Taiwan, Taichung Mission

Taiwan, Taichung Mission

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!


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! 

Elder Gilbert

Sunday, November 15, 2015


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