Monday, August 15, 2011

Week of Miracles!

Dear Family!

This week has been a week of miracles!! We have been having a little bit of a rough time in Wufeng--many of the progressing investigators from last move call stopped progressing and several great people we had started teaching stopped meeting with us due to exposure to anti-LDS literature or friends. Our zone leaders had given us some invitations to increase our investigators at church, and even though we had been trying really hard, we only had one person committed for church on Saturday day. Also our week B (past tense now...:( ) still did not receive permission from her mom still. We were feeling a bit down and discouraged, but we have also been focusing on mighty prayer. I have really noticed a change in my own prayers, and in our companionship prayers. Sometimes it is hard when we feel soooo sleepy, but it really does make a big difference! This week we saw miracles! One happened when it was eight thirty at night and we were calling formers. I had already called through most of the numbers I had with me, but my companion said we should call for another twenty minutes. I was tried, my Chinese was getting slurred and I was just a little discouraged from the lack of success. But I decided to call through some of the numbers that hadn't answered the day before. The first number I called actually picked up and when I asked if she could come to church (twelve hours later) she said YES!!! My companion also was blessed to confirm one other for church. So we went from one to three. We were still feeling that was a little low, but we had tried our best. Next morning, our investigator arrives EARLY and is so happy to be with us. Heavenly Father also blessed us to have our other two confirmed for church investigators arrive. Then a member brought her yet-to-be-member mother, and another member brought her niece and four of her friends. So in total, we had NINE investigators at church!!!! It was a MIRACLE! And the miracle add from the night before brought her daughter to the Jenny Philip's concert that night! It was so great! I feel like the Lord has really blessed us. Also that day so many people came to our church meetings--it was a very great feeling. I want every Sunday to be like this one.

As for our less active work, I have been thinking about how we need to take a member with us to visit, and hopefully we'll be able to put that more into practice this week. We haven't yet :(. But I feel like that will really help a lot. This week we focused on them by having more of our RCLAs be our member at lessons. The only problem is that we were fanged by our peikes (members at lessons) a few times...but hopefully we can continue to work with them on that!

In the gospel study realm--I love the Book of Mormon, I love being able to feel more and more familiar with it every day. It has been a real source of comfort for me. One of my favorite verses--my motto for this move call is Alma 26:27. I am always inspired by the accounts of the ancient missionaries. I just finished up the last bit of Helaman, and I am just so impressed by the example of Nephi. I really liked chapter 16 and how it showed how Samuel the Lamanite and Nephi worked together to bring many souls unto Christ. It showed how districts and zones should be--especially verses 1-5. I really believe that as we work in unity, we will be able to work miracles. Today we had an awesome preparation da yactivity in our zone to increase unity. I felt like it really did and I gained a better appreciation for all the effort and love our leaders put into this zone. They are great!

Sometimes I think I just never want to come home, lol. But then I think about taking a bath and reading books, playing in Alaska and going to school and then I think, maybe in a year that would be nice. Lol. Eleven months left! Sometimes it feels like I just started, others like I should be on the last stretch. Mainly you feel down when the work is going slow or things aren't so perfect with a companion. But when you have success the time really flies and you are filled with such joy that you wouldn't be anywhere else.

I met a member at church who remembered Emily Owen! It was pretty fun.

Sister Brooke Smith

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another Move Call...Wufeng...And another Language!

Dearest Family!!!
Another move call is here! Weird how fast time flies when you are serving the Lord. And though I thought I would be staying in Beitun for more than one move was not to be! I just moved to Wufeng and my new companion is Sister Gao. She actually just changed her name to her aboriginal name, since she is a Taiwanese aboriginal, so she is actually Laxi (La-shi) Jiemei. Last movecall they taught someone in her same tribe/clan (?) and actually a lot of people who don't actually speak apparently I get to learn a lot of aboriginal language in this area! Woot! I am also her first foreign companion, and she is my first native. We came in from Taibei to Taizhong together too! We spent two days in the mission home together in a trio with a Sister Liu. So it was pretty cool to find out we'd be companions. She went senior last move call with a short term missionary, so she is way amazing! I am sooo pumped. Plus the ward in this area is supposedly really really great! Which will be so fun!  I love it here already!

As for my last area, this past week we have worked hard to strengthen our ward relations by completing the assignments they gave us. When we reported to them on Sunday about the assignments they were soo happy and gave us more names for people to visit. It is so great to have them start working more closely with us. I think they see we take their assignments seriously and are starting to trust us more. I think that having a duan chuan there will be really great for the ward too--they really respect Taiwanese missionaries. I think that as the ward relations continue to be strengthened we will see a lot more success with our investigators and recent converts. Also we have been able to see several less actives become more active since serving there and I love that!

On the investigator area, we were really blessed last week and found some really amazing people. So far we haven't been able to meet with them more than twice, exciting things are starting to happen :). And one family we met when tracting invited us in and had us eat lunch with them! It was soo great! So much fun.

One of the really fun things having to do with our less active work is that one cute sister who has not been to church in a  long while, came a few weeks back and then peiked for us last Saturday! At church she had just worn her normal clothes, to peike (teach with us)  for us she dressed up and wore a skirt! It was great and I feel like she has more desire to come back to church. Right now the problem is working on the Sabbath. I don't think she has ever tried asking off before, so we asked her to try this time. Hopefully she will try! We are praying for her.

As for gospel study, I really love the book of Helaman. I am still only in the beginning chapters of it, but they are so great! It talks about strengthening less actives, using new members, what we should be preaching about and so many other great things! It seems very applicable at this time in my life and I just love how the Lord prepared it so that it is of great value to all of his children. The Book of Mormon is the Word of God!!! It is so vital that we read it---feast on it every day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So something else cool, when I was at the Mission office today meeting my new companion I was able to see a lot of the missionaries going home this move call. Also, my sweet little P. (my first convert in Gaoxiong) snuck up to Taizhong to see Sister Lew off and I got to see her!!! It was awesome! And even cooler her brother is serving as a short term missionary right now!  But it was a fun reunion and I loved seeing my trainer. I love her so much and she is just soo happy. Her mission was a dream for her she says. It definitely had hard times, but she was able to do so much good and she feels so at peace with it.

Well, all for now, but more next week! Not a lot of time with moving...sigh.

--Sister Brooke Smith

July 25, 2011

My Dearest Family!!!

Well, the movecall is coming to an end! This is the last week and the work has been a bit rougher this movecall. But that is just how it goes sometimes. About our investigators, they have all pretty much stopped progressing! It is so hard sometimes to figure out how best to help them keep commitments and make it to church. One thing my companion and I have decided to be more diligent on is writing down the commitments we give and planning very specific follow ups. However, they still have their agency and this Sunday only one of our investigators came to church. We have some really amazing people, but it they are all really really busy. True conversion doesn't occur until people decided to do the little things--pray often, read from the Book of Mormon daily, and attend church every week. Right now only one investigator, L,  is even coming close to doing those three things somewhat regularly.  She has a desire to change and become better.   Sunday when I called to make sure she was going to catch the bus for church, she told me she was making an effort to look extra pretty for church.   I was proud of her for trying. It was pretty cute :). One really good thing that happened was that Sister Devictoria arranged for her to sit down with the bishop after church. We all sat down with him and he was very good to her. His wife helped in a lesson for her at her home before I came here, so he knows a little about her. He asked her about her illness and family life and gave her some commitments. I think if she keeps her commitments and really repents, she should be baptized. We will see though as we keep working with her. But besides her, our other two progressing investigators both did not attend church.
One really great thing that happened this week was we had a great lesson with Y. We had the lesson at the bishop's house with his wife. Our ward missionary came too. I felt like they were really excited about her and tried hard to become friends with her. She  really loves how the church helps her children and she also really loves the free English class on Wednesday. Because she brought her kids, we started a children's class and she invited all her neighbors too!! So now we have five to seven little children that come every week--with two or three moms too! We are planning to have a member and her children come so that they can have a member friend, which hopefully will give them more interest in investigating the church. So we are pretty excited about that! One of the moms even made me and the class bread to share last week! It was great :).
What has really been a focus of late is part member families. We found this cool ward list that lists heads of households and all the members, if they are married, have children, etc. So we can kind of guess who is a part member family from it. We have been mapping them out and visiting the areas with high concentrations of them, and we have found some really great people! We only started last week, but hopefully this week we will see more of the fruit of our labors. Also this has been great at updating the ward's information and getting in touch with less actives. We have called through the ward list asking for referrals, and through that found a lot of less actives. One we set up a time for and it was amazing! She hasn't been to church in awhile and is leaving  in September for a year working abroad. She was thinking that maybe it would be a good time to go back to church and then, bam, Sister Devictoria calls and sets up with her. She really felt it was like God answering her question and she agreed for us to give her information to the missionaries in her new area! It was awesome!! This Sunday we did have quite a few less actives (five) show up at church! It was great--and all had either been visited by us or received a note from us recently. A ward activity is also coming up in one of our wards where they are going to write notes to the less actives, so we are excited for the ward to get more involved.
Well, all for now!! But I love you all so much and can't wait to hear from you next week :)
---Sister Brooke Smith

Charity July 18, 2011

Hello Everyone!!

This week has been an interesting one. One of our investigators was making more progress, but her goal dropped this week because she didn't come to church :(. She is such an awesome person, but also very very busy. We had some great lessons this week, but I think she felt a little pressured and she still hasn't been able to keep her commitments. I have been praying about it and feel she needs time to ponder what we've taught. But not too long, just a few days. I have been trying to receive inspiration for her, and I know that as I keep praying and studying the Lord will let me and my companion know how to help her. I did receive the thought to teach her the basics again--obedience. And then on Sunday the topic in Relief Society was obedience and the lesson was so great! Unfortunately, she didn't come to receive it though. But Y. came with her children! I feel like we are starting to develop an actual relationship with her, which is nice! Before we really didn't know all that much about her. Her children come to English and they have invited many of their next door neighbors as well! It is great! They say I am the best teacher ever...hehehe, makes me feel happy!! We sing songs and play games and it really helps us be friends. I hope they are starting to develop some more interest in the gospel as well! We start each class with a prayer and end with one too. Also the last half an hour is a spiritual message. So hopefully we will be able to preach the gospel to the whole neighborhood! It would be great! She also really liked Relief Society this Sunday, which will definitely increase her desire to come back. The ward is really starting to befriend them and take an active role in the work. We have been having a really tough time receiving member referrals and members present at lessons (peikes) but we've made some plans with the ward correlator to change that around--for both wards. This morning we even received a member referral! It was great!

As for the RCLA work, we have started making a list of all the part member families in our wards. This past Sunday there was a beautiful baptism that completed a family. The whole family except the dad were members but 18 years later he received baptism! It was such a joyous occasion and there were many friends and family there to support him and his family. It really inspired Sister Devictoria and I to work harder to have that happen more often :).

In the study realm, I have been able to learn more about making those changes that I need to in my life. I took the challenge from zone conference and really tried to examine my life for those rough parts I need to remove. The one thing I came up with that I would like to share is just that I rediscovered that I need more charity. An increase of charity for God because if I loved God perfectly, I would always obey with exactness and rely on Him with all my heart. I love God, but I know that as I strive to know Him more, thereby increasing my love for Him, I will be able to become the daughter He would like me to be. I will be able to feel the Spirit in greater abundance and work in complete unity with my companion. I love Sister Devictoria and I am so grateful for this chance we have to serve together. She has such a desire to find those with real intent and is a hard working missionary. I was really reminded this week too that Satan wants to destroy the family--the companionships we have because he knows that will diminish our power. I decided to make an extra effort to be in unity with my companion and to cut out all of the thoughts, feelings, actions that could hinder us from being so. As I have tried to do so, I have been able to feel God's love for me so much more often and find that I do the things I should be doing out of habit instead of having to remind myself. I am excited to see what other blessings He has in store for me as I continue to change and become better.

I love you all and hope you have an awesome week!!

--Sister Brooke Smith

The Lord Provides for Us July 11, 2011

This week has been a great one for us! The numbers are a low, but we expect all the work we put in to yield better results over the next few weeks.

I think the coolest thing about this week was that the Lord really provided for us. There were several times when all the plans we had made totally died, and our backup plans died and it was only then that we were able to do what the Lord really had in mind for us. One of the top experiences from this week was when my companion and I were a little lost while trying to contact a referral. We just couldn't find the address, so finally we pulled over and just poured over our map. Then this lady pulled up next to us and asked if we needed help. This somehow lead to us finding out that ten years earlier she and her daughter had been baptized into our church, but had since gone inactive. She had suffered some rough trials, divorce, her daughter being taken by her husband, etc. Now she is living with the father of her eight year old son, both of whom are not baptized. She said that lately she has been thinking on if she should take her son to church since he is eight and should probably be baptized. It really was Heavenly Father reaching out to her that we were there. We took down her information and looked at our ward roster that we had been updating in because we were curious as to if we had visited/called her already. We found that while her name was still on the record, all of the information was wrong! Now we have that information updated and we hope to start meeting with them very soon. This is not going to be an easy return to the church, but I know that the Lord loves her and He will let us know how best to help her come back and to bring her family too.

Lately we have been doing a lot of LA work because the ward asked us to and we have been able to find some great part member families that way. We have found a 17 year old boy, an 18 year old girl, several pairs of parents, husbands, and wives. Currently we are holding FHE with the 18 year old girl every Tuesday. Her mother is inactive due to work, but her dad is not a member either. She also has a nonmember friend come every time! We've only met twice so far, but we know that as we help them feel comfortable in a gospel environment and help the mom regain her testimony through helping us teach, the daughter will have a desire for baptism. We are still working on how best to help the 17 year old, C. His father died just barely over a year ago, leaving his Vietnamese mother to take care of their two children. The mom is the member, but inactive because she works every day to support her family. She has such faith and is working on preparing her husband's temple work information. Her daughter is also a member, but the son felt a loyalty to this father, who is Buddhist. Now that it has been a year, we are hoping that as we visit the whole family and bring the spirit into their home, he will have a desire to come to church. He is just the sweetest little kid, adores his sister and is so kind to his mother. He was taught by the Elders before, but felt too much pressure and asked them not to come back. But he loves singing with us and we hope to hold some family scripture time with them and get him reading the Book of Mormon. We are also making postcards and sending them out to all the LA on our ward lists. We just made one real one and copied it a bunch, so it hasn't taken up too much time. But it is nice and with it we hope to contact all of them! It just takes so long to write little notes when we go and visit them, so this way we will be able to not waste as much time.

Our two week Cs are P and Y. P is awesome and brings a notebook when we have lessons together! Her problem is time--she is a manger of an insurance company. She is very down to business and straightforward, so we gave her a baptismal planner with things we need to teach on what days if she is going to hit her baptismal goal. We recently discovered when her break at work is and were able to have a sit down with her there last week. Our problem is we are not able to find peikes for that...but we are hoping to do so this week. She also has a word of wisdom problem (tea and business) but said she was willing to try this week and her word is gold. She has never not kept a commitment...yet. We have faith in her!

As for Y,we are probably going to have to go a bit slower with her...she is just now barley starting to believe in a god and is not the best at keeping her commitments. She likes Church and English for her kids---who absolutely love it. We recently discovered her children's dance teacher goes to a different ward and so we are going to try and have her peike for us sometime this week. I think that with a friend she might be more willing to experiment upon the word.

Also, we have this awesome family! We found them while tracking and they have been meeting with the Jehovah Witnesses every week for two years, but haven't felt like they have been able to answer their questions, so never joined. The father is the main investigator--his 15 year old daughter is a little interested too. She goes to a Catholic school and so believes more in their doctrine. The mom and son come to our English classes though :). We met the family two weeks ago and the dad has already read up to chapter 22 of 1 Nephi! He reads to find questions and sets aside time to read every day! We asked the Elders to help us with him while we work with the daughter since their schedules don't always match up--which doesn't allow us to see the dad as often as he has questions! We have a lot of hope for their family!!

In the gospel study realm, I have loved reading about Knowledge. It is comforting to me that the Lord has promised us over and over again that as long as we ask and do our part, having faith and an sincere heart, he will answer us and through the Spirit we can know all we have to. Sometimes I feel like I don't know what I am doing, or how I can help our investigators. The area is different and it is forcing me to really rely on God. I have to show forth the faith and then the miracles will come!! So that is what I am trying to do.

All for now! I love you all sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much!! So happy to hear all about your adventures!

Always in my prayers,

---Sister Brooke Smith

Taibei Temple! July 6, 2011

Hey you all!!

So I just got back from the Taibei Temple!!! That is why preparation day was on Wednesday instead of the usual Monday. Sorry!!!! I had such an amazing experience. I was really able to feel so renewed! Before the session started I was able to do some work  in Chinese only! It was way cool. But for the most part it was in English :). Which is really nice because the Chinese is super advanced. There was just such a feeling of love and support. I love being in the temple and being able to focus on what matters most. Also on the whole bus ride up and down (three hours ish each way) we watched excellent church movies. They bring the spirit so easily and renewed my testimony of Joseph Smith, the pioneers and all saints who chose Christ. God loves us all so much and I am so honored to be a part of this magnificent work.

This week has been pretty good! Getting mail is such a highlight! I have been really blessed to receive a lot of mail lately! I love it!! It makes me a bit slower at writing everyone back though. So be patient! Lol.

Well, we are just getting this area all set up, trying to get to know our wards and serve them the best we can. It is a little slow in the beginning, but it will pick up. We have a few really awesome progressing investigators too!

One is keeping all the commitments we give her! Now we have to start working on things like the Word of Wisdom and Tithing. She only has time once or twice a week to meet with us, but we are going to try and see if she can meet a little more often. She is a week C right now and we have a lot of ground to cover. She is way great though and I believe that as we use the Spirit to remind her of these eternal truths, she will continue to progress! She is so great.

Also, we have another who I think she is a little bit on the slower side of the progression process, but she is still making progress. She says she is slowly starting to believe in God. Her children LOVE church soo much, so hopefully that will keep her coming back for the present. I have been trying to more prayerfully plan for her with my companion, and I believe we will receive inspiration for her.

This week we have also worked really hard to visit our ward list. We have so many less actives that need to be brought back. We have been able to come with some ideas, such as holding FHE with them, coming over for family scripture reading time once a week, etc. We are hoping to help them establish the righteous patterns they need to develop to keep their testimonies burning bright. We are expecting to see some of the fruit from our labors on Sunday!

As for my gospel study, I just grow to love the Book of Mormon more and more. The scriptures hold a very important role in gaining personal revelation. I am starting to learn how to focus in on that more for my investigators. I am working on also having qualifying of the companionship of the Spirit. I thought that the leadership meeting was so great for that!! I am excited to work on those commitments and improve my effectiveness.

Well, all for now!

Love you all so much!!!

Sister Brooke Smith

It is another beautiful day over here in Taizhong! June 27, 2011

Happy Monday! It is another beautiful day over here in Taizhong! This past week it has been pretty rainy--which we loved because it meant cooler weather! Luckily we were able to stay pretty dry most of the time too. The one time it was really pouring we pulled over to talk to some people under the overhang of a building and said a prayer together with them and it stopped raining! WOOT! They weren't interested in the gospel...yet! But it was a cool experience nonetheless. I am pretty much in love with my new area :). Sister Devictoria is the COOLEST! She has been a little down with a cold this past week, but that never stopped her. She is on the mend now too, so that is good. We just have so much fun together doing the work and she has such a desire to bring souls unto Christ that will endure. There is a lot of reactivating work to be done here and new investigator side of things is a bit down. But since we are both pretty new to the area we feel like we've been given a new start. So we are going to redo how missionary work has been done in this area! They haven't had a baptism in about five months too--we are definitely changing that as well. We know that as we work hard and are obedient and worthy, the Lord will bless us. We have already met some awesome people who we would love to prepare for baptism. We have also got some amazing ward missionaries here! They are way hard working and excited to see the work go forth. We can only be truly successful as missionaries when our members help us along the way! Member referrals are GOLD.

Some fun things that happened this week was that we had a little Dan Jones Night of our own last night! We parked our bikes and waited at an intersection for the light to turn red. Then we would take our BOM and bear our testimonies and invite people to pull over and talk to us. It was our first time doing something like that and it was really freaky at first. But we prayed and while it wasn't terribly successful at first, we started learning how best to do it and I think the next time we do it it will go even better. We had a few people say they would come to church...we'll see next Sunday how that goes! It really just helped us focus and pumped up to open our mouths to everyone and invite all to come unto Christ. We also had a lot of chocolate that day...maybe that had something to do with all the extra energy? :) Sister Devictoria has this HUGE tub of chocolate ice cream in our freezer... the Elders ordered it for us from like a factory or something. It is HUGE and DELICIOUS. Yep, we are going to have do some extra exercise while we are here. Lol.

We love our district so much :). We have an interesting district--one pair of Elders that now cover Dakeng/Beitun, one pair of Sisters (us) that cover Dakeng/Beitun and the office Elders! The office Elders are awesome :). Elder Hanick, who is an office Elder, is our district leader and is pretty great. We are excited to revitalize this area and see some success.

It feels a little like Sister Devictoria and I are restarting this area (as we are both pretty new). We have started finding some really great people. Sister Devictoria is super lihai and already knows the area really really well. We have been working to open our mouths and preach the gospel to everyone. We have been trying out many different finding methods since we need to rebuild the investigator pool. So far the most successful source of new investigators have been our received referrals! We are so grateful :). In our ward, our ward corrector wanted us to think of a missionary activity we could set up for the ward and we have come up with some fun and effective ideas. When I spent three days with the Yuanshan sisters last move call they held their mission activity and I learned a lot from them. There are some parts that went really well and some that were a bit rough. Having seen how it went I think Sister Devictoria and I are going to do a similar activity but adapted to our situation. So hopefully that will happen in the next several weeks. We really need to get our wards involved in the work!! The wards are full of great people, but they are still working on becoming unified and warm. Through service they can accomplish these goals so we are excited to help them along their way.

I loved meeting the Dakeng ward yesterday--they were so great! One of the areas we need to work on is getting our RCLAs to church. The same as my last area, there are many less actives in our wards. We visited one cute family the other day and I absolutely love them. But they absolutely loved us and Sister Devictoria had this great lesson on how every part of the gospel (reading the Book of Mormon daily, listening to the prophets, family prayer etc) are critical to protecting our families. They seemed to understand.

As for my gospel study, lately I have been restudying conference and I love it so much. Every time it just lifts me up. I reread Elder Uchtdorf's talk and I really liked how the last section is all about how we need to share the gospel with others. I am going to copy the Chinese version and drop off a few copies to some families in the ward as we meet them. Also this past Sunday I had such a good experience in Gospel Principles. I really felt spiritually fed and found some areas that I can improve in. The lesson was on the Second Coming and that is not a topic I have been thinking much about. But I was reminded how important it really is--because we need to prepare for it. Preaching the gospel to all is a part of that--a very important part. I felt God's love for me and how much He needs me to help do His work in these Latter Days. It renewed my testimony.

Well, all for now but Sister Devictoria and I are going to have a great week and we are soo excited to see the blessings the Lord has in store for us!

  Sister Brooke Smith