Monday, December 30, 2013

Week 27

Thank you so much for getting all the pictures from my “homies” Great to know I’m in their thoughts at Christmas!

"a river runs through it"
Skype worked! Yea! Kind of an empty interesting feeling afterward, but once I got back into doing all the work we have here all I could remember was that I was lucky enough to see all of you and talk to all of you.  Something that surprises me - I hate doing nothing…One day we had some down time and I just knew I needed to be doing something, before I knew it, I was actually shaking I was so uncomfortable not doing anything.

The Taiwan member that let me use his laptop to communicate with you is Zhu Di Xiong.  He just came back from his mission. He is super nice and a strong member. I know you guys want to send him something to say thanks and I tried to hit him up and see if there is anything he would want from the USA, but he caught on pretty quick to what I was doing and shied away…I'll think of something.

So you guys overheard me talking with Zhu and you were impressed with my language skills - that’s only because he speaks really slow so I can keep up : ) Yes the language is...still coming. But I think about where I was 6 months ago, and well its improving so that is the goal right?

This week was certainly interesting. Our English class is down to just a few people and our service projects have slowed way down too - so I guess we have lots of time trying to find people. Anyways we still are working very hard.  I seem to have a collection of badges now...changes in the format throughout the mission...I prefer the bi-lingual ones at the top and I think these are the ones we'll stick with.

The next time I email I will be in my 4th transfer on island. Time is really flying. It does go by faster the more you do the work though.

I hope the trip to the temple goes well! Thank you for selling my motorcycle and transferring me the money for all the rest of my unused dongxi (stuff) that you sold.

I hope you all have an absolutely amazing New Year and set good New Year’s goals!! Have an amazing week!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week 25

Elder Dickson's Ward family back home sent him some Christmas wishes!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week 24

Thanks for the picture of the snow you're having at home...snow...I miss snow...though it is still warm here so I can't really complain...still not sure how calling home at Christmas works. President Day is his weekly letter sent out a statement about all the rules, but not how it works. I'm sure he'll explain when we are at our Christmas party.

Yes "Lee Meow" is how Miaoli sounds - thanks for setting the bar higher! I haven't heard of the  flying cow ranch, but I'll ask around.
The Western Side Is Still Tropical

Really neat that NHK news reported on Taidong last week. Taidong does have a lot of yuan zhu min (native) people there. They are pretty cool, kind of strange clothes, amazing rituals, some of the folks there are really scary and carry pointy sticks and knives everywhere they go. Their food is a lot like Hawaiian food.

I'm glad the sister missionaries are really hitting you up. As a missionary let me warn you, if you give a missionary an inch they will include you in everything they do - well a lot of them will.

Early November was a rather rough time for me. Everything was going wrong and yeah one day I just had a total break-down. The letter I sent was from the beginning of that day, so yeah I am much better now, so have no worries. Yes the blessed wonderful miraculous ever spectacular talent show is pending for December I hope you could feel the sarcasm from that : ) Luckily you have to sign up and Sister Day is the one in charge so she'll make sure it is strict and to the rules, so there won't be any crazy surprises. As far as Sunday pasta day goes - I don't cook for everyone in my new area - yet.

This week was kind of the same as always. Like I hope you realize how much everyday feels the same. I think that is the most frustrating part in missionary work is the feeling that I am reliving a day over and over again. All that and it feels like nothing is even happening. This coming week should be busy though. Lots of meetings
Elder Dickson with President and Sister Day
and conferences and stuff - a little ironic cause all the meetings are about improving to be better missionaries!  I am using this time to learn what I can, see what works and what doesn't, so when I am running the show, it'll well run.

This past week, just lots and lots of finding. lots of talking to people, which I still am getting used to. I live with three other people, and having another person around me at all times...well lets just say I have been trying to create moments where I at least feel alone, but nothing works so far.

Here is a list of movies I wish I could watch but can't:
A Christmas story
Its a wonderful life
The Grinch
The Santa Clause
Jingle all the way

I hope you all enjoy these and be sure to watch them for me. I miss you all and love you all lots. Hope you have a good week!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 23

Sorry I forgot to bring my camera to the internet café' this morning...haha long story of a sleepy companion, and me forgetting from being tired of waking up all night thinking I was going to vomit (no worries I didn't, just an over zealous Sister in the ward made us way too much food, and every time we would stop eating she would say (hai mei chi wan le!) meaning there was still food there to eat. oh man I felt so so sick...)

New Chapel

Miao li is as far west and south as you can get from Taipei, so once again I have to wait for someone to be going to the mission office so they can bring back our mail. Two people went the beginning of this week, so I guess your packages haven't come yet. I will get to go to the office on the 14th, so at the latest that is when I will get them. Thank you so much for sending whatever are in the boxes through! Chocolate here is really expensive, and after moving all my stuff and myself - I think I traveled as far possible in the mission - it cost a lot of money for trains and transfers, plus I like to save my money for haha

Oh man I miss Christmas so much! Its actually pretty chilly here right now though - well like 50 degrees, but super wet and super windy - doesn't add up to happy missionaries or happy Taiwanese. I really wish I could watch Christmas movies though - no one here celebrates Christmas - even the members are like "eh" about it. I'll send pictures of everything soon, as far as pictures of the apartment I don't know if I can, just like I'm not allowed to tell you the address. I'll find out.

Glad to hear lots of people are over for Thanksgiving! My Thanksgiving was....well non-existent as most USA holidays are here. So I know how Jillian must feel as she celebrated while working in the hospital. I miss watching TV though, so just remember that I haven't done it in two years when I get back, so I have an excuse to watch a lot - and sleep. I don't feel like I have gotten a good nights rest in 5 months. Crazy I passed the 5 month mark on my mission, and have been in Taiwan for over 3 months - absolutely nuts how fast time goes - trying to make the Lord's time count so I'm still focused.
New ovens?! I just learned how to use the old ones! But if you are buying new appliances for the house I don't imagine you all are moving anytime soon, so it works for me. As far as the office, I can use it! in 1 year and 7 months haha

Interesting that you guys get NHK News there and as far as the Taiwan special reports that you mentioned, remember what they show you....and then remember I am also on a missionary budget. So when I get back home like everything is going to be super nice. USA has a waaaaay higher than average standard of living. Though like every single person here has iPhones - even if they don't have running water - so I guess that was their choice. I hope my family will all come back and visit after I return and I can show you all around, don't worry though, it isn't too gross as long as you BYO-TP.
Miao Li (Lee Meow)

Companionship is working great. My companions last companion and he didn't really get along - so right now we are weeding through lots of stuff that kinda slipped through the cracks because they were dealing with that. Elder Chen thinks he is going to leave after this transfer which would mean I'd have to know the place pretty well. But still working hard! so have no worries!

Miss you all and love you all much! Let me know if you have any questions!
Oh also thank you for the long underwear - that totally saved me this past week!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 22

I was shipped off elsewhere, I'll let you make your guesses! I'll give you a hint, I'm not on the east coast anymore, so that rules out Hualian and Yuli.  I'm as far west and south in the mission.

I am in.....

Miao Li! sat on a train for like 8-9 hours and am literally right on the border of the Taizhong mission. I joke that President Day doesn't want to see me, so he keeps sending me to the outskirts of the mission, that or I am secretly a Taizhong missionary.
I already love it here though! the members are super nice! One of them has the same last name (Chinese) as me! My mission given name is super rare so that is really cool to have another Ding in my home ward.

Our branch had a thanksgiving day party in Taidong right before transfers. I don't know why but we seem to celebrate holidays like 5 weeks early, so yeah I have been super confused, plus the weather doesn't change here, so it is really throwing me off.

Monkey See...
Had some turkey and they also had mashed potatoes. I am definitely missing the US every time we try to celebrate our holidays.

My new companion is Elder Weng! He is an ABC from wild and wonderful West Virginia! pretty cool! Morgantown to be specific! Make sure to tell Grammy.

There are a total of 4 Elders in our apartment. Its waaaaay nicer than the one we had in Taidong.  The area has more city stuff like one way streets and many more people to talk with.

Hope you guys are really giving thanks this week - I am!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 21

Battle Scars
I crashed on my bike pretty bad this week! I'm OK just some scrapes and bruises. My bike tried to change gears on me while I was standing up to pedal harder, it like skipped and jumped through a couple of gear changes and I lost complete balance and went down.  I'm fine and no cars nearby but maybe another reason to pray for me to stay in Taidong, or at least not to transfer to super busy Taipei.

Wow! It’s amazing to think that I have been in Taiwan for what is quickly approaching 3 months! I feel like I just got here, and at the same time like I have been here forever very hard to describe.

The photo of the plunger is because our kitchen flooded this past week.  So I had to ‘borrow’ it from the church building as our apartment doesn’t have one. Our apartment has so much charm, it’s the only residence in the mission with 6 elders, and I really love it - yet another reason not wanting to leave.

Sister Day's Gift to our District
Interviews happened this past week with President and Sister Day and they were great! With Sister Day we just pretty much talk about how I am health wise and how my family is, and making sure you all are communicating with me ha! - You guys better keep up on your emails, letters, and packages - I hear she can really get after those who don’t write their missionaries. Sister Day gave our whole district very thoughtful gifts - picture enclosed.

When meeting with President Day however we talk about the goals I have set for myself and discuss them. Then he helps set new ones or adjust the ones I had. During the interview we were talking about Taidong, and I said "I really do love Taidong", he chuckled and said "Yes, Taidong is a great place", then twisted his head a bit got a wicked smile and said "but you won’t be in Taidong forever Elder Dickson".  Puzzled I inquired "will I be here next transfer?” he paused and just let it hang in the air. After what seemed like a minute of dead silence he said "well move calls go out Wednesday, so if you get one you get one, and if you don’t, you don’t need to worry about it".

Dad attending 12 primary programs sounds like he now knows all the songs by heart.  Speaking of primary program - we had ours here this past week.  Just letting you know the church is true, because it’s the same everywhere, especially primary.  Don’t have to speak Mandarin to pick up what the music and the youth talks were getting across. It was really adorable and made me miss all the primary programs I made it through back home.

Our Newest Member
In other news, we had a baptism this week!!! Our newest Brother is super cool. His mom is a member, but his Dad is not - we’re working on that.  Super nice family! The baptism was a little crazy though. His Mom was crying and we had to share the baptismal service with the other branch, I had to say the ordinance a second time because hey it’s my second language and I was a little nervous.   He was super hungry so he kept sneaking off to eat super messy curry AFTER HE WAS IN HIS WHITE clothing, and after getting baptized he tried to swim in the font - it was a little hectic but hey he and his family are really committed to the gospel.

Love you all and miss you all so very much! Hope you all have a great week, and be sure to pray for me that I get to stay in Taidong and upright on my bike.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 20

I am glad you two are keeping busy! Empty Nesters - sounds a little creepy - personally I didn’t care for the group FHE’s at school and that’s what it sounds like to me.

So happy that Catoctin Ward finally has sister missionaries - they are always special. You should really try to do what they say!

The work here and what you have been reading, well yup pretty much true.  Way cool that a Taiwan RM came and spoke to the High Council this week and I have seen the scroll picture on the life of a convert that he showed you - it is a cool picture, and I always loved it.

Camilla’s mission call! I already knew. Her email didn’t send right away though, so I had to wait for it before reading anyone else’s email because I knew everyone else would tell me (as if I don’t email her), so that’s why I was late in sending you all an email. Camilla’s call is super great and I am incredibly psyched for her! It looks like she'll get back like a month and a half after me, but that may mean she may get back too late to make it to the fall semester at BYUH, but we have time to figure that out…

Snail Trail Up My Pant Leg : (
This week was harder than most. We didn’t meet any of our goals. All of our people from the tsunami are no longer meeting with us so it’s pretty much constant rejection. It was crazy hard to stay positive this week, however I really love to look at the things the numbers don’t tell. One of my favorite members (who I guess doesn’t count as a less active anymore : ) is receiving the Aaronic priesthood, and one of our investigators actually passed their baptismal interview so there is good but still an amazingly hard week.

Crazy thought though that I might be leaving Taidong soon but only the Lord knows, but still this is all I know of missionary life in the field and I’ve come to really love the people we work with.  The picture with the ‘snail trail’ is after an impromptu service project we worked on, and I think he was hitching a ride because it was too wet for him as well.  The other photo is from a place called Sam’s Burger. The one I ordered is called the "Big Hungry Now" it is three beef patties and six strips of bacon - yes my pants still fit!
Sam's Burgers - Triple with Bacon!

Thanks for always asking if I need anything. My shoes should be good for a bit longer. Probably will make a great birthday present though! I told Jillian about an herbal tea (dong gua cha) which won’t be too hard to send back home so that and the scroll - I’ll see what I can do.
The members think Elder Allred is leaving after this transfer, and they love him to death, so they (and very nice of them) keep taking us missionaries places on pday, which are actually really fun, but that means I'll have less time to get this stuff, but I will try - just don’t be too bummed if it gets there later than Christmas!
Taidong is honestly looking up, and hopefully lots of people we can teach coming up!

We too are hoping for a white Christmas - because we believe!  Love Elder Dickson.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 19

Hi Jiātíng!

We didn't even feel the earthquake, so you’re email asking if we are OK is the first I heard of it.

Crinkle Cookies Recipe Worked!

The missionary tsunami was somewhat successful. Through all our work we taught five new potential followers of Christ! A lesson for us means a face to face discussion with someone who is unfamiliar with the Gospel and usually has an opening and closing prayer and some kind of spiritual discussion - typically starts with families and how we are all His children.  So far we have only one person out of those 5 who actually met with us on the day we set-up after our first meeting. Judging from the other companionships this sounds like it was the about the average.

So we had four additional missionaries with us during the tsunami this week - so if you’re keeping track that means 10 teenage young men in our 4 person apartment, including one of President Day’s assistants. The whole time they were with us they kept discussing how much different Taidong is for doing missionary work compared to the ‘big’ city areas farther north.  This actually
Finished Paint Job
made me feel a little better, as I often feel I haven’t had too much success here the past 2 months.

Some of my concerns are that every Sunday I look to see how many people attend sacrament services and honestly I have been thinking, especially as I do more prayers and reflections, that we should be focused more on strengthening our existing members.  To help make my case - an example - one of our less active members has, for about the past month, been coming to church regularly, attending all the meetings, connecting with the full time missionaries, and helping us teach and go on splits when we have these extra lessons.  He told us this Sunday he now has his interview to receive the Aaronic priesthood. There is one other new priesthood holder who is on the path to becoming a Melchizdek priesthood holder.  I believe that is really to the key to everything in "building" the kingdom and expanding the faith and blessings of the people in this area. Of course what I am writing is probably all xie du (blaspheme), but these are just my thoughts.  The branch technically has over 200 members but only around 50 come on the Sabbath so this is why I feel we should really be focused on strengthening from within.

In other news, I have a pretty bad sore throat, and am trying to cope with that now, while speaking Chinese - a little more challenging and pretty interesting sounding like a frog, but hey now I kind of sound like everyone else!

Soaking Wet - All Day - But Still Smiling
The weather report you quoted was very accurate - it has rained here - downpour almost every day this past week.  All the rain and being wet all day doesn’t help with the sore throat. Other than weather challenges nothing really new here somewhat feels like the same day over and over again, especially with the rejection and resistance in all things Christ. Feels like I rarely get anything done, but it’s where I am supposed to be so I'll just keep going.

Certainly glad to hear about Luc Besson - kind of cool that he is shooting a movie here and if you are correct the movie’s release date will coincide with my release - so maybe I can sit in a warm and dry movie theatre and watch Taiwan on the big screen when I return.

I've been asking all the members here their opinion about where I could do my best work in helping the Church to grow and they all think I'm leaving this next transfer and will head up to Taipei - not sure if that means they want me to go or they really think that is where I can magnify my efforts.  Taipei - who knows, but I guess I will in about 2-3 weeks where I am to be working and who my new companion will be.

Hope everything back home is good, and just think of me at Thanksgiving, with no mashed potatoes, or cheese.  Our local ward is trying to do a thanksgiving party - everyone here seems to love US culture, but the food is always Asian based - always - so I hope to experience Thanksgiving like in the movie “A Christmas Story” - and hope the “turkey” is not smiling at me : )

At least there is always hope...Love you all and miss you all lots.

P.S. You asked what you could send me - does chocolate count as necessity? Pretty sure mom thinks it anything chocolate would be great!  You also asked why my bike looks so horrible - it’s supposed to look horrible so it doesn’t get stolen!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 18

Happy to hear nothing has changed back home! Yes prayers are always appreciated! Thanks for asking.

I missed the pool closing! Believe it or not it’s actually getting cold here…well like rainy, crazy wind and only in the upper 60's and low 70's, but you know me, I could "freeze up on the middle of the equator". I do miss actual fall though and all the good food. And yes I have been thinking about what I am supposed to learn instead of woe is me. Sometimes I can step-back and look at how much I have grown already, and realize the Lord definitely knows what he is doing. I hope Jillian’s birthday was fun! Grammy sounds the same - I’m happy that she is getting along without her best friend for now - we all know that they'll be together forever!

Please don’t be to weirded-out if I am super cheap when I get back home! I’m on a missionary budget, in Taiwan where you can eat 3 BIG meals for under 200 kuai, little over 6$. This place is brother Nixon’s paradise. Everyone rides scooters, everything is super cheap, except dairy, but he is lactose intolerant so he's set.

Ha ha it’s so cute that you all think I know stuff about how a skype call to home will work at Christmas already. I doubt if I'll even know Christmas Eve - It'll work though! I'll just ask my companion, whoever it is at the time. Never fear though, I live with the zone leaders so I can just hit them up with questions as I am still am in Taidong.
On-the-rocks - for Pday

So crazy things happened this week. Remember in the movie Waterboy, when the coach starts making crazy plays? And he has that one where basically everyone becomes a receiver except the quarterback? President Day has just called that play… We got a text last Thursday saying that President Day would be sending 28 missionaries from other parts of the mission to Hualian and Taidong. Meaning we will have 14 extra missionaries this next week in Taidong, for what he is calling a "missionary tsunami" and power finding activity this week. Literally all everyone will do is wake up, eat, go out and find all day each day. He's never done anything like this before, but what he wants is us to reach our goal of 100 new members by the end of the year in each branch. So I suggested we get every available power on our side and start with a fast. Crazy miracles are already happening. We had one young man show up to church and we found out he wasn’t a member but some of his family is, so we set a date, and are now meeting with him. Elder Sullivan and Elder Keime had their first new member down in Taidong last night, and the boys entire family came uncles, aunts, ama's and agongs too! (grandma and grandpa). We also had the thought after meeting with the boy - what other families are we missing here in Taidong? We thought of all the families who are part member families where the husband/father are not members. If we tried to start meeting with them we could have lessons in their homes where the Spirit is super strong. We would have instant friends in the church that would be willing to work with them, not to mention when they become members they'll at some point become priesthood holders, which would not only strengthen their family, but strengthen the branch, and allow it grow like President Day wants. So that is our plan and we hope and pray it works.

That View!

Also today I have cake mix. What is the recipe for my favorite cake mix crinkle cookies? Can you send it to me?  Can you believe I have been gone for over 4 months now?

I’m done with phase one training so I was able to start learning other vocabulary. It feels like the heavens have opened - I'm already understanding more I hear, and I have only learned 35 new words so far.

Hope Mom is getting ready for the Halloween dinner - be sure to send pictures next week!

Hope all is well and that you are all healthy too! I miss you all and love you all very much!

Elder Dickson

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 17

Another interesting week has gone by. I use interesting cause it is really hard to describe. I have never hated and loved something at the same time this much before.

"Pimp my Ride"
The people we have been working with are well... losing interest or just disappearing, which is frustrating to say the least. Even more frustrating, because my companion is the district leader he has to do all the interviews, which means every time another companionship gets a new member we know about it, we know about all of them, and it’s frustrating as we have none. You really start to wonder if you are doing anything wrong, or what you are doing wrong, or if you have done anything to prevent you from feeling like you are helping people. You really question is this the mission experience you are supposed to have, or is this what is telling you there is something you need to change to have the experience you are supposed to have. I feel a little “bipolar”. My attitude changes so fast, and when people said you would have ups and downs I thought they meant periods of time like a couple days, but it feels like I switch back between moods more than a woman in her 2nd trimester.

However one thing that I love about Taidong are the members! - that is the few that will talk to me - If you don't have really good Chinese language skills (mine are so-so) they kinda just smile politely, say thank you, and talk to someone else. Also when I answer the phone in our apartment, and I tell them it’s Elder Dickson, there is always a pause followed by, Is Elder Allred there? Though there are a few who are the best. First is ZJM - she loves missionaries, and always wants to help us. She makes
"my little Brother"
 us dinner a lot, and always is willing to help out pei ke (member present lesson). This past week she made us Italian food. It was so good. I ate so much. Next awesome spirit is J.  J is always trying to help the missionaries, and really does like us. He always gives us rides and is a lot of fun to work with. Both of these great people used to be a less active, and now they are some of the stronger if not strongest members here, keeping our branch afloat. Imagine what it would be like if we strove to bring back all the folks that were following the light and help them become actively engaged in His church again. Just something I have been thinking of.

The time finally came. I painted my bike! As some of my bike was already silver, I first made it solid silver, and I added some green. I felt like such a hood rat spray painting a bike. It was fun though, and if it looks bad, well it's supposed to so no one steals it! (I secretly really like it though).

Sunday Spaghetti Dinner
Also something I have been doing for the past few Sundays now is carrying our family tradition of spaghetti Sunday! I make spaghetti for the 6 elders in our apartment. I know mom is probably reading that with her jaw on the floor, but it’s true. I have pictures of everyone eating! It’s actually really fun, and I like doing it. But it really started to make me think about home, and all the meals mom cooked for me all the time, especially when I didn’t like something and she would make something special just for me. I don’t think I ever really took the time to really express thank you, because I feel like I understand more now with cooking food for others. So really thank you so much.  It think I'll continue this tradition no matter where I serve next.
Also I cut my hair last night! Well Elder Sullivan did. It was fun! Then I had to cut his! Really scary! But all turned out well! No one is hurt or looks ridiculous!
Other than all this, it has been the same as always. It’s weird to think though that this week I hit the 4 months on my mission mark. Does it seem like I have been gone for 4 months? That means I am 1/6 over my mission, that’s super scary to think about as there is so much we want to do for the people we serve here in Taidong. It’s even weirder to think that in less than 5 weeks I will have a new companion, and might not even be in Taidong! Oh well come what may, I am just excited for what the future holds. Love you and miss you all very much! Let me know what’s going on at home!

Love - from your Elder - Dickson

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week 16

This week was certainly interesting. We had a lot of meetings - zone conference, English class party, and other meetings so I didn’t feel like a fully productive missionary.
You mentioned in your email that you thought of me when the Chinese space station saved Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity - sounds interesting - wonder how she read Chinese - I don’t worry about that yet as I don’t have to learn Chinese characters until phase 3 and I'm still on phase 1, but not for long! Phase one is all about learning all the stuff needed to teach the 5 lessons in Preach My Gospel, but that means all of your vocabulary and everything you can say is gospel related. Phase two is all vocabulary and sayings that are not gospel related, so I'm excited to get there so I can actually like speak Chinese. Right now I’m almost done with lesson four! Also no worries about me training too soon, President Day literally came out and told our generation that there are no new missionaries coming for the next two transfers so we would not be “blessed” having to be a  trainer right after being trained - so I can stop sweating.

Hey first transfer is come and gone - that was fast! That means I only have 15 left! Wow the time is flying by, yes the days feel like eternity, but overall it is really going by fast.

Thanks for sending our Halloween costumes
We have 16 transfers on the island, so that means I have 15 transfers left, 88 weeks, 20 fast Sundays, or 3 more general conferences. My time here is so short!!!

I have no crazy needs right now as I got my packages from you guys. The Little Debbie fudge rounds cakes you sent lasted like 20 minutes! Whenever the next package is, and feel no rush to send it, well I just hope there are more of those! Wow I miss those things, or just chocolate and American food. I actually have a list of foods I have to get when I get back, and it grows daily ; )
We also had our English class activity, which was a Halloween party! It was a little early for Halloween but still fun! Our job was bobbing for apples and donut eating. I'm not sending the
Trick-or-Treat in Taiwan
pictures of the members doing it because you don’t know them and it would be embarrassing for them if you posted it on the blog. The only ones of me are videos so you'll just have to wait until I switch data cards but in the end we got the kids to go trick or treating and it was really fun - Though my idea to be the door that hands out toothbrushes was rejected.

Tree Ear - Mushrooms
I hope you are all getting ready for Halloween! I’ll even admit I miss the Halloween feast were Mom cooks all that creepy food and who knows, maybe after 2 years in Taiwan I will have actually eaten some of the stuff you "make-up" for real.  We were at a member’s house and they made us this stuff that translates into "tree ear" - you have to boil it for like a day before it is edible. Weirdest thing I have eaten to date. We showed up and apparently I eat really fast, so they think I didn’t have enough to eat, but it’s just because I can't talk and eat at the same time.  So Elder Russell (my companion for the evening) told our host that I am too skinny and our host gave me a very large second helping of rice with this stew stuff. I ate so much I felt like I was going to explode but I ate all of it - didn’t want to be rude. After that I had two cups of the tree ear janx, and my tummy was not a happy camper. Then that night we rode out to Zhiben, which is like a 30 minute bike ride.  We met a member and she invited us to their house. There she insisted (I have literally had other people put their chopsticks' in my mouth to make me try and eat stuff) that I eat chou dou fu (stinky tofu) (again) and that put me over the edge. I am very thankful for a companion who is patient to wait while I had to use the bathroom all the time for the next two days. I felt like Kent Mansley from the movie Iron Giant.
Kent Mansley

Oh we also finally got to watch conference! I hope you all noticed how much of the topics were about missionary work and how members need to work with missionaries? Well start helping out! There was a challenge to invite someone by Christmas to church and well I'm going to encourage both of you to do it! I'll be checking up, so be sure to! Who knows what will happen!

Hope all is well back home! Miss you and love you all so very much!  Your Elder Dickson

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 15

It’s good to hear that Poppy's party was well attended - I know where he is and he probably laughed the whole time.

I can't believe I only have 89 weeks left - that seems waaaay too little left...

"D&C 4:4"
 This past week was probably the hardest and best at the same time. I have found that is usually how it is. We met some really cool people, one named J** who looks like Vin Diesel. He is really amazing! We were sharing the first vision with him and most people just kind of nod and grunt when you share it - a lucky few will have questions. J** after hearing it was able to have a full-on discussion, thoughts, and insights. Also most people when they pray for the first time just say "heavenly father" wait for like 30 seconds and then say "in the name of Jesus Christ amen", but he actually really poured his heart into it, and well prayed better than I could. It was really cool. Also our one investigator Brother H** has changed spiritually a lot. He actually reads the Book of Mormon without us reminding him all the time. He was really super Buddhist when we first met him, and would always bring up his beliefs when we taught anything Christian and
"My Sweet Ride"
compared them to what he believed in. This week however, instead of that, he just asked more questions about what we were teaching, especially the atonement (which is super fun trying to explain in Chinese). However, due to church building being like three hours away none of our investigators wanting to go that far (who can blame them) none of the people we have been working with will make their date for this Saturday, and that leaves only with one investigator with a baptismal date. Also in other bittersweet news, our zone leader is leaving us, and one of the Sisters will also be going as the one she is done with the phased training. But the good news is, is that Elder Teshima will be trainer so were all excited for him to be dad! (When you train you are the dad and the trainees are their son).

Also this week is a little frustrating because we have no time. Yesterday was our outdoor zone
Zone Conference
conference which was great, but it took like almost all day. Today is pday which also takes up a lot of our time. Tomorrow we have a zone meeting, then practice teaching, and then our English class party, which means the 
The trail to Zone Conference
day is completely booked. Thursday is our only open day. Friday has our weekly planning session which is like 3 hours, and when you don’t leave your house until 12 everyday because of the mandatory phased training assignments, well let’s just say we will be praying for lots of miracles.
I still haven’t watched conference yet, but we will this coming weekend! So no spoilers!!

Because of all the meetings though, phase one will be near impossible to pass off by the end of this transfer, which is the end of this week. I’m still on lesson 4 out of 5, plus there is a lesson 1-5 evaluation. However the zone leaders when they went to their training last week they brought back my phase two stuff as gift - so I have motivation to keep going. Also, as far as training goes, when we went up to Taipei, President Day told us flat-out that no one in our generation of missionaries would be training for at least 2 transfers. Apparently this is the dead time of the year for incoming missionaries and the next group only has 10 newbies.

This week on the foods list is chou do fu! (literally means stinky tofu) it tastes like the wrong end of a cow and I also ate frog legs!

Hope everything is great back home, and that you'll all be enjoying Fall without me. It’s always hot and sunny or raining and windy here so think of me with that nice cool weather.

Love Elder Dickson

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 14

Nǐ hǎo wǒ de jiārén!
Great to find a diner that at least tries to be “American” : )  Actually good fries and burgers.

Great Diner
 We have a bunch of people committed for the middle of October, and its getting pretty close so please pray that they will make it.

I got a letter from you guys - yea! We actually had to go up to Taipei as we had some training sessions so I figured I'd just pick it up there as they always forget us in Taidong. Well as it turns out the mission office had just sent our mail down the day before and as I got to Taipei so all my mail got to Taidong when I was in the North - still waiting on your package.

No zone conference this past week, but it’s coming up this week, so be prepared for pday to get switched around.

Muggers : )
The other day when we went to an investigators house we got mobbed by Taiwanese kids. It wasn’t all too fun because I wasn’t sure how much they were playing around or seriously trying to mug us…It was all in good fun though and they kinda jacked our cameras for a bit so I’m sending the picture they tried to take (not too good).  My companion had already gone in, and as I was still trying to get my bike to not fall over (kickstand is horrendous) and I ended up having kids on each limb pulling me down.  As I want to be an obedient missionary I tried telling them that they can't climb on me, but they just thought it was part of the game, so they started trying to rip me apart even more. Finally my companion realized I was gone, and came out of the house and saw me struggling and almost died laughing - finally they let go.
My "typical" lunch

Hope all is well back home and that you all have an amazing week! Enjoy the fall!

Love Elder Dickson

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 13

Very, very sad to hear about Poppy, wish I could be there with you guys.    I have had only one active grandfather my whole life and if he is how a grandfather is supposed to be I have an awesome role-model.  I’m sure he is standing over me and helping me do a better job here.  Please let Grammy know that she will be in my prayers every day.
Typhoon didn’t do any lasting harm.  We got the order from President Day to stay inside all day, so that was fun – not! We got a lot done though because of that down time we got caught up on all our record keeping.  Because of the weather lock-down I have had peanut butter sandwiches for the past like 6 meals, but least we had food.

Our conference was zone-wide which was like 16 people, but that was supposed to be Friday when the typhoon started, so it was canceled and moved, so because of that, my next couple of p-days might get messed up, please don’t freak out if I don’t email on my normal day it’s still coming, and I’m still alive.

I guess the investigators are being frustrated by Satan, we keep meeting great people but they keep standing us up or canceling.  We have lots of baptism dates that we just had to push back because none of them are ready. Honestly probably the hardest week since I've been on my mission.

I've been out here long enough where people expect me to know what I'm doing, but I still really don’t add to our efforts. I really don’t like riding bikes, one place Zhiben, is about a 30-35 minute bike ride one way, with lots of hills, bridges, and rain - not happy times, especially when you get out there and your investigator isn’t home, after they told you they could meet. However despite this, there have been a few miracles. We did just the other night meet one really great man, and he is actually excited to meet with us. He double checked to make sure he had the place and time right, and it was the only time I didn’t feel like my Chinese was absolutely abysmal.  Chinese - oh yeah that's going slower than ever. Like I can get the flow of the conversation sometimes, or pick up the subject and then based on how someone looks tell how they feel about the subject, but outside of that can't do too much. The mission gave us these things called "phases" and there are three of them, so you complete one then move on to two. Phase one is all gospel related things, and very watered down at that, and I'm only half way done but my goal is to be done with that by the end of this transfer (6 weeks), so I can move on to phase 2 which is all vocabulary, but it’s like everything else that isn’t gospel related, so I’d be able to function in public here and not have to rely on other people so we'll see how that goes. Everyone here thinks that because I've been powering through on phase one in a transfer (the normal is to finish it in two transfers), that I'll be training right after completing phase 1  (training is when you get someone fresh from the MTC and become their companion and show them the ropes) so we'll see what happens at the end of November.
Mid-Autumn Festival
Oh also this past week was mid-autumn festival - so much food!  The members feel bad because we don’t have anywhere to celebrate the holiday (it’s a big deal holiday, but for us it’s just like a normal day) so we went to like 3 parties in two days. I ate so much food. Everyone Kao Rou's (BBQ’s) here though not the same as good American BBQ still good though. You go to anyone’s home (and this is all the time) the first thing they say before saying hi or asking your name is  "chi bao le ma?" which essentially translates into have you eaten yet? And yes or no, they give you food to eat. We literally had a meal at some random person’s house, and they didn’t ask our names until after we started eating.

Hope you all had a good week, and found some things to enjoy, see, or do. I miss you and love you all so very much.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week 12

Hello! We have two branches here in Taidong so as far as splits go, because my companion is the district leader, I will go with everyone in the district, but because the Zone leaders are also in my district I will also go with each of them. The past week I was on splits with Elder Sullivan's companion, Elder Keime. He's really cool, but it must be a little funny seeing us come down the street as he is like two heads shorter than me. He's from Miami, and we had a productive time. Because their companionship just got here they basically "opened" and area, so every day they are tracting and contacting. Made me really appreciate having current people investigating the Church to teach! 
My Companion Elder Allred
Taidong - Not Hawaii!

While I was on exchanges with him I fell for the first time…well more like a little stumble that caused like fumbling till I was on the ground. I keep my bag on the back of my bike, and it’s a little wider than the bike, so when I went on the bike path the weird bike entrance post grabbed hold of it, and one thing led to another, and I was on the ground! Really funny like in slow motion. I’m perfectly okay, I was going like 1 mph, and it was like I stumbled then the thing caught, so I couldn’t recover. Some people helped out though, not a bad way to contact!

No letters yet... Remember I'm not just in Taiwan, I’m in Taidong, the furthest point south in the mission, and possibly Taiwan. I could ride south 5 minutes until I hit water and it'd still be my area. It's going to take a long time to get here. Thank you for telling me you sent the pictures though, the culture here loves family pictures so I can use my own.

One of the Elders who are dying soon (going home) has a guitar, so I finally broke down and told him I'd take it off his hands, so I may be able to use this as a way to contact.

As far as mission work goes. I am exhausted. Biking all day, rejection all day, and hot sun, or windy rain, really takes it out of you. It’s pretty tough here. The hardest thing is the word of wisdom. We are in a rural area and so it’s really common for everyone to be drinking and smoking. There is also this stuff called Bin Lang (betel nut) - really nasty stuff, turns your teeth red.

Cool story though my first Sunday here we try and sit with the members in church, and my companion went and sat next to a brother as we later found out who isn’t a member. It was fast and testimony meeting, and one sister went up to talk about her daughters baptism the following Saturday. At the end of the meeting, the brother we sat next to talked with us and asked "Do you think I could be baptized this Saturday too?" Jaws hit the floor. Turns out he has met with missionaries before, so we met with him, set a date and he is getting baptized this coming Saturday. Though tragically he is in the other district's area so we had to pass him off but hey same team right? Hope all is well at home and that everything is okay! I hope you all enjoy fall for me! Love you all and miss you all very much!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 11 - Taidong

Sad to hear about Cassie the cat, but she did have a long life.

There are six Elders in our apartment and we attempt to fit into a four “Asian-size” person place - kind of reminds me of college!  Showering is like in the movie elf when Buddy is using the bathroom at the North Pole - we don’t fit in the tub or shower and have to get all contorted to get all parts wet.

I know, I know - I’ll send more pictures but I don’t have the right cord at the moment so please be patient in thine afflictions! We have to go to some basic "internet cafe" (because those still exist here) and it’s really not that up-to-date so I really am trying! Please don’t move and not tell me as punishment!

Yes Sister Gummow is in my district! We had like a branch BBQ last Sunday and I met her.  I have my own bike now and it’s great. It arrived when my companion and I were out working and luck would have it that the shortest elder in our district had to get it, so he was riding this giant massive bike so it was pretty funny.

Letter? I got one around the same time I got the package if that’s what you are asking, roundabout the time when we first got to Taiwan nothing after that.
I know Mom asked what happens in an emergency being this far away from the mission office but -Jiayou! (good luck), actually we have a hospital like two minutes right down from our apartment, and when we were contacting around there, it actually looks really nice.

As far as fast food there is a McDonald’s close by and it’s like actually really nice here, so unless a person we are teaching takes us there we don’t really go because it’s expensive. There is an American style diner nearby. I was very happy to order a giant quesadilla, bottle of sprite, and giant plate of French fries, for less the 150 kuai (5$) - eating out is so great.  For breakfast I’ve just been making peanut butter sandwiches. For some reason I’ve recently really started liking peanut butter and moon cakes which is weird. 

The rain the first week was just a fluke, it’s actually beautiful like every day - though I need to get some sunscreen because I don’t want to burn.  It supposed to be like this all winter too!

A family picture would help a lot when we meet with people family is a great starting point in our discussions so in the next package if you wouldn’t mind sending a hardcopy of our fam that would be great!

Our area is the biggest in the Taipei mission, and maybe the largest in both Taiwan missions. I finally understand what “uphill both ways” mean! My legs kill me every night, but it has the benefit as every other area after this will be a piece of cake.

Love you all so very much, and miss you all even more! Can’t believe I’m already on month 3 - That’s pretty crazy!
Love from your Elder.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week 9 - In Taidong Taiwan

Picture of the LDS Church building in Taidong, Taiwan where Elder Dickson is currently serving.

Hey everybody! Letters are going to be even more slow getting to me because I'm in Taidong for my first area! and while that's super nice, beautiful, and slower pace than Taibei, its about as far as  we can get from the mission office, by like a 6 hour train ride, so mail takes forever.

It is cool that two other elders from my Missionary Training district are here with me. One is in my zone, and my MTC companion is not only in my district, but in my apartment. Biking is interesting, because nobody here obeys traffic laws and I really am trying to be safe, however it wouldn't hurt to have some extra prayers on my side : )

Hope everything is going well! right now we have about 7 progressing investigators, and 7 contacts - 9 of the 14 have baptismal dates already and 6 of those are for October 12th, so might be a super fun day!  I can barely communicate with anyone here which is super frustrating, but I try to not let it discourage me. I'm not saying this to sound humble, but this language is really hard. Scooter contacting is fun, but hard when I can't understand the people, and I'm really bad at car contacting. Oh well it'll get better with time.

My companion is Elder Allred from Utah and he is awesome! When we first got here, they let us make a one minute phone call to our family to let them know we were alive, and it was cheaper to call to home phones apparently so that's why I called the home phone. I met brother Langford, but not sister Langford as she apparently hurt herself, so they have to go back to the states for now.

The weather is like really humid and hot especially Taidong because we are as far south in the mission as you can get. We went to a BBQ at a members house, pretty sweet stuff and I now love moon cakes. I'm pumped for autumn festival which is all this month.

The Taidong branch is really cool and isn't too big, maybe around 50 in attendance on Sunday.
Yes Monday is a personal day (pday) for us. We have to get up around 5 AM to use computers in an internet café'.  I really don't know how much time I get on email as my companion helped me and all I did was to hand the shop woman 55 kuai. The exchange here is about $1.00 US dollar to 30 New Taiwan Dollar (NTD), so like less than two bucks for I don't know how long.

I feel like I shouldn't comment on the status of the apartment, nor should Mom know. I loved the greenie package you sent me, as I needed some normal junk food to ease me into the Taiwan food transition - all of the drinks are like that weird thing Gunnar gave us, with gooey junk all up in it - though the food, while sketchy at times, is amazing! Taidong is known for its fried rice, so I'm all set for the next 3 months which is when transfers will happen.  I really don't know what kind of bike I have yet, right now I'm borrowing one that the church had here already.

Thought for the week: the negative parable. So in weight lifting there is what is called a negative. Its when you put more weight than you know you can lift by yourself, so you get a spotter, and what you do is you have to exert all your force to keep the weight up. However since it is more weight, all you can do is slow it down from falling, until the spotter raises it back up, and you do it again. Doing this increases the muscle tear which then allows it to grow back stronger. Growing and learning work the same way. Heavenly Father gives us these challenges, and often they feel like more weight than we can bear. But when we exert all the force that we have, and at the moment when it seems like we cant slow it anymore, he raises the weight again, and we do it again. By doing this he is helping us rapidly grow our spiritual muscles. We have to rely on him, and exert all we have, and we will grow and become stronger in ways we didn't know existed.

Love you all, talk to you next week!