elder Matthew Jones
Taiwan, Taichung mission
This past week was another great one here in Gaoxiong. It's pretty cool to me that I finally ended up down here considered that this is where I've wanted to go since day one. I know I've already said that a lot, but still, I think it's cool.
Last P-day, we went on this super fun bike ride down by the ocean. We biked up by the British consulate, a college on the ocean, and on this really cool road that wound around the coast. It was sooooo pretty. Taiwan is such a cool place haha. I attached a lot of pictures and some videos, one of which shoes me almost getting attacked by a little monkey haha so hopefully you enjoy those! Our round trip was about 33 km. I'm surprised my bike held up the whole way haha that bike has seen better days. Elder F has a super shuai bike with arrow bars and everything, so I'm sure it was a sight to see him flying up and down the roads with me on my bike with a basket following him.
This week was another good, busy week. Our investigator Sister C set a baptismal date this week! Her date is for the 21st of April, and we feel really confident that she can hit it. She has progressed so much in the two weeks since I got her, and she's overcoming a lot of concerns that she previously had. She came to church this last week, so that was really good. L is doing good as well, he came to church and meets with us once or twice a week in addition to that. He's slowly starting to develop more faith, and we are hoping that we can keep him moving. We've met a lot of new people lately, but we are still kinda in the sifting stages. One thing that is hard is we've had a lot of really good, spiritual first lessons, and then the people just don't set up again. It's tough, but it's all part of the process.
We also had the opportunity this past week to go on exchanges with the Xiaogang Elders. I went with Elder C, who is a little bit younger than me on the mission. We had a good time teaching lessons, meeting with LA's, and finding new people to teach. He's a great missionary, and we had a good time.
This past week we had Zone Conference, which was really good and spiritual. For a portion of the conference, the time was turned over to Elder F and I to talk about how we could do better at getting new investigators, new baptismal goals, and more investigators at church. Rather than get into a long lecture about finding strategies or something like that, we decided to focus on faith and attitude and how that plays a role in our finding. I wanted to share a story from a BYU devotional by Bruce C. Hafen that we shared with our zone about how much faith actually does play a role in our decision making and thought process.
When I was a law student, my wife and I attended a student ward in which most of the members were graduate students. We developed close friendships with many of those who were experiencing, as we were, the great expanding of our minds as we learned the tools of intellectual analysis and the expanding of our spirits as we drew close to the Lord through such experiences as marriage and the bearing of our first children. One Sunday morning, the Elders Quorum in our ward held a special testimony meeting characterized by spiritual warmth and personal openness. During that meeting, a fellow law student related a boyhood experience that had occurred just after he had been ordained a deacon. He lived on a farm and had been promised that a calf about to be born would be his very own to raise. One summer morning when his parents were away, he was working in the barn when the expectant cow began to calve prematurely. He watched in great amazement as the little calf was born; and then, without warning, the mother suddenly rolled over the little calf. He could see that she was trying to kill it. In his heart he cried out to the Lord for help. Not thinking about how much more the cow weighed than he did, he pushed on her with all his strength and somehow moved her away. He picked up the lifeless body of the calf in his arms and, brokenhearted, the tears running down his cheeks, he looked at it, wondering what had happened and what he could do. Then he remembered, he told us, that he now held the Priesthood and had every right to pray for additional help. And so he prayed from the depths of his boyish, believing heart. Before long the little animal began breathing again, and he knew that his prayer had been heard.
After relating the story, the tears welled up in his eyes and he said to us, “Brethren, I tell you that story because I don’t know that I would do now what I did then. I think I might not expect the Lord’s help in that kind of situation. I am not sure that I would believe now, even if I relived that experience, that the calf’s survival was anything more than a coincidence. I don’t understand what has happened to me since that incident, but I sense that something has gone a little bit wrong.”
My friend in the Elders Quorum was not saying that he had lost faith in the Lord; rather, he was simply being very honest with us, I think, in sharing both the childlike and the sophisticated dimensions of his experience. This story reflects the thoughts and feelings that many of us experience, in our own way.
We then challenged our zone to have faith like the little boy in the story. Go out the door trusting that the Lord is going to provide those people for you, and trust that he will use you to find them. I think this story is really inspiring, and the spirit was super strong in the room. I think we could all, in our everyday lives, do a little more to be like the boy in this story. I'd invite you all to think about how much faith and trust you put in the Lord. It really helped lead me to do some repenting and help me get back on track.
Well, that's about it for this week! I love you all so much and hope you have a good week! Be sure to tune in to General Conference and sustain President Nelson as our prophet :)
I had a really good first week down here in Gaoxiong!! :) We've seen a lot of cool miracles, and I've really felt good about the work down here. It's really different than Taizhong haha. Up there, it felt like no one on the street wanted to listen to us, but down here, people are willing to set up times to meet and learn more about the gospel. It's cool, it's different and a nice switch up. When I first got down here, we were in a 3 man with Elder M from my MTC district cause he was just barely the ZL down here and was waiting to go train, so it was kinda fun to be in a three man for a couple days. In terms of what this area is like, it's huge haha. We have a really big area, and it covers a lot of cool stuff including the 85, lots of big malls, and good food haha. It's kinda like my last area in the fact that we live in a part of the area with not that many people but we also have a huge city in our area.
One thing that has been really awesome is that Elder F is really good at talking with everyone. One thing that we are always told to do as missionaries is talk with everyone, and I think Elder F is one of the best missionaries I've seen at doing that. We've seen a lot of cool miracles from doing that. We've also been trying to do our best at getting to know the ward and helping them have spiritual experiences with us. We know that the best way to get them excited about missionary work is building their testimonies and helping them, so we've been trying to do our best to do that. We taught the Bishop's kids about being a good example, and it was really cool to see how the parents were able to use that opportunity to teach the gospel to their children. They were very grateful after, and it was a really cool feeling. We were blessed to teach 16 lessons this week, which is pretty high by my standards haha. Lookin to keep pushing that number higher and higher :)
In terms of progressing investigators, we have a couple that are looking pretty solid. We have an investigator named A that has been making a lot of progress recently. She met Elder Y (my old comp) about half a year ago when he was serving here. She has recently started to read and pray and come to church to actually know if things are true, not just cause we ask her to. It's been cool to see her progress. We dropped a bap goal with a Sister W this week as well. It's really hard to get in contact with her, but she shows a lot of potential. We also have a cool guy named Lance that we recently started working with. He is really cool, and looking well going forward as well.
Well, that's pretty much it for this week! I just want to close by bearing my testimony that God knows all of us! He is mindful of our circumstances and knows what is best for us. I promise that as we align our will with His, we will be happier, be filled with peace, and be better equipped to deal with life's challenges. I love you all so much, and hope you have a great week!
This past week was one of the busier weeks on my mission, and it flewwwww by haha. I guess I better start off with the big news: I'm moving (maybe to my last area). I'll be heading down to Qianzhen in Gaoxiong. I've always wanted to go to Gaoxiong, so I'm pretty excited!! My new companion will be Elder F. He is one below me in terms of time on the mission, and seems pretty cool so I'm excited. It should be a good time. Our zone is really small. I'm leaving a zone that had 20 missionaries and heading to a zone with 12 or 14 I think, so it should be interesting.
This week was crazy busy. We had Mission Leadership Conference on Tuesday which took up most of the day. Those are always a good time, and it was fun to see a lot of homies again and have a nice discussion on how our zone can create a better vision for success. Wednesday and Thursday we had back to back exchanges with Dali and Houfeng. It was super tiring to go on back to back exchanges haha. We then had a mission tour. That was soooo sick. Elder Stevenson of the 12 came, along with Bishop Causse, Elder Christensen, and Elder Meurs. It was crazy to have that many authorities in the same room, plus President Teh. It was a special meeting. Elder Stevenson was a straight bro. He was just cracking jokes for like 10 minutes and then gave one of the best trainings I've ever heard on inviting and bearing testimony. He's rising on my favorite apostle list. It was really cool to be able to shake his hand. He had an incredible spirit about him.
Leaving an area is always bittersweet. It feels like I just got here, and we've really changed things a lot in this area for the better. We've done a lot of member work, and I feel really close to the ward because of that. We also finally got a somewhat decent investigator pool going, and now we just have to give it all to others haha. If there is one thing that God has been trying to teach me over the past 6 months, its that it doesn't matter who finishes the job or who gets the baptisms, the important thing is that we all work hard and work together to help these people push closer towards salvation. I'm super grateful I got to serve here, and I'm gonna miss a lot of people. Elder Y will be staying here, so that's a bummer, he's a bro. I'll be praying for him to come back down and be in my zone again haha. It's hard leaving all the homies in this zone, we got pretty tight, but it's all in the Lord's arrangement. He hasn't let me down yet, and I know he won't this time either.
Well that's about it! Hope that you all have a great week!! :)
Hope everyone had a good week this past week! Our past week was a pretty busy one, and that meant that it went by really fast haha. We had a ton of activities, and we had a lot of fun. It all started with last Pday. We decided to take the whole zone up to the bat caves, and it was super fun. We had a fun time biking up there with everyone, and no one got hurt or lost so that was a huge bonus haha. It was fun to kind of unify the whole zone and have everyone hanging out with each other, especially the areas that we don't see very much. Sent a lot of pictures of that back home, so hopefully you got to kinda see what we were experiencing haha.
This week we got to go on exchanges with the AP's, which was pretty fun. I got to go with Elder C from my MTC district who I haven't seen for a while, so that was fun. We had a service project where we helped a local lady start remodeling a house. It's gonna be a lengthy task, and we might have the opportunity to go back this week. She was super shocked that we had so many people willing to help her. We even had a member with us. We've been finding a lot of really cool service opportunities lately, which is always fun.
Recently we've seen things start picking up in our area. It's been a lot of fun, and I've really found a lot of joy in the work. We've been trying to work with the ward as much as possible, as well as work really hard to talk with everyone and share the messages with the people we run into. We've been working closely with C and M, and they are both doing well. M could get baptized next transfer, and C is getting closer and closer to quitting smoking so we are pumped about that. He said this week he is completely quitting, so we'll see how that goes. We also have a brother and sister that came to church on Sunday. They were referred by their father, a non-member who comes to the church to practice the saxophone with his friends (don't ask me how they have permission to do that ‘cause I don't know haha). He was like "Yeah I'm already Christian and have my church, but I'd love it if my kids went to your church!" So then we went and visited them and invited them to church. They set up with us for this Tuesday night, so we hope that goes well!
This week, I've been studying a lot about Faith and Hope and how they are related. I've also tossed optimism in the picture and it's been really refreshing and helped me enjoy the work a lot better. I love Ether 12:4,6 where it talks about maintaining hope and faith. I think it's really important to trust God, especially on a mission. There is so much that we want to do, but we have to trust in the Lord and his timing for everything. It's also really important to seek the Lord's guidance in our daily decisions. I think I've noticed that the more I trust in the Lord and seek his help, the better I'm able to deal with the problems we face every day.
Thanks for all the support from back home!! Love you all so much and hope you have a good week!!
Matthew is currently serving a 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This Blog is for family and friends interested in following his adventures for the next 24 months.