Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Celebrations...

  Ni Hao,

  This past week we have really been preparing for S... baptism this Saturday. He is so excited and has been looking forward to this day for a very long time. We've also been meeting with his two daughters a few times and I hope we can continue to meet with them. They're really nice too. I hope that they and his wife will be able to attend his baptism and that his wife can have a change of heart.  S... really wants to be baptized, so he's not going to let anything stop him this time. It's funny, whenever he hears something he likes in church, or in any film we show him, he'll make some sort of hmmm and get really into it!

   We had a fun Christmas party for our English class last week. It was pretty well attended and we had a bunch of fun games and activities. We had snowflake making, pin the carrot on the snowman, a snowball fight (dodgeball), musical chairs, lots of goodies, and pictures with Santa! Elder Page dressed up as Santa and all the kids loved taking pictures with him haha. A lot of the people didn't want to play the games. They just wanted to sit in their chairs and play on their iPhones! What's the world coming too!
   We also got together as a zone to sing Christmas songs by the Tainan train station. It turned out to be a very interesting night. We picked the coldest and windiest day so far this year! No one wanted to stay and listen to us because the weather was so bad. Also the wind would blow away all of our music, and even the chairs that we had set up for people to sit on. We set up to sing next to a giant Christmas tree outside a mall. When we were singing the tree automatically turned on and started blasting this really shrill Christmas music. It was totally drowning out our singing! Eventually this one member got fed up with it and climbed into the tree and unplugged it haha. It was a fun night.
   The stake put on a big Christmas pageant a few days ago and we all gathered together up in Yongkang to watch it. We listened to the Christmas story with narration and singing except this time, as you would imagine, it was in Chinese so it sounded really cool! The singing was...interesting, to say the least, but we all had fun.
   I don't know what my favorite food would be, most of what I try is really good. I generally like to get fried rice here. It's really good and they have a bunch of different ways to prepare it. They also have cool bread shops here with a ton of fancy breads. They aren't as thick as the bread in the U.S. They're more like artisan breads. We eat a lot of stuff for breakfast. Elder Brady bought me some pancake mix from Costco before he left, so we've been eating that lately. We also have juabing which is basically like a crepe with onion and spices, and an egg in the middle. It's pretty good.  We also eat oatmeal which tastes really different here, but it's really cheap so we eat that a lot.

   Well that's all I've got for this week. I'm excited to talk with you all this week though! I think I'll probably just call you at 10:30 or so on the iPad so I can talk with both of you. Hopefully we'll all have good connection or Eric and I will have a tough time talking! Also, I'm sending a Christmas package home today so it'll come sometime soon....I hope. I love you all! See you soon!

I Received Word From My Former Missionary Companions That
C... Was Baptized!

Mission Lunch In Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Pday Emails

Bright Lights At Christmas Pageant

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Week Before Christmas...

Hi Everyone,
  I can't believe that it's already so close to Christmas! It's coming up so quickly and I didn't even realize it, haha. I guess it's because we're so busy we don't even think about it. We'd better start thinking though, because we have a big Christmas party for the English class we teach and Elder Smith and I are in charge of making hot cocoa and organizing a snowball fight. No, there isn't any snow here, but we're getting a bunch of balls and folding up some of our socks to use. We're trying to stay pretty cheap lol. That's coming up this Wednesday and should be really fun. I love having the English class because we get so many people to teach from it. Last week I was talking with a guy named D... and he said that he wanted to meet with us this Thursday so I'm excited for that.
  We had an amazing miracle yesterday. The trio of Elders in our district (Elders Brady, Galura, and Page) had met this cool member family the R... who had said they had some friends, a young couple from the Philippines named B... and D... living with them who where interested and were asking lots of questions about what happened after we die. D... father had recently died, and B... brother had too. They were afraid that their family was going to Hell because they had made some mistakes. We got to talk with them about what happens when we die, and the opportunity we still have to change if we had never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ while on earth. We shared about baptisms for the dead. We told them that their loved ones would have the chance to accept the gospel in the afterlife and be baptized. D... just started to cry for joy right then, and they agreed to be baptized! The Spirit was so strong in the lesson, and with 5 missionaries teaching, we were all in sync and taught the best lesson I'd ever been in. Actually it was all because we were following the promptings of the Spirit. I'm really excited for them! Oh, and as a plus, they all speak English, so I was actually able to share in the majority of the lesson for once haha. It's such a relief.
  Before we taught them, they made us a huge dinner! It was a ton of really good Filipino food. Their rule was that we weren't allowed to leave until all the food was gone...turned out to be pretty hard. We struggled for the next 2 hours to finish it all. The problem was that the lady would steal my plate and instantly add another mountain of rice on it! And they had this thing called bitter melon that is really...bitter. It was the main dish.  It seemed that Elder Page and I were the only ones who could eat very much, so we did most of the heavy lifting during that meal.
  On the way from the R... house, Elder Page's bike pedal randomly fell off and we still had about 20 minutes left to bike to our next appointment. So we all helped push and pull him the rest of the way there, which was not fun because there were a lot of hills, mostly going up. It was a rather inspirational story because we fought against the odds, and helped out our fellow comrade and still made it to our appointment on time! 
  Well, we got locked out of the apartment again, but this time I made Elder Smith go up through the window because I was tired of doing it. He was lucky though, because there was a ladder sitting right next to us this time, so he just climbed up that. Hopefully that'll be the last time.
  Things are looking very promising for us. We also had another investigator named L... who agreed to be baptized this March! She was originally planning on waiting for two years before she would make that step, but she decided to move it up. She's golden. The trio of Elders were originally teaching her, but since they are moving, we will be teaching her now, or actually have her teach us. She has read and knows all the lessons.  She reads the scriptures at least 30 minutes before she studies for school, and has a solid testimony already. She's only officially been taught twice though!
  Well that's about it for this week. The singing sounded really good Alexa! I enjoyed listening to it. Keep up the good work. And Ian I'm glad that you guys won your last soccer game of the season. That's always good to end on a high note. I think that calling you at 10 your time would be good. I'll try to get in touch with Eric and plan a time to call him. I'm really excited! Well, I just had another interesting thing to add. Every morning I actually shower in the kitchen because they randomly have a shower sitting there, so sometimes I'll heat up my food while I'm taking a shower haha. It's rather convenient. Well I love you all! Have a great week!!
My District
Elders Smith, Stevens, Brady, Galura, and Page
Sisters Funk and Chang
Da Tung Lu, The Street My Dad Use To Live On In 1970

Random Rural Fields


Helping Elder Brady Get Home On One Pedal 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Party, Exotic Animals, Burning Money...

  Hey how is everyone doing!? It's always so hard for me to organize my thoughts and write everything I did because there's so much to talk about! First of all I want to say that we have an investigator with a baptismal date! His name is Su DX. He investigated the church around 8 years ago but his wife was against it so he stopped. Elder Smith was on exchanges a few weeks ago and found his record in a pile of old former records and decided to call him. He said he was excited to learn again and this time he wouldn't let anything stop him from baptism! That's a crazy miracle to find his record out the midst of so many. We set a date with him for the 27th of December. I really hope that he will be able to follow through and set an example for the rest of his family. His kids seem to have some interest as well. For the month of December our mission has a goal like Eric's. We want to have 100 baptisms this month. Pretty much we want every companionship to have a baptism and more if possible. Everyone in our district has someone on date! And we have several investigators who want to be baptized after we sort out some concerns.
  We also got locked out of our apartment..again. So I had to climb back up those signs...again. It was a lot easier than last time, I'm getting used to it. Maybe we should just not use the keys ever and climb through the window every time. It's more fun that way.
  On the 4th of December our mission had it's Christmas party! We went to a pretty Buddhist Temple. I think it was called the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple but I'm not sure. I just had a little stamp that said that haha. The temple was huge!! and it had the biggest seated Buddha statue in the world! There was a big wall around the temple grounds and towers and statues all over. Also there were a ton of stairs to walk up. I felt like I was in Kung Fu Panda haha. It looked pretty much like that. There were a lot of cool rooms inside the temple and a lot of monks and people were worshiping in them. I didn't take any pics of those because I felt like that might be a little sacrilegious. It was a really neat experience though. As soon as we started to bike from our house to the bus station, it started pouring rain on us. Then, once we got off the buses at the temple, it started pouring rain again! We got drenched, but luckily it cleared up for the big mission picture we took and for some other pics I wanted to take.
  We run into a lot of interesting people here. Just an example, we knocked on a guy's door and he excitedly let us in. We came in with high expectations. Then the guy started to talk about how his brother was attacked by a spirit and was possessed. Things started to get weird, and he asked us to perform an exorcism to free his brother. We weren't exactly thrilled to go about doing that. I don't think that there was anything actually wrong with his brother and then he just said that when he was at a hospital the doctors attacked him with sound waves or something. I think they were just both a little...crazy so we tried to get out as soon as we could. They also gave us some fruit to eat that I think had been sitting out for a few weeks. My tongue started burning from the acid build up in the fruit. All in all, not a successful tract.
  People also always want to take pictures of us! We'll just be riding our bikes down the street and I'll see off to the side, some people taking pictures of us. And when we stop at stop lights, I'll glance at the people next to me (usually girls in this case) and they'll quickly put their camera or phone away and giggle. I'm going to start charging them by having them read a church pamphlet in return for pics of us. We were at a park with an investigator we'd just met and some girls came up and wanted to take pics with us. We aren't allowed to say no, unfortunately, so we spent the next hour posing with them. It was actually more like 2 minutes but it still took forever because they kept doing different poses and swapping in and out. We feel like exotic animals that have escaped from the zoo!
  Another fun fact. A ton of people here like to worship their ancestors and will burn things that they think will then be sent to their deceased relatives. So we always see people outside their homes and businesses burning fake money in little trash can fires.
  Well I'm glad that you got all the ornaments up on the Christmas tree successfully! That's always a lot of work. At least you kept up the lights around the house all year Dad so you didn't have to spend a whole week putting them up! I'm surprised it's not snowing very much in Ohio. It isn't snowing here either in case you were wondering. Actually it did a little on the very top of the mountains for a bit. It literally snowed like 20 flakes and the whole news was freaking out about all of the snow! Also everyone but us is bundled in huge coats and it feels like 60 degrees!
  Well that's all I've got. I hope you all have a great week! I'm excited for you to go to Nepal. That'll be fun! Love you lots!

Fo Guang Shan Buddist Temple, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Taiwan, Taichung Mission 

Elder Smith and Elder Stevens


Monday, December 1, 2014

An Amazing First Week!!

Alright, it's time to tell about my many adventures in the tropical island of Taiwan! We've had a pretty fun week and got a lot done. First I'll give you an update on some of our investigators. Actually it's more like an introduction since you don't know who they are yet. We have a guy named L... Dixiong (dixiong means brother and all their names sound the same and are confusing so I just say brother/sister so and so) L... DX has a wife who was recently baptized and the missionaries have been working with him for a while to see if he would like to be baptized as well. There hasn't been a lot of progress. He was supposed to be baptized this coming Saturday but he hasn't been reading or praying so he doesn't know if the church is true or not. He said he would put more effort in.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tons Of Motorbikes, Great Food, Fish Eyes, And Squatty Potties...

 Ni Hao Everyone,

Well, I finally made it to Taiwan and it's amazing! I feel so privileged to be serving in this beautiful place! I didn't get to take a bunch of pictures of the city or country because we've been a little busy. I'll be sure to send some that I have though, because it is awesome over here. Right now I'm serving in Tainan, which actually means, south Taiwan, so as the name implies, I'm in the bottom part of Taiwan. We're in the city. It's a little smaller than Taichung, but it's still a fairly big city. It's crazy to ride around on your bike through the streets. There are tons of little motorbikes all over the place! Literally thousands of them! They always weave their way through the traffic and I've almost been hit many times already haha. (maybe I shouldn't say that...I don't want to scare you. I'm actually fine, don't worry) Taiwan is so different from the US, and I couldn't write down all the cool things in one email.

We got to Taiwan at like 12 am and we were all exhausted. We had a 2 hour bus ride to the mission home, and then we spend the night at some apartments nearby. We had a lot of training! It was so awesome to see all my friends from the MTC. It was like no time had passed at all since we left the MTC. We ate at a lot of cool restaurants. Actually every place we go here is pretty good. I really love the tea! (Don't worry, it's legal haha) There's tea called dong gua cha and it's amazing. They  have tons of different flavors and I'm going to have to try them all. The food is really cheap here too so we just go to any random place and get a pretty big meal for like 2 maybe 3 bucks. I'm getting pretty good at chopsticks already! The restaurants are actually more like eating inside someone's garage with some tables and chairs. We went to a nice place for our last dinner with the mission president though. They had a lot of interesting foods like some shrimp with sweet sauce and sprinkles on it. I also tried some duck brain and fish eyes....they aren't my favorite so far. All of the other food is good though.

My companion is great. His name is Elder Smith and he's been here for a little more than a year. His Chinese is really good and he can speak really well with all of the natives here. I hope I can learn a lot from him. You can tell that he really cares about the people he teaches, and even about me for that matter. He's a good trainer!  The missionaries in the Taichung Mission are really smart, musically talented, and dedicated to their missions.
My Chinese is alright. It's really hard for me to understand what everyone says, cuz they speak really, really fast. They also have an accent and pronounce words differently than what I learned in the MTC. I think it'll take a while for me to understand people. Apparently a lot of the missionaries are saying that my Chinese speaking ability is really good for how short I've studied. They might just be being nice, but I'm really working hard to improve!
Our apartment is huge! It's just Elder Smith and me in the apartment, and it's twice as big as the one back in Utah that I shared with 4 other Elders. I love it. The only problem is that we only have squatty potties....not a big fan. I really hate using them.  It reminds me of Africa, and I look for every opportunity to use the restroom outside of the apartment haha. At least you get done really quick! Well, there's just so much to be said, but I'll wait and say more next time. I just want to say how happy I was to talk with everyone! I really enjoyed that, and it was especially nice that I could talk to everyone one on one. It was great to hear everyone's voice again. Alexa and Ian both sound older already! And when Eric answered the phone, he was speaking in Japanese and I thought he was a random old Japanese guy that I called on accident haha. I almost hung up, but luckily he said my name and I realized it was him. It cost me 20 bucks to talk for just 20 minutes!!! But it was worth it. I love you all very much. I hope you enjoy the winter in Ohio ;)

 The Great Mission Of Taichung, Taiwan
President and Sister Blickenstaff, Center
Last Leg Of The Trip.  Total Travel Time 24 Hours
Boarding Bus At The Airport

Bus Ride From Taipei To Taichung

New Missionaries And Their Trainers


Exercising After Big Delicious Meals!

Looking Out The Door Of The Mission Home In Taichung, Taiwan

Missionary Friends From The MTC

My Apartment In Tainan

A Little Gift From My Trainer, Elder Smith

Elder Stevens With Trainer, Elder Smith

Family Home Evening At The Local Chapel

Monday, November 17, 2014

Off To Taiwan!!

  Well the time has finally arrived! I got my visa, and I'll be leaving for Taiwan tomorrow morning at 8:30am. I'm so excited to finally be leaving and going to a new country! Especially because it's starting to get really cold here and I'm already tired of it haha. Hopefully the weather will be a lot warmer over there. I think it will definitely be warmer than 0 degrees with the windchill like it is over here. And hopefully I won't have to wear my suits anymore! Actually it's not to bad wearing them. I guess I've gotten used to wearing them so they don't feel uncomfortable anymore. 
 I ran into Bishop Hale's dad after we finished with the Summerwood meeting and I didn't even know who he was until he asked if my bishop back home was doing a good job. Luckily I said that he was doing a great job haha. I've also talked with the Marshells who lived in our ward a while back. It's nice that I've seen so many people here, but I doubt that will be the case in Taiwan. Oh well, I'm still excited!
  Some good missionary news, W... and J... are both on date for baptism on the 6th of January! They are both progressing very well and are really excited to learn more and to read the Book of Mormon. They are fantastic. It's too bad that I'll be leaving them, but I know that my companions will do a good job teaching her more. C... is still doing well, and really enjoys it when we stop by. I'm sad to leave her too. She's a hair stylist and just got out of beauty school so I'm going to have her get some practice today when she cuts my hair. I gotta look good for when I arrive in Taiwan haha. We've also found tons of potential investigators, and a lot of people that are telling us that they want to be baptized and that they want their family baptized as well! Too bad I'll be missing all of that, but the Lord needs me in other parts of the world.
  I really hope that I get your package in the mail today! Otherwise I may not get it for a while haha. The mission office would send it to me if I had already left before I got the package.  I know it will work out. I'm going to be sending home some of the things that I don't need so keep your eyes peeled for a package with a bunch of cool missionary stuff in it. Well I gotta go now. I'm so excited to talk with everyone soon!! Alexa and Ian, hopefully I'll be able to talk with you in a few hours! I love you all very much! Talk to you soon!
I decided to add a special email for this momentous occasion.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!!!! You're still looking good even at your age haha. When I get to taiwan I'll try to find some cool things to send home for you and mom for your birthdays. Don't think that I've forgotten about that!
Love you lots! and I'm looking forward to talking with you!

Taipai, Taiwan

New Companions For A Short Time
Elders Walker, Amone, and Stevens

Final Night In Layton, Utah
I Will Miss The Many Friendships I Have Developed

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Birthday!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween, and Transfers...

  Well this week is transfers and it looks like I will be staying here for at least another 6 weeks! This is a great area so I'm glad that I'm staying. Unfortunately my companion is leaving for Kaysville. I'm really going to miss my companion because we worked really well together and got along great. We also were getting a lot done, but I guess there's other work to be done for him. Our roommate, Elder Palhegyi is getting transferred too, but Elder Firpo is staying.
   That's so exciting that Tim got his mission call to Portugal. He will have a great mission!
   I talked to the doctor yesterday and he said that I would probably be fine to wear contacts again. He didn't check my eyes or anything but he said it's been long enough. Hopefully they'll be alright.
   It was a lot of fun teaching the exchange students from Taiwan. It's too bad they've already gone back home because it would be nice to be able to teach them some more. It was really a good way to practice my Chinese.
   My week has been pretty good. W... and  C... were both really sick this last week so we weren't able to teach them or invite them to church, but hopefully we can this next week. Since I will have a new companion to the area, I need to really step up and take charge during all the lessons and the work, especially because I've been in the area longer and know people better. Maybe it will be a good learning experience for me. 
   It's starting to get really cold here though! It was snowing a little bit yesterday. It's crazy because the day before it was 70 degrees! That's a huge change! I'm borrowing one of Elder Carlin's coats for a while and I'll just give it back before I leave, which might not be until a while;-)  I heard Janae is getting a temporary call to Arizona. That's a great place to go though. She'll have perfect weather! I want to go there too haha.
   I'm glad everyone had a good Halloween. We had to stay in our apartments after 6 pm so we didn't get to celebrate too much. We got to just relax for the rest of the night so that was nice. We only had one set of trick or treaters stop by, and that was D..., J..., and his two girls A... and S... That was nice of them to come by cuz it's a little out of their way from other places for getting candy.

We attend 4 different wards.  We are in the Valley View Stake and we go to the Peacefield, Adamswood, Oakhills, and Summerwood Wards. We meet a lot of people every Sunday. 
   I got a letter about a week or two ago. Was that a different one than this one? We lost our key to the mailbox so we can only get in if we wait for the mail truck and grab the mail when the mail lady opens the mailbox. It's at a bad time because it took a week to be able to get Grandma and Grandpa's cookies that they sent. Luckily it's been so cold anyway that they were still good. Thanks for sending them! They taste great and my roommates love them as well!

  I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier, but we had a baptism this last Saturday. J... is 9 and his cousins R... and V... are both 8 and they were all baptized together. We started out teaching them but then our area split and the other Elders finished teaching them. I gave a talk on the Holy Ghost at the baptismal service and I used a Kendama as an object lesson. I said that without the string (Holy Ghost) we can't do any of the tricks i.e. have a happy family, go to the temple, make correct decisions.  I had J... come up and demonstrate using the Kendama for us and it worked out really well.
   Well I hope everyone has a great week! Hopefully it doesn't snow yet! If it just snows on Christmas and then melts right afterwards I'll be okay with that haha. I love you all very much.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Great Week!

   We had a pretty busy week last week. Lots of stuff has been happening. First of all, our investigator C...decided to be baptized! I'm so excited for her. She has been great and prayed about what we taught her about the restoration and she got an answer that she needs to continue in this direction. We still have more to teach her, but she is scheduled for Nov 22 to be baptized. Unfortunately she wasn't able to come to church with us yesterday, but there's always next week. 
   Our other investigator W... decided she wants to look into the church a lot more. She wants to start coming to church. She was supposed to go yesterday, but she had a migraine. So I guess we'll just have to go next week with her too.  At least J... and his two girls were able to come to church. The girls both had parts in the primary program and they did great. One of them gave a short talk about D... meeting with us and being baptized. It was really sweet. We are going to meet with D.. and J... this week again.  It should be fun.
   On a not so happy note, B..., a recent covert that has been having a lot of struggles, just took a turn for the worse. She'd been letting a lot of shady people associate with her and they just got busted yesterday for breaking the law. She's getting kicked out of her apartment, and very possibly will lose her newborn baby. She's a single mom, and her parents won't take her in so she's in a bad situation. We are really praying for her. 
  About the bunk couch, we don't actually sleep there all the time. We all have normal beds to sleep in but we also have like 5 couches in our house haha. The inspectors didn't approve of that many but I think they're fine lol. We all have a couch to sleep on at nights when we do use them. They're actually just as good as my bed because my bed is too short for me and my ankles hang over the edge of the bed. It's a bed though, and it is all mine.
  My eye is doing alright. I'm still using the drops and wearing my glasses but I haven't gone to see the eye doctor again yet. I'll probably just keep using the drops for another week or two and go see him next week, depending on if I'm going to leave for Taiwan at the end of this transfer. We just had interviews with our mission president and he says things aren't looking promising. He thinks I'll probably be here for at least another transfer and possibly a few more. At least I'll be able to finish up some more of the work we've been doing. I really want to go to Taiwan, but that seems like a distant thing now. Who knows what will happen.
  Oh we just got a new investigator. His name is C..., he's 17 and he moved here from Virginia and has been investigating the Church for a while. We met with him this morning for the first time and talked about the atonement, baptism, and the Holy Ghost. He said that he's a little hesitant about baptism because he wants to understand things first. He said he would continue to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He's a great guy and I think that he will get an answer soon because he is very sincere. 
  Wow that picture of the yard sure looks different with all of the trees gone. That's too bad that all of them are dying. It looks a little barren now, but at least you were able to get them taken care of. Ian nice job this season with soccer. You're doing great! you've won a ton this year! And I'm glad to hear that Alexa hasn't crashed the car yet. I'm still a little nervous lol. 
  Oh one more thing. Tonight I'm going to be teaching two girls from Taiwan who are exchange students. A guy from Hong Kong is going to help me teach them and says he speaks Cantonese and only speaks a little Mandarin. I guess we're both going to have an interesting time haha. I'm excited, but a little nervous because my Chinese has gotten a lot worse since I left the MTC. Wish me luck though.

   Well I love you all very much. Hope you all have a great week!
Teaching Exchange Students From Taiwan