Alright, this week in Zuoying was soooo good! Sister Liu and I were treated by three of the families in our ward for dinner this week! Since it's the moon festival, everyone was barbeque-ing and celebrating! Sister Liu and I enjoyed eating the white grapefruit that they only have during the moon festival and eating "kao rou" with all of our investigators, members, recent-converts, etc. haha Anyway, don't be surprised if I come home all pudgy and heavy... It's the food - It's irresistably delicious, and I'm just about the best barbeque-er there is in town!
haha Funny story: Yesterday, we were with the Li family for lunch, and it was wonderful because they had a little barbeque on the table, so we all sat around cooking meat and sharing Spiritual thoughts. Anyway, here's the story: I was cooking a ton of meat and was serving a lot of people the cooked meat when I accidentally gave a raw piece of chicken to two of the young men in our ward that were over for lunch as well (they are brothers). When the one who got the raw chicken realized that it was raw, he didn't know what to do, so instead of putting the chicken back on the barbeque to cook all the way, he gave it to his brother, who took a bite and spit it out immediately. Brother Li witnessed this all happening and told them to just put the chicken back on the barbeque to cook all the way, so they did. Anyway, it was pretty funny because the rest of the meal, everyone was like, "Do you want some raw chicken?! It tastes just like 'sashimi' (delicious raw fish they eat in Japan)".
All the food they have over here is really greasy and oily and delicious. It's seriously impossible to stay true to a diet plan (if you're on one), so Sister Liu and I decided we'd spend more time cooking meat than eating it. It seems to have worked pretty well. This morning, we ate grapefruit and toast. It was really good. We're starting to cut down on the fat this week, since the moon festival is over.
This last Thursday was Zone conference. The topic of the conference was true conversion and the process of repentance. There were three questions that President Blickenstaff wanted us to think about before the conference began. They are as follows:
1. What is conversion?
2. What are the elements of conversion?
3. How can you tell if a person is converted?
Many of the recent converts over here in the Taichung mission have had a tendency in the past to quickly fall away from the church, increasing the percentage of less-actives over here, and making it harder for missionaries to save and bring back these people to the church. President expressed his concern about many members who had not been truly converted before they were baptised. It is our responsibility as missionaries to prepare and make sure that our investigators are significantly converted before they are baptised.
As we discussed these questions in our groups, we discovered and came up with a couple of different but unified answers:
1. Conversion is "receiving His (God's) image in our countenance". It is a desire to repent/change - a willingness to sacrifice and give up everything for the joy and salvation that comes from keeping the commandments (baptism included).
2. The elements of conversion are a realization that your life is in the lack of something, prayer, recognition of sin/need of change, and having the desire to obtain the remission of sins. To me, an important element of conversion is action. Having a desire, a recognition, or a realization is very important, but all this must be placed into action if it is to be in effect.
3. In order to tell if a person is converted, there must be tangible evidence in their actions. You will see the light in their lives as they repent, willingly have the desire to baptized, and most importantly: keep their sacred covenants. One easy way to tell if someone is converted is if they are doing the small and simple things: reading scriptures, praying, and attending church. If these people are willingly working to keep commandments and do the little things, they are prepared to be "added to the body of Christ."
So, what can we do as missionaries to help our investigators progress, be converted, and prepare for baptism?
We have the responsibility to address the problems of those who aren't keeping commitments. We have the ability and the responsibility to help investigators understand WHY prayer, scripture-reading, and church-attendance are important in the conversion process. We must be patient, loving, and exercise faith as we meet with and develop relationships with investigators. Following up with investigators is also key to help them progress and work towards baptism.
As we were role-playing during conference, I realized how important it is for us as missionaries to be open and honest with our experiences, our teachings, and our feelings. God knows each and every one of us missionaries. He wants us to be real, honest, and open with these people. He doesn't want all of his missionaries to be robotically the same in every way.
Anyway, the conference was wonderful. Here are some scriptures that help us understand more about true conversion if you'd like to look them up during personal study:
Acts 2: 36-41
Alma 5: 12-14
Let's all work hard to be converted so we can help others be converted as well! Here are some key steps in learning how to teach:
1. Listen - No, REALLY listen.
2. Discern - Discern with and by the Holy Ghost. Always be worthy enough to have the influence of the Spirit wherever you are and whenever you teach. Be sensitive to its guidance.
3. Observe - Is the investigator really understanding the importance of making commitments and keeping them?! Does the investigator know why you are meeting with them? Etc. Ask yourself questions like these so you can really observe and see where you stand.
4. Go by the Spirit - Sometimes you make a lesson plan before the lesson even begins, but if you start teaching and realize that the investigator will not really understand or benefit from the lesson you prepared, GO BY THE SPIRIT and change. God will help you face the unexpected.
I am so grateful for the counsel and teachings of the leaders that we have been blessed to have in our lives. Something about goals and achieving them that Leonard Bernstein said was, "To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."
If you're always saying, "It's ok. I have time. I can finish this assignment/practice this piece/serve this person/ tomorrow..." you'll always be pushing the goal further and further away. If you say, "I will/need to finish this today. I need to/will practice this piece today. I will serve this person today." You'll find yourself happier, more successful, and actually doing all of these things/achieving these goals.
So, here's my invite/question for you all this week: Will you set goals/make plans and achieve them by the end of this week?! (SAY YES AND GET TO WORK!)
Alright, here's a miracle story that really stood out to me this week: As you all know, the A string on Chen Mama's violin broke a while ago, so Sister Liu and I had to go find a violin shop to buy a new string. On our way back home from Chen Mama's house one day, we decided to ask ward members who lived close by if there was a violin shop in that area. We called at least 3 members and talked to 3 people on the street to ask if they knew of any violin shop in the area. None of these people had any idea and told us that they didn't know. As Sister Liu and I rode back home, I saw this building with a ton of violin concert posters and decided to stop. The building was dark, but when I looked inside, I saw a ton of violins lined up on the walls. WE FOUND A VIOLIN SHOP. Anyway, we couldn't get in, so we called the number that the owner had posted on the entrance, and he was home, so he came down and let us in. We found out that this violin-maker was a former investigator of our church years ago. He was happy to let us in and gave me all four violin strings for FREE. Then, he straightened the bridge and dusted Chen Mama's violin for me. It was a miracle that we found the violin store, found this former investigator, and got free violin strings for the violin!
Anyway, we got to know this violin man, and he actually knows Chen, Po-Yi (Dad, remember the guy who studied at Peter Prier's and who stayed with us for a couple of days?!) Also, his daughter is now in Ohio studying violin and is working on her master's degree. It was totally "Shen de anpai" - God totally placed Sister Liu and I in the right place and in the right time, and we didn't even have help from the people around us. This experience just strengthened my faith in the Lord. I have complete trust in Him, and I know that He has prepared this man to meet us at this time. We will probably give this guy to the elders since it's mission rules, but it's perfect because Elder James, one of the Zuoying elders, can play the violin.
I know that this is God's work. I know that we are God's children and the Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
I am so excited and happy to be able to continue serving here in Taiwan, and I can't wait for the Lord to continue shaping me into who He wants me to be.
Today, Sister Liu and I are going to see the giant/humongous duck that they have here in Gaohsiung. We are going to take a really cheap and convenient bus and take lots of fun pictures. :)
Love you all.
Sister Verina Chen
PS Remember that God gave us all different kinds of gifts. One of the most important and universal gifts that He has given to all man is the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is so marvelous!! Remember to respect yourself, respect others, and work hard to always be worthy of this eternal and priceless gift!
PPS I learned a new Taiwanese phrase: "Hou Yi Ki" - "Let it Be" - HOU YI KI!!! I really like the sound of that! :)
Time flies like a bird! Sometimes it goes fast, sometimes it goes sloooowwwww. Haha Bet you haven't heard that one before... Ok. That wasn't even a joke. I just thought it was a great comparison - Time vs. Bird.
Birds sometimes can fly SUPER fast, especially if they're flying WITH the wind; BUT, they also have to stop sometimes to catch their breath and just you know, eat some worms or something.
Time is just like that.
Alright, anyway, this week was wonderful! It seriously was a blur. I'm so glad that everyone got my letters I sent home in the mail. :) I am glad that you all laminated the postcards and framed them and put them on the ceilings above your beds... Just kidding. You didn't, but I know you all loved them, right? :)
Wow. I don't know why I'm cracking so many lame jokes this week... It must be the "donguacha" that I'm drinking right now. It's especially sweet this week. HA HA - HAHAHAHAHA
Ok... Seriously now:
So on Monday, we ate delicious hot pot with our investigator Jane and our member friend "Triangle" (His head's shape is a triangle... He likes when people call him that.) They invited us over one day, and we just sat around, talking about life, and eating delicious food. They love us, and we love them!!
My Chinese is improving as well!! I've even learned some Taiwanese phrases:
"Tao Ka Pua Ji Kan!"
"Nao (Like "Now") Dai Jin Shui"
"Nao Dai Puo Dong"
All of them have about the same meaning. All of the people we teach think it's funny to teach me these phrases, and they are always joking around. haha It's pretty outrageous. They've also been teaching me "be, pe, me, fe" (bo, po, mo, fo), so I bought one of those writing books so I can trace each character and practice.
Jane makes sure I write down all that I eat because she is helping me learn how to write all the names of the food in Chinese. It's the best. I LOVE JANE!!! She's been an investigator for about a year and hasn't felt comfortable around other sister missionaries. But guess what?! - She came to church on Sunday for the second time in months! I let her wear my skirt, and she looked great! She's now actually considering baptism! YEAH!
Tuesday and Wednesday were great. On Tuesday, Sister Liu and I bought a cake for Qiu Jiemei for her birthday. She was delighted when she received it!! It was really funny because when I ordered the cake, I was like, "I would like the French Chocolate Cake." - But I said "French Chocolate Cake" in English, and the guy at the register didn't understand at all. He got really scared and just ran to the back. I was really confused when a different guy came out and then rung me up. The previous guy was just really scared when I started speaking English. haha Taiwanese people are the best. Sometimes I forget I'm in a different country. We did the normal powerboarding on Tuesday and then English class on Wednesday. I love teaching English on Wednesdays! All of my students are really cute, and they all participate. It was hilarious because we played a game of telephone, and the students thought it was hilarious. We had one phrase like, "Sister Chen's fart really stinks" and it ended up being "My friend sister's name is Jane" or something like that... I promise I didn't pick the original phrase. It was one of our students. haha
We also visited Chen Mama, who gave us these really ripe bananas, sun cakes, and crackers. She's the best. :) We love laughing and hanging out with her. She's recently been getting better and better. I gave her a picture of myself a couple of weeks ago, and everytime we go visit, she takes it out of her hymn book to show us. She loves when we visit her, and we love visiting her!! What a sweet spirit she has!
The new Elder in Zuoying can play violin, so I'm letting him use Chen Mama's violin, so we can play a musical number in church this upcoming Sunday!
PS This week is the last week of the move call, so next week I'm not sure if I'll be staying in Zuoying or going to a new area!! How fun!
Thursday was wonderful. A young woman's dad- Brother Tsai- got baptized! We were so happy because his daughter came all the way back from BYU Hawaii to attend his baptism. Now her mother is investigating the church all because one of our members in our ward invited them to church years ago. On Sunday, both the mother and the father attended three hours of church. - That's the power of member missionary work!! :) I loved seeing this family take one step closer to having an eternal family!!
Firday <--- Woops, I mean Friday, ha - Saturday and Sunday were great as well!
I've noticed recently how wonderful the Zuoying ward is! There are SO MANY YOUTH - and much of the active youth are our recent converts! It's really amazing to see all these convert members stay so strong and steady in the church even though their friends, families, and even teachers mock/laugh at them.
This week, I shared this scripture from 3 Nephi with a couple of those young converts:
"And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;"
"For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you."
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."
"Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;"
"Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;"
- 3 Nephi 12: 10-12, 14-17
Don't you just love those scriptures?! They just give me strength and comfort to press on, to strive worthily to be a light on a hill, to give others a hope of a better world.
Sometimes we are all influenced/get hurt by the actions that other people decide to make. It's definitly hard to ignore/not be influenced by those people who choose to disobey, to mock, to scorn. Every week, I tell myself over and over again that in order to change others, I must change myself.
If someone hurts you, it doesn't mean you should hurt them back. Sometimes the only thing you can do is love them. Don't teach them. Don't force them to change. Just love them. Pray for them. Pray WITH them, and then let the Lord shape you into the most beautiful thing you could imagine.
I want so badly to be what the Lord wants me to be. Sometimes the Lord gives you more than you can think you can take, but He KNOWS what we can take. He knows how strong we can be, and He will never forsake us, no matter how many mistakes we make.
I love that Atonement. I am so grateful for its forgiving power. I love that it comes from God's pure and incromprehensible love for all of us.
ALRIGHT, this week went by so quickly! I have so many events to share with you, so let's get to it!
MONDAY: As you can see from the pictures, Sister Liu and I went to the beach with one of our investigators Jane, an LA Amy, and a couple of other recent converts. It was so great! I took pictures! I feel like Taiwan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's amazing how God has created all of it just for us. His love is incomprehensible!! Anyway, after we got back, we visited Mian Mian Jiemei. She's the little cute grandma who loves singing, is a member of all the Christian churches here in Taiwan, and who likes to talk forever. It's hard to keep her on track, but we love her. :)
Tuesday: Tuesday was wonderful!! Sister Liu got into a bike accident last Sunday. We were crossing the street, and I was leading when I heard a scream behind me. Of course, it was Sister Liu almost getting run over by a Taxi. The taxi was turning right and didn't see Sister Liu crossing the street, so he ran over her front wheel. Thank goodness Sister Liu wasn't hit, and the Taxi brought us to a bike shop and payed for all the repairs. Anyway, we spent Tuesday walking an hour to the bike shop because Sister Liu's bike was at the bike shop. ahaha Such a great memory. We just walked and talked and just became the most unified companionship in the world. We laugh so much because we feel like an old grandpa/grandma couple. I'm the grandpa.
We also spent time powerboarding (English proselyting) outside of Costco. Afterwards, Sister Liu, our LA Amy, and I went inside to eat!! - We ended up buying a huge Costco pizza and eating until we couldn't eat anymore. PS Costco has the best free condiments: fresh-cut onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and more! It's hilarious because we LOADED our plates with ONIONS and just ate so much free condiments. Such a great memory. Oh, and when we were in the garage preparing to leave Costco, after stuffing our faces, these two guys came up to me and tried to get my number. It was really funny because Amy and Sister Liu kept telling them that they couldn't have ANY of my information. When they heard that, they asked if they could just have my name, but of course we didn't give it to them. I guess that's one of the reasons why it's important to have companions on the mission. hahaha eeeekkk! We ended up inviting them to attend church and then gave them an English tract.
Wednesday we met with Chen Mama and at beef noodle soup with her, swept, and mopped her floors. She is doing much better this week than last. Whenever we visit her, we make honey water for her throat. Her doctor gave her more medicine, so she is feeling more comfortable now. :) Sister Liu and I were so relieved.
Chen Hai Jin's daughter Luo Ping Ping woke up from her coma!!! The doctors said it was a miracle that she was able to recognize her mother's voice and open her eyes. They took her off her oxygen for a while, but then she had some problems breathing, so they put her back on for a while. Luo Ping Ping still is in shock and doesn't know where she is, so she tries to pull out all of the tubes whenever she wakes up. The doctors had to tie her down to help her stay calm. I am just so grateful for God's mercy for letting Luo Ping Ping wake up!! Chen Hai Jin even fasted in the middle of this week. Although she wasn't able to attend church, her faith really progressed, and we were able to see it through her actions!! What a wonderful testimony builder for me and for our investigator!
Lily came to English class and later discussed with me how she believes the scriptures. She believes in God, and she believes that this church is true!! She is going to move to a different city for school next week and will not be baptized right now, but I know that she will always remember our church. When the time is right, I know that she will continue investigating the church and hopefully be baptized. It's so touching to see such young people like Lily making good decisions in their lives. It's hard to find young people who think about life's purposes, etc. I know that the church truly brings greater peace and blessings to those who investigate!
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:
Sorry, every day was so great, but I'm just going to include the main events of these days for time purposes:
This whole week, it was raining because of typhoon season. It was wonderful!! :) Sister Liu and I love biking in the rain and wearing our ponchos. It's great to see people's reactions on the street when they see two young women smiling from ear to ear. They think it's pretty crazy of us. haha Anyway, we visited a ton of recent converts, less-actives, and investigators these past few days. It was funny because whenever we went inside their homes, they would always pull out the hair dryer and make me dry my hair before beginning the lessons. Taiwanese people are so wonderful. They always take such great care of me. It reminds me of how great mom and dad are! haha
One night, we were with a recent convert family, and they decided to order a pizza. It was raining cats and dogs, but Sister Liu, Amy, and I decided to go get the pizza from the shop in the rain. We were soaking wet when we got to the store and then realized that we forgot to bring a bag to cover the pizza boxes from the rain!! It was hilarious. Good thing Amy was riding a scooter, so she was able to quickly ride back home. Sister Liu and I kept spitting out water. It literally felt like we were riding our bikes in a pool of water. SOO much fun.
There's a bridge that we always ride past on our way to our appointments. Whenever we pass the bridge, Sister Liu yells, "A-gon ("Grandpa")!! Do you love me?!" and then I reply, "I LOVE YOU! A-ma!! ("Grandma") Do you love ME?" - And of course, she replies, "YEAH!" It's the best thing. Everytime we ride past that bridge, we yell the same thing.
Another day, Sister Liu and I ate lunch with Amy at Costco again. We went inside costco and bought one of their really cheap roast chickens. Then, we went down to the cafeteria and ate the whole chicken with our hands!!! It was so great. The chicken was only about 4 bucks total. It had a head and everything. It was SOOO DELICIOUS - the chicken and all those free condiments (relish, onions, etc.). What a great memory!
"Little Tree" came to church on Sunday an hour earlier than she did last Sunday!! She loves the environment and feel that it gives her. Earlier this week, she started crying because she's been having a hard time with her job. She said that she feels love and happiness whenever she comes to church, but she still isn't willing to believe in God. She doesn't have enough faith in herself or God to allow Him to help her. I told her that she needs to have hope!! If she has hope, she'll have faith, and then there will definitely be a way for God to help and direct her. :) Sometimes, all these people need is just a little bit of LOVE. Love can be expressed in so many different ways, but if we truly love these people, God allows them to feel our genuine love. I feel like there have been so many instances where I haven't been able to express my love through words, but I have been able to express it in the way I talk and the way I act.
Ashley Smith told me that loving God is the most important thing. I feel like what she said is so true. Everyday, I want to be able to say that I love God. So, I've made it a habit to ask myself, "Do you love God?" every single morning. It helps me focus my actions and work hard to be a representative of Him.
Yesterday night, we ate dinner at President Chen's house. We brought a salad and our homemade noodles and a thank you card for their family. It was so funny because President Chen though the noodles were American candy, so he ate three of them before Sister Liu noticed and told him that he had to cook the noodles first before he could eat them. It was hilarious because the whole time he was eating them, he thought, "American candy has no taste!!" (The noodles are just flour and water mixed together.) Anyway, I thought it was funny.
Ok. I hope everything is going smoothly for everyone!! Remember to read, pray, and go to church. Read scriptures, the ensign, liahona, new era, etc. Words of the prophets are so powerful.
Here's a quote from Elder Enrique R. Falabella's talk from May 2013 general conference. I think it can help everyone back at home, especially parents and couples:
"I remember the days when we used to send love letters through standard post or how we collected a few coins to call our loved ones from a phone booth or how we would draw and write love poems on plain paper. - Today all of this sounds like museum material!"
- This week's invite from Sister Chen: Take time to do one of these things for a loved one!! Write a letter or card for someone you hold dear!! Stop watching that TV! Stop checking that facebook, instagram, taking pictures of yourself. Stop playing those video games!! Take a moment to go on a walk, go on a picnic, write a letter, call a friend!!!
I know that God loves us!! His love means everything!!!