Monday, December 27, 2010
Merry Christmas (again!) my dear family!!
It was sooooo wonderful to talk to you on the phone this weekend. I love you all so much, and it was fun to get a little glimpse of what Christmas was like at home this year. I'm so glad you were all able to be so happy and have so much fun together. It also brought me SO much joy to read an overview of all the 12 Deeds of Christmas you did this year. Seriously, thanks for doing that, and thanks for sharing your experiences with me :)
One fun Christmas activity I forgot to tell you about was a mission activity we had this week on Thursday. All the missionaries in the southern half of Taiwan gathered together in ZhangHua to see a huge Buddha and traveled around to LuGang to for some street market shopping and to see some more temples. Then we went to a huge Chinese buffet, kinda Mongolian barbeque style with lots of other yummy things to eat as well! Lots of the "sight-seeing" and shopping was old school to me, but it was still so much fun. The BEST part was re-uniting with the missionaries I served with in the MTC and just talking and talking, sharing with them my experiences from serving in Idaho, and hearing about their adventures of serving here for the past month. I almost felt like Ammon when he got reunited with his mission buddies... and I thought to myself, "man, if I feel this much intense joy from seeing my missionary buddies after serving for only 2 months, how much more intense will it be after a year and a half?!" I really just might faint, haha :)
I also didn't realize how many people I already know in this mission, and how many connections I already have! Jordan Hoffheins found me, and I found Liz from Hong Kong (I forgot her last name...with the really long hair), and someone from my Chinese 212 class, and someone from my First Aid class at BYU, as well as Sister Ith, who knows SO many of my friends from growing up (Cameron Gygi, Ee Chien, and other people... it's crazy how many people we know without having ever met before!) Man, it's so fun to serve with such amazing friends, and to make even more!
Mom, you asked about how the biking weather was. It's actually pretty good, with the exception of the first full day I had with my companion. It was raining and FREEZING and we accidentally bought "xiao pengyou" ponchos that barely reached past our elbows and not quite to our knees... sounds pretty pathetic (and it probably was) but we laughed the whole day about it. Needless to say, I bought a coat so I wouldn't be freezing the next time it rains, and we know now to look carefully for what size poncho we buy! Other than that it's been good, and my skirts (mostly) work for biking :) I'm going to buy some gloves so my hands don't get so cold on the handlebars. I love riding my bike. It's awesome!!
Thank you so much for the painting of Christ waiting for me when I get home. That is one of the best Christmas gifts I could receive. I love to fill my life with Christ and His teachings, and doing the things He does because that brings the most happiness. He, with all His perfect knowledge, showed us the most perfect way to live that will bring the most happiness and will lead us safely through this life, and through eternity.
I love you all so much, and I think about you often. Thanks for your prayers too. I need that strength. The work is hard, but I know that the Lord is blessing and sustaining me, much of which is because of the prayers in my behalf. My prayers are getting answered in miraculous ways too. I love the Lord and His merciful, loving care for me. I pray that He will continue to bless each one of you too, in the most perfect way that He does. I pray that each of you will be able to have the strength to follow His teachings more closely, for that is when He is able to bless us most. That is what I strive to do every day of my mission.
I love you more than I can say! Thanks for writing, and thanks for sending me Jordan's talk. I laughed so hard when I read about the tithing settlement experience, haha :) I'll write more to each of you next week!
Love, love, love,
Monday, December 20, 2010
It's crazy that Christmas just snuck up on me. It's funny how missionaries have absolutely no concept of holidays and when they are because your mind is elsewhere. Holidays are usually a big deal for me (as you would all know!) but this year it's kinda been fun to not have to do all the waiting and all the sudden they pop up! I thought I was sending my Christmas gift to you all really early, but it's a good time I sent it when I did otherwise I wouldn't have had the opportunity to send it on time. Wow, it's been so crazy to move SO much over the last 2 months. I'm excited to finally be able to stay put for a while! President Bishop said that he tends to keep missionaries in areas longer so I finally felt ok about unpacking my bags completely :)
Upon arrival in Taiwan there were SO many memories that came flooding back to me. I didn't realize that I would be landing in the same airport that we always flew into as a family! I could vividly remember when we moved here the second time and the moment I stepped outside I felt like I was going to drown by breathing because it was so humid! Luckily this time around it wasn't that humid... either that or I'm just used to it now. :) The drive down to TaiZhong was also so fun. Sister Fleming and I got really personalized time with President and Sister Bishop because we got here separately from the rest of the missionaries in our transfer. While we were talking I really enjoyed looking outside and remembering the roads, sights and everything. I felt so at home, like this wasn't new to me at all. There was even a part of the road where I thought to myself, "Hmm, LeoFoo Village should be somewhere around here," and not 10 seconds later we saw the sign for it! Everything from the signs, traffic, white tile buildings, window guards, light switches, plants, and the smell of the mission home were just screaming "You're in TAIWAN!" to me the whole ride home and the moment we arrived at the mission home.
It seems like I've been here a lot longer than a week, but maybe that's just because in reality I've spent years here! But here are some adventures we've been having since I arrived. First off is street contacting, where we talk to people on scooters every single time we stop at a red light. It's kinda crazy and there's so much that you want to say but you only have 30 seconds to say anything! I just have to remember that when I have the Spirit with me He will guide me to say what each person needs to hear, and that I shouldn't be discouraged if people reject the message. My job as a missionary is to find those who are prepared and willing to listen. If I have to talk to 100 people to find that one person, my work will not have been in vain.
It's truly been a miracle that the Lord has blessed me with confidence to do what I thought would be intimidating things. It's interesting to compare my feelings on my mini-mission in Hong Kong to now as a set-apart missionary. Things that scared me to death (particularly contacting people on the street and calling people on the phone) are not as scary as they once were. I feel like the Lord is dissolving my comfort zones so I can overcome my fears and work in faith and love instead. By no means am I perfect, and there are still times where I'm scared to do things, but I know that those things can be overcome. That is one of my biggest goals on my mission: to be able to say I've done all the Lord has asked me to do. I'm slowly learning what that requires, and slowly overcoming my inhibitions and fears to rely on His strength to do what He requires of me.
I got to try boiled bamboo for lunch today, which was not bad, but I don't know if I'll ever order it on my own accord again. I feel like I'm getting much more of the Chinese food experience than I ever have before, which is definitely eye-opening, and exciting at times, haha :)
My companion, Sister Weinheimer, is so awesome. She has been such a wonderful trainer, showing an incredible example of diligence, love, teaching with simplicity and power, and following the Spirit. She helps me learn very well and is incredibly encouraging and helpful. I love her so much and am learning so much from her, especially how to show love for people through missionary work. We have a lot of the same goals and feelings about missionary work, so it's a huge blessing to be so unified in purpose. We're helping each other grow a lot.
I've already seen several miracles happen. The two that are most apparent are 1. having no trouble with jetlag, and 2. being able to understand and communicate more than I thought I would be able to. Never in all my years of travel have I ever been void of the effects of jetlag, but this time it's as if I didn't even change time zones at all. Truly a miracle and a huge blessing in my eyes so I could get straight to the work. I'm definitely seeing the gift of tongues unfold as well. There were several times this week where I thought to myself "I should not be able to understand this right now, but I am." There is still a lot that I don't understand, or can't say, but I know that if I've seen this much growth in the first few days of being here that I will be able to progress a LOT by the end of my mission.
I had a special blessing in my setting apart that I would master the language in a short amount of time. I know that in order to receive that blessing I have to work hard in exercising my faith to obtain it. This week I've been working on an intense language study plan that I know will push me, but I'm relying on faith and miracles to help me learn and grow and obtain that blessing.
Already I've started receiving inspiration for our investigators. 2 particular times come to mind where Sister Weinheimer asked me "is there anything you think we should teach?" and very specific things came to mind. I'm so grateful for the Lord helping our companionship to meet the needs of our investigators. I'm so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve Him and do His work. The Lord has been blessing me richly already, and I'm so excited to work hard and see the fruits throughout my mission.
The Christmas season has been wonderful for me so far. Before I left Idaho I got to go to an incredible Night of Nativities put on by the church kinda like the one in Hong Kong where they had all sorts of nativities set up from around the world... except it was huger and better! They had close to 600 nativities from ALL OVER the world. It was particularly special to see nativities from countries that are not currently open to the gospel such as China, and countries in the Middle East and Africa. Christ is one central figure that all cultures celebrate. As I saw those nativities displayed, the Spirit really touched me that Jesus Christ really is the Savior of the world. Not just Christians or countries that have His gospel, everyone. No matter the culture, race or religious beliefs, Christ has sacrificed His life for all that we might be able to repent, change our lives for the better, and be worthy of all the blessings Heavenly Father wants to give His children. As I've been able to focus more on the real reason for the Christmas season, my life has been richly blessed. It is one of the biggest blessings of my life to be serving Christ full-time right now, with all my heart, might, mind and strength.
I love you all more than I can say. I hope that this Christmas is not sad because I'm not there, but instead, gives you a greater reason to focus on Christ. That's who I'm serving, and as you learn about and serve Him this Christmas season, you'll be having Christmas with me, in spirit. I've been so incredibly happy to hear about your 12 Deeds of Christmas. Each time I hear more about them it warms my heart that yes, indeed, my family has been focusing on serving others as Christ did. As you continue coming closer to Him, you'll be able to feel His love--the love I'd like to send to you this Christmas.
All my love,
With Sister Bishop and President Bishop at the mission home.
Hooray! We finally made it to Taiwan!
Me and Sister Fleming with the couple that picked us up from the airport.
At the mission home... me and Sister Flemming.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I finally made it to Taiwan! I traveled on Monday and met up with Sister Fleming at the Los Angeles airport for the long flight. Sister Fleming and I entered the MTC together on the same day, and we both had to wait for visas. She served in Texas for a month, and I was in Idaho (Spokane Washington Mission). Travel went well and I'm ready to get to work in Taichung!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Our district got to do a service project on Thanksgiving morning to help clean the entry ways to an apartment complex. That evening we got to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Stake President's house. We also visited some members (one of whom gave us an entire pumpkin pie all to ourselves!) and were able to share a message of gratitude with them based on President Monson's recent conference address The Divine Gift of Gratitude. One thing I learned from discussing it with my companions several times throughout the day was that the greatest way we show our gratitude to the Savior is also the biggest blessing. And so it is with everything the Lord asks us to do. When we show our gratitude to Him by following Him, He richly blesses us in return. There is nothing selfish in what He asks us to do--it's all for our benefit. I truly am grateful for all the Savior has done for me and for the opportunity to serve Him. Our mission is working on a Christmas give for our Mission President in which each of us recorded a short testimony with the theme of "I Am a Disciple of Christ" (our theme scripture is 3Nephi 5:13). This is what I said:
I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He has comforted me, guided me, loved me, strengthened me, and given me every blessing I have. Most of all He's healed me and forgiven me. Because He sacrificed His life for me, I'm giving my life to Him. And that is why I AM A DICIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST.Sorry I don't have much time to write today, but here's a few little tidbits that I wanted to add. First of all, it's been snowing like CRAZY but luckily I haven't been freezing. I've been praying that I'd stay warm, and I've been receiving that blessing. So I think I should be fine without my winter clothes from home---unless it gets much colder :) ... I'll let you know. The On-guard oil saved me from another cold, so thanks for sending me with that! And one last thing: we get to move apartments next week! We get to move to a nicer apartment (not that the one we're in is bad or anything) that even has our own washer and dryer. It's definitely an upgrade--they're so good to us here :) So a lot of this week will be mega cleaning and packing our apartment, but we've had lots of members offer to help, so it should go smoothly.
One cool thing my parents found out this week on Facebook is that Sister DeVictoria's mother and my father served in the same Taiwan mission (Taipei) at the same time (27 years ago)! Imagine that...MTC companions whose parents also served at the same time in Taiwan. I think that's awesome :)!!! The work is moving forward and miracles are happening, including the most amazing experience we had with one of our investigators this week. She totaled her car recently and was in desperate need of a new one but kept getting turned down because of financing. Finally out of desparation she said, "God, if you're there I need help," and then continued to search. She still went home empty handed after doing everything she could. The next day she got a phone call from one of the dealers that said they had a car for her--and it turned out to be even better than any of the other ones she had been asking for, and had no problems with the financing! She knew at that point that God existed and loved her. The rest of the lesson was a miracle as she expressed her desire to change. We invited her to be baptized, after which she took a long pause to think about it. She told us later that during that pause she was having a mini conversation with God that went a little like this: "Should I?" "Yes, you should." "Are you sure?" "Who are you talking to?! Of course I'm sure!" We all had a good laugh, and a special experience as she accepted the invitation. The Spirit was strong and we left there as happy as can be. I love you! More than I can say. Thanks for your letters :) I want to keep hearing how you're doing :) Love, Amie