This week was really eventful and I’ve got some fun stories! The weather has really cooled down here in Taiwan – I’m pretty sure it’s a lot colder than it was last year. We are already turning on our heater at night! The whole mission is starting to get really excited about the Christmas season, so it’s good that the weather is cooperating with us. Thanksgiving doesn’t exist in Taiwan at all, but in a second I’ll tell you about the little ways we found to celebrate.
Finding Less-Actives and City-Village Culture
We didn’t have very many appointments this week, so me and sister Huang spent a lot of time visiting less-active members. It’s really a lot more convenient with our new phones because we can use the area book app to pull up a map of our area with the addresses of all the members in the ward on it. Despite hours of walking in the rain and ringing doorbells, we still had a lot of fun and now I feel like I know our area back and front, inside and out because we’ve been exploring all the places I have never been before.
Through this activity we had a couple experiences with people who answered their doorbell intercoms but wouldn’t let us visit them, so we put notes in their mailboxes! Sometimes I think the crowded, gray streets of Taipei can be just as beautiful as the the hills of the east coast because of the little ways people make these tight, winding, gray streets unique.
Some Taipei cultural information: the big city is divided into little sections called li 里 or “villages.” And every “village” normally has a little “village elder” which is normally an old man or woman (whose main language is Taiwanese) who makes announcements on speakers stationed throughout the neighborhood. Some missionaries say it reminds them of the Hunger Games but I’ve never read the Hunger Games so I dunno…
But most lis seem to have a special decorating committee. I don’t know if there actually is one, but if there was then they would probably be in charge of planting flowers and putting up cute little signs that say “Hi, you are currently in _____ li.” I love walking around different Taiwanese neighborhoods just so I can see the little decorations put up on little walls and crevices.
Back to the rest of the letter…
This past week we for P-day we went to the missionary Christmas choir practice, then ate at a pizza-pasta place with other missionaries, and then went shopping at a market in my old area, Xinan. I made a VERY valuable purchase of a pair of socks with George Washington on them, and another pair with “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. Still on the lookout for the socks with “Starry Night” and “The Mona Lisa” that my trainer had. I’m glad I could finally take Sister Huang shopping because it’s one of her favorite activities. Not my preferred P-Day activity, but it was fun to hang out with other sisters.
Ducks at District Meeting
Oh hey it was Thanksgiving this week! Nearly forgot. No one in Taiwan knows about Thanksgiving, and our ward already had its activity a couple weeks ago so this year it was pretty quiet. We had to find SOME way to make it festive, though, and I noticed an opportunity in the fact that
- Thanksgiving was on a District Meeting day
- Our area has this pretty popular place that sells duck. Every night there’s this huge line of people waiting to get their Peking duck. We’ve wanted to try the duck ever since I was with Sister Hansen.
What better way to spend Thanksgiving in Taiwan than eating as the locals eat? We convinced some people in the Tucheng district to split the cost of a duck with us, and after a few announcements on the Zone LINE (felt bad for the Xinzhuang district who saw all of our exciting duck posts but couldn’t come to participate) me and Sister Huang made our way to the yellow duck establishment on Thursday at noon.
In the end the duck was pretty good. I’d never tried Peking duck before–they give you these little tortilla things that you wrap the duck inside of, along with onions and green onions. Definitely not the same as an American Thanksgiving feast, but all missionaries need to be happy is a little food and some company to make a party.
New Taipei City Christmas Extravaganza
With all the Thanksgiving stuff aside, all the things I was saying about Christmas in the air mostly has to do with the fact that Banqiao Station/New Taipei City Hall began its Extravaganza for the year. Strings of lights cover everything for about two blocks, there are several giant Christmas trees, and a wealth of little statues/things for little kids to play with and parents to take pictures have been set up everywhere. There is even a small amusement park complete with a merry-go-round and a rocket ride kind of like Dumbo at Disneyland.
During the weekend this place became a MADHOUSE and I swear there must have been thousands of people there. It made me marvel at how Christmas is only a commercial expenditure here–which makes sense because mostly everyone is Daoist and not Christian, but seeing everyone glued to their phones even when they were with family made me grateful for the focus our church has about making Christmas about Christ. It feels a lot better inside to have a holiday be more than just an occasion to put an extra picture on social media.
The Sister Training Leaders had a bit of mercy on us and decided to join us in our area on Saturday afternoon to pick up the work in our area a little bit. I was with Sister Zhong, the cutest Taiwanese girl ever from Pingdong, the southernmost part of the Island. She has been on her mission for 11 months and I was actually in her zone when she was in training, so we spent a lot of time catching up and talking about what we have learned.
The only appointment we had for the exchange was lunch with my recent convert Huang Ya Ling and our investigator Xu jm. Me and Sister Zhong arrived a bit late because we got lost around the Xinpu MRT station with its winding roads and one-way streets. Eventually, we ended up at this cat-themed vegetarian restaurant in a little alleyway (Huang Ya Ling is a vegetarian!) It ended up being disproportionately expensive for the amount of food we actually got. And, fun fact, I didn’t actually know the restaurant was vegetarian until afterwards when I found out that the Pork Hamburger I ordered was actually vegetarian pork (what the heck? Who even knew vegetarian meat existed?) Let’s just say that the hamburger ended up tasting more like a Subway sandwich and the “meat” tasted like absolutely nothing.
Huang Ya Ling is seriously THE best recent convert EVER, she is still so converted and has become a major part of our ward. I am so thankful that I got to play a small part in her conversion and I know that she will continue to do great things!
For the rest of the exchange, even though we worked hard, none of the part-member families would let us in, we only got rejected on the streets, and Sister Richards and Sister Huang found a million referrals for Tucheng. But it was still a fun exchange!
We finished the translation for Elder Vatcher this week! He thought he did a great job although we’ll have to wait and see what Elder Qiu the office elder thinks about it before I give ourselves any final pat-on-the-backs. Translating is a fun challenge.
Spiritual Thought – The Bread and Water of Life
Even though most of our plans to get new investigators failed, God still helped us to see a miracle right at the end – a miracle referral from one of our members at church! She hasn’t become a new investigator yet because she wants to investigate on her own first, but we were able to give her a Book of Mormon and she will also come to church next week and maybe bring her son! the member said she has a ton of interest in the gospel so we are really excited. I think it’s just the perfect miracle to end the week.
After all of the referrals sent to Tucheng and other areas, I was super frustrated for most of the week and was wondering why we just couldn’t get anything going in this area. The past few weeks during personal study I have been diligently exploring 3 Nephi, and I read a story in chapter 20 of Jesus Christ providing the Sacrament to the multitude–
6 Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude;
7 But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink.
8 And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
This story is particularly special because when Jesus first ministered to the Nephites He had the disciples go and find bread and wine for the sacrament themselves. Obviously, Christ saw some reason to provide this small miracle for them so that they could truly see that He was the fountain of all righteousness and the example they should rely on for spiritual nourishment.
Reading this, I figured–why can’t God provide a miracle for us here in Banqiao, too? So we prayed and prayed and had faith and in the end, like I mentioned, all the cool people we found were referrals for Tucheng. And Yilan. And some other places.
And I was frustrated! But in the end I think God still provided for us this week by giving us some little miracles, as well as giving us a good feeling after we worked hard and visited those less-active members and did everything we should be doing even though it was frustrating and sometimes exhausting.
It’s impossible for me to share all of the things that I have been learning from the scriptures, but even though we didn’t really get what we want this week, we still got enough for us to feel that we have been filled and blessed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This week has been a HUGE testimony builder for me and I just KNOW that our Heavenly Father knows all of our needs versus our wants…and He for SURE knew what I needed to see this week! This church is so true, guys!
I am especially thankful for the Book of Mormon for being the foundation of my testimony. If this book didn’t exist, I don’t think I would even be alive right now. This book sure gives missionaries a lot of peace, because every time we face rejection or set-backs, all we have to do is open this book and we can remember the righteousness and greatness of the cause we are pursuing and it gives us POWER to not give up and to keep trying.
AND THIS EMAIL WRAPS UP THE TRANSFER. AND I AM PROBABLY LEAVING BANQIAO THIS WEEK. (Obviously it’s not final but I have been here for a long time and Sister Huang is about to finish up training.) THIS TIME HAS GONE BY SO DANG FAST. I am SO GRATEFUL for everything that I have learned here–there are no words to express the love I feel for these members, my companions, and all of our investigators! Who knows what’s going to happen next transfer! I will update you on this next week!
Sister Anne Watson