Thursday, January 29, 2015

On a quest to Discover the Taiwanese Mind

I just have to start by quoting the opening paragraph of the email that Sis Pieper is writing to her family, because it's pretty funny, and absolutely true:

"Our days have been full and rich lately, mostly because Sister Murri (bless her little brain) likes to think, and we are on a futile (essentialist) quest to discover the Taiwanese mind."

Isn't she poetic? I should also mention that she's 27, is applying to study for her PhD, and has lived all over the world and speaks several languages. And she likes quinoa, ginger tea, and having deep discussions. So basically, we're having a blast! 

 This week our adventures included a trip to an art museum, the XinZhu zoo, a daoist temple (which also included a sacrificed apple that the keeper of the temple gave us to eat. Yum), and asking literally everyone we meet about Taiwanese concepts of god, the spirit, what makes an ideal family, and pretty much every other topic you can imagine. 

We have been considering lately how cultural traditions and norms such as "face", "bu hao yisi", and filial tradition, as well as the influences of character meaning and even art play into their understanding of the Restored Gospel. We have learned SO much, and as we've started implementing small changes into our teaching and proselyting, we've seen an increased ability to connect to people. The Taiwanese people don't have much care for where we go after we die, the need for prophets, the concept of sin and forgiveness...their questions of the soul are just different. And we are determined to figure them out! In the prayer given in 1921 for the dedication of China for missionary work, President McKay asked that the missionaries sent to the Chinese realm might "have a keen insight into the mental and spiritual state of the Chinese mind". This is our theme paragraph because we are bringing it to pass! 

This week was pretty busy with two exchanges, traveling to Taipei for temple day this morning and a STL meeting last week, and specialized zone training. Z and L are solidly progressing, and we have a lot of faith that they will be baptized in Feb! As for new investigators, we are still on the low side.  I think 9 months ago that would have made me super stressed out, but being on my mission has helped me to realize that as long as we as the tools are doing all we can to be diligent, obedient, and qualified for the Lord's assistance, He will supply the materials in His own time- and until then I will be happy to just continue doing His work to the best of my ability. 

I have learned a lot about prayer this week. Prayer really is a form of work- I've noticed lately that my prayers have fallen into more of a routine than a powerful tool. So I'm working to change that. 

Love you!
S. Murri

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Go West young lady!

Hello from the windy city of XinZhu!

Well, all of my transferring west feelings were right- I am now serving in the beautiful town of XinZhu, which is about an hour and a half west of Taibei. It reminds me of my first two areas plus America put together- big, but not too busy- it really is a lovely place. And SO windy all the time! 

My new companion is Sis Pieper (who I actually met in the MTC- she is one transfer older than me), and we are the Sister Training Leaders over the XinZhu and ZhuNan zones. Working with Sis Pieper has been so much fun- we really get along so well. And she even likes quinoa....a large majority of our discussions have been about all the different foods we like to eat. :D  

For English party, we had a piñata, so the elders asked us to bring a big stick to hit it with. We decided our mop handle would do the trick, so then the task was to attach it to my bike (thank goodness for bungee cords!). I got about halfway down the street before I wondered why my bike was so hard to pedal- and then realized it was because I had wrapped the bungee cord around the brake wire, so my brake was engaged! Not one of my finest moments...

We have a couple of super solid investigators, and are working to find some more who will be baptized in Feb and March- please pray for our success in that regard. I heard from Sis Jenkins the other day that a ton of the people we had been teaching all showed up to church this past week- there are some really special people in Danshui, and I know that Sis Jenkins and her new companion will continue to see miracles there- it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

The problem with being a missionary is that it's pretty hard to explain all the incredible and spiritual and funny experiences we have because typing them out makes them seem not nearly as incredible/spiritual/funny as they actually are. Someday I'll just tell you them all in person. :D But know that I am happy and loving serving the Lord here in Taiwan.

Love you!
Sis Murri

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Religion isn't a hobby..."

Our investigator pool has dropped to about 2....yep. Happens sometimes.

Sis Zhong got a duanchuan to work with (a young member who will live as a missionary for a short time), so on our last night as a threesome, we ate cheesecake. We met with one of our investigators, W this week. We knew that his interest was waning, so we had planned to have a "make it or break it" lesson with him. I think Sis Jenkins' words best described what happened in the lesson: "He gave us chocolate and cookies. And then he dumped us." Hahaha! As we were finishing the lesson, I looked at him straight in the eyes and said, "One day, you're going to realize you need this, because it's true. And when that day comes, give us a call- we will be waiting for you." The spirit was really strong- I think someday he will accept the gospel. That's one thing that I learned this week. Religion isn't a hobby. It isn't something you do because it's fun or because it helps you even. "Religion" in its truest and fullest sense is just another word for truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about the truth of the way things really are and how to align ourselves with it. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty incredible thought!

Along that same line, this week during temple tours, we met an American lady who walked in and said she was having a rough trip and needed a place to just sit and think for a while. We directed her to the chapel, and later were able to have a long conversation with her. She told us that she went to church when she was young, but her parents became less active in the church when she was about 9 and she hadn't been to church since. Her siblings continued to go to church and went on missions, but she felt like abstaining from sex and coffee were just too high a price to pay. As we talked to her, it was obvious that her life wasn't where she wanted it to be, and she wasn't really happy. It is so true that the commandments of God are here to help us! I have never been more thankful for commandments than I have been the past year of my life.

Another neat lesson we had this week was with an less active member W. His kids are T and A, the ones we've been teaching. We decided that there is no way they can progress without him supporting and helping them, so we've switched our focus to him. We met with him last week and had a really powerful lesson- the spirit was just guiding us on what to say. It was amazing to see it work in him and see him humble himself and see that he really needs the blessings of God in his life. We are excited to continue helping him rediscover his testimony.

I also had a special personal experience this week that reinforced to me once again that God answers prayers. On Sunday morning, I was Satan was working a number on me, and he was trying all of his tactics- loneliness, homesickness, mental exhaustion, inadequecy- you name it. During sacrament meeting, I was pleading with the Lord for help, for a manifestation of His love. And it came- in the words of the sacrament meeting speakers, and the healing of the sacrament. It was so clear to me in that moment that God knows us. He loves us. He is waiting for us to reach out to Him, and He inspires others to help meet our needs.

So I guess the theme of the week is that God is real, He loves us, and wants to show us truth through His restored gospel! How blessed are we?!

This week is transfers- I think I am moving. I feel like I am ready, like God has somewhere else for me to be. Also, next Mon will not be a p-day becuase we have temple day next week! So, you'll hear from me next Wed! :D

Love you!

Monday, January 5, 2015

...and then there were three!

This past week there was a transfer for all the missionaries who were finishing their mission to start school. But the new missionaries won't be here for another two weeks, which means that there were several people left without a companion, including our sister training leader, Sis Zhong. So, we became a tri-panionship, and are now covering DanShui (our old area where a lot of our investigators live), Zhuwei (where we live now), and Beitou (where sis zhong is serving)...craziness! But we have been having a blast! Sis Zhong is awesome and the three of us are pretty much best friends. :D

Last p-day we went with the elders from our ward, and our zone leaders to the National Palace Museum. So cool! I love museums- I think we could have spent 3 days there and still left without seeing it all. The main attraction there is the Jadeite Cabbage. Which sounds pretty lame, but cabbage is a big deal here, and the story behind it is pretty cool. I think there was an article about it in the Liahona and Ensign a month or two ago.
One of our members whom we just adore, and who helps us peike all the time, X, invited us over to her house for dinner this week. She asked us beforehand if we had any requests. Sis Jenkins and I looked at each other and said, "Mexican food!" So, she made us tacos, mushroom soup, some incredible salmon with an apple and onion salad (and it's saying something when I like eating fish...), honeydew melon, and a homemade apple pie. Wow. Soooooo goood! Her house is super cute and that plus the food and eating with a fork and knife made me feel like I was in America. And she has one of those super cool toilet seats with lots of buttons (yes, I did try it out, no it didn't work). But besides all of that, I felt like her having us over was a really clear expression of how much progress she has made. When I first got here, she wasn't really very active. Her husband isn't a church member, so we asked her if we could maybe eat dinner all together as a way to meet him. She didn't feel comfortable with that, and didn't think he would feel comfortable with that either. But over the past few months, we have been having her help us peike quite a bit (because she is retired and has lots of time :D). But we have just seen her testimony blossom and develop. So to have her invite us over tonight- and on top of that, to bear an awesome testimony about prayer to her husband during the spiritual share- was so neat. I never really believed the whole "a testimony is found in the bearing of it" thing before my mission, but now I really agree that it is true!

We met with several other less active members this past week and have been having a lot of success with them. We had a few come to church this past week, which was really exciting. It is so cool to see people's testimony reawaken- it's almost as if they have just been waiting for someone to reach out and invite them. We and one of the sets of elders helped one lady clean her house yesterday- this was the same lady whose house we cleaned a few months ago after her friend cut his hand and was bleeding everywhere (if that's not ringing a bell, go back and look through my emails from Aug). Luckily this time there was no blood, and we had a blast all working hard together. I really do love cleaning, I must be turing into Mom. :D

We are looking forward to finding some new people this week. But we saw an incredible miracle this past week with a referral who came to church yesterday. He has end-stage cancer, but as he was on the way to church, he got a message from a doctor at Stanford who specializes in his type of cancer that they have an operation which they think will save his life. He took that as a message from God that he needs to keep learning about the gospel and coming to church! He is an incredible man with a ton of faith and willingness to learn already. He just thanked me over and over for calling him and inviting him to church. It's so neat to see God working through us to the blessing of His children.

 I love this quote from President Henry B Eyring: "The more faithful service you give, the more the Lord asks of you. Your smile is a happy one becuase you know that He increases our power to carry the heavier load....Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give."  (click to read the whole talk: ) 

I love this because I have realized on my mission that it is so true! Just when we get comfortable, God gives us a new opportunity to stretch. How thankful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who isn't satisfied with where we are now, but rather is always looking forward to where we can go.

Love you!