Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hey hello
Happy Easter!
I will not type in chinglish today. It was a good week. I continue to enjoy myself and we continue to see cool things happen. Generic week. I will try to write more specifics.
On exchanges I taught this man from Shanghai with weird Chinese, I could still communicate but he sounds funny. And he has always been Buddhist and loved reading scriptures, including the bible, just loves that stuff, really loves searching for truth. And one night he had a dream, where he saw a pillar of light, and saw two things descending, and it was two books, one was the Bible and the other he couldn't recognize but he could see it was blue. And not long afterwards, he ran into missionaries and as they talked, one pulled out the Book of Mormon and he recognized it immediately, and was shocked and excited, and in the past month has read the whole book, and is currently most of the way through D and C.  As he reads he is keeping a written log of all the different and new doctrines revealed in these two books that he has found no where else. He has no doubt the book is true.
I was pondering why one man might be so miraculously prepared by God to accept this message, while others may not. Had no answer at first. But I realized that is false, this man is not more prepared. He is prepared in a way that is impressive to human understanding, and that may lead to him being able to believe in this life, right now. But I think that God's plan for each one of his children is just as intricate and perfect, and will lead to just as perfect of an opportunity to accept the truth, at the right time and in the right way for each individual. The plans are already in place, and I think it is comforting to know that He doesn't just give everyone crazy dreams to help them believe, but instead does exactly what is needed in the eternal scheme for each of us.
Was also up in Longtan on exchanges. Interesting fact: That area has had about 40 baptisms in the last two years. Yet for the past decade, the number of active members on Sunday is about 60, and that hasn't changed at all. This is a widespread problem but in this case especially bad. What to do?
My real desire is conversion, I have seen it happen and I know it is possible, and it really doesn't matter if it happens in investigators or members or missionaries, I just want to see people believe in Christ with a faith that will secure their lives, see people develop that determination to never give up. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling like you were a tool used in the generation of real conversion.
And look at 徐弟兄. He is the 16 year old that has the parental un-permission problems. Not been baptized, yet this week I asked him what he feels about Jesus, and he says "I don't really know much about him, but I feel like I know him, and I know he is my savior." And it hit me, this kid 2 months ago had no concept of God and now has a faith in the Savior. But here is something cool: He has never read the Bible. Thinking about it, he is like a blank slate, never heard the stories of Jesus or anything. Doesn't know what Jesus did in Jerusalem, about his miracles of life or anything. He came to his savior entirely through the Book of Mormon, which is how we taught him. And he knows that Jesus is the Savior. We haven't touched the Bible yet. I am not saying that we shouldn't, or that the Bible isn't of value. But the fact that someone who is not religious at all has developed true faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior, and has done so through no method other than the Book of Mormon, is, to me, proof that this book brings people to Christ. I am confident the Bible could have the same effect, but that wasn't the case here. This is a book from God, if it weren't there is no way this kid could have felt the spirit or experienced this level of conversion.
Having said that, we have started teaching him the Bible stories, because they are invaluable. I just thought that was a cool little experiement.
For easter I read about Christ with his apostles after his resurrection. Thinking about how it must have started to dawn on them how this man they had spent years learning from and living with had actually conquered death, it had actually been done. And when they sat at the sea of Galilee and he tells Peter to "feed (his) sheep" and later commissions the 11 to tell the world. So there are 11 people, told to tell the whole world about Jesus. They didn't even know how big the world was back then. They must have thought it sounded impossible, to convince anyone at all, let alone go to every one of the different places, peoples, cultures, languanges, etc., and convince them of a "new" god, who had conquered death and sin.
And now there are missionaries in nearly every country, speaking nearly every languange. But in 2000 years, the charge and the message have not changed, we preach the resurrected Christ. It is happening. I do it every day in a place those apostles never even knew existed. Taoyuan county on the island of Taiwan off the coast of China seems pretty remote when you think about them sitting there at Galilee thinking "okay, sure, the whole world. Whatever you say." Isn't it amazing that this has happened, and that people believe it?
And last night, I stopped on the way home to talk to a high school student, and he was interested, so we taught him to pray and said one with him, and the spirit just came. He felt it and said he has never felt that way before, he used "warm","miracluous",and "indescribable", and then standing there on the street corner he said his first prayer ever, and thanked God for letting him feel that He is watching him. This is why people believe at all, even in a place where the majority of people are very set in the traditions of their fathers that they have been raised in. Because God confirms it to us one by one, in a unique way, to each person willing to try, and the confirmation is so special. 
I love being here. I know that the Savior has risen and that we all will as well. I love telling this to people every day.
Hope this email was better than last week's. Thank you so much for supporting me, and for the easter package, and for registering my classes. SO MUCH LOVE.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oh man I feel like I was just here. Tired of weeks going this fast.
Update: Those investigators without parental permission still don't have support. They do have faith though, and that is more important. We decided we need some investigators that are not minors.
We continue to work hard, our area continue to see changes. Didn't have the best week, but still happy. Saw some miracles.
We teaching a brother 張 who is great. This man very humble, and has been prepare. As we talk about the restoration, he tell us how he always believing in the bible, but he also is always believing the world need something else, like sort of second record, to help convince people that Jesus is the Christ. When we share about both book of Mormon and about the modern revelation, he is very excited.
We also teach a other man, 石. He very has faith. Also, he feel the Holy Spirit very much. After we're pray, he tell us that the light is all around him, that he feel like there are a language, not Chinese and also not English, that teach him the things God want him to learn. We very much hope he continue to progress.
This week I get chance to return to my old area, 南崁. Very good opportunity, very much a fun time to see the place I before go to. I give call to my old investigators, and they remember still! I will be friends for all life with these friends.
This week at Sunday morning, we have feel to go to the park. We also feel that we need to find the family. We see and stop and talk to the girl, and she still remember that when she is little the missionary come to visit her family, but now she is in 20's. We talk, and say she want to learn again. Then, her boyfriend come to talk too, they both are very nice, and they both are having the interest. Big miracle, we know that it is the Holy Ghost that tell us to go, and when, and I grateful I can be tool in God's hand.
Oh this week I hear the 永和 missionaries tell me that at Saturday, the mom that elder Davidson and me begin to teaching back in August is baptized this week. Yay, 8+ months after, and through 4 sets of missionaries. So very happy to hear. God never give up on the investigator.
Thank you very much for to tell me the message of the family. You all are happy, so I also am happy. Sorry this week email is not long, but I write it in my best English, so I am hope that you are still finding the interesting.
I love you,
Elder Braithwaite

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thanks for all the emails, definitely fun to have a lot to read. Actually we just recently had a rule change, I can now email anyone, not just family, so if anyone wants to email instead of write a letter my email is
Arizona sounds great, I am still jealous, although I am not looking forward to the hot weather coming back, it should start getting warmer soon here. Transfers came, and Elder Andersen and I are a still together here in Taoyuan, which is great. We have learned to work well together. I will be "killing" him, this is his last transfer. It is funny, I trained two brand new elders in a row, and directly afterwards will be companions with two dying missionaries in a row. The difference between a missionary on his first and last transfers is very apparent.
The baptismal interview for Brother Xu didn't go through because his parents said no. He was so sad to tell us, he wants to be baptized so badly.  He really has a testimony, but they just don't want him to. This, in case you weren't keeping track, is the third time in three weeks that one of our investigators has been ready for baptism and we have started making plans, but then we cancelled the interview last minute because of parental opposition. Bringing our total of male investigators between the ages of 15-19 who have strong testimonies and are willing to be baptized, but whose parents say no, up to 5. So this is by far the most frustrating period I have had in my mission so far, working with these people for the past few months but not really getting that result, like we have done everything we can but in the end the situation just gets taken out of our hands. I don't feel bad for myself, but for them. It is so sad to see their hopes go down. These 5 people all need miracles to happen, please keep them and their parents in your prayers.
Nonetheless, I realized that I haven't failed at accomplishing the real goal. These people, 4 of whom I have seen from the first time they met missionaries until now, are becoming truly converted. They have gone from not believing in God to having faith in both Him and the gospel. They are finding joy in the scriptures and in prayer, and they want to come to church. It is such a miracle to me. So even if the step of baptism can't happen right now, it doesn't necessarily interrupt the process of conversion, not as long as they don't give up. That is what I am scared the most for, that they will start to fade, start to lose their drive or focus on the goal of baptism because of the challenges that they are facing. We'll see, it is more in the Lord's hands now, but we will be doing whatever we can to strengthen them.
We had other successes. We visisted a less active man, very very old man, and he tells us he will come back to church, and then he showed up on Sunday. I was shocked to see him, he actually did come, for the first time in years. Just because we went and visited him. I felt like all he really needed was someone to be his friend and talk to him, he is just a lonely old guy who lives by himself. When we went over, he told us "I always love when the elders visit, because they will always tell me 'you're so great!' and they mean it." Cool miracle.
I still love being a missionary, and I feel to humbled and grateful by the things we are accomplishing here. I know we will continue to be successful, and if God wants us to, we will have 5 baptisms, and then some others. But if not, that has little to do with whether or not I accomplish my purpose here. I love being a missionary and making all these friends, and I love the gospel. Thanks for always supporting me.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Great week. We will see what happens, transfers are this week but there is very little chance I will leave, and I wouldn't want to, really. The zone has been doing great and seeing miracles. When I think back to how this area was when I first got here with Elder Lin, and the difference now, it is amazing. This is the place where I have seen the most change and felt the greatest sense of accomplishment. Seen it build out of nothing, more or less. At first I was annoyed to move to an area that wasn't doing well, and a little ticked at the previous missionaries for what I assumed (probably unfairly) was a lack of effort, but I realized that that attitude is wrong. First, God gave me an opportunity to really work hard and make changes, instead of just take something good and keep it going, and that has been a blessing. But also, I realized how little this all matters with an area, regardless of how bad it looks or what the past has been, that if you just trust God and do your part, things will work out. Doesn't matter what the circumstances are. It's not about the missionaries, it is God doing His stuff.
Our investigator, Brother Li, is also ready for baptism. And we wanted to schedule his service for this week, but no, his parents said he can't be baptized. I don't know if you have been keeping track, but that is 3 investigators we have now, 2 of whom I have contacted on the street and been able to see through the entire teaching process, that are completely ready for baptism, but cannot because they are under 20 (legal age) and their parents won't allow them. So they are just sitting around until either they turn 20 or their parents have a change of heart. Frustrating, this is the one problem I feel more or less powerless to overcome. With other stuff you can use the scriptures to help them get over whatever it is, this isn't really the same. We will keep trying, in the meantime they are all coming to church and reading and praying for miracles. I have faith that someday, maybe before I leave but maybe not, they will be baptized. Makes no difference really.
Nonetheless, we do have one more investigator, Brother Xu, who will be doing an interview at the end of this week, and should be baptized next week. Despite our track record, I have faith that his parents will give him permission. Please. This kid, just like the other 3, is great, and has a real testimony.
We talked to this guy on a massive BMW motorcycle, after chatting for a while found out his has run hundreds of triathalons and just recently took second in the nation for a super ironman (an ironman but all distances are doubled). Nuts. He invited us over to his house and we met him and his two sons who are the same, little sinewy Taiwanese guys who can probably run indefinitely. One of them wants to come to America when I get home and visit/run with us in Utah. He seemed pretty serious. I told him our house would be open. They are willing to learn about the gospel too. We'll go back next week.
Things have been fun lately. I love being here. A bunch of the missionaries here put together a dinner and invited some members and investigators, Elder Andersen and I made chili and cornbread. They don't sell cornmeal here, so we bought popcorn and put it in the blender to make meal, which worked great. The dinner went great and I made friends with these two aborigine friends of a member, I think I have said before that I really like the aborigine people here, they are all hilarious.
I did get the pictures, Mom, thank you! Also got the Saint Patricks Day ties. The Irish population is relatively small here... I don't think there will be much celebration. Thanks, hope the Arizona trips all go great. I am sure that changing the Mother's Day call time will not be a problem. I love you all!

The pictures are from one morning after exercise. Elder Andersen and I wanted to go up to the roof of our building, ended up getting a pretty good view of Taoyuan. Everything you can see is our area.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I am happy to be here. Still loving the mission. Had a lot of spiritually powerful lessons this week. Our investigator Brother Li will be doing a baptismal interview this week. I love that guy, he is very pure, very simple, which is special for a college student. We met him on the street 5 weeks ago, literally did nothing but say hello and be friendly for a minute, and then invited him to come to church with us on Sunday. His family is a pretty devout branch of Buddhism, they are all vegetarian and all that, but on Sunday he actually came and liked it, and has kept coming back.  Now has heard all the lessons and loves reading the book of Mormon every day. It is funny to me -- did I really have to be a missionary to say hi to a stranger and invite him to church? I probably wouldn't have done it if I wasn't, but it wouldn't have changed anything if I was just a normal member. Some people are just ready to hear it. All he needed was an invite.
Elder Andersen and I had to go back to Taipei this week for meetings, so we decided to ride our bikes up the rural hilly roads between Taoyuan and Taipei instead of taking the train. It was an adventure, fun to see what is up there, it has probably been years since any missionaries have every been up there. After about an hour we desceded into West Taipei and it was just packed city again. And I got a flat tire, which was bad and was exactly what I had said would happent the night before but my companion said, stop worrying, that won't happen. But we got a member to save us and take us the rest of the way to central Taipai for our meeting.
Why did God tell us not to worship idols? Sharing that with an investigator. God wants us to be happy so much. There is no better way than putting him before everything else. When anything in life becomes more important than Heavenly Father, you are giving up some happiness. The secret is right there in the first two of the ten commandments.
Got to exchange with an elder who played rugby and we spent an hour just talking about it, when we definitely should have been studying Chinese. However, I realized I miss that. But being here is worth it. YA!
I am including a picture of some gods parading around at this festival last week, up at a temple in Longtan. They are about fifteen feet tall, there are about 7 or 8 different gods, they walk around the city streets and then gather at the temple, and then leave. A lot of people came to watch, it was fun to see.
Love you!
Elder Braithwaite