Babylonian Barbiturates

Members kindly arranged to transport us to 三仙台 (Sanxiantai) on P-day. The Taidong sky was cloudy, but as soon as we left the city, the weather began to clear. I had heard that there was a typhoon in the Philippines, and was curious whether it would influence the surf in Taiwan. Sure enough, as soon as the ocean came into view, I saw that the waves were much, much larger than usual. Great, far-spaced breakers rolled in onto the beach, crashing into rocks and sea stacks with great plumes of spray.

Waves on the beach.

After an hour-long car ride, complemented by a baozi-replete intermission, we reached 三仙台 itself. 三仙台 is probably one of the most spectacular places on the Taiwan coastline. It consists of a small, rocky island connected to the mainland by an undulating bridge of eight arches. The island itself is topped by two steep stone bluffs or protuberances, each rising abruptly from the surrounding slopes. Huge cliffs of black rock are surrounded by a plethora of flourishing jungle vegetation. The rock appears to be a soft limestone conglomerate of igneous bodies, and is easily eroded into a wide variety of unique forms.

The surf was enormous. Huge, 20-foot waves hurled themselves at the rocks, sending spectacular jets of spray high into the air.

Big waves on 三仙台.

The waves rolling in, seen from above.

Upon reaching the park itself, Elders Stephens, Chand, Taulepa and I set off quickly across the pebble shore and over the long inchworm-shaped bridge.

Going up the bridge.

On top.

Walking along the bridge to 三仙台.

There were many people on the bridge, but very few on the island.

Coming down on the other side of the bridge.

Walking by the cliffs on the island.

View from the saddle in the middle of 三仙台.

Hiking along the seashore.

Elder Stephens next to a large conglomerate boulder.

After hiking along a winding boardwalk and scrambling over rugged seashore, we reached the gaping maw of a dark cavern. With no light, we held onto the handrail and descended into the depths. I just kept scuffling along until the opening on the other side appeared.

Going down into the cavern.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

We emerged onto a rugged spit cut by narrow chasms, through which wave water rushed, passing through erosional tunnels and occasionally leaping upward in huge jets.

Wave-eroded channel.

Climbing back up into the cave from the other side.

Going to 三仙台 was excellent, because it’s the first place I’ve been to in Taiwan that could, to some small extent, be considered wilderness. It was a real adventure, and I’m sure I won’t forget this mission experience.

Although P-day was especially fun this week, the work this week was also especially hard. No one particularly difficult thing happened; rather, a confluence of small factors created an exhausting week.

It can be hard to always see the same patterns in missionary work, over and over: we find new investigators, they agree to meet with us, and we never see them again. Every time I knock on a door or begin talking to someone on the street, I do my best to have faith. Then, I see the telltale signs: the gradual edging away, uncomfortable lack of eye contact, and convulsive high-frequency nodding and repetition of the word "yes" or "good." I ask if we can talk to him or her at a more convenient time. He or she agrees and leaves a phone number, which consists of several predictable strings of repeated digits. Later, upon calling the number, I hear the same discouraging phrase: "The number you have called is not in use [空號]…" Every day, I try to push my expectations and my faith, but I feel as if the results often fall flat.

This week, when we went to 鹿野, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the progress of many of the less-active members there. It was also the first day I’ve ever gone to 鹿野 without encountering rain.

Luye vista.

Eating at the Lin family’s home.

When we ate dinner with the Lin family, they had, as usual, prepared some very unique dishes for everyone’s sampling. Clockwise from the top: hand-collected river algae (pretty gross, in my opinion; really stringy, gooey, and salty); snails (the taste is good, although the texture a bit rubbery); fish (normal); pickled bamboo (good); pork with vegetables and fish flakes (good); soup with fish balls (good). It was great to be able to sit and talk with them after a long time of them being too busy to meet with us. Even better, one of our investigators came by, and they invited him to sit and eat with us! Even though we hadn’t seen him in a while, he still seemed to be doing fine.

So, this has been a very memorable week, albeit a difficult one. This seems to be the bottom line of many missionary weeks. At times like these, there’s nothing to do but brace one’s self and thrust in the sickle with might. 加油!

Sincerely,
Elder Elliott

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