Monday, May 29, 2017

May 28, 2017

My spiritual highlight this week was seeing our investigator Yuntao and Grenfell's investigator Jason get baptized and confirmed. One month ago Elder Pickett and I were standing outside the teaching center just about to go in to teach two of our investigators, Bryan and Chen. We had an appointment with Yuntao (a potential investigator then) the next day but for whatever reason Yuntao walked up to us outside and started speaking with us. He must've forgotten his appointment was the next day, but we thought we would just take him up and teach him with Bryan and Chen since he was here anyway. We planned to teach Bryan and Chen the Word of Wisdom, but we thought that wouldn't be ideal for Yuntao since he hadn't even been taught how to pray yet. We called all the Elder companionships in the city to help us teach Yuntao separately but none of them were available. So Yuntao jumped in on Bryan and Chen's Word of Wisdom lesson. We had two members there to help us teach, and all of the investigators accepted to live the Word of Wisdom. 
We sent Yuntao a message shortly after to set up his next lesson, and he responded back: "Sorry, I'm not interested in religion". A couple days later we were sending messages to remind our teaching pool about Church the next day. We thought we'd invite Yuntao to church also even though he said he wasn't interested. And he came. He met the members at church and he felt something different that he hadn't felt before. Ever since that day, we taught him the remainder of the lessons and his understanding grew as he applied the gospel in his life. He gained a testimony and became the most solid investigator in our teaching pool. And then he was baptized two days ago.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Forever Friends, Brothers in Christ

Chris, Lei, Lanhao, Peng, Elder Ruppe, and Elder Koch

May 21, 2017: A Handwritten Letter!

Teaching Center Tour

The Church's teaching center in downtown Adelaide where missionaries teach the gospel to those they find on the streets.  Complete with beautiful displays, artwork, informational videos, interactive iPads, and classrooms for instruction. 

Easter Celebration: Chinese Branch

The new City Business District Branch...Everyone worked together to put together a wonderful Easter gathering with a special message shared about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Mother's Day 2017 Skype with Family

Elder Koch shares some Mandarin phrases used while street contacting.

May 14, 2017

1. When you get sick, Elder Li is always there for you.
2. Chinese rice and chicken.
3. Planning action points and trainings, etc.

May 7, 2017

Yesterday Lanhao and two other recent converts received the Melchizedek Priesthood. I felt so happy and inspired to see how much Lanhao has progressed since we first met him. I still vividly remember the first day Elder Ruppe and I found him on the street. He's come so far...He bears his testimony of how he's received answers to his personal prayers every fast Sunday in sacrament meeting and he's always the first to answer questions in Gospel Principles and Elders Quorum. 
I look back on my entire mission and I realize Heavenly Father saved the best experiences for last. A reward always comes after the trial of my faith. 
We had 6 investigators at sacrament meeting yesterday which is an all-time high on my mission so far. We fasted this past week to be able to bring investigators to sacrament meeting, and it worked. We are preparing several friends for baptism on May 27th
There are now 5 Chinese/Taiwanese missionaries in the City Zone. Pretty soon, us white guys will be taken out of here haha. When I opened my mission call I never would have predicted that I would gain such an appreciation and fondness for the Chinese culture but I'm so glad I have. I'd rather come home with a Chinese accent than an Australian one. 
On Friday we had a 12-hour training, appropriately called "Boot Camp #3", where the assistants, President Parker, Sister Parker, and us zone leaders give trainings the entire day (besides breaks for meals). They gave us flu shots while we were there and of course I ended up getting sick (sorry for the brief email today, I feel pretty out of it), but alas, what can you do? 
Anyway, I will be handwriting a letter for the family which I'll probably scan and send via email like Dad did for me a few weeks ago. Hopefully you can decipher it. 
I love you Mom, and I wouldn't be the same person I am right now without you. I'm excited to see you on Mother's Day :) 

April 11, 2017

Transfers were this past Monday, and my companion Elder Ruppe, who I had been with for the past 4.5 months, is the new assistant. My new companion is Elder Pickett from Idaho. He's a great missionary--he loves to work hard, and he has a great sense of humor. I feel more stress now than ever before taking over the City Zone because there are so many important things to take care of. Our phone lights up with texts and calls like no tomorrow--you would think we were receptionists in a doctor's office. I have much more empathy for Dad now and I appreciate what he does on another level now that I've experienced a portion of what his life is like. 
On the bright side, we had a baptism of three Chinese people this past weekend. We baptized Sun (pronounced "soon"), another companionship baptized Francis, and another companionship baptized Aaron. Sun went up to bear his testimony after he was baptized and started out a bit nervous (his English is pretty basic), but all the sudden whips out of his pocket a piece of paper with a scripture on it and reads, "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." -1 Nephi 1:20 and shares his testimony of how grateful he was that Heavenly Father prepared and "chose" to give him the opportunity meet with the missionaries so he could learn the gospel. Elder Ruppe and I didn't even tell him he would have the chance to bear his testimony at the baptism and we didn't know he was reading the Book of Mormon that intently. We were very impressed. I'll get some photos of him from Elder Ruppe so I can send them to you. 

April 2, 2017

Drawings we do to explain the basics of the Plan of Salvation, Prophets, Apostasy, and Prayer...

March 26, 2017

This past weekend we baptized another Chinese brother named Jerry. Jerry is a hilarious Chinese guy in his early 20's who always makes us laugh. When we first met him, he was at a level 1/10 on the scale of being a solid investigator. He could hardly speak any English and he smoked 30 cigarettes a day. The first time he came to church, he had to step outside three times to smoke. We challenged him to be baptized in two weeks on the 25th of March. Right after we taught him the Restoration, we immediately taught him the Word of Wisdom. We brought Chinese members with us to nearly every lesson and they helped out heaps with translating for us and Jerry. Jerry cut down 5 cigarettes almost every day and in two weeks he had completely quit smoking. Right before he went in for his baptism interview, he handed me his last pack of cigarettes and told me he was done. I never thought I'd be so happy to hold a pack of cigarettes in my hand; I chucked them in the trash can with joy.
Jerry passed his interview and was baptized last Saturday. Lanhao, our recent convert, baptized him. After he was baptized Jerry said he felt peaceful, like he had nothing in the world to worry about. He said "Today is PERFECT! WAN MEI!" (wan mei means "perfect" in Chinese). He was confirmed on Sunday by our Elders Quorum President, Shawn Ye, who is also from China. I've gained a testimony of miracles on my mission. My companion and I talked about how we never would've expected that man to get baptized. But Heavenly Father has proven to me that even things I doubt He can make happen. He supported Jerry in giving up smoking--it was a challenge for him. He blessed us with members to translate for Jerry--we never would have been able to communicate without them. He blessed us with the opportunity to learn Mandarin so we could teach Jerry the little we knew in his own language. And He blessed us to meet Jerry on the street in the first place. 
I'm so grateful for the miracles I've seen here. I've experienced struggles and trials on my mission, but I went through them so I could experience pure joy in the end. I know Jesus Christ offers us peace and transformation through the power of His Atonement. I know the Church has been restored which gives us access to that Atonement. I'm grateful for you and the rest of my family who have shown me what happiness is. I look forward to seeing you in a few months. I love you!

March 23, 2017: New Chinese Branch

The opening day of the Chinese Branch was fantastic. There were 120 people in attendance (a good amount of visitors came, so the regular attendance will likely be around 80 in the coming weeks). We had sacrament meeting, and all of our recent converts participated in preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament. It's incredible to see how far they've come.
It was so hot in the building because we're still waiting for the air conditioning to be installed (we have one room with air conditioning), so we opened all the windows. Elder O'Riordan (a Seventy) came and spoke at our sacrament meeting along with Summer (our Chinese Relief Society President, in photo below), President Korte (our Stake President), and President Scott (our Branch President). Gospel principles class was 100% Mandarin, so I picked up a few new words. Occasionally someone will make a joke in the class and there'll be an outburst of laughter, and my companion and I will smile and look around thinking, What is happening? What's so funny around here?
Elders Quorum was in 100% Chinese as well; our recent converts are preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood this April, so Elders Quorum is Melchizedek Priesthood preparation class.
The members prepared lunch for everyone after church and we all had the opportunity to talk with the recent converts. During the lunch Jerry, our investigator who is working to quit smoking so he can be baptized this Saturday, came up to us and said, "This Saturday4pm. shi li ("she-lee" -- baptism). I will quit smoking."
I've seen miracles in my mission but never before so frequent and powerful. I've never seen change and transformation so powerful and bright as I have these past few months. Heavenly Father prepares his children but he also prepares us to take care of them. I'm so grateful Heavenly Father gave me the opportunity to witness Chris, Lei, Lanhao, Ian, and soon Jerry, transform from common men into priesthood holders who bless the sacrament and share their sincere testimonies in front of a congregation. Pure joy doesn't come from putting effort into ourselves but from putting effort into building our brothers and sisters. It is then that we see who they really are; it is then that we see who we really are. It is then that we realize what Heavenly Father has in store for us.
Elder Koch   

Link to Story:

March 15, 2017

We're currently teaching several investigators on baptismal date. One of them is Jerry, a hilarious college student from China. He loves to make jokes. The other day he came to sacrament meeting for the first time (he asked his boss to switch his shifts on Sunday so he could come, but he didn't set an alarm. He explained that he normally sleeps in late, but for some reason that morning he just woke up and couldn't fall back asleep. Heavenly Father doesn't sit back and let coincidences happen, he makes sure people get where they need to be :). When the deacons began passing the sacrament, he started looking around panicked, and whisper-yelled "What's going on?! What do I need to do?!" I tried to explain in Chinese what the sacrament was but I quickly realized it's nearly impossible to pronounce the tones correctly when you whisper. Thankfully I had my Mandarin language study notebook with me, and I flipped open to a page that said in Chinese, "We eat bread drink water remember Jesus Christ's Atoning Sacrifice". Jerry's face went, Ahhhh, as he said "ming bai, ming bai" (I understand, I understand). The whole scene was hilarious, and we still joke about it all the time. Jerry has been working hard to cut back his smoking so he can be baptized on the 25th this month. I have faith that he can do it, because I've witnessed the power of the Atonement in how it transforms people, and Jerry's countenance is already beginning to brighten. 
I'll keep you updated as we go; the City Branch begins this Sunday so I'll have plenty of stories to share next Monday.

Teaching the Plan of Salvation to Jerry (he insisted we get a photo)

Summer, our Relief Society President in the branch (she's only been a member for one year). She helps us teach our investigators all the time (and does a great job at translating for us). 

March 5, 2017

This past week has been great. Yesterday Lanhao received the Aaronic Priesthood. The City Branch building will officially open on March 19, which is the first day church will be held. We had coordination meeting there the other day (there's no furniture yet, it's still full of open rooms) and went on a tour of the building. We've been meeting with Prospect Ward until the building opens, but yesterday the City Branch members and us missionaries went into another room for Elders Quorum. Jax, a Taiwanese returned missionary, taught the lesson and 100% of the discussion was in Chinese. I could pick out a few words like "prophet", "apostasy", "priesthood", etc., but other than that, I felt like I was attending a church in full-on China. It motivates me to learn Mandarin more quickly. I'll most likely be here in the City teaching Chinese people until the end of my mission (President Parker likes to keep stability in the City Zone).
There are so many things I want to tell you and show you, but it's difficult with the limited communication we have. I hope the kids are doing well. How has Mason been doing in his teenage years? 
I'm glad to see you've been enjoying some cool hikes with Addie; I'm keen to come along when I get home :)
Thank you for the pictures--I'll upload some more today. I've been enjoying my mission more than ever these last 3 months: I've witnessed our recent converts baptize their brothers, recent converts give talks at baptisms less than 2 months after their own, and a Chinese Utah develop before my eyes. Yesterday two more young Chinese men were baptized--after their baptism, we saw a group of 10-12 Chinese recent converts walking out of church together, all baptized within the last 3 months. They looked like a band of Stripling Warriors, converted young men with bright futures ahead of them. We watched them walk away together and said, "Look, there goes the City Branch. We're living in a Chinese Utah." I can't wait to see what these young men do and how they develop over the next 5 months.  
I love you Mom! Thanks for all your love and support, you really are the best. 我爱你 (Or in other words, "I love you" :)

Elder Koch

February 26, 2017

I'd like to share with you the events of the past few weeks as well as my testimony of the reality of miracles. Four weeks ago we were walking along King William St., a main street in the middle of the city. A young Chinese man walked off a bus in our direction, busy looking at his phone, but he made quick eye contact with us and gave a little head nod, as if to say hello to a friend he already knew. He kept walking quickly in the opposite direction and we didn't get a chance to stop him. We reached the street intersection and stopped to wait for the light. After waiting for a minute, I looked around and saw the same man walking back towards us. It seemed he had lost his way but realized where he was going now. I nudged my companion and said, "Hey, let's go talk to that guy." The light went green and we crossed the street with him, and only had the chance to have a 30-second conversation. We invited him to our Teaching Center down the street and asked if we could keep in contact with him. He took my planner and pen out of my hands and wrote down his phone number and his name, "Lanhao". 
A couple days later we were walking around North Adelaide with about 10 minutes before 9pm, the time we go back to the flat. Street contacting at that time of night is pretty useless, so I pulled out my planner and saw Lanhao's name. I remembered he seemed like a pretty cool guy who would be keen to meet us again so we gave him a call and set up an appointment. Lei and Chris (two of our recent converts) came along with us to our first lesson with Lanhao. We asked Lanhao why he wanted to meet with us, and he said, "I don't really know, I just thought you seemed like cool guys and I wanted to make some new friends." In my mind I immediately thought, Great, we'll see how useful this turns out to be. 
Lanhao had no belief in God to begin with, but he was willing to learn. We taught him who Heavenly Father was, who he was as a son of God, his relationship with his older brother Jesus Christ, and how he could receive answers to his prayers through the Holy Ghost. The next time we met, we asked him what he remembered from the last lesson, and he said, "Everything." He then went on to give us the clearest, simplest, most powerful explanation of how he knows he is a son of God, a child of a loving Father in Heaven who loves him so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to set an example and take away our guilt if we ask forgiveness. He shared how when we pray to Heavenly Father, He will give us an answer through the Holy Ghost, who gives us thoughts in our minds and feelings in our heart to teach us what is true. Lanhao decided to be baptized on February 19th. After the lesson was over and we had said goodbye, my companion and I immediately dropped to our knees and said a prayer of gratitude, thanking Heavenly Father for sending Lanhao to us and for answering his prayers.
We continued to meet with Lanhao over the course of the next 3 weeks and taught him all the remaining lessons. Over the course of teaching him, we marveled at the incredible answers he would give us to the questions we asked--it was as if he learned things before we even taught them. I distinctly remember him saying in one of his prayers, "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending me to meet my brothers Ruppe and Koch. Thank you for teaching me your commandments. I will keep them so I can follow your Son, Jesus Christ and become a better person. I know the Church is true. I am excited to do my baptism and  make the right choices so I can have eternal life and live in the Celestial Kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Three weeks after we found him, Lanhao was baptized by another one of our recent converts, Chris. I felt the Spirit stronger at Lanhao's baptism than any baptism before--I felt incredible joy seeing Chris, a man who had gone through the same journey and was baptized and received the priesthood just one month ago, baptize one of his brothers. 
At the end of the baptismal service Lanhao shared his testimony. He shared how he had lived in Adelaide for the past 2 years and had never felt so alone--he hadn't ever been back to visit his family in China during that time. But when he found his family in the Church and learned the gospel, he finally found what a true family is. He feels excited for his future and wants to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of his life so he can receive all the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for him.

I want you to know that I have seen miracles. I have witnessed people change and grow more in three weeks than they ever have in the last 20 years of their lives because of the gospel. I have seen the light in their eyes shine brighter and brighter as they use the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no other path to greater happiness than the one Heavenly Father has laid out for us. I know Jesus Christ loves you and me; I know He lived and died, then lived again. I know He lives now. You are more special than you think you are: don't ever forget who you are or where you came from and what Heavenly Father has in store for you. His blessings are worth more than anything else this world has to offer. Not everything here lasts forever, but eternal joy always will. 

February 19, 2017

We had the best baptism ever this past weekend--our recent convert, Chris (baptized one month ago) baptized our investigator Lanhao ("Lahn-How") yesterday, and another recent convert named Peng baptized another companionship's investigator named Cale. I'll go into more detail soon, as President Parker asked me to prepare a summary of the baptism with photos for him which I'll send to you as well. 

​The big group picture--
From left to right:
1) Elder Salcedo, 2) Elder Ruppe, 3) Lanhao, 4) Cale, 5) Peng (Recent Convert, baptized Cale), 6) Chris (Recent Convert, baptized Lanhao), 7) Elder Koch, 8) Elder Chen

February 5, 2017

I hope you've been having a splendid week. Recently we've been having some interesting weather here in the summer--it's supposed to be blazing hot all the time, but one day the sun will scorch us and the next two days it'll rain. We got a leak in our roof this morning: Elder Li (the Chinese Elder in our flat) woke up from his dream of being in the rain to feel real water streaming down from the ceiling onto his face.
The City Branch will open on February 19th. The building (comprised of office spaces) is on one of the busiest streets in the City. In our new place we'll have church on Sunday, a new Teaching Center, YSA FHE, English Class, Institute, Games Night, etc. We'll have classes in both Mandarin Chinese and English at Church, and the branch members will mostly be Chinese/Asian students. Part of the building will be a place where the YSA can study outside of school throughout the week. Our branch president served a mission in Taiwan, so he's a great help to us and the members. We're extremely excited for the upcoming events. 
One day last week we came home at night to find 3 out of our 4 bikes were stolen. (Our front yard has a fence around it, but my bike was the only one locked up.) The same night our two most solid Chinese investigators who had come to church 4 times and were planning to be baptized that weekend sent us a message and said they didn't want to learn anymore. We were all so frustrated with the series of disappointments, and we felt like we didn't have much going for us. My companion and I prayed that night, asking Heavenly Father to help us make up for what had happened. We didn't know why we were experiencing so many letdowns that week, but we knew we had to humble ourselves and work harder to help those Heavenly Father had prepared for us. 
The next day, we taught our new investigator, Lanhao. The first time we taught him, he didn't have a belief in God, but he was willing to learn. We asked him what he remembered from the last lesson, and he said, "Everything." He then went on to give us the clearest, simplest, most powerful explanation of how he knows he is a son of God, a child of a loving Father in Heaven who loves him so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to set an example and take away our guilt if we ask forgiveness. He shared how when we pray to Heavenly Father, He will give us an answer through the Holy Ghost, who gives us thoughts in our minds and feelings in our heart to teach us what is true. Lanhao decided to be baptized on February 18th, the week the City Branch will open. After the lesson was over and we had said goodbye, my companion and I immediately dropped to our knees and said a prayer of gratitude, thanking Heavenly Father for sending Lanhao to us and for answering his prayers.

 6 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.
 7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.
-Jacob 4: 6-7

I know Heavenly Father watches over His children and does what is best for them. I know He is merciful and hears our prayers. Not one day goes by that He does not feel your needs, your worries, your happiness, your desires, and your hopes for the future. Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ are filled with a perfect love, a love so powerful that if we could all emulate just a spark of their feelings for us toward each other, the whole world would be full of light. Always remember who you are and where you came from. That simple understanding wipes away doubt from our decisions and uncertainty from our future. I know Jesus Christ lives, and the power of His Atonement is real. I have experienced it myself and I have seen His loving light transform others.  

February 2, 2017

Everything here is fantastic. The City Branch will open on February 19th, and we will tentatively be having 5 people confirmed the opening day. I have come to see how quickly Heavenly Father's work springs forward when we are all aligned, from the missionaries up to the prophet and Jesus Christ.
This week my spiritual highlight was teaching our new investigator, Lanhao. We met Lanhao (from China) on the street, and at our first lesson with him last week he said he decided to meet with us "because you were nice guys, and I wanted to make new friends." Initially we were worried that was all his motivation was, but we had both Lei and Chris--our Chinese recent converts baptized in January--with us at our first lesson, and Lanhao felt something inside when Lei and Chris shared their experiences. At our very next lesson, Lanhao decided to be baptized on the 18th of February. Lanhao was a miracle because a couple of our other investigators on baptismal date dropped us the same week. I know Heavenly Father always provides opportunities for us when others are taken away, because He knows who is ready now. 

January 22, 2017

Hello Everyone,
I hope you've had a fantastic week. Time flies, and I look forward to seeing you in a little over 6 months. Updates as of late:
Far out, I love the City Zone. Our investigators Lei (from China), Chris (from China), and Ian (from Hong Kong) were baptized and confirmed earlier this month. I had the opportunity to confirm Chris and Ian. The power of the Spirit itself is a miracle, because I'd have no idea what to say in a blessing by the power of my own thoughts. But somehow, through Heavenly Father's way of speaking through us, thoughts come to my mind and feelings come to my heart, revealing things I never would have known about these special people. I'm always amazed at how consistently and distinctly the Spirit speaks to all of us if we simply open up to listen. 
Our recent converts are incredible: the day after Lei and Chris's baptism, they organised dinner with some other YSA (Young Single Adult) Chinese members and all hung out together completely unbeknownst to myself and my companion. Now they make sure each other is going to the YSA Family Home Evenings and other activities without missionaries even asking them to come. They ask to teach lessons with us, even offering to cancel work if we need their help teaching. You would think they'd been members growing up and the missionaries are just the background support.
The City Branch will begin in February. What that means is a new branch (with classes in both English and Chinese) will begin in the City itself, in an office building. The branch building has many different rooms, and it will be a hub where YSA can come to study, play ping pong, attend church, and teach lessons with the missionaries. The new building is 3-4 times bigger than our Teaching Center we have now. The main purpose is to bring the YSA to the Chinese in the City, rather than bringing the Chinese out of the City to the YSA in the surrounding wards. We're super excited for this new change, and we'll have more opportunities than ever before. We're still studying Mandarin, with our Chinese Elders, Elder Chen and Elder Li teaching the whole zone together three times a week. Our Chinese recent converts/investigators often come to the class and teach us along with the Elders.
I thought I was called to serve in Australia, but now I'm helping build the Church in China with all the other missionaries here. I'll keep you updated on the new branch and our new investigators as time goes on. Thank you so much for all your support! Have a splendid week :)

January 9, 2017

This past week was fantastic. Lei and Chris, our investigators from China and Malaysia, were baptized on January 8th. It made my birthday much more of a celebration. Lei ("Lay") is hilarious--in church before his baptism, he asked me how old I was and if I had a girlfriend. I told him I didn't have one right now, and he said, "Well you better hurry up!" 
Chris is the man too--he's overcome many concerns in his journey to baptism, and you can see how happy he is with the path he's chosen to walk. Elder Ruppe baptized both Lei and Chris, and I'll have the opportunity to confirm Chris next week. 
At zone conference (where President, Sister Parker, and the Assistants train the zone) we normally receive a training all day, but this time, we had a big brainstorming council on what ideas everyone has for the City. We'll be teaching members how to use Facebook to share the gospel with their friends soon, and we'll be using WeChat (the Chinese's version of skype) to talk with our investigators while they're on holiday in China. President is always developing outside the box ideas for the City (which benefit the entire mission), and it's exciting to be in the middle of it.
I'm thankful for the opportunity I've had so far to serve here. I look forward to seeing you and the family soon, but I'm excited for the next 7 months here too. I've seen miracles in my mission: Duy, Chris, Lei, Ian, and many others who've made the right choices in spite of Satan's attempts to dissuade them. I've experienced change through the Atonement: I have come to see who I really am, who all of us are, and why I'm here. I know Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, the only one with the power to build, shape, and transform us into perfection; the only One who can lift us above doubt and despair, discouragement and disappointment. I know the future is brighter than the past because of Him. 
Thanks so much Mom for your constant guidance and love. You are loved and appreciated more than you think :) I love you so much, Mom! Have a wonderful week :)

January 2, 2017

Hi Mom, 
I hope you had a fantastic Christmas! I feel that when I'm around my family year after year for special occasions such as Christmas, I easily take our family members for granted. It's not until we are separated from something that we realize how valuable it actually is. On skype, it's interesting to see how much we change and yet how much we stay the same over time--I'm happy to see that Mason's voice is now deeper than mine, Audrey still enjoys Instagram just the same, and Clara is bright and chipper just like usual. It was great to meet Nicole as well--I'm happy you all had the opportunity to adopt another kid while I've been away :) And it's always great to see that Albert is still alive too. 
At this point in my mission I don't think I could have been blessed any more. It's the coolest thing to see how Heavenly Father blesses us progressively. It's like hiking a mountain, where you can see the landscape below you at certain points, and then you finally reach the top, where you stare at the incredible view in awe. My companion, Elder Ruppe, has taught me so much about how to help people progress. We had a lesson with our Chinese investigator, Chris, yesterday: Chris is on date for January 8th but has only been meeting us once or twice a week. We taught him some of the commandments, and he was having difficulty accepting one of them.
We shared our personal experiences and testimonies with him, then we shared what he would feel and who he would become if he followed what we were teaching him. Then Chris asked us, seemingly out of nowhere, "So, why did you choose to do this--I mean, choose to follow Jesus and these commandments?"
I don't think an investigator has ever asked a more perfect question. Elder Ruppe and I shared how we came to understand our identity and our true potential as sons of God. All of a sudden it looked like a light switched on inside of Chris and in the room: he said, "Oh, now I understand." Chris committed to be baptized on the 8th and he is on track to do it. 

In the City Zone we just started Mandarin language study. Elder Li and Elder Chen (both from China) are teaching us how to pronounce basic phrases so we can use more effective ways to teach and find Chinese investigators. Everything has been going great here, and I'll keep you updated as we go. Have a fantastic week!