Dear friends and family,
Happy January! It is almost Chinese New Year here, which is the biggest holiday they have (so I hear) so things are getting busy around here. And by busy I mean people are already telling us they can't meet with us until February because Chinese New Year is coming up. I think it is like 9 days off school and several days when businesses are closed, etc while people celebrate. Anyway, I don't really know what is going on, but happy Chinese New Year, anyway!
Oh, and this is the last week of the transfer, so next week my preparation day will be on Monday, so write me Sunday night before 5pm if you want me to get it before preparation day.
This week, in addition to the pictures that you are finally getting (I decided to send less this time--these are the most important ones, anyway :), I wanted to share a little bit of reflection from my first transfer. My first transfer is almost over and I could be moving next transfer and not be considered a "trainee" anymore, so this is clearly a big thing for me. :)
There are several things that I have learned these first 6 weeks in Taiwan. The first and biggest thing is that "real" missions are not anything like I thought they were going to be! My desire to serve a mission stemmed from the desire to teach people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ--that they had a Savior and Redeemer who was ever ready to rescue them from sin as they repented and were baptized. I felt like I had a solid understanding of doctrine and of the workings of the Spirit, and I felt that success on a mission was guaranteed for one prepared such as I. :)
Then, when I was in the MTC, I learned that a mission was about more than just doctrine--I actually had to love people, for one thing! And I had to love them in a different language! But I finally got used to life at the MTC and even started enjoying and appreciating the blessings that I received there, fully anxious to get to Taiwan and being my "real" missionary service.
When I arrived in Taiwan, I quickly learned that I don't know anything about being a missionary! For one thing, I can't even read any of the signs, maps, or even pronounce peoples' names! I quickly learned that my mission will be absolutely impossible without constant guidance from the Lord. But even then, I thought that success would come quickly and easily. I didn't come on a mission for personal growth--I was desiring other peoples' salvation! Clearly they had no reason to not come to their appointments or not let us in or not keep their commitments! But once again, I quickly learned that I was very wrong on this account. Many of our days are spent trying to get ahold of people, both less actives and investigators, through phone calls and numerous unannounced visits (they are less likely to turn us away if we are already at the door, right? :), and still we have yet to find most of the people who are trying to avoid us. :) I was shocked to realize that people have agency and they exercise it freely! Why doesn't everyone just line up at the baptismal font, asking, begging us to teach them about salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ? Well, as Elder Holland likes to say, missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience.
And then yesterday I was reading a scripture in D&C 97:8-9 which talks about those who are "willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice--yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command--they are accepted of me."
Wow! So I guess observing covenants requires sacrifice! Of course I knew this before but it changed my perspective of my mission. In verse 9 it says that for those who do this, "I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree." So missions are hard! And they require sacrifice--not just hours spent on a bike, or doors slammed in your face, or number of rainstorms survived--but a broken heart and a contrite spirit, a willingness to submit to the will of the Father, a love for the people and the missionaries, faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, and the list goes on and on.
And this, I have realized, is the sacrifice that is required of all of us and what makes us fit for eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God.
In other news, I will quickly tell you about the Taipei temple tour. We have a small temple square here with the temple on one side and a large chaple/church building on the other, which is right across the street from the mission home. All of the sisters in the mission take a turn twice a transfer to be "temple square sisters" for a day, and tomorrow is our day so it is on my mind. We have all sorts of gospel pictures lining the walls which teach the first lesson (the Restoration), the Book of Mormon, the pioneers, and so forth. Missionaries can bring their investigators up there and let them have a "visual" tour of the blessings the gospel can bring to their families. It is quite new and so still getting started but it is great to have something that people just wandering through the temple grounds can come in and see and learn about the church. So in case I refer to it, this is what it is.
I hope all is well, wherever each of you are in the world. Keep the faith, keep your covenants, and keep doing missionary work and this work will move forward steadily! I love you all,