Sunday, September 9, 2012

Repentance and the Book of Mormon

Sister Mack
September 3rd, 2012

Nimen hao,

Wow it has been another incredible week on the fair isle of Taiwan. I've seen so many miracles and been so strengthened in the Lord. I love it here. I know I haven't been here long, but I already feel that my mission has completely changed the course of the rest of my life.

I want to talk a little bit about some things I have learned recently about repentance . . . I don't know why, I just feel like I want to. Today I wanted to read the conversion story of Alma the younger in Mosiah 27. It is such a beautiful testimony of the power of true repentance, the mercy and powerful healing of forgiveness. Alma has a pretty intense process of conversion and repentance.  Afterwards, he he is filled with the love of God and with joy because of the mighty changes he underwent in his heart and mind.
     "I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
     [...] Marvel not that all mankind [...] must be born again; yea, born of God,  changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
     [...] they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
     [...] and this I know, because I was like to be cast off.
     Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.
     My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."
                               -Mosiah 27:24-29

I love that Alma describes salvation as being "snatched". It's such a powerful image in my mind. God loves us so much, but He will not take away our agency. We have to choose to reach out and grab the hands that He ever extends to us.

In Mosiah 26:30 it says, "as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me." I really believe this is true! Repentance is not something we need dread or fear, it is a joyful thing! It is a precious gift and a chance for us to be swallowed up in the love of Christ and to be healed spiritually, to become new creatures, new people. I have felt this redeeming love in my own life, and I have been striving to be able to feel it every day. Being on a mission is so humbling because it makes you realize how much you really do need God to get anything done in this work. It forces you to reexamine your own testimony and faith. Can I really invite my investigators to start repenting daily if I'm not doing the same thing? If I don't really believe that Christ will take these burdens from me? No! Of course not! I am grateful that my understanding of repentance, and of many other teachings, grows every day that I'm here. There's a quote I love from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk "The Laborers in the Vineyard" (last April General Conference) that says, "[...] however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you don't have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." I love that. And I know that it is true. Every day I have the chance to feel that magnificent love for the people I am privileged to teach, God loves them so so much. And He loves all of you too!

Ok sorry I don't really know what that was. Just something to think about I guess :)

Some things I wanted to share from this week:

* We started getting in touch with a less active sister a couple of weeks ago. This week we wanted to meet with her, and she invited us over for lunch . . . along with the relief society president (who is our little ward’s version of Judith . . .  she's seriously incredible), one of the counselors in the relief society, and another less active sister we have been visiting with (we hung out with her 2 P-days ago...she took us to that crazy mall). It was an amazing experience. First of all the food was to DIE for. I ate so much. Also I'm pretty sure I ate a fish eye was about the size of a quarter. I couldn't look at it or think about the fact that it was an eye ball and I swallowed it down just fine. It was actually quite tasty.

After lunch we started talking about the Book of Mormon.  The Spirit was so strong. I was just in awe that I could be in the presence of these really powerful women. I know each heart was touched and uplifted.  It made me feel so good.  I just kept thinking, this is why I'm here. This is why, instead of being in school right now, I'm on the other side of the world sweating my brains out trying to learn one of the hardest languages ever, to help people have this feeling. To remind them of their faith and to strengthen it. I love this work!!

* Yesterday we had stake conference, and I saw an Elder from my district in the MTC!!!! I got so excited I almost yelled at him across the room, but then decided I'd better be on my best behavior cause A. I'm a missionary. B. Our mission president was there. C. We had several investigators there. He came and found me after and gave me a hearty handshake haha. It was so great to see him.  I could tell he was doing really well.  He seemed very happy. I am so grateful I got to see him!

*One of our investigators who is having a hard time progressing had a good experience this week. She is only 17, but she always comes to church. She really wants to be a Christian and to learn about God and Jesus.  She has so many questions, but not enough motivation to do a lot of work to find the answers. I was sitting next to her, and I thought it might help her to take notes during the meeting. I asked if she brought her notebook, and she said no.  I gave her a little one out of my bag. Instead of taking notes, she wrote me a really sweet note. It was in Chinese characters though, so I told her I couldn't read it. She told me it said basically thanks to me and my companion for "accompanying her" and teaching her. She said she was really unhappy before she started coming to church and meeting with the missionaries, but she feels like her life is changing. She said we were her angels!! And then she told me I looked like a princess!!!! It was so sweet, and a testimony to me of how we can't give up on people even when they are slow to progress. She has a long way to go to build her own testimony, but her heart is pure, and she has felt the love of God. It's amazing to me that somehow I get to be a part of this amazing process of people changing their lives. This girl also asked me to share why I went on a mission.  I wrote it down for her. I told her that I always felt I should go, but that I was too self-centered and decided I wouldn't do it. My life totally changed when I took a Book of Mormon class in college, and my friend read the book with  me and helped me to understand it. After that, I realized I really believed the book was true, and it made me happier than anything else. I felt so full of joy that I couldn't just keep it to myself, I wanted to share it with other people. My story was simple and brief, but I think it really touched her. I leaned over to her and whispered, I know you can have the same experience with the Book of Mormon. "You're just like me!" she said. I think it gave her some hope that her prayers really can be answered. She just needs to start reading it consistently!!!!

Well that's probably enough blabbering for this week....I am happy and thriving. Every day is a dream come true, even when it's hard. God truly loves us, and we can have greater peace as we repent daily and read the Book of Mormon. Developing my relationship with God and with Christ has been the most worthwhile things I've ever done, and helping others to do the same is even sweeter and richer. Be true to what you know, and share it with others!!

Sister Coco Mack
Ke JieMei                        

Nimen Hao from the Little Island in the Sea!!

Sister Mack 
August 26th, 2012

Dajia Hao!

     Well it has been another amazing week of missionary work. I am thoroughly exhausted at the end of each day, but I find I'm very happy here doing the work of the Lord. I continue to be reminded of how much I need to improve on, but this week I also realized that one of the problems I've been having is that I am focusing far too much on myself!!! YIKES how long does it take me to learn these things?? All is well though, because I read a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf from the April 2012 priesthood session of Conference that talked about the importance of learning basic gospel principles, even if that means learning them over and over, which is clearly the way I have to do things! :) This week I've been praying a lot for the strength to really forget about myself and go to work. I want to go to bed every night knowing that I gave that day my best effort and did all I could to help other people and to fulfill my calling as a missionary.

     It has also come to my attention that I have barely told you anything about Taiwan....allow me to correct that gross error!! Where do I even start . . . .  I've told you a bit about the madness on the road. Basically everyone here rides a motorcycle. When we stop at lights, we kind of waddle up to people on our bikes and try to share the gospel, give them a pamphlet/our church address, or get them to pull over so we can tell them more or set up an appointment. It's so crazy.  I'm still not very good at it, but it's pretty fun. A lot of people will just totally ignore us, or they will laugh and then look the other way. Or scoot forward. Or run the red light so they don't have to talk to us. That is when you know that they are probably not quite ready to hear the gospel.
There are dozens of fruit shops all along the streets and even more little outdoor food shops. These people, thankfully, truly appreciate good food, and eating lots of it any time and all the time. I have been very blessed so far in that I have only seen 4 cockroaches. Two were in our apartment but were teeny tiny, and I wouldn't have known what they were except my companion told me (apparently our place used to be CRAWLING with them. We may need to invest in some more raid/traps. They are the reason we need to put our food garbage in the freezer). And then two were outside. wretched little things.

It's so weird to think that I live on an island....does that mean I am an islander? We had some typhoons up here this week. People get really crazy about them. Sometimes they cause a lot of damage, but since we're pretty far inland, I don't think it could be too bad. My companion said she's never seen anything crazy weather-wise, and she has been on-island for a year. So this week a lot of people cancelled appointments because they were like "The typhoon is coming!!" But no one actually seemed to know when it was coming, everyone said it was supposed to come on a different day. And then when it did come, it was just a little rainier than usual. I guess I understand why people wouldn't want to go outside, but why can't they just let us come teach at their homes? We have to bike around in the rain if people won't meet with us.  We just look like dorks cause we wear our plastic rain ponchos (complete with hood and a plastic bill like on a baseball cap) that go down over our knees...they're really funny. I'll attach a picture. Actually it did start to get pretty windy on Friday night.  At one point we couldn't really control our bikes, so we went home early and called a ton of referrals/former investigators. Anyway . . . .  the typhoon didn't really affect us. There was some pretty big damage further south and our mission president said we will probably be going down later this week to help with clean up.

One funny little image/story for you to chuckle over before I tell a cool story. So there's a woman that lives in our apartment building (maybe she is the owner? or the owner's wife? it's hard to say) and pretty much she is sitting in the lobby in the morning when we leave and she is in the same position when we get home at night, holding her brown mini poodle in her lap. One morning we were stretching in the courtyard before we went out for a run, and she was coming down to sit in her little spot. Her dog peed in the middle of the courtyard and she pulled out a tissue paper and wiped her dog and then poured some water on the pee spot before heading to her plastic chair in the lobby....!!!! What the?! I started laughing so hard. I love the crazy little things people do that are so unexpected and delightful.
This week was full of miracles.  One of the experiences that impacted me the most was actually really sad. We went to go visit a less active member of the church. We buzzed for her downstairs, and my companion said who we were. The woman answered in a very soft voice and actually sounded a little angry, but said she would be right down. My companion and I just kind of looked at each other and decided we would just give her a copy of a conference talk, tell her we loved her and missed her at church, and then just let her be.

We waited for a few minutes.  Then a woman walked by but stared at us as she did.  My companion said the sister’s name questioningly, and the woman waved for us to follow her. We started walking down the street, and she explained that her husband was home. He's actually the reason she doesn't come to church anymore. He belongs to another Christian church and, for whatever reason, is extremely anti-Mormon. The more she explained her situation, and the more I saw how excited she was to be meeting with us, the more heartsick I felt. We walked for a few minutes, then sat down at a table outside a little restaurant. We talked about prayer and the Book of Mormon.

The woman told us how much she missed coming to church, but that she still prayed and tried to read and really believed that God could hear her prayers. In her eyes I could see she was hungry for the gospel, but because it is so disruptive in her marriage, she doesn't have an opportunity to access it fully. We shared a great scripture with her from Mosiah 24:14 "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." She was very touched by the scripture, and I asked her if she believed it was true. She said she did. I bore my testimony of it and we were kind of in the middle of discussing it when a man approached us. He was clearly very angry but he didn't shout or anything. It was the sister’s husband! He had noticed she was gone, probably saw our bikes and recognized them (all missionaries spray paint their bikes so they don't get stolen, and we attach plastic bins to the back with bungee cords to hold all our stuff) and then he tracked us down! He was wearing a face mask (everyone wears them even when they're only slightly sick) so it was hard to understand him, but he just kept saying "We don't believe in this Book of Mormon, we don't read that book." The sister was really upset and kept telling him to leave. It was so uncomfortable and so upsetting. 

Finally, my companion said it was alright, the sister should go. She looked at us sadly but managed a smile, then walked away. I couldn't believe it. This sister is completely controlled by her husband. I am so impressed by her faith. Even though she doesn't really have the opportunity to study the gospel as completely as other members of the Church, she is steadfast in what she believes. It kills me to think that she is being denied the full blessings of the gospel because her husband won't let her exercise her faith! I know God is with her though, I know He is. He will visit her in her afflictions if she will continue to look for Him and rely on His power. I said a prayer in my heart after we left that her husband's heart might be softened.

I have been studing Alma this week and am slowly plugging away at it. What an amazing book. Alma is an incredible missionary. Today I read in Alma 8 when he is rejected by the people of Ammonihah and he is so defeated and weighed down with sorrow.  But when an angel tells him to go back, Alma returns SPEEDILY. I am so impressed with the faith of this missionary. He doesn't ask the angel questions, he just goes for it, knowing it is the will of the Lord and trusting He will provide a way! I am praying to have faith like that this week, and I hope I will see some big changes and improvements, and that I will be able to help more people.
I love you all tremendously. Be strong and of a good courage, build your faith. God is truly with us!
love love love
Sister Coco Mack
Ke JieMei