Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Baby turtles! Jan 28, 2013

A stop at the Pet Shop - Baby turtles!
(In Hawaii, turtles symbolize long life and peace)
Turtle Symbolism in Chinese Culture:
"The turtle symbolizes support, endurance, wealth, longevity  happy family, long generations, good luck and fortune in Chinese culture. The turtle is believed to be a celestial animal and posses protective powers as well. According to Chinese legends the body of the turtle is said to posses the secret of heaven and earth and the shell design shows the Lo Shu magic square which is the guide for life."

Sara had another good week and sent her email to the correct address this week!  Hurrah!  Here are some things she mentioned in her letter:

"Things are going better, not because the situation has necessarily changed, but because I know I am doing the lord's work.  When we listen to Him everything is taken care of.  Our investigators are still not progressing much, but I have seen so many miracles this week!  The Lord is just reminding me if I am willing to pay attention to the spirit and obey Him, He will guide the work."

 Here are 3 examples:

 "1. I was able to listen to the spirit to discern one of our investigators needs.  She is a young girl and is preparing for baptism.  She is golden, but for some reason this lesson I decided we needed to investigate more into where her testimony was at and if she was having  personal spiritual experiences.  She hasn't really and broke down a bit because she was a little scared.  I know she wouldn't have told us if we hadn't asked her the right questions.  Now we know so we know how to help her and what to pray for. 

 2. L... Jei Mei.  She hadn't been answering our phone calls, so on Wednesday I prayed that she would call us.  She didn't, but she finally answered our calls!  Hopefully this week we will have an opportunity we can meet with her and get everything sorted out. 

Her new district
 3. So this week I had a unique experience where I got to go on exchanges with another sister that came in the same time as me (sister O)  Needless to say I was terrified!   We were going to be in my area, so I would be senior companion and our Chinese is really not very good, so I was a little concerned.  Luckily we have great church members and my companion has trained me well to be leading.  We saw so many miracles together... it was also awkward at times, but missionary work just is sometimes.  It has really been a testimony confirming week this week in the importance of planning with the spirit.  The place I planned to go contacting with this new sister we were able to find 3 great people in 30 min.  One of which we taught a lesson to, but she spoke perfect English, so when we didn't understand she just spoke English.  Another blessing was the new missionaries came into the field this week.  We were also able to go to transfer meeting because we had to switch some credit cards.  It was so fun to see my MTC younger generation.  I was also able to talk with others from my generation... the Lord is really blessing my Chinese ability.  It was funny because sister O and I tried to do a role play in English and I am so used to speaking in Chinese there was a part that I kept saying strange Chinese grammar.  I was finally like it's easier in Chinese and just switched over for a portion.  My goal is to become like the Taiwanese and I know the lord is really accelerating my learning because of my goal.  My vocab is not huge, but I am definitely thinking a lot more in Chinese and can express myself better and better everyday!"

If anyone feels the inclination to write Sister Gummow a letter, she would love it!!  and appreciate it so much!!

"I got a few great letters this week that brightened my week too!  Amanda- I loved your travel buddy!  I am excited to send it on with a piece of Taiwan.  I also got some from Koji and Toshi!  thank you :)  Made my day!!!  It was so fun to here from some people back home.  I still always look at the Larsen's card at Christmas!  Thank you all for your support of the missionaries! Family thank you for your uplifting words and mom I love your creative ways to tell me the news!  Tell the girls congratulations on their mission calls.  I just got a letter from Mikayla and I am so excited for her!  Give her my best wishes. " 

P-day Ice Skating
"Missionary work is so great... mostly because I know with the Lord on our side there is no way he will let us fail!  Love you all!!!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 21, 2013 - Miracles!

Sara had an awesome week this week!  We were beginning to get worried because we hadn't received her email that usually comes Sunday night.  Many times their P-day changes when they have an opportunity to attend the temple, but she was just there a couple of weeks ago so I didn't think that was the reason.  However, yesterday, I checked my old email address and there her email was and it came at the usual time.  I just didn't know it because I don't use that email anymore!  Anyhow, we were even more grateful than usual to hear of her  great experiences this week!!

"Blessings of obedience  diligence... are soooo true!  Thank you for all you prayers.  I really feel like it is the constant effort that has been turning things around this week.  I can very honestly say that this week was great!  I felt so much joy in missionary work.  It started with a fun P-day... Ice skating   My companion was so cute and funny... Taiwanese people don't really ice skate ha ha ha.  We had to wear a full-on helmet, elbow pad, knee pad, and glove set.  I was laughing so hard.  I looked like a professional even though it's been a while.  We found out the next day that we are actually not allowed to go, so it was probably my own time going.  We went with a member.  She is so great and so cute!  We get along really well.  It is nice to have a Taiwanese member friend.  

The next day we had the opportunity to do a special training that was a really great meeting.  We learned about how to use some of our new flyers and our family history resources.  It is amazing how the Family History Program that our church has is such a door opener for many Taiwanese families. 

 The next days went well.  Every day the Lord blessed me with either a contacting miracle, lesson miracle, or member miracle.  I thought it was so cool to see how much the Lord truly loves and knows each one of us. 
One cool story was it started raining on us when we were contacting, so we ran to a pavilion in the park where some others were gathered.  Perfect teaching opportunity right?  Well, actually a bit awkward because we are all trapped there together, so I decided to try and small talk a bit.  It was so cool to see how the Lord directed my questions to smoothly into a gospel topic.  The lady we talked with was there with her sister and she has been trying to find out if God exists for years!  We were able to teach the whole first lesson and give her a Book of Mormon.  She isn't in our area, but I felt so blessed to be the one to find her. 
The next day we got to do temple tours.  When we were doing the temple tours we were able to give a few unexpected tours that went really well.  The best one was with Chinese girls here on vacation.  They are from California and one of the girl's moms was with them.  One of the girls was Christian, but they just thought the temple was so pretty.  They also have one that they often drive by in California (Sacramento I believe).  We gave the tour in English which was a bit strange for my companion... roles were reversed a bit.  I truly felt the lord guiding me in what to say.  They all felt the spirit so strong and at the end of the tour were asking for my email so they could continue to learn more.  We had them fill out the temple cards and gave them Book of Mormon's.  They were sooo excited and anxious to get started reading.  I learned two amazing things from this experience 1. I do have power!  I felt like a confident missionary and I can't wait until it is that easy for me in Chinese 2. When my companion bore testimony in English it was so simple, but powerful.  Regardless of our language skills, the spirit does testify of our words.  It was truly a gift to me. 

Final miracle of the week was Sunday.  So this week we have like no progressing investigators and I was pretty sure like no one would come to church.  Luckily, the Lord answered my prayers for good weather and the past few days have been beautiful!  We had one of our investigators who can never wake up go to church, a Less active who has not left her house in months finally came through and allowed a member to take her to church, and a few weeks ago our most solid investigator disappeared (she wouldn't answer her phone and her address was her work which was a big hospital so no way to find her... we did leave a card at her house and tried to contact her anyway)... Well - she just appeared at church and explained that she has been have some crazy work problems, but wants to continue her lessons and going to church. 

One of our investigators that is supposed to get baptized next week also told us a cool experience.  Her name is Sister Lui (common last name so no need to edit).  She and I have a cool connection which is weird because she is very timid (especially around foreigners).  It was so easy for me to relate to her and know how to help her.  She has a great love of the Book of Mormon and I do to, so it was easy for me to answer her questions and guide her to places to study/relate scriptures to her life.  She told me that she had a dream before and she knew I would teach her the gospel.  I wasn't the one who found her, but I can testify that the Lord has a plan.  There are truly prepared people out there.  As I prayed to find the Lord's prepared children this week with a sincere desire to find them it has been amazing to see the spirit guiding us to the places we need to be to meet the people we need to meet.  

This was truly a week of miracles!  Still not perfect, but after the storms the Lord truly lets the sunshine pour out.  Without the sorrow we would not know the joy.  This week I would love to ask for prayers in behalf of our investigator liu JM.  She is so great, but Satan gives so much adversity before they receive baptism and she could use the prayers.  We are most likely going to have to move the baptism meeting back because of some complications, but I don't want her to be afraid or lose her desire so please pray for her and us to know what to do to resolve their concerns!  Thank you again!

Mom you are so sweet!  I got a letter from the Kano boys this week, so tell them thanks for me!  It brightened my week so much.  I'm glad you got my card safely :)  I also want to thank you for your uplifting words... it seems like you always know what to say to help me!  Special thanks to Aimee and Ben this week.  Your email was perfect for what I am going through right now.  Thank you for your words of wisdom! "

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

4 weeks in Taiwan - Jan 14, 2013

Happiness is like a sunbeam,
which the least shadow intercepts,
while adversity is often as the rain of spring

-chinese proverb

Sara (newly arrived in Taipei) with the kind of snowman she likes best -
the kind you can stand by and still be warm!

*Note from mom:  There has been some concern about the re-posting of missionaries emails on social media because of privacy issues regarding personal information and other potential mis-use of information.  While I have always had permission from Sister Gummow to post her emails and have tried to edit out any info which might identify the people she is teaching, I am going to be more cautious in future posts.  I will not be re-posting the entirety of her emails, but will summarize and  post some quotes from them. *I tend to be a bit unassuming, so if you happen to see anything in these posts that could be damaging to anyone, please let me know.  Thanks!

Her Companions for her first few days there:
The sister on the left, a native, trained at the MTC in the Phillipines
 Sister Gummow has been having a few challenges recently as she is adjusting to missionary life in Taiwan, the language barrier, the continual rain in Taipei and the cultural differences.  She believes that both the struggles and the joys are important to growth so she wanted to share some things she has learned this week:

She loves her new bike!
"Thank you for your prayers.  It has been a bit discouraging, but it really has gotten better and better everyday.  This week I had a really sweet experience... 1. my companion and I worked together on some ways we could improve our companionship obedience - as we corrected some of the obedience issues I saw immediate blessings......... Thank you for David's advice and your reminder about training.  It is really true.  I have already been thinking that I need to remember these experiences and what helped me so I can remember for future."

and this:

"This week I worked on communication.  I realized that in order for things to change I had to let her know 1. I noticed when she was feeling down 2. when I was feeling down or discouraged.  This really helped everything improve so much!  I am realizing more and more important it is to seek first to understand then to be understood.  This means asking questions and digging deeper.  We try to do this everyday on the street and everyday when we are with our investigators.  We can only know what to teach if we are listening to them and the spirit and following it's promptings.  I feel so awkward going up to people and trying to share the gospel when I can barely speak the language.  I feel like I never know what to say... My companion reminded me it wasn't my language skills, every new missionary feels that way.  She said it took her 2 or 3 transfers to know what to say to help people and she is native without that language barrier.  I do expect a lot out of myself, but it's because I know I can do it!  I was also reminded how every time I start a new job there is always that learning period before it becomes normal.  If I use the learning period well and learn from my mistakes I will truly be able to excel   I feel like every minute of my mission is so precious, so it is hard for me to have this learning period, but I have increased determination to keep trying."

Here are some of the blessings that she has recognized and additional things she is working on learning

"Blessing of my mission and situation is 1. my native companion is truly helping my language and mission skills excel quickly.  Things that would never be difficult in English are almost impossible for me (like giving investigators calls, setting appointments, trying to have a normal conversation about someone's family or traditions...) but she always gives me this look like "I know you can do it".  This confidence has enabled me to try hard to be more and more independent   In fact she often tells me she forgets it is my first transfer.  I fail a lot of times to remind her, but I know with each mistake I learn great things! 
2. the Taiwanese people are so great!  They really have so much patience with  my language skills.  They are also so family centered which makes it much easier to try and contact them.  The language barrier is hard, but once I get over that a bit more I know it will be easy for me to relate to them.
3 I have a great zone and district.  They are all working so hard.  They also are very inspiring.  Every time we have a meeting I leave feeling very uplifted and ready to go back out and work hard!"

"We have been learning the value of looking at people as they can become.  I think it all comes down to hope.  This true hope comes from the Savior's atoning power.  His atoning power allows us all to change.  This change is difficult, but so amazing for each of us.  I am grateful everyday that I can change and become a better person.  I don't have to think that my mistakes today will influence my ability to become better tomorrow.  This is why I am on a mission.  I know my Savior loves me... but he also loves each of His children.  When I go out contacting with this in mind, everything is so much easier.  I see them as people I can help, people I can serve.  I see them as people who are sitting in darkness and I hope I can share just a little of this light with them.  I love you all so much!  Remember to let your light shine to all those around you.  I realize how spoiled we are in Utah.  Everyone is really trying hard to be a missionary.  Members seriously make all the difference!  They are so great and have so much more ability to let their light shine.  I challenge you all to think of a referral this week and give it to a missionary   Be brave and bold in inviting others to come unto Christ.  It is not something that is forced... once you realize all He has done why would you not want to share that with others?!"

Eating out with the other missionaries in the District
Sara sends her love to all!  We also received three letters in the mail this week that were all mailed on different days telling us about her arrival in Taiwan and her first impressions.  One letter was sent on Christmas day with her SD card full of pictures from Christmas.  Her letters are taking between 2 and 4 weeks to reach us.  Hopefully that is due to the holidays and the new location!  Thank goodness for email!
Christmas Morning
 and the Message tree that everyone contributed to!
She loved it!!
One of her favorite gifts
A family  Photo Calendar!
Making the Breakfast I sent:
Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Nutella and Hot Chocolate
Do you think that is enough Chocolate?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jan 7, 2013

A curious woman is capable of turning around the rainbow just to see what is on the other side. ~ Chinese Proverb

Hey family!

So unfortunately the bad, cold weather here has been a damper on everyone's spirits.  My companion has been really down lately.  The whole communication cultural gap makes things a bit difficult sometimes too.  Plus having someone practicing Chinese all the time probably doesn't help her mood.  I am definitely improving, but trainers have to have a lot of patience to endure the learning curve I think.  It is my trainer's last transfers so she is a little burned out.  I am doing my best to help, but I am so new there is only so much I can do.  I feel like a baby a lot of the time... very helpless and unsure of myself.  It is ok. I am trying my very best everyday.  I know that with the Lord I can do all things!  I think I am also experiencing a bit of what they call "culture shock".  I love Taiwan and the people, but some of the things I do not necessarily appreciate... I have eaten some of the grossest food in the past few weeks (Taiwanese especially like this weird gooey stuff, and the fat part of animals).  I loved all the Chinese stuff I had, but they aren't as big on the fatty gross stuff... Taiwan is.. so I will do my best to learn to appreciate it.  The language barrier is really frustrating to me sometimes, but I know, like Matt said, that the spirit crosses all barriers.
 BTW... I am not getting Matt's emails so I would love that! :)

Luckily the lord knows each one of us personally.  Last night I was just hoping for a small change of pace to lift my and everyone's spirits.  We went to a new member fireside and at the fireside the theme was "Joy in the journey".  I know this is so true in all of our lives.  My new goal is to help other people see the little miracles I see everyday.  Like how on a cloudy, cold and rainy day how the city lights are so beautiful and how the next day the air is so clean.  How beautiful all the forests are around us, the small child playing with her mom, the family running across the street to eat dinner, how the lord opened an opportunity for us to give a book of Mormon,  how that person felt the spirit, how I had the words to share my testimony, how I had the courage to talk to that person and they were actually nice... there are so many tiny miracles I see EVERYDAY.  This is what I wish everyone could see.  People get so caught up in the numbers... in the everyday stresses of sharing the gospel... they forget the message we are bringing to the world.  Who cares if they reject us or not... at least you gave them a chance to hear.  It is a miracle to me everyday I can open my mouth and have a conversation in Chinese... that I can bear my testimony to these people in Chinese.  I may not understand everything, but I know this church is true.  I know the Lord knows us and hears our prayers.  Each trial is given for a reason.   The faster we work to change ourselves and the situation through our attitude, the faster we will become the person Jesus Christ wants us to become.  Jesus was the perfect example of this.  He couldn't control the things that happened to Him all the time, but he was able to make every situation into a teaching situation, a learning situation, and a chance to show Christ's love.

Thank you for all the updates on home.  I really enjoyed reading about it.  Tell Daniel Jia you!  You will finish the Eagle project and it will be worth it.  You are so great!  I hope the start of a new semester goes well.  Mom tell my primary kids I said Hi and I love them!  I still look at their cute pictures and stuff and it brightens my day.  Tell my friends I want to hear from them ha ha :)   Oh a girl J.... in my Neihu ward is going back to Provo for school. I am attaching her picture.  She is great and helped me so much in our ward!
 the other picture is one or the recent converts and a member.  We were visiting her and it was her birthday :)

Oh and thank you for the money!  You are so great!  I am excited to get a new outfit or something :)  Right now I am very tired of all my clothes ha ha.  Keep up the prayers.  I really need them this week!  Oh the Temple was amazing by the way!  I appreciate it so much more now.   love you all and remember to find joy in the journey :)  Each stage has amazing things in it.
Love you!

Sister Sara Gummow

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Dear Family!

Sorry I didn't warn you my p-day was changed.  I kind of forgot last week.  We get to go to the temple today :)  We are very excited.  This week has been a week of miracles.  1st of all, mom, I loved the calendar!  It was so great and I even was able to use it in a lesson.  It seriously was my favorite part of Christmas.  I have also been reading one of your testimonies each day during personal study.  It is really an uplift and helps me focus on what is most important.  Thank you all for your faith and strength.  It is comforting to know other people have gone through the same thing.  If they can do it.. so can I!

So this week... Christmas I was able to receive some great inspiration on how to help my investigators.  It was so cool to see that because of my companion and I's obedience the Lord really did bless us.  I had a great idea to help one of our L/A (less active) members start progressing.  I thought about how it is really hard to change when you have too high of goals.  So we gave her a scripture and a challenge to do every day.  Just simple things like exercise, shower and get ready, say a sincere prayer, etc.  We were able to meet with her last night again.  She did 5 out of the 7 goals which was great!  We went in expecting very little... We were actually planning on telling her unless she was willing to do some things to change we couldn't keep meeting with her.  The preparation she had throughout the week and our preparation were able to help us have the spirit and teach her to her concerns.  We were able to find out that she has been wanting to commit suicide because she thinks there is no hope for the future.  We shared about the plan of salvation, our hope for a perfect future.  I bore my testimony of our divinity.  How we truly are princes and princes... we are working on returning to a heavenly palace with our heavenly father who loves us perfectly.  We shared about the gift of temples.  We showed her a pamphlet that had pictures of the different rooms.  I bore testimony to her that the celestial room really is like a little taste of the Celestial kingdom, a place she really can go if she lives this life well.  It struck her with wonder and amazement.  A lot of our investigators live in poverty and this one in particular lives in a dingy apartment with her parents... there is so much stuff and clutter that it is hard to feel the spirit... but when she saw the beautiful temple and that she could work on going there it gave her hope.  She said the closing prayer and thanked us... my wonderful companion helped her recognize her feelings as feelings of the spirit.  It is the first time she has felt the spirit in a long time.  This was a testimony to me of the importance of teaching people, not lessons.  If the missionaries who had taught her first had been able to explain some important things about the plan of salvation she would have had a goal, a hope.  This is the lesson I learned this week.  The importance of desires and hope.  There are so many in this world who are wandering around lonely, sad, confused.  They need the stability of the gospel, the message we bring to all the world that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer of the world.  Only through Him and His atonement can we inherit this eternal life.  Only in and through Him can we return to live with our families and our Heavenly Father in the mansions prepared above.  The doctrine is so important! If we don't remember the why of the gospel... what is the point?  Why would they want to read the scriptures and progress???  In our lives what do we choose?  Do we choose our savior Jesus Christ or do we choose things of the world (food, sleep, clothes, traveling) or even family, school, friends?  What is most important in our lives?
The Living Christ

I am so glad you are all memorizing the living Christ this year!  I know it will greatly bless your lives.  I want to add my witness to His that I know Jesus Christ is my savior.  It is because of my love for Him that I am here, in Taiwan, on a mission.  It is because of Him that I am able to share my testimony and help others come unto Christ.  I challenge each of you at home that every week you bear your testimony of the Savior at least one time.  I am privileged to do this everyday.  I know wherever I am, whoever I share it with, that when I start talking of the Savior, the spirit comes in so powerfully and strong!

Remember the importance of hope this week.  What is our hope?  I know mine is that if I live this life well, really try to become like my Savior that one day I will recognize Him, because I will be like Him.  I can't wait to be welcomed into my Heavenly Father's arms with all of you by my side.  I can't wait to see all my faithful family members there.  I know there are many on the other side that are cheering us on!  "Jia you jiating!!!" (You can do it family!!!)  I love you and miss you all.  Thanks for your prayers.

Love you!!!  Sara

The Christmas Phone Call!!

We had the opportunity of talking to Sara by phone on Christmas Eve shortly after we Skyped with Elder Gummow.  We probably could have set it up for us all to talk together, but I voted for quantity and quality -  2 forty-minute calls instead of one.  Actually we talked for a little less time so that they could call each other for 5 minutes.

Sister Gummow sounded well and happy!  She too got candy and present filled stockings(I sent two -one for them and their companion - since her companion is native and I wasn't sure if she would get Christmas presents) CD's, a scarf and some tights, a family photo calendar and a bike repair kit.  She also got hot chocolate and muffin mix for breakfast, but they didn't burn the pancakes like Matt did and probably enjoyed them a little more.  She said that the chocolate was just what she needed to make it through all this transition.

Taipei is not exactly what she was expecting.  After having taught English for four months in China, I think she thought it would be more like Beijing or Shanghai, but she said it was a big city more like an Asian version of New York and the Americans are not treated as special as they are in mainland China.  In fact, one of the things she struggled with was that the people just walking away from her when she tried to talk to them.  She thought it was because her language skills were so bad that they didn't understand her, but her companion helped her to realize that her language skills are actually exceptional for the time she has been learning it,  people walked away because they aren't interested at first in learning about God.  Once she figured that out, she stopped taking it personally and she was able to work more effectively. Her companion is a convert.  She and her family were Buddhist and they all joined the church when she was 16.  Her companions testimony and understanding of the culture has been so great!  

When we told Sara about the Christmas Snow that we had, she did not seem one bit envious (like Matt was)  and prefers the warm weather to the snow any day!  We talked about lots of other things, but I can't remember most of them now -  but I do remember the spirit as Sara bore her testimony in Chinese.  Even thought I could not understand the words, I could understand the power of her convictions and from what I could tell, her Chinese sounded very good - lots of tones!  She was grateful to all for their participation in the ornaments for her tree and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

*Sara had sent us some Christmas gifts just as she left for Taiwan from the MTC.  She has written us each a personal note attached to various pictures of Christ and she gave us a copy of  "The Living Christ" in Chinese Characters.  She is always so thoughtful!  She gave me this picture by Simon Dewey and having both a son and a daughter serving missions concurrently, it seems like he painted it just for me!  Perfect choice, Sara!