Wow, I can't believe that it is already February and I have been here in Taiwan for 2 months. It actually feels much longer than that, but I am sure you all know how that goes...
This week I thought I would share some thoughts about the two sides of the spectrum of missionary work. First, I will share the "hard" side. Missionary work is hard! I don't know how it is in other areas of the world, but missionary work in Taiwan is a real struggle. People stand you up all the time, and when you knock doors and contact most people don't want to listen to you, and investigators drop out of the baptismal pool often, and you have to ride a bike in a skirt up mountains and get rained on and drip sweat constantly, and investigators just have so many problems to overcome! I have really developed a new respect for returned missionaries. I used to think that there was really no excuse for not being a great missionary and if people were "less effective" it was because they were lazy. But now I realize that even "less effective" missionaries still have to do a lot of hard things! A lot! So, there is my newfound respect for all of you returned missionaries.
An example of the hard aspect of missionary work: the other night we went to visit the family we taught last week. We were really excited to share the second lesson about the plan of salvation with them and have a short FHE. Well, right as we rode up the mom and the 9 year old were riding away on their motorcycle--she said to go in and she would be back soon. We went in and started talking to the two older daughters...and after about 40 minutes finally decided to just start sharing the lesson with them. The mom came back after about an hour and then, after avoiding the room we were in, came in and told us that she wasn't interested because she already had a religion (Buddhism) but that she didn't mind if we taught her daughters. And then the subject came up that we do 3 hours of community service each week and somehow I agreed to teach her two daughters piano once a week.
I left that lesson and suddenly realized that I had just agreed to teach piano lessons in Chinese! Ahhhh! Basically I went home and cried that night.
But missionary work is so wonderful too. So many blessings flow because this truly is the work of the Lord. And people really are prepared to hear about the gospel. As a missionary it is ok if you go home and cry every night as long as you get up the next morning ready to work and with renewed faith in the Lord that He will help you find the people ready to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So another example: Yesterday my companion and I went up to Taipei to take our turn at being "temple square sisters" (we all switch off and have turns twice a transfer). They have a huge chapel/building up there right next to the temple and have recently set up a "tour" where there are lots of pictures on the walls from the Book of Mormon, pioneers, and the first lesson so missionaries can bring their investigators there to have a "tour." It really can be a very spiritual experience and I really like doing it. Anyway, there was a family there from Utah yesterday visiting Taiwan and they were standing outside the temple so we invited them in for a tour. So I got to give the little kids (7, 4, and 2) a tour in English--and that was really fun. The 4 year old girl said that she wanted to go on a mission when she grew up, and of course the 7 year old boy was already set on going. So it was a sweet experience because they were so cute and I felt this connection to Utah.
I thought that would be the highlight of the day--until at 6:30 two of the senior sisters brought in a Philippina woman. One of the senior sisters, Sister Reyes, is from the Philippines so she does most of the work with the Philippinos here. Anyway, they were going to meet another investigator at the chapel and have us give her a tour but they ran into this other woman, Lalit, on the way and invited her to come and learn about our church. She was just so cute and said that she had been looking for a church to attend here in Taiwan. There is a picture of Jesus being baptized and when I explained about how we all need to be baptized to be cleansed from our sins, she asked when she could get baptized. Then she asked if we had a church near her home in the Philippines so she could tell her mother and family about it! She agreed to come to church on Sunday and read the Book of Mormon and wants to meet with the missionaries. It was really a miracle story and such a sweet experience to be able to watch it in action. When you think that she went to a 7-11 at the exact time the senior sisters were walking from their apartment to the chapel and they ran into each other--well, it is just a testimony that the Lord really is guiding and directing this work.
(Side note: She got baptized a month later)
And finally for a funny story. I might cry every night (not really, don't worry) but I laugh almost every day. The other night we were going to visit a family that a member had referred to us. We hadn't met with them before but wanted to stop by and see if they were home and if they wanted to hear our message. Well, their home borders a buddhist temple and was in the country side--like it was made out of mud brick, etc. When we got there the buddhist temple was having some sort of celebration and were lighting off huge fireworks and dancing and having some sort of a program on the stage in front of the temple. We were only about 20 feet away from the fireworks and were a little freaked out about leaving our bikes in such close range to the fireworks! Plus, how could we ever teach anyone with this racket going on? It turns out that the family had moved a couple of weeks before so we didn't have to worry about it anyway--but my companion and I are still laughing about these odd situations that we seem to get ourselves in!
And today I got a letter from my little sister (Avalon) and one of my professors from BYU-Dr. Matthews. It really made my day to receive letters from people who support me and who share with me about their own lives. So thank you for all that you do to support me and others on missions! I am always so grateful for your letters and prayers and everything else!