Lesson #1 – Expect the Unexpected

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My new name tag. I wear it with pride.

My new name tag. I wear it with pride.

Hello, Everyone!

This week a bunch of things have happened to lead me to think the main trend of missionary life is…there is none! Even when you make plans, stick to schedules, and technically do the exact same things every day for 1 and 1/2 years (or 2 years), nothing ever ends up being the way you think it will. Sometimes good things happen that are unexpected, and there are also things that, at first glance, might seem like bad things (like when an appointment falls through, someone fails to show up, a million other things, etc.) The trick is to turn them into good things and this week has taught me how to do that a bit better.

Last P-Day we went to Taipei to try out the missionary choir, but it wasn’t really worth it because we only got to spend like 1 and 1/2 hours in Taipei compared to 4 hours of riding the train. However, we were able to go to the mission office really quick and in our mailbox was MY NEW NAMETAG! Yay! In the MTC they only give us separate English and Mandarin name tags but in the mission we have ones that have both English and Chinese on them. It’s also cool because they put my full Chinese name on the nametag. We were able to see some friends at choir and at the mission office though so that was fun!

On Thursday we spent some time looking through a ton of our old area books and making calls, and we got a bunch of people to set up appointments with us for this coming week which is SUPER cool. The most appointments we’ve ever had! We are also getting a lot of referrals i’m pretty optimistic about, which is great. Sister Apsley has a big testimony of making calls because last transfer that was mostly all they did (since she was super sick a lot of the time.) I enjoyed looking through all the old records; it was fascinating. I found one that was written before Diana was born (2003). Plus missionaries sometimes write super funny/silly/confusing comments and you’re just left there thinking “what ???…” Mostly they just leave off information like people’s phone numbers or why they decided to put someone under “former investigators” for no discernible reason…..

On Friday, we had a really great day planned but everything was thrown off when I woke up that morning at like 5:30 feeling horrible. I proceeded to toss cookies 3 times throughout the morning and was basically passed out in bed until I woke up in the evening. (Don’t worry, I did call the mission nurse and she said it was probably just something I ate.) We also had to take it chill on Saturday because I was still feeling too sick to eat anything and was exhausted from not being able to eat anything. Ha.

By Sunday we were dying of hunger but we had no food in our apartment. Luckily our elders came in to save the day by giving us 5 eggs, two apples and a bag of penne noodles. So we made…uh…noodle eggs. Livin’ the high life in Taiwan. It was…haha definitely not the best Sunday dinner I have ever had but we went grocery shopping earlier today PLUS we are not sick anymore. Haha.

Our lovely egg noodles. Mmm. Don't those just look appetizing

Our lovely egg noodles. Mmm. Don’t those just look appetizing

 

Some Observations About Taiwan

  • Ever since we moved into our new apartment, I noticed a kind of gross smell hanging around the outside and I just found out that it’s the smell of bin lang (I think it’s betel nut in English?) It’s this drug lots of people chew like tobacco or something, there’s tons of little shops that sell it and one of them’s next to our apartment. So just so you know bin lang smells really gross. In general Taiwan has lots of interesting smells, some good, some bad, some…just weird. Haha.
  • We’ve also had weird smells on the inside of our apartment building due to the fact that they’ve spent a couple days redoing the ramp going into the basement garage. (Oh yeah that’s another reason we weren’t able to go out on Saturday, our bikes were in the garage and we had no way to get them out haha.)
  • We have this fun doorman named Mr. Wei who always stops to talk to us. He’s always like “be careful!” when we go out and other things, we love him haha.
  • Plus with the wind the other week my box fell off my bike. We tried to fix it several times (which didn’t work) so in the end this week we just got me a basket! It’s so nice.

Miracles

Sounds like a pretty boring week, eh? I guess it could have been considered that way in some ways, but we saw some miracles.

Twice this week we went out to the very corner of our area and set out to find some cool people to talk to. The first time, as soon as we got there we got tons of calls for referrals and people wanting to set up appointments with us who we had contacted earlier. As Sister Apsley was on the phone this guy walking his dog crossed the street in our direction. Normally people with dogs don’t want to stay long to chat so I’ll just say “your dog’s really cute!” as they walk by. But this guy actually let us start up a conversation with him–he was super interested and willing and he told us that his boss is a Christian. We also talked about religious beliefs in Taiwan and we tied it in to family history. He had a lot of interest and was like “I’ll join your church when my parents are gone!” It’s kind of sad here because there is definitely a huge portion of people here who only stay in their religion because it’s what their family has done for ages, and lots of people are superstitious about spirits/other things when they join other religions. In general some just consider it bad luck to go away from your parents’ beliefs–especially the oldest son because he’s the one that takes care of family stuff when the older generation dies. So yeah this guy had interest but his parents would have been angry to see him join Christianity. That conversation was definitely a MIRACLE though.

Then on Sunday night we went to the same corner again. Generally when we go out Sister Apsley’s like “ok let’s make some goals” (like, how many phone numbers can we get or how many people can we get to set up with us). And I was not feeling very hopeful so I just said “let’s have a conversation with 5 people” thinking even that was setting our expectations pretty high. We were in a neighborhood with like no one out, an empty park, mehhh.

But the very second we got done with a quick prayer, we saw this older couple walking through the park. We went over to talk to them and I was feeling pretty doubtful but it ended up being SO COOL. They knew we were missionaries and were like “are you two from Utah?” I was so surprised but it turned out they’d just been to America on a trip to Yellowstone and they’d been around Utah a bit (I also think they said they saw the temple.) We were happy to tell them about the zhubei chapel and about our services/our church. We concluded by saying a prayer with them. Normally we’ll ask, “is there anything we can pray for you for?” And most people won’t really say anything but they launched into a story about their 1 month old grandson and asked us to pray for him! And we did! At the end of the prayer they talked about how they felt a peaceful feeling.

So two people down in the first 10 minutes of contacting. We were both already like “woah.” When that happens there’s nothing better to do than just keep going at it!

Then we started walking down the street and stopped to talk to this lady who was walking back into her house. As we began a quick conversation with her she was like “well do you want to come in or not?” My mind kind of had a “what” moment but Sister Aspley was like “well it’s up to you!”

And that’s how, before I knew it, we were invited into the house of this lady we had just barely contacted on the street with just small talk. She gave us water and these green bean cake things and we just had a short conversation with her and her daughter who was also in the house. We talked about what we were doing here in Taiwan, our belief in God, etc. You could tell she was super curious. She said “I’m Buddhist” in the end but you could tell we were able to open her heart to our message. But in general it’s just crazy because like no one. In Taiwan. EVER. Invites you into their house. It just doesn’t happen, most people just come out and talk to us outside if they have to. Sister Apsley said that’s the second time anyone’s ever let us into their house her entire mission (She’s been in Taiwan since March.) So that was crazy!

And that’s how we had conversations with 4 people, 2 AMAZING contacts in only half an hour. In the next 15 minutes we were able to have short conversations with 2 more people so we ended the night exceeding the goal I had set.

Of course there have been times here in Taiwan where we haven’t had as much success. So many times where I’ve just been super discouraged. A couple moments where I’ve thought “This is stupid, I am wasting my time, I feel absolutely miserable.” And I know I will still have some times that don’t go as well as I want them to but the events of this week have told me never to doubt God and His miracles in missionary work. The first thing you learn here, you learn it in the MTC as well is that the mission is one of the hardest things you can ever do. You have to find out for yourself about why it’s worth it though. You hear stories of miracles and hardships from other people but in the end you have to find your motivation for coming and staying from within yourself, and from divine inspiration.

CHINESE CHARACTER OF THE WEEK

This means sheep! It’s pronounced yang, or yawng, the tone makes it so you say it like you’re asking a question.

I picked this character because at our zone meeting at the beginning of the month, we talked a lot about Christ being the good shepherd and how much He cares for His sheep. Elder Holloway in my district is actually a shepherd so he’s shared with us some interesting insights about sheep throughout the transfer.

But I know that Jesus Christ is our good shepherd and when we follow Him, we will never walk the wrong path and we will always be within His protection even when we are feeling scared, discouraged, alone, lost. Anything.

I love you all!

Anne Watson

P.S. The end of this week will mean the conclusion of my VERY FIRST TRANSFER in the mission! How crazy is that? I’ll also be halfway through training. Because of that me and Sister Apsley will be staying here in Zhubei but our district will probably be seeing a lot of changes this week, including getting a new district leader. Apparently in district meeting we guess who will go where and whoever ends up being the most correct gets free food. We’ll also probably have to go to Taipei again this week because Sister Apsley’s cough/sickness still hasn’t gotten better even though we’ve moved apartments. We’ll also be going to Taipei next week for trainer-trainee follow up meeting, where all the people I came to Taiwan with will come up with their trainers and we’ll get to talk how the past 6 weeks have gone.

 

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