This last week my current companion, Elder Puzey, and I were able to go do stuff with my first companion, Elder Anderton, on his last P-Day before going back home to the US.
We first went together to this super expensive all you can eat restaurant that had really nice food. Fortunately, one of Elder Anderton’s friends was nice enough to make reservations and pay for all of us to eat with her! They had unlimited sushi, soups, main dishes, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and other desserts – plus, everything was professionally made!
After we spent about 2 hours there eating, we had some friends take us up to this place called 十分 (ShiFen), located in the northern part of Taiwan, a couple hours from Taipei. It’s an older town filled with culture and surrounded by nature that’s a pretty popular place for tourists from Korea and Japan to go.
十分老街 (ShiFen Old Street) is one of the draws to tourists with its sidewalks just beside the train tracks. It’s a part of the Pingxi Branch Line, a famous train line that runs daily from Ruifang station, with several stops along the way.
The Pingxi Branch Line was originally created to transport coal, but has more recently been catering to tourists interested in learning more about the mining history in Taiwan.
In addition to the train, souvenir shops, and restaurants, one of the most popular attractions is the sky lantern shops. The sky lantern was invented during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) by Zhuge Liang aka Kongming. Originally, the sky lantern was used to transmit military information. In the 19th century, the Lantern Festival tradition was brought to Taiwan, and ever since then starting from the spring planting season, people would release “sky lanterns” into the air with their prayers for the coming year.
The sky lanterns are constructed from oiled rice paper on a bamboo made frame, and contain a small candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy flammable material. You can choose one-color or multi-colored lanterns. The Taiwanese believe that each color represents a certain meaning such as happiness, wealth, health, etc. People write their wishes on it because it is believed as the lantern flies into the sky, your wishes are passed on to the gods above.
They light off these lanterns right on top of the railroad tracks, which is funny because it’s an active track! Probably about every 20 minutes or so a train comes through; everyone has about 10 seconds of notice to get off the tracks before the train comes zipping through!
Before we left to go back home, we also stopped over at the nearby waterfall, which was really nice. Shifen Waterfall is a scenic waterfall located in Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan, on the upper reaches of the Keelung River. The falls’ total height is 20 metres and 40 metres in width, making it the broadest waterfall in Taiwan. Too bad we can’t go swimming!
We also ate dinner earlier this week with Bella! She’s awesome – she took us to this really nice Italian pasta place in Shilin! She’s a member, but is usually only up here in Taipei during the school year for college.
Last week I told you about the Pokémon Go obsession here in Taiwan…here’s more proof! There were over 3000 people searching for one (or more) of the 151 different Pokémon characters in Beitou last weekend!
Yesterday we had a big meeting with Elder Evans from the Quorum of the Seventy and also one of the Asia area leaders (that is why pday got moved to today). It was pretty cool because everyone from our entire mission attended. It was probably one of the most satisfying meetings I’ve ever attended…mainly due to the fact that he told us missionaries to do everything that I’ve been suggesting for a while now. Not to say that I’m incredibly smart or that I would know better than others, but I’ve had several ideas of things to do that no one would ever accept.
Elder Evans pretty much told us that we need to have very minimal time that we are outside contacting people on the street. We should be finding people through members, investigators, less-active members, etc. He even told us that just from his point of view, spending one hour to ask some investigators and members if they have any friends we could also meet with is so much more enjoyable and effective than spending maybe five hours on the street in the hot and humid weather talking to people in hopes of getting a new investigator from it. In fact, he told us that the Quorum of the Twelve has almost come to a unanimous decision to stop street contacting because it’s doing more harm than good. Of course they haven’t all agreed on that yet, so we will continue contacting on the street, but the point was that we should rarely ever be street contacting.
I’ve been telling missionaries this pretty much for months to no avail – we don’t baptize people through street contacting, we baptize them through teaching. We should be having lessons as often as possible and should rarely be street contacting. Missionaries here don’t like that suggestion though.
All that happens is I get sent on an exchange with zone leaders in which they set up like 5 hours of straight street contacting and then tell me how important finding is (which we just had a training on last month – street contacting is a method of finding, but is not the only method…here, when missionaries say finding, they only mean street contacting because that’s all they do.
No one wants to take a risk and try anything other than what’s been done in the past – which means all we do is street contacting). Everyone just assumes that missionary work = street contacting and if you want to do anything other than that, you’re lazy and don’t want to do missionary work. It’s been like 6 months of pounding my head against a brick wall with no real sight of change…until now.
Elder Evans directly told us that there needs to be a change of mission culture and that we need to be following what Preach My Gospel says, which interestingly enough doesn’t even mention street contacting until like 9 pages into the “How Do I Find People to Teach?” section…and it’s only about 1 sentence long (which he brought up in his talk to us). Anyways, this is probably the most exciting change that’s happened while I’m here. Now if they’d only allow us to use iPads like most of the rest of the world does… *hinthint* Although, it’s not our mission president’s decision, it’s the Asia area leaders’ decision.
Since we have P-Day today on Tuesday (instead of Monday), we’re able to go to the National Palace Museum (it’s closed on Mondays)! I hear it’s really cool! Over the weekend, our mission president and his family plus Elder Evans and his wife went there. It’s actually inside of my zone so it’s really close by. They have the jade cabbage there as well as a special exhibit on loan from China – the terracotta warriors!
– Elder Austin Simonson