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 ;)
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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Still Very Hot...

Dear Everyone,
  Thank you for your prayers that I would be able to withstand the extreme heat of Taiwan. God has heard your prayers because it has been pouring down rain for the past three days and is expected to last all week! Now that it's raining though I wish I could go back to the heat haha.

  This past week was pretty fun! On pday I went with my good friend Elder Lauti and some old members from my first area in Tainan to go eat at an all you can eat grill. I love eating at those! It was also fun to hang out with some old friends. Then on Tuesday we had a great Zone Training Meeting ZTM. Our zone has been working really hard and doing a great job so we decided to have a fun ZTM for a change. We made a scavenger hunt for them all to do. Each team had about 6 stations to go to and at each place there was a riddle that they had to solve which led them to the next clue. And at some of the stations we had a teaching skill that they had to practice; like, talking to someone on the street, teaching with their companion in unity, and giving an invitation for baptism. We had them go in groups of 2 or 4 with people other than their companion so they could learn of other missionaries ways of teaching. Everyone really liked the scavenger hunt and had a really fun time. 

 We also got to go on exchanges twice this week. Once on Tuesday with Elder Porter and Elder Pothier who are in our zone, and then once on Friday with the APs up in Taizhong. They were both super fun. On Friday we took the train up for 3 hours to Taizhong and did our weekly planning on the train. It was raining the entire way up so I was glad I was on the train. On the way back on Saturday afternoon, it was raining super hard as well. We took the train past Ping Dong all the way down to Chaozhou so Elder Steele could do another baptismal interview with on of the Dong Gang Elder's investigators. Her name was Sister S... She is such a sweet lady about 50 years old and she was so grateful that she could finally be baptized. For the past two years her parents would not let her, but they recently changed their minds and said that she could. 

  Our investigator S... is really hard to get a hold of. He says that he hasn't been doing well recently so he just turns off his phone and doesn't want to use it. So we were really worried about what happened to him, but then we bumped into him at a Family Mart (convenient store) and sat down and had a good talk with him. He expressed to us some of the guilt that he had been feeling about some of his past actions that had really hurt his family. He wondered if God would even accept him because of the things that he had done. We had a good talk about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that as long as we truly desire to change and make things right that God would readily accept us. It's not going to be easy for S... to get his life in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ, but he wants to very badly!

  It was a great week and I'm looking forward to an even better week coming up! Love you all lots! (I hope our apartment doesn't flood with all this rain haha)


Elder Stevens

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hot Days!!

Dear Everyone,

 It was another scorching hot week and we were outside biking for most of it. Elder Steele and I are getting some good tans! All the members are telling us to wear jackets outside so we don't get tan haha. What they don't understand is that if we wore them...we would die. 

  I got to go on companion exchanges with Elder Varvel this week. We were together in the MTC and he's a great guy. We had a fun time catching up on how each other's mission has been going so far. He's a really great Elder so we had a really fun time. 

  I also had the opportunity to do another baptismal interview with a guy named C... He is a 27 year old Chinese teacher from Hengchun and is one of Elder Grisenti's investigators. Since it takes about 3 hours to get down do Hengchun, we just decided to use skype to do the interview. C... is a really cool guy and very prepared. He had lots of really good experiences with seeing answers to his prayers and he has a very strong testimony. He is very excited for baptism. The small branch down in Hengchun is going to be very happy to have him because right now they only have 15 to 20 members and only 3 priesthood holders. Interviewing him was a good experience. 

  We had a good lesson with S... this week. He is super excited to follow the word of wisdom. He has no problem with it other than drinking and he wants to give that up quickly! It's going to be hard though. The whole next day he kept calling and texting us telling us how happy he was to learn about Heavenly Father and that he feels so good every time he reads, prays, or meets with us. He is so excited about learning with us, more excited than almost any of my other investigators in the past. He just needs will power to stop drinking!!  Please pray for him.

  We also had our last Zone Conference with President Blickenstaff. It was a good one about the importance of the Book of Mormon and about diligence and developing faith. Elder Steele and I gave the training on how to, like Jesus Christ, use the scriptures to overcome the concerns of those we teach. It was a good training.

  We have a training meeting with our zone tomorrow and Elder Steele and I are busily preparing our plan. It should be fun.

  Well I gotta go. I spent too much time sending you all those pictures haha. I love you all lots!!!


Elder Stevens

Xiao Liu Qiu Island

Random Train Station

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hey Everyone!! 

 Well this week was a little slower than most but that's ok.  You know you're doing a good job talking with everyone if you recognize many of the people that you see on the street or in the park or in convenient stores as people that you've met and talked with before. It's really great to be able to talk and meet so many different people here in Taiwan. I've learned a great deal about the people here in Taiwan and their thoughts and feelings about God, life, and their families. Many people aren't sure of who God is, why we are here on Earth, or even how they can have a happy successful family. It makes me very appreciative of the knowledge that we have through the gospel of Jesus Christ! It opens our eyes to a larger picture and gives us hope and new direction! It's really comforting.

  On Thursday we also went up to Taizhong for our Mission Leadership Council. It was the last one that we will have with President and Sister Blickenstaff . The next time they hold the meeting will be with the new mission president. It was a good meeting where we talked about the importance of planning and about setting a good example for the other missionaries in the mission. It helped me realize that there are still many things that I can improve as a missionary. I'm working hard to be though!

  I'm glad that Dad, Mom, and Alexa had a good time up in Washington DC! I'm sorry the weather wasn't the best. I know how you all feel though. I can't remember the last time that when I came home for the night I wasn't completely drenched with sweat. Now that I mention it, I can't remember the last time I was ever not drenched with sweat all throughout the day haha. I guess that's just what it's like for Taiwan Taizhong missionaries haha. 

  This next week will be fun. We have a big Zone Conference this Thursday and it will be President Blickestaff's last one. Hopefully it will be a excellent one! I'm excited! 

  Well I love you all. I hope you all have a great week!!!

Elder Stevens

Two New Missionaries Assigned To The Arizona Mission