Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and Belle,
What a week it has been. I want to begin by sharing an experience I had last night, but need to preface it with some background. Elder Forbes and I have been working with a less-active member, visiting him once or twice a week every week since I have come to this area. He is great. He has come to church for about five consecutive weeks now and loves having us over. He's incredibly kind and is always willing to learn. We have been teaching him all of the lessons again. There's a chance he's not actually a member as the ward still hasn't found his record yet, but he swears he is so that's fine for now. The point of this background, is that Elder Forbes and I have been working hard with him and we have developed a serious and honest love for this man. Last night, as we were riding back from our secondary area (the farther away areas under your stewardship, about a forty minute bike-ride or so from the church) we came across him and his friend walking down the street. The first thing that crossed my mind was, "Wang Long De! I love that man!" The second, "great, and a member referral we can teach!" The third, "what on earth is he doing out and about this late on a Sunday night?" Well, to our utter surprise and displeasure, he had been out having fun (this man is almost sixty and very calm and collected, very reclusive, and very kind) with a buddy we had never seen. He was acting strange, too strange. Apparently, they had been out drinking. And from the smell of him, drinking a lot. You could tell that he felt bad, but his senses were so garbled in the haze of the alcohol that he could barely talk and would laugh hysterically in spurts every few minutes. He pulled me to the side to talk to me and rambled about his activities and how he was glad he could come to church today and such. It was a mess. I tried to compose myself, but tears welled in my eyes. I saw a man that I had grown to love and care about breaking the commandments of God on His holy day. After an awkward exchange, my companion and I left. Riding quickly, and talking with everyone in an attempt to ebb my sadness, I spoke with a man who had just gotten off work. He looked as though he had returned from a trip as he was wheeling a suitcase behind him and dressed in a nice polo with slacks. I asked a bit about him and in relatively good English, shared that he knew I was a Mormon and that he used to be Christian. I dug deeper to discover that he used to be very active and believe strongly in our Savior, but ceased to pray daily when he divorced from his wife and his son moved to America. He began getting emotional as he told me how he felt abandoned and that if he doesn't keep working constantly, occupying his thoughts continually, he will drive himself crazy. I began to feel for this man and describe how Christ still cares for him and that he can have that companionship and peace again. He expressed an honest sense of gratitude for my effort, but walked away, silently into the night. To be honest, at this time, I felt like someone had punched me repeatedly in the stomach. Why did I have to see my friend drunk in the streets? Why did I come across this man who had rejected God and hated Him for his circumstances? Now, my purpose in telling you this is not to bum you out or ruin your day. It's that our Savior died for everyone's sins. He loves us and carries us. He told us to come to him and find rest, that his "yoke is easy" and "burden is light." He loves all of us. If we sin, there is hope! There is happiness and love ahead! A lot of it! I don't know why the Master sent me to them last night, but I know that he did. I realized last night that I love the people of Taiwan. I really, truly, honestly, whole-heartedly love them. I want to serve them. I'm trying my best.
I have a few questions and comments before I respond to the bulk of your email:
Have you been to a HAUNTED corn maze yet? If not, please go this week.
I would love a copy of my personal priesthood lineage if that's possible.
Jacob Hogan returned home about eleven days ago. This morning I received a letter from him, from his last preparation day in the field. That was a very strange thought. He's home and likely doing very well. I miss him a ton. I think that it would be great if you could congratulate him on an honorable return. His information is likely on my Facebook page. He sent me a letter with some things that he had learned on his mission in it. He's definitely a returned missionary, full of light and happiness. That was honestly spectacular. It went way too fast as mine is going now.
I never even thought of praying for Mitt Romney. I think that's a wonderful idea though. What you said about what Mom did, was rather clever and brilliant. I'm impressed actually. Imagine a President that consults with Prophets of God. The country would be in wonderful standings. I hope that he does just that.
Thank you for your words regarding our family. I often reflect upon the influence that this gospel has made in our lives. We are blessed for the chance that He gave us. I can tell that we're trying to use it effectively as well. He knew where we needed to be. I often marvel how often the Lord extends His almighty hand to influence my simple life or the life of our family. God knows me. He knows you. I've felt, since coming out, that my life has been set up by the Lord (Shen de anpai in Chinese) and that I have a role in this eternal plan. I don't know what it is, but I tell you right now that I'm going to be on the Lord's Errand for the rest of my life. I plan to seek Him in all things, always. Thank you for reminding me.
Zone Conference was this week again. I love it. We get to see half the mission and somehow (again, probably Shen de anpai) Elder Haag who is in the North half of the mission and should not attend my Zone Conference came down to do some specialized training and I got to see him again. He's so great. I love all of the wonderful missionaries in this mission. President Bishop spoke on strengthening the ward and working with the ward in missionary work. There was a ton of great training and thoughts shared.
The temperature is getting cooler indeed. It feels great here. There's a breeze and I don't sweat as much.
I'm not going to recognize the house when I return I bet, but that's OK. The homes are so different there than here, it will be like a trip into the Twilight Zone anyway. I hope you all can come back here with me someday.
Elder Forbes and I are working. All areas are golden. We'll find some. We have a lot of investigators right now who are progressing toward baptisms, but many don't have a goal right now. We're working on that however.
My body weight? I started gaining a little in my last area (after having lost much) because my companion's dietary habits were different than previous Elders, but then began losing it again when I came here. When I left home, I was around 186 pounds (believe it or not) and now I'm in the 160s. I don't know if you can tell from pictures at all, but I have lost quite a bit. I gained weight in the MTC as well. I don't have much of a desire to put it back on.
My language skills are still progressing steadily, but nowhere near the explosion of when I first got here. I can always work harder on language. I would say that 75% of my day is in Chinese. Elder Forbes and I talk in Chenglish which is about 80% English and 20% Chinese, and then everything outside plus lessons is in Chinese. It's really a wonderful language.
I just want to express how much I love you all. I pray for you nightly. I pray for your safety, happiness, success, and spiritual welfare. I know that the Lord is blessing your lives and influencing them for the better. Keep working for the Kingdom.