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.

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