Monday, March 28, 2016

Awesome Week...

Dear Everyone,

  Another week comes and goes. But it felt like this week was super long because it rained almost every single day! I am really grateful that I'm serving down south though. We have a guy in our ward that is super cool and he's going to serve a mission in Taipei this coming week. He has to pack a ton of rain gear because it rains pretty much every single day up there!! I'm very thankful that it only rained 4 or 5 days this last week. 

  This week we went on exchanges with the Elders in Fengshan, Elder Ludwig (trainer) and Elder Hatch (trainee). Elder Hatch just got on island the week that I moved here to Ping Dong so he is still getting used to Taiwan and everything here. It was super fun to go on exchanges with him and remember what it was like when I first came to Taiwan; still adjusting to the food, struggling with the language, and doubting my ability to do just about anything. The Lord has helped and blessed me a lot during my time here and I have certainly grown a lot. The change is really gradual so sometimes I just fail to notice it, but when I really think about it, I have changed a lot. Even though I still doubt myself, and struggle sometimes, I know that God has given me lots of strength. It was a lot of fun to work with Elder Hatch for a day and to see that change. 

  On the exchange we met with an older man that I met on the street a few weeks ago. He's in his late 70s, but is still active working in his large garden. When we visited him, he instantly took us on a tour of his garden and had us sample his different fruits and vegetables. He even gave us two large papayas to take home! What a nice guy! He really likes Christianity and wants to keep meeting with us and come to church, but he has tuberculosis and is afraid that if he goes he will spread it to everyone there. Hopefully we don't get it!

  We met with our friend K... again this week. He's 19 and studying physical fitness so he's pretty strong. We had a great lesson with him about our purpose in life and all of God's plan for us. He really liked it because lately he's been thinking a lot about those kinds of questions. He has trouble coming to church on Sunday though because he usually lives over at his girlfriend's house every weekend in another city. He's a super cool guy though.

  We had an investigator come to church this Sunday that we had met with a couple of times and given a Book of Mormon. He came to church for five minutes and then said to us that he wanted to give us the book back. He had found another copy that he had received about 10 years ago but had never read. He said that he liked the church and everything, but that he didn't need God. It was pretty sad to hear him say that. He has run into missionaries several times in his life and has had plenty of opportunities accept the truth, but he still feels that God is not important to him. Pretty sad. I wish him the best though.

   Next week we have a party for our English class so Elder Lin and I have been making some pinatas! They were a huge success in my other areas because no one has ever seen a pinata here in Taiwan haha. Some of them think it's pretty strange, but they love it.

  On Saturday, Diego came up from Tainan to eat dinner with Elder Lin and me. I've been practicing up on my Chinese Idioms and impressed him by saying a few that even he didn't know how to say haha. It was pretty fun. (a Chinese idiom is a saying with just four characters that make a phrase. For example: Fu shui nan shou means "what's done is done and is hard to change" The characters literally mean: "spilled water is hard to gather") Chinese Idioms are lots of fun to use. Elder Lin and I like to use them on each other to argue with and make fun of each other haha.

  Well it's been a pretty fun week! We're having a good time!! Thanks for the emails! Love you all!

Elder Stevens 

Visit From Diego

Monday, March 21, 2016

Military Stories, And Night Markets...

Dear Everyone,

  It's been another fantastic week down in Ping Dong!! (Sorry, I really need to think of better ways to start these emails...) Things are starting to pick up! We've been finding a lot of new people to meet with and it's making things a lot more fun! Most of the people we've found are older than 70 so that's pretty fun. I've always known this, but recently I have been reminded many times that old Taiwanese guys love to talk with young foreigners!! They just talk about anything, mostly the history of Taiwan and the invasions from China and Japan. 

  We met a man that was a captain of a trade boat who had been to 80 or more countries throughout his life. We talked to him on the street a few days before and I just gave him a flyer about our English Class (his English was pretty good), and then he just randomly showed up at the church as we were starting a lesson with our friend X... He had brought his maps that he used as a captain and just went on and on about his stories, which is cool and all, but we were trying to teach a lesson! So we told him we could meet another day. My companion kept teaching the lesson while I spent the next 15 minutes (no I'm not exaggerating) talking with him.  Eventually we scheduled him to come to our English class.

  That lesson with X... was still really good though. He's a awesome guy in the Air Force and he is really sincere. He always has really good questions and really wants to learn. There are lots of bad influences on the Air Force Base with all of his associates, so he says it's hard to live a life following Christ's teachings. He still is working to overcome his concerns and has a desire to be baptized.

  We also met a really nice guy named K... from English Class. He's 19 and is studying Physical Fitness or something like that. He loves to work out and wants to go with us, but unfortunately he always goes at night and we can only go in the morning... But he's really interested in learning more about Christianity. One of his grandparents is Christian, and one in Buddhist, but he feels like the things that his grandma shares with him about Jesus Christ are really special and he likes it a lot. 

  We also met with X... again. (the older man who served in the Navy) We talked to him about the importance of using the Book of Mormon to confirm, for himself through prayer, the truthfulness of our message regarding the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. He is very interested and was asking lots of questions. He loves to talk about his military days though so it's sometimes difficult to focus though haha. 

  On Saturday night we went with some of the ward members to the night market to pass out lots of flyers for our English Class and the upcoming Family History activity. It was a lot of fun going with them. I was with a lot of the guys my age, two of which are preparing to go on missions. It was fun to see them talking with people and seeing how nervous they were. It reminded me of how nervous I was when I first came and how much I have grown since then. 

  I'm having a great time in Ping Dong with Elder Lin. We usually just talk in Chinese so my language has been improving a lot. We have 4 missionaries in our ward, me, Elder Lin and two sister missionaries who are both Taiwanese. Now I really feel like a foreigner!!! It's fun though haha. 

  Well I hope you all have a great week! Love you lots!!

Elder Stevens

Night Market

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rope Lashings, And Clean Teeth...

Dear Everyone,

  This past week was pretty good! It feels like our area is on the rise! We spent the majority of last week trying to get in contact with a lot of people who had met with missionaries before in the past. Last night I called a guy named Diego who is from Columbia and he was super cool. His English and Chinese are both pretty good and several months ago he had met with missionaries, but suddenly had to go back to Columbia to take care of his father and lost contact with the missionaries. When I called him up, he said he had just gotten back about 2 weeks ago, and kept saying over and over that he was so happy that I called him because he has lots of questions to ask us. So we are meeting with him Wednesday so I'm excited.

  We've also been meeting with an elderly man named X... He used to be in the Navy, but many years ago was hit by a teenager who was drinking and driving, and he's been crippled ever since. Because he usually doesn't have a lot of visitors, he loves to talk and it's hard to say much. But after one of his long rants about China and Japan, he suddenly stopped and said, I really want to read the scriptures! So we read a little with him, and he said that the Book of Mormon was very well written and that he wanted to continue to read it. We were obviously excited to hear that so we're going to continue going over and read with him!

  Every week for an hour or two we usually go to help provide service for a single lady in our ward. She is really nice, and needs help with her vegetable garden. We've been helping her to construct a bamboo shelter that she can use. Last week she tried to use little zip-ties to lash the bamboo poles together, but it didn't work at all. Luckily I still remembered how to tie some knots from my boy scout days, so I helped her to lash all the poles together to make the shelter. I was impressed that I still remembered, and the lady and my companion were completely shocked that I knew how to do something like that haha. I guess Boy Scouts paid off after all. 

  During the last big Zone Conference that we had a few weeks ago, they mentioned that going to see the dentist here was super cheap, like $200 Taiwanese ($6 American). I was really shocked to hear that, because I thought that they didn't want us to use our Health Insurance cards for stuff that wasn't an emergency. But they actually recommended that we go and take advantage of it. So last pday that's exactly what I did! I went to the dentist and they did a full check up and cleaning. I thought that after almost two years of not going to the dentist that my teeth would have tons of cavities, but to my surprise, I only had one and he just took care of it right then and there!! So don't worry mom, you can still schedule a dentist appointment, but hopefully my teeth will all be good anyways!

  Oh also, the leaders in our ward here are super awesome. So last week, the Sister Missionaries in our ward met a man at a homeless shelter who said he loved Christianity and wanted to come to church. He had no way to come because he has no car and has a crippled leg, so the Bishop drove over and brought him to church. The man's name is C... and he is a very humble guy who seems to sincerely want to pick up his life. He also really likes to sing haha. After church, the Bishop talked with me and said that they were going to look for employment opportunities for him and try to do all they could to help him get back on his feet. I was really touched at how fast the Bishop was to help out even though he is probably so busy. We're meeting with Brother C... tonight.

  Well that's about it. Today for pday, we just have to buy a bunch of bedding and food to give to the Elders who come to our apartment when we do! Afterwards we will probably just go to the apartment and sleep...I'm super tired haha.

  I hope you guys all have a great week! Love you all!
Elder Stevens

We Love Zone Conference

Monday, March 7, 2016

Great Week...

Dear All,

  This last week was a great week! On Thursday we had our Zone Conference, up at my old stake center in Gaoxiong. When I used to serve in Nanzi, Gaoxiong, we would take the MRT (subway) to the stake center just about every week for meetings and such. So going back there this week was fun because I got to see some of the old sites.

  The conference and training was really good. We talked about the importance of teaching very clearly each of the three members of the Godhead. Because many people here do not have a clear concept of the true nature of God, it is very important that we help them understand the basics; that God is our Father in Heaven. He is literally our Father, and we are created in the image of Him. And because He loves us, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to come down to the Earth to atone for our sins. And in order to help us learn and recognize these truths, we can feel the Holy Ghost in our minds and hearts. If people here can't understand these basic truths, they don't have a foundation for any of the other principles we need to teach them. I realized that I take for granted the fact that we know what God really is like. But to the people here, it's an entirely new concept. In our lessons with new people this week, Elder Lin and I tried hard to really make sure they understood these basic things before moving on, and they were really great lessons.

  After the Zone Conference, we went back to Ping Dong and met with President Wang, our Stake President. He's a great guy and so are his counselors. We are working hard on helping the individual wards with their own mission plans, but it's also hard because there are many other things for a new Stake President to focus on. In April we have a big Family History activity which we hope can be used as a way to introduce many people to our Family History tools and to the church. That'll be fun!

  Last week, Elder Lin and I laid down some expectations and a step by step plan of how to pick up the work in this area. Even the Stake President said that the work in our ward has been too slow for the past year or so. We really hope that we can work hard to change that! This is a great area, with lots of people! We definitely believe that there are many people here that are waiting for this knowledge of the restored truths of Jesus gospel!

  I'm sorry I don't have much time to email any more. Alexa! Congrats on winning the piano recital!! That's awesome! Also, Dad, thanks for your advice on working with the Stake leaders. 

  We're having a great time! I love you all!

 Elder Stevens

Dome of Lights, Formosa Blvd., Gaoxiong, Taiwan

Lots Of Dogs!