Monday, January 31, 2011

Wow look what happens when your missionary doesn't get his email!

From the editor: Okay, so I'm trying to be a little funny with my subject line but it really did break my heart when we received this email last Sunday night from Elder Carter and realized that our email to him hadn't left our out box, so he thought we hadn't written him! Then it seemed like he was being so hard on himself, we wondered if he really wanted everyone to read what he was saying, so I thought pretty seriously about not sending out this email. But then I thought I'm sure there are other missionaries who have these times and these feelings, and even though he is struggling, Elder Carter is exercising his faith that good is going to come of the experience.

So what I'm trying to say is Elder Carter's email from last week in all its painful glory-mostly sent in the hopes that someone out there might find some comfort that they aren't the only one who has ever felt this way. For those of you who might not know him as well as his parents, don't worry too much about him...he is venting and blowing off steam and often after he does that he feels much better. And for those of you who know him as well as we do, you won't be surprised that he is stressing over girls and buying stuff...some things never change. I do support him in his request for letters...they really do bless these missionaries I think more than we can appreciate here at home.

Have a great week!

Oh well. I don't exactly have an email to reply to, but I guess I can still write.

Not much to share.

I've been doing better. I feel more focused on my work, and more willing to follow my God. I've had a lot of problems lately, and they all have come around because of my disability to be nice to myself. I get lazy. I forget why I'm here, and it's too easy now to chat with my companion about whatever we want in Chinese. My pride has taken a hold of who I am and told me I'm someone else. I've been distracted, overwhelmed, and pushed. This is a time of growing, I know it. I don't feel a whole lot better than I did when I started running into these trials. In fact, I feel like I'm doing worse than before. I can only have faith that as I slowly overcome these problems and progress and get better through the power of the Atonement, that when I come out of it, I'll be a better missionary, a better man.

I've slipped, fell, scraped up my knees and hands, let tears fall, and let my heart fall into self-slavery. Luckily, we still have success, and God still loves me. ;). We have Yue Zi Xiang and Wu Jia Kai both entering the waters of baptism next Saturday. Why in the world have the feelings of happiness and peace disappeared? When I have a baptism, I'm usually happy and super content. That's not exactly the case right now. Why? I have no idea. I give myself WAY too much pressure. WAY too much stress. At least I've been figuring that out lately. This week's numbers were out of balance, and my Zone Leaders had to talk to me about it. As well as one night when coming home later than 10 o'clock got me scolded out by President Bishop. At least it was a good reason. We were participating in a service project, and the member we were serving would not let us go home til she fed us chicken, bagels, and cranberry bread balls. I tried to avoid it, I even walked outside and waited by the car, but she was persistent. I called President Bishop, he laughed, said it was alright, just to make sure to tell these wonderful members how much time we have and when we need to be home BEFORE you get in the car.

These events all led up to me feeling a little under-qualified to continue preaching the Gospel. This is the most important thing in the world to me! What in the world am I thinking trying to have a girlfriend back home? What in the world am I doing buying four different Rubik's cubes? Why in the world do I not realize that the time from 9-9:30 at night is important and precious? Why haven't I done better on my language studies? Why haven't I grown up yet? WHY do I STILL have SO MANY problems?!!

Because I'm human. Because I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and being attacked by Satan and his devils. I've been told before that Satan would destroy me now if he could. Sometimes I wonder why in the world would he care about me? What affect have I had, what affect could I possible have? Even now, as I write this, I wonder if I'm still doing the right things. I wonder if I'm not just saying all these things to impress some girl back home, and try to convince her that I'm brilliant, I'm following my Savior, and I know how to handle all these problems. Then convince her to be mine, and wait for me because she just knows that I'm meant for her? WHAT IN THE WORLD?!!!!

All I know, is that my mission is out of balance again. Both my Zone Leaders have told me I worry too much. My self-confidence has flown out the window, and all 7 of our investigators that have a baptismal date set don't seem super solid right now except one or two. It seems that my faith is failing, my teaching has disappeared, my patience was gone a long time ago, and my self-mastery as become nothing else than self-discrimination. We sat down with 21 RCLAs this week (Recent Converts, Less Actives), and sat down with only 12 other investigators. 3 of which didn't have a member present. WAY out of balance. Is my companion growing? Is he learning? Will he be a better missionary? Is my area growing? What does my ward feel about it's missionaries?

I sit here fretting, worrying, freaking out, and realizing that I'm still the prideful, cocky, rebellious dork I was before I decided to serve my God. I worry about what the "Magnificent 7" (Elders Brimley, Hart, Stauffer, Seamons, Bernards, and Dustin) and how they feel about me as a missionary. Do they really take inspiration from what I write? Or do they sigh, shake their heads, and stop reading when they hear me bring up girls again?

But then, I look at the entire mission here and compare for a minute. I was told by Elder Krantz, my favorite Assistant (and trainer) that my companionship is leading the mission. That this district is leading the mission. Then I look at how it was doing before I came up here, and I shake my head and realize that I'm doing just fine.
But, WHY am I not trusting my God? WHY am I not as happy as I was before? WHY can't I stop be so hard on myself? This is the one thing I most want to overcome, and it KEEPS GETTING IN THE WAY. I realize that I'm running into trials that have to do with these weaknesses BECAUSE Heavenly Father is helping overcome them and make them strengths. But did I not just say my patience was gone a long time ago? WHY is it taking SO LONG?!!! Plus, I still have forever left on my mission (which is actually a good thing, even though I made it sound complaint-like).

Maybe the girls I'm apparently trying to impress will realize that I'm really a 10-year-old and run away screaming. Maybe my family will wonder what a 10-year-old is doing in the middle of a foreign country without his blessed parents to feed him vegetables.

All I know is this.
Someone knows how I feel.
Someone knows how to overcome it.
Someone knows how to achieve my personal goals.
Someone knows how to be me.
Someone knows how to serve my mission.
Someone knows where I need to be.
Someone knows what will happen.
Someone knows what to worry about.
Someone knows what to not to worry about.
Someone knows me.
I'll be forever grateful for the Atonement and the unbelievable, eternal extent to which it reaches into my heart and mind, and comforts. There is someone out there who knows all of the above, and I am lucky enough to know that I can talk to Them anytime I want. What would happen to me if I didn't know I could talk to someone who knows exactly how to solve all my problems? Now, I'm motivated to preach the Gospel. Now I'm motivated to bring that priceless gift to those who sit on the sidewalk smoking, twitching from drug abuse, and the poor 5-year-old child who sits next to him with a cigarette in his mouth.

I MUST HAVE FAITH. I MUST OVERCOME. I MUST SERVE MY GOD. These people need God. And only I can bring it to them. What a blessing to see that little 5-year-old in church the next Sunday, wearing a tie.
God knows us. He knows how to save us. He knows how to help us. 
Thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ.
I may not be perfect. I have every problem in the book. I may not be super attractive to any girls anymore because of it. I might not ever receive another letter from home.

I don't care.

I'm doing the right thing, and I'm NOT going home. I owe the Savior my life. I should be giving him an 80-year mission. Not just a measly 2. 1 of which is almost gone. In fact, the Savior deserves my life, my eternity, and my everything. But He only requires us to love Him, and keep His commandments. Why don't people get that? Why don't I get that?

I used to pride myself on being optimistic. But I was reminded recently that no one likes the negative aspect I put on myself. Any tips? I've been working on this problem from before the dawn of time, and it JUST WON'T GO AWAY. :D I'm doing better lately, but today I'm just extra tired, and feeling pretty down. Sorry to let it all out on all of you. Mom and Dad, you can edit if you like. Up to you. But I guess I don't really have to ask.

Just keep writing! I agree with Elder Seamons when he says, "One of the best gifts missionaries can get from home is a letter." So all of you, please keep writing. If you've got time, of course...
Love you all (TIYB)
-Elder Carter

Learning about Chinese New Year Traditions

Just so you all can enjoy learning what Chinese New Year entails. Not entirely sure what I'll be doing, but we'll be contacting and tracting like none other to find people to teach and families to bring into the Gospel. This time is unbelievably important for me, and more important for the Chinese people. Please pray that as we go out to teach and preach, that we will be able to do so without bothering these wonderful people and their beautiful traditions. I don't want to annoy them on these important days. So as we go out tracting, teaching, preaching...please pray that we will have the right Spirit with us. As we teach the Message of the Restoration, it needs to be done correctly. I love these people, and I want them to learn to love God. Have fun reading!

-Elder Carter

Information on Chinese New Year Traditions: February 3 is Chinese New Year, or the first day of the Lunar Calendar.  (February 2 is New Year’s Eve)  This year is the Year of the Rabbit, or the fourth animal in the twelve-animal cycle.  Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival because the beginning of the Lunar year usually coincides with the beginning of Spring.  The Chinese New Year holiday is actually 15 days in duration, but only the first five days are official holidays, so most businesses will reopen on Tuesday February 8.  Most people consider the end of Chinese New Year celebrations to be the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, the Yuan Xiao Festival (or Lantern Festival).  The Yuan Xiao Festival celebrates the first full moon of the new year, which this year occurs on February 17.
Please note that more traditional families will place great weight on New Year customs, whereas less traditional families may not be so strict in their observances of all customs.  In addition, the Chinese are not in complete agreement among themselves about what activity should be done on what day.  Nonetheless, as a missionary, the Taiwanese will appreciate your understanding of the customs and traditions.
Before New Year’s Eve:
Most families will participate in many activities, but most important is probably to clean their entire home and get rid of all old things associated with the prior year.  The most traditional day for cleaning is the 28th of the prior lunar month.  (This year Jan 31) but most families are satisfied with cleaning anytime before New Year’s Eve.  (Missionaries will deep clean apartments on Monday, February 7!)
New Year’s Eve (Wednesday, February 3)
On New Year’s Eve the family gathers together, usually at the most senior family member’s home, for a reunion dinner (nianyefan).  This dinner is the most important family dinner of the entire year.  Married children will return home for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner, even from overseas.  (Married daughters usually go to the home of their husbands.)  Many of the cities in Taiwan will feel empty, whereas missionaries serving in rural areas will find more people have arrived.
New Year’s Day (Thursday, February 4)
On the first day of the New Year, families will visit and pay their respects to the most senior members of the extended family - for example, parents, grand-parents, or great-grandparents.  If they have not already done so, families will hang up New Year’s pictures and/or red couplets on both sides of the doors.
On New Year’s Day, older married people give children and unmarried people a hongbao.  Some children may ask you for a hongbao.  You may want to prepare some hongbaos with two chocolate gold coins in each envelope for children at church (or if you feel wealthy, you can put coins in the red packets).  If you give money, do not give an odd numbered amount (e.g. 3, 30, 50, 70) but also never give any amount with a four in the amount (e.g. four, forty, four hundred, etc.)  Parents give hongbaos to their children on New Year’s Eve.  Most people will not expect you to give hongbaos since you are unmarried.
Second Day of the New Year (Friday February 5)
Married daughters visit their parents and families on the second day of the New Year.
Third Day of the New Year (Saturday, Feb 6)
Previously, on the third day of New Year, the Dragon Dance, (Wulong) was performed, but now this dance may be performed on almost any day.  On the third day, many Buddhist visit the graves of ancestors so they do not consider this day an appropriate day to visit others.  Anybody who has had a death in the family during the last three years will not make any visits on this day.  Others say the third and fourth days of the New Year are set aside for sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law.
Fourth Day of the New Year (Sunday, February 6)
The Asia Area Presidency has reminded us that all three blocks of church will be held on this day.  On the fourth day, many Chinese visit friends and typically welcome anybody, even strangers, to drop in and visit whenever they like.  (The fourth day is a great day for tracting!)
Fifth Day of the New Year (Monday, February 7)
On the fifth day of New Years, most businesses reopen because it is the birthday of the God of Wealth.  Many businesses open to the fanfare of lion dances (Wushi) where the Lion, amidst firecrackers, scares away any evil spirits or bad fortune for the entire year that may be lurking around the door of the shop.  It is better to contact (and not tract) on the fifth day of the New Year, however, the Chinese visit each other freely from the sixth to the tenth day of the New Year.
Seventh Day of the New Year (Wednesday, February 9)
The seventh day is the “birthday” (renri) of all humans - this is the day that all people officially turn one year older.  Traditionally, farmers will display their produce and many Buddhists again avoid eating meat on this day in respect to the birthday of mankind.
Eighth and Ninth Days of the New Year (Thursday/Friday February 10-11)
This day is especially important to the Taiwanese (and Min Nan speakers on the mainland).  Building up to midnight on the eighth day, they pay respects and offer incense to the Taoist God, Tian Gong (God of Heaven, Jade Emperor or Emperor of Heaven).
 Tenth to Twelveth Days of the New Year (Saturday/Sunday/Monday February 12-14)
These days are considered an appropriate time to invite other relatives and friends to dinner.
 Thirteenth Day of the New Year (Tuesday, February 15)
After eating much rich food, many Chinese believe one should eat a simple meal of xifan (rice congee) and mustard greens to cleanse the system on this day.
Fourteenth Day of the New Year (Wednesday, February 16)
This day if mainly used to prepare lanterns and floats for the Yuan Xiao Festival.
Fifteenth Day of the New Year (Thursday, February 17)
On the night of the fifteenth day, families will meet together for a dinner of “tangyuan” (a sweet glutinous rice ball cooked in soup). Which symbolizes completeness, togetherness and happiness.  Some Chinese consider this day as a Minor Lunar New Year and this day generally marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.  At night, families will walk the streets and parks carrying lanterns.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Instrument in his Hands

(From the editor: in our last email to Elder Carter, we reminded him of something President Uchtdorf told his mission at a conference a few months back. He said for the missionaries not to worry about anything going on at home and promised them that because of their service, everything would work to a satisfactory resolution. This is the quote Elder Carter is referring to here in the beginning of this email. Sorry in advance for the longer than usual email this week...couldn't figure out what to edit.)

Lol, I've been meaning to bring up that President Uchtdorf promise for awhile. I thought it was really cool that he promised the same thing to Elder Seamons. So, stop worrying at home! All your problems will melt away because you were such great parents and are supporting a floppy, immature, dramatic, 10-year-old boy on his mission in a foreign world. At least he's growing up, however slow it might take... This promise from President Uchtdorf isn't just for family, but for my closest friends, too. So all of you writing me right now, and those of you who I am close to, life still won't be perfect, but any problems WILL come to a satisfactory conclusion. That makes it so easy for me to calm down about what might be happening at home.
It hasn't been very long since my last email, and I don't know when Dad puts my emails up on my Blog, but there really isn't a whole lot to say. Maybe make a couple apologies though.. lol, then explain why I'm making those apologies, and make sure everyone knows that I'm working my hardest to NOT beat myself up like I've been doing for 20 years.
Apology. I actually like that word. Someone once told me that "the way you treat people will show that you are a disciple of Christ" (TB). This seems like a totally obvious statement, but its truth is Eternal. Apology has a hint of humility to it, and, if you look at it just right, you can get a sense of the Love of God emanating (sspehlleinge?) through that word. It makes me feel so good when I go up to someone and tell them that I would like to "make an apology". The relationship you have with that person immediately becomes Godlike. Regardless of angry feelings, or angry actions, saying these words with the intent to act on them will change that relationship for the better. The result of making that apology may not be what you expect and may actually look worse than it was before you apologized. But, regardless, the situation is better. Say a prayer, ask God to help you move on, and bless the person you just apologized to, and all of the sudden you find that you love that person. After that it gets really hard to say or do anything that would hurt that person. Once you feel love for someone, you don't forget that person, and you can't forget that feeling.
Lately, I've been a little distracted. I've been prideful. I've been too focused on my time here (today is 10 months, btw), and it's not fair to those back home. I haven't been focused on my own feelings, and because of my pride, and laziness, my prayers have slipped. They're not what they used to be. I've set goals and made plans to change, and it's working, but that doesn't change who it's affected back home. I've expressed feelings through email and letters that may not have been entirely accurate. Also, it's evident that I'm not 100% focused on my mission. That changed about three days ago when I received a particular letter from a good friend.
If it seems like I'm not being me, or not being the best missionary I can be, or the missionary you all think I am, I'm sorry. I've been pretty hard on myself lately because I've realized a lot of things need to change. And I've made mistakes that haven't been solved. After reading this letter from my friend, I realized something. I need to get back on my feet. I need to take my optimistic attitude about our investigators and my mission and include myself. My friend explained to me that my negative aspect on myself was something I could improve. Well, I've known that since before I was born. But how do I fix it? I decided to start with an apology to my family and friends that may have been affected by my bad example. As I continued to read this letter, I could've started beating myself up pretty bad. I could've gotten worse. The letter's contents included everything I already didn't like about myself that I've been trying to fix for the last several years. Having one of my best friends realize these things and address them made me realize that I really do have to get a move on. I don't want to let you all down. I've been working on these poor traits of mine since I entered high school, and it seems like nothing's changed. Also, lately I haven't been focused on overcoming those weaknesses. I'll be grateful to this friend forever!
So, please forgive me for my bad example. But I say thanks to this person who has only written me 2 or 3 letters and changed my mission. You helped me take the step I needed to change. I already knew I needed to. But, because of your guidance, wisdom, and friendship, I've been able to find the old fireball that was Kevin Carter, and turn him into Elder Carter. My mission should be 100% #1 on my mind, and if it's not, I need to stop whatever I'm doing that's distracting me.
  Luckily, because God loves me, He's still helped me find success. And I'm pretty sure that's because I still got up every morning, kept the rules, and did the work. I may not have done it perfectly, but because I was willing, He blessed me. My willingness doesn't come from my own finding, it comes from the hundreds of letters I've received. From the letters I get every week from my Mom, Dad, and my Sister. From my Aunt Raquel, my fellow missionaries, and my other friends that consistently help me grow and change to become the man I'm meant to become serving in God's Army. Being able to fulfill my future priesthood duties as outlined by my Heavenly Father. My strength also comes from God. Actually, it first comes from God, then it comes from these letters. I've been reminded that Heavenly Father should be first on my mind. Well, He hasn't been lately. So thanks to all of you for saving my mission, and helping me find God again! I made a promise to Elder Leyva (serving in Thailand), that I would not come home before April 10, 2012 unless it was in a body bag. I am keeping that promise, and I've covenanted with my God the same way. According to God's plan and needs, that is... ;) And to this certain friend-who's letter came last Friday(Jan 14)-thanks for putting me on the right track and helping me realize what I've been doing wrong. If you know who you are... please don't stop writing! :D If you don't know who you are, you will soon, and keep writing anyway! :P
Okay, moving on.
Mom and Dad asked me about the language in the Christmas call last month. Let me tell you what I can and can't do as of right now. And let me first tell you that it's because of the Spirit and the Gift of Tongues that this language has come to me so fast. I'm scared to death to not have the Spirit with me, because I KNOW the language will leave me if the Spirit isn't with me. I can order food. I can talk about the army, Age of Empires, basketball (including specific moves and shots), football (every position), almost any Spiritual topic (yes, I can say the word "Kolob", not that we discuss that with investigators... ;), and so on. I can read almost 6 or 700 characters (I've been moving slowly), which gives me the ability to read most of what's outside and what I see. When I read the newspaper I get the idea, but misunderstand most of it. The language is so simple, that most of the time, if I don't know a word, I can guess it out. Usually it's right, and even if it's wrong, they still know what I'm talking about. Reading the Book of Mormon is slow, and my head hurts after about 10 minutes. By the way, except for the characters part, that's all me speaking English.
Chinese: I've got nothin'.
Alright. Now you know how I feel when I think about having an American junior companion. How in the world are we supposed to get around, and get into the depth we do in lessons when my companion isn't Taiwanese? I'll really have to trust the Spirit then, huh? But, it is true. When I don't have the Holy Ghost next to me, I have no way of thinking up anything to say when I want to speak. I immediately go find a way to bring the Spirit back, and, immediately the language comes back. Better than it was before. I may not be as diligent as I'd like to be studying this language, but I'll tell you the two best things about my Chinese (if it's not being prideful). 1. My accent is gone. 2. When I speak, I'm told that I sound natural, not speaking out memorized lines. This is thanks to my 3 native companions for 4 move calls (6 months), and my Mission President, and God for giving me the opportunity. I literally never speak English. And when I do, I don't understand what I myself am saying. I only read English during studies, and when I write or receive letters. But there is one thing that I know from all this... It's not me speaking. I have nothing to do with the Chinese I have. It's all come from God; and because I'm willing to be an instrument in His hands, He's using me. I fully expect all my Chinese to disappear when I go home. ;P Although I'm praying it won't... :P
Through constant focus, study, worthiness, obedience, and diligence, you receive the Gift of Tongues and learn to help God save souls.
Not much time left, and I didn't quite get to my testimony of the Savior. Or my investigators (you see? I'm focused on myself!), but just know that I'm doing fine. Life is good. Keep writing, keep being my friend, no matter what happens. And to my good friend who keeps me motivated and seems to understand me better than I do-- Thank you. Your letters change my mission every time I get them. So keep 'em coming! (TYB) Mom, Dad... keep writing. I'm not super diligent... but I need those letters to keep me going every day. Besides my prayers, that's my greatest source of strength. Thanks.
I love you all!!! Keep striving to hit your goals! Set them, then make plans to achieve them, and don't wait 'til December!!!

Your Brother, and Son--Elder Carter

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Kind Word

You know, sometimes I really have no idea what to say when I start typing. But as we all find out, that changes quickly. It's kinda like contacting. You have no idea what in the world you're gonna say, and all you can think up are the usual 9 or 10 phrases you use on everyone, and then you open your mouth, and words you've never heard, Spirit you've never felt, reactions you'd never expect, come flying out of those experiences. Just like email.

I just thought up the Barclay family (see what the Spirit does when you open your mou--... fingers?). I don't know why, but I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that (as far as I know) Brother Barclay is still not a member. Now, I have no idea what the circumstances are, and I'm not gonna go into a sermon and invite Brother Barclay to read this with the wait of his eternity behind my words, but I will tell you why I thought them up.

Li Baba's baptism really was fantastic. He's struggling. He's pushing. But his wife loves him more and more every day. She sees his progress. She knows he's changed. And I think she's changed more than Li Baba has since his baptism. Li Baba and his wife are divorced. So I guess she doesn't count as his wife. They sleep in separate rooms. Since the baptism they're working towards a temple marriage. Before the baptism, not a lot of people knew they were divorced. I found out by asking their daughter. Their recently returned missionary son didn't know they got divorced while he was in California serving. As I was filling out the baptismal records on the night of Li Baba's baptismal interview, I had to ask Max (Returned missionary son) if his mom and dad sleep in the same room. He was confused by the question and I explained, that because they're divorced.... they can't sleep together for Li Baba to pass his interview, get baptized, and keep the Law of Chastity. Max had no idea they were divorced. I was mortified. This wonderful thing happening in their family's life just ruined by the very missionary meeting with the father of that family.

I was absolutely mortified, and my prayers have never been more earnest. When we met with Li Baba last Sunday, Max got really mad because of the delay on him finding out (by the way he had been home from his mission since August, and didn't find out til December- how does that work?), and the recent convert lesson with Li Baba got blown out of proportion. But Mom stayed calm. When everyone calmed down, and it was my turn to speak, I simply asked mom why she was so calm, and looked so happy even though hurt and mad and apologetic feelings (including my own) were being thrown around the living room. She simply told us that she loves Li Baba, he may be slipping up already (he smoked again), but she has seen his progress, she has seen his change. He's willing to work for marriage in the temple, and therefore, so is she. And she is happy for it. So she calmly handles the aftershocks of recent decisions, and silently wishes they never divorced, but the family his happy, and the hope of eternity is renewed and exists in a Spirit-filled aura surrounding each member of the family. This family WILL make it. And I have nothing to do with it.

This is a super extended explanation of what I originally wanted to share, but it brings up a point. I am no longer worried about the Barclay family. They will make it. The Goodman family? They'll come back (if they haven't already). The Johnson family? They will reunite in purpose and in Spirit. Brother Wicks? He'll be fine. Why worry so much about these people? God knows what's in their future, and He will lay the plan. In fact, He already has, and we're already following it. And the love, faith, and prayers of my home ward ALONE is enough to save thousands of souls. Not including the millions of prayers said in behalf of these wonderful people and families I've come to know and love in my home ward-- these prayers said at the Taipei Temple. Do they know just how many people they have praying for them, and how lucky they are?

Another point. Make an effort to say a kind word. This goes for EVERYONE. I did that last week, and this man, Wei Yong Xiang, is getting baptized. I said one kind word to him. ONE. And a universe of souls and worlds will be added to the queue because of him. Because the Spirit whispered one small kind phrase in my ear, and through all my trials lately and crazy drama, I was smart and wise enough to listen and speak it. This man now has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, and his prayers last longer than our lessons. He smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and 60+ pieces of Betel nut every day. He's down to 1 pack, and no Betel nut in less than a week. I said ONE KIND WORD. I'm NOT KIDDING. That turned into a 7 minute conversation at a stoplight in the rain about our Savior and the importance of families, which turned into a solid week and a half of lessons and progression, and another one of God's sons beginning to pray. God's hearing one of His sons' voices for the first time... like a new baby in the hospital... fathers? Do you remember that first cry? Dad, do you remember mine? Do you remember that first word? That first I love you? Multiply that feeling by a universe of universes, and you begin to scratch the surface of the universe that is God's love. You begin to taste of that wonderful, beautiful, delicious, joyous fruit of Lehi's Tree of Life.

This goes for all the children that ever read this. Say ONE KIND WORD to someone every day. AT LEAST ONE. And you are doing missionary work. That's all I do, you know. That's all we do. Brother Barclay and Fam! Goodman family! Johnson family! Brother Wicks! We all love you in this Taiwan Taizhong Mission, and we are all praying for you. Us 160 missionaries, and the 50,000+ members here in Taiwan, plus the members of Cedar Hills 8th ward, and countless others praying for you in the temples attended by the members of that celestial ward.

All right. I'm off the soap box. Maybe. ;) Like I said, it comes from nowhere!!! Just open your mouth, and you may not realize til 6 months later that what you said was inspired. You might even think you were sitting there for five minutes, not even caring about helping this person in front of you convert just caring about saying a complete sentence in a completely foreign language, but because of your purpose, and your heart, the Spirit STILL spoke through you. ONE KIND WORD.

It'll be freezing cold til san yue di (End of March). :D. At least it's warmer than Taibei. Going to the temple today was FREEZING. Whoever told you that they served inTaiwan and it never got cold was LYING. Unless they served mostly in the south, than it doesn't get cold at all, so, yeah. Plus I'm in one of the most north parts of the mission. If we wanted we could ride up to the border and take pictures of the Taipei mission. BORING. And too far, and too cold.

I have not been the best missionary in the world lately. I've been weak, sick, overthinking, crying, being prideful, making investigators sad (lol, funny story :P so not really making them "sad" persei (spelling?)), etc... I could go on. All this is normal missionary stuff. Including the comparisons I'm making to my fellow missionaries in the field. My friends. I've decided to take a new tangent, a new tact. I've accepted they're all better than me, I'm gonna keep reading their letters and just try to follow their example and try to do what they do as it applies to my mission, my investigators, my companions, my leaders, and me. I'm not being prideful (i hope) about saying I'm compelling myself to be humble by doing this.  What it's doing is helping me get over the fact that the way I serve my mission is competely different from them, and I feel like they know what they're doing SO much better than I do. They've figured out so much, and I feel like I'm falling behind. I'm ok. I'm not overthinking (that part) anymore, and I've realized (thanks to President Bishop) that following their example and not trying to be and do better than them is the right way to go. I already do that with Elder Byers. That started from the day I met that righteous warrior. I have no possible way of EVER matching up to him, so I already started asking him for advice. Elder Byers, thanks, by the way. :D I just hope I'm a good friend to you. Zone Leader this fast... not even a year out... wow... :)

I love you all! Keep reminding me to answer questions!

Any other questions? Bring 'em on! And tell Raquel to write me back soon! Unless it's me that needs to write her.... uh-oh.

Love you all! Stay smart. Stay real. Love God, and my hands are like cold steel.

Keep up the good missionary work back home!
Talk to you again on Monday. Remind me to tell you how I feel about the Savior. I received new revelation and inspiration today.
Love you.
-Elder Carter- A missionary who's at least trying to do better every day. Isn't that good enough?
A good friend of mine once told me - What really tells you how good of a man you are is what you do when you're discouraged. Thanks Brittany. That helped a ton.
My mission's taken another turn... Thanks to all for the help and the cards... Including Elder Stauffer, and the Blackburns!! Love you all!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Mission Pics

Click HERE to see the latest mission pics from Elder Carter.

First Day in the Field

Looking back a few months. We just received this photo taken by Elder Carter's first companion Elder Krantz. It is after his first day in the field in Taichung.


Note from the editor: We had a big event a few days after Christmas. Tuesday morning about 7am, I looked out the side of our house to see the house on the hill behind us completely engulfed in flames. The owners weren’t home, so everyone was safe, but the home burned to the ground in about 40 minutes. Pretty life changing for that family, and we wish them the best (we don’t know them), but for us it just made for a pretty exciting morning. We were asked to get out of our house quickly in case the fire spread, so we packed up the most important stuff, got dressed, grabbed the dog and drove the car around the corner and stood out in the freezing cold across the street in our neighbor’s yard. We watched the work of several ladder trucks and firemen, along with most of our neighborhood. They let us back in before too long, and we got a couple dramatic pictures in the meantime. We sent a few to Elder Carter and gave him the big update. Now you all know about as much as he did when he typed up this email. On to the Elder!

Bu Hao. I do NOT like that picture in the SLIGHTEST. I don't ever want to look at that picture again. Yikes! I HATE the feeling of seeing something like that and literally being so far away that there is nothing I can do about it. I feel really bad for that family though. That would really stink to be away from home on vacation only to come home to- no home. Makes me want to make sure I have insurance before I even start looking for a house. Don't scare me like that.
 And who cares about the stinkin' lightsaber? It's just a bunch of plastic, glass, and metal put together to make "desperate for a different life" young men think they're Obi-Wan or something. It can burn for all I care.
 Wait. What did I just say? Geez, Dad, how come you didn't run back in to save the day and grab my Universe Protecting Lasersword? If that would've burned... the house would have burned down anyway later when the Sith came and Master Kovi Areus didn't have his lightsaber. But then again, Kael Korran would've come flying in from Mexico and saved the day by throwing me a new lightsaber and him and I leading our new found Force-sensitives into battle. Don't forget Master Cire Snomaes who would come rolling in from Florida with his ... (Elder Stauffer! What are they called again? Mace Windu's race, the dark-skinned Force-sensitives, it starts with a "K" I'm pretty sure...) anyway, Masters Snomaes and Korran, along with Master Areus would still have been able to save the day from the Sith Emperor, Master Silas Miridian. I still wish you would've saved my lightsaber.
 Alright enough with the trunky spell...
This week was AMAZING!! I was sick all week, along with Elder Zhu. We got sick with the flu because we hadn't gone to get shots yet, and President Bishop wasn't very happy with me. I wasn't very happy with me either... oops. But we're ok now. Numbers are down a little, and our spirits were down a bit for a couple days, but we're fired up for a new move call. This is my 6th move call, and Elder Zhu's 4th. And yes, no one is moving. I'm still with Elder Zhu for at least 6 more weeks. My Chinese is flying. This week also witnessed the miraculous baptism of Li Baba!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The mission is in an uproar!!! There are SEVERAL missionaries who are ecstatic that Li Baba was finally humble enough and prepared enough to enter the waters of baptism. He was baptized by his son, who is a priest. And his Confirmation on Sunday was SO spiritual. The BAPTISM, was UNBELIEVABLE. EVERYONE was in tears. When Li Baba's daughter bore testimony and gave a talk right before he was baptized, oh man, I couldn't help it. Elder Zhu and I were coughing our lungs out, and I was crying my eyes out, and the ward was trying so hard not to burst out bawling, not to mention my trainer Elder Krantz (now Assistant) on exchanges with us in the back with two investigators in attendance.
Those two investigators are a Dad and a Mom. Dad, not so interested, Mom? OH. Mom was pushing to try to get to the front. Right now, Dad says they don't have time and they want to read the Book of Mormon first. So they are not willing to meet with us, but they will be in the future! And one of the Assistants was in attendance at the PERFECT baptism. Not to mention my trainer! He was so excited for me, and so happy that his trainee was able to help this 10-year investigator Father get baptized.
I was extremely overwhelmed. But wonderfully happy. The Li family is complete. They are waiting for the sealing now, and I WILL be in attendance at that temple trip a year from now. Does this accomplish my goal of finding a family? I don't know. It's not what I had in mind, but I don't care. I helped God complete a family. With Elder Zhu as well. Isn't that something eternally beautiful? Li Baba now has the opportunity to return to God's presence. With his family. SIIIIIGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH. My favorite picture EVER is coming in the mail soon. PROTECT IT, FRAME IT, seal it in with the Mona Lisa, I don't care. I just will NOT lose that picture.
I'm happy to report that it's 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!!! What the heck? Where did last year go? I remember calling people for surveys, having a girl visit me almost every night for a week before leaving on my mission, getting in fights with Spanish Elders on the soccer field, fighting with my MTC companions, praying til rivers flooded, my first baptism in the field, my first local companion, my 20th birthday, the next several baptisms, finding Joie at an intersection, from thinking "7months til I call home? Ugh, SOO long!" to "how fast!", going Senior companion, watching Liu Wen Shen enter the waters of baptism, watching Li Baba be baptized by his son and the whole ward trying not to clap, millions of pictures after, several congratulations from other missionaries, a smile from Elder Krantz, a bone-crushing handshake from Li Baba, and several almost hugs from Li Mama and their daughter, to January 1st, 2011. Where does the time go? 2 more move calls, and I'm half-way done.
And who am I now? I'm not being prideful when I say I'm enthralled at the change. Is that not what a mission is all about? Change? For everyone? I am proud of who I've become. But it's because of those around me who helped me start focusing on my God, and my purpose. I've had my mission call for over a year, yes, but I still have over a year left to serve my God with all my TIME TALENTS AND SELF.
Last New Year's I'm pretty sure I was in California, right? Thanks Katie! (Our cousin Katie Guadagnino was in the Rose Parade last year, so because of that, we got to spend New Year’s Eve camped out on the streets of Pasadena. That and watching the parade the next morning…made for some GREAT memories!) You made a great memory! This New Year's? I'm speaking Chinese to random people I may not ever see again. But how many lives have I helped affect? I'll tell you all their names when I get home. But, because this is God's work, I have no way of telling you EVERYONE I've helped affect. I've given thousands of baptismal commitments, taught thousands of lessons, and this isn't MY work. I am only supposed to keep the Commandments (DC 20:11 or DC 11:20 I forget which... lol). This is the Lord's work and I'm just grateful I get to have a part in these people's lives. Forever.
I love you all. Thanks for helping me change. And thanks to the cute girls who keep me going, like my sister and cousins, Katie G., and Calley, and Courtney, and Cathryn, Raquel, Dani....and of course Bailey the Dog. Not to mention all the priesthood brethren who helped me save my own life and rely on Christ to pull me the rest of the way up. Dad. Mike. Bishop Olsen. Bishop Bernards. Kendall. Thank you. There's millions more.
Love you all.
-Elder Carter

EMAIL INFORMATION: This is a TAIZHONG MISSION, MISSION RULE. This does not go for the whole world. I am NOT allowed to read emails from anyone else besides my family. And I'm not allowed to send emails to anyone but Mom, Dad, or Shelby. I need permission for Grandpa Lee and Nana, and Grandpa Carter. If you want to send me an email, it HAS to be through my parents email address. That is the ONLY remaining loophole. Soon to close, I bet. Other missionaries can probably email no problem. It's just THIS mission that is this strict. Thanks!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gag! American Food!

This won't be super long. 'Cause I got sick this morning. Pretty sure it was those potatoes. Everytime I think about potatoes or meat, or anything having to do with that food, it makes me want to vomit. And it was SO good!! Ugh... I'm not used to American food, that'll be a hard transition...
Oh, I feel absolutely horrible! The Lin family took us to Costco today to buy Elder Zhu a jacket since he gets cold lately. Apparently I need to start wearing more, too. We were up late talking with Li Baba last night, then a cold, hard ride home. That might have had something to do with the sick.
I loved actually going to costco. It was nice to have a familiar place, even though characters are everywhere, and you just switch white people for a bunch of short Asians and your Taiwanese costco is complete. Much more crowded than ours at home. But much smaller.
Seeing Taizhong from the freeway was humbling. But absolutely beautiful. Still haven't seen the beach.
The call home was actually a relief. It wasn't stressful, and it didn't change any feelings. I didn't get homesick at all, I was just happy to hear the family's voices. Hearing that Lizzie is home is a strange feeling. First, she'll be married off before I get home, Second, Didn't she just leave? Sounds good to hear that she's happy. That's me, too. But she's probably a little better off. She's a sister. They always do better.
Thank you all for the gifts and whatever else is on its way. I'm excited to hear from Nana. Yes, I spent too much money over Christmas and maybe overdrafted, I'm not sure. I've got to fix that. UGH. I'm gonna need 20 or so dollars for this week. I literally have run out of money. What a dork. New Year's Resolution #1 get a working budget that impresses the girls when I get home. Geez...
Please keep praying for Li Baba and the rest of them all (including the Twins). And for me. I'm gonna need it! I think move call #1 is hard as senior... lol. I've got 11 to go. I need those prayers. 11 move calls full of baptisms, accomplishing goals and moving forward with my life. Don't forget resetting goals.
Thanks to all of you for the support, the wonderful time on the phone, and your patience with my crazy mother's mind and father's perfectionism. ;P Still love you! Keep losing weight!

-Elder Carter
"Hurrah for Israel!" (An Elder Byerism)

Thanks for the pictures... Keep working for that Nursing Program Brittany!!! ;) Remember the Lord... "For with God, nothing shall be impossible." (Emphasis added, Luke 1:37) 
Love you!!! ;)