Monday, December 30, 2013

Here is the latest message from Sister Fernley:

(first of all forgive the lack of apostrophes in this email, that key as well as the semicolon have gone missing on my keyboard.)
This week has been such a good week. It was so good to talk to you and actually see your faces on Wednesday! (Well Wednesday for me.) Im so glad you are all doing well and you look happy and healthy. I loved that I got to have some time to talk to Jemma too. It was really silly to have the blanket over the computer, but it reminded me of the tents we used to play in at home. It looked like Christmas was so much fun and that Jemma got some really fun things from Santa!
As always the pictures are incredible! I love the hula-hoop pictures and Jemma peeking out of the bathroom. She is so silly! I was actually talking about her doing that to Sister Anderson a few days before Christmas and thought she probably wouldnt do that again, but I was proved wrong. This is a really random thing to notice, but I saw that you changed my pictures that are on the wall!
The rest of Christmas was pretty uneventful. After I finished talking to you we watched the Christmas devotional for companionship study then Sister Anderson called her family. I think dad would ger along really well with her dad. The first thing he did was show Sister Anderson his T-shirt that said T-rex hates push-ups. I figured dad would appreciate that. 
After she was done we went back to our RCs current place and ate lunch. They run a noodle shop and their food is incredible. I would be happy eating there everyday, but its a ton of food and not very healthy so we refrain. We mostly eat rice with this meat sauce on top of it with vegetables (theirs are actually pretty decent), deep fried pork and usually an egg. It varies, but thats usually it. We visited a couple of less active members and even stopped by Chen Hui Yu at her work. She was our former investigator who we dropped a while ago. We have started stopping by every once in a while to see how she is doing and share a small message. Then we went and powerboarded for english and taught english class. Before we left the church the Hong family (our RCs) called us and said they would meet us at our place. When we got there they had some soup and cheesecake (literally, cake that tastes like cheese) for us for Christmas. It was so good to end off Christmas with them!
Over the rest of the week we have seen so many small miracles and tender mercies. We have been trying really hard to get our former investigators progressing again. We met with Liao jiemei (the 16 year old) again and extended a baptismal invite. She is really afraid of family opposition and wasnt sure because of that, but without that worry she has such a desire to follow Christ and be baptized. We are still trying to figure out what to do with that, but have faith that the Lord will provide a way.
We also met with Chen Zhen Zhen yesterday again as well. We had planned to teach her the Plan of Salvation, but as I was following up about our last lesson she told us that she didnt understand the big deal about the Book of Mormon. We changed out plan and read the introduction with her and explained a lot about the Book of Mormon and how she could gain a testimony for herself. I feel like that helped her understand a lot more the importance of the Book of Mormon and why it is important to read it. We extended a baptismal invitation to her to and she said if she gains her own testimony by that time she is willing to be baptized. We have been blessed to find these people who are so willing to learn and prepared to hear the gospel, we are just praying that they will progress to learn for themselves.
On Friday we met with Chen dixiong (the father in that family weve been teaching) at his work. We havent been able to meet with them for a while and have felt like theyve been avoiding us a little. One of our church members is his coworker so we had a good lesson with the two of them. Before he was so golden and willing to act on what we taught him, but lately his attitude has completely changed. We found out that he isnt praying anymore, has stopped reading the scriptures and didnt come to church last week. He kept saying he didnt understand some things and wasnt feeling anything in regards to the gospel. We were pretty frank with him and simply said it was because he wasnt doing anything to learn more. He came to church this Sunday, so we are hoping they will realize they need to do their part to know if this church is true or not. We had an appointment with them for Sunday night, but they canceled because his wife got sick. Hopefully we can meet with them again soon.
That is most everything that has happened with our investigators. We did have an incredible lesson with a less active this week too. Her name is Li mama (if they are over 50 we usually call them mama) and we meet with her everyweek and study the scriptures together. Her son has been gone on his mission to Australia and just got home about a week ago. He sat in on our lesson and actually got her thinking about changing her rest day to Sunday so she can come back to church. Family influence is so incredible! We will see where she is at again this week. If she actually does change her rest day she will be able to become active again!
The Hong family went to the temple on Saturday! They went up to Taibei with Hong jiemeis sister and their stake and did baptisms for the dead. I called them later that day and they said they were able to do ten baptisms each and it was a really special experience. (Also that was my first full, and coherent phone conversation in Chinese!) And I forgot that morning I ended up leading a lesson on my own with Huang jiemei (another investigator we havent been able to meet with for a while). She brought her two kids who make it impossible to have a good lesson with her so Sister Anderson took them out and entertained them while I and a sister from our ward stayed and taught her about faith. It was a good day of break throughs for me.
So we have seen so many miracles this week! Heavenly Father blesses us so much! We have had a hard time for the past couple of weeks, but now we are seeing so many blessings. Ive been trying really hard to gain better relationships with the ward members and talking to them more. They have been so kind and I feel so honored to know them. The sister who helped me in my solo lesson has been freaking out because we dont wear warm enough clothes. It has actually gotten pretty cold lately, but because we expect Taiwan to be hot we dont have many cold weather items. She ended up bringing tights for me on Sunday. I had a sister the day before at the elders baptismal service go home and get a heavier jacket to give me. Then on Sunday after church I went up to the sister who had given a talk in sacrament to thank her and she freaked out at my lack of warm clothes and gave me the coat off her back. I protested really hard, but I ended up having her and the sister who gave me the tights force the jacket on me despite anything I said. Their generosity amazes me! There are so many incredible people in the world and I only wish I can be as much of an example to them as they are to me. So, I am very quickly accumulating jackets in my closet.
I did get your package this week! It came on Saturday, so it wasnt too late. I also got the package from my moms family at the same time, so it really was like Christmas. Thank you so much! It was so much more than I expected and I loved it all. I have already shown off the pictures you sent to so many people. It makes me grin every single time I look at them. My moms family gave me two of the big bags of M&Ms in their package, so along with the M&Ms you sent we have a pretty good candy stash now. Mostly we just pick out the chocolate because thats the best part. Last night after planning Sister Anderson and I ended up talking and eating M&Ms until it was time to go to bed. It was so much fun, and Im so glad that we have developed such a good friendship. We probably only have three more weeks together.
I almost forgot to tell you about the baptismal service we had. Some of the elders in our district had a baptism on Saturday, and because they were still helping a new family move in asked us to go to the church early to fill up the font. We rushed there, but they actually ended up beating us. So they started the water and we just stood in the hallway with them and some of the ward member talking. To keep the story short they ended up overflowing the font and having water come into the hallway. It was really funny, and Sister Anderson and I kept joking about just having the baptism in the hallway.
I love you all so much! I am so grateful for you all and for what incredible examples you are to me. I always appreciated you and knew I was so blessed to have such a great family, but being on my mission has increased my appreciation and gratitude for you all so much!
Have a great week! Play in the snow and enjoy the time together. Time is so precious and once it goes by we can never get it back (also something I have learned out here). I cant believe I have already been out on my mission for four months. Its not much compared to the 18, but it has gone by so fast. Give Jemma a hug for me! I loved her letter! I want to hear more about the new show she was talking about and the craft she found. (I also like jumping in leaves and miss her too!) Love you all!
Sister Fernley

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas in Nantou

Oops! I forgot to post Sister Fernley's last message! Here it is:

Merry Christmas!
It is still crazy to me that Christmas is almost upon us! It is so different here than it is back home during this time. Because Christmas isn't a very important holiday here there are only a few christmas lights out (mostly around the other Christian churches) and small Christmas decorations mostly around a small selection of stores. Every once in a while we will hear a Christmas song playing over store radios.
Despite the lack of the traditional celebrations of Christmas this week has been a special week. Lately we have been sharing a Christmas message with many of the less actives and recent converts that we are meeting with. Every time I am so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ. His coming to earth and the sacrifice He made for us is the greatest gift given to mankind. His love is all encompassing and His mercy is extended to everyone. We just have to reach out and accept it.
This week we had our mission Christmas activity! The entire Taiwan Taichung mission got together and we went down to Sun Moon Lake then had a Christmas devotional. 

It was so foggy, this is all Sister Fernley was able to see of Sun Moon Lake.

Reunion with Sister Grigg, Sister Fernley's MTC companion

I'm sure you have already seen some about that on the mission blog. The devotional was incredible, the spirit was so strong and we were able to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ and the opportunity we have to be serving Him during this Christmas season. They started the program with missionary reflections from the missionaries that are going home this next week. So many of them talked about attitude and how it makes the difference in everything, and that we choose our attitude. I feel like that has come up a lot lately in activities we have been to as well as lessons we have been teaching. Every time it reminds me of what Dad always says, "You choose to be happy." I know there were many times where I would get so annoyed or would simply shrug it off, but I am so grateful for that and for everything I have been taught in our home. I am so grateful for a home founded on the gospel and that I have parents who know and teach us that the gospel is the most important focus we can have in our lives.
Anyway after the reflections the office staff and President and Sister Blickenstaff put on a Christmas program with a nativity for us. Elder Darrington read the Christmas story from the scriptures and at appropriate times in the story we would sing the Christmas hymns. As this was all going on the others would walk in wearing their costumes gradually building a nativity at the front of the chapel. It was really simple, but it was hard to hold back the tears and continue singing. The hymns are so powerful! There are so many times where I sing them without thinking about the words and the simple prayer that every hymn is, but as we were singing and seeing the nativity and story of Christ's birth unfold in the words we were singing my heart was full of joy and gratitude.
In the hymn of "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" it says,
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
The last line of that hymn really struck me. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Because of Jesus Christ we can have hope. And because of Christ we can be freed from fear. He is the everlasting Light and in Him we can have complete joy and happiness. We an have hope in the future and that if we are faithful we will receive everlasting happiness.
Near the end of the program we sang hymn # 212 and in the chorus is reads, "Glory to God, Glory to God,
Glory to God in the highest!" As we sang that, rejoicing in the gift we have been given and how great our God is to us I couldn't help but cry. Glory be to my God who is my strength and my comfort every day, who has given me everything and who knows my every desire. Glory to God whose work this is. I couldn't be more grateful to have this opportunity to serve Him, to set aside everything and completely dedicate this time to Him and striving to bring His children unto Him.
We were also able to have the ward Christmas activity here in Nantou this weekend. I understood little of the program that was put on, but the missionaries were asking to sing in a small choir and it was a priviledge to do that for them. They really wanted this activity to be focused on Christ and the true meaning of Christmas. In doing a lot of preparation this week for that activity we have really been able to focus on our relationship with the ward. The atmosphere and feelings toward missionary work in this ward have completely changed since I came here. It is incredible to see and I hope as we continue to strengthen our relationship with them that they will begin to trust us and work with us in this great work.
Other than that not much else has happened. We don't have many investigators at the moment, and the ones we have had have all entered the avoidance stage and aren't very willing to set up with us. Our goal for this next week is to bring them all back, a ressurection of sorts. We did meet with Liao jiemei (the young girl who self contacted us and has found Christ on her own) this week. We ended up only having about ten minutes with her, but she prayed aloud with us for the first time and it was one of the most incredible prayers I have ever heard. She expressed so much gratitude to God for being able to come to know Him and to have met us. Near the end of her prayer she said, "Father I love you. I hope you can know how much I love you." It was so sincere and so full of the Spirit. This girl is so prepared and is so close to God and Christ already. We invited her to pray for help from our Father in Heaven and talk to her parents about wanting to become Christian. She thinks they will have some serious objections, but we will see what happens.
We were also able to sit with Chen Zhen Zhen again. Her birthday was a few days ago so we stopped by to take her a card and she let us in. She is searching so hard for the truth but is frustrated that she hasn't been receiving an answer and doesn't understand much. As she talked and expressed her concerns and what she wants to learn we could have talked about any one of the lessons in Preach my Gospel. We listened and bore testimony and will hopefully be able to meet with her more regularly and teach her the gospel. We are actually going over in a few hours to learn how to do some Chinese painting with her.
Dad asked how the language was going, and it is slowly coming. It actually hasn't been a huge worry for a while now. I finished my Phase 1 yesterday and can now start on Phase 2, which is just boxes of flash cards to learn. I've heard your language ability skyrockets once you get to that point, so I'm really excited. I can just about understand most things as long as its not a really strange topic like politics. I just continue to study and pray. Heavenly Father will help me learn this insane language! Haha.
I haven't gotten your package yet, but I will let you know when I do. I look forward to it and can't wait to talk to you this week. We are going over to the Hong family's (our RCs) and are going to use their computer to skype. We were planning on talking to you all on Christmas Eve night for you. Hopefully that shouldn't be a problem. Sister Anderson's family can only do it later that night. We were thinking of going over at nine in the morning Christmas morning for us. What time would that be for you? Six Christmas Eve night? I'm not exactly sure what the time difference is now with daylight savings. Anyway I think that is when we were planning on talking.
As always I loved the pictures and Jemma's letter to Santa. It was so cute! She is getting so good at writing! She is also getting so big! Already! I'm afraid how big she is going to be when I get home. I don't want her to grow up. Haha. And I got the picture she made me from the ipad, that was also very cute. It made me smile.
I think that's about it. If I forgot anything I can tell you in a few days! I love you all so much and love to hear about everything that is going on at home! You are in my heart always and I thank God everyday that He gave me such an incredible family!
With all my love,
Sister Fernley

Note from Nicole:
We were so excited to be able to Skype with Sister Fernley on Christmas Eve. She seemed healthy and very happy. We were thrilled to hear her bear her testimony in Chinese.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pressing Forward in Nantou

Here is Sister Fernley's latest message:

Dear Family,
I don't really know how to start this email. Not a lot has happened this week. We have continued to meet with the less actives we want to focus on and working with our recent converts. We have met with a few investigators but we don't have many who are progressing or who have much interest at the moment.
We did meet with the Chen family this Tuesday and taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was actually the one to extend the baptismal commitment! They didn't accept, but its because brother Chen is the oldest son so he has a lot of responsibilities in bai bai (the ritual they do with incense to their ancestors). They have thought of being baptized before and becoming Christian but they are afraid of their families reactions. Even though they didn't accept we were still pretty excited. Their reaction shows that they take baptism seriously. They believe in Christ and Heavenly Father so strongly and accept the principles of the gospel so readily. We hope as we continue to work with them that a way will be provided for them to accept baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We also had the opportunity to meet again with Liao jiemei (the girl who came up to us on the street and said she believed in Christ). We had shared a scripture with her and she needed help finding it in her Bible so she met us at the church. We ended up teaching most of the Plan of Salvation and she accepted it so readily. The more we talked the more excited she got. We even gave her a Book of Mormon and she was so excited to have more scriptures to read. Because she knew almost nothing about Christianity beforehand she has no preconceptions. She can see our message for the truth that it is and accepts it so readily. We hope that someday we will be able to teach her formally and that her family will be open to her accepting the gospel.
This week during english class a lady came to the church and self contacted us. I was teaching, but Sister Anderson talked to her and she is doing her thesis for her Master's degree and is doing it on Chinese as a second language and the Mormon missionaries. She said she has just always seen the missionaries and has been curious about us, but when she tried to find material to do her thesis she could find almost nothing. So she decided that someone should write about it. We met with her twice and just answered her questions and bore testimony with every fiber of our being. It was an incredible experience. She asked us a lot about our days and what challenges we face as missionaries. As we talked I realized that there are so many and that it really is such a hard thing. It sounds a lot harder when you talk about it. She asked us how we keep going and I have been thinking about that a lot lately.
We come across so much rejection and experience so much emotional, physical, mental and spiritual stress, but we press forward. One factor is that we literally don't have time to focus on ourselves. We don't have time for self pity or to forget our trials for a little bit. We are expected and called to preach this gospel and are expected to use our time wisely for the Lord. But we also press forward in faith. We press forward in hope and joy in this gospel. We keep going because we know that we can find those people who are prepared to hear this message. We were talking about it the other day and we wake up every day and wonder how we can get up and endure through another day, and every night we crawl into bed and wonder  how we made it through the day. Its incredible what we can do with the Lord on our side. I know without a doubt that the Lord is with us in this work. Because of Him I press forward in faith and in happiness. He allows us to see so many miracles and strengthens us when we are too blind to see them. I haven't been out for very long, but I know my work is for the Lord, and even though its hard, its not a hard decision to press forward. Because we have His strength and a knowledge of what the message can do for the lives of these people.
That was pretty deep...haha...but that interview experience made me think a lot about that. I realized how much strength I have received and that we can all receive through Christ and this gospel. It is the most joyful message and can bring us happiness we never knew was possible.
That's about all that happened. We continue to tract and bike, and bike and bike (literally up mountains). I'm going to be in the best shape of my life when I get home. This week we have been practicing singing for the ward's Christmas activity this weekend, we hope it ends up being a good experience for all who come. Sister Anderson got her Christmas package from her family and they sent a little Christmas tree with ornaments which we now have sitting on our desk. Sister Anderson convinced me to try stinky tofu again. It's still gross.
Oh...the less active family we have been working with came to church yesterday! We actually got all seven of our recent converts at church this week. It was a miracle and we didn't care that our other numbers were so low after that. It was incredible!
I loved the pictures this week! Poor Jemma, she did look so cute in her costume, but I'm sorry she didn't have fun at the recital. At least now we know that she doesn't enjoy that very much. Its good to try a lot of things and find what you like. The pictures of her dancing in her room cracked me up. They are so awesome! Also the gingerbread kits looked like they were fun, it looked so cute!
Dad talked about the weather and comparing it to Taiwan. A lot of the time we question whether it is even December. Today feels like a perfect spring day back home. I'm really grateful that I only have one summer here though. I hear it is so hot and miserable to bike everywhere. I think I am going to miss the snow though. Jemma can play extra long in the snow for me :).
Thanks for sending some makeup I asked for. Sorry that it was such a pain to find. I actually was just at Smiths and decided to try something different that the Light was just there. I do have a light medium too though and its fine. I look forward to getting your package! Anything you send, even letters, are treasures. It's so exciting when you get something in the mail. Speaking of which Brother Asay send me a letter this week with a check to help me send something home or get something for our investigators. I can't do anything with the check here so I'm going to send it home so you can deposit it. Please tell him thank you for me! I am constantly amazed at the kindness and selflessness of the people we live among. They are all incredible examples to me!
Dad was telling me that your home teaching message this month was on eternal families. My testimony of the Plan of Salvation and eternal families has been strengthened so much! It is such a great blessing to have that knowledge. My Grandma Swensen actually passed away a couple of days ago. Its sad for a moment, but because we know of God's plan we can have hope. We can have joy in knowing that this life is not the end, and that we can be together forever. I'm so grateful for that knowledge! Family is so important and is eternal. We can have eternal happiness together as families. It truly is a beautiful thing!
I sent some letters last Monday, I don't know if they will get to you in time for Christmas. I wrote Jemma a little note, but maybe get something for her from me. I hope this Christmas is a good Christmas for everyone! I can't wait to talk to you! I think we are going to try and Skype you around seven Christmas Eve night for you. Is that okay? Let me know and remind me of your Skype information. I might end up using someone elses, but we are going to try and sign me up for one. Just so you know here is what President has told us about calls home.
Christmas phone calls are almost here! Please note the following guidelines:
- You are allowed to call or ‘Skype’ anytime on either December 25 or 26. If you need to use another day, please obtain permission from me.
- Your calls should not exceed 45 minutes. If your parents are divorced or separated, you may talk with each parent for 30 minutes.
- Please do not call anyone other than your parents unless you have obtained permission from me.
- You are allowed to use member’s computers in their homes in order to Skype. Do not linger on computers to play games or look at inappropriate things. Remember that members are always watching you to see if you are PMG missionaries. Do not let them down!
- In all that you do and say, seek to uplift your family and bear witness of the Savior. Let them see the ways in which your mission experience has changed you. 
I'm almost out of time, but I love you all! I'm so grateful that I have this opportunity to serve the Lord and that I can do His work during this holiday season. Give Jemma a giant hug and maybe some hickles for me! And drink tons of hot chocolate, eat candy canes and listen to a million Christmas songs! I thank Heavenly Father every day for you and that I have a family I love so much and who I know loves and supports me. You all are the best!

(Sister Fernley also sent these pictures of some of our family's favorite "exotic" treats--what a fun find!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

We were so excited to hear from Sister Fernley this week. It sounds like she is happy and working hard. Here is her latest message (with lots of pictures!):

My Dear Family,
As always I loved your emails. Its so fun to read them and even though they are usually about the same things I love hearing the different perspectives on life in Utah.

This week has possibly been the hardest week so far. We had a lot of meetings and such take up a lot of our proselyting time at the beginning of the week and they so many things seemed to fall through or take turns for the worse. Monday we had preparation day until 6:00 PM then tried to find new investigators and visited our recent converts. We can always count on them. They are always so willing to let us come into their store and meet with them. Sister Anderson mentioned yesterday that they will always be my first RCs and I'm so honored to have such strong RCs as my firsts. They are now working toward going to the temple in a year and I will still be in Taiwan, so if all goes well I will be able to attend their sealing!

That was about it on MondayOn Tuesday we had to travel to Yuanlin for a zone training meeting. We are trying to all focus on getting the ward members more active and have a sheet that we are going to try and use that basically allows the ward members to fill up the missionaries times. So in essence we will be peikeing (or attending their lessons) instead of the other way around. Its going to take a while to implement, but other areas have used it and it seems to be really effective. We also did exchanges after that with the Sister Training Leaders. This time I was staying in our area and lead the area for a night and morning. It helped me see that I actually do have some ownership of the area and at least know to some extent how to get where I need to. It also allowed me to get to know one of our Sister Training Leaders better.

On Wednesday we actuall had a follow up training for trainers and trainees with President Blickenstaff. They only did one meeting so we had to travel down to Jiayi. Thats about an hour bus ride to get to where we can access a train station then about a twoish hour train ride down to Jiayi. It took up almost our whole day to travel there and back for a pretty short meeting. The scenery is beautiful though and some parts are so typical of what you think of as Asian landscape. There was one point I was looking out the window at all the rice fields we were passing by and there was this old lady out in the middle of one wearing the typical robes and the giant straw cone hats. It still amazes me that I am here sometimes.

On Thursday we went and visited our RCs again and reviewed some things they progress toward now such as temple recommends, patriarchal blessings etc. We also visited that part member family that came to church a few weeks ago. They keep promising they will come again and never do. She was really busy with making the cheap crystal trinkets she makes for work (actually a lot of people do that here, I will never look at them the same way again) so we helped her for a while. We went back Friday to help her more so they could come to church, but they didn't come again. So I think we are going to stop helping her for a while.

We had another meeting set up with Chen Zhen Zhen and another investigator we've met with a couple of times, but they both told us the times we had set wouldn't work and when we tried to push their appointments back they were both pretty wishy-washy about setting another time. So for right now they aren't seeming like they are ging to have much interest, but we are going to keep trying and see what happens this week.

Saturday morning Sister Anderson was calling some phones and someone actually agreed to meet with us for that night! So we met with her at McDonalds and had a pretty good discussion with her. We don't know where her interest really is right now, she seemed pretty attentive and asked some really good questions.

We also went tracting as our backup plan when everything was falling through and tracted into this lady who is Christian and at first didn't want to talk to us. She had run into the Elders before and had read our tract about the basics of the gospel. As we talked more she was more willing to listen to us and actually asked us a lot of questions. She knows the Bible really well which worked out in our favor. She had a lot of the common misconceptions about our church and we were able to answer all of them from the Bible. She even asked us if we had a Book of Mormon that we could give her so she could read it and better understand our religion. Luckily I had one on my bike we could give her. We didn't feel like we should pressure her to set up a time but we are praying for her and hoping she will call us.

 We were finally able to meet with Wu Jia Zhen last night and we are going to try and work hard with her this month to hopefully have her prepared for baptism by the end of the month. She is so busy with school though it is hard to find a time to meet.

Other than that not much else happened this week. It was a hard, dissapointing week but ever since I've left the MTC I've remembered something one of my teachers told us. He said the God pushes us until we hit our limit. When we don't think we can go one more door or keep going He showers us with blessings. That has kept me going every day. When I don't want to tract another door or keep biking when I feel like my legs are going to fall off I remember that I just need to press forward. There is always another miracle just around the corner. I may not know when I will hit my limit and when that corner will appear, but it always will and God will be there and shower us with blessings. I think because of that I haven't every been depressed for very long. We get dissapointed and discouraged, but with that thought in mind it makes it so much easier to pick myself up and press forward.

To answer your questions and respond to your letters it is definitely allowed for you to write my bishop. I don't think he could understand it, but the thought would be nice maybe I could try and translate. I don't have his address here, but I can get it for you.

Christmas isn't big here at all. It is weird not to have light everywhere and Christmas ornaments. Some stores play Christmas music and there is a Christmas night market down in Caotun that we have tried to contact at frequently. The Christians here do celebrate it, but it is definitely a lot more low key than how we celebrate in America. Its also not cold, and most people have never seen snow here.

I do have my personal debit card. The Church gives us our mission one and give us an 'allowance' every month that we can take out. As far as my personal one I can take out whenever I want. As long as there are funds in either I can take money out.

I thought your stories about the music in church this week were amusing. Music here is also pretty hilarious. Singing in Chinese is just not very appealing and doesn't sound very good. The members also sing at the top of their lungs no matter what hymn we are singing. A few of the children in our ward are especially boistrous. Its incredibly irreverant, but at least they are singing right? Also the Chinese are tone deaf....which is pretty irronic considering Chinese is a tonal language. Sometimes I just cringe and think how different singing hymns is back home. Many times the only people really carrying the tune are the six missionaries of our district scattered around the congregation.

Speaking of our district the move call ends today! Its crazy to think I have already been here for six weeks and as of Thursday am no longer the youngest generation of missionaries on the island. We have a couple elders in our district who are moving today which is sad, but such is missionary life. As soon as you get comfortable in an area the Lord moves you.

As far as other random things go I miss salad and vegetables. I don't know if I told you that already, but all the vegetables here are cooked and doused in oil. Its incredible how they eat so much starch and oil and still manage to stay a pretty skinny people. They also wear long sleeves and coats when they go outside to keep their skin as white as possible. I think I've told you that before. When you go to a bathroom its about 50/50 whether you will get a normal toilet or a squater toilet. Look it up...I think you will get a kick out of it. I personally haven't experienced this but I hear it is particularly interesting to have to use a squatter toilet on the train. ummm...Sister Anderson and I have gotten addicted to this red bead drink and this seseame seed drink here. They can make it hot and its really good. Who would have thought I would love to drink beans and seeds crushed up into a drink?

I can't think of much else, but I'm sure as soon as I leave the computer place I will remember something. I'm sending you all a letter for Christmas, I don't know if I will get it out in time to get to you by Christmas but keep an eye out for it. I know its not much, but know that I love you all so much and my heart is always with you. Everyone here loves to see our family picture and they all think Jemma is so cute. I love being able to tell them the two of us are best friends.

Have a great week! Soak up the Christmas season and celebrations for me! I'm grateful for you all everyday!
With much love,
Sister Fernley

P.S. I also forgot to tell you a couple of weeks ago I ate a chicken foot. We were in the church building setting up for our meeting before english class and the elders were eating outside. One said they had an extra if one of us wanted it. Sister Anderson refuses to eat it, but I told him I might take him up on his offer. I think everyone was pretty suprised, but they gave it to me and told me how to eat it. Its not very good. Not bad, but definitely not worth the work you have to put in to eat it. You just have to get over how gross it looks.

My first baptism! They were already taught everything by the time I got in Nantou, but it has been an honor to know them.

The picture with just sisters is all the Nantou sisters that got to teach the Hong family.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Work and Thanksgiving in Nantou

A couple of weeks ago we sent a little envelope to Sister Fernley with some letters from us and some pictures and messages from Jemma. These are the messages Jemma sent (Sister Fernley refers to them in the message below. which is why I'm including them here).

"Bubba stop falling off your bike"

"I'm sorry you fell off your bike. That made me sad."

And here is the latest message from Sister Fernley (would I be a crazy missionary mom if I wanted to send a thank you note and even a little gift to the bishop of the Nantou ward who was so kind to the missionaries?):

This week has been such a crazy week and the Lord has blessed us so much! I'm going to try something a little different and go day by day so my letters will be a little easier to understand and I'm not jumping around all of the time. But first it sounds like this week was a good one. I'm sorry about the roof and the winds, that's no fun. Thanksgiving sounds pretty low-key, but I feel like that is always the best. Its just great to be in the company of family. It probably isn't very good, but Sister Anderson and I have been pretty nostalgic and sharing family traditions that we have and the more I think about it the more and more grateful I am for a family that I love so much. We are so blessed to have a family who is strong in the gospel and that we can get together and just enjoy one anothers company. I got your letters this week! I loved them! Jemma's letter made me laugh and I loved her pictures as always! I really liked the talk that you sent as well. I actually was reading in 2 Nephi the morning after I got the letters and it was talking about broken hearts and contrite spirits so I stuck the talk there because they went together so well. I also got grandmas package a little while ago and she did send me the October Conference Ensign. I was so excited! I love the conference editions!

Anyway to get into the week Monday we didn't really go much. We went to Hong and Zhang's place (so many people have their shops or resturants in front and their houses are built in behind) and just hung out in the corner of their shop while they worked. We studying and when the two of them had time they would sit and talk with us. We took a Pomello to eat for lunch there, but they wouldn't let us just eat that so they fed us some of their resturant food. It is so good! I could eat there everyday and be completely happy, but I would probably gain a lot of weight. (So many sisters here complain about gaining weight, but the elders all loose weight. Such is the life of a Taiwan sister missionary.)

Tuesday we had mission tour with Elder Funk. It was so inspiring and I learned so much about what I can do better and change to become a better missionary. We talked a little about contacting (which I am so bad at) and that it is an act of faith. I need to be better at that. I am always so afraid of talking to people, especially on the road. But I need to have more courage and faith. I want to have more conviction in my testifying and testify when I talk to everyone. I find we tend to skirt around a lot and engage in small talk and don't ever get to testifying. So I want to be better at that. I have been thinking a lot about how President Christensen said there were people prepared here that I have been prepared to teach. I won't be able to help those people or find those people if I don't open my mouth and speak. We also talked about involving members which we are trying really hard to do, and about gaining spiritual power as missionaries (just like his conference talk). He had us do an activity where we taught the Joseph Smith experience to our companion. We decided to teach it in english and Sister Anderson started teaching. She started to recite his experience of the first vision and the spirit touched us both and we started to cry. I know that this gospel is true and that Joseph Smith was called of God to restore it to the earth again, and this experience was another testament of that to me. I know it and I have this incredible opportunity to preach it to these people. So many don't accept it;but I know that I know it, and God knows I know it, and that is all I need.

We got home a little later than we expected (we had to go down to jiayi which is about two hours away by bus and train) so we decided not to try and visit the people we had planned on and just tract for a little while before our next appointment. We decided to pray and asked to be lead by the spirit. Sister Anderson told me to lead the way, which is always a little intimidating because I want to go where the Spirit leads us, but sometimes I don't feel like I am listening all that well. I started riding and we came to a roundabout and my first instinct was to go straight through it, but as I slowed down and looked around more I felt I needed to choose a different exit. So I took it and went up to this neighborhood not far from the roundabout. As I rode to a stop I realized it was the neighborhood we had been tracting in the night before that Sister Anderson had led us to. As we tracted we ran into this lady who at first said she didn't want to talk to us, but as we talked more she eventually let us in and let us share a little with her. She opened up to us and told us she believed in Christ and wanted to change and become Christian but didn't know how. She talked about her family and how they are really struggling and she doesn't know what to do to help them. It is incredible how prepared she is!

As we left that neighborhood Sister Anderson and I just kept looking at one another and were amazed that we both led us to the same neighborhood and I know it was to find Chen Zhen Zhen (that lady). We had a lesson with her yesterday and were able to have a member attend. We didn't really teach anything because our member just talked with her for a long time and shared her conversion story and experiences she has had. It was really good and left Sister Chen knowing exactly how this gospel applys to her and how it can help her life. Near the end of our meeting Sister Anderson went to share a scripture with her from the Book of Mormon and explained a little of what the Book of Mormon was. Sister Chen got up and said she though she had one of those books. She looked around for a little while then pulled out a Book of Mormon from her bookshelf. It turns out that she was tracted into by Sister Anderson's trainer and her trainer! I guess they shared a little with her, but she wasn't really willing to listen. And now we have found her again and I feel like the timing is no accident. The Lord prepares a time for everyone to accept the gospel and we are praying so hard that she will be open this time. This next week we are going to teach her about the restoration and I hope with all my heart the spirit will touch her and she will know this is true.

On Wednesday we had a hard time finding people to teach because no one was home or answering our calls. Later on during the day we had english proselyting (handing out fliers for our english class). Sister Anderson and I were standing at an intersection corner as all of the school students were getting out and this cute, happy girl ran across the street and jumped in front of us. She said she knew who we were and that she believed in Jesus! We were both a little shocked, but really excited. We talked for a little bit and I guess she had a Christian english teacher who talked about her church and this girl wanted to know more. She said she found a Christian church (there are a ton here) and went in a tried to pray. She said she felt peace and that she believes in Christ. She wouldn't set up with us because she is afraid of her family objecting, but we gave her and english flier and gave her our number. Since then she has called us two days in a row. The first time she asked about prayer and if we could only pray in a church and then the next day called and said a friend gave her a Bible and she is really excited to start reading. We've actually arranged to meet her later today and show her around our church building (she looked at the address and found out our church is right next to the church she has been going into and praying). We are really hoping she will also be willing to listen to us because she is also so ready and so enthusiastic about learning about Christ.

Thursday was Thanksgiving!! We again had a hard time meeting with people, but we had some LAs we regularly meet with then that night the Bishop had invited all the missionaries over to his house to celebrate with Thanksgiving dinner. Most people here have heard of it, but don't know much about why we celebrate it or what we do. I was really touched that the Bishop was so willing to go out of his way and tried to make it special for us. We ended up with rice and noodles and Pizza. One of the pizzas was a normal meat one and the other was this weird fish pizza. They also had fruit and bread. The food just kept coming and they kept asking us to eat a little more. After Sister Anderson and I both felt sick because we had eaten so much. We didn't eat solid meals for most of the day afterward because we were still full. I will always remember how gracious they were though. When we started to eat the Bishop raised his small paper cup full of apple juice and in broken english said, "Let us start this Thanksgiving celebration!" He then asked sheepishly if that was right and if he had said it good enough. It was so touching. It was something so small, but made so much of a difference when we are away from home and family. Afterward we were all able to spend some time talking about the ward mission plan and our goals we have to work together and further missionary work in this area.

Friday not too much happened out of the ordinary. We did go to a members house that night to celebrate her daughter's birthday with their family. To celebrate all their birthdays they always invite the missionaries over and have cake. We went there for her son's birthday a few weeks ago. Its always so fun and a great time to get to know the members a little better.

Saturday was our wedding and baptism! They had everything in Nantun (an area of Taichung) because Zhang jiemei's sister is a member there. Her sister is actually who referred them to the missionaries. It was incredible to see them getting married to follow the word of wisdom and later get baptized as a start to a new life of following Christ. A Chinese wedding is kind of like a presentation. They have people who are like anouncers and have a sort of comedy act planned throughout the whole celebration. It was really interesting. They also had random advertisments that I have no idea how they related to the wedding that they played. At the beginning they played a preview to the Lego movie with random pictures of Hong and Zhang mixed in. All the missionaries (there were sixteen there because they have had four different missionaries teach them and then the Nantun missionaries were helping with the event, and our elders came to support them) felt really uncomfortable and didn't know if we could watch so just awkwardly looked around trying to avoid the giant screen. I didn't understand a lot of it, but the two of them looked so happy. The whole even was really focused on the gospel and forever families. They had children sing primary songs periodically and the missionaries sang our mission song. It was incredible. They even had a basket by their table with all the wedding pictures full of our brown tracts that teach the basics of the gospel out for people to take. Honestly, I wouldn't expect anything less from the two of them.

After the wedding we ate and then moved on to the baptismal service. They changed out of their wedding clothes and into the simple white jumpers for the baptism, but still looked so great. It was so weird to finally have their baptism, but it was such a great atmosphere. It was so happy and full of the spirit. As Sister Anderson was relating her experience of seeing their conversion and trying to find them her first week in Nantou they both had tears running down their faces. The missionaries also went up and sang a song and I couldn't help but get choked up as I looked at them dressed in white, newly married and prepared to get baptised. Those two are so incredible and I will remember their examples for the rest of my life. I feel so priviledged to have met them, especially at the start of my mission. I have no doubts that they will remain strong members for the rest of their lives. They have changed every aspect of their lives for this gospel and are planning on going to the temple in a year.

That's about it for the week...we had four investigators at church yesterday! The Chen family I talked about last week (where the dad has been searching for truth) met with us after church again. We taught the plan of salvation and they were so accepting. They didn't question anything and just took it all in. It was incredible! It felt almost like the practice teaching we did in the MTC because they were so willing to hear and accepting of everything. The dad and one of his daughters were two of the investigators we had at church this week.
We have been blessed with so many miracles lately. And the funny thing is they don't even suprise me anymore. I had a teacher in the MTC say that the Lord pushes you until you hit your limit then showers you with blessings. That goes through my head everyday and is what keeps me moving on. I keep thinking that there is another miracle just around the corner. I may not know where that corner is, but it will come and I just need to keep pressing forward until I find it. We decided this morning to make that our catch phrase..."There is another miracle just around the corner." It is so true and I have already seen it so many times.

I don't have a ton of time left, but there are so many random things I wanted to tell you about. First I never thought I would be grateful for our trash system in the US. Here you have to take it out and meet the trash truck at certain times to take it. It is really inconvenient. Also I'm grateful for shower curtains, they don't use them here. I have so much more to tell you, but I'll have to do it next week. I love you all so much! And I love the tree in Jemma's room!

Come what may and love it!
Sister Fernley

Monday, November 25, 2013

"I just hit one month in Nantou!"

As always we were super excited to hear from Sister Fernley on Sunday night. Jemma had asked for a picture of Bubba's bike, and she kindly obliged. And here is her message along with more pictures.

I just hit one month in Nantou! It is insane how fast time goes! 

I loved your emails and the pictures were so fun! It is still so weird to me that Katie is getting married, but it looks like everything is going well. It was so fun to see Katie and Mandy together with grandma. Its funny how being a missionary changes your perspective on things. Before I would have been excited to go to Nathan's baptism and spend time with family, but now the importance and the meaning of baptism is so much more significant. We spend all day everyday trying to help investigators progress toward baptism or helping less actives remember their baptismal covenants and come back to church. I did a lot of study earlier this week on baptism. I was doing a Phase 1 pass off with my district leader and he brought up a concern about baptism and why we can't just repent and be cleansed of sin that way. I gave an answer I thought I could say in Chinese and made a goal to study that for myself. I have known the purpose and the promises of baptism my whole life, but while I was studying I was reminded of something that really struck me. In Mosiah 5 it talks about when we are baptized we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, and then in 2 Nephi 31 it says that the only name by which we can be saved is Christ's. So we are baptized to receive a remission of our sins and start a new life turned toward Christ. We take upon us His name and we can only be saved through His name. That isn't any spectacular revelation, but it strengthened my testimony of baptism so much and I learned so much about the importance of baptism and the significance behind it.
This week was such a crazy week. It was really hard at times, but we saw so many miracles as well. On Tuesday we had planned to go visit Chen Hui Yu (our investigator who has to sell the last house) at her work. The day before she had gone to Bai Bai (this is when they go and shake incense and sticks at certain times to their ancestors. They Bai certain things like money or food.) with her family. We always let people know that we don't encourage them to participate but if their family insists on them going to Bai Bai (its a huge part of the culture here) they can but they need to remember in their hearts that we worship our Heavenly Father and that He is our only God and we give thanks to Him. Anyway she had gone and they had a ton of food to Bai which they eat afterward so their ancestors spirits can eat food through them because they don't have bodies. Apparently while they were there her mom saw spirits who were crying for help to eat. So she said she wants to serve her ancestors and needs to Bai to help them eat. Sister Anderson explained temple work, but it didn't make much affect. Chen Hui Yu then told us that she had prayed and got an answer through the Spirit that the Book of Mormon isn't true and that this religion that she has read about that teaches God is light is the true religion. So we broke up with her. It was really sad and we both had a hard time keeping ourselves together after that. Its so hard because she knew the truth and I know she knew it for herself at one point. We talked about it later and we think her family would have talked her out of coming to church and obeying the commandments so at least she doesn't have the covenants we make at baptism over her head. I just hope that someday she will realize what she had and what she is missing without this gospel. Every person has a time where they are ready for the gospel, maybe hers isn't here yet.
After that "break up" we had an appointment with a member to go visit with her co-worker and share about the gospel. We didn't get a chance to teach him anything but we set up an appointment to meet with his family on Sunday. We invited him to come to church if he had time as well. We didn't really think much about it, but he actually showed up to church yesterday! He knows a lot of the members so they were great and really fellowshiped him. In our lesson with his family later that day we shared the whole first lesson about Joseph Smith and the Restoration and gave them a Book of Mormon. His co-worker agreed to come over and peike for our lesson which was really great. We ended up being there for about two hours though because she just kept talking!
I didn't catch this, but Sister Anderson was saying that he is pretty much like Joseph Smith. He has been looking into and going to a lot of churches to find out which one is true. While we were in our lesson we gave him one of our tracts that talks about the basics of the gospel, prayer, and talks about how the Book of Mormon answers our questions and strengthens our families. While his wife was talking away with our member he was reading the tract and grabbed one of our Books of Mormon and was trying to find the scripture references it was giving. It was so cool to see him on his own trying to search the scriptures and learn about the gospel. We are praying so hard for this family and hope that they will be receptive to the Spirit and learn for themselves this gospel is true.
On Wednesday we ended up having a really long lesson with our two investigators who are getting married and then baptized. It was way longer than it needed to be and I kept feeling like we needed to go, but didn't say anything because they were in a really good spiritual discission with Sister Anderson. She felt really bad afterward because she realized it was long and that I didn't really say anything, but it gave us an opportunity to think about how we are using our time and how to be more effective. While we were biking I was thinking a lot about how I have been feeling lately that I'm not really helping anyone. The strong investigators we have were strong when I got here and the LA's we meet with aren't really moving forward with anything. So I brought it up with Sister Anderson and we decided to cut back on visiting LA's and focusing on the people who have potential to progress and finding new investigators. Since Chen Hui Yu broke up with us and our other two are getting baptized this weekend we will be down to two investigators who lately haven't been progressing. We spent some time and came up with a plan for how we want to use the rest of our time together in Nantou and I feel really good about it and feel like this is a way I can help the work in this area.
On Saturday we actually had a really good plan and were really excited about it, but we ended up trying to go visit 12 people and only got to meet with one investigator (we had to try her twice during the day to catch her) and a part member family but the non-member wasn't even home. So basically we had a three hour bike ride all over our area. Suprisingly though neither of us were that discouraged. We would get to a house, find out they weren't there, and move on to our back up plan...or our second back up plan. Eventually we went to a family mart (its like a seven eleven) and filled out forms of all the people we have tried to find who have moved for the Bishop. (There were 47!) It was a really rough day, but I think Heavenly Father knew we needed some miracles so on Sunday we were able to meet with the Chen family I talked about earlier. We also had an LA who we never thought would come to church show up in Relief Society. Granted she only came because she knew we didn't think she would and she wanted to show us wrong...but its a start. It was just a day full of miracles!
I guess what I came away with from this week is just a testimony that if we are diligent and we press forward with faith the Lord will bless us. I had an MTC teacher say that He pushes you to your limits, until you think you can't go any further, then showers you with blessings. I believe that so strongly! I've only been out here a month and I have already seen it so many times, especially this week. If we press forward with faith in Christ all will be well and He will provide for us.
We did meet with the lady who tried to speak with the gift of tongues again this week. Nothing strange happened this week. She hasn't prayed on her own, but she remembered everything we taught her and how to pray so we asked her this week to try and pray. She said it feels really peaceful so hopefully she will remember to pray and feel the Spirit. I'm still not very confident in her interest and motives to meet with us, but we will see.
Our two golden investigators get baptized and married this Saturday!!! We are so excited and they continue to be incredible! Pretty much everytime we go to teach them they end up teaching the lesson on their own. I'm so grateful for them and their examples to me. I also realized that I will still be in Taiwan when they go to the temple and get sealed! So I hope that President Blickenstaff will let me go! They are welcomed so much by the ward and even when they aren't they make friends on their own so I'm not worried about them at all.
The ward is getting a lot better and is realizing that we need their help. Its always a work in progress so we are continuing to work with them. We've been talking a lot about fellowshiping the investigators we bring to church and other members have also talked about it in Sacrament meeting so I think they are slowly catching on.
As far as your other questions...yes I am eating completely with chopsticks now. I haven't even seen a fork since I got here. At first it was awkward, but now it feel really natural and a fork seems awkward. Haha. I loved that Jemma tried to use the chopsticks! The pictures were so cute and it looked like so much fun! As for Christmas if you could send me some Myderma scar cream that would be great. I get eaten alive by mosquitos and have had a few night where I couldn't sleep because they itched so bad. The bites have been making a ton of little scars on my legs and arms, Sister Anderson said Myderma might help. I had another thought earlier, but I forgot it. pictures would be really nice, just of anything...well our family. I figured dad might take that literally and send a bunch of random pictures of stuff. ( :) )  Letters would be great! I don't know I would be happy with anything really. It takes about two weeks to get here I think.
Anyway, this is another super long letter. But I love you all so much and loved hearing from you! It looks like you have all been doing well, busy but well, and that you are having some fun experiences. Tell Jemma I love her and give her a giant hug for me! I think of you all everyday and tell stories of Jemma a lot! I'm doing well and am getting more and more used to this area and culture. I'm working hard and seeing so many blessings along the way!
With all my love,
Sister Fernley

 Missionaries of the Nantou district at the Taiwan Taipei Temple

View out the back window from the sisters' apartment.