Saturday, July 30, 2011

Orienting the New Elders & My Testimony (posted by mom)

What a fun week we had here at the mission office. New missionaries came on this past week. We started preparing for them at the start of the week.

Then on Wednesday evening we drove up to Taibei and waited for them. Their plane got in at about 9 and we didn’t get home to Taichung until after mid-night. On the way home we have a devotional. We all introduced ourselves, and the new missionaries shared with us why they came on a mission and what expectations they have toward their mission experience. It was amazing to see how excited these new missionaries are. Their faith is so great! This group seemed particularly special—they had all overcome personal challenges and courageously chose to serve a full time mission.

On Thursday morning we went running with them and ate breakfast at President Bishop’s house. After a full day of training and eating out at some Chinese restaurants, we went and did our Dan Jones activity with them. At Dan Jones we go to a crowded night market, sing a hymn, and each take a turn standing on a soapbox preaching to the people there. (Alma 13:22) After the trainees have their turn on the soapbox, a more experienced missionary will take them around the market. It was neat to see these missionaries grow in excitement and self-confidence. Each of them came back to the mission office having found many new investigators.

Friday we run again with the new missionaries. Then later in the morning we have a meeting where trainees are assigned to their trainers. It was a lot of fun. The rest of Friday we spent delivering bicycles and luggage to the new missionaries.

As an AP we rarely have time to proselyte and find new investigators. That is one thing that I really miss, helping people come unto Christ and be baptized. However, I do love working with President Bishop and serving other missionaries.

I love this work. I feel that the doctrine of Christ is now a part of my soul. Faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end—I know that this is the path to salvation. This is the foundation of eternal life and every person that enters this mortal realm must accept and live this gospel to return to live with our Father in Heaven. And what an exciting time we live in when the gospel has been fully restored. Eternal truths are now ours to learn, we can work towards exaltation through temple covenants and priesthood powers. We can work for the salvation of our posterity and our dead. This restored gospel is so engaging. I love a quote from Elder Maxwell on the subject:

"I am even more anxiously engaged in the restored gospel than ever because the restored gospel is so engaging. It really does get a grasp on our minds, and there is no end to the exploration that one can make of it. It is, as I said years ago, an “inexhaustible gospel.” To be anxiously engaged really does mean that we are engaged intellectually as well as spiritually, and life in the kingdom, as you all know, is also very engaging. So although some people at my stage of life might say, in effect, “Been there, done that,” not I. I feel instead this sense of anxious engagement in something that I have yet to take the full measure of. As I look back across the sweep of this century, I feel that very strongly.

This too is my testimony.
I love you all 300!
Elder Spencer Harris

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trainings, DVD's and a few Q&A's (posted by mom)

Each week is an adventure! Things come up, meetings happen, we go on exchanges etc.

This past week we had leadership training meeting. It is a meeting that is used to train Zone Leaders, District Leaders, and Trainers. The way our mission is set up is so that districts are really small. That's just how it is, I'm not sure of the reason--possibly to let many missionaries have leadership opportunities / easier to spread information. Anyway, Half the mission ended up attending. We were trained on 4of the 8 Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel lessons. Elder Cocke and I shared how to prepare a good district training meeting and President Bishop taught us the principles of the baptismal interview.

During Elder Cocke's and my presentation and practice model, there were a lot of ah-ha moments for some of the district leaders. So I feel like it was a success and helped out the missionaries in attendance.

You might find this interesting, I did: The missionary department has issued every companionship in the world a DVD player. They have authorized the DVD player for the use of watching 2 Preach My Gospel video series. These videos show missionaries using particular missionary (teaching) skills in actual situations. There are good examples and bad examples. Overall, the missionaries do a really good job teaching these investigators and many of them get baptized. It is fun to watch and insightful. The reasoning is that the church has had certain groups of missionaries watch these videos on a regular basis and their teaching noticeably improved.

It is a big change, and it shows the trust that the church has in missionaries. Elder Cocke and I now have boxes of DVD players in our office waiting for a new home.

Elder Cocke and I are over an English branch of the church here in Taizhong. A few weeks ago, a member gave me some referrals. Anyway one of them was GOLDEN! He is way willing and wants to learn more. He lives in Taibei though. I am excited for the missionaries that get to meet with him.

I love you tons. I love this work and the many missionaries I know get to know and work with. We have a great Sr couple that works with us here in the office--Brother and Sister Liston. they're wonderful!

Elder Spencer Harris

Questions & Answers:

Are you enjoying being AP?

What is your favorite part?
Working with missionaries all over the mission.
Helping them learn and see the success from all their hard work.

Do you still get to bike places or do you just use the car now?
It is a little bit of both.
If there are no meetings, we drive around going on exchanges.
Some of my favorite times are going around with missionaries having fun and seeing miracles!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cut and Fill and an Investigator Turned Missionary (posted by mom)

This past week was a lot of fun. We had two Zone Conferences this past week—one in the north and one in the south. Both went well. President Bishop gave a great presentation on having faith to move mountains. He used an experience he had while helping to build highway 41 by strawberry reservoir. To build a highway it has to be designed and planned. Mountains and valleys have to be leveled using a ‘Cut and Fill’ method. And finally a road must be paved. He taught that the time invested in designing and planning a road is an example of faith. Faith is a principle of action. To have the faith to move mountains we have to ‘cut and fill’. We have to remove (or ‘cut’ down) mountains of sin and ‘fill’ our lives with meaningful pursuits and activities. After the mountains in our lives are removed and the valleys of fear and doubt are filled, God will help us pave the way to our ultimate desire—eternal life and exaltation. He gave us an invitation to select one mountain in our life that needs to be cut down and one valley in our life that needs to be filled and then to take action. I was impressed by his lesson, and I am committed to change.

Elder Cocke and I gave a training on listening (to the spirit and to what your investigators are really saying with their words and body language). It is a teaching skill listed in Preach My Gospel in Chapter 10. We had a fun skit that got a lot of laughs. We had an investigator named “Brother Lessons”. (We were trying to emphasize a point that we want to teach people not lessons.) We did everything wrong during the teaching process. We didn’t listen to him and we didn’t prepare for our meetings with him. It was a lot of fun.

One exciting thing is currently in our mission, there is a short-term missionary. The special thing about this is that a little over ½ a year ago, I ran into this person on the streets of Douliu and we started teaching him. He was baptized a few weeks after I left Douliu. Imagine my excitement when I ran into him dressed in a suit serving as a short-term missionary.

We are seeing a lot of miracles. I enjoy having many chances each week to learn from a lot from the missionaries in our mission on exchanges. I love this missionary life. I’m grateful for our savior; I love him. I am grateful for his promise that if we come unto him he will show unto us our weakness and help us make weak things become strong. (Ether 12:27)

I love you all. Have another good week. Elder Spencer Harris

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Teaching Investigators via Web Cam (posted by mom)

It’s been a great week. I’ve had many more opportunities to get outside my comfort zone. One example is we trained 40 missionaries on the Peach My Gospel teaching fundamentals. President Bishop trained on 4 of the 8 topics and me and my companion trained on the other 4. It was a little stressful but in the end it turned out alright; in fact, I think it went pretty well.

This last week on Monday we had a chance to go visit a member and his college roommate who was from Utah. It was an awkward feeling using English to share the gospel. In hind sight I think we could have done a much better job.

Recently we have had the special experience of teaching the Huang family. The reason this is so special is because they do not live on Taiwan. They live on an island called Jinmen. It is very close to China but independent from China. The island is a part of our mission, but there are no missionaries there. There is only a small band of about 10 members and a few investigators that meet every week out there.

The goal is to baptize the investigators who have been attending church for a while, but have not yet had the chance to hear the discussions or be baptized. The plan is for us to teach them by webcam. It is different from teaching face to face, but the spirit is still present. We have only met with one of the investigators so far — the Huang dad. His wife is a member, and they have a daughter who is currently 7 years old. He has a baptismal goal for 7-30-11. We believe that he will make it. I’ll keep you posted.

Aside from training, this week I got to go on an exchange to Gangshan, my former area. It was fun to see some of the members and recent converts there and see that the area is in good condition. President Bishop attended the latter half of this exchange. It was fun to see his zeal and excitement for the work.

Another exchange took us to the bottom of the island where I got to meet a new missionary. He is great! He is bold, willing to speak up, not afraid of work, very smart, diligent on the streets contacting, and every good thing a missionary should be. He asked me if I knew his cousins and I did. They live just 3 houses down from us.

On Saturday, we had a preparation day. We were in Hengcun so we took a ride down to Kenting and walked around a beautiful park which included a lighthouse. At the park we saw a very long centipede (over 6 inches long) and a lizard jumped from a tree and landed on my companion causing him to scream…haha. After that we went to an aquarium, it is one of the biggest in the world. It was fun to see.

I love being a missionary. I miss having my own area to work in though. It is a little harder in the office to have time to find and teach people. This is one reason I’m so glad we’ve been given this Jinmen island project. I hope we can see some baptisms in the near future.

I am so grateful for God. I’m grateful for his awareness of me and those I serve with. His tender mercies are evident everywhere. I’m grateful for this restored gospel that will allow us a clear view of our relationship to God and many other precious doctrines that are lost to this world.

Until next week,

Elder Spencer Harris

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Busy Week of Exchanges (posted by mom)

It’s been a full week!

Monday, was spent being busy in the office. We prepared schedules and trainings, tried to find short-term missionaries, and sent out some emails.

Tuesday we were off to Jiayi. I had the chance to exchange with an elder from my MTC district and his local missionary companion. It was fun to take a day to preach the gospel with them! Elder X is from Idaho; he’s done some fun things in his life such as raise ostriches and work at a research farm. Elder Y is a smart guy who graduated from Taiwan’s best college with a degree in Electronics!

Wednesday I exchanged with the Zhanghua Zone Leaders. It was a good learning experience for me. I was able to learn a lot from the both of them. They are master planners. They remember every single invitation they extend to investigators. I was impressed by their humility and diligence.

Thursday we had Zone Leader Council. It was a fun experience. I had the chance to conduct the meeting. I was really nervous, but in the end everything went alright. All the Zone Leaders reported on their Zones, and then we ate lunch at President Bishop’s house. After lunch, we had a really good discussion on how we can increase baptisms in the mission. We chose four ways that we felt would be most effective and then divided up into 4 groups and discussed how these ideas could be implemented in a zone. It was a great time to fuel ideas and get the Zone Leaders excited for the month of July. After that, my companion and I presented training on helping other missionaries catch the vision of missionary work, and President Bishop talked about the mission training plan.

Later that evening, we met with some youth from the Taizhong Stake. They are organizing a missionary activity day and came to the office to discuss the details with us. I was really impressed by their thoughtfulness and preparation for this activity. It should be a good one.

Friday we exchanged with the Xihu elders. (That was my first area.) We were actually in the area just south of where I served, but it was fun to see the chapel and come across some of the members that I knew before.

Saturday was in Huwei. (Just north of Douliu—another area I served in.) The Huwei companionship was particularly diligent. They talked to everyone. They have high goals and big plans. It was a pleasure to exchange with them.

It was an exhausting week. But I loved it. I really want to learn those skills that will help me uplift, bless, and inspire other missionaries. I want to know how I can better help them find joy in the work. I want to know how I can help them be fruitful in all phases of the work.

My apartment is great! It is right above the mission office. The chapel we use is right next door. Our apartment is decently sized and clean. We share it with two other office elders, and that is fun. The church and office and mission home were all built on a small plot of ground many years ago. Since then, high-rise buildings have been built on all sides. Everyone knows where the church is.

My companion is a fun person. We get along well. We talk openly and frequently with each other (just like the missionary handbook says.) He is always good to invite me to pray with him. He is from Colorado Springs. He is a genius in mathematics, and he is also a BYU student.

I am continually impressed by the goodness of the missionaries in this mission. As far as I can tell, they are all trying. They study daily, sacrifice their time, give of themselves, work in harmony with their companions, and do all they can to help others come unto Christ. I am too. I love this work. I’m grateful to each of you too—for your prayers, for your testimonies, and for your love and support. I’m grateful that you too are trying to bring others unto Christ by word and by deed.

Have a good one. Love you 300. Elder Spencer Harris