Dear friends and family,
I am sending pictures this time to make the email more exciting. Plus, I want everyone to be able to experience the wonder of Taiwan.
1. This is a picture I took at the airport in Japan. I thought it looked cool.
2. An elder in Japan. Again, this one was an artistic decision.
3. Some famous hotel right by where Taiwan was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. This was one of my first introductions to all things Asian. I was impressed.
4. More from the hotel.
5. Dragon hotel detail.
6. Looking out over Taipei. This is at sunrise. Isn't it beautiful? :)
7. At the metro stop next to our apartment. We walked out one Preparation day before Christmas and saw these tiny children singing Christmas songs in English (I think it was English). It was one of the only Christmas celebrations I saw--and nobody told them to stop singing! :)
8. They were so cute. All the little kids with candy baskets kept giving us candy--clearly, as foreigners, we were the ones who celebrate this strange holiday!
9. My companion and I at the temple in Taipei.
10. The mission office/home across from the temple.
11. A random picture of Canyon Lands national park. A little bit of Utah in Taipei!
12. I think I am starting to look more and more Asian--this is at our mission Christmas celebration.
13. The next few are views from our roof. I didn't realize the roofs are all different colors but it makes it look like a toyland or something.
14. And here is the toyland castle...
15. Here you can see the huge apartment buildings built on the side of the mountain. They are a little overwhelming sometimes...
I realized that it will probably be too big for one email so I will send them in several emails. I hope you don't get bothered by 4 emails by me this week--if you want off the list, just let me know. Or you can just delete, which is sometimes more convenient. :)
So now for the information. First, the random:
I saw a woman reading The Kite Runner the other day on the metro--in Chinese. It was kind of weird, as I didn't know they had it translated into Chinese...
And then on the subject of the middle east, we were up in Taipei the other day and went to a Middle Eastern falafel restaurant for dinner. They had pictures of Jerusalem all over the walls--I felt almost like I was back in the Middle East, except everyone was speaking Chinese.
And then finally, the other day someone asked me if I was going on a "bike tour" of Taiwan--in a skirt?!
Next, a note about the members in Taiwan. Taiwan is a special country in terms of the gospel because almost all of the members are themselves converts. I think something like 88% of the members here are first generation converts, which makes for some interesting statistics. The number of inactives is quite large (and we as missionaries visit quite a few of them regularly--I guess we are like their HT/VT), and the other day I asked my MM leader if inactive members in Taiwan have home and visiting teachers. He looked shocked and said of course not, do they in America? I told him that if they had HT/VT that might fix some of the inactivity, but he said that each active priesthood holder has 4-6 active families to visit and so there is just no way to visit the inactives as well. There are more active women and children than men--so that is how that statistic works out.
But the members are really awesome. They are always willing to tell their conversion story and are proud of how many years they have been members. Those who have been members for 7+ years are the really experienced ones and we as missionaries feel like they are longtime members.
The best part about the members is what they do to help us as missionaries. Preach My Gospel says to have members present at every lesson possible, and the members here are really supportive of this. We call them peike in Chinese--I don't think they have a word in English.
Peike's are great because they are Taiwanese, just like our investigators, and they have overcome the same problems and doubts our investigators are trying to overcome. For example, I have no idea what it is like to depart from 5,000 years of family tradition of worshipping your ancestors and other idols and join the true church of Jesus Christ--or to give up tea when your family will offer it to you every time you visit, or to come to church when your family expects you to be with them. I have no idea what it is like to have your family strongly oppose you joining a new church or every other problem my investigators face (after all, my family's church membership goes back 5-7 generations!).
But, all of the members overcame similar issues--so they can share their testimony with these investigators. It is often a very powerful experience. Sometimes, however, it can get out of hand...like the one lesson where the peike listed off every kind of tea we can't drink and every kind of tea we can drink--and what they taste good with, etc etc. But otherwise, peikes are just so vital to the the work. (By the way, peike is pronounced pay-kuh.)
I only have a short time left so you might get the rest of this email with the pictures. If I don't have time to send them all I will send some next week.
Happy new year!