Ok, so it’s really Tuesday by the time this posts, but as I write it is still Monday evening, and I am sitting here so overwhelmed with love for missionaries.  For my own missionary who made it safely to Taiwan and is now paired up with a new “trainer” companion:
(not sure what the story is behind that drawing but I love it, and Max loves his trainer!)  To my nephew who is working his heart out in NYC speaking Spanish, to so many of Max’s close friends who are all over the world learning and growing in ways only a mission could provide (weren’t they the boys planning senior pranks last year and trying to figure out what to do with their lives after high school??), to my in-laws who are on a service mission in Africa right now (more about that soon…they are rocking it over there in Ghana), and to all the other missionaries out there learning and growing and working their guts out to teach people about Christ and serve and love as He did.    
Yes, our family is fully immersed in the beauty of missionary work these days.  It has become such a huge part of life around here.
Monday is P-Day (preparation day) in most missions all over the world so on Mondays my inbox fills up with tales of the adventures of the week from places like Nicaragua, New York, Idaho, Honduras, Africa, and I LOVE it.  Every letter is so different.  Every personality is so different expanding on so many great life-lessons. 
So let’s back up to the MTC for a minute.  
Max loved every bit of his nine weeks there studying the gospel and learning the basics of Mandarin Chinese.  He met some pretty awesome kids, 21 of whom were heading to the same mission with him so he gets to still learn and be influenced by them for two whole years.  He had some pretty outstanding teachers as well.  It was fun to hear his excitement about the whole experience when we talked to him on the phone as he was leaving for Taiwan (back HERE).
Here are some pictures I haven’t added to the blog yet from the MTC:  

I love the above pic. of Max’s study time with the very quote Dave wrote down and kept in his scriptures when he went to Taiwan all those years ago.

I loved Max’s excitement when he got his “all-Chinese” name tag:

I love that he gets to be the same Chinese last name as Dave had all those years ago (they don’t use their English last names because they are difficult to pronounce in Chinese).

I love this little interchange between Max and Lucy:

And here’s part of a letter from Max while he was there: 

Things the MTC has helped me LOVE:

The SCRIPTURES!!! The Book of Mormon is the best book ever! When you read, pay close attention to every single word! It’s revelation from Heavenly Father!

HYMNS!! I think one of the best ways to feel the Spirit is singing. I think my new fav is “Hope of Israel”

Oh another funny story. This week Elder Spendlove went up to the 7’6 guy [apparently there was a guy that tall in the MTC with them] and said “I know you probably get this a lot, but what’s your zodiac?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen another person so confused. Haha yaaaaaa probably had to be there.

Thank you guys so much for the packages! They made my life! 

Love you guys so much! Girls, I know you are all better at this than I was but this week try to be as nice as you possibly can! It’s easier than you think! If you see a kid who looks sad, cheer them up! If you see a person you kinda know but not really, don’t pretend to be doing something on your phone, say hi and get to know them! It will make your life 100 time happier and probably 1000 times for them.

Love you all!

I love this study picture Max’s companion sent home (which was forwarded to us):

I love that we are “internet friends” with his companion’s mom and a few other missionary families.  It’s been so fun to get all their letters and hear all of their different reactions to Taiwan…all so great and wonderful in their own ways.
So finally after all that studying and learning that large district headed on to Taiwan.
Here they are upon arrival, all safe and sound:

 …and here’s Max with his wonderful mission president and his wife:

I think he looks pretty happy to be there…either that or super jet-lagged πŸ™‚
I got this picture from one of our missionary friends…looks like quite a snazzy bus to get them to and from the airport!

I love that his mission president’s wife is so awesome at documenting.  These are some of the pictures we got from her:
(first meal at mission home)  Let’s just pause and look at Max’s smile.  Makes my mamma’s heart so happy.

(early-morning exercises…they do this with every new missionary group, kinda cool)

 Dinner out to try the Taiwanese food:

 (apparently this was duck brain…)

 They do a lot of training before heading out:

I love how enthralled Max is with the instruction up there.
And how it looks like the jet-lag is getting the better of him below:


 Then they got matched up with their trainers:

 (Max’s trainer is right across from him.)

And then they headed out into the real world of missionary work.
…In this great place that Max is already in love with:

The other day I got an out-of-the-blue email from a blog reader who’s husband served a mission in Taiwan.  He stays in touch with some of the people he loves there through Facebook and the other day I guess this picture came up:

Apparently Max and his companion are working in the same area with her.
My eyes welled up with gratitude to get that picture of that smiling boy right in the middle of something or other I was doing here at home.  Thank you Tara!!
I love technology.  
And here’s a picture Max sent this week: 

 …and an excerpt from his last letter where he answered a whole slew of our questions:

1. Tell us about your companion? 
My comp is Elder Porter and he is the coolest kid ever. 

2. What city are you in? How big is the city? Four elders in your apartment or two, and who are they? Will you mostly use your new bike or walk?
 I am in one of the most rural cities in Taiwan its super far south which means it is going to get HOT but the fruit is amazing. I live in a four man with three other elders. They are all super awesome. I ride my bike everywhere.
3. What is your favorite food so far?
McDonalds. HAHA JUST KIDDING I am not going to go there. Probably Dumplings or beef noodles.

4. How is your mission president?
They are awesome!! I love them although I will probably not be having a whole lot of contact with them because I am a 4 hour train ride away hahah.

5. How does Taiwan compare to China? (Elle)
Imagine China with less pushy crowds and traditional Chinese characters. That is Taiwan. I would never know a difference I love it.

6. Have you taught any discussion yet? Contacted anyone?(Claire) (Lucy)
Contacted a bunch of people! Taught one lesson to an investigator named Liu Di Xiong he is the coolest guy. It’s so weird teaching someone who is actually looking for help in his life, he was more nervous than I was going into the lesson which really struck me. (My comp is awesome, eases the nerves a lot). We have met with a bunch of people from the ward because we are both pretty new to the area and we want to build a relationship with them to work together better.

7. Did you have to give a speech in the night market? How much (Chinese) can you understand, percentage? (Elle)
I did, it was awesome! I can probably understand like 60 percent of everything but I can’t respond super fast. The language is going to take a LOT of work.
8. How big is your ward/branch? 
About 50 people

9. Do you cook meals or do you eat out? do you cook together with comp? Are grocery stores like the ones in China?(mom)
I am going to the grocery store today so I’ll see and report. Probably a lot like China. We eat out every meal because its like a dollar for a whole meal.14. 

10.  Most interesting thing you have seen so far? (Lucy)
Probably all the grandmas that pimp out their motorized wheelchairs and drive them on the street.
11. Is the jet lag pretty bad? Sleeping ok? (mom)
Jet lag is awesome I have literally had zero.

12. What are you wearing? Is it cold? (mom)
I am wearing short sleeves and pants its definitely not cold haha I sweat so much.

And, just to end on a pretty funny note, here’s the latest correspondence with Max and Lu:

Not sure why she thinks he’s eating a bunch of candy??  I think she’s still stuck on the no-sugar deal we were doing when he left.  Oh man that girl…
Love that missionary of ours and all the things he’s learning and sharing and doing clear over on the other side of the world.
**post edit extremely sad note: We have recently heard word that there was a missionary killed in a biking accident in Max’s mission today.  There are not words to express how our hearts have sorrowed for his family, for the mission, for the sadness of it all in the last few hours.  We are not certain, we have little information at this time, but we think Max probably knew this missionary because we think they probably overlapped at the MTC.  I cannot even imagine the heartbreak in the mission not to mention the family who lost their son.  Please send mighty prayers their way.

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  1. I love this so much! Serving in the TaiZhong mission has most definitely changed my life for the better. I love seeing missionaries serving there now that I've gone home. It's crazy to think that the Blickenstaffs are about to go home because they got to the mission 4 weeks before I went home. I'm guessing Max is down in HengChun or PingDong? Two of my best friends from the mission both served in HengChun and they loved it down there!! He will love it too 😊 I'm going back to Taiwan for a week in May because I love it too much!!

  2. Go Max! I can personally say missionary work is so very important even if someone doesn't seem interested. I recently converted but it took 2 different missionaries to approach me before I agreed to meet with the 3rd one.

  3. I'm so glad I read your post today. I don't know exactly what it is, but it made me so emotional. Maybe it's because we seem to be inundated with all the bad in the world, but this post was a reminder that there are good people spreading out throughout the world to counteract the bad and increase the good. It encourages me to do a self-check and make sure I am on the side of increasing goodness.

  4. I am Elder Porter's mother! My sister-in-law called me and said she saw Nathan's picture on your blog. He reports that your son is doing sooooo great, and he loves him already. I'm so glad to see this! And so sad about the news of Elder Hamton.

    1. Hi Christine! So great to hear from you! I would love to be in touch, will you email me at sepphotography at gmail dot com if you get this? Thank you for raising such a wonderful son who is teaching my son so many great things and who he looks up to and respects so much!

  5. I loved this post! So inspiring and uplifting. Many prayers and love sent to the missionaries of Taiwan right now and Elder Hampton's family.

  6. Shawni, yesterday when I heard the news I immediately thought of your mama heart and your missionary. It broke my heart as well, and later in the day I found out that my 15 yr old son is a classmate to the younger brother of that young man who died. (It's an online highschool) Then I realized that my missionary son was friends with Elder Hampton through the same online school. My son is in Argentina and my mama heart aches for him as well as the young man's family. I don't know if it is appropriate or not to tell my son about his friend. My prayers are with that family, their daughter who is also serving somewhere, and ALL the missionaries everywhere and their families and especially their mama's. My prayers are with Elder "Max" as well as you and your family!

  7. Looks like he's having a great time. My sister in law is in this exact mission. She is now training new missionaries. She comes home in June. She's in one of the pictures you've posted. Isn't missionary work so fabulous!

  8. I know an awesome missionary serving in Ghana. If your in-laws ever speak of a Poly Elder who's super strong and happy – that's him!

  9. I have been following your blog for a while now and love it! Thanks for sharing all you do. I happen to be in the same ward as Elder Hampton who passed away yesterday. If you'd like his family's contact info (e-mail or home phone), please let me know. Not sure what you could say or do, but thought I would offer. Small world. The family is wonderful and amazing. Thanks for thinking of David and his family at this time β™₯

    1. Shelly, I would love the Hampton's contact info. Will you email me at sepphotography at gmail dot com? I would love to send them something. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. xoxo

  10. Very small world! His mission president used to be my bishop many years ago! I am in the thick of it with my 15 y.o. son (oldest of 9) and I loved reading your son's email to his sisters about being nice and how his favorite book is Book of Mormon and how it's all about what we put into reading/studying. So happy for you! Thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚

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