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第九十三個星期 (Week 93) April 16, 2018

Man, I swear there's always less and less time between these Mondays! Next thing you know it'll be up to number 100 then who knows what'll happen next :P It'll be like I'm home or something! Crazy!

 

But really I have 10.5 weeks before I'm home O.o

 

But who's counting, right? :P That is, besides you, mom ;)

 

So this week was really good! Elder Lee and I decided to try something a little different and set a goal for how many people we would successfully set up a time to meet with us (something we did daily anyways), but this goal is for the whole transfer. So we said if we get the goal (even if it's before the transfer ends) then we'll buy ourselves a board game to play at nights! Haha you have to find motivation somehow, right?

 

Interestingly enough, the day after setting that goal we had 4 people set up with us (more than I'd ever had in this area)! So that was cool :) I'll send a picture, but let me explain one of the guys that set up with us:

 

So we were meeting with one of the recent converts in the ward and reviewing the lessons (which happens right after baptism) when this group of aboriginal kids walk in to the store we were in and their leader guy is standing there and says "Hey I'm Christian too and I want to learn!" while we were in the middle of talking to our member. So we were kinda not sure what to do because a lot of crazy people say stuff like that to us, so we just kinda ignored them for the moment because they started getting all dressed up to do a performance across the street. I felt like we should just try and talk to the guy in charge of the dancing kids though, and they finished getting ready right when we finished our lesson, so we followed them across the street to a party thing we had no idea about for little kids! So we go over there and watch this guy perform with these little kids and he was going so hard! He was way more into everything than the kids and it was so funny!

 

So I kept trying to find a way to talk to him and kept feeling like we shouldn't leave until we did, so we waited and watched him perform 3 times before finally being able to talk to him. He told us he has 4 kid's dance studios, has a day job, and then goes and practices one of the like 12 instruments he knows with his band. That's his life, every day. He's a Christian and said that he moved here from the east coast. He and several other Christian aboriginal friends had stopped going to church when they moved over here, and he said "Yeah, some missionaries gave me a Book of Mormon before. I want to learn more, and I want to bring all of my friends back to God! I can meet with you on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. How about we just do all of them?" We were stunned and said "......uhhhh Yeah for sure if that's ok!!!!"

 

What makes it all better is that his aboriginal name Ga Zao literally means "Cricket". Heh :P

 

But yeah I was just amazed by this man and his humility and his enthusiasm towards living his life to the fullest as well as his faith in God. Cool guy!

 

This week we also had the wonderful opportunity to meet with around 12 member families! I can't say this enough, but these members are so crazy awesome! They love us, missionary work in general, helping people, the gospel, each other, etc. etc. and it's just awesome! They are so generous and kind and welcoming to us and all. I've learned a lot from them :)

 

 

So I hope everyone else's weeks was as awesome as mine! Have a great one this next week!

第九十二個星期 (Week 92) April 9, 2018

This week was pretty crazy! To sum up, Elder Larsen and I were not expecting to move this transfer, and then when the transfer call came out (because of smartphones our mission office sends us a Google drive folder with everyone's names and transfer calls - I can hear all you RMs getting really jealous about that already! :P yeah it's a little different) Elder Larsen was looking through all the names and got to his own and found out he was leaving! Surprise! So he went to 萬大 (WanDa - my second area!) to be with Elder Heaton (he sat next to me in the MTC). So yeah that was crazy! Now my companion is Elder Lee, born in Taiwan but spent all but 6 years of his life in Utah, likes to swim, golf, and party but is surprisingly quiet and keeps to himself. So yeah it's a big change! This is his second area so far and he was with his last companion for 4 months straight, so we're going through an adjustment phase right now I think :P

 

It's awesome though and just yesterday we set up with almost every member in our ward and all of them said "yeah of course you can come to my house. Why don't you just come for dinner?" It was so awesome to see their automatic kindness and graciousness. So thanks to them and to all members everywhere and your kindness to missionaries! We appreciate it!

 

Also this week was GENERAL CONFERENCE! It was so freaking cool! This time I decided to take a slightly different approach than normal, which I decided I'm going to do every time from now on because I got sooooo much out of it this time! I decided to write down every time they specifically invite you to do something, and then I'm going to take them and slowly start to try doing each of them. I highly recommend this for everyone! When you do what the prophet or an apostle invites you to do you get blessings, so do them! It's that simple!

 

So yeah this week was pretty good! I hope everyone else has a great week, and if you would like I'll copy in my notes for what I found each speaker invited us to do for conference (obviously particularly in relation to missionaries and missionary work). Have a good one!

 

 

 

Invitations/Goals

Saturday Morning Session

M. Russell Ballard

• Record the feelings you have from conference

• Receive the word of the prophet because it's as if the Lord Himself is speaking to you

• Have real/sincere faith in Christ

• Don't let the sacrament become routine

• Remember Christ is supreme

• Succor, lift, strengthen, visit, and lift those who need us and God

Brian K. Taylor

• Listen to the Spirit (it will teach us we are children of God)

• Seek to know more of God

• Seek the wil of the Father through the Book of Mormon

Larry Echo Hawk

• Forgive others freely and completely, including ourselves

• Remember and follow the Savior and His forgiveness to all

Lynn G. Robbins

• Don't fear failure, but learn from it

• We must get up every time we fall and fail

Neil L. Andersen

• Follow President Nelson as we would Peter or Moses

• Humbly and worthily seek the deeper assurance that President Nelson is God's prophet, perhaps by reading his talks and learning of him and his life

 

Saturday Afternoon Session

David A. Bednar

• Be meek

• Put the will of God first

Taylor G. Godoy

• We must use our time wisely

• We must be willing to sacrifice to be successful

• Honor the Savior's Atonement by living each day (for others) even more each day with energy and excitement

Taniela B. Wakolo

• "Keep on the covenant path"

• Perform and receive the ordinances and covenants of the gospel

• Turn away from that and those who appear to have godliness but "deny the power thereof"

• Strictly avoid casualness

Devin G. Durrant

• Teach children the gospel

• Do good and righteous traditions such as FHE and family prayer

• Always be ready to teach our children

• Be an example of the believers

Dale G. Renlund

• We must perform family history

• Help others to do so as well

 

Priesthood Session

Douglas D. Holmes

• Focus more diligently on our priesthood duties

Russell M. Nelson

• Every man should represent, speak for, and act for Christ to bless others

Ronald A. Rasband

• Prayerfully, joyfully, and willingly accept the priesthood quorum changes

Henry B. Eyring

• Do all we can to obvtain the gift of charity and then use it through the guidance and power of the Spirit to bless all those around us

Dallin H. Oaks

• Never use the word "priesthood" to simply denote "brothers" or "men" in the church

• Remember that titles are not for adornment

• Know that we are on the Lord's errand

• Fathers must magnify the priesthood in their homes

• We all need to be diligent in fulfilling our part in the work of the Lord

Russell M. Nelson

• Serve and sacrifice as priesthood holders in love, faith, and kindness

• Blessings need to be blessings, not simply prayers

• Keep covenants, fast, pray, and serve in and out of the temple righteously

• Seek to meet, understand, love, care for, and learn from those we serve

 

Sunday Morning Session

Larry Y. Wilson

• Prayers need to be specific and proactive in nature - "what can I do to solve the problem I face?"

• Obey and repent

• Don't simply ask and expect God to take care of things for us - seek proactive guidance

• Don't be afraid to counsel with the Lord "in all your doings"

• We can't simply "do and think what others are doing and thinking"

Reyna L. Aburto

• We must be unified and work together diligently and "with one accord"

• Testify of Christ, minister to each other, and serve lovingly

• Look for and do the Lord's will

• Reach out to others in love

Massimo De Feo

• Forgive and serve and love all those around us as the Savior Himself did

• Love the Lord more than yourself

• Be quick to ask for forgiveness

• Submit peacefully and humbly to the Lord

• Love to listen to the Lord's voice and recognize it

• Love to obey

• Serve others despite our own struggles and pains and needs

• Fill our hearts with the pure love of Christ

Claudio D. Zivic

• Endure

• Always remember and keep in our minds that we must not leave Christ

• Obey

• Attend church

Henry B. Eyring

• Always remember the Savior and keep His commandments

• Remember our feelings and what the Spirit teaches us instead of exact details necessarily

• Humble yourself, pray with faith, obey with exactness, and pray for others

• Pray for those we serve and especially to know how we can help them

• Serve others out of love for the Lord

• Ask for inspiration with real intent and open your heart to the Spirit

Dallin H. Oaks

• Do small and simple daily actions such as prayer/family prayer/scripture study

• Weekly partake of the sacrament after immediate and regular repentance

• Continually "paddle upstream" to avoid the cultural and social currents of degradation attempting to destroy us

• Do these things despite the simpleness of the way

• Seek to always stay on the covenant path

Russell M. Nelson

• Learn to discern and heed the Spirit's voice

• Have complete unity

• Find a private place to pray humbly and fervently and regularly

• Stretch beyound your normal capacity for revelation

• Choose to do the spiritual work required to receive the Holy Ghost

 

Sunday Afternoon Session

Garrit W. Gong

• Come and see

• Follow the prophet

Ulisses Soares

• Follow the prophet

Jeffry R. Holland

• Be motivated only and purely by the pure love of Christ

Jean B. Bingham

• Live even your mundane daily life as the Savior would

• Focus on needs and do it one by one

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

• We need to know for ourselves if Christ really is the Son of God and truly have the eyes to see Him

• Seek to repent and become more like Him and live His commandments

Gerald Causse

• See the members and truly come to know them

• Help others come unto Christ, don't simply focus on having a nice organization or program

• Take the church with us wherever we g

Quentin L. Cook

• Don't get complacent about family history

• Seek repentance, feel accountable to God, and strictly abstain from sin

• Humble yourself before God with a broken heart/contrite spirit

• Work your absolute hardest and seek to develop Christlike attributes as a missionary

Russell M. Nelson

• Let us all press on!

• Frequently and repeatedly and regularly review this conference

• All of God's children are invited to come unto Christ

• Care more deeply for eternal family relations

 

• Raise your voice in testimony more frequently and powerfully

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.

第九十二個星期 (Week 92)

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第九十一個星期 (Week 91) March 26, 2018

This week was pretty good!

 
We had interviews with President Jergensen, which was awesome! He's so cool! I'm so glad I've had him for my whole mission - actually he's going home the same transfer that I am! So that's pretty fun. He's an amazing leader and a great man.
 
Then we had a zone meeting, and it was super fun to see some other old friends in the zone, like Elder Jensen (my hilarious companion from near the beginning of my mission) who is going home this transfer, so that was really fun to see him again! Then my companion spent that night throwing up for some reason (we still don't know why), but was a trooper and we still went out the next day and hit it hard! We went on exchanges with our zone leaders that night after meeting with the coolest investigator ever!
 
So this guy is a member referral from an awesome member in our ward who used to be the ward mission leader. This guy was meeting with missionaries about a month and a half ago but was super busy so we could never meet with him. We met and he walked in and sat us down and said "thank you for coming and meeting with me today. I've got something to tell you." Now in my experience that means that they're going to tell you how they don't want to meet anymore, but he instead said "I used to have a bunch of questions and concerns about your church. This past month and a half I've done a lot of research and thought. I talked to my minister friend of another church and I looked a lot on the internet. I've decided that I have no concerns and I'm ready to be baptized." Whaaaaaaat???!!! It was so cool!!! He said that once he decides something he will do it, so he said there's no problems. He set a date to be baptized at the end of April, and I think he's going to do it!
 

 

We sang a song in our wards special Easter sacrament meeting (because next week is fast Sunday and the week after is General Conference), and heard a lot of stuff about the Resurrection during church (in Chinese Easter translates to "Resurrection Day", so that's pretty fun), then that night we went to a members house for Family Home Evening and she asked everyone present to share their testimony of the Resurrection and of Christ, then that night we ran into a member on the street. He said "actually can you do something for me? Can you pray for me and my grandmother? She's going to die in about two hours." So naturally the whole day was kind of themed about the Resurrection, which made me think about it a lot. There's a scripture in the book of Moroni chapter seven that asks what will we hope for? It answers its own question by saying: the Resurrection of Christ. I love that because truly because of the Resurrection we can have hope in anything; without it we have nothing, because without it we have no promise in ever having life after death and everything ends right there. So don't worry, be happy, do your best, and trust God and it'll all work out :)

第九十個星期 (Week 90)

Hey fam! And friends! And anyone who feels like reading this after 90 weeks of me rambling haha :P

 

This week was super cool! We had several awesome miracles, such as calling a member the day after he made the "hardest decision of his life" that he was still feeling very nervous and stressed about and were able to give him a priesthood blessing which he was in tears about both before in humility and after in gratitude.

 

Then again last night we were invited to a home to present a message for their Family Home Evening, and during it they received news that the grandma's 90 year old father had a stroke and it's highly likely that he'll pass away, so we were able to give another blessing with the member of the bishopric that came with us. It was so cool!

 

We have been working with our Primary to have an activity to help the kids share the gospel, and they were hoping to make the focus more on helping people that don't come as much or those families that have non-member family members, so we've been asking members in our ward obviously who they know we could go share the gospel with, but especially with those members that feel like they don't have anyone to share with anymore we ask them what less-active members or part member families we can help out, and it's been really cool to see the ward come together! So for all you members back home, if you really feel like you've tried sharing the gospel with every single person you ever could, think of some members that could also use some love, and you'll still make the missionaries some very happy people :) 

 

Because of these efforts and finding on the way we've been blessed with some investigators as well as some potential referrals from the ward - many members have told us "I really need to work on getting you elders a referral!" It's so cool to see their willingness and humility! Members are awesome!

 

We have also started a Facebook page for our English Class here and are starting to use that as a more professional looking base to send out weekly updates into the local groups that we're in and try and get people subscribed to the page and then come to the actual class. It's been a little less effective this week than we were hoping, but that's ok! :D Still a work in progress.

 

So that was this week in a nutshell! I hope everyone else had a great week, and I'll talk to you more next time!"

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第八十九個星期 (Week 89)

This week was really interesting! We managed to find a ton of people and set up with many of them, but then none of them lived in our area! If they did, they ended up cancelling on us or not setting up another time or something, so we had some fun with all that this week. 

 

Also many of you have probably seen me start to use Facebook and posting stuff this week. I should say that that's just because our mission is now approved to use Facebook to advertise our English class here, so that's what I'm also using it for. Sadly I'm still not supposed to use it to communicate with family and friends, so that will still have to wait until I go home in June. 

 

That's actually been working out pretty well, and y'know the nice thing about not having a ton of investigators to worry about is that there's literally nowhere to go but up! Any effort is worthwhile, so it's all good. We're getting along great, our district and zone are awesome, we have a super cool kid we're meeting with that's awesome and considering baptism, we are staying happy, and life is good!

 

We also just spent the P-Day at my first area with some old companions and old friends, and it was awesome! I hope everyone else had a good week as well, and see ya next time!"

第八十八個星期 (Week 88)

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第七十九個星期 (Week 79)

February 26, 2018

 

 

 

So you remember how I said that this past week was transfers and I didn't think I would get transfered but you never know what happens? Well I was transferred! After an 8-hour train ride, I arrived in the land of the Peach Garden (桃園) and I'm companions with Elder Larsen, who Elder Kaufusi trained in my old district when I also trained a new missionary, so I already know him! Fun stuff! He's super awesome, from Centerville Utah, and we're already having a blast!

 

So this week our freaking awesome investigator Brother Yang (陽弟兄) in TaiDong got baptized!!!! He's so amazing and it was so great that he finally actually did it! Although I didn't get to actually go to his baptism I was able to call in and listen to it and talk to him and it was so amazing!

 

So yeah I'll forever miss the beautiful east coast, but I love it here on the beautiful west coast again with a ton of fun people (like my old companion Elder Cheney!) and in a great area with a fantastic ward!

 

 

So yeah I'm sure I'll have a lot more later when I'm more settled down and we get some more sweet investigators but that's most of it for this week! Talk to you next time!

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第七十八個星期 (Week 78) February 12, 2018 & 第七十九個星期 (Week 79) February 19, 2018

第七十八個星期 (Week 78)

February 12, 2018

 

 

This week went very well! It was a little weird and crazy, but besides that, it was great :

 

Why is that? Well, on Monday we went to a place called 猴子山 (Monkey Mountain) where we had monkeys climb on us and one got a little too excited to be near me so he decided to bite my elbow (don't worry I had my jacket on so no rabies!) and a couple of them really liked the sisters' blond hair, so that was fun!

 

Fast forward to that night where we go and visit our investigators the 陽家庭 (Yang Family) who are totally going to get baptized next Saturday!!! Then we decide to go try and knock on their neighbor's door for the first time cus you know why not when the kid that answers the door tells us his dad's possessed by devils and we proceed to watch the most crazy stuff where this guy is moaning and groaning and laughing and talking to himself and dancing around and yelling and hitting stuff and then his coworkers come and try and help cast out the devils through their Daoist ritual thing which involves lighting a giant thing on fire and scattering the live embers on him while his shirt was off and then he keeps scattering the embers on himself and then they scatter some salt around the house and then he keeps doing his weird dance stuff and then suddenly everything's fine and everyone goes home.  Like what? It was so crazy! Everyone was safe though, so there you go I guess.

 

Then fast forward to Tuesday morning at about 1 AM where a district leader in HuaLian calls us and says "THERE'S A MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE OH MY GOSH" and tells us how they had to evacuate their homes and run to the church or outside in a field during the 6.8 earthquake that hit right there and have been having 4.0+ aftershocks every hour or so for a few days this week.

 

Then fast forward to Wednesday where we have a sort of average day and our investigator 豐弟兄 (Brother Feng) tells us the only reason he's been willing to do anything is because we keep inviting him and doesn't really want to get baptized :( :( :( :( :( but is still willing to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and come to church and follow the commandments, so like yay!

 

Then fast forward to Thursday where we go up to HuaLian and have a ton of aftershock earthquakes and have interviews with our mission president and then go on exchanges with the elders in 玉里 (YuLi - it's an hour south of HuaLian and an hour north of us, so right in the middle) and then head home on Friday.

 

 

Then our other investigators are doing good but sometimes have issues (wow big shocker there, right?) but we're working hard and setting good goals and seeing miracles! Sorry I'm about to go to a cool big mountain with the beach right there and it'll be sweet and I hope everyone has a great week! 加油!

 

 

第七十九個星期 (Week 79)

February 19, 2018

 

 

This week was pretty nuts because - ☄️新年快樂!!!!!☄️ Happy New Years!!! But wait, New Years was 2.5 months ago, you say! Haha, not to the Taiwanese and Chinese people!

 

That's right, this week started "Chinese/Lunar New Year"! Basically, for all those who didn't get the memo, this means lots and lots and LOTS of firecrackers/fireworks in random places at random times, everyone returns to their parents' homes for a whole week, and lots and lots and LOTS AND LOTS of food! So New Years lasts for a whopping 6 days and the members love us enough to feed us for every meal for all 6 days and they take pride in cooking WAY TOO MUCH FOOD!! So alternating between my stomach being very happy and VERY unhappy (also due to a sudden bought of terrible diarrhea and stomach aches two days ago), this week has been awesome!

 

Also, our investigator Brother Yang passed his baptismal interview!!!!!!! He will be baptized this Saturday!!!!! He has changed SO MUCH like you have no idea. He always tells us insane stories of his youth and some...Interesting things he would do to his workers and other people and now is the nicest, funniest, humble guy ever. Sadly his wife was supposed to also have her interview at the same time but just kinda...Didn't show up...? So we're still investigating that part.

 

Also a positive note is how we still had several investigators come to church despite being in different places and doing different stuff for the new years! 

 

 

So yeah this week is transfers and we're expecting not to be transferred but y'know we'll see, and Happy New Years! Today we have to run around and help people clean and clean or own apartment and stuff so not really anything fun to report from today sadly. I hope everyone's week was awesome and I'll send more next time!

第七十六個星期 (Week 76) January 8, 2018

This week was awesome!

 

We had a good time hanging out and playing soccer last P-Day and then met this super cool kid that was playing with us and then started meeting with us this week and has the most deep thoughts I've ever seen from someone so young (he's like 16) and he texted us this week and said that after he tried praying for one of the first times he had "deep feelings" and kept thanking us for helping him come to know Heavenly Father. He's so cool!

 

Then this week we ran into a family who had had missionaries talk to them before, and then we went back yesterday and they let us in and said that they're totally chill with letting us come back and share more any time we want!

 

Then we met with our investigator Adam who is SOOO COOOOOOL!! He hadn't met with us for a super long time (like once in 4 months) but when he met again this past week he said that he is still super committed to his baptismal date on the 20th of this month and found out everything he had to do and learn and scheduled it all out right there and said he's willing to do whatever it takes! So in two days we shared all of the commandments and he literally has no concerns whatsoever! It's so amazing!

 

We also have been meeting with a great guy named Feng Dixiong (Brother Feng/ 豐弟兄) who is improving so much! He fasted with us yesterday and had a cool experience and is also pretty much done with all the lessons and is just waiting for his date and figuring out if he really believes everything for himself right now.

 

Then our longtime investigator 陽弟兄 (Brother Yang) finally came back to church after having a not great experience there last time and LOVED it! He and his wife have been debating if they want to be baptized or not for a few months now, but now he's totally on board! It's so cool!

 

 

So yeah life is great! I hope everyone also had a great week and I'll talk to you next time!

第七十八個星期 (Week 78) February 12, 2018

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第七十七個星期 (Week 77) January 1, 2018

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

 
This year for Christmas, I was doing missionary work!  How about you?  Oh, and for New Years, too...  Oh, and every other day too....  No wonder life is so good!
 
Because!  This week we had some cool stuff happen!  For example, last Monday (as in, Christmas, for all you who didn't know), I got to Skype home!!  Yaaaaay!  That was super fun and awesome and reaffirmed the fact that, yes, I do have the best family ever (sorry everyone, but it's true!).  After that I promptly drank some hot chocolate (haven't done that in forever! - Thanks Fam!) and wore a super soft new shirt, so I'd say it was pretty good.  Oh and then we spent the day on the beach and then watched the Testaments in the church and ate everyone's candy!  Life is good :D
 
During this week we went out to a place called 知本 (ZhiBen), which is another little "town" about 30 minutes away and tried talking to a family we met a few weeks ago, but they were busy and said we should go away :P  But then they said we should go across the street and talk to their neighbors, so we did!  And their neighbors are so sweet!  They sell 檳榔 (or Betel Nut - the weird drug thing that everyone here eats that cuts up your mouth so it can put some kind of drug into your bloodstream and it turns your mouth red and makes you look like you're vomiting blood..... sounds tasty, right?), and at first kinda turned us away because they said "no we believe in our traditions", which pretty much everyone and their dog tells us in Taiwan, but we kept talking and shared about prayer and God and they said "Wow that sounds so cool!  How can you come to know God?"  So we invited them to pray and set up a return visit!  They're sweet!  Also their 4 kids LOVE us!  Haha it's pretty funny.
 
We have this investigator who's a student like 4 hours away but he comes back every other week, and he was able to come to church this week and although we were talking about the Millennium at church, he actually was able to understand everything and liked it and is still doing great!
 
We also met with another student yesterday, and he has literally the worst ADHD I have ever seen ever.  Period.  But he's super funny and cool and a great friend, despite being the laziest person I have ever met as well!  He said he picked the college that was the farthest away from his home (like literally on the opposite side of the country) and figured out they only look at your writing portion of tests, so he purposefully did well on writing and then did really really bad on math and science and stuff so that they were the only school that accepted him so he could get away from home and party.  He's so funny!  But he was willing to set a baptismal date and keep learning, at the very least, so it's improvement!
 
Yeah that was the week in a nutshell, and I'm having fun and staying happy! :D  I hope everyone else has wonderful holidays and can remember the real reason and spirit of Christmas this year.

 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

 

FROM LAST WEEK:

 

Merry Christmas! 

So basically I'm Skyping home tomorrow and I don't have a ton of time right now, this email will be a little short. Sorry folks! Everyone probably wants to get back to talking with their families and see if Santa really gave them that puppy they wanted anyways, so a shorter email is probably for the best :P
This week in a nutshell was me going up to 台北 (Taibei) for exchanges with the APs and edited a video for the mission and had zone conference where there were funny skits and sang in the choir and stuff and then came back and then went back up to Taibei 2 days later to be in the choir again and then had a whole bunch of trains and stuff and I'm pretty tired and stuff and that was really the week in a nutshell  I hope everyone has a very very Merry Christmas! 加油!
 
-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第七十四個星期 (Week 74)  December 13, 2017

This week was was fun and crazy and actually probably not as crazy as last week having a crazy drunk guy with a gun but still a great week! This week we were still with Elder Turpin being in a tripanionship with us because he was going to train and his new companion had visa problems, but then we got the call on Wednesday night that he had to buy train tickets ASAP to go up to the mission office to pick up his new companion on Thursday and then we met him up there the next day for MLC (Missionary Leadership Council), which was awesome! It was so cool to be gathered with all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders and the assistants to the president and then President and Sister Jergensen! We talked about a lot and it was so inspiring to see everyone there counseling together with such cool feedback. It made me realize how much President Jergensen and God trusts 20 year old kids to go out and try and be missionaries and just how much he helps us along the way. Super cool!

 

So yeah now it's just me and Elder Cheney together down here in the boonies, which is great too! We're starting to try and light the area on fire and go hard and we're having so much fun while we're doing it! We went out to an area my companion had never really been to before yesterday and we passed this house with a couple kids playing basketball in the house so we swung over and knocked on their door to find not just a couple kids, but a giant family with 3 kids and probably 12 grandkids! They were super happy to see us and super nice, so they gave us some oranges and though they were on their way out they said we could come back and they want to come to our English class and our ward's Christmas party! 

 

Then there was this cool guy in his house working on some cabinets and stuff and he went to our church 10 years ago and said he'd love to come check it out again, and then his kids all ran out and absolutely love us!

 

And then right after them we were talking about the need to talk to everyone when we ran into a guy on his bike who has been to our church before and said that he was super impressed by us and especially our definition of faith, which we said requires action to gain a result which he really liked after we shared a scripture with him. It was so cool!

 

So yeah that and many miracles down here in what we like to call Paradise! It's a good time :D

 

Last P-Day we went to a driving range (my first time! :O) which was super fun. I did find out I am not too good and golfing though! :D Really fun, just really hard. Then we biked up to a Buddhist temple and the view over part of the valley was SO NICE! It was awesome! Today I'm going up to my old area in 花蓮 (HuaLian) and we're going on a hike through the forested mountains to find some aboriginal stuff, so I'm super psyched! I love it here so much! :D

 

 

I hope you all have a great week and I'll talk to you next week! 加油!

第七十三個星期 (Week 73) December 4, 2017

Hello hello all! This week was one of those weeks to be remembered. Because! This week was transfer week and me and Elder Bates were finishing up with training, so we knew something was going to happen. Little did I know that not only was I moving, but I moved down to the south-eastern border/corner of the mission and the island!! I'm back on the beautiful east coast and loving life! I'm in 台東 (TaiDong) and I'm the zone leader over all of 台東 and my old area on the east coast, 花蓮 (HuaLian)! We figured out that since our zone is the entire east coast, it's actually bigger than the rest of our mission combined! You might say that there's not a ton of people here :D I'm so happy! My companions name is Elder Cheney and he came out to Taiwan at the same time as me so already met each other and he is so awesome! He's such a stud and loves the work and going hard and is hilarious to boot! We're getting along, to say the least :D

 

And it get better! Since an elder in our district, Elder Turpin, was supposed to train a new missionary and the new ones haven't come yet we are in a tripanionship until they come. Our area is now from the border of our mission up about 100 kilometers. Elder Turpin was just in TouFen, my old area, with Elder Hogge, my MTC companion, who was actually re-trained by Elder Cheney when he came back to Taiwan. So it's just super fun and weird all together down here!

 

Here's the by far highlight of the week and maybe one of the highlights of my whole mission. Did it get your attention? Good! So we had a lesson like an hour up a mountain and they weren't there so Elder Cheney says 'well let's go knock 2 doors before we head down, so we go up to an LAs house nearby and when they weren't home we go next door and ask if they know them. The wife gives us the classic Taiwanese wave that says 'no thank you go away' and the super drunk husband starts yelling something in the aboriginal language and then leans down to open up a chest. As a joke, I say 'He's going to pull out a gun'. AND THEN HE DID! It was nuts! He pulls out a freaking 4.5 footlong shotgun and starts walking towards us and still yelling something in the aboriginal language. We start kinda freaking out and start trying to leave and he sets the gun against the door and starts walking towards us and we're like "No no no we'll come back later sorry to bother we have to leave now!" He walks up to Elder Cheney and says "No need for another time. First eat with me!", Then proceeds to grab his arm in a vice grip and literally DRAG HIM INTO HIS HOUSE. Elder Turpin and I don't know what to do so we just kinda follow and try talking him down and say we really do have to leave and really have already eaten, which the wife was actually super cool about and helped us with, so the husband finally says ok ok you can go and Elder Turpin says "well can we say a prayer with you first?" And in the most sarcastic drunk voice the guy says "Can you stay and eat first?" So we have to go back through it and say we have to leave and finally are on our way out and the guy chuckles to himself and says "Heh, the foreigners get all scared when I pull out a gun!" Some background too, guns are ILLEGAL IN TAIWAN!

 

 

So obviously I'm loving life over here! Everything's awesome and so much fun! I hope I have some more fun stories next week, but this week might've taken all or them out of us for the next little while!

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第七十二個星期 (Week 72) November 27, 2017

And another week goes by here in the wonderful land of 新莊!... - maybe my last??
 
Because guess what - transfers are this week!  And I've been here for 3 transfers already and am finishing training this week, after which in our mission you always split, so it looks like I'm probably out this week.  Trust me, nobody is more curious to know where I'm going than I am (sorry mom!)
 
However, this week was pretty awesome!  As some people say (I think probably somewhere?), here's the skinny:


Recently I've been working on developing charity, patience, faith, hope, and humility. Ever since we taught our investigator a couple weeks ago about developing Christlike attributes, especially those of faith, hope, and charity, I committed him and myself to praying for those with "all the energy of soul" as Moroni exhorts us to do in the scriptures. As I have done so, and reading in Preach My Gospel where it says "Humility is giving thanks to God and recognizing His hand in your life", I have seen an enormous difference come into my life and a profound gratitude for several blessings that I enjoy.  Life is awesome!

Such as: this week we met with some new investigators as we are continuing to try to use as many different ways to find as possible. We hit a little bit of a road block with not many new ideas, but we decided to go for it anyways and were blessed with more people to teach. We are meeting with several investigators who are studying at a college in our area from the Pacific Islands, and while we didn't realize it at first the 3 different investigators we were teaching all actually live in the same building on the same floor!  So we set them all up for the same time and asked referrals in all of our lessons.  We are now teaching 6 of them at the same time, 2 of which were just walking by and our investigators called them over and said "Hey come here! Listen to the word of God!" One of them turned out to have a brother going on a mission for our church in a few months and said he was willing to "throw himself into any chance he has to meet God again" and set a date to be baptized.  Now the funny part was that our investigator who already has a baptismal date came down when we got there and looked at us and was kinda snickering to himself and said "Hey, man!  Yeah, man, I'm like, sorry man, I just like, man, didn't know you were coming, like, y'know, this early man...  Yeah, it's just like, sorry man, I'm just, hehe, you know, man?"  We were super confused and this guy walks by and says "Don't listen to anything he says - he's drunk!"  Our investigator said "yeah, y'know man, we just had like a test yesterday and so, man, like we just started drinking a little for celebration.... I'm just so, like..... fed up, y'know man?"  My companion looks at me and says "Yeah I'm lost" and I say "Yeah me too", kinda figure it out, and send him back upstairs so he can grab the other guys to come down to meet with us.  Turns out at least 1 and maybe 2 of them were pretty drunk too.  Suuuuper funny though!  Gotta love college students, right?

On a happier note, we also set a goal as a district (the 8 missionaries near us) for how many new investigators our district would find from Thursday district meeting to Sunday night. We set a goal of 14, but by district meeting we only had 4 as a district. Our companionship had nobody set up either. However, we all prayed in faith and for each other and worked hard, and we not only achieved the goal but got an extra one as well!  And having nobody set up we still got 3.  I know that God is blessing us for our efforts :)  In the words of our district leader, it was "pretty legit!"

 
So yeah, we're always having fun and working hard!  It's been raining for most of this week and suddenly got a ton colder, but it's fine (still not Utah cold!), and we're loving life.  Sorry again about the lack of anything last week and I hope the extra words this week makes up for it!  Talk to you all next week, maybe from a different city!
 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

 

 

第七十一個星期 (Week 71) November 20, 2017

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第七十個星期 (Week 70)

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第六十九個星期 (Week 69) November 6, 2017

This week had some more ups and downs!  It's was pretty good overall though, and here's the rundown:

 
So we have been working really hard lately to hit the standard of finding at least 4 new investigators to teach each week, and we've been doing it fairly consistently this transfer so far!  We have been blessed with many new people to teach, and while we're running a little low on people that we're teaching that actually want to get baptized and come to church, it's a good start!  We're psyched and things are always looking up :)
 
One of those new investigators' name is Augustine.  Augustine is sooooo cool!!!  He's from the Solomon Islands, and he is awesome!  It was literally the best lesson of my mission because he was so dang excited to learn and even though it was only 20 minutes he asked perfect questions, answered his own questions, and even started teaching us because he just got it so well!  It was amazing!  So yeah he's pretty cool!
 
Some fun stuff from this week: we got to have a zone conference where I realized I knew about 85% of the people there, which was crazy!  I saw like 12 people I've served very closely with (like in the same district) before, and almost everyone else who was in the MTC with me, and then everyone else I've run into before!  It was a lot of fun.  Then I was asked to perform in it the night before, as well as in the Christmas program for our mission, as well as in an ice cream party in our stake next week!  I was told about all of those on the same day!  It was exciting.  So I played the wooden flute my good buddy Mark gave me a month or so ago, and while I'm still learning it was a lot of fun!  President Jergensen said "Well we asked you to play something because we knew you could even make a stick sound good when you played it!"  It was pretty funny.
 
This week we've been trying to learn the area a little bit better because there's several spots that I'd never been before, and it was super fun!  We've explored the college campuses in our area, found crazy giant parks/tracks in the middle of nowhere that I had no idea about, random warehouses and factories, mountain-top Buddhist temples, a nice old guy from China out walking his dog in the creepiest mountain trail I've ever seen in Taiwan, creepy lights in the middle of nowhere, and so much more!  It's been an adventure.  What's super fun is that pretty much each time we're still able to find someone interested in the gospel each place we go!  The prepared people are out there, folks!
 
Last P-Day it was raining and so we decided to, of course, play some volleyball over in one of the colleges in our area.  It was so much fun!  We played for like 3 hours straight and it was awesome!  Then this week we are going up for me to practice in that Christmas program while my companion plays basketball in the gym :P  It's ok, President gave us permission!
 
But the biggest news of all - we're all getting SMARTPHONES!  That's right, everyone!  We're one of 9 missions outside of the US that is doing this (4 in Japan, 2 in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and Sweden), and it's going to be awesome!  Everyone and their dogs here use something called "Line" which is an app that's just free internet calling/texting, and so it's actually a huge problem with people ignoring our calls/texts because they cost money.  So now that all changes!  It's going to be sweet!  More info on that when we get it!
 
So yep great week!  Hope  yours was the same way and talk to you all on the flip side!

 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

第六十八個星期 (Week 68) October 30, 2017

第六十八個星期 (Week 68)

October 30, 2017

 

Hello hello everyone!

 

This week we continued to work hard, and despite getting the usual few 放鴿子 (Literally "release pigeons" - it means getting stood up) and empty church commits, we are still seeing the miracles and working hard! We have found that our current problem is getting people to church and helping our investigators consistently meet with us, and so in the last few weeks we have tried to implement a follow up system of following up with our investigators at the end of the night, when we used to have that time set apart for calling potential investigators. We now call the potentials at the end of dinner when they are more likely to pick up, as before at the end of the night they often were already asleep or on the way to their home. We think this will help a lot because you can't baptize investigators that don't meet with you or come to church!

 

However, this week, we did have someone come to church - he was a self contact from 2 weeks ago who said he just wanted to get baptized. We said yeah we can help with that! He has many problems and many questions, and is currently a little unwilling to change his mind on many things (such as the problem that being angry and fighting people and hitting people is totally fine because he's justified in it) and being constantly drunk/smoking, but we're working on it! We also met with someone who has met missionaries everywhere they've been and basically talks like a member and has the same views on life as a member but just feels like he can't make the change. He's making great progress though, and we're excited!

 

We have started a 21 day prayer and fast with our ward for the month of November (so it starts on Wednesday and goes until 11/21), where at least one person in the ward is fasting every day for 21 days while everybody is reading their scriptures and praying for us and for missionary opportunities while we visit every member and do a missionary plan with them. We began meeting with the elders quorum president this week and he has already given the other elders in our ward a referral and he wants to meet with us every two weeks to discuss his plans (and feed us too!), so we're really excited!

 

As usual, we've also seen some funny English stuff around - there was a T-shirt that said "Teddy Bear - Let Me Remember", but it looked like it should be something with like a really touching quote about families or something on it, and then there was a bucket that we saw that said "Plimates Waterproofing", but it was a big picture of a monkey (so it was supposed to be Primates, not Plimates...a ha.....).  Yeah we take joy in the little things here.

 

On Friday it was awesome!  We had 6 lessons that day and were running around like crazy to try and get places on time, which was so much fun!  I want to have that every day!  But then, as it came to pass, on Saturday we had 0 lessons so we decided to go exploring!  So we found a bunch of weird stuff - like a drink shop in the middle of nowhere right next to a freeway that only sold grass jelly (weird black jello type stuff they put in drinks here) and had a giant warehouse attached to it so it could ship out said grass jelly.  Why?  Why not!

 

So yeah I had a good week, I don't know about you guys!  I hope it was great over there though, and have another great one!  Talk to you next week!

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第六十七個星期 (Week 67) October 22, 2017

So our P-Day got changed to tomorrow (but to make sure you guys don't freak out we have to email for a bit :) ) so I might not have much time.  It got changed because there's a follow up meeting for training companionships (like me!), so yeah I thought I'd email this first just in case I didn't have time!

 

So this week was really awesome!  While this week our investigators have been really bad about actually meeting with us, we got 4 new ones!  We've been struggling with getting new investigators, and so we worked really really hard to hit our goals, and we did!  We started measuring how many times we talk to people on the street, and how many of those are actually about the gospel with an invitation of some kind, how many of them were on the way to something else, and how many people actually set up/accepted our invitation.  It's worked out great!  We found out we weren't talking to nearly as many people, and while not many people actually set up, we had an awesome miracle last night of actually hitting the goal!  We had had 2 new investigators by Sunday, then randomly someone called with a referral that they had just met with, so we set up with them and they became a new investigator on the spot, and then someone had come to church that day but literally ran out because he had to go to work so we didn't have a chance to set up so we called him and he did too, so another new investigator!  It was so awesome!

 

The guy that came to church was a self-contact from a week and a half ago and said to us then and then asked a member at church "I just want to get baptized, how do I do it?  What's the fastest possible time I can get baptized??  I want to change myself because I know I'm not doing the best things with my life."  So cool!!!  We know he has a drinking and smoking problem, at the very least, but probably....a lot more than that...  Oh well!  Work in progress!

 

We met with another self-contact from that same day, actually, and he was soooo cool as well!  We went to lunch with him and he sat down and said "so, uh, do you want to tell me about your church stuff, or what?  Why is your church different from everyone else?  How do I know which church is true?"  To everybody who has ever been a missionary, you're probably as excited about that as we were, because that's what every missionary ever wants to hear!  It was awesome!  He loved it and we're meeting with him again.  So cool!

 

So yeah it's a good week and some great stuff going on!  That's pretty much the summary of it, but we're really excited for the rest of the week!  Have a great one, everyone!

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第六十七個星期 (Week 67)  October 16, 2017

This week we had interviews with President Jergensen, which are always amazing!  We talked a lot about how to help our ward out to try and get them more unified and interested in missionary work, so we're excited because we're starting a 21 day prayer thing with our ward and it'll be so awesome!

 

So this week we had a few days of absolutely nothing.  They were totally dry, nobody wanted to talk to us, every single person that we felt prompted to talk to or felt like we had a good contact with said "no!"  Then the rain hit and it just made it worse!  Zao gao le (Oh no!) to the max!  So the whole time we were trying to stay positive and then think of what to do to improve, and honestly couldn't think of much besides just go out and try some more, which kept not working.  We tried member work, we tried visiting people, we tried notes, we tried calls, we tried talking to people more indoors, we tried it all and nothing worked!  A lot of fangs, and then a lot of people not answering.

 

But then!  We decided to go out again on Friday and got a couple ok contacts in, then all of a sudden that day we had 4 self-contacts!  It was nuts!  Then we set 2 baptismal dates, one on Friday and one on Saturday, and it was awesome!  I know that it was literally all from God because we had absolutely nothing to do with those people.  I know God was strengthening us so that we could just keep going.  It was amazing to see the Lord's hand so clearly when we had so little to do with it.

 

So yeah I'm out of time but loving life and I'll talk more next week!  Have a great week everyone!

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第六十六個星期 (Week 66) October 9, 2017

 

 

First off, here's a message from the mission president to us about Christmas packages for anybody who wants to know:

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Please tell your parents that if they are planning to send you a Christmas package to have it arrive in Taiwan anytime November 15 to December 10. You will be able to pick up the packages during our Christmas zone conferences that start on December 19. If the packages don’t arrive on time, you probably won’t see them until January.

 

So this week was pretty cool!  We had what's called "中秋節", or the "Mid-Autumn Festival", which is basically where everybody goes to their homes and barbecues right in front of their house on the streets (really really good! :) ) and eats moon cakes (really not that good, sadly :( ), and gets drunk together (really really sad :(, but still pretty funny).  So, to celebrate, our ward put on a barbecue activity where we went up into this park that I had absolutely no idea was right behind our chapel in the forests on the mountain right there and barbecued!  It was super fun and we had some investigators come with us, then we headed back to have English class, and while we were worried we wouldn't have anyone there we still had 12 students, the most we'd had in about 6 weeks!  So that was super cool!

 

So I forgot to say - last week for P-Day we went out to a big park in a place right up the mountain from us called 林口 (they share a ward with us), and played frisbee in the burning hot sun for 3 hours.  It was super fun!  :D  Then we rode bikes down the hill, which was one of the scariest and yet funnest experiences of my life it was soooo steep!!  We were going downhill faster than cars for about 15 minutes it was nuts!!!  So that was fun.

 

Today we're going to a mountain over to the north of the island and hiking part of it, so that'll be fun!  At some point we want to go back to the place that Elder Jensen and I went to in winter time called 鶯歌 which is where they cell a ton of super cool ceramics where I bought an ocarina, so that'll be fun when we go.

 

But, most importantly, this week was General Conference!!  Sooooooooo good!  There were so many things that were so good for me to hear and some amazing ones for investigators too!!  Some of my favorites were both of President Uchtdorf's, Elder Pingree's, Elder Nelson, and the one about "being one" (I can't remember who it was), but they were all soooo good!  If you haven't seen it, somehow, please go watch it!!  All of it!!  Then do it!!  All of it!!  It's so good.

 

This week we met again with our nicely-progressing friends 高天逸, 黃聖恩, and Nick 楊, and finally got in contact with an investigator from a while ago 郭韋!  It was so cool to see their faith and commitment to Christ and desire to learn more!  My companion and I are having some concerns with trying to actually contact and meet with some of our investigators, so we came up with a follow-up system to see when we're contacting them and what invitations we give them so they can keep progressing!  We're excited.

 

So yeah that's about it for this week.  I hope everyone at home is still doing good, and thanks as always for the emails of support/news/etc, and have a great one!  More next week!

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第六十五個星期 (Week 65)  October 2, 2017

Hello everyone, after a not-very-long emailing hiatus of 5 whole days!  I know you've all missed me :)  (I know especially you, mom!)

 

First off, one of the many reasons I love Taiwan: this was on a T-shirt worn by the most shriveled up old dude I have ever seen: "PARTY ANIMAL - WHAT SHE WEARS?"  That's the summary of this past year, folks :)

 

This week has seen many miracles!  A huge one was finding 4 new investigators!! We also have some more set up this next week, and everything should be good to get even more.  One of the new investigators is a referral from Temple Square to Philedelphia to Danshui (in northern Taibei) to us, who texted us out of the blue a few weeks ago and, due to scheduling problems, was finally only able to meet with us this past week. He texted us telling us that he wanted to confess to God, and when we met with him he said that he is "willing to do anything to change" from a mistake he once made. We taught him about repentance, how to do it, why we do it, and Jesus Christ's role because he didn't really understand how that worked. Now he knows he needs to rely on Christ and was in tears throughout the lesson as we were sharing how to be free of that guilt and stuff. Obviously, I'm pretty confident he'll baptized on his date at the end of this month!  So exciting!

 

Another enormous miracle was our investigator Huang Sheng En, who hasn't been able to come to church despite already meeting with missionaries for 6 months because of work. Then after starting school, his time has been minimal. 2 weeks ago we invited him to fast with us to soften his boss's heart to allow him to go to church, because he had already asked his boss in the past but his boss said he'd look but probably not. We thought that he hadn't fasted with us because we started on a different day than we met with him and he didn't respond to our text that day to remind him. It turns out he did fast with us after all, and now his boss has found somebody to replace him on Sundays! He said it will take a few weeks to get it all worked out, but it was an enormous miracle!! Then we had fast Sunday again yesterday, so we did a fast of gratitude with him for the great miracle God has given.  So cool!!

 

One of our other new investigators, a guy from Vietnam who's been in Taiwan for about 9 years as a factory worker named A Bu, or Bô in Vietnamese, is super cool as well!  He said that he had a religion in Vietnam but he wants to come to know God and Christ because of us!  Super cool.

 

So that was this week in a nutshell!  I hope everyone else had a great one, and I'll send more on the flipside.  加油!

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第六十四個星期 (Week 64) September 26, 2017

 Soooooo yeah I'm 20 now.  That's weird.  In the very apt words of my trainer more than a year ago: "You just don't know how fast it goes!"  So true!  The past year (and 20) have blown by soooo fast, it's ridiculous!

 

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes and news and support!  Special shout out to Ryan, the other James's, Uli, the Relief Society, the Primary, everyone in the ward on that poster, the Moores, obviously everyone in the fam, and everyone else for writing a letter in the big package my mom sent me!  Thanks everyone!

 

This week we were finally able to set another baptismal date with our Japanese investigator's referral friend Steve who said that he really wants to get baptized, and that's after he gave up alcohol and tea and coffee the day we taught him the word of wisdom despite having a somewhat serious problem with all of them.  After some confusion, he finally got the Book of Mormon in Japanese, and he's reading it consistently, in addition to praying and going to church.  He said he wants to be baptized in Taiwan, despite our older investigator still saying he wants to wait until going home to Japan despite having almost finished the lessons and saying he knows it's true.  Oh well.  Still in progress!

 

To try and become "PMG missionaries" I've started reading through PMG from the beginning.  As I go, I'm doing a brutally honest self-review and see really what I'm doing and not doing, and then putting a sticky note in it and writing down what I can improve on.  I'm starting to try and apply each sticky note as I go, but at the end I'm going to take out every sticky and make a goal for each one on how to improve.  I know this is more of a long-term project, but I've already found tons and tons of things I can do to improve.  Basically every page has at least one, usually 3 or more things that I can do or do better, which is great to kind of see which areas I really need to change when in the past I was kind of lacking direction and it was easy to tell myself I was doing pretty good with being a "PMG missionary".  It's helped a lot!  It turns out I'm not as great of a missionary as I liked to tell myself!  Haha a good lesson in humility on the way, right?

 

We also had our ooooolld (in many senses of the word) investigator 林純青 show back up at church and say he wanted to meet again after taking care of his mom in the hospital for the last 4 weeks and never being able to meet!  We got a text from our long-time-no-see 15 year-old investigator saying that after his grandma passed away last week he really wants to come to church and "talk about things", and then a potential that was referred to us called us and said that he wants to meet with us because he has some guilt and he wants to repent.  So cool!  There's some great things happening over here!  Also our RC 謝帛泰 got confirmed this past Sunday, and he texted us to tell us that it was warm that day so we needed to be careful and make sure we stayed cool because he was worried about us.  Just from that he's changed soooo much even since I've met him!!

 

Today we're headed off to some "gondolas" up in Taibei somewhere that are supposed to be cool and take you up to the top of a mountain somewhere and then we're off to the temple.  So yeah, great stuff!

 

I hope everyone has a great week!  加油加油!!  More on Monday.

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第六十三個星期 (Week 63)  September 18, 2017

Trainer/Trainee

So before I forget, very first off my P-Day next week got changed to WEDNESDAY because I'll be going to the temple, so I will NOT be emailing next Monday.  Don't worry, I'll still be alive!
 
So this past week has been more of the crazy but it's been good!  Me and Elder Bates have had some awesome miracles with finding people on the streets, getting investigators with a baptismal date, and we had a baptism!!  (Pictures attached)  His name is Xie Bo Tai (she-eh bwo tie), and he is so awesome!!  He has worked insaaaanely hard to try and quit smoking, overcome his depression, and get baptized.  He has changed soooo much since I first met him eight weeks ago and apparently much more since he met missionaries the first time 6 months ago.  He did it!  His testimony was amazing and he has so much faith.  So great!
 
So we also met a new investigator named Leom (Li) who set a baptismal date in the first lesson and loved it and us!  It was an awesome lesson and he's super cool!  We also had a passed-off investigator named Nick (Yang) from central Taibei who's super cool as well and already had a baptismal date.  Yay!  So things are going awesome and only looking up!  In our ward they really want to start having more baptisms (yay and good and...duh...?) so the members are starting to work with us more, and the ward mission leader told us that he wants our ward to have ten more baptisms within the year between us and the other elders in our ward and the sisters, and it may be possible!  We're super excited!
 
So yeah things are great and that's about it!
 
Oh yeah also I'm turning twenty in two days...  That's super weird.  Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and I'll email you more next week about that after it's come and gone.  
 

 

Have a great week everyone!!

第六十二個星期 (Week 62) September 11, 2017

This has been one of the slowest, yet fastest, and overall craziest weeks of my mission!  So nuts!  Because guess what?  On Monday we had a fun P-Day, went to central Taibei and played basketball for 3 hours and then board games for another 4.  Then Tuesday night Elder Zhang and I are walking around and we get a call from the APs.  For Elder Zhang.  Then they just tell him "oh hey we were just saying hi and checking up".  And I was freaking out because they call on the Tuesday night before transfers to tell people when they're training.  So then another member friend calls me and says "Elder Van De Graaff.  Are you willing to train this transfer?"  And I found out he was sitting next to the APs and they called and then tried to misdirect me by talking to my companion and then having him call me.  So ruuuude!  Hahaha it was pretty funny but yeah I'm training a new missionary!

 

But first!  Then on Wednesday it was all pretty normal.  Elder Zhang moved to 淡水 (DanShui), which is up bordering the cost in the north of Taibei.  We had English class and all that, all normal.  Then on Wednesday we find out that all of the new missionaries had some visa problems, so since Elder Kaufusi and I are both training we were companions.  Until Saturday!  So we had to then balance our two areas for 2 days.  Also his trainer was going home this week so he surprise! came down with us for a day, then he went home.  So then we head up to Taibei on Saturday and have an awesome meeting with President Jergensen and the other trainers/trainees.  Then I got my companion!  I'm still waiting for them to send me a good picture, but his name is Elder Bates from Saratoga Springs, Utah, straight out of Westlake High School.  He plays football and baseball and we're having a blast!

 

So we found out our investigator Xie Dixiong totally quit smoking!  Just in time for his baptism this Saturday!!  We're so excited!!  He has changed soooo much in the last month.  He has conquered his depression, smoking, and all other problems and addictions.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ is so real folks!  It has totally changed his life.

 

Then on Sunday night we went to 輔大 (FuDa), the big Catholic college in our area, to go finding for a bit.  And holy miracles out the wazzooo!!  We got 5 people set up and the miracles were insaaaane!  Training really does bring crazy awesome miracles.  I'm totally out of time right now and I still need to email the mission president about said miracles, but it's been a crazy, hectic, and awesome week!  More from the craziness next week!  Have a great one, guys!

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第六十一個星期 (Week 61)  September 3, 2017

This was yet another pretty good week!  And yet another transfer is already quickly passing me by....  This is number nine already done this week!  So yeah transfer day is this Thursday, so if I by chance am asked to train I'll find out tomorrow, if not I'll find out if me or my companion is moving on Wednesday, and then one of us will move (almost definitely) on Thursday.  So crazy!  Time really goes so fast.
 
So this week we were finding and after a day of not much success or anything, we were about to head off to another area when as we were getting on our bikes there was one of the many many old drunk guys smoking on a bench in front of a Seven Eleven (you really just have to be here to know really what I mean but just trust me there are a lot of them), and I said hi.  He looked at me and started talking to me in English.  Like, really really good English.  I was so surprised!  One of the last people I would have expected to be able to speak English!  Then we started talking and found out he thinks he's crazy (which I don't know is a good or a bad sign if he really is crazy), he is depressed and hates his life, lost his job, lost his family, lost his home, is addicted to alcohol and smoking, and sees no purpose for his life.  We talked for a long time and he doesn't know if God exists but said that he "forgot who he believed in" - he said "Yeah I think Allah is my God, but I forgot."  So we talked some more, finally he accepted me praying for him, said it make him feel actually happy, and I told him that he doesn't have to be sad or depressed or crazy or addicted or hopeless anymore.  He doesn't have to kill himself.  He said "I know but I can't control myself", and I said "yeah but God can", and after having to repeat myself many times he finally said ok.  So cool!  I felt the Spirit so strong while talking to him.  Sadly he didn't pick up when I called him (because he has no home he can only charge his phone once a week, on Sundays), but I'll keep trying.  Super cool.
 
Then we met with our baptismal date, literally his name is "Holy Grace", sooooo yeah he wants to be baptized) who hasn't come to church because he has to work on Sundays.  We didn't think he asked his boss like he said he would because he didn't come to church, cancelled on us super last minute, and then didn't really answer after that, but then he set back up this week and he actually did talk to his boss!  However, his boss said that for now he still can't, but he really wants to and really wants to be baptized!  Super cool guy and I really think he actually can make it.  We're going to keep praying with him and then fast with him later for it.  He's super awesome.
 
Then our other baptismal date, who's been struggling with depression and smoking and just negativity for the last ever-since-missionaries-started-meeting-with-him accepted our offer to give him a priesthood blessing.  The next time we met he was a changed man.  He was smiling, laughing, came in and asked us how we were doing (never seen that before!), apologized for being late despite being fifteen minutes early, and sat down and said "I'm ready to do it.  I can quit smoking and stay positive!"  It was awesome!  He asked us to meet with him every other day because the chapel has such a nice feeling and makes him feel like he can actually do it.  He's totally on track to be baptized next Saturday!  Soooo excited!
 
Then yesterday night we had another one of those new member firesides that I mentioned last month and I got to see some more old friends, including the member from WanDa when I was with Elder Jensen around Christmas time that is soooo awesome!  She did so much for us when I was there (including giving me a Chinese name), and is one of my best friends in Taiwan.  Her son is on a mission in Japan right now, so she wants to do as much as she can for missionaries to help her, her son, and the Lord.  She's so awesome!  So that was super fun to see her after already 7 months without seeing her once.  And Elder Jensen was there at the same time, so it was just like old times!  So fun.
 
So yeah this week was another good week!  I hope everything back home was equally good and everybody stays awesome!  Talk to you later!
 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

 

 

第六十個星期 (Week 60)  August 28, 2017

Man, the numbers at the top of these emails are getting awfully high!  This past week was my 60th week on a mission, which means on this past Wednesday I have been in the beautiful land of Taiwan for officially 1 year.  1 year ago on Wednesday I stepped off of a plane, met my mission president, and changed my life forever.  The next afternoon I walked out of the 台北金華街 chapel right next to the temple with my trainer, Elder Holloway, and took a train down to 竹北 to begin my work in the mission field and try to change people's lives no matter the cost so that they can have the chance to have true eternal happiness and live with God and their families forever.  Yeah it's been quite a year, huh?

 

Well on a less somber note, this week was pretty good!  We had an interesting week with several dropped investigators, literally 8 of our progressing (and/or baptismal date) investigators having a family member in the hospital they have to take care of or had to leave the country for one reason or another, and thus nobody able to come to church - except our sweet new investigator 郭韋 (Guo Wei) who loved church and wants to learn more and keep meeting with us!  So that was an awesome miracle!  Also yesterday the way to and from church was bright, sunny, and literally no clouds in the sky.  Fast forward to when we head back home to make dinner.  Suddenly clouds.  Fast forward to about 15 minutes into dinner when we need to head out to meet a new investigator.  POURING RAIN LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IN YOUR LIFE!  Oh my gosh it was even worse than the typhoon(s) that I've seen here!  It was insane!  By the time we actually got to the lesson (about 15 minutes away) my shoes were literally filled to the brim with water, and thankfully Taiwan frequently experiences this problem so they know how to make rain gear, so only my pants got wrecked by the water.  I wish I had a chance to take a picture because it was so crazy.  There was about 2 feet of water on the roads, so when we had a chance we walked our bikes underneath a long area with a kind of roof over the street.  However whenever we had to step back onto the street we walked in water that was literally up to my lower calf.  So crazy!  So much fun.

 

To quote a good friend of mine who is currently the Central Taibei Zone Leader, here was his email for this week that I believe accurately sums up the mission experience here in Taiwan (and especially Taibei) for all those who aren't lucky enough to have it themselves:

"Riding a BICYCLE in Taibei, Taiwan is an unforgettable experience. 

On Thursday evening, we were arranged to eat dinner at the office of a member in our ward who was inviting a non-member to eat with us. 

His office is withing spitting distance of the Taibei 101. The road that directly connects our chapel with the 101 is called XinYi Road. It is a one way, 4 lane corridor of madness that cuts dead center through the wealthiest, gaudiest part of Taibei City. Add heavy wind and a light sprinkling of rain and rush hour traffic, and you've got our travel conditions.

Alrighty, Brother Wu. This referral had better be good.

The missionary white handbook states on page 47:

"If you ride a bicycle, learn bicycle safety rules, use caution, obey all traffic rules, and use proper hand signals. Avoid riding after dark, in heavy traffic, or in bad weather."

THAT IS EVERY DAY IN TAIWAN."

 

We're having fun, staying safe, and loving life.  Because my companion and I have a ton of left over cash (unlike the rest of our district), we have decided to spend as much of that money as possible in buying mangoes!  So, much to my delight, we had "mango day" today and bought 4 mangoes this morning for the wonderful price of 110 元, or approximately $3.50 USD.  I love Taiwan so much!!!

 

Today we're headed out to a hike that looks over most of Taibei and is right next to the Taibei 101, so that should be fun.  Thanks everyone for the emails of news, encouragement, etc, and I'll talk to you next week!  加油 everyone!

 

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

Elder Van De Graaff/張's Pictures for Mission Video

第五十九個星期 (Week 59)   August 20, 2017

This week went pretty well!  We have been meeting with more and more people all the time, which is super awesome!  On Saturday we met with a 20 year-old guy named 黃聖恩 (Huang Sheng En), who's super cool.  He had been meeting with them before but that was the first chance I had to talk to him.  He set a baptismal date and committed to talk to him boss about letting him get Sundays off for church, which is awesome!  He was pretty hesitant about that part, but then we talked about it and the importance of obedience and how he already believed that commandments were a good thing and from God so really he just needed to go and do like Nephi and he committed!  So that was sweet.

 

Also the 15 year-old kid we met with last week and set a baptismal date on the first lesson named Harry is progressing super fast, but since he's going to mainland China this week he couldn't come to church and he can't meet with us this week :(  But we met with his friend Jim and set a baptismal date with him too!  But then 3 days later he told us that he had no interest in meeting and doesn't want to get baptized after all :(  New investigator baptismal date to dropped all in 3 days :(  But that's ok!  He'll come around eventually.  He's super cool.

 

This past week we've been trying to think of a new finding idea to try every day, and it's been pretty fun!  We have tried everything from quoting a famous song called "帥到分手", or "So handsome you broke up with your girlfriend" and telling people that they're that handsome to focusing on families to talking about Father's Day to using the Book of Mormon in every contact to asking people if they want to help us with an experiment to open the Book of Mormon to a random page and tell us what they learn to inviting to chapel tours to asking "questions of the soul" to focusing on talking to people at stoplights to setting up a stand and passing out copies of the Book of Mormon.  It's been fun!  I like it better this way because it makes life more interesting that walking around and saying the same 3 sentences that don't work the best anyways.  We're trying to figure out some of the best ideas at the best times and places, and it's a lot of fun!

 

Also in other news there's a huuuuge worldwide sports competition like the Olympics but with specifically colleges in the neighboring area to ours, so the US sent a team to compete in soccer.  It just so happens the whole US delegation is from BYU, so they all came to church on Sunday and they sent 2 players to each ward in the area, so 2 of them came to our ward.  So, because they speak no Chinese that meant surprise I translated the whole meeting for them as well as one of their sacrament talks!  Surprise!  So that was pretty fun.

 

A great T-Shirt I saw - "All I Do Is Lin, Lin, Lin"

 

A great bakery that we passed - "Ble Bakery" - it looks like you would say "Bleh!" like it was super gross.  Then not 2 minutes later we passed a guy that spat out all of the juice from his betel nut (which looks just like they're puking out blood, by the way), so we had a good laugh about that all night.  Ble!

 

Last P-Day was a little interesting because my companion's bike kinda exploded and it was unfixable, so we actually fixed up the spare bike we had and he got permission to be able to just take it for free and we sold his bike for parts at a recycling shop for... ready?  66元, or a whopping $2 USD!  Yep folks, you buy a bike for $300 and sell it for $2 here.

 

So today we're going to go play kickball with the district and eat some food, so it'll be fun!

 

So that was our week in a nutshell!  I hope everyone has a great one this upcoming week and thanks again for all the emails of help/support/news/etc, and I'll talk to you all next week!

This Saturday one of my English class students is going to get baptized and she asked me to baptize her!  Surprise!  I don't even really know her, but y'know it's a good honor.  So yeah that's awesome! 

 

 

-Elder Van De Graaff   -范長老

Elder Van De Graaff/張's Pictures for Mission Video

第五十八個星期 (Week 58)  August 13, 2017

 This was another great week here in Taibei!  We saw some really cool miracles so here's the breakdown:

 

-A guy on his motorcycle that has a missionary friend in Australia that agreed to meet with us

-1 minute after we met him another guy that came to church and set up

-A member referral that's 15 that set a baptismal date on the first meeting that is soooo cool

-Another referral from the other elders in our district that set a baptismal date in the first meeting as well

-Going to Taoyuan for a zone conference where I saw basically 3/4 of all the people I know on the mission (soo fun!)

-seeing some really funny T-shirts ("In rush hour" when he was super rushed, "Sorry I'm Late I Didn't", "He may be old but he's still spry - Star Jeans", "Educate Not Missiles")

-A funny license plate - "532-EWW"

 

 

And so much more!  I'm so out of time (as usual), but this week was awesome and so many miracles.  I'm going to get kicked off of the computer in 5 minutes (there's a countdown), so that's about all I have time for today.  Thanks everyone for the emails of support/encouragement/news/etc, and I hope everyone else has a fantastic upcoming week!  We're probably going to head to another place in Taibei for a hike with the rest of our district, or maybe head back to Taibei Main Station (in my old area) and buy some souvenirs - they have a toooonn of super cool stuff!  加油加油 everyone and more next week!

第五十七個星期 (Week 57)  August 6, 2017

第五十八個星期 (Week 58)

August 6, 2017

 

So, some fun stories of how weird being back in the big city is:

 

A T-shirt that says "Eap ect of my hfart", worn by a young girl trying look pretty

Another shirt worn by a 30 year-old guy trying to look buff but not "Sexy Dancer"

A hat worn by a 10 year-old kid that says "Sexy Baby"

Someone just got arrested in the internet cafe we're in as I'm typing this

At church a sister talking about how her dad is so fat he couldn't clean his own feet so he asked her to do it, and was totally serious and stuff in saying how fat he was and how nasty his feet were - soooo weird!

Randomly going to YiLan, the eastern part of the island (not as far south as Hualian though) for a ward activity

Having a special needs girl literally pushing her face between the seats so she could see me better and kept saying my name and whispering about me and then walking up to me at every opportunity and saying "You're scary!  You're amazing.  Hi!  Hi!  Do you remember me?  I don't think we've met!  Hi!  You're scary!" Over and over and over again for literally 12 hours straight.

In Yilan a little baby screaming and then our ward member saying "oh his voice is so loud, he'll be a great singer some day with vocal chords like that!"

Having a sacrament meeting about Father's Day with tons of performances (like me performing after being told the night before)

Going to a new member fireside and performing again with 4 days notice and seeing like 25 old friends I haven't seen in more than 6 months

Doing 『帥到分手』contacting - "You're so handsome you broke up" - and having it work stupidly well on the streets; a kid told us "no I'm so handsome I fall over all the time, so not really".

The city is fun!  The following is some excerpts from my email to the mission president because they're about to kick me off the computer in 2 minutes, so that's all the time I have!  I'll send more next week!  Have a great week everyone!

 

 

I realized this week that my contacts are extremely repetitive and not tailored to the person.  I realized that this is a problem I've had for most of my mission, and that I need to change!  So I set a goal to make every contact unique, although of course if so prompted I should share on the same Bang, but the cloud and bridge should obviously be more fit to the person I'm talking to.  With such a simple change of attitude of looking for something that sets the person apart I have seen an amazing improvement to my contacts and within hours of realizing that I found 2 people that set up with us!

 

I also loved this past district meeting - Elder Vatcher came and gave a great insight on something he calls "Ego-Busting".  That's where you find the things that you fear doing and specifically try harder to proactively do those things.  He said he's terrified of giving talks in Chinese, so he's volunteered to give a talk any time they need one, and this next week he's giving a 30 minute talk.  So I decided to do an "Ego-Busting Of The Day", where I find what I'm afraid or nervous about and try my hardest that day to specifically do that as well as I can.  For example I realized I was a little nervous about talking to people during meals/study times, so I tried that day to specifically do that and we found someone to set up with us!  At church I realized I'm not good at talking to every member or that good at really meeting members, so I made an effort that day to talk to as many members as possible and we set up with nearly half of the ward that lives in our area!  It was amazing.

 

Another wonderful miracle was when we were walking down the street and found a guy sitting down by his motorcycle.  We started talking and found out he is under 30 and has a wife and 1 year-old daughter and loves them very much.  We shared about family, and during the Bang his wife came up and was still friendly to us and we shared with her as well and they were interested!  Individual contacts are amazing and bring miracles!

 

Our ward mission leader is also wonderful!  This week in xie tiao hui we talked about ways to improve, and we somehow started talking about previous success with finding with members.  He said "So what you're saying is you want to find with members.  What if I helped you find a member family every week to go finding with you?"  We were stunned and said "of course!"  Then he said "how many member families would be ideal in 1 week?"  We said "Realistically 2 per week for an hour each time would be best" and he said "Alright here are some people who could probably do it, start calling them this week and setting them up and I'll start a sign-up sheet for people to do it in the upcoming weeks.  Let's do it as fast as possible!"  So we're starting with the bishop tonight and hope to set up the entire ward to help us go finding!  If you share ideas in xie tiao hui and are proactive, members will respond very well!  We're really excited about the help this will bring to our ward!

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

Here's some pictures - the beach at Hualian, the place we play Frisbee at every other morning, my good friend Mark, and the Typhoon in Taibei!

第五十七個星期 (Week 57)  July 30, 2017

This past week was pretty crazy because - drumroll please - I moved!!  That's right folks, I left Hualian after only 1 short transfer there because Elder Sproul got the training call!  So I'm back up here in Taibei after more than 6 months out of it and it's nuts!  I'm in the western part of Taibei (actually "New Taibei City"), in a place called DanFeng in the district of XinZhuang (新北市新莊區丹鳳), so it's pretty nuts!  I'm companions with a Taiwanese elder who's on his 3rd transfer (he just finished being trained) and he speaks literally 0 English.  So it's 100% Chinese from here on out!  It's honestly pretty weird to switch back to English randomly, like to teach this Japanese investigator that we have, or to talk to other missionaries, after 4 days of speaking only Chinese.  Craaaazy stuff!  His name is 張長老 (Elder Zhang), he's pretty quiet, is 24 (he just got out of the mandatory military Taiwan has, and graduated college in industrial management), but super nice.  I'm really sad to have left Hualian - truly a gorgeous, wonderful place - but I'm happy to be here and try out yet another new thing!  I feel like in Hualian I really was able to find out who I was and make some awesome changes to not only who I am as a missionary but as a person as well.  Good stuff!

 

So in Taibei there are just people...everywhere.  Literally no stop to the flood of people.  Like at stop lights there are about 45 motorcycles that pull out.  Every time.  Talking to people is a huuuuge change after Hualian because there they love to talk to you for like 30 minutes but here it's like pulling teeth out with scissors to get them to talk for more than 5.  So yeah I'm kinda mentally, physically, and linguistically drained all the time, but it's fun!  Also the whole area is a humongous hill.  Like the whole place is a giant hill.  So that's fun.

 

Sorry I don't really have pictures this week - it's been a little too nuts what with the typhoon and moving and whatnot, but I promise I'll have something good for you next week!  Today we're going to go to the Costco in our area with our district and then go bowling, so it should be fun!  Sorry not much time to email more, but I'm doing good and going to have a great transfer!  I hope everyone has a great week!

 

 

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第五十六個星期 (Week 56)  July 24, 2017

Transfers are this week!  It's kinda exciting because since we're so far away they have to buy us train tickets early, so we get a sneak-peek into it.  We got 4 tickets as a district, and with one sister going home that means three for the three companionships of elders - either someone is training and would thus need one for themselves and one for their companion to move, or someone from each companionship is moving, or someone is getting whitewashed.  It's all up in the air!  Yikes!
 
This week we had a chance to meet with this suuuuper handsome (remember it's not weird to call people handsome here) guy with his family - except they lived a little past the bottom of our area.  Around twenty miles away.  Uphill.  Granted we weren't going too fast but at a steady pace it took us a little more than two hours.  We also got kinda fried because of the heat.  Then when we got there he wasn't there, and there was just a random grandma that said "I don't know! I don't know!" to all of our questions in their house and didn't know who we were talking about, then when we asked a super old neighbor couple they said that she didn't speak any Chinese.  We then got talking with them and they now love us because the grandpa who's probably illiterate has like five copies of fake Bibles in different languages and we just kinda talked to them.  It was super funny.  Then they said there were a bunch of people up the hill, and when we went up there was a bunch of tunnels that led nowhere and nobody was there, so when we came back down the family we were supposed to meet with was there!  Miracle!  It was awesome and went super well - we can go back this week!  Yay!  Also easily one of the prettiest places I've seen in my life (don't worry there are pictures!)
 
The other day we were sitting in a Seven Eleven (they're everywhere and are actually super nice and sell eeeverything here in Taiwan so we go in there a lot to call people and talk to the people sitting in them) and there was this guy outside the big glass wall with a bag of chips he just bought.  Then he stopped, pushed it against the window, and pointed to it and then us and looked like he was saying "do you want it?"  Then we waved him off while laughing because of how weird it was, then he cracked himself up, made the motion that he was drinking alcohol, then stumbled off.  Taiwan!
 
So yesterday there was this guy in the middle of nowhere on his motorcycle staring at the ground.  We stopped and asked him what was up.  He looked up and was crying and said "nothing please leave" and we said "um no what happened can we help?"  And he said "no you can't help" after like a three minute pause, to which we said "can we try?  We want to help you."  Then after another five minute silence (like literally five minutes) I looked at him and said "God loves you.  He sent us here to find you and talk to you so that you could know that no matter what has happened, what you've done, or what your family has done, He loves you and wants to help.  He wants to help and bless your family."  To which he looked up and said "Family?  Who's family?"  We said "Your family.  He wants to help you.  Now, what happened?"  Elder Sproul and I both got the vibe that he had had family members die recently, and then he said "I've done some bad things".  He wouldn't say anything more than that, and after waiting and saying some more he never responded and so after about 15 minutes we left our contact info, invited him to church and to meet with us, promised him help, and left.  He didn't come to church, but I really hope he calls us because it felt so right to say those things although I had no idea what I was talking about haha!  Super cool though.
 
Also our investigator Kang Zi Yang that showed up to play basketball with us then came to church two days later showed back up!  And we met with him, had a good lesson, and he committed to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and meet with us!  It was sweet.  Then we fasted for our investigator so that his parent's hearts would be softened for him to get baptized, which we'll see how that goes, we taught the advanced English class this past week (my first time on my mission!  It was awesome!), I bought a super sweet stamp with my Chinese name on it that's made out of a bull's horn, which was sick!  Also it was super cheap - only around fifteen dollars US. which is way better than most stamp places here.  It was sweet!
 

So yeah that was this week in a nutshell.  Awesome stuff, we're making good goals and plans and working hard and having fun.  I hope everyone else has a great week, and thanks as always for the info and letters of support and everything!  Have a great week everyone!

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第五十五個星期 (Week 55)

So this week was pretty cool!  First off, last Monday we went to Taroko Gorge!!!  If you didn't know it's known as the most beautiful places in the country and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life.  Soooo pretty!! Don't worry, I'll make sure to send lots of pictures.

 
So this week we met with some cool people!  For example, we finally got in contact with this former investigator that has never answered and when we met with her she said that when she reads the Book of Mormon she feels uncomfortable and just wants to stick with the Bible, but when we dug a little we found out she'd only read 1 chapter in 4 months.  Hmmm....  So when we invited her again she was actually super willing and just accepted to read and pray about it again!  And we finally met again with these 2 kids named Alopu and Lalaba (they're aboriginal, of which there are a lot on the east coast) that we met with on our first week here and they committed to church!  Sadly they had to cancel, but it was a huge step.  We met with this former investigator named Howard who originally just said "No!" flat-out to our baptismal invitation, which is pretty uncommon here (they're usually too nervous of offending to say it like that).  Then we met again and he said that he just wanted to learn more and that he has no clue what baptism even is, so of course he said now!  We're working on that and he's actually super cool.  We committed another former investigator to fast and pray with us next week to overcome his parents not letting him get baptized.
 
We're working hard and having fun!  This week was a little disappointing because nobody came to church that said they would, and nobody accepted baptism although they didn't have a great reason not to, but it was still good!  Lots of miracles and lots of fun.
 
Today we're going to hang out with our district and play volleyball by the ocean again, and hopefully I'll have a chance to buy a hand-carved stamp that they sell pretty much everywhere in Taiwan but they're super cheap here!  So yeah I think that's about it.  Talk to you all next week!  I hope everyone has a great one!

A great picture of our awesome funny ward mission leader, another picture of that beautiful college campus, a great little notebook I found, and then some random fireworks that just started going off one night, then the amazing and freaking beautiful/bright moon last night! Loves ya lots and more!​

第五十四個星期 (Week 54) July 10 2017

A great picture of our awesome funny ward mission leader, another picture of that beautiful college campus, a great little notebook I found, and then some random fireworks that just started going off one night, then the amazing and freaking beautiful/bright moon last night! Loves ya lots and more!​

第五十四個星期 (Week 54)

July 10 2017

 

This week was super awesome!  Like really super awesome!  Here's why:

 

On Tuesday we had a fantastic zone conference (I got to see so many friends in Taidong which is the farthest part of our mission on the east coast like Elder Lawrence and his new trainee!) where we talked about teaching simply and quickly with power, which has totally changed everything!  Our lessons are waaay better, our contacts are so much better than they used to be (like no comparison), and everything is just going better!  That night as we tried to implement it we got 2 people to set up and 1 person to commit to church and another person to commit to the YSA FHE and it was sweet!  Everything has started going a little better and the Spirit is just stronger and stronger in everything that we're doing!  It's so great!

 

Then I had an epiphany moment where I realized that I spent the whole last year observing people and their strengths and things they were working on, etc, and letting things get the better of me while I was being kind of a passive missionary where I would let others take the lead on things and sometimes wait for others to tell me what to do.  So I decided I was done with that!  I want to take this next year that I have left and not only keep learning and observing (which I even prided myself on this past year), but actually applying and doing!  I think this will help me finally turn myself into an ok missionary with an ok attitude and stuff going "pretty well" to finally being the kind of missionary and person I want to be and do everything I can to help people.  It was awesome and I feel a huuuuge change in everything as I felt that and I just want to work so much harder and do so much more, especially taking the initiative on everything.  It was awesome!

 

Here's a very accurate quote from my companion about this week: "Can I just say that I am sick of dogs? The dogs in the more rural parts of our area are the worst! They travel in packs and they are so (wow I cannot come up with the translation for the word that I want to use)... they are punks. 

 

So Hualian has the prettiest clouds that anyone will ever see ever in there entire lives ever. They look absolutely unreal! Not only are they insanely gorgeous, but they often have lightning arcing through them. At least once a week there is an electric storm. It doesn't rain, just lightning. Its incredible! "

 

So yeah this week was pretty fun, as you can see!  We've had people contact us, instead of the other way around, miracle church attendance, 2 families of 6 and 10 say that we could come back and teach their whole family, miracle set-ups, and so much more!  Really a great week.  Things are constantly looking up in the future!  I hope everyone has a great week as well this next one and I'll talk to you then!

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第五十三個星期 (Week 53) July 2, 2017

 

We really are on the downhill slope now, huh!  53 weeks already - it's insane!  Sometimes I still feel like I'm in training and have no clue what's going on, and then I realize that I'm supposed to know what's going on now and it's sad.  Not really, but it's just so crazy how fast it's been!

 

So this week was pretty awesome, and here's what happened:

 

On Tuesday I went on exchanges with an Elder Johnson in Fenglin, an area so out of the way that Elder Johnson (who's been there for 4 transfers, or around 6 months) knows literally everyone that lives in the entire county.  Like we were biking down the road and he pulled over to say hi to this random kid that he knew named Ian and asked him how his brother was, then while they were walking away ran into another guy he knew that he asked how his mom was, then pointed out how he knew that the bright green car parked there was owned by a lady that he knew and he still knows how to get to her house, and then that night we ran into a lady that he was super upset by because he mistakenly thought she was the lady who sold lunch boxes, but she was actually the lady 2 doors down from that that sold drinks and he knew both of their names....yeah it's really small down there.  So much fun and soooooo beautiful though!  We also met with a super drunk guy there that asked us about 8 times what the difference between Jehovah and Heavenly Father was and how they were totally the same person.  He actually came to church, suprisingly enough, and in Gospel Doctrines he actually asked the exact same question, and Elder Johnson and I just looked at each other and laughed really hard.  Fun stuff.

 

This week we also met a man while I was pulling out money from an ATM in a FamilyMart.  Although he was pretty socially awkward and has an odd interest in being near students, he came to our basketball activity on Friday, where we then set him up and invited him to church 2 days later, which he came to, and also invited him from there to the YSA FHE Hualian has every Sunday night and he came that night as well!  It was awesome!  He's in his mid-20s and although he really is pretty awkward, he was extremely willing to just come over for all of that time and is now good friends with an awesome member who started proactively making friends with him during church and is suddenly progressing a lot!

 

We tried this week to do something that someone taught me last transfer on what he called the "Power Hour".  It's where you pop in to a member's house unexpected and spend 5 minutes with them.  During that time you explain how you are going to find around their area for the next hour and would like them to help pray for you.  You pray with them at the beginning, and invite them to continue praying for you continually throughout that hour while you find.  You work hard in that hour (as I guess every hour should be) and then come back and report what miracles you've seen in that hour to the member.  It helps build the faith of the member tremendously to see how missionary work actually happens and the miracles that can come from working hard and the member's support and prayers without giving the member any stress whatsoever.  We tried it with the primary president this week, who is an amazingly strong member and peike despite none of her family being members because her husband is opposed to their children being baptized.  It was amazing!  We got 2 set-ups, a church commit, and a commit to come to that YSA FHE the next night.  When we reported to her she was so happy and said "Wow, the power of prayer!"  It went so well!

 

What I came up with is that we will also try as we continue to do the Power Hour with our ward is the "Reverse Power Hour", where you set up a return appointment with the member and tell them that you will start with a prayer and will continue to pray for them for the next hour.  You then work with them for that hour and help them come up with a missionary plan of who to share the gospel with and remind them of the miracles that can come from consistent prayer that they saw from the original Power Hour and, if possible, help them to do some of the missionary work right there with you in that hour.  We're going to try to do it with our entire ward, if possible.  It'll be awesome and it gets the members so pumped on missionary work, it's awesome!

 

Last week for P-Day we went out to the coast and played volleyball and frisbee, which was super fun and SOOO PRETTY oh man it was awesome.  Don't worry, I'll attach pictures!  Today we're going to go to yet another all you can eat BBQ with our amazing ward mission leader Yangkai (who's actually also our Elders Quorum President and stake YSA representative and a gospel doctrines teacher....yeah poor guy) and hang out the rest of the day.  It'll be awesome!  I hope everyone has a great week and thanks as always for the fun emails and news/support/etc.  Talk to you next week!

 

Photos:  So there's everything in here from where we played volleyball to some awesome clouds to this random house that looks like an evil villain lives there to the Cai family that came all the way from TouFen (they're RCs from there) just to see me here and Elder Lawrence in TaiDong (right below Hualian) to the amazing college campus that's technically in our area but is actually like a 20 minute train ride and a 1 hour bike ride and this kid we met there who's super sweet and said "hey do you like instruments?" and we said "um yeah" and then he started playing that!  Oh yeah and also the mountains are still beautiful.  Great week!

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第五十一個星期 (Week 52)June 26, 2017

I counted backwards and realized that since I've been gone for one WHOLE YEAR this week I miss-counted a week somewhere in there, so this was WEEK fifty two!!!  I hit my year mark this past week and it's insane how fast it's gone and yet how much has happened this year!  I've been loving life here so much and it's so weird and sad to think that it's already halfway done!

 

Well, enough sad thoughts - here was this week!

 

This week (and this transfer, because we're whitewashing), we made a goal to explore our area and to really know it while finding on the way to find the best places to find, etc. So we found a cluster of buildings waaaaay up on a mountain and said "alright, we're going there this week!" We biked for over an hour to get there, and hadn't had a ton of success on the way. We got up there and found a place to eat, and there was nobody else in the restaurant because there was nobody within probably a mile radius besides some tourists going boating. We started talking to the lady at the restaurant, and she said she wanted to hear us pray. We prayed over the food and we started learning about her and her life, and she told us how her father had recently passed away and he was very Catholic, so hearing people pray over their food made her remember all of the good memories of her father. We began sharing about the plan of salvation and the restoration of the true gospel, and despite me having to go and talk to a very drunk man so he wouldn't interrupt the lesson my companion was able to continue talking to her and overcome her concerns to set up a time to go back tomorrow!

 

That drunk guy was actually super funny - we had talked to someone else up there and Elder Sproul found a snake outside underneath a table and the guy and his wife were freaking out and the wife was saying "It kills people it kills people!" and the husband ran out and grabbed this long claw thing and reached under the table and grabbed the snake.  Elder Sproul and I had no idea what was happening or what to do, so we just kinda stood there in awe while the guy took it out and was about to throw it off the cliff right outside his house when this other guy walked up and started talking to the first guy.  When the first guy walked back, he had no snake and said that he gave it to the other guy.  The other guy (who was shirtless) was walking away with the snake around his neck and the first guy said "yeah I gave it to him because he want to take it home and eat it.  This happens a lot."  Then the guy who took the snake and ate it was the drunk guy that walked up and called out to me and said "take a picture with me!"  So we did after Elder Sproul was done talking to the lady.

 

Also on that trip way out there I learned how to ride a bike with no hands!  It was weird, it literally just happened all of a sudden.

 

We went out exploring again and we found this weird futuristic insanely expensive house with grass on it next to a huge abandoned apartment building that says "self-serve tours!", and right next to those was a huge empty parking lot with a bunch of people playing with RC planes that were SO INTENSE it was insane!!  I'll send some of those pictures too.  Totally nuts!

 

On Saturday, we had a baptism!!  And, we met him on Friday right before his baptismal interview!!  He's so cool though - his name's Lin Zhi Hong, or Ren (as in the Ren inside Lorenzo), and he's so awesome!  Elder Alexander, the one who did his baptismal interview, said he was the most prepared person he'd ever met.  It was so sweet.  Yay baptism!

 

Last night we had set up a chapel tour with a family that the previous elders had been teaching and considered dropping them because of their simple unwillingness to come to church because of dumb excuses. We had a good first lesson with them and set up this chapel tour, which was a huge first step to getting them to church. We asked the primary president to help us with it because the bishop's wife (who had helped out before) was unavailable, and it was AMAZING! We prepped her a little bit before the lesson with some information about the family and some basic hopes we had for her. The father of the family passed away less than a year ago, and the Vietnamese mother was left to take care of the three children by herself while trying to work on a farm to support them. The primary president was a fantastic help, shared about family history for a solid ten minutes because they were so interested and wanted to learn more, was able to connect very deeply to this mother and her children, invited them to church which the children committed to (the mother is working), and she helped commit them to coming to activities for each of their respective ages (relief society, Young Single Adult, young womens, and primary). It was such a miracle! This family that was on the verge of being dropped is now committed to church and the son, who was already a baptismal date, is now looking forward to his baptism and we resolved many of his concerns. Amazing members can change investigator's lives!

 

So that was this week in a nutshell.  Last P-Day we actually didn't go to the beach, we ended up going to this BEAUTIFUL place in the very bottom of our area (about a one and a half hour car ride) with a member from Taibei and the senior couple down here, and today we're actually going to the beach.

 

I hope everyone has a fantastic week, and I'll talk to you all next week!  

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老 

第五十個星期 (Week 50)----starting on Wednesday I will have been gone for 1 WHOLE YEAR!!!!

I have left the bus station!!  And, I have gone to the place in the mission known as "paradise" because of how freaking gorgeous it is here!!!  I went to 花蓮 (Hualian), and it's soooo pretty here!  I only have a tiny part of the actual city in my area, so literally the whole place is fields and farms and it's amazing!  My companion and I, Elder Sproul (24 from Ogden Utah - so old because he was in the military for 6 years before coming; also he was in the military language department learning Chinese, but he only did it for a bit and forgot most of what he learned - so his Chinese is good, but not quite perfect yet :P), are both new to the area because we "Whitewashed" in.  We did that because they closed down the zone leaders here in Hualian and combined us with the Taidong Zone (farther south), and we came into the old zone leader area so we both had to be new because the previous people here went 1. to be the Taidong zone leader and 2. to go off and finish his mission in Taibei.  So it's crazy and we don't have any idea what's happening, but it's so much fun and nuts and we're just trying to find places to go eat!

 
So we met with our bishop yesterday and had an amazing discussion of how help the ward and the investigators here. He mentioned how 10 years ago, before the new stake center was built, Hualian had 2 branches that were each baptizing 60+ new members a year. After the stake center was built it dropped to less than 20 a year per ward, but he really wanted us to see the potential this area really has. He told us also to work even more with the auxiliary leaders in the ward because despite the concern people have with sharing the gospel, as we connect the whole ward and help get everyone excited for missionary work it will work out very well and we are all confident referrals will come.

So even if someone waves us away my companion immediately asks if we can teach them, they can come to church, and/or if they have a referral for us and we already have a lot of great potential investigators from this method that have set up a time for us to meet. We love it here so much, and know that this place has amazing potential. Also it's the most beautiful place on earth!
 
Also do you remember the drink shop CoCo that I talk so much about?  Well over here on the east coast there's an even better one called Ding Go that is SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD!!!  We were very happy, and will soon be very broke and very fat :D  Also apparently the food is really good here, and the fruit is even better, so we're psyched!!
 
Since we whitewashed we still have no clue what's happening, so I'm sure I'll have more next week!  As of right now that's about it, but as always thanks for the emails of support/news, and I'll talk to everyone next week!  PS starting on Wednesday I will have been gone for 1 WHOLE YEAR!!!!  That's insane!!!!!!  Well, 加油加油!

第四十九個星期 (Week 49)

 Hello hello hello again for another episode from the bus station!!!  I hope everyone is doing great this week, and thanks as usual for the emails of news, etc.

 

So this week we had some fun eating cheesecake at our awesome ward missionary activity!  We've been having a cooking/baking activity every month to have nonmembers sign up on Facebook to come and learn how to cook/bake things for free, which is cool!  This past activity on Saturday we had 8 people come and we got a guy to set up to meet with us from it, which is awesome!

 

We also met with a super cool new investigator named Vincent who has literally 100% English, which is super cool.  He's really funny and chill and he works in the military police, which is actually really boring but also really intense.  He said if he's on call then he can't sleep in a bed, he's only allowed to sleep in a chair so he can wake up easier to get to work faster if there's an emergency.  So that sucks.  But he's awesome and we're friends now and he agreed to come to church and bring his 2 daughters!  He even asked us when church was!

 

Surprisingly not even that much special stuff happened out of the ordinary this week.  We lost 4 baptismal date investigators because they didn't make their date, so that's super sad, but everything else is going awesome!  We've got lots of potential people to put on a date and working hard and having fun!

 

I hope everything goes awesome for everyone back at the homestead, and I'm going to the beach to party it up with a bunch of missionaries I haven't seen in forever, so I'll get back to it next week!  加油加油!!

NanZhuang

Week 48 June 5, 2017

 

 

So this week was great!  We found some cool people on the street, but what was really great was that we set our investigators Jeremy and Blair (the ones that are dating and maybe living together) back on a baptismal date and they're doing great!  The only problem is that now they have to come to church every week and Blair is leaving the country and has to go to these classes every Sunday morning until 1 and church goes from 9-12, sooooo....  That's awkward.  They're awesome though and are so willing to try and keep commitments, and they're so funny!  We also started meeting with their friend John at the same, and he showed up to church unexpectedly this week too!  So that was cool.

 

 

 

Speaking of really cool miracles, we had 14 people commited for church this week, and 7 of them actually came!  That's awesome!  Our mission's "standard of excellence" for church is 3, and we more than doubled it!  It was super cool.  We also got our investigator Frank to come, which is huuuuuge!  He keeps rejecting a baptismal date because he doesn't get why it's necessary and jsut kind of said "eh, naah".  When we asked him why he kept meeting with us, he said "well, because I like you guys. I get a great feeling when I'm around you and everything just seems so simple and easy for you."  We explained about that and how it really is so simple and easy, and how if you pray you get an answer and if you read scriptures you learn things and if you go to church you can take the sacrament and can have that good feeling more and have God testify to you even more.  He sat there for a minute, and finally said "wow that makes sense!"  Then we invited him to church, which he had declined several times, and he said yes!  And then he didn't come that week (this was all last week), and when we met with him this week we talked to him about it and he said "I was too scared to come because there were too many people when I went a year ago, and that's really uncomfortable."  We said "Well if we're next to you does that help?"  And he said "Yeah, that would be fine.  Ok, I'll really come this week."  And then he did!  It was awesome.  When we asked him if he liked it, he said he felt really really special and LOVED it.  I asked which part, and he said the sacrament because he felt so good for some reason as he took it.  So cool!!

 

 

 

This week it RAINED SOOOOOO HAAAAARD!!!!  Seriously the biggest rain of my life!  I don't know if you remember like 2 months ago when Elder Lawrence and I talked about the "wettest rain of our life"?  This was SO MUCH MORE RAIN than that!  It's actually so much that it's broken records of the most rain FOR FOREVER at this time of year!  It's so much rain that it actually flooded the entire north and south and east and parts of the west where we're at, but thankfully it's a lot better here than the other places.  We got hit a lot harder than the areas right above us (新竹 and 桃園, namely) because we're right in the middle of the island on the west coast, but it's not too bad.  If you look at the last picture I sent that's the rain hitting the ground so hard it looks like the whole ground has little bubbles or bumps on it.  Also that video is us getting ready to ROLL OUT!  Fun fact, our district name is the "Auto-Bots" because we were originally the "洗禮 Bots" (Baptism bots), but nobody liked that so here we are.  Great times biking in the rain though!  My companion used to live in the rainiest part of the island (i.e. one of the rainiest parts of the world) and kept saying how much he loved the rain and was screaming for joy as we biked around and couldn't even see because of how hard the rain was.  Fun times :D

 

 

 

So all those pictures are from when we went to the GORGEOUS NanZhuang (南庄) last P-Day (sorry there's so many, I took a lot more!) with the Zhunan (竹南) elders and one of their members.  Today we're about to head out to 竹南 and eat at this burger place that sells burgers that are bigger than my face (I think I've mentioned that before) - I'm so excited!  Then we're going over to a board game shop to play board games for a few hours, which will be a lot of fun!  So that's about all this week, folks.  Thanks again for all the letters of support and news, and I look forward to talking with you all again next week at the bus station!

第四十七個星期 (Week 47)

And (probably) one of my last weeks at the bus station comes and goes once again!

 
So I don't have a ton of time, but some highlights from this week:
We started meeting with a very very dedicated member of the Bread of Life church, and he is pretty funny.  Elder Lawrence and I found him about 5 weeks ago, and on the street he talked to us for about 30 minutes about how he felt about God and how it was the Holy Trinity, not the Godhead, and finally we didn't have a great way of talking to him because he kept cutting us off, so we invited him to English class, and then he came!  So then Elder James and I started meeting with him after he finally accepted to meet and he just wants to tell us his church's position, which is pretty funny, but he's a great guy.
 
We finally got back in contact with our friend Steve (STEEEEVE), who's doing great, and he loves the church and the Book of Mormon and doing great.  He called us one night to ask about our church's position on gay marriage because Taiwan just passed a law that in 2 years gay marriage will be legal, making Taiwan the first country to completely legalize gay marriage.  We explained and sent him some scriptures (which he asked for) and some modern prophet's words on it, and after he read it he said "Thank you so much, this is amazing, it makes so much sense and I love it!"  So that was cool!
 
We also met again with Jeremy/Blair (his girlfriend)/John (their friend) who are doing awesome and they're totally getting baptized!!  Except maybe John, who's a not yet, but the other 2 are totally getting baptized in July!!  They're awesome.
 
I'm outta time because we're about to head back to the beautiful NanZhuang (南庄) to go for a short hike, but that's the general highlights for this week, and I'll talk more next week!  Thanks for everyone's emails of support and news, and I'll send more from the beautiful, exquisite bus station next Monday.  Have a great week!

第四十六個星期 (Week 46) May 21, 2017

Sorry about last week!  Don't worry, I have some time this week, and I'll try to give a good re-cap.  Here goes!

 
So last week we finally got in contact with some of our awesome (but craaazy busy) investigators!  We've met with almost every investigator this transfer now, which is awesome!  We have this guy named Harry that we met with my 2nd week here in TouFen (like 3 months ago), and then he vanished.  I say vanished, but he would answer our calls and stuff he's just insanely busy with work so he had no time to meet with us.  He reappeared a month ago, and then set an insanely solid baptismal date.  He disappeared again for a month and then we finally found a time to eat lunch with him and he's doing so great!  That other guy named Steve is doing great, and our 2 students Frank and Ethan (I sent a picture of them last week) are doing awesome and came to Stake Conference with us yesterday!  They said at first they couldn't, and we found out it was because they didn't want to spend money because they're saving up for their new bikes to bike around the entire country by themselves.  Yeah, they're pretty independent.  Our investigators are awesome!!
 
So the highlight for this week is that we had a sweeeet mission conference on Saturday!  Then we had a special stake conference yesterday because we had a general authority come.  We had Elder/Sister Cook, Soarez, Murse, Funk, Bishop/Sister Waddell, and a few other newer general authorities, and it was amazing!!  It was so awesome!  Elder Cook gave us some amazing advice, and then we had a Q&A, and then Elder Cook gave us an apostolic blessing (those non-members of the church, just know it's really hard to explain but if, heh, you're baptized, it's a lot easier :P  just kidding) but the whole thing was so awesome!!
 
So that was the highlight of the week.  The investigators are doing good, finding some new ones, life's awesome, and thanks as usual for everyone's messages of support and information!  I love it here a lot, and I'm (probably, maybe) only in the bus station for another 3 weeks or so!  That's really most of it from this week.  Our good friend Jeffery in our ward kinda hates me (long story, still not totally sure why - he's really funny and great :P) but he just barely called and said that we need to go over to his house because he's giving us free tacos!  So that's pretty cool.  We might be learning some calligraphy today as well, so life's great!
 
I hope everyone has a fantastic week, and I'll send more next week!  加油加油加油!!!

第四十五個星期 (Week 45)   May 14, 2017

 Happy Mothers Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Yeah I got to Skype with my family today and it was swweeeet!  I'm like completely out of time right now because we're going to go to buy some super sweet indestructible pants (like the ones I got months ago, except those ones....destructed) and I don't have time to email aaaah yep pretty much.  So this week was super awesome the new comp is still sweet and the work is progressing and loving life a ton!  Thanks for everyone's support and everything, as always, and I'll send a lot more next week!!

 

-- 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第四十四個星期 (Week 44) May 7, 2017

Wooow transfers came and went and some BIG changes happened!  So Elder Lawrence and I finished off the transfer strong with 7 people with a baptismal date (which is super awesome!) and a lot of super awesome progressing investigators!  Ironically, they're all from our English class, so when English class came on Wednesday we see like all of our investigators every week.  And it was a teary farewell indeed!  For - you probably didn't guess it - Elder Lawrence!!  I stayed here in TouFen!!  Another 6 weeks in the bus station here I come!

 

 

So our district got craaaazy this transfer!  For some background, last transfer we had:

Me/Elder Lawrence and Sister Olsen/Sister Zhu (a Taiwanese sister) in TouFen.  Sister Olsen is the same age on the mission as me and Elder Lawrence, which is not too long, and Sister Zhu just came out of training.  Then Sister Calderwood (also out here as long as us)/Sister Pillar (only one transfer older than us) and Elder Butler/Elder Falck in ZhuNan (both about to go home in the next few months).  So now there's Me (now I'm District Leader and the "English Unit Leader" - basically just in charge of our English Class)/Elder James (he's going home not this transfer but next) and Sister Zhu/Sister Menzie (she's also going home next transfer) in TouFen, and Sister Calderwood's training Sister Tu (another Taiwanese sister) and the other elders stayed together.  So our district got suuuuper old (Elder Butler is going home with Sister Menzie and Elder James and Elder Falck is going home the next transfer after that).

 

So yeah!  Crazy stuff!  Elder James, if you couldn't tell, is my new companion and he's amazing!  He actually moved out of Zhubei (my first area) when I got there, so I heard a lot about him then from his previous companion Elder Anderson.  He's from Highland Utah (not in Salt Lake but out a ways) and he's really good at basketball and even better at Ultimate Frisbee, awesome at finding new investigators, got a great heart, speaks some Taiwanese and Hakkanese, loves to learn and push harder and harder and it's awesome!  He just came down from Taibei where he was just a zone leader, so lucky me, right?

 

This week we didn't meet with a lot of new investigators, mostly because of transfers and moving and stuff, but last night we met with a super cool Filipino named Joton who said he wants to meet with us so that he can learn how to become a preacher.  We started just talking to him and he has AMAZING faith in Christ, and then we started sharing the first lesson with him about Joseph Smith.  We explained that we believe that God, Christ, and the Spirit are different beings and how we know that through Joseph Smith and he said "oh ok, cool!"  By the way, he's suuuuper Catholic and the Holy Trinity being one person is a very central concept to Catholic doctrine.  At the end of the lesson we asked if he had any questions and he said "no, but thank you so much for explaining about God and Christ and the Holy Ghost being different - now I finally understand!"  So he just totally changed his entire believe that he's had from childhood.  So that was cool.  He's super awesome and wants to learn and just hear more about Christ.

 

So yeah!  Being district leader is pretty fun but there's so much random little stuff that I have to take care of every day now.  The way I've thought about it is that being District Leader is similar to being bishop, zone leader is like stake president, and AP is like an apostle and the mission president is like the prophet :D  It's pretty fun, but it's kinda tiring having to make a ton of calls every night and help fix problems and stuff and having to keep track of 50 different things a day but it's a great time.  When I wasn't DL the last 2 transfers I felt like I just didn't know the district that well, so it's a good time to get to know them and really help them out.  Loving it!

 

We went finding a lot this past week to try and get some new investigators, and Elder James is super good at it!  Elder Lawrence and I (mostly just me) struggled a lot to get people to actually set up, so it's awesome to learn from Elder James.  We already got that guy Joton and just randomly gave a chapel tour (as much as we can in a bus station :D) to a guy who set up a time this week to meet!

 

So yeah, loving life and hoping things continue looking up and up and still just hoping I can grow enough myself to catch up with the rest of the district.  Because everyone's been here for so long and there are now 2 native Taiwanese in the district everyone's Chinese is suddenly way better than mine!  It's good though and it helps push me even harder as well.

 

I hope everything's well at home, especially with school ending here the next few weeks for everyone!  It's gone soooooo fast from over here!  Have a great week and 加油!!

 

Sorry I forgot to mention!  We're going to an escape room today in a few minutes, and it sounds super fun!  I've never done one but it should be great!  I'm psyched!

第四十三個星期 (Week 43)April 30, 2017

 各位親愛的家人跟朋友們,大家好!  Good luck with that one, Google Translate!  Ha!

 

So this past week was a great one!  On Wednesday night after we got back from the temple, we had English class, as always, and it was a blast.  2 weeks ago I had 15 students in my intermediate class, and it was awesome!  I average about 8 or so every week, but then I had 2 new students and had every person I've ever taught all show up on the same day and it was crazy!  This past week I had the usual 8 but it was an awesome class.  Every week we're supposed to have a "Spiritual share" (wow, missionaries sharing about the church??  Whaaaat??), and for the last 2 transfers my spiritual shares have been so lame!  So last week I decided to stop being lame and do a really good one, and I shared about the Book of Mormon because we talked about learning and school and stuff.  I asked them why they went to so much effort to learn things that might not be useful at all in the next 5, 10,15, 20, or more years.  They were stumped!  The Taiwanese culture is to study study study study study and study some more, and they usually don't really think about why they do it most of the time.  Then I told them how learning was awesome and great and stuff but in the Book of Mormon is information that changes who we really are and can help us now, tomorrow, next year, and forever.  They were blown away!  It was so awesome.  Afterwards I had our former investigator Roger (he's baptized Presbyterian and uninterested in our church) come up and ask if I was talking about the Bible, and when I re-explained that it was a different book but had the same purpose of helping us draw closer to Christ and understand more about Him and God, he was like "that's so awesome!"  I asked if he wanted one and he said he really did!  Then it turns out I didn't have one on me, so he said he would get it when he came to church on Sunday!  Then it turns out he didn't come on Sunday.... But he'll come to English class again so I can give it to him then.  It was so awesome!

 

So last week I forgot to mention how there's this super....interesting person that keeps wandering up to the church at the most random times.  She came to the sister's baptism last week and grabbed my tie and said "hey there, do you want your tie?"  And then I looked at her (obviously really confused and weirded out) and said "um the one I'm wearing right now?"  And she said "yeah!"  And I said "ummmmm yes" and she said "Oh.  Do you want your clothes?"  And I said "the ones I'm wearing?"  And she said "Yeah!"  And I said "ummmm yes" and she said "Oh.  But I have reeeaally nice clothes I can give you!  Let me go grab them!"  And I said "No no no nonononono please nooooooo that's really not necessary!"  And she was like ":(  Really?  But they're super nice!"  And I said "Nooooooo I do not want your clothes lady!"  Then she came to my English class (she speaks literally 0 English - she didn't understand when I asked what her name was), and she told me that her name was Milk.  As in the liquid that comes from cows.  I love the bus station!!

 

Then we met with a new investigator named Steve (for those of you who have seen Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, every time we talk about him we just say STEEEEEVE!  STEEEEEEEEEVE!  Over and over again).  Steve is so amazing!  When we asked if he wanted to meet he actually said "yes, I think that would be a great idea!"  We met and he asked "There's so many Christian churches, right?  How am I supposed to know which one is the right one?"  Our mouths kinda dropped a few feet because that's the question that every missionary wants to hear so badly!  So we shared the Restoration and Joseph Smith with him and he set a really really solid baptismal date!  It was so awesome.  He actually told us that when he was in elementary/middle school he got the name of "Smiley" because he literally just smiles all the time.  It's so infectious!  He said he actually got made fun of in school because of how much he smiled, but he said that when you smile it just makes everything better.  He's so funny.  Steeeeeve!!  Also his English is perfect.

 

This week we've been having a lot of members feeding us because TRANSFERS IS ON THURSDAY!!!!  It's here so fast!  Elder Lawrence and I are like 99% sure that one of us is going to move this time, and I'm feeling like it's me.  Aaaah move day again?  So fast!  So yeah it's cool because tons of free food!  Yay!

 

On Sunday it was awesome because we had our investigator Jeremy come (he asks SO MANY QUESTIONS about what we teach him, which is awesome, but sometimes he just kinda feels overwhelmed with it all, but he's progressed so far!  He's so great and he finally came to church!), who we've been trying to get to come for like a month and a half now.  Yay!  Also we had our 2 16 year-olds come to church too!  Yay!  One of them said that his mom told him he couldn't get baptized until he was 18, but we're going to try and meet the parents and talk to them about it.  They're super awesome though!  They're both progressing really well and had a chance to meet the ward and the youth at church and it was awesome!!

 

Today we're going to go to yes, you guessed it, another all-you-can-eat BBQ!!!  I'm so psyched :D  And no, I haven't had one in so long!  Although yes, I am getting fat :(  Maybe if I actually worked out in the 30 minutes of exercise we have every morning it would help :P  Then we're going to go hang out at the huuuge park in our area with the district and some members and play some frisbee/soccer.  Fun day!

 

Thanks for everyone's news and things, as always, and I'll talk to you next week!  Maybe from another place O.o  Have a great week!  加油加油!!

Oh yeah I forgot to mention!  Yesterday our ward told us about a big activity here in TouFen where everyone comes to this temple down the road and there's a new night market opening up for a few days.  The festival is because everyone at their homes have a little god statue of their ancestor or whatever and then they bring it to the huge temple every year so the big statue at the temple can impart part of its blessings on the little statues to give blessings to the family and the home it's in.  So what our members didn't tell us is that walking on the big road right outside the church was literally all of TouFen and ZhuNan (the neighboring city) watching a HUUUUGE parade with floats and dancers and drummers and dragons and everything and it was awesome!!  There were thousands of people crammed on this tiny street and it was so fun!

第四十二個星期 (Week 42) April 25, 2017

 Hello hello I'm in the 金華 chapel back in Taibei, because we're going to the temple in 45 minutes!!  Yaaaay!!!  So yeah I have almost no time to email and I have to send/respond to several at the moment, so short group email for today sorry sorry!!!

 

Ok this week in a nutshell: so we went finding a ton because we didn't meet with a lot of our investigators, but that's ok!  Because our investigators are pretty awesome and we've gotten back up to 5 people who are on a date to be baptised and we're going to add a few more!!  Yaaay!!  Like our 2 16 year-old friends Ethan and Frank who are super awesome and funny and are well on their way to baptism!  So fun fact: literally all of our progressing investigators, and all of our investigators period except for 1 guy are all from our English class, so everybody has English names and we see them like every week, so it's a lot of fun.

 

But what was even more "fun" was that last Wednesday at English class our investigator James (who, for background, the sisters said "might be gay" after meeting him for like 5 minutes) did something pretty...interesting.  I asked him how he liked English class afterwards and he said "well, um, it was great, um, and really fun, and I think you're like, um, a great teacher, and um, so very funny, and it was um, great."  So I said (like any good Taiwanese) "no, no, I'm not that great or that funny.  Thanks though, but I'm not that funny.  I wish I was, but oh well, right?"  So then he looked at me and said "No, I think you're so funny, and so great, and so handsome, and it's great, and I love your English class, and you're just so great.  And, um, I was wondering, because you're so great, um, if I could take you out around all of Taiwan to play."

UM WHAT???

So I looked at him and was thinking "uuuuhhhhh wut did that really just happen????"  So I didn't really know what to say and he said "no no no!  We'll start here in TouFen and then go around to the rest of Taiwan later."  Oh yeah, like that's better, right??  So then I said "well actually as missionaries we are really really busy and we have to stay in our assigned area so that's not really something I can do...."  So then another student started asking me some questions and I was like "yes, yes Kevin let's talk about something else right now yes anything at all please help meeee!"  Just kidding, but it was suuuuuper awkward.  So yeah he's coming back to English class tonight and then we'll try and set a baptismal date with him and teach him normally and when we get to that whole "gay" thing just figure it out then.  So that was a thing.

 

So then we went to the park again on Sunday and were making bubbles to try and talk to families like we do every week and there was this grandpa and grandma watching and saying "wow it's so cool!  Look at how awesome he is!"  So I walked up to them and started talking to them and then the grandma just randomly started telling me how her husband was super super rich but how he didn't look it because he has a gimp arm and leg because of how he used to be in a gang and killed 2 people so he was in jail for 30 years and then he gambled all of his (and his sister's) money away and then started a few gambling houses and then realized that was a bad plan after they both failed again and then he started a tea growing business and sells water bottles and he's now filthy rich.  Don't worry, he asked me when our church was so that he could come because he goes to church with all his foreigner friends and I guess I made the cut.  Yay!

 

So then we went on exchanges on Monday with our zone leaders (I went with our zone leader from Sweden who is the goofiest, and one of the most distracted guys I've ever met) and it was one of the best days of my life.  I'll borrow a quote from my good MTC friend Elder Sowards: "Anyways COCOs is life. Cocos is like the way better Starbucks, for 35 NTD I can buy Mango Bingsha(Mango Shaved Ice drink). Otherwise known as Heaven in a cup. having a bad day? MANGO BINGSHA will save you. It is pretty much the official drink of the Taiwan Taipei Mission."  The drink known as Manguo Bingsha is back, after a long and dreary winter away from it.  Be still my heart, all is right in the world again!  I've had 3 in the last 2 days :D

 

So that's this week in a quick nutshell, folks.  I'm sorry if I don't have time to respond to everybody because I'm down to like 25 minutes o.O but I'll try and hop on again later today after the temple.  That's about it!  Thanks for everyone's news and encouragement and everything, and life's going great at the bus station!

 

PS Transfers end this next week O.o so that's crazy.  One of us will definitely leave and just maybe train, so that's freaky.  There's only 2 elders coming this transfer and they're both Taiwanese, so that's a super weird thought!

 

Talk to you all on Monday!

 

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第四十一個星期 (Week 41)  April 16, 2017

"funny shirt at the beach day" with me, my companion, and the zone leaders.

 Another Monday, another week in the beautiful land of 頭份,台灣 from the chapel on top of the bus station!  And, drumroll please, HAPPY  EEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSSTTTTEEEEERRRRR!

 

 

 

Honestly you all should be impressed that I can keep coming up with these new greetings every week.  I thought I ran out like 25 weeks ago!

 

 

 

So!  A run-down of this week:

 

1. We experienced what I think I can only explain as the "wettest" rain of my life this week.  It was like taking a shower ALL DAY for 2 DAYS.  It was a lot of fun.  I found out that my rain jacket is not only non water-proof, but also likes to soak up all of the rain and hang on to it for a day or two :D  The rain drops were pretty big, but it was so wet because they didn't fall very fast, so none of it splashed it all just stayed there and got soaked up.  Yikes!  I love Taiwan!!!!  Fun fact - Elder Lawrence and I were yelling "I LOVE MY MISSIOOOONNNN!!!!" as we biked down the road when it rained that hard a few days ago at the top of our lungs.  It was a good time.

 

 

 

2. Last P-Day we went to a member's house after going to the beach and made some sushi with her and it was AMAZING!  It was awesome.  I love sushi so much it made my day!!!

 

 

 

3. We started meeting with 2 students this week (they're 16) and they're super awesome!  They have awesome thoughts about life and are super funny.  They kinda remind me of me and Ryan or Edward or another friend joking around together, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

4. On Saturday morning we met with our 75 year-old investigator named Morse (yes, as in Morse Code), and he set a baptismal date!!!  He's soooo funny and just an adorable man.  He wants to learn English (never learned it before), but he's scared to drive at night so he can't come to our class.  We used to have an afternoon one and he actually called our mission office asking if he was allowed to come (it turns out we don't do it anymore), and then we ended up teaching him about the church too!  He's awesome and said that learning about Jesus was such an amazing opportunity and he hoped that we could tell everyone about it, including the friends that he wants to bring to our next lesson!  He's so awesome.  It turns out that when he was a young student he would wake up at 5 AM and run 8 KM every morning, in addition to playing soccer, running (obviously), badminton, and boxing.  Now he still wakes up at 5 AM and he walks exactly 10,000 steps around the track.  He's so great!

 

 

 

5. I don't know if I've said this or not, but every Sunday we go to the big park in our area and make huuuuge bubbles with some sticks and soap water that a member helps us make and play with the kids and invite them to our English class.  So yesterday we got our whole district to come (8 people) and made a TON of bubbles and had a blast.  It was pretty fun.

 

 

 

6. Today we're going to go over to the neighboring city of MiaoLi and play some ultimate Frisbee for a few hours and then come back and send some packages!!  Yaay!  Also, today we went to the morning market that we go to every morning (also to advertise our English class) but today we got to just sight-see and buy some stuff, so that was fun.  It turns out that I bought a 10 KG watermelon, which is - you won't believe this - 22 POUNDS.  It's not even that big!  And, you really won't believe this - it was $3 US DOLLARS.  I LOVE TAIWAN!!!!!!!!!!  The watermelon here is soooo good it was awesome.  Also I bought a super cool basic string necklace from a Buddhist lady that....I can't wear on my mission so it's coming back to you guys in a month or so!  Yay!

 

So somebody brought up a very good point this week: to those people who read this blog that aren't members of the church, my email last week sounded not too great, so I thought I would clarify for everyone.  Sorry if the explanation is super long; it's copied from the personal email to him.  Read it if you want, or *gasp* just skip it if you don't!
 
1. So about the people not in the church, I meant about the "Less-Active" members of the church, or the ones who used to come and were baptized and don't now.  So obviously I know that people outside the church usually have tons more money than me, are quite happy, don't have addictions, and their families are practically perfect, etc etc.  As I'm sure you know, I'm not the richest kid on the block :P  So another thing about that - in the church there are a lot of guidelines, suggestions, and rules in place to improve each of those situations, so if you're not coming that means you're not following those rules or listening to those guidelines very much, or at least as much as you did when you went.  It's just waaaay too high of a percentage to be a coincidence, and as a missionary for a church that's involved in the church all day every day it's easy to pinpoint the answer as the only difference of their lives (that I know of ) of not coming to church anymore or following those rules.  I mean, you're not a member and you've got just as much of those things as I do :D
 
2. The story of the lady with the kids is very interesting.  So she said that she herself was not in a vulnerable situation at all, and that her sons in college had run into some terrible friends and were starting to go off and party, drink, smoke, and sleep around.  She was worried that her relationship with her kids was not very good and that she was worried about them and was trying to improve their relationship but didn't know how.  Also we're doing everything for free and offering everything for free, so it's not really "taking advantage of people" in my opinion because all we're doing is offering them a belief system and it's all up to them if they want to accept or not.  Now here's the tricky part - "by promising a cure-all for all their worries about their kids."  So that's a very important sentence because, as per your beliefs, we actually do believe that if we are right about our church (and I really hope we are cus I'm here for 2 years telling people all about it :P) that we have a God in heaven who is our loving Father and wants to help us with our problems.  Christ atoned for our sins, problems, etc etc and suffered them himself.  So he knows how they feel, and if God is omnipotent/omniscient and works according to our agency and choices and belief in Him, then yeah of course He can help with any problems with your relationship with your kids and is more than happy to if you try.  He probably won't solve everything *BAM* immediately because that's not how we learn and grow (through mistakes, experiences, and trials) but also because God will never take away somebody's ability to choose/agency.  So God won't force her kid to fix all of the problems with his life, but if he chooses to try out the church and follow those rules and guidelines and not do all of those terrible things, then yes that will improve his life and his relationship with his family.  Also the lady can improve herself as she learns about God and His expectations for her and what she can do herself (by using her agency) to improve her relationship with her son even if he doesn't choose to.  Does that make sense?  So the biggest part here is if you believe in God and what He can do, etc etc and if He can help people especially when they're having problems and weak and vulnerable and just need help.  If she's vulnerable right now and that's the only reason she accepted and we're wrong, then that's pretty awkward and now she believes in something fake (I guess the same as me), but if she only accepted because she's vulnerable and we're right, then it will help her solve all of her problems and help her sons if they work at it and God's on her side.  But yeah it boils down to beliefs and I know that and hope it didn't offend.
 
3. The focus on working with young people!  So I think this just comes down to realism.  What do we do?  We go around and talk to people on the streets all day about our church and how we hope they will change their lives for the better and receive the blessings God wants to give them.  That's pretty much what we do all day every day.  So, what makes more sense?  Telling that to a 95 year-old guy who's been going to his Buddhist/Daoist shrine (which are suuuuuper cool by the way you should look up pictures of them) for the last hmmmm 95 years and ask him to start coming to a Christian church?  Or telling it to a 22 year-old college kid who's thinking about life and what they believe and what kind of person they want to be and what their dreams for the future and family are?  So if you view what we do as a scam where we go around and ask people to come over to our sketchy/evil organization or whatever and give us stuff and worship a heathen god of Satan(not saying at all that that's what you said or implied, but just as an extreeeemely hyperbolic example) then yes of course it's predatory and scary and preying on the innocent.  But if you (again) believe in what we're doing and how much it will help people if they try doing it, then it's just looking at the group of people that we have had the most success with and hope to continue with that success.  In some ways the church operates very much like a business, with stats and strategies and graphs and targets and goals, etc etc.  The church was just looking at how to improve the success we've had in the past and reach more people to give them more of a chance to accept.
 
So yeah that's super long but if you had any questions/concerns, please feel free to peruse at your own convenience :D  Also if you ever have any questions/concerns about anything I send in emails home or about me or about missionary work, please DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK!!
 

Also, here's what our mission president sent out:

April 26 is TEMPLE DAY for South, TaoYuan, ZhuNan, and XinZhu zones.  Therefore, your p-day is not next Monday.  Missionaries from these zones, please tell your parents TODAY that you won't send them an email until April 26 next week.  We don't want parents to panic!

 

 

 

So my next email will not be until NEXT WEDNESDAY here, which will mean NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT IS WHEN YOU WILL SEE MY EMAIL.  Please don't freak out!

 

 

 

That's about it this week!  I hope everyone's week was good and I hope you all have a great week this next one!  Talk to you on the flip side!

第四十個星期 (Week 40)

Summer is swiftly approaching!!!  We are breaking the 60-75 degree barrier that has been over Taiwan for the last like 6 months, and this week it's gotten about 15 degrees hotter all of a sudden so we're getting back to sweat, no suit coats, and lots of hot and/or rainy days this summer!  Elder Lawrence loves being sweaty and gross, and I'm....getting there so we'll see how it goes!  Just kidding - I'm looking forward to summer but it'll be hot.  Yay!
 
Probably the most important thing about getting to summer again though, is the return of a drink in the oasis of this dry dry desert of Taiwan called Coco.  It's a company that specialized in tea (don't worry they have other things as well), and in the summers there's something called 芒果冰沙, or mango shaved ice, and it is the best thing I have ever had.  I'm so excited you have no idea!!!!
 
But another real exciting thing about this summer is that I hit my year mark on my mission in just 2 short months!!!  So that's nuts.  Also I have officially finished the 40th week of my mission.  So that's pretty weird too.
 
Last P-Day we went with that family to walk around one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life at this beautiful lake with a ridiculously expensive waffle store (of all things, right?) looking at a huge temple for the religion called 一貫道 which believes in Buddhism, Daoism, and Christianity together and has a ton of pretty strict rules (or so I've heard).  Sadly, the only pictures we have are on their phone, so that's awkward.  I'll see what I can do!
 
This week we had an amazing zone conference!!  We're going to be having them once a month, so that's awesome.  We talked about how the whole world is shifting to try and target mid-teens to mid-20s because they're the most willing to change and accept a different ideology, and through them we can access their families as well instead of trying to find the older parents who just reject us immediately and give everyone a chance.  So we talked about how to implement that in our area and what we can do after a serious pump-up training/talks by our mission president which was awesome!!!
 
A few days ago we were looking for less-active members and finding people on the way.  We were headed to the last address we had for the night before heading home and ran into a lady walking her dog.  We started talking to her and she said that she had run into the sister missionaries several times and they always invited her to church but she always said no because she was going to work, Buddhist, and was too old to change her ways.  We talked to her for a long time and found out about her, her family, etc. and she told us that she hoped that her 2 sons could have success in college and get out of the trouble they were starting to get into.  We told her that we could help her/them, and she kept saying "really?  Really?  You can help them?  Actually, can you talk to them for me?  Would that be ok?"  We looked at each other and said "Ummmmm yeeeaaaahhhhh that should be no problem...."  And to each other/ourselves were like jumping up and down inside going "yes yes yes yes!".  We gave her our number and she said that she would definitely call us this week and set up a time for us to talk with them.  Such a cool miracle!
 
This week we also had - you (maybe) guessed it - GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!!!!!  We had to wait for a week for translation, but it was SOOO GOOOOD!!!!  It was really amazing.  It was really interesting because our copy had issues downloading so we ended up having to watch the Sunday morning session second and the afternoon session first, and we had 4 investigators come in the morning but had to leave for the afternoon.  It turns out that the "afternoon" session that we watched with our investigators in the morning answered all of their questions, addressed several of their concerns, and even had a talk directed towards investigators!  God truly works in mysterious ways.  It was really amazing!  Conference as a whole was really really good though and I think I got more out of this past conference than I've gotten out of any other in my life.  It was so impactful and I could feel the Spirit practically dripping out of the TV it was so strong.  Loved it!
 
Last night we continued knocking on LA's houses and found a man who first yelled "just a minute!" and ran and put a shirt on, so we were a little weirded out by him.  He came out, we talked to him for a minute, and when we asked him if he had time for us to share something with him he said "yeah, but can we actually go somewhere that's quiet?  My mom's watching TV, so let's walk a minute over there to a bench."  We were happily surprised, shared a scripture, and re-committed him to read the book of mormon daily and continue to pray and we set up with him for Thursday!  He's super nice and looks like he'll come back to church, too!  He was also baptized only a year or so ago, but stopped coming about 8 months ago.  We knocked on another guy's door who told us "ah yes, I've been waiting for elders to come to my house."  We were pretty surprised, and he told us that he got baptized 12 years ago and stopped coming 3 years later, but he wouldn't say why.  He said there was no way for him to repent of the sins he had committed, and that he had to resolve them by his own efforts.  Except he won't read.  Or pray.  Or come to church.  After a lot of encouragement and Spirit-driven comments and questions, he...said the same thing.  He said that he'll try reading/praying daily, but he won't accept our help.  So sad!
 
Something that Elder Lawrence and I noticed is that literally every less-active member of the church that we have ever encountered (running in the hundreds now) has a considerably, and very noticeably worse life now than when they were in the church and keeping commitments/covenants.  Seriously, like a much worse life.  Their work is much worse, much harder, and gives less money, they are way, waaaay less happy, their relationship with their family has gotten much worse, they've started to get addictions or very bad habits, and they're often angry or frustrated at their situation.  Almost all of them will admit that their life in the church was better, too.  For some reason they just can't see that because it was better then, they should come back and it will work again!  Jeez, come on!
 
So that was this week in a nutshell.  Today we're headed out to the beach again with our zone and a member's driving all the way from Taibei to see us and he's bringing Elder Heaton down with him (from my MTC district)!  I'm really excited and it should be super fun.
 

Thanks again for everyone's emails and support and news, and I'll talk to you all next week!  加油加油!!

第四十個星期 (Week 40)

 Summer is swiftly approaching!!!  We are breaking the 60-75 degree barrier that has been over Taiwan for the last like 6 months, and this week it's gotten about 15 degrees hotter all of a sudden so we're getting back to sweat, no suit coats, and lots of hot and/or rainy days this summer!  Elder Lawrence loves being sweaty and gross, and I'm....getting there so we'll see how it goes!  Just kidding - I'm looking forward to summer but it'll be hot.  Yay!

 
Probably the most important thing about getting to summer again though, is the return of a drink in the oasis of this dry dry desert of Taiwan called Coco.  It's a company that specialized in tea (don't worry they have other things as well), and in the summers there's something called 芒果冰沙, or mango shaved ice, and it is the best thing I have ever had.  I'm so excited you have no idea!!!!
 
But another real exciting thing about this summer is that I hit my year mark on my mission in just 2 short months!!!  So that's nuts.  Also I have officially finished the 40th week of my mission.  So that's pretty weird too.
 
Last P-Day we went with that family to walk around one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life at this beautiful lake with a ridiculously expensive waffle store (of all things, right?) looking at a huge temple for the religion called 一貫道 which believes in Buddhism, Daoism, and Christianity together and has a ton of pretty strict rules (or so I've heard).  Sadly, the only pictures we have are on their phone, so that's awkward.  I'll see what I can do!
 
This week we had an amazing zone conference!!  We're going to be having them once a month, so that's awesome.  We talked about how the whole world is shifting to try and target mid-teens to mid-20s because they're the most willing to change and accept a different ideology, and through them we can access their families as well instead of trying to find the older parents who just reject us immediately and give everyone a chance.  So we talked about how to implement that in our area and what we can do after a serious pump-up training/talks by our mission president which was awesome!!!
 
A few days ago we were looking for less-active members and finding people on the way.  We were headed to the last address we had for the night before heading home and ran into a lady walking her dog.  We started talking to her and she said that she had run into the sister missionaries several times and they always invited her to church but she always said no because she was going to work, Buddhist, and was too old to change her ways.  We talked to her for a long time and found out about her, her family, etc. and she told us that she hoped that her 2 sons could have success in college and get out of the trouble they were starting to get into.  We told her that we could help her/them, and she kept saying "really?  Really?  You can help them?  Actually, can you talk to them for me?  Would that be ok?"  We looked at each other and said "Ummmmm yeeeaaaahhhhh that should be no problem...."  And to each other/ourselves were like jumping up and down inside going "yes yes yes yes!".  We gave her our number and she said that she would definitely call us this week and set up a time for us to talk with them.  Such a cool miracle!
 
This week we also had - you (maybe) guessed it - GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!!!!!  We had to wait for a week for translation, but it was SOOO GOOOOD!!!!  It was really amazing.  It was really interesting because our copy had issues downloading so we ended up having to watch the Sunday morning session second and the afternoon session first, and we had 4 investigators come in the morning but had to leave for the afternoon.  It turns out that the "afternoon" session that we watched with our investigators in the morning answered all of their questions, addressed several of their concerns, and even had a talk directed towards investigators!  God truly works in mysterious ways.  It was really amazing!  Conference as a whole was really really good though and I think I got more out of this past conference than I've gotten out of any other in my life.  It was so impactful and I could feel the Spirit practically dripping out of the TV it was so strong.  Loved it!
 
Last night we continued knocking on LA's houses and found a man who first yelled "just a minute!" and ran and put a shirt on, so we were a little weirded out by him.  He came out, we talked to him for a minute, and when we asked him if he had time for us to share something with him he said "yeah, but can we actually go somewhere that's quiet?  My mom's watching TV, so let's walk a minute over there to a bench."  We were happily surprised, shared a scripture, and re-committed him to read the book of mormon daily and continue to pray and we set up with him for Thursday!  He's super nice and looks like he'll come back to church, too!  He was also baptized only a year or so ago, but stopped coming about 8 months ago.  We knocked on another guy's door who told us "ah yes, I've been waiting for elders to come to my house."  We were pretty surprised, and he told us that he got baptized 12 years ago and stopped coming 3 years later, but he wouldn't say why.  He said there was no way for him to repent of the sins he had committed, and that he had to resolve them by his own efforts.  Except he won't read.  Or pray.  Or come to church.  After a lot of encouragement and Spirit-driven comments and questions, he...said the same thing.  He said that he'll try reading/praying daily, but he won't accept our help.  So sad!
 
Something that Elder Lawrence and I noticed is that literally every less-active member of the church that we have ever encountered (running in the hundreds now) has a considerably, and very noticeably worse life now than when they were in the church and keeping commitments/covenants.  Seriously, like a much worse life.  Their work is much worse, much harder, and gives less money, they are way, waaaay less happy, their relationship with their family has gotten much worse, they've started to get addictions or very bad habits, and they're often angry or frustrated at their situation.  Almost all of them will admit that their life in the church was better, too.  For some reason they just can't see that because it was better then, they should come back and it will work again!  Jeez, come on!
 
So that was this week in a nutshell.  Today we're headed out to the beach again with our zone and a member's driving all the way from Taibei to see us and he's bringing Elder Heaton down with him (from my MTC district)!  I'm really excited and it should be super fun.
 
Thanks again for everyone's emails and support and news, and I'll talk to you all next week!  加油加油!!

第三十九個星期 (Week 39)

Hi everyone, I have very little time this week because we got asked to help out with a Primary activity on Saturday but it was moved to this morning because of rain, so we have to email before hand.  Yikes!  I'm sorry if I don't have time to get to everyone's emails today, but I'll do my best to respond.

 

So to get right to it: this week we set a baptismal date with a sweet English class student named Jeremy who's so cool!  We actually teach him in English because his English is basically perfect.  He thinks about what we say a ton, and he has so many really good questions.  We figured out that he probably has so many questions because when we teach him in English we don't teach it the most simply we could (and that we're used to in Chinese), so it brings up lots of questions - i.e. he asked us once "where does sin come from?"  He's super awesome though and he is actually really likely to get baptized!!!

 

So we had a lesson on Thursday I think with our investigator from a long time ago named Jin De who's an aboriginal (not "Taiwanese" and not "Hakkan", but another thing, because that's not confusing, right?) and very very Catholic and rocks the necklace with a cross and Jesus hanging on it everywhere he goes.  So he's been having a lot of commitment problems because he's worried that he's betraying his original faith if he comes to our church and that God would be mad at him.  So this week was our "do or die" lesson with him, because he's been saying he'll come to church for the last 6 weeks and he still hasn't, so then we talked about faith a ton and how he has the most belief of literally anybody we've ever met, but that the definition of faith (that he himself said) was that you have to go do something and not fear, which he even recognized that he hasn't been doing.  He hasn't prayed about the Book of Mormon or about our church at all to know if anything we've told him is true, so he committed to that and to come to church this upcoming week!  Such an amazing lesson.  The Spirit was soooo strong in there it was awesome.  He even told us the classic phrase that every missionary wants to hear - "When I'm with you I feel so differently from anywhere else that I want to have that feeling all the time; that's why I meet with you".  Yay!

 

So then we invited tons and TONS of people to church this week and had about 16 actually commit to coming.  The night before about 6 of them cancelled on us (including all of our baptismal date/progressing investigators), and then about 5 didn't show up, but what was super cool is one drunk guy we invited on the street came and brought his friend, and even better our old former investigator Roger (I gave him that name :D) from English class that's like 70 and super Presbyterian who told us he wasn't interested just showed up at church unannounced/unexpected.  So we had 7 people there!  It was awesome.

 

Well that's most of it this week.  Today, like I said, we have that Primary activity that we're helping out with and after that we have to run like the wind to our former investigator family's house who's going to take us to their ancestral home up in the mountains in a place called 南庄 (Nan Zhuang), which is soooo beautiful.  They really just want to be our parents and spoil us and stuff, which is kinda a weird relationship because they literally try and act like we're their kids (like literally just like we're their kids... it's weird) but it's ok.  They're super nice and are totally uninterested in the gospel but we set this up two weeks ago, so hey why not a free trip up the mountains, right?

 

So yeah I hope I get to everyone's emails in time today and if not I'll talk to you next week!

 

--Elder Van De Graaff   -范長老

第三十八個星期 (Week 38)

Well!  Transfers came and....went!  Yes folks, the Lawrence-VDG duo is staying together for another whopping 6 weeks in the bus station!!  We're both really excited to stay and finally see some of the investigators we've met and taught here get baptized!

 

So this past week, it was actually really interesting.  Monday we went to another area in our zone called 苗栗 (ha-ha!  I bet you didn't know it was called that, did you?  The more you know, right?  Good thing you can all read it and know how to say it, right?)  Just kidding - it's called MiaoLi.  So we went down there to this really pretty out-of-the-way river underneath a huge bridge where there's just giant cement blocks laid out in the river.  Like, each of them are like 15 feet long and there's about a 3 foot space in between them.  We have no idea why.  So then Elder Lawrence was like "hey what if we bought a ton of 珍珠 (these little squishy ball things they put in drinks that are super sticky and yummy) and spat them at each other?"  And some of us were like "yeah!" and some were like "um no...!"  So then they went out and got some and then everyone (besides me and one other person :P) ran around on the rocks spitting gross sticky ball things at each other.  So yeah that happened.  We all walked away happy (them for doing it, me for not haha), so I guess it was a good P-Day!

 

Then on Tuesday not a lot happened.  We had district meeting as always, and then some finding and stuff.  Wednesday we had English class, good as always, and it was the day we found out that we weren't moving, so yay!  I also called Elder Jensen to find out what happened with him and we had a good laugh about everything that happened the last two transfers and how he was getting tired of being in the same area for 5 transfers (around 7-8 months).  Ha.  He's going to finish up training this next transfer, so that was really fun to talk to him.  Then, SURPRISE!, 3 hours after calling Elder Jensen (so about 2 AM), I woke up really suddenly and was thinking "huh, that's strange" because that never happens on a mission.  Then I was sitting there and was thinking "huh I have to swallow a ton.  That's like when I need to throw up.  That would be really lame.  Huh I have to throw up.  Right.  Now."  So then I ran to the bathroom and threw up every hour until 7 AM.  Yay!  So then, even better, it turns out that I threw up so hard it popped a blood vessel in my eyeball, so it looks like my eye is kinda bleeding all the time.  Yay!  Everyone in the ward yesterday at church asked me about it, it was pretty funny.  There's this kid in our ward that is known as being super whiny all the time and complains about everything and is just kinda pouty and spoiled and he was walking around pointing at my eye and kept saying "look, your eye!  It's bleeding!  Gross!  What's wrong with you?!  Look, your eye!  It's bleeding!" over and over again.  It was pretty funny.

 

So yeah I'm pretty glad that I didn't move because I was throwing up on transfer day, which would have been pretty bad.  Yay!  I really am super excited to stay and baptize!!!  TouFen is so cool and I love it here!

 

Today we're going to go out to play board games with our entire zone, which will be a lot of fun!  That's all for this week, and I'll talk to you next week from the bus station!!

And from a note home:

On Saturday we had the chance to go to the temple with our RC family, the 蔡家廷 (Cai family), and it was awesome!  We left on a 5:50 AM bus to get there as early as possible, and we got there around 7 AM.  When we walked into the temple, we found out that - Oh No!!  They had all already finished doing the baptisms, so we took them on a tour of the big chapel and to the distribution center and stuff, but it was still awesome.

 

I love the food here!  Elder Lawrence and I always talk about how weird it is that we're in Taiwan and it feels so normal now, because we remember the same stuff from the MTC and coming to Taiwan at the same time and how foreign it all was and stuff.  Like no grass.  And crazy traffic.  And silent public areas.  And crazy food.  And terrible health standards in restaurants.  And people wearing face masks.  And SO MUCH RAIN.  And speaking Chinese I mean what even in the heck!  I love it so much here. 

 

So our mission splits us up by city in smaller places like this, so there's only 1 companionship of sisters and elders per city down here.  For Taibei it's way too big for that, so there's actually 5 zones in Taibei (half of the mission, which is 200 missionaries total), but down here it's fine.  So our zone actually covers about 5 cities I think.  We're also the smallest zone in the mission :) 

 

I hope they realize how great it (the gospel) is too.  They sure need it.  We went knocking last night and probably 15 people told us "no, I don't need it" because they don't want to be rude and just flat-out refuse people.  Oh well.  That's why we're here, right?

 

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第三十七個星期 (Week 37)

 The end of another transfer here at the bus station!  The transfer here ends on Elder Lawrence's birthday, which is this Thursday, and we're expecting to get a call that one of us is going to train in the next day or so!  We'll see what happens.  Honestly, anything could happen.  Either of us could stay, move, train, get white-washed, both stay, or anything!  It's pretty crazy.

 
This week, we had kind of a slower week as we're trying to find new people to teach as those we already have are started to get less and less interested....  Darn it Satan!  A few weeks ago we ended up dropping 7 people, and in the last 3 days we were stood up 7/7 times.
 
But that's ok!  Despite that and then both of us getting sick, we're pushing through and expecting to see some serious miracles as the new transfer picks up.  This week, some really cool things happened:
 
Last week we gave a blessing to a little girl who's the niece or something of one of our amazing members (she made a promise to God that she would try her hardest to help someone get baptized every single year that she's a member) who's been sick and in the hospital for literally more than 2 months.  We left, and didn't hear much more until Saturday.  The girl got better in 2 days.  Completely.  The doctors were completely stumped on how that happened.  The mother and daughter came to church yesterday and loved it.  I love the priesthood!
 
On Wednesday we had the chance to go to Zone Conference in the city of 桃園 (TaoYuan), which is around 45 minutes by train up the coast.  And surprise!  I was asked to accompany a piece on the flute the night before, and because of the long bus ride to the chapel I got there about 15 minutes before the conference started and had to learn the part right then.  It was pretty fun, and it went fine though so it was all good!  The conference was really amazing - we heard from the Asia Area President Elder Funk, who's super awesome.  He gave us a lot of really amazing advice, stories, goals, and plans to help take our mission to the next level.  He also affirmed what a lot of General Authorities have said in the past how President Jergensen is "the best".  And he is!  Another general authority said that he's the best mission president that he had ever seen, and the best one serving right now.  Couldn't agree more!
 
Fun story: we went knocking in an area that we'd never been before (because it was filed with older people that usually aren't willing to change their minds away from the cultural beliefs that their ancestor's ancestors passed down from 2000 years ago), and when we rang a doorbell a 17 year-old girl opened up the door.  She then gasped really loud (think like Mom does when she's scared), and then literally ran/dove to the side of the door behind a screen where we couldn't see her anymore.  Then she started talking really fast to her friends (turns out there were like 5 of them hiding right next to the door) and left the door open.  We didn't really know what to do, so we just kinda stood there for a while waiting for them to come back.  They didn't.  So we knocked on the door again.  And again like 4 minutes later.  Then kinda awkwardly put a tract for our English class in their mailbox and edged away.  So weird!!
 
That was most of everything this week, really.  Things slowed down a little but are looking up this next week or so!  We have a guy who's going to get baptized in early April, and he's progressing really well!  Things are looking up!
 
Good luck everyone, and have a good week!  繼續加油!!

第三十六個星期 (Week 36)

  Hey hey hey!  Another week in "The Bus Station" here in 頭份.  (If you remember our chapel is on the second floor of a bus station).

 

So to get right into it: this week has been a little slow; we had almost no chances to actually meet with our investigators, and then other stuff kept coming up so we had little time go find new ones, and then nobody came to church!  Aaah so sad!  But that's ok, because next week is going to be super awesome, and then we'll keep getting more people to come to church and accept baptism and it'll be great!

 

Last week we had the family we knocked into that just randomly invited us into their house (remember?).  This week we texted them to see if we could come over and she said "yeah come over and eat dinner with us!" and we said "oh ok, I guess if we have to" (just kidding we were obviously really happy to go!).  So we showed up at their house at 6:30, and then she said "come in, come in, my husband's working in 台南 today so he's not here!"  We were about to come in, and we stopped and stared at each other and were like "oh nooo what do we do??" because missionaries have the rule where you can't go into a single woman's home alone without a male there.  So we called the zone leaders.  No answer.  Called the Assistants to the President.  Neither one answered.  We called President Jergensen.  He said "Wow yeah that situation's super awkward!  I don't know; you can't go in, but she did just make you a huge meal.  Good luck Elders!  Do what's right!"  So we started explaining that we couldn't go in because we had a rule to protect us and her and she was like "but I'm like your mom!  Nothing could happen!"  We still insisted and she said "ok ok.  Let's eat dinner outside!"  So, despite the dark, the rain, and the bugs, we ate dinner on her front porch (and since it's Taiwan their porches are really like 3 feet long and their car was right next to us while we ate because it was also their driveway).  She was super cool about it and didn't mind at all.  When her son came home later that night we moved inside and started talking.  Despite starting off a little weird with her showing us weird, slightly scandalous pictures of her ballet dancer daughter who's studying ballet in Germany and maybe probably wanting us to marry her, we had a super awesome lesson with her!  She's seriously so amazingly prepared and it's awesome!

 

That was the coolest thing to happen this week.  We had all of Saturday scheduled to have someone come fix and replace our entire kitchen, and after they scheduled with us, our landlord, our mission office, and our building security guard, and then after they dropped off all of the materials to fix it, our landlord came by 2 hours later and said "oh by the way they don't work on the weekends so they'll have to reschedule for next week.  Sorry."  So now we're going to have to stay inside all day sometime next week, which will be "so Great!"  Just kidding.  It'll be ok, but a little obnoxious.

 

So yeah that was this week in a nutshell!  Thanks for everyone's updates and news and support!  Life is great over here on this side of the world, and I hope life is treating everyone well over there.  加油大家!  Talk to you all next week!

 

 

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第三十五個星期 (Week 35)

Elder Lawrence and Van De Graaff

 So this week!!  We had some fun adventures when we went knocking and finding and stuff!

 
We got home early this week one day, and we decided to go for the last 5 minutes of the day and find someone.  We walked away from our house, picked a direction, and looked around to find anyone.  We glanced back and a street down we saw some motion far away.  We started walking that direction, and before we even reached the person that we saw, we passed by a couple cleaning up their restaurant for the night.  We started talking to them, and they asked us when and where our church was.  We set up a return time, taught them part of the first lesson, gave them the Book of Mormon, and committed them to read/pray daily and come to church next week.  Such an amazing miracle.
 
Last night we went knocking in a neighborhood and we had no success for about an hour.  We have knocked around that neighborhood several times this transfer with varying success.  We finally got to the last house on that row, and saw a man inside sweeping his floor.  We said hello, and he said "Hello, come in!  Please take off your shoes.  Give me a moment, and please sit down!"  We were stunned!  His wife came to the door, let us in, and gave us some oranges to eat then and more to take home.  We taught them the first lesson, and have also committed them to read and pray with a return date to share more.  The miracles are so abundant and amazing here in 頭份!
 
On a bit of a sadder note, we ended up dropping/being dropped by 7 of our investigators this week, 3 of whom had baptismal dates.  So that's really sad.  Also, one of them was Lucas!  Noooo!  It's so sad!  He said that he can't meet with us anymore because he's waaay too busy with his huge test coming up this month, and he said that he wouldn't have time to come to church until "after his test".  We were thinking, ok like a couple weeks, that's ok.  Then he said "So I don't think I'll have time to meet until next year."  We were thinking "NOOOOOOOO curse you scary intense Taiwanese education system!!!!!"  So he's on hold for the moment, but I know that he'll be back and get baptized.  I'm going to ask him for his email and keep up contact with him.  He's so cool!!!
 
We were biking around this week a bunch and getting lost and finding beautiful scenery and meeting cool people and it was awesome!  I'm loving it here, and life is great!  We hit a bit of a slow patch for a week or two, but it's building back up now.  Things are always looking up!
 
I'll talk to everyone next week!  Have a good one!
 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

第三十四個星期 (Week 34)

 I've officially been in Taiwan for 6 months this week!!!!  That's so nuts!  Sometimes I feel like I've been here forever and I'll never leave, and sometimes I feel like I got here yesterday and the end is just around the corner.  It's so weird how fast everything really goes here though!  I can't believe this transfer is already halfway done, but it feels like it just started a few days ago.  Like the phrase in the MTC, "days feel like weeks and weeks feel like days".  So true!

 
So this week we had some sweet adventures!  On last Monday we went to a place called 南庄 (Nan Zhuang), which is a village up in the mountains where there are the.most.BEAUTIFUL shrines and monasteries overlooking gorgeous mountains, forests, and close by the ocean so there's tons of rivers.  So beautiful!  Because my camera is still having some issues, there are no pictures from me but Elder Lawrence (my comp) should be sending some soon.  Up there in the mountains everybody is the ethnic 客家人, or Hakkan people, and a lot of people only speak the Hakka language, which sounds a lot like Tongan or Samoan or something.  It's so sweet!  I'm trying to learn it but it's suuuper hard to memorize.  There's also no other way to learn it besides word of mouth because they don't really have a written system per say, so it's kinda hard.  So cool though!  Above the place where we went was an aboriginal village, but we didn't get to go there.  Hopefully a different day!
 
So this week we went on exchanges with our zone leaders, and when we were on exchanges I had a lesson with a guy named, you probably didn't guess it, Lucas!  Weird, right?  He's 17, and he wanted us to call him Lucas instead of his Chinese name, so we said ok whatever.  His story is actually really really cool.  The same zone leader ran into him on the street on a different exchange, but they didn't really share anything about the gospel with him.  When they walked away from meeting him, they thought "wow that was dumb we didn't even try and share the gospel!  What are we doing?  Darn it!"  So then - miracle - they ran into him again later, shared about the church, and invited him to meet.  Fast forward to me and the same zone leader, we meet with him and Surprise! he lives in my area, so he's actually my investigator!  So the lesson turns out to be one of the most spiritual, amazing lessons ever, and he sets a baptismal date specifically so that he can help his younger brothers and provide a good example for them and to help his parent's relationship improve.  After some seriously inspired questions, he told us how his parents are divorced, and his interest in meeting the church is because he hopes Jesus and God will help his parents' relationship improve and help his brothers and sister be able to make it through life the happiest.  After we shared the First Vision, I asked him if his brother came up to him and told him he had seen God and Jesus and needed to restore a church, would he believe him?  He thought and said "I would ask about all of the details, then think about it, and then if it really was my brother I would believe him and do everything I could to help and protect him."  We were stunned!  He's so cool!  Fast forward to two nights ago when I was following up with him over the phone to find out if we could meet yesterday, and after the phone call the best way I can describe it is that the Spirit hit me like a truck and I felt like HE NEEDS TO BE BAPTIZED.  It was crazy.  My whole body like clenched up and I had to just sit there for a while and wait it out and then was like "Ok, ok God I get it!  We're working on it!"  Fast forward again, and on the way to his lesson yesterday we left with 22 minutes to get there.  He lives somewhere that's about 20-25 minutes away.  I think it's around 12 KM or so.  We got there in 9 minutes because we hit literally every single green light, even when it felt like we probably shouldn't have.  We got there are were like "ok, ok God I get it!  We're working on it!"  The lesson was super awesome, and when we shared about the Celestial Kingdom he said "that sounds amazing!  I want to go there so that I can be with my family and I want to make sure that my family gets there so we can have eternal happiness!"  He's so cooooool!!!!
 
So that was the biggest miracle of the week by far.  Besides that, we had interviews with President Jergensen and a training by his wife on the importance of the sacrament and how we need to become better people ourselves before we could ever expect the same of others.  It was really awesome!  President is also so amazing.  He is so inspired on everything he does.  It became so clear after living right next to the mission office, and then again all the way down here on the west coast in TouFen it is so clear because of the help he gives to every area, and it is awesome!
 
By way of totally not miracles, we've had some....very interesting people stalking us for a few weeks now.  There's this super gay guy from a while ago that's in our phone as "Don't Answer" and he started texting us again.  We have another "Don't Answer Food Lady" because she texts us like once a day and then finds us in random places and tries to put rotten food in our bikes or give it to us to eat.  And then it gets better!  When I got here there was a random number that texted us a scripture from Matthew.  I texted back "thanks, that's a great scripture!  Here are some other ones I like" and then sent some others, then said "Hey who is this?"  She has then texted us around 5 times per day every single day since.  We have had 60 texts from her in less than 2 weeks.  She texts us scriptures from any scripture she can (BoM, D&C, Bible, PoGP, everything), to tell us how our church is wrong, how Taiwan's government is evil, how America needs to fall, how she wants to find us, and then texted us one time how she found the sister missionaries.  We talked to them later and found out that she walked into one of their really awesome lessons and showed them porn and said "look, it looks like you!".  That same day a different woman walked into the church house, gave them a bag and said "don't mention it" and stormed off.  Inside the bag were some feminine care products.  We have no idea.  But it gets better!  There is also a woman that sits outside our church (our church is on the second floor of a bus stop, by the way) and keeps coming up to me and telling me how she reads the BoM but she smokes, but stays away from all red drinks.  Or something.  But it gets better!  We have an actual active member that likes to grab people.  She grabbed me on my first week and stared at me and (looks absolutely terrifying, by the way) said "wow you're so...you're so....beautiful!  You remind me of Jesus!  You're so perfectly beautiful!!"  Then yesterday at church, she grabbed my jacket when I wasn't looking and stared up at me and started making the most creepy, surreal meowing noise, and then kept punching me in the arm.  It was literally the most surreal moment of my life.
 
And so we say "WELCOME TO THE BUS STATION!"  As our district motto.  I love TouFen so much!  It's so weird!  I love it!
 
That's about it this week.  Thanks for everyone's news and letters of support and updates!  Today we were going to go to the beach, but then it's super rainy and it's been FREEEEEZING this week (finally - literally the second time this winter that it's been below like 60 or 70 degrees), so then we were going to go bowling, but it's closed, and so now we're going to go to a board game store and play games!  It's a national holiday today and tomorrow, so the ward really wanted to hang out with us so it'll be really fun!  Also in a sec we're going to go and eat another BBQ with a member from Taibei that wants to see me and some other people!  I love members!!  Talk to you all more next week!
 
Anyways one last funny thing I forgot: Elder Lawrence called a potential investigator that they found a long time ago, and this American guy answered.  He started swearing a bunch and said "hey, are you one of those hot sexy missionary guys?"  And Elder Lawrence got really awkward and was like "Um, I don't really know how to answer that question...."  Then this guy asked him on a date like 5 times and said "oh, I've met tons of you hot missionaries in America, and I know a bunch that are in the closed about being gay but it's ok!  Just tell me, you are, aren't you?"  And Elder Lawrence was so awkward and confused, it was so funny!  So we might have another don't answer number.  Also that number I mentioned in the main email that sends us the scriptures we titled "Don't Answer Random Scripture and Food Lady".  Yay fun times, right?  Love you guys!
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

第三十四個星期 (Week 34) February 20, 2017

Time moves so fast!  This week literally just disappeared!  Also fun fact - I'll have been in Taiwan for 6 months in 3 days.  So that's super weird!  It really has gone so fast here.

 
So this week!  Last Monday we didn't really have many plans for P-Day, so we went shopping at a big place called RT Mart (it and another store called Carrefour are kinda like Costco but for everything, not just food).  I saw a jacket that was pretty nice and I was like "wow I need a jacket and this would be perfect, but it's seventeen hundred 元, which is like sixty dollars!  No way!"  And then I looked and if you have a membership (which the member that was there with us did) it was only seven hundred 元, which is only twenty five dollars or so, and I was like "Sweeeeet!"  So I bought it.  It is literally so comfortable.  So then we left the store and we went to the beach just kinda cus (also the member with us bought a car last week and wanted to practice because he hadn't driven in twenty  years).  So we drove the fifteen to twenty-ish minutes to the beach and ate some uber-fresh seafood!  I love Taiwan!!!
 
On Tuesday we went to the night market in our area because Elder Lawrence (my new companion, if you forgot) bought a blanket from there for super cheap that's literally the most comfy thing I've ever felt (we joke that our robes in the celestial kingdom are going to be made out of that blanket because it's literally the most comfortable thing you can have), so I got one too!  I looooove that blanket!  Sometimes when it's a little chilly in our apartment I wear it for studies and I just want to drown in it forever.  Also at the same place I found a belt for one hundred 元 (or three dollars) that's super nice and adjustable, which is really handy.  I love night markets!
 
On Wednesday our English class, which has been struggling here for a while now, suddenly had fifty people show up!  So that was awesome.  We also started "heart attacking" some member's houses for Valentines day, but we ran out of time and could only do like two houses, but that's ok.  Still fun, and they really liked it.  Nobody really celebrates Valentines Day here (or really any holidays that we do in America), but people kinda know what it is.
 
This week we met with a member family who said that they also had a family they wanted to introduce to us, so we started meeting with them and they are so awesome!  We shared about Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the church and the husband of the family looked at us afterwards and said "when you were talking it felt like the feeling you get when you come home after a long journey, being surrounded by family and those you love most."  So amazing!  We met with them again for their son's birthday party, and the husband came to church yesterday!  We're going to be playing basketball with the wife's brother today too, so it's super awesome!
 
Some adventures we had this week when we went knocking in a neighborhood that had had some great success last week - we walked up to a house that had a family of four playing a board game with the door open.  When we knocked on the door the mom looked up at us, stared for a minute, and then waved us away yelling "Nobody's home!  We're not here!  Go away!  Nobody's home!"  It was really funny, because they had the door open and were staring at us!  Another person opened the door and said "Oh, sorry, everyone's asleep right now, we can't talk!" and then shut the door and ran inside despite people being noisy right behind the door.  Taiwanese people are so awkward about offending people, no matter how much they don't want to talk to them, so they make up weird excuses to avoid a confrontation.  Which is really super nice, but it leads to some really funny comments!
 
In the same neighborhood a lady opened the door and we started talking to her a little bit.  She was a little bit interested but not a lot, but was happy to chat.  When we were about to leave and asked her if there was anything we could do to help her, she got quiet, looked a little hesitant, and said "no, I'll just tell you about it the next time you come over".  When we pried a little more, "I've got two things, but they're just silly things".  More prying later, she said that her husband's work was pretty bad, but that she didn't want to talk about it until next time.  Some context for this situation - since Taiwanese people never want to have any kind of confrontation or things like that they also feel awful if they've made you spend time or effort on them because they would never want to take you away from more important things.  So whenever we ask to help people they never say yes.  So the fact that she said there was something in the first place was huuuuuge!  And then that it was something that was not tangible that a missionary specifically could help with (instead of like helping someone move a box or something like that) was really nifty.  Yay service!
 
So today we're going to a place called 南庄, which is a place with a whole bunch of ancient Buddhist temples representing some of the different worlds they believe in that's apparently super pretty and has some aboriginal stuff up in the mountains somewhere, so I'm super pumped!  Also yeah, we're going to play basketball with that investigator afterwards, so that's going to be fun too.
 
That's all for now, folks!  I'll talk to you more next week - same missionary time, same missionary channel!  (Heh old Batman reference).  加油 everyone!
 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

第三是三個星期 (Week 33) February 13, 2017

 I left Taibei!!!  By way of information, I'm waaaay down at the bottom of the mission on the west coast in the beautiful land of 頭份 (TouFen).  It's in the county of ZhuNan/MiaoLi (竹南/苗栗).  It's a little confusing, because we're in the ZhuNan zone, but in the XinZhu stake, but in the MiaoLi county.  Hmmm...  But it's awesome down here!!!  I'm so happy to have come back to the west coast, and soak up the culture and amazing people down here!

 

So my camera...kinda broke again this week, so no pictures for the moment.  I'll work on getting more from my new companion - Elder Lawrence!  He actually came to Taiwan at the same time as me, but he was in a different MTC district (same zone though).  He's so awesome.  He's a great missionary, super super 帥, has awesome Chinese, great at basketball, loves the work and the Lord, and is my District Leader (yay another companion to the DL!).  We are kinda out in the middle of nowhere and I love it!  There are a lot of people here that only speak the native Hakkan language (I want to learn it so bad!) instead of Chinese, almost no foreigners around here, everything's suuuper cheap compared to Taibei, there are actual empty spaces (literally there was no empty space in the entire city of Taibei), I melted my pants I bought in training on our iron, had to stitch up my other pants, baptized a grandma who doesn't speak Chinese on Saturday named Wu Lan Xiang, had a baking class, I'm riding a returned sister's bike from more than a year ago, I have 8 minutes to email so not much time left, I'm loving life, and I'll send more later!!  I think that's about it for right now so more next week!!!

 

Also our church is on the second floor of a random bus station, and the grandma I baptized happened in a kiddy pool that is the only thing we have for a baptismal font!  I love it here!  Life is so great!

 

-Elder Van De Graaff

-范長老

第三十一個星期 (Week 31)

With the Chen Family!

 Happy New Years!!!!!  新年快樂!!!!

 
So Lunar New Years is a waaaay bigger thing here than normal New Years, and it's a 6 day long party!  The members have fed us every meal since the start and will continue until lunch on Thursday!  (It started on Friday)  I loooove Taiwan!  The food is so awesome here (except some really weird stuff they feed you, but that's to be expected), and yesterday we got another BBQ, and tonight we have another one!  So happy :D
 
Not a lot of time to email, but pretty much things are mostly the same as last week.  Funny story: there's an investigator and a recent convert that we have that have been taught for about 7 or 8 months now.  It's a mom (investigator) and her son (RC).  They both have Asberger's syndrome, and it's not so severe they can't do anything or things like that but it's obvious.  They don't really understand the word of wisdom, and the mom has a really bad coffee addiction and a small smoking problem.  She has told us a few times that she wants to be baptized, but she says that there is no way in heaven or earth that she can quit drinking coffee (smoking is apparently no problem).  She said she'll try to quit, but if she doesn't and we say she can't be baptized, that's ok with her.  We were going to ask her son what he did to overcome it, and he said "hey mom, it's no problem if you don't quit drinking coffee!  I haven't even quit, and they let me be baptized!"  And my companion and I looked at each other like "ohhhh nooooooo you did not just say that".  We're working on it.
 
So for New Years everyone goes back to their family homes, which all turn out to be in the southern part of Taiwan, so Taibei has very few people up here!  It's actually still quite a few, but it feels like so much less than normal!  Another funny story: we were tracting last night at the park in our area, and there was a car of 4 girls and 1 guy parked across the street that were all (except the dad) just staring at us as we walked.  I looked up and they yelled "Missionaries!!" which is really weird unless you're a member here.  So then they yelled "where's your chapel?" which is even weirder, especially if you're a member.  So we were super confused, told them where it was, and then the 4 girls started piling out of the car and walked over.  They were asking us where we were from, how long we had been there, where we were headed, where our church was, our full names, and a whole bunch of kinda weird things like that really fast.  So then I handed them a tract in case they weren't members, and then found out that they were members from GaoXiong (the south-west of Taiwan) that were just up here visiting, and their daughter's going on a mission in 5 months to England but will visa-wait up here first.  Super weird and we got really freaked out at first to see 3 20-something year-old girls and their (probably) mom walk out of a car and chase us down.  Really funny though!
 
So that's most of what happened this week!  Still loving life, loving getting so fat from being fed waaay too much food too fast, and it's awesome!  Thanks for everyone's emails and talk to you next week!

Waiting for an Investigator

Silly Photos

huge service project

第三十個星期 (Week 30)

Huge service project

Daaaang, I've been here for 30 weeks!  Minus the 9 in Provo, of course, but daaaang!

 
So then!  We met with the miracle find guy who self-contacted us in 西門町, and he's really interested in meeting with us and hearing the gospel!  When he walked up to us originally at Christmas time he said "I know you!  Missionaries helped me quit smoking before and I need your help to help me quit drinking."  So we said "OK!"  And now we're helping him set a plan to quit.  His goal was to quit within a year, which would be a pretty great achievement because he's been drinking literally every single day for 30 years, but we said "We can do BETTER!" and now he's got a plan to stop in 6 weeks that he agreed to!  He's super awesome.  I think he's definitely going to get baptized when he stops drinking - he literally accepts everything that we teach because he knows where he was and how this can help him.  So cool!  His name's Jimmy 陳 (Chen - sounds like Chun).  Love ya Jimmy!
 
We had more interviews with President Jergensen last week, and know he's going to have those with us every single transfer (6 weeks), which will be so cool!  He's an amazing man, and has really changed the mission for the better in almost every way and only continues to do so.  I love it!
 
The guy that we found on the street who needed food and we were helping him do so thought he could get a job, worked for one day, but then they told him he worked too slow so he couldn't stay.  Dangit!  But his brother came in from the southern part of Taiwan on Saturday so we'll see how that went for him.  He's been waiting for his brother to come so that he could help feed him and give him a home for a while, and I really hope it's working out!  He's really great, but he just needs so much right now.  Oh well; we're doing what we can.
 
This week we actually met with an American guy who's here on scholarship to learn Chinese.  He's actually a minister in a different Christian denomination, even though he's only around 28 or so and has been for some time now.  He's super cool and really believes in God and firmly stands by the fact that he has seen/performed miracles through the power of Christ and whatnot, which was really interesting to hear.  Sadly he's being passed off to somebody else, but he's a really interesting guy.  It was so weird to have a lesson in English!  It was so hard!  It was also really weird to talk to someone who was already Christian!  That's literally the second or third time I've ever sat down with someone who's Christian and I don't know what I'm doing!  It was pretty funny.  Really cool to learn more about how other denominations of Christianity work, too!
 
So we've had a good week so far, but sadly not as many people to meet with as we would like.  Everyone's super busy right now, and a lot of people can't meet until next week because....drumroll please.....  Chinese New Years!!!  Or, the way easier way to say it in Chinese, 過年 ("Guo nian"), or "the passing year".  It starts on Friday and it goes until Next Wednesday, and the ward is going to feed us every single meal from Friday to Wednesday!  I'm so happy!  Also fun fact Chamberlain from the University Ward is still here and he's going to take us out to the Taipei 101 to eat lunch and head up to the top next Monday!  That'll be fun.  Today we're going to go to Costco with our ward mission leader (yes they have Costco here) to buy food to last us the rest of the transfer - and beyond!  So that's cool.  Then hopefully we'll make it back in time to go play volleyball with the rest of our district too!  That'd be fun.
 
Sorry about last week - I ran out of time because we went to the temple on Wednesday!  So last week's recap was - we went to the place called YingGe along the west coast of Taiwan (close to my first home Zhubei!) and I bought a sweeeet ocarina!  It's so pretty!  If you know Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it's that one.  The blue one.  Like minus the Triforce it's exactly the same.  It's so pretty!  That's why I asked for some music last week because I don't have much to use it on!  It can play anything you can sing (if you sing in the treble clef), and I was thinking having some music from that game it would be really fun!  Also in the same place they sell.  Real.  Swords!  They're so legit!  They're gorgeous, almost 3 feet long, and they're only $40-$50 US!  Who knows the customs rules on bringing a sword home?  :P  I didn't buy one....(yet).
 
So I'm off to Costco!  過年快樂!!!  I hope everyone celebrates Chinese New Years - tell me what you do for it :P  Just kidding; but that would be pretty fun!  Thanks for everyone's constant news, updates, and support!  It's so weird to think that I've been on my mission for 7 months and in Taiwan for 6 next month!  It's so crazy!  I love it here so much though.
 
Talk to you next week!

第二十九個星期 (Week 29)

companion love, awwwww!

Hey hey hey and almost happy Chinese New Years!  Anyone have special plans?  Just kidding.

 
So I have pretty much no time to write this email, but this week we went to the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall (which is huge and in our area - look it up sometime), we have some sweet investigators and members and life is awesome, we are getting more and more success on the streets as well as solving concerns for our investigators, we have a sweet district/president, I don't know what else to say, I bought a sweet ocarina (it's in 1C if anyone can send me some music :D), and that's life around Taibei!
 
Gotta run to the temple!  Bye!

第二十八個星期 (Week 28)

So last Monday we ran to another one of those all-you-can-eat BBQs (an awesome member literally named YoLo paid for us to eat there), then hung out at a park and passed around a soccer ball, which was pretty fun.
 
A really funny member told me that I should introduce my name as 『我姓范,飯桶的飯』, which means "my name is food, as in the food that's in the word that means I'm an idiot!".  So that's pretty funny.  We say it to people on the street sometimes and they either totally don't get it, try and correct me because they're worried that I really think my name sounds like "idiot".  Also he told me about this ancient famous Chinese scholar/general/prime minister/priest guy in the 松 (Song) dynasty named 范仲淹 who has the same last name as me!  So that's pretty cool.  He also gave us free sunglasses from his shop, which are pretty nice.  They cost around 300 元, or about $10, and he gave it to me for free!  Yay members!
 
We went on exchanges with the APs (Assistants to the President) this week, because they're in our district, and that was pretty fun.  Elder Jensen got to go to the British ambassador to Taiwan's house to have a meeting because he's the English ward mission leader, and I got to go run to a night market and try and contact people.  So that was pretty fun :P  I would say I got the short end of the stick for that day!
 
We went to this noodle shop in our area that was pretty famous, and then I tried getting beef noodle soup but when they said they didn't have any beef but had some pork, so when I said "yeah ok" they handed me a ton of noodle soup that was full of squid balls.  Surprise!  Elder Jensen got this nice pork chop rice stuff, and that's what I got.  Yep.  But it gets better!  That night we got fed some intestine noodle soup goop stuff.  Yay!  I love Taiwan <3  elder="" jensen="" was="" in="" the="" bathroom="" for="" about="" an="" hour="" that="" night="" because="" of="" the="" intestine="" soup. ="">
 
Cool story!  We decided on trying to find near or in the park in our area, but when we got there we were still unsure of where to go.  We prayed and still didn't know where to go, so we picked a direction and started contacting those we passed.  Nobody was interested, and we reached a long open sidewalk along the park with only 1 or 2 people on it.  We approached a man and told him that we had a special, happy message that would bless his life.  When we told him that he started crying and told us that he had no happiness, and that no man could help him.  We assured him that God could and would help him with any problem, no matter what.  We tried to set a time to meet with him and share, but he said that he might not be around to meet because he "didn't know what would happen tomorrow or the next day", which sounded like he might not live in a few days.  He told us he needed to go eat, and when we asked if he had money he broke down crying and said he only had 5 dollars.  We told him we would pay, and he walked off saying "no, I can't take your money!"  We ran to a store nearby, bought him 2 蛋餅 (boxed lunch kinda things), tracked him down about 45 minutes later, and made sure he took the food.  He broke down crying again, told us that he would definitely call us, pointed to the sky and said "thank you, brothers".  Truly a miracle!  I've been praying to find him again to be able to help him more.
 
So that's been this week in a nutshell!  Next week we're supposed to have like 10 people come to church, which would be sweeet, but for right now we're just trying to get in contact with everyone.  So next week is our temple day, so our P-Day is changed to next WEDNESDAY, NOT MONDAY, so that's when I'm going to be on to email.  We're going to go down to this place called 鶯歌 (ying ge) today and buy an ocarina that they make there!  I've heard/seen them from other missionaries, and they are so cool!  Then we're going to come back up and go to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (it's actually in our area - we pass it every day but I've never gone in), so that'll be really fun.  Yay!  Talk to you all next week!

第二十七個星期 (Week 27)

新年快樂!!!  That means Happy New Years!!! for those of you who don't read Traditional Chinese characters that only Taiwan really uses anymore!!!  Jeez, what are you guys doing in America, come on people!  Just kidding, everyone's special in their own special way.

 
So this week!  Last P-Day we got to meet up with Chamberlain (from the University Ward), which was so much fun.  We got some beef noodle stew, which is always really good, and then some burgers with some vanilla milkshakes, which was so good.  Yay!  Then we taught some lessons and had to be responsible for most of the day, but that's ok.
 
Tuesday - not much!  We met with our funny investigator who loves video games named Mr. 李, and that was really most of the day.  Yay!
 
Wednesday, we had English class (no students again....), but then we got to meet with some of our awesome investigators that night.  Like our one investigator Andy is the NuSkin Asia president, and he used to be the Taiwan advertisement manager for J-Chou, for anyone who knows who that is.  He's so cool.  He comes to English class every week so he can improve his English to tell his success story to more people to inspire them to have success.  He's so cool.
 
Thursday!  Transfer day!  I'm still here!  We had a completely blank day, so we decided to take things in stride and spontaneously make a ton of cookies and started delivering them to some members.  That was pretty fun.  We decided to deliver them to one of our members who works in 西門町 (the huuuuge market that we live next to), and then a guy came up to us amidst the thousands of people and asked if he could learn more about our church.  Oh yeah and when I asked him how he knew who we were, he smiled, chuckled, put his arm around our shoulders, and then started praying.  It was fun.  So we're going to meet with him this week!  Yay!
 
Friday!  Finding!  Yay!  Not a lot of success, but that's ok!
 
Because Saturday - Baptism!!!  Not ours, sadly (is that sad?  I guess not), but the sisters!  I played the flute for it, while a newly arrived sister in our district sang and the other newly arrived sister in our district played the piano.  It was pretty fun.  Yay baptism!
 
Sunday!  It was looking like it was going to be a sad day because nobody was showing up to church, and then a guy I had called the night before who said he could come showed up an hour late.  We met with him afterwards and it turned out that his mother had been baptized about 2 years ago, and he had been there for all of the lessons and gone to church many times.  So yesterday we reviewed the first 3 lessons (out of 5 needed to be baptized, for those of you who aren't familiar with how it works) in an hour.  We decided that was enough for that day because we wanted to have something else to talk about with him, really, and he was like "oh, is that all for today?"  We asked him if we could set a baptismal date, he said "of course!", so we said "next week?" and he said "oh, that's probably too fast", and we said "3 weeks then?" and he said "yeah that'd be great!"  The.  Most.  Golden investigator ever.  So happy!
 
Then today we were just sitting here emailing and stuff and then we were talking to the zone leaders (by the way Elder Holloway is my zone leader now!  Yay reunited with my father!) and they said "all-you-can-eat BBQ?" and a member had already said he wanted to treat us to one, so we said "ok!" and then we did.  And it was sooooo good!!  Yay!  So much ice cream and BBQ meat.  And it was free!  I love nice members!!  Really, if you help out missionaries I promise you they appreciate it, even if they don't show it sometimes.
 
That's all for today, folks, so I'll talk to everyone next week!  新年快樂!
 
 
Love you guys!  Talk to you next week!
 
Three fun things to check out:

 

1. Inspiring mission Christmas slide show! https://youtu.be/jXfTnPjGOcA You can see pictures with Luke at 10:54, 11:52, 12:24 and 12:41. 

 

2. Musical Christmas program! https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=taiwan%20taipei%20mission You can see Lucas playing his flute starting at 27:00 and 1:09:05.

 

3. Dancing with the "Grandma's" at the park!  

https://www.facebook.com/doris.yang.1428?pnref=story He is the one with the bright blue tshirt and black shorts toward the left. 

Dad's mission photo

第二十六個星期 (Week 26)

Christmas Party

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!!  聖誕節和過年快樂!!!

 
So I have to go pretty soon so here's what happened this week.  So last Monday we went shopping with Elder Holloway and his companion Elder Carson, which was pretty fun.  We found a lot of cool stuff, which was sweeet.
 
Tuesday!  We met with a guy named Peter who said "you will never convert me" and we said "will you read the Book of Mormon?" and he said "yeah sure I love reading" and we said "prayer?" and he said "I will never pray in my life" and we said "awwww.... ok but can we meet again next week and see?" and he said "yeah ok".  Then we went on short exchanges with the APs and were invited to eat this super expensive vegan food that was really good.

Wednesday was cool, we met with a new guy named Liao先生 (Mr. Liao) who has helped build all of the nuclear powerplants in Taiwan, which was pretty cool.  He never stopped talking about it though so we're meeting him today again and teaching the real first lesson.  Then we had the worst English class ever!  It was absolute chaos, which was pretty fun.
 
Thursday!  It was our Mission Conference/Christmas Party and it was so much fun!  We did something called "Amah Dancing" for our part in the talent show and it was so fun.  Look up that on YouTube and you'll (probably) find something fun.  It was such an awesome party.
 
Friday we went caroling in 西門丁, the big market that we live in, and it was so fun!  I got to conduct it, which was pretty fun.  A young girl (like 12) came up and just started conducting too but had no idea what she was doing and it was funny.
 
Saturday we spent all day at the church when we helped bake cookies for our ward's Christmas party that night, and then went and practiced/performed our mission's Nativity performance.  That was pretty fun but it was an exhausting day.

Sunday!  Christmas!  We got to call home (yay so much fun!), and then we had to scramble around looking for the investigators that promised to come to church and most of whom didn't!  Yay!  But we did get 2 there out of the 6 promised ones, so that's all good.  Then we performed again that night, and it was filmed and apparently streamed somewhere on Facebook I guess so you can look it up there and watch it if you want!
 
So today we're going to go and eat lunch with Chamberlain from my home ward which will be really fun and then we're going to teach a lesson and then go to dinner with a member and teach another lesson and then give a blessing and then find all night!!!  Yay!
 
So that's pretty much all of my time today, so Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, 祝大家聖誕節跟過年快樂!  Thanks for all of the Christmas wishes and information, and I'll talk to you all next week!

第二十五個星期 (Week 25)

Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas from the Land Without Snow!

Hello not Taiwan!  I really need to get better greetings, I'm just running out really fast....

 

Here's what a good mission friend of mine sent in his weekly email that I really like and associate with: "Spiritual Share: This week I've learned that converts are miracles. We (the missionaries) ask people to literally change their lives SO much. And before my mission I thought "Yeah, we ask them to change their lives. Duh, I mean it's easy. Why isn't everyone in the church?" But after asking people to stop drinking tea when they've been drinking tea every day for their whole life, and asking them to tell their parents they can't drink tea anymore when it's ingrained into their culture, or asking people to give up 10% of what they earn when money is tough, etc.  has changed my perspective on those who join the church. Converts are MIRACLES. They are AWESOME. So, go meet a convert sometime this week and tell them that they're awesome. Because they really are."
 
So Christmas is coming!  That's exciting.  First off I hope everyone's having a good break/prep for Christmas this coming Sunday and has a chance to be home for the holidays!  It still has barely hit that it's Christmas time, because here in Taibei the weather this week literally went SUMMER!  Summer summer WIIIIINNNNNTTEEEEERR Winter!  Fall? Summer!  Like right now (and last night when we went out finding) I'm just wearing a short-sleeve shirt and it's not even cold.  Yay humidity on a tiny island!
 
So last Monday we had our last choir practice...and that was about it!  Also Elder Jensen bought really nice basketball shoes for 1000 NTD ($30 US).  So that's fun.
 
Tuesday we ate dinner with our ward mission leader and with 黃姐妹 (Sister Huang), the one who emailed all those pictures of us at the Christmas thing yesterday and who I gave a blessing to last week.  She helps us soooooo much, it's ridiculous.  So our ward mission leader has been wanting to feed us for a few weeks, and we ate steak, 2 pizzas, and 2 chocolate cakes.  It was awesome.  The food wasn't the best ever, but it was so much and it was really nice.  Yay nice members!  I also taught our mission leader how to play the flute!  He bought one and has been trying to self-teach, so I gave him fingerings and some basic exercises.  He's learning so fast!
 
On Wednesday we wanted to have our English class be super awesome, so Elder Jensen came up with having a safari around the church building with stuffed animals, so we got it all set up, and then nobody showed up until 30 minutes left in the class!  So that's this week's plan.
 
Thursday we met with a guy named "Mr. Li", the guy that's 20 years old and only plays video games and lives in somebody's basement.  Like literally that's him.  When we ran into him on the street he was literally walking with his arms flared out from the elbows down like a penguin.  It was fun.  He also has the worst dandruff and acne I have ever seen.  He's pretty cool though, and so we set up an appointment and he came!  We were skeptical because he gave us the wrong number, but he was there!  Yay!  He's really funny - he was taking notes in English on his phone, but he would write a word or 2 and then delete them.  Also he can't speak English, but he's got good spelling.  Go figure.
 
Friday we had our Weekly Planning Session, like every week, and that was one of the only notable things about Friday really.  Good day otherwise.
 
On Saturday we had a basketball tournament all morning with the intention of getting tons of investigators and member referrals to come, but it kinda flopped.  A lot of people came, but they didn't want to listen or talk to missionaries, and the teams were all really unbalanced.  Then everyone left early, so it didn't work out as planned.  But that's ok, it was still fun.  Then that morning our ward members told us about a thing that night that we didn't know about, so we got 2 investigators to give us a solid maybe on coming last-minute, and then they didn't show and and we got drafted to sing with our ward choir!  It was a lot of fun.  That's where all of those pictures with the Santa hats came from.
 
Sunday we had a good time at church.  We had 6 people confirm for church, but only got 3, and 2 of them were more than an hour late.  That's ok though!  This week we got 6 new investigators, which is a big deal!  So it's all good.
 
Today we were originally going to go to the beach, but instead we're going to go with Elder Holloway and his companion Elder Carson and go shopping/exploring around our areas.  Yay!  Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas from the Land Without Snow!  Talk to you all next week!
 

######Light the World!#######

So there's this video that we (and through us, the church) has been trying to share for December this year!  It's called Light The World, and there's a # that goes along with it - I bet you can't guess, but it's #LightTheWorld.  Yep.  That complex.  Here's the link: https://www.mormon.org/?cid=HP_FR_25-11-2016_dMIS_fmorg_xLIDyL1-A_  Do it!  Loves!

the symbol from the anime Fairy Tail

This is all of the stuff I've attached to my bag so far. The big red one is actually stashed inside the little pocket so it's not distracting for missionary work, don't worry!

These are some "Red Envelopes" that I found in a sweet store last week. It's Chinese culture to give these for birthdays/Chinese New Years with money inside or other random stuff and these were super pretty!

Some fun little notes that Elder Jensen left for me.... Love you mom!

第二十四個星期 (Week 24)

Hello hello!  I am running out of different greetings to send every week, so I apologize if any are repeating!

 
So this week!  The barbecue last week was awesome as usual, but we had to leave early because we had a lesson really far away so we could only stay for 1 of the usual 2 hours they give you.  Sad day!  But it was so good.
 
Tuesday was zone meeting, which was pretty fun.  We talked a lot about how to find on the streets a little better and really perfecting street contacting, which was really good.  We talked about ways to resolve each of the basic rejections that people give us, like "Oh, I'm Buddhist" or "I think all churches or the same" or "I have no time" or things like that.  It was really useful!
 
Then on Tuesday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders, which was a lot of fun.  I met this guy with Elder Seely (one of our zone leaders) named Mr. Bill.  He was so funny!  He was totally drunk, but he loved to talk and wanted to practice his English which was actually pretty good.  He told me I look like Tom Cruise and have a "camera face", which was really funny.  He thought I was 30, and when I told him I was 19 he said "whaaat?  No way!!  If you're this good-looking now, when you're 45 you're going to be sooooooo handsome!!!!"  It was really funny.  He said "call me up any time, and ask for Mr. Bill - that's me! - and say you're Mr. De Grayf" (he said it weird).  It was so funny.
 
Wednesday we had our English class again, and this time we had only 1 student!  So somehow we lost our 2 students from last week, and were stuck with one really shy boy who didn't want to participate that much until we let him draw on the whiteboard.  So that was fun.
 
On Thursday Elder Jensen called our mission nurse, and got permission to ride a bike again!!  Yay!  So now, instead of having to take the MRT (subway) everywhere, we can ride our bikes and go to less weird areas to find people!  Yay!  So we went to this park at the bottom of our area called "Youth Park" and found this group of old women.  Now, old women are really special and funny here in Taiwan.  They are obsessed with exercise here and it's often pretty weird.  A favorite of old women (and some men) is walking on these really painful rocks that are supposed to make you healthy if you can walk on them.  Or something.  They hurt so bad don't do it!  Anyways, there are actual paid public servants that lead groups of old women in dancing to music (usually the latest pop/hip hop songs) and it is THE FUNNIEST THING you will ever see!  It is so freaking hilarious and amazing, I love it so much!!!  For reference, grandma is a title for any old woman and it's "Ama" (said like ah - ma), and so they're called the "Dancing Amas".  They are so dang funny and they get soooo into it.  I love Taiwan!
 
Friday we did a mission-wide "member day" where we tried to visit 5 members on that day.  Sadly we didn't make it, but we did get 5 members in the weekend and worked with them on their mission plans and tried to establish some kind of plan and effort on their part, so it was really cool!  Members are the best tools missionaries have for the work!!  Trust me, you guys do more than we ever can and the members here are so awesome.  Some members thought that since they had already mentioned to their friends that they were members that was all they could do, but we tried to tell them how their testimonies are an amazing tool they have to share the gospel.  We'll see!
 
Saturday we sang part of our Christmas choir concert thing at the Lion's Club in New Taibei City, which went ok.  We then helped the English ward perform a huuuuge nativity program twice, and that was the whole day.
 
Then Sunday, and we met with some members, and then helped the English ward again that night.  That night I was talking to a woman in our ward who helps us out a ton and how her son in Japan on his mission has been in some accidents and she's really worried about him.  I told her about how God is looking out for him - he's been miraculously fine each time - and then she asked for a blessing.  I gave it and it was really really awesome.  She was in tears until she left to go home, and it was a really powerful moment.  Yay!
 
So that's been this week!  I have to go soon because we haven't eaten lunch yet and we have to go to choir practice in an hour, so that's this week!  I love all of you, and 加油!!

第二十三個星期 (Week 23)

opening Christmas gifts a little early!

Another week, another bazillion miracles, another Monday from Taibei!  Let's get to it, shall we?

 
 
Tuesday we had district meeting and stuff as usual.  Yep that was Tuesday.
 
Then Wednesday we had English class where we actually had students!  We got put in as the kid's class teachers!...  Again!....  Sound familiar?  I'm sensing a pattern here.  It's ok though!  Kids are hilarious and adorable, so I'm happy!  We played Red Light/Green Light with them and they almost died from hyperventilating from laughing too hard at Elder Jensen.  Good times, good times.
 
On Friday we went looking for a less-active guy in our ward that the bishop asked us to find named Ned Richardson Byers.  We went to his address to find out that it's the hotel that a lot of foreigners stay at, and the guy who owned it said how he's been looking for Ned because he disappeared one day.  Then the hotel guy ran into Ned's wife on the street, who told him that Ned's on the run from the police because he's a wanted man for some crime he did.  So that was fun!  It was hilarious though because the hotel guy said "Oh, Ned?  Yeah, I know him.  The big black man, right?  Japanese wife?"  And we just kinda looked at each other because we had no idea who he was and then looked back at him and said "oh, yeah yeah that's the one!  Yep, that's Ned."  It was really funny.  So yeah, a little less likely we'll meet him now.
 
On Saturday we were actually able to do some service!  That's so incredibly rare here in Taiwan.  Nobody ever lets you help them because they hate causing other people work.  We went to You Dixiong's house (Brother You - sounds like Yo), another less-active guy that we've been working with and cleaned his house!  He's such a cool guy that went on a mission, but then went less-active because he started smoking (he smokes 5 packs a day now) and beating his wife.  That was really sad to find out.  He also said he doesn't want to stop smoking because he likes it, and it turns out that he and his wife have mental issues, but his wife is much worse than him.  I feel so bad for the guy, but he put himself in his situation.  His house was one of the most foul places I have ever set foot in, and I "got" to clean the bathroom!  Let's just say I'm glad I was able to kinda turn my brain off for it otherwise I would've puked everywhere.  But we helped him a ton!  And that's the thing, so I'm happy.
 
Sunday was so awesome!  We had 5 investigators come to church, even though they were literally all late.  And then, even better, we were able to meet with all of them afterwards!  We had 5 lessons yesterday, which was so awesome!  We set a goal to get 8 member-present lessons (in Chinese it's just pei ke which is way easier to say), and we got 9 this week!  And 5 of them were from yesterday!  It was awesome.  Last night we went to the recent convert fireside, which is kinda like a big fireside with tons and tons of missionaries and their investigators where we all go to have a big reunion and have tons of music and talks and stuff for the investigators.  It was a lot of fun.
 
I feel pretty much all better, and Elder Jensen got his stitches out today!  He has to wear tape "Steri-Strips" on his leg for another week, but by next week we'll be back in action!  We can bike and play sports and everything back to normal (hopefully) by next week!
 
Today, the plan is to go wander around Ximending again (that mall place) until choir, and then we're going to get another all-you-can-eat barbecue!  Seriously those things are the highlights of my day, week, month, and seriously year.  They are so good.  So I'm going to go get fat and happy!  Talk to you all next week!  加油!

I forgot to mention that I bought a Chinese chess set! And this is real Chinese chess, mind you. I

Another picture of the full-board version.

This is the half-board version. You flip over the pieces one-by-one, and each character has a diffe

Caution! Not for sensitive/young eyes! This is Elder Jensen's lovely knee wound.

So we were in the office the other day and I found these! The office elder was about to trash it because (I don't think I mentioned it) Elder Hogge had to go home for family reasons after about a month in the field, but I grabbed them before he could chuck it and I'm going to give it to him when he comes back. I love that man so much.

第二十二個星期 (Week 22)

餵?  Sorry, that's what we say whenever we answer the phone or something like that - it means "hello?"/"hey!" or stuff like that, but it's literal meaning is "to feed" or the feed you give animals.  It's pretty fun.  For reference you say it "way", but in Pinyin it's spelled "wei".  Isn't Chinese fun?  When the phonetic translation needs a phonetic translation is when you know you're just having too much fun.
 
So on Monday we didn't really have any time to do anything special, because we just went to the choir practice and that was about it, but on Tuesday!  As we were coming back from "Taco Tuesday" at this Mexican restaurant called Macho Tacos (don't you love Taibei?) going down the ramp into the church parking lot, Elder Jensen's bike decided to just kinda quit on life and slid out from under him.  I should also mention it was raining and he was going full speed around a corner, so there was that.  He stands up and starts limping, and by the time we get upstairs on the elevator his entire left leg was soaked with blood and his pants had an inch-long hole in them.  We pull up his pant leg to find an inch-wide, almost inch-deep hole in his kneecap, which we found out later went all the way to the last layer of tissue/muscle, which was centimeters from his bone.  Luckily no fractures or anything, and despite walking with his left leg always stiff and straight and his knee looking like an orange was stuffed in it through the 4 stitches he got, he's doing great!  Elder Jensen's a funny guy, and not only did he not let it damage his sense of humor he also refused to let it damage his determination to meet with everyone we had set up this week, even if we had to move them to the church (which we can get to because of the train that goes from by our house there).
 
So then Thanksgiving!  Since Taiwan doesn't celebrate it, we didn't really have any real celebration; we went to this Japanese restaurant where you can fry meat inside this soy sauce stuff that was pretty good, but it was so expensive.  That was sad.  It cost 500 元, which is around $15 USD, which doesn't sound like much but when we only get 7500 元 (but actually 8500 元 here in Central Taibei because everything's so costly - heh non-Central suckers!) a month it's a pretty big deal.  
 
But the fun didn't stop there!  On Friday I started getting a bit of a cold, which was fine y'know whatever, and then Saturday I felt really crappy.  The sisters in our district had a baptism that day which I was playing the flute for, so I slept for most of the day and then kinda rolled out of bed to go play for it while trying really hard not to blow my nose every few minutes during the service (Taiwanese people get so freaked out by people being sick when they don't have a face mask on, which I didn't).  Then on Sunday, I slept all day!  Yay!  And by slept I mean I stayed in bed, which was still really nice, but I felt bad that Elder Jensen had just powered through his injury and then I had to stay in bed because my head hurt and I had a cold (to be fair I did have a fever).  Fun fact - I still have a fever, but the cold symptoms are going away!  Yay improvement!  I'm also about to go wander around Ximending (that huge mall right next to our house that I'm actually in emailing at the moment) and then go back to bed.  Also I got permission to skip choir today!  Yay!  That sounds terrible, but I'm happy I don't need to deal with the craziness and drama that is that choir right now.  I'm improving and besides that feeling great!  That's pretty much it for this week.  Also 2 ward members brought by a ton of food yesterday that they totally bought on Sunday - whoops - but it was so nice of them.  I love Taiwan!  People here are so awesome.
 
More next week!  加油 everyone!

 

第二十一個星期 (Week 21)

new apartment in Taipei

Hello hello!  This week's email has been brought to you from......  drumroll please...... CENTRAL TAIBEI!!!!!!!  That's right everyone, I'm right in the middle of absolutely everything!  I was moved to Elder Holloway's last area, called Wanhua and combined with Datong it makes it look like Wanda.....heh.  So yeah!  The Assistants to the President (APs) are in my district, and the zone leaders, sister training leaders, and office elders are actually in a different district but they're super super close.  We live in a place called Ximen(ding), or 西門(町) for those who can read characters (unlike me).  The (ding) is in parenthesis because we actually live in Ximen, but the ding part is the huuuuuge market that's in Ximen that we're right next to.  It's actually the biggest one in Taiwan.  So that's pretty fun.

 
So on Tuesday we didn't really get anything done.  We planned on going to Hukou and finding some more, but then that crazy guy Zhou Dixiong (brother Zhou) decided to meet on Tuesday, so we spent a long time with him and saying goodbye to a lot of members and stuff when we ran into them.  The lesson with Zhou Dixiong was actually with our bishop, and it went soooooooo, soooooo much better than our first one.  He actually listened and wanted to learn, while agreeing to follow commitments and start actually reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, so that was cool.  We then went back up to Hukou by train at like 9 PM and said goodbye to Eric, and then barely got home in time.  It was a fun time.
 
So Wednesday!  The big transfer day!  We were super unproductive that morning, and then the transfer calls came.  And by calls, I actually mean they texted us a code that we then sprinted to the nearest 7/11 where you can print out things from this cloud called Ibon (seriously 7/11s can do absolutely everything here) and found out where everyone was going!  Elder Ren moved to Muzha (Eastern Taibei I think), Elder Swank moved to Taoyuan somewhere, so their area was whitewashed, Elder Anderson to Luzhou (southern Taibei), me to Wanhua/Datong, and Elder Holloway to Zhonghe as District Leader!  This means that our area was whitewashed as well as Elder Swank/Ren (so our whole apartment was), and since Elder Anderson moved and Elder Giordano, Elder Giordano is the only elder in the entire district that stayed.  It's nuts!  I'm so happy for Elder Holloway though.  He's never wanted any real kind of leadership/responsibility positions besides trainer, and now he's DL.  Ha!  Sucker!  Just kidding; he's going to be so good.
 
So my new companion is Elder Jensen from Ogden.  He's an electrician who works on an oil refinery (Elder Hogge worked in oil rigs.....coincidence?  I think not!) and he's super awesome.  He's district leader here in Wanhua, mostly because we only have 1 other companionship of sisters and the APs in our district, so one of us has to be DL.  He's only 2 transfers/12 weeks older on the mission than me, one sister is his age on the mission and she's training right now.  Our district is so young!!!  So yeah, Elder Jensen's super cool.  He can do impressions and his vocal range is really impressive (like the highest I've ever heard and about as low as me), so he has a lot of fun with that.  He can come up with spoofs on songs on the spot, and it's really funny.  Fun times!
 
Our new area has like 15 investigators, and we really think we can get 4 baptisms this transfer!  It's going to be so awesome if we can!  The members are so cool, the investigators are awesome, and we're always busy.  It's such a big change going from 4-6 hours of finding a day on the streets to 3-4 hours of lessons every day.  Well, not every day, but for 2 days out of 4 so far.  I still can't believe that training is already over!  It's pretty fun though, because everyone in the Zhubei district except for Elder Giordano, the sisters (who are in training right now), and Elder Swank, are in Taibei.  Elder Anderson's in my zone and Elder Ren/Holloway are the South zone, so we're all super close.  It's a lot of fun.
 
I'm loving it here, things are going great and looking up, Taibei's nuts, and life's good.  Last night and the night before there was a huge celebration thing where they had big statue things with guys in them walk around and they set off a few thousand firecrackers and fireworks while they were blasting dance music.  It was exciting.  They do that to have the huge statue guys (or the "gods", as they represent) go to everywhere in the city and bless all of the people with their presence and their....dance music....or something....  I don't really know.  It was so nuts though.  I think my ears are still ringing a bit.
 
Thanks for the emails everyone!  I love hearing from everyone, and I'm doing great.  加油 everyone!

第二十個星期 (Week 20)

The transfer, and thus training, ends this week!!!  Holy cow!!  It has seriously gone so fast!  I can't believe I'm going to be a "normal missionary" in just 4 days with a new companion!

 
So this week, Elder Holloway got suuuuper sick.  Like suuuuuuuuuuper sick.  This was his first time getting sick in Taiwan.  What the heck, man?  First time?  In over a year?  That's just unfair.  He got so sick that we had to stay inside for all of Wednesday and Thursday, and then on Friday we started the day late and he had to take a break during the day so he could rest.  What was he doing all that time?  Sleeping!  Literally, from Tuesday night until Friday morning he was awake for about 3 hours.  It was insaaaane!  He slept over 40 hours!
 
So what did I do?  Study!  I found the tabs that Elder Holloway put inside his Book of Mormon to use for each principle of the lessons, and I spent about 6 hours copying all of them.  Every.  Single.  One.  It was a long time.  I studied some scriptures, Preach My Gospel, watched the missionary training videos called the District, played some solitaire, and just kinda mosied around in general.  It was pretty fun.  What was really sweet was that 4 different ward members called to ask if they could do anything to help him out, and those were the only people who found out he was sick.  When others found out he was sick, they brought us some food and gave us a huuuuge bag on Sunday.  It was really cool to see how much they cared for him and how much they wanted to help him.
 
Last Monday I didn't have a ton of time to email because we had to run to catch our train to go to Taibei so I could play the flute for the Christmas choir!  Sadly, it was a little bit disappointing to be honest.  They didn't really have any music for the flute, all of the instruments were just being used as random special numbers, and the lady in charge of it wants me to "play in everything", while never remembering to give me any music.  That was fun.  She also wants me to "just make something up and let God direct" me as I play in a song with someone.  She gave me the same part as the singer, and wants me to make up an accompaniment.  Fun stuff!  It should be pretty fun, it's just such a mess.  And we perform in about 6 weeks!
 
After the fun time in Taibei, went on exchanges with Elder Giordano until the next day up in Xinfeng (Elder Giordano's/Anderson's area).  I should mention that Elder Giordano and I were the ones to go up to Taibei together in the first place, so we just kept the exchange going until the next day.  We ended the exchange so we could go eat with our ward mission leader, Peng Dixiong (Brother Peng), or Kent.  He's sooooo cool!  He knows everything there is to know about the ward, and he is so insanely motivated.  He was baptized less than 6 months ago, and he is so on fire about missionary work.  Honestly it feels like he's more motivated than I usually am.  He's so amazing.  Despite his serious problems with his family not happy with his decision to join the church, he is always smiling, energetic, and enthusiastic.  Love that guy!
 
Anyways so on Saturday we went to Hukou to find, like we usually do, and we ran into some middle school students.  It was so awkward.  They found us and immediately started yelling and pointing at us and waving and stuff.  Fast-forward 45 minutes, we run into them again but this time they've multiplied by 2.  Fast forward another hour inside a 7/11 and they're in there already with a bunch more friends.  They then come over and start talking to us, demanding an individual selfie with each of them and with me and Elder Holloway alone and together in every picture, and then demand we sing them a song in English.  Which we didn't.  It was super awkward.  They were all 12-14 year-old middle school girls.  It was awful.
 
So right as we get to the Zhubei train station, we get a call from a member from the 3rd ward saying he found a less-active member who wanted to meet with us.  We get his number, and find out that he really wants to meet right then.  Only problem is, he's all the way back up in Hukou, but not actually in Hukou actually in between Hukou proper and Xinfeng.  So we hop on our bikes and roll out, riding up the Xinfeng hill (of death) and then some, totaling roughly 4 miles (mostly uphill).  We then met with the turns-out-to-be craaaaaazy less-active member.  Like actually legitimately insane this time!  He was locked up in an insane asylum for 8 years by his family, and he got out 3 months ago.  He literally wants us to sell him every picture of Jesus in existence.  And when we walked into his apartment (he wouldn't agree to meet us at the 7/11 at his house and says the chapel is way to far for him......  which we biked from to get there.... oh well) we immediately felt unsafe and felt like he might try something in there.  So that was fun.  Thankfully he didn't, but he was so creepy the whole time.  He kept staring at me really weird and kept saying how when he looks at me he "gets a nice, peaceful feeling in his heart and brain".  Fun times with less-active members!  We get to go visit him again tonight, except this time with our bishop and he's going to (thankfully) drive us.
 
So I just got back from eating with a 3rd Ward member Sister Lai at this sweeet seafood place.  They sell Japanese sushi, raw fish, soup, fried fish, pork, etc etc.  It was sooooooo good!!  That's why I wanted to go to Japan on a mission originally.  That was it.  I loved it so much.
 
Our transfer technically ends on Friday, but we move on Thursday, and we find out who's going where and whatnot on Wednesday evening.  Stress!  Not really, but just really curious to see what's going to happen!
 
Thanks for everyone's emails and updates this week!  I love hearing from everyone, and I'll talk to you next week!  加油!

 

第二十個星期 (Week 20)

Hey everyone!  Another week here in Zhubei!  What's really strange is that training is finishing next week!  It's crazy!  It's gone soooo fast here.

 
So on Tuesday, on the way to the Zone meeting in Xinzhu (about a 30-minute bike ride from home - there's a water buffalo on the way that just hangs out in a river, it's pretty fun), we get to this stop light and I look around and say "Where's Elder Holloway?"  Then all of a sudden a member in a different ward drives up on a motorcycle and says "Elders, Elder Holloway is stuck back there!"  And then drives off.  So then I have to go back across a huge bridge and find him standing there with his broken bike.  His gear shifter popped off, a small piece of metal exploded and flew off, and it bent another bar holding his wheel in place.  So then, after walking most of the way to the zone meeting, we got there 30 minutes late which was pretty fun.  On the way back we took a taxi to the train station, rode the train back to Zhubei, then walked back to the bike on the bridge.  We then walked the bikes back to Zhubei, and immediately bought a new bike for Elder Holloway.  Fun stuff!
 
So that guy Zeng Dixiong (brother Zeng), with the feet problem that has nothing, came to church finally!  When he came to church, he met a bunch of our ward and they all fellowshipped him and they are going to start a sort of ward service project to get him clothes, food, and a job!  It's sweeeet!  I love our ward so much.  They're always willing to help us whenever, and it's awesome!
 
We haven't had a ton of new investigators the past few weeks, so we're working on it, but we're making some really good progress!  The last few weeks have hit a slump, but this week has picked up a ton.
 
This week was stake conference, which was really awesome.  We had Elder Funk of the 70 come, and our mission president came and spoke too.  It was sweet!
 
Today we're about to head out to Taibei so that I can go play the flute in the missionary Christmas concert, which sounds awesome!  It's going to be a lot of fun.  That's about it for this week, so I'll talk to you all next week!  Stay awesome, everyone!

第十九個星期 (Week 19)

Soooo, as you can tell last week I wrote "Week 16" and now I wrote "Week 19"....  Yeah I'm bad with keeping track of weeks, but this week has actually been Week 19, not 17!  Yep!

 
So on Wednesday (our last P-Day because of the temple), I had to run because we got to go eat the all-you-can-eat barbecue in Taibei with a member there.  For those of you who know what it is, we then played Everyone Is John on the train ride home, which was pretty fun.  Pretty much everyone liked it a lot, and Elder Anderson is hooked and obsessed.  Also I taught my district Liar's Dice, and they're hooked on that too.  So that's fun.
 
We pretty much just did a lot of finding this week, so we've been hitting the streets hard and talking with a lot of people.  Oddly, we don't really have a lot of progressing investigators, but this week we've been having a lot more success finding new people to teach.  Also we've been looking for less-active members of the church in our areas (Zhubei and Hukou), but haven't been having a lot of success there.  We've been going around visiting them (we've got about 300+ less-active members in our ward), but their addresses are impossible to find because of how crazy everything is here, so it takes a long time to find people.  Oh well!  We're working on it.
 
On Saturday the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward bought us lunch at a really good Korean hot pot restaurant (basically it's a pot of boiling water and you throw everything in until it's cooked), and she shared her conversion story.  She remembers praying really hard about the church to know if it was true or not, and she prayed really hard to see a vision of God because that's what Joseph Smith did, and she figured she could too.  Then she had a dream of the afterlife of Jesus and God talking to people about their lives, and she thought it was the judgement so she was really scared because she hadn't repented yet, and when they got to her they said "this woman has learned well during her life".  At that point she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, so she was really confused, but she realized that what she wanted to do was learn and help people and teach them the gospel, and that's what she's doing now!  She's super cool.  After waiting for 28 years, her husband finally accepted the gospel, they were sealed, and then I believed he died right after that.  Miracles!  She's an amazing person.  Also on Saturday we were invited over to a guy's house in another ward that meets in our building for dinner.  He bought a bunch of pizza from Costco!  It's almost exactly the same!  It was pretty surreal, but it tasted really good.  I've been that guy's English tutor because his English is almost perfect and he has some really, really complicated questions (thanks Dad!!).  He's also an amazing guy - he helps out missionaries soooooo much and he's in the bishopric in his ward.
 
We also found Zeng Dixiong (Brother Zeng) again this week!!  This is really exciting, because he went missing for the last 3 weeks and we've been really worried about him.  If I didn't mention him before, he's got a severe problem with his feet, only eats 5 days a week, has 2 sets of clothing, no teeth, really bad eyesight, and has no shower.  We've been trying to help him a lot, and when he disappeared we thought he might've been in trouble or something.  After asking everybody if they'd seen him, checking in his apartment building the one day it wasn't locked, and checking by the place he normally sits almost every day, we finally found him!  He's just been sleeping a lot, and he's actually doing a little better now.  He really really wants to get baptized, and he's well on his way to do so.  We're also looking for a job that he could do so he can have enough money to eat consistently, and I really want to help him buy new clothes.  Progress!
 
Today, we left at 9 AM to meet up with a really cool investigator who was referred to us by the sisters to go biking.  He grew up in South Africa, and consequently has perfect English, works in engineering and software development and is filthy filthy filthy rich, has a 5 year-old daughter, and is reading the Book of Mormon by himself without much prompting from us.  However, he just has interest because he's curious about us, not because he has any intention whatsoever of joining the church.  It's ok though!  He's super cool.  We went biking with him and his friend from 9 until around 10:30, went by a cool tourist attraction of traditional Taiwanese buildings and restaurants, stopped at 12:30ish to say hi to his brother (who then fed us lunch) who runs a car shop, left at 1:30, and got home at 2.  We biked about 18 or so kilometers, which is around 8 miles, and about 10 of those kilometers were up some insane hills!  I didn't make it up the very last part of it, and it was nuts!  Some of it was more than a 45 degree incline.  It was crazy.  Tomorrow is going to be very, very painful.  If anybody knows or is handy with a map, we biked up to Xinpu, then up to Hukou, then up to Old Hukou (Lao Hukou), then biked down through Xinfeng down back to Zhubei.  It was so long!!!  We have lots of pictures though, which I'll have to send separately.
 
Well we're about to play another round of Everyone is John right now, so I gotta go.  Thanks for everyone's updates and everything!  I love you all, and I'll talk to you next week!  加油!
 
 
I'm doing great, everything's great, we have too few investigators but besides that everything's great, Elder Holloway's great, we're doing great, the district is great, and it's great!  I gotta go, so I love love love you!  Talk to you next week!

 
-- 
-Elder Van De Graaff
-范長老

My Language Study Materials

第十六個星期 (Week 16)

Language Study Materials

Hello Hello Hello!  Sorry for the late email, because today we just went to the Temple!  Yaay!
 
So this week, it was mostly uneventful but we had a couple huuuge highlights!  Here we go:
 
Last week, we got permission to go to Zhongli (like an hour north of us) to see Eric get baptized!  Wooooohooo!  He's the investigator (for those of you silly people who don't remember random names from two months ago - how dare you) who we met when I first got in Taiwan and works in Hukou (the other half of our area) but we found out that he lives in Yangmei so we passed him off to those elders.  So they kept meeting with him and he got baptized!  He's such an amazing guy.  He got in like 3 very minor car accidents that were very close calls the week before his baptism, and he told us it was because he thought that the devil didn't want him to get baptized, so he prayed about it and kept reading the scriptures, and he was perfectly fine for his baptism!  We've seen him a couple times since his baptism and he's constantly smiling and laughing and giving us free "wheel cookies" (there's no real good translation, but they are soooo good - look up 紅豆餅幹 if you want to know).  He's so cool!  I love that guy so much.
 
So on Monday we had interviews with President Jergensen, and it was really awesome.  He gave me some really good advice on working with members and stuff.  Also, he invited me to come to Taibei every Monday (when convenient) to play in a Christmas performance!  It's a huuuge mission-wide thing where there's actors, musicians, a choir, etc. and we do it 3 days.  December 10th, 24th, and 25th I believe.  It sounds so sweet!  Since Taibei is so far and expensive for us, I'm calling the lady in charge of it today to get the music to practice at home.  We're thinking that it might be likely that after this transfer is done and training is over, I might move to Taibei to make it more convenient so I don't have to pay 250 NTD every week to get there for an hour practice.  Elder Holloway really, really wants to move though because he's been in Zhubei for 3 transfers already and doesn't want to stay another one.  Each transfer is 6 weeks, for context.
 
Today we woke up at 3 in the morning so Elder Holloway and Elder Anderson could go to Taibei  together early so they could buy ridiculously powerful lasers that are illegal in most everywhere in the world, and then Elder Giordano and I (Elder Anderson's trainee) came up by ourselves at around 6:50 AM.  So that was fun.  We didn't have any time to email because the sisters were using our computers (dangit, sisters!) at 5 AM, so I had to wait until now and maybe finish up some more tonight.  The temple was really good!  We went to the Chinese session, which actually way easier to understand than I was expecting!  I got almost 80%ish, which was pretty sweet.  The last part they did in English for me, which was really nice.  Also one of the voices was our MTC branch president, which was suuuuuper weird!
 
The pictures below are my language study materials, organized by category and what I know and don't know.  I have to go get all-you-can-eat barbecue, so I'll finish up tonight!  Love you all!

第十五個星期 (Week 15)

All you can BBQ

4 Elders, 14th floor, Filipinos, and a missionary reunion, all on this week's episode of - A Week in the Life of Elder Van De Graaff!!!!

 
Sorry, I just figure that you have to spice things up sometimes, right?  So this week, it's pretty much what it looks like up there.  So last Monday, we had a big stake activity where the whole stake came to our chapel (the stake center) and had a giant party for the whole day.  It was really fun.  I played ping pong with some 10 year-old kids for like 3 or 4 hours.  One of them is soooo good, and the rest of them were....terrible.  It was so fun though!  They're hilarious.
 
So, not a lot actually happened this week.  We've been working really hard to find more members to teach and reactivate less-active members because the focus has been drastically changed this transfer (every 6-week period) to be on member missionary work instead of missionary efforts in finding on the street.  It's a huuuge change, and we're still working on it, so things could be going better in that way, but I'm doing grrrrreeaat!
 
So the Filipinos part of the heading was how this week we had a party with some Filipinos and it was so fun!  I love Filipinos!  They're so fun and nice, despite having some of the hardest trials I have ever seen.  Anybody who's been to the Philippines knows what the conditions are like there, and they come to Taiwan to work terrible work schedules to support themselves and their families back home.  They often have to work 10, 12, 15, 16, or even 18 hour shifts at work, and they often have to work 5-7 days a week with that kind of schedule every day.  It's awful.  Most of them work the graveyard shift, too.  Despite all of that, they can have a good time and smile all the time and love to talk about how much God has blessed their lives.  It's so awesome.  So we went to a birthday party for a ward member, and it was inside this karaoke bar made specifically for Filipinos.  There was a huuuuge tilapia (I don't know how to spell that, let's be real) and it was fried with the whole head and everything on it.  It was amazing!  They had some really good beef and chicken, and some really, really terrible soup stuff.  Just like the Philippines!  It was a blast.
 
So there was this trainer-trainee followup meeting this week in Taibei, and it was so fun!  It was 7 hours, which sounds awful, but it felt like it was only an hour or so.  It was so fun because we got to see everyone from our old district again!  It was awesome!  Everyone is doing so great, and their Chinese has improved sooooo much.  I thought mine was really good, but people like Elder Weatherston and Elder Sowards, who had had no Chinese before the MTC are probably better than me.  They're so awesome.  We all had a blast seeing each other and sharing stories.
 
Today we're going to buy some pants called EverSmiles.  They're virtually indestructible, look really nice, and you can actually machine wash them (which I can't with my pants).  So that's fun.  I also bought a set of 20 dice and a deck of playing cards this week for 75 元 (like $2.50 US), so we're going to play some stuff today.  I taught my district liar's dice, which has been fun.  Elder Holloway wants to play every night.  For those of you who know what it is, I want to play Everyone Is John today, which will be really funny.  Heh.  I hope we can.
 
That's it for this week.  Thanks for the emails, as always, and I love hearing from everyone!  Stay awesome!  加油!

 

New flute!

New apartment!

New view from apartment!

New nametag!

New kitchen!

English class!!

第十四個星期 (Week 14)

Here's a picture of our district before the transfer ended, we lost 2 of the sisters and gained another trainee, and we gained Elders Swank and Ren. Elder Holloway thought that we were "supposed to do a gangster one, I don't know!", and Elder Anderson thought that it would be funny to look like he was killing his companion. That's pretty much our district in a nutshell.

What a week!  This was one of the craziest weeks of my life, and that includes crunch week for the plays (if you know what that is), which is the same time as IAs for one of them and during AP/IB testing for the other.
 
So last Monday, we went out to another barbecue place, which I said last week, for Elder Holloway's birthday.  We went to dinner afterwards with the Hislop family in our ward at this awesome sushi/general fancy Japanese food place that was suuuuper expensive.  Like, even in the equivalent US money it would be really expensive.  It was really good.  But!  That night we got a call from the mission office saying that - surprise! - we would be moving apartments!  The next morning!  It was kind of hard to take it all in.  We had that night from 8:00 PM to the next morning at 8:00 AM to move literally everything we had.  It was crazy.  I think I'm probably still recovering from sleeping really late that night.  So, from Monday night to Thursday afternoon we were scrambling around moving as much as we could, throwing away a bunch of stuff, coordinating moving companies, figuring out what we could and couldn't take, etc....  It was exhausting.  So we move into our new apartment (like 3 streets away), which is actually even closer to the chapel than our last apartment, so now we can see our chapel from our window.  We live on the 14th floor of this huuuuge apartment building, and our apartment is so nice.  The only problem, is that we're still missing a refrigerator, closets, cabinets, etc.  We just barely got some desks, a washing machine, and drier, but we just got those on Saturday.  It's been exciting.  We moved at all because we're in a 4-man apartment now, and we have roommates!  We're with an Elder Swank and an Elder Ren (a Taiwanese missionary).  Elder Ren is super cool, a little bit on the quiet side, but he's a great guy.  Elder Swank is....very interesting.  He really really reeeaaally likes talking, and is the kind of person that literally says "Swank you" instead of "thank you" and isn't joking at all.  Yep.  It's an interesting time.
 
So this week they changed how the numbers work in the entire mission, and they basically made it so that street finding is no longer a priority at all.  So now we have to work with members a lot more, which I think is really good.  Street finding was a lot of fun, though, but we're making better connections now through people the members have referred who want to hear the message instead of just random people on the street with no connection to us.  It was pretty effective before though, it should just be more effective now.  Which is good.  Big changes though.
 
Because of moving, we really didn't do much else this week.  On Tuesday I finally got that new flute!  It's amazing!  I love it so much.  It's got this weird thing where there's a hole on it that you have to seal with a piece of paper every few days, which is super weird and supposed to be there, but it sounds amazing.  I'll try and send some audio of how it sounds if I can.  Also, we're learning the ukulele together, and I've learned some songs by ear on it!  It's a lot of fun.  Tara, you'll need to start practicing guitar again, otherwise I'll get way better than you!  :P  It's kinda funny because we have 2 guitars, a ukulele, and 2 flutes in the apartment so I look kinda like a music geek.  It's all good though.  It's fun to pick stuff up.
 
Also our apartment has like a gym next to the lobby!  It's got a badminton court, a ping pong table, and treadmills/cardio equipment, so we're starting to practice playing ping pong too.  Elder Holloway's really really good, so I'm getting trounced, but it's a lot of fun.  I'm learning a lot!  It's pretty fun.
 
Oh yeah!  General conference!  We got it a week late, so we got to watch it on Saturday and Sunday.  It was so awesome!  We got to watch it in English (thankfully), and it was really great.  So much of it was about missionary work!  It was awesome.  We're going to try and use it to work with more members, in conjunction with the rule change.  Whoo!
 
That's about it.  I got everyone's birthday letters, so thank you everyone!  I really appreciate the letters and information of everyone's lives.  加油, everyone!
 
 

第十三個星期 (Week 13)

This is Obi-Wan. We found out that this is his job: he's like some kind of motorcycle traffic guy or something. He looks pretty funny, and he's totally grinning behind the balaclava. Love that guy.

 

Hello everybody!  Taiwan is amazing as usual, and I'm loving it!

Not a lot happened this week, because TYYPHOOOONNN!  Yaay!  We got invited to eat with one of our investigators on Monday night, but when the time came to leave it started raining really hard and we ran into a member while we were biking to another appointment that the typhoon warnings had started and we had to stay home.  We called our investigator, Duncan, and he said yeah, you should totally still come.  Why not?  So, obviously, as the good smart and wise missionaries we are, we decided to go for it (it was like a 45 minute bike ride away in hard rain along a freeway-type thing).  So we got there in about 20 minutes (we biked really hard), ate with him, went home and it was raining sooooooo hard.  Dad should remember the typhoons in the Philippines that were really insane and the rain in Nepal where you could see the wind pushing sheets of rain at you.  It was like that.  It was nuts.  So we got home in another 20 minutes (my legs hurt soo bad) and dried off the best you can here, which is basically just changing.  Tuesday came and we were told we had to stay inside the whole day.  The sad thing is that we had to stay in all day, so I missed the chance to go talk to the conductor guy to sell me the flute!  Oh no!  So I'll have to wait until tomorrow.  Wednesday was all meetings to make up for Tuesday, and nobody was out to talk to us because of the typhoon.  It was sad because the typhoon didn't even affect us that much.  Oh well.

 
Not a lot else happened this week besides that until Saturday.  This week we had been talking about wanting to buy a ukulele because there was this store in Zhubei that sold them, but on Saturday we  went to Hukou and talked to this old woman who invited us into her home to talk with her grandchildren in English.  We walked in, and, lo and behold, they sold ukuleles!  We left, but that night we came back and decided that theirs were cheaper than the ones in Zhubei and we went half-and-half on it.  It was labelled as 5,000 NTD (about $120ish), which was pretty good.  Then they gave it to us for 4,500 and tossed in a case and a self-study book for free!  It was sweet!  So we've been learning that together.  It's a lot of fun.  Hey Tara, you should learn guitar again because I'm getting better than you! :D  Still buying the flute tomorrowthough for sure.  Also today the other elders in the district gave me a little roll-up piano keyboard and it's pretty cool.  It's really bad, but it's still fun.  I look like a musical junky now!
 
Also yesterday the sisters had a baptism!  It was pretty cool.  The investigator was a 9 year-old girl and the dad was originally suuuuuper against it, but he ended up coming and was smiling, hugging her, and telling her how proud of her he was.  It was really sweet.
 
Bad news bears (shoutout to Ryan, Edward, and Joseph on that; if you don't get it from that, think about Desmond) - I got a little sick randomly a couple days ago!  But I'm getting better.  I just sound like death, but I feel fine.
 

Besides that, I'm doing great!  Today is Elder Holloway's birthday, so we just got back from another barbecue place.  It was sooooooo good.  Moving is really hard, and I love it.  Still losing weight and working out and biking everywhere.  It's awesome!  I'm loving it!  Thanks for everyone's emails of support and news!  I love hearing from everyone.  More next week!.

 

第十二個星期 (Week 12)

 

September 26, 2016

 

Another week flies by in Taiwan!  Some fun stuff happened this week, so here goes:

 

First off, thank you everyone for your continued birthday wishes!  For my birthday, we had a completely normal day, but when we went to Hukou to find for a while we went to this tipenyaki place that we had seen a couple days before.  Tipenyaki, for those of you people who haven't had the privilege of going to Taiwan or Japan (pfffssshh who hasn't done that, am I right?), is like one of those Japanese restaurants where they flip all of your food around and make it a big show and fry it right in front of you, except here they just kinda cook it and give it to you without the show.  Which is alright, because it's freaking amazing.  Seriously, it tasted so good.  That was (most) of everything that was special about it.  Exceeeept.....  I ordered a sweet wooden flute from a guy that's coming in tomorrow!!!  Surprise!  So, some background: every Tuesday night, there's this orchestra that plays traditional Chinese/Taiwanese music and uses traditional instruments that sounds awesome!  I heard some of the flutes playing, and I kinda freaked out.  This was last-last week.  I asked someone if they knew where I could buy one, and they said that their director would sell me one for about 4,000 NTD (roughly $115 US), which is a phenomenal price, especially for a flute that sounds that good.  So I said yeah, awesome, but we didn't make it back in time that night, so I talked to him again on last Tuesday, my birthday, and he's selling one for 1,500 NTD and a better one for 3,000 NTD, so I said heck yeah I will (about $90 US).  So yeah, I'm getting a freaking sweet flute tomorrow night!  Whoo!  Sorry for not telling you earlier than now, mom and dad :P  I'm getting the money from personal funds today to pay for it.  Also, I found a ring on Tuesday that's sweeeet.  It's got what I'm pretty sure is a double dragon design on it, and the tails are connected by an actual slit in the steel.  I have a picture I'll send of it, too.  It started out as the band with the design on it that was loose on a smaller ring and the design band would spin around and stuff, but it was too small despite being the biggest one in the store we went to.  So, with a lot of straining and some pliers I pulled off the band and it fits perfectly!  Yay!  Happy birthday to me!

 

So this week on Monday we went to the beach in a place called Qiding that's about 20 minutes northwest.  It was so pretty, and the trees were so pretty and green and the ocean was so pretty and blue-gray....  It was awesome.  The tide was up soo high when we got there; so high we couldn't actually go onto the beach.  So we walked to where we could find some more sand, and by the time we got there the water had receded about 50 feet.  So, obviously, we played football for 2 hours with some other elders in a different district and zone.  It was awesome.  Our team was losing 3-0, and then we pulled back up until it was 4-3, then tied at 7-7, and then we won at 9-7.  It was sweet.

 

This week we met a guy named Zen Dixiong (brother Zen).  We found him sitting on a chair right outside a 7/11.  When we approached him we noticed that his feet were so insanely messed up it was crazy.  One of his big toes is bent completely sideways, so that he's literally walking on his toe every time he steps.  He has enormous cuts, or burns or something we're not really sure, on his feet that leak goop all over his sandals.  It was super nasty.  He has no teeth, can barely walk, 1 pair of clothes, his eyes are so bad he can't read even fairly large characters, technically isn't homeless but hasn't taken a shower in at least a year, is only able to eat from Wednesday to Friday because then he runs out of money, and nobody feeds him on the other days, and yet he just kinda hangs out and says everything's fine.  We bought him 4 new pairs of sandals because his were just utterly foul, but I haven't seen him wear them yet, which is really weird.  Somebody else gave him a new shirt and I want to buy him new pants, because there's a cut on his ankle and his pants have almost attached to the cut.  He was going to come to church, but on the way he ran out of strength because he hadn't eaten in 2 days and had to stay home.  We made him a sandwich.  We're doing all we can for him, but just thinking about his situation makes me sad and wish we could do more, but I'm not sure what.  We're looking to find him a job, but we don't know what he could do.  Really sad.

 

In happier news, on Saturday the other elders in our district had a baptism!  Yay!  They asked me the night before if I would play the flute for them, and I grabbed some music I hadn't practiced before that night and went with it.  It went pretty well for 3 run-throughs.  That was fun.

 

Our investigator Xie Dixiong/Eric actually lives in a different area, so we went to the elders we had to give him to in Yangmei and did a pass-off lesson with him.  He's being taught by Elder Triplett, an elder who's a transfer ahead of me who I met in the MTC that would always call me Elder Van De Giraffe.  It was awesome to see him again!  Also, Elder Weatherston is in his district, and I originally thought that we were giving Eric to him, but Elder Triplett was almost as good.

 

A couple hours ago I passed that test that I took 2 weeks ago!  Yay!  I can now start Book B.  I'll send a picture of kinda what that means.  You have to finish through A29 to test for Book B, and A48 for Book C.  I passed Book B's test today, and next week I'm taking the Book C test because I also finished through A48.  Apparently A29 is supposed to take you until the end of training or something to get through, so that's pretty fun.  I passed off through A48 last week.  Yep, I'd say the language is going pretty sweet.  Elder Giordano is taking the Book B test right now and he's rocking it, so he's definitely going to get it as well.

 

I think that was most of it.  Everything is super awesome, as always.  Today Elder Giordano and I wanted to go get some food and Elder Anderson and Holloway (our trainers) didn't want to, so we decided to go by ourselves and try and find a place we've never been before.  We actually made it!  We only needed directions twice!....  Yay!  It was pretty fun.  Biking is getting easier and easier.  Food is still good.  We got invited to eat at this place called Zebra Diner Bar or something like that that's reaaally expensive and reeaally good on Saturday.  It was fun.  Yeah, that's what happened this week.  Thanks everyone for being awesome and for the emails of encouragement and support.  Lots of love for my American home and friends - Stay awesome!  加油!

 

 

Really, everything is great.  I'm doing great, the people are great, the investigators need to be baptized and then they'll be great (just kidding), the district is great, Elder Holloway is great, the weather is hot but mostly great....  Doing great!  The only thing; any more ideas on our English class would be really helpful.  We're doing ok on it, but making it more interesting would be preferable.  Thanks for everything.  Love you all so much and I'll talk to you more next week!

 

--

-Elder Van De Graaff

 

-范長老

第十一個星期 (Week 11)

Hello hello!!  I'm sorry about last week not having very much time to email, but it's a little better this week.  Still have to go fast though!
 
So last week I had to run because we were going to a "kao rou chi dao bao", which is basically an all-you-can-eat, do-it-yourself BBQ place that was soooooo good!  We went to the city of Xinzhu (Hsinchu on most maps), and although technically our city Zhubei (Chupei) is in Xinzhu that's more of the province and we're a smaller city inside it.  While we were there, we went to this thing called the International Glass Festival that was awesome!!  It was so beautiful, and the art was really fantastic.  It was international glass blowers that brought all their stuff in a huge museum, and it was awesome.  I (dangit) forgot my camera again today but I took some sweet pictures of some outdoors exhibits (the indoor ones you're not allowed to) and the absolutely terrible translations in the informational plaques.  I'll get them next week, I promise.
 
On Thursday we had an appointment in Guanxi (we didn't know where it was at first), and so with directions and stuff it took us a little over 2 hours to bike there.  It was insane hills the whole way there, and I literally thought I was going to die.  Or at least faint, or fall off a cliff, or something.  It was awful.  When we got there Elder Holloway's gear shifter literally fell off for no reason, but we got it fixed and all good.  I thought that I wouldn't be able to walk after we got there, and I knew that I certainly couldn't bike.  When we left, we tried taking a bus but found out we couldn't fit our bikes on, and then the same with some taxis.  We finally decided we had to at least try and bike home, but I was really freaked out.  It turns out we took the scenic route there, and the way we took back along the highway was slightly downhill the whole way, and was only about 70 minutes.  We figured out that it was about 20 miles total.  When I was biking I was actually on the highest gear and was at full speed.  I felt less sore than I had felt that morning before the bike ride there.  Miracles are so real.  It was awesome.  Sadly I'm still recovering, but it's fine.  Yay!
 
The guy we met with there was named Wang Dixiong.  In case I haven't talked about him before, he's nuts.  He's a Jehovah's Witness (kind of?), and he always tries to give us their magazine scripture things.  He says he doesn't believe in their church and wants to get rid of them, but if he stops going to church there they're going to send 3 or 4 people and yell at him or something.  He doesn't want to actually do anything for our church though, and whenever we meet with him we ask him a question and then he literally answers for the next 30 minutes and doesn't make sense.  Even natives can't understand what he talks about, and they can't even always understand how he talks.  We're going to have a stern talking-to with him and then probably have to drop him.

In other news we have a guy who's really weird and probably has issues.  He's named Liu Dixiong, randomly calls us sometimes about really weird things, called one of the sister missionaries fat, called Elder Holloway's last companion a woman, creeps on the sister missionaries soooo bad, he stroked my leg and my shoulder and stuff to get my attention and ask me random questions really loud in sacrament meeting yesterday, and when we caved and gave him 100 NTD (basically $3, but it can buy like 5 small meals) because he said he didn't have money for food he came back and smelled really strongly of smoke and probably something else.  I'm not happy with him.  Besides all of that, he really wants to get baptized and stop smoking and drinking and has agreed to daily followups on his addictions.  So I guess we're going to keep meeting with him.  Whee.  Let's just say that I'm really trying hard to love that guy.
 
Since I forgot my camera, you can go to Google Maps and find it!  You can also see our city!  Go to Google Maps and copy and past this: 耶穌基督後期聖徒教會.  That's my ward building!  I think you'll have to zoom in to see it better and then go to street view.  Take a whirl around Zhubei!  It's awesome.  We're also in the city of Hukou, which is past Xinfeng on the way to Taoyuan.  I think some people don't know where I am: I'm technically inside the huge city of Xinzhu (Hsinchu on most maps) in the slightly northern part called Zhubei (or Chupei).  Zhubei itself is actually a different city.
 
I think that's most of it this week!  Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes and emails of support.  Snail mail is even slower here than it should be because we have to wait for our District Leader to go to Taibei and get stuff, which he hasn't had a chance to do yet, so maybe emails are better.  Thanks everyone!  加油!

Mission Home Address:

Taipei Taiwan Mission
4F, No 24, Lane 183
Chin Hua St.
Taipei, Taiwan 10606 
It takes 3 weeks and 3 stamps for letters.
 
Elder Van De Graaff's 19th birthday is September 20!!

第十個星期 (Week 11)

Hail from Taiwan!

 
A lot of stuff and people and not a lot of time!  So here we go:
 
This week we met a lot more people and ate a lot more food and had a lot more fun and almost died in traffic a lot more!  (Just kidding....kind of).  We met this guy named Wang Xiansheng (Mr. Wang) who's so weird.  He has no interest in the church but he wants to meet with us because the church that he goes to (he wants to give them our information and wants to give us their pamphlets and scriptures and stuff) believes in all gods and religions, so he has a really passive interest.  But he set a baptismal date and comes to church, but he just wants to talk for hours.  And like, he wants to talk.  He doesn't want to listen to anything we say.  Weird guy that's pretty frustrating.  A lot of really crazy weird food (we're on the way to eat some all-you-can-eat BBQ thing so I don't have almost any time to email any more), and the bishop fed us this really weird mystery sea food and mystery stuff that had berries or something in that even the person who made it didn't know what was in it.  We have a guy named Xie Dixiong (brother Xie) who's really close to baptism (like a week or two) but we just found out he lives somewhere that's probably outside of our area so we probably have to hand him off.  Dang it!  He makes these really good things called cookies that are really not cookies at all in any way (they're like pancake capsules with chocolate inside).  We have 2 twins who are 8 years old who are really funny that are probably going to get baptized.  Their mom is a recent convert so it's likely that they're going to get baptized.  They've been to church like 15 times.
 
The language is coming along really well.  I just took a test this morning to pass off the first 29 parts of "Track A" to get "Book B", which is all conversational words and stuff.  It's still really new, but apparently I'm doing it pretty fast I guess.  I didn't pass the test so I have to take it again in 2 weeks, but I could teach all the points.  Track A is all words and stuff related to teaching the missionary lessons, so I'm doing ok.  I can't order food for my life, but other things are also coming pretty well.  I have to go because we're late, but thanks for all the support and birthday wishes!  This week is Zhong Qiu Jie (The Mid-Autumn Festival) so I'm thinking I actually might open up my presents then :P
 
If you want to send things, you have to send it to the mission office (please send the address out) and I'll get it about 3 weeks later.  We can only check it once every few months because it's in Taibei.  Really late, so that's it for this week!  Love you!

第星期個十 (Week 10)

Week 2 in Taiwan!  So much happens here it's unreal.

 
So this week, the biggest thing that happened was that so much stuff happens!  I think that because there's just so many people here, we inevitably meet so many people.  Seriously, every day we meet dozens of new people.  I think I'm meeting more because I haven't been here very long so even if we go visit somebody from the ward I have no idea who they are.  So many people!  So, some highlights: we met this guy the other day who's a member in our ward but he's only sometimes active....sometimes.  He's probably literally mentally unstable, seems like he has Parkinson's Disease, and even natives can't understand anything he says.  He's super nice though.  I'll mention later what he bought us to drink.  There was a woman from the Philippines that we taught sometime last week (I honestly have no idea what day it was; everything blends together here so bad) named Jane who is so awesome.  She's a single mom who has 3 kids still in the Philippines that she has to support in addition to her mom.  She has such a strong testimony of Christ already and said that she felt God present in our lesson really strongly.  Did I already mention her last week?  I don't know.  We had dinner with Brother Thrasher and his wife last night, our ward mission leader who's American (kinda weird, right?) and he's super cool.  We feel like he's really willing to help us, we just never ask him to for anything because he's outside of our area (he lives in Xinzhu, or Hsinchu for the weird spelling that's common in maps and stuff, and our areas are only in Zhubei, or Chupei for the dumb spelling, and Hukou) so we're going to start taking more advantage of his help this week.  He's awesome, just a really intense person.  I really like him though.  We had our 2nd lesson with a Xie Dixiong (Brother Xie), a really cool guy who loves to play sports, makes these really tasty things that are called cookies that aren't anything like cookies (like pancake dough fried in a cup shape, stuffed, and then more dough fried on the other side), always has a towel around his neck, always late to everything, and really nice and like I said, a "cool" guy.  He's pretty funny.  He'll get baptized for sure if he decides to come to church and meet with us better.  Oh well.  There was this woman who was about 85 years old named Zeng Nainai (grandma Zeng) and she was so sweet!  Oh my gosh!  We got there with the sister missionaries in our district because we had to give her to them (there's a new rule from like 3 weeks ago that Elders have to teach men and Sisters have to teach women, and both can teach families), and she invited us in.  We were just going to leave after that to go find people, but she put out chairs and water and soda for all of us, so even though we tried telling her no and wanted to help her she demanded we sit there.  Then she brought us some apples that were cut and peeled just like Grandma used to make for me every Wednesday, and it brought me back to when I was a little kid at Grandma's house.  She talked a lot (like we stayed there for over an hour despite trying really hard to leave), and saliva would spill into the front part of her mouth so it was really hard to understand her.  She was so sweet though!  I think I want her as my Taiwanese grandmother (Grandma's still my Grandma, obviously).  The sisters and I were debating as to who got to adopt her.  I think I won, but I suspect they would disagree.
 
So this Wednesday I had my first English class!  I found out on Tuesday that we're in charge of the little kids.  Yikes!  We taught them how to introduce themselves very basically (my name is ____, I am _____ years old, etc), how to write the alphabet, how to say "m" and "n", and tried really hard to tell them what prayer is and why it's important.  It was hilarious!  I don't think I mentioned this last week, but the kids here in Taiwan are so freaking cute!!!  They're hilarious and adorable.  We're not allowed to touch them in any way, which is really sad (they're so funny and they all want to play with the "外國人", or "foreigner").  There was this 2 year-old girl there named Peppa (like Pepper if you said the "er" as an "ah" sound) and she was so cute my heart was melting.  She would be totally silent and then randomly say something really loud and giggle for so long.  She was so cute.  One of the mothers of a boy (he's 5) would smack him every time he did something wrong or would get distracted.  It made me cringe on the inside, but it would be amazingly inappropriate to talk to her about it, especially as a missionary, especially when investigators are invited to come and were there.  So I did my best to be nice to him and tell him he was awesome (he actually did really well), but it was hard to watch.  Sad.
 
Food!  This week I had starfruit juice (it looked so nice and good and cold, and it was so absolutely vile), and then right after that is when the crazy guy (sorry, but he is) bought us some really weird slushy with whole red beans in it that was awful.  I mean, I was trying to eat it because he really wanted me to and he really wanted me to like it, but that stuff was absolutely disgusting.  I ate about 1/5 of it, and at that point (while I was still holding on to the starfruit juice after having drunken 5 sips) I was almost ready to throw up or have a long, bad time in the bathroom.  It was really not fun.  I had 6 passion fruit, which were really good but really strong.  They tasted pretty much exactly like the passion fruit Tic Tacs that taste really good, but a lot stronger.  On the inside they're basically goop and seeds.  Weird stuff.  I had some more of this fried pork in curry stuff that's pretty good.  Had some durian yesterday!  It was really, really strange.  It wasn't as bad as everyone says, but I wouldn't really want to ever have it again.  What Sister Thrasher said (it was at their house) was that it tastes like sweet meet, onions, almonds, and some other stuff and that's a pretty good description.  Really weird though.  Beef noodle soup that's amazing.  Ummmmm I think that's most of it.  Lots of dumplings.  Last month Elder Holloway and his previous companion ate out a ton, and he withdrew about 2,000 Taiwanese dollars (like $70), and you can eat comfortably on 200 a day and they give you like 7,000-8,000 a month.  So they ate out a lot.  So we bought 300 dumplings and we're each eating 15 a day for lunch, and I actually really like it.  I love the ward members here!  They feed us at least once a week, sometimes more.  There was an investigator who has amazing English (learned at school, too) who bought us almost 200 Taiwanese dollar burgers at this place called Mos Burger (which is ridiculously expensive here) and he said he wants to do it again tomorrow, or maybe at an even better place.  So cool!  Also Obi-Wan (Deng Dixiong) heard that I needed a new bike helmet because the one I was using was another elder's and he wants it back.  So when we were eating at the beef noodle place and looking around everywhere for helmets that didn't cost an arm and a leg, he showed up with a helmet that fit perfectly.  He said he had it at home and just brought it, but I'm pretty sure he bought it for me.  Love that guy.  We need to do something for him, but I'm not sure what or when.  He helps us literally any time he can.  So nice.
 
So I don't think I explained traffic here very well last week.  Right before I got here I felt really, really freaked out about it, especially having to bike in it (friends and family know I never ever bike), and then the first few days I felt ok but in reality looking back I had some really near misses.  The thing is, bikes and motorcycles can literally go anywhere and at almost any time (several times I've squeezed into spaces that are less than 4 feet across while the vehicle on one side was moving, sometimes on both sides), and yet everybody is really amazing at watching out for you.  Nobody honks unless you're taking up way to much space and they want to pass you, and it's not an angry honk.  One time we pulled a U-Turn in between about 15 cars and some cars were coming from the other side right in front of a policeman on the side of the road directing traffic and he didn't even look up.  However, I've gotten infinitely more comfortable biking.  We've done probably 5 bike rides that are over 30 minutes this week, some almost an hour, and while it was insanely hard on my wimpy thighs, I did it and pretty much kept up.  As a consequence I'm pretty much always sore and exhausted, but I'm adjusting ok.  Many many mighty miracles in the form of protection and strength while traveling.  Truly.  Several times I felt like I was going to collapse because of how tired my legs have been, and then it gets easier for no reason, or the soreness goes away, or the wind lets up, or something.  It's awesome.  Also it turns out 1-3 hours of biking every day gets you in really good shape (comparatively, at least).  After not working out for 3 years, I've skyrocketed into something close to my old body type, which is awesome.  My belt is 1 hole tighter since I got here, and it could almost go another one.  It's nuts.  I need to weigh myself sometime, I think.
 
I'm doing good, always tired, saving money, meeting people, teaching, learning Chinese, studying, working hard, and having fun.  I think everything's going good.  I miss everyone at home more now, but I'm still doing fine.  I'm always happy to hear from everyone and how things are going back home, so please keep sending updates!  If you have anything you would like to send me, please do so by sending it to the mission office (mom can you send out the address somehow?  I don't think I have it).  Thank you all!
 
P.S. it's so weird that my birthday is in 2 weeks!  So weird!  I'll be an old fogey of 19....  Strange.

Right when he arrived in Taiwan, he ran into 2 friends his Mom grew up with in New Jersey!!

first apartment

First days in Taiwan

TAIWAN!!!!

第九個星期 (Week 9)

Elder Holloway, or Hang Zhanglao and Elder Van De Graaff

August 29, 2016

 

Taiwan!  Aaahh holy cow so much to say!  I'm so sorry that I wasn't able to email you to tell you that I made it here safely, but this is the first chance I had.  A lot's happened these last few days!

 

So first, I realize it's actually Sunday night when you're getting this, but it's 11:10 in the morning here when I'm writing this.  Yay, time changes!  So my P-Day is on Mondays, and it'll be the same (unless a weird change happens for no reason) until the end, so that's nice.

 

So Taiwan!  First off, we made it here safely and just fine, met the mission president President Jergensen and his wife at the airport, they showed us a video about Taiwan and how cool it is and stuff on the bus, made it to the mission home and stake center where they have a huge apartment hotel thing for people visiting the temple who can stay there overnight, stayed with like 7 other elders in our room, went out and got some CoCos (a company called CoCo who makes really good smoothie type drinks, and I got this really really good milky icy mango drink) and some zhua bing (some crepe omelette thing that they stuff with meat, veggies, and who knows what else that is so freaking amazing), went to bed, woke up at 5 the next morning, I solved a mix-up with the lady who ran the place, woke up and did a lot of scrambling with our bags and taking stuff around some different places, went to the Taiwan dedication site and talked about it and read the prayer (lots of pictures), went to a bunch of training about how to be safe and not drink the water and stuff, ate some pretty good dumplings and this really weird dragonfruit seed kiwi lime something drink, and then met our trainers!  Whew!  We met our trainers at about 3 o'clock on Thursday.  I'll send you the picture they just sent me of us two when we met.  It's pretty funny because everyone just yells and claps and jumps around when you announce who your trainer is.  Actually apparently they just sent it to you, so that's cool.  It's Elder Holloway, or Hang Zhanglao (the hang from Korea, Hang Guo).  He's so cool!  He's really nice, an awesome basketball player, singer, teacher, Chinese speaker, friendly, smart, and much more!  I can't even tell you all of the things he's good at cus I don't have time!  Right then, we left together to my first area!  It's called Zhubei 1 (also spelled Chupei, but Zhubei is correct).  It was about an hour west of Taibei by train, and we also have the area of Hukou.  Zhubei itself is mostly city, but Hukou is mostly small rice farms and old family houses.  So we went to Zhubei and our new apartment there (pictures of that as well).  It's pretty nice, but very small.  It's actually 2 floors, with only sleeping upstairs and food, desks, kitchen, bathroom, etc. stuck downstairs.

 

So that night we went finding around Zhubei, which was crazy!  It's insanely crowded, and everything is made smaller.  Like, the people, the stores, the cars, the lights, everything.  Everything is smaller.  It's nuts.  We found this family with 8 people together in their house smoking together, and they all accepted to let us come back, as well as another guy.  Since we said a prayer with them, we counted them all as new investigators, so we got 9 that night!  It was crazy.  My trainer's old companion (Elder Rushton) wrote tons of sticky notes and notes on my whiteboard for me, and on one corner he wrote "9 NI - 1 Night!!".  Guess he was inspired.  He also wrote about 8 times "7 Baptisms during training!" and we have 8 people with baptismal dates and are planning to get more, so we could easily get 7, which would be so sweet!  The "Standard of Excellence" is 1 per month, so that'd be awesome.  That night we taught a lesson with a man who had a lot of questions about why even Christians have a 3 class system in the economy and don't make everybody equal.  Poor guy.  He also said he had a lot of mental problems from when he was bullied as a child.  The next day, we taught a lesson to a woman and her husband who we didn't know.  It turns out she's a member but she was an investigator for 5 years.  Her husband is still an investigator, 25 years after he met the missionaries the first time.  It was really cool to meet them.  That night, without telling me beforehand, Elder Holloway said that he would leave with another member and I would go with a guy named Obi-Wan to go street contacting.  Whaaaat??  So that was freaky.  We went out for a couple hours and met a bunch of people.  We got 2 new investigators from that and told 2 more people about our English class.  It was crazy.  Then yesterday we taught a lesson to an investigator who was super cool and interested, then that night we went to Obi-Wan's house to eat with his family.  Oh yeah on Saturday we also ate lunch with a member at a restaurant.  On the way to Obi-Wan's house, there was a huge hill on the 40-minute bike ride.  I was going so slowly that I had to turn my wheel to stay up.  A lot of prayer going up that hill.  On the way down, there was still a couple uphill spots and I barely made it.  Then, with a lot of prayer on the way down as well, I could feel every pedal getting easier.  I was going so fast I could go uphill and end up going just as fast on the straight parts.  Truly, miracles are real.  Just this morning I was stuck in between a car and a motorcycle, and the opening was less than 3 feet across.  I honestly shouldn't have made it through, but I barely squished through and was fine.  Serious miracles.

 

So food!  Taiwan's food is....really strange.  I've had sweetened lemon vinegar, peaches as hard as apples, red guava (and normal guava), pig intestine noodle soup, edible flowers, stinky tofu, nasty oatmeal, an awesome chicken sandwich, bacon sauce lettuce something omelette something, and a kiwi that a member gave to us.  A kiwi, not more than 1.  It's always exciting, that's for sure.  Also they don't like having salt for some reason.  Dunno.

 

 

So that's it!  Thanks for the emails of support and stuff and news from home.  加油!

 

第八個星期半 (Week 8....And a Half)

Hello again! 

It feels like just Wednesday when I talked to you last.  Things are going good, and I haven't started packing yet.  So that's fun.  That's what the next hour is for, right?  It's going to be fine though because it's just clothes and some toiletries that I need to pack, and I have another hour on Monday night.  We said goodbye to some of our teachers today and yesterday, which was really sad.  They took some pictures of our district with them, and I hope that I'll be able to get those pictures before too long.  I, as usual, forgot my camera, so I'll run back to the residency and get that.  In other news we're doing a departing musical number tomorrow, which I am playing the flute for (it's a violin part for I Need Thee Every Hour that Elder Moss supplied), so that's a lot of fun.  Also, as I'll show you when I get the camera, I got another haircut on Wednesday!  Don't have a heart attack!  I got it suuuuper short (like I put my head through it and then it's good); it's like an inch on the top and half that or less on the sides.  And before Jacob disowns me, it's because I figure that if I have 2 years of needing my hair relatively short, I'd better figure out what I prefer the best given the options.  Also I still like my old hair better (sorry mom), although I have to admit this has its benefits (sorry Jacob).  Only 2 years before I can grow it back, right?  We'll see, I guess.  We had in-field orientation for 9 hours on Thursday (I wish I was kidding), where they basically told us to work with members, make goals, and oh yeah work with members.  It was pretty boring, honestly, but it went by way faster than I was worried about, so that's good.  God works in mysterious ways, right?  The hype is getting sooooo real for Taiwan.  We're looking up pictures, talking to them about food, people, members, investigators, how to find, how to tract, customs, culture, drinks, what's acceptable and what's not, language stuff specific to Taiwan, and so much more!  It's getting crazy.  I think I want to live there for, oh, 2 years or so.  In all honesty, though, just from pictures I want to move there really bad and spend longer there.  It's so gorgeous!  And everything about the country sounds so awesome.  I want to take dad there so bad!  I really think he'd love it there.  Well, I've gotta run.  More later today, and then talk to you on Tuesday!

第八個星期 (Week 8)

Travel Plans to Taiwan!!!

Hello hello!  I'm running out of greetings already!  Oh well.  

 
So!  Biggest news this week: we got our travel plans on Friday!  As always, I forgot my camera, but I will add some pictures when I grab my camera later today.  From what I remember: we leave the MTC on Tuesday morning at 6:50, get to the airport somewhere around 8:30-9:30, the flight leaves at around 11:45, get into LA at around 2:30, leave there at around 4:30, then have a 14 hour flight directly to Taibei and, with the 14 hour time difference, the schedule says that we'll get there 28 hours later.  Whoo!  That'll be fun.  Exciting stuff!!
 
In line with that, this entire week has felt like a huge pump-up session for Taiwan.  Everything has been about contacting, tracting, talking to people, increasing vocabulary with Taiwanese-specific words, Taiwanese cultural stuff, food, places, pictures, maps, stories, on and on and on!  (Or, in 中文, 等等: it means etc.)  Tomorrow we have what's called "In-field training" where we talk about what to expect in the field, and, y'know, get training....for when you're in the field....  You know.  Crazy!
 
This week, it's been really hard to focus on anything specific.  Like I mentioned a week or two ago, we have 3 (.5) teachers, and they all teach us different stuff, or come in and want us to tell them what we want to learn.  Then each of them gives us assignments, we still have personal study to do, we have companion study, need to plan lessons, still need to study Chinese, need to get ready to go, last-minute errands and odd jobs and purchases, and I'm the district leader so I have some other stuff to keep track of like getting and distributing mail, ensuring everyone's where they need to be, answering questions, assigning lessons, passing on information from the zone leaders and branch presidency, coming up with and employing my own and other district members' suggestions on activities and preparation techniques, and then keeping track of it all.  It's really not that bad or overwhelming, it just makes it a little hard to focus on each thing!  I have to say, being district leader is actually really fun.  I couldn't really tell you why, but I really enjoy it.  I love studying and reading the scriptures, learning Chinese, and teaching is pretty fun too.  Our district is really cool, and we're doing well.
 
Something from Sunday that I really liked: Sister Teng (actually Deng - when she came to America they changed her name; she's Branch President Teng/Deng's wife) shared a story in sacrament meeting on Sunday.  A few years ago, she gave a talk to some missionaries about praying about the Book of Mormon.  An elder got hit really hard by that, and prayed for about half an hour that night.  He prayed really hard, and then saw a vision.  An angel came down and told him the truthfulness of the book.  He said that he was so touched and full of the Spirit that he asked to see some of his own future, and was shown it.  She read a letter directly from him, so that's his story not hers.  I thought it was really cool.  I highly doubt I'll ever have something like that, but I certainly wouldn't refuse it!  Power of prayer, people.
 
Something really cool!  Last week, Chen laoshi told us she would give us first names in addition to our last names.  She said it wasn't finished yet, but I peeked at her document (shame on me) and asked her how to say the character she had for me, and here it is: 范廣字 (Fan Guang Zi).  So Fan (the surname) doesn't mean anything; it's just a last name, but guang means "broad" or "expansive" and zi means "word" or "character".  I'm not sure what they mean together, but it was pretty cool.
 
Thank you everyone for your words and prayers of support not only for me but also for my family.  I really appreciate it, and I'm sure those back at home do as well.  Thank you as well to all those who have sent emails or letters of updates or words of encouragement, etc.  Thanks!
 
That's most of it.  加油!
 
 
I love you all.
 

第七個星期 (Week 7)

大家好!  (Big family good = hello everyone).  So, some big news this week!  Here goes.

 
To start off, this Sunday I was called as a district leader!  So that's exciting.  I have the least time as DL, as we're leaving in *GASP* 13 days if you include today!  Yikes!  It's gone so fast!  I've begun my reign as DL by initiating some things that I hope will help us teach better and I've passed on some of the strict warnings and advice from the branch presidency (like quiet time at 10:15 is actually quiet time).  Just kidding about the "reign" thing.  Partially.  It's pretty fun though.  I get the mail for the district, which is weird because it was always somebody else's problem.  Weird!  So, if you send me things, I'll be the first one to see it.  Heh heh.
 
In other news, Elder Andersen came yesterday to give the devotional!  One thing that was pretty funny for those of you who know Erin Beck (now Sister Beck), was that she gave the prayer yesterday.  Normally that wouldn't have been funny, but as it was broadcasted to every MTC (so praying for somewhere around 10,000 missionaries) and was right in front of an apostle, she got really freaked out.  I got to sit in the 4th row, which was really cool, and so the whole time I could see her really well.  She looked terrified so I was trying to cheer her up beforehand and she was trying hard not to crack up in front of everyone.  Heh heh I'm so kind, right?  Elder Andersen's talk was really good, but honestly I liked Bednar's a lot better from a couple weeks ago.  Obviously still awesome, though.
 
 
This week for TRC (if I didn't say this before, it's the Teaching Resource Center), we taught a sister in Taizhong right now, but she's going to be moving to Taibei in a few weeks.  She was a little sick when we talked to her, and at first it was kinda "yeah, whatever, she's sick" but then we found out that she's pregnant and having her baby in 1-2 weeks!  Holy cow!  She seemed great for being 8.5 months pregnant!  Knowing that totally changed our lesson, and I think we were able to better match it to her.  Originally we were going to tel her about how she needs to be charitable towards others as a way to show and grow her faith, but we changed it to be more about looking for the charity of others and to show it to her family, especially her incoming child.  (Heh, incoming sounds like it's a meteor or something)  So yeah, we may see her in Taibei as well!  We also found out that she went on her mission to Taibei, got married 3 months later, and that was 1 year ago.  For those of you who can't do math, that's getting pregnant within a week of getting married, which was 3 months after coming home.  Wow!  Also, we found out she was one of our teacher's companions in Taibei, which was cool.  They totally freaked out when they saw each other.
 
This week we got 3 new people to teach!  We got a recent convert, an inactive RM, and a new investigator who took a couple of the lessons when she was 13 (now 20).  They're all completely different, and our teaching is surprisingly different for all of them.  For the RM we noticed how open he got when we get really honest and really direct, for the new convert he liked it when we were open with him and was really engaged when we had more of a discussion, and the new investigator is really willing to do our commitments and is very receptive to our message when we teach.  It's really cool to see each of them and try to help them in a unique way.  Cool stuff!
 
Yesterday I bought a little whiteboard and some markers and now I can work on writing some characters!  I worked on it for about 2 hours yesterday, and it was amazing how much came back from Chinese in high school.  This whole time I'd felt like I'd forgotten every character I learned except for things like "I, you, he" and basic words like that.  Now I've remembered about 1/3 of the ones I new as well as learned about 25 more.  It's so cool!  I love characters.  I was really scared about trying to power through them all when I get to Taiwan, but now I'm feeling much better about it.  I can actually read about 1/3 of the BoM now, which I wasn't even close to 2 days ago.  Gift of tongues is real, everyone.  I can recognize almost all of the characters for the words I actually know (so, probably less than a 3rd), so now vocab is really the problem.  Woo-hoo, improvement!
 
I've attached a picture of me with Elder Murdock.  He's my second cousin once and half.2 removed across our great-aunt's sister's side down to our mother's cousin's something or other.  Pretty much we're cousins.  Somehow.  He's really cool, and he can actually make his voice go about as deep as I can!  It was pretty funny to hear him sing in the shower the other day.  I've also met Elder Kaufusi (met him at the Sons of Utah Pioneers banquet), Elder Nelson (met him at the Rotary Club banquet, I think and he came to my farewell), Elder Cline (he played cello in the UYPhil and he announced his mission right before mine), and Elder Doyle (he was in Stefan and Nathan's ward in Provo).  Cool, right?  The sad thing is that they're all in the other zone, except Elder Doyle, so I don't see them that often.  In case I forgot to mention, we have 2 Chinese zones (1 Cantonese district in the other zone, and all the others are Mandarin).  We each take a hallway in our building, so when we come in and out of the building we often don't see the people from the other zone.  *Sigh* oh well, I guess I'll have to wait until we get to Taibei to see them very much.  Also it's weird how I met each of them, and they all know each other now better than I do, and they didn't know each other before.  Weird.
 
Friends and family, our family is having a bit of a rough time right now.  I won't go into detail about it because that would not be appropriate, but please be aware that some people are having some real struggles.  I am only saying this because I feel like it might be a bit much for us alone right now, so please be aware of those who are struggling.  I appreciate all of the support for me right now while I'm gone, and if possible send some of that to the rest of the family.  Thank you for all of your continued kindness for me and mine!
 
That's most of it for this week.  We get our travel plans on Friday!  Yikes!  It's so crazy how fast the last few weeks have gone.  We have 1 more P-Day, and then 6 days, and then we're gone.  Well, 加油!
 
I love you all so so so much.  Trust me when I say that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about each of you, and all that you mean to me.  I pray for you around 7 times a day.  Please know that I love you and that God loves you and your efforts and love for one another.  我愛你們.  加油!

Du Liu Ge Xing Qi (Week 6)

大家好!(That means hello to a big group of people: literally "big family good"; cool, right?) 

So, I'm going to preface this by saying that most of this week has been the same as the other weeks!  Woohoo for a routine schedule in a confined space!  Which really isn't a bad thing, and now we're learning to optimize our time.  Yay!
 
So some highlights from this week: We had our last TRC lesson (some know what that is: Teaching Resource Center lesson where we teach member volunteers for 2 20 minute lessons and they give us feedback) on Saturday, which was sad.  What was happy, was that on Monday we had our first Skype TRC lesson!  I was expecting to do a lesson to a member in Provo, just somewhere else in the MTC or something, but it was actually a lady in Taibei!  Her name's Ling Jiemei (sister Ling), and she's really cool.  It was fun to talk to a native Taiwanese person and to really teach her.  We actually understood pretty much everything she said!  We took 15 minutes (out of 30) to get to know her, and had a really good conversation with her.  She knows President Jergensen and was saying how tall he is.  It was pretty funny, because that was the only thing that she said about him.  She looked like she was about 5 feet tall, so that makes sense.  It'll be so fun being in there because we'll stand out so much!  That'll be interesting.
 
We sang Lead, Kindly Light that was arranged for MoTab on Tuesday for the devotional, which was really really good.  Brother Eggett, the choir director, is phenomenal.  He reminds me of a slightly less-goofy version of Anthony Buck, so for everyone who knows him it's obviously a blast and really really good.  Love ya, Anthony!  Shout-outs are fun, amiright?
 
On Monday afternoon, all of the missionaries going to Singapore/Malaysia left.  I haven't talked about them at all, I think, but there were like 10 or something that went there, and then yesterday all of the Taiwan (Taizhong) missionaries left in the morning.  So we lost 20-something missionaries this week, and almost all of them were in our residence right next to us.  So last night was practically silent, despite some people trying to be louder than normal to compensate.  Or something.  Who knows what some 18 year-olds think, eh?  Also the laundry room is usually packed with a literally 1 hour wait in the mornings, but today there are actually open washers and driers, and I've been here an hour!  Crazy!  Also the choir went from 1400 people on Sunday to 700 or less on Tuesday.  Sadly, today we're getting 900 more missionaries, which is the most we've ever gotten (I think ever ever, like the most on record), which will be nuts.  There will be over 3000 of us at that point, I believe.  Meals will take even longer to get now D:  Oh well!  It's really not a bad thing, but it's going to be so packed all the time now.  We watched a video of a devotional last May, and there were over 1000 open seats.  Now we have a 500-700 person overflow room every devotional.  Yikes!
 
On that note, we're finally getting our new Taibei missionaries!!!  Our zone is getting 27 more, and I believe the other zone is getting around the same so we're having more than 50 new missionaries come in!  Most of those will be Taibei'ers, so yay!  I'll finally meet all the people I had met before again, so that's going to be fun.
 
 
For those of you who don't pay attention to the titles of the entries or whatever, I only have 2 P-Days left before I head out!  It's crazy!  It's so weird to be the "6-weekers", the old ones, whatever.  It feels like we still have another 6 weeks!  3 weeks exactly from yesterday (probably morning), we'll have left and 3 weeks from today (or kinda tomorrow; international date line is weird) I'll be in Taiwan.  Yikes!
 
 
So much love.  As they say in Chinese: 加油!(literally "add oil", but it means good luck/yeah!/hurrah!)
 

Di Wu Ge Xing Qi (Week 5)

Hello hello!  How are things at the ole' homestead?  Surprisingly enough, Provo is still here and the MTC is still the same.  Shocker, right?

One of the teachers left for China and isn't coming back until after I leave, and Tian laoshi just left on Monday for good.  His work lease or whatever you want to call it is up, so he's going back to his home in China before returning for fall semester at BYU, but he's done teaching at the MTC.  I would like to say a few things about Tian laoshi that I haven't yet, and I really hope that he's reading this.  I respect him as a teacher, storyteller, and person second only to dad, which should really tell you how amazing he is and how much I admire him (for those of you who don't know, my dad teaches English at the University of Utah and is the best storyteller and teacher I have ever met).  The problem is, he's so freaking humble it's almost painful, and literally any time you compliment him, he says "bu shi!" (no, not correct!) or something like that and insists that the Spirit is the teacher and he's just there to tell us about it.  He doesn't know the kind of effect that he's had on us in inspiring us, teaching us Chinese, growing our faith, instilling a love of the Taiwanese people in us, helping us come closer to Christ, and ensuring our testimonies of missionary work and the gospel grow and continue.  Godspeed and the best of all luck to you, Tian laoshi.  You deserve it.  Jiayou.
 
Well, the rest of the week was largely the same again except one very notable difference: the Nashville Tribute Band came on Sunday!  It was so freaking cool!  I wasn't sure what to expect, really, but it was so amazing.  The songs were so good; musically, they were way above most popular country/rock songs, and the lyrics were just inspiring as well as masterfully put in with the music.  It was so inspiring and just awesome to be able to be a part of the then 1800-person choir as their backup singers, so many that we could barely fit in the massive room that is supposed to seat the entire MTC.  So cool!  We sang John's Song, I Was Born, and then another one we learned on Sunday: When the Son of Man Comes Again or something like that.  They also sang about 15 of their songs in addition to those 3, and bore their testimonies again and again throughout of missionary work, Christ, the gospel, etc.  So cool!  I can't stress it enough!  Sorry Tara, but I got to be a backup singer before you! :P  I highly encourage everyone to look up all of their songs, because we probably listened to it when they were here there were so many, and they were all amazing.  Aah so cool!
 
Anyways, on Tuesday we sang Where Can I Turn For Peace for the devotional, and apparently I was prominently on camera with Elder Hogge, which was pretty fun.  The devotional was by Spencer J. Condie, an Emeritus Seventy, which is what most of the devotional speakers are, but it was really good.  More notes on that are in my notebook I'll have to show you when I get home!  I really enjoy the devotionals and how passionate the speakers are about everything.
  

Di Si Ge Xing Qi (Week 4)

Hello Hello from the "happiest place on earth"

the glorified prison named the MTC!  I'm just kidding.  You know I just have to try and switch it up, right?

This week, we continued to have fun in the choir prepping for the Nashville Tribute Band.  We've been working on it every Sunday, while on Tuesdays we work on the song we'll sing for that night's devotional.  We're singing John's Song, I Was Born, and then another one we have to learn from start to finish on Sunday!  Whoo....  It's actually really fun and I love the music.  Our choir on Sunday had 1,500 people in it!  That's the largest choir in the world.  I actually saw a video of someone singing Bach's 1,000 member-choir which is the largest choir that I've ever seen before.  So yeah, 1,500 is pretty cool.  Aren't the songs cool?  Also I'm about 95% sure that it's an MTC only thing, so nobody else would be able to come.  We're actually singing inside the MTC, so that wouldn't really work.  Sorry!
 
We've had some pretty cool devotionals every Sunday and Tuesday night which have been really fun.  On Sundays, we usually go to a devotional, then watch a video of a previous devotional, but this Sunday was a bit different.  We watched Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ" devotional (MTC only, I think, but it's amazing), and as it finished people in the front row started standing up really fast.  We were all thinking "huh that's weird" and then lo and behold, Elder Bednar walked up on the stand!  Whaaaaat??  (My name is Aldolpho :D..... sorry)  It was crazy!  He did a Q&A about his own devotional, which was amazing.  I left my notes for it in my room, but if I remember I'll try and take a picture of it or something.
  
Also on Sunday I played a song for sacrament meeting with Elder Moss which was a lot of fun.  I played a vocal solo arrangement of This is the Christ, which went really well.  It wasn't that difficult, but it was good to play again.  Every time somebody plays music, it just makes me want to play more, which is good and bad I guess.  Sunday night's devotional was kicked off by a flute player playing the exact same song that Elder Weatherston and I started practicing a couple weeks ago.  She must have been the one that was practicing next to us last P-Day..... *sigh* oh well.  I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances to play in the coming 23 months (today marks 1 month!).
 
Elder Hogge and I were having some difficulties this week...... teaching!  Did you think we weren't getting along?  Got ya!  We're doing great, but teaching wasn't going as well as we'd hoped.  We taught some sub-par lessons last week, and weren't really sure what the problem was.  Then we really planned, got some feedback from the teachers, and turned around and taught 3 awesome lessons in a row!  It was pretty satisfying.  We've now taught Zi Feng (Tian Laoshi) the Restoration, helped him with an essay on 2 Nephi 2:11 (opposition in all things) he had to do, lesson 3 (Gospel of Christ), and we're starting Plan of Salvation today.  With Qi Xiao Dong (Chen Laoshi, our other teacher), we've taught the Restoration, up to our life on earth in the Plan of Salvation, Atonement, Repentance, and sorta baptism.  She didn't do so great on the last 3, but did great on the previous ones.  Oh yeah, Zi Feng committed to baptism, too!  That was pretty cool.  Now we're just making sure he knows the doctrine he's committing to :P.
 
Elder Hogge and I are doing really well, like I said.  We had some awesome heart-to-hearts this week, and it honestly feels like he's my brother.  Now, family should know that how close Jacob and I should tell you how highly I hold that, so that's cool.  We haven't had any kinds of problems and it doesn't look like we will from now on either.  I love it because he's just so down-to-earth and humble about everything.  It's like the gospel and hard work and service and everything else is just so simple to him.  His faith is really impressive, and I've been learning from him literally every day.
 
Scripture study has picked back up the last few days.  I actually didn't have much time at the end of last week, so I was still in the middle of 2 Nephi, but yesterday I finished 2 Nephi and I'm halfway through Jacob, so that's cool.  I started a thing in my journal a couple weeks ago where I write a topic and then every time I find a scripture that describes that topic I write it down.  I'm at like 8 or 10 topics, with an average of 5 or so scriptures per, so it's pretty cool!  I advise everyone to do that because it really helps see patterns of topics as well as understanding the topic (and in my case, how to teach it) much better!
 
I really really appreciate all of the letters and DearElders coming in this past week!  Every missionary looks forward to the 2 mail times per day, and it's really fun to be one of the people to get something!  Thanks for all of the updates, encouragement, and news coming in from the vast outdoors.  I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to respond individually, so I just wanted to put out a blanket thank you and know that I appreciate each one individually.
 
I think that that's all for this week.  Please continue to send anything and everything, I'll get back to you when/if I can, love you love you love you, and more next week!

Di San Ge Xing Qi (Week Three)

Hail from Provo! 

The language is getting better!  Despite having some really bad lessons earlier this week, yesterday we taught a killer lesson and re-covered the Restoration, Great Apostasy, Christ, and BoM and our previously non-progressing investigator Qi Xiao Dong committed to reading the BoM, praying, and believes that God is her loving Heavenly Father.  Whoo!  Also, our other investigator Zi Feng had a problem with his homework about the verse in Nephi about how there's opposition in all things, so we spent most of the time just helping him with it and now he really wants to listen to us.  Good things are happening!
 
Also, I forgot to mention that on the first day we all got Chinese names.  I'm Fàn Zhong Lao (Elder Fàn), which looks like this: 范長老.  So that's pretty cool.  Fàn doesn't really mean anything, it's just a surname, but we do have an Elder East, Elder Minister, Elder (some specific kind of) Tree, Elder And, etc.  It's pretty fun.
 
Thanks for all of the study questions!  I actually don't have that much time to just sit and study the scriptures because almost all of our PCL (personal companion language study) time is taken up with the L part, but I really appreciate it!  If anybody has more, please don't be offended if I kinda put the question on the backburner because I've got about 6 already, so it's going to take a while as is.
 
After being told by 4 separate people, I'm getting a haircut today.... Sad face :(  I'm certain that I have the longest hair of any boy in the MTC, and longer than a couple of girls' hair.  I just laughed when everyone told me to get it cut though, because they were all within a few hours of each other.  When my DL told me the branch president specifically mentioned that I should get a haircut I said "That's awesome!"  It was pretty funny.
 
So we're learning mainland stuff because our teacher is from mainland China, so that's just what he knows.  Our other teacher lived in Taiwan for a while so that's what she knows.  Tian laoshi (Teacher Tian, the cool mainland one) was saying that he expects China to open in 20 years, which is right when we'd be the right age to be a mission president so we could potentially go there then.  I'd also love to visit anyways, and it'd be so cool to go with Dong and Zhulian!  
 
I love receiving the DearElder.com letters as well (note to friends:  if you want to, you can sign up through this free website, and Lucas will receive your letters the day you email them, otherwise he has to wait until P Day)!  Sam Smith's mother sent me one last week with a really cool poem called "He's been there before" or something like that, and it was perfectly timed.  Our roommates, Elders Day and Moss, got in a big fight that day, which was the same day that Elder Moss got really sick, and they were just having a really hard time.  I gave them the poem and I think it really helped out, so that was really cool!  
 
If I have a chance I'll get on later today (lucas.van.de.graaff@myldsmail.net) to check for a reply.  
 
P.S. if you have read this far and still have a couple minutes, you can see more photos and read more under "Details" in the menu above.  
 

 

Er Xing Qi (Week Two)

D&C 43: 15-16                     Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed:  Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit; and ye are to be taught from on high.  Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.

A lot to say still!  It's been a busy week, but still a lot of the same kind of thing. 

First off, I had a great idea!  If anybody has any good gospel-related questions, email them to me and then I can have a good study topic!  I need to get used to searching for a specific question, and I thought this would allow everyone to get potential answers to some questions!  So if anybody would like to, just let me know.
 
So you'll notice that last week my email was called "Xing Qi Yi" and this week is called "Er Xing Qi"; well that's because Xing Qi means week and Yi means one, which literally translates to "week one" but in Chinese you say "week one" to say the first day of the week, or Monday.  So yeah, that's awkward.  So it's actually "second week" (Er Xing Qi), not Tuesday.  Learn something new every day, right?
 
So this week it's been a lot of really the same kind of thing.  We wake up at 6, eat breakfast (since you have to be in a shirt/tie to get hot breakfast we just go to the sack breakfast line), have PCL (personal companion language study), have exercise time (volleyball), go to class for 3 hours, lunch, PCL, dinner, class for another 3 hours, bed time.  Same old same old at this point. Which is a good thing, and I'm really getting into the swing of things and learning my way around.  Sundays and Tuesdays we have devotionals (and choir practice for performing on Tuesday devotionals), which is really fun.  Our MTC choir is the choir that sings in general conference but Sad Face I won't ever get to :(
 
I'm reading through the BoM again.  I got through 1 Nephi and I'm on like 2 Nephi 5 or something.  I've also been doing some study of different topics for scriptures we can use in our lessons, so that's fun to switch things up.  Also reading the Bible Dictionary is so cool!  Just sit down and read some definitions if you're bored.  It actually puts everything in context and it's really detailed.  Like how the Sanhedrin, despite it's awesome name, was actually pretty rude and did some bad stuff.  Who knew, right?  The scripture I used for my farewell was D&C 43: 15-16 (I think; it could be a couple verses off but it's in section 43).  Thanks for telling me what's up in the ward and for sharing some scriptures with me!  If anyone finds a scripture they think I should read, send it over!  We're starting to budget our PCL time into sections of actually P then C then L, so I'm going to have some more time than last week to just sit and read scriptures.  Last week we just hammered the L part for pretty much the whole week, so that's fun.
 
I thought I'd write some Chinese so you can see how much I've learned!  I don't know how to write in traditional on the computer yet, so I'll just do it in simplified: 我费城感谢你们给我你们的话!在MTC我感觉天父的牲灵,和我知道他的牲灵是真实的。我最爱你们,我的家庭,和我知道天父会祝福你们。
  
Anyways, love you and talk to you next week!  

Xing Qi Yi (Week One) June 29, 2016

Woooowwwweeee!  So much to say!  Well, here goes.


So, got dropped off here at the MTC, got led around by an Elder Hernandez going to (I think) Mexico, picked up a bunch of papers, my room key, got handed an iPad, got a bunch of other random stuff, then got handed to an Elder..... something I can't remember to go to my classroom to meet my district.  Got in there and found 8 other Elders with a Chinese guy as our teacher, with the entire class in Mandarin!  Yikes!  Everyone looked really, really stressed out, and nobody really knew what was happening.  I found out in about an hour that I had been the last one to arrive and had missed some stuff (like apparently I was supposed to be able to email you guys right then and there, but they never told me that), found out that my companion is Elder Nathan Justin Hogge (pronounced H-oh-ge, or Hogue, or Hoe-ge, or whatever; H with an O sound, then a G sound), and that our entire district is going to Taiwan, Taibei!  We're the only district of all Elders, and all going to the same place.  So that's pretty cool.
 
As I said in my letter, my companion Elder Hogge is super cool!  We hit it off pretty well on the first day, and we're just getting closer and closer as we learn and teach together.  He's from Independence, Kansas, and he worked on an oil rig before coming.  He's a farm boy that's really in to working out (like we went to the gym and he said "nah, I'm not doin' heavy weights, just 80 pounders, and I was so mad), and he used to do triathlons all the time.  He's done wrestling, cross country, swimming, track, cycling, loves to sing, and he ran a marathon a couple months ago!  He loves Pokemon and knows more about it than I do, and he's got such an awesome spirit.  It's really cool when he bears his testimony and when he really believes in something, because it seems so simple to him.  He has such an easy time seeing the benefits of what we're doing, and it's just the obvious course to leave on a mission and tell everyone about it.  He took Chinese his freshman and sophomore years, so he's lost a lot since he took it and it was never very in-depth to begin with, so he's kinda struggling with the language.  It was such a shock to just get thrown in anyways, but I can't imagine how hard it is for him.  There's a tripanionship in our district (Elders Sowards, Huntsman, and Weatherston), and they and an Elder Smith (companions with Elder Heaton) have never had any Chinese.  Talk about stress!
 
So we grew really close as a district pretty fast, and that was really cool.  There is an elder who's our roommate named Elder Day who's the problem child of the district (everyone is ok with him, but he needs some....humility), but it's not bad.  When he buckles down to do something it's great.  We have exercise time every day here, and most days we play beach volleyball with our district/zone, and our district is actually pretty good.  It's a lot of fun, and when we played with the zone almost everyone in our district got some high praises.  We trounced the other district who's been here for 8 weeks pretty bad, and they were all pretty mad.... whoops....
 
I sent some pictures through Google Drive of our district on our temple walk on Sunday!  It was fun and it was really pretty, but I forgot to take more pictures.  Darn.  From left to right it goes: Elders Heaten, Sowards, Smith, Weatherston, Day, Huntsman, Moss, Hogge, and yours truly.  Elder Weatherston is really hyper and excitable, and he's got some....interesting quotes.  He says stuff like "if I weren't Mormon, I'd be a hardcore drug dealer."  Uh-huh.  Sure.  Not like you're the super Mormon kid who's never done anything worse than staying up too late.  I'm just kidding; everyone gives him a hard time but he's hilarious.
 
Our teacher, Tian laoshi (teacher; pronounced lao-shrr with an rrr sound) is soooooooo great!  Seriously!!  He's always happy (like actively smiling about 80% of the time), so encouraging, just a good teacher, and has an amazing testimony of missionary work.  He's from Shanghai, and he himself is a convert through missionaries; also on Saturday he baptized his lifetime friend!  That was cool.  We also had a temporary teacher named Ye laoshi (y-uh lao-shrr) to teach us about the "basic core" which is where we need to learn 250-300 words, 40-60 phrases, 4-7 scriptures, and the 7 Missionary Tasks in this book in 10 days.  Talk about fast!  It seems like we're progressing faster than the other district who got here last week, but I'm not sure.  We're going to have a group study time with them to touch bases.  Ye laoshi is really direct, but she's so funny.  Everyone thought she was really mean and strict...until I pointed out how funny she was.  Oh well.  She left to go back to China yesterday, and she won't be back for 2 months so we'll already be gone.  Sad face.
 
Oh yeah, we lost our iPads yesterday.  Apparently, this elder named Elder Chang was fluent in Chinese but he's going to France so they thought he needed to learn Mandarin for the full 9 weeks, so he applied for his 9-week visa so he's stuck learning French the whole time.  Since Paris is a technology mission, he got an iPad, and they just kinda give everyone in the district an iPad if one person has one (maybe so they don't feel left out?).  So, our DL Elder Sowards never got one because of a clerical error, so when Elder Chang left our district we were supposed to give them back, but since nobody really knew we had them in the first place we were never told what to do with them.  DL Sowards asked them what to do, and they were like "oh yeah, we were going to tell you to give them back.  You should do that.  Right now."  So we did.  We could read our emails throughout the week but not respond, but now we can't anymore.  :(
 
We got an investigator on Friday, and we've taught her 4 lessons so far (all in Chinese)!  It was waaaay harder than I was expecting, but it was also not quite as impossible as I thought.  Does that make sense?  We've been learning so much Chinese that the vocab was easier to learn than I thought, but she talks so fast!  As far as I can tell, she's speaking about as fast as any normal person would in China or Taiwan.  Yikes!  I have to usually carry the discussion because I know the conversational words that we haven't covered as much in class, but it's really hard.  We have several prayers a day about being able to teach Chelsea (our investigator) well and learn the words.  She's not a real investigator, an apparently she's going to become our teacher in a couple weeks.  Oh yeah, I've been praying in Chinese since Thursday!  Entirely in Chinese!  It came way easier than I thought it would.  Yay!  They're still simple, but it's really encouraging.

Heading to the MTC June 22, 2016

So, I'm heading to the MTC on Wednesday!  Thank you for visiting my blog, and hope you'll keep in touch with me!  I'll be in the MTC for 9 weeks until August 23rd.  I'll arrive in Taipei, Taiwan on August 24th, and I'll arrive home on June 27th, 2018.  Just planning ahead, you know.  If you want to contact me, I'd love to get an email from you at lucas.van.de.graaff@myldsmail.net or send me a physical letter.  My address at the MTC will be AUG24  TAIW-TAI 2005 N 900 E Unit 138, Provo UT 84602 and my address in Taiwan will be 4 Fl, #24, Lane 183 Chin Hua Street Taipei Taipei 106.  I look forward to getting messages from you, and I'll see you all in 2 years!

-Elder Van De Graaff