Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hello
 
What to write. I don't remember what I actually talked to you about on the phone now. Christmas was great, had a mission talent show and I performed with my companion and another elder.  Everyone thought our song was hilarious. I will show you the video someday but you wont get it because of language and also because only missionaries will think it is funny.
 
Christmas night I got to take a bus out of the city into Longtan by the mountains for exchanges there with Elder Wang. It was so fun to get somewhere rural again, and I saw stars for the first time in about 8 months, because you don,t see them when you are in Taipei, or in my area now. Took a few minutes and looked.
Got to spend a good part of Saturday taking a train to and from Taipei and playing there with our investigator, plus his mom. We went to see the temple and do a tour, it was really great and now the mom is way more aware of our church and is willing to meet with us along with her son. Big miracle.
 
Our area is still not doing well at all, still almost no investigators, but we did get to meet with this awesome family, contacted on the street and their two year old daughter is super cute. Have hopes there.
Things are still fun with Elder Lin. He continues to make me food and tea because he is super nice. He is also very excited to go home in a month, but for the most part is still able to focus and work hard. 
 
I really love being here. Really just love doing this, the feeling is so great and Elder Lin and I are just happy. Time goes super fast. Trying to work my hardest. I love you. It was great to talk to you!
 
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hello,
 
Good news is I love my new companion. He teaches me stuff like how to make fried rice and some teas. Also helping me learn a little Taiwanese, which is fun. But we still don't have many investigators.
 
But this week we got one who is awesome! He is this 15 year old kid that was contacted on the street a long time ago, forgotton about, then re-found and started being taught by some other missionaries and then they turned him over to us because he lives in our part of the city. Brother Ren. He really wants to get baptized and be a part of this church, just really sure of what he wants. His parents encourage him. Willing to find time to meet as often as we want to, and loves to learn. Came to church and already fits in great with the young men in the ward. It is just a really big miracle, at this rate he will probably be baptized in a few weeks.
 
Other miracle from this week: A year+ ago when I was in Neihu on my second transfer thinking that me and Elder Chen were having no success, we started meeting with this man, and he was super cool but then 2 weeks later we both got transferred and the area shut down, so he wasn't able to keep learning. Later elders got put back in, and started teaching him again, and it has taken a long time and lots of different missionaries (including current comp Elder Lin) but he has finally accepted the gospel and will be getting baptized on Saturday. Just thinking about how cool it is that over a year later and with a lot of teamwork, this man is ready, cool to see that my time there was not wasted even though I was only a small part in this process. President might let us go to Taipei and attend the service since we both taught him.
 
Another miracle from a previous area: Heard news that the super golden guy me and Elder Kattelman found in Yonghe, Brother Zhang, who was absolutely amazing and wanted to change his life and find meaning and understand God and everything you would hope an investigator would want, but then disappeared to China, finally came back and recontacted Elder Kattelman and his new companion, and wants to get baptized. And durning the two months he spent in China he thought a lot, and made changes and felt he needed to quit smoking, and did it. So he is now progressing again and I think it will be only a few weeks. Once again, feel humbled and blessed to play my small part in these stories. It amazes me how people are changed by the spirit and prepared for the gospel.
 
I finished reading the Book of Mormon in Chinese this week, started the New Testament. The Chinese bible is a lot harder to understand than the Book of Mormon, we'll see how it goes.
 
This area has still been the biggest challenge of an area yet for me. We pretty much have 4 city blocks to work with, it is tiny. But this week we have 1 investigator, and that is very different from 0. And I know soon things will be much better. The zone overall is doing awesome.
 
Oh last: I got a letter this week from someone letting my know about a lot of the girls I knew from high school who now have mission calls. Awesome. I love communication and knowing stuff, and also sister missionaries, and especially all my friends going on missions because I know what an amazing experience they are going to have. It just made me really excited for them, and also sad about how little time I have left. But also I will have no friends when I get home.
 
I love you family. Talk to you soon!
 
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hello

Weird week. Super sad to leave all those people in Yonghe. 7 months of stuff done with. Just feels odd to be gone. No more Taipei.

Sad people saying goodbye to me. Very sad. Lots of tears (on their part, not mine obvioiusly). One member had us over for dinner and sang me that song in English. I forget. "One hundred miles, one hundred miles, one hundred miles, one hundred miles, -something- I'm still one hundred miles away from home." Something like that. It is old. Anyway it was super touching and also funny. I realized how much a blessing it is to make all these great friends.

And weird to be here in Taoyuan again. I moved back. Not back to Nankan, my old area north of Taoyuan city. Now I am in the middle of the city. I am the same ward as I was before though, which is great because I love this ward. What I love most of all is seeing my new converts. Yes, the people I previously loved and taught and baptized when I was here last time are all still ACTIVE. Very much so. Brother You and Hong and Chen are all now Melchezidek preisthood holders. Best Christmas present ever.

President did not pay attention to the clear direction I gave him to let me continue training until the end of my mission. I don't know why he doesn't listen to me. Instead I am a zone leader, which is not what I wanted because that just means you have to do a bunch of stuff. However, Taoyuan is a great place to be because this zone has a fun mixture of big city and really rural areas. It will be real fun, I hope. We'll see if they like my methods.

New companion is Elder Lin. He is Taiwanese. He is really great, but also pretty odd. Very full of fire and really funny, we have had a ton of fun together so far. His English is not too good at all.

The thing is Elder Lin has 6 weeks left, and the elder I replaced just went home, so this area has been full of missionaries that have not really been serving with all their heart. Great missionaries though! But this is by his own confession. First day we sit down to plan and he says "I'll be honest with you, we have 0 investigators right now. My bad". I am super excited though because he is totally repenting and we have worked really hard and are already seeing the blessings come. It may take some time until we have any results but no point in worrying. Challenges are fun. I love the city and my life and being back in my home from before. Me and Elder Lin have been laughing and reveling in our days of full street contacting and it has been great. And finally I have a Taiwanese companion who likes to cook and is willing to teach me some stuff so maybe I will learn.

I just realized, all my friends are getting home from their missions. Didn't Matt give his homecoming yesterday? Or I guess today for you. That is weird.

Well I got nothing else to report. I will miss Elder Kattelman. Son #2. What a great guy. One of the best. He will take good care of the heart of Taipei for me. Here are some of our pictures together from the last while. Merry Christmas.

I sent a Christmas package home but it will be late.

I love you all!

Elder Braithwaite


 
 
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hi

We had another awesome week. I am tired but I feel consistently happy.

I have been here in Yonghe for close to 7 months now. I was sort of secretly notified a few weeks early that I will be leaving with transfers this week, so I was able to say goodbye to all the members and investigators and such. I felt a real outpouring of love from the people here, I know I have been able to help and serve a lot of them, have really made a lot of friends. I will definitely be sad to leave. In the past 7 months we have seen so many miracles in this area, and so much success. I have given birth to two sons. We have had a lot of baptisms. I don't know why we have been so blessed but we have, and thinking back on it makes me feel so humbled and also happy to be a missionary. Good times. This is by far the place that has most become "home" for me so far in Taiwan. I love it.

I was able to see all of our new converts this Sunday too, except for Grandpa Lin because of health problems he has had lately which limit his church attendance. I think the biggest blessing of staying in an area for so long is that I have been able to watch multiple people go through the whole process, from investigator to new member to solid active member, go from punk kid showing up to church for the first time in their life in a tshirt and basketball shoes, to a solid young man who wears a suit and tie every week. Saying no to cigarettes or swearing with their friends. Thinking specifically of both Brothers Wang and Zhang. and Brother Wu. And yang. oh I am so proud. These people are all such good people.

I will be so sad to leave our investigators here too. I think about Brother Zhang and how awesome he is. God doesn't care who we are, this man is just a humble wall painter who has no education and no money but he knows he loves the feeling of peace he has at church, and that he loves God, and that is enough to get him to quit smoking and want baptism. I am sad I won't be here to see it, but that couldn't matter any less. Saying goodbye to this man wasn't easy to do.

Elder Kattelman is great too. What a solid guy. Taught me a lot. That is all I need to say. We'll be friends later I'm sure.

Okay but overall we had fun this week. I don't know why but we have met a lot of Christians lately. Weird, but fun. One couple we contacted at the street took us out to an Italian restaurant for dinner, they said they saw us and just thought about how if they had 19 year old kids in some foreign country talking to strangers in the rain all day, they would want someone to do that for their kids. So that was nice, I am being taken care of. I realized how it is easy for a lot of people to have problems with the church, but almost no one normal can look at a bunch of 19 year old kids making a sacrafice and working hard for something they believe in and actually be mad or prejudice towards them.

Oh man what actually happened this week? A lot of stuff, so much stuff. I feel like the smoky environment of this email place never helps me remember. It is fun to bear testimony of the Savior. I know how much His teachings and example change my life, and have changed the lives of everyone I have worked with here. I have also seen and felt the influence of the spirit and of peace of heart that the gospel brings, it is real. No one really changes without that. It is such a privilege to be here.

Okay thanks for everything! I got the Christmas package and it was great. The socks are so long and perfect.

Love you all so much! I will probably call maybe Christmas morning for me, which I guess if I do it late enough would be Christmas Eve for you guys.

Elder Braithwaite


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hello
Happy birthday Father! I congratulate you. Thanks for being so great as a father and at supporting me in everything that I do, not only on my mission but always. I love you.
It is odd to me that the sister missionaries in the MTC with me are going home in two weeks. Their missions go really fast, so fast. This also means I am older than I want to be.
 
George got baptized! He is nine, we have been visiting this family for a while now. It is a big miracle that his mom was willing to let him. It is interesting, his dad is a really active member but the mom is not a member, is just hard hearted. But a month ago George asked her if he could and she agreed! Before I was a missionary, I expected things to be the other way around mostly, but it seems like here there are at least as many families where the dad is willing to accept the gospel but the mom will not. Anyway, George's mom doesn't like church at all. We were sad that she didn't come to the baptism, but we were super happy that she let it happen. This is a big step for this family.
 
I am really enjoying everything right now. Two of our new converts helped out with George's baptismal service, and another one got a calling this week. Overall I have been so grateful that the people we have baptized in this area have stayed active! Inactivity has had a huge impact on me, especially when I was younger as a missionary. Looking at how many people have been baptized in the past and then just disappear later really shocked me when I first got here, and I went through a period where I really just had a hard time wanting to work at all. So many names on a ward list, and only such a small percentage will you ever see, or even be able to contact. It bothers me deeply. I felt like missionary work was just a failure. Which it is, if all these people don't stick around. This is something I think most missionaries feel really conflicted about, like what we do in the end has little effect. I feel really committed to never baptize anyone I feel is not truly prepared to be a member for life. I would so much rather have baptized less people but had them be truly converted than have a lot of people who choose in the end to turn away. Not that I can completely affect this decision one way or another because it isn't completely up to me, but I guess I just want to do my part now and hope for the best. So far so good though.
 
Had a fun baptismal interview this week. An 80 year old man who just wants to follow Jesus. He remembers when he was serving in the Korean war, and there was one American soldier (named Steve, he remembers) that wouldn't drink the tea, and when asked why, Steve talked to him about the Mormon church and Book of Mormon. And so this Taiwanese soldier went and bought a Book of Mormon when he got back to Taiwan after the war. Never really investigated much more than that, read part of the book and just forgot about it. 60 years later he is tracted into by the missionaries, and now is willing to be baptized. God works in mysterious ways.
 
We stopped to use a public restroom in a library and I started talking to the guy next to me and he ended up being super nice. Usually bathroom contacts aren't super successful. Asked him how much his headphones cost because they didn't look cheap. 100 dollars. But anyway this guy just got back from Australia and doesn't know what he is doing with life and wants to learn about Jesus and find direction. We sat down with him right outside the bathroom on a bench and he was so interested and now has set a baptismal goal. He lives somewhere else so we have to give him to other elders. But it is interesting how easily something as important as the direction someone's life goes can depend on whether or not I say hello and start a conversation. That makes me feel odd and also really bad for not being better at this, but also very privileged.
 
There are lots of other things that happened too. Glad that I can be here and do this. Having a lot of fun. I feel my time here in Yonghe is coming to its end. I have been making Elder Kattelman lead us lately, which is fun.  He has to use the map a lot. I have been here long enough that I know where everything is. I forget that these streets are basically mazes. I enjoy training, I have requested to President that I just continue to do so. We'll see.
 
I love you! I got the Thanksgiving package. Thanks!
Elder Braithwaite