Dearest family and friends:
This week was full of miracles and events. I. Am. Speechless.
Really, every time I thought about writing this week's email this past week, I just can't include/express the joy and number of miracles I have seen. There's just too much.
Last night during the musical fireside, I found my eyes welled-up with tears.
This week, Sister Shih and I went on exchanges with the Donghai and the Fengyuan sisters. God's really blessed and supported me as I've served in the Taichung Taiwan Mission.
Since my mind is running at the speed of light, I'm just going to include my journal entry from this morning's personal study:
Right after church at the Wuchuan church, Sister Amanda Oaks picked Sister Shih and me up to ride down to rehearse at the Yuanlin chapel. We rode down to Yuanlin in their big van and arrived around 1:30. I had time to transcribe the rest of the "Be Still My Soul/Where Can I Turn for Peace?" arrangement. It was stressful, but I ended up being able to get the key change and the rest of the skeleton chords for the 2nd half of the song.
Sister Parkinson, Jamin, and I all rehearsed a few times... I was super stressed, but after saying a prayer, we were able to get it down, and I felt better about everything.
The two investigator violinists arrived around 3:00, so Sister Oaks, her husband, and I rehearsed "O Divine Redeemer" with them. They were fabulous, and the quartet was pretty unified/together. Sister Oaks and I then rehearsed her "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" with me. I accompanied her on the organ. It was magnificent. The organ is truly an sacred and holy instrument.
We then rehearsed "The Swan" and "Our Savior's Love". By the time we finished, it was 5:00, and I had time to run through my Schumann concerto and Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase. Sister Oaks helped me turn the pages for the Schumann since I didn't have it memorized. It was a miracle that I was able to have half of it ready to perform for Sunday night. God really blesses us when we consecrate our time and talents to Him. Preparing the program in such a little time was almost an impossible feat, but with God, all things are possible, and it turned out great!
At 6:00, we finally took a break. We had a final rehearsal with the mic, and then everyone ran home to get a bite to eat/change into something professional.
When I saw Aunt Joyce, Goo goo, A Jim and A-m, I couldn't help myself! I ran and gave them all the biggest hugs!!! We immediately started chatting and taking pictures.
Aunt Joyce was so darling. Outside the church, there is a tree that had blossomed and its flowers had fallen to the bushes below it. She ran over and grabbed some of the flowers to put in our hair. :) We had fun taking pictures. They were also so nice to give me lavender flowers, pineapple cakes, and little sweets. Uncle gave me a bouquet of Ferrero Rocher flowers. I ended up handing them out to my fellow performers/members that I loved and will probably not see for a long time after the performance.
Agon/Ama/Da-jo-jo/Uncle Joe/Agon's Japanese friend soon arrived at the church. I had the same reaction - haha - Just ran straight up to Da-Jo-Jo to give him a big hug. I then saw A-ma and A-gon and gave them hugs too. Can I just say that I have the cutest grandparents in the world?!
I was so surprised that both Agon and Ama came all the way down to see me perform. Da-Jo-Jo had taken a picture of Agon/Ama on the high speed train. It was adorable and hilarious because Agon was yawning, and Ama was just sitting there all small and cute. I love them so much. Ama also loved that I was wearing her shirt that she gave to Mom. I kept telling her that I loved it, and she kept telling me that I looked beautiful.
I just couldn't leave A-ma and A-gon alone. I kept holding A-ma's hand and telling her how happy I was to see her, and Da-Jo-Jo was taking pictures. Agon gave me a red envelope, and Da Jo Jo gave me some Japanese cookies from Kevin. The Japanese friend gave me some chopsticks. I'll bring them home. They're super cool. I told him about Amy and Ashley, my two best friends who are serving in Japan right now. Then, I kept saying "arigato" and bowing over and over again. hahaha A-gon/Mom/Dad taught me well. They loved it.
Finally, it was time for the performance. There were about 180 people who came total. It was amazing that we had to open up the gym. The programs were handed out, people got to meet the missionaries, and everyone loved listening to the music. Because the piano was kind of blocked by the risers, I brought Agon and Ama and their Japanese friend to the risers to sit next to me as I played the piano. Of course, Agon brought out his camera and was taking selfies the whole time... with the waterbottle self-timer device that he loves so much... Oh, and he gave me those little lights in the little red bags at the end of the concert. So cute.
Elder Ruan from the quorum of the seventy presided, our stake president Chen was there as well, and President and Sister Blickenstaff loved the music.
Everything happened so quickly, I can't even remember how I got through it... During the concert, everyone kept clapping. It was a little awkward because I didn't really know what to do, so I just turned to the audience, smiled, and nodded my head. After every piece, I would turn to Agon and Ama, smile, and blow them kisses. They loved it. :)
Ama and Agon are beautiful. President and Sister Blickenstaff loved meeting them, and everyone kept saying that I look like Agon. Others think I look like Agon.
Regardless, it was an amazing experience, I was exhausted from playing all day, but I am ETERNALLY GRATEFUL for all the miracles that we were able to see from our efforts.
It just goes to show that God always provides away for us imperfect people to accomplish His perfect work. About 80% of the audience were investigators. It was wonderful to come back and see my English class students, my recent convert Chen Shi Xuan, and my beloved members from Yuanlin.
There's just too much good in this world.
I can't express to you all how much I felt of God's love and mercy. My aunts and uncles from Dad's side of the family are so charitable and cute. I couldn't stop smiling when I thought about how much they love me, even though I haven't been around them so much. They really are the sweetest examples of love and selfless service, and so is Mom's side of the family.
I was SO OVERJOYED to hear that grandpa and grandma could come, and when I saw Uncle Joe and Uncle Alan, I was beaming!!!!
Man, I am exhausted just thinking about how merciful and great God is. Who would have thought I would be able to share my talents and preach the gospel at the same time?! It really is a dream come true, and none of these events would have been able to come together if it weren't for His hand.
All I can say is this: God is a God of miracles.
Anything is possible when we put our trust and talents in Him.
This is God's work, not man's.
He has shaped me into someone I never knew I could become.
I made a promise to myself and to God: I will always consecrate my talents for the building of God's kingdom.
I know that this is the Lord's work. This week, Sister Shih and I are going on exchanges with the sisters of Shalu and Tanzi. It'll be great!
Love you all,
Sister Verina Chen