Monday, March 31, 2014

3-31-14 President's Weekly Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Over 35 years ago, my mission president gave me some wise counsel. He encouraged us, as missionaries, to seek inspiration and be innovative in our work, but he also had two rules for designing and implementing proselyting activities: 1) they had to be dignified and, 2) they had to be effective. This is still very good advice for us today.

As we represent the Lord Jesus Christ, all that we do should reflect the dignity and honor of our calling. The duration of our full-time participation in this work is brief and will pass quickly: we cannot afford to use our time and talents in doing things that simply take up time without being effective in helping others come unto Christ.

Missionaries sometimes refer to going home as “dying,” their last area being the place where he or she “died.” This metaphor is an apt one and can help us endure in faithfulness as we serve. “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again…”(2 Sam. 14:14).

Fortunately we have a wonderful resource, prepared by prophets and apostles, to help us stay focused on the most effective and appropriate ways to accomplish this great work. It is Preach My Gospel. The introductory pages include a message from the First Presidency to each missionary that states, “Preach My Gospel is intended to help you be a better-prepared, more spiritually mature missionary and a more persuasive teacher. We urge you to USE IT DAILY in your personal and companion preparation…” (PMG, pg. v, emphasis added).

Recently I participated in a lengthy questionnaire from the Church research department inquiring about a mission president’s initial experience. One of the questions, regarding how often I personally study Preach My Gospel, left me with a deep impression. I was disappointed in my truthful response. I have resolved that if I am ever asked this question again, I will say that I use it daily. I urge each of you to have a similar commitment and desire to study this remarkable manual each day.

There are many in the world today who believe that if a desired outcome is good, then any method necessary to achieve that outcome is acceptable, the end justifying the means. In the work of salvation, the end and the means are inextricably intertwined. What we are trying to accomplish (help others come unto Christ), and the methods that we use (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end) are dependent upon each other.

Perhaps our most powerful statement on this subject comes from the Savior himself when asked by one of the twelve, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” How blessed we are to have His example, His teachings, His love and His atoning sacrifice. May we strive each day to improve and to become more like Him.

President Blickenstaff

Studier of PMG and Follower of Christ

P.S. It was actually President's suggestion to post his weekly letters on my blog, then he bugged me about it for about 4 days straight to get the post up, haha! Enjoy:)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

3-29-14 Fengyuan/Tanzi Missionary Preparation Activity

The Fengyuan and Tanzi wards wanted to hold activity that would prepare their youth and single adults to serve missions. Parents of primary children were also interested and attended.
The zone leaders spoke on physical and emotional preparation:
 Our AP spoke on spiritual preparation. 
He testified that seminary had helped him prepare for his mission in so many different ways:)))
Next door at the chapel, the sisters helped the primary children understand
what missionaries do every day, and how they can be missionaries too:)
 They sang "Army of Helaman" for us:
It was a great activity!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles" 2 Nephi 27:23

What happens when you specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day, pray for the missionaries in our area and their investigators by name every day, and invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home? MIRACLES!!!

I have been keeping daily journal entries on keeping Elder Nielsen's invitations. I'm sharing my log of my entries about our investigator Sis. L, so you can see the miracles unfold!

Friday, February 21:

We taught a sister named L with the APs tonight. She is a caregiver to an Agong [Chinese term of respect for an elderly man]. She loves the gospel but she can't come to church because she works every Sunday and her employer (Agong's adult children) won't let her leave him. The APs did a wonderful job of teaching her about 1 Nephi 3:7 and asked her to exercise her faith in God to help her to be able to attend church. Afterwards, Sis. L shared a concern she had about praying. She said twice she had experienced an icy cold feeling that came over her entire body and had a paralizing effect on her. She wanted to know why, and what it meant. I remember thinking to myself that this sounded like Joseph Smith’s experience just prior to the First Vision (JSH 1:16). I asked Sis. L if she had experienced good feelings while praying. She said all the time. I then turned to 2 Nephi 32:9. She read it and I asked her: Who wants to keep you from praying (paralyzing her)? She responded (from verse 9): The evil spirit. Then she pointed to the open Plan of Salvation pamphlet. I had opened it up earlier to show her the picture of the happy family. She said: Because he (the evil spirit) wants us to be miserable like him! It perfectly resolved her concern:) Sis. L must have read the last paragraph on the pamphlet page to herself, “Satan and his followers were sent away from God’s presence and were not allowed to be born on earth. They continue to exist as spirits. They are miserable, and they want you to be miserable.” I love the pamphlets!

Sunday, March 2:

The APs forwarded to me a text message from Sis. L during Sunday School: 
Sis. L: God crowned me with favor and mercy! Everyday is a thanksgiving for He never leave us. Elders Pls help me pray for my dad, his 4th year death anniversary. 
Me: I will pray for you today, that you’ll know that your father’s spirit still lives on and is in a much better place! Alma 40:12. 
Sis. L: Thank you! I know He is, sister. 
I asked Sis. L if she had time to meet with us, and she set up but later had to cancel. She was SO sad, and texted: 
I will make up for this! I don’t know how but I know God will make a way. He is the God of Miracles-_-

Thursday, March 6:
Sis. L texted me today and asked if we could meet. Unfortunately we had MLC. I called the Beiqu sisters and they were able to meet with her. I had told them about the brother in Yuanshan, how he had finished reading the entire Book of Mormon, and knew it was true, but the Yuanshan elders had not set a baptismal date with him because he had no way to get to church. I asked the elders to set a baptismal date and let the Lord provide a way. The Lord had helped the ward make a plan to physically carry this good brother to church, up and down five flights of stairs. He was being baptized that weekend:) Therefore, I asked the sisters to consider this with Sis. L. If she was willing to sacrifice for the Lord, He could provide the way. If she was willing to read the Book of Mormon, and lay that sacrifice on the alter, then the Lord would make it possible for her to attend church. Those obedient and faithful Beiqu sisters did it! They challenged Sis. L to read the entire Book of Mormon and set a goal to finish by Easter Sunday! That's six chapters a day, and the sisters committed to reading as well! Through that huge sacrifice, they are pleading with the Lord to make it possible for Sis. L to attend church that special Easter. Sis. L was SO happy!

Monday, March 10
Last week I found out who the elder was that first contacted Sis. L! He had injured his ankle and was spending time serving in the office, but had just returned out to the field. I asked him to send me an account of what happened. Today, I received his email:
One afternoon [November 7, 2013] we arrived at a less active member's home for a visit. They were not there so we quickly said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to guide us to someone who was prepared. We then began tracting. I came to a large apartment building and began to ring the bell for each floor when I heard a door open and someone coming down the stairs. A young women answered the door and I introduced myself. She did not speak Chinese so I repeated my introduction in English. She then covered her face with her hands and began to cry. She said she had been in Taiwan for a year now and because of the language barrier she had not been able to attend church and also did not have any scriptures to read. She also said that work had placed a large burden on her. She continued by saying that she had been praying that God would send someone to come find her. She shook our hands and said, "I had a good feeling about today. I knew God would answer my prayers." God lives and knows each and every one of us. He is mindful of every child and is ever near to hear our humble prayers.

Saturday, March 15
Taught Sis. L in the doorway of her home with the Beiqu sisters. She is already reading in Mosiah now! She shared with us some of her favorite verses. She finds such joy and comfort in the scriptures, taking every spare moment to go to her room and read some more. Before we departed, the four of us held hands as we prayed:) Afterwards, we took a picture with Sis. L and she told us we could leave notes for her in the pocket of a wheelchair on her doorstep. 

Sunday, March 16
The Beiqu sisters called me and told me of the miracle that happened after we taught Sis. L! She had the opportunity to share the gospel with Agong! She said she took him out for a walk in his wheelchair later that day. They happened to see a bride. He asked her why she was dressed in white. She told him it was probably because she was Christian, and that white symbolized purity and virtue. She told him that when Christ was resurrected, he was also dressed in white, and that He was our Savior and atoned for our sins. He asked if that was the reason she went to church. When she told him it was, he said he would have to talk to his daughter about letting her go to church! Amazing miracle!!!

Monday, March 17
Wrote a note to Sis. L and left it in the wheelchair pocket on my morning run. Later she texted me back with joy: I was so excited to read it! And it brighten my day!

Saturday, March 22
Wrote a note to Sis. L and she was so happy:) Used a sheet of stationery that had a little girl with black hair riding on the back of a flying Dr. Seuss like creature with a cape on it. I drew an arrow to the girl and labeled her “L.” Then drew an arrow to the creature with the words, “The Lord is our hero!” I tried not to be disrespectful in implying the Lord was a creature! Sis. L texted me: Thank you Sis! I am really blessed having you in my life! My name pointed to that little girl light my day! Smile filled my face. 1 Chronicles 29:14 am sharing what God had given me (words) – through all of you. Genesis 26:1-12 I am trying to plant seed in this dry home. I know God will let it grow.

Thursday, March 27
The miracle of the day was Sis. L! She called to tell me she would be going to church this Sunday...and every Sunday! She said she had a really bad day yesterday, and that Agong was mean to her again. I asked her what she did, and she said she went to her room and prayed that God would protect her and help her. Then she told me that today, she mustered up all the courage she could and told his daughter that she couldn’t take it any more, she had to go back to the Phillipines. They knew she had been mistreated. They begged her to stay, they told her she could go to church every week if she wanted to! MIRACLE OF MIRACLES!!! If Sis. L comes to church these next two Sundays and General Conference, she could be baptized on Sunday 4/13 (before transfers). Then she can be confirmed on Easter Sunday!!! It was a day of miracles for the Beiqu sisters, as well as our APs. They were so pumped, I know that they were brought closer to the Savior and His miraculous power!

2 Nephi 27:23
For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.
Please join us in praying for Sis. L:)


Please Consider This:
I went with the missionaries to teach Sis. L twice. That took about one hour each. I wrote her a couple of notes (maybe 10-15 minutes max) and delivered them both on my morning run, so I was exercising anyway. I included her in my prayers every day, we all pray every day anyway, right? I sent her a few text messages over a few days. How many of you would give 2 to 3 hours of service to see a miracle like this happen in your life? 

I invite you all to call up your ward missionaries and ask them if you can participate in a lesson with them. 
Then pray for your missionaries and your investigator by name every day. 
Pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. 
Invite your investigator to an activity in or out of your home. 
I promise you, if all have faith (including the investigator),
God will show unto you that He is a God of miracles!

Who is willing to do this? Post a Comment below and share with us your miracles as they happen!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3-2014 Zone Conferences - Common Threads Across All Zones

The APs train at every Zone Conference. They are so talented, insightful, and often extremely creative in their instruction. This quarter's training on Effective Morning Preparation included a video!

I frequently say to missionaries in the field, ‘You make or break your mission every morning of your life. You tell me how those morning hours go from 6:30 a.m. until you are on the street in your mission, whatever time it is; you tell me how those hours go, and I will tell you how your day will go, I will tell you how your month will go, I will tell you how your year will go and how your mission and your life will go.’   Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

First, the wrong way to prepare for the morning:
Buddy Study?
Followed by the right way!
Companionship Study:
A new mission Rules and Clarifications handbook. More importantly, after January interviews, I compiled all that our missionaries and members have been doing to hasten the work of salvation across the mission. These inspired ideas were shared as a resource, and an invitation extended to our missionaries to invite members to accept Elder S. Gifford Nielson's three invitations in his October general conference talk, "Hastening the Lord's Game Plan." Will you, as friends and family, join us?
1) Specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day.
2) Pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day.
3) Invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home.
I promise you, as you do so, the Lord will provide a way for you to participate in His great work. Miracles will happen, and you will witness the Lord's hand in your life. You will strengthen your testimony and feel His love daily! I testify that the Lord will empower you to be successful. As I have accepted and acted upon Elder Nielson's invitations since the beginning of February, the Lord has not failed me for a single day!
Missionary Reflections:

Our dearest office couple, Mission Secretary and Financial Officer, will be leaving in May.

Sister Darrington expressed how amazing it is that in a few short days, as each new missionary arrives in the office, she develops a deep love for every one of them. Her love is so sincere that they immediately know and feel her love their first day on the island!

Elder Darrington gets just as choked up as his companion! He loves his mission because of each of our missionaries and how much they inspire him!

This is our APs last transfer. He shared with us an experience during the summer prior to his mission. He was the only member of the Church attending an elite football kickers camp. All those who participated knew what he stood for, and that he had received his mission call to serve a two-year mission in Taiwan. At the conclusion of the camp, his coach put his arm around him and said, calling him by name, "Now don't you get soft on your mission." This fine elder now testifies that it was impossible for him not to become softened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ! How grateful he is that his mission had changed his life forever!
He encouraged missionaries to develop four loves: love for God, to know who He is; love for the people of Taiwan; love for each area in which you serve; love for your companion.

3-26-14 Gaoxiong West Zone Conference

Zone leader conducting:
Mission Recorder translating:
Reciting the mission scripture: D&C 50:13-14
Introducing new missionaries:
President presents the Asia Area vision, followed by his vision for the Taichung mission:
After a demonstration by President and Sis. Blickenstaff, missionaries practice inviting members to accept Elder Nielson's invitations to hasten the work of salvation:  

Celebrating April, May and June missionary birthdays,
joined by a recent convert whose birthday it was that very day!
After a discussion on the Doctrine of Christ, APs demonstrate extending a baptismal invitation:
Missionaries practice in companionships:

Concluding with the mission song:
The Gaoxiong West Zone at the Shizhong chapel:
Facebook missionaries meet with their Facebook district leader:
President meets with district leaders:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3-25-14 Gaoxiong East Zone Conference

New missionary introductions:
President presents the Asia Area vision, followed by his vision for the Taichung mission:
New Operations Manager in training, translating for us:
APs train on Early Morning Preparation:
President's first counselor helping missionaries to be safe and successful while contacting:
The counselor's son also helped us with translation, his wife helped us with lunch:
Celebrating April, May, and June birthdays:
Lunch break:

Cheese pizza and beans for our vegetarians:
Reflections are not easy!
This sweet sister said she is here in Taiwan because she is the luckiest person in the world:) She serves because she loves the Lord and has a testimony of His gospel, and she is happiest when she is serving the Lord and others. About 40 days before her mission release date, she decided she would dedicate every single day to the Lord. But then she asked herself, only 40 days? It was then that she decided she would dedicate every single day to the Lord for the rest of her life!
President shares insights on the Doctrine of Christ:
Missionaries search 2 Nephi 31, then share their insights:

APs demonstrate making a baptismal invitation:
Missionaries practice in companionships:

The Gaoxiong East Zone at the Yuanshan chapel:
President meets afterwards with district leaders:
Facebook district leader meets with Facebook missionaries: