Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Spirit and Joy of Christmas

hi everyone!

This week was really good. We had a lot of investigators make good progress as far as setting baptismal dates.

Here's the funny story of the week. We met with L and his grandma this week. We knew that lately he has been struggling with prayer, scriptures, and hasn't been coming to church, so we reviewed the commandments with him in hopes that we could motivate him to do those things. We asked him to pick one he wanted to work on for this week. His answer? Coveting. Hahahaha!

Skyping with the family on Christmas day
  The 75 year old investigator H that Sis Jenkins and I used to teach came to church yesterday! We gave him over to the elders when we switched areas, and the last time they met with him, as they were chatting before actually starting the lesson, he told them that as soon as he finishes the Book of Mormon, he wants to be baptized, and that he wanted to go to church that week. It made us so happy to see him in sacrament meeting on Sunday! He is such a sweet old grandpa.

Traditional Christmas dinner with the missionaries
Christmas was so good. It was (obviously) completely different than any Christmas I've ever had before, but I think I finally understood why people say that Christmas on the mission is the best. One of the most interesting things to me was that it still felt like Christmas- the spirit and joy of Christmas really doesn't come from presents or traditions or food or snow or even from being with family (although all those things are pretty great :D). It comes because everyone is thinking about Christ.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me their family christmas letter- I love reading them and seeing pictures! If you haven't sent me your christmas letter, I'd love to get it! My address is on the sidebar....and if you send me yours, I'll send you one from Taiwan!

Love you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Plumber and Exterminator are in!

This week we saw SO many miracles, especially as far as new investigators are concerned.

On Wed, Sis Jenkins and I were out knocking doors. I had prayed that morning and felt prompted to ask that we would be able to find someone who was prepared, someone who really needed the gospel. We knocked on one door, explained who we were and that we were sharing a Christmas message, and the lady let us in (which NEVER happens....I think this is maybe the 3rd time on my mission that someone has invited us in to their house!). She is from the Phillipines, and is married to a Taiwanese man and they have 3 children, two of whom were there. She gathered them in and told them that they were all going to listen to us share. The mom is Christian but hasn't been to church in a long time, and wants her children to understand Christianity. We taught them the 1st lesson and set baptismal dates with all of them! When we asked them if they would be baptized on the 24th of January, the 10 year old son asked us what day of the week that was, and after we told him it was a Saturday, he said, "If I don't have a football game, I can definitely do that." We assured him that we can work around his football game schedule! :D

We also started teaching the teenage son, Z, and set a baptismal date with him! Both of them came to our ward's christmas party, and it turns out that the son is friends with L, one of our other youth-age investigators. I think God really wants to expand the youth program in Danshui...He keeps sending us teenage investigators.

We met this week with R, the one who showed up last week after our church block and asked to be taught. He is awesome and he has pretty much adopted Sis Jenkins and I as his grandchildren. He came to church yesterday, and we called him in the evening to see how he liked it, and he said he really enjoyed it. I asked him what his favorite part was and he said that in Priesthood meeting, one of the brothers that he met last week came up and sat by him, and then the bishop noticed that he was new and had him introduce himself, and then everyone said "welcome! welcome!". The elders told us that in his introduction he said that he originally came into our church building becuase he was interested after always seeing it from driving his granddaughter to school, but he felt a "quiet difference" in our church and wants to keep coming back. He said he has been to a lot of churches, but our worship method is different, and he likes it. He said he was so touched by the warm welcome and how nice everyone is to him. We are going to set a baptismal date with him this week! He is such a sweet man, and I love him.

This week we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders- our new sister training leader is Sis Zhong, who I was companions with for a week back in the summer when we did the tsunami in YuLi. It was so fun to do misisonary work with her again! Apparently she was pretty surprised with the state of our apartment, so she told the mission office that we urgently needed blankets, a working microwave, and a plumber. Hahaha! But the next day some blankets and a microwave showed up at our apartment, and so did a plumber. He and the cockroach exterminator are my best friends this week! We haven't seen any cockroaches for 3 days!
 Speaking of our apartment, Sis Jenkins and I had another adventure last Monday! Our apartment is pretty small, which is fine, but there was a ton of extra furniture everywhere that was making it feel really cramped. We asked our security guard what we could do with it, and he told us to bring it all down, and that they could call someone to pick it up for us for free! Sweet! We started with the couch, which we assumed would fit in the elevator.....no matter how much we shoved, it just wouldn't fit. So Sis Jenkins and I carried it down 3 flights of stairs, laughing the whole way down as we unintentionally shoved each other into walls and tried to figure out how to manuver a sofa over handrails and around corners. In all we got rid of the sofa, 2 end tables, 3 large couch cushions (that don't even belong to the couch!), a bookshelf, and a foot stool. And we got a fantastic arm workout in the process! :D

Yesterday at church, one of our members, X, who always helps us peike, gave a talk and spoke about how much she her life has changed since we started asking her to help us in lessons. She said that she used to not feel comfortable speaking to strangers, but since seeing our example and enthusiasm, when she sees people she doesn't know, she just wants to share the gospel with them. When I first got to Danshui, she was less active in the church- it's amazing to see the change that the gospel, and especially something has simple as having the chance to bear her testimony frequently, has made in her life. Hearing her talk really touched me as I could see clearly the way that God had used us to influence her and strengthen her resolve to live a Christlike life.

I love you! Merry Christmas! Talk to you Friday (my time!)!
Sis Murri

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Missionary apartment woes...and an earlier relase date!

I found out this week from President Day that my release date is June 29th, not Aug 14 like I had originally thought. It's actually a little weird because my group will only be getting 11 transfers instead of 12, like normal. But if it means I can see Jared before he heads out to Taiwan on his mission (hahaha calling it now!), that would be really cool. (In Feb Jared will be submitting his papers to serve a mission and should find out where he is assigned sometime in March) 

 On Monday evening, we came home and started making phone calls and saw some cockroaches chilling out in our apartment. So we pulled out the Raid and started spraying. We just sort of switched off- one person making calls and the other on cockroach duty. We killed probably 60 or 70 in the hour. That's just an estimate though; we stopped counting after #50. But apparently that counts as a problem, because the mission is sending a guy out this Thursday to take care of it. By the end of the night, we had little dead cockroach bodies and Raid puddles all over the floor. And we had eaten a package of oreos. But the nice part is that the Raid was "country-fresh" scented, so at least by the end of the night we had a fresh smelling apartment. I am a little paranoid about the bug situation in the apartment so every night before I get in bed, I check it for bugs. It makes Sis Jenkins laugh, but hey, peace of mind is priceless. :D
Sink is broken-can't wash dishes? Line everything with plastic wrap!

On Wednesday we had another apartment adventure! As we were trying to clean our dishes after lunch, we noticed that our sink wasn't draining at all. So on the way back from contacting, we bought some magic drain unclogger stuff and poured it down the sink. It fizzed and bubbled and got warm and we were pretty excited that it was working. So after it had done its thing, I turned on the water. We were very excited that something in our apartment was finally working....until we noticed that there was water spilling out from beneath the cabinet. We opened up the cabinet to find that the pipe was made out of thin plastic- it looked like a drinking straw- so the drain opener had just totally eaten through the pipe! Hahaha! Sis Jenkins and I just stood there and laughed! Good thing she is such a chill person. Hopefully this week the plumber guy will show up so we can get that taken care of.

Dedication of the new chapel
The Bali elders had quite the adventure with their baptism this weekend! I guess last week after Y's baptism, we forgot to turn off the water heater. So they turned it on again, and it heated the water double- up to 95 degrees celcius! They didn't realize this until they went to turn on the water and only steam came out, which set off the fire alarm, and a voice telling everyone to evacuate. Luckily there is a way to manually turn off the fire alarm, which the elders did, and then got on the loudspeaker and told everyone not to worry or evacuate, that it was just the baptismal font! The baptism went really well. The convert is adorable, and is one of our English students. Lately at our baptisms, while the new convert is changing into dry clothes, we have been showing a Mormon Message (www.lds.org/pages/mormon-messages for short videos on various gospel topics) to those attending the baptism. I guess the elders put one of the church members in charge of it, but he chose that "spiritual crocodiles" video where the crocodile keeps attacking the gazelles and ripping their heads off...over and over.... and over. Sis Jenkins and I were dying of laughter because it was just so violent and we couldn't figure out why in the world he had chosen this one! Not exactly the most spiritual way to pass time during a baptism. Hahaha! 
The "light lunch"served after the dedication

This week we saw lots of miracles. I think God knows how much of our time is being taken up by traveling all around Taibei for choir performances all weekend long, and is showering us with blessings! There was a guy who just walked into the chapel after church on Sunday and set up a time to meet with us. Pretty cool!

 I love being a missionary! It is such an adventure all the time! And how lucky am I to get to spend all of my time thinking, talking, and teaching about Jesus Christ. Incredible!

Love you!
Sis Murri

Monday, December 8, 2014

Choir, Christmas contacting and Cockroaches

We got moved into our new apartment this weekend, so we are closer to the church now. The best way I can think to describe the apartment is that it's like living in a 10-square-foot Ikea showroom house, but without the nifty ikea furniture and with lots of cockroaches. Hahaha! It has been such an adventure! Every night I pray that God will make all the cockroaches die, but I think instead he's answering my prayers by making me not freak out about seeing them everywhere. 

with the "one more, two more!" ladies
 Y was baptized this weekend!!! Her baptismal service was such a special experience for me. I was emotional the whole time just thinking about all the sacrifices that she has made and all that she has given up to get to this point.  At the baptismal service when she was bearing her testimony, she said, "It's kind of hard for me to believe that I've actually been baptized- the first time I met with missionaries and they invited me to be baptized, I told them that I would listen to their message but would never be baptized or join their church. But here I am." She is incredible!

The church has put out a new Christmas video initiative called "He is the Gift" (go to christmas.mormon.org to watch it...it is so good!). The First Presidency has encouraged us as missionaries to use it as a contacting tool, so we have been doing Christmas contacting! Since everyone here is always on their phone anyway, we will approach people and wish them merry christmas and ask if we can show them a short video. We help them pull it up on YouTube and then watch it with them and talk about the real meaning of Christmas. Then we give them a Christmas present- a Book of Mormon. It is amazing how receptive people are when they hear the words "video" and "chrismas present". Christmas is much different here than pretty much anywhere else in the world. No one has the day off from work or school. We ask people what they know about christmas, or about the meaning of it, and they say, "I don't know". But we are changing that, one person at a time! I think this Christmas will be really special to me because it will be totally focused on Jesus Christ. 

Yesterday we had stake conference at the chapel by the temple. I was feeling really sick, so I asked Pres Day for a blessing. He gave me a blessing and then said, "why don't you just come up to the mission home and rest until your choir performances tonight?" He and Sister Day took such great care of me. (and I am feeling much better today- I'm sure the 3 hour nap had something to do with that!) We as Taiwan Taibei missionaries are so incredibly blessed to be led by President and Sister Day. They are incredible! Being around them just makes you want to be more Christlike

***IMPORTANT*** We can skype home on Taiwan's dec 25 or dec 26. I am thinking the best time will be the morning of the 26. We can do it any time after 8, so let me know what you think would be best.

Love you! Watch that "He is the Gift" video and share it with everyone you know!

Sis Murri

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Our little hearts are saying 'pleaaase pleasssse pleeeease!'"

We have been super busy with tons of investigators, christmas choir (practices every monday and performances every Sat and Sun) and also, this Friday we are moving! We are switching areas with the Elders because President likes for the sisters to be close to the chapel. We will still keep all of our investigators, though. 

This week I passed off Phase 2! Yay! Now it's on to Phase 3, which is learning to read and write Book of Mormon characters. Luckily I've been trying to read the Book of Mormon in characters since I got on island, so it should be pretty easy. 

We also had temple tours this week, and my favorite tour was with the Jin Hua elders' investigator, who is Japanese. His english was actually pretty decent, but they also had a white guy who had served his mission in Japan to help peike. Then at the last minute a Taiwanese person (who had super good English) also joined us. So we were switching back and forth between English and Chinese with some Japanese in there too- pretty fun!

There is a park near our house that we run to in the mornings with a bunch of Taiwanese old ladies who do this dance exercise routine. They are so funny and they LOVE us. The only english they know is "one more, two more!" which they yell at us as we do sit ups and push ups and stuff. They also love to touch our skin and tell us how young and beautiful we are. I love old Taiwanese ladies. Anyway, one morning this week we decided to join their little dance routine... they were THRILLED! They told us to come earlier so we could participate in the whole thing, and we asked what time. 5:10 am. We told them sorry, we were way too tired to get up that early! 

 We visited W family a couple times this week and taught them the plan of salvation by writing the characters for each of the steps on pieces of paper and having them walk on it like a trail. When we got to the earth life part, we asked them, "what kind of things should we do in our life here?" The youngest, P, who is 7, immediately shouted out "TAKE PICTURES!" and threw up two peace signs. Hahaha! She is a crack up! When we were reviewing the ten commandments with them, we did a hand sign for #9, and asked them if they remembered what the 9th commandment was. She said. "Don't eat stuff!!" Hahaha thank goodness that's not a commandment! I love these cute kids.

We also visited L and his Ama this week. I don't remember if I told you this, but last week we visited just the Ama, and invited her to be baptized, she said no and gave us all kinds of excuses.  She is a funny old lady. When we visited them this week, she said she was busy and went into the back room. When L went to go get his scriptures, we told him to invite his Ama to come in and listen. From our seats in the front room, we heard her say, "I told you, I'm busy", to which he replied, "you're not busy! You were just watching TV!". She said, "stop talking so much and go back in there with the missionaries!" Hahaha! I just started laughing and then translated for Sis Jenkins and then she started laughing, and then L came back and we all laughed together!

The best part of the week.......we fasted on Fri for Y (speaking of which, I have gained such a big testimony of fasting on my mission! I feel like I really understand the power it brings, and I actually look forward to it). We had told her we would call her on Sat night to see how it went speaking to her family about being baptized. On Sat we called her and she said that she had talked to her mom, and that her mom wasn't super thrilled about her getting baptized, but she doesn't fandui! Yay! She had her interview last night and is getting baptized this saturday! I am so excited for her!

What Nicole made for her Thanksgiving dinner
 I guess I should explain the title of the email this week....in our weekly planning this week we were setting our goals for the week- and we set them pretty high. Sis Jenkins said, "well, these make sense- goals are supposed to reflect the desires of our hearts right?" And I said, "yep, our little hearts are saying please please please!" And God is pouring out the miracles!

Life is so good. Seriously. I am so blessed.
Sis Murri

"More happiness than you have yet exerienced awaits you..."

Sometimes I wonder why God has seen fit to pour out so many incredible blessings upon me and upon this area! We had an amazing week!

Last week I remembered one of my past companions telling me about a less active family with kids who were old enough to be baptized. That was surely the Holy Ghost “bringing things to my remembrance” as the scriptures say. This week we were able to get in contact with them and set baptismal dates with the 10 year old, the 8 year old, as well as the 11 year old cousin! What a miracle. And their dad is willing to bring them to church. Their family situation is pretty dysfunctional right now, but I hope that this will motivate the parents to return to church. There are few things that rip at my heart strings more than seeing broken families- I have really gained a testimony on my mission of the importance of families and how they aren't just an "earth thing"- families are the core of eternity. 

 This week C was baptized! She is adorable! It was such a neat experience to watch someone who I found, taught, and worked through the whole conversion process with finally enter into that covenant of baptism. She reminds me a lot of Carol- actually, their birthdays are only a week apart. This morning, a quote from one of the apostles popped into my head- "when you save a girl, you save generations". There is a part of Preach My Gospel that talks about how the people we meet don't necessarily realize that eternity hangs in the balance- but we do. I know that someday she will look back and it will just hit her how important this is!

We met with a new investigator, L yesterday. Yay! It was the first time meeting with him since the street contact, so we shared the first lesson with him and recommitted him to be baptized (he had committed on the street). He was like, "yeah, of course- I told you last time that I would be baptized..." Hahaha! He is really great. We pulled out our copies of the Book of Mormon from our bags and he immediately apologized for not having read it yet and said he would do better next week. He has a baptismal date for the end of the month!
the "forbidden fruit"?

On Monday evening we had a couple hours of finding time but it was pouring rain, so we decided to just keep our big blue ponchos on. Imagine being you (except Asian) and opening your door to find two white, soaking wet American girls who look like oompa loompas and one of them is carting around a CD player. Hahaha! Yep. Being a missionary is really awesome!

The past few days, I have just been given a knowledge, an assurance that I- me personally- really did live with God before I came here. I feel like the Holy Ghost has just given me an incredible eternal perspective. I think I am feeling in my heart what I've known in my head all along. 

Yesterday in church as I was sitting in the chapel, I think I finally understood what is meant in my setting apart blessing by "more happiness than you have yet experienced awaits you as you labor among His children". As I sat in our beautiful new chapel with C, our recent convert on one side and our soon-to-be baptized friend on the other side, watched another recent convert pass the sacrament, and saw our investigators sitting across the chapel and being surrounded by members I love so much, I felt it. I felt more happiness than I had ever experienced. I love these people. They are "my" people. 

Life is good.
Sis Murri