Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hey

Your letters were fun to read this week. Everything has been going really well here! Some important stuff happened:
 Brother 王 got baptized! I am pretty sure I told you his story already. He is super, and this was by far the best baptismal service I have ever had, or seen. Things just worked out great.  About 30 or 40 members came and supported him, including pretty much every young woman, which should help with his fellowshipping! Usually we are lucky to get maybe 10 people to attend a baptism, including us and the investigator. Our mission president just happened to come to this baptismal service as well, so overall it was great. No flooding problems. Oh and the best part is his whole family came.  They don't oppose but instead are really happy for him, and hopefully his little brother will follow him soon. 
After the baptism he shared his testimony and it was so great. Told about how good his life was on paper, how he had made the college basketball team, things were good with his coach and everything was going well, but inside he just felt so empty. One night he finally was sick of the way his life was going and knew he needed a change, and basically tried praying and it made him feel better and the next day he met missionaries. I think I have written this before. Anyway, he started tearing up a little, and that was awesome because he is the tough, cool jock type and he says now he doesn't feel like he needs to be cocky to show others he has faith, because now he knows that real faith comes through humility and trusting God. Awesome.

And my other investigator bought me a teddy bear! I didn't even have to ask! He ordered it online and it is a really nice one with removable eyebrows. And he also ordered my companion a tie from Paris.  I feel like this was a very Christlike thing to do, spontaneously buying someone a teddy bear, which I take as a sign that I am doing my job well with him. It was cool -- this guy hasn't really been progressing much, he is a really smart, logically minded computer programmer and he just thinks really deeply about everything we teach him and questions everything. But this week he was feeling pretty blue and decided to go over to the chapel and try reading scriptures because he likes the way it feels there, and as he sat there drinking his tea some members who were cleaning the chapel talked to him about the Word of Wisdom. Even though it really shocked him that we don't drink tea, for some reason he was willing to accept it. He felt like God led him to the church that night because He wanted him to change his life, so he accepted it. To me this is a miracle. I feel like if any of the commandments are illogical, avoiding tea is probably it, but he was just able to accept it without any questions. Super cool, and we didn't even do a thing. His English name is Barney. 

I have been thinking a lot about why we seem to be having so much success lately, in very measurable ways. Our relationships with the ward are improving and we are seeing miracles and having baptisms and the Lord is blessing us. At other times on my mission, I feel like I have put forth more or less the same amount of effort, just really doing my absolute best to do all I can to serve the Lord, and then the results just didn't come, at least in measurable ways. Right now everything is great. I am not sure why this is, why Heavenly Father blesses us so much at times and at others, withholds those blessings, even though there is no change in the amount of effort, faith, obedience, or love you have. But what I am learning is why the first commandment is to "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart". That way, the service you give, whether you see abundant results or none at all, will make you happy, because you are doing exactly what God wants you to do and that just makes you happy because you love Him. Like what I read by Elder Wirthlin this : "Those who make happiness the chief objective of life are bound to fail, for happiness is a by-product rather than an end in itself. Happiness comes from doing one's duty and knowing that his life is in harmony with God and His commandments." Never thought of it like that, as a by-product. But I feel that my connection with Heavenly Father has strengthened over the past year and I have learned to simply love serving Him, and have a testimony that happiness comes in that process.

I love you all and am so grateful for this gospel and for the support you give me!

Elder Braithwaite




Sunday, August 19, 2012






Hello,

Everything is going great here! There are definitely a lot of areas I would like to improve, we have got to make changes but hey I'll be patient.

Good to hear from you. Oh man, you might think it is weird that people I went to school with are already getting home... I can just tell, based off the last year, how quickly my mission will be coming to an end. Not that I am at all looking forward to it, but I hear that the second year goes faster than the first and my first year flew. Which just makes me want to do even more, it isn't worth it to waste any time at all. Technically I still have a few more weeks until I have been on island for a year. Still crazy.

Here is a cool story: This week we were out contacting on the street one night and I talked to this kid, about my age, and after a little while he mentioned he had met missionaries before. I asked him how much he remembered and he mentioned something about the Book of Mormon, how he had been interested but at the time he hadn't had any time because he was a high school senior and had a lot of tests. I asked where and he said Taidong, and I told him jokingly that it might have been me because I used to be there. But then he said that it was about 6 months ago and he felt like that elder was named Bai also. It really surprised me, because 6 months ago was when I was there and I was definitely the only Bai. So it really was me that talked to him before. I knew he looked a little familiar. I later went and checked my old planner, and found his name and number recorded last January. And now here we are in Taipei, other side of the island, and the most crowded district in the whole city, and somehow I run into him again. The odds are not large. He says since he has moved up here by himself to start college and he knows no one and was super excited that I talked to him and would love to hear more. Cool, because as missionaries we do a lot of planting seeds, and most of the time you just hope that those people you talk to will later accept a different missionary or something, but you don't usually get a chance to be that person they later accept.

Brother Wang finally did his baptismal interview! His baptism is set for this week. Super excited about this. Slightly worried becuase he just told us he still hasn't told his family, which is technically okay because he is a legal adult but still really praying he isn't disowned or anything. But he wants to do it, and he knows it is right, and I just love seeing the faith. I have loved teaching him, he is 2 months younger than me so I really feel like I am just teaching the gospel to my friend or someone I went to school with or something. Its been great.

Last night we went to a fireside at the temple and my new convert brother You and his girlfriend came from Taoyuan to see it, and so we ran into each other and when he saw me he was so excited, just the biggest smile and ran over to give me a hug (which isn't something that Taiwanese guys do much) and it was great, and it just reminded me of how grateful I am for this opportuinty to make these lifelong, actually eternal, friendships. Being a missionary is such a privilege. He is still super active and is preparing to recieve the Melchezidek priesthood. Yay! Oh also he says he googleearth'ed our house and is jealous and thinks its really pretty. Yards are really a novelty to people here, let alone an open field across the street like we've got.

Biggest accomplished goal for the week: Finally made it through the Isaiah chapters in Chinese. I thought it was confusing before.

Okay so I can't think of much else. I am happy, this week our numbers weren't super great, but I felt so happy and I love being here, and there are so many miracles in my life and in the lives of all the missionaries in this area and we are really seeing to work take off. Pray for us, I love it, we just gotta keep it up.

I love you!

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hey hello,

All is well. We got transfer calls and my whole district stayed, basically. Which is awesome! This is the first time I will get to stay in an area for more than 3 months. Get to finish corrupting (training) elder Davidson. We are bound to see more miracles, he is an interesting guy. I feel like he really has the spirit and because of that he is like my good luck charm. I love this area and am happy to stay. It is so crowded that you don't even have to worry about where you go, just ride down any street and you can spend hours talking to people. Sometimes I get little longings for the east coast again, or maybe just some sort of nature, but not a big deal. 

So we are happy. And this week saw some good stuff happen. Things have been a little hard lately. I feel like the flow of new investigators has been gradually decreasing, and something has got to change and I am thinking it might be me and more specifically attitude. I like this job but, man, sometimes it is difficult to not fall into a routine, I feel like as soon as I become a robot missionary the spirit is gone. Even though every day is spent doing pretty much the same thing, you need to find ways to stay personal and involved in order to stay effective. 

Brother 王騰毅 did not do his baptismal interview as planned this week, because of some moving issues, which have now been resolved. However, we did go play basketball with him one morning, finally, and he didn't even try and really beat us badly. He is really good. But it was fun anyway. And he will do his interview this week (hopefully) and all will be well. Still working on his little brother, who I am confident will follow in time. 

We had a man call us up and ask us to come over, which was weird and has never happened to me. He found the church on the internet, doesn't really know anything about it but thinks that maybe something like this could help his son. We went to his apartment, he is a really rich man, in his 60's, with a 20+ year old son that is a UCLA grad and has some big rebellion problems. Just the typical lives at home but hates his parents and won't communicate sort of son, and this dad wants us to help him. So he had us over and we talked and waited for this son to get home for about 45 minutes and then he finally came, and basically walked in and muttered hello to us, ignored his father. We invited him to sit with us and he just kind of said no and left again. So this dad felt so let down, just looks at us sadly and apologizes for wasting our time. But I wanted to pray with him, so we taught him how to pray and he didn't really know what he was doing because he has no understanding of any Christian ideas like prayer, but was willing to try. And his prayer was more or less "God, please help my son. He is lost, and I love him so much, please take the bad out and put something good in. I really need your help. Amen." and I am sharing this story because I was more touched by his prayer than any I have heard on my mission. It was just a really earnest prayer and this dad loves his son so much and is willing to try anything that will help him. I guess just that display of fatherly love, it really left an impression. Just getting to see this kind of situation from the father's perspective. We invited him to church this week and he surprised us by actually showing up. We'll see what actually happens here, but what it really reminded me is how much good parents really love their children, like specifically how Heavenly Father must love us so much more that we know because we never get to see His side of it. So thanks for all the prayers, mother and father. I don't hear them but I probably have caused you to say a lot of worried prayers in the past so sorry about that. 

Some of my favorite experiences of teaching the gospel happen with these strangers who never really accept the message, but there is a spirit when you teach them that you hope they never forget, and you know you never will. I feel like I genuinely find joy in teaching this message. 

I love you all a lot! Hope everything continues to go well.

Elder Braithwaite

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hello,

Its great to hear from everyone. Sounds like all is well. Things are good here too. 
I was glad to be working this week. I feel like nothing really special happened. It was kind of a slow week, one of those weeks where you put forth a lot of effort and don't quite see as many results as you would like. So that is okay though. I am really enjoying this area and the missionaries in my district.  This is the last week of the transfer so we will see what changes, potentially my last week with elder Davidson. It has been fun training but I am not particularly good at it, which makes me feel bad for him. I'm comfortable at doing missionary stuff but its real hard to explain to someone else how to be comfortable at doing missionary stuff. It's a process. We did finally paint his bike! Brought back so many memories of that night so long ago when I painted mine. My bike is getting beat, I'll send a picture sometime maybe. 

This week we had typhoon. Wednesday afternoon until Friday we weren't allowed to leave our apartments, which was dumb because for most of that time it was just heavy rain, like the kind that we work in all the time, and nothing dangerous. I guess that on other parts of the island it was really bad though, so they put us all inside for safety. It was super weird to just sit and have a bunch of time to choose what I do. So that was different. 

If I get transferred I won't get to see Brother Wang get baptized, that basketball kid, which is real sad because he is such a cool investigator. I would be really happy to stay here but we'll see what happens. It's great how it makes no difference where you are or who you're with, the work won't change, and you'll be a good missionary if you are willing to work. 

Okay so I don't know what else to report on this week, but here is what I thought: I need to let you know that, family, I do pray for you all daily. I really care about you and hope that Heavenly Father is blessing you. I know I haven't been very good at personal communication with everyone, probably because I have some lacking in personal communication skills, and also would rather spend my P-days doing stuff in Taiwan than writing letters. But I hope that you know that I really do love every member of our family and hope that you are all so happy. Definitely grateful to have as great of a family as I got, learn a lot from all of you and family is a really special thing. So just know that I haven't forgotten you during my mission, still think about and pray for everyone everyday. 

Elder Braithwaite