Sunday, November 3, 2013

First week on island

It's so fun to get Sister Fernley's emails on Sunday nights! Here's her latest (along with some pictures!).

Dear Family,
Thank you as always for your emails and your support. I hope my letter last week wasn't too down-hearted. I really am doing great and am learning so much about how to teach and bring others to Christ. It is still so hard and I still don't understand most of what goes on, but I know in time it will come.

I haven't had any other bike accidents. Haha, and my bike does fit me (I have the smallest one possible). Its really nice though because the cross bar on the frame is almost non existent so we can ride with skirts on. It also has "The Taiwan Taichung Mission" written on it which looks really cool. But anyway I'm getting used to it and am learning how to better navigate through traffic. I like my actual bike a lot better than the loaner one I was using that first day (the one I crashed on). And my actual bike has a front and back lite and we have the reflector harness we wear at nights to help us be more visible. I actually feel pretty safe when we are riding. Speaking of riding I hear that I will encounter more hills here in Nantou than I will in any other place in our mission, so I guess its good that I'm starting out hard. After this everything else will seem like a breeze! On Saturday one of our appointments fell through so our backup plan was to find less actives in that area. In trying to find one we ended up biking up a mountain, and we didn't even find them. It was rediculous! I kept praying and asking why we were going that way and who we were supposed to run into. We didn't run into anyone and the house at the top that we decided to tract wasn't receptive, so we went back down to go to another appointment. I guess Heavenly Father was just testing my patience. But after that all of the other hills seemed like nothing and I knew I could go over them because I had just gone up a mountain!

This is a little off topic, but my breaks are super squeaky. Everytime I stop it sounds like an elephant and I feel like I am waking up the whole neighborhood. It just makes me laugh everytime.

Last week I said I hadn't really cried yet and was just going along with everything as best I could, but a few days later and yesterday I cracked. I finally broke down and just cried and Sister Anderson and I took our companionship study to just talk about everything. Because I am being trained we get two hours of companionship study every day. I think it helps a lot to just cry and let everything out, and afterward I feel a lot better. Sister Anderson helps a lot and has expressed so much confidence in me that I start believing it myself. Its also comforting to hear that she felt the exact same way when she first came on island. Anyway, I'm still transitioning and still don't feel like I can do this work like I want to because of the language, but I'm getting more and more used to the schedule and what we are expected to do throughout the day. I'm also getting to know these people better that we are teaching and in the ward.

(Speaking of which we are helping planning the Christmas activity for the ward and they want to have several different rooms with activities focused on the Savior. One is going to be where someone is representing the Savior and does pushups for every person so they can have candy whether they want it or not, symbolizing the Atonement. They want to have activities like that focusing of different aspects of the Savior's life. We had some ideas, but could use more. If you have any suggestions or others in our ward that would be great! I know I've been to a million of them, but can't remember them!)

I don't know if I told you already, but I came into this area having four investigators with baptismal dates, all set for November 30. I don't know if all will be able to by that date, but they have all been taught pretty much everything already, so we are just reviewing. Two of them are a sister and brother who are in their thirties and have been living together for a while. They were a member referral and are amazing! Sister Anderson has seen them through their whole conversion process over about four months. They started teaching and those two were just keeping every single commitment and doing everything the missionaries asked. Originally they didn't want to set a baptism date because they wanted to wait a couple of years, but by a miracle they agreed for the 30th. I guess Sister Anderson asked them when they were getting married and jokingly suggested November 30th. They looked at a calender and saw it was a Saturday and agreed to it. Sister Anderson then said, "and they you can get baptized the next day," joking again. Zhuang jiemei (the sister investigator) responded with, "well why not do it the same day?" So on November 30 they are getting married then baptized right after. I love visiting them because they actually look at me too and ask if I am understanding so I feel a lot more included in the conversation. Most of the time when people realize I don't understand or speak much they just focus on Sister Anderson. But these two are changing their whole lives for this gospel which shows that they are going to stick with it and that they truly are converted. Hong Dixiong (the brother investigator) even bore his testimony in church yesterday and it was incredible.

Our other two investigators are both sisters. Chen hui yu is in her older twenties and is so willing to obey the commandments. She tried to pay tithing last week, but the bishop said she couldn't until she was baptized and she was really dissapointed. She is ready for baptism too except for coming to church twice for the full block. Her boss won't let her take the time off until she sells one more house. (She's a realator (sp?)). But she is one of my students in my english class and she is so sincere in her learning and has such a strong desire to do what is right.

The last investigator is a 14 year old girl who I have only met with once because she is so busy with school. We have to finish teaching her the commandments and she is really receptive to learning and always tries to obey them. She quite drinking tea and when we taught about keeping the Sabbath day holy and not buying things she willingly said she would try. Most people would gawk at that a little and be hesitant but she is completely willing to do what she can. Also giving up tea is a huge deal here. Everyone drinks it all the time here!
Anyway those our investigators and they give me hope and are the rays of sunshine that help me get through everyday. They give me hope that I will find people just like them who are ready for this gospel and willing to listen to our message. We have been focusing a lot on less actives, because we have a ton of them. Its really good, and I hope we can rescue some of them and remind them of the joy of this gospel, but is also so frustrating. I just want them to read the scriptures, or pray or just come to church! But we all have agency and that's so hard as a missionary. They also make a lot of lame excuses. When we call people or are contacting they will say they are watching TV or brushing their teeth or something like that. And a really common reason for not going to church is if its raining no one wants to go outside. But all we can to is try, and we are doing just that. I look at the Area book a ton to try and get to know the people we are meeting with or could meet with and I want to save them all, but we have to let them choose.

Some random things that happened this week....we had planner checks and interview with the President and his wife for our zone this week. It felt really good to meet some of the other missionaries and be in that support group for a minute. Its hard to not have a huge group to turn to and give you support all of the time. We traveled about half an hour away to a city called Yuanli where they have a huge stake building. On the way I saw my first pinapple bush! There were a ton of them, and I never knew they grew on bushes. I also had my first door literally slammed in my face. Most people reject us, but they are usually relatively nice about it. The Chinese are so respectful. They will either say, "thank you, thank you we are baibai (a "religion" here where they wave incence to their ancestors)" or "thank you, thank you we don't need" (those are really bad translations, but you get the idea). AND...I was in my first earthquake here! It was small, but we were in a meeting planning for the Christmas activity and the room started swaying a little bit. So we went and stood outside until it passed. Apparently that happens pretty frequently here, so that's exciting. Ummm I don't know what else. I've eaten a lot of noodles and dumplings which are in vast supply here. Chocolate is really scarce, most of their desserts are sweet bean pastes or fruit. Their milk is really different. They mostly drink soy milk, which I'm getting used to. I have been told their regular milk is a lot more fatty than ours. Skim milk here is like drinking two percent at the least. They also have a yogurt drink that I like a lot.

I'm trying to think what else...I still have fourty minutes to write. I experienced my first rain in Taiwan a couple of days ago. And it is so true that you choose to get wet either by rain or by sweat. Wearing a jacket here in the humidity makes it really hot so I just chose to get wet from rain. I can handle that better than sweat. And its not even that hot here compared to the summer so I will experience it even more drastically in a few months.
We actually have some new investigators which I am really excited about. They were all either referrals or english students. We hold an english class each Wednesday night and I teach the advanced class because you don't need to know as much Chinese for it. My first lesson was rough, so hopefully this week goes better. I'm also going on an exchange this week with our Sister Training Leaders so that should be exciting and different.

I loved all of the pictures of Jemma! They were so cute and it looks like so much fun with all of the leaves! I don't think we get much of anything here besides hot and humid, and not so hot and humid. I will be excited to have snow again, and I only just started here. I'm so glad work is going well and life is great! Jemma looked so cute in her kitty costume! And I'm glad she had fun! I talk about you all a lot here, everyone loves to see the pictures and comment a lot about Jemma and I being so far apart. I'm so glad to tell them I love my family and we are all really close, I feel so blessed to have you all and to have grown up in the gospel. It truly ties families together! This is also a little random, but I have gotten a couple of times that I look english. I don't know what that means, but I guess to them I look like I could be from england rather than America. Kind of funny.

Anyway I love you all so much! The address is just the mission address you have already (on Wuchuan Rd or something like that) and then we get it from there. I will stay safe and happy and hope to have some stories to tell you next week!
With all my love,
Sister Fernley

Results of last week's bike accident:

View from the sisters' apartment:

The sisters' apartment:

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