Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hey hello
Are you happy today? That is how I often start talking to people. Here people will answer honestly if they are not. Like this man who was selling fried onion doughnut things.  He said it was bad because no one was buying his stuff, so I bought some and he seemed happier. Didn't want to come to church. That would have done the trick even better, but I did what I could.
Sounds like all is going well at home. Happy Birthday Luke! Not much else big going on I guess. I don't have a ton to report this week either. We did a lot of finding this week, which is always good. Had some cool miracles, all of which happened at night after a long day of working hard with relatively no results. Seeing that principle of miracles coming after faith in action. One day it was pouring rain, we had a couple of lessons but they all stood us up or cancelled, so we spent the whole day out on the streets trying to talk to anyone who was out, which were not many people because of the rain. Went all the way to dinner with nothing. But then in those last few hours before going home ended up miraculously finding five new investigators and two of them even came to church this week. Got home soaked and grateful that God is willing to help us out like that after we do our best.
Had another baptism this week, I guess technically our investigator but not really. There is this dad, Brother Tang, who got baptized about 8 months ago, he was Muslim before and the family used to live in Central America, just a cool guy. Anyway, his cute little daughter is over eight so we got to go teach her the lessons so she could get baptized, which she did this week. Cutest thing ever, she was so happy, in her talk thing after she "is so excited she can be a Christian for her whole life". Another girl got baptized at the service, the Taoyuan Sisters' investigator, and Brother Hong got to do it! He was given the Aaronic priesthood last week. It is super cool to see him doing so well, I feel so privileged to be a part of his life. He is already using the priesthood to help others and I'm glad I got to be a part of helping him get these opportunities.
Met with Kenzo the Mongolian guy.  He is actually really cool and I have good hopes for him. We have some other investigators who are doing super well, especially Brother You. He is the guy whose girlfriend is a really new convert, she started calling him at night and making him pray with her, and got him to start meeting with us. Anyway, he has been doing super well, reads the Book of Mormon better than I do, comes to church every week and the ward all loves him.  He is just golden, first one I have ever seen like this. He should make his baptismal goal which is in about three weeks, so pray for him.
This Tuesday we had special training by Elder Gong, a 70. It was great, super spiritual meeting and I learned a ton. Realized that people will probably forget the words you say when you teach them,  just like after conference you won't perfectly remember everything shared. But the point is to teach them in such a way that they will feel something, and that way whenever they think back to that missionary who met with them, even if they have forgotten the doctrine or never accepted the message, they will never forget the way that we helped them feel in their hearts. And hopefully the next time they feel that, they can recognized it and embrace it. Cool thought from him, I feel like it applies to any teaching in the church, the entire goal is to get people to feel.                                         
                                               (We  received this e-mail today.  Jan)                
                  Dear Brother and Sister Braithwaite and Brother and Sister Clifford,
                          My husband, Elder Gerrit Gong, and I had the great pleasure of meeting your missionary sons at a Zhongli zone conference. (Elder Clifford was a student in my Chinese class at Provo High some years ago.) As you can see from the photo below, both of your sons are healthy and report that are truly happy in the work. They are undeterred by pouring rain, heavy rain, or summer heat.
          May you be blessed for your sacrifice and their service.


      Thank you for raising worthy young men prepared and willing to spread the beautiful message of the restored gospel.

Got some cool pictures last p day. We went and just explored some of the hills outside of Nankan and ended up finding this abandoned and never completely finished temple up in the jungle, really cool. Just a concrete shell instead of the ornate, ridiculously colorful temples you normally see. As we were looking around one of the upper floors, we heard this eerie singing and went down to find an old man who had hiked up to do his ancestor worship.   It was interesting, like he chose to do it at his own secret place instead of the pretty temples down in the city.
Don't have too much else to say, that was actually more that I thought I had. I love you all, hope everything keeps going well!
Elder Braithwaite
Looking out the door of the temple at Nankan
Bridge Thing

In front of the temple


Sunday, April 22, 2012

This week I do not have a ton to say. Everything is going really well and I can't complain. We had a bunch of investigators come to church. One is 游弟兄 who is really cool, the guy who's girlfriend is the new convert. He has been doing his reading and praying really well and this is his second time to church, which means he is well on his way to baptism. Because if people just read, pray, and come to church, they get it. I have yet to see someone who does those three things with real intent and doesn't feel that this gospel is true. It's foolproof! That's how we trick them.
Did teach a bunch more international lessons. We visited that Indian chef again who has one day off a month but is willing to meet on that day and we gave him a Hindi Book of Mormon. This lesson was actually super cool because his English is not great and he speaks zero Chinese so communication is very limited. But even using super simple language we were able to explain prophets and scripture and prayer and he really did get it, finished the lesson praying in Hindi (which sounds nuts) and the spirit was really strong. Also met again with our Indonesian investigator and gave him an Indonesian Book of Mormon, which is another language that is fun to listen to. Met with another guy who brought along his Vietnamese girlfriend (I feel like a lot of people have them here). She is not super interested but is nice. Talked to some weird people from Thailand on the street, not nearly as nice as the Taiwanese people I am used to. A Chinese guy from Australia. Another man from Pakistan in a turban and long beard and all that who invited me to the mosque and more persistently preached his message than he would let me preach mine. Another guy from Cypress. We run into plenty of Phillipinos. Also we have a lesson set up this week with a guy from Mongolia. After that, I think I will have met and taught people from most major Asian countries.
熊弟兄 got baptized! Not my investigator. But A cool guy I got to teach on exchanges a while ago.   Has progressing parkinsons and is really humble and when we went to his apartment it was so sad, just concrete and cold and wreaked of cigarettes, but this guy has so much faith. He heard the gospel and immediately accepted it, just made sense to him. I got to teach him the plan of salvation and at the end he said, "I get it, the point is to go to the celestial kingdom and to do that we have to get baptized." Summed up missionary work better than I ever could. He quit smoking in like 2 weeks in order to get baptized. I feel like I was just as happy to see him baptized as I would one of my own investigators. In the end it doesn't really matter who teaches the investigator because the message is the Lords and the blessings are from the Lord and the missionary really doesn't matter, just kind of the step that has to be in the middle. Not that we aren't important, just have to remember that in the end we really aren't that awesome, it's not us that really does anything.
That is all for this week. Good stuff is happening in Nankan. Hope is high that good stuff will continue to happen. Trying my best to have that happy, Taiwanese-y attitude everyday. The people here are a good example to me.
I love you!
Elder Braithwaite
--------Our bathroom, this is typical, small and the shower just sprays down on everything else.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good to hear from everyone, you all sound great. Yes I got the Easter package, thank you, the chocolate was good. Taiwanese chocolate is awful, you can buy real chocolate here but its expensive, Gave most of it to a local elder in our district and he loved it. Don't worry about sending me stuff over emails, it doesn't take too long and I like reading it, I just read it fast, it would be less convenient to send it through the mail. Mom's new job sounds really boring.
Hey question are you all still vegetarian? I tell people that my family at home is vegetarian/vegan and often get funny reactions, they expect all Americans to eat cow every meal. I have been pretty much vegetarian since I got to Taiwan, there is always tofu that you can pick instead of meat so whenever it is my choice that is what I get. This transfer Elder Sheng moved into our district who has serious allergies so has to eat vegan. So I wanted to support him and give up meat completely, and I talked to this other elder and he said he would do it too, and it spread and now most of our district is vegetarian (still one elder refuses to give it up, he is from Nebraska though). Even my companion who's family raises chickens and pigs is trying it out. Oh this is fun, in Chinese if you "check someone out" it is called "eating their tofu".
Speaking of which, last week was transfers and I forgot to tell you, but I am still here with Elder Clifford so not much to tell. Super excited to stay, I love Taoyuan and Nankan, great people here. Sister Qiu is getting pretty close to baptism. She is the single mom, don't know if I have mentioned her before, really hard working taking care of her kids. Super good Book of Mormon reader and really ponders everything we share. She has been doing really well and has made a ton of progress. Came to church again, always has a good experience, plus her daughter loves it and really wants to get baptized. Pray for her, if all goes okay she could be baptized in the next few weeks. Her family needs the gospel so much.
Other than her we have a bunch of good investigators lately. Two guys who are investigating the church because of their girlfriends. Actually this is really cool, one is in high school and his friend is this girl who joined the church, only member in her family, and this guy noticed that she was a really good person and that she gave him a great example so he was willing to start meeting with us. The other is this guy who's girlfriend is a new convert in a different part of Taiwan, but this girl has a ton of fire for the gospel and started calling him every night and making him say a prayer with her over the phone before they go to bed. Then convinced him he should try it out too, start meeting with us. So relationships are a really good way to spread the gospel. Plus I guess these guys have some pretty good extra motivation to accept the message.
Can't think of what else happened this week. Probably a lot, I am tired. My bike is holding up okay but it has definitely accumulated some battle scars. Still haven't been hit, not for real. I'll try to keep it that way. I get scared when I think how long I have been here. Still have plenty of time but it does go fast.
I love you!
Elder Braithwaite
These pictures are random ones I have taken, just
 sort of a sample of what the city here looks like.


照片 005.jpg

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hey sounds like everyone is doing great! Hey you noticed the new suit. A member gave it to me, it was too big for everyone else but it fits me pretty well. I like the double breasted look, makes me feel classy. Just one of the many free things I have gotten on my mission, like my fanny packs or ties or my pair of Eccos - some missionary going home left them, probably two years old but in good enough shape to wear still, which I do. The "big keychain" is actually one of those little counter things. I found it and decided I would start using it to count how many people I talk to every day, because there is a section in PMG that talks about setting goals for that. But I found out that was really boring and didn't feel like it was helping me. Instead I started counting how many high fives I can get! More fun, and I feel like it has helped me focus on being excited as I talk to people. Plus when they reject me I can still give them a high five and make them not leave their encounter with a missionary with a sour taste in their mouth. It usually gets people to smile, good method of softening their hearts. I got 359 in the past 3+ weeks.
I am glad Conference and Easter went well. Happy Resurrection holiday! That's what it is in Chinese. Conference was great, so much stuff that I needed to hear. A lot to improve on. A lot to change. I hope you feel the same way. Every talk was amazing, I feel so much more involved in Conferences on my mission. I think this time they wanted us to understand that families might be important, I kind of got that vibe. So thanks for being such a great family to me. I really do love you all so much. You are still such good examples to me, even now when we're far away.
Got a lot of thoughts I could share from Conference, here is one I feel like writing about. I feel like President Monson really emphasized that God is our Father. I remember someone, maybe Russell M Neslon, said "fear comes because we forget our identity." Thought a lot about this lately. This week we were in a city park and I sat down with this guy and his girlfriend on a bench, cool, normal couple in their twenties. Asked this guy about if he believes in God, he said yes. Asked him what his relationship with God was, he said that God guides him. I thought, cool, sounds like me. As I kept talking I figured out that by "God" he meant two rock things that he could throw, ask questions to, got answers depending on how they landed. He has an app of God on his iphone. Frequently when I talk to people about God their concept is of the statue at the altar in their home or on the corner of the street at the local temple that they can burn incense to and offer sacrificial food. I am not saying this to poke fun at other peoples beliefs, and I am not assuming I completely understand their traditions and beliefs. But the problem is that I follow up questions about belief in God with questions like why we are here, where we are from or where we are going, and I almost never get an answer, at least one that makes sense. Usually people just laugh uncomfortably and say they don't really think about that stuff. Shouldn't these two sets of questions be connected? People have such different concepts not only of how to believe in God but even of what "God" really means. I will often be told that my God is the western god and theirs is the eastern god and that they are both true. To me all that says is that they don't believe in any truth, that what they are really saying is there is no reality to God and thus no power. What purpose does that viewpoint have? It does no one any good and will not bring anyone any closer to an understanding of what really is. Another, people will tell me stubbornly all the time that God is simply a comfort in your heart and that is all, that he is real if you believe and if you don't he doesn't exist.
These ideas all have the same problem. Where is the "why" behind it all? What is the truth? There are no answers to the questions of the soul, the questions that matter, the ones that the overwhelming majority of people don't think about, or maybe try not or don't want to think about anymore.
There is an underappreciated power in the knowledge that God is literally a father. There is a reason, a why. He is a creator. Family is the thing that connects us to him, and the answers to the questions are real. Believing that there is a truth is powerful. It is harder than believing in the foundationless ideas that are popular, just like taking a firm stance on anything is harder than neutrality. Having truth means taking a stand, but it also means having something to stand on.
I think this is why Nephi said "For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world."
There is a difference in this God. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is one who loves us and is our dad. It is something I feel, and something I want to help everyone feel because I know what a difference it makes for me.
Wow that ended up being a lot longer than I thought. Time is mostly out. Things went fine this week. Found some great new investigators. Hope you all know I love you this /----------------------------/ much! Thanks for all the support!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sounds like Arizona was fun. I want to see some pictures of the kids! Actually I guess you will probably send some when the new one comes, that is soon enough. Let them all know that I love them! And as far as Conference goes, still haven't seen it, comes a week late here, but really stoked for this weekend. It was more or less my favorite weekend of the year before the mission, even better now.

 Hey so good news, Tony (brother Hong) got confirmed and received the gift of the Holy Ghost! And before that he got baptized! He is such a cool, smart guy. I feel like teaching him was too easy. Like I struggled so hard in all these other areas to get these investigators to slowly progress, and then I come here and teach him and he just developed so much faith so fast. For example, one lesson he first shared with us a scripture about obedience to the commandments bringing blessings that he liked from his personal study. After that we just told him about the Word of Wisdom and he said "well, if it is a commandment I guess I should follow it." Usually not that easy to get a Taiwanese person to stop drinking tea. So cool.
Baptism! Tony is the guy next to me; Elder Clifford; the other Asian, this new member in the ward we wanted to baptize him.

With him what made the difference was honestly that he was just willing to pray and read and come to church. He trusted us when we told him that these things would make a difference in his development of faith, and they did. He was so happy after his baptism! He said himself he just felt so happy. Makes me think how badly the Lord wants us to trust him when he tells us something is good or bad for us, He knows how happy it will make us but we need to be humble enough to just do it.

This week everything else has gone really well also. Maybe not quite so miraculous in finding as we have been for the past few weeks, but still pretty solid. I love meeting the crazy people, there are a lot around. Way old man telling me how he saw God and how beautiful his airplane was, like a bird, none of the angels had them, only Jesus and God. And then acting it out for me. You really get a ton of crazies here, I don't know if other missions are the same, but it certainly keeps things interesting. One thing that has bugged me lately was how ridiculously busy everyone is here. You get the excuse all the time that people can't meet with you because they have no time. When I first got here I thought it was just a dumb excuse, that, if they really wanted to, anyone could find 20-30 minutes once a week to learn about God. But the truth is, a lot of people here literally do not, they work 7 days a week 15 hours a day. And that isn't too weird or unordinary. Students are just as bad, also attending class of some sort from early morning until 8 or 9 at night and then just doing all their homework until bed, everyday including Sunday, some from middle school on. This society is a little crazy in this way. I think this is honestly one of Satan's more powerful tools, making you too busy with what you think is important that you lose the time for Heavenly Father. This probably happened to some degree in my pre mission life too, but won't after, that's for sure.

Last Monday we went to an amusment park for Pday. That was fun, it had the most confused theme though. I guess it used to be American Western themed but then they just added SpongeBob stuff everywhere, so there was a weird and funny mix of decorations. I was thinking how funny it would be to go to Lagoon or somewhere and see a bunch of missionaries on the roller coaster. 
Confused decorations!
Me and Patrick

I bet if missionaries rode horses we'd be more successful.
So that is good for the week. Super excited for conference and I still have a lot of hope for our investigators here. Sister Qiu is doing really well, that single mom lady with two kids, maybe i'll write about her more next week, don't know if I have yet or not. I always forget what I tell you and what I forget to tell you. And we had a bunch come to church, seeing some good faith being shown. Keep praying for these people.
I love you!
Elder Braithwaite