Big news of the week: Our English program absolutely exploded. In one month, we went from 25 attendees to 41, including five families and a 4:1 ratio of non-members to members. Fantastic. We sold all our English textbooks, ran out of English flyers, and depleted our stock of student registration forms. This coming week should be an even bigger turnout: we've been advertising our English class St. Patrick's Day party during the last few class sessions and passing out invitations. I've been especially excited about this because we had set a lofty goal a month ago to have 45 attendants, as well as two families regularly attending and two new investigators per companionship. It looks like we are on track to hit all three goals. WOOHOO! I am so grateful I have the opportunity to be a part of this enormous success.
Elder Jackson, now returned from his mission, was my friend during my teenage years, and lived just down the street from me. Since I've been here, I've had the privilege of working with many members and missionaries that remember and adore him. Both Elder Fiala and Elder Dailey told me a funny story about him this week. A week before he was to go home, he was on the train with some other missionaries going to the temple in Taipei. One Elder, also soon to return home, turned around in his seat and asked Elder Jackson, "Hey, are you excited to get back home and start dating girls soon?!" Elder Jackson just stared at the back of the seat in front of him, and said quietly, "Now why would I be thinking about that?" The other Elder said incredulously, "Elder, we're going home in a week!" Elder Jackson just sat quietly for a minute. "...Oh."
I really admire Elder Jackson. Elder Dailey says, "Lots of missionaries say that they are 'sad to go home', but they don't really mean it. Duh, they're excited to go home. But Elder Jackson would say it, and you could tell that he really was sad. He loved his mission, he loved the people, and he loved the work." Elder Jackson has certainly left a mark here in Taiwan. I was talking with some members who had come to Lingya for a Singles dance, and somehow they knew I was his neighbor. They started asking me questions about how he was doing. It was cool to see members that really adored him and missed him. I hope I can be a missionary like Elder Jackson!
We saw some craziness on Thursday. Elder Chia and Elder Chen were holding a baptismal service for one of their investigators, Brother Li. One hour before the baptism, Brother Li told them that he was moving to Taipei that night. It was like a bomb had gone off. The reason this is such a tough situation is because we take careful records of all those who are baptized, and it's a little tricky in moving records from one place to another. Moving in itself is another problem: he doesn't know anyone in Taipei, which means that because of lack of friendship with members, continued activity in the church is much more difficult and unlikely. The best part about the whole baptism was that when they scheduled it, they forgot that there would be a dance going on at the same time in the church building, so everyone in the pews was bouncing to the heavy base of Coldplay and Super Junior throughout the meeting. It was the most exciting, bumpin' baptism I've ever attended, bar none.
And it sounds like he's active and happy in Taipei (no problems!), in case you were wondering.
Our long time investigator, Brother Chen, set his own baptism goal in April! YEAH! I am so excited for him. We have become good friends. One day he showed up for an appointment twenty minutes late, proclaiming that he had just bought a cake for us. I'm gonna miss that guy when I leave.
On Sunday night there was a massive Family Home Evening in which all of the ward members were invited to the Yang family's home. We spent a good hour talking to everyone, and I was thinking the whole time about just how amazing it was that only a short six months ago I had met them for the first time. I feel like they are my dearest friends now. We took a group photo and then it was time for Elder Dailey and I to leave early. Everyone started singing "Love One Another" when we left, and as we walked out the door, I turned around to see them all smiling and waving to us. I was suddenly just caught up in this wave of emotion, and started crying. Man, am I going to miss these guys! They are like family to me. I am so grateful to know each and every one of them, and so grateful for the love they have shown to me.
We are so blessed! Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us, and He will send special people into our lives, through whom we can feel of His love. Each friend and family member I know are all proof that God really does love me, and I am forever grateful to Him for His outpouring of love in my life. I hope that I can be a conduit of His love for others I know so that they can feel of this love also.
“Power Week with some sisters from Lingya and Shizhong Wards. Left to right: Wu, Amy, Amy's mother Sister Zhang, Zhang's sister Lily, Sister Busath, Sister Zhang (not related to Amy's mother Zhang), and Sister Liu.”
“Brother Ke getting baptized!”
“Rich being crazy.”
“Elder Chen taking pictures.”
“Elder Gummow with his stash of ice cream at an all-you-can-eat restaurant (don't tell anyone that I actually was the one who ordered all that ice cream... oops).”
“Don't laugh. Just a warning.”