Meet Elder Cranny, and Elder Wang. Their title is a little odd because at 19 and 26 respectively, neither of them are anywhere near their elder years. Clearly the title doesn’t signify their age, instead it tells us something which for many of us their appearance has already given away, they’re Mormon missionaries, walking the streets in search of souls.
I met them while rushing, on a mission to get the location for what I thought todays picture would be. My plan was to go to Elephant Mountain and snap a shot of Taipei stretching before me under the hot Asian sun. However, thanks to UPS my day had become completely derailed when arranging a simple package collection turned into a frustrating five-hour ordeal.
It’s fair to say that when Elder Cranny waved at me as I rushed past, I wasn’t in the brightest of moods. I acknowledged the wave with my own ‘please don’t talk to me about Jesus’ wave, as I swept around the corner and continued to weave my way through pedestrians like some kind of slalem skier going for gold in the winter Olympics. But it was a hopeless endeavour, and I knew I wouldn’t make it, so I stopped and instead decided to go back and strike up a conversation with the young man who had given me that friendly wave.
“I like to wave,” Elder Cranny told me. “But I find it difficult to just talk to people of the street.”
That struck me as unusual, after all he was a long way from his home in Salt Lake City in Utah, and he was a missionary. Surely he chose Asia, and chose to be a missionary wandering the street searching for souls?
“Not exactly,” he said in a tone that told me there was probably more to this story than I was about to hear. “I’m on a two year Mission and I didn’t specifically choose to come to Taiwan. It’s Asia, you know, it’s very different here.”
Different for him, yes, but what of Elder Wang, he was speaking in to a man in Chinese just a few steps away from me. “I’m from Taiwan,” he told me later in the slow and careful way a non-native English speaker treads their way through the language. “I come from Buddhist family but became Mormon two years ago.”
The pair of them stand out from the crowds. Dressed smartly in the afternoon heat that could drive a nun to cast off her habit, they’re aware that they stand out. “We do separate ourselves from the world,” Elder Cranny told me as he explained how his ‘mission’ had changed him. “I feel different now, .. It’s an eye opening experience and looking like this we get a lot of different reactions. I’ve been pushed before and had a couple of door slams.”
We had a pleasant chat and I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get the picture that I was hoping to take today, and that was fine. Then I told them about my website and asked if I could take their picture. They agreed but told me that they wouldn’t see it anytime soon.
“We don’t use the internet apart from going to internet cafes to send emails back home sometimes. It’s a choice you know, to focus on our faith.” Elder Cranny told me. Even if the religion seems like a needless tangle of rules and social complications to me, I can’t help but admire that kind of devotion.
And so today, rather than a postcard picture of Taipei gleaming in the sun under a beautiful blue sky, you get to meet Elder Cranny and Elder Wang who didn’t save my eternal soul today, but did help improve my mood which is exactly what I needed.