Monday, November 30, 2015

Life In Xihu...

Hello Everyone, 

 I want to start out by saying I didn't forget about Dad's or Grandpa's birthday! I just forgot to include the birthday wishes in the last email...sorry about that. I remembered them in my heart though so that is what's important! So I thought I would make up for it by wishing a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA! It seemed like you had a great birthday! Grandpa you certainly had a lot of birthday cards this year!! That's pretty impressive. I don't think I've ever gotten that many birthday cards before. You are very loved by all of us! Dad you are too! This certainly is the birthday season! It seems like everyone's birthday is in November.

  This week has been a great one. It's a little interesting adjusting to my new area. Unfortunately, I didn't take a whole lot of pictures of the surrounding area, but I'll do that this next week. It's a pretty flat area, not a lot of hills. It's near the sea...kind of. Our area stretches to the ocean, but our main area is a few hours away. We still get the strong sea breezes though and it's pretty cold. I pulled out my jacket for the first time a few nights ago. We went out to one of our secondary areas to help a member move, and we biked about an hour and a half to get there. The wind was fighting against us the whole time! The travel back was even more fun because we were tired and could hardly see a thing since we were in the middle of a bunch of rice fields with no lights! Yes Dad, to answer your question, I've actually seen some people here. It's actually a little bigger than I first expected and it even has one McDonalds here so this is a pretty developed place!    It's a little harder to find people to teach, and it's been a while since missionaries have found new investigators. They just meet with the same ones over and over again and there hasn't been a lot of progress. We have been working hard with the ward so far and for some reason the ward really likes me haha. They told me that they hope I can help turn things around...that's a lot of pressure but I'm willing to do it. One of the members even came up to me and said she wanted me to meet with her family and teach them. She was a less active member until she recently started coming back to church and now she hopes we can help her husband who has interest in learning about the church. So things are looking brighter already! I hope I can do a good job here, I'll need lots of your prayers though!

   Btw, I'm not district leader anymore, I'm too far out in the boonies to really be an effective leader or to help anyone if they need it haha. I have a great companion. Elder Williams is pretty cool. He's really chill, and he's really willing to try new things. He had to serve in New Zealand for about 6 months before he finally got his visa to come to Taiwan so it's been a little harder to pick up the language after that long of a break. He's doing great!

   Sorry I'm writing so much, but we had a great week. The whole mission got the privilege of going up to Taichung and listening to the new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Stevenson, speak to us. His son just finished up his mission here last week and so he was coming to pick him up and to give us some training. It was really neat to be able to listen to his experiences. He was a mission president in Japan a few years ago and he told us a lot of his stories and I learned a lot of things that I could do to improve. It was great!

   Actually, in the morning, before we headed out that morning to go to the meeting, I had the feeling that I needed to grab a copy of the Book of Mormon. I wasn't planning on taking a lot of stuff because it would be annoying to carry it all the way to the mission office, but I had the feeling again, so I just grabbed one and put it in my bag. Then on the bus and train ride I kept looking for opportunities to share it with someone, but nothing happened. I kind of forgot about the feeling and just thought maybe I was wrong. But then on the last leg of the trip home after the meeting, we got on the last bus and I sat down next to a college guy. I just started talking to him about school and stuff and then he said randomly, "Hey you're Christian right?" I told him I was and he said he wanted me to tell him more about it. He said he's heard about lots of different religion but that he has no idea what to do because there are so many churches he doesn't know which one is right, or how to know which was right. I didn't need to be asked twice, and so I pulled out the Book of Mormon and shared with him some scriptures about finding truth. I started from God and shared how He has given us his eternal truths that are unchanging and can guide us in life. I talked about how we have a living prophet that leads us today. I told him that he could know the truth by reading and praying about it and asking God, the source of all truth, which church is true and God would answer his prayer. He excitedly  took the Book of Mormon and said he would read it that night and that next week he would go look for the missionaries where he lived. He doesn't live in our area but we exchanged numbers and I told the Elders in the other area to call him up. It was really cool!

  I'm glad you all had a great Thanksgiving. We celebrated by going and meeting with Elder Stevenson so that was pretty nice. We didn't get any good food or anything though. Actually I forgot it was Thanksgiving because Elder Williams is from Samoa so he doesn't celebrate it haha. Oh well, I'll just have to wait until next year for some good food. I'm excited for Christmas though so I can talk with you all. I'll see how we'll work that out. i don't think that skype actually works this far out in the country side though.... haha don't worry it probably does.

  Well I love you all lots! I'm really enjoying my time here in Xihu! The Lord definitely sees that I'm not perfect and need lots of help so He has indeed blessed us a lot in this area so far! Thanks for all the prayers and love! I love you all!


Elder Stevens

Special Meeting With Elder Stevenson.  Can You Find Me?

My Rental Bike Until Mine Arrived.


Elder Stevens And Elder Williams

A Few Photos From My Last Area Nanzi

Monday, November 23, 2015

Leaving Nanzi And My Friends...

  Hey everyone! 

  Today was a sad day. My time in Nanzi has drawn to a close and now I have been assigned to serve in another part of beautiful Taiwan. It's a place called Xihu and it is very small. Actually our area boundaries are some of the biggest in the mission, but the population here is....not very much. So now I am sitting in an internet cafe in the middle of nowhere haha. It's super cool though. I have usually served in the city or factory areas of Taiwan, and now it's my first time serving in a place out in the country. Actually my previous companion Elder Moore served here before and I've heard lots of stories of this place. One of which is that there are more dogs here than there are people. We will see... 

  But before I left Nanzi Elder Grisenti and I had some last few stories and miracles together.  We had planned to have a lesson with a guy that usually is always able to meet, and never cancels appointments. But then for some reason he didn't show up, and when we called him, he said that he had completely forgotten and that he couldn't meet with us. At first we were a little sad, because we had already had our other lessons for the day cancel on us too. But then about a minute or two after we finished talking with our friend, the church chapel phone rang. I answered and it was a women that really wanted to come to our church English class, but was always too intimidated to come. So she had decided to call our church and see what we were like. She asked if she could come over right then and tour our church. Before I could respond she said that she would come over right then, and then she hung up! I called up the Sister missionaries to come to the church to help her out. And then when she came the Sisters gave her a tour, and had a lesson with her right then. And now she is continuing to meet with the Sisters. If we wouldn't have had a cancelled lesson at the church, then that whole thing would've have happened.

   We also met up with our friend W... S... H.., and he is still awesome. He has started to read the Book of Mormon, and says that when he has questions, he goes and talks with one of his college professors who is a member as well. He has a really strong desire to change and set a baptismal goal for the 2nd of January. Unfortunately I won't be there to help him along the way, but I know that Elder Grisenti will continue to do a great job. He really is an amazing missionary. I'm really sad that we will no longer be working together.

   We also had a fun activity at the church. A member taught a little class on how to make handmade lotion, and chapstick. It was actually pretty cool to see how it was done. It looked far too complicated for me to do myself, but at least I have a little of the finished products to take with me and use! We also went and played basketball with A... one of the nights. It was a lot of fun. I hadn't played in a while, but it was still a lot of fun. It was a good last time together with A.... I really hope that he will continue to come to church and be able to work  out his concerns. He has a lot of desire, but I hope that his doubts and concerns don't get in the way of that progression!

   It was really sad to leave Nanzi. I was especially sad to leave Elder Grisenti and S.... They are both awesome. S... has really grown so much and is a great guy. I remember when I first met him, he was a little bit of a pessimistic guy and now he is super happy and I've seen that the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel has really helped to change his perspective on life and the challenges that we face. It's super cool to see that change. Both him and Elder Grisenti went with me to the train station this morning, but we were running late and there were no time for "goodbyes". After riding the subway to the train station, I had to sprint with all my luggage to the platform, and made it onto the train literally one, or maybe two seconds before the doors closed!! It was too close! haha. But now I've made it to Xihu and my new companion is named Elder Williams. He's from all over the place.  He was born in New Zealand, and moved to Utah, and then to Samoa. He's a cool guy that just finished up his training here. So we should have a great time! Despite the challenges that we sometimes face, I love being a missionary, and I love all that we get to do! I'm looking forward to the new challenges and adventures that lay ahead here in Xihu!
I love you all lots!

Elder Stevens

I Will Miss These Great Friends

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tender Mercies...

Dear Everyone,

First off I'd like to start out by wishing my Mom a very happy birthday! 媽媽!你生日快樂!我也祝你平安和健康!我希望你的願望都應驗! (Translation:  MOM! happy birthday to you! I wish you health and peace! I hope all of your wishes come true!) 

  I hope that you all had a great time together and made some super good foods! Did Eric make some good Japanese foods for your birthday? I was celebrating your birthday over here in Taiwan. I made sure to tell everyone it was your birthday in all the lessons that we had! Thanks for all that you do for the family and for me! Thanks for the emails and the packages and all the advice that you give! I know that you are sad I couldn't be home for your birthday (at least I think so..) but I know that you are happier that I'm out here serving! I love you lots Mom!

  I'm glad to hear that the package made it home alright and the goodies inside were all intact. Thanks for sending me the pic of everyone wearing the ties I bought. They are some pretty nice looking ones. Thanks for the package you sent out for me. I will probably be moving next week because I am almost done training Elder Grisenti, so I hope they send it to the right place when I move. I have a track record for all of my stuff getting sent to the wrong place haha. 

   This past week was a little rough. It seems like as we have been working, we haven't seen a whole lot of success from our labors. We talked with W... again, and he told us that actually his parent's won't let him meet or talk with us as all anymore. He said that he was allowed to continue to read the scriptures and pray, but not to come to church again. That was the last time we have heard from him, about a week ago, so it's pretty sad. I hope that we can at least keep a little contact with him. We will definitely keep praying for him that things will work out in the end! I know they will as long as he continues to keep his faith in God and to continue to build his relationship with Him!

  We also met with K... this week, and he said that he didn't want to continue learning about the gospel. He decided that it didn't really matter to him what happened when he died or what God had to offer. He just wanted to live his life as he wanted. It was really sad seeing that, especially after he hadn't even really given it a shot. I guess everyone has their agency to choose what they want in this life. We were really sad on the long ride back home (it's about a 40-50 minute bike ride to his house) and not saying much. But as I stopped at a stoplight I said a prayer. Just to ask God to help us know if we were doing a good job or not. Things haven't been going the best, and I wanted to know what we could do better. And then I just kept riding, and when we stopped at the next light, I pulled up to talk with someone on the scooter next to me and he was super happy. When the light turned green he told me to pull over to the side of the road so we could talk about church. He's a really nice college student that believes in Christ, but hasn't really gone to any church in a while. He would've talked with us forever, but we had to get home quick, so we exchanged numbers and he agreed to meet in the future. I felt a lot better about that, knowing that God was watching us and is helping us along the way, regardless of whether there are setbacks or not. Even though we've seen some challenges these past few weeks, we have also seen lot's of His tender mercies. And Elder Grisenti and I have had a great time together!

I love you all lots! I hope you all have a great week and an upcoming Thanksgiving!

Elder Stevens

Our Good Friend Charles!

Elder Grisenti

Zone Conference Training

Wearing My Fancy Sandals  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Another Great Week!

Hi Everyone,

  Well this week was pretty fun! At the beginning it seemed like just a normal week with nothing out of the ordinary, but then we were told that on Friday we would be having a member of the Seventy, Elder Wang from Hong Kong, come to our mission and we would have a big training with him. I was super excited for that and the whole week seemed to go by really slow because of that excitement haha. The training was great though! Before the big training, the district and zone leaders for Gaoxiong area got to have a special meeting with him and it was really helpful. He's a really funny and blunt man. So he answered our questions pretty straight up without beating around the bush haha. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot.

   One thing I really loved was the story of David and Goliath. We all know the story about how David knew that the Lord would be with him and that he would be able to defeat Goliath with his sling and a stone. But if he was that confident that the Lord would help him, why did he still bring 5 rocks with him. He only needed one. Why bring the extra 4 even though he knew that God could help him kill Goliath by using just one? The answer is that even though David knew that he only needed one stone and that God would help him win, he still needed to prepare himself for when the time came, depending on how far away Goliath was, how tall he was, how strong the wind was, and depending on many other variables, David would need to use a different size of stone. He needed to prepare himself so that the Lord could use him. Likewise, so do we. Even though we know that God can do anything, we still need to prepare and arm ourselves with our own skills and knowledge; with our own stones. This way the Lord can build off of what we have and we can be able to accomplish what we need to.

   Other than the training this week we have really been working with W.... He is ready to be baptized and he really wants to be, but his parents won't let him. He is only 19 years old, so until he is 20 he needs his parents’ permission to be baptized. He talked with then last week when he went to visit, but they said no. But on the bright side, they said that he could keep meeting with us and learning more. It is understandable that his parents might be a little apprehensive about their son joining a church that they know almost nothing about. So I believe that if W... can share his testimony with them and let him know about the great teachings and truths of the gospel they may realize that our church isn't scary after all. So please keep him and his family in your prayers.

  This week we also met a really cool guy named W... S... H.... He is almost finished with college and is really nice. He says that he wants to learn how he can change his life. He has always had a fairly nice life, but he has had some problems that pop up in his life from time to time, and he's realized that it is himself that needs to change. He's super cool and we are meeting again with him before he comes to our English class.

   Yeah we still teach English.  For the past few weeks, S... has been helping me teach the beginning class. It's super nice that S... is pretty willing to help out with that and it's fun to teach together with him.

   Well that's about it. We went to the hospital last pday so I don't have any cool pics...sorry. But I hope you all have a great week! Love you all lots!

Elder Stevens

Monday, November 2, 2015

Monkey Mountain!!

Hi Everyone, 

  We finally had the chance to go to Monkey Mountain!! It's a place that I've wanted to go to since I first came down to Gaoxiong. It's a mountain that you can go hiking on and it's really pretty. The main thing about it though is that there are tons of monkeys all over the place! They just roam all around and through the trees. A lot of them are super cute, but lots of them are really ferocious too! Elder Grisenti almost got bit a couple times and they would hiss at us if we scared them too bad. I was squatting down trying to take a picture of one and suddenly my friend Diego pulled me back just in time to avoid getting bit in the face by another monkey that was right next to my head on a branch! I tried super hard to get a picture of me sitting next to a monkey to send home, but they were just too fast, and too scary to get a good one haha. It was super fun though. I sent home a file with a bunch of pics of it so hopefully you can download them. I have some bad news to tell you...  Apparently I didn't inherit the good picture taking gene from you Dad. I took a lot of pictures for Elder Grisenti and after looking at them, from then on he just let someone else do it for the rest of the time. Sorry Dad.

  Other than that, on Saturday for Halloween we had a ward party! It was pretty crazy! We were meeting with our friend W… in one of the rooms, and after the lesson we came out and there were people everywhere! There was a ton of games and goodies; there was even a big maze in the cultural hall and a haunted house in the basement. There were lots of little kids and they all enjoyed it. I enjoyed it too, especially when my companion and I went into the maze.  It was pretty fun. We tried to have a little gospel sharing time at the end and watched a short video, but after all of the kids had eaten pounds of candy, there was no way for them to sit still with all that energy! We watched one of my favorite videos, “Because He Lives”, so I hope that maybe someone there was able to feel the power of that message! I love in the video where they emphasize that because Jesus Christ died for us, every single one of us has a second chance. We can conquer anything...even death. It's just such a happy message!

  Our friend W… is doing really well. He's really quiet and doesn't say much, but he just absorbs everything we say. Even little things that I didn't even remember telling him about. I get kind of worried since he never talks so I don't know if he understands or not, but if I ask him a question about something, he'll remember it all! He has a goal to be baptized two weeks on November 14. Please pray for him!

  Today the post office called me and said that the package I sent home for you all a month or so ago got sent back here to Taiwan for some reason. I told them to just try sending it back to the US again. So hopefully they will be able to get it home to you all this time! Sorry for the wait. Good thing I sent it early. Maybe it'll get home in time for Christmas!

   That's exciting that you got a new calling Mom! It seems like you just barely got called to be a teacher! Were you called right when I went out on my mission? I hope you can figure out how to be a camp director! It's be no problem for you though!

Well I love you all lots! Thanks so much for all the emails you send every week! i really appreciate it! My favorite part on the pday is opening the email and being able to read the letters from you all! I love you all lots! Have a safe week!

Elder Stevens

Eating one of my pot!  The best is when they have free ice cream and soda!  Elder Grisenti finally likes to eat hot pot!

Monkey Mountain