Monday, April 25, 2016

Missionary Exchanges, Meetings With Mission President...

Dear Everyone,

  This week was a pretty busy week in terms of meetings and the like, but it was a really good one. There wasn't a whole lot of success or improvement with regards to our teaching opportunities, but it was a great week for me personally! 

  On Monday we just kind of chilled around town and tried to find fun things to do. We didn't really find anything, just a few places to take pictures. The zebra guy was pretty cool, and the illusion drawings are cool too. I wish they had more though. The best was definitely the guy on the motorcycle haha. 

  On Tuesday we went over to the Yuanshan chapel to attend another district's training meeting or DTM. I love being able to go and interact with other missionaries and see how they are doing. We also brought the Yuanshan Elders, Elder Weatherford and Elder Jones, over to our area to do exchanges, and I got to work with Elder Weatherford. It was pretty fun. Unfortunately we just went contacting, tracking and survey contacting. In the afternoon, when we advertised for our English class, we had lots of success. The sisters missionaries asked us 4 white American men to stand outside an all girl's senior high school right when they were getting out of school! I think I handed out more flyers in those 30 minutes than I have in the all of the other times combined!! And during that Wednesday's English class, we saw plenty of people from that high school. The sister missionaries are pretty smart haha.

  On Thursday our zone had interviews with President and Sister Blickenstaff. I always love interviews because I always learn a lot of good things from them. We had a little devotional for Elder Hatch, the missionary who recently passed away, and then started our interviews. Elder Steele and I had the super tiring job of doing planner and area book checks for all the missionaries there! It took forever, but it was good to see that we have a zone full of excellent missionaries! And then when President Blickenstaff checked my planner, he said that it was too good to be a Zone Leader's planner haha. Usually ZLs are always so busy taking care of stuff at night after we get home, that many times their planners are not that well organized. But most of the time I am able to get good planning in at night. Sometimes I don't get finished with everything until 10:30 though haha. 

  During our interviews with our President, we were asked to share with him something from "Preach My Gospel" or the scriptures that has changed our lives. I really liked this assignment and the scripture that I chose is from Alma 32:17-18. I really love how Alma tells us how we can develop our faith by doing consistent things like studying the scriptures, praying, and going to church. I don't think I've ever had a big miraculous experience in which I came to believe that God is real, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that Joseph Smith was really a true prophet of God. Rather, my experience has been how Alma describes it, a slow growth that will make us happy as we continue to nourish our faith and testimony. I love that he says that "even if we only have a desire to believe" that we can let this be the start of our testimony. If we want to believe in God, but you can't bring yourself to do it, just let yourself believe and then as you begin to learn more, and experiment more with the things you learn, you will begin to see little changes in yourself, and because of those changes, you will be able to see that God is really there and that as you come closer to Him, you will be happier and happier. I'm still in the process of growing and will always be. But I have felt enough to know that I am on the right path, and the things that I'm teaching here in Taiwan are truly from God. 

  On Thursday we went to Taichung to do exchanges with the APs. It was fun to work with Elder Taylor (he came to Taiwan the same time as me) and we found a lot of cool people on the streets next to the mission office. 

  All in all, it's been a great week! I'm having a great time and I'm loving it here! It's not always the easiest to keep going when your tired all day every day, but it's worth it! Love you all! 
Elder Stevens

Family History Conference

Public Exercise Equipment.  I Am Out Of Shape!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Miracle Part 2...

Hello Everyone!!! 

  First off I'd just like to say that H... from Xihu got baptized two days ago and in the picture that they took, he looks the happiest that I've ever seen him!! He really did not have a happy life and didn't care about anything. Elder Osborne (my MTC companion who is in Xihu right now) said that he had a little analogy that he told during his baptismal interview. He said he always was carrying around a heavy rock, and when he started learning the gospel the rock broke and every time he learned a new principle a piece was taken away. I'm so happy that he was able to feel of the joy that the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring into his life!! Way to go H...!!

  This week was also full of other miracles! My companion Elder Steele and I love to find people to talk to and sometimes we ask them to help us do a survey. Usually we will go to people who are sitting at 7-11s and Family Marts (the best convenient stores in Taiwan) and then talk with them. So this week we went to a 7-11 and there were lots of people there and we didn't know who to talk to. There were two guys we wanted to talk to but one was outside and one was inside. We had to choose one so Elder Steele and I flipped a coin and it landed on heads so we went inside and talked to that guy. He saw us and instantly told us to sit down and talk with him. He is Christian but is still searching for the right church for him. He says everyone's thoughts are all different and he has no idea how to find which views are correct. We talked with him some and then he agreed and came to church on Sunday. He seemed to enjoy it and we will keep meeting with him! When in doubt...I guess flipping a coin does really work haha.

  On a sadder note, yes we were informed of the death of Elder Hampton this week. He had just come to Taiwan 2 months ago so I never had the opportunity to meet him, but from the pictures I can tell that he was a excellent missionary! We were all very sad to hear that he died on the way to the hospital after the car accident. Please remember to keep his friends and family in your prayers. Also remember to pray for his companion Elder Quist. He must be feeling devastated as well. I know that God has His hand in everything. Even though we don't understand the reasons why bad things happen. We just need to have faith in God's plan and to trust Him.

  Our zone as a whole is doing well. We are all working hard and have great missionaries here. I'm lucky to be serving in such a great place! It's getting a little hotter and it's been raining recently, but it's not too bad. I love you lots! Have a great week!

Elder Stevens

ps. I have to go, but my favorite talks were about the greatest follower, and about our identity as children of God. There were others too but I have to go, sorry.

Great Miracle!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Miracles, Family History...

Hey Everyone!! 
Well my first week with Elder Steele was super busy and stressful, but now it's all done and it turned out to be a pretty good week! On Monday and Tuesday we were at the big cultural center helping out with the family history activity. The activity was pretty fun and was a great opportunity to let other people learn more about our church through helping them with their family history. It was a big success and each day there was over 6 thousand people who visited the exhibit! We didn't do a ton to help out, but we gave people maps of our exhibit and told them to go check it out. We weren't allowed to proselyte at the cultural center because it is a government owned facility, but we were there to make friends and encourage people to start doing family history work. It was fun having the whole zone at this activity participating and being able to meet all of them. Because we just had a movecall, most of people are new to the zone. Actually, half of the zone members are new to the zone, and 3 of them are brand new to Taiwan!

  Our Zone Training Meeting went well. I was surprised how well it went because it was only Elder Steele and I's second full day together and we had done all the planning in a cafeteria at the cultural center during the activity on Monday and Tuesday haha. Despite the challenges, the meeting turned out pretty well. We have a lot of young missionaries in the zone, (I am the oldest be at least several months to a year!!) so we really focused on the basics; what is a successful missionary, what is our goal as missionaries, and how to find people to teach. It was a fun meeting. It was fun especially because Elder Grisenti (my trainee) is in my zone!!! He moved to Hengchun, the area at the very bottom of Taiwan. It was fun seeing him again and having him at the meeting (although he didn't do much to help out, he just made fun of me haha). 

  I have some good news!!! One of the investigators that we found when I was over in Xihu is preparing to be baptized this Saturday!! His name is H... and I was very surprised to hear that he wanted to be baptized. During my first or second week in Xihu I randomly grabbed a handful of records with phone numbers of people who had met missionaries before and left a phone number, but then had no interest. We call these records, the "dead stack" because missionaries never have success calling those people haha. We had nobody to teach so I called those numbers and called H.... He didn't want to meet at first but I was a little pushy and got him to come. He came and literally had no desire to do anything in his life. He said he doesn't care about his family, job, friends, or even his own life. He didn't want to change or learn anything. We met with him a couple times, but we literally had no idea what to say to get him to want to change because he just didn't care. So we stopped officially meeting with him and just would talk to him when he came to English Class on Wednesday nights. Then I left and my MTC companion replaced me. And he said that H... has changed a bunch and already passed his baptismal interview and is excited to be baptized! That is a huge miracle!!! I'm so very grateful that my work in Xihu was not a waste!!

  We are still working hard in Ping Dong and are starting to find more and more success. X... came to the Saturday morning session of General Conference and really enjoyed it. He still has concerns and struggles to believe in God, but he's improving. We had a great lesson with him last week. I love him and really hope that he can come to realize that God is real and that He loves him!

  K... (the guy who likes to weight lift) came to the Sunday morning session of Conference with his girlfriend. We had in our previous lesson shared about Lehi's vision of the tree of life in Chapter 8 of the Book of Mormon and in that session two of the speakers talked about that so he really enjoyed it! It was his first time coming to church and it turns out that a super awesome family in our ward (the old stake president's family) is actually his next door neighbors! So he knew several of the people at church and really enjoyed it.

  Things are going well here and I'm excited to be here serving. I love you all! Hope you have a great week!

Elder Stevens

Monday, April 4, 2016

Quick Post...

Hello Everyone!! 

 Sorry my time is a little short, so I will type quickly. Last week was pretty good. On our last
pday we just kind of went wandering around the city looking for cool things.  It was fun. 

 Tuesday we got up at 4:30 am to get on the train to go to Taichung for our Mission Leadership Council. It was a long ride and I was exhausted. I was planning to sleep on the 3.5 hour ride up, but then some other elders I knew sat in the seats next to us... so no one got any sleep haha. The meeting was good though. We learned a lot of good stuff. (Sorry, I don't have time to write what we did learn).

 Wednesday we had our English party. We had a big Easter party with a pinata and an Easter egg hunt. We ended up making the pinata too thick so nobody could break it after about 20 to 30 minutes. So I ended up having to go in there and break it for them haha.

The rest of the week was good but I have 30 seconds left to type. I love you all!
Elder Stevens

Taichung, Taiwan Mission Leadership Council, March 2016