Preaching the Gospel in Taiwan

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baptism is still sweeter than being a District Leader

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, Belle, and Coffee,

Well, it's the beginning of a new Move-Call here in the Taiwan Taizhong mission.  When the Move-Call comes many missionaries get very excited as to where they will move, who their new companion will be and so on and so forth.  I don't typically get very involved, and even less so knowing that I would likely be with Elder Magnuson for another Move-Call.  Most people stay in one area for 3-4 Move-Calls.  I having been here for three, assumed I would be here for another and considering the odd circumstances in which Elder Magnuson came in the first place, the assumption seemed more and more accurate.  Well, I was right.  I'm still here in Nanzi and thank heavens.  I love it here.  Nanzi is the promised land.  We have many investigators that are primed for baptism and we're doing our best to work them to that point.  Speaking of baptism, we baptized last night.  He's a great young man who loves the Lord.  His scriptures are already well marked as he daily studies them.  He's phenomenal.  I want him to go on a mission. Elder Magnuson is excited to be here as well.  We're going to keep working and working until we can't work any longer.  I hope I don't only have six weeks left, but the pattern says I do.  It's never set in stone though.

A young man in our ward just got back from his mission two days ago.  That's a bizarre feeling to say the least.  Things are so normal as soon as you return.  He was in regular clothes doing regular things.  He even had his own cell phone. I don't want to go home.  He said on the train ride home he didn't have his tag on because he had just been released.  He said he felt naked with out it.  I never want to take this tag off.  I want to feel more different than I think I will feel at that time.  It's a scary thought to me that I can't articulate very well.  I feel so not normal, and I love it.  I don't want to feel normal.  I need to change more so that I will never feel normal again.  I still feel young on my mission, but it must not feel that way for you?  Elder Jensen is even coming home soon.  Why is time moving so fast?  I can't help enough people fast enough.  I feel like I'm trying to catch smoke that keeps traveling faster and faster. 

I can't believe the weather in Utah right now.  I'm happy to be here.  The weather is actually warming up a bit already.  I never feel uncomfortable in short sleeves anymore.  There were only a handful of days and mornings were I did.  Right now is great and the weather just keeps on improving.  I don't really care for the cold.  Hopefully next Winter in Utah won't be like that.  I don't really want that to be my first impression of returned life.  It's already going to be intensely difficult.

That's a little crazy about Dad's work.  I hope things go smoothly and it's not causing too many headaches.  You all work so hard, and I admire your diligence in all aspects of life.

Church begins at 1:00p.m.?  That's pretty crazy.  It has been beginning at 9:00a.m. for a long time for me.  The church is much smaller here in Taiwan so there are very few places were there are multiple wards in the same building.  I had it once in my second area and what they did is had church backwards and began at 8:30a.m.  I don't think I would mind when church is no matter what anymore.  My outlook on the Sabbath Day is totally different.  The entire day is the Lord's so there is no start and stop time on it.  I plan to be in my church clothes all day and to be studying and working to help others.  I don't want to feel like my Sabbath ends when church and home teaching do.  I felt like that's how I used to be a bit.  I don't intend to do that anymore.  The Lord gets 24 uninterrupted hours of my time and attention.  That's the very least I can do.

The dogs sound like a hoot.  I need more pictures.  The house, I feel, will look dramatically different upon my return.  I'm excited for the prospect of all the changes, but of course I am a very nostalgic person.  I'm much more accustomed to change now though, considering things often change for a missionary and it is always at unexpected times.  My perspective has changed from holding on to the good of past to constantly improving to a seemingly unattainable future.  Things need to be improving or they are digressing.  That's how I view myself, the church, etc.  If we're not working toward something that stretches us, our minds, our reach, etc, what on earth are we doing?  We need to be growing and developing.  That's what God wants us to do, so let's get to work.

It's true.  I have much less than a year left.  My time grows very short.  I don't know how mom could say it hasn't flown by, because when I return it may feel like it never happened.  I pray that you all will see a change in me that is undeniable.  That pre-mission Elder Woolsey and post-mission Elder Woolsey are the same vessel, but not the same person.  I just want to be an instrument in the Lord's hand, constantly on His errand.  The time is far spent, there is little remaining.  Any thoughts?  How can I work harder and change more?  I've read Elder Bednar once say that we are like electrical conductor cables.  We must constantly try to be as pure as possible so that the electricity (or Spirit) can course through us uninhibited.  I feel like constant improvement is how we do this.

Thank you again for such a wonderful email.  I love you all so much.  You are the greatest family anyone can ever ask for.  I just apologize that it took me this long to open my eyes this wide to appreciate you this much.  I know that what I am doing is right.  I know that what you are doing is as well.  This is the Lord's work so let's take an active part in it, shall we?

- Elder Woolsey

Friday, January 25, 2013

Old Friends

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, Belle, and Coffee,

This last week was Zone Conference.  This is my fourth Zone Conference on island and it was incredibly great.  President Bishop completely removed standards of excellence (goals for lessons, finding, etc.) and instead has been focusing on personal testimonies.  The entire mission is fasting together, and reading the Book of Mormon together and recording applications we find.  It's a fascinating change in the mission from a missionary's perspective.  It's similar to a Utopian Society or Zion.  If everyone is intrinsically motivated and has a powerful testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ then the mission can only improve from it. If not, it will suffer.  In order to combat this however, the focus, like I previously stated, has switched to missionary's personal testimonies.  There is a lot of division amongst missionaries as to the potential results in it, but I think it's fascinating.

I saw Elder Taylor at Zone Conference.  He seems happy with his new companion. Elder Taylor is an amazing missionary.
Utah sounds cold. It has been cold at night here.  The days are wonderful although my companion (from Florida) is always cold.  It feels like spring to me.

One more of everything?  Well.  I don't really know what to say about that.  I'm not really thinking about it too much nor do I particularly desire to.  There are still two more priesthood sessions at any rate.  My trainer's days are numbered.  He goes home in May and it's starting to affect him (not negatively.  If anything in a good way).  I saw him at Zone Conference and he mentioned his concern and his dwindling timeline.  He has so many goals to achieve and people to help before he can return.  He's such a good missionary.  He's reaching that point in which he needs to sprint to the end.

I don't know Coffee yet.  Belle is still my puppy.

Mom has a calling in the Primary?  Of this I have not yet heard.

New American Idol?  It sounds like it's not even American Idol anymore.  I doubt I'll have much interest come next year.  I'm beginning to lack interest in all entertainment whatsoever. I just want to baptize, rescue, and retain.  That's where it's at my fuzzy friends.  I feel kind of like Dad must feel toward biking.  He has this desire that others can't fully wrap their minds around.  Dad has a desire to win LOTOJA that I can't fully understand because I'm not a cyclist and I just want to baptize, rescue, and retain people.

I want to be such a good person and member when I return.  I want to do everything to build my life for the purpose of being an instrument in the hands of God.  My career, education, wife, everything, will be aligned with the church.  It needs to be.  If not, I can't be as effective as He needs me to be.  I love the gospel and the Lord, and I love you all. I would stay here forever if it weren't for you three.  I love my mission.  My mission has changed me and I pray nightly that in this last year it will change me more than the first year.  I have almost no time left.  That feeling has never left.  It's a sprint to the end and we don't just want to finish the race, actually we don't want to just win the race, we want to set a world record and collapse in exhaustion at the end of the race.  

I know that my Redeemer lives.  This sentence truly does bring comfort.  I reflected on my first few days in the MTC this past week when I hit a year and I thought of my desire to return home.  I wrote in my journal something along the lines of, "if I didn't have a testimony of the Restored Gospel, I would go home right now."  I felt inadequate and incapable my first few days but I never didn't have a testimony.  I love the Lord with all my heart and I am going to do everything I can to serve him until the end of my life.  

I love you all.  Thank you for everything you do for me.

- Elder Woolsey

Monday, January 14, 2013

Finding Joy in the Work

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, Belle, and the other

Thank you for writing such a detailed report on your happenings in Arizona.  I sure miss it down there.  I can't wait until I can see Jordan, Katie, Denise, Norman, Ray, Lori, Austin, Trace, Savannah, Jake, Holli, Grandpa, Grandma, and everyone else again.  I love them all so much and miss them incredibly so.  I hope and pray that they are all doing well and are successful.

This week I've really been trying to focus on Joy in the work.  I love working hard and doing my best, but I feel that sometimes I get so caught up in working hard that I lose sight of the actual purpose of the work and the joy found therein.  This week I had the privilege of going on two exchanges.  One with my Zone Leader: Elder Allen, and the other with Elder Erickson.  Both exchanges had the focus of finding the Joy of missionary work.  Elder Allen and I had a spiritually rewarding and physically demanding exchange:

                    As we stepped off of the Subway into my area, we realized that he did not have the bike key to my companion's bike who was now miles away in the Zone Leaders' area.  Because we had a lesson in only ten or so minutes from that time, we weighed the options and decided that the lesson was likely the most pressing matter.  In response, Elder Allen and I decided to run to it.  I'm not entirely sure how far it was and I want to avoid exaggeration wherever possible, but it felt far and it felt farther in church shoes and a tie.  Elder Allen carried his pack like a football as he ran and I luckily had a strap on mine to sling it over my shoulder.  We made it to the lesson without being too late, drenched in sweat and very tired.  The lesson, however, was great (we watched the Prodigal Son and told this less active how important he was in the eyes of the Lord).  After that we walked back and got ,my bike and walked that to the apartment where we grabbed an older bike for him to ride, at which point we rode out into our secondary area (the furthest part of one's area) and had a lesson.  Unfortunately (and fortunately I suppose), because Elder Allen had forgotten to give his companion the key to their apartment, we had to travel to their area at nine o'clock at night and didn't get there till almost ten.  We had to sleep over which was kind of fun, but also inconvenient for the following day and for the exchange itself.  Because there was so much walking and Subway travel time involved, we had a long opportunity to discuss joy in the work and not comparing missionaries, and giving everyone a chance to hear the gospel.  I felt like it was one of my most spiritually rewarding exchanges.

                   The next exchange was actually a Zone Scramble.  The stars somehow aligned and Elder Erickson (my best missionary friend from when I was being trained in Shalu but who recently moved into the Zone) and I got matched up.  We worked so hard and got so much done, but had loads of fun all along the way.  It was similar to if Elder Jensen or Elder Taylor and I got matched up for a day to do missionary work.  We had a blast in the work we did.  It was definitely one of my most fun exchanges if not the most fun exchange.  Elder Erickson is a phenomenal missionary who knows how to find joy in the work, but works incredibly hard.  I adore his example.  I imagine that you'll all get to meet him at some point, because unlike Elder Haag (my trainer and other missionary best friend) he lives in Alpine, Utah and not California).  That being said, I imagine that both of these outstanding missionaries will be at my homecoming someday.

As these exchanges commenced and I conducted personal study this morning, I began to realize how much joy I was already having in the work and how joy comes not from just being hard working, but counting your blessings and pondering on the great moments.  I counted some of my blessings this morning and felt great afterward.  It was like a sudden cure to my problems in a way, I felt that good.  I plan to do it for a couple of moments each day, writing down those blessings in my planner.  I encourage you all to do the same!  What a great feeling knowing that the Lord is watching out for you and recognizing it!

Also, last Monday we had a pizza party with the other Elders and their investigator (the pizzas being provided by the incredible Brother Good, an outstanding man to say the very least.  This man's goodness is seriously beyond me).  We watched the Testaments in Chinese and had a great time eating extra cheesy pepperoni pizza. 

Yesterday, the man we baptized a week ago was confirmed.  I don't say this to be prideful in anyway, but to share a story with you.  After his confirmation and his partaking of the sacrament, I noticed (as I was sitting next to him) that he was praying very intently.  As he continued to pray, silent tears streamed down his face.  I have no idea what he was feeling or experiences at that time because he never made mention of it to me later, but I know that he was feeling the spirit and the power and comfort that true repentance brings.  In that moment he was entirely clean.  Later that day, I saw him pay his tithing and ask me, "can thirty and forty year old's still serve missions?"  He unfortunately is 32 (as of today),  but he's a wonderful man who has become a disciple of Christ.  I have very, very, high hopes for this man's success as a member of this church.

Oh yes, and on Thursday, I had a full body scan (sort of) with this strange device that a member had.  I just grasped this rod attached to a very expensive looking machine and place it over my heart and input some other information like height and weight and such.  It checks many of your vitals and other things.  Granted, I haven't a clue at the accuracy of this machine, but it tells you if you are overweight, your vitals, low or high in certain vitamins and minerals, bone health, skin health, etc.  Except for my skin, I'm really, really, healthy.  I'm far from overweight, and my bones are stronger than every other missionary he's seen (according to him it's because missionaries drink too much milk and I don't drink as much so my bones are better.  You would think it would be the opposite, but apparently there's a lot of new research about milk intake and the impact on bone structure.  He said there's a  video by the son of the founder of 31 Flavors ice-cream.  It's apparently free online so you should check it out).  Like I said, the accuracy of this machine is sketchy, but it seems as though I'm healthy.  The man who did this actually bought us dinner as well that night.  He's a great member who loves the missionaries.  He wants to do something next week on preparation day as well, so I hope that works out and I'll keep you all updated as time goes on.

I don't know if all of my stories and things seem boring or not, but that's a basic summary of what's happened here in the previous week.  I love my mission.  I love the gospel.  I know that my Savior is alive today and through His holy atonement we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. 

I'm sorry that the trip to Arizona was bittersweet.  I wish I could have been there with you all, but right now I don't want to be anywhere else.  You're the best family anyone could ever ask for.  I love you and pray for you nightly.  It's hard to hear things about Grandma and Grandpa and not be torn up inside knowing I can't do anything about it, but thank you for the updates.  The bomb check sounds hilarious and the de-icing sounds incredibly cool, but my imagination is likely running wild on that one.  I'm imagining quite the Star-Wars relation.

Love you all,

Elder Woolsey

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Melancholy Christmas of Miracles

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, Belle, and Ewok (my name for him),
That title better not get any longer by the time I get home.  More than five names and I might have to start dropping names off...probably Eric first.  

This was quite the week for me and Elder Magnuson.  We had many
many incredible miracles that really helped me know for a fact that the Lord not only answers prayers but protects His missionaries from danger and injustices.  

A long-term investigator finally determined that he desires baptism which was very exciting.  More news on that next week probably.

I'm so happy that you all had a wonderful Christmas.  It sounds like some of those presents will bring a lot of excitement and pleasure.  I entreat you all to not forget those who are in need!  There are some that require your service even now that Christmas is over and I encourage you all to continue to find ways that you can serve the poor and needy!

Christmas was hard for me, but I feel like "I get it" now.  

The new dog looks like and
Ewok or a Wookie.  I vote one of those two names.  Coffee is too...telestial for my taste (pun likely intended).  He's super cute though.  He looks so tiny compared to Belle which is saying something!

I'm happy that you all enjoyed the package.  It wasn't much, but I hope it was a little something that you all could enjoy.  The pictures get more and more becoming of me as I get more mature in mission terms.  Some of the earlier ones are likely painful to look at I would imagine.  I always loved pictures from Eric, so I bet that's the best part.

I can't believe that Nate comes home that early.  It's almost here.  I can't quite wrap my mind around it.  Time is going at warp speed. I nearly cry every time that I read that scripture in Jacob.  I always feel as though my time here has never been long enough.  I only have 9 more move-calls.  That's nothing.  I'm all but half way.  Count downs go so much faster than count ups.  I fear going home.  I don't think I've changed enough.  I'm not a man yet.  I'm not a leader yet.  My testimony's not strong enough.  I feel like I should feel more accomplished, but I feel inadequate.  I'm afraid to show myself in fear that the finished product isn't worthwhile.  I tell you right now, though, I am going to do everything within my power to improve before I get back.  I need to change.  I must "wage an all out war against Satan."

Football sounds great and so does basketball.  An investigator recently gave me a huge poster of Steve Nash in a Lakers jersey.  Although it triggers my gag reflex, I sure do love Steve Nash.

I don't know if I have a lot more to say, but I love you all.  Thank you for doing everything you could to make my Christmas the best it could be.  I'll send some pictures through email next week.  I forgot my cord this week.  I'm thankful for your lovely examples and firmness in the truth.  Keep doing your best and never let up.  I love you all so very much.  Don't miss me.  I'll be there too soon.

- Elder Woolsey