Sunday, June 30, 2013

It is hard to believe I have less than 3 weeks. They are going to be really busy. I am sad. But things are going pretty well, I feel very happy about everything. This last transfer has probably been the one where I have felt the most genuinely and consistantly happy.
Life is great, we are working really well. Companion has been struggling for a few weeks, kind of getting worse, and then we finally had a serious discussion and now he is not struggling so much. Communication is important.
Met with 吳中who I love. He was that goat milk salesman that I contacted on his scooter and then he set up and has just been the most spiritual little investigator. He told us how he heard someone talk about tithing in church and really wants to pay it. And then on Sunday he started crying when we sang "I Stand All Amazed" during sacrament meeting, and he didn't stop for a while. Cool when big men cry.
Last week we planned to go leave a note in the mailbox of a less active we didn't know, but when it came to that time of day we only had about 10 minutes, and it would have been easy to go to our next thing. But we still went and dropped the note off and then rode really fast to still make it to the train station on time. A few days later, that less active came to church and told the missionaries he saw (not us) that the note was really important to him, that he really wants to come back and also wants his son to be baptized. It was a really cool experience for me to see the importance of following little promptings and doing little things.  That note was an answer to someone's prayers.
I got to go on exchanges with son #1, Elder Davidson, this week, and it was great. He teaches me so much about love and other stuff. Coming home we got on the wrong train, but that is okay because God had a plan. When we got on, this group of teenage girls started giggling because two white guys were standing close to them and so, to make fun of them, I turned to the more mature woman standing next to me and said loudly "They must not see many white guys". The junior high kids were all shocked we spoke chinese, and this woman started laughing, and then ended up being really cool. We had a great discussion about the Savior and we gave her a Book of Mormon. She wants the sister missionaries to come visit her family. Wrong train=prepared people.
I don't really have too much to say. Many other similar stories. Many reflections about my expeience as a missionary. I love being here and am excited to keep doing it for a little while. Today I will be hanging out with some of my friends and converts from previous areas. I have been so blessed to serve here.
I love you all! Included the picture of brother 王's baptism from last week.

Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hit the 2 year mark! Also, this week I finally wore a hole in the bottom of my Timberlands. Those have lasted amazingly well for $40 shoes.
Not much time today because we were asked to watch the missionary broadcast from the Mission President Seminar, which was live for us this morning. So I will just write the basics.
Brother 王宗允 was baptized. Good! And his mom came! The same mom that has said no for 6 months when our investigator wanted to be baptized. She met the Relief Society president and saw most of the young men in the ward. When her son bore testimony after the ordinance, she even cried. It is amazing to see how much God has softened this woman's heart. Afterwards, a member of the bishopric came up to me with a big smile and said, "Good job, that mom is going to follow her son someday." She also brought brother Wang's 10 year old little brother, who is willing to learn and wants to be baptized also.
Things continue to go well, I still love being here and we are seeing great successes with other investigators.
About 5 weeks ago we were calling names on the ward list that we didn't recognize, and talked to a man who let us come visit. We talked to him, found out he used to be in the bishopric, but went inactive and hasn't come in over a decade. We started going to visit him weekly, the progress was slow at first and it seemed like not much would happen, he has his thoughts about things and didn't seem to change for the first few weeks. But the desire to come back is there, and he is slowly working through his own problems. As we have been talking to our ward about him, many of the old members who remember him were shocked that we could even contact the guy. But they are now excited to help, they want to be involved, and we have seen the man really changing his attitude. He is close to agreeing to come back. It is fascinating to see that people really can make progress when they just can re-establish contact with the spirit.
I love you. Happy birthday mom. That picture last week was for you. I will bring home lots of stuff for you so that our house can get even more cluttered. I know that is what you want.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!
Happy Birthday Mom! (I know I'm a little early)
I love you! See included picture.
This week was great. Big miracle. Our favorite Brother 王宗允 is going to be baptized! He is the one who started meeting with us in January, and has been ready for baptism since probably February, but his mom always said no. We have been slowly working on her, leaving notes at their house, trying to get any chance to make contact with her and help her see how normal we are, etc. This week she finally agreed to meet with us, and discuss why her son wants to get baptized. So I did all this preparation, was basically ready for this epic battle where we (humbly) use the spirit to force her to allow him to be baptized (Preach my Gospel says that spiritual things CAN be forced, right?). So she came to the church, we sat down and right after the opening prayer she just looks up and says "so, he is getting baptized tomorrow right?" I was shocked, my companion was too, took a second to think of how to respond. I said, "well, tomorrow is a little fast, how about next week?". And she just agreed. We still aren't entirely sure why, what happened, but for some reason she just decided it was all okay. She will even come and support him.
So the spiritual battle I was expecting ended up as nothing, God already changed her heart and I don't really know how, but once again I didn't have to do anything. After 5 months of saying no, she was a pushover. Anyway, the important thing is that brother 王 will be getting baptized. His 10 year old brother also came with the mom that night, and he was really curious, said he wants to get baptized too, which I think bothered the mom a little, but we'll see. Who knows, maybe someday the whole family will want it...
Here is an interesting thing about brother 王. I contacted his friend outside of a 7/11 back in december, and when we met with this kid, we invited him to invite his friends to come learn with him. So the next time he brought some friends, who had not too much interest. But we kept telling him to bring more. About the third round of friends, brother 王 came along. In the end, all the others lost interest, including the first kid, but I'm sure this was God's way of getting us to the one who would want the gospel.
Other than that the week was good. Had a special training meeting with Elder Kent Watson, who is funny. When he does things slightly less "appropriate" like give people high fives or j-walk, he likes to use the excuse that "there were no stoplights 50 years ago in Cedar City"or "that's not the way it was done in Cedar". He talked to me about Carl and Doug, he will be released from being a general authority in a few months. Dad, do you remember him? It was also a spiritual meeting, was able to learn a lot.
Had exchanges this week with a missionary who has been out for a week that taught me things I wish I had learned 2 years ago. Proabably will change the way I look at my remaining time. At least I am learning new things up to the end right?
My birthday was good, I didn't really tell anyone but some missionaries found out and took me out to dinner, other than that nothing special.
The pictures are from a beach that a member drove us to last week. My companions camera is good and he takes pictures of stuff, so it's all good.
I am so happy to be here. Thank you for all that you do! Love you all.
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Things are great. It is still real hot. I won't be leaving the area or my beloved companion, thank the Lord, get to finish it out here. I am trying to make sure that I "leave it all on the field", so sweating a lot is really helpful for making me feel like I'm working hard. Found out my second son is training, I am so proud to be a grandpa, hope I meet the guy before I leave.
We are meeting with a family who used to live in Utah, have been back in Taiwan for decades though. They are great, have nothing but a good impression of the church. One of the first questions the dad asked, in all seriousness, was "what's the difference between a Mormon and a jack Mormon?" I laughed, he must have heard the phrase when he lived there, it's impressive that he remembered it all these years.
Brother 張, our high school education rice farmer investigator is making good progress, hasn't missed church in 4 weeks now and has read to Mosiah, I am just not sure how much he really believes it all. We are working on it. Nonetheless, there is something different about teaching this type of person, so much more humble and less complicated than the average person. He is the first investigator I have taught who read what Alma said about praying for flocks, fields, etc., and really felt like this was God talking right to him.
It's fun to look back at every transfer and see the different things I have learned. Why does it seem a lot easier to recognize God's hand in hindsight? It's too bad that we are wired that way, at least I am, it is relatively difficult to pick up on how He is leading you or teaching you or pushing you in the moment, but when you move on and see some of the effects of your experiences, it all ties together and you say "oh, that's why". Actually, I still have a bunch of unanswered "why"s about my mission but that is not a problem. I have just been thinking about my mission and my conversion experience in general, and I can't really deny that Heavenly Father has been giving me a specific "course" so that I can learn what he wants when he wants. I think one of the blessings of teaching the gospel is that you witness firsthand the miracle of God supporting and leading these investigators to their answers and spiritual growth, and it helps you better understand and recognize the way He has and does work with you.
I am mostly drawing a blank on what else happened this week. I still think that seeing my new converts bless and pass the sacrament is one of my favorite experiences. I used to be a little sad that, for one reason or another, I have always seemed to work with a lot of young men investigators and not so many families (which would be ideal), but when I think of how much "learning in thy youth to keep the commandments of God" will bless these kids, and see them as future priesthood leaders, I feel privileged to be the one who got to teach them.
Thanks for all you do, I love you!
Elder Braithwaite

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fun week. What to say. It felt incredibly hot this week, which is draining my energy. Some days I go through 4, almost 5 liters of water. We are hoping for miracles and have hope that we will have another baptism in the coming weeks, and we will need the Lord's help with that, I am trying to help our young men investigators get over these parental opposition problems, we saw a miracle with brother 徐 last month so I know it can happen again. That is the goal for now.
Things are going great, I love teaching all the people we are teaching, many are making real progress, and I know that many of the people we have found and are helping will in the end accept the gospel, just not sure about the timing yet. Our area and zone is doing well.
I have contacted this man in a park probably 5 or 6 times over the past 6 months, he is always there walking his dog that he loves more than anything. He had previously investigated the church a little bit, but no interest. For some reason, this time he was willing to meet. He has recently quit his job, and is pondering what is really important in life. We had a great discussion and he showed up to church on Sunday. Cool stuff, persistence works.
We are seeing a lot of success with less actives right now, I have focused more on that in this area than I have in any other, and we have really seen the Lord working with these people. Some of them are having very powerful experiences with repentance, I know that the power of the atonement is real.
This week I was privileged to perform the baptism of one of the sister missionaries' investigators, and I had a really special experience. I have performed the ordinance before, and every time the spirit is strong, but this time was different for some reason, maybe God wants me to "get it". When we went down into the water, it felt like we were in a different dimension or something, like we had stepped out of the chapel and were somewhere else with no one watching. And it was absolutely silent, and as I said the prayer I just felt amazingly peaceful. After the ordinance I stood alone on the top step of the font and stared at the water for a minute, really had this distinct impression that I had just very literally represented the Savior, stood in his place and that this girl had just used His atonement to clean away a lifetime of sins in one moment, it is hard to describe but it really was a sacred moment for me. I guess that is the meaning of the priesthood, representing Him. Afterwards, this girl bore her testimony, said that at the moment I started to lower her into the water, it all slowed down and she thought "do I really belive all this". she paused, then tearfully stated "I immediately felt, I really do believe in Jesus" and then went under the water. Just a cool testimony to me, the ordinances we make are real, the Savior really is right there as we make them, His power is real.
All is well, transfers next week, pray that I don't move, I want to finish my mission in this ward, can't describe all the connections I have here.
Oh this was funny. Last p day we rode our bikes out to the coast then up north following the ocean, across two counties, most of the ride was very beautiful, sunny, nice to get out of the busy cities. About 2 hours both ways. Along the ride, we saw a sign for a bike station, so we pulled over and saw a Buddhist temple thing with a bike pump and a faucet, I guess that was the station. It was right next to this big old looking factory, all of this is in the middle of nowhere. But then, there was this little sign posted on the wall of the temple thing, it said "If you want chocolate, ring the doorbell." so we were confused, but we found the doorbell next to the gate of this factory place, rang it and said "We want chocolate!" and the voice answered "come in" and the factory gate opened. We rode in, past all these facilities/machinery to the end of the road, where there was a building with two guys waving to us. Inside was all deserted, aparently the place was a landfill facility, and this was some sort of really weird publicity thing. I think they were surprised to see 6 white people show up. They gave us chocolate, took our picture for facebook, and then we hung out with them in the lawn out front and played with the 6 pet goats and a fat old pig that they kept, though I am not sure why. Really odd, but if I ever come back to Taiwan I will remember that on the northeast coast of the island, along a random stretch of highway, there is a buddhist temple/bike station next to a landfill factory thing where they will give bikers free chocolate and let you play with the factory livestock if you ring the bell.

Us at the free chocolate landfill

Okay I have nothing else. Love you!
Elder Braithwaite