elder Matthew Jones
Taiwan, Taichung mission
nǐ hǎo wǒde jiātíng hé péngyǒu!!
Wow, this week was insanely hard, but by the end of the week, I found myself having a more sincere love for the people of Taiwan and my mission as a whole. As you can see from the title of my email, I have not stopped sweating since I got here lol. It's so bad that I take a shower at night so my sheets aren't just completely disgusting, but by the time it's time to go to bed, I'm almost sweating again hahaha. It's actually not been too bad to adjust to for some reason, it doesn't bug me too bad. The food is still kinda crazy but it's getting better. I love the people, the culture, and the language, even though I probably only understand 20% of what is going on haha. I love everything about Taiwan; it's like a mix of Tahiti, Hawaii, and New York all in one. Every day is a crazy culture shock, but I'm getting more and more used to it.
So my companion and I are whitewashing our area, which means both of us are new to this area. We didn't have any investigators at first, so all we did from basically 1-9 was talk to people on the street and try to find people interested in the church. It really is a grind; we work so hard each day and try to be happy and cheerful with everyone, so by the end of the day we are all exhausted. We play Monopoly Deal like every night haha so it's a good way to unwind. I think by trying to have a good idea about the work and going out each day with a smile on our faces has helped us a lot, and we've already seen so many miracles. We got an absolutely golden referral who has a baptismal goal!! We also met an awesome guy at church yesterday named Wang who has friends in the church. Everything is getting better and better, and so is my enjoyment of the mission.
At first, I was really really homesick. Last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were really really tough. I kept having thoughts of how long 22 months is, thoughts of how hard Chinese is, and thoughts of how much I wished I could be home doing what I wanted to do. One thing that was similar about all of these thoughts, is that they were centered on me. It was all about me, and what I wanted to do. It took me a little while to realize, but this mission is not about me. It's not about what I want and what would be the most fun for me, it's about helping God's children come unto Christ and realize how awesome this gospel is and how much it can bless their lives. Once I realized that, the week started to get a lot better, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were great. When you really turn your own will over to the Lord, everything gets so much easier. You love the people more, you love the mission more, you love your companion more, and you are able to face the challenges of the day with more optimism. So yeah, I just try to smile and wave at everyone and be a positive influence, and it seems to help everything feel much better.
Last P-day, we got to go up to the bat caves. It was a 45 minute bike ride up into the mountains, and the ride was definitely worth the journey. It was so beautiful and peaceful. The bat caves were super small and narrow, and we squeezed our way through them. They were super cool and a lot of fun to go do something like that for my first P-day on island. I got to eat McDonald's twice this week which was a blessing haha American food was nice to have after trying lots of Chinese food. By the way, Chinese Chinese food is definitely not the same as American Chinese food. It's a huge adjustment, but it's getting better.
The rest of the week was a lot of finding mixed with a couple lessons taught to investigators. A big problem in Taiwan is a lot of the people here just want to talk with us because we are white haha so we get a fair amount of numbers but not a lot of people that are actually interested. So sometimes we will teach a really solid lesson and they'll be like we weren't really interested in the first place. On Saturday, we taught the weirdest lesson of my entire life haha. This guy invited us over to share our message, and we then found out that all he wanted to do was bash on us for not believing that every church was true. He just kept saying that we were very rude for not accepting his beliefs as true. It's not like we were bashing on his beliefs at all, he just wouldn't hear us out. It was really crazy haha he invited like 5 friends to listen too. It turned out one of his friends actually seemed to have real interest, so hopefully he'll want to meet with us. We've taught a lot of really good lessons, trying our best to follow the Spirit and discern the needs of our investigators/contacts, but a lot of people aren't interested in changing their beliefs. A lot of people in Taiwan don't really even know what they believe; they mix Buddhism with Daoism and all this random stuff so a lot of them are kinda ignorant haha. But hey that's alright, I love them all anyways, even the ones that are super rude to us. We talk to a lot of people, and every time we talk to high school or college aged guys we say, "bu yao tai shuai hao bu hao" which basically means "you don't want to be too handsome right?" and for some reason they absolutely love that hahaha but the funniest thing is my companion or I will always say that and they'll look at me and point and say, "Ta tai shuai" which means he's too handsome haha just funny stupid stuff that we say with the people we talk to makes the days so much better. Everyone loves to talk to me about how tall I am and if I play basketball haha.
One of the funnest things we get to do is teach English class. It's awesome for me to get to speak English again haha. The people love coming and listening to our English and practicing talking with us. It's so fun to talk to them and teach them English. We always share a little spiritual message at the end, and it's an awesome opportunity. Apparently a lot of investigators come from English class, so that's super cool.
One of the funnest and most effective things we did this week was go set up a booth at the college and talk to a ton of college students about the church. We had so many opportunities to share the gospel and got a lot of numbers, so fingers crossed that works out for us! They loved to come and talk to us, but it may be because we are white lol.
The most overwhelming thing I've noticed about this mission is how much God loves us. He has prepared us with so many opportunities to succeed, and I know he is looking out for me and everyone else. I hope you can all feel His influence in your life, and if you can't, strive to come unto him and strengthen yourself spiritually. I love this gospel so much. If it wasn't true, I wouldn't be here I can tell you that for sure. I hope you all have a safe week and I'll talk to you next week!! Love you all so much
zhōng zhǎng lǎo
Mom's note: Taiwan is 14 hours ahead so we will hear from Matthew on Sunday nights. With a few days under his belt, he is working through a lot of changes and things are improving every day. For p-day they are going to the Bat Caves and McDonald's for dinner. He says it's a 'luxury place' there. Go figure!
nǐ hǎo wǒde jiātíng hé péngyǒu!!
Holy cow, this week has been the craziest week of my life. I can't even really believe I'm in Taiwan haha it's so crazy. Everything is completely different. It's a mix of so many different places that I've been, and nothing like Utah haha. The food is different, the weather is different, but hey, I am growing to love it more and more each day. The people here are awesome so that definitely helps with everything. Getting to talk to them each day is awesome and so much fun. I am doing my best to be friendly and smile and wave to everyone, since that is about all I can do right now haha. I'm doing my best to ask questions and bear simple testimony, and just contribute any way I can.
First, just some things I've noticed about Taiwan. It is always humid. No matter what kind of day it is, sunny, cloudy, rainy, it is always humid. My skin is almost always moist and I sweat a lot, but not as much as most of the other missionaries so that is a relief haha. Some of their shirts are so nasty from sweat and such, so hopefully I can avoid that as much as possible. The weather isn't as rainy as I expected, although I've only been here a short time and we are mostly past the rainy season. Taizhong is also in a bit of a Rain shadow, so it gets generally less than the rest of the island. The food here is really different from American Asian food. They cook with a lot of pepper and different kinds of seasonings, so that is something I'll have to get used to. The streets are crazy, there are lots of small shops, probably owned by families, everywhere. At night, everyone goes out on the streets to eat, chat, etc. There are about 5 mopeds for every car, sometimes even more haha It's crazy. Lots of people here love white people and wave and practice their English with us. One guy even gave us free mango ice cream so that was awesome haha. My bike is really nice for missionary work. I'm a pretty good biker and I usually want to go faster than everyone else so I mostly just take it easy and cruise around.
Monday September 12th: This was our last day at the MTC. It was one of the longest days of my entire life haha. In the morning we had half a Pday. We had to say goodbye to some of my favorite Elders, including Skon, Tanner, Lij, and Boss (good luck in Argentina/Paris/Tahiti Boys you will all kill it). We had 6 hours of class during the night, which is regular but kinda crazy for a last day in the MTC when no one wanted to do anything or focus or anything like that. We got to say goodbye to everyone that night which was sad but kinda cool. Elder H, Elder G, and I took a final walk around the MTC to reflect on our friendships and how much we've learned and grown. It was awesome.
Tuesday and Wednesday September 13th and 14th: This was our huge travel day. Full of delays and such, but we made it safely. Talking to my family was amazing. It was great to hear their voices and get to talk to them a little bit. When we got to Taiwan, we had to wait for the native Elders coming, so we had like 2 hours to walk around and practice contacting people. It was crazy. Our Chinese is not nearly as good as we all thought it was haha but we did our best to communicate with those around us and share this gospel!! We got to the mission home at 2:30 in the morning, so it's safe to say we were all gonna be super tired the next day.
Thursday September 15th: First full day in Taiwan. It didn't really consist of much. We did a lot of orientation classes and just got familiar with everyone and what the standards and procedures of this mission were. I've tried lots of new food including dragonfruit which is one of my new favorite fruits so everyone try to get some of that. The fruit here is a lot better than the fruit in America, I love it so much. At about 5:00, they threw us on the streets with some more experienced missionaries and we tried some contacting for an hour. It was really hard but really fun and a great experience. We actually got 6 adds which is amazing for an hour so that was really cool. We went to dinner at a place where they just bring out a ton of food and everyone takes from the middle. It was very different, and we were all falling asleep while we were eating haha. President understood how tired we were, so he let us go to sleep at 8 which was amazing.
Friday September 16th: This was the day we got our trainers! My trainer is Elder Jackson, he's awesome and has a great work ethic and desire to serve. We are also living with two other Elders, Elder Duffin and Elder Chen. Elder Chen is also getting trained but he is native to Taiwan so he already knows Chinese lol. We biked to our area, set some goals and expectations, and went out and about contacting! Our area is Taiping. It's an awesome area in Taizhong. The streets are great for contacting, and everyone is awesome here. I love contacting and trying to talk to everyone. We are white washing this area, which means we are both new here, so we have no investigators and basically have to start fresh. We still don't have any investigators, but we are working really hard and talking with everyone, so we have a lot of different people we are calling and trying to set up with. One funny thing is all the Asian girls love us and want to talk pictures with me hahaha it's weird but hey whatever.
Saturday September 17th: We really hit contacting hard today. We tried a few different methods, including biking, walking, surveys, etc. We got a couple more adds and tried some calls to get some people to come to church. It's tough but we are both working hard and staying really positive and it really helps make the days enjoyable. We have study from 8 in the morning ‘til 12, and then we head out for the day. This gives us time to do Personal, Companionship (we get an extra hour), and Language. These times are really good and I progress a ton spiritually and get in the right mindset for the rest of the day.
Sunday September 18th: Today was my first Sunday in the mission. Our church is at 9 am and it's a really awesome ward. Everyone is friendly and strong in the Spirit. I had to get up and introduce myself and bear my testimony. I was so nervous and shaking haha but I did the best I could and I think the members could really see my intent and desire to learn, share, and serve. They all come up to me and tell me how strong I am to be learning Chinese. I just laugh and say I should be better haha. I don't understand much at church, but it's still great to be with the people. We had a ward dinner and an FHE activity with the ward which was really awesome. The ward has about 115 active members. I love the ward and working with the people.
I really love my mission. I know that when I start feeling down, the Lord knows what I'm going through and can help me get through anything. This has really helped comfort me. Well, this was a nice English break, but it's back to the immersion. I love you all so much! Have a good week
zhōng zhǎng lǎo
Mom's note: After a long day full of flight delays, Elder Jones is now somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on his way to Taiwan (where Super Typhoon Meranti [the largest storm to hit Taiwan since 1959] is about to hit). This is his final letter from the MTC. We are so proud of him and excited for the next stage of this journey! Hearing his testimony over the phone today in Chinese was AMAZING!
nǐ hǎo wǒde jiātíng hé péngyǒu!
Wow, well those two months flew by. After serving 1/12 of my mission in the MTC, I am so unbelievably excited to get to Taiwan. My testimony of this gospel and the Book of Mormon has grown so much while I've been here, and even though the language is tough, my progress with that has also been amazing to look back on. When I think of how I came into the MTC to where I'm at now, it blows my mind to think of how much has changed. I can't wait to carry the strong spirit I have right now with me to Taiwan.
Not a lot of exciting news to share this week so this one will be shorter. Last night for devotional, we had the opportunity to listen to Elder Ballard, our 4th apostle while we've been at the MTC. It pays to be here for 2 months I guess haha. It was an amazing talk and a great way to send us out into the field. He echoed a point that Elder M made a couple weeks ago saying that while we are doing missionary work, we are standing in for the Lord. This is his work, and we are merely the tools he uses to accomplish it, so it is very important that we don't waste his time. He said, "Through our mission, the Lord really comes to know you." When you love this work and teach by the Spirit, it becomes a part of you, and I can definitely feel that stronger and stronger each day He ended by bearing his testimony and telling us to know who we serve. It was amazing. Perfect way to get sent out into the field. We also got to see a sneak peak at three of the next segments in the new Meet the Mormons, so that was pretty cool. One is about a mormon J-Pop group, so that was really funny to kinda see a little bit of Asian culture. They are called Bless4, check out their I am a Child of God video on YouTube it's dope haha.
Yesterday at the temple we got to talk to the missionaries from Taiwan and China which was so much fun. They talked so fast and it was really hard to understand, but when we spoke Chinese they loved it and said it was so good. We all laughed cause we know it really sucks but it's things like that that help me realize how much I love the Taiwanese people and their culture. It was awesome to be able to try to talk to them and hear them speak English.
This is my testimony in Chinese. I didn't type the tones because that takes a lot of time, so apologize to all you Chinese speakers that read my email lol
Wo zhidao zhege jiaohui shi zhenshide. Wo zhidao ta bangzhu wo gaibien he gaishan wode shenghuo. Wo zhidao shen he yesu jidu renshi suo you de ren. Wo meitian ganjue tamen de ai he wo zhidao tamen xiangyao women you chenggong. Wo zhidao. yesu jidu shi women de Jiuzhu. Ta de shuzui rang women huijia. Wo zhidao huigai hen zhongyao. Ta bangzhu women bienda xiang Jidu yiyang. Wo zhidao Yuese Simi fuxing zhege fuyin. Wo zhidao ta fanyi Moermenjing. Ta zuole zhege tougou qishi. Wo zhidao fuyin de hexin shi jiating. Wo zhidao women keyi dedao yongyuan jiating. Wo zhidao wode chuanjiao hen tubia. Ta hui bangzhu wo, he touguo shengling, wo keyi bangzhu qita de ren. feng yesu jidu de ming, amen.
The MTC has been great. I'm so thankful for all the wonderful experiences I've had here. I've learned so much about myself and about how to teach and help others come unto this gospel. I've made some really great friends here which really made it possible to stay 2 months. I've learned a little of the Chinese language and learned to love that as well. Most of all, I've come to know my Savior so much better. I know he knows me personally, and each one of you. I know that his Atonement is very real and all encompassing. Repentance is real and I'm so thankful for the opportunity we have to use it. I know this mission is exactly where I am supposed to be. I love the Taiwanese people so much, and I haven't even gotten there yet. I can't wait to get out into the field and do the Lord's work! I love you all so much and think and pray about you often. I testify that this gospel is true, I am certain of it. Stay safe, Taiwan here I come!
zhōng zhǎng lǎo
Wow the thought of us actually getting to go to Taiwan is amazing. I remember the long days at the beginning of the MTC where we thought we'd never get out of here, and now we are a very short 6 days away from leaving. While I am beyond excited to get there, leaving the MTC will actually be bitter sweet. I've made so many good friends here and had some many spiritual experiences. My testimony has grown so much, my love for the Book of Mormon has grown so much, and my mission has definitely already changed me. There is no place I would rather be right now than here serving the Lord and doing his work. It will be so amazing to get to Taiwan and do the Lord's work. Elder M shared a really profound thought this week on the fact that missionary work is the Lord's work. He said something along the lines of, "Jesus Christ would love to be able to knock on every door, face every rejection, talk to every hostile investigator, and convert every prepared family. He loves every one of his children so much and would do anything to get the chance to help them. But he can't do that. He has called us to do His work. This is His work, and we should feel completely honored to have the chance to teach his children, because he loves the rude investigator who can't seem to comprehend our message just as much as he loves us." This thought hit me really hard. It is our privilege to do this work. We are so lucky to have this opportunity to help other people come unto Christ and receive the restored gospel. We need to love the people we teach with all our heart, because that is exactly what Jesus would do. The more we try to serve and be like Jesus, the more successful we will be.
A really cool story was shared this week during a mini testimony meeting we had back at our residency. There was a missionary who was really struggling in his mission. He was basically just going through the motions, wishing he was back at home doing something else. He wasn't consecrating his whole self to the work, and he at times questioned whether he was really where he should be. One night, he was sitting in a car. The lights were on in the car, and he was looking out the window, seeing his face in the reflection of the car window. When the lights in the car turned off, he could no longer see the reflection of his face, he saw the people around him. This moment changed his mission. He realized that the mission was in no way about what he wanted. It wasn't about making sure he was completely comfortable. This mission is to love and serve God's children. I think we can all learn something from this story. The quicker we learn to love and serve others, the better off we will be.
On Sunday, Chad Lewis came and gave us a really good devotional message. He is a former BYU and Philadelphia Eagles football player and served his mission in Taichung as well. He showed us pictures from his mission and talked about how much he loved it. We were all so pumped and we got to go back and talk with him after and take a picture with him. The lasting thought that stuck with me was, "The language is not nearly as important as your love for the people." I definitely know this is true, and I know that I will have no trouble loving the people of Taiwan. We always try to talk to the missionaries here at the MTC from Taiwan in our broken Chinese, and they laugh at us, but it is so fun to talk to them and practice. Our other devotional was given by Elder Christofferson, which was absolutely amazing. He talked about Repentance and the power of the Atonement of Christ, and it truly was a very powerful message. He shared thoughts such as, "With the Atonement, we can feel both guiltless and spotless." and he also talked about how we hold the Kingdom of Heaven in our hands. It is our responsibility to help others come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. It is amazing to hear from one of God's apostles and the powerful messages he gives to us.
Just some random things that people may want to know. If you go to lds.org/youth/music, it has a great playlist for Sunday music haha it's about all we can listen to so we love it hahaha probably more than most people but hey what can ya do. We have the most deep, spiritual chats pretty much on the daily here. It is amazing to be able to bear your testimony multiple times a day and benefit from everyone else's testimonies. And we do the funniest things haha we started taking the plastic spoons from the cafeteria and trying to slip them in between people's belt loops on their pants without them noticing. hahah just dumb stuff like that but it gets us through the ups and downs. I really love this gospel so much, and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else than right here, trying to be the best I can be. I love you all, and I hope you're all doing well! Stay safe!
zhōng zhǎng lǎo
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.