March 30, 2014

3/31/14 Music Works

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"

WOW.  I love that so much.  Anyway, this is what I've been learning for a while:  (Elder Weiyi Le forwards his email to everyone every week, and I caught a glimpse of it, so I decided to share my favorite part:

Life is hard. There is no doubt about that. However, the trials we face are not punishments, as we so often perceive. Behind every obstacle is an outpouring of blessings, if we have the eyes to see. The heartaches we feel make us human, and truly, they define us. What do the scriptures say? There must be an opposition in all things. I'm grateful for the turmoil I've had to endure. It's given me a capacity for that Christ-like compassion mentioned so often in the scriptures. In the same way, I'm also grateful for the trials and hardships in others' lives. I know that because of the difficulties we endure, we learn how to love. With that gratitude, however, comes an indescribable pain -- to see the suffering that plagues the lives of those I love. At times, I implode, because I see the things happening around me and I'm helpless to do anything about it. In the end, the only relief I can have is from our Savior. Though we may be powerless, the Savior has all power to comfort us and bring light again into our lives. I trust Him with my life and the lives of those I love, because He has already died for them. 

Revelations 21:4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nocrying, neither shall therbe any more pain, for the former things are passed away.)

 It's true.

This is also very true:

"When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives." -Ezra Taft Benson

I couldn't say it any better.

I feel like this email is just going to be a compilation of quotes from prophets and scriptures... So, I guess I now know what I'm going to write about.  haha

So, since we get to watch general conference soon, I thought it'd be appropriate to write a little about how important prophets are.  I've recently been working diligently on teaching simply and clearly with short/powerful statements.  I'm really grateful for God and His way of helping me grow.  He has helped me improve every day by providing me with great members who are supportive, who pray for missionary work, and who are willing to sacrifice time to serve their fellow brothers/sisters in the world.  Every day this week, members were calling us over to the church because they had brought their friends - REFERRALS - to the church to listen to the first lessons.  

This week, we saw MIRACLES.  We had five member referrals who we helped teach simply/clearly and who have seeds already planted in their hearts.  Due to schedules and time constraints, we may not have many opportunities to meet with these people again, but they all expressed their willingness to come back with their member friends when opportunities arise.  :)  

Okay, back to the topic of choice: PROPHETS.  Why is it so important for us to read the "Liahona"? Why is it so important for us to listen to the general broadcast of general conference twice a year?!  Who are the prophets?! What do they do?!

Prophets are representatives of Christ.  They are chosen of God to preach/share/teach with the children of men, the revelations and truths that God Himself reveals to them.  Prophets are chosen authorities who lead and guide the children of men throughout the dispensations of time.  Through prophets and the revelation/guidance they receive directly from God, we, too, may receive personal revelation and guidance in our lives today.  

Because the ultimate goal in our lives is to prepare ourselves spiritually (and naturally, physically) to return to live with our Eternal Father in Heaven, we listen and pay heed to the words of the prophets.  The words they speak are guidelines, are ways for us to reach our full potential of becoming who our loving, perfect Father in Heaven would have us become.

Sister Medrano and I have been spending a lot of time in the Liahonas from February and March this past week.  Every day, we find interesting talks that apply not only to the church, but also to the general population today.  One of the talks that we have really been taking to heart is the one titled "Living a Life of Peace, Joy, and Purpose" by Richard G. Scott.  I invite you to look it up and read it together or personally during this week.  Set some goals, and make some changes. 

There is nothing better than making those little decisions, pushing yourself more and more every day, and then feeling like you accomplished and overcame your natural, lazy tendencies.  For example, deciding to go out for a run/walk or deciding to serve others instead of staying inside all day on the computer, watching t.v., or texting can make a huge impact on your life.

I think a really big part of being on the mission has helped me realize and work hard to develop the skills of self-mastery, patience, hard work, and optimism.

Every day, we have the decision to either be dragged down by the polluted world and the "ideals" that it tries to impress upon our lives, or we can rise to a higher plane and be freed of negative/self-destructive thoughts and weakness.  WE are the ones who choose our destiny.  We have this opportunity to pay heed to the words of our dearly beloved prophets and make changes to permit success and long-lasting, eternal glory.

This week is the fifth week if the move call.  Sister Amanda Oaks is over here in Taiwan, and we really are going to be putting together a musical fireside with other professional instrumentalists here in Yuanlin.  We had to make sure that if I do move next move call, I will be able to have permission to come back to Yuanlin for the fireside (probably on the 27 of April).  If it really does happen, then oh man!!! We are going to be opening a lot of hearts to the gospel over here!

The family that we tracted into last week invited us over for lunch this Saturday.  When we went over, we met the wife and the oldest son. He's 14 years old and plays the violin.  Since he was pretty good, I asked if he wanted to come and perform during the musical fireside we have coming up.  He said he'd love to, and he's going to invite one of his friends to play "How Great Thou Art" (the violin duet) with us.


Alright, so I'm really excited about general conference.  I'll be looking out for Aunt Sean and other ward members who are in the tabernacle choir!!! :) hehe.  I'm sure everyone at home is going to be super excited and happy to be home and just watch the broadcast comfortably in our family room.

Hope you are all happy and healthy. 

After all, we are an eternal family, and what better joy could we have than knowing the truths of this restored gospel?!?!

Love you all,

Let's keep being converted over and over again to our dear Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ.

-Sister Verina Chen

March 26, 2014

March 24, 2014 - Cleanse and Purify

Dearest Family,

I got the surprise package full of vitamins, granola bars, chocolate, letters, etc.

This week, Sister Medrano and I worked REALLY HARD. We are stressed much of the time, but I think it is definitely a manageable and healthy kind of stress. We use the stress resources daily and are calm/at peace because we know God will bless us for our efforts, and all we need to do is our best.

Sister Medrano and I have been working very hard with the ward. There is a wonderful family in our ward who is very involved and on-top of missionary work. Brother Yang Rong Yu and his family have been praying for us and our investigators every day for months, and we visit them at least once every two weeks. Last week, they gave us a challenge to contact and get the information of 70 solid investigators/referrals in one week. Guess what, President?! - Sister Medrano and I did it! We tracted, contacted, and prayed with faith every day this last week and saw so many miracles.

I thought that this was a perfect scripture to describe what I have most recently realized in my life/mission work:

"But no man is possessor of all things except he be PURIFIED and CLEANSED from all sin. And if ye are PURIFIED and CLEANSED from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done."
-D&C 50:28-29

I ran into that scripture one morning during scripture study and was just blown away because, I mean, just look at it!!!!  All we need to do right now is to be PURIFIED and CLEANSED from ALL sin.  It's as simple as that, yet, it is probably one of the hardest things in life that man can do.

Working with the Yang family has been such a blessing.  We went over there for dinner because they had promised to treat us out if we hit our goal of 70 referrals.  After dinner, Yang dx and jm wanted to role-play with us, so Sister Medrano and I practiced teaching them lessons 1 and 2 with them.

Guess what happened?!

When we were role-playing, the Yang family totally knew what to ask us to get us up on our toes.  I was pretty much relying on the Spirit the whole time.  After we role-played, there was a thought that just kept running through my head: "Man, I've been out for a year, and my teaching skills ... yeah, I'll just use this word once... SUCK."

Anyway, long story short, my lessons 1 and 2 were torn apart, and Yang dixiong helped me see my faults. However, it was EXACTLY what I needed.  I almost felt like he turned into Dr. Irene Peery-Fox and was critiquing my work, like she critiques my piano performance.  Although it was a little painful, and I felt a little hopeless for a millisecond, I grew and learned so much from it.

I left their home feeling determined, feeling more determined than I ever have, to go home, work in faith and diligence, and just figure things out.  This morning for personal study, I created a diagram of the lessons, drew the whole lesson plan out on paper, found supporting scriptures for each principle, and figured out a better, simpler, easier, concise way to teach my investigators.

I'm actually really excited right now to just go home and show you all what I figured out last night/this morning.  I'm so blessed to be here in Yuanlin.  I feel like I was definitely sent here to be trained by this ward family.  I was sent here to meet certain people, but mostly to improve and grow myself.

Miracle: You know Chen Shi Xuan, the girl who I ran into the first Sunday I was here in Yuanlin on the way to church?!!?

Well, she was originally going to get baptized in July, but now she's a week C, getting baptized in two weeks on the 13'th of April.  

So, here's the story:

The first time I ran into here was when Sister Cole and I were waiting a train track for the train to pass.  Shi Xuan was just on her bike, and I had never met her before.  To me, she was just another random investigator girl on the street.  That day, I had a prompting to talk to this girl.  So, I did.  When I asked her where she was headed, Shi Xuan said that she was going to our church!!! I was shocked and asked her what church she was going to.  Then, she was like, "YOURS!" As we rode back to the church, I just kept having this thought in my head pop up over and over again: "You need to help this girl get baptized." Anyway, we found out that she had already been coming to church for a while because of a member friend, but she hadn't really been taking the lessons.

So, we started REALLY meeting with her after Sister Cole went home from her mission.  We've been meeting with her every week since then for six months.  It's been really interesting because her parents were really weary at first and didn't want her to get baptized until she was 20.  However, we've been really helping her strengthen her faith and build her testimony to have that desire to get baptized and follow God's commandments.

We've been fasting and praying for her every week for a while, and for the first time yesterday after church, Sister Medrano and I were able to go meet her parents for the first time.  

Shi Xuan knows that I might be moving at the end of this move call, so she wanted to bump her baptismal date up to the 13th of April, the Sunday before I may/probably have to move.  

Anyway, we rode to her house after church yesterday and met her Mom at the door.  She let us in and treated us to an awesome lunch (that's where I ate the duck liver, Dad) (BEST HOMEMADE TRADITIONAL LUNCH EVER).  During lunch, Shi Xuan just whipped out her question and asked her mom if she could get baptized on April 13th.  Surprisingly, her Mom was understanding.  Her opinions totally had changed, and she said if Shi Xuan wanted to get baptized that bad, that she could.

It was a MIRACLE amongst many others.

So, before I leave Yuanlin, I will be able to see Shi Xuan get baptized.  I know that that is just one example of God's tender mercies and love for us.

This week, Sister Medrano and I really did spend a lot of time tracting and contacting.  It was tiring and hard, but with prayer and faith, diligence, and perseverance, we were able to see much success.  This week, we found 7 new investigators.

Here's a good tracting story:

We were tracting this afternoon in this little area in Dacun, near Daya Da Xua (Daye College).  That day, we left knowing we had to head towards the college.  On our way, I felt a prompting to make a left.  Not knowing why, but trusting that God had someone prepared where I turned, I followed the prompting and made a turn into a little neighborhood.  

We started tracting, got rejected by a few old people who couldn't speak Mandarin and weren't interested in "Jidu Jiao".  Anyway, we said a prayer and then tracted into this young father.  He took our number and said that he was interested but might not have a lot of time.  His name was Andy.  

Anyway, after we left, we kept tracting, got turned down a few more times, said a few more prayers, and then tracted into this couple.

Their last name is "Li".  Anyway, once they saw us, they immediately let us in to sit down with them.  They had elders tract into them before, but they didn't really listen to the elders a couple of years ago.  When they saw us, they let us in and talked to us about our missions.  They felt pretty moved, liked us, and then invited us to go with them to their golf course right next to the college just up the street.  So, taking advantage of this golden opportunity, Sister Medrano and I jumped into their car and left with this cute couple to the golf course where they had free access to golf carts and everything.

We watched them golf, they took us through the course in a golf cart, and we were able to talk to them about the gospel.  After it was all over, they treated us out to dinner at a little family restaurant.  Since they new the restaurant's owners, we were able to get the restaurant family's contact information as well.  

It was a huge miracle, and this week, Sister Medrano and I are going to go find the Li couple up in Dacun again.  That day, they were super surprised.  They're not usually home at the time of day that we were tracting; However, it just happened that they were off work that day, so they took it as a kind of sign.

Cool story, eh?!

Another miracle:  Sister Medrano and I went to visit Chu Agon/Ama on Saturday, but they weren't home.  Since we were in Yongjing already, we decided to do some tracting.  We said a prayer and headed off.  We had no idea where we were going/what we were doing, but we decide we should just go and do anyway.

The first house we ran into, we didn't find much success.  The place we were in was pretty agricultural, and there were just these old people working in their rice fields and stuff.  The first person we tried talking to was an old A-ma who didn't understand a single thing I was saying.  It wasn't a surprise that she didn't understand my broken Taiwanese either... Anyway, it was a good experience just laughing and trying to communicate with her.  At least she knows that I think she's cute and happy.

Anyway, that was that, and we moved on.  Sister Medrano suddenly needed to pee really bad, and man, there was no 7-11 or station any where in sight.  So, I felt like the best bet was just to ask someone to let us in to use their bathroom.

The next house we biked into, I stopped and saw a man standing outside, talking on the phone.  After he finished his conversation, I asked if we could use his bathroom.  He wasn't actually the owner of the house, but he was good friends to the owner and let us in to use the bathroom.  His name was Tu Xian sheng.  

Sister Medrano was able to go to the bathroom, AND we were invited to sit down with Tu Xian Sheng and the owner of this fairly large house, his name was Gu Xian Sheng.  Don't worry.  Gu Xian Sheng had a kid there, and his cute mother was present as well, so it was kind of a family situation here.

Anyway, they gave us some water and just talked to us.  They knew that we were missionaries from the start because they've both been to Utah.  Turns out their English was pretty good, and they thought it was great that we were out here on our missions.  We were able to share a lot about our church with them, invited them to English class, and then shared with them a little about ourselves.

When they heard that I was a piano performance major, they wanted to hear me play, and it was great because Gu has two little boys who are musicians.  They listened to my play my Liszt Hungarian Fantasy, were impressed, and wanted us to come over and teach their kids English.

It's a great opportunity, and Sister Medrano and I are blessed to have these doors open to us in such remarkable ways.  

Another miracle: We have a family here visiting Yuanlin/Taiwan from Utah.  YES, they are from Utah, and yes, they are related to Jenny Oaks Baker.  YES, this sister's name is Amanda Baker, and she is amazing at the viola. YES, we have correlated with them to hold a musical fireside on the 12th of April.  YES, we have the music, I am performing, and we have plans to invite the top musicians here in Yuanlin and the zone.  YES, there were promising potential investigators and families who will come to this musical fireside, and YES, this is a miracle.

The work with the ward has been amazing.  The new investigators that we met this week - They are all so GOLDEN, and they are totally going to progress, especially after I master teaching them the first lesson.

GAH.  It's like miracle after miracle after miracle, and it's all because of God.  It's because we're keeping His commandments, and it's totally worth it.  Right now, I feel like I have so much potential, so much room to improve, and so much hope to look forward to.  All I need to do is work, work, work, trust in the Lord, pray, have faith, work more, and there... MIRACLES.

Anyone can do it, and what better day to start than TODAY?!

I know that the way we serve our missions now will really determine what kind of person/what kind of a life we will live for the rest of our lives. I have that desire to serve God, be continually repenting, praying, and work, work, work, work 'til I drop if I have to. Salvation wasn't meant to be easy, and we're definitely sweating over here.

Love you all so mucho, you know that!

Sister Verina Chen

PS Sorry no pictures... You know the rules: No camera whatsoever on any day BUT P-day.

That means yes, I CAN take pictures today, but if I did, it'd probably be of me emailing, shopping, and PREPARING for this week... Yeah, not very interesting.  

Plus, I don't like looking at pictures that I've taken myself anymore.  It seems a little narcissistic to me... but that doesn't mean you can't.  It's just a random change of opinion.

So, just picture me serving out here with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, and that'll be enough.  That's better than any picture I could send back home, right?!

PPS I have such great friends!! I sent that consecration email out to everyone last week, and all my friends are super supportive of my consecration efforts.  :) I definitely feel a lot better now that I'm spending my full email time emailing family and investigators/RCLA's instead of thinking about friends back at home or on missions that I will definitely see again after my mission.

Alright. :)  Talk to you soon! 



PPPS Maybe if I become a facebook missionary, I will learn how to type Chinese characters really fast into the computer.  haha ㄅㄆㄇㄈ ㄉㄊㄋㄌㄍㄎㄏㄐ...

March 19, 2014

March 17, 2014 - CONSECRATION

Dearest family and friends,

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.


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: 


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 9, 2014

March 10, 2014

It's a weird thing being a one-year-old missionary.  I actually don't feel that old, but as a sister and only having six months left, it's only natural that other missionaries and even members start talking to you about how you're going home "so soon" and oh, how "old" you are... PSH, whatever!

Last night as Sister Medrano and I were delivering "thank you" notes to families in the ward who had treated us out to dinner last week, she mentioned that I'm like the "mother" of our district. haha She said it was because I've been here in Yuanlin for the longest time.  I was thinking about it, and I couldn't help but laugh because that's the way I DO feel sometimes over here.  The missionaries and members always ask me about EVERYTHING (haha seriously, like everything), and I haven't really noticed it before.

Sister Medrano asked me if I felt trunky or if I hated all the time reminders. To be honest, what they say and ask hasn't really affected me so far, but that's probably because it hasn't quite hit me yet, and I feel like there is so much more for me to learn and experience out here in Taiwan.  God's totally in control, and He'll send me where I need to go and be at the right time and the right place, so I'm not really nervous about anything.

Can I just start out by saying how sweet little Sister Medrano is?! After power week, she left a little card on my table expressing her gratitude for all the things we had done together.  Then, on the date of my anniversary, I had just taken a shower, stepped out, and found a plate of fruit and cake that she prepared for me.  She is seriously the sweetest trainee anyone could ever have!  I love serving with her so much.

Alright, on with the events: On Monday, the new sisters Sister Burton and Sister Parkinson moved into our apartment.  They are both so cute and so lively, perfect for whitewashing into the 1st ward.  I knew they were coming in the week before, so I had prepared/called up the bishop, relief society president, young women's president, ward mission leader, and other important leaders in the 1st ward so that they could meet with them the first few days they were here.  We worked together to update the area book, map, update APR information, and schedule appointments for them to meet investigators, rc's, la's, etc.  Yeah, lots of paper work, but I kind of like doing that now!

The transition went really smoothly!!  It's only been a week since they got here, and they already know the area and the members pretty well!  Sister Medrano was so patient with me when we needed to take the sisters to their appointments in Shetou and Yongjing.  What they are doing can be stressful, so we've been helping them out as much as we can to get the work going as soon as possible over here in Yuanlin.

The work has really taken a new shift since the sisters have arrived.  With our new ward mission leader, we have a ward mission plan that is definitely going to help us find a new pool of investigators!!  Sister Medrano and I are determined to be diligent and obedient every day as we work to find those who are prepared to receive the truths of this gospel.

During DTM on Tuesday, we were given an invitation to use the last 30 minutes to allow us missionaries to have a testimony meeting.  Everyone in our district had an opportunity to bear testimony of the gospel.  Something that came out of my mouth while I was bearing my testimony kind of just stuck with me from that moment until now.  I said something along the lines of every single one of us needing the gospel because we are all broken people.  Sometimes, we feel like we always need to be fixing others, when in reality, the only one we can truly fix and the one who needs fixing is ourselves.  

This mission has taught me that the only thing I really CAN control is my own behavior, my own actions, and my own testimony.  I can in no way control my companion, my investigators, my dear brothers and sisters who I associate with every day. Sometimes, we need to take that step back to evaluate whether or not our expectations are righteous expectations, whether or not our expectations and goals are in align with the Lord's.  

One morning, Sister Medrano and I were feeling a little under the weather, so I decided to come up with a random activity to help us get going and stop wallowing in that gray-colored moment.  We decided to write down all the negative things about ourselves, the things that other people would judge us for, the things that Satan wanted us to feel about ourselves.  We shared them with one another and then RIPPED the paper into tiny, tiny, tiny pieces.  We then wrote down all the things that we are good at, the things that we think people like about us, the things God likes about us.  We then glued that positive paper into our journals.

It was a little random activity that we decided to do for companionship study, but I think it actually worked!! Writing all those things down really helped me see from a bigger perspective.  I realized that most of the tedious things that were bringing me down don't really matter in the end run.  For example, Satan tries to make us worry about little things that don't really determine whether we are successful children of God.  As missionaries, here are some common stresses that can bring us down: our ability to speak the language, our outward appearance, the way people treat us, our comparisons to other missionaries, our key indicators, etc.  

If you read in Mosiah chapter two, you will find that none of those things that bring us down really matter in the long run.  All that King Mosiah teaches his people over and over again is to "keep the commandments" diligently.  In my favorite verse of that chapter, verse 41, we see that when we keep the commandments, we are blessed both spiritually and temporally. 

I know that what the scriptures say is true.  Sometimes, we get so worried about the little things in life.  (PS I'm sorry if I've said this same thing over and over again in previous emails.  It's something that just seems to come up over and over again in my life recently).  However, we must remember that in the end, the only things that really do matter are whether or not we are diligently serving our God by keeping His commandments, by doing His will, by living by righteous standards.

Whenever Sister Medrano and I get stressed, we always have to remind ourselves of this principle.  It really helps us to be more accepting of ourselves.  It helps me, at least, to recognize how far I really have already come and that Satan is trying his hardest to bring us down all the time.  He makes us believe that we are failures, that we can't do hard things.  Satan is the one who wants us to compare ourselves to others and think negatively.

With faith and hope, however, God will always be there leading us.  He allows bad things to happen, and He allows Satan to influence us, but that is because He also has granted us the agency to choose happiness or sadness, to choose eternal damnation or eternal exaltation.  It's really a happy thing!!! :) Guess who's in control of determining your own destiny?! Who is the one in control of your attitude, your feelings, your life?!


You are your own agent!

On Wednesday, since I wasn't teaching the kids anymore for English class, I kind of had to switch teaching modes.  We had 10 students come to the intermediate class. Sister Medrano and I spent most of the time introducing ourselves and getting to know our students a little better.

At the end of English class, Jia Shan, who had been helping the new sisters with the little kids, came down and told me how it went.  Apparently, the bishop's son, K-9 had been dropped off at the church to go up for English.  Of course, the teachers had changed, but he had no idea.  So, upon finding the new sisters in the room, he immediately ran back home, in tears.  He thought I had moved, and he was really sad because the week before, he gave me some star candy, and I told him that I would share it with all the students in English class the next week.  Of course, it didn't go as I'd expected, and he totally was in shock.

Ok, fine.  This story is a little sad, but I thought it was hilarious. K-9 is super cute.  His house is like a block away from the church, but on his way home in the dark, there was this stranger lady who was honestly concerned for him.  When she asked if he needed help, he, with tears streaming down his little face, said "no", and continued on his way home.  

Later that week, during the ward dinner, I saw K-9, so I went up to him to say hello and give him a hug, but he seemed a little angry.  He kept running away from me.  That's when I figured it was probably because of English class.  When I asked him if it was because we had switched teachers, he nodded and just pouted a little.  I had to explain to him that I really still loved him and that it wasn't my choice to switch teachers!! I wasn't the English leader.  After he understood, he suddenly became his normal self, and everything was back to normal.

 haha Oh man.  I just thought I'd share with you that little, tender story.  It's the little things and events that happen in my life that allow me to be happier and rejoice in our wonderful Savior and Redeemer, for He is the one who allowed us this life on Earth.  He is the one who allows us to experience joy, experience pain, and still have the opportunity to return to our loving Heavenly Father.  I love Him so much!!! I love Heavenly Father because He really IS our Heavenly Father.  We are His children.  We are all brothers and sisters, and nothing in the world can take that knowledge away from me!  These truths are what motivate me to be good, to be kind, to be patient, to be virtuous, to be worthy, to be obedient.  Because we are all family, I can work that much harder to love and have charity for everyone I meet. 

On Saturday morning, one of our ward missionaries Zhang Ya Ting (who is preparing to leave for a mission pretty soon) had one of her friends come o the church.  Her referral is a young, college student named Huang Yu Han.  We've actually met with her before, but every time we schedule, she is super late or just cancels the lesson.  This time, she was late as usual, but we were able to catch her at the church after we ran to another lesson in Shetou.  When we asked her why she was late all the time, she told us that it was because she had no interest in the church.  Before I let her completely shut us off, I asked her if we could just watch the short Restoration DVD with her.

We put the DVD in and couldn't figure out how to get the Chinese recording on, so we watched it in English.  I had to translate for her as the video was playing, but oh man.  When it came to the First Vision, the Spirit came flooding into the room.  As I was translating, words that I normally wouldn't be able to say so smoothly just popped out of my mouth.  It was a miracle that I was able to translate the movie the way I did that day. 

After the movie ended, I looked again at Huang Yu Han and asked her what she thought, how she felt, and if she understood why we do what we do now.  Her countenance completely had changed, and she committed at that time to pray sincerely and honestly about the prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration.  We even committed her to sit down with us and introduce her to the Book of Mormon.

That experience really strengthened my testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit just kicked me in the face and reminded me why I did come on my mission, why I am the way I am right now, why m parents joined the church, why so many people have sacrificed and still sacrifice so much for the welfare of God, for the welfare of the church as a whole.

I know that Joseph Smith was called of God to establish His church in the fullness and truth it contains in these latter days.  

Sometimes, we forget how important it is for us to bring these truths and these scriptures to our friends and families today.  If we just take a moment to realize the importance of these truths, we will understand and feel the reality of this life.  We will no longer stand in fear of bearing testimony, of inviting our loved ones to repent, of standing for truth, and ultimately, loving these brothers and sisters that God has placed in our live's paths.

This week during the 1st/2nd ward dinner/activity on Saturday night, there was an investigator family that showed up.  Their name is Gao.  Anyway, they are English class referrals.  Last Wednesday during the first English class of the transfer, our English leader assigned me to be the teacher of the intermediate class (zongji ban).  It was a little bitter-sweet leaving the kids to teach a range of 12-40 year-old students.  However, that day was when I invited the Gao family to the ward activityon Saturday, and they accepted!!  They even brought a plate of delicious peppers and chicken.  Then, they participated a little in our ward's dance activity.

To end this week's email, I'd like to share a scripture that really helped Sister Medrano and I work through this week.  

Moroni 8:16-18

"Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear."
"And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation."
"For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity."

"Fear not what man can do; for PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT ALL FEAR."  

Love you all.  I mean it.

Sister Verina Chen

March 2, 2014

March 3, 2014 A Year of Paints and Wooden Sticks

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.

PPS Going to the temple was amazing this week.  We got to see one of the new temple videos.  I just loved that time we had to pray and ponder.