Monday, June 28, 2010

Sister Johnson and President and Sister Hoer

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Zone Conference

Cami's email to me:

The photograph below it is my Zone, Nantou Zone. It is one of the smallest in the mission because it is all country areas. There are just four sisters! My companion, Sister Dewyea is next to me. My current and former district leader are the two furthest right elders. Yep!

Sister Johnson

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miracles 123‏ Mon 6/28/10

Dear family,

Sister Dewyea wasn't feeling well for most this last week. It wasn't bad enough to not go out, just bad enough to make the work extra difficult. She didn't complain, but everything was just harder, for both of us. Despite that, we saw a LOT of miracles this week. I will tell you three.

#1 - The office called us on Friday and told us that our investigator Huang jm was trying to get ahold of us but doesn't have our new phone number. They told us she was calling to cancel her baptismal interview for Saturday. We made a conscious choice not to call her but to let her sleep on it and maybe visit her the following day. On Saturday we originally had two baptismal interviews planned. The aforesaid Huang jm tried to cancel on Friday, and the other, a child called Liu dx, called and canceled Saturday morning. On Saturday we were at the church, had just gotten fanged by our lessons and Sister Huang called us and reaffirmed that she was canceling her interview. Sister Dewyea and I both felt very dejected and went to the bathroom before getting ready to go do our backup plan. When we walked out just a couple minutes later, there was Huang jm in the parking lot with the second ward elders! Before I knew what in the world was happening, Huang jm was handing me a bag of squid and telling me to put them in the fridge for her and was in a baptismal interview with Elder Mauii.

A big thank you to Elder Christensen! They were riding their bikes and a lady about ran his companion off the road trying to talk to him, but Elder Rostead is new and didn't understand her. Once Elder Christensen understood she was trying to tell them she wasn't coming to her interview, he gave her our phone number and convinced her to come to the church immediately. While she called us to cancel, he called the Zone leaders and told them to call us and get us to the church really quick. He was intending to stall her until the District leader could get there. It was certainly NOT coincidence that all three companioships happened to be in the right place at the right time. We were so blessed!

2- Our new member's son wants to get baptised but canceled his interview the morning of because he is afraid he wants to drink tea. We went to see him and talked to him about it and agreed next week to do his interview. Then after church (I was in the other ward that day), Elder Mauii tells me to congratulate him because he passed his interview. What?! Apparently our ward correlator called and told his dad he had to come to church and do his interview, and so they did it right after church. We didn't even know they were going to interview him. Our ward correlator is so great.

So pretty much we have people passing baptismal interviews right and left and we literally have nothing to do with it. The past couple movecalls I am just more and more sure that the success I have here doesn't have to do with my own merits - God's grace literally steps in and gives us miracles every day.

Okay, one more little miracle story:
The ward asked us to go find a "Less active recent convert." I had visited Sister Lai a couple times before and despite having been baptised less than a year ago, was less than welcoming and refused to come to church. She moved and didn't leave a forwarding address or phone number. I asked her neighbors where she went and this is what I knew - On the juguang lu going towards Taizhong, (I didn't know where it was or even the characters for it the street), after the overpass, somewhere on the right hand side. She was moving in with her husbands family, but we didn't even know his name.

So that was all I knew. With a prayer in my heart, I looked at the map, found a street that had the second character for Guang in it and rode until we found an overpass. As we were going down the other side of the bridge, something got in Sister Dewyea's eye. I was wondering where in the world we should start looking for this new member - there were a LOT of neighborhoods and we didn't know how far after the bridge her house would be - just somewhere on the right. I walked back up the hill to where Sister Dewyea was trying to get something out of her eye. As she took a minute to let it fall out, I pulled out the phone and started to call referrals. I noticed a street below and wondered if was the street we were looking for. We decided to start asking people there. The third person we asked directed us to a house, and... we found her address. It was crazy. We found her in less than a half an hour, even with travel time and we had NO IDEA what we were looking for, or even her husbands name. It's a good thing Sister Dewyea got something in her eye or I never would have thought of going to the street that was next to the bridge, not past it. What a blessing!

Other than that, things have been good! My companion got "dear Johned" last week and that was a bit dramatic. It downpoured yesterday and there was about ten inches of water in the streets downtown. Sister Dewyea started to ride through the deepest part (maybe 14 inches or so deep) and I had a panic attack and made us go around to where it was at least a little more shallow. We aren't supposed to be in water so it freaked me out. Sister Dewyea teased me and said I was afraid of crocodiles. I'm pretty sure there are NOT crocodiles in Taiwan.

Other than that things have been pretty normal.

I love you all so much! Have a great week! Happy Fourth of July, I'll be thinking of you all having fun at the cabin :) Be safe!

Sister Johnson

Sunday, June 27, 2010

holidays, zhongzis and giggle fits‏- Sun 6/20/10

Dear Family,

Happy Midsummer! I would have totally forgotten about the holiday but Amy reminded me. Everyone go dance around a Midsummer pole and perhaps recite Grandpa's favorite "I'm the little swedish boy" poem. Here is to not forgetting our roots!

In Taiwan there was a holiday this past Wednesday. It is called the Dragon Boat Festival. Everyone had the day off school and a lot of people went to go bai-bai or to watch the Dragon Boat races. I don't know much about the dragon boat race since they aren't in our area :) You can google it and then you will know more about it than me. For us, the holiday meant that everyone gave us zhongzis. A Zhongzi is a kind of triangular shaped rice...thing...with stuff in it. It is a rice pyramid wrapped in leaves and in the middle there are suprises - meat (mostly just pure blobs of fat), a cooked egg yolk, beans, tiny fish or shrimp, mushrooms, etc. Some of them are good, some are not. Anyway, besides everyone feeding them to us for the past week, people gave us about a million. We still have a dozen or so in the freezer and we've been trying to eat through them. People wanted to give us more but we've managed to avoid the worst of it.

Taiwanese etiquette is sometimes hard for me. People will try to give us food all of the time. It is polite to say no and refuse, whether or not you want it. Then it is polite for them to continuously urge you until you to eat, drink, or take with you whatever it is. However, this means that if you refuse something people still think you are just being polite. If you really put your foot down and refuse to take something offered, two things will happen - either they will continue to urge but won't force you to take it, or they will near force you into taking something else instead - usually something nicer or more expensive. Then you really feel bad that in the end you are taking something you didn't need in the first place, but was more expensive than the first thing.

If you are confused, don't worry. Me too.

Taiwanese culture is also different from American culture in the importance of things unsaid. If you give a group of American's a list of the 10 books, they will discuss the books and perhaps their similiarities. If you give a group of Taiwanese people a list of 10 books, they will discuss what books weren't included on the list. So you not only have to be careful what you say, you have to be careful of what you don't say, or what you may unconciously be implying. People read the implications of what you say. For example, I asked a member where her daughter bought her shoes because I wanted to buy some similar ones, had been looking for months and hadn't found any. Sister Yang* told me that she would buy me some shoes and in the end just ended up giving me her daughters shoes. So be careful what you say!

Today Sister Yang actually took us to go exercise with the grandma's in the park. Every morning, very early, there are already grandma's and grandpa's out exercising. They do a lot of pretend swimming through the air, slapping their arms, shaking out their wrists and hips. It was actually really fun. This one lady kept trying to improve my "form" and giving me instructions on proper breathing techniques. I had a bit of a giggle fit during one of the breathing exercises. This made me think of Shelly disrupting her lamaze class with her innappropriately timed giggle fit, which really didn't help me regain my composure at all. :) It was a good time.

* Sister Yang is just an exceptionally generous person in general, especially to the missionaries. She is a RM herself and her and her husband committed when they got married that they would have the missionaries over to eat once a month and help to accompany lessons. I would feel way more guilty about the shoes but I remembered Daddy buying those coats for the Elders in Elko and I figure it all works out when we serve one another. I'm sure I'll be buying things for future missionaries too.

Well my times is up! I love you all- have a good week! Send me pictures of the baby shower!

Mon, 14 Jun 2010

I spent all my time writing people individual notes since I haven't had time for that lately!

This week there was a Stake Youth Missionary Day where they encourage all the youth to serve missions. I think a lot more youth are aware of missionaries than they are in the US because most of them where taught by missionaries or at least their parents were. There are no third generation members here, and few second generation. We didn't know that we would be attending until the day before. Then the day of the activity we still didn't know what our role would be in it. Then, they gave us a group of teenagers and said, go be missionaries for 3 hours. It was kind of sad, we didn't have a plan and were assigned to a neighborhood with few people out. I don't usually contact and tract for 3 hours straight, on foot - let alone teenage girls that have never shared the gospel before! Usually all of our time is scheduled into specific half hour plans, and so every half hour we change the activity or at very least the area we are. The girls were great though, really good sports about it. A couple of them really got into it:) I think we all had a good experience. We got a million referrals. Looks like Sister Dewyea and I will be spending a lot of time on the phone this week. What a blessing! I'm sure there are people in there that we will baptise this movecall, just as soon as we get ahold of them...We'll work on it.

We are experiencing what is called the "elevator effect" meaning we just baptised all of our investigators and right now are trying to find new people. It's been okay though.

Yesterday Sister Dewyea were going to visit Huang Mama who lives on top of a mountain. Usually her daughter drives us, but couldn't that day, so Sister Dewyea and I decided to try to ride our bikes. However, it was pouring rain, (I'd never understood how hard it can rain until I came to Taiwan). We were riding in the rain up the mountain until it got too steep so we walked our bikes for awhile and then left them and walked. Then we realized we had taken a wrong turn and had gone a mile the wrong way...In the end we made it safe and sound to her house and back and it was a good experience. She was suprised and pleased that we had come despite the circumstances. It was a good lesson. They sent us home with about 10 pounds of fruit.

Times up!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Mon 6/07/10 a week of miracles‏

Dear family,

This has been the most miraculous week of my mission.

To start off, Sister Dewyea and I decided to have our own "power week". We didn't stay out late or leave early but we set high goals - we wanted to break all of our highest weekly indicators in a day. We really had been putting our all into our work lately. We saw a lot of miracles and success poured out on us as we did.

Xing Yu's baptism last week accomplished our movecall goal of 2 baptisms. When we accomplished it last week, we set a new goal - and felt, strangely enough that we needed to help an additional four people be baptised, though we just had one week left in the movecall. We only had two week B's, both of which had dropped out numerous times before, and Rebecca, the Philipeana we called you about, who we had only met with once and didn't know if we could find a place to baptise her. We felt strongly about four, so we set the goal. We had no idea who the fourth person could be.

I don't know where to start with all the miracles, so I guess I will start with Chen Guan Ying, who has been my investigator since Guonian. I have been so close to dropping her for the better part of the movecall. She couldn't seem to progress, to have the faith to say she believed God was her Heavenly Father, she just said she didn't know. She had felt the spirit so many times, we told her it was her answer, but she just didn't progress. The goal she set for herself a long time ago was coming up and she stopped answering her phone and wasn't home when we visited. Finally I got a hold of her and she said she was getting married and didn't have time to get baptised. I reminded her of her goal, but it was shakey. We hadn't seen her in about 10 days, she was in Tainan doing wedding stuff. The day before her baptism she still hadn't come back. We set up to have dinner with her the night of her baptism- she didn't show up. When I called her she said she was at home and her mom didn't want her to get baptised. She sounded REALLY uncertain whether or not she would come. We had a member call her and we didn't know what else to do besides pray.

There we are, twenty minutes before our double baptism (Chen jm and another investigator Xu jm). Neither had come yet. Sister Dewyea and I were praying out hearts out for Chen Guan Ying. Sister Dewyea prayed that God would send us a few more angels and that the heaven's would be opened and give us a miracle. I felt the spirit really strongly, and I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know if it was comfort for impending disappointment or that she would come. It ended up being assurance of divine help.

We got off our knees after one of my most heartfelt, pleading prayers and Sister Chen was in the parking lot, she had come on her motorcycle in the rain. She was so tiny thin, and wet with rain in her blue dress that just hung off her, and sick full of secrets, her family opposing her baptism, perhaps just leaving from an argument, secretly married and secretly pregnant and a desire for a new start. And she came and was baptised. THAT was an amazing miracle enough. She was baptised, and even getting her to her confirmation was a miracle because she still wouldn't commit that she would be at church and not in Tainan. But she was baptised and confirmed and she looked so happy. That was enough of a miracle, that I could see her progression and her big leap of faith at the end. When she was confirmed, it was like the dark cloud that always hangs over her was taken away, and she looked happy.

As if Chen jm wasn't enough of a miracle, the night of her baptism, Sister Xu came, and and asked if her daughter could get baptised with her. Her daughter had passed a baptismal interview back in September, so Sister Dewyea ran home to get her record, get permission from President Hoer to baptise her. It was all very dramatic and you banfa. It was a huge miracle to have another person to be baptised at the last minute.
Rebecca was our last miracle baptism. We taught her in just 8 days. She was so completely ready. When faced with a commandment, she had either already heard it from her family and was already keeping it, or she had the best answer I've ever heard. She said to me, "Sister, I have been thinking about it, and I am willing to give it up. I want to feel clean. I want to be baptised." Sister Dewyea and I didn't know where to baptise her because it seemed impossible to get her to Yuanlin and back in the hour break that she had. Sister Dewyea and I decided to do all we could though, so we took a stick and went looking for any body of water we could baptise her in during our lunch time. I remember praying, "Heavenly Father, I know that we are walking around with a long bamboo pole, measuring the depths of dirty Taiwanese canals, and it is ridiculous. But we don't know what else to do. We are doing all we can, please help us." In the end, her boss gave her permission to have the afternoon off. Her baptism and confirmation were perhaps the best I've ever had. Everything went smooth as can be, everyone really felt the spirit. The members supported her more than I expected, they really reached out to her, some even drove her the 40 minutes back to her house. We taught and baptised her in 8 days.

And thus we were blessed with four baptisms in one week. You are right though - success is a gift from God and not by our own merits.

I am so grateful to Father in Heaven.

What a great week.
I love you

Sister Johnson

Sunday, June 6, 2010

5/30/10: drama, miracles and moving mission presidents‏

Dear Family,

It has been quite a week! Sometimes I think I will have an ulcer, but generally it's okay.

First of all I hit my year mark last Wednesday. Just think, this time last year I was still worried about how to pronounce "Jesus" in Chinese and now I'm spewing Chinese all over the place.

Firstly, this week we had a baptism! Wu Xing Yu (Xing Hui's older sister who is 11) decided that she was ready to get baptised and did on Friday. It was veyr nice. We took the two of them to McDonalds again (this time their youngest sister Xing mei didn't come). Her baptism had a TON of members, I was really impressed - there were probably about 25, there was hardly a spare seat in the room. Her baptism was somewhat damped by a little experience that happened afterwards.

We have a member, Huang jm who has a serious ADD or ADHD problem (I still am unclear on the difference). Trying to teach her a lesson is madness, I don't know how the missionaries taught her. She is married and has a son, who is a devil child, made worse by her ADD and her tendencies to protect him when he really needs a good spanking. He comes to our English class and mostly just makes the other children wild and throws markers. If anyone won't give her son what he wants or tells him to stop doing something he cries, gets mom, and she yells at whoever it is. The yelling never really bothered me much, possibly because her ADD won't even let her keep focused on yelling for more than about 10 seconds and then she wanders off and has forgotten about it. She has a good heart and a desire to love others though and I love her, even if she is a bit outside the social norm.

However, after Xing Yu's baptism, Huang jm yelled at our other investigator and made her cry, which was bad enough. Then Xing Yu (who is only 11) stood up for our investigator and told off Huang jm, which made Huang jm cry. And then Huang jm was just so mad and crying and yelling at everyone and Xing Yu was yelling at an adult, which is also unacceptable.
and it was just...dramatic.

And that investigator did NOT come to back to church yesterday.

So that was the bad drama for the week.

On a much better note.
We have a really awesome Phillipeana investigator named Rachel. Back in February, the Elders gave me a "golden" referral with this miracle story.
Miracle number 1 - Elder Stubbs and Elder Vaterlaus were in some distant part of our area, walking down the street when someone called out in English, "Hey, Elders!"
It was Rachel, who had met the missionaries in the Philipeans and is working in Taiwan. Rachel's family are members except her and live in the Philipeans. She had been wanting to meet the missionaries and then Elder Stubbs and Vaterlaus just happened to be walking down the street in some remote part of our area at a time she happened to be able to see her. The Elders gave me the referral. I called her, she said that she didn't live in Yuanlin but in Zhanghua, which is NOT in our area. She told me how much she wanted to get baptised and how she wasn't ready before but she was now. I hesitantly referred her, confused about where she lived. The Elders said she was in our area so I should call her again. I called her once and she didn't answer and sort of forgot about her in the rush of the movecall though.

Recently, I found her card again and told my junior companion to try to call her. She did, got ahold of her but we still couldn't figure out where she lived. She only could read pinyin*, not characters of her street address, and she herself had no idea where she lived. The pinyin is different than the one we use so it is hard to know how to pronounce it, let alone what street it is, let alone WHERE in our enourmous area. Somehow, literally through the power of the spirit, I figured out that she said that she lived in Xizhou, the farthest part of our area - 2+ hours away on a bike and 45 minutes on a bus, far, far into the country. I wasn't even sure how we would get there. I was really nervous to take a bus out to a place I had never been and didn't know the bus schedule, to try to find a street onfoot that I wasn't sure was the right one. Her directions were hazy at best (look for the 7-11, there is a highlife near it) which is sort of like saying look for the casino sort of near the other casino in Elko. Or the starbucks near the barnes and nobles.

Somehow, literally miraculously, we found her, because she had no idea where she lived our how to give us directions to her. It was my first time teaching in English, and rarely do I teach someone who already has a Christian background. It was unusual but very strange. It was a very spiritually powerful lesson. She was so eager and willing to learn and to do everything we invited her to. She wanted to get baptised, and we said, how about next week and she said okay. Rebecca doesn't have any days off work, just one hour off in the afternoon from 1-2 that she can rest. We got permission from President Hoer to baptise her without her going to church and he agreed. We are going to try to baptise her by this Saturday, which will take some miracles because of her job and there is no way she can get to the Yuanlin chapel and back in an hour, even if we can find someone to drive her. Sister Dewyea are committed to damming up the creek if that's what it takes. It's an adventure.

The last thing of note this week was Combined District Training Meeting. President and Sister Hoer are leaving in a month! It makes me really sad. It was our last interview with President Hoer. They had a Q&A about the new mission president, where Hoer's will go, etc. As of right now, they don't have a plan. They sold their houses in Hong Kong and in Utah when they went on their mission so don't have a house. Their last child is graduating this year and starting college, and President Hoer doesn't have a job yet. I'm sure they will be fine - any one of any intelligence would want President Hoer to run their company.

Oh, my times up!

I love you!

Sister Johnson

* using ABC letters to spell out the sounds of chinese characters