Mid-autumn

Mid-autumn festival was yesterday! Taiwanese families get together on this holiday and eat 烤肉 [barbecue] together, leaving our missionary schedules empty but giving us many opportunities to talk to people who’d otherwise be working. My companion was really disappointed that our ward was the only ward not holding a barbecue activity, to the point where we almost went to the most expensive all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant in our area together. We ended up going for hot pot instead, which I like a lot better anyway. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier.

Some other features of 中秋節:
-柚子, large citrus fruit which resemble greenish dragon eggs. I ate some before they were ripe and thought they were disgusting, but they’re actually really good when ripe. They taste like a sweeter version of grapefruit.
-月餅 [moon cakes], which are small pastries typically filled with dried egg yolks and various types of sweetened bean or seed paste. Everyone gives these out like crazy during 中秋節. Some of them can be extremely expensive.

Sister Tu is doing really well. She came to church for the third time yesterday. She accidentally heard some members discussing the Word of Wisdom on her second time coming to church, and she decided to quit tea and coffee on her own. By the time we shared the Word of Wisdom with her, she told us she was already obeying it, despite giving up coffee being a trial for her (she works at the headquarters of a coffee-machine factory). Every chapter of scripture we give her, she reads–at least twice. She also gave us 柚子 and 月餅 for 中秋節.

One of the downsides of 中秋節 being on Sunday was that nobody came to church. Of the four investigators we arranged throughout the week and confirmed on Saturday night, only one ended up coming. One got drunk and still hadn’t found the chapel after three hours, one ate too much and was too uncomfortable to come, and one told us it was inconvenient. Oh well.

This week was pretty good overall, although I’ve been so busy I can barely remember what happened. I didn’t have time to write in my journal, so there’s a brief unconformity in my record which I’ll have to patch with contemporary evidence from my planner.

That’s about all for now. Sorry, I didn’t have time to take any pictures this week.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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New Companion: Indian Edition

Me and my new companion Elder Roe, as of now.

Elder Huntsman and I sped up to the mission office in a taxi on Monday evening. I still had no idea who my new companion would be, and I assumed I would not know until I was informed in the office. When we were unloading Elder Huntsman’s suitcases, though, I saw another car drive up with two missionaries inside. "It’s Elder Roe," Elder Huntsman blurted.

Sure enough, my new companion is Elder Roe, yet another elder from my generation! Outgoing and amicable, he’s a wonderful companion who can become anyone’s friend in mere minutes.

This was a busy week of lessons and exchanges. Several of our investigators who had not answered our phone calls for a while finally picked up and met with us, which was a relief.

Yesterday, we hosted another ward family home evening, which was considerably more successful than the last. We gave the primary, Young Men, Young Women, and Elders’ Quorum all responsibilities, and the Relief Society members all brought food. As predicted, the promise of victuals brought members swarming in droves.

For our spiritual share, Elder Roe and I decided to talk about the sacrament. We prepared a figurative sacrament of grape juice and wasabi-spread crackers. Elder Roe and I handed everyone a suspicious green wafer and a cup of juice, instructing them not to eat or drink until told to do so. We all ate our crackers in unison, and we watched everyone double over and start gasping and sweating. Then, we told everyone to drink the grape juice. The sweet liquid washing the bitter taste away, we said, represented the ability of the sacrament to cleanse us from the gall of iniquity. It was a lovely metaphor, though I’m afraid some of the significance may have been lost in the rampant wasabi-induced confusion.

Another highlight of the week: on Friday, a pair of sisters in our zone stopped answering their phone and did not report their safe return home. After being awakened by a call from the APs, I rushed out into the night with Elder Kirschner, who I was on exchanges with, rode to the sisters’ apartment, and talked our way past a grumpy gatekeeper. We knocked their door over and over, but there was no response. Finally, President Jergensen ended up having to wake up and drive over with the office elders and an extra pair of keys. The sisters were safe–they had just left their phone in a member’s home–but I didn’t envy their being woken up at midnight with four elders and a mission president standing in their apartment.

That’s about all that happened this week. Everything’s going well, and I’m enjoying the transition to a new companion!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Outdoor zone conference

Three big things happened this week.

First, we went to an outdoor zone conference at 陽明山.

Second, 李姐妹 [Sister Li] was baptized.

Third, I’m getting a new companion. Today.

So, first for the outdoor zone conference:

A long, winding bus trip took us from the mission office to 陽明山 [Mount Yangming]. The mountain scenery was like nothing I’d ever seen. Grass tufted densely on the steep crags, and thermal vents belched clouds of steam into the air.

Steam rises from 大油坑 [Big Oil Pit], a centuries-old sulfur mining site along the hike.

The missionaries disembark at the parking area.

We trekked along a limy stream.

This brook’s name has the word for sulfur in its name, so I at first thought the water might be sulfurous, but I think it may actually be a reference to the stream as an ancient route for climbing to the 大油坑.

The first leg of our hike wound through the thick jungle shrubbery of a sultry glebe.

Cobblestone pathway.

Then, we emerged from the foliage into a thirsty vale, where the sun shone upon bright grassland.

In the open grassland below the final ascent.

Climbing up the last pitch to the saddle.

Me on top of the saddle. It was marvelously sunny and grassy. There were even cattle grazing in the distance.

A distant peak, to which we never ascended. I would fancy a stroll there, should future occasion permit.

It was paradise for me to be in the outdoors hiking, especially with interesting geothermal features in the vicinity. I finally put all my hard-earned Chinese geology vocab to good use. To my dismay, the only person who understood what I was saying–a native elder–looked at me like I was crazy when I started talking about trilobites.

There were also monkeys (see photograph below).

One of several simian specimens we encountered along the way.

Our last P-day was nice, as well. Elder Huntsman and I went to the 國父紀念館 [I think it's called the "Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall" or something in English]. It was an interesting monument, with a Taiwanese national pride-inspiring museum inside. The parallels to a similar American memorial are surely more than coincidence.

Outside the ‘館.

Brazen likenesses displayed in the perimeter gardens.

My companion and I together outside the memorial hall.

The interior of the hall, where we watched the elaborate ritual changing of the guard.

Standing in the garden during a light rain.

李姐妹 [Sister Li's] baptism was another one of the great highlights of this week. It was amazing to see her finally get baptized after struggling for so long. Her baptismal service was a great experience, and I was able to participate in her confirmation on Sunday.

Right before 李姐妹’s baptism, my companion and I received a very significant message.

My companion is suddenly moving, today. At 5:00 PM today, I’ll have a new companion, who I’ll introduce into the zone and area.

These have been a great almost-two transfers. Elder Huntsman has been an awesome companion; I couldn’t have asked for a better person to introduce me into this new area and its responsibilities. We’ve seen many miracles together. I’m going to miss him a lot.

Now, my responsibility is to effectively bring my new companion into 土城 and continue the success Elder Huntsman and I saw together. I still have no idea who this new companion will be, but one thing I know for sure: his knowledge of Chinese geology vocabulary will improve by the time I’m done with him. Also, we’ll have a great time together.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Kimchi Kid

My companion and I with 李姐妹 [Sister Li] and Ida

One of Elder Huntsman’s favorite missionary tools is the shoulder pat. It’s super effective with members, investigators, and strangers alike–until it completely backfires.

Elder Huntsman patted a guy on the shoulder when he was out contacting. Nothing unusual happened. He handed the man a tract and left. About an hour later, several members called our phone and told us there was a man at the chapel with a tract looking for the missionaries. Miracle!

Not quite. When Elder Huntsman reached the chapel, the same man he’d patted on the shoulder immediately confronted him in a panic. “What did you use to stab me?” he blurted. “When you touched my shoulder, you stabbed me with a sharp object, and I’ve been bleeding.” The alarmed “victim” accused Elder Huntsman of using a needle to inject him with AIDS. He then threatened us with legal action.

After Elder Huntsman repeatedly assured him that there had, in fact, been no sharp object in his hand, the man was finally mollified. Elder Huntsman invited him to church and gave him our number. He left into the night.

No sooner had fifteen minutes passed than the man called us again. “Are you sure you didn’t stab me?” he asked. We replied that we had not. Over the next four hours, he called us upwards of fifteen times, each time frantically asking Elder Huntsman if he had impaled his shoulder with a sharp implement. Finally, late at night, he sent us a text message apologizing, and said that he suffered from OCD.

Aside from this adventure, some of this week’s other highlights included:

  • 李姐妹 passing her baptismal interview after having quit smoking for two weeks
  • Ida, a referral we received from Xinban, coming to church again
  • Going to Dennis’ house to teach his older brother, who we hope to baptize as well
  • 吳弟兄 [Brother Wu] repeatedly reciting “Jesus loves you” to a cockatoo we found on the street (see below)

Brother Wu and a large cockatoo.

That’s about all that happened this week. It was a great week; Elder Huntsman and I saw a lot of success. 李姐妹 is most likely going to be baptized this Saturday at last. We’re going to an outdoor zone conference this week, which will probably involve hiking, so I’m excited.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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