Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease - Sis. L's Story Continued

For the first half of the story, please read the March post, "For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles."

Saturday, March 29 
We taught Sis. L about tithing. She was now up to 3 Nephi 15 so the sisters had her read from 3 Nephi 24 about Malachi. I asked Sis. L, “Do you know what tithing is?” The sisters told me later they were nervous about my approach because they thought there was no way she’d know the answer. But Sis. L answered, “It’s a tenth. My mother always told me since I was little that everything comes from God so we have to give him back one tenth.” Then she held out her hand and said, “When we give God one tenth, he gives us back so much it’s heavy and we can’t hold it.” It was another amazing miracle, Heavenly Father really has been preparing her all her life! I invited Sis. L to be baptized, explaining to her that one of the sisters might be transferred (transfer date is April 14) and if she was baptized on April 13, both sisters would for sure be there. She said she’d pray about it:)

Sunday, March 30
I picked Sis. L up for church. Her sister had sent her a skirt to wear, she looked beautiful and was radiant! It was amazing. A Filipino sister was on the program to speak, how awesome is that? Another miracle! The topic was testimony, so perfect. Then in Gospel Principles class, the lesson was Chapter 20 on Baptism! One of our senior couple elders, taught it so plainly and clearly. Miracle after miracle! After church, I took Sis. L home and asked her how she liked church. She said she loved it. I asked her how she felt about baptism, she said she wanted to be baptized! We have one more lesson to teach her this week, her baptismal interview will be this Sunday, then baptism on 4/13!!!

Monday, March 31
After such a miracle Sunday, Sis. L had a huge setback:( She texted saying her employer was angry, reneged on allowing her to attend church, didn't want us meeting with her anymore, didn't want us calling, etc.:(

Sunday, April 7
We have lost all contact with Sis. L and don't know what to do. She doesn't text us any more. I don't know if her phone was taken away, if she left Taiwan, etc. I was able to talk to a couple in the Chinese ward here that are both lawyers. They say it is unlawful to employ someone 24/7 and not allow them any time to themselves. Also provided a 911-type number in instances of abuse, and another phone number for help with employment contracts. I just don't know how to get the info to her:( I know I can't lose faith, and question why. I have come to realize that Heavenly Father will provide miracles, but He won't take away people's agency. Sometimes the wicked prevail, to their condemnation, like in Alma and Amulek's situation when the women and children were martyred. But we have already witnessed the miracles. We have already seen the Lord answer our prayers. We just have to have faith and ask Him what we should do.

Friday, April 11
Our prayers were answered and Sis. L contacted us this week:) Her phone had run out of minutes and she was able to text us only after she re-loaded her account. I have been praying that she would know what to do. She wrote me saying , “I always pray that God will show me what to do.” Then she told me she woke up at 2am and saw her triple combination scripture on the floor. She opened it up to D&C 9:8 and she prayed to know if her decision to honor her contract was right. She felt good about it. Then the next day she read Elder Hales’ talk, "General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony," and he taught from the same scripture! It was another answer to her prayers. I know I don’t have to worry about Sis. L if she is being guided by the Holy Ghost. The Savior’s Atonement will comfort her, keep her safe, and swallow up all her afflictions in joy (Alma 21:38).

Monday, April 14
As I prayed for Sis. L, I felt a priesthood blessing could really help her. So I delivered Sis. L a letter and asked if she desired one. She wrote back and asked me, in humility, if she was worthy of one. Wow, of course she was! 

Tuesday, April 15
President and I, the APs, and the sister missionaries met Sis. L tonight. The very same missionary that first found Sis. L six months ago, who happens to be our newly called Assistant to the President returning to the area (hereafter known as Sis. L's AP), gave her a priesthood blessing. Sis. L cried afterwards for 5 minutes at least. She was so grateful to be blessed, through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, with the strength to overcome her trials.

Thursday, April 17
Yesterday, I delivered Elder Bednar's talk, "Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease" to Sis. L. She wrote me a letter that leaves me amazed at her faith. She said, "Indeed! That message was for me. It gave me more power and understanding." Then she told me about her friend who is a caretaker as she is, only in Saudi Arabia. Her friend suffers so much more, as she has to work harder, is only fed one meal a day, and she sends her money home to support her husband's education while she hears reports that he is having affairs with other women. She took opportunity to share Elder Bednar's talk with her friend. She felt so much more blessed to have friends in the gospel. Later that day, Sis. L was at the Buddhist temple with her employer, reading the Book of Mormon while waiting, when she was approached by a stranger. Observing what she was doing, he asked, "Are you a Mormon?" She anxiously replied, "Yes I am, are you?" She was disappointed when he answered, "Yes, but not for a long time," and then quickly walked away. She read Pres. Uchtdorf's talk, "Come Join with Us" and asked me, "...why do the Church members go away?" Lastly that day, Sis. L was able to share some gospel truths with her employer's son. He questioned why the television program was named, "7th Heaven." Sis L taught him about the Lord's kingdoms of glory. Sis. L is a daughter of God and valiant disciple of Christ, declaring His gospel with every opportunity, and is grateful in any circumstance!

Easter Sunday, April 20
This week while I was praying, I thought of how Sis. L had promised the Lord six weeks ago that she would read the entire BofM (which she finished way early) by Easter Sunday and asked Him to make it possible for her to attend church that day. I thought of D&C 118 where the four apostles were called to leave for their missions on April 26 (9 months later) from the Far West temple lot. However, by the time the date came, the extermination order had been issued. Fulfilling the revelation meant returning into Missouri under threat of death. They knew under those circumstances the Lord would excuse them, nevertheless they snuck back in the middle of the night on that very day, were set apart as missionaries on the temple site, and departed. I thought of how Sis. L had already attended church three weeks ago, Heavenly Father had answered her prayer early. Then the thought came into my heart, and I felt that if Sis. L couldn’t go to church on Easter Sunday, we could bring church to her! I obtained permission from the English branch president. At 8pm, on the sidewalk corner where surprisingly someone has left chairs and a park bench, next to a homeless man asleep mostlikely from intoxication, we held an Easter Sunday sacrament meeting. The APs, sister missionaries, Sis. L, and President and I were in attendance. SIs. L's AP even printed a program. We sang, “He is Risen,” the sacrament was passed, each of us shared 30-sec testimonies on the resurrection of Christ, and then Sis. L's AP asked her if she would like to share her thoughts. She talked about how grateful she was for her new friends, the gospel, and the Book of Mormon. She talked about her father, how he physically abused his children when they were little, and how much she and her siblings suffered. How much her siblings hated him and all wanted to report him so he would be taken away to prison, but how she never wanted to because she loved him anyway since he was their father. Now that he had passed away, she knew through the Plan of Salvation that one day she will be able to be with him again. She says the trials he put her through made her strong, and helped to prepare her for what she is going through now. How amazing is her faith??? Sis. L's AP asked her to close with prayer, which she did so beautifully. We all feel so blessed to know someone so “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [her]” (Scripture Mastery scripture, Mosiah 3:19).


4-23-14 Jiayi English Class

Showing new English class visitors the way to their first class:
 The Little Friends Class: Momma called the doctor and the doctor said...
 No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
Beginner Class: 24 participants tonight!
Intermediate Class: a lesson on outdoor activities!

Advanced Class: a demonstration on playing Taboo, one of my favorite games!
Class members playing in teams:
Inviting new investigators to come, this one bringing his mother:)

4-22-14 Zhongming DTM

President wanted to attend Zhongming District's DTM, and observe the new DL in action.
He did not disappoint! 
He conducted training on making baptismal invitations when teaching about the Gospel of Jesus Christ...
And followed the training model, dedicating ample time to practice, evaluate, and re-practice:)

The Zhongming District

Monday, April 21, 2014

4-21-14 President's Weekly Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

I very much enjoyed your letters last week, especially your thoughts about our most recent general conference. This was an outstanding conference and I also received much needed personal guidance. Conference time for me is a chance to check my bearings – to see where I have made progress, where I am going, and how I can improve. I am so grateful for inspired leaders who always seem to address exactly what I need. I am also thankful for the Holy Ghost, who teaches me the most important things in life. He “fills in the gaps” so that I hear and learn what I need to hear and learn. I know that my Heavenly Father knows and loves me and general conference is one of the many ways in which I feel His love.

Although I did not keep exact statistics, the two talks that were most frequently mentioned as being among your favorites were President Uchtdorf’s talk on gratitude and Elder Bednar’s talk about how the burdens that we carry give us traction to move forward. These great addresses, and so many others, have great relevance to what we are striving to accomplish as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been some time since I included excerpts from some of your letters. Here are a few that were especially inspiring to me last week:

“When hard times come, it is easy to forget to be grateful because things are not going our way. This is the time that we need to be even more grateful. When we show gratitude in the hard times, it shows God that we trust him and know that he just wants us to grow and be better.”

“President Uchtdorf talked about gratitude, and not just being grateful for our possessions, but being grateful in our circumstances. In particular, he used the phrase "gratitude will clear our vision." This really struck me, and I feel that as I work harder to be grateful for everything that I've been given, including my circumstances, I will find greater joy and excitement in the work and it will really help to provide a focus for me.”

“I am so grateful to be here in A with Elder B. I'm also so very grateful for the opportunity I had to be with Elder C in D. I got to see how obedience and a love for this work really changed my mission. I love these people I want to show them the truth of this gospel. I'm so grateful for all the inspiration I received during General Conference. 
Every companion I have had on my mission has strengthened my testimony so much. I'm so grateful for the Lord and his atonement that I can try to help improve myself each day.”

“I LOVED Henry B. Eyring's talk of our eternal heritage. When we choose to follow our savior, Jesus Christ, this choice not only effects us personally but all those who come after us. We CHOOSE to leave a GREAT inheritance for those who will come after us. One thing he said seemed to resonate in my ears, "that my children may imitate my example." Our example is our inheritance we leave behind. And the words "be someone worth following" seemed to light up on a billboard in my head. As I pondered these words and tuned back into what President Eyring was saying, he was testifying of the Savior, and the eternal inheritance of peace, joy, resurrection, and happiness that he has left us. I can echo his testimony and say I know we can depend on him and what he can give us, but it is a choice, a choice of righteousness. A choice to be like him.”

“My favorite conference talk was The Cost - and Blessings - of Discipleship by Jeffery R. Holland. I reflected on the impolite behavior from the man on that sister missionary and realized that we aren't here to have an easy mission. We teach "Hard" Doctrine in an area with lots of "Easy" Gods. We are rejected left and right, sometimes very harshly. I ask, "I am willing to endure it all for Christ's name?"

Elders and Sisters, I was deeply impressed by the comments and insights that many of you shared with me in your letters as you reflected on your experience of participating in general conference. I hope that you will always remember the powerful thoughts and feelings that come to you as you watch, listen and heed the conference messages. I hope that you will make time each April and October for the rest of you lives to participate in general conference. Remember: listening is not enough, we must go and do!

President Blickenstaff
Mentor of Champions 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 Easter

Easter Breakfast on Saturday morning before our trip to Monkey Mountain. Cinnamon Breakfast Streusel was a regular that my seminary kids enjoyed.
 Easter Egg Hunt 7:00 am Sunday morning, before we left for Douliu:

One of our departing missionaries (that we loved dearly), left me a huge brick of chocolate. I put it to good use making chocolate covered peanut butter crispy eggs:)
Since President doesn't like anything peanut buttery except peanut butter (okay, he's weird), I had to give away most of the five dozen eggs I made so I wouldn't gain five pounds eating them myself! My dear friend Corrine taught me how to make these years ago:)
That evening, Elder Wong, newly called to the First Quorum of Seventy at the most recent general conference, came to our home for dinner. He had presided over the Taichung North Stake conference this weekend. Elder Wong shared with us his experience of being called to serve as a general authority:

4-19-14 Monkey Mountain P-Day

We drove about one hour to Songboling Recreation Area in Nantou County with one object in mind: 
to find monkeys!
We were not disappointed, they were found! We saw a few Formosan Rock Macaques (monkeys) right away. Interesting fact: besides humans, Formosan Rock Macaques are the only native primates living in Taiwan.
Then the ranger brought the monkeys lunch, throwing out corn cobs, carrots, watermelon, apples...
they started coming out of the trees as soon as they could hear his scooter approaching!
They had a feast!

About the closest we could get!

 A mother caring for her young...
Definitely the smallest monkey I'd ever seen:
Let me check behind your ears!
 Companions caring for each other:
Setting a good example for our elders!
 Taking a rest break on a lounging stone:
NEWS FLASH: We have discovered a third breed of primates!
 A few of us climbed up the stairs to the top of the mountain:)
The next morning,  my quads were pretty sore and I could feel my calves trying to cramp on me. 
I was consoled after the elders told me they woke up and were dying!
Real coconut water - not the Sobe kind!
 Shoutian Temple:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

4-16-14 Departing Missionaries

With each transfer, we get to know our missionaries better, making it so much harder to say goodbye!
They are such stalwart leaders, having served faithfully until the end.
Our AP snuck into our home and planned a treasure hunt for us to remember him by.
Following the clues, we were led to the "treasure" hidden above our ceiling tiles. 
We truly will "treasure" this elder's game ball for a lifetime:)
Look for him this fall, kicking for BYU's football team!
We love seeing the missionaries off at the temple. 
We want to remember them in white, in a place where bonds of love extend through all eternity.
Our senior office couple will be departing in a few weeks as well. They have brought so much love into our mission. Over the past eighteen months, they have welcomed every single elder and sister upon their arrival to Taiwan, and served them faithfully.
It's always wonderful to be joined by recent converts and released Taichung missionaries!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

4-7-14 President's Weekly Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

We were blessed to help 60 of our brothers and sisters receive baptism in the month of March! It took diligence, skill and especially FAITH. On Monday of the last week it did not look very likely that we would be able to achieve our goal. I am grateful for your prayers, obedience, hard work and for not giving up. In the end, going forward with faith led to eleventh hour miracles! I believe with persistent effort and enduring faith we can witness 60 baptisms every month in our mission.

I am so grateful to see so many companionships setting goals based on mission standards and then proceeding with diligence and faith to accomplish their goals. I know that some areas of the mission are more challenging than others. Baptisms in these areas are seemingly rare. I love it when missionaries in these difficult areas set goals, have faith and work diligently to realize their goals. They seem oblivious to the challenges and prior lack of success. Their attitude alone exemplifies a successful PMG missionary.  In many cases, their faith and diligence is also rewarded with progressing towards and/or achieving mission standards.

I am working to prepare for the coming transfer next week. Preparing each transfer takes faith, diligence and skill. It is a sacred trust from the Lord. I fast and pray to receive inspiration and guidance. I prayerfully consider each missionary and each companionship. It is a spiritual experience for me. It is disappointing to hear that some missionaries consider this a time of speculation and aspiration. Such behavior makes a mockery of something sacred. If you have engaged in this behavior, I urge you to change by pleading with Heavenly Father to guide and inspire me in the transfer process, as well as to guide and inspire yourself in preparing to serve how and where the Lord wants you to serve.

Section 51 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given in 1831 to saints from New York who were gathering in Ohio. It was a time of transition, somewhat like a transfer day for missionaries. The Lord said to them, “And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws. And I consecrate unto them this land for a little season, until I, the Lord, shall provide for them otherwise, and command them to go hence; And the hour and the day is not given unto them, wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good” (D&C 51:15-17).

To each of you, the Lord consecrates an assignment (a place and a companion) for a “little season.” We should act upon these assignments “as for years,” meaning that we should proceed as though we may be in this location with this companion for years. As Ammon began his mission to the Lamanites, he stated, “I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.” His mission lasted fourteen years and I’m sure that he continued to care for his RCs (the people of Ammon) until the day that he died. What a great example to us of a consecrated missionary!

Make the last week of this movecall your best, and love the area and those you serve enough to stay “as for years!”

President Blickenstaff
Mentor of Champions

Sunday, April 13, 2014

4-2014 General Conference

Nothing is better than having our missionaries return and visit us after 
faithfully serving with all their heart, might, mind, and strength! 
And no more special time to come than General Conference! 
Our family tradition is to enjoy lots of family favorites at conference time. 
Like a bacon hash brown breakfast casserole, monkey bread and watermelon:)
I realized Saturday that I can still do that the mission home!
So on Sunday, we had the missionaries watching conference at the chapel next door join us for brunch.
I'm used to preparing enough food to enjoy for a few days, but missionaries manage to finish everything!
 Our Operations Manager & best cookie baker mixed up a batch of his famous chocolate chip cookies...
 Dang...some had already left before the group photo was snapped!
 Some of us weren't too happy about that!