Carl Jr.’s Science Park

Monday of the tsunami, I left my companion in Elder Scovel’s care, stuffed a laundry bag with five days’ living supplies, and rode the subway with Elder Azua to Taibei. During our remaining preparation time, we took a bus to the National Palace Museum, one of my favorite Taiwan locations.

Back at the National Palace Museum.

It was a great outing. The museum is even more fascinating now that I can read all of the information in the original Chinese. I perused their displays of ancient nephrite, jadeite, and quartz carvings, and learned the techniques used in ancient Chinese bronzework. I noted all of the characters used to describe different jade varieties. I could probably spend an entire P-day in just one room of the museum, but because our time was limited, I tore myself away from the exhibits and rode the MRT with Elder Azua up to headquarters in Taibei.

At a mock transfer meeting, I was assigned a temporary companion, Elder Welch, and area, Toufen. We rode a bus for an hour along the highway to Toufen. Then, President Jergensen drove us in the van from the bus station to the Toufen elders’ apartment.

The tsunami was an amazing experience. Elder Welch and I spent two days finding with President Jergensen. We rode in the van to the Zhunan Science Park, where we began our search for those prepared to accept our message.

The streets were deserted. It was midday, and nobody but amas and their grandchildren was outside. Everyone rejected us, despite the towering presence of President Jergensen. Then, it started raining. Typical worst-case finding scenario: initiated.

Elder Welch and I, drenched after a hard day of work on the streets. Elder Griffin, one of my friends from the MTC, is on the right.

Then, we started finding on a more bustling section of road, where many workers from the huge factories were walking. President Jergensen brought no magic, but he was sincere and genuine and bore heartfelt testimony. It felt like doing missionary work with my dad. We showed some Filipino factory workers the “Because He Lives” video, and some were very touched. It was a great time. President Jergensen loved it, and we had a great time.

The science park was like nowhere I’d ever seen before. It was a vast, deserted plain, its endless flatness broken by monolithic factories and great cubic warehouses. We saw them standing dimly in the distance like obelisks. There was not a single person to be seen. We rode bikes along disused sidewalks matted with weeds. Everyone was inside of the factories. Sometimes I could see them through the distant windows, filing through the spotless interior like lines of beetles. Most of them were Filipino.

Deserted Science Park street.

Only those too young or too old to work lived in the villages clumped around the perimeter of the park. Everyone else ate, worked, and slept within the looming city-size monuments.

During the night hours, however, most of the workers were released, and we found many very prepared people on the streets after dark. We gave away almost twenty Tagalog copies of the Book of Mormon. Everyone was Christian, which felt weird. Almost everyone knew about our church. Most had left their families for years to work in Taiwan and support their homes in the Philippines.

After the tsunami, I finally returned to our area–only to find our tiny two-man apartment occupied by four elders! A companion in our zone was expelled from their apartment after the lease expired, so they’re staying over until a new apartment is found. It’s cool, though; I had forgotten the social atmosphere of a four-man apartment.

In Banqiao on exchanges, Saturday.

There was a lot of change this week. It was a good week. I’m not feeling as tired now that I’m getting up at 6:20 instead of 5:30. I feel like my increased mental clarity should make up for the loss of additional language study.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Berry

At the 基隆 [Jilong] beach on P-day.

Ely, one of our members, drove us two and the 三峽 [Sanxia] elders up to a beach in 基隆 [Jilong] for P-day. It was about an hour-long drive on the freeway each way, with some interesting streaked limestone cliffs and hummocky jungle terrain along the way. We passed through many long, cavernous tunnels carved through the mountains. I was carsick along the way because I attempted to help Elder Scovel pass off his Phase 1 language study during the ride, and was seized with nausea the second I glanced down at the book. Some things never change.

The beach was quite nice, despite being small and man-made and having no wave action. There was some good surrounding scenery, including a distant steep-walled green island and some mountainous slopes plunging down to the water’s edge.

While Ely and the other elders ran around and played Frisbee by the water’s edge, I sat in a nearby spot of shade along a rocky shore segment. I watched some scuttling crabs and examined some fascinating large segmented-body arthropods swarming on the rocks, then studied Chinese for a while.

The rest of this week was good, although I was insanely tired most of the time. We went on two exchanges with our zone members, so it seemed as if we were always switching companions or riding the MRT to and fro.

Two days ago, my companion were riding our bikes on the way to a lesson when we contacted a woman walking along the road. She turned out to be about the biggest miracle I’ve ever seen on the street. She told us that her life felt empty and that she had been looking for a long time for some sense of purpose. She said she fears death, and that she feels as if people are always taking advantage of her. We shared some brief testimonies and invited her to church on Sunday. After church, we shared the "Hope of God’s Light" video with her, which she thought very inspirational. We’re both very excited for her future.

From today to Friday, I’ll be going to the deserted nether corner of our mission–苗栗 [Miaoli]–to find new investigators. It’s part of a mission-wide tsunami activity, which aims to briefly flood a specific region with missionaries to find new investigators. I’m excited to experience missionary work in a new locale.

That’s about all for this week. Next week: an update on the 苗栗 tsunami!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Sinai and Agar

​Dennis was baptized! After probably the most stressful few days of my mission, during which Dennis faithfully endured a plethora of obstacles and unexpected setbacks, I baptized him in our chapel on Friday night. Dennis bore a very moving testimony about the miracles he’s seen since Elder Huntsman and I introduced him to the gospel. He even brought barley tea and soda for everyone!

Dennis’ baptism was a highlight of a very stressful week. Some other of this week’s adventures included:
-Biking and running around in the biggest downpour I’ve ever seen trying to find and give a blessing to a member with poor sense of direction (see below);
-Teaching a 9-year-old kid from mainland China who was going back the next day; he had never heard of God before;
-Having our fortunes analyzed by a less-active member who is a professional diviner (mine got soaked in the rain, so the only part I could read was one line encouraging me to eat mostly soft foods);
-Riding the MRT up to the 金華街 [Jin Hua Street] chapel for stake conference with Dennis.

A big rainstorm, during which the roads all flooded with water.

Other than that, not too much happened during this quite exhausting week. I caught a cold, which was pretty mild but caused me to lose my voice and made missionary work a lot more difficult. On Monday, we went to one of the only trampoline parks in Taiwan, which is underground. I didn’t jump or enter the bouncing area because of the extremely high risk of injury, but it was a great opportunity to sit by the side and study Chinese.

I learned all about the Chinese character system of chemical element-naming and compound-naming, which is pretty fascinating. Every element in the periodic table has its own character with distinct pronunciation, from which it is possible to divine some of the element’s chemical properties as well as (often) the English abbreviation. Compound-naming conventions are quite similar to English, with some annoying exceptions and different rules for acids. I don’t really have a complete grasp of these concepts, because my information was all gleaned from various dictionaries and not a comprehensive source.

That’s about it for this week. It was a good week, albeit one rife with unexpected stress. Dennis is baptized, and that’s all that matters for now.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Bowling & Typhoon

We went bowling on Monday and brought our investigators, Wilsons and Mach, along.

Our district and friends at the bowling alley​.

Wilsons and Mach.

Elder Huntsman.

I roll the ball down the alley.

​My companion and I both heard about the incoming typhoon on Thursday from some members. After the fizzle that was the last "typhoon," we were both somewhat dismissive of everyone’s reports of the anticipated storm. By Thursday night, the predicted violent winds and downpour were nowhere to be seen.

On Friday, nobody wanted to meet with us for fear of the typhoon, but once again, nothing but a drizzle fell. At night, there were a few gusty winds, which threw everyone into a great and baseless excitement. We went on splits with two members, and both of them were practically in hysterics over the resulting carnage. "Two people’s umbrellas got blown inside out!" 黃弟兄 [Brother Huang] exclaimed in awe.

It was only after we returned home on Friday night that the winds started to pick up. That night, I heard the rain pouring down violently, and our apartment building occasionally shook and swayed as the winds howled around it. In the morning, the winds had decreased considerably, although the rain continued to fall. We were instructed not to leave the apartment until further notice.

From the inside, the typhoon still seemed very mild. My companion and I were itching to get out. We cleaned the apartment thoroughly, called our investigators and members, and studied Chinese. I learned some good particle physics vocabulary, reviewed the names of the planets, and learned a bunch of idioms. We had to cancel most of our lessons, which was a bummer. None of our utilities were affected by the typhoon.

Typhoon day selfie. I ate oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

When we finally were permitted to leave the apartment at 7:00 PM, we were both astonished by the change outside. Many trees had fallen down along the dark and deserted streets. All of the storefronts hid behind their corrugated metal facades. Some shoddily-constructed signs and billboards had been destroyed by the winds, and there were some sections of the street that were unrecognizable.

Only later did I see some pictures of the large river that runs through our area during the typhoon. It had raised by probably almost 10 meters, completely submerging a park where we contacted people on Tuesday. My companion and I were both surprised that a storm which seemed so mild could cause so much damage.

On the plus side, our investigators are doing great. Dennis passed his interview yesterday and is going to be baptized on Friday. 李姐妹 [Sister Li] finally started coming to church for the full three hours, and she’s made some good friends among the members who we hope can help her stop smoking. 彭姐妹 [Sister Peng] is on the brink of getting baptized; she’s just worried about the reaction of her family and is not sure that she needs to be baptized again. We’ve been working with several other investigators who are preparing for baptism next month, as well.

This was a good week. We’re excited to actually be in our area for more than two days next week. It’s going to be great!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Gondolas, again

After going up to the Church headquarters in central Taipei on Wednesday, we rode the 貓空 [Maokong] gondolas. Because this attraction is closed on Monday, we only get a chance to ride it every few months, when missionaries visit the temple and P-day is moved to Wednesday. This time, the lines were much shorter than last time, which was pleasant. We were able to ride the glass-floored gondola for the first time, which was a unique experience.

On the gondola.

View outside.

My companion.

The gondola towers.

Taipei 101 is visible from the gondola as well.

View of the nearby city, which I think is 蘆洲 [Luzhou].

Looking down through the glass floor.

On Thursday, we met briefly with Dennis. After we heard that his brother got in a car accident, we fasted for him and his brother. Because his brother had to undergo surgery, the doctors originally predicted that he would have to stay in the hospital for two weeks. However, because his operation went so smoothly, he was able to return home after only two days.

Dennis was ecstatic. He told us that he had prayed a lot for his brother, and that his prayers really worked. Because he missed his baptismal service on Saturday due to the accident, he’s going to get baptized on the 15th instead. My companion and I were glad to hear his good news.

Almost all of our time on Friday was spent up at headquarters for Mission Leadership Council. Although the meeting went from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (with an hour for lunch), it was pretty engaging, and we made a lot of progress. Best of all, we finally got a new phone. It’s one of the old Nokia models, which are durable, practical, feature-rich, and well-designed. It felt great to talk on a real phone instead of the awful, cheap piece of nonfunctional plastic we usually use.

Mach and Wilsons, our two young investigators, came to sacrament meeting yesterday. They both asked us, "What time are we getting baptized?" They had misunderstood, and thought they were to be baptized on Sunday. We reassured them that their baptism was not until the 27th, and that they would have plenty of time to adequately prepare.

Then, Wilsons surprised us by telling us he’s going to move to mainland China to study–next Sunday.

Elder Huntsman and I were thrown into a panic trying to figure out how he could get baptized in this week before he moves. Then, we asked him a few questions and ascertained that he really isn’t prepared yet and won’t be ready to be baptized within a week. We’re going to do everything we can to help him get in contact with the Church within the religiously-barricaded mainland.

After Sunday evening’s new-member fireside meeting in Taipei, Elder Huntsman and I started hurrying home on the MRT to return before the 9:00 curfew. We had rode the train about halfway home before we realized we didn’t have our phone, without which we would be unable to report our zone’s results for the week. It was already almost 9:00. As fast as we could, we rode back to the 東門 [Dongmen] station and dashed frantically along the dark streets, our suits flapping and shoulder bags swinging against our legs.

When we reached the central chapel, it was already deserted. We rushed inside and started searching for our phone. Just when we were about to give up, I found it under a hymn book, where it had fallen from Elder Huntsman’s pocket. Having found the phone, we searched for the fastest way home and eventually found a lone taxi parked on the street. Sweating and panting, we crammed ourselves inside and told the driver to get us to 海山 [Haishan].

No sooner had I begun talking to the driver than he brought up Buddhism and delved with gusto into a mountain of abstruse philosophical reasoning. Having expounding thoroughly on the nuances of 不壞肉身 ["non-rotting bodies…?"] for the entire ride, he gave me a fifteen-page article he wrote himself on the subject. I was thinking: this is how I seem to most Taiwanese people. It was a very interesting day.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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