Monday, March 31, 2014

City Lights, Rainy Nights

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My tears are gone, and I am now officially a city girl! I remember sitting in high school dreaming about going to NYC for school or just to live because I love the energy the big city has to offer. Well, now I am in the biggest city in Queensland and like it or not I am a city girl and it is nothing like I dreamed it would be! Being a missionary in the city is perhaps my worst nightmare, but it is becoming quite the adventure as I try to sanctify myself and talk to the swarms of people that now surround me.
The city is so different from SunnyBank. No longer do we have an office to teach at, no longer do I ride my bike, no longer am I in a family ward, no longer do I GQ bus stops, and thankfully no longer do I have hot sleepless nights. We leave the flat after lunch and do not come back until the end of the day. We teach in food courts and the library when we can book a study room. The ward I serve in is a Young Single Adult (YSA) ward. The best part is our flat has air conditioning.

My first full day in the city was a complete distraction. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Aldo, etc. called at the natural woman in me. All day long I tried to focus on my purpose as a missionary by reciting in my head the scriptures President Henderson has had us memorize. It was hard with all the beautiful window displays, but I tried my best to look at people and not store windows. Luckily we had a lot of appointments and so my only struggle was to look at the investigators and not the people around us.

My birthday was Thursday and that is a day I will never forget! We had a packed day full of lessons and GQ and a dinner appointment planned for the night. We start off with GQ'ing. It was raining and so no one was sitting down. So there I am standing in the middle of Queen Street Square with people all around me. Sister Ng is off talking to someone and I feel the urge to find someone to talk to as well. I turn around in circles trying to figure out who I should talk to. I felt my heart jump into my throat as panic began to wash over me and feelings of inadequacy consumed me. How could I GQ here? Why so many white people? Why did the Lord send me here? I am not good enough or brave enough to talk to all these people.
The thought came to pray. I bowed my head right there in the middle of all those people and begged my Heavenly Father to help me calm down and regain control. I told Him my worries and my desire to continue being a good missionary. I asked, "Heavenly Father, I don't know if I can do this. Help me not to lose my faith." Almost immediately my heart dropped back into my chest and my thoughts turned into, I can do this. I am a servant of the Lord. I may have just wasted five minutes, but there is still time in the day for the Lord to work miracles. I have faith in miracles. Then I went and talked to someone who is now going to meet with us tomorrow. It strengthened my testimony that the Lord watches over me and understands that my desire is to do His will, but He also understands that I am weak and in a new area and so He is giving me the strength to adjust and become a city missionary.
Finally, it was time for dinner. We met up with our investigator and then the rain really came! It was like a summer thunderstorm in South Carolina, with sheets of rain rather than raindrops! We hopped onto the bus to go to our dinner appointment. We got off the bus and somehow, I'm not sure how it was possible, but it was raining harder. We had a 10 minute walk ahead of us until we got to the member's home. Sister Ng and I are sharing an umbrella because I don't have one and we were walking on small Australian sidewalks. All of a sudden I feel sidewalk against touching my foot and I realize my shoe has come off! I look back to see it sinking into some mud. I grabbed it and put it back on, mud and all. By the time we got to the member's house we were all pretty wet, especially our feet as every crossing had turned into a mini river.
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By the time we got home we were soaked from head to toe! We had to lay out shoes, socks, skirts and shirts to dry and then rushed into dry pj's. Then we thanked the Lord that through the hectic storm we had remained safe and unharmed. What a birthday eh?
I have completed my first week in the city and I feel much better than I did on my birthday. I have felt the Atonement immensely as I have used its comfort to adjust to missionary life in the city. My favorite part about the city is that we can teach lessons by ourselves on the street. If we are talking to someone and they are interested then you just start teaching and pray with them. Multiple times this week I would be GQ'ing a person and the impression to teach them a lesson would come to mind. I would pull out a pamphlet and teach, usually about prayer. One guy, named Adam, wasn't that interested when I started talking to him, but the Holy Ghost prompted me to teach him about prayer. So I continued talking to him until he gave me something I could relate to prayer. Then I taught him how to pray and said a prayer with him. It was a simple prayer, as often my Chinese prayers are, but afterwards when I asked Adam how he felt he said, "Peaceful, and like everything is going to be okay." Then he gave me his number because he wants to meet up again. Moments like this truly testify to me the power of Heavenly Father who, amongst all the hustle and bustle of a big city, takes the time to touch the heart of a single man who I had the pleasure of praying with.
I know that God loves each and everyone one of us. He wants us to succeed and we need only believe in Him enough to ask for His help. He will give it. I can testify of this! I love my mission and I love the city. Sister Ng and I are praying for miracles everyday and everyday we see them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Isn't it a blessing to love and be loved so much it hurts?"

Where to begin on the fabulous week that was just spent in SunnyBank? I must admit that as I write my brain is a little scattered and that my emotions are a bit on edge. Forgive my imperfections.

This week we taught so many lessons that we barely had time to go to the bus stop. No complaining here! We met with Peter and he is still progressing superbly. We called him Sunday night to make sure he could come to church on Sunday and when he tried saying he had to work, we asked him what time. Turns out work didn't start until 11:30 so we were able to convince him to come to sacrament meeting and receive the blessings of putting forth the effort.

We met with two new people I am really excited about. One guy is named Chao Fan (if you look it up you will find that the most common interpretation is fried rice, but I promise his parents aren't that cruel!). It was late one night when a member invited us to dinner. It was a Thursday night, which means we weren't allowed to eat with members unless we had a non-member present. We had just finished a lesson with a non-member and the idea of just going trickled into our minds, but we decided to decline and go GQ instead. The very first guy I walked up to was Chao Fan. I asked him how his day was going and we did small talk for about one minute. Then he asked me what I was doing in Australia. I told him I was a missionary. Then he asked, "Oh so you are going to ask me to join?" I was shocked, but could not lie so I said, "Well yes." In which his reply was, "Good I want to join!" I literally took a step back. I was definitely taken by surprise and like an idiot asked him if he was sure. Thankfully he said yes. As we talked I found out that Chao Fan has a car that is in the shop for two weeks. He has been taking the bus, and his friends warned him about the missionaries, however he was hoping that someone would find him because he wants to start believing in God and wants religion in his life. We met with him and now he is preparing to be baptized on April 26th. I love the power of the Lord. I love that He is trusting me to talk to such amazing people here in Australia.

Friday we had dinner with Elizabeth and Tina came! Tina is one of the Elder's investigators who has been meeting with them as long as Tony has been meeting with us! Finally, Tina made the wonderful decision to be baptized and so we had a little dinner party at Elizabeth's Friday night to celebrate. Elizabeth taught me how to make a perfect omelet and we also had curry. It was so good. Unfortunately I wasn't able to eat much because it seems as if my allergies are kicking in and I have been suffering from a sore throat and bad sinus's. NO worries though I am eating less and my tummy is getting smaller! Blessings come in all forms.

Saturday was awesome as we were able to see Tina get baptized and another Elder's investigator, Ida! They are both so cute and bore such powerful testimonies after they were baptized. I love to see the growth of the church in the Chinese Program. The rest of the day was filled with lessons as we ran from place to place getting in all the lessons. We were able to meet with a new guy Robin who agreed to work towards April 26th for baptism. He is very cheery and I am excited to continue working with him.

Then Sunday, dreaded Sunday. It was all good until I remembered that it was the end of transfers and we might get a call. As the day went on and our investigators came to church I began to reflect on how much I love SunnyBank and didn't want to leave. We have 8 people on date and all of them are quite solid. I felt confident that they wouldn't move anyone out of our companionship because of all the success we were having.

The call came, and as our beloved Zone Leader, Elder Fa'oa read out the names of people staying, my name wasn't heard. When I did hear my name it was to tell me to start packing my bags. I felt as if the world came crashing down in and around me. All six months I have been in Australia not once have I broken down and cried. Before the tears just wouldn't come, but when I heard I would be leaving SunnyBank the dam that had been there these six months completely disappeared and the tears came and didn't stop. Maybe it was because I was a little sick, but I just sat on the floor crying and looking up at our investigator's names on our wall. I felt Sister Lai and Cabamongan's arms around me and I could feel my heart thumping wildly. I love each and everyone of our investigator's so much. I love Sister Lai and Cabamongan so much and I love the members in the ward so much. Now it was all going away, and I had no control over my situation. I had seen so many miracles with people like Peter and Chao Fan and now I had to say goodbye. It just seemed to be too much to handle at the moment and so I had my last big cry as a teenage girl. It was embarrassing!

Monday was filled with lessons saying to goodbye to this person and that. Tina helped us fellowship and after the lesson when I told her I would be leaving she cried! Then Elizabeth came and there were more tears. Then Peter and more tears. Monday night we went out as a district and though I didn't eat much, we were together and I just felt love. I felt love for the Elders in my district, for their investigators, for Fan, Tina and Elizabeth and love for the area. Why would God want me to leave all that I love? Then I remembered something Mom told me when we left South Carolina, "Isn't a blessing to love and be loved so much is hurts?" I have truly been blessed to serve in SunnyBank and I will be blessed now in my new area, the great city of Brisbane! I will learn to love my new companion, Sister Ng from Hong Kong and I will be okay. I am on the Lord's errand and He must have need of me here. As Nephi said, "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded me, for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish that which he hath commanded them."

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Goodbye SunnyBank hello Brisbane!

I love you all. Thanks for the birthday wishes and all the support you've given me. I am 9 months in with 9 to go. I pray that I continue to bless the lives of those around me and that I become changed for the better. Next time I talk to you all I won't be 19!

Miracle March

This is usually a month I like to enjoy March Madness and the beautiful array of college basketball. However, as a missionary I am set apart from all of that physical beauty in order to enjoy the spiritual beauty that comes from seeing Miracles of the Lord.

It all started on Monday after we were done emailing. We went to Aldi to buy our groceries and when we got to the cashier she added ten dollars to each of our bill! When we asked why she said some lady had given her three ten dollar bills and said to add it to our bill. It was a blessing and a miracle because I wasn't sure if I had enough cash and then low and behold I was well taken care of!

That miracle boosted our companionship urgency to be more obedient. We pushed it to the limit. Staying out at the bus stop until 8:55 and then running home to our flat to get in by 9:00pm. It was fun and we were able to make some solid contacts in the few extra minutes we put in at the bus stop. We needed those extra minutes because the majority of our time this week was spent in the OFFICE!!!! Yay yay yay!
Tuesday we taught a girl named May who is going back to Taiwan this Friday. The Spirit was very strong as we taught her about God and Jesus Christ. When she gave the closing prayer she said (in Chinese that I understood!), "Please help me to find sister missionaries in Taiwan as good as these sisters." Oh my heart just about melted and I felt comforted that what we had shared had instilled in her a desire to find missionaries on her return to Taiwan.
Wednesday we had Zone Meeting with guest speakers President Henderson and my area's Stake President, President Smiber. They really inspired and uplifted me to become more aware of people, members and investigators. To really listen to what they have to say and then testify of whatever they are talking about. President Smiber did a role-play of how to hand away a Book of Mormon and ever since our companionship is trying to treat the Book of Mormon with more respect and dignity when we pass it to new investigators.
Thursday was super busy. We woke up early just so we could get our studies in and then it was lessons all day! We biked to our first lesson and I love biking. It is quite a challenge to be modest with a skirt flying in the wind, but the feeling of my body moving is invigorating. Our next appointment was with Peter. I love teaching Peter he is full of so many funny one liners, but he is also really sincere in his desire to become a member of this Gospel. Some of his one liner's from Thursday are:
1) "I am grateful for the super fat man, he comes to me to get thin and it takes a long time. I make more money that way."
2) After telling him to come church every Sunday "Ahhhh man are you sure?" pause "Okay sounds good."
3) "I used to be very fat, not super fat, but my face was really round."
4) "I play the piano cause my hands are big."
5) "The super fat man's shirt was so wet you could make water. That was just his warm-up."

He is such a hoot and a holler! I wish I could record him and then you would really be rolling on the floor laughing.
Friday was an amazing lesson with Max as we prepared him to go to the temple on Saturday. We have been meaning to go with him for three weeks now and so when we asked him if he was excited he said, "Yes. Looking forward to it very much because delay delay delay!"
Saturday morning before we went to the temple we had a lesson with a Vietnamese woman, Gemma, who is so petite and cute and just wants to have happiness in her life. We shared with her the plan of salvation and the Spirit was so strong. I could feel all the love I owned going towards this one person. I didn't think it was possible for me to love a practical stranger so much, but it was as if my heart grew and more love entered in. At the end of the lesson Gemma pulled out a little baggy with three small items in it. She then proceeded to hand each of us a gift. She gave Sister Lai a notebook because in the first lesson Sister Lai drew some things for Gemma to explain the Godhead. She gave me a polka-dotted scarf/headband thing because the first time we met I was wearing a headband. She gave Sister Cabamongan a snow globe with a lamb inside because she said Sister Cabamongan reminded her of a little lamb. She said the reason she wanted us to have these small gifts is because we'd given her a gift of comfort that she didn't know could exist. I looked into her grateful eyes and at her slumped frame and told her "Thank you. But it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Holy Ghost." She nodded and tears trickled down her face. These were tears of comfort and gratitude for the Savior. Gemma is beginning to realize that she is never alone in this world.
Then we went to the temple with Max where Sister Chen joined us and it was very special. Max is very carefree and easy going, but even the most care free person in the world can feel the power and sanctity of the temple. Afterwards when we asked him how he felt he explained that he felt the same as when he was baptized just over a month ago. That was a great reminder to me to be more grateful for the opportunity I have to go to the temple whilst on my mission so that I can remember the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father and so that I can feel of His love.

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It was a thumbs-up day for sure!

BUT...That was not the end of our Saturday! We had a lesson with Tony as soon as we got back from the temple and it was amazing. We did a hands on thing where we fold a piece of paper and then rip it down the middle and it comes out with a cross. Then we talked about the Atonement and how it is there for us everyday and so we should repent everyday. Tony made a huge step forward this week. He went out with his friends and he didn't break the Word of Wisdom! He found a new drink that is a type of Soda that he really likes and said he prefers over tea or coffer or alcohol! I feel like he is ready for baptism and he, himself believes his confidence is increasing and is progressing towards the 5th of April.

We met with Peter again on Saturday and it was another really good lesson. At the beginning of each lesson we always ask how their Book of Mormon reading is coming along. When we asked Peter he told us he was at 2 Nephi Chapter 31. We were all surprised at how much he'd read in just two weeks, so we asked him how he managed to read so much and study and work. He said (as best as I can remember), "Well you know last night I was really drunk. It's true. we had a party and you know... I came home and was super sick so I drank a lot of tea. Most people drink coffee to help, but I drink tea. Then the tea gave me a lot of energy and I couldn't go to sleep. So I read a lot last night. Like 15 chapters." We all just stared at him and then Sister Cabamongan said, "Wow, that's really great Peter." Sister Lai looked at her with a he read while super drunk that's not super great face and said, "It's good that you are reading the Book of Mormon." Then I said, "Yes, and today after our main message we will talk about all that alcohol you drank."
We taught the Restoration and then we taught the Word of Wisdom. Peter took it like a man. Only a few gasps here and there, but when he read the promise that living the Word of Wisdom will bring more wisdom he understood and wanted to live it because in Peter's words "everyone wants to be smart right?"
After Peter we taught Alvin, a jolly guy from China! He was just so cute. Whenever we asked him if he wanted to return to live with God he would say, "I will try my best!" and put two thumbs up. Then when we asked him to be baptized on April 5th, he paused. We asked him to make it a goal and follow the example of Jesus Christ and then came the two thumbs up and a "I'll try my best." It was cool to see his earnest desire to just put forth his best effort.
Sunday was a crazy day. We had six people at church. A member fresh from Taiwan brought her three non-member friends with her. Then we had Peter, Tony, and a guy named Max (another man we are teaching) come as well. It was a full house and then on top of all that it was my turn to translate! By Sunday night we were all very very tired and ready for bed. As we complied our numbers together we realized how much success we'd been blessed with in one week. We taught 18 lessons and met all our of goals except for contacts and finding hours. I was excited at that all our hard work is coming together in getting people closer to the waters of baptism. I also have to remember to continue to be humble. It would be easy to let Pride slip and think of how well WE did this past week, but I am reminded of Alma when he said, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."
I know that this is the work of God. I am merely a tool in His mighty hands. I feel as if I have now worked hard enough that He can trust me with His children in helping them come closer to Christ. I am forever grateful for this opportunity I have to be busy and to be serving the Lord.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How Great Thou Art

There is a hymn I love dearly in the LDS hymnal page 86 called "How Great Thou Art." This week I have learned over and over again how truly amazing and loving our Heavenly Father is.

Wednesday night we taught a lesson to a guy with awesome purple hair. His name is Nick and when we last taught him a month and half ago he had red hair. Then he walked into the office with purple hair and I was just amazed that he could actually pull it off. Anyway...Nick's hair is probably the least impressive thing about that lesson. We were lucky to have Daniel Glenn, a return missionary from Taiwan, help us fellowship. We taught the Restoration of the Gospel and the Spirit was so strong. We invited him to be baptized and he said yes--but even that is not the most amazing part! As we were about to say the closing prayer Nick asked if Christians could drink and gamble. Daniel told him briefly that in our church we do not drink or gamble. It was quiet for a moment and I think I was holding my breath thinking this could make or break Nick's desire to continue meeting with us. That's when Nick said, "Can I pray for forgiveness right now?" My heart melted into a pool of emotion and I excitedly told him yes and that Heavenly Father would give him the forgiveness he was seeking. It was such a special moment.

After our lesson Daniel Glenn gave us some advice on how to be better teachers. I really appreciated it because we never get much feedback on our teaching. It was so refreshing to have someone coach us. I didn't realize how much I crave the coaching of someone more experienced than me. STL's are great, but they aren't in the Chinese program and can't really understand our teaching and so we don't get feedback from them. I love to be told how to improve.

Last night we had dinner at one the Nicholson's. A great family who feeds the missionaries every Sunday. Luckily this week it was our turn. The food was great, pizza! We helped carry the dinner to their outside picnic area and Sister Cabamongan tripped. She was able to save the pizza, but as we were walking home Sister Lai and I noticed she was limping. She had sprained her ankle when she saved the pizza, and now we had quite a long walk to go before we would reach our bus stop to get back home. And so...
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Being the biggest companion that I am I put the light 95lbs of Sister Cabamongan on my back and helped her get to the bus stop. Sister Lai, who was holding all of our stuff said, "I feel like a maid." In which I replied, "I feel like a horse." and then sweet little Sister Cabamongan said, "I feel like a damsel in distress." It was quite a good laugh!
But then as I was carrying my dearly beloved companion the Savior entered my mind. How He, the literal Son of God, sacrificed so much for me. Then I felt honored to have Sister Cabamongan on my back. I could feel the Holy Ghost's approval of what I was doing. I could feel even stronger the support and love of my Heavenly Father. That's when Sister Lai, who was walking behind us, began to sing "How Great Thou Art." The Spirit filled my entire soul and I felt consecrated. I could feel the power of my calling as a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ and I could feel my limbs being strengthened as we finally made it to the bus stop.
I testify that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. He is my master. I am His servant and I love this work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Switching it Up a Notch!

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Here is SunnyBank, where sometimes I feel a little too familiar, we are trying to switch things up a notch. To kick it into gear and really hasten the work in our area. Sometimes this includes play pranks on the Elders and "stealing" their bikes! Sadly this prank didn't pan out as well as I'd hoped, but we sure had a laugh trying to ride their bikes in our skirts.
Honestly though, the work here is really starting to pick up as we exercise more and more faith and talk to more and more people. I was able to behold so many miracles this past week and I know that every miracle, big or small, is a sign from my Heavenly Father that He not only loves me, but the people that I am teaching.
The first thing we did this week to change up our week a bit we decided to put in some tracting (knocking on doors) (something quite unheard of in the Chinese-Program). This was my first time tracting in Australia where we had some real success. We ended up with a couple of houses inviting us back to share a message and we got a couple of numbers who didn't know when they would have free time.
That's when the week began to look very good and then it began so difficult. All the appointments we set up seemed to cancel or just not show up. It was cancellation after cancellation and my faith was beginning to shake. Thankfully, I have a firm foundation in Jesus Christ and I was able to hold on strong focusing on the weekend when I just knew all our appointments would follow through.
Lo and behold, the STL's called and said they wanted to do trade-offs on Saturday and I would be leaving the area! Oh how I weeped! All week we put in hard core tracting and GQ'ing to have a Saturday full of lessons and no GQ'ing. I did not want to go to another area and leave behind some of the only lessons we would have that week. I may or may not have thrown a little tantrum and flopped rather dramatically onto my bed before companionship prayer. The next day I woke up and pleaded with Heavenly Father to please cancel the trade-off. When I told Sister Cabamongan what I prayed for, she kindly reminded me that only prayers with a righteous desire would be answered. Dang-it.
At lunch I decided it was time to humble myself and take all my worries and concerns to the Lord. I asked my Heavenly Father to please help me have a good trade-off. To please help me understand what it was that I needed to learn from my leaders. MOST importantly I asked Heavenly Father to please humble me enough to have a good attitude during trade-offs.
Trade-offs were great! I saw miracles, learned much that I want to somehow try and apply to the Chinese program, and my biggest worry that my investigators in SunnyBank wouldn't be okay without me was erased as Sister Cabamongan and Sister Lai produced miracles without me there! What a blessing. And the Lord blessed me for putting it all in His hands.
Sunday, a guy was supposed to come to church and then didn't show up. I was heart-broken because I had chased after him in the parking lot behind the bus station because of a prompting from the Holy Ghost. I'd thought for sure this guy would become a solid investigator. I decided to send him a text saying I'd missed him at church. He replied quickly apologizing and saying he'd had some job interviews that morning. I asked if he would be free to meet that evening. He said yes.
His name is Peter and he has been in Australia for five years and is just so cool. He had a room-mate that was Mormon and a really good example. We had a lesson with Fan, a really solid member, and it just went amazing. Peter had so many great questions and was really open. We committed him to baptism on March 29th and he said yes! That's the weekend after my birthday and I can't imagine a better birthday present that seeing someone enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father.
The work is continuing on stronger and stronger each week. I feel so blessed to be here in SunnyBank. We are really pushing ourselves to the limit and are finally starting to see some fruits from all of our labor. God loves each and everyone of His children on earth and the longer I am here the stronger my testimony becomes.  Monday was Zone Conference and President Henderson just dug into our souls! It was amazing to learn from him. He is truly an inspired mad and I love serving the Lord under President Henderson's jurisdiction. I can't imagine having any other Mission President.

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Say hello to the Largest Chinese District in the mission!