April 21, 2014Sorry I didn't send an email last week.
I am SO SORRY for not sending out an email last week! We come to this computer cafe where people come to play computer games for hours. You pay for a drink and to use one of the computers for two hours. I didn't realize that the computer would just turn off after the two hours, and I thought that I still had a few minutes, but then the screen went black before I could push send. I was really sad I didn't get to share my experiences and tell you all about my first week on island, but that's what I will do now. :) Sorry about that, I hope I'll still be able to tell you everything I want to.
So this mission is the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life, but it is also the most amazing thing. I know that the Lord needs me in Taiwan right now, and He has a great work for me to do!! Everyday is meant to be hard. But I am having so much fun - we were told when we first got here that if we aren't having fun, we're doing missionary work wrong.
So we flew from Provo to Portland to Japan to Taipei, finally landing around 1:30am on Thursday. There were twelve of us coming from the Provo MTC to serve in Taizhong, and by the time we got there, we were all exhausted from traveling and the time difference. We met the mission president, President Blickenstaff, and his wife and the AP's in the airport, and we all loaded onto a bus to drive to the mission home. I remember when I stepped out of the airport into Taiwan for the first time, and felt the air hit me. It was hot and humid and smelled like New York with an Asian flare, haha. We drove for about two hours to the mission home, which is when our orientation started. We each stood up on the bus and introduced ourselves and the mission president and AP's gave us an introduction to our mission and everything. They gave us some Taiwanese snacks, not really sure what it was. When I asked one of the AP's what it was, he didn't even know. I just know that there were little tiny dried fish in it. Sister Jorgensen and I spent the night with two sisters who live near the mission home, and then we went to orientation at the church at 7am that morning.
On Friday, we met the trainers!! We all came into the chapel and had a meeting about how our training as missionaries works, and then each of the new missionaries was assigned their trainer. President Blickenstaff had each of us come up individually, bow, and hand us a little red envelope. We would read it out load and then sit with our trainers. My heart was beating so fast when I was up there!! I read "Dong Hai, Sister Chang" and then Sister Chang came running up, gave me a hug, and we sat together. She's SO awesome!! She's from Sydney, Australia, and she's a convert! She just hit her year mark a couple days ago, and I am so blessed to have her as my trainer!! I love her so much.
All the trainers and new missionaries had lunch together and then we separated and went to our first areas! Sister Chang and I took the bus to Dong Hai, and had THREE lessons before we went home!!! It was so crazy. I was so tired, and so lost, and just stunned that I was actually IN Taiwan! But I just prayed and prayed and prayed and had the strength to do it! Our first lesson was in a really nice office building with an investigator who has really good English, and she prefers to be taught in English, so that really wasn't too hard. She has really been struggling with Joseph Smith's story, so I tried to testify to her and share scriptures. Our next lesson was with an ADORABLE old couple who live alone in this little home. There is a huge culture of worshipping ancestors in Taiwan, so they have this huge alter thing where they burn incense and pray. We taught them about how they are children of God and how we can always talk to God through prayer. We took it really slowly, and tried to make sure they understood what we were teaching. We asked the husband to say the prayer at the end of the lesson, and he was a little hesitant, so the wife whispered to him about how he is a child of God and that God wants to talk to him and then they kind of said the prayer together. It was SO adorable, I loved it! Our last lesson was with a recent convert family. They own a laundry mat, so we just taught them in the middle of the laundry mat and people would come in to pick up their laundry occasionally during the lesson. They are so strong!! We taught them about General Conference and then that weekend they all came to watch it at the church!! After that lesson, I was SO tired, and I just wanted to go home!
We finally got to our apartment and I tried to unpack a little and set goals. In the morning, we started a new day and began my training! At this point, I don't really remember what I did each day. It'll all just a blur, those first few days. We had General Conference that weekend, so on Saturday and Sunday, we watched it in English with our district (two sets of elders and me and my trainer). That was a HUGE blessing, because it gave me a chance to really have prayers answered and receive revelation from the prophets and apostles and gain more of the strength that I needed. Between sessions, I met a few members and tried to introduce myself...but when they would say something back, I usually didn't really understand.
So those first few days, I was just really excited to be in Taiwan, and excited to do the work! I was really struck by a few big differences between Taiwan and America. The people here are so friendly, and a lot of them are touchy. They will just feel my hair and ask "shi zhende ma?" (is it real?) or sometimes people will grab my hand when they're talking to me. A lot of people think it's funny that my name is BaiJieMei (Sister Berrey) The Bai is the same character as the color white, so they always make jokes about how I am really white, and that name is perfect because I am just so white. I met one girl who I talked to for a little while and became friends with, then we were talking about my name. She looked at my skin and got this concerned look on her face and said something like why is your skin so white! She then proceeded to grab my arm and started to slap me! I just laughed it off and gave her a hug. I thought it was so funny. People don't like how white I am. Hahahaha.
The traffic lights are sideways here, and the traffic is so crazy! Because I'm living in the city (a part of Taizhong), there are just people EVERYWHERE. Every intersection is just covered with cars and mopeds and bikes and buses all the time. It's really interesting, because the bikes and mopeds really just drive wherever they want. I am SO grateful I knew how to ride a bike before my mission, because I'm sure I would be dead by now if I didn't know how. We just ride around cars and buses and mopeds and just ring our bell to tell people to not hit us. At stop lights, all the mopeds and bikes go to the very front, so we drive around cars to get to the front of the line and wait there til the light turns green. Then all the mopeds speed past us and we just try to stay safe. It's really fun, and when we are waiting for the light to turn green, we talk to the people around us. That's probably one of the scariest things for me. People sometimes look confused when you start to talk to them at the lights. And then when they say something, I usually don't understand, but I just tell them about how I'm a missionary and how I know that this gospel can bless their lives and maybe how they're children of God and that they can pray to Him. I really feel like I have a huge responsibility to just talk to EVERYONE, and I know that the Lord will bless me with the right words to say if I open my mouth. I look around at the masses of people and just think about how most of them have no idea that there is a God. They are all children of God, and remembering that helps me have more courage to talk to people.
There are a lot of baptisms in this mission, but there are also a lot of less actives. Most of the less actives I have something holding them back from coming to church, whether it be their spouse, or work, or other circumstances. But I am so impressed with how strong the members are in this area. They have really strong testimonies, and they understand how important this gospel is. I remember meeting with one less active, and I really felt like she was teaching us, instead of the other way around. She really believes that this Church is true, and she has a strong testimony, but she just can't come to Church regularly because of her husband. One of the most memorable days so far was when we visited a less active in a poorer part of the city. She's been a member for about ten years, but she doesn't come to Church very much. Her and her husband and her son live in this little hut far away from our apartment. We took the bus and then walked a ways to get to their house. When we got there, the house reminded me of something I would probably see in South America, even though I've never even been there! There were flies everywhere, and their kitchen was outside. The mom was at the stove making lunch, and there were pots and garbage and chairs and a fish tank and two bunnies in cages sitting outside their house. As the wife kept cooking, my trainer picked up the bunny and we just sat with it and talked with the little son. The wife went in and grabbed a watermelon, and then just set it on the ground, sat down, and cut it up and then they all had some. Because she can't read anything, we read some scriptures from the Book of Mormon to her about humility. It was going pretty well until the bunny peed on Sister Chang's lap!! I laughed so hard, and I still think that whole experience was just so hilarious.
So my Chinese is coming along. I am SO grateful I have a companion who has really good Chinese! She's been on island for a year, and both her parents are Taiwanese, so she can understand almost everything she hears. They have three phases in this mission that you can work on to increase your language ability. The first phase is a book with all these words and phrases and commitments and information that comes straight from Preach My Gospel for us to learn in Chinese. Yesterday I passed off the first lesson (there are five, the lessons from chapter 3 of PMG). I just had the pass it off to our district leader. I had to teach him the first lesson in Chinese, and then he asked me to recite several things that I memorized in Chinese. I worked so hard all week to learn everything, but I really didn't feel super prepared. I trusted that the Lord would help me remember the things that I had learned because I had worked so hard. The pass off went pretty well, and I got good feedback for the things I could work on. I'm super grateful my trainer challenged me to do it yesterday because I'm sure I would have just kept pushing it back, but I'm so glad it's finally over! YAY!! Four more to go with my district leader, and two with our zone leader! KEYI!!!
So yeah. This mission is SO HARD! Everything is so different from the food to the culture to the people to our living style as missionaries. It's so hard. We go from 6:30 am til 10:30 pm, with very little time to rest. We talk with everyone and get rejected a lot. We call people on the phone and get hung up on. We smile at people passing by, and they just stare back (it's not every day you see a white ginger in Taiwan!!!). We feel sore all the time from riding our bikes, and we are always so exhausted! But I know that this is the Lord's work. If I am doing my best everyday, that is when I am being the most effective tool for God. I often feel inadequate and unprepared and unskilled to do this work, but that doesn't matter. God has called me, and He needs ME to help in this work. I am not going to be successful or have the Spirit with me if I think about all the aspects that I am lacking in. I am not going to be a useful tool in the hands of God if I am shy and scared and nervous. I have really learned that I just need to get out of my comfort zone and put all my effort and time and attention to serving the Lord. This is His work, and He WILL help me. He has promised that. I love this work so much, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to finally be in Taiwan, my dream mission!!! I am working my hardest, and really relying on the Lord. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement and love. I need it! Love you! Have a great week!
Love, Sister Jordan Berrey
Write me, write me, write me!!!
Sister Jordan Michelle Berrey
Taiwan Taichung Mission
No. 498-11 Wuquan Road
Taichung City, 40446, Taiwan
Republic of China
Remember to write me!!