Fierce Dogs Do Not Enter

Service with the district, sans sisters.

My first full week in the Taidong 3rd branch was pretty crazy. Here are some images accompanied by occasional words:

Pulling the tares from the midst of the sweet potatoes.

On Tuesday, we served a local ward member/farmer by riding to her land and helping her pull weeds from a plot of sweet potatoes. The best part, aside from the joy of Christlike service, was the conical hats.

In Taidong, it takes a lot of biking to get around. That holds especially true in our area, which would take several hours to bike across. Because our area consists of the boonies rather than the dense center of Taidong, our members and investigators are spread between many different 村s, or villages, scattered throughout farmland and mountains. On Thursday afternoon, we decided to visit one of our more distant less-active members. We rode uphill for about an hour and a half to his house. It was pitch black, and the air was opaque with mist, so the stars and moon were not visible. Jungle and fields were on either side of us. There was complete silence, save for the constant humming of insects on both sides and the occasional trickling of water.

When we finally reached the top, he wasn’t home. I could have predicted that. We turned around and descended the mountainside, speeding back to the city. Dogs chased us.

At the wilderness laundromat, ready to pour some ‘crete.

We also served for a full day at a member’s property. I’m not really sure what this construction is, but I coined it a “wilderness laundromat.” Standing in the remote forest, about a thirty-minute car ride away, it is occupied by bunch of big rusty chemical tanks and machinery. Assorted items of clothing hung from pipes and clotheslines strung between metal scaffolding.

A laundromat’s bandsaw, for especially dirty raiment.

We are given boots.

Sister 馬 gave us this blade and told us to cut the tree down. It took over an hour.

Our job was to flatten a large area by scooping rocks around, mix concrete, and then pour and smooth the concrete to form a flat surface, the purpose of which remained remarkably nebulous. By means of shoddy approximations of volume, sketchy gigantic electric egg-beaters, oil barrels, and extra-long extension cables, we mixed and poured several hundred pounds of concrete and significantly increased the area of the plaza. The material underlying the concrete was mostly really loose mud, charcoal, and broken glass. I give it about a year before it becomes saturated with water, pushes over its retaining wall, and slides into the gully by its side.

Civil engineering, Taiwanese style.

Pouring cement.

This week also included 元宵節, the end of 過年. Everyone in the city was setting off great quantities of firecrackers. The entire town was roaring with the constant tumult of small explosives, punctuated by occasional gut-thumping blasts of large mortars, followed closely by the accompanying wailing of car alarms. Weird trucks filled with painted-face gong thumpers sped around town, contributing to the unceasing cacophony.

On Friday, about a dozen of these cars also filed through the streets, shaking the foundations of adjacent apartment buildings with low-frequency madness.

Curry.

On Friday, our quest to meet with as many less-active members as possible brought us to 鹿野, the remotest corner of our area. It’s actually a detached unit, part of our branch but not continuous with the other area. It is very rural, much of it consisting of rice paddies and squatter-style huts.

My companion was pretty exhausted on the train ride to 鹿野.

Typical 鹿野 scene.

鹿野 is much more third-world than most of Taiwan. Some places in 鹿野 are very poor. We encountered a family in a tiny metal and garbage shack while looking for a member. One of their sons was completely naked! Their mom sent the other boy to run in front of us and guide us to the correct house.

The best seat in Taiwan.

We had a great time meeting with the 鹿野 less-actives. The Spirit was very strong when we talked with them. On Sunday, five of the less-active members we met with came to church.

Because we had too many lessons in 鹿野 to make the train back, we rode our bikes instead. It was dark and raining a fine mist. We sped home for an hour, climbing laboriously along mountainsides and whizzing down at top-speed. My front light went out, so all in front of me was pitch black! I rode closely behind Elder Illu so his light would illuminate the road. I could barely make out the reflective paint lines on the road hurtling past. When we at last coasted into the city, the 元宵節 festivities were in full-swing. It sounded like a war zone. The streets were packed with gong-whacker trucks. When we walked into the apartment, exhausted, my face was caked with mud flung by my tires during the descent.

It’s been a great week, and a very busy week. Elder Illu and I have been exerting ourselves as much as we can to further the work in the third branch. It has been fulfilling to see the fruits of our effort.

Sincerely,
利長老

 

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