Monday, May 30, 2016

5-30-16 President's Weekly Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

This past week was a great one for Sister Blickenstaff and me. We enjoyed attending the 60th Anniversary of Missionary Work in Taiwan devotional last Saturday. It was very nostalgic for me to reflect on the many changes that have taken place and the tremendous growth of the Church that has occurred in the last 60 years. It could not have happened without the consecrated service of many missionaries and leaders and without the help and guidance of the Lord. I feel so blessed to have been able to spend 5 years of my life serving in Taiwan. I am so grateful for all that the Lord has given me: a great companion, a wonderful family, health, strength and emotional stability, opportunities to serve in the Church, and the blessing of being able to be a missionary.

I love Taiwan: I love the people, the language, the culture, the food and everything else about it. I love being involved with missionary work and missionaries. I love seeing firsthand the changes that come into people’s lives as they accept the restored gospel and come unto Christ. I will be forever grateful for the blessing and opportunity to serve in this remarkable place.

Yesterday Sister Blickenstaff and I attended the branch conference in the Xinying Branch of the Chiayi District. It was a beautiful day. The chapel was full. The branch president gave a great talk about the children of Israel as they prepared to enter the land of Caanan. He talked of the faith that they needed to follow Moses and leave their homes in Egypt. He talked of their struggles and suffering in the wilderness as they learned many important lessons and prepared to receive the blessings that the Lord had in store for them in the promised land. President Liang, first counselor in the district presidency, then spoke and further elucidated the lessons that the children of Israel learned as they wandered in the wilderness. His talk was a very powerful and doctrinal lesson on the blessings of keeping the commandments. Both of these great leaders bore testimony of the power that comes into our lives as we exercise obedience.

As I listened to the talks yesterday I could not help but think that Chiayi is well prepared to become a stake of Zion. I hope that it will happen while Sister Blickenstaff and I are still here, but “it mattereth not” (Ether 12:37) as long as we have been faithful and have done everything we could to bring it to pass. We should hear back in the next week or so whether the application has been approved. Please keep the members and leaders of Chiayi in your prayers this week.

I also could not help thinking that the talks given yesterday also applied to each of you as you serve your missions. Sometimes a mission can seem like wandering in the wilderness and facing many trials. As we learn to put our trust in God and keep His commandments, greater strength and power come into our lives to help us do the work to which we have been called. We learn many important lessons in the process and prepare ourselves for greater blessings (and trials) that lie ahead in our lives. The only difference is, we have already reached the promised land! Taiwan is truly a land of milk and honey!

I am grateful that each of you have chosen to serve a mission and for the opportunity that has been mine to labor alongside you. I know that you will be happier and have a greater sense of fulfillment as you work diligently and faithfully and learn to be obedient.

President Blickenstaff

Mentor of Obedient Champions

Sunday, May 29, 2016

5-29-16 Xinying Branch Conference

A wonderful branch conference today in Xinying!
The branch president chose Joshua 1:9 as the theme: Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. He spoke of the children of Israel, how their faith was insufficient for the Lord to deliver them, hence Moses had to lead them in the wilderness for 40 years. The prophet Elisha, however, had such great faith that when surrounded by the horses and chariots of the king of Syria, he feared not. Instead, Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened to see that Elisha was encircled about by a mountain full of the Lord's horses and chariots of fire. The Lord promises us He will be with us if we have faith in Him.
A member of the district presidency then spoke of those 40 years in the wilderness as a time of preparation for the children of Israel to enter into the promised land, and likened that unto our own conversion process. He reminded us of their preservation in the wilderness, and how neither their clothes nor shoes waxed old and they neither ate bread nor drank wine, but were provided manna from heaven. As long as we keep the commandments, the Lord will sustain us.
President likened the journey in the wilderness to a mission, where missionaries quickly learn that missionary work is not always easy. However, as they study each day, overcome their weaknesses,  and exercise faith and repentance, they go forth with faith in the strength of the Lord!
 Surprise visit from a returned missionary!
President, giving him a hard time about his hair, asks for a show of hands if you prefer short hair over long!
You get to guess why he's grown his hair out:
1) He's currently living in Alaska and his neck keeps getting chaffed by the wind.
2) He made a truce with his best friend not to get a haircut for a year.
3) He's getting ready for the Nauvoo pageant this year!
Ward council members gather for lunch:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

5-28-16 60th Anniversary Celebration of Missionary Work in Taiwan - Taipei

With a limited amount of tickets for the afternoon session, we took our northernmost native missionaries and their companions to attend the devotional in Taipei. All other missionaries were invited to view a live broadcast of the morning session at their stake centers across the mission.
 Several members of the Magong branch and Kinmen group also flew over to Taiwan to attend the temple as well as the devotional:
While we were en route to the afternoon session, President was speaking at the morning session. Our good brother from Kinmen tried connect to the live broadcast on his cell phone. When he was finally able to view the proceedings, the speaker concluded his talk, sat down, and President Blickenstaff spoke next:) What a tender mercy it was for me to hear President deliver his address live! Afterwards, a brief flag ceremony was held, wherein Asia Area President Elder Randy D. Funk passed the first anniversary flag to President Blickenstaff serving in the Taichung mission and the second flag to a stake president serving in Taipei. After all full-time missionaries were asked to stand, all church members were asked to stand. Then President Blickenstaff passed his flag to a missionary, and the Taipei stake president passed his flag to a ward mission leader, depicting the future of missionary work in Taiwan: missionaries and members working together to hasten the work of salvation!
President celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Taipei mission, together with a former companion:
Lots of selfies while waiting for the afternoon session to start:

 President joins us for a group photo between sessions:
The afternoon session was equally as inspiring! 
Elder Weldon Kitchen, visiting with his wife, shared several of his experiences as one of the first four missionaries to serve in Taiwan, arriving to the island from Hong Kong in 1956. 
Another missionary that President Blickenstaff served with 40 years ago talked about his first day on island 
Elder Guan, Asia Area Seventy
The Northern Taiwan Choir was amazing! Their voices were in such perfect harmony it was as if you were listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! Several of our returned missionaries were members:

And one of our returned missionary's mother even:
 So wonderful to meet our missionary's families:

Our sister missionary below spoke during the afternoon session and talked about her parent's dedication to serving the Lord. She sees the same kind of devotion from the members in the wards that she serves in, and has come to realize that all service to the Lord has eternal consequences. Regardless if you can see the outcome or not, the Lord knows every detail:)
 Kaohsiung stake president conducted the meeting:
 We are so grateful to be able to see our Kinmen friends one last time before we leave!
 Our Taiwanese returned missionaries will be holding a reunion in Taipei on June 18!

For over two years, President worked closely with the former president of the Tainan Stake. It was great to see him again. Being a physician, he has helped me time and time again to watch over our sick missionaries in Tainan! So grateful for his service!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

5-26-16 Mission Leadership Council

President extends a warm welcome to our newest mission leaders:
Office elders give us an update on the new reporting system:
 President reviewing mission statistics with mission leaders:
 Counseling together on upward trends:

 Lunch together at the mission home: BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad!

 If the elders like healthy chick food, I'm happy and their mothers are happy too!
 More 72-hour kit peanut butter to make Scotcheroos!
 Afternoon session starts with the hymn, "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel"!
 Assistants have an object lesson on planning:
 Get all the rocks and sand into the jar, then screw the lid on:
 Not looking like they will fit:(
 Let's work together, giving his companion a shot at it:
 The rocks are in, now for the sand:
 Haha, we're too far from the beach...improvise with pancake mix!
 Some gentle pats from below:
 Yeah, success!
 What conclusions can you draw from doing it...
 The Wrong Way?
 Planning for Success:
 Step by step, from one of our former assistants:
 Practicing using the 13 steps to plan:

Our final Mission Leadership Council instruction to our mission leaders:
Effective PMG Planning and Teaching
  • Good personal study, know the lessons. 
  • Teach with spiritual power. 
  • Teach by the spirit and help others make and keep commitments. 
  • Focus on commitments & baptismal interview questions. 
  • Know Feel Do lessons!
  • Work with your companion.
  • Customize your lesson for each investigator. Identify invitations you will extend. 
  • Lesson accountability: evaluate each lesson to improve.
  • Actively work to teach with greater power. 
  • Learn to rely on the Spirit (Worthy, Obedient, Diligent). 
  • Teach in unity, pray for your companion!
  • The quality and power of your teaching will help investigators to understand and accept the Restored Gospel!
From Elder Dallin H. Oaks' general conference talk: 
"Opposition in the form of difficult circumstance we face [on our mission]
is also part of the plan that furthers our growth [on our mission]."

Although we make prepare and study, make plans, and exercise faith, opposition is essential to growth on a mission. Missionaries face opposition in many different ways. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they have learned to exercise faith, humble themselves, rely on the spirit, and experience joy and growth through overcoming opposition. Then they can go forth to teach and minister to the missionaries they lead. 
After President's closing remarks and testimony, 
we closed our last mission leadership council with the mission song:

Our June mission leaders: