Thursday, June 12, 2014

"The miracles start rolling in…"

Another message from Sister Fernley. It sounds like she is doing really well and staying healthy and happy. We are so glad to hear that she and her companion get along so well. She mentions some pictures, but we didn't actually get them. Stay tuned--this post may be updated with pictures in the near future if they arrive.

Here's her latest message:

Hello again from Qishan!

Before I say anything else....HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!! Sorry I didn't say that last week. I wrote in my planner and everything so I wouldn't forget, and I forgot. I remembered as soon as the computer timed out. Anyway I love you and hope you had a great birthday! 

I also hope that this week was good and full of miracles for all. We had an incredible week! I couldn't wait to tell you all!

So I don't know if it was this way for you when you went on your missions, but President Blickenstaff has set standards for our mission on the amount of lessons we should have, baptismal goals, investigators at church etc. He always tells us that if we hit these standards weekly we will baptize monthly and it hasn't been disproved yet. But this week we were able to get closer to the mission standards that I ever have in Qishan. We were so close! We hope that if we work really hard this week we can hit them, because hitting the standards in Qishan would be an accomplishment we would be really proud of.

We had ZTM this week which is always a huge pick-me-up. I've said it before, but I love being in large groups of missionaries. It always seems to lift spirits and lets you know that you aren't the only one struggling and trying to preach the gospel on this tiny island, because sometimes it feels that way. Our zone leaders are awesome and always have really motivational training meetings. This month they were focusing on baptisms. Last month our zone didn't do very well, so they asked every companionship to pick a name of an investigator that could possibly get baptized this month and write it up on the board. Like we do every month we all wrote down the names and are praying for them every night. They talked a lot about having the faith to go out and find someone who could get baptized and invited us to fast that we would be able to have a baptism this month. It was a really good meeting and gave me a lot to think about.

While we were on the bus on our way back to Qishan I was thinking a lot about stories that other missionaries had shared and miracles they had seen. It made me doubt myself a little bit because I don't have a lot of experiences like that, but then I remember the less noticeable, but just as significant miracles I have seen on my mission. I haven't seen a lot of baptisms, but I have seen two struggling areas progress like crazy. I haven't personally found a lot of investigators, but I have seen a lot of progress in myself. Anyway, I decided that I want to give up my doubts to help further the building up of the kingdom here. I have faith and I know with God anything is possible, but I still have slivers of doubt when we are tracting, contacting etc. I want to stop that and have complete faith in everyone I come in contact with. I want to have faith in the power of God and be more open to seeing His hand in this work.

So, point being I had a really thoughtful ride back to Qishan and when we got back we saw the miracles start rolling in.

We got off the bus and started walking back home to get our bikes when I saw someone inside the bus station react at us walking past. I did a double take and saw that it was Yu Rong (the young women that always comes to church that I contacted at the 7). We turned around and sat down with her for a little bit. I asked her if she had been praying and she said she had prayed twice every day that week! I then asked her what she felt and she said she didn't really feel anything. I then asked her if she believed God existed. She replied, "a little bit." I was super excited! That is so much improvement for her! We invited her to pay attention to her feelings when she prays this week.

We were also able to meet with her for a minute after church yesterday. We taught her the Gospel of Christ and invited her to be baptized. She absolutely does not want to be baptized and says she only comes to church for friends. I asked her if she felt she had made friends and she said not really. So we think there is obviously something more than just friends bringing her to church, she just doesn't want to admit it. She is going to have a really hard time giving up Buddhism and accepting Christ, but I hope some day she will. Shao Jie helped us with our lesson and afterward kept asking why Yu Rong didn't want to get baptized or why she didn't really believe. She was so cute and had such a hard time understanding why someone wouldn't believe. She's convinced Yu Rong has a little bit of faith, and I agree with her. Hopefully we can help that grow. 

After we met with Yu Rong at the train station our front plan fell through so we tried to go visit one of our LAs. We had practiced asking members for referrals during ZTM so we decided to do the same with her and got a reaction we didn't expect at all. She started talking about how her work got changed so she could come back to church and wanted to bring her three grandchildren. (The oldest of whom has already been baptized.) She started figuring out how old they all were and if her granddaughter was old enough to be baptized. Turns out she's nine and her grandma wants us to teach her so she can be baptized. This little girl is so cute and wants to be baptized so bad. She has already been to church once and remembers a lot from when her brother was taught by the elders. (She practically taught the plan of salvation during our spiritual share in english class.) 

We walked out of that lesson shocked! We now had a new investigator who could be baptized by the end of the month without a problem. We just need to review the lessons with her!

And then the miracles just continued. We got a referral from an LA to go and find her friend who is also less active and bring her back. (She helped her get introduced to the gospel and remembered how happy she was when her friend got baptized.) We had a million lessons on Thursday. We were going from lesson to lesson to lesson (which has never happened here before). We went to Wang Jiemei's house (the old lady with the giant Book of Mormon) the same day she finished the Book of Mormon. We decided we want to get one made that's even bigger because she is having a hard time reading her's again. We went to our RCs house and determined that her son could get baptized as soon as we reviewed the lessons as well. He was taught along with his mom and sisters, but wasn't old enough to get baptized yet. He is an incredible example for his sisters and always reads and prays. 

Then on Sunday we had a lesson set up with someone we had called off of dead stack. Sister Anderson and I are both a little hesitant to call business cards, but decided to be brave one day and call one. It's always a little nerve-wracking going to appointments when you don't know the person or how they will react, but as we pulled up her sons called out to her that we were there and she was really nice and welcomed us in. We answered a few of her questions about what missionaries do and where we were from and then she very matter-of-factly asked, "So what is it you would like to share with me today?" We talked about the Book of Mormon and our Father in Heaven and Prayer and testified of the Restoration. After that was said I asked her why she was willing to meet with us. She replied, "I guess it was just the will of God." Turns out she was baptized into the Baptist church several years ago, but hasn't gone in a while. She told us we could come back to her house or her work anytime as long as we call her first. 

I was saying before that a lot of the times I doubt and don't expect reactions like this, but the Lord is definitely teaching me not to doubt and has shown us so many miracles this week. So I've learned that I need to have faith; have faith that people will accept our message, that investigators can be found, and that miracles continue to happen every day. I think this week the Lord was just nudging my memory and reminding me that this is His work and we can see it roll forth in our work, no matter where we are serving.

I love serving here in Qishan. I love the members and I love that we can find things to laugh about every day. This week we actually had a lot of rain, but every time the rain pours we seem to be inside and as soon as we are about to go outside the rain stops. It doesn't happen like that every time, but most of the time that's how it is. According to what the elders say, they seem to be outside every time it pours. So Sister Anderson and I decided that Heavenly Father must love us more. Haha, just kidding! But it is a funny coincidence.

The other day we ended up having a race with the elders from Meinong to Qishan. We had passed them while they were stopped at a corner and rang our bells as we went by. Several minutes later they come zooming past us with smug grins on their faces. Sister Anderson and I decided that we couldn't let that slide, so we sped it up and passed them a few minutes later. We thought we had the upper hand and slowed down a little when we got to the bridge into Qishan and found the elders waiting for us and the head of a secret bike trail. While we were waiting at a red light the turned and went over the bridge ahead of us. We thought it was really funny and were ready to give it to them, but were able to get momentum off the bridge and passed them while they were stopped at a red light. It was really silly, but it made the rainy bike ride to Qishan a little more fun.

This week we also heard a news report about a guy doing CPR on a squirrel  and died laughing. We got asked to stay and eat dinner at one of our LAs house that night, but their family eats while watching TV. So Sister Anderson and I sat awkwardly staring a different way and were singing hymns in our heads so we wouldn't listen. Then we started hearing english and heard this story about the squirrel. We both started cracking up! The family had no idea what we were laughing at and probably thought we were a little crazy.

Anyway those were some funny things that happened this week. The pictures I put on dropbox are of all the water bottles and cereal boxes we've gone through the past couple of weeks. I though dad would appreciate that we are drinking water :). The other is of my desk after personal study. It tends to be like that most days.

I love you all and love hearing from you every week. I pray for you every night and thank Heavenly Father that He gave me such an incredible family. 

As always, there's another miracle just around the corner!

With all my love, 
Sister Fernley

Another week in Qishan

I didn't realize I was so behind on Sister Fernley's blog! Here's the message from June 1:

Hello my dear family!

It sounds like this week has been fun filled and full of new discoveries (at least on Jemma's part). The water balloon fights look like a lot of fun! I remember when I was little dad always seemed to have a force field as well. Maybe that just comes with being a dad. Haha. I love hearing about all the fun summer activities that are going on! I miss those lazy days just going to the park and spending time together as a family. It is such a blessing to have times and memories like that. I'm so grateful for families and that the gospel focuses so much on family. That's always one of the main principles I go to when we are contacting or tracting, because focusing back on the family is one thing the world really needs. 

This week has been full of a lot of small miracles. Our investigators have started progressing! It's still very slow, inch by inch, but we are ecstatic at the small triumphs they have and the hurdles they are conquering. 

We were able to meet with Li Yu Rong on Monday (the young women who always comes to church), and taught her about the plan of salvation. When we asked her where she would like to go she replied that she would be happy going to the Terrestrial Kingdom. I've actually heard that from a lot of Taiwanese people and it is frustrating beyond belief. They all think the Celestial Kingdom is too high of a goal and don't want to put the effort in to go there because the Terrestrial is still pretty good and they are find with mediocre blessings. We tried to explain to her that she wouldn't be able to be with her family and friends forever in the Terrestrial Kingdom to which she replied that she doesn't need family or friends. That being with them forever would be too annoying. Sister Anderson they said she probably wouldn't have any TV, books, etc which had a little bit of an impact on her. 
BUT she did pray at the end of our lesson!!! We have been trying so hard to just get her to try and she never would. So we were really excited when she actually prayed! It was a little strange, and a little hesitant, but its progress (a lot of progress for her). She didn't show up at church on Sunday, but we are going to try and see if we can find her at a 7 tonight.

On Tuesday we were able to go contact a member referral we had gotten a few days earlier. We actually didn't have to do much. One of our members has been telling me for several weeks that she has a friend who wanted to come to church, but was always too busy to come. She told me when she came she would introduce us and set up a time for us to meet with her. This member actually ended up setting up a time on her own, so she called us told us the time and the place to meet. Her friend turned out to be this super cute 14 year old girl. Her family has been friends with this sister in our ward for years and she seems like she could have a lot of potential. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she said she was willing to read. I hope she does! Her family is struggling a little bit in their relationship so she really wants to help her family, and what better thing is there to help families than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our member was really nervous to peike (attend our lesson) because she hasn't done it for a while, but she was great. Most of the time we just sat back a let her teach. That's my favorite: when we can turn the lesson over to the members because they have a lot more influence than we do. This sister has also offered to peike any time we need for this investigator. I'm really excited to see how everything goes with this girl, she seems really willing to learn.

After receiving that referral and having our first lesson with her we were both extremely happy. I think that is the first true referral I have gotten on my mission! It was so great! We really do need the members. I think if we had gone and tracted that house they wouldn't have listened, but because one of their friends introduced us they were a lot more willing.

We were able to meet with the Cai family a couple of times this week. We're starting to think that we might need to give them over to the elders. The last time we went over Cai Jiemei started leaving and doing other things as soon as we started talking about the gospel. Her husband was still really intent and involved in the conversation, and when their son is home he is the same way as his dad. We are going to try a couple more times and if she really has no interest we will have to give them up. Cai Jiemei's husband actually called her out on leaving and got her to come back in and sit in on the lesson, but she didn't look too happy about it. Anyway, we have yet to see them show signs of progression, but for now they are still willing to meet with us. We'll take what we can get. 

One thing I have noticed lately with our investigators right now is that they really want the gospel and the church to help their kids, but aren't willing to let it help them as well. They can't expect this message to be important and change their children if they aren't willing to show by their examples that it is important to them as well. It just shows me more and more how important our examples are to our family and our children. We say as missionaries that we can't convert others beyond our own conversion. I think the same goes for our families. We are all individual and have our own spirits and testimonies, but I think the conversion we see in our family members plays a big part in our own testimonies. I am extremely grateful for the strong foundation we have in the gospel. I love that we have a long line of ancestors who were all members of the church. But most of all I love that that legacy has remained. I think we will always have lost sheep, but I am grateful that those who are strong in the gospel outnumber those that are lost. It should make it so much easier for those of us that are remaining to go and lift up those who are lost. 

Huang Jiemei has been really busy lately and has had family over on Sundays or had a wedding one week so she hasn't been able to come for a while. We went over Friday night and taught her the plan of salvation. She understood it all really well and even started teaching it to her son after he came in. She wants to help her children so bad! She had a friend tell her that if she had her kids read the Bible they would become better, so she asked if we could get her one. We told her that the Book of Mormon might be easier for her son to start with and as soon as we said that she grabbed their copy and told her son to read the verses we had just shared with her. That may not be the right method, but she has the principle down. 

We also had a Family Home Evening activity held by the ward this Sunday and Huang Jiemei and her whole family (even her husband) came! They even dressed up in church clothes. It was really cute! I think they are a little shy because they seemed content doing their own thing even when members would go over and try to friendship them, but I think they had a good time. At the end when we were all asked to share blessings we have been given because of the church Huang Jiemei even said that she has learned we are all children of God and that He loves each one of us, then closed in the name of Jesus Christ. It was so touching! When I went over and talked to her about it she was worried it was too simple. But really isn't simple the best? 

Shao Jie this week has come across the start of many trials in the gospel. She for the past week or so has been talking non-stop about going and doing baptisms at the temple when the ward goes next. Her dad and uncle both gave her permission, but her grandparents don't want her to go (and here the grandparents are the presiding authorities). Her grandparents mean well. They are afraid of Shao Jie being and inconvenience (because of her handicap). Shao Jie said she cried and cried because she was so devastated she couldn't go. We keep telling her to continue to have faith and God will someday provide a way. Her new favorite saying is "You xinxin, you banfa!" which means if you have faith there will be a way (its our mission theme). I guess I said it once and she picked it up. I love visiting with her because her faith really is so strong. She is an incredible example to me and I have been truly blessed to know her. She has only been baptized for just over a month and has already read to Alma 58. 

That is most of what happened this week. We did have an elder who served in Qishan a little less than a year ago come back with his new wife this weekend. He is a legend here! Most of our RCs are from when he was here. While he was training they helped eight people get baptized. So He and his wife came to church and attended the FHE activity. I was able to help out and translated for his wife in Relief Society and for part of the FHE activity. She's also a recent return missionary so it was really fun to talk to her and get to know her. Sister Anderson and I did comment after that we both felt really awkward seeing them interact together though. We're going to have a hard time going back to college and singles wards :).

Other than that we biked a lot, prayed a lot, laughed a lot, compared ever increasing tan lines, calf muscles and and level of sweatiness, and as always continued to find those people who are prepared to receive the gospel in this corner of the wilderness in Taiwan. 

By the way I'm getting an incredible watch tan line, and some good ones on my feet. Before it wasn't super noticeable, but now my arms are a completely different color than the rest of me. It looks like they could be from a different person. Also dad was really concerned about me drinking water. I'm drinking water, I promise! Actually though ever since I have come on my mission I haven't had any problems with dehydration like I did before. And honestly I don't think I'm drinking much more than I would back home. I heard of a sister in our mission who had celiac before and it has completely disappeared on her mission. I feel like I have a similar blessing. I'm still being really careful though, I'll be fine, the roads here aren't that busy anyway :). We do make frequent stops to go inside and get ice-cream or take a water break to get out of the heat for a few minutes. 

Also I was super excited to hear about the trip to Alaska! I thought if you all did it it would probably be while I was gone.

I love you all and love hearing about your weeks. My time is about up, but please know that I love you all with all my heart. The knowledge that I have a family that loves me keeps me going every day. I know families are forever and love sharing that message with these people. Many don't accept, but at least we are giving them a chance. Like Sister Hill used to say, "you prepared them one step more to accepting the gospel." I love my companion! She is so much fun and we are becoming best friends. Qishan would be a lot harder without her. 

Well until next week, remember there's always another miracle just around the corner. God loves us and will always give us tender mercies.

Love you with all my heart! Give Jemma a giant hug for me and tell her shes the best sister I could ever ask for!

Sister Fernley