Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tell Everybody I'm On My Way!!

Sister Mack
August 19th, 2012

That song from Brother Bear, "Tell Everybody I'm On My Way" is my theme song for this week. It's not technically a Church song, but I think it's rather spiritual and perfectly fitting for my current situation. As we were biking along this week, chuan'in the jiao, I kept thinking "Tell everybody I'm on my way! And I'm a-lovin' every step I take!" And when it was dumping buckets of rain I changed the words to "with the rain pouring down yes I'm on my way! ....blah blah friends and new places to see....with....the rain...pouring down yes I'm on my waaaaay! And there's NO PLACE THAT I'D RATHER BE!!!!!!!!" I don't know if it was very evident in last week's email but my first like 3 days here in my first area were pretty challenging. I felt overwhelmed and a little discouraged at my lack of skills (Chinese, teaching, contacting, etc.), but I just kept praying and praying all the time. This really is a wonderful place to be, full of generous, kind, beautiful people, but I needed to find that strength beyond my own to really settle in and to cherish and love each moment of each day. As I poured out my heart in prayer to Heavenly Father as we biked around all day, I was filled with comfort and strength. It was a time in my life when I could truly feel God's presence, and indeed it felt like He was with me. I am filled with joy. I am still learning and making mistakes every single day, but I trust God. He called me here because He knew I could succeed in the work He has for me to do. I just have to keep doing my best and relying on His power to overcome my weaknesses! I really really love it here.
     My companion and I are becoming better and better friends each day. She is an amazing missionary. She is diligent and obedient and really gives everything to this work. She is full of love for the people we teach. I am so grateful to have her as my trainer. I learn from her every day. 

     Aside from my attitude shift this week, I have seen so many other miracles! I hardly know where to begin!  Ok I'll just start with Wednesday. We had 3 investigators come to our free English class, though none of them were in the class I was teaching.  After class was over, I was very surprised when my companion came up to me and said I needed to go teach 2 of our investigators while she went to teach the other one in a different room. WHAT! I wasn't really panicking because it was just going to be a quick little lesson, but still I've never done this before. One investigator is a woman I contacted on the road this week, the other is a woman my companion contacted early Wednesday afternoon. We wanted to keep the lessons short because they had already been at the church for an hour and a half for English. I got to know them a little bit, then we said a prayer and I started explaining the Book of Mormon. I read parts of the introduction with them and then invited them to start reading it. At the end of the lesson, I asked one of the women if, as she felt our message was true, she would be willing to be baptized . . . . she said YES and we set a date for September 15th. I was so shocked. I don't think I've ever extended the baptismal invite in a first lesson before . . . not even in practicing. I think what was even more amazing to me was to see that even though I can hardly express myself in Chinese, if I do my part in following the Spirit and saying simple truths, the Spirit testifies and builds on what I say to help others feel it is true! I can't even hardly express it well in English, but it's just so cool to me how teaching people the gospel's not us, we are not the teachers, it's the Holy Ghost. And thank GOODNESS for that, because if it was all up to me, then no one I meet would come to Christ cause they would not understand a word I said.

We have continued to meet with this sister.  I can tell she is so prepared to hear this gospel. We taught her the first lesson last night, all about the restoration of the gospel and Joseph Smith. My companion recited the first vision to her, and the Spirit was so strong. We asked if she thought it was true and she said she believed it. She kept getting so excited about the things that we were teaching her that she would put both her hands over her heart and sigh like she was trying to keep it from bursting out of her, she was SO HAPPY. I love getting to know her and helping her understand the teachings of Christ.  Seeing that the gospel makes sense in her mind is so powerful.

     Another miracle: last week we had a lady show up to Church whom my trainer and her last companion contacted on the street. We never called her or anything.  She came to church all by herself on her own accord! I think that is such a courageous thing to do.  I know Heavenly Father guided her there. As we have continued to meet with her, it's been clear to me that she too has been prepared by the Lord. She is just looking for light. I'm grateful Heavenly Father has helped me this week to see all the miracles in missionary work and to appreciate them. Sometimes they might not seem that grand, but it really is astonishing to me. I think it is a miracle that an investigator would ride her little bike 30 minutes in the rain to meet us at the church and hear us explain the teachings of Jesus Christ. I think it is a miracle that through imperfect teachers, she could still feel the light and truth of this gospel because it is being confirmed to her by the Holy Ghost. She's totally amazing, and I'm so excited to be on this journey with her!! Yesterday my companion taught her after Church while I was teaching another investigator (we both had members accompany us to the lessons), and my companion told her about Joseph Smith and invited her to pray about it.  This woman started praying immediately! She said she felt something was something she had never felt before but it was so strong. She felt the Spirit! I love being able to see this work come alive!!!

     Our ward here is completely amazing. People are so willing to accompany us to lessons and to help us make our investigators feel welcome and comfortable at church. I also love meeting with recent converts and less active members. Taiwanese people are very giving. Everyone always gives us food when we go see them. We went to visit 2 recent converts this week, a father and his daughter, and we left with a bag of instant noodles. These people are so so generous. I know it's only been 1 week, but that is crazy to me. As I've started loving each moment of each day, everything is different. I know God is helping me to have a good attitude.  The only negative thing is that the days, though incredibly busy and full, go by really fast.

     I feel like I'm not very good at explaining my experiences. I just want to share something I studied in personal study this morning, then give you my Top Ten for Taiwan before I sign out for this week. This morning I read Elder S. Baxter's talk from April 2012 General Conference entitled: "Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment: A Message to Single Parents." I know I'm not a single parent, but there are some fantastic gems in there for anyone who needs strengthening. One thing he said was that "it is through the hardships of life that we grow toward godhood as our character is shaped in the crucible of affliction, as the events of life take place while God respects the agency of man." It tied in perfectly to my reading in the Book of Mormon. In chapter 4 Alma talks about how the church kind of hit a stumbling block because so many followers were being lifted up in their pride.  But there were still people striving to be faithful. These problems were "a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions for Christ's sake [...]." These people, though suffering great trials, used their God-given agency to choose faith and, in their afflictions, grow toward godhood.

     Something else from Elder Baxter's talk: "While you cannot change the past, you can shape the future. [...] With God's help, you need  not fear for the future." In Alma 4:14 it says that the people were "looking forward to that day [when Christ should come], thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead." I love the example of these faithful saints persevering and looking forward in faith and hope. Their attitude, faith, and diligence in obedience is truly shaping their futures. I want the same to be said of me. Looking forward in faith is something I've really been trying to work on this week. I have seen and felt a tremendous difference in my life as a missionary as I've strived to do so. I am truly "singing as the days go by" as I keep smiling, trusting God, and find joy in this work. I have so many blessings.

My Taiwan Top Ten (favorite things about this place I call home)

1. At night the garbage truck comes around and plays ice cream truck kind of music...and people come and throw their trash bags in.
2. People weaving around on scooters and in cars both with and against traffic on both sides of the road. It's basically a free-for-all.
3. "In the year 55-35" is playing right now at the internet cafe I'm sitting at...that song from "Gentleman Broncos"
4. taro buns!!!!!
5. contacting people on their scooters and trying to get them to go to the side of the road before the light  changes at the intersection (this is how we do the majority of our contacting)
6. The light that shines from the people I teach...they are so fantastic and I wish all of you could meet them.
7. did i already mention the taro buns?
8. The clouds here are magnificent. They fill me with joy.
9. Rain rain rain.
10. Food glorious food! Don't care what it looks like! Seriously. I've eaten something called "Hairy Meat"

     I am so happy and I am excited to keep getting better at seeing other people the way Christ would see them, and then using that vision to help them come to know Him better.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ will change and bless their lives in ways none of us could ever dream.

I love you all so dearly. I feel your prayers and want you to know that I pray mightily for you, too.

Carry on carry on carry on!
Love love love
Ke JieMei
Sister Coco Mack :)

Chuan'in The Jiao!!!

August 13, 2012
Sister Mack

DAJIA HAO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Greetings from a tiny island on the other side of the WORLD (AKA: TAIWAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Can you believe I'm finally here??!?!! I still haven't wrapped my head around it. So much has happened since I last wrote....but I feel like it is impossible to describe. I will do my best though :) Aaaand I'm sorry but this email is probably going to be ghastly in its length...feel free to skim.

     Also I just want to explain the title of this email: chuan jiao means to spread gospel (the word for missionary is chuanjiaoshi so that's literally like someone who spreads gospel) but as we were walking around in Taizhong our first day we translated a little into Chinglish to say we were Chuan'in the Jiao. It's funny, dui bu dui (RIGHT)????? Yeah. It is.

     So last Monday afternoon we said goodbye to our 3 Elders headed to Australia, Jin JieMei and I were bawling our eyes out. I seriously cried harder than when I said goodbye to my real family and I am sorry about that but the MTC was an intense and accelerated experience . . . we've been through so much together, and for the longest time they have been my family, so it was hard to say goodbye. I am so proud of them though, and so excited for the wonderful work they will do. I wrote everyone in my district a little note telling them to read Alma 17:13 and Alma 17:2-3.
     Last Tuesday we got up at 3 to make final preparations to leave the MTC . . . it felt really weird to leave in the dead of night . . . like we were making a break for it or something. We were all trembling and giddy with excitement. It was so good to be able to call home from the airports in Salt Lake and eyes filled with tears the second I heard mom's voice. They keep us so busy I didn't realize how much I missed all of you, and it was so SO good to hear your dear voices!!! The plane rides were pretty uneventful until we got on the plane from Tokyo to Taipei. Jin JieMei and I ended up sitting next to a lady from Gaoxiong who is a Catholic nun! She went to school in the US and has perfect English. She was super excited to be sitting next to us and was super friendly and showed us all her pictures from a little nun retreat she had just been to in Wisconsin. We talked to her a little bit about our Church and missionaries / missionary work. It was a really cool experience. It was also a blessing because I still hadn't placed the little English Book of Mormon I brought with me, so I wrote her a note in the front cover and gave it to her when we left. She gave us her contact information so maybe we can look her up if we're ever in her area and she wants us to meet another friend of hers. We took a picture with her when we landed in Taipei.

     I can't say we really had an actual lesson with her but it was a cool experience for us to just converse with her about religion and about God, to give her a good introduction to Mormons in general. It made me feel so happy to be going to Taiwan :)

     I almost started crying again as we flew in to Taipei Airport and was just filled to the brim with excitement. I can't believe how fast the 12 weeks in the MTC went by, and everything I've been studying is finally going to become real as I figure out how to find and teach people about Christ.

     In the Taipei airport we were met by my mission president and his wife, as well as the assistants to the president, and 4 Chinese sisters who arrived a few hours before us from the MTC in the Philippines. It was about 9 or 9:30 when we left Taipei and then we got on a bus to drive 3 hours south to the mission home in Taizhong.

     I almost cried AGAIN when we sang the mission song on the bus. It was an emotional day because it was all so wonderful and exciting and thrilling and slightly terrifying. Our mission song is the primary song "Armies of Helaman". We sing the second verse in Chinese and in the chorus we change the words to: "and we are NOW the Lord's missionaries to bring Taiwan His truth." And change the words in the third verse to say: "To take the gospel to all Taiwan"! It was such a sweet moment for me. I love being a missionary so so much. I'm so grateful for the chance I have to come to Taiwan and share this happy message with these sweet and beautiful people.

     The next morning we got up bright and early and went for a RUN!! YAAAAAAAAAAY. Except for not, because it was super humid.  Even though I took an ice cold shower afterwards, my face was red for another hour.

     This sweet senior missionary helped us withdraw money to pay for our bikes.  He really wanted me to tell my parents that Taiwan is one of the safest countries ever and it's probably safer than the United States, so if any of you were worried about safety issues: No. Taiwan is the best. 

     On Thursday night we had something called a "Dan Jones activity". We all ate dinner at this restaurant with a table that had a huge rotating center.  We shared like 12 good. Right after that we walked to a night market where we all got to jump up on a little wooden crate and bear our testimonies to everyone on the street! It was crazy and awesome. Not that many people were listening, and most of them were missionaries, but still it was quite thrilling. Even the president’s wife got up with a Book of Mormon in hand and cried out her sweet testimony...I was so proud of her and very inspired. One of the Chinese sisters got super nervous, so I gave her a little pep talk. I was the last one to go and I was shouting in Chinese something about what I think was my testimony...who can say for sure because it was so loud and a little nervewracking and I don't speak Chinese! The second I stepped down I was swept up by a sister missionary who has been in Taiwan for like 9 months, and we went contacting. It was hard at first cause there are so many people, and I didn't know what to say, but it got better. The moral of the story is: I am not afraid of contacting anymore. bahaha. There was one really cool moment where I was going around contacting people with two 18-year-olds from the ward, and I could not understand anything they were saying, but I felt prompted to ask certain questions, and the woman we were talking to ended up writing down her information to be contacted in the future! Let the Holy Spirit guide, my friends, that is the only way to do missionary work.

     We all got to meet with our mission president.  It was kind of cool cause he found out about my background in Spanish and German and told me that I would very likely have the opportunity to teach in both those languages . . . >WHAT?! He was even thinking about putting me in a different area than originally planned because someone had a Spanish-speaking investigator who doesn't speak much English or Chinese. That thought scared me a little at first because my Spanish isn't that great and I can only ever think of Chinese words now.  But I know that if that's what God wanted me to do, then I could do it. I actually ended up being assigned to another area. So for now I don't have to worry about Spanish. BUT if anyone wants to send me some Spanish/German gospel vocabulary . . . . I will probably be using those words one day.   Just sayin.

     My trainer is great.  She is also from Utah! I won't lie I'm pretty relieved I have an English-speaker to train me.  As awesome as everything is, it can be so overwhelming.  I would understand even LESS if it was all in Chinese. I guess I would learn the language faster if my companion was from Taiwan, but I think this is a tender mercy from the Lord. After we met our new trainers we all ate lunch together. I said goodbye to the remaining Elders from my district (didn't cry though...probably cause we're staying on the same island). I saw them walk out into the street from the window on the second floor of the restaurant where we ate..... it was so strange to see them all go different directions and to think of them all headed to their own little areas. It was super weird to say goodbye to Jin JieMei cause we are BFFFFs...but I know we will be companions again someday. I love her so much. As I jumped onto a train headed for my area we both shouted "HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!" It was great :)

     So the train ride from Taizhong to my area took  3 hours, and we stood the entire way . . . . it was rough haha. Right after that, we pretty much went straight to this YW activity at the church which was all about inner beauty. I got to meet a few investigators and ward members and didn't understand anything, but it was really a nice way to start things off in my first area. I painted people's finger nails and tried really hard to understand what they were saying. Right after that, I had my first lesson with a  really great young woman who is studying the gospel. It was very simple and sweet.

Riding a bike in a skirt at high speeds through crazy traffic back to our apartment and trying to get settled in was a bit difficult. There's so much to take in and remember about the area, people's names, people's backgrounds, forms, Chinese, mission rules, principles of teaching, mission standards.  I almost started crying my first night cause I was so overwhelmed. Happy, but like TYPHOON of information, ya know? I said a very long prayer that first night.

     My first full day chuan'in the jiao it was pouring rain. I was soaked instantly haha but I was so happy! I pray pretty much every second and I really feel Heavenly Father is near me. In one of our lessons today we were visiting a recent convert. She is totally sweet and has a really cute daughter and this crazy little dog that acts just like Sadie.  The dog was attacking me for almost the entire lesson. Right now our lessons are kind of split like 98% my companion and 2% me . . . cause I just never know what is happening.  I am trying to pipe up more, even if it's just to bear my testimony and ask a question. We also met with another sister.  She was crying so much . . . I almost started crying too and realized I felt so much compassion and love for this woman I didn't even know and didn't even understand why she was upset.  I know that Heavenly Father is blessing me to able to have a lot of love for the people here, and I am so grateful for it. The tender mercies of God are really all around me.

     Sunday started out a little rough. As I was studying Chinese I just felt really overwhelmed because there is SO much for me to learn. They have a little language learning program set up here.  It is in 3 phases.  Phase 1 is basically memorizing all 5 lessons with scriptures, key terms, etc. I wanted to finish it in 6 weeks but I don't know . . . it might take 12 (I'm being trained for 12 weeks by the way so I'm staying with my trainer for 2 transfers technically). I feel that I can do it.  But I have a bajillion things to learn, and I still haven't really found the best way to study.  Maybe it's just that it takes me a lot longer to retain Chinese than it ever did for Spanish or German. Anyway, I was being a little baby sourpuss!  Then we went to Church, and even though I didn't understand much, my heart was filled with love. We have such an incredibly sweet ward. I felt so rejuvinated and strengthened to keep going this week. I was reminded to turn outward. It's funny how long it is taking me to learn the principle of working really really hard and just trusting the Lord to take care of the rest. I know that He will. I need to be more patient and focus on what I do know and what I can do and as time goes on, other knowledge will be added to me.

     I'm so sorry...I feel like this is the worst email ever. I didn't even tell you half of all the things I wanted to. Suffice it to say that I truly am so happy to be here. The Lord is truly blessing this work and His children in Taiwan to hear His gospel. This week I'm going to work really hard on turning outward when I feel worried about my progress (I won't ignore where I need improvement, but I'm not going to let it bog me down) and just opening my mouth and trusting God to fill it with the words I need to say. I am more capable than I have let myself think for the past couple of days. I think I'm still adjusting from the safety net of the MTC world to the real world. I have already met so many wonderful people who are kind to me and generous and just fantastic in every way. I love my investigators so much. My companion is very savvy and hard-working and SO patient, which is CRITICAL as it turns out. Especially when you have a companion like me who forgets everything all the time and is at times...somewhat...incompetent ;)  I really do trust God. This work has already been so fulfilling, and I've only really been doing it for about 3 days. I love it I love it I love it. I am excited to keep learning and growing and figuring things out.

Thank you for your prayers...I feel them every day.
I love you all so so much forever and ever.
Ke JieMei
Sister Coco Mack


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Going to Taiwan in 19 Hours!

Sister Mack
Provo MTC
August 6, 2012

NIMEN HAO!!!!!!!!!

So . . . I am leaving the MTC tomorrow at 5 AM to head out for Taiwan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHENME DONGXI??!?!?!! I don't think it has quite completely hit me yet, but I am very happy about it. Three of our Elders actually leave today because they are going to Australia. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to them, but I wrote everyone in our district a little note to read on the plane, and I shared some verses from Alma 17 with them. The first one I wanted them to read was Alma 17:13 which talks about when Alma and the sons of Mosiah are separating to go preach the gospel in different areas. I feel like it is so perfect for the situation in which I currently find myself because it will be hard to say goodbye to them, they have been my closest friends and very much like a family to me these past 12 weeks. At the same time I am so excited for all of us. I know that we are in God's hands, that He is with us in this work, and that He has an important job for each of us to do in our specific areas. The other scripture I wanted to share with them is Alma 17:2-3. I feel so strongly that as all of us throw ourselves into this work and press forward faithfully and obediently, we will emerge at the end of the journey triumphant because we know we gave it everything, and that the Lord accepts and consecrates our efforts. How much more joy will we feel when we are reunited at the end and we know that we did this great work with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. It will be a really sweet reunion I am sure. I felt the spirit very strongly as I read these verses, and I know they can be true for our district.

Our teachers gave us our full names on Saturday. My name is Ke Yong Mei. There are two radicals in my last name, Ke. One means tree and the other means river. I guess it makes sense with this whole faux hippy vibe I've tried to emulate my whole life. Everyone in our district has the middle name Yong. It comes from the word "yongyuan" which means eternal, forever, loyal to one's dying day!! Isn't that sweet? It's because our district is so tightly knit together in unity and love (like it talks about in Mosiah 18) and we certainly have become a little family, and now we are further bound by our Chinese names. My first name, Mei, comes from the word that means rose. I don't know exactly why my teachers picked that for me but I love it so much. I wish I could write it in characters on here but alas, I do not know how to do that on a keyboard.

Ok ok just one more thing. I have to tell you about the baptism we had on Saturday!!!! No it wasn't an actual baptism because as you may remember, the sister who prepared herself for baptism is actually our teacher acting as an investigator . . . but the Spirit was very strong there. We pretty much had everything except the actual baptism.  So there was a talk on baptism, a talk on the Holy Ghost, a musical number, prayers, etc. It was really cool. There were a couple of awkward moments, but it was a very sweet experience for me because I got to give the talk on baptism. I don't have it with me now but I'll just tell you the basis of it. My heart was so full of love for this sister, which sounds crazy because as I said, she’s really our teacher.  But I think because we took the role play seriously, Heavenly Father blessed us to have real results, real growth, and true feelings. I shared a verse from Mosiah 18 (one of my all-time favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon) that talks about how part of our baptismal covenant involves us as followers of Christ knitting our hearts together in unity and love. I told her that we are all a big family, that we all support her in her decision, and that we will truly feel God's love as we follow Christ together (or something along those lines). Earlier that day Jin JieMei (my awesome companion) shared a scripture with me in D&C 15:6. I felt impressed to share it at the xilihui (baptismal service), so I did. It talks about bringing others to Christ, and that we will all be able to rest together in the presence of God. I asked our investigator to read it because my D&C is in characters, then I just testified to her from my heart that this has truly been our joy, to help her come to know Christ (though she definitely taught us more than we taught her).  I told her that I am so so happy that we will be together in the next life because she is our dear jiejie (older sister) and truly a special friend. I also told her that she would be a light to her family, that through her powerful faith and example, she could help them come closer to our Heavenly Father and to our Savior. I was so full of love in that moment, and it made me so excited to get to Taiwan.

This baptism was the perfect way to kind of end my time here at the MTC. Every day I am more and more sure that this calling is divine, that I was foreordained to serve in Taiwan and that there are people God has prepared for me to teach. I just have to give it my all and He will entrust me with His precious children. I know I will talk to so many people who won't be interested, but I think that part of my job is even to prepare those people for other missionaries. I am so sure that God has a plan for each of His children. I am so grateful for the plan of salvation, God's plan of happiness. I know that as I am courageous and look at my challenges as opportunities, I will be better prepared. It's so crazy for me to think that the next time I'll be at church I will be in a Chinese ward....!!!!!! IT’S SO MARVELOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok ONE more thing: Last night one of the elders gave me a blessing to help me have comfort and strength as I head out into the field. It was a very beautiful and sweet experience. I feel so strengthened and ready to just dive in. I don't speak much Chinese, I'm still not an amazing teacher, but I love God, I love Jesus Christ, and I love the people of Taiwan. I am full of confidence and hope that as I give my all, Heavenly Father will give me guidance and direction. He will help me press on and He will guide me to those people whom He has prepared to hear and receive this glorious gospel. I testify that it is glorious indeed, that it has changed my life, and each day continues to fill me with deeper joy, peace, and hope. I know this Church is true. I know God loves us.

I love you all so much!!!
Love love love
Ke JieMei

The Final Countdown (In the MTC)

July 31st, 2012
MTC Provo
Sister Mack

Dajia hao!!!

Hoooooooooooly toledo how is my time already up? I'm going to be heading out for Taiwan exactly one week from today!!!! Can I speak Chinese yet? No. Am I a little nervous? Yes. Am I so so pumped and ready to go? Ohhhhhhhhhhhh YES!!!!!!!!

Let me tell you about some experiences this week that have been so perfect in preparing me for heading to the mission field. Sunday was pretty much my power day. During sacrament meeting one of the members of our branch presidency gave an incredible talk about faith. Oh and by the way this was after I sang a musical number with 2 other Elders in my district (WHAAAAAT?!) Yeah, I got tricked into it and then did a terrible job but it was nice I guess. Anyway the speaker talked about how faith can be an extremely powerful attribute but it is of no use and has no power unless it leads to righteous living. True faith, he said, leads us to action, to sincere and lasting repentance. I liked that a lot. Something that really touched my heart was when he said "Is there any harm in having faith in God?" Then he listed a bunch of incredible examples from the scriptures of wonderful people who demonstrated fantastic faith like Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, David, Samuel, etc. But then he said that there is no greater example of courage in faith than is demonstrated by your investigators when they are willing to kneel down and pray to God and ask him to help them know if he is there. He also said, there is no greater example of courageous faith leading to action than all of us missionaries in our branch, be willing to answer the call to serve God for 18 months-2 years, to come and learn Chinese and try to preach the gospel in that language all over the world. He told us that the miracles are coming, and now is the time to really show our faith because as we read about in Ether 12, we don't get the witnesses, the miracles, the testimony, the conversion, until after the trial of our faith. We must live our faith patiently and hopefully. He told a really cool story where a woman had the realization after a testing of her faith when she heard these words in her mind: "I did not still the wind, but I gave you strength to overcome it."

Isn't that incredible? It makes me reflect on some totally amazing things I studied in Ether in the Book of Mormon over the past couple of weeks. I can't remember if I've already shared this but I'm sharing it again! I love chapter 6 so so much. Ether 6:4 talks about how the Jaredites made all the preparations to cross the sea according to the instructions of the Lord. It says, "When they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God." That is EXACTLY how I feel sometimes as a missionary. I feel like all I can do is be obedient and try my best but even when I do that I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm such an imperfect messenger. The key, I think, is once I've realized that is to get up, brush the dirt off my knees and say "Here am I, Lord. Send me." And then I will get on a plane that will take me to Taiwan, commending myself unto the Lord my God and literally go forth walking by faith because I don't know what to do, but God knows. I need to stop leaning unto my own understanding (proverbs 3:5?) and just allow Heavenly Father to direct my paths.

Verses 5-12 of this chapter are pretty amazing too: "The Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind to blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land [...] they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves [...] and [...] terrible tempests [...] caused by the fierceness of the wind [...]" but, "there was no water that could hurt them."
"When they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again. [...]
the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land [...] and thus they were driven forth before the wind. [...] and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
And thus they were driven forth; and no monster [...] could break them, [...] and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water."

I think what really strikes me the most about these verses is that the wind never ceases to blow, but it is the very thing driving them to their destination. The Lord causes this wind to drive them forward, but it is also the cause of the mighty tempests and mountain-sized waves that throw them about and plunge them into the dark depths of the sea. At the same time though, they never cease to praise their God and He continues to let them have light (see Ether 6:3).

When I first read this I thought about something I heard while at the MTC...I don't remember if it was at a devotional or a clip from a talk we listened to but someone said that our afflictions are not always a small moment, but I believe that we always have access to the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the life and light of the world. He allows us to have challenges which at times may seem to drown us or toss us around or crash down into our lives, but we have the hope of Christ's divine sacrifice that will heal us and give us strength. If we are able to look at our lives with an eternal perspecitve, it is easier for our minds to be calmed because we see that through our trials and afflictions, God is refining us and strengthening us to receive glorious blessings, to receive eternal life.

In our darkest moments in the uncharted waters of our lives, when tempests rage about us and we feel confused, afraid, defeated, downhearted, or paralyzed with grief, we simply need to reach out and grab onto the arm of our Lord which is ever extended. We need to receive that Heavenly gift in our lives and ask our Father to give us light and oh how quickly and freely he will give it!!! I believe these things are true! They have been especially true for me as I have been preparing to enter the mission field.

On Sunday night we heard a great Fireside talk from one of the leaders here at the MTC who is in charge of some sort of missionary affairs....I forgot to write down exactly what. :P His talk got us so pumped up and one of my favorite parts was when he talked about being like the people of Ammon who buried their weapons of war. He asked us if we have any symbolic weapons of war that are distracting us and that we need to bury. If we want to be the best missionaries we can be we need to bury our childish things and step up to this calling. My companion and I were both really struck by that idea and I've been thinking about a few things I want to bury here at the MTC before I head out for Taiwan. The first thing I thought of is fear. I need to just leave it here. I have to stop worrying about my family and friends at home and trust that they are in God's care, I have to leave behind any feelings of inadequacy or anxiety that might stop me from being bold and following the promptings of the Spirit. I feel so strongly about this, and I know that it's going to be so hard and that I will be exhausted and that sometimes I will feel weary but I will not let fear paralyze me, disable me, or disarm me. I do not want to have any regrets about the amazing journey I am having as a missionary, and I know that all things can and will work together for my good. The speaker then quoted one of my favorite scriptures, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. "For when I am weak, then am I strong" as I rely on the perfect grace of Christ. He explained that God will not ask for anymore than our ALL. And when that is not enough, His grace makes up for it. I really believe that I am a joint laborer with Christ as I spread His glorious gospel. It has changed my life and it continues to change my life every day. I am so so grateful and humbled to be here, and I am so excited to go to Taiwan and walk by faith and learn from my failures and grow in love for God's children. I continue to learn so much every day.

I love you all so dearly, and am so grateful for the influences you have in my life.
Wo ai nimen yongyongyuanyuan.
Ke Jie Mei

The Highest Highs The Lowest Lows

Sister Mack
MTC July 24, 2012

Dajia hao!

Ok I literally will be leaving this country 2 weeks from today. Is anyone else freaking out??? Or as we say in Chinese: shenme dong dong? (What thing?) Hahaha.

Alright. I've had a lot of incredibly awesome experiences this week but I will probably only get to share a couple of them with you. Let's dive right in....

On Wednesday night we had a really unique opportunity. Every Wednesday when the new missionaries come in they get to teach 3 investigators in big groups. It's kind of crazy and intimidating but also really humbling and cool. For each investigator, they have missionaries who have been here for a while come in to start the lesson. Well it just so happens that our teachers recommended me and my companion to be those missionaries that go in and start the lesson. It was a little intimidating but we were so excited to do it. We had a workshop for it on Monday night and basically just talked the whole time about how important it is to love people and to really care about them and listening to what they are saying . . .  it was so uplifting. So on Wednesday we had an especially sweet experience with our second investigator. We later found out that he's actually a member but the things that transpired in the 8 minutes we spent with him were really really powerful. When he first let us in to the room he couldn't stop talking about how young and cute we were and how we couldn't possibly be missionaries because we were not 40 or 50 but in fact looked like we were 15! He told us his friend told him he'd be sending 2 cute sister missionaries to come and sing for him. We laughed at that one and brushed it off at first. We even joked about how maybe he could sing for us. He was very persistent though. We finally sat down in his "living room" and said we had a great message to share with him and he said "Great, I would love to hear it if you sing for me first." At this point Jin JieMei and I realized that we probably weren't going to get anywhere if we didn't comply with his wish. With about 50 new missionaries watching us and both of us speaking into microphones I panicked for a moment. Thankfully Jin JieMei was thinking clearly and said we would be happy to sing but we would rather have our mics turned off and have all the missionaries sing with us. For some reason I felt like we should sing "I Am a Child of God". I later found out that that was what Jin JieMei felt impressed to sing too. It was such a clear and obvious choice and I know that it was a prompting from the Spirit. We all sang the first verse together and I smiled the whole time just cause I couldn't help but laugh a little at my situation and at the same time just felt so happy. He looked at us very intently with his bright little eyes and was grinning the whole time.

When it was over he thanked us so sincerely. He then proceeded to explain what a wonderful feeling was inside him as we sang. He said he felt so happy and he was grateful because he felt like it really helped him to know who we were. Even though he didn't remember all the lyrics, he said he was very impressed by what he felt. Jin JieMei, once again totally on the ball, told him we'd be happy to write down the words for him. My heart was so full of love for this man I had only known for 5 minutes. I was so happy and absorbed in the moment and suddenly we were being cut off by the workshop leader who was turning the time over to the new missionaries!! We sat in the back of the room and wrote out the lyrics of the first verse of "I Am a Child of God", our testimonies, and a couple of scriptures we felt impressed to share that would strengthen him and help him with his concerns. We gave it to him afterwards and he reiterated the great feelings he felt while we sang and graciously praised our voices which embarrassed us both. Then he said that he knows that singing like that, in a sense bearing our testimonies through music, will really resonate with Asian people (he is from Japan) and that we should look for opportunities to do so when we get to Taiwan.

I know he felt the Spirit of God. I know even though all 3 of us are members of the Church, that experience helped us all come closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I also know that it wasn't a coincidence that I lost my voice the next day instead of on Wednesday. All things happen for a reason. May I be brave and wise enough to always heed the promptings of the Spirit and to always do good as I sing out the good news of the gospel to the people of Taiwan!

On Saturday in the TRC we had a very interesting experience which I will endeavor to describe in about 6 minutes. We had a really awesome lesson plan, I have to say it. But unfortunately it was a lesson plan that really only would have worked had we taught a member of the Church cause it was very much a discussion based in their experiences with the gospel. Well this week at the TRC we had 3 actual investigators come in as volunteers! And our teacher assigned one of them to us!!! I was really excited at first and eager to throw myself into a more realistic situation than what I have been used to, but things quickly went further south than I would have liked. I don't know what it was, but we just couldn't get our point across. We were trying to teach our investigator, a Chinese woman, about how we can receive revelation through reading the Book of Mormon. Jin JieMei and I both shared really personal experiences and I almost started crying cause I could feel the Spirit so strongly, but it just wasn't there for this woman. I felt like we hadn't really succeeded and I'm sorry to admit that I was a whiney little pengke (punk) afterwards. But Heavenly Father didn't let me stay that way for long! The rest of that day I had a lot of really strengthening experiences and it mostly came from my interactions with other people. An Elder in my district gave us a little pep talk, and one of our teachers showed us a paragraph in Preach My Gospel that said no effort in missionary work goes wasted. If we sincerely seek to have positive interactions with people, and do our best to share our message and witness, then we have done something good. I also had a really great talk with two of the new sisters. One of them was feeling kind of down and suddenly I was speaking all these encouraging words that definitely weren't coming from me. I didn't know how much they touched her until a few days later when she showed me she wrote them down.

I hate it when I let the hard things about missionary work get to me and I let myself temporarily forget my purpose. But I feel that God is all around me--in the scriptures and in His children who bless me and love me and lift me up each day.  Missionary work is kind of a roller coaster ride because you can experience the highest highs and the lowest lows in the same day. I'm trying really hard this week to focus on my faith in Jesus Christ and to let that guide me through each experience. I don't ever want to forget why I am here. I am here to spread the joyous news of the gospel to God's children, to love them and lift them and befriend them. What a tremendous honor and blessing.

I love you all. Keep smiling and pressing forward in faith. I pray for you every day.
Ke JieMei