Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 28, 2013 (Hualian)

I've been feeling guilty all week for not writing a good email last week! Sorry! The other missionaries have picked up on how easily I feel guilt. One time one of the elders was trying to make me feel guilty for a really dumb little thing (just joking) and another elder was like, "Don't say that. She'll start feeling for real guilty." True! Anyway, this week, I"ll write a better email.

We got move calls and we're both staying. Yeh! AND, my bestie companion sister Chen is the new temple sister. So sometimes I am allowed to call her. Best. Me and Sister Du got sick AGAIN this week. On Wednesday morning, I felt so crappy. And I was so stressed because me and sister du were supposed to move to a new apartment that week, we were supposed to go on exchanges that day and I had already gotten sick the week before. I called my mission president and started crying a little bit (still a needy baby when I'm sick) and he was the sweetest. When he answered, he was like, "Sister Christensen, you sound awful!" and then told me, "Cancel exchanges, hold off on moving, stay home and sleep and don't feel bad!" Also, turns out, after packing all our stuff, we ended up not moving. Anyway, so that stuff made this week a little slow. But still good. Oh, so while I was sick - being sick on a mission so boring, right? Nothing to do except read Jesus the Christ - I went through all my letters and cut out my favorite parts and I'm going to compile them into this awesome book my Aunt Bonnie gave me. (Thanks, Bonnie!) It was so fun reading all my old letters. I love you all so much and am so grateful for all the life updates and funny stories and experiences you have all written me. Total cherished possessions. 

So, I can't remember if I already told you this, but President Day (and therefore we) have a goal to have every branch in this zone get 100 baptisms this year. Includes a little place called Yuli that had, oh, 1, baptism last year. Yeah, crazy high! Some of the members are a little skeptical about it, but they are all really faithful and fired up and believe it can be done. I feel like the work has been sort of slow lately, but there's got to be tons of prepared people out there! I'm trying to be more believing and have more faith. Work harder and be more obedient.

YOU GUYS, this is the first day of my second to last transfer. Crazy crazy. 

The other night, we went to visit the awesome family who owns a bike shop and their whole family sometimes bikes to church. We had a lesson with them and them chatted with the mom, Lu jiemei outside for a minute. Their little 3 year old daughter, who is totally silent when we are around, silently gave Du jiemei a little purse. Then she went outside and brought me a little backpack. But it was her brother's backpack, so she had to take it back. Then she brought me another little purse. Then she brought us some little books. She was so precious. She just wanted to give us all her stuff. Lu jiemei is so cool. She went on a mission to Chicago when she was young. She is the new gospel principles sunday school teacher. She told us right before she got the calling, she kept having dreams about teaching a lot of investigators, a lot of people she didn't know. Then she got this calling and learned that we are supposed to have 100 baptisms this year. The chinese people totally receive revelation through dreams all the time. 

One of our wards has a new ward mission leader. At the end of our meeting, he got all serious and was like, "I need to invite you to do something." And I started getting really nervous and guilty feeling because he was all serious and then he was like, "If you are ever hungry, or need food, do not hesitate to call me and don't feel bad. We never want you to be hungry." Haha, he's the best. I'm excited to work with him. 

I totally ran out of money this month. I called the senior missionary finance guy cause I thought something was wrong with my account. So embarrassing cause he's like, "Nothing's wrong, you just spent like a million dollars this transfer." It's totally because I always forget to pay my fast offerings. If I paid fast offerings, I know I would have more money. Gah. One of the elders said he'd sell me egg sandwiches for 10 kuai each. And since I realized I have no money left, we've been super blessed and been fed every meal. I know, right?? 

Okay, sorry I don't have a ton of updates about the work. Just a bunch of knocking and street contacting. This is a weird time, because it's their winter break and Chinese New Year is starting, so it's a little slower in some ways. A lot of investigators have been out of town. We have a great investigator gao jiemei. She's a former, but she's totally prepared and ready the second time around. She came to church and commented a lot in relief society and sunday school. She talked about how when the missionaries stopped meeting with her the first time, she wanted them to keep coming, but she was just busy so she testified about how we shouldn't give up on people. Haha. She is on vacation now, but said she's bring her book of mormon with her and reading it every night. Yesssss. Set a baptismal date with a cutie young woman, 15 years old, (her mom really wants her to meet with us - love having that family support). We're super excited for a start of a new transfer and hope to see more miracles and have a lot of things pick up.

Anyway, I can't believe I only have 3 months left. Crazy crazy. But, it's still a long time, so keep writing me letters! I'm so grateful every single day that I'm on a mission and I get this awesome opportunity. I love my mission. I love the gospel and Jesus Christ. I know that it's true. Read the Book of Mormon and find out for yourself whether it's true or not. 

Ps, you guys should look up Niels' profile. I stumbled across it this week and it is awesome!

All right, I love you all so immensely. So, so much. I can't even begin to express it.

Love, Sister Nad

TARA TARA TARA tara! yeahhh! INDONESIA. duh, knew you were going to go asia. You're going to rock it up. Getting home end of April. WILL YOU BE IN UTAH? I wanna see you! I have a letter written to you - I'll send it this week!
Analyn: Oh, I love allll your letters. Your writing is beautiful. Love hearing your updates. So many babies! So exciting.
Zoe: I loved your letter! Re-read it multiple times and cracked up every time reading about you smashing your teeth out. hahah, so painful, and so embarrassing. Yeah, what if you lived in the 1800's? Toothless forever.
Addison: Thanks for the delicious life update. I love hearing about everything that's going on. Bestie cousin.
Julie Cantera! thank you a million times for the letter and picture! I loved it! Your kids are HUGE! What?!?
Bonnie: Love you. ps, i DID get the awesome jane austin letter (a long time ago.)
Anja: Thank you for the christmas card and picture and email! I'm excited to see you and hang out with you when I get home! Jealous that you've been coming to book club. Can't wait to join you guys.
Coryn: Yay! I looovved hearing from you! And loved the picture! winky face!
Kimi Jones: IMPOSSIBLE to not love you. Don't even worry your cute little buns! You made up for it by sending all of those pictures. You guys, YOU GUYS, total hipster cuties. I LOVE your short hair. landy, I love your beard! You're looking all lawyer-ish and jewish. 
KAYLA KAYLA KAYLA KAYLA KAYLA I had a feeling. Thanks for the schlong email! love you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 21, 2012 (Hualian)

Ah, man, I feel like I have nothing to write about this week...

The week started off a little slow because I was totally sick on Monday and a teeny bit sick on Tuesday. On Monday night, my companion was such a trooper. I laid down and slept and she made phone calls for about 3 hours. Phone calls are so important, but always a pain to do. So, I'm super grateful she could get a hold of so many people. 

This week we had lunch with one of our members, and she invited her friend. We ended up having a lesson with her friend and she became our new investigator. It's so interesting here, because evvvvveryone, almost everyone, claims Buddhism. Even if they don't actively practice it, or don't know why they do the things they do in their religion, they still do it and tell you they can't meet with you or have no interest because they are Buddhist. I think it's super interesting. When I contact, I always ask what religion they are. They usually say Buddhist and then I ask them if they believe in God. And if they believe in God, I ask what they think their relationship with Him is. Usually they're willing to sort of add on another God to what they believe. Anyway, the friend was really great and we're meeting with her again at the member's house, which is the best teaching situation.

In English class, we talked about the word "dedicate" so for the spiritual part, I asked them to think of something to dedicate and who they would dedicate it to and why. Their answers were precious. One woman said she would dedicate a ship to her dad because he loves the ocean. Another woman said she would dedicate a hot springs to her husband because he loves hot springs and he always thinks of her first, so she thinks he's the best. Another guy said he would dedicate good food to his dad because when his dad was little, he didn't have enough to eat. I talked about how Jesus Christ dedicated his entire life, truly every moment of every day to Heavenly Father and us so we can live with our families and God forever. How hard would that be to be perfect allll the time? But He was super willing, and He did it and I'm so grateful He did.

One of our recent converts brought her mom to church with her, so we've started meeting with her. She's from Indonesia, so sometimes she doesn't fully understand what we are saying. We've started meeting with another recent convert's little sister. She has the cutest little apartment. A little studio apartment, with built-in bookshelves. I loved it so much. 

One Taiwan missionary who used to serve in Hua Lian came back to visit this weekend, so the members had a big potluck dinner at a member's house. Tons of people were crammed in there. The hus lian branch president is super loud, and he always makes jokes about how I'm louder than him. We ended up having a yelling match last night, each of us trying to prove that the other was louder. The members loved it - they were cracking up. 

Sorry this email is  so short and so lame. I love you all. Thanks for all your support. 

Love, Sister Natalie

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013 (Hualian)

Dearest brothers, you should write me more letters. Niels is in the winning right now for champion brother, because he just wrote me the NICEST letter on earth. I love being the only sister in the family.

Mom, thanks for writing a bunch of big letters this week. It was fun to hear all you learned.

I feel like this past week wasn't super eventful. We had our zone training meeting last week. I had to help translate which made me realize how bad my Chinese really is. My translating included me drawing a picture of a jelly fish because I totally didn't know how to say that. Poor, patient native missionaries. 

We also had specialized training with President Day. I love meetings and trainings, but with that (because we have to travel really far to go to them), it shot a lot of our missionary work time. I also went on exchanges to Tai Dong (picture attached), another super beautiful place in this mission. 

This week, we also watched our beloved mm leader open his mission call - he's going to the Taizhong mission. DeGrey, he's an Elder Liu from Taipei/HuaLian. Maybe you'll train him! He's the only person I've met who I think is truly prepared to go on a mission. He's the best. We had fhe at his house last night (like we do every Sunday).  A bunch of youth (including recent convert youth) come and it's always super fun. Last night, Elder Xu was visiting. He did impersonations of the voices used on the trains and of Michael Jackson. The youth were loooving it. Elder Xu can do uncanny impersonations of everything and everyone. He's the most entertaining person to hang out with. Brother Liu's house is tiny and I love it. We all cram onto the 2 couches and floor to have fhe together. The fhe topic was setting goals. Talking about goals made me really grateful that we have a loving Father in Heaven who will help us accomplish anything through prayer. I really know and strongly believe that when we pray to accomplish the things we want to, He will help things that seem difficult or even impossible come to pass.

This week we had one new awesome investigator. She's sort of a former investigator. I guess when she was meeting with the missionaries she was doing super good, but then she decided keeping the sabbath day holy (my favorite commandment) was too hard. But, we went to meet with her again and she's the best. I feel like the Lord has been working on her during her time away from the missionaries. She's been praying and she set a baptismal date really quickly and easily. She's still a little worried about sabbath day, but also really willing to try. She was a total miracle this week, because we've had a hard time finding new investigators. But, yesterday, had two more miracle new investigators. One is our young woman member's mom and another is a recent convert we visited 's sister.

We went to Toroko Gorge - which is like a famous national park or something here. A member drove us and our bikes up to the top and then we biked down. Maybe kind of wussy, but on pday, time is extremely limited. It was really beautiful, biking down with sheer cliffs on both sides of you. Really green. 

You guys, this email is the most boring thing ever. I'm sorry! I can't think of anything to write about. 

ANGELA: You are the best. You write me so much and I LOVE every single letter you write me. I'm hoping and praying for your upcoming baptismal date. Send me pictures! And you gave a sacrament talk?! I LOVED your talk, I would have totally laughed out loud multiple times if I were in the congregation.
Allison! Thank you for your letters and update. Can't WAIT to see more pictures. And thanks for always being so sweet and concerned about me - you're the best! 
Kayla, got your huge-o letter. loooooved it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2012 (Hualian)

Dear family,

Whaat?! My bedroom door is finally going to have a doorknob?! Shocking. Just kidding. I love how long that door hasn't had a doorknob.

Grandma and Grandpa - thank you so much for the Christmas money! It might take me a little while to cash it, because I need to figure out some special bank to go to, I think. But, thank you! You are the nicest, best grandparents.

Thanks for all the updates on the new Stake. Exciting.

This week was really great. On Monday, my new convert, Qiu Feng, came down from Zhong Li to hang out with me. So on Monday, we all ate with her, then we went shopping in the downtown part of Hua Lian. They have a bunch of cute little shops. In this one shop, I was dying. I wanted to buy everything. Vintage Taiwan posters made into postcards, all these natural paper notebooks, beautiful and expensive soap, vintage leather purse. Ahhh. It was like Anthropology. But, I think I'm maybe getting a teeny bit better at not being so materialistic. For example, I made no purchases.

Monday night, I ate the most delicious guoties - like the Chinese fried dumplings. The dough part was thick and flaky and crispy, not at all like the ones you buy on the street. Faj Mahal, I've been making a big list of all the stuff you need to eat when you are in Taiwan. 

On Tuesday, we had what we call War council. It's just a meeting with zone leaders to plan for the zone, but because the areas in this zone are so spread out, we got to do a group skype. Super fun. At first the delay was literally like 2 minutes. But then it got better and I forgot how fun skyping is. Tuesday night, we visited our investigators Xu jiemei and her husband, Chen dixiong. We have been praying for their hearts to be softened and that they would be able to accept a baptismal date. (The last time the sisters extended one to Xu jiemei, she didn't accept.) We shared the plan of salvation and had an awesome lesson about it. They had a lot of good thoughts and questions. Then we talked about baptism, and they took a while thinking about it and discussing it, but then they accepted. Xu jiemei said to her husband, "I want to be with you forever, so let's do this." or something like that. It was precious. When we left, and were out of ear shot of their house, me and Du jiemei were cheering as we biked away from their home. 

On Wednesday, I taught the advanced English class (yeah, my favorite!) and there is this awesome older man named Silence. He worked on navy ships for his career, and is really dignified. We started talking about American music, and usually people talk about pop stuff, but he said he loves Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Dolly Parton, and Simon and Garfuncle (sp?) and my heart soared. I was like, "You guys, if you really want to know good American music, listen to Silence. He knows where it's at!" And then we talked about Neil Young and some other awesome artists. I love teaching advanced english.

Thursday, we met a new possible investigator. She is American. She is here teaching English and is elegant and refined. She is Southern baptist. We ate dinner with her and talked to her about religion. I hope to be able to start meeting with her.

On Friday and Saturday, I was in Taipei all day, attending a semi-annual big leadership training thing, while my companion went on exchanges to zhong li.  I LOVED IT. I'm telling you, on my mission, I LOVE any type of church meeting, training, etc. We basically reviewed all of Preach my Gospel and the 5 lessons we teach. Most of the missionaries presented special trainings on different topics, which also means we did tons of role plays. I'm totally into role plays now, too. At the beginning of my mission, I HATED them, but now I think they are awesome. Me and beloved mtc companion Sister Winters were paired up for our training - our topic was teaching people, not lessons. We had 45 minutes, so I was super nervous, but it ended up going really well and it was super fun. (I love teaching.) Another thing I love that I thought was so dumb before my mission is analogies. We started off with being like, "We know the gospel is for EVERYONE, so obviously, it's going to work for everyone" and then made a little sister and a big elder put on Sister Winters' pink blazer to demonstrate our point and then talk about how even though the gospel is for everyone, we teach according to needs. We had role play stuff too, so we only taught for about half the time. 

The other missionaries' training was also so awesome. I took tons of notes and totally received personal revelation. Isn't it so wonderful that God is our Heavenly Father, who loves us and cares for us like we can't imagine? It's so awesome that we can receive communication and revelation from Him. 

On Friday night, I got to go on exchanges to Shi Lin (faj, are you going there? don't they have a super famous night market?) with Sister Winters and Sister Muhlstein (also in the mtc with me). We went knocking that night, and prayed to find a family. Like the second door we knocked on was a family who let us in. Part of the family was this cute grandpa you see in the pictures, who has this great talent of making paper cut outs. So he made cut outs of our silhouettes (he can do it really fast) and while doing it, he was singing jazz and bouncing around. It was so cute and funny. We shared a little message with them too. Although they didn't set up again, they said the sisters could go back and visit. 

Sunday, Xu Jiemei and Chen Dixiong came to church with their little 2 year old. All three hours! They are awesome and we loved having them at church. Their daughter was super well behaved, but busy, so I think like every parent who attends church with children, they didn't get a ton out of it. But I think it was a positive experience for them. 

That night we biked out to our branch president's house for dinner (SEE ATTACHED PHOTOS - yeah so beautiful. Towering mountains, covered with mist and fog and palm trees all around. So pretty.) Our branch president is super funny. He was kind of making fun of me the whole time - saying how I talk so much (he does too!) and then he was imitating me today at church. Oh, because he was saying how we get to rest on Sundays, and we were like, "are you kidding me?? Sunday is the most busy, tiring day for missionaries!" You're all stressed trying to take care of your investigators and make sure they actually come and feel comfortable and if anyone says anything remotely strange over the pulpit, you get super nervous and stressed. Anyway, the branch president was like, "Oh, yeah, today, like Cen Jiemei (me) trying to get me to meet their family.\, 'oh, hi president! this is the Chen family! they're really great! blah blah blah." I don't know, I was cracking up, because it's true -totally how I am. Church is the most stressful part of the week for me. 

I love the Heavenly Father and Christ and gospel more and more and more. I know I still have a long time on my mission, but it's going by so fast. And I'm getting a little sad. I'm trying to just soak it all up. But, last night I had a dream where I was home and I saw Chinese scriptures and started crying because I missed my mission. Dorky, but seriously, I love my mission more and more. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and alllll that that entails. It's simple. Read it, think about it, and ask if it is true and you'll find out. And it will for reals change your life. I love h ow simple that is, and telling people on the street because it's so simply and unpretentious. PS, contacted this awesome couple on the street, but out contact got abruptly ended when the man whispered something to his girlfriend and then bent over, grabbing his knees. Why? Because he gets diarreah really easily and they had to quickly find a bathroom. Haha, I love how open people are about that type of thing.

I love you allllll sooooo much. So, so much. 

Love, Sister Nad.

Kayla: your letter! huge and long. best! i love the idea of you wearing braces on both wrists. hilarious. love you.
Allison: i still think your house and hair are so cute. love you!
Kimi Kimi Kimi, i have a letter for you.
Courtney Pete: where are you?
Alicia Harris: you too. 
TARA. did you get the letter from me that got sent to logan's house?? (sorry)
ERIN. yes!!! i loved hearing from you. thanks for your updates!!! i'll write you back.
analyn! Always love your letters and advice. Thank you. Your girl names are cute. love you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December 31, 2012 (Hualian)

Dearest family and friends,

I LOVED talking to you guys on Christmas day. Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Josh, HARRY (you're totally reading this, right) - so pleasantly surprised to get to talk to you guys also! Uncle Joshua, thanks for the letter and Aunt Bonnie - thank you for the present! I really do love all the little stuff your sent me sooo much. Also, those caramels were delicious. I forgot how much I love caramels. 

Christmas was super awesome this year. I thought I would not be that exciting, but actually, it was super great. I"m really grateful I can be a missionary during the Christmas season. On Monday night, we went to Taipei to have a big Christmas zone conference with all the other missionaries. We took a train that left hua lian at about 5 and got to taipei at 8. Taipei Main Station was festive, although it did not feel like Christmas Eve, with a big Christmas tree in the main hall. Then we (all the hua lian missionaries) arrived at the mission office right at nine o'clock. I felt like I was in Harry Potter. All the missionaries from our zone, plus the office missionaries were there. There were tons of letters (thanks everyone!) and packages and we were all so happy. Then we walked to the temple sisters apartment and the elders walked to the office elders' apartment. We walked past quaint little shops in the fairly warm weather and Elder Xu (Taiwanese, but has perfect English) was singing "Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to His name" and playing his ukelele as he walked with us. It was awesome. 

On Christmas day, I got to see all my Tao Yuan zone besties. Sister Day gave President Day a bike and he looked so cute biking it around the church gym. Then we had a missionary talent show - so many missionaries got roped into doing talents. So funny. 

I love this area, but I've totally been having some little mission trials. Which is to expected, since for some reason, last transfer I was filled with this strange desire to have trials and challenges and just grow and learn a ton. You get what you pray for. Wednesday was rough. I was itchy (still!) and couldn't focus on contacting. I love this area, I feel so good about being here, but I've been having some missionary trials. We don't have very many investigators and hardly any progressing of the ones we do have. We find alllll the time, but then still haven't been having success. What is going on? On Thursday, I felt desperate for the Lord's help. So, I fasted. Thursday, I felt calm and peaceful and good. And not even that hungry. Bonus. Thursday night, we had a lesson with one of our precious few investigators. She wanted her husband to meet with us too. So her husband  was there. And they have a little girl. The lesson went so well. They were both so attentive and I feel that they have a bunch of desire and are going to do the things we invite them to do. I just really felt the Spirit as we were teaching them. It's cool how fast and deeply you can feel love for people as a missionary.They are really interested in eternal families -especially the husband. When he said the closing prayer, he thanked God for his "perfect family." What a huge blessing to know the plan of salvation and to share it with other people. I'm so, so, so, so, so grateful and happy I can be with the faj, mom, kai, niels, finn, and lars forever. Not to mention all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - and friends. We're definitely related somewhere, right?

Then that night, the elders gave me a blessing (of health- due to my insane itchiness) and it said some awesome things that helped me have more faith, strength, and power. I'm confident that really good things come after trials. Right? 

BUT, we did have our 2 precious investigators from China get baptized. They are so precious and childlike. The Wang sisters. President Day came. Which was great, and so stressful - just because of his title as mission president. Love him.

Also, my little bestie Boston investigator is a gem and writes me letters all the time. She's getting baptized in January. I'm stoked.

The other night we were biking this long, dark road and there was an old grandma walking on the side of the road. I stopped to talk to her. I said, "Hi! Where are you headed?" Her: "To the beach." Keeps walking, not even really stopping to look at me. I thought it was so funny. Where is the beach anyway? It seemed so far away. And she was wearing a pink newsboy cap and flowered pants. She was cool.

Also, last night, biked past a dog. (do that a million times a day.) Dog starts barking and then starts chasing us. Like, booking it behind us - almost nipping my ankles. I have never biked so fast in my entire life. And Faj, I know you said to get off the bike and look at the dog, but that's impossible. By the time I stop my bike and get off, he would have already ripped me to pieces. Terrifying.

Well, I love you all so, so much. And even though this email was kinda complainy and I"m itchy, I'm still so grateful every day that I am a missionary.

love, Sister Natalie

Allison. THANK you for your letter and pictures! I loved loved loved hearing about your life and seeing precious little Livy. Yes, so big! Also, in love with your hair. Of course thinking of copying you now. Also, your house is looking sooo cute.
Analyn! Thank you for your Christmas card. Precious. So excited that when I get home, you'll have a new little baby.
Anja! Thank you for your Christmas card! Oh, I loved seeing your little kids! MIke's beard is awesome! love you!