So much happened this week, it’s been absolutely insane! We went to Taipei a grand total of 4 times in one week for various performances, practices and meetings. We’ve almost been to busy to even sleep!
In order for you to fully understand what that means, I will explain what it takes to make it from Xinzhu to Taipei. Sounds easy, right? In every trip we take, we have to consider how long we will have to bike to the train station, how long the train/bus ride will be, what sort of trains are running at the time we want to leave at, the distance between train stations and bus stations (because if we want to take the bus, we often still have to park our bikes at the train station), how bad traffic will be, which stops the train/bus will stop at, and how long we will have to take the MRT to get to our destination…and maybe how long we will have to walk from the MRT to wherever we’re going. Sometimes, we also have to consider transfer stations…So, it’s been fun to say the least!
To begin the week we went to Banqiao (Taipei Trip #1) on P-day to hang out with Sister Hansen and some other Taoyuan sisters. I bought a couple new outfits which is nice because I haven’t bought any clothes my whole entire mission. Nice clothes in Taiwan are actually super cheap! It was fun to be back in my old area. Don’t worry, we had to be back in Taipei anyways for a choir practice so it wasn’t like we were wasting tons of money.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we went on exchanges with the Zhubei sisters! I got to go with Sister Nielsen’s trainee, Sister Meeks. She is from Utah and actually visa-waited for a transfer in Missouri. It was funny hearing her stories of missionary work in the United States…some of what we do kind of feels like a lawless wasteland compared to them. Riding a bike in a skirt in the wind is a lot different from riding everyone in a cozy car, for sure!
I really love working with the sisters who haven’t been on their missions for so long because I can help them realize their goals and visions. I definitely wish I had created a clear vision for my mission when I was in the beginning! Although I know that for some people, learning to love doing missionary work definitely takes time. Luckily, God definitely doesn’t send perfect people on missions. It reminds me of a quote from some general authority that goes along the lines of “come where you are, but don’t be prepared to stay where you are.”
On Thursday we went up to the Christmas ZONE CONFERENCE! Woot woot! (Taipei trip #2)! It wasn’t as cool as last year because they split up the mission into 2 zone conferences instead of doing everyone together like they did last year. It was also just at the Jin Hua chapel instead of at the American Club in Shilin, but it’s okay in the end.
It actually ended up being a really spiritual zone conference. We talked all about the different people in the Nativity story and watched some bible videos. We mostly focused on Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men and how they humbly welcomed the Savior into the world. As missionaries we are in such a special position that we can, like those people of old, sacrifice our time to testify and glory in the savior! I totally saw the Nativity in such a different light after this conference. I remember a year ago at the mission party they talked about lots of the same things, but the entire time I was just thinking “man, I’ve heard this story a million times before, it’s a good story but I don’t get the need to tell it over and over and over again.” I am thankful that my eyes were opened a bit more to the amazing-ness of Christmas.
We also discussed the parable of the 10 virgins and had a cool discussion on oil. So much in the Bible is incredibly symbolic and it was fun to ponder on how much olive trees and oil and…literally ANYTHING in Ancient Jerusalem can testify of the Savior. Sister Jergensen presented this training and she talked about how she really likes the Chinese phrase 加油!, or “add oil” which actually means GOOD LUCK! We, like the 5 wise virgins in Christ’s parables, always have to be adding oil to our lamps through prayer, scripture study, and keeping the commandments. She and President went on to discuss the importance of making sure we do good studies. I have especially grown to love personal study this transfer since me and Sister Liu really enjoy having gospel discussions in our companionship.
We also did this activity where they gave us 15 minutes to do some personal study, and then they split us up into different groups to discuss our favorite scripture stories. During my study I did a little illustration in my planner of Paul being converted on the road to Damascus. I’ve always been rather interested by this story since Primary when my primary teacher talked about scales falling from Paul’s eyes once he got healed by Ananias.
And then we did the typical missionary talent show and I got to see a ton of mission friends, including my last companion, Sister Huang! She is doing so great in Taidong right now and she is having fun with her companion who also just got out of training. She lives in an apartment with another companionship of sisters and they all came to tell me that Sister Huang is the most adorable missionary ever.
Somehow, the Zone Leaders gave our whole zone T-shirts that say “Xinzhu Zone” on the front and have a tiger in the back, and we all performed “Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses” sporting the new memorabilia.
To wrap Thursday up, we ended up getting a package full of fruit from one of the members in Taipei and we had to lug the whole thing back to our apartment on our bikes. Hahaa, on the way home from the train station everyone was asking us what we were doing with all these plastic bags! We also ended up being late to dinner with a member family, but they were super chill about it. The Zhou family fed us a good, American-style meal of pasta, with a nice Taiwanese dessert of….TANG YUAN! (I think that translates to Glutinous Rice Balls…)because, turns out it was the winter solstice and it is a tradition here to eat tang yuan on that day! Tang yuan is really gooey, and on the inside they normally have some sort of really sweet peanut butter or black sesame paste. They’re really yummy.
Friday was also really, really fun! We taught a lesson to our most progressing investigator, Chen jm, at her house! She was willing to keep the Sabbath Day Holy! She is right on track to be baptized for next month. She mostly spends all of her time taking care of her 2-year-old son since her husband is away working in Taoyuan for most of the week. She also fed us some tang yuans and the member we brought got along with her so well! It is cool to see how she is so well integrated into the ward! I don’t think I have ever had any investigators make as good of friends with the members as she has. I can already see her as a baptized member as well! She’s almost ready!
Okay, time for some big news…On Friday night we got to make Taipei Trip Number 3 because my investigator Zhang Qi Fang from Banqiao got BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really wanted to go, but our mission has this rule that you can only go to an old area’s baptism if you can get there in an hour or less. SO….
We took the High Speed Rail which was about twice as expensive as a normal train trip but we got to Banqiao in literally half the time. It was sooooooo nice, it took only 25 minutes to get from the Zhubei High Speed Rail station to Banqiao station. And then in Banqiao station we ran into Huang Ya Ling, who is my other Recent Convert in Banqiao! And we took the MRT together to the chapel.
Zhang jm’s baptism was absolutely perfect! Brother Ye, the member that referred her, also got to baptize her. I am so thankful for his example that made Zhang jm want to investigate the church. Zhang jm’s older sister from Taoyuan also came with her children! It’s such a blessing to know that her family members supported her in this decision of joining the church since there is an INSANE amount of family opposition here in Taiwan. Sister Hansen also came up from Taoyuan again and turns out, Zhang jm’s older sister lived in her area! And they set up to meet with her! The pictures from the baptism are still pending…maybe next week!
We ended up having to leave the baptismal service a little bit early, but Zhang jm was able to slip me a little gift first. She gave me the most beautiful necklace! She is a talented jewelry designer! A member family in my current ward was also SUPER nice and took us home from the baptism because they also happened to be in Taipei that day for family pictures. Funny thing, I had actually seen this member family in the Zhubei chapel a year before when they were doing something with the stake president, and turns out the wife is the daughter of a lady in my last ward. The husband knows Sister Huang from, like, 6 years ago and found it so funny that she was on a mission! I love how all the members in Taiwan are tied together as friends and family no matter where you are. I guess that’s how it is in America, too. Gotta love being part of Christ’s church!
Okay, then here we go to SATURDAY. Our ward went all out on this giant Christmas activity called “A Night in Bethlehem” (伯利恆之夜). It was kind of like a Christmas version of a trunk-or-treat, and they made everyone wear costumes. They even had stuff for people who didn’t bring costumes (like me and Sister Liu haha.) Us missionaries also had a stand at this activity where we made everyone s’mores using two toaster ovens (and several extension cords.) It’d take hours to explain all the details of this activity, but I’ll go ahead and explain some of my favorite parts:
- The young men dressed up as Roman soldiers (with cool head armor made out of broom heads, bicycle helmets, and a whooooole lot of duct tape)
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas recordings playing in the chapel
- The string quartet of young men and young women stationed in the middle of the parking lot
- The decorated car-trunk displays that everyone had to go around to and complete different activities to mark off this sticker chart
- These little taco cones some relief society sisters were making
SO many non-members came to the activity and we are currently working with the ward to contact all those friends that people brought.
Our investigator Chen jm also came with her son and they loved the activity! Sadly, her son puked that night because of too much food so they weren’t able to come to church the next day 🙁 Oh well, I guess Chen jm was at least able to still keep the Sabbath Day Holy at home!
OKAY. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST. SUNDAY.
Church yesterday was so cool! Mostly, it was just like a normal sacrament meeting but the ward choir did an amazing performance. It was cool to see how many people had decided to join in the choir despite the fact that the wards here aren’t as big as wards in Utah. Even the little kids were singing their hearts out! They also brought back the string quartet from the activity the night before. I am so proud of all the talented youth and children in our ward!
And then we were a part of this big activity the APs set up where we went to the Carrefour in Zhubei and sang carols to everyone that was walking by. The point, of course, was to spread the gospel and find new people to teach, but most of the elders took it a little too far and stopped singing and instead just went around the store to contact people. It wasn’t horrible, but it could have been better if they had stayed to sing because we could have attracted and truly interested more people! So mostly us and the Zhubei sisters held up the fort. Well, now we know for next time!
Our grand finale for the week was taking Taipei Trip NUMBER 4 on Sunday afternoon/night to perform in the big Missionary Christmas Choir. The train up there was the worst one I have ever taken because mountains of people got on at Zhongli and Taoyuan. This might be a good time to take one of my grandpa’s weekly email tactics…the Chinese idiom. Sister Huang taught me one from Banqiao that goes 人山人海 which means “People Mountain, People Sea” and is used to describe a place with tons of people. I nearly got suffocated…
Anyways, for the choir we did two performances during the night. I accompanied for two pieces and sang in all the rest. There are so many musically talented people in our mission and it was an honor to listen to them! And then we didn’t get back home that night until, like, 10:30. It’s ok though.
I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY IN TAIWAN! LOVE YOU ALL, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Sister Anne Watson