Are you a goner?

Elder Stephens and I atop the roof of our district president’s house.

A week of gnarly miracles. On Thursday, I went on exchanges with Elder Chand, our beloved Fijian zone leader. We originally had planned to visit Sister Chen, one of our recent investigators, yet when we reached her home, an unfamiliar Taiwanese grandpa told us she was out of town and prepared to dish us out a hearty helping of door-slam gumbo. It seems that Sister Chen’s intent was nothing less than to place our pigeons squarely in the middle of next week. Nevertheless, we persisted, and the reluctant occupant conceded us entry into his residence.

Upon entering therein, we found none other than one of our other investigators, who happened to be eating over at their house! He agreed to meet with us. During the lesson, he set a baptismal date and asked some good questions. Although we didn’t get to meet with Sister Chen, we made the best of the opportunity we had, and our boldness (but hopefully not overbearing-ness) was rewarded.

On P-day, our district president President Cai invited us to his home for lunch. His spacious house would not look out-of-place in Park City, and is the height of luxury in Taiwan.

I used to build houses similar to this in Minecraft.

The interior.

On the roof of the house, looking over the Pacific ocean.

A closer view of this small, steep-walled bay.

One of the highlights of training is trainee Chinese. As I bought our tickets back from Luye, I listened to Elder Stephens repeatedly asking a man in Chinese: “Are you a goner? Are you a goner? Are you done for?” The man stood confusedly silent. I realized that what he meant to say was: “Did you just get off of work?”

In Luye, we helped Brother Zhou pump water from a channel with a two-stroke motorcycle engine and splash water from the irrigation ditches onto his crops. It was the first day there had been water in the stream for a week. Before the water had even completely filled the crop ditches, however, the engine suddenly started straining and making odd noises. We looked over the bank, and the stream was dry! An upstream farmer had diverted what little was left of the flow to water his own crops.

Splashing with Brother Zhou.

Splashing water onto the plants.

Standing in the dry irrigation ditch.

We prayed for water with Brother Zhou.

My strapping son.

That’s about all for this week. Goodbye!

Standing in Luye.

Sincerely,

Elder Elliott

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Michael

It seemed at first an ordinary Tuesday night. Elder Stephens and I had stopped at the church for a branch choir rehearsal we had been invited to attend. After the rehearsal concluded, we started walking out to our bikes when I was approached with a last-minute request to perform a baptism.

With only minutes to prepare, I pulled a heavy-duty baptismal suit from the font-side closet, donning the several-sizes-too-small jumpsuit in a jiffy. I silently ran through the baptismal prayer as I walked down the hallway. I was to baptize Sister Han, a 70-year-old woman who the sister missionaries had arranged to be baptized on very short notice. We demonstrated a dry run of the ordinance in the hallway. Then, I walked through the restroom and into the font entrance.

After a brief period spent sorting out the arrangement of hands during the baptism, which Sister Han had already forgotten, I recited the prayer and began to submerge her beneath the water. She resisted with gusto! Her legs shot out and kicked about, and try as I might, I couldn’t submerge her head without use of excessive force. I pulled her back up, we calmed her down and once again sorted everything out, and I said the prayer again. Once again, she flailed about the second her head touched the water. More determined this time, I exerted slightly more downward pressure, but her legs scrabbled and slid about on the font floor. We wallowed about for a moment before I gave up. After a brief coaching by members, Sister Han squared herself up and prepared again.

After she failed to fully enter the water for the third time, she asked, “Am I done yet?” I decided that the fourth time would be the last. Once again, her legs shot out and kicked about, as stiff as I-beams, but I was determined not to fail. She scratched at my arms with vigor, but I reached over and gently pressed her head the last few centimeters into the water. At last, the saving ordinance was complete. Sister Han was happy, albeit tired. I hope the experience wasn’t too traumatizing for her.

On a mountain overlooking 台東.

Picture from the top.

On the path up, my countenance brilliantly illuminated.

Aside from the memorable experience of helping a fellow soul conquer thorny obstacles along the covenant path, this week’s exploits included a P-day excursion to the beach, which I hadn’t known was only about five minutes from our chapel. I sat on one of the gigantic concrete dikes watching the waves in their patterns crash against the shores. The unusual angle of the swells against the coast created a unique pattern of backwash surges and double-waves, as well as a high potential for riptides. Even if we were allowed into the water, I probably wouldn’t have swum in.

The beach!

On Saturday, our district and the zone leaders hosted a so-called “tsunami” in Beinan. This missionary event consists of a full day of concentrated salvation bombardment, provided by a dense brigade of missionaries stationed in a single small area. Every door was systematically knocked several times, and all locals found out on the streets were thoroughly instructed in the manner of prayer.

From our efforts, we garnered a sizable sheave of new investigators, including a very unique individual who expounded to us the prophetic nature of Michael Jackson’s lyrics. According to him, Jackson was translated off the face of the earth when his skills became too great for the comprehension of man.

Me and Elder Stephens before going up to 鹿野.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Delicious breakfast

“Delicious breakfast is always in the beauty castle”-Anon

My new companion and trainee, Elder Stephens, gets his first taste of Taiwanese rain.

Sister Zhang was baptized on Tuesday:

It was an excellent baptismal service. The Spirit was uninhibited by the frigidity of the baptismal font’s water, which I saw coming from miles away. Baptismal font water heaters, like chapel sound systems and wireless internet, never, ever work when they’re supposed to. Notwithstanding these outward inconveniences, the service was a great success. Sister Zhang has a firm testimony. We are very happy to welcome her into our branch.

On Wednesday, I left for Taipei. I spent most of the seven-hour train ride up sharing the gospel with a Buddhist nun who sat next to me, reading the Book of Mormon in Chinese, and getting really carsick as a result.

Upon reaching Taipei, we began our journey to Sanxia, where we were to stay for the night. An unexpected surprise: we transferred from the MRT to the bus at Jingan, right in the middle of my last area!

In Shuanghe!

Arriving after nightfall, we ate dinner at a member’s home in Sanxia. This upscale district, with its broad spaces, fountains, and tall uniform apartment buildings, is most definitely an outlier in Taiwan.

View from the roof of the Sanxia apartment building.

On the roof.

The next morning, we made our way over to Taipei, where all trainers and trainees enjoyed a day of meetings. At night, I babysat Elder Brandley (“babysitting,” as part of the familial-metaphorical jargon of missionary genealogy, describes bringing a newly-arrived missionary who has not yet been assigned a trainer out finding for a night). We went to one of my favorite places:

With Elder Brandley at the base of Taipei 101.

After spending a night in Wanda, I returned to the chapel with my temporary companion for Friday’s transfer meeting. The PowerPoint presentation was projected upon the wall, and the suspenseful meeting began. The waiting was intense. One by one, each trainee was paired with a trainer. At last, only me and one other trainer were left. Two nervous trainees stood opposite us on the other side of the room. I stared at the screen. At last, our paired images materialized, and I beheld: Elder Stephens!

Elder Stephens and I in the MRT station.

Elder Stephens is an excellent companion, very diligent and dedicated. He is from Utah. He previously served in Arkansas and Mississippi while awaiting his visa. It is a great privilege to serve with him.

So far, I’ve been speaking pretty much nothing but Chinese to him (with his permission, of course). When he doesn’t understand, I repeat myself in English. In order to meet him more thoroughly, I asked him a question of personal opinion:

Me: On a scale of one to ten, how terrifying are the carbonated bubbles of soda?
Elder Stephens: Two. They aren’t very scary.
Me: Why not a one?
Elder Stephens: Because, if the soda were to explode, that would be pretty messed up. That’s scary.

It’s a really cool experience to train. Everything you do makes a big influence on your companion’s future as a missionary. It also brings back great memories of when you were a “baby.”

Anyway, this week has gone quite fabulously, despite me catching a cold. We drafted a new branch mission plan with our branch president, which I believe has a lot of potential to invigorate the missionary work in our branch. Elder Stephens and I are excited to implement it.

A group of about three plumbers unexpectedly burst into our apartment this morning, brandishing an assortment of wrenches and other tools. They proceeded to dismantle our water heater and then left, leaving it spouting forth gallons of water onto our balcony. We think they were probably sent by either the landlord or the mission office. Either way, I just hope they come back at some point.

Goodbye!

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Dust of the earth


And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

I yesterday received the news: I will train a new missionary this transfer.

It’s quite exciting news. I’ll have the opportunity to be a newcomer’s first companion in the field (the Taiwan field, at least). I’ll set his expectations of missionary work, and his course and progress as a missionary will be determined at least in part by my example. I will not remain a barren branch, but shall bring forth a numerous posterity to possess the gate of my enemies.

 

View from the roof of our apartment. We were locked out, so we conducted our planning session up here.

A few other good things also happened this week.

On Saturday, I witnessed the coincidence of three equally rare natural phenomena: an earthquake (my 5th in Taiwan), a lunar eclipse, and a street contact legitimately interested in the gospel.

After visiting one of our investigators’ homes, we paused for a second to view the stars in the sky. It was one of the few times on my mission so far when I’ve been able to see heavenly bodies other than the sun, the moon, and the brightest planets. Usually, the sky is shrouded by clouds or the stars are obscured by the ambient glow of nearby streetlights.

Then, I noticed that the moon was a crescent, despite appearing full the day before! I realized that a lunar eclipse must have been happening. Sure enough, the lit area of the moon shrunk rapidly over a period of about an hour before waning almost completely to a dim red globe at approximately 8:15 PM. I remembered the Chinese word for “lunar eclipse,” as well (I had previously studied the second character, which translates literally to “erosion”).

While street contacting that night, I also met a man selling his oil paintings on the street. I talked to him first about art. He was very willing to show me all of his works. Elder Illu and I showed him the Church’s Easter video clip, entitled “Because He Lives.” He had a lot of interest. We referred him to missionaries in Taibei where he lives.

 

Area scenery.

Sunday was a real miracle day. Elder Illu and I had fasted several times during the week for Sister Zhang, our investigator who we received as a referral a little while ago. We have taught her all of the lessons, and were waiting for her to pass her baptismal interview on Sunday. We were nervous about the interview’s outcome, and anxiously waited outside the door. At last, she emerged and told us that she’d passed! Her baptism is scheduled for tomorrow.

We didn’t have any food at home to eat when we finished fasting, but a member invited us last-second to eat at his home, thus saving us from certain starvation.

With the Cai family.​

That’s about it for this week: a lunar eclipse witnessed, a baptismal interview passed, and the promise of offspring as numerous as the sands of the sea. Hence concludes my last full week with Elder Illu, who must soon go the way of all earth.

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