As you all know, I've been struggling a bit with my duties as a missionary, particularly in the confidence department. Last week, I had the tremendous privilege to sit down in an interview with my mission president, and I mulled over the problem with him. He emphasized to me that there are two things that need to happen in order to get over my fears: One, I must forget myself, and Two, I must have faith that Christ can help me turn my weaknesses into strengths. He was also very understanding and empathetic, and shared experiences that he had on his own mission that were similar in nature. He is a terrific mission president, pretty much a father for me out here. At the end of the interview, I was walking out the door when he called me back and gave me a big hug, saying, "I just want you to know I'm impressed with you. I think you are an outstanding missionary." It was what I needed to hear, and some of the stress inside me just melted away. I am grateful for his charity and leadership.
So, this week is officially Chinese New Year!!! It started on Sunday, and Elder Dailey and I gave out tons of hongbao's, or red envelopes filled with chocolate coins, to church members. There were not many people at church though, so congregations were combined for this meeting. On New Year's Day, people typically leave town and go to their rural homes to visit their parents. As a result, downtown city areas (such as Lingya) really empty out. Luckily, we have this fabulous place right next to our apartment called the Cultural Center, which puts on tons of shows for New Year's, so there are plenty of families that come to see them. Of course, none of them are actually from our area, so we just refer them to the missionaries in their respective areas.
The best thing about New Year's is that everyone is incredibly friendly. Nobody on the road will ignore you when you try to talk to them, at least saying "hi" or something. If they aren't on a vehicle, they will even have a conversation with you. The one problem with all of this is that they assume we are here on vacation. This makes it incredibly difficult to bring conversation into gospel subjects. They mostly just have interest in what we think about Taiwan and how it compares to America.
So we have had to adjust our finding strategies. We are always looking for new investigators of our church, so if one method isn't working out, we just have to adapt. We decided to try our faith and try something that, from the outside, may seem just ridiculous. On Sunday morning, we wrote in our plan that we were going to have a random sit-down lesson with a guy named Yang at 4:30, at the Cultural Center. (There are about 100 different surnames in Chinese culture, and Yang is about in the middle in popularity.) So, at 4:00 we started riding around the Cultural Center, talking to people. Some people would talk to us, but they were a little brisk when they realized who we were and we didn't see too much success at all. At one point, Elder Dailey was taking down information from a family, and I was waiting for him about two yards away. Then, at almost 4:30 on the dot, this random guy walks up from behind me and asks in English, "Hey, where are you from? What's your name?" I respond, and then ask him, "What's your name?"
I'm thinking in my head, Wait, is this the guy? So I say, "Sweet! What's your 'xing ming'?" ("xing ming" means "chinese surname".)
"Oh, wo xing Yang." ("Oh, my surname is Yang.")
I just kind of did a double-take. No way, is this happening?! I started talking with him, and I found out that he had already studied extensively on his own about our church, and that he believes in Christ. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and he said he was willing to study it and pray about it, because he "really [wanted] to know if it is true." He sadly lives in Jiayi, so we'll never see him again, but it was a testimony to me that if we seek something out in faith, God will provide.
Another cool experience happened while we were tracting an alleyway. We learned this clever little trick (sometimes I feel bad doing it) where we ring all the doorbells at once in an apartment building. When they all answer over the loudspeaker, we say "Wo men dao le!" ("We're here!"), and usually somebody will unlock the door and let us in, therefore letting us knock on the doors instead of using the intercom. In this one particular instance, we rang all the doorbells, and instead of anybody answering through the intercom, we heard somebody shouting at the top of the building. We looked up to see some guy leaning out the window. When he saw we were Americans, he said in English, "Hey, who are you looking for?"
Elder Dailey replied, "You!"
Slight confusion crossed his face. "Do I know you?"
He thought for a moment, and then smiled. "Okay, give me a second, I'll be right down!" We had a wonderful conversation with him (in English!), and he expressed to us that he wanted to talk with us because he thought it must be "depressing to have so many people ignore [us]." He was super nice, and will probably be coming to English class soon.
So while some areas of my mission are hard right now, there are other parts that are very rewarding. I love the miracles I see every day. I am blessed to see the Lord supporting us and carrying the work forward. Honestly, God doesn't need me to do this. God, the all powerful being that He is, can do all of this better than any mere mortal can. But I am grateful that He is willing to allow me to be a part of His work. He truly wants us to learn and grow, and will give us opportunities to do so as long as we seek them out. I love being a missionary!
I love you all, and have a wonderful New Year!
“Power cleaning time! Check out that kitchen! (I can't believe I'm releasing these pictures...)”
***I am only releasing the “after” photos—I don’t want to subject anyone to the “before” photos. Your welcome—David’s mom :)
They worked hard during power cleaning time—trust me. :)
“Oh boy, Power Week next week! Aaah!”