To start, I'd just like to include this awesome portion of Meagan's email. It's kind of like Inception (a quote within a quote...):"I love this quote: "God does not begin by asking us our ability, only about our availability, if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability." -Elder Maxwell"
March 19, 2014
I cannot think of any other way of expressing my joy and my changes that I've made this past week than to just share a scripture from Alma 26:16 - "Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I CANNOT SAY THE SMALLEST PART WHICH I FEEL."
This week, I had the opportunity to go on an exchange to Zhanghua with Sister Marissa Anderson.
THERE WERE SO MANY MIRACLES.
I cannot even express how beautiful and remarkable the Spirit of God worked through and with us as we served together in the most unified, simple, joyful way I have ever served with anyone in my whole mission. Both Sister Anderson and I had the same goals, and because we were looking to glorify God in all our obedience, faith, diligence, and hope, it was as if God was revealing to us what blessings and visions/goals He has in store for us.
I honestly felt like I changed over night. When I came back to Yuanlin from that exchange, I was a different person. I AM a different person.
It's FINALLY hit me. It's just this: I have a testimony of obedience. I have a testimony of God. I have a testimony of this restored gospel. I have faith - REAL FAITH - tangible faith - faith that makes me want to proclaim the gospel for the REST OF MY LIFE - faith that is eternal - it's the kind of faith that has motivated me to not tolerate even the smallest degree of sin, the smallest degree of bad in my life.
I feel like I've risen to an entirely different plane. I feel purified. I feel free. I've really consecrated myself recently. For example, I have decided to stop writing/emailing anyone besides my family. I have taken down pictures, postcards, basically anything that would distract me from my purpose and my time here as a missionary. I have centered my whole efforts on God. I have thrown away my selfish desires, my worldly tendencies, etc.
I no longer have any desire to give into sin, to be lazy. I've literally forgotten myself in this work, and I've given up my whole life to God.
Time is short... ESPECIALLY on the mission, and it's finally changed/hit me. I know why we do the things we do. I know why we have mission rules. I know why it is VITAL to keep the commandments of God. I know why we are encouraged to do the things we do on our missions. I know why I have been called here to serve. I trust completely in Heavenly Father, and I know He can trust me. All I want to do is be HIS instrument. For, the glory really IS all His.
This mission work isn't about me. It isn't about ANY of us missionaries - at ALL.
This IS the Lord's work. For once in my life, I feel like I've truly changed and have a testimony of God and this restored gospel. It is EVERYTHING to me. God truly DOES bless us when we obey His commandments. He reveals truths, joys, mysteries, and so much more to us when we just keep His commandments.
This week, I changed. I honestly feel like I changed in a night. When I came back to Yuanlin from Zhanghua, I specifically took the time to share what I learned and know from that exchange. Sister Medrano saw that change in me. I've seen that change in me. GOD has seen that change in me, and there's no way to deny it.
When Sister Marissa Anderson and I were witnessing all these miracles, being a part of these events, being God's tools in bringing about miraculous purposes, all we could do was just let it be. All we WERE doing was out part. All we did was just GO and DO what we were supposed to be doing. It was as simple as that; yet, it brought about the most remarkable changes in me.
This morning, Sister Medrano and I talked about the changes we have made since the exchange, and they've been huge. We're happier. We're more effective. Our language is no more an issue. We teach in unity. We feel the Spirit. We are diligent. We serve the Lord and obey His commandments even if we don't know the reason why at the time He gives these promptings to us.
I've found myself joyful over the things I never thought I'd be happy about: Things like locking our bikes, saying prayers frequently, making sure we are within sight and sound of one another, loading our boxes with enough proselyting materials for hundreds of people every day.
I understand Christ's atonement more and more every day. I feel the promptings of the Spirit. I have visions, goals, and hopes. I have faith. - STRONG faith. I know that the things we do NOW really DO affect us in the future. It really does determine the blessings that God is just yearning to give us.
I've felt God's hand in my life multiple times. I cannot deny His love and His "anpai", His redeeming works and sacrifice for me. I cannot deny the truth of this restored gospel. I cannot just sit back and wait anymore. I cannot allow the grasp of Satan and Hell to rule my life anymore.
I'm letting it all go. I'm plucking the bad out of my life. I am changing and rising about those polluted ponds. I'm loosing my hands from bands that I, myself, have brought upon myself because of sin, because of weaknesses.
Everything I do now is for the Lord. It's because I love Him, and I love my family enough to sacrifice now. I'm willing to give my all now and for the rest of my life here on Earth if that is what I need to do to gain Eternal life and salvation in the Lord's House. If sweating, working, suffering, and sacrificing my life for the Lord is what I need to do in order to receive the highest glory in the mansions of our Father, then that is what I'm going to do.
It's as simple as that. I'm leaving behind the things of the world for something so, so, so much better, and there is no one who can tell me otherwise. For now, I do not fear man. I fear God. I love God, and I have that desire to continue serving Him like this not only for the last 6 months I have now, but also for the rest of my life here on this earth.
These standards and changes I am making on my mission are definitely going to last forever. I've seen God's mercy, I've seen His hand in my life, and I cannot deny any of these events. I can't deny any of these miracles. I cannot deny the very fact that I exist today to tell you these things.
While Sister Marissa Anderson and I were on the exchange together, we really just couldn't fathom, comprehend, or even begin to realize how magnificent, how merciful, how aware and involved God really is in our lives. We came to the point of utter amazement and this is all we could say:
" IT IS WHAT IT IS."
There really is no way to describe what occurred this past week. I feel God's love more than I have ever felt it in my life. I finally know what it feels like to have my own testimony of this gospel.
I think I've really just relied on others my whole life - their testimonies, their choices, their decisions. I've always been afraid of what other people think, what they do, and how they influence me, but now that I have these truths, I can really just get closer to blessing my family by following Christ, by trusting God and doing His will.
I know that God is preparing each and everyone of us to be worthy and ready to do His work. We are doing His work right now, and we cannot fall short of the Heavenly blessings He has in store for us.
Sister Medrano said it really well this morning: "God is like a super excited dad. He's just standing behind a door with a huge bag of all the best presents and more, just waiting for us to turn to Him and knock. He's just waiting to open that door and let us in - let us into a realm of Celestial, intangible glory."
Ok, so I actually changed a bit of what she said (haha... The last part was my addition) but that's basically what she said, and I just loved that comparison.
My dearest FAMILY, my dearest BROTHERS AND SISTERS, let's truly leave our nets to follow our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Let's be freed from the grasp and chains of hell.
Let's stop being lazy. Stop putting off your day of repentance. Stop being selfish. Stop comparing yourself. Stop sinning. Stop disobeying. Stop judging. Stop hating.
Start working. Start loving. Start consecrating. Start preparing. Start purifying. BE CLEAN. BE GOOD. BE TRUE.
That's not what I want you to do.
That's what GOD wants US to do.
Sister Verina Chen
PS These are pictures of the DIY gifts we made for Iris Yang, one of the most golden investigators I've met.
March 2, 2014
Dearest Family and Friends,
The work here in Yuanlin is really progressing. Today, the new set of sister missionaries are moving into our apartment with us! Sister Medrano and I spend much of the week preparing for their arrival. It was a great work out, actually, because we had to assemble two bunk beds, two desks, and then take out the old beds and a bunch of trash that was left over. Then, we cleaned our apartment super well and decorated their walls with paper cranes and paper stars. Sister Medrano and I have become masters at writing cute notes for members and investigators/rc's/la's, so it's not a surprise that we wrote notes for the new sisters as well.
Hopefully, they will feel our love and feel welcomed as well. :)
OH MAN! I can't express how much and how long our wards have been waiting for another set of sisters. :) It's really such a blessing. This week, our new ward missionary leader Brother Qiu met with us during correlation meeting to talk about a ward mission plan. It was amazing to look back at what the ward was like when I just got here and then to see it the way it is now.
The second ward over here has truly transformed. There used to be only 20 or so people at sacrament meeting, and now there are close to 60 people who come to sacrament meeting every week. Having served in both 1st and 2nd wards before, I have established pretty solid relationships with all of the members and leaders. When I was called to be a missionary for the 2nd ward, it just helped me to have more determination to serve members from BOTH wards and not just one. Just because I was called to the 2nd ward didn't mean I just stopped all contact with the 1st ward!
Anyway, we have seen so many blessings from working with the members of both wards, and now that we have sisters for the 1st ward, we can do so much more!!!! Before, the 1st ward used to be the "stronger" of the two, but now, both wards have the same ability and attendance. The members love working with each other, and we plan not only as individual wards, but as Yuanlin as a whole.
This next Sunday, for example, we have a big Family Home Evening activity for both 1st and 2nd wards to attend. The activity will be on Sunday night. We have been asked to make birthday cakes for the members who had birthdays in January, February, and March. So, we'll be busy baking. Everyone in the 1st and 2nd wards are so excited because they haven't had such a big event together for so long. :)
OH MAN. I've been here in Yuanlin for a long time and have never seen the work progress this much. I know that God truly is there for us, and He is guiding this work. I am so determined to continue working in diligence and faith. I know that initiative to do the small and simple things every second is vital to helping His work progress. I'm so grateful to have at least another transfer here in Yuanlin to finish training Sister Medrano. The people here are like family, and I never want to leave them!!!
Something that I have been thinking about recently is how merciful and loving God is. This really is God's church. Every Sunday when I look around the congregation to see the people who have come to sacrament, I am amazed at the variety of people there are. The members are all so different. They have different talents and levels of ability, but what is so great about it is that we all get along. We all know that we are God's children, and that allows us to look past any physical qualities or barriers. This gospel allows us to treat everyone the way God would want us to treat one another. This gospel teaches us how to become God-like. It encourages and commands us to stand at a higher level, to set worthier standards. We become better people. From this gospel, we only CAN become better people.
My testimony of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown so much since I came on my mission. Today is March 3rd!! In three days, it will be the one-year mark of my mission. It's so overwhelming to look back and see who I used to be and who I am now.
I don't think I'm ready to end this mission. I don't feel like I'd ever be ready to end it at all. Every day, I have the desire to change and repent, to become more Christlike, loving, enduring, faithful, diligent. I know that this gospel is for those who need healing, those who are imperfect. I then think about how everyone really is imperfect. None of us are perfect, and that is why the gospel is necessary for ALL people.
Everyone really needs God and His love. Some people are more prepared than others to hear and accept His gospel; however, I am certain that everyone really DOES need Christ's Atonement. They may not realize it or realize that they are looking for these truths, but once they find it and taste of the goodness, the happiness, the reality of these pure truths, it occurs to them that they DO need this gospel. They DO need these truths.
As a missionary, I have been trying to truly consecrate and purify myself to the work of the Lord. When I first started my mission, I used to just complain and feel sorry for myself when tired, unhappy, lonely, or homesick. Now, whenever I feel Satan influencing me and affecting my emotions, when I feel that wordly sorrow, that temporary and short-lived despair, I know that that is when I need to trust more fully and completely in God and His love. I now am able to control my fears, my anxiety, my stress and look forward with faith, hope, and charity for my God and my fellow-man.
I am enveloped with God's love. Every day, every minute, every second of my life, I feel a gratitude and an eternal joy that is greater than anything I can explain or describe. God is there for me. He is aware of me. He loves and prepares me to be His tool in His hands, and there really is no greater joy or sense of satisfaction.
All my shortcomings, all my weaknesses are nothing in comparison to God's power and His grace. I need Him. Without Him, I am nothing. By serving Him, by living for Him, by loving Him, I have found myself.
I think Satan works hard to make small, insignificant mistakes and worries into great, weights to pull us down. Satan tries blinding us. He attempts to hinder us from doing good. He makes us believe that we are worthless, selfish, filthy creatures unworthy of the Lord's hire. He wants us to be contentious, selfish, lazy, and unfaithful.
When we trust and love God, our eyes are opened to the eternal truths of the gospel. We are able to overcome every trial and hardship. We see others the way God sees them. We love and rejoice when others rejoice. We are not envious or jealous of our siblings' successes. We accept ourselves and accept others. When we are weighed down with a heavy burden, we look to Christ and God for comfort. We take upon us the burdens of those around us. We see the little miracles that happen every day. We notice how merciful and gracious God really is, and we rejoice in the good as well as the bad. We understand that we do need the bad in order to feel the good, and we have that natural desire to be God's disciples, to read the scriptures, to pray, to go to church, to do the little things that used to be tedious and boring.
God makes the most imperfect things become perfect.
That kind of sounds non-logical.
Here's a little experience to help you see what I mean.
This week, Brother Qiu, our ward mission leader, treated us missionaries and one of our investigators to hot pot. It was definitely not on a cheap expense. I felt a need to thank him for his service and hospitality, but I couldn't think of anything I could give to him that would help me express my gratitude and sincere appreciation for all he did to befriend and encourage our investigator. I knew that giving him something from a store wouldn't mean a thing to him. For all I knew, he could buy anything he wanted any time he wanted. So, on Friday, we had some extra weekly planning time. I got out my paints and a piece of paper and just started painting. I didn't have a paint brush, so I used a chopstick and a sponge. At first, I doubted myself and my abilities, but I trusted in God and just started painting. I shocked myself. What resulted from a bunch of paints, a chopstick, and a sponge didn't really end up to be what anyone would expect.
That night, I wrote a thank you note on the back of the painting and presented it to the Qiu family after dinner. I was delighted to see his face light up in appreciation and joy at seeing my efforts and my time spent in creating this small but thoughtful gift.
I realized later that God is kind of like me when I was painting. Like me, He worked/works with imperfect tools. We as His missionaries may be like chopsticks... Small, simple, imperfect. He could buy a paintbrush if He wanted, but He chooses not to. I could have gone out and bought a paintbrush and an expensive painting for the Qiu family. However, I didn't. I worked with the materials I had and was still able to build/create something more unique and beautiful that the Qiu Family expected.
So, here's the moral of the story: God works with us. He knows we are imperfect. However, He is able to refine us and use us as His tools to fulfill His purposes. We, when we trust in Him and do His work, are able to bring about a work more marvelous and wonderful, more beautiful and glorious than maybe a perfect person could ever bring.
I feel like my comparisons are always a little strange and may seem super insignificant, but I hope that you kind of understand what I am trying to get through to you. I definitely feel like God understands me well enough. He understands me enough to know that I could learn something great from something so small.
Sometimes I feel like I'm such a weirdo, or I'm such a different person, but I think I'm really happy that I am the way I am right now, especially because God has really revealed so many truths and joys of this gospel.
I am grateful for this work, and I am so determined to serve God to the end.
We are all so important in this work. We are all called of God to do His work, and I know that He does bless and sanctify us if we are worthy and are keeping His commandments.
Love you all so much,
Sister Verina Chen
PS Sister Medrano is hilarious. We have the best times together. I love her so much. She is so humble and teaches me every single day.