Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Finally Email Home!

Dear Family and Friends,
  Well here it is, the final week of my mission. My last week in such a beautiful country that I have called home for the past 2 years of my life. I don't really know how to express all of my feelings and thoughts in this email, I don't think that is possible to do so. All I can say is that I love my mission. I love Taiwan. I love the message that I teach here. I wouldn't have traded this time away for anything! The opportunities of learning and growth that I've had during this time are impossible to get in any other way. And I can't imagine what it would've been like had I not come and experienced all of this. My testimony and love for Jesus Christ has grown alongside of all of the many people that I was able to teach here. I have loved seeing my own growth, and even more so, the growth of the people that I love here in Taiwan. It will be sad to leave them all, but I know it will be like the sons of Mosiah and Alma, as we all remain faithful, we will still be "brethren in the Lord" and be held together by these special ties and see each other again some day.

  Last week was another great week with plenty of miracles. I had the opportunity to do two baptismal interviews. One with a 18 year old young man named J..., and another with a young girl named W.... Jeff's cousins are all members of the church (one of them is actually the translator for the Prophet. He's a really cool guy) and he has always secretly wanted to learn more about the Church, but his mom didn't think that he should because he was busy with other things. But a few months ago she finally agreed and he has loved everything that he learned with the missionaries. Now his mom is meeting with them as well.

   W... is super cool too. 5 days ago she came back from a two month exchange program in Utah. And of course she heard a lot about the Church there. Actually she had been to our English class here many years before and one reason she wanted to go to Utah was to learn more about the Church. So she met with the missionaries there and heard all the lessons and went to church every week. but because of the government policies she was not able to be baptized until she came back to Taiwan. So the second day back she comes to our English class and tells us she wants to be baptized in two weeks, so probably this Saturday or Sunday. She is super solid and is so excited! I'm glad I was able to see her and probably be able to attend her baptism before I come home. 

   Our friend Brother Z... and his wife X... came to church this Sunday!! They could only stay for a little bit before they had to leave for work, but they still came!!! We didn't even have to remind them. We met with them twice last week and watched "Finding Faith in Christ" with them. His wife X... started crying and loved it. Brother Z... is still determined to be baptized in September. They are awesome!

  And Brother Z... is doing well too! He says that the story of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the priesthood makes perfect sense. Unfortunately his eyesight is really bad to he can't read the scriptures. So either he's going to buy some eyeglasses or we will buy him a giant copy of the Book of Mormon! 

  Last week in a convenient store, we also ran into a nice girl named A.... She said she is Christian and just moved down from Taipei and hasn't been to church in a long long time so she has been looking for a church to go to. She had prayed a day or two before to be able to find the right church, and then she bumped into us at the store. She instantly just started sharing with us her whole life's story about her troubled family and youth. She talked about how much she felt she needed God in her life now. After she finished telling us she paused. Then she said, "I don't even know why I just told you all of that. I've only met you for 5 minutes. I guess I just feel good talking with you." I believe that she was able to recognize us as servants of the Lord and knew that she could trust us. God truly helps us find those people that really need His help.

  Well for my last pday I will be going with our ward mission leader to a traditional Taiwanese place in Meinong to buy some sweet souvenirs to bring back. Hopefully there will be some cool stuff. Also Dad, about the big scroll that you wanted. I thought we could buy them from the place across from the temple in Taipei but apparently you can't. I still don't know where to get the scrolls from. I think I'll get a free one from the Mission President though. Also, does anyone want any of my old shirts or pants as a keepsake? I wouldn't if I were you haha. What about my old shoes that almost have a hole all the way through them. If any one wants these let me know or else they will be given to one of the old ladies that collects garbage on the streets here.

   On Monday morning I will be heading up to Taizhong for my final interview with The Mission President. On Tuesday we will be going up to the temple in Taipei and then to go explore the rest of the day, and then on Wednesday morning we will head off to the airport. Then...I'll be on my way home.

   Well the time is finally here. I'm closing up my last email that I will send while on my mission. I don't think I will have time next week so here's the last one. Thank you for everyone who has supported me while I've been away these past two years. Thanks for you emails, letters, and packages. I'm really glad that I had that support while over here. These two years have been the greatest of my life, and I can't imagine that anything I will do afterwards will be anywhere close to as meaningful as my mission. I love it so much! I know that the things that I've learned here will be able to help me through the rest of my life. I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I love my family and I'm thankful for all of you. I'm excited to see you again when I get home. 

Love,
Elder Stevens


Saying Goodbye To My Good Friends!


A Great Week Again...

It's been another great week in Zuoying!!! We had a lot of fun stuff happen! We've been working a lot with several investigators that seem to be really progressing. Brother Z... and his wife and doing super well. They've already read together all the way to the end of 1st Nephi in the Book of Mormon! He really enjoys reading it a lot. Our ward mission leader likes to come to help with their lessons because when we meet at 8:30 in the morning he can come too because his work is later. He loves teaching them so he basically does most of the talking haha. It is easy to see that Brother Z... loves what he is learning here. He's doing very well.

  Our newer friend Brother Z... is doing well too. We've met him for about two weeks now and he's awesome! He's in his late 50s and he is a very humble man. He was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit when he was in his 20s, then he just wasted away his life drinking and smoking. Then his body just couldn't take it and he almost died a few years ago. Then he's spent the last several years in and out of the hospital for months at a time trying to recover. He feels lots of regret for his past and wants to know why he was preserved back when he should have died. He has a strong desire to change his life and to be baptized. He came to a great ward activity on Saturday where all the members just split up into groups and had little discussions with each of the investigators that we brought about their conversion process and the things that they changed in their lives. Literally everyone in our group used to be heavy smokers and drinkers before and the things they shared clearly had an impact on our friend Brother Z...! Currently he has a baptismal date for the end of September! 

  B... is still struggling with smoking and drinking as well. He came to the Saturday activity too and was equally touched by the stories that the members shared. He really wants to change!

  Saturday morning our ward mission leader invited us to play some soccer with a bunch of guys in the park and it was a ton of fun. I love to play soccer but I haven't had any opportunities to play here in Taiwan. This was my first time and I found out that I was pretty rusty. I almost scored a header off of a corner kick but it hit the post!!!! I was so mad. The guys kept crossing them to me because I was so much taller than everyone else (except for a guy from Germany) but I just couldn't score. We might go back again next week because there are some really nice guys there.

  We also got the opportunity to paint an elderly woman's house last week. I love doing service for people.  I was so happy to have the chance to help her paint. They didn't give us any tape for the edges of the baseboard so they got plenty of paint too haha. I would hate to see the look on my dad and grandpa's face if they saw the poor quality of the paint job. They didn't give us any tools though so it was impossible to do a good job! 

 The week was super good and there are many great people here!! I'm super tired all the time though. I fall asleep anytime we say a prayer, like during church, or during studies, or during lessons. I fell asleep once saying a prayer out loud with my companion haha. I'm looking forward to a nap on the plane ride home. But before then I'll do my best to stay awake haha.

  Well I love you all lots!! Have a great time on vacation out West!!
Love,
Elder Stevens


Monday, July 18, 2016

Meeting President and Sister Teh.

Dear Everyone,
 This last week was a great week! We are finding lots of people to meet with and who are willing to learn. This is such a great area. I wish I would've come here earlier and been able to stay here longer! And on pday, there is so much to do so we are never bored! 

  We've been working hard with one of our friends named B... He has a strong desire to be baptized and to do the right thing, but he still struggles with the Word of Wisdom. He is trying hard to stop smoking and drinking. He is a construction worker too so the environment that he works in, and lives in, make it very difficult for him to stop. He's doing well though. He only smoked two cigarettes last week so he's getting better and better. 

  Our other friend Brother Z... is doing well too. In the last few days he's already read 16 chapters in the Book of Mormon . He really enjoys it and his wife is very supportive in helping him to read and answering his questions. We just need to help him learn to apply what he learns in the Book of Mormon to his life. He couldn't go to our church yesterday because he didn't get off work the night before until after midnight, so he went to a later session in a different chapel. His work is going to make things hard for them, but he is doing well though.

  This week I had the opportunity to do another baptismal interview for a young girl named K... She is 16 and told me that she had a rough time at school.  She didn't have many friends and felt that she had a lot of stress. Then one day, one of her friends gave her a flyer that she had found for our English class at the church. She decided to go, but when she arrived, the class had already started so she felt bad, and just decided to sit outside. Then, Elder Tatton (he came on the island with me) for some reason felt that he should look outside in the hallway and found her sitting there. He talked with her for a bit and invited her in for the rest of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, the missionaries shared a short message about Jesus Christ and K... really liked it. She said that the message made her feel happy so she wanted to hear more. Over the past few months she kept coming to English class, and then to church, and felt so happy every time. She originally was a very sad girl, but the huge change in her personality was so dramatic that everyone around her noticed it and now her mom wants to come to church to see what it's like. K... was so excited to have found the church and has plans to serve a mission in the future. 

  I am thankful that I, like K..., have found such happiness from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is so important to me. I don't know where I would be without it. We know why we are here, why we have challenges, and how to deal with it all. It gives me such peace despite all the confusion around me. 

  This week we also got to have a meeting with our new Mission President. He's from the Philippines and you can tell that English is not his or his wife's first language haha. Their English is really good though. They are both super funny and really awesome. It's too bad I won't be able to know them for longer. He has made some changes in the mission to make the rules a lot less strict. So that's fun for all the newer missionaries haha. We have interviews with President Teh this Wednesday so I'm excited for that. 

  This Saturday we had a ward activity and we all went to Monkey Mountain again! I love that place! We didn't see too many monkeys this time, but it's just such a fun place to go hiking. I've got some pictures to send from there. 

  I'm having fun and enjoying my time in Zuoying. I'm praying hard that I can keep working hard and staying focused for these last, but very important weeks. Please pray for me as well! I love my mission and I want to work hard until the very end!

  I love you all too! Have a great week!
Elder Stevens

Great Dumplings


Monkey Mountain



Congested Streets




Where I Send My Emails




Home Sweet Home





Chicken Curry



Future Site Of Gaoxing Temple.  I Can't Wait!




My Companion And I, Monkey Mountain



Monday, July 11, 2016

Typhoon Week...

Hey Everyone!! 
  Yes I'm still alive, we survived the typhoon!! We didn't know how powerful of a typhoon it actually was because we were inside for all of it. Before when there were typhoons or anything bad, we just went outside to proselyte like normal....those times were all jam packed with lots of fun stories, but this time, our mission president said that we all had to stay inside until the storm was gone. It kind of had the feeling of a snow day back home when you don't have to go to school. The difference was that staying inside wasn't fun at all haha. Eventually at around 1:30pm or so we got permission to leave the house and we just went around in the rain talking with people that were inside stores. Since then it has rained every day, all day, including today. 

  We had Zone Leaders Training Meeting this week which was fun. It was nice not to have to give the training for a change. I could just sit back and learn some new things from the other missionaries. Actually, I was mainly focused on translating for the Taiwanese missionaries so it wasn't super relaxing haha. I just really love speaking Chinese. It's so much fun to learn. It's really hard and I still have a lot to learn, but the challenge of learning this language has been fun for me throughout my entire mission. I love it. I'm going to miss it when I come back home. 

  Other than the rain, we had a good week. Me met with a member who hasn't been to church in a while and also with her husband who is not a member. They, the Z... family, are both wanting to start coming to church and learn more about how to help their family. They've only been married for three months. They are super cool and excited to learn, but unfortunately they are so busy with work that they can't come to church and can only meet with us at 8:30 in the morning. We'll keep working with them though.

  My companion Elder Neuhaus is awesome and we are having a great time together here in Zuoying. He is telling me that everything in America has changed while I've been gone. He says that the clothes, music, and everything have changed. Like what in the world are joggers clothes, or why on earth do people where Keen sandals (yes, the ugly ones that mom made me bring on my mission, haha). I'm a little worried that I won't fit in when I get back. Luckily, I still have some more time here.

  Well, today for pday I'm going to Tainan to see a friend that can hopefully help me buy some super cheap stuff from China and places like that. I'm excited to see what he can get for me.

   Lastly, I'm glad to hear that Alexa's talk went really well. Way to go Alexa! And have fun camping this week!!

  That's all that I've got for this week. I love you all!
Love,
Elder Stevens


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Awesome Week!!

Hey Everyone!
 After one weeks of serving here I've decided that ZuoYing is a great place! There are so many people, places to eat, and things to do. I love at night when everyone is out on the streets shopping and walking around because we just get to stroll around and talk with everyone. There are so many people to talk to and it makes things so much fun. There are plenty of places to eat too. The thing is though, Elder Neuhaus and I have been trying to eat healthier so we just eat inside all the time. We just stay inside for breakfast and lunch and eat protein shakes, chicken breast, peanut butter, salad, pb & j sandwiches and fruit. We also got a membership at a really nice gym here (that's why I took a bunch of money out of my account) and we get up at about 5:30am to work out every morning. I'm feeling a lot better than I have after starting to be healthy again. I'm super glad my companion likes to do this just as much as I do.

  Elder Neuhaus is awesome. He played basketball for BYU Hawaii before he came on his mission so he knows how to work hard in the gym and in missionary work in general. He's really fun to be with and we are having a great time together. He is just excited to learn what to do so it makes working with him all that more fun. We worked a lot last week trying to find new people to teach. We did have one lesson that we shared. He was cool and really interested but didn't live in our area so we referred him to the other missionaries. This week has many lessons planned though so I'm excited to meet with some new cool people!

  This week we also have Zone Training Meeting. It's nice this time because I don't have to give the training, I can just sit and learn from the Zone Leaders. It will be a lot more relaxing. On Friday we are having a big meeting to meet our new mission president, President Teh. We are all excited to see what he is like.

  Today for pday we are just going to hang out in the gym and play pool, ping pong, basketball, and maybe exercise more. (we have to make the most out of that membership haha) Oh I also got a Costco membership last week. It was free because I just added it to the membership that my companion bought. So that's fun. That's about it for today. Love you all!

Love,
Elder Stevens 


Monday, June 27, 2016

New Area, New Companion, New Mission President...

Dear Everyone,

  Well, the time has finally come...the very last transfer of my mission. The last leg of the race. And I won't be spending it in Ping Dong. I got a call and I've been moved to the center of Gaoxiong City in a place called ZuoYing. It's kind of weird moving to a new area when I only have 6 weeks left because before I even have a chance to learn the area, I'll be coming home haha. But there are tons of people in this area and I'm excited to serve here. My new companion says that they don't really have anyone to teach, but with such a great area, so many people, and God's help, I think that we can change that.

   My new (and maybe final) companion is Elder Neuhaus from Nashville, Tennessee. He's a cool guy and I'm excited to work with him. He just got finished with training so it will be fun to work with a newer missionary again. He also likes to exercise a lot so we are going to have a good time finding a gym and helping me get back into shape before I come home. Apparently there is a gym and a store for protein powder and stuff nearby so I'm excited for that.

   I really enjoyed my time in PingDong. I learned a lot there and enjoyed being Zone Leader and having many opportunities to work with newer missionaries and help to teach and train them. I am a little happy to not be a zone leader though because now I will actually have time to relax in the morning and at night. This might be a bad thing though because it will give me more time to think about to many other things haha. 

  Also, in the next few days my mission president, President Blickenstaff and his wife will be returning back to America. They've served here for three years and it's time for them to go back. Our new president, President Teh will be coming in this week as well. A new president probably means that there are going to be some big changes in the mission and I am excited to meet him. I'm debating in my head, will a mission president who is a member of the Seventy Quorum be really strict, or will he just be a really nice guy. I'm not sure which it will be haha. It doesn't really matter though. I'm just excited to keep working my hardest and find as many people to teach as I can. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time on a mission and even though it's coming to a close, I am not going to slow down my pace. 

   I'm glad to hear that you all made it back safely from the trip over to WV. It's too bad that the rain was so bad and kind of messed with your plans for camping and rafting, but there's always next time. I would love to go on a trip white water rafting over there after I get back. We won't have lots of time do to much in the days before college but I would be down to go rafting. 

  Well that's about it. I'll let you know next week how great the area is here haha. I love you all lots. Thanks for all the emails you send every week. you only have a few times left to write me, so please don't forget in the next few weeks ;)
love
Elder Stevens




Monday, June 20, 2016

Visiting With Friends, Training Stake Leaders, And More...

Hey Everyone! 
   I hope you all had a great week! HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to my Dad and Grandpa too!!! We've had an awesome week down in PingDong! It was a super rainy and humid week, but it was all still good. Towards the end of the week it didn't rain too bad.

  On Monday two old friends of Elder Steele and I came to visit us. My old temporary companion J... and our friend who was baptized in the Donghai ward when I was up there named O... Unfortunately, on the day they came up it rained really hard so we couldn't do much. We ate a big lunch and then went shopping for groceries. We sat in the store's massage chairs for a very long time... and then played some ping pong at the church. (I have yet to find someone from Taiwan that is better at ping pong than me! That stereotype is still a lie!) 

  This week Elder Steele and I have been working extra hard to find more people to teach. We spend pretty much all day riding our bikes on the street talking to anyone that will stop and listen to us. It's very tiring and when we leave the door in the morning sometimes it's a little daunting knowing that we will be doing that for the entire day with no lessons to teach, but I have a testimony that if we just dive into it and work hard, it becomes lots of fun and we meet lots of fun people!

  Yes dad, we are getting plenty of exercise too. 3 times a week we get up at 5:45 to go to the gym nearby our apartment and go weightlifting. It's been really fun getting back into that routine. And on the other days I usually just work out inside with our dumbbells or just do sit ups and stuff. Sometimes when we stay inside I am super tired, so instead of working out I will just study Chinese because I enjoy doing that.

  Lately our zone is doing very well. I don't know why, but for some reason lots of companionship got sick recently and had to stay inside for some of the time, but everyone is good now! Last Thursday Elder Steele and I gave a training to the stake presidency and all the bishoprics in the Ping Dong stake. It was very scary haha. I didn't know until afterwards, but when Elder Steele wrote down some of his goals for last week, one of them was to "survive the training meeting with the stake leaders." That's how I was feeling too. The stake president didn't really give us a super specific topic to train about, they just said that we needed to tell them how to improve missionary work...which is a very broad topic haha. It turned out alright though. We just talked about the basics and the importance of the member's support. We discussed the advantages of having the members allow us to teach our investigators in their homes so that they could feel the special spirit there. I think that it was a decent training, but I am thankful that it is over and we can worry about others things now haha. (Dad don't get me wrong. If you invite the missionaries to do a training I believe that they would be happy to do it. I usually am super pumped to give training because it makes me feel like the members trust me with the responsibility. Maybe it was because it was a broad topic haha)

  We had a great day yesterday. We had two friends that came to church included a guy named L... He has been coming English class and other activities for 7 years now but has never really showed any interest in the church itself. But now he has been progressing a lot and is preparing to be baptized in July. 

  Well I've gotta go now. We are going with some other missionaries to eat at a buffet. That's pretty much what we do here for pdays. We go out and eat a lot! It's super fun though. We pay about 10 bucks for all you can eat Chinese food. It's the best. 

Love you all!
Elder Stevens