Sunday, January 26, 2014

New companion!

Here is the message we got from Sister Fernley last week (and yes, she did say "toilet restaurant" in that last message--we are laughing pretty hard at the images she sent us from that restaurant--I don't think I could eat anything there):

Dear Family,

I'm writing a little late today because it was move call! I am still in Nantou, but with a new companion. To say I'm a little nervous is an understatement. My  new companion is Sister Hill and she is from northern California (I forgot where exactly). She also went to BYUI and Chinese was actually her minor. She seems really nice. I think its going to be a lot harder this move call language wise. But thankfully I know enough to get my way around and was able to get us back to Nantou from Taichung this afternoon alright. This is Sister Hill's first time going senior companion, so I think I might be picking up a lot more slack now, especially since I am now leading the area. 

I was so nervous this morning because I don't know this area as well as Sister Anderson, I can't speak Chinese very well, and I don't know if I can hold up our investigators as well as Sister Anderson did, but the Lord will help us and it will be an incredible opportunity to grow. 

Sister Anderson actually only moved to Zhanghua. She is the new Sister Training Leader for our zone (like a Zone leader) so we will be able to go on exchanges together! That made her moving not as sad. I am so grateful that I was able to have her as my trainer! 

I told you we were going to the Modern Toilet resturant last week and it was so funny. I figured you two would get a kick out of it. I don't have any pictures of my own because I still haven't gotten a small camera yet (I don't know if there is a place to in Nantou). Sister Anderson has a ton of pictures that we have taken the last couple of weeks that I will eventually get and put in my dropbox account (which I haven't put any pictures in yet). Hopefully I'll get at least on picture in it today if I can figure it out.

Every week I have to look through my planner to remember what happened. I love how Jemma is so excited about agendas. You can tell her that we do that everyday. We plan out what we are going to do all day and also make a back up plan. It really is so useful and helps us accomplish the goals that we set for ourselves. 

Actually most of our investigators haven't seen many changes the last week. We got to visit with so many people because Sister Anderson told them she was moving (which we didn't know for sure until Saturday night). So we got to visit with a lot of them, but haven't seen much progress. But at least we aren't losing them so there is still hope. 

We did make a new baptismal goal this week. We have a member, Huang Xin Hui, who lives in a mental home in Caotun and she loves to introduce us to her friends and wants us to teach them. The only problem is they live in a mental institute, so we have to be really careful. One friend we have recently met with seems pretty stable though and has listened really intently to our lessons so far. We set a goal with her for the 22nd, but I don't know if that will end up rolling over or not. 

Our english party was also this week! We had a yellow duck, carnival style party. (At the end of every move call we have an english party for our students.) The Taiwanese are obsessed with yellow ducks. I bet you could look it up, but they had a giant blow up yellow duck sitting in a river that started the fad. So we monopolized that and used it for our party. It turned out being a pretty decent party! (Again Sister Anderson has all the pictures, I'll get them to you some day.)

Nothing much else has happened this week. We had a ton of meetings set up, but it was mostly Sister Anderson saying goodbye to everyone. We did go tracting a few days ago because we couldn't find the former we were looking for and actually set up with a lady. We are going to met with her this week, so lets hope our terrible Chinese doesn't scare her off, and that I can find her home again. 

We did find someone who I hope will be an incredible investigator this week. We were trying to find former investigators (we have a giant binder full of teaching records for formers) and ended up in the middle of nowhere. We kept searching and found the address at this old broken down looking house. From the street it looked like it was abandoned, but when we looked through the door we could see some stuff in the front room. We knocked, but no one answered. There was this old amah (grandma) off to the side in a garden so we tried to ask her if she knew who lived there, but she only spoke Taiwanese so we couldn't communicate. We then went back to our bikes and were looking at the address for the next former we wanted to find when this old man walked up and went into the house. We tried to talk to him to, but he didn't pay any attention to us so he probably doesn't speak Chinese either. Then while Sister Anderson was looking over at where he had gone she saw a face poke around a screen door. We called to her and she came out to talk to us. It ended up being the former we were looking for! She is actually from China and works in Shanghai. She goes back and forth to take care of her father-in-law here in Nantou. So she met with the missionaries a couple of times then moved back to China. And now she is here for a few months and really willing to meet with us. She actually came to church yesterday for the full three hours and I think she really liked it. I missed Sister Anderson's "farewell" testimony because that investigator was asking me if she could get a hymnbook of her own and one of the three column Book of Mormons we have to help us learn Chinese. I picked up a hymnbook for her in Taichung today at the mission home, but they don't have the Book of Mormon she wants. Luckily my coworker back home gave me that one and I got an extra at the MTC, so I'm just going to give her mine that's still in good shape.

Anyway that's about it. I loved hearing about what's going on back home! I loved Jemma's letter! She told me a lot and it sounds like she is getting so big. I'm so happy she is having fun in preschool and kindermusic. Her tea set sounds so cool and I'm glad she will share with me when I get home. It also sounds like she had a good Christmas! And I'm so happy she is taking such good care of Tigger. She is the best!

I also loved the pictures that you sent of the wedding! They looked so incredible! I'm sad I wasn't there, but am so glad everything went well (except for loosing the garage door opener, haha). 

Keep me posted on the ward! And I will try to think if I have anything special to send you for the missionary moment and will send it to you next week. It sounds like work is crazy for both of you, but keep pressing forward and remember what is really important. I think that is one of the biggest things I have learned on my mission so far. My perspective has changed and I feel like I value the right things. I always knew what was the most important, but now its more of a priority for me. Trust in the Lord, and everything will turn out alright. 

I'm sorry if I forgot anything. I read all of your emails before I wrote this. I love you all so much and can't wait to hear from you next week! I hope I have more miracles to write you about and that Sister Hill and I will have many success stories. 

With all my love,

Sister Fernley

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Work goes on in Nantou

Sister Fernley surprised us with an early message this week:

I'm on a little early this week. We are going to Taizhong with an investigator this after noon for lunch for preparation day. 

I hope the wedding went well and that it was good to be with family and friends. I'm sorry I missed it! It seems like as soon as I left on my mission everything important happened. Katie got married, two of my roommates got married, one is engaged and the other graduated. It is so crazy how fast life changes. 

Honestly this week hasn't been that eventful. Watch I say that and then look through my planner and remember all these things that happened. 

Monday we kept with tradition and visited the Chen Ke Li Ya family because they yet again promised they would come to church and didn't show up. It ended up being a pretty intense lesson. We caught her in some lies and were pretty blunt with her. Hopefully some day she will realize how important church is and remember why she got baptized a year ago. I went and visited her later this week while we were doing exchanges with our Sister Training Leaders and yet again she was lying to us. She tends to give us the answer that we want to hear. I have realized that is how a lot of Chinese are. They don't want to say outright that they don't want to meet with you or their real concerns and feelings about our message, so they make a ton of weak excuses or give you the answer they think you want. Anyway it was a little frustrating, but such is the life of a missionary. At least we have the tender mercies throughout the day that make everything else all right.

We had zone training meeting on Tuesday and we talked a lot about baptismal goals. President Blickenstaff has set a mission goal of 60 baptisms for the month of January. The zones that are in big cities were given goals of 12 baptisms and the more rural zones were given the goal of 4. Our zone leaders were a little offended at that number (we had 12 baptisms last month!) and set a goal with president for 10 baptisms. So they asked each companionship to think of one or two investigators that could possibly get baptized this month and we wrote them all down on the board. We then all knelt down together and prayed for each name individually. It was a powerful experience to hear each name listed off and asking our Father to help us as missionaries to help them come unto him. It doesn't look like the names we put up are going to get baptized any time soon, but they are progressing, which is what is really important.

We also talked a lot about consecrating ourselves more to God. President Blickenstaff has asked us all to strive to be more consecrated missionaries so we can have the Spirit more and perform our work more effectively. Even as we apply small changes in our days I have already felt the Spirit more in our proselyting and strengthening me as we go from day to day. I hope I can continue to become a better missionary and feel like I am doing my best every day. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing very well. My contacting is terrible and a lot of the time I don't know what to say, but I am learning a lot and pray every day that God will help strengthen me and help me become the missionary He wants me to be. 

As far as our investigators we are hitting road blocks, but are still keeping hope. The Chen family is starting to read and pray again. They still don't feel like they have received answers yet, but they are willing to keep trying. I met with their oldest daughter on Friday with Sister Lin (our sister training leader) and told her I personally had to keep studying and praying for a while before I gained my own witness that the Book of Mormon was true. I hope that someday they will receive an answer. They have already progressed so much and are such a precious family. 

Liao Kristy, the girl who self contacted us, called us while we were emailing (I think I told you) and said she couldn't get baptized and that her teacher told her not to read the Book of Mormon. I met with her while I was with Sister Lin as well. Her teacher is American and is also Christian. She really respects him so she doesn't want to go against his advice, but she said she also doesn't want to have a closed mind to anything. I guess he told her that she should only study the Bible. So for now she doesn't want to get baptized, but is still willing to meet with us every week and study from the scriptures. Again she just needs to gain her own testimony of our message and the Book of Mormon. It is so frustrating when she was so incredible and golden until someone started giving her anti-mormon ideas. Oh well, we all have our agency and everyone has a specific time where they will be ready to accept the gospel.

We were able to set a new baptismal goal with Wu Jia Zhen. She set her own for the 22nd of February. She can't come to church the full time yet because she has a tutor come during that time and can't change the time until she finishes testing and her grades are better. Her mom said when she finishes her tests she can come to church. But I asked her if she still had desire to come and to learn and she was really emphatic that she was. She has loved church the few times she has come though. This time is really hard to set up with investigators. Chinese New Year is coming up in a couple of weeks so all of the students have these giant tests and are super busy studying for them. Then after they are done testing is Chinese New Year and they all have two weeks off (like our Christmas break) and are busy with family and going out of town. So I think the next couple of weeks are going to be really hard. 

Chen Zhen Zhen wasn't able to come to church this week, but is still progressing. She is also really busy with students testing and Chinese New Year. We went over the other day and she was picking her son's embroidered name off of his old school clothes so she can give the clothes to kids who need the clothes. So we sat with her and helped for a little while. She has such a good heart!

That's about it. This is the last week of the move call! I only have one more week of training. Sister Anderson is expecting to move, she's been in Nantou for almost six months, and I'm not really expecting to move. But nothing is final until the move call report actually comes in. We will find out this weekend. Neither of us wants to move. I wish we could stay companions for the rest of our missions, but sadly it doesn't work like that. They are also holding the big annual lantern festival in Zhongxing this year (which is in our area). This week they started building platforms for it near our apartment. 

I mentioned we did exchanges this week with the Sister Training Leaders. Sister Lin who is Taiwanese came to Nantou and I stayed to lead the area. I learned so much from her about contacting and teaching by the spirit. I want to contact like her! I just need to build up the courage. It was also a good experience to speak Chinese more. She has learned a lot of English on her mission, but we also spoke a lot of Chinese. It also helped me feel a little more confident in my ability to lead the area. If Sister Anderson does leave I will be leading the area with my next companion. I still don't know some areas very well, but our area is huge. I also realized that we bike really fast! Doing exchanges with other sisters I have realized how slow others bike. But I'm really grateful for it because I'm getting in pretty good shape and gaining a lot of muscle weight. (At least I hope its muscle :) My clothes still fit the same, so that's a good sign.) 

I ran across a scripture that I love a few days ago in personal study. I was reading in Alma 5. I feel like the first sentence of verse seven explains perfectly what my mission has done for me already. It says,  "Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God."  My mission has changed my heart. I feel like I know so much more what is truly important and what I want to spend my life doing. I feel like my eyes have been opened even more. I always had a strong testimony, but Heavenly Father knew that my perspective just needed to be pushed slightly in the right direction. I hope more than ever that I wake up every day with my eyes toward God and that my days are consecrated more fully to Him and building up His kingdom.

I love the necklace you sent me! I've been wearing it everyday and it reminds me of you all. Thank you so much! Also my picture album already started breaking so I laminated it with tape. I think that will help it stay together better. 

I almost forgot to tell you about English proselyting this week! I think I've told you before, but we find a busy intersection and stand at the corners holding banners up about English class. Then when the lights turn red the other missionaries go out onto the road and pass out English flyers to the people on their scooters and even knock on windows of cars. Usually a lot of people don't take them, but this week most people did. It was incredible and a huge tender mercy. People were being surprisingly nice. But something funny, and kind of awkward, happened while I was going down the line of cars. One car I walked up to rolled down their windows and it looked like two businessmen in pretty nice suits were carpooling. I told them about English and handed them the flyers. The one in the passenger seat was chewing binlang (a drug kind of like tobacco that they chew. It comes from one of the trees here. When they chew it it turns their mouth red and it almost looks like they are bleeding). Anyway it was disgusting. But he asked me where I was from and a little about what we were doing in Taiwan, so I explained. He then said his house was really close and that if we have free time we can come over some I walked away. Things like that happen so frequently here its insane. There's some fascination with Americans and then a lot of the men here are just really creepy. I don't understand it, but at least we have companions and the Lord protecting us. Thankfully Taiwan is pretty safe and the most we get is annoying cat calls. But aside from that so many people took tracts! 

Anyway that's about it, not much super eventful here this week. We are trying really hard to find new investigators and for the investigators we have now to progress. Hopefully this week is another week full of miracles!

I love you all and hope you are all healthy and happy. Did Jemma start preschool again? I'm so glad she loves it and hope she is having so much fun and learning a lot. I also hope work is going well and not too stressful. I'm so grateful for your love and support and pray for you all every day. My mission has already been the best experience and I have already learned and grown so much. I know this gospel is true and that it is the most important thing in this life. If we obey His commandments and strive to always become better we can live forever as a family. I know Christ lives! I know He loves us! Have an incredible week! We will see if I am emailing you from Nantou next week! 

Come what may and love it!

Sister Fernley

Sister Anderson has a tradition of going to eat Thai food at the end of every move call, so Saturday we went with Michelle. She is one of my english students and we go out to eat with her often and share small messages. She hasn't started the missionary lessons yet, but we think we need to take it slow with her. We are going to Taizhong with her today to eat lunch at this toilet resturant Sister Anderson really wants to go to. (That's why I'm on so early today.)

(Nicole here: Yes, she did say "toilet restaurant." We're hoping she meant "Thai restaurant.")

Monday, January 6, 2014

Oyster Omelettes in Nantou

We love to hear from Sister Fernley! She has always been a mature, level-headed, and strong person, but it's exciting to read about all the growing and learning she is doing. Here's her latest:

Dear Family,
I don't even know where to start for this week. Mostly because I can't remember much of what happened. I was able to get all of your emails before our computer time was up. We actually still have about an hour, I just got that picture and forwarded it while I was looking at it.
Lets see...Monday we went to go visit a less active family we have been really focusing on. They are still considered RCs because they were baptized last March. The mom and two of her sons were baptized. Their dad and their younger brother (who's not old enough anyway) are not. This is the family that we actually got to come to church a few weeks ago miraculously. We continue to meet with them and try to get them to church. We will confirm with them up until 20 minutes before sacrament meeting starts and they still won't show up. Yesterday we called her and she said she couldn't come, she just got home from buying breakfast. We decided we need to review a few commandments after that one, especially considering we had spent the whole week before talking about fasting in preparation for this sunday. Anyway...that was a tangent. We were headed over there to follow up because they yet again didn't come to church. We stopped at the light before turning onto their road and as is normal in Nantou there was a lone scooter at the light to contact, and miracle of miracles it was a woman (in our mission we aren't allowed to contact men, so naturally many stop lights we pull up to only have men stopped at them). Sister Anderson was riding ahead of me so she pulled up and started talking to the lady. Simple pleasantries were exchanged then the light turned green. We continued on and visited with the Chen family I mentioned before.

After that lesson we had planned to find the address of a girl we had contacted on the street in that neighborhood weeks before. She had been in our plan almost every day since then, but something would always happen so we never went to find her. Today it was our first priority though so we found the house and knocked on the gate and their two girls came out (the 12 year old we had contacted and her 10 year old sister). They were so excited to have waiguoren (white people) coming and visiting them so invited us in and went to get their mom. Their mom came down the stairs, a few words were said then Sister Anderson exclaimed, "I know you!" This woman was the woman she had contacted on the street about an hour earlier! They were both pretty shocked and the woman asked us how we knew how to get to her house. We quickly exclaimed the situation so she wasn't as freaked out and she allowed us to stay and talk with her family for a little bit. She doesn't sound like she has much interest, but she probably would have never allowed us to come in if Sister Anderson hadn't met her on the road earlier. It was crazy!
We helped the Hong family (our recent converts) move two doors down on Wednesday. They have been closed since then to get everything set up again, I think they open up again today. When they came to church yesterday they looked so tired! But we are so proud of them for making the changes in their lives to better follow Christ.
Thursday we went out to eat those Oyster Omelets with Michelle. She is my english student who would go out to eat with us every now and then. This week we actually invited her to Institute on Friday night and she actually came! She also came to watch 17 Miracles at the church last night and brought a friend. We aren't going to push teaching her yet, but she is slowly being more open to our church and listening to our messages. After the movie last night we were talking about how those people were our ancestors and that all the miracles they saw were true. After that she made a comment about how missionaries are kind of like the pioneers. Its a different kind of trial but we see miracles as well, just in different ways. I love hearing investigators make connections and comments that are so true. When they make comments like that you know they are at least understanding something.


Thursday night we were also able to meet with a couple of high school age girls. They were contacted by the sister missionaries in another area and set up a time and a place to meet with us in Nantou. They had planned to meet at McDonalds (which is actually a pretty nice building in Taiwan, a lot of American resturants are) that night. We walked in and started to call the number. We think they got a little freaked out when they saw us because her phone started ringing and she was about to reject the call, but we saw it was her. So we went over and started talking and the more we talked the more receptive they became. We talked about our purpose as missionaries and why we are serving missions and then taught about prayer. Near the end we asked them if they would want to pray and they both immediately said yes. They were so willing to learn and we have another meeting with them this week.
 Man the more and more I write the more I remember about this week. I'm flipping through my planner and remembering so many great lessons. We taught that young girl who self contacted us at the church again. We taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it was so good. She is so willing to learn and loves everything we teach her. She is still afraid to talk to her parents though, but we will get there. She actually called us soon after we got to the wenka (computer place) and said her teacher told her she should only study the Bible and not the Book of Mormon. I guess her teacher saw her with the book and started telling her some anti-mormon things (her teacher is American). She told us she can't get baptized, but we are going to meet with her this week and try to clear some things up. She said it made her sad to think about not studying the Book of Mormon and that she doesn't want to be close minded, so we still have hope.
Saturday we had another meeting with Chen Zhen Zhen. We had planned on teaching the Plan of Salvation and I had been in charge of planning the lesson, but it ended up not being right for her then. Sister Anderson started teaching the story of Nephi and his bow to her and talking about faith and acting. I had no idea where it was going, and Sister Anderson was just talking so I sat back and listened. Chen Zhen Zhen was really into the lesson, but her son who she had invited to sit in with us wasn't really. Since I didn't really have a part in the lesson either I spent a lot of time watching him and trying to see what his reactions were about what was being taught. During most of the lesson he wasn't very invested and started reading one of the tracts we have about the gospel that Chen Zhen Zhen had in her Book of Mormon. I don't remember what part of the conversation he started tuning into, but he asked his mom about a couple of his friends and if they were Christian. Then he suddenly looked up and asked, "Can I?" We didn't really know what he was asking, but his mom clarified and said he sees the examples of some of his friends and wants to be like them. He wanted to know if he could. Sister Anderson bore her testimony about the change that the gospel can bring and Chen Zhen Zhen started crying a little bit. It was about then that she turned to her son and started teaching him. And she wasn't just spouting off information she was bearing her testimony to her son. She talked about God and Jesus Christ. She talked about how He created us. She told her son that she gave birth to him, but she didn't have the power to create him. She couldn't pick his nose or arrange a body or a spirit; that is what God has done. It was incredible! She taught him prayer and we asked if he would say one with us. I don't think he understood that we were going to do a group prayer because we all bowed our heads and it just stayed silent. We all just said personal prayers and when Sister Anderson and I finished we looked up and just looked at these two wonderful people with their heads bowed sincerely praying to God. The Spirit was so strong! They said they would go to church yesterday as well, but Chen Zhen Zhen came on her own and heard the last few testimonies in Sacrament and stayed through Gospel Principles. Her son got scared and was too nervous to come. We hope that since she came and saw what church was like she will be able to convince him to come next week.
I have to admit that during that lesson with Chen Zhen Zhen I wasn't in the best attitude. I was a little annoyed about not being able to say anything, but mostly I think I was just down on myself. I was seeing these people be touched by the Spirit and felt like I had done nothing to help that. While we were riding our bikes back to the church after the lesson I was having a hard time holding back tears. I was feeling like a failure as a missionary because I didn't feel like I was helping anyone. While we were riding though I realized that I was being a little selfish and proud. I'm not here to change people's lives. I'm not the one teaching these people, the Spirit is. I just need to be worthy of the Spirit and do my best and if these people are ready their hearts will be touched. I also just needed a little time to get back to rational thinking and get a hold of myself.
Sunday helped me a lot with overcoming some of that feeling. I've been branching out a lot and talking to the ward members on my own. So this week I had a lot of people come up and talk to me. It feels so good to be noticed and included by the ward. I continue to grow to love them and feel their love more and more for me as well. We actually have a return missionary who just came home a few weeks ago who brought his referral for us to church. She came in late and as she walked into Relief Society he mouthed to me from the doorway she was our referral. After Relief Society ended she bolted and I looked to Sister Anderson because we needed to set up with her. Sister Anderson was stuck (kind of, really she just wanted to force me to do it on my own) so I ran out to try and talk to her before she left. As I ran out to the hallway I got accosted by ward members. I was five feet away from li jiemei (our referral), who was looking into the elder's class to find the member (return missionary) who had brought her, but I had like four members come up to me and talk. It was a fight to actually break through and get to talk to her, but I did and we are going over to her house on Wednesday!
After most of the people left the church one of our ward missionaries asked all the elders and us to stay for a "special meeting." I need to give you a little background on this. On Tuesday when Sister Anderson and I went to go check out mail we had an envelope with our names on it with a chicken foot in it from the elders. Sister Anderson refuses to eat a chicken foot. Even just looking at them make her want to throw up. So I guess the elders think it is funny and decided to give us a chicken foot. (Which is technically against the rules.) Because we were on our way out we just stuck it in our bike baskets and were going to throw it away later. We stopped by Hong Qiu Lisa's house (our member) to see how she was and follow up with if she has talked to a friend she wants to introduce us to. We showed her the chicken foot and she thought it was really funny and asked if she could have it. She said she could give it back to the elders in some unexpected way. We happily gave it up and went on our way. The next day after english class we were the last to leave the church and found two more chicken feet in our bike baskets from the elders. We forgot to take them up to our apartment to throw them away so they were there the next day. Randomly we ended up going with Hong Qui Lisa to meet with her friend who was with her daughter at the hospital down the street that morning. Again we showed her that we had more chicken feet and again she asked if she could have them.
So on Sunday she arranged for all the missionaries to meet after church with her family. She had told us earlier that we couldn't laugh during the meeting, but we had no idea what she was going to do. She told this whole story about how her family was out of money and she didn't have much work so they were going to move back to their old house in Zhanghua. (She had canceled FHE with the elders the Friday before and pretended to be really sad and upset about something, so this was a continuation of her charade.) It was hillarious to see the elders faces and so hard not to laugh because we knew this was all a joke. She said she wanted to give us all something before they left and gave us come cookies and the other elders some cheetos. She then said because the other elders went to her house the most often their gift was the most special. She then pulled out this box. They opened it and pulled out this chicken figure made out of apples for the body, a duck foot for the head, and the chicken feet tacked onto the bottom as its feet. Maybe I'll get a picture, but it was so funny. She put some serious thought into it.
Anyway I'm almost out of time and that is pretty much it for this week anyway. I was showing my pictures to someone this week and they said dad looked like John Trovolta. I thought you might get a kick out of that. The Ice castle looked really cool (litterally). I couldn't see much in detail, but it looked and sounds like fun. And as always the doughnuts look delicious!
As far as your questions go, we have three phases to our language study plan. Phase 1 is preach my gospel in chinese, so we learn the gospel terms. Then phase 2 is a couple thousand flash cards of more normal words. Then phase 3 is characters. Someday I want to be able to read the Book of Mormon in Chinese. But as for right now I am mostly illiterate. I love you all as always! Send me some pictures of the wedding and tell them all I love them too. Give Katie my congratulations! I got her announcement this week. Give Jemma a giant hug for me and tell her I love her 80, 80, 80, 80.
I love you all! Good luck this next week! Until next monday!
Sister Fernley