you for what you do, I can't describe you but you have a good heart. Teach people how to love each other, help them." More or less that. It was interesting and he was Buddhist and did not want to change, but I realized that the point of the gospel is to help people feel the love of their Heavenly Father, and then do their best to develop love in their lives and show it for others. That is more or less the whole point of it all. Those two things make real differences in a person's life if genuinely felt. So I have really been making an extra effort to show my love for everyone and the work seems to be going about the same, but I feel a lot better as I do it. Most people here do not believe in Jesus but really like him and tell me it is because he always focused on love, and I figure if I can't figure out how to really love others everday of my life then what kind of Christian am I. Awful grammer but English is not so important anymore.
 
Hey you should send me a picture of the scripture thing and see if I can read it. I think that is more or less it for this week, about out of time. I love you all so much and am so grateful for everything that you do!
 
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hello

This week has been great. Nankan is a lot like Taipei and I feel like I'm back on my second transfer again. There have been these weird fog attacks, super thick that give the city this eerie glow at night, but other than that the rain stayed minimal this week, only a couple of days were bad. Interestingly, my apartment is once again right across from a strip motel. I don't know why the Church picks these apartments. Anyway, I absolutely love being in such a busy area again and getting to talk to so many cool people every day. The ward is massive! Our chapel is four stories tall and there are hundreds of active members. They even have enough members to do a community badminton class on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Super cool. It is a big change after coming from the little branch down in Taidong.

It has been a week full of miracles!  There are a lot of people I am really excited about and if I get to stay here I should be able to finally help some people get baptized. We have been finding new investigators every single day and seeing people being prepared to meet us in such cool ways. Some of the people now:  Brother Hong; he is a guy who is in his twenties, working on his Masters in something to do with airplanes, super cool guy and is more willing to learn about the gospel than anyone I have ever met. We have Mark and Kong, these two 17 year old kids who dropped out of high school and now run a hot dog stand in the city together. They really love the gospel and have a real desire for some direction in their life. They've got the typical Taiwanese long hair going on, tattoos all over and stuff but they really do think the gospel is great. Then there is Noble, this guy I am super excited about, he is in his 70's. Noble is the English name he picked for himself, and he loves to say it and often speaks in third person using this name even though the rest of the conversation is in Chinese, it makes me want to laugh every time. He is really excited for baptism, has a massive husky dog named Fluffy. When we gave him a Book of Mormon he was so grateful he kissed it several times and wanted to take us out for Thai food. Such a funny old man. But I have never met any investigator so in tune with the Spirit.  He likes to describe his feelings to us and it is basically quoting scriptures about the Holy Ghost. Aside from them we have found a bunch of other great people. I just feel like overall things are going too great to believe in this area and it is all because of the Lord and the Spirit, not at all because of us. But it has been a real boost to my faith, not that faith should rely on outward results at all, but I'm not perfect and seeing some success after going so long with so little has really helped my faith this week.


The companion is great. Elder Clifford reminds me of the guy from the "Best Two Years", nerdy and white and real earnest with a big love for the people. In the mornings for exercise he likes to kick a soccer ball around to himself. It is too inconvinient to go running around the city streets because of cars and stuff so we go over to this elementary school where there is a track. Anyway, this week a group of ten year olds decided they thought it would be fun to play so they came over and started kicking with him, and now every morning we get a soccer game going with a bunch of the elementary kids. There are always people on the street watching us. I am sure it looks way funny to see all these little Asian kids and then two big white Americans.

I really think the difference between the great week this week and the weeks that don't go so well has been the Spirit. That was my goal for this transfer, since I didn't know what to expect I wanted to really just do everything I can to work by the Spirit, to be humble and get myself out of the way and trust that the Lord is going to do his part. And this week we really did see ourselves led right to the people who cared about this message, who were willing to listen. I am not really the same as other missionaries and I have a lot of problems to get over, but I feel like I am making improvement and I am so grateful for all the miracles God accomplished this week and that I get to be a means through which He can work, if I can get myself out of the way.

Okay so for the mission plaque I guess I should pick a scripture this week, right? Just go with the Matthew 7 25 one, is that it? about the rock. It doesn't really matter, I have too many I love so I can't really pick, I guess I love the scriptures regardless of whether or not they go on my plaque so it makes no difference.

Thanks for all you do and I love you!

Elder Braithwaite