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