Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hello
 
Sounds like all is well at home. Thanks for keeping me updated. Yes dad, I will do things with you when I get home. Gladly.
 
Still raining a lot but it is a lot warmer now. Elder Andersen is gone, he did well until the end. His last day was funny, poured torrential rain, no raingear so absolutely soaked, needed some repairs so we rode everywhere looking for a bike shop that wasn't closed (why were they all closed?), just kind of a really great, miserable experience to end his time in Taiwan.  And my new companion is Elder Lin. He is from the south of the island and has only been out for about a year, I am happy to have a "young" companion again, it is different than being with another "old" guy. We will do well here. Elder Lin is funny and has a lot of faith.
 
I saw Sister Chao,
 
She gave me the camera and stuff. Thanks! It works, hooray! Talked to her for a few minutes, doesn't seem like much has really changed in the past two years, she seems like the same person and I probably am too. She got sent off to the east coast, an area similar to the one I used to serve in, and she will probably not come back up to Taipei until I leave, and maybe not even then. So probably won't see her again, until she gets home. Still fun to talk to a friend from high school though.
 
Still having fun being here. I am tired. But happy. Had a big miracle with Brother Wang, one of those 15 year olds whose parents oppose baptism. We have been working with him for a while to get his mom to come to a church activity or something in hopes of softening her heart. This week she came! to a ward dinner thing, came too late for the food but still met members and us, and was willing to let us share a little with her about the church. There is still hope for Brother Wang, it is cool to see how he hasn't given up hope for baptism, and I know it will work out someday.
 
I am happy to be here, we have been having a lot of struggles and also a lot of success, I have been trying to figure out what I really want to get out of these last few months. Reading my old journals has been insightful, seeing these attitudes and expectations and excitement I had on my first transfer, I feel like Elder Packer's poem about aging. There is so much gained over the course of a mission that I wouldn't trade for anything. Even returning back to the beginning and having that "youth" again.
Found out that my old investigator I started teaching in Taidong will be getting baptized this week, over a year later, he also had family opposition problems and I guess it is just his time, his mom changed her mind even though she is a super Buddhist. I wanted to help him get over those problems then, while I was there. I have been reminded a lot lately that it matters very little what I want, God has his own timing. Great to see His plan working out.
 
Thanks for all you do. Love you.
Here are pictures of the Du family's baptism from last week, plus Sister Chao and I at the transfer meeting.
 
Elder Braithwaite


 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hello,
That is amazing about Drew. I was actually wondering all week how affected he was by the explosions, but I assumed nothing happened because I didn't get called or anything. That is scary that he was right there. And amazing that he is fine. I'm so grateful. I still feel relatively unconnected and uniformed about everything back home, this was a reminder for me that life goes on. Put things in perspective.
Our week here was really good. Brother Li was baptized. He has a stronger testimony than most new converts that I have seen by a lot. When we asked why he believed in God, his answer was "Because Joseph Smith and the first vision, I know that God is our Father." I have never heard someone make that connection before on their own. Tons of members attended the service. Our bishop commented that "he just looks like a member".

I was also able to attend the baptism in Zhongli for Sister Du and her son. It was beautiful. She is the woman I had contacted at a light about 5 weeks ago, so I feel a special connection to her family, and I was so moved as she related the story of how she met the missionaries, because I had forgotten many of the details, but she remembered clearly and it gave me a great perspective on how a person sees a missionary. She had been willing to stop simply because of how enthusiastic I was. She actually turned me down at the first stoplight, and then we met again at a later one and I was persistent, so she gave. All of which I forgot. It makes me never want to do this work halfheartedly. Still grateful to have played my small part.

This family was actually an answer to my prayers from over a year ago. When I was serving in Taidong, I had a dream of finding an aboriginal family to teach, but it never happened. But as I was helping Brother Du (her 16 year old son) change into his baptismal clothing, I noticed his native American-looking seashell necklace and asked if he was an aboriginal and he informed me that he was, his mom made the necklace and his tribe is the one native to Taidong out on the east coast. It turns out this family actually comes from my old area, by a bridge south of Taidong city that I rode past every week. This was an amazing miracle for me to get to participate in part of the conversion process of the exact sort of family I had always hoped to teach, and they even come from my old area. God will answer prayers.

Being with two companions in a row that are finishing their missions has prompted me to think a lot about how I want to finish mine. I commend both Elder Lin and Elder Andersen's commitment to the Lord even at the end.
It is good to be here and I will continue to love it. 3 months left for total immersion in the work. Sorry I didn't write much this week. A lot more happened. I am excited to get my new companion. I won't be leaving, hopefully I can just finish my mission out in this area, but we'll see.
The picture is of Brother Li's baptism. Please compare to the standard picture of the First Presidency. I think we did pretty well. Next week I will send the Du family pictures.
Thank you for all that you do, and for all the love and support!
                                                              
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hey
Conference was wonderful. It seems so much shorter on the mission than it did before. Maybe because I am so much more used to meetings.
I am happy to be here. The church is true.
Our investigator will get baptized this week, Brother Li. He is 18 and is probably the investigator I have taught who just gets it more than any other. Specifically the restoration of the gospel, he loves it, the leaders in the ward feel like he is more active than the other priests.
 
Here is how it went; when he talked to his dad about baptism, his dad was furious, wouldn't even listen, just a flat out no. So we met with Brother Li and said he has to try again, and when he brings it up, just be sure about what he believes and wants, and we prayed and fasted with him. And a few days later he went back and talked to his dad again, and he said he was really bold about it, and his dad was just silent, and thoughtful. And then said, fine, whatever you want.
Family opposition loses.
I don't know why this time was different than the previous three, but I guess it is just in God's plan for Brother Li to receive baptism here and now, he provided the miracle and softened hearts and made it possible. I am so grateful for this.
 
And the mother that I contacted and gave to the sisters, she and her son will be baptized this Saturday as well, after about 5 weeks of meeting with missionaries. I am so grateful to see this miracle happen and be a part in it. God is so cool, preparing all these people and doing all the work Himself and then letting us play our little part...
 
So I feel so grateful for so many things recently, especially family. And the Savior.
 
Well, my return date is July 20th. Still have plenty of time left, hopefully it feels really long. I do love being a missionary. I also love America, I felt reminded of that during conference.
 
I don't have too much to share. We need to see more miracles in this area. My companion goes home in a week and a half. I will stay, and then I will probably stay again and finish my mission here. Which is great. Last night we had a singles activity at the home of a family, who was baptized about a year and a half ago, right before I served in this ward for the first time. As I looked around the room, not only the family hosting the activity, but 8 out of the 10 people there were baptized within the last two years, and 3 of them I got to teach as investigators. And they are all so active, so involved and so faithful. It just hit me, how much the work is really progressing, how the church really does grow. It is a blessing to come back to this ward again, and see these kind of changes.
Thank you for all you do. Thank you especially for all the good examples.
Elder Braithwaite
 
 Don't worry about signing me up for the St. George, maybe one of the winter marathons would be good. I actually don't know how good of shape I will be in when I get home, it would be a bother to force that too fast. I would like to do training the right way this time.
If they want to know, we first dropped a bag with our clothes in it in Taipei on p day, left them at a set of elders' apartment that live closest to the mission home. After running to the temple, we walked the one block over to their apartment and showered there. It worked out really smoothly.
The acid rain is what taiwanese people tell me, they say it makes you go bald... I don't believe them, but the pollution here is very bad, all air and water is just dirty.
Still haven't bought a camera, I will when I get time.
Thanks for everything! Don't worry, we will find a time to come to taiwan someday. Maybe when one of my new converts gets sealed in the temple, there are several on that route now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hey
 
Good week. I am stoked for conference this week.
 
This week saw some big letdowns, followed by several miracles. We have really been struggling to find people who live in our area, because our area is 4 square city blocks. Being a missionary means being the last thing on most people's priority list and the first thing to go. Like when you ride your bike 10 hours in the rain, and then the one lesson you have set up stands you up and gives the excuse, "I couldn't come, it was raining". So I was feeling bad.
 
Then we saw a big miracle. Over a month ago, a young couple, the Chens, came to English class, attended my class. I remember thinking they were great and seemed to listen intently during the gospel part. Then they stopped coming to English class. But this week, after class finished I walked out and saw them waiting in the hall for me, with a very serious look on their face. They talked to me, and the husband said that they had been through some trials lately, and that there was something that I had shared in English class that he couldn't stop thinking about. I had challenged them to tell my why they were on earth, and they couldn't come up with the reason. So I told them, "you are here to learn." I don't particularly remember this lesson, but apparently it struck him deeply. So they decided to come back, not for English, but for the gospel. We met with them this Saturday, and they are one of the most prepared families I have met with. They asked all the perfect questions, were very willing, the lesson was wonderful, the peike did perfectly, the spirit was there. And after, as we set up again, he told me "this is my priority, if I need to I will change my work schedule, whenever you can do it." and then added "the church will be helping me so much, what can I do to help the church?" It was the complete opposite of feeling like the last priority again. It was an answer to our prayer that we could teach a family. They live in another area, we will give them to the other elders this week.

In addition to them, the other week we contacted a man in a park gave him a book of Mormon, and had a great lesson about it right there. He later came to English with his friend, and she is now the sisters investigator and is making great progress. He lives somewhere else as well, and we have plans to transfer him over this week. They both may very well get baptized.

I was informed this week that a woman I contacted last transfer while on exchanges in Zhongli, Sister Du, is now close to baptism. I had contacted her at a stoplight, just smiled and introduced myself and invited her to pull over, and she talked to me for about a minute and left her number, which I gave to the sisters. Now, she has been coming to church, is planning on getting baptized in 2 weeks or so. Her 16 year old son has also been investigating with her and meeting with the elders there, and he is planning on a baptismal interview this week or next. I was thinking: I spent about 1 minute, just smiled to a woman at a stoplight and she was nice and we talked and she left her number. And because of that small action, a chain of events occured leading to a mother and son recieving the gospel. You can never know the effect of your actions, even the small ones. Big miracle for me.

And we have a golden investigator, Brother Li, that we have been meeting with for the last month and a half, who is a member referral from a young woman in our ward. He has a wonderful testimony, is close to baptism, just needs to discuss with his parents a little more. He is 18, but seems to be more spiritually mature than many of the priests in the ward, has a great testimony of the prophet Joseph. His date is on the 20th of this month, I believe he will make it. I believe he will not have family opposition. If he does, I am sure we will be setting a mission record for number of prepared investigators in one area who are kept from baptism by family opposition. But it won't happen this time.
 
So overall, in the past month or so, we have found about 6 golden new investigators for other areas, at least 3 of whom will almost certainly be baptized this month, and the other three are all progressing amazingly. And our area never saw a single number come from it. It reminds me, I play for team Jesus, not for my own team. And I take comfort in the fact that coach knows exactly where he needs me and what he wants me to do. And that I know our team will win.

Elder Andersen and I were excited to complete our 18 mile run into Taipei this week, we ran from our apartment in Taoyuan to the mission home in Taipei for our zone leader meeting thing.  It was great. The thighs! I got so sore. Not in good enough shape to do that, we took about 3 hours which is not super fast, but we did run the whole way.

It was a reminder that running in Utah is way more enjoyable than running in downtown Taipei during morning rush hour with acid rain pouring down on you. Thanks to the pollution here, I will probably come home with smoker lungs. Unfortunately I am not exaggerating any of that, including the acid rain.
Nonetheless, I love the work.
Thanks for all the emails, I love your insights and thoughts. I love you.
 
Elder Braithwaite