I don't even know where to start! Sorry I haven't written you until now, I have had literally no time to get stationary and stamps to write and now its p-day so this will get to you faster anyway. I also knew President Blickenstaff would be giving you updates on us so I wasn't to worried, I hope you weren't!
So P-day isfor me, the same as the MTC which is nice. And yes I am serving in an area called Nantou. It is about fourty minutes south of Taichung. It is really hilly and my legs are already dying from biking everywhere. The area is pretty big so we have a large area to travel over. I have never done this much physical work throughout a day in my life, so by the time I come home I should be in really good shape right? I actually was doing really good on my bike, even though it wasn't my size and not a very good bike (the first day I was using a loaner bike until I could get my new one to me), but while we are riding home I fell. I have no idea what happened. I didn't get dizzy or hit anything that I know of, but next thing I know my bike was falling and I was on the ground, and it hurt. Oh well, I have some really great looking scrapes all over my right leg. I'll take a picture, but even only after a few days its looking a lot better. A less active we visited doctored it up a little bit and gave me some cream to put on it to help it heal.
I guess I should start from the beginning...there's so much to talk about! Traveling was so long. I think by the end we had traveled for about twenty hours straight. For both of the flights I was sitting in the middle of missionaries so I didn't get a lot of opportunity to talk to people about the gospel. We talked to a few people in the airports and I already told dad when I called that I talked to a college student on frontrunner who has lived her whole life in Utah but isn't a member. She's heard everything but I had a really good and interesting converstaion with her about Heavenly Mother and the role of the priesthood in our church. She brought up the topics. I guess she talks to missionaries everywhen they are traveling to the airport and uses the same questions to stump them. She thinks our church is sexist which is always hard to address because even some people within our church have those feelings. But I taught about the Family a Proclamation and gave her my thoughts and testimony.
We finally got to bed aroundmorning and woke up around six to go exercise. I think they just try to wear us out as much as possible so we don't have too much of a problem with jet lag. It works pretty well though I still have a little bit and an issue with it. Each day I get more and more tired and have less of a problem though. They fed us really well, but it was all really greasy and was really heavy in my stomach so I didn't have much of an appetite. Now out in the field it isn't that bad. I eat lighter foods and feel a lot better. The fruit here is amazing! My favorite so far is the passion fruit and the asian pears.
Anyway after our first day of orientation we did the Dan Jones experience. It was kind of intimidating! They took us to a night market down town where there were a ton of people and set up the box and gave us all a Book of Mormon. We sang a hymn like carolers then each took turns Dan Jonesing. Yes we all had to do it, but it wasn't too bad. In front of us were a bunch of missionaries who have been in Taiwan for a while who were cheering us on which made it a lot easier. After we testified one would take us off and we went tracting. It was a good experience to get us out of our skins, but no one really wanted to talk that I ran into. It was a little depressing, but I think the point was mostly to get us our of our skins like I said.
The next day we met our trainers! Sister Anderson is my trainer and we actually have a lot of mutual friends back home. She is the same age as I am, maybe a little younger. She went to Davis High School and we graduated the same year. She knows a lot of my friends from Junior High which is a little weird.
Nantou is...interesting. Its not as city as Taichung, but its not country either. Probably more like the outskirts of Salt Lake, just dirtier and for the most part poorer. This area is really struggling with church activity. We have four progressing investigators who all have baptism dates and that's about it. There are a ton of less actives and recent converts who are less active now and the ward isn't very supportive and have fallen through on every peike (members attending a lesson) opportunity. Sister Anderson actually almost cried after church because they don't really take us seriously.
I feel really bad, because most of the time, well all of the time..I don't understand anything. So I can't tell if they are being sincere or rude, or anything like that. Mostly I just keep my eyes on Sister Anderson and try not to lose her while we are burning, try not to die on the streets, and sit in lessons trying to pick up anything that they say. I can pick up some things but I never fully understand anything and can't express myself very well because of that. Once the people find out I just got to Taiwan they don't really address me and just talk to Sister Anderson. Maybe I should be better at coming in to the conversation but I don't understand anything so I don't know what is going on.
We have met with about three to four people everyday I have been here and the first person was a less active. She actually said my Chinese was the best she had heard from a new missionary which gives me a little hope, though I still don't feel very good or confident about it. I also was asked to bear my testimony in church which went pretty well. My trainer told me someone sitting behind her said it was crazy that I had just come to Taiwan, I guess because of my Chinese. I guess I should just believe them, but I have a hard time believing it because I don't understand anything and can't say much.
Church wasn't too hard, I don't know why. Sometimes I feel like I'm not working hard enough or caring enough because I don't feel that discouraged. I haven't cried yet, or felt too overwhelmed. I just listen to everything and try to pick up what I can and follow my trainer. I pray everyday that I will get to the point where I can understand and express myself to better teach these people. But I know in time it will come and there's not much else I can do about it besides endure and study when I can. I try to force myself not to dwell on not understanding too much because I know if I do I will cry.
Anyway I need your prayers for this area! I think I said before that the ward isn't very supportive or welcoming to new investigators. We have a ton of less actives and can't find new investigators. I'm so bad at tracting, and my trainer has confessed that she needs to be a lot better at it too. So I need help! In your experience what worked, what didn't, how can I become better at it? (Besides practicing, I know that. I need to practice everything). I really want to focus a lot on reactivating and serving the ward so they get excited about missionary work, so I will see what Sister Anderson thinks and we will see what we can do. I hope we can change this area and that I can see this gospel work on the hearts of these people. I really want to find someone to teach and start from the beginning so I can see the conversion process from the start. I don't know... I don't need to see miracles, but I think seeing someone accept this message and develop belief in this gospel would help me have so much more confidence in myself and that I am making a difference. Right now I feel like I'm just following and trying not to sink under the water. But I know it will come and that the Lord will bless my efforts as I try my hardest. I know this gospel is true and that I am in the place that I need to be. I really feel priviledged to be serving in this country. Everything is so foreign, but I think I will get used to it.
I love you all so much! Sorry this letter is SUPER long. We have two hours to write here. Thank you for you emails and your constant support. I couldn't do this without you! I loved the pictures, as always. It looked like a lot of fun carving pumpkins! Jemma is so cute as always! I talk about her a lot here actually. People always comment that we are so far apart in age. I also get a lot of comments on how skinny I am and that I need to get fatter, haha. It's a different culture here. They comment a lot on our skin and our facial proportions and how pretty it is. Its funny how we are never happy with who we are and see others in a better light than ourselves. Also thanks for the cookies. They got smashed in travel, but I'm eating the crumbs anyway, they still taste the same right? Have an amazing week! I can't wait to see what happens for my first full week in the field and hope that I can see miracles or at least tender mercies in this work. I will work my hardest and give it my all to change this area and bring the gospel to these people!
From your happy, surviving, and enduring daughter,
Also I will send you my address when I get it. For now I think you can send to the mission home and I will get it forwarded to me. I get it to you as soon as I can though. Oh I got a letter from brother Hankins here. He gave me a bunch of sports updates, so tell him thank you for me! Love you again!!!
And here's message number two:
So I have a ton of typos, sorry! I just read over my letter and wanted to say a few more things. To explain how trafic works here basically the bigger the vehicle to more right of way they have. So bikers and pedestrians are on the bottom of the totem pole. Its a little scary, but I think I'm getting used to it really quickly.
There are some ward members who are absolutely amazing. There is a family with two handicapped boys who were both born premature so had complications. Their mom prayed to God to save her kids and He did, so she vowed to find God. And lo and behold she met the missionaries. Her husband isn't a member, but the rest of the family is. They speak incredible English and her boys are incredible. They have such sweet spirits and are so loving! They there is Zhang YuMei who is the ward missionary. She is also mentally handicapped, but is also such a sweet spirit and is so loving. She says thank you and too awesome all of the time, but I love her already! Our ward has an abnormally large amount of handicaped people in it, but their spirit is infectious. I hope I can help them all catch the fire of missionary work and to trust me as one of their areas missionaries.
I'm so excited to teach this people! I can't wait until I can understand, but I know this is the Lord's work and that He is with us every step of the way. He is by my side and I know He has blessed me with strength and the energy to keep going countless times. I pray all the time just to make it over the next hill or bridge (those are the worst, they are like freeway bridges and are really long) and so far I have made it to every appointment and have had protection and just sore muscles and a few scrapes. I've been studying a lot in Preach my Gospel about finding people and including members and feel really strongly that service is the way to go with this ward and this area. I hope we can touch their hearts and that I can better get to know them and love them. The Taiwanese people are all so kind! They offer us Soy milk or this yogurt drink every time we visit and often give us fruit before we leave which I love! Even though they don't know me they are always kind and respectful. Everyone also comments on me looking tired and ask if I want to sleep, so maybe I look a lot worse than I think. Maybe its just because I don't participate much in converstions so I look like I'm zoning or something. Haha, its kind of funny though. I am also becoming a master at eating with chopsticks. I have not seen a fork outside of our apartment since I stepped off of the plane. So that's fun, and new. I eat a lot slower which is probably better for me. Its going to be hard to monitor food portions because usually they just have a bowl of rice and all the other dishes in the middle. You grab bites of the dishes and put them in your bowl of rice and keep doing that until you are done. So it is really hard to see how much you have eaten.
I'm doing great! I love it here already and know I will get use to this culture soon and in time I will understand and be able to speak this language. The gift of tongues is real! I can do this with His help and know I am doing the best thing I could be doing with my time on Earth.
So pretty much I just wrote you another letter, but I had time so I figured I could. I love you all! Stay strong! I pray for you always!