Taiwan, Taichung Mission

Taiwan, Taichung Mission

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hello from Taiwan!!

Wow! The last week has been a whirlwind, and I've never been so confused in my life! I'll give a quick one paragraph summary, and then go into more detail. We (all 33 of us) arrived safely in Taiwan Wednesday night, after about 26 hours of travel and the awesome chance to be able to call home! That might have been as good as getting to go to the country, it was so fun to hear everyone's voices. So after a day and a half in the mission home, I was assigned to my area and companion. I am in Tainan (a small city of about 750,000 just north of Gaoxiong) and am with Elder Matthew Pearce from Provo, Utah! He is a stud and I'm loving it here! We arrived Wednesday night and got right to work, its so much different from the MTC and I'm loving it even more!

Upon arriving at the airport, we were able to meet President and Sister Blickenstaff. It was so much fun to finally talk with them, they're so awesome! We went back to the mission home, and spent the next day and a half being instructed and oriented to the mission field. The highlight of that was the "Dan Jones" thing we did, where we stood up on a box and had to yell our testimonies in Chinese. They brought all the missionaries in the Taizhong area, and they all stood in a huge group around us. I've never felt so self conscious in my life! (Having to do it in Chinese didn't help...) We then went out and placed Book of Mormons. The Taiwanese are so nice, they are always willing to listen to you, and hardly anyone ignores you. When we found out our areas, it was like another mission call! They had us come up one by one and open up red envelopes with our area and trainer.

 I found out I was assigned to the Tainan 4th ward with Elder Pearce. We then said some quick goodbyes, headed to Tainan, and got straight to work. The only time I have questioned my mission was the first night, as we were biking in the pouring rain to a baptism, and we found out we forgot to bring the baptismal clothes. Our apartment is really far away from the church, and we had to turn all the way back around. I've just learned that being wet is something you get used to here, I don't think I've been completely dry since stepping off the plane... The rainy season is just ending here, and it hasn't stopped raining yet! I love it!!

Saturday was our first full day, and Elder Pearce already had a bunch of lessons planned so I could meet the investigators. They speak SO fast here, and I get very confused. I already feel improvement though, and the language hasn't really gotten me too down yet. I have come to find that I especially like bearing testimony in our lessons, and that's where the spirit is strongest! Elder Pearce has been awesome to get me involved, and even let me take the lead.

 Sunday was also so so awesome. Its really inspiring to see all the Taiwanese members who are so committed. I got to speak, which was a little scary, but also really fun. The members, and all the people here are so nice. I already love them so much! They are so willing to help us, and love working with me on my Chinese. Most of the members speak pretty good English as well. It was really fun to meet all of them and learn. The people in general are so nice, it kind of reminds me of an Asian Rexburg ... maybe a little bigger though :) Even when we get rejected contacting, they're so polite. They always want to hear what we have to say and compliment me on my Chinese. It was also on Sunday where my favorite experience so far happened. Elder Pearce knew a few kids that he would teach about Jesus, and we went to go visit one. I think his dad was a little creeped out, but he wanted to know what we were doing there. We explained our message, and he let us in. He asked us a few questions, and suddenly we had taught him the entire first lesson! The Spirit was so strong, and even in my broken Chinese was able to communicate my testimony. I had just read the Book of Mormon through again at the MTC, and it was cool to be able to promise him that Moroni's challenge would work for him, because it worked for me. I don't remember who, but one devotional speaker said that as we open our mouths, we'll be able to have a stronger confirmation ourselves. I am definitely a believer in this. It was a powerful lesson, and cool to see in action. A miracle the Dad would even talk to us! 

We have a really solid group of investigators, and after Saturday have three people with baptismal goals! The church is really progressing here thanks to the awesome members and the missionaries like Elder Pearce that have been here. The food has been a highlight as well. Its super cheap, so we just grab something off the street. A member fed us mangoes, and that's been my favorite so far. We usually get fried rice or a bian dan, which is where you get rice vegetables, and some meat. l love eating here, good things we have to ride our bikes A LOT... 

It is so great to finally be here, and I have learned so much in the past few days! I especially know that the spirit needs to be with me 24/7, and that he's doing the converting. I have never been happier in my life, nor around happier people! I love what I'm doing, and can't wait to continue and share my message with the people of Taiwan! 

Much love,
Elder Gilbert

The curry katsu I ate in the Tokyo airport for the little girls
It was good!!

Elder Cole and I once we after 26 hours of travel

The church in Taizhong

Me and Elder Pearce

bian dan

Street in Tainan

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

He made it!

There he is!  Front and center.  After at 16 hour flight and 3 hour bus ride Elder Gilbert has arrived in Taichung.  Sister Blickenstaff keeps an amazing blog at http://taiwantaichungmission.blogspot.com for more updates and pictures of the arrival and first day of training.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

TAIWAN HERE I COME!

Dear family and friends,

The last week was nuts, I can't believe that I'll be getting up before 4 tomorrow to get on a flight! It was a really great week and I feel like I went out with a bang. Sorry this email could be a tad short, I still need to do all my packing... (I know Mom's going to be happy to hear that) haha I don't really know how its going to work..

We had a devotional from Elder Echo Hawk of the 70 on Tuesday, it was inspiring to hear his conversion story. It's been really hard to focus this final week, but our district really tried to work on it. I really feel like my time at the MTC has been utilized to the fullest. I definitely could have worked harder, and I now have much better study habits, but the growth I've made is unreal. I haven't been perfect, but I'm light years ahead of where I was 9 weeks ago. No regrets, I loved it here :) The last week was fun because I really felt like my ability to learn and study has improved. I learned so much faster this week! On Friday we had an in field orientation that took up most of the day. It was weird, because it was with all the departing missionaries going anywhere. It did not feel normal to do all the role plays in English, but also much easier haha. Our teacher showed us somemormon.org profile videos of LDS people in Taiwan, and it was quite fast and hard to follow. I'm so glad we're going somewhere where the people love Americans though, because it will be much easier to learn from understanding people. So the highlight of the week was probably playing the piano in sacrament meeting. (Mom maybe this makes up for my packing procrastination). I wasn't very good, but it was very fun to play, and I got through three hymns. Our district also sang, so this basically guaranteed that I wouldn't need to speak in sacrament meeting. I think they still felt bad for me from going up at the wrong time for the prayer, and then my piano skills must have just put it over the edge :) 

So yes, it was a successful week. I have so many mixed emotions about going to Taiwan, but mostly excitement. It is going to be SO hard, but I'm going to learn even more than I did at the MTC, and so excited to see what challenges the Lord throws my way. I can't wait to get out there to the missionaries and people I've grown to love so much, even though I haven't even met them yet! Thanks for all of the support that I have gotten while I've been here. I have felt so loved by so many people, and it's really strengthened me. Next time I write this, I'm probably going to have some pretty funny/cool/embarrassing stories to tell and I'll be writing it from some random internet cafe in Taiwan. I love you all so much, and love hearing about all the awesome things back home. I miss you, but know I'm on the Lord's errand. I'm having the time of my life being a missionary, and wish I could do it for even longer. I know the time is going to fly by, and am STOKED to get started! 

Love,
Elder Gilbert

Monday, August 17, 2015

One week left!

Dear Family and Friends,

One week from today I'll probably be putting the finishing touches on my packing (Hopefully) and getting ready to leave the next morning at 4:30 AM! Can't believe it has come, I feel like I've lived my entire life at the MTC, and have no idea what its going to be like to leave. We got our travel plans on Friday, and also had a pretty sweet devotional last night.

Class has been different this week, as we've basically completed all the course material. We spend most of our time practicing teaching, or learning/reviewing complicated grammar. It starting to feel like I can hold my own in the language, although I know I'm about to get wrecked when I get to the country. I'm excited for the experience! I love the opportunities the language provides for me to work on humility and reliance on the spirit, (Chinese gives you a lot). SO ya, class is getting better and better, and its fun to finally be able to understand our Laoshi's when they go off on the language. Its also cool to see how much better my study habits are, and how much faster I can learn, especially vocab, its starting to just flow right into my brain! Me and Elder Trotter were amazed as we attempted to memorize 3 Nephi 5:13 in Chinese. We did it faster than we even thought it would be possible in English! Pretty cool stuff. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not trying to brag at all. To (sort of) paraphrase Ammon's words in Alma 26, I know its not me, I could barely learn anything in a whole year of Chinese class back home! The Lord has empowered me to do this and its amazing to see! It's awesome to see what can be accomplished with a righteous purpose and the Spirit on your side.

Tuesday we had a devotional from Elder C. Scott Grow of the 70. You already know he was awesome because his name is a sentence. He talked about how we can serve with our our heart might mind and strength as a missionary. I loved that he said we should strive to hit the bed absolutely exhausted every night, and I really hope that what its going to be like when I get out in thew field., It's kind of hard to do it in the MTC, as we are sitting at a desk 9+ hours a day, but I'm trying my hardest. 

We got our travel plans on Friday, and everyone went nuts! We go SLC to seattle, then Tokyo, then Taipei. We meet at the travel office at 4:30 tuesday, and arrive wednersday late at night! Its going to be crazy, and bring back some fun memories from last summer of being in the Tokyo Narita Airport. I'll be sure to get some really good curry for the Gilbert Sisters :) SO after that, everyone has just been buzzing with excitement and it feels super real. Still don't know if all the visas have come through, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that everyone makes it! 

Highlight of the week (and one of the best of the MTC) was having the Nashville Tribute Band perform for us at devotional last night. If you don't know, they're a bluegrass/country LDS band. If you know me, I absolutely hate country music... Despite that, I LOVED the devotional. We even got to back them up in a few songs. It was so unlike anything else we'e done at the MTC, and kind of fun to get a little less formal music going. Very fun, and a lot different than most of the things we've done. I had a blast! Haha it felt like we were southern baptists or something, I don't know how the MTC allowed it, but it was super sweet :)

Excited to push through this last week! So fun to hear about summer wrapping up. It's funny, usually this time isn't too exciting for me because of school and everything, but now I'm more excited than I've ever been in my life to get to Taiwan! I'm loving it here, and glad I have a little more time to grow. I definitely need it! I love this gospel, I love being a missionary, and I've never been happier in my life! I love you all so much and miss you like crazy!!

-Elder Gilbert
Yellow tie day

Monday, August 10, 2015

TWO WEEKS LEFT IN THE MTC!

Wow the weeks are going by at hyper speed now, and I can't believe that 2 weeks from right now we'll be packing up our bags to go! Had a very great week with a few fun highlights, hopefully you all enjoy! 

Monday, me and Elder Trotter Skyped a member in Taiwan! That's what we do for our TRC's now, and it was super cool. We talked to a brother not much older than us named Charles, and he was great. It was so fun to talk to a person in Taiwan, and we actually had a great talk. Everyone was teasing me that I learned the Chinese word for football (meishi zuqiu), but I told him II liked football and he went nuts! He showed us his phone screensaver that had a picture of Jerry Rice, haha he was so happy we brought that up. He kept telling us he loved us, which was a good thing because we had to get him to repeat everything a bunch of times to understand at all. Its really hard A: because Zhongwen, and B: We're in a big room of computers and everyone is talking to someone, so its really loud. Still a great experience. After the lesson, I really felt a strong love for the Taiwanese people, and I'm not even there yet!

Tuesday, after weeks and weeks up getting our hopes up every devotional, we FINALLY got an apostle. President Nelson spoke to us! It was so cool to see as he walked in, everyone was so calm and respectful. Usually all the missionaries are really loud and talkative before devotionals, and it was nice to see that an Apostle of God could command so much respect. He spoke on being an "Epistle to the Lord" and about how we can be a "High Wattage Missionary." My favorite part was that he focused on how simple the message of the Gospel is, and how its a story about a father that loves his children and wants them to make good choices. It was a great thing to think about, as sometimes I think we make it more complicated than it needs to be. In essence its just a message of love and happiness! I really felt a confirmation of President Nelson's divine calling.

This week we also got our Chinese name tags (The name in Chinese too). I have a picture of me wearing it that I'll try to send! We also finally got Shi ge ben's!!! (hymnbooks hopefully spelled right).  Both of those got me really excited to get to Taiwan. Its also crazy because today and tomorrow, we lose all the Chinese missionaries that are older than us :( We're now the oldest Chinese, and some of the oldest in the entire MTC. This is finally the week that all the new English speaking missionaries won't beat us out of the MTC, because we'll be leaving the same day! We also get our travel plans this Friday. It is going to be really hard to focus, but Taiwan will be a lot more fun if I feel like I've worked as hard as I can. A few of the Elders leaving didn't get their Visas, and are going to Idaho, California, and Washington (not Chinese Speaking) This kind of scared me, but I'll keep my fingers crossed! I'm sure there's a good reason, and that if my Visa doesn't come through I'll be OK :) 

So that's a quick recap of the week, the language is very slowly, but surely coming, and I love being humbled by it! On the topic of focusing, we read a great little piece by President Uchtdorf. He talked about always staying in the middle no matter if you are just starting or just ending. It was a great message for me as my time is running short here. I am really trying to work like I am not almost out, and not coast and think that it'll be easier in the mission field. I really need it! I'm starting to get used to the sleep schedule, but I still get very sleepy during class. Lots of wall sits and push ups to wake me up haha. I also read my scriptures standing up during personal time! Although I'm dying to get to Taiwan, I know I still have a lot more to learn here, and I could not be more excited to do so. I love the gospel, the MTC and being a missionary! 

Thanks for keeping me updated and for all the support from everyone, I really feel the love! Miss everyone, but loving the work:) 

-Elder Gilbert
My Chinese name tag 

My new Chinese hymn book

Monday, August 3, 2015

Week 6

Dear Family and Friends,

Its finally departure month!!! It feels like its almost over, but we've still got a while. We will be the oldest missionaries in the Zone (Probably the whole MTC) starting next Monday... In a week from Friday we will get our travel plans/Chinese name tags. Oh baby I'm pumped to write this letter because I've finally got a couple good stories. 

The week started off with a bang as I got a note saying that Uncle Ryan and Aunt Kim tried to send me a package with a beta fish and a Jamba juice! Somehow they search our mail, and I guess those are two items we are not allowed to have... hahah bummer.  We had a great devotional Tuesday night from Elder Kendrick. He taught about how to recognize spiritual promptings. Wednesday was super cool, because we got to host. (That's when you pick up the new missionaries that are arriving and take them to get everything they'll need if you didn't know.) I also got to see a ton of people from Woods Cross, and even got to host one! (Elder John Daynes, going to Argentina). Very fun activity, and great way to break up the week, but also very sad/awkward when you get a family that is all bawling their eyes out... It is fun to be able to try and help cheer up the elders as you're walking away though. 

I'm sure that most of you know that I'm not exactly the best at staying awake when I'm sitting down for long periods of time. So a fun thing that He Lao Shi, our teacher, has us do when we get drowsy is wall sit and repeat the missionary purpose/Joseph smiths first vision, until we cant do it any more. Lets just say I'm getting a lot of practice with that now.. haha I'm going to have huge legs when we get out of here!

Ok, Saturday and Sunday were the highlights for sure. I've started to put one funny moment from the day and one tender mercy in my journal so that the entries aren't all so boring, and I've got a couple that I thought some people might enjoy. We have weekly TRC's every Saturday, and the first one we went into had what we thought was just a very quiet investigator. As we walked out though, we found out that he was supposed to be an English speaking investigator , that was just too nice to say anything to us! So that was pretty awesome. Then, Sunday we had testimony meeting as a branch. We were treated to having the President of the MTC and his wife come and sit on the stand during it. That made me a little nervous to go up. I went up and bore what I thought was a pretty bomb Zhongwen testimony. That was actually pretty cool and I felt semi confident up there. I was also assigned to give the closing prayer. So right after (President Burgess) speaks to end the testimony meeting, I go strolling on up to give the closing prayer... As I'm about to start, Our branch president taps me on the shoulder and says "how about we wait and sing the closing song first" I had totally spaced that there was a song, and was just standing up there beet red! Everybody ate it up, and then I just sat down next to everyone on the stand, waited for the song, and then prayed. That was not my best moment, but at least I gave everyone a good chuckle.. Those were some of my favorite parts of the week, as well as being able to finally whip out my rain jacket, because its pouring here right now! 

A good little consolation prize to the embarrassing sacrament meeting was getting to hear Sheri Dew speak in Sunday night devotional! She was awesome, and spoke about how we need to "spiritually wrestle" with the Lord to find the answers to our questions and be able to build our testimonies. I know I probably say this a lot, but it was my favorite devotional yet, and I learned a ton! 

Another great week, only a few more to go! I'm still having a great time and learning so much about Chinese, the Gospel and Myself. 

I love you all so much and am so grateful for all of the letters, packages, and support!!

-Ge Zhanglao

Rainy P-Day

Getting better at my chopstick skills