Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hello! 
Fun week. Oh, Thanksgiving was fun, I completely spaced that it even happened until that night. I ate a bunch of peanut butter in celebration. We had a lot of fun teaching our English class about it, drawing turkeys. I liked the ideas you sent, mom -  Interestingly, I have really been using that "acting the clown" idea, just doing stupid stuff in front of the class, making all the five-year-old's laugh. 

Here is a cool miracle. I feel like practicing teaching the children in English class was preparation because this week we had this single mom come, who has always taught her little daughter about Jesus even though they aren't Christian, and has always wanted her to be involved in church. So she came to us and wanted us to teach her 7 year-old girl, who has aspergers (spelling?). We got a toy to give to her so she would want to come in the church and like us and want to meet with us. Success! So this will be another teaching challenge for us, how to keep the girl interested and having fun while also converting the mom.

Brother 張, the painter guy, still blows my mind! He still hasn't smoked, it has been three weeks now! I have had so many investigators that I have tried to help quit smoking, because everyone smokes here. Always has ended in failure, despite my efforts. This time, I literally do nothing but invite him to stop, and the man just drops his two packs a day at once and keeps them off out of sheer grit. And prayer. I think God wants me to remember that I never really do anything anyway, He just does stuff and sometimes I pretend it was me. Oh and then this guy talked to his boss and figured out the situation  with church, and even though he works all the time, miracle occurred and his mean old boss decided to let him come. Excellent. 

This week was full. Re-invited our protestant mother to set a baptismal date, and she thought for a long time, and then committed. The spirit, it does work. This is probably the most progress I have ever had a Christian investigator make. 

Met with this man, had a fun lesson and got to know him, then pulled out the Book of Mormon and things just changed, he got all reverent. Handed it to him and he just looked at it, then slowly opened it and felt the pages, then started reading the introduction. We just sat there and watched him read for about a minute. Probably would have been really awkward if it wasn't spiritual. He read to the part about "brings peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come" and just looks up and says "I like that". I like it too.  

Did a lot of tracting in the rain. Makes me feel more like a missionary, when there is some physical discomfort involved, like sweating or freezing or being soaked. I don't know why. We visited this one lady in a really ghetto place. She had been fired and had about a dollar in her pocket and slept on the floor of her little concrete apartment. Still wanted to share her bananas with us though. We said no. The bishop will try to help her. When we left, there were some little kids playing in the stairwell and we made faces at them and kind of played around, and they thought it was so fun to make friends with some white guys.  Just made me think about how little these kids had, just judging by where they live, but they're still so happy to make new friends, even if only for a minute. This society is so confused about the relationship between money and happiness. 

Then we met with this really rich guy, who took us out for Myanmar-ese food. His goal is to make as much money as he can so he can build an orphanage. And he was talking about traditional Chinese religion and told me "we don't actually worship many gods, like you might think. We aren't really worshiping these people or these gods, we are worshiping behavior." That made me think. Our religion is the same. The real core of what we worship isn't Christ because he was the man or the position or the king, but His behavior, when you think about it. The fact that he was the perfect example, that he sacrificed his life for us, that his love and service were perfect. So our level of faith in him is directly connected to our level of trust that his behavior is literally the standard we should give ourselves. I guess its just the "what would Jesus do" principle.  

I love you all! Oh, Christmas stuff, maybe get me long socks. My chain guard fell off my bike a long time ago, so I tuck my pants into my sock when I ride, but my socks don't come up far on my calves so my pants come untucked sometimes if I ride fast and then catch in the chain and get torn up. Plus my socks are gross. So new, long ones would be great! If I think of other stuff I'll write next week.

Oh, we have a baptism this week! George!! He is 9. His dad is a member, but his mom doesn't like church, and has always opposed him going. But we started meeting with them a few months ago and the Lord really softened her heart, and she agreed to let him be baptized! This dad is so so happy, he has hoped for years that this would happen someday. So that is fun. 

Okay that is all. Bye!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hello
Glad everything is going well. This week went really quick. Every week goes really quick, but this time I feel like it was about a day ago that I was writing.
We had a fun meeting this week, learning about the Book of Mormon. Our mission president gave us lots of warnings about how Satan will attack our families to get us discouraged and stop the work. So watch out I guess... Kind of joking, but not completely, be careful. Mostly it just made me feel really bad for never writing you real letters. We'll see if I can do that today.
Well, my mind is blank. I don't remember what went on this week too much. I do remember that this week, I was so happy.  That investigator who we taught the Word of Wisdom to two weeks ago has still not smoked, about 14 days now. Went from 2 packs a day to none and has kept it up. Still working with his boss about having some time on Sunday for church. It is amazing to me, but true that in this country I think the number one problem I have run into with investigators is time. They get too busy with work, 7 days a week and can never come to church. Or can't continue to find 30 minutes a week to meet with us, because they are always working or at school. It happens so often, I am just reminded about how vital it is to truly sacrifice our time in order to do the most important things. But so many people just can't let go of what they see as most vital and believe us that if they spend more time on God, spiritual things, and family, they will be so much happier than if they work all the time and make some more money. But money is the real god here, it really is, it is everyone's goal, and an unnerving amount of people will honestly answer me that it is the most important thing in their life when I ask. And if I try to discuss with them that life might actually have more to it than that, they just smile and won't be convinced. Sad. That is my rant for today. Obviously this isn't everyone, but it is too many people. I'm so grateful I don't have that sort of outlook on life.
Having a lot of fun teaching the little kids English class.  That is my and elder Kattelman's responsibility in our weekly English class for now. I have taught the kids class in the past, but it has always been bad. So far we have done okay, just realized how much more difficult this is for me. Probably something I need to learn though. If you can think of any fun English learning games or something, let me know. Desperate for ideas.
The sister missionaries in my district had some problems this week. Some completely out of their control, like health stuff, which is fine, but others that were just dumb, like fights in the companionship. Sometimes I am grateful that I get two years away from interactions with girls, more or less. Not that sister missionaries aren't great, they are. Super awesome. Just sometimes more needy. Sorry, I guess this is really vague. Whatever.
 
Oh this was funny, last week for p day we had nothing to do so Elder Kattelman and I just did a ton of push ups, and when we were completely exhausted decided to try the Rocky thing and chug some raw eggs. I got them down, but he threw them up, probably more because of tiredness and not raw eggs being gross. But also that too.
 
                                
 
I have just really felt a strong love for all these people I work with lately. It is amazing how much you can care about someone when you teach them the gospel. All of sudden this stranger becomes such a central focus of your life. For them, we are just a couple of guys that they meet with sometimes. Honestly, it would probably creep some people out if they knew how much we thought about them, prayed about them, loved them. I guess the ones who don't get creeped out get converted. It is hard to describe, but I have been feeling such a strong desire to help these people and always feel so unable to do so. I know I should be feeling more adequate as a missionary as I get more experienced, but I almost feel like the opposite is true.
Well, that is enough rambling for the week. Thank you for all the support you give me. I love you all so much. I am so much more certain of the importance of families now, so I hope you know I love and pray for you all as much as I do for my investigators.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hello,

Great week. No one here really cared about the election. But we had 7 investigators come to church, which is way more important! Hooray! We have been seeing a lot of miracles here.

 This week was one of those weeks where nothing seemed to happen for the first 5 days, like where we went all day long without a single person being interested, a single lesson, etc., just feeling really ineffective. But then all of a sudden the weekend was packed full of awesome stuff.

Mostly, Brother Zhang who is awesome. He is this really humble guy who paints walls for a living. He is great and really just wants to be happy, and he was met on the street and now he meets with us and his girlfriend for the past few weeks. And last time we met we discussed baptism and he just felt this is what he needs. We said if he wants to do it he has to start coming to church, and he has to quit smoking. And he initially told us both of those were impossible, but then he just got all thoughtful and then "Okay. I need to do that." He has been smoking like 2 packs a day for decades. But that day he just threw it all out, and this week he didn't smoke once!  And he showed up to church and loved it and stayed for the whole time. What a miracle. That is the power of faith in action.

 
And I don't know if you remember that investigator we were trying to help quit binlang(beetlenut - that red stuff) about six months ago. The super fat one. He was doing so well, coming to church every week and just awesome, but then he failed at the quitting his drugs thing, and got all depressed. He disappeared at the end of June, and we couldn't contact him. Then we finally found him again in September, and he had opened his own noodles stand and business is bad so his life is still really hard. But we go and sit with him and eat dinner there and teach him. We got him to slowly start praying again and reading scriptures, and now this week he showed up at church for the first time in 5 months or so. So that was a cool miracle. God doesn't forget about anyone.

 Last week we went to Costco and my companion and I bought 8 pounds of peanut butter each. So good. And I have been trying to sneakily encourage him to eat it at every opportunity possible, and it worked and he is several pounds into it after only a week. That is funny.

 Reading in the Bible (totally forgot the reference) about "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump". Aside from the funny words, the main influence this scripture had on me was with in relation to these spiritual experiences. Thinking about why they used this imagery. Like when investigators get an answer to a prayer, or have a super spiritual lesson, or come to church. When you think about how much of our life is actually a spiritual experience, with all the other stuff we do, it is probably the same proportion of leaven in bread, like maybe 1% of the mass of the bread mix. Yet that leaven has such a huge effect on the finished product, gives it form, makes the bread what it is. So even though it is a small part, leaving it out makes a big difference, because once it is in, it turns the rest of the mix into something it wouldn't have been otherwise. So just thinking about how important it is to strive to have the spirit in our life as much as possible, because these little events have such an influence. They end up changing every other aspect of our life if they are there.

 I can testify that the Spirit is real and it changes people, when they feel it, the influence in their lives really is there.
 
   Realized that I forgot to send the Picture of Brother Su's baptism last week. So here it is, he is so great.

 
 
The picture I sent last week was me and my two sons. They are both taller than me. So proud.
 
 
 


 Also sending cool night pictures we took from an investigator's house during dinner.
 
 
It is almost winter. When did that happen? Have I really been in this area for about 6 months? Because it definitely doesn't feel that way...

 Thanks for everything! I LOVE you! 

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hello
Good week!
Brother Su got Baptized! That guy whose wedding we went to. It was a super great service. Elder Davidson and I were able to start teaching him back in August, and with the switch last transfer some other
elders got to finish up the teaching, but it was cool because Elder D got to come back for the service, so it was fun to see him again. Really awesome overall.

Here I am feeling that I didn't actually do much. Some of the times teaching him were really powerful spiritual experiences, but in the end conversion, if it is real, can't come from anyone but God. That is why I always feel that I do so little.

Here is what was said after he got dunked. He was a man who had no clue what anyone was talking about when discussing spiritual things, it just sounded stupid to him. His girlfriend would talk to him about
her feelings and it made no sense. And for years it was like this and for years she just prayed and fasted for him. He would come to church frequently but no real feelings. But slowly things started working
out. I think I have written before about how he felt his radio was slowly tuning in to the right station. So she invited us over to start the lessons again, and this time he just got the Spirit, he just understood. Other missionaries have done this before but this time was different. He feels like he is the lamb that just walks with its head down and doesn't get that he is lost from the flock, and now he has looked up and is headed back.


So he and his now wife are preparing to get the temple marriage and go on a senior mission. I just think about all the change that he has gone through and it makes me believe that anyone can find God when
they look, as long as they have enough patience. Someday things will just click in the heart. Just really respect the people in this story who had the faith to keep waiting and hoping. The whole ward was
behind this one.

And here is one thing that I loved: When he was fifteen back in the 70's he remembers looking out his window and watching two white guys knocking every door on a summer afternoon, no clue what they were
doing. When they got to his, he invited them in for water, and they shared about a weird book he hadn't heard of and Jesus Christ, in Chinese he could barely understand. Although they talked for a while,
he didn't really set up a time for them to come back, and that was the last time they met.
So I was just thinking about how many experiences I have had that are exactly the same as that. Talking to a kid on the street or sitting down with a family and it appears to lead to nothing. I wonder where
those missionaries are now. Probably stake presidents in Idaho or something. Have no idea that the kid they sat down with one summer, one kid of thousands probably, ended up making it in the end. God has
His way to get stuff done and we all play some part if we want, but only if we want. Just little tiny parts though, but the finished product isn't tiny.

Congrats, Valeria, or Sister 趙 I guess, for getting called to the best mission ever. Be excited to come play your part here. Its a great feeling.

I am loving it. We frequently skip out on meal time to get in more work. It is a blast and I feel like more than ever before I am just trying to do exactly what the Lord wants. I don't really care what results I see anymore, I just love teaching the gospel. There is nothing more fun.

Halloween came, little happened here. I ate pig feet, which is secretly just fat and grisle, it could be any part of the pig for all I know, they just told me it was a foot.



                My companion and I carved  passionfruit in the lack of pumpkins. 

Love you all
Elder Braithwaite