Hello my dear family!
I'm so glad that you all got to Idaho safely and are having a good time. I hope Jemma has a blast with cousins and that all are happy and enjoying family time. I loved all the pictures (as usual). The black and white is really fun.
I'm sending a ton of pictures through dropbox. Last Monday Sister Anderson and I went to FoGuangShan with two of our members (one is one of our RCs). Apparently they have Budda's finger and tooth preserved inside somewhere, but we didn't have time to go see. One of our members was talking to me when we went inside and saw the place where everyone will go and worship and bai bai. The last time she had gone there was about two years ago (right before she was baptized). She said last time she went and bai baied, but she was really excited to tell me that this time she isn't going to bai and worship the Buddhist gods. It was a really simple thing, but I was so proud of her. It showed me how much this gospel can change people, and really how much they have to change here. Christianity is such a foreign concept for many of these people.Its hard for them to wrap their heads around the possibility of only one God and a loving God at that.
I truly respect the Taiwanese people so much. They are all so devoted to their religion. They respect family and stay with their culture and tradition more than any other people I have seen. But so many aspects of Buddhism or Daoism are completely opposite of Christianity that it often feels strange to me. Here the color red is a symbol of worship and happiness. Every night while we are riding home we can look out over the rice fields and see glowing red lights in everyone's attics (most people put their shrines up there). It's hard for me to imagine that that is comforting and a place of peace for the people here, because to me it is so foreign and frankly is a little creepy. I'm so grateful that I was privileged enough to be born into this gospel, to know that we have a Heavenly Father who is a LOVING father. He is kind, merciful, and knows each and every one of His children. What greater comfort could we have? What greater blessing could we have than to know the true character of God? And because we have such a great blessing why would we refrain from sharing it with all those around us?
This week we had a really good plan that even if only most of it worked out we would have been able to hit mission standards, but as most weeks have been going lately most everything fell through. Even despite all our set backs we were still able to do pretty well, and even though our plans didn't turn out the way we would have liked we were given many things to laugh about to give us the happiness and hope to carry on. The Lord really does pour out His tender mercies small they may be.
There was one day we ended up eating lunch at the 7-11 (a common occurance). I glanced over my shoulder at a movement behind me and didn't really register what I saw. As I did a double take I realized there was a dog lying down in the middle of the aisle behind us. I casually nudged Sister Anderson and said, "there's a dog." I don't think she believed me at first, but then she looked back and we both started laughing. At first I thought he belonged to one of the customers in the store and kept waiting for him to walk out with his owner, but after about ten minutes everyone that was in the store before had already left and the dog was still there. I guess he decided it was too hot outside so he just walked through the sliding doors into the 7 to take a nap. I think the funniest thing about it is that the workers and other customers didn't care. If we were in America the dog would be kicked out as soon as discovered. Here everyone just laughs and goes on with their business. The dog was in the store for about an hour. He would get up and walk outside then decide it was better inside and would come back in for a few more minutes. About the time we were ready to leave he decided it was time to go and very nonchalantly walked out and went down the street to go back home.
The day before the dog in the 7 we were walking down a street contacting when one of the elder's LAs (the guy who always wears plaid pants) pulled up by us asking where I bikes were. We made small talk for a minute then as he was pulling back into the street and started driving down the street he called to us, "keep the faith!" But in his Taiwanese accent it sounded more like "keep the face!" Surprisingly I've remembered that all week and at times when we are feeling a little discouraged it reminds me why we are here and that faith is what will pull us through. Faith is the answer to everything. It starts out small, but has a huge effect.
We also survived several dog attacks this week, thanks to the protection and help of the Lord. We were going to try and visit You Jiemei (one of our RCs) when two dogs started chasing after Sister Anderson (who was in front). She started biking as fast as she could and I would have too on first instinct, but for some reason I thought that if I biked really slow the dogs wouldn't fall back and start chasing me as well. I did just that and it worked! They got tired of running after Sister Anderson, turned around and just stopped and watched me slowly bike by. I have no doubt that the Spirit was guiding me and Heavenly Father was loving enough to still a couple of dogs for me.
Then later on in the week we were tracting, so our bikes were farther off, when we turned down a side street to tract some houses farther back from the road. We rang the doorbell at one and went to go farther down when this dog started charging out of the shadow toward us. We both wanted to run and started back when Sister Anderson stopped and said, "don't run." So we both turned around and started trying to walk as calmly as we could down the street. We kept our eyes forward and tried to ignore the snarling dog behind us. Miraculously the dog stopped running and simply stood in the middle of the street barking, and made no more effort to run after us.
I have never had more dog stories in my life! I swear all dogs have a missionary radar! They see the tag and instead of closing doors, curtly ignoring, or laughing like everyone else here they chase after us. If only it was the other way around, and the running being intended to talk to us instead of wanting to bite or hurt us. That would be great!
Anyway as far as our investigators go we were actually able to meet with them a lot this week. Most weeks our LA or RC lessons are the most, but this week we had a lot more other lessons. Not a lot of progress has happened yet, but we've been able to share a lot more and are trying to help them come closer to Christ and develop their own faith and desire to change.
We actually had an appointment with Huang jiemei for Wednesday. She had asked us before to ask our ward members to help her with some Go Green thing she does, but we didn't quite understand what she wanted us to talk to them about so she said we could come over and she would explain more. We thought it was going to be like any other lesson and we would still have time to teach so we asked Lu Jiemei (one of our members who went with us to FoGuangShan) to come with us.
We met Lu Jiemei and led her to the house, then as we walked in we were greeted by Huang Jiemei and about ten other people dressed suits and skirts. (The funny thing is the first thing that went through my head was "they're all wearing church clothes." Can you tell I'm a missionary?) Turns out it was their Go Green meeting and she had invited us over to hear their presentation. We felt super bad, because Lu Jiemei had come with us and probably didn't have a lot of time. We told her she could leave, but she was nice enough to stay and help us out.
They actually asked us about our church and Lu Jiemei was able to talk about the Restoration and the basic beliefs of our church. Several of the people were there so we had a good discussion about religion for a few minutes. Then the conversation changed and we listened them talk about saving the world and their Go Green stuff for a while. It was getting about time for us to go when Lu Jiemei asked us when we needed to leave and if we were going to share a scripture. Thanks to her we were able to break into the conversation and have time to share a scripture. While we were listening to them talk about Go Green I was wracking my brains to figure out what to share and what scripture to share that would have some relation with what they were talking about. Luckily I remember the scripture Ether 12:4 that talks about because we hope in God we can hope in a better world....perfect. So I shared that scripture and tied it in with their Go Green efforts and testified how because of God and the gospel we have hope and can improve our world.
It was probably one of the most stressful spiritual shares I have done yet. I don't know why, but having a room full of professionals most probably at least twenty years older than me, dressed in fancy clothes, holding a Go Green convention terrified me. I didn't want to offend, go completely off topic, mess up with my Chinese etc., but I did want to testify and tell them what I knew of the gospel and how it really can bless our lives. Thankfully I had Sister Anderson and Lu Jiemei to my right smiling and supporting me every time I looked over. I got through my share and as I finished the whole room started applauding. It was hilarious! I have never been applauded for a spiritual share before, so I can cross that one off the bucket list now. Then as we stood up to leave everyone in the room stood up to bid us farewell. It felt really weird, and it felt really nice to go to our next appointment and sit down in a normal, informal lesson. I felt a lot more in my element, but was glad I had the chance to testify.
We were able to meet with our LAs granddaughter the other day and pretty much just reviewed the first lesson on the Restoration. She remembers most things from when her brother was taught by the missionaries. She is so excited to be baptized and I believe that she could be a great example to her family. We showed her the picture from the pamphlets of the first vision and she asked which one was Christ. We both pointed to the one on the right because that's the only way we can tell which is which in the picture. She grabbed the pamphlet and closely inspected it and replied, "oh yes, because the one on the left has a longer beard. It must be Heavenly Father." So our nine year old investigator can now differentiate between the two by the length of their beards.
Cai Jiemei and her husband still haven't come to church. We are going to try and go to their door next Sunday morning. We have some Word of Wisdom issues to work with with Cai Jiemei, but they both say they get really happy when we come over so we know they are feeling the Spirit.
We met with Wang Jiemei again at her work and invited her to be baptized. She brought up the concern of already having been baptized (into the Baptist church), but didn't say no. She just wants to understand more before she takes that step.
Aside from that we are going to try and get a hold of several potential investigators that canceled our appointments this week and will continue to hope the Lord puts more prepared souls in our paths.
I love you all and pray for you every day. I'm so grateful for you and for your support. I know that with faith in the Lord we can do all things!
As always, there's another miracle just around the corner.
With all my love,
ps. tell Jemma I would love any flower as long as she picked it. My other favorite color besides green is blue and that I love her more than I can say. Infinity and beyond!