Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hello,

Apenas llevo 2 semanas en esta area y mi español ya mejoro bastante,
ya puedo escribirles en español espero que puedan entenderme...

The new area is great! Whitewashing is rough but its really fun to
just go out and work, really feels like back when I was with Daniel
and we had no clue what to do so just went and street contacted all
day. More or less the same. Found out that Yonghe is indeed the most
densely populated area in Taiwan. Half the streets in this part of the
city are super narrow, the buildings just kind of close in on you and
block out all sunlight. But there is never a shortage of people to
talk to, so that is good. It feels a lot different than any of the
other areas I have been in. But then, everywhere I have gone has been
that way. This is the complete opposite of Taidong. What I have
realized though is that the bulk of what you do is exactly the same no
matter where you go.

Also found out that my companion is indeed Guatemalan, from Guatemala
City. Elder Oscar Ivan Cordon Espinoza. His English is still nearly
perfect though. When he was in high school he decided he wanted to
learn Chinese, but there was no where to do that, so he went to the
Taiwanese embassy and asked around, found someone to teach him once a
week. So his Chinese is okay too. It should be a fun transfer, my
first time with such a young companion so hopefully I can help him
feel more comfortable with the work.

We have a bunch of good investigators in this area, people who I am
really excited to help. The closest to baptism is Brother Yang, an
insurance salesman and really friendly guy. He is getting close, still
has some obstacles to get over, but should be okay. Then there is
Zhang, he is one of the few high school aged investigators I have ever
had who is actually mature enough to really progress. From the time
the missionaries met with him last week and gave him a Book of Mormon,
he has read it every day and loves it. So I am excited about him too.
Also, my favorite is Li Qiao who is possibly one of the most humble
men I have ever met. When I first saw him I thought of a Buddha but not
shirtless, just this really heavy set but smiley guy. He has a real
desire to change and really wants to understand God. His problem is
that he has really strong addictions to alcohol, tobacco, and
especially binlang. I don't know how much I have talked about that.
Binlang is this drug that is everywhere here,  these little
"nuts", some sort of plant. You chew it like tobacco and spit it out
all over the streets so other people step in it. It is red and it
turns your mouth and teeth and spit red and drips out of your mouth
and makes it look like you're all bloody, just disgusting overall, and
really addictive. But this guy really wants to change and we set a
plan with him. He needs a lot of help so keep him in your prayers.
Break free, Li! I want to help him really bad.

One cool miracle this week: For our English class on Wednesday night,
I was sitting in my classroom at the church waiting for students to
show up and this lady walked in early, so we started talking. I was
confused because she seemed to know a lot about our church. I soon
figured out she had actually been baptized, but hadn't gone to church
for over a decade. Tried to understand why, but pretty soon other
students came so the conversation got cut off. But for the last part
of English class we do a spiritual message, and I had decided to teach
about prayer. Halfway through the lesson I asked her to share her
testimony about prayer, not really knowing how that would go. But she
stood up and started talking about her experience, about how and why
she fell away from the church but how for these 10 years she had still
never given up on prayer- she knew that God really does hear her. She
has been looking for a long time for a way to come back, but never
knew how to do it, has tried calling the church but no one ever
answered.  I guess maybe she thought that people wouldn't want her to
come back. She remember that the church does this English class, so
decided maybe she should start with that. Anyway, she was praying for
God to help her use this opportunity to get involved in the church
again and when she walked into the classroom and saw me and that I was
named 'bai', she felt like it was a sign because that was the name of
the elder who baptized her when she was 18. So she felt okay to talk
to me about coming back. Her testimony was really powerful and she
basically recommitted to this class of about 20 English students that
she will never turn away from the church again because it is true, and
all these people where clapping for her and shouting amen and
hallelujah and funny stuff because that is probably what they have
seen Christians do on TV or in the movies. But the spirit was there
nonetheless. A testimony that Heavenly Father will never forget any of
us, and if we are just willing to remember Him things will work out.

A lot of other stuff happened this week, had a Seventy and the 1st
counselor in the presiding bishopric come speak to us. It was
interesting they didn't even have a topic, just kind of did a
testimony meeting-ish thing. Had a lot of other cool miracles. The
district is doing well.

I love you all!

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hola mi familia,
 
My Spanish is not very good. But it needs to get better, there were a lot of surprises this week. First of all, move calls came, and even though I should not have moved and it made perfect sense for me to stay, I am out of Taoyuan. I guess I did what I needed to do here in Nankan. And I'm headed to the last place I would have guessed, Yonghe. Yonghe is an area in central Taibei, and by far the most densely populated area in the mission. I thought Taoyuan had a lot of people, especially after moving here straight from the super rural east coast, but I have heard that about 20 years ago Yonghe was in the top 10 most densely populated areas on the planet. So this will be fun. I'm excited for sure. I feel so lucky, because I have moved so much I have gotten to see so many different aspects of this island and its cultures, more so that most missionaries I think, and I'm still not even to my year mark.
 
Other surprise is that my new companion, Elder Cardon, is Guatemalan, hence the Spanish. Also is a relatively young missionary. Or so I hear, I cannot confirm these things as I have not actually met him yet. But this week I passed off the last of the language study plans that our language provides for the missionaries, so I guess that means I am free to start studying Spanish right? We'll see how much I can pick up. The other surprise is that I am whitewashing into Yonghe, which means that neither I nor my companion knows the area, we are both coming from outside. Just like my second transfer back in Neihu. So that is really fun too, it is an adventure for sure. Other surprise is that I am the District Leader in that area. So there are a lot of unexpected changes happening but I am stoked for this transfer.
 

So as for the final week in Nankan, it was about everything I would have hoped. Got to go to the temple and do a session in Chinese. Saw miracles, best of which, 游建融 (Brother You) got baptized! Super great! I have told you his story in the past letters I think. He is so great. And his girlfriend came and they are definitely going to get married in a year when they can go to the temple.
 
So that is great, because that is the point of getting baptized right? Seeing his conversion has been such a testimony builder for me, I feel like I learn so much from the examples my investigators give me, makes me feel a little bad about not being a better disciple. He is a good friend.
 

Next cool miracle: 陳自然. Brother Chen, he is a guy I found on the street about 5 weeks ago. I took him into the chapel to give him a tour, ended up being able to teach him a lesson, set a baptism date. He is a super witty guy, one of the few Taiwanese people who seems to get western humor, and actually makes me laugh. Anyway, he is a college grad and real smart but has some physical disabilities that make it hard to find work.  His dad passed away not too long ago, and as we taught him that first time, the spirit was powerful and he had no hesitations about baptism. He said it seemed like something everyone would want, and it gives him the direction he has been looking for. Sadly he didn't live in my area, so I had to hand him over to other missionaries, but I have still seen him at church, gotten to teach him a few times on exchanges, still got to become his buddy. Anyway, the gospel just makes sense to him. He has so much faith. So he made it to baptism this week too. It was a cool miracle for me, a testimony that there are real people just walking around on the street who would love to hear the gospel, somebody just needs to give them the chance.
 
The next great miracle is a letter, from the Elders down in beautiful Taidong. They finally let me know what happened to all the people I was teaching down there. Most of them are still doing really well, but most importantly 李弟兄 (Brother Li) got baptized! He was someone I worked with for about 12 weeks, got to teach him almost everything and he was super close, and his faith had grown so much. He got baptized only a couple weeks after I left. I was so happy that he made it.  You probably don't remember but he is the one who was a college freshman, when we started meeting he had almost no hope, no real desire to do the things we asked, but over time his faith, particularly towards the Atonement and Resurrection, got stronger and as we met with him there was a complete change in his attitude, got really excited about baptism and reading his scriptures and everything. Like this hope was infused into him by the gospel. I was so happy to hear about him, he is a good friend, and I had kind of felt like my three months down there were not super successful, at least in a measurable way, so this was an awesome miracle for me.
 
I am realizing what a miracle every single conversion story is, or really more like many, many miracles every step of the process. The hand of the Lord in the lives of all these people is undeniable. And I feel like I am understanding more and more how little the missionary really does, something that I have been told again and again and understand intellectually but of which I am now gaining an experiential testimony.
 
Oh also as a celebration of the end of the transfer, an elder ate one of the Ghost peppers he has been growing, the hottest pepper in the world. It was hilarious, he was in so much pain. He wanted me to do it but that is one thing in the country I won't try.
 
So it was quite the week. I am loving my mission. I love the people and I love the Gospel and I especially love being an instrument in the hands of the Lord as he changes the lives of his Taiwanese children, because there is nothing happier or more humbling than knowing that God used you to help someone.
 
I also love you all, and I will give you more information about Yonghe and Elder Cardon next week.
 
Elder Braithwaite
 
Pictures: 1: Me, elder clifford, Brother You and his girlfriend      2: A bunch of us elders, also Brother You, the guy in the very middle is Brother Chen

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hello

           Not much to say. Hope you liked the song when I called. It was great to talk. Not a ton to write in this email now I guess.

             I didn't really mention much about 游建螎. He is our investigator who just passed his baptismal interview, is getting baptized on Saturday. I love him, he is super great and I feel like he is really just my buddy. Even better, he and his girlfriend do have plans for the temple as soon as possible, which is a year from his baptism. So if that works out I would still be on island and could probably get permission to go to their wedding! I feel like that would be really cool, seeing an investigator get married in the temple. I am sure they'll make it, both he and she are some of the best new converts (or soon to be) I have ever seen.

                This week the ward had another baptism. The other Taoyuan elders had a man who has had the biggest struggle ever making it to baptism, has been meeting for about two years now. He works as a security guard, is ex-special police/motocycle model. One of the only Taiwanese men I have ever been intimidated by. After his baptism he stood up to bear his testimony and had this stunned look as if he couldn't believe it had happened, and said "I gave up smoking, drinking, broke up with my girlfriend, nearly had to give up my job........ Now I'm baptized. I have never felt like this." It was just super powerful, super cool story, wish I could give it more justice. Really a testimony builder to see that with faith and prayer and fasting the Lord can make anything happen. The converting power of the gospel is real.

             Excited to go to the temple today! I might get to do endowments in Chinese. Also, move calls this week - I should be staying -- if not it will be a really big surprise, but you never know. Going to pass off a Book of Mormon reading test to my president today as well -- hopefully that goes well.

            An elder in my district got hold of a "ghost pepper" plant. Supposedly the hottest peppers in the world. We were told that in India they throw them in the fire and the smoke is enough to keep elephants out of their fields. So he wants to eat one, I want to watch.
             I know there is other stuff going on, mostly just Brother You's baptism, that is most important. I'll send pictures next week of that.
I love you

Elder Braithwaite

We climbed a mountain for morning exercise, got a good view of polluted old Taoyuan:


Sunday, May 6, 2012



Hello

Taiwan is doing good. Sounds like you are all fine. I am glad for the (short) updates, especially about Ashley and new niece, they are in my prayers! Any names yet?

I was going through some old stuff and found a bunch of letters I wrote in January that I thought I sent but really didn't. Oops, I am super bad at writing and sending letters promptly. Problem is, a few of these people were at BYU but now the semester is over so I am not sure if they still have that address or if they have gone home, so I just sent the letters to our house and maybe someone can figure it out for me, find them on facebook or something.


I am feeling like these letters get a little monotonous. Sorry if they feel that way to you, I try to include the interesting stuff I can remember. This week saw some cool miracles, especially with some of our investigators. First, Brother You, who is awesome, has developed a ton of faith. He talked to us about how at first he was really skeptical and unwilling to actually believe in any of this, but his girlfriend (who is even more awesome) forced him to come meet with us and he has been willing to do what we ask of him, read and pray and come to church, and last night we met and he just bore this sweet testimony of how he really has had that feeling of faith growing, really has had experiences of communication with God as he prays, really has started to feel God's love for him, and wants to get baptized. Set up his interview for this week, he should be good to get baptized in two. Super cool miracle, just one more testimony to me that if someone honestly does the basics of the gospel, really wants to feel Heavenly Father in their hearts, that is what they'll get.  It comes and it doesn't matter who you are. I hear a lot of stories about people whose lives are completely changed by the gospel, who turn away from a really bad life, but to me it is also super cool to see guys like Brother You who are so normal, whose lives have no major problems, who are naturally already living the commandments, who don't need any emotional comfort or the assurance of seeing a dead loved one again or anything like that, have no huge motivation to change or develop faith, and yet are able to do it anyway and are changed by the gospel, are happier and have a better outlook on life because of it. That's cool too. The gospel really is for everyone, no matter how good your life already is.



One night for dinner this week we bought some typical greasy Taiwanese street food and went to a park to eat, this fat little kid comes to talk to us because we are white and he was curious. His grandpa comes and sits down at our table with us and just listens and smiles as the kid talks to the foreigners. After talking for a while he sees my scipture box with a picture of Jesus on it and asks "who is that" and we say "it's Jesus Christ" and he turns to his grandpa and asks "what is Jesus Christ" and the grandpa just laughs and hesitates for a moment and then asks us to explain, which we did. But I realized, what is a good way to answer that question, if you have someone who literally has never heard of Jesus, how to you introduce him, explain him simply so that someone can understand? I told him He was our boss. Which is true, but there is a better answer than that, I'm sure.



Had an investigator this week who was so confused at how Americans could be so religious, have so much faith. He felt like this has a conflict with our good universities and progress in science and technology, etc. He brought up the motto thing (not sure what to call it) "In God we trust", how odd that that phrase was still a part of the American identity, even on our money, when so much of the world, and especially governments, are becoming de-religioned. It was hard to explain to him that faith is not a hindrance to development, no conflict, but instead an enhancement, if you do it right. But just a reminder to me that we have that phrase because faith in God really was important to the people who founded our nation and it should be to me too. It is meant to be a part of who I am.


Okay that is enough for now, I always feel like I get here and write about random stuff that doesn't really matter and forget something important that would probably be more interesting. Maybe I will start making a plan for these letters before I write them. I love you! Things are going well here, this whole city is on fire with the spirit and all transfer there have been weekly baptisms in our chapel by one set of Taoyuan missionaries or another. I love it, the Lord is really blessing the work right now. Keep praying for these people!


Elder Braithwaite
Sign over a urinal -- thought it was pretty deep, has application for more than just the men's room.