Friday, October 29, 2010

A Little Help from My Friends

Note from the editor...Typhoon Megi went raging across the Phillipines headed due west the earlier part of this week, then decided on Thursday to turn directly north. She headed straight up in between Taiwan and China before striking land in China Saturday morning. We haven't heard a single word from the church or the mission office or Elder Carter, so we are pretty sure he is just fine...probably pretty wet. I hope the rest of you don't mind, but these emails have turned into a kind of neat little circle of communication for several brothers in the gospel who the Lord has sent all over the world. They each send emails home every week and all of their families print off and mail these emails to each other. It is such a joy to hear from all these amazing young men and their families, and the editor of this email (me) took some liberties with Elder Carter's email to send a couple of personal thoughts along with his. Thanks to the rest of you for your forbearance, and hopefully some part of all this will be uplifting for you, too. On to the Elder...last we heard from him, he was getting a new companion, his fourth in four move calls, and his second native companion...he was pretty stressed but trying to move forward in faith...

I've decided I need to snap out of the old KJ attitude of just getting all freaked out at any big changes. I'm sick of those feelings. Of course, this transition was no problem. In fact, I feel like I've been with Elder Huang for ages already. We've already shared miracles, and had investigators come and go, and laughed til the time runs out... etc. He's quite the interesting missionary to be with, and I just love the fact that I'm with another local.
My Chinese, I find, is still horrible. Blech. This is literally a lifelong thing to try to learn a new language. As I go, I find that not even the people who natively speak it, know it all. The same thing goes for our own culture and language. It is apparently the best language for the Church to use, but there is SO much I don't know. I definitely have a lot more focus on how I can improve my English as I go, as well. I definitely have a different opinion towards English class now, except that I don't want to be writing any essays, still.... But I'll get over that one day, or never, I don't really care... It might just be one of those things that I grit my way through... etc.
The language is tough, but I can communicate with people. They understand me. I understand a lot more than I can speak, and I'm starting to recognize characters, and read them. Writing is a far ways off... :D No worries, that's not important right now. I need to focus on improving my skills in speaking, understanding, and then teaching.
I've been blessed with a companion, who I've been told is the best teacher on the island. And he really is. He's brilliant in lessons, and makes EVERYTHING super clear. Who'd could've ever imagined that the most important soul-searching, soul-saving, Godly principles could be fully understood in a five minute lesson on the Plan of Salvation? Obviously we need to take what we learn and put it into practice to understand it better, and to see the effects, as do our investigators, but with Elder Huang by my side, everyone understands everything!!! And we teach pretty equally as well.
Yes, my Chinese is not super amazing, but it's better than I expected it to be 7 months into my mission. I have a long way to go, though. I find that as you progress in the language/understanding the culture, people slowly speak in more advanced tones and words. To start, they see that I'm white, so they automatically speak slower, then they use what English they have, and as I learn more advanced vocab and grammar, so do they. And they speak faster, and the English disappears. This is all well and good, but the problem is, you don't exactly get to see where your Chinese improves... lol. My English is absolutely horrible now... With Elder Durham, I realized that super fast. My English has taken a nosedive. My grammar is gone. Oh well. That just makes my first English class at BYU all the more exciting.
This last week has been fun. I realized that I didn't really know my area really well. I did better here than I did in Zhongming with Elder Pei at the beginning. I did not know Zhongming at all, but I at least knew Dali a little bit this time. So, now, after a week, with one of the best missionaries I've ever seen, I know my area better than I know my neighborhood back home. Maybe not that well... but still. It just feels good to know how to get around, where to avoid, where the shortcuts are, who's who, who's on what corner at what time of the day, which stores are open, which crazies are at the parks when, when is "swear in Taiwanese" man gonna show up at the KFC, where all the white people are (that also counts as places to avoid :P).
Anyway. It's been good. We have three people moving ahead at a fantastic pace now. Plus several other Golden potentials. I'm learning to cook REALLY good food. I'll just say breakfasts will be GRRREEEAAAATTT. :D
I know where every new member lives, what their schedules are, I know where a big clump of members live, where there are less, where the strongest members are, and so on. It's great! I know the big streets, I know where the food is, where the clothes are, where the Betel nut is, where the flirty waitresses are (counts as places to SERIOUSLY avoid), where the consistently accepting baptismal goals but never show up people live, I know where all the homeless people live (huh? aren't they homeless?) The truth is, homeless people aren't really homeless. They have a home. And they don't like to leave it. It may be bigger than some other's homes, it may have a lot more bugs, but it's still home, and to them- it's all they've got. Until you give them God. Then everything changes, and they show up to church with a brand new bike because they wanted to look good at church. Pretty sure the random suit they wear was found in the nearest garbage can, but at least it's pretty clean! :P Gotta give credit for that.
I'll just say I know where Elder Brimley is right now.(Elder Brimley is another missionary serving from our ward. He is in Ukraine and from his emails home, it sounds like maybe he’s been having some companion issues, and has been finding the people don’t seem too receptive.) Missions are different, and I'm not authorized to give others counsel that aren't in my mission or that I haven't been assigned to receive specific revelation for, but I'll just say I know where he's at. And all I need to say is "Obedience".
Follow that handbook. That applies to the Lord's ambassadors all over the world. Not just here in Taiwan. Yes, different areas of people are more prepared, and have different ancient promises that apply to them, so sometimes hearts are soft or hard, but the point here is-- LOVE them. Look in their eyes and you immediately perceive the state of their Spirits. Their souls. What they need, who they need, how much time it might take, when they're lying or when they're not, when they love the Lord, and when they don't, or when their eyes are clouded over with something that repels anything Godly of any kind... all of these. Even when they are rejecting you, even when their bodies have lost agency because of substance abuse, even when you know they know it's true and they still won't listen, you can still perceive their Spiritual state of being. And you immediately love them. You immediately long to find a way to touch them, to bring them home, to TEACH. I, at least in part, understand how Jesus felt a lot of the time.
This church is true. There is no doubt left in my mind. My testimony has been tested too many times for me to not say that I KNOW I cannot move. I have found my foundation, I have found my life, I have found my Savior. Those that are unsure or confused about this church, just need to understand one thing. And that one thing is Love. God loves you. The most basic principles of this Gospel answer ANY SINGLE QUESTION OR OBJECTION EVER DIRECTED AT THIS CHURCH. Is that not enough evidence that even a 4-year-old can change a man's heart? A recent Liahona addresses the fact that a 4-year-old boy acted on his testimony of Jesus Christ, and ended up being a major step in the conversion of a family to baptism. All this little, innocent boy wanted to do was tell his teacher about Jesus, all he wanted to do was be a missionary, and he surpassed them all. The pure innocent testimony of the truth of this Gospel is enough to create a universe. And that's no small thing- I was four once... was I a missionary then? Did I help people come unto Christ? I remember sharing my testimony in school, and telling my friends about my church on the busride home in Washington State... did that help? My challenge is this--- Be a Four-Year-Old. Be a Missionary. Whoever taught that child has got parenthood down pat.
And from Elder Hart's (Another missionary serving from our ward…he is in Tennessee) testimony on the importance of families we know that a Gospel-based family is a Celestial one. It really is obvious, the difference between families based on the Gospel, and families not. So those of you already steadfast in the faith, as a family--- STICK WITH IT. DON'T YOU EVER GIVE UP ON EACH OTHER. THIS CHURCH IS MEANT TO PULL US TOGETHER, not apart. Satan gets in there and rips at the steel that bonds families together, and, unfortunately, he succeeds sometimes in pulling it apart. He will stand there forever with the tiniest match to melt the iron if he has to. You wouldn't think matches would do much to melt steel would you? That's what he wants you to think.
My point is this. STOP WORRYING. Like Elder Bednar said in the MTC almost two years ago- "Be a Good Boy, Be a Good Girl, and Stop Worrying About it!" God has told us that with His church, He is "Well pleased." We are not failing, we are succeeding. Yes, there are less active people in every ward. REACTIVATE them. They need it more than they think (duh). There are nonmembers everywhere-- MEMBERIZE them!!! They need it more than they think (duh), and they might even think that a certain Missionary's heart-felt testimony about this church may just sound wacky and not quite know how to respond. Keep pushing. Like Elder Seamons (Yet another missionary from our ward…he is in Florida speaking Haitian-Creole.) mentioned, "If you think you can't move God's Kingdom forward, You are DEAD WRONG." (paraphrased). Or as Elder Bernards (Spokane Washington…all of these are fine young men and need to never forget that their old Webelos den leader loves them and knew they could do it 9 years ago, just like they are now…mighty warriors every single one.) mentioned in his letter- "Sometimes you run into more animals than people, but the work still moves forward." (paraphrased). You can't stop it. The king of Devils, who knows your innermost thoughts and desires, even HE can't stop it. If you think you can, then your pride exceeds that of Satan himself. Because even He has to admit that Jesus is the Christ, and that the work can not be stopped.
This work is real. And I am a key factor in it. As are all of you. The plan is in action. The Master is moving, Follow Him. And know that He loves you. Each and every one. Individually. As if you were the only human being who decided to follow Him in the beginning. He loves you. As do I.
May God Be With You. And at the last day, when all is said and done, may the Armies of God cry in one great call of trumph, "HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!!!" (A Seanism) (Or should I say, an Elder Byerism) (Elder Byers is our new friend serving in Nevada…we love him!)

-Elder Carter

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