Glib & Unctuous

One of our ward members fell on her motorcycle on Monday, so we took a taxi over to the hospital in 樹林 to give her a priesthood blessing in the emergency room. She suffered a concussion and bruises, but was otherwise unharmed. As we were leaving the ER, a man walked in with his fingers all cut off, which was pretty gruesome, and I felt really bad for him.

We taught Dennis the Law of Tithing, which seemed to come as a shock to him at first. I was really worried we’d gone too fast, but after we taught him more about the promised blessings of tithing and bought him a McDonald’s icecream cone, he said was willing to accept it.

Because two of our ward members were to be married in our chapel on Saturday, the whole ward pitched in to elaborately decorate the chapel and prepare for the reception throughout the entire week. My companion and I somehow volunteered to sing a musical number, which we didn’t really have time to start practicing until Thursday.

On Thursday night, the 廖家庭 [Liao family] invited us to dinner with them, and we brought Dennis as well. We all went to an all-you-can-eat BBQ restaurant. It’s the first time I’ve been to that kind of restaurant. There are grills and hotpots built into the tables, and you are given unlimited raw meat to cook yourself, sushi, hotpot ingredients, and icecream. Really unhealthy. Dennis really enjoyed it, although he was nervous about baptism because he’s afraid of water.

Saturday was one of the days I’ll remember for my entire mission, just because it was so hectic. We ran over to the chapel to fill up the baptismal font again for the 11:30 baptismal service. The whole time we were filling up the font, all the members were bustling about in a mad rush to prepare for the wedding. Then, the water ran out. The dishwashers in the kitchen couldn’t continue their work, and the chapel became a scene of chaos. Elder Huntsman and I were recruited at the last second to perform a musical number at the baptismal service as well, so we dashed into an empty room and ran through a hymn a few times, Elder Huntsman playing on his guitar and us singing together.

黃姐妹 [Sister Huang], who was baptized on Saturday previous to the wedding, with her husband, the sisters, and us.

After the baptismal service, we ate lunch and tore back to the chapel for the wedding. We helped members lug several carloads of foodstuff into the chapel, hurriedly practiced our musical number, and ran into the chapel just as the wedding began.

Our musical number went OK despite our horrendous lack of practice. We two just stood up in front of the 100+ people and sang, Elder Huntsman playing the ukulele. Before the mission, I would have been really stressed out about it, but I’m so used to embarrassing situations that it felt like nothing.

Elder Huntsman and I with the bride and groom.

There was so much food at the wedding that it was impossible for everyone to finish it. By the end, they brought out bags and told everyone to bring as much food as possible home. Seizing the opportunity to avoid waste and save money, I brought home so much food I probably won’t have to buy anything for a week. There was still food left after the scavenging, which I was glad to see they packed up and didn’t waste.

After the exhausting day at the wedding, our investigator 李姐妹 [Sister Li] called us and told us she had broken her determination not to smoke and smoked five cigarettes in succession. It was hard to see how quickly she reverted to her addiction. Every time we teach her, she commits to quitting and tells us, "this time, I’ll do it for real." Then, a day or two later, she gives in and starts smoking again. We’re still wondering how to get her to the point of permanent change.

About two minutes after 李姐妹’s call, Dennis called us and told us that his brother got in a car crash and was in the hospital with him. As a result, he couldn’t come to his baptismal interview, couldn’t come to church, and won’t be able to be baptized on 8/1. My companion and I were devastated. We were both really worried he would fall away, and the stress was maddening.

We decided to visit him in the hospital with his brother, and we brought a bunch of bread and pastries and to him and his family. He ended up being extremely happy to see us and introduce us to his family, and he was very grateful for our gifts. His brother was doing fine as well. He told us that he had prayed for his brother, and that his brother’s operation had gone smoothly as a result. We were both overjoyed to see that he still wants to be baptized and has remained unshaken.

My companion and I went on three exchanges, so we had hardly any normal time together in our area. I went over to 新埔 [xinpu] for a day and a night, which was great. We found a very promising new investigator who is extremely interested in the Book of Mormon, taught several lessons, and met some of the 板橋 [banqiao] members at dinner. They were all really nice, and included a mechanical engineer and a Chinese teacher, who I enjoyed talking with. Everyone was super-impressed by my Chinese and spent the whole time talking with me and analyzing my language, which was a little embarrassing. They told me my Chinese is the best of any missionary they’ve met, and encouraged me to study Chinese in college. The Chinese teacher even gave me a bunch of Confucius to read.

That’s my report for this hectic, extra-long week. Here are some pictures of us playing basketball with our investigators Mach and Wilsons on P-day.

Mach throws the ball.

Elder Huntsman holds the ball.

The ball’s trajectory after it is tossed by Mach.

Needless to say, my B-ball skills were not up to par, and I jammed with the rest while my companion slammed with the best.

Elder Elliott


Wilsons and Mach

Baptismal fonts have become my mission nemesis.

At 2:00 on Saturday afternoon, a member called us and asked us to fill the baptismal font for an 8-year-old who was to be baptized at 5:00. Despite being a little wary of this task’s potential complexity, we gladly accepted.

We began by attempting to use the simple red-lever/blue-lever valve box by the font to fill the unfriendly cistern. As predicted, there was no hot water. So, we emptied the half-filled font, went downstairs to the big boiler room, flipped a bunch of breakers to turn as many machines on as possible, and turned on the water again. Not only was it still cold, but the water quickly ran out, the flow trickling down to nothing.

We both stared at the ominously empty font, stymied. We called a member, couldn’t hear anything he said because of our cell phone’s bad reception, and told him we’d meet him at the chapel in half an hour. We left, taught a lesson, and returned. It was now almost 4:00.

The member instructed us to go to the back of the chapel, flip breakers to turn on the pumps from the water towers, pump water into the towers, fill the water heater retention tank, turn on the water heater and the de-sedimentation system, wait for the water-temperature indicator gauge to reach the desired level, open the valves to the font, and fill the bothersome reservoir with the resulting hot water. Needless to say, the process was not without setback, and the piddling trickle finally produced was neither hot nor sufficient, ceasing altogether within a few minutes.

Over a long period of time and repeated iterations of this same process, we gradually coaxed the reluctant water into the font. At last, the font was filled to sufficient depth, and we slumped exhaustedly back to our bicycles. We were both frustrated at the waste of time, and agreed that every ward needs to implement a new calling: the baptismal-font-filler.

Eating dinner at one of Taiwan’s few Ikeas, which happens to be located in 思源.

Aside from the baptismal-font troubles, this week was quite excellent. Elder Huntsman and I carried out another tsunami, this time in 思源 [Siyuan], which lasted from Thursday afternoon to Friday. We taught Dennis the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, and Law of the Sabbath, which he unreservedly accepted, much to our relief.

On Sunday night, we held a family home evening activity for our ward. Several of our investigators attended, along with many ward members and new converts. We played an interesting game incorporating principles of rock-paper-scissors and macro-evolution, ate a lot of watermelon, broke glowsticks in the dark, watched a video about faith, poured water on an Elder Huntsman disguised as a tree, and bore testimony. Here’s the picture we took afterwards:

After the FHE activity.

This was quite a hectic week, and the weeks to come will be even more so. In fact, we won’t have a normal full day in our own area for two consecutive weeks. It’s going to be great!

Elder Elliott


Typhoon and tsunami

"There’s a typhoon coming," one of our ward members told us during our weekly coordination meeting. "We’d better finish up quickly and get home, or it won’t be safe outside."

I had heard that there would be a typhoon coming, but I didn’t know any of the details. I agreed that we should probably return home, since it was already close to 8:30 PM and the winds would probably intensify soon. We hastily wrapped up and rode our bikes home.

After we woke up on Saturday morning, the assistants called us. They told us that, because of the typhoon, everyone in Taipei had been given a day off from work and school and told to remain indoors. Furthermore, because of the dangerous conditions outside, none of the missionaries in our zone were permitted to leave their apartments. Everyone was in a panic!

Startled by this sudden charge, Elder Huntsman and I looked out the window to gauge the ferocity of the treacherous storm. It wasn’t even raining. There was no wind. We both thought everyone’s over-caution ridiculous, but nevertheless prepared for a straight 13 hours inside of our apartment.

The typhoon turned out to be the most pitiable excuse for a storm that ever was. It drizzled for perhaps two hours, and the rest of the day was overcast and breezy. After two hours, the assistants called us up and told us that we could actually go outside.

We ventured onto the abandoned streets and proselyted. All of Taipei hunkered within doors, waiting out the barrage of the terrifying tropical storm. It was the most bogus typhoon ever. I caught a glance of a TV displaying the caption "people dragged out to sea by waves," followed by a video clip of a five-year-old boy getting harmlessly pushed over by a shallow froth on the beach, then standing up again. Some typhoon.

Speaking of natural disasters, my companion and I also organized and carried out a so-called "tsunami" in Sanxia. In Taiwan Taipei mission lingo, a "tsunami" is a concentrated missionary finding effort in which multiple companionships are sent to a small area to proselyte. We enlisted the help of two of our districts to find investigators in Sanxia, then stayed the night at the Sanxia elders’ apartment. It was a good night of finding, and helped to build more hope and camaraderie among our zone members.

Eating dinner with the districts after the tsunami.

Sunday was great; three of our investigators were able to attend church. We met with two of them afterwards: Dennis and 彭姊妹, whose baptismal dates are both set for the 1st of August. They are both committed and progressing. I hope I will be able to see them baptized soon.

On Thursday, Elder Huntsman and I celebrated our 1-year mark on the mission. We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner. Other than that, nothing really special happened. It’s a weird feeling.

That’s about all. My 52nd week on the mission was quite excellent.

Elder Elliott


The Picture of Uncle Sam

“It’s pronounced Makkkdonalds,” the local character Basketball Eddy spat with vigor. “You have to put special emphasis on the ‘kkkkk’.”

It’s not often you can receive one-on-one coaching on the Arabic pronunciation of everyone’s favorite fast-food establishment, especially from a gaunt basketball-wielding man on the streets of downtown Tucheng. Nevertheless, this was just one of the many privileges afforded us during our valiant missionary efforts this week.

These weeks are and have been a monumental period of time, for the following reasons:
1) The arrival of President Jergenson, our new mission president, on Tuesday
2) My 1-year mark on the mission, this coming Thursday, and
3) The independence day of my country of origin, celebrated last Saturday.

Rocking out with Taiwanese tongxues in 西門町 (ximending) earlier today.

Elder Huntsman and I attended our first so-called “Jedi Council” on Friday. Officially known as Mission Leadership Council, this meeting consists of a discussion of the mission’s needs, leadership training, and presentations from all leaders on their goals and plans for the month. It was a great opportunity for Elder Huntsman and me to present our zone vision and goals, learn what we can do to help our zone excel, and meet our great new mission president, as well as his wife, daughter, and twin sons. It was pretty awesome.

Rebellious headgear unsuitable for missionaries.

On Friday, we witnessed a great miracle. We had originally planned to meet with one of our ward’s recent convert sisters inside of the chapel, but the first member we’d arranged to accompany us (known as a 陪課 [peike] in Taiwanese missionary jargon) lost his keys and couldn’t come. Our backup peike didn’t show up, and we were unable to contact him. Although we were frustrated, we decided to make the best of the situation. So, we sat outside of the front of the chapel with our RC and an old man who was holding an advertisement on the sidewalk.

As we sat, a young woman walked up to the chapel and asked us about our English class. We enthusiastically introduced her to our English program, and she and our RC, who were similar ages, struck up a conversation. Elder Huntsman and I brought up the gospel, and ended up teaching her a full lesson of prayer, baptism, and the Book of Mormon. She also committed to come to church and English class. It was cool to see how the confluence of “unfortunate” factors put us in just the right place to bring Erica closer to conversion. Had we not been outside at the time, we would certainly have missed her.

On the bridge above the BBQ site, Saturday.

On Saturday morning, in celebration of America’s independence day, we missionaries and our ward drove up into the mountains to enjoy the traditional cultural practice of 烤肉, or “barbecue.” Preserved and passed on from dynasty to dynasty, this ritual celebration consists of the preparation and consumption of sundry meats in an outdoor environment.

We went to a river that flows through the buttresses of a great concrete bridge, where we set up grilling fires among the rocks on the two banks of the river. Igniting the brick charcoal without any wood or flammable fluid was no easy task, and required heavy use of a propane torch and my lungs. Although I was exhausted, covered in charcoal, and light-headed by the end, it was an enjoyable activity nonetheless.

As missionaries, we were unfortunately unable to enter the water.

After a lot of stressful calls and last-minute haranguing, three of our progressing investigators came to church on Sunday. One of our closest to baptism, Dennis, bonded excellently with the members, enjoyed church very much, and told us afterwards that he is “definitely going to get baptized.” That’s pretty good.

Following church, our favorite America-loving friend Bobby graced us with a performance of the U.S. national anthem from memory, all four verses. He then bombarded us with homemade vegan bento boxes, heartfelt handwritten letters, and several bulging envelopes apiece, each labeled with several patriotic slogans and song titles. Within, we found copies of the lyrics to many of these popular ditties.

The envelope labeled “The Picture of Uncle Sam” did, in fact, contain a low-res likeness of the proud patriot himself.

This has been quite a good week. It’s hard to believe I’ll hit the halfway mark on Thursday. Time has gone by ridiculously fast. Elder Huntsman and I will conduct our first zone training meeting tomorrow, which I’m quite excited for. That’s all for now!

Standing outside the apartment of one of our investigators in Tucheng.

Elder Elliott