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,
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.