Monday, January 25, 2010

1/24/10 the mechanics of missionary work‏

Dear Family,

My companion and I have colds today. It is most inconvenient but hopefully we can rest and tomorrow feel better. This last week has been a really good, busy week and we pretty much are booked up with lessons until Thursday already. I like being busy.

We had another baptism this last week. Lin Jie Yun got baptised! It was really great to see her. I remember she called us and I answered and set her up for a lesson but we had no idea who she was. We called her "Lin with lots of ones" because there were a lot of ones in her phone number and we had no other way to identify her from our other Lins until weeks after we started meeting with her. Then she could only meet once a week so progressed so slowly it seemed like she would never get baptised, then all of a sudden her baptism date was here and she was ready and it went through. I like getting to watch investigators progress from beginning through baptism. I am finally beginning to see the "fruits of my labors" and realizing that what I do everyday is actually affecting people in positive ways.

Amy asked me what deadstack is, so I guess I will tell you more about what finding investigators is like in Taiwan.

Most of our potential investigators come from people we meet on the street as we bike places. At every stoplights we pull up next to someone, teach them two principles, and ask them to write down their information, set up a time to meet, and set a baptismal goal with them for five weeks out. I usually say something like:"Did you know you have a loving Father in Heaven? He is the father of our spirits. This is His Son, Jesus Christ. He came to Earth to be our Savior. In 1820, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and through him restored their gospel. This restoration of the gospel includes the restoration of important ordinances that allow us to have eternal families. Do you think tomorrow or the day after are more convenient that we can meet for twenty minutes and share about this? Have you heard of baptism? Baptism is an expression our love to God and that we are willing to follow Him. In return, He promises us special blessings. We are holding a baptismal service on ____. We would like to set a goal to help you prepare to be baptised on that date. We will share and if you believe it is true, are you willing to be baptised then?" If they set up, we put them on our APR (active progress report) and meet with them or keep calling them for a couple weeks if they don't come to their lesson. The deadstack is not a place, it is a stack of contact cards that have people's information but the person wouldn't set up a time to meet. Usually the people are mediocre in interest. However, someone I called from deadstack last movecall got baptised so it is worth calling through. I hope this is interesting to you.

I think missionary work in Taiwan is different than in a lot of places. We rarely tract - it's really pretty ineffective. We also find investigators through member referrals, and referrals from other missionaries (who are usually found on the street).

President Hoer had a missionary with programming experience spend a couple months creating a referral system for missionary phones that allows us to send referrals to each other in Taiwan, tracks how many times they have been called, etc. It is really great. President Hoer's business experience is a really great asset to the mission; he has implemented a lot of things that I can't imagine how other missions can function without. Like, how do other missions live without contact cards, baptismal planners, church address fliers, etc? I don't know. This is probably my most boring email ever, sorry.

Let's do a Tastes of Taiwan section. This week: Donguacha - Dongua tea. Dongua is translates to wintermelon my companion just told me. The first couple times I had it I didn't like it much, it is sort of brown sugar water. Then I loved it. It tastes a bit like graham crackers. An occassional treat is donguacha with milk and zhengju, which are pearls. They are chewy black balls that they put in drinks. They have special fat straws to suck up the pearls with. It takes a little adjusting to needing to "chew" bits of your drink, but it's really good. Some people think it's a bother; I like it. The pearls don't really have flavor, just sort of a chewy texture, softer than a gummybear but not sticky. They are made of rice gluten.

Okay, I'm sorry I'm so boring today, apparently there is no hope.

I love you all very much!
Sister Johnson

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bicycle adventure 1/17/10

Dear family,

Today Sister Busath and I went on a bicycle adventure. It is really pleasant today, blue skies and warm enough I don't need a sweater or tights. We started at the harbor, and just followed it, figuring the coastline eventually would lead somewhere interesting; if not even the harbor was impressive. There were huge steamers and ships and green hills and a boarded path to follow. We eventually found a man made bay wall and walked out to the end of it and enjoyed the view of the China Sea. There were lots of fishermen on it and we couldn't tell if it was a hobby or a livelihood for some of them. We had been intending to buy lunch somewhere but couldn't find anything so ate Mike and Ikes and decided to keep going.

We found a beach in front of a hotel. We had to pay a dollar to get in but had it all to ourselves. It had very soft black sand and palm trees and beach chairs. It made me like a rich person on vacation. We just soaked up the sun and waves and relaxing atmosphere. It is rare to be a missionary and not have anything to do or anyone you feel like you should talk to. We may go back. Mmmm, there is something very relaxing about a day at the seaside.

Okay, on to Weird Story of the Week

This week we had some extra time so decided to go visit a woman from dead stack. She was very nice, invited us in and to come back and to "call her if we needed help with activities" (yeah, I don't know...). However, she told us she is Yiguandao. Yiguandao is sort of a belief system or religion but you ask someone what they believe in, they are very hazy what it means to be Yiguandao. They believe in Budda, Jesus, Muhammed, a pleathora of local gods - pretty much everyone. Apparently though, this woman's husband decided that he wanted to go baibai at a different miao than he usually does. When he was there they him buy some pills for his health. He took the pills and died a week later. This all just happened in November. We aren't sure if she thinks it was the pills that killed him, the new god he worshiped, or his usual gods punishing him for baibaiing someone else. Anyway, she's not quite ready to try out new religions yet.

Sometimes I understand all the words in Chinese but still don't understand what people are saying because it sounds so weird that I figure I must NOT understand. I'll be listening, and think, What I think she is saying is so bizarre that I must be misunderstanding.
A lot of times I am not though.

Sister Busath and I have been running up a bit of Monkey Mountain and some stairs instead of our normal river-side route. I think it was really inspired because this week we have randomly needed to climb 10 and 12 flights of stairs a couple times this week. Normally, climbing 12 flights of stairs would be rather unpleasant, but it actually was fine, thanks to our training :) Neither of the people were home though... go figure. It got one of them to come to church and start answering her phone though :)

Alright, much love!
Sister Johnson

Cami's short letter response to Donna:

Wow, I'm glad you made it okay to Virginia! It sounds like you were really blessed not to have problems that could have presented itself. I sure am sorry to miss the cowboy poetry gathering. Everytime I try to tell someone about it, they don't get it :) Thanks for the pictures


Monday, January 11, 2010

1/10/10 - Taiwan sounds like‏:

Dear Family,

This week Song jie mei got confirmed so that is good! We had been calling and bugging her all week to make sure she would come, and Sunday morning we called her and found out she was walking to church because she was letting her adult daughter use her car. So we rode our bikes to her house to walk with her and ended up missing most of Relief Society. I'm not sure how that looked to the ward but oh well, I was fulfilling my purpose as a missionary.

We have this investigator Xue jie mei who thinks that she is controlled by devils or spirits or idols or something. She says they force her to bai-bai and last week made her go to a nearby city to sightsee for the day. I didn't believe her until she started speaking in false tongues the other day. I still don't know what to think. She has a very, very sad life, possibly is schitzophrenic and has made a lot of bad choices. Her family is so poor. We have a couple investigators living in places that you wouldn't believe. As Sister Busath said, "If we were in America in a place like this, I would be scared to death." It is safe enough in Taiwan but really destitute. Anyway, Xue jie mei really makes me laugh. The first time she prayed, she ended "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen, Hallelujah." It was the cutest thing ever. I wanted to say "Amen Hallelujah" too :)

Taiwan sounds like fireworks. The few times I heard fireworks I didn't know what it was, it sounded like gunshots but no one looked alarmed. It never occurred to me that people may just want to light fireworks in the middle of the day for no immediately apparent reason.

Taiwan sounds like traffic. The scooters and the trucks are the loudest, and we are always talking over them. There is often less traffic than you would expect.

Taiwan sounds like construction. Every morning for months, there are the buzz of saws and some other kind of banging as they work on construction around our building.

Taiwan sounds like advertisements. In Douliu especially, blue trucks drive around slowly, blaring advertisements. This would NEVER be allowed in the US, it is definitely disturbing the peace and would annoy everyone so much that any business that tried it would go out of business immediately.

Taiwan sounds like chanting. There are some buddist temples near our apartment, and once in awhile they start kind of warbling chants or singing. I'll sit there reading the Old Testament, condemning idol worship and the chants start and suddenly my life seems surreal. Sometimes the singing is accompanied by a monotone kind of banging...cymbol noise. It's hard to describe.

Taiwan sounds like Taiwanese. Taiwanese sounds angry; I don't know if it is because they are angry and are slipping into their mother tongue or if it just sounds rough. Most old people only speak Taiwanese. I know how to say "Hello" "I am a missionary" "You are beautiful" and "I am American" in Taiwanese. It pretty much gets me by.

Times up
I love you all big bunches
Sister Johnson

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hooray a letter from Cami!‏ Sun. 1/03/10

Happy New Year!

As I'm sure you all know, Chinese culture celebrates the lunar new year which is in February, but everyone bai-bai ed on December 31st anyway.

Things you will only ever see in Asia: a five story McDonalds Bai-bai -ing. Bai bai is ancestor worship, they put out tables of food and incense in front of their house and do some bows. It keeps their ancestors from becoming "Hungry ghosts."

People asked us what we were going to do for New Years and we said, sleep. We did crack open a mini bottle of Martinellis that Sister Busath's family sent her, and then went to bed. Then at midnight, I was woken by the sound of fireworks. I couldn't sleep through it and had no idea how long it would go on for, so I got out of bed to find my earplugs. I couldn't find them and was stumbling around in the half dark digging through suitcases, my desk drawers. Then I caught a glimpse out the window and saw the fireworks from our 12th story apartment. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Imagine a cityscape, and in just about every direction you can see fireworks. In two particular places (by the bay I think) there are two simultanious firework shows happening, and both of them are the most amazing firework shows I have ever seen. Imagine every single firework show you have ever seen in your whole life going off simultaniously in one area, and you MIGHT understand the number of fireworks going off. You probably still wouldn't. It was amazing.Then I put my earplugs in and went to bed haha. I have a new life goal of being in Asia for New Years Eve NOT as a missionary.

This week has been really stressful. We had a baptism on New Years Day, which sounds lovely until you were actually there. Our Ward Correlator forgot we had a baptism this week so the night before tried to cancel it because nothing was planned. Luckily our ward brothers are also the Zone Leaders and called him and convinced him it couldn't be postponed. We had to call just about everyone to find a speaker. Then Song jie mei came 20 minutes late so it started late. Then she didn't come to church on Sunday to be confirmed. I guess we had some real communication issues this week.

I'm trying very hard to love everyone but they certainly cause us a lot of stress. Then yesterday we had some rough times.

Sister Busath and I had an unsuccessful evening trying to visit previous investigators. After the last rude person, we both were struggling with feelings that we wish we could just be annoying, ring their doorbell again, be rude back or justified!"I just wish there was something we could DO when that happens.""We could call the Elders and have them come shake the dust off their feet or whatever that ordinance is, haha" She smiled. I didn't know what to say, so I did what Mother would do in the situation. I sang."I'm trying to be like Jesus, I'm following in His ways. I'm trying to love as He did, in all that I do and say. At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers Love one another as Jesus loves you, try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught." We sang it through one more time as we rode home and felt better. It didn't matter anymore. The ultimate satisfaction of the day wasn't in being accepted or having people love us. It was following the example of Christ. It was knowing that we had in one more instance, conquered our natural impulses and to follow our divine Savior. Trusting in Him enough to love others, just because He asked us to.

I hope you all know I love Him very much.

Have a good week.
Sister Johnson

Cami's email in response to Donna's to her:

Re: Happy New Year!‏

I hope you feel better! I love you! I use my Zicam all the time :) Drive safe today!