Dear friends and family,
Merry Christmas! My next Preparation day is Friday, December 26th (for me) so you won't get another letter until after Christmas. (If you want to write me, even if you want to tell me about the cool Christmas gifts you got, make sure to send it before 5pm Christmas day so I can get it before I check my email here.)
I have a hard time believing it is almost Christmas. Since Taiwan is not a Christian country, meaning that most people here are Buddhist, Christmas is not much more than a Western buisness money making thing (such as the 7-11's that dot every corner). (My companion last night made an appointment for Christmas--she suggested it almost hesitantly, but the person on the other line said, "Christmas? Ok, great. It is a different country here! :) The street in front of our house is decorated with Christmas lights, though, and occasionally we see other Christmas lights on other streets. Plus, it is still pretty warm and most of the time I wear short sleeve shirts. It is cold for the Taiwanese, though, and the question I get most often is, "Aren't you cold?" No, I am not--the wet spots on my shirts are actually from the sweat dripping off of my face! It is really funny to watch people's faces when I tell them that I think it is kind of warm--and they are all wearing coats and gloves! But I guess when I take my coat off in the snow in Utah, I wouldn't really get cold in 50 degree weather!
So one thing I have found so far in Taiwan is that the Lord has all of these miracles He has prepared for us, and sometimes I feel like He is just so excited to give them to us. He is just waiting and waiting for us to pray and ask for them--this is true with missionaries and investigators as well as all of the members of the church! But I feel that it is especially true on my mission. So this week I want to tell you about the miracles--but first I have to tell you of the not-so-miracle moments, especially concerning language.
I am grateful every day that the Lord has blessed me with the gift of tongues--but sometimes, when it is not so important, He lets me struggle with the language myself. The other day we were on a barren mountain top in an area that we couldn't knock door (because all of the apartment buildings were no-soliciting areas behind locked gates with a less-than friendly guard) waiting for our appointment, who was late. We were sitting on a wall hoping to be able to contact people who were taking their trash out (but most of them didn't speak Chinese or English...) and not having much success, obviously. It was actually cold this day and I, not planning to sit outside for an hour, was wearing a short sleeve shirt. So suddenly this man walked by, looked at me and said, "Aren't you cold?" to which I replied, "A little!" About 15 seconds after he walked away I realized he said "Are you Mormon?" to which I had replied, "a little!" My companion and I are still trying to figure out what it means to be "a little" Mormon! :)
Another funny (but frustrating!) thing happened when we were looking for a member's house. The address said 562, but it was actually supposed to be 526, which we did not know. 562 actually does not exist, and it was in this area of town by the banks of a river. Picture an overgrown jungle with a filthy yellow river running through the middle, with waste continually being piped into the river, and apartment-type homes made of cement stacked on top of each other right up next to the river back, with incredibly narrow steep cement stairs running between the houses. Now picture the stairwells filled with trash and dirty cats, and tunnels running under the street connecting the houses...and a creepy feeling only made worse by the overpowering incense coming from the doors. This is where we were searching for this non-existent number! My trainer was freaking out--and I always mock her about leading me into the heart of idol worship under the street by the river bank! (I actually thought it was pretty funny.) Don't worry, we got out safely and finally found the member's house.
And now for the miracles. Whenever I read missionaries emails in the past, I always thought they were so boring--really, we don't care how cool your companion is or what kind of bike you have or things like that. We want to hear about the miracles! At least I do. So I will tell you.
First of all, my companion and I have been trying to find people to teach. We have several investigators but only a few of them are "progressing" (keeping their committments and attending sacrament meeting) and we have had a hard time with people cancelling on us--often. So I was praying about how to find more people to teach and the Lord said, "You need to open your mouth and talk to more people." "Why isn't it something Sister McGhie has to do?" was my first thought, but I decided that I would do my best, even though I wasn't sure what would come out when I opened my mouth! So the next day we were at an old person's home (what they call assisted living centers in Chinese) doing service, and on the way back to the bus stop I suddenly felt the urge to buy a drink. We were almost to the bus stop after that when I saw the bus pulling away--and we would have to wait 20 minutes for the next one! I turned to my trainer and told her, "Sorry! My buying the drink made us miss the bus!" But then I felt the Spirit say, "There is a woman behind you with whom you will share the gospel at the bus stop!" In Chinese we call this "an appointment of God" or something--it doesn't really translate into English. Scared to death, we sat down at the bus stop and so did the woman. I turned to her and started talking, shared the message of the restoration, and showed her the Book of Mormon, which she asked if she could have. So I gave her a section to read and we met with her this week. And the Lord said, "See what happens when you open your mouth?"
Every day I realize how grateful I am that this is the Lord's work. And all the time He sends us miracles that let us know that it is definitely not our own efforts that bring to pass miracles--but our faith in His power and our dilligence in doing His work. For example: Sister Liu was referred to us by the elders. We taught her the first lesson and she was so receptive. Yesterday we taught her the second lesson and she was so excited about the premortal life and God's plan for us. We asked her to commit to prepare for baptism and she said she would--and then she asked about her 8-year old daughter! Yes, we definitely can teach both of them and they can both be baptized! It is times like these that make all of the hard times worth it--because there definitely are hard times! People reject the gospel, and you get lost on barren mountains and under street tunnels, and people cancel their appointments, and no one will talk to you on the street--and the God sends you someone who is prepared to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is so beautiful.
And finally an update on Cathy, the Phillipino woman I met on the bus. We gave her a Tagalog Book of Mormon and she was so excited. We taught her the first lesson (it was so great, because it was in English!) and she said it only makes sense that God would only have one church! We shared a scripture with her from the Book of Mormon about the atonemtn (Alma 7:11-12) and asked her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. She looked at us as though we were crazy for asking--of course she was going to read it! We have an English ward in Taipei and even a senior missionary that speaks Tagalog (and lots of Phillipinos in the English ward) so we are hoping she can make it up there on Sunday.
Miracles happen every day--and it is great when God lifts the veil a little and shows us what He has in store for us, both as missionaries and investigators! As my friend (a misisonary in Taichung) said, "Missionary work is the best kept secret in the church!" I would have to agree--although it is not much of a secret, who could know that such happiness could come from living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, and living in a box above the subway! :)
Sister Breanne White
PS--and let's not forget the committment. Wouldn't it be great if this Christmas you gave the Lord the gift of committing yourself and your family to finding those people in your life who are prepared to hear the gospel and referring them to the missionaries? Elder Ballard in 1984 Conference gave a talk entitled "Write Down a Date," in which he challenged members of the church to prayerfully write down a date by which they would have someone to refer to the missionaries. I ask all of you to find that talk on lds.org and read it and apply the principles and promises in it. And next week I will include an excerpt from the talk. Merry Christmas!