|Thanks to Christina's skills!|
Monday, December 28, 2015
Happy Holidays! 2016 came quick... For me at least, like wow.
Hope everyone had a good one.
When I pick my nose right after getting out of bed here, it's not pretty. It's BLACK. Eye boogers are the same story unfortunately. XinZhu must be polluted I guess.. So naturally I am very happy that every morning I have the opportunity to go run a few miles in the cold weather and let that clear out my nose a bit.
Someone told me last night that XinZhu is the city with the least amount of rainfall in all of Taiwan. I don't think it's a coincidence that I was sent here during the winter when getting wet by the rain is the absolute worst thing. That made me very grateful.
We have some awesome members and investigators here. I love who I am surrounded by here in XinZhu. The people here are all so good to missionaries. Super easy to make friends with, which is honestly a major blessing. I love making friends now that I am able to speak this language with confidence and about more and more diverse topics everyday. Perhaps one of the biggest things that I have learned while on my mission is how to connect with people and make friends. Such a valuable lesson that I doubt I know just how beautiful that is just yet..
This week we went up to Taipei for a Christmas party. We had a massive high class buffet set up for us. It was amazing. I sat next to Elder Seely from Snow Canyon and watched him open the many packages and letters he received from names that I knew as well. It made me think that it is truly a small world..
For Christmas day we went to an all-you-can-eat hotpot. For those who don't know hotpot, they are these bowls filled with soup and then you have a billion choices of veges and meat to throw in there and it all boils together and it is literally delicious. Such a good Christmas celebration.
But to top it off, we went to the church for our baptism. He was a 4-weeker. Which is something I'm usually quite skeptical of. But this kid got up and bore testimony of the power of repentance and the Spirit, as if he had been a member for many years. It was moving. Neat to see that.
This week over all was full of a lot of candy and Christmas gifts. Lots of fun.
Happy upcoming New Year! I'll be in Taipei for the party :-) Going home for the day.
Love you all!
|Elder Jensen and Elder Gray|
December 20, 2015
Merry Christmas to you all! Except my family, I'll be wishing you a Merry Christmas on Friday! :-)
For P-day last week, we made it over to Neihu to play around a little bit. Our man Ernie took us out to play around again, even with his gnarly cold he had going that day.. He's so dang good to us. We made it up onto a mountain that was 100 percent covered in clouds. It was spooky walking around the streets, being completely unable to see even 20 feet in front on you. There's probably a good reason why Chinese people are known to be superstitious...
|Life in the clouds|
I ate some Chinese noodle soup with oysters and pig intestines in it. Whoever wants to hit me up here in Taipei anytime soon can come try some with me! hehe
Elder Dong and I had one goal for the week, enjoy every last second we had together in our beautiful area. Everyday was so good. I will forever look back on that period of time as one of the greatest in my life. It's a really rare thing to be able to say that your best friend is from halfway across the world from you and speaks a completely different language than you do. It's a beautiful thing honestly. I am so grateful for the friendships I have made on my mission. They are lifetimers. Elder Dong and I are brothers.
|Good Old Taipei|
So you can imagine how sad I was to find out I was leaving my favorite area and my favorite companion. It hurt a lot.
|I miss that kid so much|
|This was scary standing here, it was over a year ago that I was last there|
I moved to XinZhu with Elder Gray! Down a little further on the west coast. When you look closely on a clear day, you can see China!
Kidding, that's a lie.
But I am truly moved by the people here. I can tell I will make some awesome friends here as well. Everyone is sooooo good to us. I've had such a warm reception already.
I am really looking forward to the experiences I will have here in my new area. Having the privilege of being a zone leader makes it a bit more fun as well. Fun times ahead.
And skype in 5 days!!
Love you all!!!
Monday, December 14, 2015
I took a quick look back through my journal to update myself on the occurrences of this past week. I didn't read many too interesting things to share with you. Unfortunately.
The good news is last P-day after emails was a blast! We had an LA drive us up the mountain behind our city. It overlooks all of the northern half of Taiwan on a clear day I guess? At least all of Taipei. When we first got into the car, it appeared that it was going to be a fairly gray day. Luckily though, missionaries hold power to repulse the clouds and rain apparentally because as we drove up the mountain, the sky literally opened up a huge hole of sunshine like directly over the spot we drove too. It was actually kind of hilarious. Missionary humor anyways....
Good views. Nothing quite like Zion or the Grand Canyon. But breathtaking in its own way. There were some fun sulfur springs up there that we went ahead to take a few smells of. Not totally sure that was worth it bahaha. Except the fact that, tell me how gross this is, because I have developed a good taste for the Stinky Tofu here, so the smell of sulfur wasn't quite as unbearable as I ever remember it being. lol.
This week I had a lot of reflection on the blessings of my mission. As I'm a pretty practical person, remember that there of course have been numberless small missionary miracles and cool things, however, the biggest things are very simple. Myself is the first biggest miracle. I have been stretched and grown in unimaginable ways. I have tempered my attitude and emotions to be much more loving and steady. I have further discovered things about my true character. I have literally become a new person.
The second miracle has been the friends I've managed to meet here. To have a true, good friend is a very rare thing. Very hard to come by. I have been so influenced by the people around me it's weird to think about. I feel like I've met some of my siblings from the other side of the veil that I used to play around with a lot. Meeting back up with them has been the best thing of my life. Taiwan and the people here have a piece of my heart forever.
To those RM's who have expressed similar thoughts to me before, I now understand.
I love my life. I love my mission.
|That beautiful city has my heart.|
|12 degrees for a short sleeve, do I look American?|
|Sulfur springs ....|
|Still got that hurkey down|
|Our man Ernie|
|From the top of the world!|
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Although it is not yet Christmastime back home, there is no Christmastime here in Taiwan so really anytime could be Christmastime for us.
This past week can be summed up into two days,and .
Woke up atfor a good couple mile run as usual. Normally we don't bring the keys, therefore we don't lock the door when we go out in the morning. Elder Dong actually locked it without noticing until we got back. Not much you can do when all you own is behind a closed door. So we went out for breakfast with money borrowed from our apartment manager.
That I didn't mind much :-) Taiwanese breakfast food is delicious and I unfortunately don't eat it enough.
|Best tasting omelette of my life|
|American style French toast :-)|
When we finally got back into the apartment at, we didn't have a lot of time for studies and lunch because we originally had lessons set for . All until when they called and texted and cancelled. We went and hit the streets instead.
We saw what is probably the only Harley gang in Taiwan out for a wedding though! That was exciting!
|I gotta find me one of these back home|
That whole afternoon I was seeing stars as I was walking around trying to stop people to talk to them. True exhaustion. I survived.
I was happy though to have two more appointments set for the night at the chapel. We were to get two new investigators that were super solid. And we had mulitple families from the ward come up to help us as well. The first was set for. We called her at and she sounded very confused about the address we told her. We took off on our bikes riding in circles looking for her for a good 20 minutes before we finally called her and asked her to hand the phone to one of the people standing next to her. She was at the same address we told her to go to, but about 1 hour subway ride away from us down in the heart of Taipei. So that fell through of course. Taiwanese addresses...........
She doesn't even live in our area either as it turns out.
Then thedidn't show.
We had a mini party with all the members out in front of the chapel instead. Could've been worse..
Slow morning. I like to take me 20-30 minute showers on Sundays with that extra half hour we don't have to exercise. Finally got rolling and got up to church.
Walked upstairs. Looked to my left. There were two ghosts standing there waiting for me. It was the most terrifyingly exciting thing of my mission life. Thanks guys for the surprise. :-)
|The surprise of the week! Thanks Shawn!!!|
In the afternoon we went to visit a sister with cancer. We sat in her hospital room and sang hymns to calm down her pain. It quickly became a very sacred place. Holy hour. Tender moment.
At night, we got cancelled on. So we put on the little Christmas light necklaces I received and went around to members' home singing carols to them to say thanks for all they do for us and to express our love for them. It was good fun. It lifted my spirits pretty good.
|When you're starving, go caroling LOL|
We made it home at. Success.
Hope you all have a good week! Love you!
|Look really closely and you might see some people in there|
|Christmas shopping with some good guys here.|
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving! I told Elder Dong I still remembered where I was, who I was with, and what I ate for last Thanksgiving. Scary thought to realize that was a year ago.. Time does indeed go by quickly.
As it so happened, it was also my companion's birthday. So we got to celebrate two days in a row which was a dang good time. We went to a Korean BBQ all-you-can-eat and ate until I thought I was going to throw up haha. Two days in a row. May have dropped a bit of cash, but it was a worthy $20 altogether! Food here is so cheap it kills me.
As far as the week went, starting at last Monday, it was a good day to get some serious Christmas shopping in. I bought the whole street, so be prepared for a good package this year! The best part of the day was we made it back home in time for me to take my first nap in literally a year and then top it off with a huge Thai dinner. Such a good day!
This week brought the first cold air of the season, although I'm fully aware that when I say cold, it is warm, tropical air compared to those in Russia and Europe, those of you in such places have my respect. But anyways, this past weekend we made it up to our LA's house who lives way up on the mountain here. She was concerned that all the weeds that had grown up on her roof were driving her crazy as they withered and would blow all over her hanging laundry. We got up on her roof in the cool air with an intense orange sunset lighting up the sky. It was a sight. I enjoyed a few minutes of silence pulling those weeds up there.
Last night we made it out to a member's house for dinner who lives forever away from us. It was a good time drinking out of the super traditional Taiwanese tea cups. But as we were riding back, I told Elder Dong how I felt bad about staying there a little longer than we should've, so we said we were going to make the best use of our remaining hour of the night that we could. We pulled up to where we wanted to contact people and I noticed the guy next to me drinking Apple Milk, so I asked him if it tasted good. He asked if I wanted to see all the crap in his massive bag he bought himself for dinner that week. I love goofy people like him. He ended up following us up to the chapel for a quick tour and left his info. Finding new investigators is never that easy. I guess Heavenly Father forgives his missionaries and gives them exactly what they desire sometimes. It was cool.
This week was beautiful. With the cooler air and wind comes fairly fresh air and vacant bike trails which is nice for me every once in a while.
Have a good week!
The only picture I took all week. But a worthy one. All shirts here are this badly spelt lol.
Monday, November 23, 2015
I had two cool opportunities this week. I realized a dream I had back a while ago. Teach the gospel in China.
I obviously didn't go to China this past week. But I was able to teach two mainlanders this past week. As crazy as it sounds, they literally had no perception of religion. Neither had any idea what the cross that hangs on lots of buildings here meant. They also didn't know much about Buddhism or Daoism which are the main religions here on this half of the world. We started at the very, very basics. I found it interestingly entertaining exposing these people to a new way of thought. China allows people to go there these days, but it is certainly still very closed up. One of the girls was going to join the Communist party when she made it back home. Apparentally there are a lot of benefits that come with it living there.
I also ran into a German man who was very pleased to hear that I loved the German people. He told me that many people in the world still have some biases against the German people unfortunately. That made me sad to hear. But either way, he was a traditional Catholic. Meaning they don't believe in the New Testament and don't believe the Messiah had come yet and still follow the Law of Moses. I said it sounded a whole like Judaism to me.. He told me they were COMPLETELY different. I laughed. I may have semi experienced what its like to be a person on the street meeting us Mormons for the first time telling them we are completely different from other Christian churches..
We went on two beautiful hikes this week, one last monday and one during morning exercise. Taipei is unique in the fact that it is one of the world's metropolises and yet it has maintained its natural side as well, except the ridiculously gross and stinky rivers in the middle of the city... Those aside though, and the air, everything else is beautiful here!
I'm looking forward to a good Thanksgiving. Hope everyone knows I love them! Have a good one.
|Blazed this trail|
|No need to say|
|You probably can't tell I'm in Central Taiwan here can you?|
|Stinky Tofu and Duck Blood Soup. Delicious!|
Monday, November 16, 2015
Last week's letter was very preachy. I'm sorry, you all probably want to hear my stories, not my 20 year old wisdom. Stories it is today then.
Last week I sent some awesome looking pictures of my comp and I at Taiwan's Goblin Valley. We have a member here that has a car and loves hanging out with missionaries, we got lucky. He picks us up and we drive the road that runs the northern coast line of Taiwan, wow that is a beautiful road! Made me want to drive Highway 1 in Cali. The place there is made completely of sandstone and has gone through about the same effect that Goblin Valley or Bryce Canyon have. It was beautiful as it was along the water with the sound of waves in the background. Only difference was there were thousands of Chinese people there instead of the normal few hundred in the US Natl Parks. Lots of fun.
We had two baptisms last week! Baptisms are always fun stuff. They were both awesome. Elder Dong was really stoked about having the chance to baptize 黃姐妹 (Sister Huang) as it was his first time. He did great. Brother Alann, the other man, I cannot take any credit for, he was pretty much taught by previous missionaries. I was just lucky to be here to see him finally take that last step.
Now, this week. Last Monday we got invited over to the Casperson's (hailing from Logan Utah) for curry rice and MILKSHAKES! I was stoked out of this world and was not disappointed! It was the greatest thing! Plus they had salad made for us. I forgot what uncooked veges taste like. It was wonderful.
This week I took an attempt at making homemade black beans. Regardless of what you see in the picture, just know I succeeded and made myself the first black bean burrito I've had in over a year. It was so dang tasty! But honestly, going to all that effort to make something I'll get to eat everyday back at home when the Taiwanese food here is authentic and just as delicious made me reconsider any ideas at future attempts with it..
This week we attended a follow up meeting for all trainers and trainees. As I sat in on the meetings, listening to other's experiences, I was actually super grateful for my circumstance. Love is the answer to missionary work, who would've thought? Elder Dong and I are lifetime friends. I've never made such a close friend, and even better he's nothing like me haha. We have such a good time together, I'll always look back on these days with such a warm regard. I have loved my every second being here in DanShui.
Lastly, I have a shoutout for my parents. I remember them arguing maybe once or twice my whole life. I've never heard my dad speak bad of my mom and vice versa. They've had their fair share of hardships, but never once allowed any of them to affect their relationship. We have some members we are teaching right now. I see them, living under the same roof, but in a broken home. These eye openers make me so grateful for the upraising I had. Statistically speaking, I may be in the lucky 1% to grow up in such a good enviroment. Thank you mom and dad. I'm grateful beyond what I can describe.
As always, excited for another week of experiences and memories to be made!
|We put that Chinese-Mexican buffet in STG to shame with this ramen and burrito combo|
|I promise you they turned out really good!|
|Best meal of the week|
This week I was fortunate enough to run into an unusual amount of Mormon-haters that wouldn't even try to see how decent of a person I can be before jumping in and trying to tear me and my faith into pieces. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Fact.
I believe. There are many dark clouds that hang over religion when you want to talk about the colorful aspects of history and doctrines. But this week I witnessed first hand the true power behind having a faith in God.
Getting backed up into a corner by people who, like Zeezrom, have a written out script in hand that is meant to get you to catch you in your words is quite a fun experience. I think it's cool to read the stories in the gospels now because those one liners and side comments of the Pharisees trying to trap Christ become real as you realize that though the author only devoted a line to expressing that aspect of the story, there is much more emotion behind it than could possibly be portrayed. It's a fun experience, if you have faith in Christ.
I don't know what to make of the mess behind the Joseph Smith story, I don't understand why homosexuality is a sin, I don't even know if every last word that comes out of the mouths of church leaders is the pure gospel of Christ. But I know one thing. When I tell someone that Christ is our Savior and the atonement can change your life, my insides get warm. My faith in Christ got me through the darkest hells in this life. The godly forgiveness made possible by the atonement allowed me to forgive myself of the awful things I did against my best friend before he died. The enabling power behind the atonement allowed me to close my eyes as I stepped into the dark unknown, uncertain that I would see my mother again because of my "privilege to serve God."
The power of the Spirit touched my heart this week as I faced some of the grumpiest and aggressive accusers I've faced in my life. Though they were thoroughly prepared and fully expecting an easy victory, yet they had nothing they could say in refutation as I looked them in the eyes and told them with a calm steady voice that I believed in Christ as my Savior and a loving Heavenly Father.
The scriptures aren't kidding when they mention in there that the words which even babies can speak can confound the greatest wisdom found in this world.
The gospel is simple. The apostles and the haters make it to be more than it was intended. God lives. We can receive forgiveness from our sins. We can hope for a better world and a better life. By striving to be like Christ, we can improve our lives and find more happiness. And so my beloved family members don't misunderstand me, striving to be like Christ never did and never will mean striving to be like the prophet. Anything that is run by man or associated with man is going to have faults and errors. But Christ's doctrine in its purest form is perfect.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Our Halloween party was a good old time. I had my face painted up all pretty and was handed a huge bag of candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters. The Taiwanese don't celebrate Halloween here, so thanks to our American family living here, they were all able to experience a little of what Halloween is all about. The chapel where I'm serving is one of the biggest in Taiwan, so that helped as well. We all went up to the top floor and stood behind all the doorways down the hall and handed out chocolates as the little ones came by and knocked on the doors. Elder Dong and I had a system where he opened the door and I jumped out at them to scare them! Fun stuff. I also ate half a bag of chocolates, so call that a success if you will.
We also made it out to that hole in the wall Texas Steakhouse again. I had three coupons for free steaks, so we hit it up. It was the closest thing I have had to American food in a long time. Notice I say "closest" thing to American food. The Taiwanese also have steakhouses out here where you can get a Taiwanese style steak. They are half decent, except they won't cook their steaks past rare. And for those of you who haven't had raw beef before, it's less like raw fish and more like overcooked octopus. You simply cannot cut it, let alone eat it. I hoped that going to an American steakhouse would mean they would cook it past rare, but I guess you still have to cater to the local opinions to have business. The fries tasted good though.
On the contrary, we had a night where we ate at a member's food stand. I ordered noodles with some 滷味, which included some stewed chicken hearts, tofu, seaweed, and pork blood cake. I left that place a thousand times more satisfied than the American steakhouse. Perhaps I really am becoming a little Taiwanese...
And to further prove that point, I went on exchanges with an kid from Utah this past week. I felt a little out of place speaking English with him, not to say I feel more comfortable speaking Mandarin than English now, but my English has gone to trash lately. I struggle to express myself at all anymore I guess. As long as I keep my sentences simple, I'm pretty good to go though I guess.
This week brought the worst smog I have ever witnessed. I almost died. We couldn't even see the buildings 1 km away from us. We lived in a strangely lit orange bubble for two days. Glad to be past that.
Last Monday we made it to Costco again. I got all the stuff to make myself some world class breakfast burritos. I made myself and Elder Dong some good quality potato, green pepper, bacon, ham, pepperjack cheese, egg, and salsa burritos on authentic Mexican tortillas. Good news is I still have the same taste buds for Mexican.
Elder Dong sleeptalks. And when I'm really lucky, sleep-screams. One particularly fun night I woke up to yelling and sat right up to see him screaming at his wall in some slurred Chinese. At the moment I thought he was yelling at me so when he got up to go to the bathroom after he woke himself up I got in a feetle position thinking he was gonna come at me. LOL. We laughed about it the whole next morning.
Fun stuff going on here in Taiwan. I love it here.
Hope you all have a good week!!!
Monday, October 26, 2015
After thinking of how I should start this email off for a few minutes, I'm just not even going to try.
Last week, I sent pictures of our hike we did. I feel like I should restate how awesome that day was. We woke up and got right with it, expecting it to be a lot more difficult than expected to get ourselves across the river to the busstop that we didn't know where to go to get to it. But in the end it was super smooth and reminded me how tiny Taiwan truly is. "Far" here means more than 3 km away. Perception of distance here is much different.
Speaking Chinese all day everyday has its perks. It's fun, helps you feel more intune with the culture and people, and improves your language abilities of course. However, it's surprisingly easy to forget you are a foreigner. Besides the occasional struggles with the language, it like weirds me out in a sense now when I talk to people about America because I know I'm from there, but for some reason it has that same feeling of when I had just gotten home from a long trip and telling people about the place I just visited. Almost this subconscious feeling that I literally live in Taiwan and am going back to America for a "vacation" I guess. It's a hard feeling to describe but it literally turns your world upside down. I'm sure you RM's understand.
I can't think of any incredibly funny stories from this week.
The coolest experience I guess of the week, if you want to call it cool, was while in the Temple last Wednesday. I remember back during my first day in the MTC walking through the back rooms getting handed 100 books with Chinese language material and thinking the day would soon come when I could actually read all those scribbles. While we were sitting in the temple, I picked up a Bible and flipped its pages with ease, turned to the part I wanted to read and read it, not even hardly noticing what I was reading was Chinese. I mean of course I knew it was Chinese, lets be real, but it ALMOST felt natural!!! Super nuts. I had that moment where I officially realized the dream that I had that first day back in the MTC. A sense of accomplishment you could call it.
Chinese is a beautiful language. I love it. I'm so excited to show off to my family and friends. Best part is you'll all have no way of verifying whether I can actually read it or not, but I'll know. And that is satisfying.
I love telling people that one of my favorite activities back home is shooting skeet. They cannot grasp the concept of shooting guns for entertainment. A few of them tell me they are coming to find me in America once I'm home so I can take them out for the experience. I'm excited.
Love you all!
|We realized we hadn't taken any new pictures to send.|
|So this is some last second posing last night. lol|
I have no time to write my emails yet again. Terribly sorry. Elder Dong and I are just outside having too much fun to take time to be on the computers anymore!
|Bike thugs. (pre-wreck)|
This week was epic. Of course we saw some miracles with all our people we are working with. And of course we had some fun out on the streets. But this week wasn't epic because of the usual missionary life occurrences.
I wrecked so hard.
|Good close up|
|My arm was locked in this position for a good two days.|
I don't bruise easily. But the fact that I wrecked last Tuesday, 8 days ago, and my entire right arm is still straight up yellow and black up and down should suggest that it wasn't some soft landing.
Angels caught me. Nothing broken. Really absolutely no damage at all. Just a friggin SWOLE right arm. At first glance, you'd be like, "Woah, have you been working out lately?" but at your double take you'd notice that it ain't muscle. lol
The story goes like this:
Last Tuesday we had a lesson set for. We had tried to move it to , but our investigator couldn't make that work. Expecting it to be at , we didn't rush to eat dinner, until at we got a call asking where we were. We were forever away. We got right on our bikes and started booking it! Good news I remembered to put my helmet on. (I've never ridden without it, don't worry mother.) The only thing missing on my bike was a light on my handlebars. So as we were HAULING down this nearly empty alleyway, which happened to not be quite as lit as they are normally, I didn't expect much to happen. There was one parked car on the side of the road with no sign of life in it or near it. Expect the unexpected. The timing was so perfect I don't think Hollywood could reenact it. (Note: Taiwanese people usually crack their door open and peak before they slowly open their door to avoid traffic incidents.) But this man must've swung his door open because I didn't even see anything until there I was lying on the ground with the wind totally knocked out of me. I didn't slam into his door perpendicularly (as if it had been all the way open), no, I hit into it as it was still not even halfway open yet. My feet flew up over my head as I front flipped and flopped onto the ground first landing on my head and then my poor back. When I realized I hadn't died and opened my eyes again, I was staring into the eyes of a frantic man who had me cradled like a baby and my companion's face next to hit with his eyes wider than you'd think Asians are capable of going. I went to stand up, fully expecting to have multiple shattered bones, but fortunately all I had was feeble knees! I wanted to throw up, but I managed to keep my dinner down, saving me the $100 it would've taken to replace that food. :-) And even more fortunate, I was given $500 to go see a doctor (ended up buying desserts with it instead lol) and then was still able to get right back up and ride up an 89 degree hill to get to our appointment at on the dot.
Elder Dong and I got a kick out of it afterward. I probably the best bike wreck stories of most missionaries these days, not to brag.
Love you all! Have an amazing week!!!
|Owning this place!|
|Went hiking this morning!|
|A missionary that served in Tom's mission found the Elders.|