Merry Christmas! And hello from rainy Taiwan. The other day it was raining hard all day and it was freezing cold. After riding our bikes all over I looked down at my feet and saw this disgusting combination of blackness of dirt mud and grease covering my legs! I sent pictures as proof of how dirty and gross it was. So that is the kind of weather we are facing now!
So this has been an exciting week in prepartion for Christmas. Because it is cold and rainy alot of people have been cancelling on us or just not showing up for their appointments (or church) because they don't want to drive/ride their scooters in the freezing cold. Which is kind of lame for us. And them. On Thursday we went to the church early in the morning for an appointment with a new member (10:00) and then we had an appointment with an investigator for 10:30. She cancelled, and then our 1:30 appointment cancelled, and then our 4:00 appointment cancelled. And then our 7:00 appointment cancelled. I was feeling pretty discouraged--basically like I wanted to cry--and we were on our way home to do our weekly planning session. We had not eaten lunch yet and the only thing I wanted to do was to go to the convenience store (Family Mart) right by our house. I walked in to buy something and the Spirit said, "talk to the checker woman!" I thought that was awkward so I didn't. And then she came over and asked me what I was looking for and told me all the lunch options. I still didn't talk to her about the church (what would I say? I want a sandwich--and do you want to come to church?) because I thought it was awkward. And then I bought my stuff and still didn't talk to her. And then my companion was buying her stuff and I couldn't stand it any more so I blurted out, "Have you ever been to church before?" She said, "What, are you going to preach the gospel to me?" and I said "Yes." Well, she gave us her number, said that she had seen me a couple of days before riding my bike past her house, she lives near the church, and she would probably come to our Christmas activity. It was a beautiful testimony to me that the Lord loves His children even if they all cancel in the same day--and even if we think it is awkward the Lord will provide a way for us to share the gospel!
On Friday and Saturday we had Christmas activities. Saturday was the Christmas party for both Bade and the Taoyuan 2nd ward, so we had to choose which one to go to. It wasn't a hard decision because the Tao2 ward asked us 3 months ago to come to their Christmas fireside and sing with them, so we chose them. On Friday, however, a member of the Bade ward who works at a preschool asked us (the missionaries) to do a 15 minute presentation at the preschool Christmas party. We were more than happy to comply--until we got there and saw about 50 kids and their parents and teachers being entertained by the KFC chicken dancing around and a magician with a real dove! We were terrified to do our 15 minute live nativity. Who can compete with the KFC chicken?
But it actually didn't turn out so bad. We had some of the kids come up to be Mary, Joseph, the angels, shepherds, and wise men, read a couple of scriptures from Luke, and sang a few hymns for them. It was definitely an unforgettable experience, though--who can compete with the KFC chicken?!!
And then Saturday was our Christmas activity with Tao 2. That afternoon was Sister Jiang's funeral and it was quite an emotional experience for me. Everyone in the whole stake knew her and she has been a member for 30 years so practically all of Taiwan knows her. Therefore, the chapel was packed with people standing outside to pay their last respects. Her son is on a mission in southern Taiwan and his mission president let him come back for the funeral. The hardest part for me was seeing this valiant missionary son, soon to finish his service (in February), still wearing his name tag, who came up in the morning and went back to his mission in the afternoon, standing there and trying not to weep because his mother had passed away. It didn't help, either, that I knew half the people there and they were all weeping too.
By the time we got to the Tao2 Christmas fireside, I was in no mood to have to smile and talk to people and pretend to be cheerful. Even though we are preaching the message of salvation, sometimes missionaries want to be sad, too! But I had a revelation as we were practicing. The Tao2 ward had decided to do a Christmas fireside, with lots of singing, a little reading of scriptures, and watching a short Christmas church movie (the Nativity), with a special emphasis on inviting non-members and investigators. As we were standing up there singing during practice, I was thinking, "I don't want to celebrate Christmas right now!" And the Spirit reprimanded me--"Sister White, you don't want to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, who came to give you salvation, freedom from your sins, and eternal happiness?"
Well, I do want to celebrate His birth. I know He lives. I am grateful for the love of our Father in Heaven, who sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for our sins, our weaknesses, and our pains and sorrows. I know that the only way to true happiness is through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of all of our sins, and we can access this happiness through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And I hope this Christmas season you have a chance to share the joy of the gospel with those who are searching in darkness. It is a rather fulfilling work!
Did I mention I am still in Bade with the same companion? I didn't move. And next week my preparation day will be Wednesday. Merry Christmas!