Oh Vanessa, I would hardly call these ramblings. More like stream of consciousness. Anyways, made me cry either way. My apologies on the no photo. Posting from an iPad is useless when it comes to that. –Lisette
My District calls me “Li Nai Nai” on a regular basis…. Why? Simply because everything I do reminds them of the crazy-old little Asian ladies wandering around the streets of Taiwan. My knees creak when I go upstairs, my hip hurts every time I sit for a while then stand up, I wear mismatched socks, my bike makes weird sqeaky sounds and may or may not have a CD taped to the back, I mutter strange things in Taiyu –especially when frustrated at younger generation missionaries, I have no patience for Taipei traffic… the list goes on. And every day that goes on, I feel the truth of my new nickname more and more. 😀
This week, officially, I’ve been on Island for a year. That day we were at the Temple, doing Temple tours (you heard right — XinZhu sisters are going in for Temple tours now!), and I saw several people I love from ShiLin and TianMu. Elder King called me from Zhu Dong and we reminisced about the MTC. My current companion is going home in two weeks. This all has me looking back and realizing how far I’ve come… and at the same time, looking forward, realizing I only have three months left. Naturally leads to two questions: What have I done with the time that’s been given me? And what am I going to do with the time that’s left?
1) With the help of a wonderful family, a supportive Home Ward, and a great work environment at Carter’s, I was prepared for missionary life and service. This took some repentance, some study of true doctrine, some sweat and tears, some humility, some faith, and some time. Every day I’m grateful for that time spent at home and rely on those experiences to help the work happen here in Taiwan. I learned who God is, what my relationship with Him is, and how to feel His love every minute of every day. I also realized that this is why I wanted to go on a mission in the first place: to help people understand that one piece of doctrine. It changed my life.
2) I survived 12 weeks in the MTC, eating crappy food and getting stretched to my spiritual, emotional limits. The only thing that kept me sane were my teachers (the German, Mix, Sister Fan, and Peter Pan :D), a handful of close friends (y’all know who you are. 😀 ), and President Bertasso. It was at once the most spiritual and most trying place in the world. In class, we delved into the doctrine and immersed ourselves in Chinese. Intellectually stimulating and Spiritually rewarding. Outside class, I was brutally reminded of the uselessness of beauracracy but used my new found understanding of faith to overcome. No one’s perfect — but through the principles of faith, repentance, and forgiveness we can all hope for a better world and work earnestly to get it there.
3) Hit the ground running in Taiwan. Literally. Thank you, Sister Tanner. 😀 I hate to say it now, but I was a reluctant trainee. I was not comfortable with anything that had to do with “finding.” Looking back, I realize it’s because the whole mission’s view of “finding” was skewed… but I also realize, I should have been more willing to step outside my comfort zone and just do it. Thankfully, Sister Tanner was an incredible trainer and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t use something she taught me. I appreciate more than anything, her willingness to still be learning and treat me as an equal and a companion. ShiLin is a GREAT place to be “born” and every time I end up there, I have the best memories of our crazy adventures and spiritual highs. ShiLin is also where I realized that I *want* to be an obedient person…. not because I have to be, but because I want the blessings that come from obedience.
4) Moved to Tao Yuan. Got my first native companion. Realized what it takes to do real, concentrated missionary work. I will never forget Yang Jiemie’s talking to me — “If you don’t want to be in Tao Yuan, you don’t want to be on a mission. Just go home. But if you want to still be on a mission, this is what I need from you….” That transfer, I forgot myself and got to work. The Work got to be fun and I developed a motto: if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. This is not to say we played all the time… but rather, we found joy in the work and it slowly dawned on me that the only true happiness in the world comes from helping other people come unto Christ. I learned patience. Didn’t practice it too often, but I felt for the first time the blessings of being patient. I learned to hold on just a little longer and trust that God would show me what He was up to in a minute. Switched companions to Lin Jiemie and will forever be indebted to her for her example of a Senior Companion — which really means that you just have to be more humble, more selfless, more gentle, more in tune with your companion… etc. The first day, she said “We’re both here. We’re both missionaries and we’re both learning. Let’s do this together.” From that moment to now, I’ve forgotten that stupid “Senior/Junior Companion” relationship and found that the most powerful companionships are just that — companionships, equally yoked and moving forward together. That transfer, I learned the value of self-confidence and where it comes from.
5) Had my first (and only? :D)really difficult transfer. I’d just come off a spiritual, learning high from Tao Yuan and got shipped off to what I thought was the worst place on earth: XinZhu. The moment I landed, I could feel the relationship between the members and missionaries was not at all good. According to his established pattern, President Grimley showed up a week or so after I moved down there for interviews and we discussed this problem. He told me to carry on doing whatever it took to fix that relationship. But in order to do that, I had to first fix the relationship between my companion and I. That took patience, humility, and unconditional love. It wasn’t entirely mended before the transfer was over, but I am pleased with where it ended up. We’ve even seen each other since and she’s thanked me for that transfer, how much she felt loved and appreciated. Good deal. 😀
6) Learned the power of prayer — I prayed for a companion I could work with to help XinZhu realize it’s potential, one who wanted to be obedient, wanted to follow the Spirit, and wanted to work. I also selfishly prayed for a companion I could keep for longer than one transfer. Hahaha! Welcome to Sister Daye…. who was with me in XinZhu for three transfers, and one President change. 😀 So, be careful what you pray for!! With the guidance of the Spirit and Preach My Gospel, we started from scratch and turned XinZhu into the “it” place. In fact, last month XinZhu took it’s rightful place as the highest baptizing zone in the whole mission. That took one transfer of solid zeros — just focusing on getting to know and helping our members feel God’s love. It took another transfer of teaching solid member referrals. And it took one more transfer of enduring to the end. The miracles that our companionship made happen in XinZhu are pretty well known around the entire Asia Area and I can’t even begin to describe how in awe of Sister Daye I am. Without her, her dedication to following the Spirit and being “So PMG”, nothing would have happened in XinZhu. Thanks, dear!
7) I also learned what it feels like to be validated by God — to go forward on a plan, ignoring the doubt and the criticism and hoping that this is really what God wants you to do. Then, one day to realize that the doubt and criticism are gone because they’re all asking you how you’ve done it. That shifted my focus a little — mostly just enlarging that “invite others” part to include missionaries. God blessed Sister Daye and I with some inspiration a transfer before the rest of the mission in order to help us help others become the best missionaries possible. I’m not sure what we did in a previous life to deserve front row tickets to the greatest miracles on Earth… but I know God’s here and working in Taipei Mission.
8) Chinese… I’m old enough now and humble enough to take correction on my Chinese without freaking out. So, having a native companion again is SO nice. I wish it were for longer than six weeks, but that’s just driven me to listen more earnestly to the corrections she gives me and apply them in my speaking. This transfer is all about fine-tuning… in Chinese and in every other aspect of the work. It’s fascinating to watch the process of refining and wonder what I’m being refined for. A little daunting, but there’s this really deep, calm feeling in my soul that cannot be shaken. Call it whatever you want — faith, self-confidence, inner peace, etc — I just know it comes from knowing who God is and that what I’m doing is exactly what He would have me be doing.
So… that leaves me with going forward. What’s next? Two transfers — one of which is definitely in XinZhu. The other, we’ll see. Pray for me to stay in XinZhu. 😀 Wherever I am, though, I want to accomplish one thing: become the most Christlike person a human being can manage. For those of you who know me… that’s going to take some temperence, even more patience and humility, some softening of my tone of voice, and just this capacity to love that I don’t currently possess. Don’t laugh. 😀 I’ve lost all desire for anything else. On Saturday, we were at the Temple doing Temple tours and every single person I spoke to, we felt the Spirit and opened their understanding of some basic doctrines. Our moments together changed their lives — you could see it in their faces. It was the most incredible feeling and I want to have that with me all the time. The only way to do that is through conveying the love and Gospel of God in everything you do…. which, in the Scriptures, adds up to having the image of Christ reflected in your countenance. And in PMG adds up to “Developing Christlike Attributes.” Awesome!
That’s it, really. If I can get closer to that goal in the next three months, I’ll have a good foundation to build on the rest of my life and I can be satisfied. Any other goal or dream or objective is secondary, and only in place to support the first.
Mmm… sorry for the ramblings. Thanks for listening! Oh yeah, we had a baptism this last week… and some legit member referral miracles. Life is so good. 😀
Love from Asia,
Hua Sheng Jiemie