I meant to write a final letter when I came home, but, well, that obviously didn't happen =]
I just wanted to give a little post mission update, and talk a little about what it's been like being home. The last week of my mission was a blur! I don't remember much of it (thank goodness for journals!) A lot of it was spent training my dear Sis. Horton on how to be senior companion, and making sure she knew for sure how to get everywhere! The day before I went home I went up to the mission home and I had my exit interview with my mission president. Because he had only been my mission president for 5 weeks, we just talked about his plans for the mission, and man am I so sad I was leaving! He had so many great ideas and plans in place to help our mission continue to grow! I know the Taiwan Taichung mission is going to see many, many miracles under Pres. Blickenstaff! After interviews, I was free to go "play" until the afternoon, when we had another meeting. I had 3 recent converts come up from GaoXiong to see me, and I was so touched that they came all the way up! We went out to lunch (hot pot!! my favorite!) and then we went back to the church and just talked and talked. I gave them words of advice, and made them promise me they will always keep their testimonies strong. I was really trying hard to not think on the fact that I may never see these beautiful women again, these women who had changed my life, and who meant so much to me. It was really a bittersweet time with them. Oh how I love them, oh so much! I hope they know that. Right as I was about to go into our meeting, another of my recent converts who lived in that area came by to see me! I didn't get to see her for too long as I had to go to my meeting, but oh how grateful I was to get to see her! She was my first baptism, and that in and of itself means so much to me, and so I was so grateful to get to see her one last time! We then had a career workshop where we learned about how to get a job when we got back, and then it was dinner at the mission president's house. We had pulled pork sandwhiches, and they were so delicious! It was fun to get to talk to everyone who was going home. After dinner we watched a short video that was made from pictures from our missions, and then we had a testimony meeting. Lots of tears were shed, but it was so great to get to hear everyone's testimonies, and hear how they had changed on their missions. And then, it was off to our last sleep in Taiwan. How crazy that was.
We were up bright and early the next morning to leave for the airport. Because our flight left in the morning, we didn't get to go to the temple or to the Taibei 101, which was really sad for me =[ I really wanted to go do those things, but its ok, more of a reason to go back! Of course, no flight would be a "success" without some luggage trouble...So, one of my suitcases had broken, so I just bought a big plastic bag that the Taiwanese use when they travel. Both my suitcase and this bag were underweight, so I figured I'd be good to go. As the elders were loading the bags into the bus in the morning, I hear, Oh NO! I look over and the handles had broken off one of my bags. I told the elder not to worry about it, it wasn't his fault, I had tape and I'd worry about it at the airport. We get there and I'm taping the bag up, hoping and PRAYING that the bag made it in one piece back to the US. And, thankfully, it did! So we were cutting it close for our first flight...we literally ran onto the flight! I was really nervous! We flew to Japan, and in Japan, we split up. There was one group going to LA and one group going to Seattle (me). The other two sisters who I was going home with were going to LA, so I said goodbye to them in Japan, and it was just me and the elders (so weird!!). We all went to our gate together, and then some of the elders went off to find food and I watched bags. It was so weird not having a companion. So we made it to Seattle, and it was so weird to be back in the US. It almost felt like I hadn't left, yet I knew I had. All the elders were on a morning flight together back to Utah, but I was on a separate flight by myself in the afternoon to Utah. So sad. So I walked them all to their flight (because, really, I didn't want them to leave, and I didn't want to be all alone...). We got there, and the flight people were like, does anyone speak Chinese? Several of the elders went up, and there was a couple from China who needed help, and they didn't really speak English. So the elders are helping them, but they needed to get on their flight so I was like, I'll take care of them. So I walked with this Chinese couple to another area so that they could get some help with their flights. Thankfully when we got there, there was a Chinese-American family there who were able to continue helping them translate, because my airplane Chinese isn't so good =] I then proceeded to go to my gate, and I saw a girl who we had met in Japan. She lives in Utah, but isn't a member. She was just coming back from visiting family in China, and she brought her cousin with her. So I started talking with her, and we just kind of hung out until our flight. Before we left, she added me on Facebook, and this ended up leading to a cool missionary experience! (I'll talk about that in a bit!). So my flight ended up being delayed by about 2 hours, but thankfully my parents were following all that, and so they weren't sitting at the airport waiting forever!
After 18 months, I finally arrived back in Utah, into the waiting arms of my mother =] It was so fun to see my family! All my immediate family was there, as well as scores of my extended family! How grateful I am for such an incredible family! It was so marvelous to see them all. Of course there were tears, but they were good tears =] I said hello to everyone and then it was off to be released. Since my flight was delayed, we were late getting to my stake president, so we weren't able to eat beforehand. No worries. We went and within 5 minutes of seeing my stake president, I was released. I took off my nametag for the last time, and what a weird feeling that was. There was no longer a visible sign of Christ over my heart, so I'll just have to work harder now so people can still see it =] After being set apart we went to Cafe Rio! And then home. It was weird but all so good at the same time. Once home I spent time unpacking and showing pictures and telling stories. It was so fun!
And that's it. I was home and not a missionary.
So how do I feel about being home? Well, at first I loved it, I was so excited to be home with my family because it had been so long! I knew it was my time to be home, and it just felt right. I got right to shopping and buying new clothes. Two days after being home we drove out to California for my dad's side of the family family reunion. And that was soooooo much fun! I love that I got to see almost all of my extended family right after I got home. I love my extended family so much and I've grown up around all of them, so that was really great for me!
After the family reunion, I had my homecoming, and then the following week I had a really great missionary experience. I had been keeping in contact with the girl I met in the airport, and I offered to take her and her cousin to Temple Square so her cousin could see more of Utah and learn about eh church. She had been, but she came with us, and so did a friend of mine who speaks Chinese. We took a tour and Zhang DX was given a Book of Mormon. Now, I haven't been a good missionary because I haven't followed up, so I am going to do that this week and report back =]
Thank you all for your love and support of me while I was on my mission. It meant so much to me and I could really feel your love for me. I am so grateful for the experience I had as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful for the testimony I gained and the knowledge and experience I had. I am grateful for the people I met and the way in which I was able to help them come unto Christ. Mostly, I am grateful for my savior Jesus Christ and all he did for me and for everyone. If anyone wants to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or has any questions, feel free to ask me!
So that's about it. I'll include some pictures from my last week fork you all.
I will be going back to my pre-mission blog: www.mybyucollegelife.blogspot.com so come follow me there!
Me, Ramela and Sis. Horton: Ramela is from the Philippines and is in Taiwan working. She wasn't able to come to church because she works on Sundays and can't leave the grandma she takes care of alone, so we would go to the park every week and visit her.
Zhu Di Xiong, Zhu Jie Mei and Me: I know I've told their story; they moved into the house of a former, and when we went, we met their mom and she told us to come back and meet her children. Both kids were super interested in the church, but of course, the daughter lives on the one island that doesn't have missionaries...there is still hope though!
Another set of sister missionaries found this family for us! They live way out in the boonies, but the mom, daughter in white shirt and daughter in yellow shirt, are already Christian. They loved us coming and teaching them. The mom has MS, and her daughters take care of us. The missionaries kept visiting after I left, but finally the dad told them they couldn't come by anymore =[
These are two darling kids of a less-active sister. The girl is baptized, but her dad doesn't want to take them to church, and the mom always works on Sunday. We would go visit often, but because it was only ever their dad there, we could never go in, so we'd just sing to them from the doorstep. Finally we got smart and started taking a recent convert with us so we could go in. These two kids are so smart and they LOVE learning about the gospel! I hope they will be able to start going to church again soon.
Another less-active family that we regularly visited. The mom and all 4 kids are baptized, but the dad strongly opposes them going to church. We started helping the daughter with English, and through that got her to start reading and praying. It was amazing to see the change in her! She came to love the gospel, even though she wasn't ready to stand up to her dad and make the change to start coming back to church. I know she will one day though.
This young woman was an investigator when I first got to the area. She had a baptismal date, and was supposed to get baptized, but she decided right before that she didn't want it, and she left. We didn't see her very much for the next few months, but every time we did, she said she wanted us to meet her friend. On my last Sunday (she didn't know it was my last Sunday, and she didn't know that church had changed times, she just decided to come in the morning), she brought her friend. Her friend LOVED church, and wanted to come back. Turns out, her friend didn't live in our area, so we referred her to the other sisters. 1 month later, that friend was baptized, and is now an incredibly strong member!!!!
Zhang JM and Wang JM. Love them. Zhang JM had just married a man in our ward, and so she had just moved into the ward. Wang JM was a coming back less-active, who is now very active. It was such a blessing to be able to work with her and help her re-find her testimony.
Qiu JM and her daughter. Qiu JM was a recent convert in the area, and she has a chicken shop where she and her husband make the most delicious chicken!! It's so good!!
Ah, right where I belong! The girl in the back and the girl in the green on the end were visiting their grandmother in the summer from Las Vegas, and then the little boy and other little girl are in the ward. Absolutely love their families!!
Liu JM! A recent convert =]
A member of another ward, and our twin recent converts. They are all so awesome!
The two Lin Xiao Jie and Lin Amah. We met them one day while riding down the street. They sit in Lin Xiao Jie's garage shelling oysters. We taught Lin Amah and her husband for a while, but they decided they didn't want to keep coming to church (their kids had convinced them that we were going to make them pay the church money...so not true...)
Last picture with my bike. I love and miss that thing.
Liu JM (recent convert), Lin JM (recent convert) and Zhang JM (ShiZhong sister missionaries personal assistant, haha. really she was just a ward missionary, but she was the best!). They all took a train for 3 hours to come see me my last day. I love them SO MUCH! We went out to hot pot for lunch, and then back to the church to visit.
Tiffany. My first recent convert. I was so happy I got to see her before I left!! I love her dearly. She bought me this super cute handkerchief from Japan.
I came home and we celebrated my birthday with my mom's side of the family. It was so wonderful to see them all!