Monday, September 28, 2015


Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!! 

Apparentally this holiday is usually pretty happening, like halloween in a sense, but not at all either. That is, when it's not ruined by a typhoon. We are lucky to be having our 4th one this year. But I mean, Saint George never had any typhoons so its still an awesome experience!

I have eaten so many moon cakes here its ridiculous! Hopefully those fat calories don't add up to much against me...

Last night was especially fun as we went to a member's house and had ourselves a feast! The Taiwanese know how to throw a party!

This week had some fun things occur, mostly in regards to crazy transfers. Last Friday was supposed to be our normal transfer meeting, but it didn't happen because the group that was supposed to come in once again had VISA issues. So I was not planning on anything happening. Until Wednesday afternoon, we go to visit an LA in the hospital, and just as I go in to give a Priesthood blessing, I was interrupted by a curious telephone call from President Jergensen. So of course I answer. He tells me there were three people coming in the next day and I would be training one of them! I was so stoked!

It ended up there were some flight delays so I ended up not getting my new companion until two days later, but it was worth the wait.

We get Elder Brandley all packed up and head down to Taipei Friday morning. I get into the office and wait for a few minutes before President calls us all in to his office. When he told me I would be training Elder Dong, from Tainan (southern Taiwan), I was stoked out of my mind! 

So I'm training my first native companion (theres like 4 total Taiwanese elders in the mission right now) in my favorite area. Elder Dong and I had to have been friends before, it feels like we've known each other for years already! These next two transfers will be my favorite ones. I'm so dang stoked!

Funny thing from yesterday, embarrassing on my part, but a result of being on a mission for a while now. We go contact a man who ended up being from Buenos Aires Argentina. So here we have an Argentine, a Taiwanese, and an American trying to communicate in the most broken English I've ever spoken bahaha. At first I was the one laughing as I was the only one who could really speak English, but someone mentioned Jinobili from the San Antonio Spurs being from Argentina and I literally had no idea who they were talking about for like 5 minutes. I have forgotten everything to do with sports, movies, music, anything, you name it, I don't remember anything about it. LOL.

But besides that, this week was the best. Elder Dong and I have stayed up late talking every night thus far, so that will have to change if I am going to survive. I love my mission.

Have a good week!

Mid-Autumn Festival feast! (missing some dishes)

Three generations

Costco mega cinnamon roll

Chips, Salsa and Guacamole for English class!

Monday, September 21, 2015


Some weeks truly fly on your mission. Perhaps the biggest reason is love. But here are some highlights first:

Last Monday, we made it out to the zoo for my third time now. Something about seeing the same animals in the same positions in the same cage didn't interest me too much. But my companion was a little kid in a candy store. I actually enjoyed being there again.

Tuesday I was planning on going on another ordinary exchange. Little did I know that we would be called on to go to the temple for the night to help with baptisms! I'm pretty sure that is as rare as it comes for a missionary. When getting there, we found out we would be for sure doing it. I got dressed and was way excited to step into some water for the first time in forever! And better yet, I was the one of the group called on to do the baptizing! I had over 100 baptisms in a single night. I wonder how many missionaries could measure up to that? :-)

Baptism night! If you look close my hair is still wet!

One of the names was from 17 AD. Cool thing here in Taiwan is they have their family lines traced pretty well.

On the way home, we decided to take a quick pitstop with the RC that was with us to get him his first Krispy Kreme donut to try. I ended up getting, get this, a donut with a mountain of ice cream and chocolate sauce dumped on top of it in a cup. I'm glad they didn't post any calorie values to that.

While we were out doing service at an LA's house up on the mountain, we had an extra few minutes before the bus arrived. We were able to take a quick peek at this enormous Chinese temple that I guess is one of the main shindigs here in Taiwan. It was honestly a thing of beauty. They had the floors layed out where it represented their "ascension process." The top floor of course was very pretty. All white, very peaceful. Much like another place many of you are aware of.

That temple is so beautiful!

Another night when we were about to head home, I was surprised with a call from some old friends that had come to DanShui to find me. That was a warm reunion to be back with Sam and Fly and some other friends from XinZhuang. I got some Turkish Ice Cream, but I ruined the show... Those of you who have had Turkish Ice Cream might understand...

All my friends for a night visit to DanShui!

So back to love. This week flew. I think it was because I literally loved every second of it. Not to be the over-jubilant missionary who wants everyone to think that every second of his mission is better than sugar and a cherry on top, those who have served know that everyday frustrations are inevitable. I'm amazed at the depth of appreciation I've developed for what I'm involved in right now. Encouraging everyone and their dog to love each other and to believe in God is a remarkable thing. And making some friends doing it along the way makes it all the sweeter. 

This week as I talked to an old woman with a little tree branch in her hand smacking herself on her neck and her back with it, I loved it. As I ran alongside the Tamsui riverside each morning this week observing the dog-walkers pick up their dogs' remains off the sidewalk with a plastic bag, I loved it. As I sat in church with the rowdiest and craziest little boy at my hip pulling on my arm and kissing my hand the whole time, I loved it. As I rode my bike home last night on a narrow bike path with the whole population of Taiwan walking and riding bikes as well, I loved it.

When I drank sour milk this morning on accident, I didn't love that as much, but as I think about a new week ahead of me, I love that too.

Life is to be lived. Life is beautiful.

Keep smiling. And have a good week!

Monday, September 14, 2015


Time goes surprisingly super fast. Last Monday feels like yesterday. You want to know the secret? Turn back to the good old days and tell time by the sun and less by the seconds on the watch. I haven't had an issue with this, but I've had to teach a lot of my companions this principle! It's always a good reminder to yourself though, right?

Of course you must still watch the time because you are pressed for time everyday in everything you do. It's ridiculous.

We had our weekly district meeting which is pretty ordinary, except we made homemade waffles which was unreal to me that there were legit waffles with legit syrup in front of me. (the maker only made one waffle at a time though and there were six of us so.... it was a wait. but it was worth it I guess?)

Friday was the highlight though! We had an outdoor zone conference, so for those who know how I feel about hiking and being outdoors, it was the best time of my life. We even saw cows! 陽明山 sits just north of Taipei which is a considerably prominent mountain. It's so dang cool! We got on a big bus early in the morning and got up there before the big crowds of people. It was honestly peaceful. And the air was clean. And the mountain streams had crabs in them. What better?!

I felt really inspired to make sure I'm taking advantage of every opportunity I have out here to become really fluent in Chinese. It opens so many doors for the future!

The funny (but frustrating at the time) thing that occurred this week was as we were passing out fliers for our English Class which we hold on Wednesday nights. Pretty harmless, its just an English Class we teach for free and share a little about the church just before we end. But there comes this woman minister who looked far too old to still be having cycles that starts shouting at me. Included in her remarks to me were, "Stop spreading this hypocrisy! You are all heretics! Taiwan does not welcome you here! Leave and never come back!" When I ignored her and continued, she planted herself right at my side everyone that I attempted to hand a flier to she blocked with her hands and would say, "Dont you dare touch that! They are heretics!" Surprisingly, people would still take it and laugh at her while I was as well. It was a riot. But when there was a break in people she looks at me and says, "I have a right to stand here and do this just as much as you do! Look, Jesus loves you, but you cannot be 'saved'. Stop deceiving these people with this nonsense. I'm a minister. I know you hate the Bible! Leave Taiwan!" 

That is now the second time I have been told by someone else that they hate me and want me to leave Taiwan forever. However, I was grateful for the entertainment she provided in the end. It was a fun little competition for me. If I see her in the kingdom of God at the last day, it'll make for a good laugh together, won't it? 

Yesterday we biked an 89 degree hill. It was nasty big. Danshui is full of them. Mountain biking at home will be child's play for me at this rate.

Hope you all have a great week!!

陽明山 (YangMingShan)

my zone

Sunsets are crazy beautiful here. You can look directly at the sun too!

This beach is legit.

Tom and Elder Willes ( his trainer)

Monday, September 7, 2015


We made it up into the mountains last Monday. It was super entertaining being up there at a beautiful Buddhist temple with an awesome view of the "Ghost Month" celebrations. We got off the bus and immediately heard chanting and music from up high. We get up there to see men dressed in bright yellow uniforms and women in bright yellow robes. Some were burning ritual money, some were worshipping, and 10 women chanted nonstop for what was probably hours. Granted, Chinese Daoism is not the same it used to be as it and Buddhism have all but completely morphed into the same religion within the past centuries, however, traditional Chinese Daoism looks entertaining. I'm sure their festivals were fun back in the day.

I finished reading The Miracle of Forgiveness this week. Glad it only took my 3 weeks. It was harsh, but it ended on a good note. I might understand why the church stopped printing it, it's not one that everyone and their dog should read. But overall, I was influenced by it to take up some additional self-reflection. 

We had a fun lesson this last week. The first thing that they bring up before we could even start was all about "Women's rights in the church" and polygamy. What do you do with that as a missionary such as myself? Recent stuff online really is causing more and more questions to come up.

The highlight of the week was visiting our beloved LA up on the mountain. The title of this means mosquitos in Chinese. We went up there looking our best all dressed up in shirts and ties ready to do a little service. Good news is she made us food! We ate some bean soup and curry rice (all the while her drunkard friend is getting up to throw up right outside the door every three minutes...) Even better news was after pulling weeds and being eaten alive by mosquitos for an hour, my shirt was still mostly white and my tie still fairly clean as well. 

But, why was that experience significant? It was the first time I have actually "thrust in my sickle." Working with those sickles is pretty fun stuff, taking handfulls of grass and just hacking away at it. I enjoyed it. Minus the mosquitos.

We had some cool experiences this week. One man we meet with told us he got goosebumps a lot when I shared my testimonies with him. One thing that has definitely happened on this mission of mine is I have developed a testimony. Who would've seen that coming?

The world is beautiful. I'm so glad I'm discovering this part of it here in Asia.

Love you all! Happy Labor Day weekend! (If I remember right...)

Contacting with this view isn't so bad.
Can't wait to go explore this one.

Found this hidden gem.  Can't wait to go explore there as well! In a super random place too!

The mountain life.


The Chinese Gods

The Buddhist Gods