Sunday, April 11, 2010

26 December

Merry Christmas!

It is still Christmas for most of you so I thought I would wish you a final Merry Christmas. We told this to people in Taiwan yesterday but people here just don't really celebrate Christmas. They would say "Merry Christmas" back to us in English when we said it in Chinese as if to show that it really is an American/English holiday. I have lived in non-Christian countries before but never on Christmas so it was a kind of weird experience for me. (Speaking of non-Christian countries, I sometimes wonder what the Lord has in store for me--I have now lived in a Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist country. And I have learned that I just really love Christian things--like holidays, beliefs, etc!)

I got to call my family last night and that was fun. I am sure those of you who have been on missions remember the feeling. It was fun for me because I called my Christmas night and it was still their Christmas morning. I am not quite sure why that would make it fun for me but it was. :)

So now for the good stuff. I am starting to settle in and calm down and realize that the Lord doesn't expect me to do everything and so I even breathe once in a while, which is good for the health. But I still make a lot of language mistakes--sometimes even involving English! The other day I got in the elevator in our building and out of the corner of my eye I saw a man wearing sunglasses who said "up?" with what I thought was an odd accent (in English). So I asked him, "where did you learn English?" trying to make conversation. He turned and looked at me and said, "I'm from South Africa!" It was slightly awkward...but he did have a strong accent! He called us "chaps" and when I told him I had been in Taiwan for 2 weeks, he said, "So you just got off the barge, eh?" Really, it was not English he was speaking! :)

And then the other day we were on the metro heading up to Taipei to teach a lesson. (Side note: we cover two areas, Xindian and Jingxin, as well as teaching in another area, Muzha, and going up to Taipei every week to teach to a new member up there. I realized that my companion and I cover the area that 8 elders cover and we have additional responsibilities! It is a little overwhelming!) At one stop a bunch of high school boys filed on and as expected we became the subject of their stares and the topic of their conversation. Two boys next to us were talking to each other in Chinese about what they could say to us in English to impress us. One said, we could say "excuse me," and the other said, No! I know! We could say "sorry!" I could hardly contain myself, I wanted to laugh so badly. This carried on for about 5 minutes as they were trying to decide which one should talk to us. I was talking in Chinese to my companion but apparently they were oblivious--I was trying to warn them! So I finally turned to them and said, in Chinese, "It's ok--we also speak Chinese!" Their mouths dropped open and they were so embarrassed. I thought it was incredibly funny and invited them to English class (all the missionaries teach an English class once a week at the church--it helps us find more people to teach sometimes) and they ran to another car far away from us. I still laugh about it!

And now for some news about our investigators. I feel like sometimes the Lord is like, "Sister White, Sister McGhie, I think you are doing a great job. You are working hard trying to find people to teach, you study hard, and you work hard on the language. Sister White, your contacting skills still need a lot of work, but you are trying. But, just so you remember it is My work and I direct it, I am going to send you investigators and people to teach--people who are prepared that other people find or that contact you themselves." We have had some excellent investigators that are just given to us and it is so great because it reminds me that this is definitely the Lord's work. One of these, Angela (they all have English names--which is great because I can't remember their Chinese names! I think her English name is Lin xuan hui, or something like that!) set a baptismal date two days ago, and we are hoping to have a couple more with baptismal dates in the next week. Angela said the other night when I asked her how her week had been, "It was good. Since meeting you two it was so good that it didn't seem real!" I told her it was because she was reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying--it really does change peoples' lives!

My mission president told us the first day we were here that everything we take for granted is what these people need. Of course I knew that in my head but the other day we were teaching the first lesson and all of a sudden our investigator started crying. I suddenly realized that these people I am teaching have no idea what it is like to feel the Spirit. They have no idea what it is like to repent and have the burden of sin taken away. They have no idea that they can pray to their Heavenly Father--or even that their Heavenly Father loves them! They have no idea of the strength that comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ or the joy that comes from reading the Book of Mormon! And I have no idea what any of that feels like. All I know is that the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives from the minute people hear and accept the message.

And now for one final story. Not all of our investigators appear to be so golden when we first meet them. We met with someone last week who wasn't interested in the gospel but wanted help with her American visa application. We agreed to help and decided that we would also share with her why we are missionaries--the message of the Restoration--and give her a tract (it is basically the first lesson in mini form). Well, it turmed out to be a bit of a disaster. She is a yoga teacher and started telling us about yoga--and then started demonstrating for us! I could hardly control my laughter. And then she kept calling us "god" and told us that she prayed to angels and that she knew God loved her because she didn't know what to do with her life and He sent her a fortune teller! We tried to correct some of these false ideas but it was just a really awkward meeting. Anyway, I told my companion that the gospel has the power to change anyone's life, even if they pray to angels, but we were still kind of wary of meeting with her again. Anyway, she just called and said she wanted to come to church on Sunday--which is excellent and we really hope that she will accept the gospel and learn its doctrines.

And, as a bonus, you get two more short stories. Too many things happen in one week and so you get an email overload sometimes! The other day my companion and I were at a bus stop and met some Taiwanese people here visiting from Japan. Anyway, we taught them about the First Vision and Joseph Smith, gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon, and set up an appointment for the Japanese missionaries to visit them next week! It was a real testimony to me that God places people in our path who are prepared to hear the message of the Restoration and accept the gospel--they said they hadn't ever seen missionaries in Japan! What are the chances?

And then yesterday, as we were riding to our Christmas meeting/celebration with the entire misison, a few of us misisonaries were on the subway. We remembered the Ensign story about the missionaries in Russia who sang on the subway and changed lives--so we decided to do the same. One of the elders even had a violin. So we started singing--but everyone Taiwanese just looked awkwardly at the ground. (a note about the subway--most people ride it in silence or read the paper or text on their phone. And it is usually pretty packed, with very little personal space.) After the third song, a guard came up to us and told us that it was not allowed on the subway. One of the elders said, "Well, we certainly aren't going to make the Ensign!" Too bad, too. I guess it might be different in a country that actually celebrated Christmas!

I hope all is well with all of you. Enjoy your Christmas break. Don't ever feel that I don't like letters--because I do. Thanks to those of you who send me letters and emails. You are great--and I love to hear about your lives and experiences back in the good old America, or whatever country in which you reside. The gospel is true and the Lord is directing this work!

Sister White

PS--and for the follow up on last week's commitment: if you haven't had time to read the talk, here is an excerpt. It is "Write Down a Date" by Elder Ballard, Nov. 1984 Ensign (I think): "May I suggest a simple way in which each one of us can exercise our faith and start our personal missionary service. Write down a date in the near future on which you will have someone ready to be taught the gospel. Do not worry if you do not have someone already in mind. Let the Lord help you as you pray dilligently for guidance. Fast and pray, seeking guidance from our Heavenly Father...Because living the gospel is essential to the remission of sins, and because giving missionary service is essential to living the gospel, I believe each one of us must set a definite date at least once a year to have an individual or family ready to be taught the gospel. We should expect to have wonderful success."

So there you have it. Maybe in FHE discuss with your family (or yourselves, if you don't live with your family) what date you think is appropriate. I would love to hear about your efforts. I personally know that member work is vital to the success of misisonary work!

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