Sunday, March 10, 2013

frogs in the rice paddies, what we do to get recent converts to church, and the chinese mrs. bennett- March 4, 2013

dajia hao.

so sorry my time is short. this morning we went to an amusement park called fancy land. it wasn't quite bambi's father-level fancy (as afton once remarked) but it was still pretty grand. i didn't get dizzy till the swing ride which was probably totally karma for a couple years ago when we went to liberty park for my birthday and mom got dizzy on the swing ride and i laughed. oops. sorry mom.

i just sent you a bunch of pictures of me and sister l in fields of flowers. they compliment the pictures i mailed last week when we are standing in a field. one of our members sister hi was driving by us one day and was like "follow me i want to show you something!" and then took a ton of pictures for us. those fields of flowers used to be everywhere but recently they all got ripped up, flooded and are now replanted with what i think is rice. at night the frogs croak loudly from the rice paddies as we pedal home.

this sunday we had an extremely huge tender mercy......two of our recent converts haven't been to church in months. the ge sisters are 10 and 11 and their parents are non-members. a while ago their mom stopped driving them to church on sunday and it's way too far for them to walk. sister l has been trying to get them to church since december and this week we finally did it. they are pretty hard to track down but through a serious of miracles we found their parents' new beetlenut shop and bar and arranged to give them a "morning call" on sunday which would entail us riding our bikes to their house early in the morning because they always sleep through our phone calls. we left our house early and biked up the big hill where sisters yi, huang, guo, and li all live.

we knocked and called out their names in the still gray morning. finally they came down but we woke up everyone in the house. thankfully her parents were really nice. and it was almost 9 o’clock so really i didn't feel THAT bad. we had arranged for a woman in our ward to come and get them but she wanted to meet at this park that turned out to be really far away and then didn't answer our phone calls when we wanted to change plans. we were panicking a little bit and praying non-stop. after a few more phone calls we got a hold of brother yang who came and got all of us in his car even though he was already almost to the church. we were about 20 minutes late for church and got there right as they were serving the water. still it was such a glorious feeling to get them there and they were so happy. to try to keep them happy during the first hour i gave them some pens and paper to draw. they both wrote me little notes saying thank you for coming to get us and take us to church. then they were starving so i got them some food another member gave us (sister yang brings us lunch every sunday) and they ate rolls in between classes. everyone in the ward was so welcoming to them and it was just a beautiful beautiful thing.

i didn't explain that as well as i wanted....but it really meant to much to us that those little girls could make it to church. we just feel the urgency to help them keep the church in their lives which will give them so much protection and help as they continue to grow.

God hears us. He answers. sometimes it isn't in our time table, but He answers!!!!!! it's all important to Him. each of you is so precious in His sight :)
love love love


PS next week is movecall!!!! keeping my fingers crossed that i get to stay here in this marvelous place!!!!!!!!

Teaching the plan of salvation on a trash can and feeling the gospel through the faith of others- February 24, 2013

dajia wu an

well i don't remember how much time i have left but i saved writing this email for last because it's always so hard.....gah. but we do gots to get out of here soon cause we are meeting up with some other sisters to do some shopping (which may or may not include a little birthday gift for a certain little sister born at the end of march. like i said: may or may not). anyway of course all during the week i planned and dreamed and schemed of all the things i would write to you and now i can't hardly remember a single one (dang it!) but i'm sure i will remember as soon as i'm on my bike, riding away from the email place.

we had a lot of really incredible teaching experiences this week. it was a long hard week because our study time was shorter than normal and we were eating on the go for "power week" so we would spend more time contacting and finding.....but we survived it all and the spirit of God like a fire is burning in my little heart!

on saturday we went back to that aztec park to see if we could find any families to talk to. there weren't really many people there and in fact lots of people were literally running away from us when they saw us walking towards them. ouch. maybe i need to work on my approach i guess sometimes it's really abrupt when i just walk up and start talking to people. we saw a lady gardening with an umbrella hat on but after she rejected us by telling us there were lots of people to talk to just up the street, i was walking along a little cement wall, wondering what to do when i saw a little old lady bustle into the park. i complimented her colorful jacket and hopped down next to her on the sidewalk. we walked beside her talking about Christ as she made her rounds through the park for her daily exercise. her name is sister yang and she believes in Christ because she has seen all the mercies he has given her in her life. i asked her if she would be willing to share any of her experiences with us. she said when she was pregnant with her first baby she almost died. she had to have an emergency c-section and she was bleeding a lot. she said in the midst of it all she distinctly saw the face of Christ. the doctors were able to save her (though she said she knows it was Christ who saved her) and after that experience she converted to Christianity. she also told us about how she was sad because neither of her kids have very much faith in God but she just keeps praying that they will find their way. it made me think of the story of alma the younger, and how the angel tells him God heard the prayers of his father and that was one of the reasons the angel was appearing unto him. i ran across the park to grab a book of mormon from my bike and marked Mosiah 27 for her to read later. we prayed together and then went our separate ways. she wasn't willing to set up another time with us but she seemed intrigued by the book of mormon. i hope i see her again at the aztec park someday :)

yesterday night we spent a lot of time with sister yi, sister huang, and their friend sister guo who we have started teaching. we have been reading the book of mormon with them quite a bit lately
but last minute i felt like we should share the plan of salvation. i sat on a little trash can that we flipped upside down and taped the pictures of the plan of salvation to the tile wall opposite sister yi's bed where my companion and the 3 ladies were sitting. it was such an invigorating discussion. sister yi has been nervous lately to go to the temple but sister huang was overflowing with vim and vigor saying things like "well i want to go to the celestial kingdom, who doesn't want to go there?? but i guess i could be satisfied with the terrestial kingdom" when she said that i almost fell off the garbage can. i ripped the celestial kingdom picture off the wall and said "heavenly father's goal for all his children is the celestial kingdom. it's his plan for sister guo, sister huang, sister yi, and me and sister l. if that is our goal too, God will help us get there." then they all got really excited and talked about how we would just sit around talking together and singing together when we get there. i was so happy :)

sister li and i had a heart to heart this week. she has very slowly but surely opening up to us. i taught her how to pray. we invited her to the elders baptism on friday and she wasn't sure if she could come cause she has to take care of her frail husband. when the time came sister yi and sister huang walked through the front doors of the church and i held my breath and a moment later there was sister yi. she really liked the service and said it was unlike anything she had ever seen. i just adore her.

well dang it i'm totally out of time. i love you, you crazy mice. i'm so thankful for each of you. i pray for you always. i know God is with us. I know we can see the face of Christ if we look for Him every day. He is with us.

sister coco

chinese new year and power week- February 19, 2013

wu an :)

to answer the question each of you has NO DOUBT been losing sleep over: YES!!!!! i survived my first 100% authentic chinese new year! i'm twice the size of a beluga whale and about 10 times as blubbery but i'm happy as a clam (or i guess, as happy as said beluga whale. i think they seem like pretty contented creatures).

here are my conclusions about my first chinese new year: i never want to eat again. i mean of course i do but last week was ridiculous. Sister l and i went running every morning and did some exercises at night before bed in a mad attempt to counteract the onslaught of food. every day we had at least one meal that was a feast fit for a king (it really made me feel sorry for all the kings out there...if they have to eat like this all the time the pleasure of eating surely ceased to exist with them since the days of their birth). the good news is, all my skirts still fit, and we only had two dinners in a row ONE TIME. the very best part about chinese new year was getting to spend so much time with our incredible members (and investigators!) and their families.

two of the new converts sister l and i have been spending a lot of time with just got baptized in december and are both from mainland china (that means they have really sweet accents that we have to listen extra carefully when they talk) sister yi and sister huang (as usual, not real names). they are best friends and live in like the outskirts of our area at the top of this enormous hill. it's the place i went to when i came here on sister exchanges with the huge cement compound of houses that feels like a giant maze and tons of mainlanders live there. it's the same area where sister xue, the chicken slayer, lives (PS she came to church last week. YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!).

so we spend a lot of time with them to help with the challenges people often face after baptism. sister yi is a widow and she lives in this old man's house cooking and cleaning for him. she has a friend who is a member of a different christian church run by some korean man and this friend always makes negative comments about our church so sister yi has been kind of confused and upset lately. we bike up there several times a week to read the scriptures with her which she LOVES and we also eat dinner with her pretty frequently at her good friend xiao li's house. last week xiao li came to church and really liked it and then had us over for her specialty smoked pig. we've been slowly but surely sharing the gospel with her. when we went to eat at her house we sang a lot of hymns together. sister yi's most very favorite is "in our lovely deseret" because it talks about children keeping the word of wisdom and when she first sang it is when she decided she could keep that commandment!!! it's so classic we sing it every time we go see her.

it was one of the greatest moments in taiwan, sitting in xiao li's little front room, singing hymns loudly and happily. xiao li of course is completely unfamiliar with them but tried so hard to sing along. her husband is elderly and can't hear or talk but he was in the back room coughing really loudly. it was a strange and divine chorus. i looked at xiao li's face carefully, i knew she felt the spirit. she has invited us over a lot lately. in fact we were there yesterday and when we left she threw her arms around me and said "i really like you" and she had a contemplative look on her face that i have never seen before. it's really exciting to kind of see how she slowly warms up to the gospel. i absolutely adore her. we asked her to say the closing prayer yesterday and she thanked heavenly father that sister l and i could eat dinner at her house and that even if we didn't like the food we PRETENDED to like it anyway to make her happy (yesterday we ate pig leg with sweet and sour peanuts, rice, fried eggplant and fish, and smoky spicy sausage with green's SO GOOD.).

other highlights of the new year’s feasting included several members attempting to make more americanized food because they thought we might be sick of eating so much chinese food. it was so thoughtful and really was appreciated especially towards the end when we all thought we were going to explode from all the chicken feet, fried fish (an entire fish just fried up. it still has the head, eyeballs......EVERYTHING. but very tasty!), rice, rice, more rice, shrimp, pork, and beef. it was all delicious and i'm extremely grateful it was just.......a lot. ;P

this week our mission is doing "power week" which means we leave the door to start proselyting at 9 instead of 10:30 and we have to eat meals/do language study "on the go" so we can have as much time as possible to proselyte and contact people in the streets. it has been pretty exhausting but really really great. every day of the week we have a different theme to focus on and if we hit the challenge we call our mission president and say "mission accomplished!" welll.....we haven't gotten to make that phone call yet but we have been working extremely hard!!! yesterday was "power book of mormon day" and the challenge was to hand out at least 15 copies of the book of mormon, exchange contact information, and make plans to follow up with the people we gave the books to.

to start the day we decided to go to this park where the elders have had a ridiculous amount of self
contacts lately. to get there we have to go on this bike path right by sister yi's house which means we were lugging tons of books up the huge hill. i was panting like a dog but had to keep riding fast because there are a couple of spots where temperamental dogs run out and act like they are going to bite you if you are biking too slowly. once we were on the path i saw an old woman sitting on a chair kind of off to the side. i didn't know why but i knew we had to talk to her. i was too out of breath to yell at sister l and just hoped that she would know too. she did. it turns out it was sister guo, a friend of sister yi. :) we talked to her for a bit and gave her a book of mormon.

we were having a really good conversation and had just written down her phone number when suddenly this man rode up on his bike out of nowhere and said "please, i need your help. you have to help my wife you have to help my wife. she wants to die please help her" the situation was pretty weird but my companion and i really felt like we should go with him. "you better go help him!" sister guo said. so we rode off after this man down a street i had never seen (my comp knew where we were. i promise this is not as sketchy as it sounds. if he turned down a dark alley way we were going to turn back and ride as fast as our beefy legs could carry us) and through this really weird park that was like sunshine and aztec themed park and i just thought to myself "what is HAPPENING right now???" when we pulled up in front of the house we saw a woman sitting on a stool, weeping. i knelt down quietly beside her and we started to talk. she seemed ok with having us there. i said "we are representatives of jesus christ". "i know." she said, sniffeling. "how do you know?" sister l asked. "i saw your nametags" she replied.

this woman was in quite a state. she talked to us about some very stressful family issues....i can only imagine how difficult her situation must be. she kept saying how she wanted to die. it was so intense. we said everything we felt like we needed to and she still wouldn't let us share a scripture with her but she said "i know where your new chapel is....i go walk there sometimes. someday when i am ready to talk to you, i'll come find you at the new chapel." and then she left to go to the hospital cause she wanted to get away from the family situation.

after that we talked to the husband for a little bit. we read 2 nephi 31:20 with him and it seemed to give him great relief. we gave him a copy of the book of mormon and he looked like he was about to cry and he said "thank you SO much." he gave us his information and said the elders could come and visit him. before we left i said "brother, how did you know where to find us?" and he said "God sent me. it was because of the will of God I was able to find you." it was such a strange but powerful experience. on the one hand, he is so troubled, but on the other we were not even near his house, so how could he have found us except if he was led there? all i know is that sister l and i were supposed to meet them both and speak the words of peace and comfort that we did. there is nothing so exquisite and beautiful as having the feeling that you were where you were supposed to be, WHEN you were supposed to be and God could use you to establish His purposes because of it.

a funny little companion has a really special style of could say she is so determined to preach the gospel that she will sacrifice her own life if she has to! the other day we were riding along and this guy opened his car door right in front of my companion so she crashed into it. thankfully she wasn't hurt but he felt really bad and rushed us over to his wife's shop across the street where his wife rubbed some kind of ointment on my companion's foot and leg. we got to talking and before we left i said "i know the circumstances under which we met are really strange but....i feel like we were supposed to meet you. do you guys want to come to church on sunday??|" we exchanged
information and left. the next day this guy called to make sure my companion was ok and then out of the BLUE he showed up at church on sunday with his kids. his wife had to work and she is the one who has the most interest but it was so unbelievable. i was like "sister l what if they get baptized???? and what is he going to tell people when they ask him how he met the missionaries???". i guess i should probably stop telling you stories like this cause i know it freaks mom out but i'm the safest person ever. i ring my bell like crazy and always look at the cars we ride past so i don't get doored. i'm really extremely safe (except that one time i got hit by a car but i repented and have not done illegal maneuvers since then even if my companions do!!!! i swear! don't worry :D)

so i'm pretty much obsessed with any and all scriptures that make mention of "the isles of the sea" because of how fitting they are to my current situation. last week i read 2 nephi 10:20-21 and nearly fainted because of how overwhelmed i was by how much i loved it. it says

"and now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.
But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren."

it's a good thing i could use 3 different ways to overly emphasize how much i love this scripture. i am especially struck by the notion that the promises of the Lord are great to those who are brought to these isles by the hand and will of the Lord. it touches my heart to have that continual realization that God is so mindful of us...even if we just feel like we're on a little speck of land surrounded by the vast easily forgotten by all...except for Him.

"And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also." (2 nephi 10:22) I like that these words "broken off" are used if to suggest that anyone who is cast out, despised, separated, different....they are each remembered by God. Through our sins we may estrange ourselves to Him but He does not so quickly forget--He never NEVER forgets: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; they walls are continually before me." (1 Nephi 21:16).

The blessings of God and of the Savior have indeed been great as received by this little missionary. I feel my Savior's love for me every single day. it absolutely sustains me and gives me life. my favorite feeling in the world is being able to feel His love for the people around me....and because it is so powerful i can love them too even if i hardly know them or only know them for a short amount of time.

Jesus really does love everyone. i remember i used to think it sounded so......cliche when people would say "Jesus loves you!" and sometimes people say it in kind of a disrespectful or joking way but it's so true. i love to tell people that because i know it is true.

i love you i love you

sister coco

killing chickens, chinese new year, living breathing missionary work- February 11, 2013

dajia haaoooo!!!!!!

sorry today's email is going to be a bit choppy. in honor of chinese new year our entire pday today was devoted to cleaning out our apartments.....we didn't even finish though we cleaned basically from dawn till dusk. you'll be happy to know that after hours of scrubbing i got all the grime off my bathroom floor and even the mold off the walls!!!! i feel so chinese. and very festive. it's a grand old time. also next week our pday will be on wednesday because monday we have another mission tour, two elders from the seventy are coming to speak to us! yaaaaay!!!!!

i have a story about boden. last week we had a zone training meeting and boden got a special shout out from his companion because one day they were riding their bikes and they rode past two teenage boys who were smoking. boden yelled in passing "you shouldn't smoke, it's bad for you!" and then they kept going. moments later they realized one of the boys was riding right behind them on his bike and at first thought maybe the kid was angry and was going to give them a piece of his mind. he rode up along side them and started talking to them. he said "i know smoking is really bad for me. i've actually been wanting to stop lately but i need help. i'm also really interested in your church." they gave him a baptism goal right then and there and added him as a new investigator. let me just tell you that bodie's sass and tenacity are making him a wonderful missionary. everyone in our zone just adores him.

as one of our recent converts sister xue keeps telling us, chinese new year is the most important holiday of the year for chinese people. they really go all out. the entire celebration lasts for nearly two weeks!!! last week to get the fun going sister l and i went to a less active sister's house to help her do some "cleaning" in preparation for the new year festivities (think of the way that old lady says it on groundhog day). when she called us a couple days before she said the words "la ji" and "sha ji" and asked us if we would be willing to help her with that. we both said yes without asking for clarification (neither of us knew what it meant but it's just cleaning her house so who cares, right? how bad could it be?) she laughed and said "really? great ok!" after we hung up we thought about the words "sha ji". i don't know a lot of chinese words.....but i know that the character "sha" comes from the the word "sha hai" which means "to kill". and the word "ji" means chicken. did she just ask us to help her kill chickens? that couldn't possibly be what she meant!!!

last thursday we biked up to the more rural part of D where a lot of mainlanders live. we saw sister xue washing some things outside and in my head i was secretly hoping it would be an abraham scenario where because we said we were willing to do it we wouldn't actually have to in the end. as we walked down to meet her we looked across the stream to see a little chicken habitat. an older man was squatting
down inside a pen. we couldn't see what he was doing but the chickens were shrieking in distress.

oh dear.

sister xue saw our faces (i didn't do very well at disguising my look of horror) and laughed. she asked us if we had ever done this before and we admitted that we hadn't. "that's ok! today you can learn!" she said. i was starting to freak out a little bit. i love sister xue and wanted to help her out....but at what COST??!??!!?! she laid a few pie tins out and filled them with rice (don't'll see why in a minute) and then asked us if we dare go across the stream. the stream is polluted and the bridge that went across to the chicken "coop" was like an old metal ladder type thing. it looked totally unstable. and waiting on the other side was a giant rottweiler who was hopping up and down and barking at us very angrily. every now and then the man would toss out a chicken that would land with a thud. they were still alive but their wings and legs were bound. sister xue asked us to carry the chickens over to her. they felt really heavy and i was worried they would start flinching madly while we were on the bridge and all of us would end up in the toxic river of death. once all the chickens had been carried over, sister xue went into her house and came back out carrying a butcher knife.

now things were getting serious. my companion started humming "i'll go where you want me to go dear lord" and i think it was to comfort me but it made me want to scream because it seemed so awful.

i'll spare you the rest of the details for now but just know it was a shocking experience. to make it easier to pluck the feathers out each dead chicken was doused in boiling hot water. i became numb as i pulled out the feathers. the old man was wheezing the whole time because he was working so hard. he was quite the picture in his flip flops, beanie hat, huge vest, and unintelligible commands to us every now and then. as we plucked the chickens i thought about how much i admired my ancestors...many of whom probably had to do wack stuff like this all the time to survive. i tried to imagine myself as katniss everdeen to make me feel cool and brave but it just made me very stone-faced.

as we were leaving, sister xue kindly invited us to stay for dinner. we really did have to go, but in my heart I was thinking, is that a real question?

it was quite the service project i'll tell ya what. maybe one day i'll fill in the blanks...i just don't have time today and i still want to tell you more about new year!!!

starting friday night, the incredibly generous members of the church have been inviting us over for meals everyday......we are completely booked for the whole week. each meal is enormous and extravagant. i haven't actually felt hungry for 3 days. they stuff us full and are so extremely hospitable....not realizing that a few hours later we will be having another meal. on saturday night we went to the chen family's house and got to eat with a lot of their extended family. it was so fun there were about 30 of us squished around two little tables in this tiny room. everyone got "hongbao" which are red envelopes with money inside. all the kids gave their aged step father a hongbao and he was extremely "buhaoyisi" and refused to take them and they had to be shoved into his hands and vest!!! it was hilarious. they even gave all the missionaries in my district a hongbao which we tried very hard to refuse. our mission president told us to just donate the money to the general missionary fund. these people really are so generous and everyone has been in such a good mood lately. total strangers walk up to us and give us little treats or invite us in to eat. at the end of the night brother chen said a prayer and said he was so thankful that we have the gospel in taiwan. it totally pierced my heart. i felt so happy to be here and to be doing the work i'm doing.

on sunday we only had church for an hour cause lots of people are traveling all over to visit their families. i was asked to share my testimony since i'm new in the ward. for some reason i got really nervous and i wasn't sure what i should say but i wanted it to be meaningful. there were only a few people there and i wanted really badly to strengthen them in any way i could and to help build their confidence in me. i was praying and praying to be guided to know what to say. as the sacrament was passed around the room i noticed a young woman who got baptized a few months ago who has some challenges in her life. against all odds she had made it to church and was sitting in the front row. i was so moved as i saw her very meditatively and purposefully take the sacrament. when i stood up to bear my testimony i talked about how grateful i am for the gift of agency. i said sometimes it is frustrating because people will use their agency to reject us but that through our every day choices, big or small, we can have a huge influence on the people all around us. i thanked them for using their agency to come to church that day and partake of the sacrament. my voice was shaky and the words i said were simple but as i was up there i felt like i was bursting with love for all the people in that room. i felt like i was almost like nephi of old (not quite uncle kimball status) but then throughout the rest of the meeting people referred to what i said and i knew God had given me the words and i just felt glorious.

ahhhhhhhhh there's so much more to tell you!!!!!! so so sorry i will have more time next wednesday.
happy love day, happy new year, happy livin!

love love love

your happy
sister coco

thrust in the sickle with all your might!- February 3, 2013

qinai de jiating wu an :)

i remembered an anne of green gables moment that happened last week which i forgot to tell you about....the first couple of days here in D i didn't have my bike so one of the new members in our ward rode her bike over to our apartment and let me borrow it. it was way too small for me but whatever. the next day we went out to lunch with this sister yang and as we were crossing the street to go eat at a hot pot place (hot pots: you have your own little stove on the table like the kind we take camping and then a little metal dish of boiling water and they put a bunch of vegetables and weird meat and sometimes normal meat inside. when it is cooked you pick it out with chopsticks and eat it with rice. mmmmmmm!) and i felt like it was getting harder and harder to pedal my bike. i was confused and thought i just must have had it in a weird gear (i've been riding gear bikes for 6 months and still am not entirely sure how they work. no one seems to know! there are two different sets of numbers!!! huh?!?!) so i flipped through a bunch but in a matter of seconds it just stopped completely. i was in the middle of the road at this point and cars/a wave of scooters were starting to pour down the road so i just picked up the bike and did a little waddle run across the street. when i turned to examine the bike i realized i couldn't move and quickly realized that my skirt had gotten caught in the back wheel!!! i felt so foolish and just started pulling it as hard as i could. sister yang noticed and came over. she did this amazing maneuver where she held the back end of the bike up in the air and spun the wheel so my skirt flowed out without tearing at all. i burst out laughing. it was my own fault cause i forgot that that is one of the skirts i always have to tie knots in when i ride my bike. good thing sister yang was there or i might have ripped my whole skirt apart and had to tie my coat around my waist, run all the way home, and change....that would've been a walk of shame i'd never forget. sister yang is super cool. i met her when i came to D in december on sister exchanges. she played the harmonica while we sang the opening
hymn in our lesson :)

today is actually sister yang's birthday and she and 2 other recent converts are waiting to have lunch with us so i just wanted to share a brief (we'll see if i am really capable of making it brief) explanation of some of my experiences/thoughts of the past week in my new area.

it was a hard week. i haven't been THIS tired in a long long time. it's always an adjustment when you are in a new place with a new companion and you are learning about their differences in style and preference.....i really love it though. i felt like we worked like dogs all week and every single night i collapsed into bed and my personal prayers were totally absurd because i was half-dreaming while saying them. we worked so hard but i felt frustrated because it wasn't really reflecting in much success....or at least....not as much as one would hope. our numbers overall were pretty low, we have almost no investigators, and hardly anyone was willing to talk to us. i never really believed what people said about the difference between the north and south....down south people really are more willing to stop and talk to you or give you their information. it's very interesting. maybe the people are warmer and friendlier because it's warmer down there. :)

anyway i was just frustrated with myself and it kind of felt like hard to get into the new groove. i was really trying but i was letting a little cold spot of hopelessness and weariness weigh down on my heart. as fast sunday approached my companion and i decided to fast for a recent convert who is trying to quit smoking (for the second time) so she can go to the temple and do ordinances for her family. this fast could not have come at a more perfect time. in sunday school we talked about sacrifice and i did a lot of pondering....especially about the atonement. i thought about how every time we are asked to sacrifice, God blesses us....or at least that has been my experience. we shouldn't expect the blessings in kind of a haughty and prideful manner....but they really do always come. and as the hymn says "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven".

i thought about how Christ sacrificed everything for us. what was His reward? He got what He wanted: a way for all of us to be perfected and to come back home to that God who gave us life. it still wasn't really His reward though....the thing He most wanted was not even about Him, it was about us. as i was thinking about these things the words came into my mind "i need you to give me everything". it was an extremely powerful moment as i sat in a chilly little classroom on the second floor of an office building where the D members meet for church. because sister t was going to be training this movecall, we knew earlier than we normally would have that i would be leaving (we found out on monday but usually we get the call on the 6th week of the movecall on a saturday night).

as i contemplated my new adventure that week, i had a feeling that it was going to be very different, that i was going to have to step it up to a new level in a way i never had before. i believe i've been giving it my best effort my entire's not perfect but i really have been trying despite the way it may look sometimes. i just had this feeling that a lot of hard work was in store and i felt completely calm about it. i'm really excited to give more than i've ever tried to give. to be and do more to sacrifice it all for the sake of preaching the gospel. to devote every second and every breath to accomplishing my purpose. why am i here? that is a question that came to my mind a couple times this week. what am i DOING here? but deep in my heart i had the answer and it kept me pedaling forward, it kept helping me open my mouth and speak chinese and try to teach people about Jesus Christ, a person they don't know but who knows and loves them perfectly.

i am here because i have been snatched and my eyes have been opened to the beauty, truth, and reality of the gospel of Christ. i know He is my Savior, and i have to be true to what i know and take this opportunity to share it every day with my brothers and sisters...on this isle of the sea.

i read a really great quote by Elder Bednar this week..."You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work." he was actually talking about family history work but it stuck out to me for my current situation. i re-read 2 corinthians 4. i read nephi's psalm in 2 nephi 4.....i know God will help me move forward "if i ask not amiss". it's so's so so good.

i hope this makes sense......i really love daya. i love my companion sister l. it's just a new adventure and the challenges are different but i'm makin my way :)

huge answer to prayer this week.....we had an investigator show up for church an hour and a half late (i was praying the whole time that she'd make it) and then she was really embarrassed cause her little girls were being noisy but refused to go to primary. i assured her that it was alright and just prayed for the rest of sunday school and relief society that her children would be still and our investigator sister xie would feel the spirit. her little girls calmed down and sister xie was totally moved by the relief society lesson. i felt God was with me because the situation was so beyond anything i could do. then i shared a scripture....3 nephi 9:22 "therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will i receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. behold, for such i have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved." she loved it. we talked about how little children are such a good example for how we should live and how much Jesus loves them. after she left i felt like my spirit sighed with relief.

i love you all so much. i hope this email doesn't seem really was a hard week and there's a lot of work for me to do for the rest of this movecall and my mission....but i am full of hope and i feel very calm and peaceful. i love this work. i love it i love it i love it.

i love all of you and pray for your success and safety!!! my dear little family!!!!! i ADORE you all. thank you for giving me strength and courage and faith :)

Great Expectations- January 30, 2013

dearest family wu an!

sorry i didn't email on monday but it has been a crazy couple of days so hang on to your wienerschnitzel and tranja and i will unveil the exciting events in the life of this missionary that happened in the blink of an eye.

last week after i emailed you we found out some big news. president bishop called sister t and told her she would be training one of the incoming missionaries which meant i was getting kicked out of our wonderful area!!!!! i was totally devastated. i loved that place so much and had been really happy there...sister t and i had also been through a lot together and seen much success. she and i have become great friends and now the news that we were to be severed from one another was almost too much to bear! zhou mama's baptism was scheduled for saturday....but i had to leave friday morning so the new trainee could come in.

president bishop said i could stay with the sisters in a nearby area who go to the same chapel as us but then on THURSDAY our zone leaders called to give us some more details and informed me that i would actually be going to stay with the sisters in an area an hour away which meant i wouldn't get to see zhou mama get baptized. i was pretty sad....we've been working so hard with her and i feel a very special connection to her. before i left she and her daughter (a new member of a little over a week :) ) gave me a card and a gift. the gift was inside a burlap bag which zhou meimei had painted hello kitty pictures on when she was little. inside all wrapped up in newspaper was an old glass bottle with a little model ship inside. it was one of the most precious gifts i've ever received and it was gut wrenching to say goodbye to them. i was also terrified because i wondered why i would go all the way to this other area unless president bishop was going to ask me to go senior companion there......the sister there who is senior companion had already been there for 6 months so it seemed like a big possibility. also in march we're getting 2 huge waves of new missionaries so there's a terrifyingly high chance that i could potentially train one of them. i left my area with all these worries pressing down on me. when i said goodbye to sister t at the mission home i felt exactly like mr. rochester when he tells jane that if she leaves the bond he feels between them will snap "and I would bleed. inwardly." it was so hard. she taught me so much about being me and made every day just exquisite.

i biked over to my new (temporary) area with sister b and sister r....with a huge backpack on my back and another enormous bag of crap on my handle bars and one of them took my 3rd bag (i swear i tried to pack light). the journey was pretty arduous and i was panting like a dog the whole way but sister b and r are both used to that area so they went all lance armstrong on me and i just biked as hard as i could till i thought my thighs would explode from the pressure. we had a very interesting few days together in which i almost did not cease praying. i was pretty convinced this was going to be my new enormous span of city....covering two wards that meet on the 19th floor of an office building. i tried really hard to start memorizing street names and the layout of the city, as well as investigators/recent converts/less actives and all their situations.

when i got there the 3 of us fasted because the sisters had been struggling to find new investigators. about 20 minutes after we had started the fast we had some pretty major miracles including a member giving us a referral (kind of rare and so precious).

my heart was heavy and sick with could i possibly do this? how could I be the senior companion in a place like this? sister r put me greatly at ease with her zestyness and her pure genuineness. she reminds me so much of a combination of aunt liz and my friend davi (too good to be TRUE! but really....). the longer i was there the more i felt at ease. i felt like my chinese was sharper and stronger, i was able to connect to the people we met with and remember important things. i felt safe and strong and i just prayed to Heavenly Father and said "if this is what you really want, i'll do it. but i cannot do it without you. please help me to be brave." every scripture i read in personal study was a great healing comfort to me and every lesson made me feel empowered and invigorated. on saturday afternoon they had their own baptism....a really special girl whose english name is "sponge" (after the one and only spongebob squarepants!) in her 20 minute testimony (extremely moving and just....beautiful) she said the biggest blessing of baptism was change. we can change our hearts and change who we are. she was so grateful. i thought of my dear zhou mama in taiping getting ready for her own baptism a few hours later. i'm so happy i could help her a little on her journey and i'm so proud of her i could just fly.

i learned a lot from these two sisters and before we knew it, it was saturday night. we were pretty anxious/excited as we waited for the phone call from the district leader to tell us about the new move call assignments. when he finally called the 3 of us were huddled around one cell phone with it on speaker phone. "do you want to know about sister mack first? or sister b?" he asked. we all said my name cause well duh we knew i was staying, right? WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he said "sister mack is going to D with sister l!!!!" WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?! YES! it's TRUE!!!!!!!! the very same sister l i went on exchanges with only a few weeks ago!!!!! i was so flooded with relief i dashed all around and finally collapsed on the floor/couch. it was way too much excitement.

i got to call sister t that night and i asked her about zhou mama's baptism. she said it was beautiful and that right before she went into the font she gave sister t a big hug and then looked right into her eyes and said "thank you." when she told me i sighed very wistfully and dramatically put my hand over my was a bit of a silly reaction but it was exactly perfect for how i felt. i'm so so happy. this is what it's all about. and i even sort of feel like it's kind of cool that i had to leave before i saw the next step in her i just went out as quietly as i went in....hardly anyone noticed and those who did will forget in a few weeks. ninja missionary work is the best. you just glide from place to place making as much honey as you can (like livi talked about when she quoted elder ballard) and then you flitter away to the next field of flowers. that was a terrible metaphor....i really wanted to combine them but i'm so out of time! yikes.

so now here i am in D, a perfect combination of city and country. our area is pretty big i think (i don't quite know yet...i've only been here for like less than 3 days) but one minute you’re dodging through traffic and the next you're surrounded by sprawling fields of flowers, wheat, vegetables.....all under the span of a sweeping blue sky. it's divine.

i've been thinking about what i could learn from my experiences the past few days.....i loved what i read earlier this week in 2 nephi 4:34 "o Lord, i have trusted in thee, and i will trust in thee forever." i don't know exactly why things have happened the way they did...but i trust God had some things to teach me. one was to meet sister r (a dearly kindred spirit: speaker of spanish and appreciator of homemade salsa), one was to remind myself about being a honey bee ninja missionary....and one was to trust God's power and to learn to cheerfully submit to His will in all things even if it feels impossible....and then to know He hears my prayers and understands my concerns....and so He sent me to D to be with Sister L. She's a pretty little thing, my new companion. she is gentle and patient and extremely kind. we are getting along quite swimmingly and although the area feels a bit rough (i think i'm just still adjusting) i feel so full of hope and even if i don't see big results i can just feel the changes that are going to take place in me.....i'm going to stretch a lot here. i'm going to work harder than i ever have before and deep in this work....sucking the marrow out of life as i go (dead poet's society!!!!)

this week we didn't have regular p day cause our zone got to go to the temple in taipei. oh by the way, did i mention that elder BODEN C IS IN MY ZONE!?!??!?!!! and i will be seeing him on a REGULAR BASIS?!?!?!!!!!!! i was thrilled when i found out. it was so incredible to be at the temple with him today. i went in with a few concerns and questions weighing down on my mind but seeing boden there just helped me feel the spirit. he is an incredible missionary. i prayed and prayed to have a spiritual experience at the temple and when the session was almost over i just felt overwhelmed with pure joy. i just know everything is going to be alright. i felt so connected to my family in the present and in generations past and future. the best of all is God with us, my friends. today He was in my heart and it burned like a fire. it burned so good. i feel full of hope and just ready to press forward...full speed ahead! we also watched a movie on the bus today about pioneers....17 miracles. i felt very inspired and i just thought...i want faith like that. i want to sacrifice like that. so here we go :)

i'll keep going and you keep doing your thang and on monday i'll write again with more stories from the chronicles of coco in D....this place has magic in it :)

i love you all dearly. thank you for the emails.....i will try to respond to them next week when we have a bit more time.

love love love

the ridiculously huge blessings from a particle of faith- January 20, 2013

dajia zao.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKK. i have way too much to tell you as per the usual. does everyone remember in alma 32 when alma is talking all about faith and he says "if ye will AWAKE and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words" (alma 32:27). great so now that i've refreshed your memory let me just take a moment to tell you all that this is so true. we've watched the movie "finding faith in christ" with a few investigators recently (the one we always watched in sunday school with the lady who looks EXACTLY like mom. i was so mad when my teacher first said that but it's totally true. and lazurus's sister is quita and mary [the one weeping at Christ's tomb] is aunt sage. it's ridiculous.) and in it they show a bunch of Christ's miracles he performed during his mortal ministry.

in one instance a man brings his son to Christ to be healed. the little boy has some really severe ailment and Christ asks the father if he believes his son can be healed. the man cries out desperately, "lord, i believe!" and then says "help thou mine unbelief". i feel like this has been a major theme of my mission.....little me....desperate to do good and to be what God wants me to be and i'm running faster and further and higher than i ever dreamed i could on a tiny little motor which is fueled by a particle of faith.....i don't know if i can ever fully explain this feeling. i feel like it is a total miracle that i am here and blessed to take part in the Lord's work. i wanted for years to get here but couldn't fully commit myself to it but God brought me to the promised land (i am certainly not here by my own willpower. i was guided and carried by God Himself and also by Him through the cherished people in my life). it is a miraculous thing to feel my faith grow and to prove to others (and myself) over and over again that this gospel works. i am waking up and God is blessing me with faith to be mighty in the small and simple things i do.

 alright enough, enough i say! let's have some stories or this email is going further
downhill than all the other ones before!!!!! in our mission we can send referrals to missionaries in other areas through this service we have on our cell phones (pretty nifty, eh?) so i was calling some of the home phone numbers we hadn't contacted yet, using the church landline (which is very special because you can't press the numbers to dial, you have to push the hang up button. push once for "1" twice for "2"....10 times for "0" it's very fun :) ) and one of the women i called is apparently not only NOT in our area, but is already meeting with missionaries. but we were already talking so i just kind of asked her how it was going. she sounded uncertain. she said she really wanted her son to be baptized and to keep learning but she wasn't sure if she really believed it. i told her about some of my own experiences with prayer and i said "you know, you can pray anytime and anywhere, and you can pray about anything! you can even ask God to give you more faith." she seemed a little surprised to hear that so i said "can we pray together? right now?" she said yes and i asked her to pray. it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life sitting in the church in taiping, taiwan, praying over the phone with a total stranger as she asked God to help her understand. she and i pray for the same things, i felt so close to her in that moment and it was the highlight of my entire day.

 our district started having a book of mormon class once a week for investigators, members, and less actives....there hasn't been crazy good attendance or anything but it has been really great so far. last week it was mine and sister t's turn to team teach 1 nephi 2. we were both kind of freaking out cause the elder who taught it the week before was totally creative and amazing and struck us all to the core with the spirit. sister t. and i focused on the theme of sacrifice...we started out by playing the sacrifice game. everyone made a list of their 10 most important things and then we drew pictures of them and stuck them to the whiteboard. sister t. then chose 3 of the pictures and told everyone they had to collectively agree to sacrifice one thing. it was really fun and people were getting really into it fighting about whether they should sacrifice the cell phone or the bike and stuff like that. finally it got down to choosing what to sacrifice out of family, the book of mormon, and Jesus Christ.....the room went completely SILENT. it was so cool. after sacrificing the book of mormon they had to choose between Christ and their families. sister liu (a less active we've been working with recently) cried out in the midst of the discussion: "WITHOUT CHRIST WE WOULDN'T EVEN BE HERE!! none of us would be here." they chose to keep Christ. the point of the game is that
when we choose to follow Christ completely and are willing to sacrifice anything for Him, all the other blessings come too. it was a really great and powerful discussion.

as we read together we asked people to pay attention to what things lehi sacrificed at the beginning of his journey.....sister li (our recent convert of about a week :) ) said "safety". other people commented on how he lost the respect or trust he may have previously had with laman and lemuel. brother jiang (this really sincere guy who can't walk) said lehi sacrificed his time. i was so touched by all the insights and so grateful for what we could see beyond his sacrifice of wealth, land, and social status. brother and sister xu (our ward mission leader and the relief society president) were so adamant the entire time about choosing God...i felt so empowered...i want to study the scriptures like that for the rest of my life!!!!

another miracle we saw from exercising a particle of faith. remember last week how i was like "i hope zhou meimei gets baptized"? well...she did!!! sister t. and i prayed and fasted at the beginning of the month to hit our baptismal goal because we were invited to do so. neither of us have ever hit it before and it was an incredible feeling of God listening to our prayers. at first we weren't sure if she would get baptized cause she wanted to wait for her mom but we asked her to pray about it....i called her last week and said "do you feel like heavenly father answered your prayer?" and this 10 year old child said "yes. i feel like i know in my heart." her service was so beautiful. sister t. and i went out in a frenzy and bought her a skirt (which she did not even wear to church the next day cause it was "too long" but she was wearing a skirt sister t. gave to her mom and her mom was wearing a skirt i gave her. it was so classic.) after she came out of the water she told us she felt really happy and then in her testimony she thanked everyone for coming (hardly anyone came but it was still really special) and then she said "i really hope everyone can come when my mom gets baptized"!!!!!!!!!!!! i almost died it was so tender. we asked her mom to say the closing was the best prayer we've ever heard. she thanked heavenly father for her daughter being able to get baptized and then asked Him to help her get ready for her own baptism. we have been working really hard with her and praying like crazy that she can quit smoking. i told her that story from dax's mission...about the man who had tried and tried to quit smoking for like 20+ years and then as soon as he started reading the book of mormon he was able to quit (that is a true story, right? that really happened? i hope so cause i've told it to several of my investigators now and it has really helped them a lot....).

sister zhou is striving so hard. she was taking notes during the talks in sacrament meeting yesterday and afterwards i said "did you learn a lot" and she looked at me thoughtfully and said, "yes. a lot." she's so sweet. i've only known them a few weeks and sister zhou has a lot of challenges in her life but i love them....i LOVE them so much i feel like i could burst. i'm so grateful to be bound up in their lives in this way :)

"in conclusion" (as brock once said) God loves us....this week in 1 nephi i read something that really caught my attention....1 nephi 17:39 "this earth is his footstool". one of the references leads to d&c 38:17 "i have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again i will stand upon it." i really like the image of the Lord standing upon the makes me think of that one really famous statue in....brazil?? (don't make fun of me just tell me what it's called!!! the giant one of Christ with His arms outstretched. what a glorious day that will be when He stands upon the earth again.
that image also makes me think of that verse in mosiah 4....that talks about remembering our own nothingness....and that talk by elder uchtdorf...we really are nothing compared to God....yet "while against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. we have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation--worlds without end--within our grasp. and it is God's greatest desire to help us reach it. .....the most powerful being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love." is too divine. He loves us. He loves ME. I've never felt it so much or so frequently as i have on my mission...and i know it's because i'm trying so hard to live close to Him. I'm so grateful. so grateful i am learning how to do this....learning to put God at the center. i've gotten so many beautiful emails and so many precious letters lately....such tremendous expressions of love. you have no idea what it means to cannot know. the people in my life are the wonders of my world! i can never do anything to deserve any of you but it is my lifetime pursuit to endeavor to be worthy of such great love.

sister t. is leaving me and i feel like i might die. this is probably our last week together and we are FREAKING OUT. it has been an exquisitely joyful 12 weeks. i've just been....happy. so so happy. she really sees all of me and makes me strong and brave and helps me to be more than i am. she trusts me and believes in me. she is so great. SO GREAT. i can't wait for you to meet her. keep smiling. keep building up the waste places around you and giving light and hope
and a reason for living to the people sitting in darkness. they need your goodness. i am so thankful that i have it :) love you love you LOVE you.

wo ai nimen.

sister coco

 PS lately i've been having some really terrifying dreams about nightMARES (BAHAHAHAHAHA. sorry. really lame puns are kind of my thing now). but really they are horrifying. they always start out innocent enough and then in an instant things get serious and deadly. in the most recent dream i was with you guys and we were feeding some horses stuff that looked like dry dog food. mom picked up a little girl (my daughter? i don't know who she was but she was a victim) and was kind of raking the food around with her pink boots because she insisted that that was the proper way to feed them. a big black stallion was observing the whole thing and seemed very offended. i told mom to stop but she wouldn't listen. they got out of the pen just in time as the horse charged them and then he started to talk and said that the game was on and we had 48 hours to find a hiding place and then he and his herd were coming after us!!! it was to be a great race of life and death!!!!!! it was so scary. we moved to arizona. he found us. the point i'm trying to make here is that horses are violent. they are beautiful but they are powerful creatures. you have to be careful if you cross them because sometimes it's hard to tell at first if their hearts are evil or not. that is all.

PSS ok no i won't end on that dark and sinister and freakishly random note. (i just wanted to make you laugh. ARE YOU LAUGHING??!?! don't think i've gotten boring now.) kudos to mom for perfect many of the letters and poems and awesome stuff you send me always come at the exact right time. for me AND my companion. i got so excited in your last letter when you said we could talk for hours and'll be the best. aaaaand HOLLA AT MA GIRL DAVI FOR THE YOGURT BOX!!!!! davi sent me a yogurt box a couple weeks ago....full of magical things. she is way too thoughtful and i felt so guilty that i shared everything inside it even though in my heart of hearts i wanted to devour everything myself! MY REESE'S TREES! MY PRECIOUS!!!!!!!!!!! but some of my skirts are a little tight so that made it easier for me to want to share. i'm still learning, ok?