Monday, June 14, 2010

On the ground in Taiwan

Well. I have no idea how to start. I've been thinking all week about what I could say to start this letter. The truth is, there is no way to do that. I don't know where I am, what anyone is saying, where anything is... If I didn't have a senior companion who'd been here for 9 months, I'd be a tad bit LOST. Although, I could probably find the mission office.
The plane ride was long, but beautiful. The ocean was covered by clouds the whole time, so maybe I'll get better views on the way home. We flew over Alaska on our way home. Some "seek" (don't know how to spell it) religious guys sat behind me. They had turbans and robes on and everything. They looked out the window and saw snowy mountains. They were so confused. It was funny. I had just looked at the plane compass on our tv screen, so I knew where we were, but they didn't. "Are we over Hawaii? Does Hawaii have snow capped mountains?" No! silies, look out a little farther than down, and can you see an ocean? No... so it must not be an island. When I told them it wasn't Hawaii, they were all weirded out. "So where are they taking us?!! Ahhh!!" I calmed them down, laughing the whole time :P, and told them we were over Alaska. Going that direction was the fastest way to Taipei. It was funny, and gave me a chance to ask about their religion, which, in turn, they asked about ours. It was great! They were impressed with 2 years, since they were out for 3 weeks to Singapore. I don't remember exactly what they were doing, but they were great people anywho. They even had the beards.
Anyway, we get to the airport, we had a friendly escort from UVU(Utah Valley University) who was a friend of one of our teachers at the MTC. He spoke Chinese with us and helped us find where we needed to go at the airport. It was dark when we got there, as well. You could feel the humidity getting stronger and stronger as you progressed through the airport towards the bus stops. Customs was simple, and quick. That made me happy.
When we walked into the lobby, President and Sister Hoer (pronounced HUR) were waiting with the Assistants. Elders Prier and Taylor welcomed us, as did the President and his wife. WOW. He's crazy. He's done SO much with his life. He has been everywhere. He's found lost tribes in Tibet, dived 300 times looking for a rare whale, slept overnight with his wife on an erupting volcano... and pictures to prove it. I wouldn't believe it, but you have to when you see the pictures. He's only like early-50s? So how, in the world, could you do all the things he's done in that short of a lifetime?
Anyway, they welcomed us warmly, and we had a 2 hour devotional all the way down to the Taizhong mission office. It was dark and rainy the whole way (I'm loving the humidity, by the way) so we couldn't see anything. :( So we didn't get to see Taipei 101(This is the tallest building in Taiwan and was the tallest in the world for a time). Oh well.
We went to the Mission Home for training the next day, and it was BEAUTIFUL. Big and beautiful. Sister Hoer is amazing, as is President Hoer. They both are so in love, and so in love with the mission. President Hoer served in Taiwan, and actually opened up a couple areas when he was serving. They're great. And their family is great. Their son was graduating from a high school in Taiwan on Friday, so they weren't there that morning. Whatev :P. President and Sister Hoer served us Youtiao ("oil stick"- fried, dipped in hot soy milk) some kind of onion sandwich (good), and fresh fruit. Watermelon, and pineapple. Love the pineapple. SO good. Not one word of Chinese yet, by the way...
We sat in their family room and watched a couple videos about them, and the mission. It was great!!! Lunch was... uh.... I don't remember right now. :) OH, don't forget the wonderful run we took that first morning. 4 hours of sleep, and a beautiful 30 minute run through Taizhong city in the morning. It's quiet, it's beautiful, and nothing could feel better. Running in the humidity was fantastic! It reminded me of the Naval Academy.
Just tons of training on Thursday (wednesday for you guys). And after dinner the first night we were there was Dan Jones night. Holy cow. Carazy!!! Tons of people everywhere! And we sang a Chinese hymn in the middle of the market together, with a whole ton of older missionaries watching, with Taiwanese people watching, too. Then, one by one, we stood on top of the Dan Jones boxes (Dan Jones was one of the first successful missionaries to England and had great success. In his honor, the missionaries stand on a box in the market and bear their testimonies).
Elder Rostedt took forever! Sister Hoer said he took the longest they've ever had. (three years of being mission president and wife, and Elder Rostedt takes the longest? He never talks that much. So cool). Then I got up. Weird, how you're nervous, you don't know what you're gonna say, and then you just take the faith, take the breath, take the step and jump on the box. Open your mouth to say something- ANYTHING- and the Lord filled it. It came to me. It was easy. I wasn't nervous anymore. I said what I needed to say, and then I jumped down. It wasn't an amazing detailed testimony, but it was full of the Spirit, 'cause I don't remember exactly what I said. And it made me feel great.
As soon as I stepped down, I was taken by an older missionary and we went around contacting. EVERYBODY. We stopped couples, fathers, teenagers, single men (we couldn't talk to women as Elders unless they self-contact us first). It was great! My companion and I, at the time, committed 8 people to baptism. Right there. In the market. Wow. And they understood me!!! You will get to see this in a DVD the mission home is sending. I love it. I got to see it the next morning. Please please keep it. I need to watch it again when I get home.
The stats that night were huge. We went back to the mission office (the Senior couple there is great, by the way) and reported numbers--somewhere around 130 commitments to baptism. President Hoer says about 4 or 5 will make it to baptism out of that. I know crazy percentage, but that's what it's like here.
So the next day we ate an interesting breakfast, that I didn't like super well. It was alright. I don't know what I ate, but it was alright. I hate soy milk, by the way. It seems that's all they've got. Milk by itself is expensive.
My first companion is Elder Krantz from Salt Lake City. I've got pictures. This first Move call (transfer) will be with him. I am serving in Zhongming. It's in Taizhongshi. I am still in Taizhong, in other words. For, at least, the next 6 weeks. I was handed a red envelope with Elder Krantz's name in it and our area. When you accept a red envelope, you hand it out with both hands, and the receiver takes it with both hands, bows, says thank you (xie xie) and takes it. Usually there is kuai in it ($) but this time was better.
We then ate at TGI Friday's for lunch (not my choice, we were forced to eat American Food :) But it was nice to have a big burger for once since Five Guys with Dad. MTC burgers, don't count.
Then, I grabbed my big beautiful new bike, and we went to my apartment. The bike worked out fine. I got the money out of an ATM, and it was great. It's pretty. Won't be for long. But it's pretty. :) I like it. It's pretty.
I got a new helmet, too. Finally, a real helmet! I've never had a modern day, real helmet before. :P Mom and Dad's don't count. That's like 70s helmet. Whatev. :P jk
Elder Krantz is awesome. Couldn't've had a better trainer. I'm overwhelmed, and scared to death. But we've taught several lessons already, and, YES, we already had a baptism. Wang Dixiong (Brother Wang) is our age and super friendly. He seemed like he was already a member when I met him. He got baptized Saturday with a Sister. It was beautiful. And being in the church with all members, made me feel right at home.
Our teachers were right. You do contact and commit to baptism on the street. So weird! If you don't, we don't follow up with those people for awhile. Crazy! That's how many commitments we get off the street. These people are ready. Although I've been rejected by about 18 million people already, they seem like they want to hear about it. My first lesson was with a recent convert who was less active. He was funny, but he just would not come to church anymore. And he's started smoking again. It's sad. But we're working with him.
Contacting is scary, but fun. You literally stop traffic. NOT kidding. We talk to every scooter that stops at an intersection (unless it's a woman) and we pull up by cars and trash trucks, and all sorts of EVERYBODY. No one understands what I mean. EVERYBODY. Except single women. I love it. But I hate contacting at the same time. I've gotten very discouraged already, and don't quite know how I'm going to keep it up for 2 years. But I'm gonna keep pushing forward. The work is real. God is out there. Even in Taiwan. I can feel it. I just hope I can continue to find it. 
-Elder Carter
ps- You'll never guess. My first dinner appointment was Sunday night. Last night. We were being served something special. Yes, my first dinner appointment, my first real actual DINNER was..... Japanese Curry (On Elder Carter's short list of all-time favorite foods). No joke. I smelled it when I walked in, and was never happier. I didn't understand a word that night, but all is well. I talked to President Kim who is in Hawaii right now. He is an old Mission President, I guess. That was good. But it was in English. The ward here is great, and they are all really helpful. Expecially Brother Huang, 24, who is a recent convert. He is the Ward Mission Leader, and a good friend. I can barely talk to him, but it's coming, I guess. :) Love you all!!! Write again next week.

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