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


One thought on “The Picture of Uncle Sam

  1. Ilene Andersen says:

    Elder Elliott (David), Just want you to know I enjoy hearing about your mission experiences and the country in which you are living. Keep up the good posts–if you have time. Ilene Andersen (from the ward)

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