60 Years of Missionary Work in Taiwan (But actually 7 months for me)

(Zach’s Mom’s note: So I’ve used Google Translate to try to get at some of these Chinese characters… sorry if the translations aren’t very good!)

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在傳教 (Google translate for this one sucks- Zach) (It reads “missionary” – Mom) Google translate sucks in general. I feel bad for all the stuff my high school Chinese teachers had to read that I took straight from Google lol 張老師和邢老師對不起. 我現在比較好 (which translates to Teachers Zhang and Xing, I am sorry! I am better now!)

大家好!(Hello everyone!) Another great week here in 南屯區! (NanTun) This week was super interesting because this week the 60th Anniversary of Missionary Work in Taiwan happened 剛剛好 (that’s right) in my area! We were super lucky to get to attend, and it was crazy! 差不多 (almost) 5,000+ members from all of Taiwan came to NanTun to watch this super incredible play put on by members from all around the country! It was really quite the sight to see, and it was a blast to attend! It really was quite the special occasion, and quite the event! My district was lucky enough to be chosen to represent all of the missionaries in Taiwan, and we got to take a picture with the mayor of Taichung City! The event also included a huge bike ride with hundreds of people including a special appearance of President and Sister Blickenstaff, who were my last mission presidents and finished their mission in June. It was super fun to see them in a much less formal setting. Pretty much all of my pictures this week are from that!

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Hangin’ out with the mayor of Taichung.

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Super dope Yang family from my last ward in AnDing 安定, they preformed in the huge play.

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Part of our entourage during the bike ride.

This week we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders and that was super fun as it always is! I went with Elder Kunz and we decided to go to the college in my area Ling Tung University (actually pronounced Ling Dong), and we talked with some students there for like 15 minutes before getting kicked off campus lol. Elder Jiang and I met with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses and tried to have a lesson with them, but they did as they always do, and acted super immature, not willing to listen to even basic Bible stuff, so we ended up just leaving and spending our time in a more productive way. Also we found this restaurant that has 70 kuai fried rice, and plays the top 25 American EDM charts, so we are gonna be frequent customers of theirs in the future ha!

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Go Miami Noles in Taiwan?

We got dropped by like 10 investigators this past week, which kinda sucks, but it just means we have to go hard to get new ones to fill our pool! The biggest blessing about serving in a huge city is that you can find people to talk to on the streets no matter what time of the day it is!

Other than those couple of things, it was a pretty basic week for us with nothing much special going on. We teach lots of lessons every day, and we are soon gonna have to start doing some more contacting to get some new people to teach! Keep me in your prayers, because the Lord knows I need them…

Hope you all had a great week! This email is kinda short because we are about to go hiking in DaKeng which is supposedly pretty sick, so I should have some dope pictures for next week! Have a safe week! I love you all!

Love,

Elder Stroud

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A Time of Learning

Hello all! Happy 10/10 Day! Today is kind of like Taiwan’s 4th of July, as they celebrate the start of their country 100+. So right now I am sitting in a WangKah, or internet cafe, surrounded by 100’s of high school kids who don’t have school today, all playing League of Legends, blasting dubstep, and swearing at their microphones in Chinese and really broken English. It’s pretty funny actually! Quite the contrast from my friend Matt who is serving in Honduras right now, and who wrote in his email last week that the internet went out in their place like 3 times and they had to move. If the internet went out here, there would be riots for sure.

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OLD pictures I found when we went to the beach like 4 months ago.

It was such a great week over here with General Conference (we were delayed a week due to the translation stuff), and I can honestly say I learned so much. I think the greatest thing about GC is that every single person can get something out of it no matter what you personally need. Aside from GC this week, we had quite the bland, boring week with nothing out of the ordinary. We are teaching TONS of people, it is pretty sick. I have never had a bigger investigator pool on my mission. Right now we have about 15 investigators and about 7 on date for baptism in the future. The Lord really is blessing us for our hard work. Because we have so many investigators, the majority of our time is spent going to and from lesson to lesson, so we haven’t had much time to get out and contact, thus the lack of picture this week. (Sorry!) Also the fact that our area is very small and in the middle of a huge city, with not much cool to see has limited my picture taking as well.

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It can be pretty intimidating going tracting when almost every door has a giant shrine to worship idols at behind it!

So for this week’s email I’m pretty much just gonna talk about General Conference. I know for me the biggest thing I got out of GC was the fact that we all need to look for the joy in our lives. I’m going to be very honest with you all, the past while of my mission I have rarely felt joy. It is extremely difficult to do what I do every day with the circumstances I have to do it all under. I know that personally I have been caught up in the grind of missionary work, with a companion who I hardly get along with, and I haven’t felt any joy. In reality I have been looking towards the negative of things, and not towards the blessings that I have right now. My favorite talks of this past GC were Elder Yamashita’s “Be Ambitious for Christ” and President Nelson’s “Joy and Spiritual Survival”. I think that Elder Yamashita’s talk really hit hard for me, as the focus of it was about an Elder who had such a desire to serve, who got called to serve in Japan, and because he was missing a leg and the reoccurring problems that came with that and riding a bike, he was sent home to a mission stateside where he could drive in a car. It really put things into perspective for me, and allowed me to see my situation with a new and different light. I realized that I take so many things for granted, and that I really need to refocus on what is most important. I was getting bogged down with the little things and not seeing the big picture. I think the most important quote from that talk was “We are ambitious for Christ when we serve faithfully, accept humbly, endure nobly, pray fervently, and partake worthily.” 

I realized that I needed to count my blessings and not focus on the negatives. I am so blessed to have a loving and supportive family, as well as the opportunity to come here to serve these people and teach about Christ, and as a bonus, at the same time become fluent in Chinese. Do I still have struggles? Absolutely. The mission is rarely a time of “sunshine and rainbows”, every day is hard work, and the fact that you are trying to teach a people something that will change their lives, but they won’t even give you a chance is hard on anyone. In President Nelson’s talk, this quote really stood out to me- “If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?” I have come to realize that all of the problems that I have always have a way of working themselves out in the end, no matter how daunting they seem in the moment. If we look for the joy in things, we WILL find it! I know that I’m so blessed to be here right now, and even though it is so hard, life changing lessons are being learned.

Sorry this email isn’t very interesting, I’ll try to send a better one next week! I challenge all of you to count your daily blessings and write down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day. I promise you that you will be better able to see the joy in life. I love you all so much! Thanks for staying safe during that hurricane! Until next week-

Love,

Elder Stroud

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We went to Ikea for dinner this week. Let me tell you how strange it is to be eating at Ikea in Taiwan!

 

Getting Wrecked by a Typhoon

Hello all! THIS WEEK WAS NUTS. Taiwan got WRECKED by a massive typhoon, and it actually was pretty scary!! 剛剛好 (Zach’s Mom’s note: this translates roughly to: “That’s Right!” per Google Translate)  It all happened on the day of my birthday! We don’t have any way to check the weather, but we had been told by members that a typhoon was coming. Because I’m in TaiZhong, which is kinda in a valley, it’s a little bit special, because the mountains on the east coast usually defer the typhoons to either north to Taibei or south to GaoXiong, but occasionally the typhoon will make it over the mountains and kinda get trapped between the mountains and the beach in the valley, and just WRECK the city, and that’s what happened haha! The day started off with me opening my presents that my family sent me, which were all awesome, and the best part of that was reading the letters that some of you sent my mom! They made my birthday seem like a real birthday, so I can’t thank those of you who sent them enough! We didn’t get a lot of rain, but the wind was just ridiculous, like uprooting massive trees ridiculous. We decided to go out in the morning and test the weather to see if we could go out and proselyte, and as we were leaving our apartment, a random lady came running over to us and just started shouting “NO NO NO NO NO” “YOU WILL NOT GO OUT TODAY” “IT IS NOT SAFE” and we explained to her that we were, and she was not happy, but we did it anyways hahaha.

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Playing in typhoons (those trashcans blew from about 50 feet away!)

So we biked to the church (about 15 minutes) and the wind was super strong, like, I almost got blown off my bike a few times strong. I’m a pretty big dude, like 6′ about 180 right now, and I was struggling to keep upright in the wind. We got the church and decided it was time to have lunch, so we walked the 100 steps to Costco with some other elders in our district who had the same plan, and as we were walking to church we saw this massive branch rip off of a tree from the wind, and absolutely crush the little Toyota underneath it. It was at that point that we realized that it was not safe to be outside. So we got our Costco pizza and quickly headed back to the church.

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Celebrating my birthday as a district with Costco cheesecake (my cameras settings got messed up, so that’s why its so white, same with the other ones this week).

While we were eating lunch, we got a call from the ZhongMing Sisters in our district saying that they were outside and had WALKED from their apartment in the typhoon because it wasn’t safe to be on bikes. Well their apartment is about an hour walk from the church, and both of the ZhongMing Sisters are little Taiwanese girls like less than 5′ 100lbs little, so it was a miracle that they didn’t literally get blown away in the storm. Well, they were pissed that we made them come to the church for DTM (District Training Meeting) so we went back to Costco to buy them a pizza to make them happy. At this point the Typhoon was raging and it was not safe to be outside, so we ate pizza and watched the 17 Miracles movie for a few hours until the eye of the storm came, and we went back home for the rest of the night. One of the members in our ward called us and said he was coming over to drop something off, and he brought us a birthday cake, so that was pretty cool! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to eat cake in my birthday this year, but I’m glad I did! Definitely one of the strangest days on my mission!

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Happy 20th! Also you can see the size of our shoebox, I mean “apartment”.

In other less interesting news,

This week we went on exchanges, and I got to go with Elder Van Slooten (yes that really is his name, he’s second from right in the photo above). He just got on island a couple of weeks ago, so it was fun for me to have to step up and be the one who actually speaks Chinese! We had a blast together, and placed 3 Book of Mormons that night, which was sweet.

We saw a super cool miracle this week with English class. We weren’t sure that we would have anybody even come because it was the day after the typhoon and the government had still told everyone to take the day off, and as class started we had 2 students and were feeling a little discouraged. By the end of class we had 11 in our intermediate level class, and 7 of them were brand new, 3 moms, and 4 kids. So a sweet miracle, since we use English as a finding tool.

Lastly, yesterday we had Stake Conference for all of South Taizhong, and President Teh (Our mission president), and the Taibei Temple president came to speak. It was pretty interesting because the Conference was half in Chinese, and half in English because we have the only English branch in Taiwan in our stake. So the English speakers had someone translating right next to them, and the English members had headsets and a translator in the back translating all of the Chinese speakers talks to them. You would be proud to know that I didn’t use the headsets and just listened to it straight up.

Pretty much that was it for my week! We didn’t watch General Conference because Taiwan is on a one week delay for the translators to translate the talks into Chinese, so this upcoming weekend I will get to listen, and I’m very excited! I hope you all had a great (typhoon free) week!

Special shout out to my boy Grant Malquist for getting his mission call to the Spain Malaga Mission! So proud of you dude! Serving the Lord is the best choice you will ever make!

Lots of Love,

Elder Stroud

 

Turning 20 in Taizhong

From 9/26/16

Hello all family and friends!! Welcome back to another update on my life in Taiwan!! I’m gonna be super honest with y’all… this week wasn’t anything special, but we did do lots of missionary work! (LOL that’s what I do every week) Tomorrow is my birthday and its really weird to think not only is today my last day as a teenager ever, but that I am going to be spending it in Taiwan and not with family and friends, but I know how important this work is, so that’s why I’m still here!

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The last photo from our last district! The camera was on a timer and I had to sprint back in like 3 seconds and squeeze in between everyone, so that’s why its super awkward…

A cool thing that happened:

So I got made English Leader, which basically means I have to organize our free English program that our district teaches every Wednesday night… it’s a pretty difficult calling, as our program has about 60 students that come every Wednesday. BUT we were doing an English proselyting activity on Saturday at a really big park, where we hand out flyers to try and get new students, and my comp walked off and got lost like he always does and I found him struggling to have a conversation with a man in his 20’s. As you all might know, my comp can’t speak English at all, and as soon as I found him he yelled at me “Engeelish” and I went over to help him out. It turns out the man who he had started talking too was from Australia, even though he looked like a regular Taiwanese dude, and he could speak 0 Chinese, but could speak Cantonese, as his parents moved to Australia from Hong Kong before he was born. He was visiting Taiwan to see his girlfriend, and he was just chilling out at the park that day. I had a really good gospel discussion with him in English, and got his info to give to the Australian Cantonese speaking missionaries (Yes that really is a thing)!

Probably the craziest miracle I have seen on my mission thus far:

We were waiting at the chapel for a 2pm lesson with an investigator last week, going over our lesson plan and things like that, and a man who I had never seen walked in and said “I want to be baptized, can you baptize me right now?” WHAT THE FREAK THAT NEVER HAPPENS! My comp and I looked at each other and I just burst out laughing because of the absurdity of the situation. We told him we would, but he needed to take all the lessons and pass an interview first, and he was totally willing! It turns out that he met with missionaries 10ish years ago and hasn’t been in contact with them since, and out of the blue he wanted to get baptized! We checked the ward record to make sure his name wasn’t on it and he wasn’t just some LA, and didn’t find it, so we started teaching him! Super cool miracle.

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Super cool view of all of TaiZhong City from the top of our area. You can’t see the mountains in the background very well because of all the smog.

Another cool thing that happened was that Lin Jie Mei one of the Less-Actives(LA) from my last area in Anding that we rescued, came up to NanTun to visit a friend, and she took all of us out to this really nice Italian place for my birthday dinner! So I ate salmon pasta, pizza, and Caesar salad for the first time in forever! A nice little change of pace from rice and noodles! I realized today that I can’t remember the last time I ate a fruit or vegetable, so that made me laugh to think that my mom would be so proud lol. Somehow I’ve managed to lose a ton of weight since being here without any super hard exercise or dieting at all. I think the majority of it is from stress (not being able to speak English ever and not knowing what’s going on half the time) and the fact that we pretty much are broke, so we eat very cheap.

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So this is from last week, but basically the Taiwanese people go nuts when you put these pomello peels on your head, like they think it is the funniest thing ever, so when we went to KaoRou last week they made me do it…

Pretty much that was it for my week!! Thank y’all for the birthday boxes and cards y’all sent! I have yet to open them, but I will tomorrow! I know since I have started to look for the miracles in my life every day, they have become more apparent to me. I know that if y’all apply the same principle, you can see them better as well! A scripture that I am really a big fan of that I pondered over again this week is Alma 37:44. Basically it is talking about how if we let Christ be the compass in our lives, he will point us to our eternal bliss and individual promised lands, whatever they may be! I encourage everyone to read and ponder that chapter!

 

 

 

 

Love you all so much!! Have a great week!!

Love,

Elder Stroud