September 25, 2013

September 23, 2013

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:
Enos 1:2-5
Acts 2: 36-41
Alma 5: 12-14
Alma 5:15-18
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! :)

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