The East Wind

Well, hello there!

Seeing as less time has passed than usual, this ‘un will probably be relatively brief.

Wednesday was great. The contacting was of middling quality; we spent most of the time knocking, which here consists of pressing a series of buttons to ring people’s buzzers and then talking to them over an intercom. Believe it or not, this is risky business: once, Elder Gibson depressed a button that was missing the usual plastic cover and promptly received a high-voltage shock.

We do a lot of our contacting in Nanshijiao, the southernmost part of our area. It’s a gigantic amalgamation of street markets and apartment buildings, and probably the busiest region to contact in. To get there, we usually ride our bikes through the Heping street market, which is absolutely insane. There are thousands of people on scooters flooding the street, which is lined by myriads of stores and food stands. The traffic moves at about one meter per second, and everyone bumps into each other and swerves around on their scooters. I was "hit" by a truck there the other day when it backed up into my bike without seeing me. My tire became stuck under the rear bumper, and I was about to abandon ship and jump off of my bike when a car behind me honked and the truck stopped backing up. No harm was done.

Just biking.

On Thursday, our building’s alarm kept sporadically going off during the morning, and an echoing voice shouted something indistinct and vaguely apocalyptic-sounding from the loudspeakers. We predicted zombies and started planning escape routes. In the end, it turned out that workers were just doing maintenance on the alarm system.

We also biked to the boondocks of our area: an unusual sparsely-populated corner of the city surrounded by forest. Instead of apartment buildings, the road was lined by a series of deserted warehouses doubling as Buddhist temples. Nearby, we ran into a bizarre gang of geriatric Korean Nazis. We conversed with one, who promptly turned to his fellow mobsters, saluted them with a raised arm, and started barking in Korean.

Elder Gibson looking at a map.

On Friday, our stake’s sister missionaries told us they had a "golden investigator" they had found living in our area. They gave us directions to his residence, and we set off with the hope of a new willing investigator we could teach and prepare for baptism. Half an hour later, we still hadn’t found his house. We rode back and forth through a typical maze of alleys, trying to follow the vague directions. Finally, we called the sisters again. They came and met us, led us to a tiny noodle store where we could find him, bade us good luck, and departed.

We found a little 12-year-old kid sitting at a table inside. Taken aback, we introduced ourselves and our purpose. He stared at us as if comatose. We asked him if we could teach him a lesson. He remained apathetically silent. Then, he finally answered: "沒空" (no time). He rejected us.

Elder Gibson and I walked out of the store. We went around the back to the alley where we had left our bikes. Then, we laughed. I laughed and laughed at the absurdity of our situation. I laughed so I wouldn’t shout in frustration and tear out my hair.

View from our chapel.

It’s hard to have patience when you talk to 500 people every day and 499 reject you. I’m trying to always think how I’d feel in the other person’s situation: hurrying to work or another important appointment, suddenly interrupted by some crazy foreigners trying to tell me about Buddha, brushing them off without a second thought. Patience in these situations is an exercise in empathy. One thing I know for sure: when I get back, I’ll never again use lack of time as an excuse.

There are people who accept, though. We’re teaching several of them now. Sister Wang passed her baptismal interview on Friday. If all goes well, she’ll be baptized on the 8th. It’s been swell to see her progression and willingness to make and keep commitments.

The Chinese is going very well. I can finally understand most of what people are saying, and I’m almost done with Phase 1 of the in-field language training material. Elder Gibson is a great role model. His Chinese reading and writing is better than that of a lot of natives. He’s even read Jesus the Christ in Chinese.

This completes my weekly email. Bye!

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