Taiwan, Taichung Mission

Taiwan, Taichung Mission

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Taiwanese Christmas

Wow, what a crazy and memorable week. So many things to talk about, and definitely the most different Christmas I've ever had! 

On the days leading up to Christmas, not much happened. We've been really trying hard to invite a lot of less active members and investigators to our ward Christmas party. We had a big list of 17 LA's that had some good reactivation potential that we wanted to hit, and on Christmas Eve we finished checking off the last few. A friend in the ward has a print shop, and she helped us make little Christmas cards inviting them.  A bunch of people's houses were in very weird locations in the middle of no where, but we finally ended up getting all of them contacted. 

Then came the big day, it was actually pretty normal and boring for the most part... Number one highlight by far was skyping the family!!! It was so fun to see all you guys, and can't believe its been 6 months since I last saw you! It started off a little crazy, because it was hard to get a hold of you (myldsmail was down, oh man I was raging) but eventually we figured it out. The 45 minutes went by so much faster than they should have, but I loved every moment. I have to say that I think it was harder to say goodbye there than it was at the MTC... I think I now realize just how crazy it is to be away from home for so long. I couldn't really comprehend it back then. No worries, I only have to wait like 5 months this time because mothers day is in May! can't wait! We kind of had a normal day after that, but then a super crazy ward Christmas party after. Elder McDougal and I were super excited to see some of the LA's there, and a bunch of nonmembers came. We met some really cool people that could have some potential! 

The party was so funny, half of it was a big dinner, and then both our ward and the other put on a big play. It was nuts and probably went for an hour and half. It started in the pre existence and covered the nativity, Joseph smith, and the pioneers coming west. Its hard to describe well, but just picture about 50 Asians all acting out the war in heaven, lots of confusing churches during Joseph smiths time, and the trek west. It was seriously one of the funniest things I have ever seen! I couldn't stop laughing, but also they did a good job making it serious and informative when it needed to be for the investigators. I think they may have thought it was a little weird, but also thought it was pretty funny. The best part of the party came at the end, when I got to play the role of Santa Claus! haha it was so funny, and I finally had something useful to do with the extra weight I've put on since getting on island! We had a bunch of little gift bags that I gave out, and I would just belt "HO HO HO" or merry Christmas, or something weird in Chinese. They absolutely ate it up (at least I think they did) The kids thought it was super fun, and now they all call me "Sheng Dan a gong gong" (which is Santa in Chinese) at church. The party went super well and was a really good thing to take my mind off the skype, it kinda made me depressed..

The last thought I'd like to leave you kind of comes from Elder Bednar's talk he gave at the Christmas devotional. Bear with me we watched it in Chinese, so I may not have gotten exactly the right things out of it, but Elder McDougal helped me understand. We watched it last Sunday night. He talked about the Book of Mormon account of Christ's birth and how there was light for a day a night and a day. He spoke on how the coming of Christ brought in a literal sense light to the Nephite nation. I love the illustration of Christ bring light into our lives. I have seen it in various investigators already on my mission, as well as the increase of light in my own life as I try to consecrate it more fully to Him. Christ and His Atonement really can change everyone, and I'm more grateful now then ever for that precious gift. I love you all and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Love,

Elder Gilbert




Monday, December 21, 2015

New stake, Caroling for dayz, and Bking like Lance Armstrong

Oh man, another week another letter... Its been a pretty hard week, but a good one. We have a tough area here, and at times it's a little discouraging. That's alright though, so many fun things to be grateful for!

This week was filled with a lot of long bike rides. We have a really big ward Christmas party on the 25th and are trying to invite a bunch of Less Actives with these Christmas Cards we made. Its super hard in the afternoons here because its literally a ghost town. Everyone is just gone... There's a good amount of people out at night, but thats when we have all of our lessons. Its kind of been a dilemma, but we're working through it. Everyone goes and works in the city, or is at work here. The only people that you every really see on the streets are all the old ones that don't even speak Chinese (or at least pretend the can't). I don't know how much I've talked about it, but down here everyone speaks this weird dialect of Chinese called taiyu. It sounds a lot like the Genosians in episode 2 of Star Wars and is super ugly.One time we even had our Gospel Principles class in it, sometimes gets a little painful. The only other thing you really see besides the old people is a bunch of stray dogs that really don't like white people. They bark a ton, but are never brave enough to charge.  Alright, I'll stop complaining, I really am having a good time, just thought you'd like to know about some of the stuff we get a kick out of down here :)

We have this super awesome area called Fangliao that we like to go to, the only problem is its an hour away by bike. Elder McDougal and I sometimes joke about asking President if we can camp out there some nights, because we have a few really cool investigators and LA's that live there. We just found a less active man there that sells stinky tofu. He's been LA for a while and didn't know that the church house had moved to a new area. We are meeting with him next week and he's going to give us a bunch of his tofu, oh boy! 

As you can see from my previous rant, finding is a little hard to do here. We have had to get a little creative at times. Since Christmas is this week, we've been doing a good amount of Christmas Caroling! Its hilarious, and very awkward, but I think has softened some hearts. As Most of you know, I am not exactly a great singer. Not helping is the fact that I'm fairly certain my companion is tone deaf... It didn't sound too good, and a lot of people were not impressed. On the other hand, a few families thought it was sweet, and liked it. We'll keep that up for a little while, because most Taiwanese people have no idea when Christmas actually is. 

Last thing of the week, yesterday they created a new stake out of the two Gaoxiong ones. I am now a part of the Ping Dong stake! We had Elder Wong of the 70 come and do the meeting, I love him because he's funny and uses English! Cool to see the work progressing here in Taiwan! Hopefully we can have another good week and some people will feel the Christmas Spirit we have! 

I love it here, even the hard parts. I'm trying to find the Lord's tender mercies, even when it feel like not many things are going right. Love you guys, and can't wait to talk on Friday :)))) 

Love,
Elder Gilbert


Monday, December 14, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

This week I've actually been getting pretty excited for Christmas with all the fun decorations we have and with the Mission Christmas Party that we had on Friday. (It actually started off super stressful, because the party was scheduled for thursday, but because of rain they changed it to friday. We didn't know that until the day before and had to change our schedule up a ton..) That was super fun and a big highlight for sure. The day started off with us waking up at 4 am to catch a train at 5 so we could ride a bus with our zone to sun moon lake which was another 3 and a half hours away.. (Ya, we're in the middle of nowhere haha) That was a pretty fun morning of travel, and then I got to see all my friends in the mission! We got to just hang out around the area for a while, and then went to a Chi Dao Bao (all you can eat buffet ) We then all rode the buses back to somewhere by Taizhong and had a Christmas devotional. By the time that all got over, it was almost 9. Eventually we got home at about 12:45.. Quite the day! I was so exhausted on Saturday (Especially because we had to do a 3 hour round trip bike ride to visit a member that lived up in the mountains.) Wohoo totally worth it though. That was an awesome day, and one I will remember for a while! 

Although that was a  special Christmas day, I kind of wanted to tell you guys about what Christmas is like in Taiwan. For one, its really weird to have no snow. It still gets to what I think is decently hot (I'm still sweating like crazy outside and wearing short sleeve shirts everyday) But the Taiwanese people think its SO cold! Its pretty funny, a ton of them have on big sweaters and coats on when they're outside and can't possibly fathom how we're walking around in our short sleeves. Sometimes I just don't understand the people here. You don't see much of Chritmas decorations any where, but we have a few random Christan churches around us, and they all decorate pretty well. I alsways get a kick out of this one church, it has a huge santa and reindeer on the front, plus a big Merry X-mas sign. I don't really think they get the point of Chrstmas, and I'm so grateful that I have this oppurtnity to share this message. Everyone knows what Christmas is, but its probably treated how Americans treat Cinco de Mayo. The mission gave us all these little cards we can give out to people about Christmas, and it makes contacting super fun! I've decided its close enough to just start going around yelling Merry Christmas! Even though people shut me down a lot (this little 10 year old kid roasted me in Chinese when I said something about Jesus and Christmas... He just told me Christmas was dumb and used some funny Chinese words, it was super funny and I couldn't stop laughing.) They need this message. Elder McDougal and I are going to do some Christmas Caroling tonight and see how it goes! 

This is such a special time to focus on the savior, and I'm so grateful I have the chance to share His message to people that know almost nothing about Him everyday. I love the Savior and know that he lives. I LOVE Christmas!

Love you guys,

Elder Gilbert
A Christmas tree up in the mountains

All of my companions in one picture at Sun Moon Lake

It was so great to see Elder Cole


It rained for a little and cleared out the air super good. You could see the mountains from pretty far away

Monday, December 7, 2015

Xiao Liuqiu

Alright, its been a crazy p day! This may not be the greatest letter, but I'll make up for it with some supa sweet pictures!

Today we went to this little island about 30 minutes off the coast of Taiwan called Xiao Liuqiu. We got up early this morning and biked all the way to Dong Gang and went off. It was super crazy to be out on the water, and the place we went was so cool! They have a bunch of beaches and we got to go on a hike into these caves. We went exploring on the beach, and it almost felt like I was back in Coronado for a little.. Very pretty



.

Other highlights of the week... biking was a lot easier, I am getting in real good shape. We have the mission Christmas party at Sun Moon lake next Thursday, that will be awesome! I get to go to two crazy places in Taiwan in back to back weeks! I don't have a ton of crazy stuff, it felt like we were going to have a less busy week, but with all the travel time, it turned out to be pretty busy. In the afternoons we had a good amount of trackting time, and my companion is going to be a geologist and loves rocks. The whole time he gave me a lot of solid information on Taiwanese rocks, quite interesting. Our ward is super into helping us, during priesthood they talked to us for a good chunk about LA's we could help. One that has a car even drove us out to meet with a really cool investigator family in one of our secondaries. It was probably a 30 minute drive out, but he was willing. Its fun to see members in such a small ward so committed. 

Like I said, our ward is pretty small, and lots of funny things happen when its this size. During fast and testimony meeting, this kind of weird member got up and spoke for 15 minutes about a lot of random stupid things, and made up a bunch of inaccurate quotes. He was just going off. Anyways, we have a sister in the ward that is really intense, and she really wanted this guy to sit down. She stood up (remember, our ward has 50 people tops, it kinda just feels like a big class during sacrament meeting) and started talking really loud to us about how this guy should stop talking and she was bored of it. She wasn't saying it directly to him, but saying it loud enough for him to hear. She then started to move on and tell other ward members until he sat down. haha good way to help me stay awake during the meeting :)

Having a blast, love you all!

Elder Gilbert

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lots of changes, Lots of biking...

Elder Gilbert here coming to you from a internet cafe in Chao Zhou, part of our new area! Its crazy here, I can't wait to tell you all about it!

So I'm serving in the Dong gang Ward, which is kind of confusing, because both our apartment and church are in Chao Zhou, a 40 minute bike ride from Dong Gang. The reason its called the Dong Gang ward is that it used to be a branch in the actual city of Dong Gong , but then the ward in Chao Zhou split and gave some of its members to the Dong Gang branch so that it could become a ward. I don't know if that makes sense, but now its a ward, and our area is HUGE. Like absolutely massive, and my new companion has been doing this project all week where he wants to find all the LA's in our area, so we were doing a lot of biking... Elder McDougal is awesome! He's been out for more than a year and a half and is on his third to last transfer. He is the most brilliant person ever, and just spits out random facts about everything all the time. He's from Idaho falls and went to a semester at BYU-Idaho before coming out, so you know he's alright :) He's a lot different than Elder Pearce, but I love him! He's super funny, and I've already learned a ton of new stuff from him. 

Our apartment is super fun, we're in a 4 man again, and the other two Elders (Elder Williams and Elder Kunz) are super funny. When I got here on Monday they tricked me into thinking that one of them was in training. Elder Williams is going home in 2 weeks and has crazy good Chinese because he lived in Taiwan for a while before the mission. He grew up in Idaho though, and pretended like he was a new missionary with super bad Chinese for the first little while around me. He had this whole big fake story and everything. After a little while, he started just speaking this crazy good Chinese around me, and then told me all about it. Haha probably doesn't sound as funny as it was, regardless we have fun :) (all three of them are super good at a Rubik's cube, and that's what we're focusing P day on, I'll have it down super soon)

So crazy week, I'm still trying to get used to it. We're pretty banished down here, its over a 3 hour train ride to Taizhong. When Elder McDougal and I go out into our secondary areas like Dong Gang, we're just riding through straight pineapple fields. I'll send some pics, we're totally in the bush! Its super sweet, we have a bunch of mountains in our area, and we went up there one day, so pretty! The ward is awesome, but super small, I think we had 40 members there yesterday. I don't know if my old ward in Tainan would have even fit in the sacrament meeting room. It's been fun to get to know the members and see their faith, some of them have to drive over 30 minutes top get to church. I passed the sacrament and gave a little introduction and testimony, haha it felt more like a really big classroom than a congregation. The Chao Zhou ward (The ward that the other elders serve in) is massive, and they have a lot of cool members that I got to meet. So ya, very different, but cool. Lots of new challenges here, I'm excited to see what we can do! Elder Mcdougal is teaching me so much! 

The last thing I'd like to hit on is the mission conference that happened on Friday. So so fun! I loved being able to gather with all the missionaries and see all my old friends. Elder Stevenson gave a great address, we were so lucky to have an Apostle come to our mission! I knew he was awesome, but it really built my testimony that he was called of God. He spoke a lot about how crazy his calling was and how the Lord qualifies us for the work. He told us as long as we do our best it doesn't matter. I think my favorite quote was when he was talking about how blessed missionaries are he said "If you guys wake up exactly at 6:30, you get a blessing, if I wake up exactly at 6:30, I just get tired." haha super funny, but true! Great man, super fun to be in such a small gathering with him and his wife. It was also cool afterwards, Elder Cole and I got to talk with him in the mission home for a little, because our moms had sent us something with the Stevensons. haha, thanks for that :) and he let us get pictures with him! Awesome day!

Loving it here, hope all is well at home!

Love,

Elder Gilbert

When I get tired on the bike ride, I just ask to stop and take a picture of the countryside. My companion biked a crazy ton before the mission and bikes ridiculously fast, haha I think I'm going to lose a lot of weight.




My new apartment all decorated for Christmas!
Eating Fish

Seeing Elder Cole at the Mission conference

Elder MacDougal and Elder Stevenson


We got to have a special meeting with Elder Stevenson and took pictures.  He brought packages for both me and Elder Cole from home (the Stevensons are in the same ward with the Coles in NSL).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Going Wayy South

Hello everyone!!!

I'm writing this Email right before getting on the train to Dong Gang. I just got assigned to my second area and I'm super excited. Its just about as far south as the island goes, and apparently pretty isolated. Can't wait to see what its like! My new companion's name is Elder McDougal, pumped to meet him! 

Its been a great week, I knew Elder Pearce and I were going to split up, but I thought I was going to be staying in my area. Usually how it works is that at the end of the 12 weeks the trainer leaves to a new area and the trainee gets a new companion in the same one. Since we have a lot of missionaries going home this transfer, they had to close down some areas. Our ward had four Elders, so the kicked two of us out :( I;m kind bummed, we had a lot of good stuff going on here, and I loved being in the four man with Elder Booth and Bradford. That's ok though, I'm stoked for the new adventure! Elder Pearce is going to be a Zone Leader in Taizhong! Super awesome, he is going to be so good! I'm excited for him, he was such a fun companion. We had a really great time together, and I'm so lucky we were comps. He's probably the one of the funniest guys I know, but doesn't let that get in the way of great missionary work! I'll miss good old ping zhang lao always sporting his safety gear(haha hopefully I sent some pictures of that).

It's super funny, the other two Elders in our ward white washed in, so they had no people to meet with or lessons to teach. Now they get all of our investigators and its like the opposite thing! Haha this week they're crazy bogged down with lessons and needing to meet all of our people. I'm happy, I think they'll be able to have a lot of success. 

Some highlights of the last week in Tainan include our English Party. Every six weeks for English class we have a party, super funny. We had a "Boston Tea Party" themed party, and it was really funny. We acted out the revolutionary war for all the people, drank a bunch of dong gua cha (A tea thats ok to drink) had a constitution reading contest, and a bunch of other weird American things. I have no idea what the people thought of it, but we had a million people there, and it was hilarious. I don't think a lot of people even really understood our theme, pretty weird.

I also think that I may have had the accomplishment of my mission with Elder Pearce when we completed the Costco Trifecta Challenge. We went to Costco for one last meal a few days back, because we knew some of us would be leaving and probably not have a one in the next area. The challenge was to eat a hot dog, steak bake, and slice of pizza, and Elder Pearce and I both did it, then got ice cream to celebrate.... Definitely not the smartest, it had to be done though, because I'm not getting Costco for a good long while haha (I hear my new area is just straight fish) Then, it all came back to bite us when we went over to visit William's family after. We thought we'd just be stopping by, but they had a big thing of chicken and rice for us to eat. Elder Pearce is the worst, he always tells them how much I love to eat, so they gave me an especially large bowl... I was so ready to throw up after, and didn't really eat much the next day. Still completely worth it :)

Ahh I love Tainan! It was fun to be able to bear my testimony and say goodbye to the ward yesterday in Sacrament Meeting. We have had a really awesome, super strong ward! The members here have been especially inspiring, they have to sacrifice a lot more than we do where there's a lot of members. They really believe, and are wiling to sacrifice working on Sunday as well as a lot of time to get to the church and worship. I'm so grateful for my time here and for my companion. We had a lot of great success together, and met some really awesome people. 

Can't wait to see what the future brings! 

Love,
Elder Gilbert






Sunday, November 15, 2015

B-B-Baptism!!!

Whoo, what a great week! I'm pumped to write this letter and recap the week, particularly the baptism of our little dude William. 

The days leading up to the baptism were relatively unexciting. We went on exchanges back to back days Thursday and Friday with the Zone leaders and our District Leader and his companion. That was a little weird to not be with Elder Pearce for 2 straight days right before our baptism haha. It was kind of just a big week of contacting and helping our investigators to progress. 

A early highlight of the week was getting a new camera, I took way too many pictures this week, and have a ton of super good ones to send back :) I got a little camera belt attachment so I can take pics whenever, I'm getting pretty good. 

I really want to focus my thought today on how awesome the baptism was. It was just the perfect night, and by far my favorite experience of my mission. William's Dad and oldest brother that is at college are both inactive, and the rest of his family are non members. We didn't really know if anyone besides maybe his dad would come, but then his whole family, and even some extended relatives showed up! Even his brother off at college! Crazy, the whole family being there made it really cool. (We also had another part member family come, as well as our next baptismal goal Mackey. They all loved it as well, so much spirit was there!) 

Our ward was just getting back from a big trip to the Taipei Temple, so like 15 minutes before the baptism we had almost no one at the church. I was a little worried, because we were hoping for a good turnout from the ward (a lot of ward members have been really invested in this family because they know the dad and brother from when they got baptized.) Then the big bus of members arrived from Taipei, and they all stormed into the chapel! So cool, a ton of people came, and our assistant ward mission leader put together such a smooth meeting. (We were particularly grateful for this, because the other ward in our building had absolutely the worst baptismal service a few weeks ago. They sung the opening hymn twice in a row for some reason, nobody knew what to do because the guy conducting the meeting was 25 minutes late, and it was just a really awkward service. haha lets just say we were more appreciative than other wise thanks to that last one.) 

We had two talks right before that were basically perfect. One young guy in our ward gave a talk that had a pretty good message that we actually thought was super good for one of our investigators there, Mackey. Then our ward member Ricky absolutely threw down! He has been friends with William's family for a while and has really helped William get ready for baptism. He's some form of professional speaker, so he's really good at giving talks, and he absolutely hit a home run he compared William to Joseph Smith because he is 14. William's mom and dad both at separate times have expressed concern that he's not ready for baptism, but Ricky talked about how he's seen William change and gain a testimony. by the end of his talk, the mom was crying, and you could totally tell that the whole family was feeling the spirit. 

The service itself was so special, because I had the opportunity to baptize him! it brought back fun memories of baptizing Grace, Mary, and Emma :) But also a lot scarier, because i had to do the ordinance in Chinese... Outside of the cold water though, it thankfully went smoothly. Apparently as we were changing, the dad went up to all 5 of the other Elders in our District and thanked them for helping his son. Elders Booth, Bradford, Varvel, and Moody, were also awesome in helping William get ready and really love him. 

After the service, William was a little scared to bear his testimony in front of so many people, so Elder Pearce went up with him. It was a really nice moment as the two went back and forth talking a little bit about the experiences of the last two months we've been teaching him. 

On Sunday William received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and is now a member of the ward! I'm excited to see where this goes, and I think we can start working with the family more too. Such an awesome weekend, so powerful to be a part of! 

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers :))

Much love,

Elder Gilbert










Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mission Tour

Yu bei tian kuaile! (Happy PDay!) I'm excited to give you guys another update on the week, it was a super good one! The highlight was definitely the mission tour, but we also had some other cool and funny things happen this week. 

On Thursday morning, we left early in the morning for a day in Jiayi (A city a little less than an hour north of Tainan). It was super fun to catch up with a bunch of old MTC buddies, and see a huge group of missionaries. (We had three zones there). Elder Wong, the President over the Asia Area, and his wife came and visited us. I was very impressed by his message, and learned a lot of great lessons I'm excited to apply. Elder Wong is from Hong Kong, so he grew up speaking Cantonese, but he also speaks English and Mandarin fluently. He used to be an accountant, was very successful, and retired very early. He's obviously a really smart man. What struck me about him was that although he was so smart and successful, he still had a deep faith and trust in God. He spoke of a few illogical experiences that made no sense to him, but the spirit is what helped him understand. I realized that no matter what we may think, the Spirit will always confirm the correct decision, and God always knows best. Such a cool experience to be in such an intimate learning situation with Him and the Blickenstaff's. 

Also, since today is Monday, it's officially BAPTISM WEEK! Our investigator Wei Chen (William) will almost definitely get baptized this Saturday as long as he doesn't get hit by a car or something... But yes, he is very ready and very excited to be baptized. He totally believes in everything. His dad and oldest brother are both LA's and the rest of his family still hasn't gotten baptized. His family doesn't oppose at all, but they aren't pushing for it at all either. Totally William's choice. I'm really excited, and hope that his example will help bring the rest of his family into the church as well. 

Ok, I think that the weirdest thing of the week was when we went into one of our secondary areas for lunch with a member and his family. It was a little ways out of the city, and was a lot more like traditional Taiwan. When we got there, they took us to this huge dirt field with all these huge piles of smoking dirt. I guess they have a tradition where they bury a bunch of food with red hot bricks and cook it all day. (Sort of like a smoker I guess) It was some form of holiday, so there were a ton of people all out in this field cooking food. So we dug up the food that had been cooking all day and went back to their house and ate it. I think they don't really see many white people out there, so we were even more popular than we are in the city. Everyone was trying to talk to us/give us food. haha I took a lot of pictures to show (Including me eating a chicken head, surprisingly not bad), I think this is as culturally different as I have experienced, (For example, a bunch of people were catching these eel fish in the canal, and there were a million of them everywhere.) I think I had one of my not as graceful moments when I tried to set down a sweet potato they gave me on their ancestor worship table thing. In Taiwan they all burn incense with food to "feed" their ancestors so they aren't hungry spirits. (Which makes no sense, because they're all Buddhist, so they also believe in reincarnation. I don't think I'll ever understand that one) But anyway, I thought it was jut a random table with food on it, but it wasn't. So this week I guess I accidentally fed some hungry Taiwanese spirits my sweet potato. Luckily Elder Pearce caught me before anyone really noticed :) 

I think the most positive thing I got out of that experience was a realization that I'm really beginning to love this culture and people. Its really frustrating and different, but I'm starting to be able to see all the great things about it (They are very committed to families) It was a super fun/funny memory to have.

I love this place and being able to be a missionary here! 

Much Love,

Elder Gilbert











Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hitting the roads and Halloween

Alright, I can't believe its already time to write another letter. The time seems to be flying by, I've only got three more weeks with Elder Pearce! I love emailing and writing these letters, but I also wish I could better convey the crazy/hard/funny/inspiring experiences I'm having. Hope I can at least give you a little taste! 

It was a pretty good week of lessons, but somehow we also had a lot of contacting time!  Right now it looks like we have two investigators that will get baptized before Elder Pearce leaves. William, our 14 year old in the LA family, is a special kid. I don't know how much I've talked about him, but he is a stud! He's ranked in the top 30ish in Taiwan for 16 and under tennis players, so he loves Elder Pearce. We go play with him and his dad every Saturday morning. What's especially cool about him is how interested he is in the church. He's this super funny, athletic kid, but also loves having spiritual discussions and reading from the Book of Mormon with us. I think my favorite experience of the week was watching the Joseph Smith Movie with him. He watched the entire movie so intently, and asked a bunch of questions to better understand. The movie isn't translated in Chinese, it only has the subtitles, so I'd assume its not exactly the most entertaining thing of all time. He had thought he had believed in the Joseph Smith story before, but still didn't completely know. After watching, he says he believes all of it and is super excited to be baptized. I'm so excited to see where he goes, I really think he's going to be a great boost to the young men's.

Another cool thing that happened this week was with our twins that come to English class. They came across some anti Mormon stuff and were a little concerned when we met with them. I was really impressed with how Elder Pearce handled the situation. He was in Detroit for two months at the beginning of his mission, and got hit with anti Mormon things all the time. He was really good at not getting into an argument, and helped them realize that a testimony of the Book of Mormon could cancel out all other doubts. We also had a super awesome member with us that was the old bishop, and he explained it in a better way that our Chinese could. Our ward is apparently one of the best in Taiwan, there are a ton of really awesome members who really help out our investigators. The twins Kyle and Mackey have already gotten a little bit of a testimony and I think have felt the spirit. It was cool to see them hang on to that little bit of faith they already have, and be willing to continue to meet with us. They said that they still want to work to their baptismal date, I loved seeing their faith. (Another note on them, shwang bao tai is twin in chinese, and shuai means handsome. We call them Shuai bao tais, and everyone thinks its the funniest joke of all time! haha I bet that doesn't sound very funny, buts that's a little sample of Taiwanse humor :))

We had some cool lessons, but also had a pretty unsuccessful week of contacting. It just seemed like there weren't a lot of people interested. I really think we worked hard and with a lot of faith, but by the weekend we were still pretty slim on new investigators and people willing to come to church. I still think the Lord rewarded our efforts, on Sunday 5 people came to church, and a bunch of people were willing to meet with us! It was crazy, that's the most people I've had at church in a week, probably doesn't sound like a lot, but it was really good :) It was a very exciting day, and I'm sure that fasting also had something to do with it. Good things always happen on fast Sundays. 

Halloween was awesome! I think it was the first big American holiday I've been in Taiwan for. Our ward mission leader had us and a few other families over for a big Halloween dinner, it was super fun! The funniest part was that I tried to give all the little kids that came the little spiders and vampire fangs mom send and it freaked them out! I totally thought they'd like them, but when I pulled them out the kids got all scared and just said no thanks. haha kind of sad... I don't think the Taiwanese people like scary stuff quite as much as Americans. Our ward mission leader cooked us up these bacon steak sandwiches with mashed potatoes, soo good! He likes to give us American food, and he's a pretty good cook. Great night and a great week! 

Love you :)

Our Book of Mormon Shipment this week
Elder Gilbert


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Work hard, Pray hard

If this week could be summed up in one word it would definitely be tired... Don't get me wrong it was great, but for some reason there was a lot of work to be done, and not a lot of energy to do it. You know its bad when you fall asleep in the middle of the morning ab circuit.... Regardless, I am super happy and I had a lot of fun and spiritual experiences.

This whole week kind of had a theme of replenishing our old investigator pool with solid new people ready for baptism. Last week we had a lot of new investigators, and it was really exciting! One of my favorite things that happened was at English class this week. I don't know if I've really mentioned or not, but every Wednesday night we have a free English class. It is not exactly one of my favorite things, mostly because I've started to realize that my English isn't actually that good (You've probably noticed from these letters).
I always feel so self conscious when the people come up to me and ask me some really weird/complicated grammar question that I don't really know how to answer right. (There's a bunch that have basically perfect English that just come to practice using it). SO anyways, I've never had a crazy good attitude about it, but its kind of changed the past couple of weeks with a super cool investigator that started to come. His name is Kyle and last week we set him on a baptismal goal. Then this week he brought his twin brother/roommate and he also set a date! Super awesome, I'm getting a much better attitude towards class, and love seeing how this cool opportunity for service can bring others to Christ!

It was super funny, this week we ran into an investigator that we dropped a month ago. He went off to college, and when he came back he was pretty rude to us and told us not to talk to him any more. He's buddies with a guy in our ward and they both came to help clean the church this week. We happened to be there too, and went up and talked to him like we were still old buddies. We were super nice and friendly with him, and he didn't know how to respond at all. I hope that us being nice to him maybe will one day help him meet with missionaries again. 

As I mentioned, both me and Elder Pearce were super tired this week. We don't really know why, it was just kind of one of those weeks. It was a really good opportunity to be able to rely on the Lord and have a lot of faith that He'll strengthen us. Its kind of like the scripture in Ether 12:27, when we are week, we are drawn to the Lord. I feel that He's given us a lot of miracles, and I'm getting better at recognizing his hand in my life.

I did want to mention that this week I ate stinky tofu! I've been so scared to try it, but finally did it! It honestly smells worse then anything. Hard to describe, its kind of like a sewer, but worse. We got some fried kind, and it wasn't too bad. I just loaded it up with all these spicy sauces and actually enjoyed it! I think maybe that means I'm assimilating myself into the culture? I was hoping that eating it would make my Chinese better, but sadly I still mostly ting bu dong (listen, but don't understand)... I'm slowly getting used to the culture/weird food/weird mannerisms, but the Taiwanese never cease to amaze. But yes, that was one of my proudest accomplishments of the week. 

Alright, thats about it... Thanks for everything, I hope that my letters can give some help or advice. I'm grateful for all the advice I'm getting from others. Love you all so much :))

Love,

Elder Ge Zhang Lao

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The temperature's cooling down, the Work's heating upppp

By far my favorite week! I feel like I say that a lot, but still I think I can definitely say that. We had a crazy amount of super cool  experiences. It was also a super fun birthday week, and with seeing ward members at different times, it felt like the entire week was my birthday! 

Going into this week, we kinda were bummed out, because a bunch of investigators had to be dropped, but the exciting thing was that we had a ton of time to find. Street contacting is probably my favorite thing to do by far. Its just a nice 2-3 minute conversation usually, not a lot of room for me to get too lost in the Chinese. There's just so much potential on the roads, because the city is so packed with people! Basically all of Wednesday and Thursday was spent contacting, and those two days were probably as different as possible. Wednesday consisted of basically constant rejection. I don't know why, but I don't think I talked to more than 5 people that were willing to even hear what I had to say. We were so exhausted after. Probably the best way I can show how different they were is by this new system that Elder Pearce and I came up with. We made up this contacting points scoring system to be able to track how successful our day was. Its pretty simple, a small thing, like getting a phone number is worth one point, and something like setting up an actual time to meet or come to church is worth more. Kind of weird, but it makes the contacting more trackable and fun for us haha. So after a full day of contacting Wednesday, basically doing nothing else, we had 6 points. Super, super bad!  It was like 1 point an hour. Thursday came around, and the schedule was basically the same, one lesson and the rest contacting. We decided that we needed to mix something up to make it more successful. We made half hour goals for how many points we wanted, and decided we would have a prayer at every 30 min block and check our progress. Based on how the day before went, I think we made a goal for 17 points total. Then all of a sudden the roads were on fire. You know in Mario when you get one of those stars and you're invincible for a little while? That's kind of what the entire day felt like. It was nuts! We ended up with 54 points. So many interested people were willing to talk, and meet with us. Seriously the craziest day, I had such a fun time doing it too. I think what made it especially awesome was that the day before was so bad. I think that kind of relates to all the trials we get. A huge blessing that comes from them is that the good times become even better. 

Because of all the crazy contacting, we had a super awesome weekend where we were lucky to get a ton of lessons and new investigators. I think this week was probably one of the most successful we've had.  

It was so fun last week to get so many nice messages, and so awesome to wake up Wednesday morning with a super fun birthday and Halloween package! I felt so loved, and we tried to make the apartment look pretty fun with all the decorations haha. The members and missionaries here were so nice to me and we had so much fun. That night was English class, and there was a little mini party at the end where some members got a cheesecake form Costco for me! It was so awesome and I felt so much love! The fun just kept going all week, and somehow on Sunday, it seemed like the whole ward knew! I got a million little notes from the primary kids, and everyone was telling me happy birthday. That night, the Stake President and his family had us and a few other families over for dinner. They had another cake and were all super nice to me! Our ward is so awesome, and the Taiwanese people are so nice! I'd probably have to say it was the best Birthday, and I wouldn't have wanted to spend it anywhere else :) 

Can't wait to build on the momentum from this week, and keep the fire going! 

Love you all so much,
Elder Gilbert
Ward members took us tout for a big lunch at Costco.  It's probably my favorite place to eat!!

Birthday cheesecake




Birthday decorations :)