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

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