It's New Years for the world outside China! Dec. 28, 2014

Well this week we had a solid Christmas. We went over to the Lefler's home and it was a great time. They put together a Santa hat and some goodies in it for us! Then we had dinner and some other families came over too. It was a grand ole' time and brought the Christmas Spirit. It was a Christmas! After their place we stopped by the Church's flat (because we don't have a chapel) and we wished a Merry Christmas to the Filipina sisters in the branch and sang a couple of hymns with them. After that we spent the night walking around and looking for people to help out, give a candy cane, or wish a Merry Christmas. It was raining outside so not too much was out there. Elder Campbell needed to call home so we ended up home a little earlier that night. It was a great Christmas though. I am just super grateful for the members in the branch and the love and support they give us missionaries. They are great!
Also the Chan family in the Chinese branch that invited us over on Christmas Eve were the best. So great and made us all feel like gold. It was nice to practice the Chinese again as well! Their little daughter Cming won the award for the cutest little girl ever. She gave us all little presents and told us Merry Christmas. 

We went over to the Brother and Sister Cruz's home also on boxing day and it was awesome. Some of their kids were home and so it was a great, happy time. They still had the Filipino spirit of the holiday burning. It was so great listening to them all laugh and joke together. We shared the He is the Gift message and talked about why we love Christmas. It was great to hear everyone's reasons. 

This Sunday was fun, we were heading to class and the primary president, Sister Bentley, walks up to us and asks if we have something to do and if we can help. We told her of course and she smiled. We then went and taught the 9-11 year olds primary class and also the two youth in the branch. It was hilarious and very energetic. The lesson was on the priesthood. We acted out the First Vision of Joseph Smith, when he got the Aaronic  Priesthood, and the Melchizedek Priesthood. Then some kids shared about how Priesthood blessings have helped them or family members. 
It was pretty fun time.. the only thing is now I owe all the kids a treat. Looks like I'll be going to the clearance candy isle this week!
I am not sure what else to write. This was a fast week.
Elder Townsend
these are  Christmas
We are all wearing the ties the Chan's gave to us

Merry Christmas! Dec. 21,2014

Well this week there was a little change, I got a new companion for my last transfer. I will be serving with Elder Campbell out here in Discovery Bay. I am super stoked to be here for the end. This is the BEST branch ever. They are the coolest members.

Well this week was a quick one, it included much more knocking on doors which was a great adventure! We ended running into this massive water buffalo and it was a shame I didn't have my camera on me because it was huge. I thought it was a statue outside of this house until it turned to look at us. Pretty cool. 
Then while we were out knocking on a door there were these two dogs just laying on the sidewalk and they seemed to be pretty relaxed so we kept going. When we went to knock on this little house door, the ugliest little shih tzu dog that looked like an e-wock? (stars wars) jumped to bite my hand and then started yapping. Next thing we know the two lazy dogs and then another appear out of nowhere barking. I was think get out of here so I put my hand in my pocket and starting walking. Elder Campbell said he froze in fear and just stood there looking at the door. Well the person opened the door and closed it, but that was good enough to stop the dogs. Man, dogs here are wild. Literally. Elder Campbell and I have had some good laughs though and I am really looking forward to this move with him. It'll be interesting and a great adventure. We are super stoked to work til we drop which is nice!

Well this past week we were able to meet some nice people but there really isn't much to write about. We met another man named Joel who speaks French as his mother tongue! Except he is from Africa not France. If he ever will come to church, that would be awesome. African Joel and French Joel. 
We met with a man named Klaus this week. He is the one from Germany who had contacted us about a month back. Well we went and met up with him and our Branch Mission Leader Brother Bentley came with us. It was a good lesson, we were able to share about the Book of Mormon and get to know him more. Brother Bentley is super great guy and really emphasized that the most important thing is that we find things that make us better people and that we are willing to serve our fellow neighbor. Klaus is really nice and a joke maker. But he has interest to find things in his life that are truths and wants to learn. He said that he is willing to add to or change things he believes now if he finds things that are more true than what he believes. He really is willing to be constantly learning.

A cool quote that a member said during her talk yesterday at church really stuck out to me. It was "too many times a man is willing to die for his faith but not willing to fully live it." 
I really found that interesting. Especially with this Christmas season. We fully know the sacrifice and the life our Savior Jesus Christ lived and what He gave as well. It had me thinking a lot on how often that I need to fully live my faith that religion is part of me. That I am loving others and trying to be a better person to them. 
One thing I have really noticed in these members here in the branch is how they live their lives. They are living in the attitude of fully serving and loving those around them. It is incredible the Spirit of Love that is evident in this branch. They are always lifting each other up and finding ways to serve. While on the streets it has influenced me to think and act on how I can be more concerned of others. While talking to people, the days I love best are when we at least make some one laugh, smile, or a little less stressed. Not all the times are people willing to accept our message, but they are usually willing to accept a laugh so we will give it to them. We work and pray for the success in bringing others to Christ, but I believe that maybe that smile is what we needed to help them with that day. 

Also I have found it is so true that what we pray for is what we get. Little acts of service are always needing to be done. I feel bad for the days I don't really have any because I realize that those days I had forgot to look.
Super cool was just last friday. A less active member that we are helping, David, had left a few weeks ago to work at a dog kennel and hopefully live. This was a good opportunity to get away from friend that weren't the best influence and hopefully get his life out of the trouble he got back into. Well after a week there, his phone went out. We couldn't contact him and couldn't find him. I was getting a little nervous about him and just praying he would be alright. Well then he gave a call on Friday night saying that he was in the hospital for the past week. He said he felt he needed to call us and let us know. It was such a relief  to hear he was doing alright. He said that while there, he started to share about the Book of Mormon and one of the guys there has started to read it and really enjoying it! Also he said that he know God was there for him because the first people he met there names were.. this is what he said: "John, and then Peter, and then I meet Simon, and then of course to add on I meet James! They are all Chinese though. But I am telling you mate, God is here and He's watching out for me. No worries mate, it is going really great here. I am enjoying it."

I sure do know that He watches out for us, Heavenly Father sure does love us. 
Merry Christmas.
Elder Townsend

These are the baptism pictures and also of Joel's son Gabriel. He is hilarious. His mum made the entire outfit for him! 

This is some gnarly thing they eat in the Philippines. It is pronounced Ba loot. It is a somewhat developed egg that you break out of the shell and then eat up. I am talking veins, feathers kind of, bones, and yeah. It is an aborted egg. It is gnarly but you gotta eat it. some people really enjoy it. Sorry the pictures are fuzzy. We did this a couple weeks ago. Our friend Perla gave them to us for Christmas.

Joel's baptism Dec. 14, 2014

This week was really great for Joel, why? Because he got baptized! 
The weather this week had been terribly cold and his baptism was going to take place at a rock pool out here in Discovery Bay. Well we kept praying along with the branch and then what do you know,Sunday was the perfect day for a baptism. The sun was out, the sky was clear, and the temperature had raised a few degrees. All of the branch members were smiling and excited. 
We all gathered at the rock pool and started the service. (pictures next week) Two people were greatly touched. His wife and son.

On the light, funny note, his son was very proud of him. We were all gathered around the pond of water and Gabriel was at the back. After his dad came out of the water he let out a "Woohoo! Yeah!" and a couple claps. Then he pointed to this boy near him and yelled "Hey boy! BOY!" Then pointing to his father and chest puffing with pride yelled "That's my dad!" It was a great thing to see how much Gabriel adored and was proud of his father. 

Joel's wife, Jennifer, is from Mainland China so there is not a christian or religious background that she has. She has been raised and taught otherwise. Well that week she wasn't quite sure if she was going to attend his baptismal service. When we came by on Saturday, she had decided she would. Her english is not the best, so most of the time talking to her is very simple or has Joel translating or me trying my best mandarin to her. That Saturday she brought up to us that religion gives people direction and will help them with purpose, but she already had direction and purpose. She said that they do it to feel happy and it is not needed for the Chinese. She brought up that we are just different people. Different cultures and lives. It was an interesting conversation that took place. 
The following day at Joel's baptism was very neat. After the ordinance had taken place we had gathered back up to close. Perhaps lost in somewhat confusion of what was happening, she stood next to her wet husband. "Oh my Father" was what we would all sing. She stood their looking at unfamiliar words, but then something happened. Tears streamed down her face. They came from a source that may have never been felt before, Jennifer, I believe, was starting to feel her Father in Heaven's love for her for the first time. 
The Holy Spirit had come to her and was so strong, emotions could not stay in. She, in the midst of her tears, tried to sing. This may be the beginning of the journey for her. Joel had testified after receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost that sacrament meeting about the journey he was on. He testified of how he started to see God in his daily life. That he was able to notice all of those tender mercies that are the Lord letting us know he loves us. He spoke of this journey and that he will never abandon the path that he had entered. Joel said that he had been looking for this path and is grateful to be on it. It was a powerful testimony borne. This was a very neat experience for Jennifer and pray that she will never forget it. Whether it be the seed of faith had just been planted or that it had just taken root, I do not know. I do know that God does love her and she is starting to understand that now.It was a very powerful experience for all to see.

This week was a good week and we were able to see the Lord help His children. I am grateful for the power and the blessing of this Living Church. That the priesthood is here and it allows us to make covenants with God and that Christ is truly directing this work. May it ever continue on!
out of time pretty quick today..
Elder Townsend

Traveling for the Holidays! Dec. 7, 2014

Maligayang pasko! (Merry Christmas in Tagalog)
This week we had to use so much money in travel. We even had to take the fancy ferry to HK Island so it cost a lot. There is the fun fact.
Well this week was super quick and I don't know what to write about.
We went around visiting some less-active members and also investigators and members sharing about Christmas and getting the Spirit of Christ alive in the hearts of everyone! We shared a lot form the December Liahona on the First Presidency message and also Elder Perry's talk. If you haven't read them, check them out. The past week as I was going through Elder Perry's talk the beginning and the end really stuck out to me. Especially the invitation he gives to us 
"I challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment. I challenge you to help God’s children return to their Christian faith and to the strong religious foundation that is so essential for peace of mind and real happiness in this period of mortal probation.
May God bless you with the courage, boldness, enthusiasm, and desire to restore faith in the gospel of our Lord and Savior."
When I had read this the first time, I was thinking "How can I improve, what is needed for me to be better than I was last month, last year?" I really was searching on how I can be a better missionary, time is running out out here. When I read Elder Perry's challenge, i knew. He speaks of bringing all back to Christ. To have a new sense of commitment. I love when he lets us know that God will bless us with courage, boldness, enthusiasm, and desire. It hit me so hard. I thought of each one of those and how the Lord could help me and what I could do to have His support. I can tell you that He has been supporting. 
This past week as we finally had some time to go finding, I have felt that increase of each of those. I feel with the Christmas Spirit and testimony of the Savior, I am much more bold in declaring who He is and how He is the gift. The Church's campaign or whatever it is called about "He is the Gift" is so great. I watched the video today. It is great. I am so stoked to share about Jesus Christ to more and more. I just feel the fire of Christ building and burning! I love it. The Church stole the slogan from our mission though, back in August we made the mission goal of 65 baptisms in December for a "Gift to Christ" So they just changed it a wee bit. 
We had a lesson with an investigator who hasn't been really keeping commitments. We have been working with her and trying to help her in any way. Just been trying to make sure we understand her viewpoint. She is great and we really respect her, but we just need her to try out what we invite. Everytime she does, she will pull something bad out of a commitment. Well just a couple of days ago, she pulled a Bible scripture on us to almost condemn us. Her intent was to say that we will be accursed for teaching the Doctrine of Christ restored by the prophet Joseph Smith. 
At that moment, I felt some fire in my heart. It wasn't of anger but of the Spirit. I believe my companion felt the same. We both bore our personal testimony to her of the Savior and His gospel, of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the work he did. Our member who was there bore her testimony as well. It was like the room was filled with burning fire. It was very powerful and intense. She felt the Spirit. We left her knowing that she has the option to start the search for more truth or not. We left her with the choices. It is kind of like this by President Uchtdorf "Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?"
I am so excited for this Christmas season and the work of the Lord that we get to do! I am so excited to share the Gift. I pray that we may find those that are in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to come to it for the first time or come back. I love the Spirit of Christmas!
Elder Townsend

Happy Christmas Time!! Dec. 1, 2014

Well today is December 1st for us so that means I found the little tree inside of our apartment and set it up last night. I made a star out of the "I'm a Mormon" cards that we give out. It was nice. I will send a picture if I can get on another computer that will allow me.

This week was pretty good. I actually had a real Thanksgiving! We met as a zone of missionariesThursday noon and were able to cook a feast. We had a couple of turkey's and a whole lot of mashed potatoes. My great friend Elder Woodburn, started mission together, is in the same zone so we were able to cook together and be thankful together. It was fantastic. In fact, he was my zone leader and we had gone on exchanges the day before! It worked out that we were able to  go on exchanges together, not too often does that happen! Exchanges with him were so great. 24 hours in about 1 hour. We were able to teach some cool people and one of their investigators from Nigeria. She was so great. Then the following Saturday there is a family in the ward who brings over many friends for a thanksgiving dinner at their home on this super cool island. This island only has bikes and no cars or anything. It was a great time and we were able to meet some really great people!

This past week we had a pretty interesting experience. So the week before we met that guy Douglas. Well we were to meet him on the following wednesday. We got a text from him on Tuesday telling us that he would be moving that afternoon to mainland. He was offered a place to stay and a more stable job. He had to catch the bus that afternoon if he wanted it. Well the way it all worked out was really neat. We had an appointment that afternoon with someone out in a place away from where he'd be so no way of seeing him. Well right after we got off the phone with him, our appointment called an cancelled. This opened up and we were able to meet Douglas for a few minutes. When we got to the station he asked if we wanted to sit for two minutes before he left. We walked over to a bench, sat down, and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. After that, he left. 
As we got up to walk away, I noticed a man who headed straight toward us. He was carrying a sandwich so I thought he really wanted our bench or the other was he wanted to cause us some trouble. Well instead as we were walking he asked us in his German accent "you guys come around here a lot and just talk to people?" We turned around and started to talk to him. He told us of a story while growing up around age 4 in Germany that missionaries were over at his home and they had cooked popcorn. We talked with him and shared about what we do. When we asked if he would have any interest to meet with us he said yes! He then gave us his address and scheduled us for the coming friday. It was such an awesome thing. He is a very nice guy. When we met with him, the lesson was a little bit different than expected but hopefully we will be able to guide him and help him as we continue to meet! 

Well I am not too sure what to write about. This week was fairly quick. We are still meeting with Joel and he is doing fantastic. We are praying that he will continue to do well and be able to make his date on the 14th! He will make it. It is exciting. Hopefully the weather will continue to be warm so he can be baptized at the rock pool in Discovery Bay since we don't have a font anywhere near to where we meet. We don't have a chapel for us. We meet in a school and meet in some of its classrooms. 
This week I have been pondering a lot on what it means to be a shepherd and not to be a sheep herder. I have been thinking a lot about how a shepherd knows his sheep. He knows the one that likes to sway to the left. He knows the one who stops more frequently. He knows them all. I have been focusing on really understanding others as the Savior would. It is really neat when you have been praying a lot for an investigator and then when meeting with them, thoughts guided by the Holy Spirit allows us to discern and help. Knowing that we are all little shepherds or supporting our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been pondering a lot on how he will treat them, what he would do.
Anyways I can't think. Construction is loud and my typing is terrible.
Elder Townsend