Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Taiwan...

First of all, Christmas is nearly always a somewhat difficult time for people away from their families and loved ones.  And, our experience in Taiwan was no exception.   In addition to being away, hardly anyone really celebrates Christmas like we American’s do---Decorations, gifts, and Santa Clause.  Less than ten percent of the stores tried hard to capture the “retail sales” associated with the American Christmas, but with about as much success as Arbor day in the U.S.  Obviously Christmas day is not a holiday, so nothing really changes in the schedule for work, school, businesses, etc.  Most surprising however is the lack of celebration by Christians, both Latter-day Saint and other.  No trees, no Christmas music, no gifts, no nativity in the homes, etc.  
With hardly any of the usual Christmas trappings, we made up for it by really celebrating His birth with each other and some special friends, including our missionaries:
·        Our mission office purchased some nice chocolate from Costco and gave boxes to the various agencies and businesses which support us.  As we gave them gifts and wished them a Merry Christmas, they were really taken aback.  In some cases they seemed uncomfortable not knowing how to respond.  However, American chocolate is becoming very popular in Taiwan.
·        Our small branch of the Church sponsored an orphanage and each person purchased individual gifts for the children in the orphanage.  
·        The “all Mission” meeting this year included a photo at Sun Moon Lake in the mountains close to Taichung. (see photo)   It was great for 167 missionaries to be together with former companions and great friends.  The day included an “all you can eat” dinner and a wonderful devotional with music and President Bishop speaking about the Savior. 

·        The Taichung Stake outdoor Christmas concert was well received by visitors and passers-by shopping at the many stores adjacent to our chapel.  This was the first time for this event which the Stake President wants to do each year now.
·        We decorated lights on the mission office.  Nothing like Temple Square, but still quite festive.
·        We had our best ever investigator meeting with our Russian family on Friday night before Christmas.  We took a DVD with the six vignettes of Christ’s birth provided by the church.   (If you haven’t seen it, you need to.  It is very good.)  We watched this together and then each person spoke of what Christ means to them individually. 
·        We purchased some Costco chocolate on our own and gave to our neighbors and exercise friends, along with a “thank you” for their love and support of us. 
·        Our five Elders who are with us in the office came by late Christmas Eve and sang a beautiful Christmas Carol for us. 
·        We invited five missionaries over to our small apartment for a Christmas dinner of Ham, baked potatoes homemade Pecan Pie.  As the two sisters walked into our apartment, they looked at the Christmas tree, breathed in the Christmas dinner aroma, and said to each other, “it seems like we are not in Taiwan, doesn’t it?” 

·        We “skyped” with our entire family and shared our annual Christmas Eve dinner, nativity, and gift giving with them.   We were afraid this would be a little too emotional for us, but our prayers were answered as we thoroughly enjoyed being with them via the internet. 
·        We enjoyed reading Christmas stories, including out of the book of Luke. 
· One of our highlights was receiving a special nativity set from Alisa. This little nativity set (see photo) spent two Christmas seasons in Venezuela with Eric and two seasons in Sacramento with Andy on their missions. It also has been a favorite of Landon Liston as it spent time in his room at home when released from the hospital following his first of three surgeries. 

We love Christmas.   Being on a mission, and away from the commercialism of the states gave us an opportunity to really feel the Spirit of Christ at this time of year.  Our testimonies of Christ, His life, His Atonement, and His love for us have grown during our mission in Taiwan.   We are sure this part of Christmas will shape us as we return home next year. 
We are also very grateful for our children and grandchildren who continue to give us such great love and emotional support.  We are truly blessed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Christmas from Taiwan!

Merry Christmas—from the Liston’s in Taiwan   
Visiting the Taipei Temple

Yes, in case you just woke up from a “long winter’s nap,” we are serving as the office couple in the Taiwan-Taichung mission for our church. We will be here 18 months and then return to whatever “retirement” means to Ron. (We actually haven’t thought much about that yet). Being on a mission is as far away from retirement as Taiwan is from Springville, Utah. We are learning a lot, loving the people of Taiwan, and know we are in very deed, in the service of our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. We love serving our Elders and Sisters, and working under the leadership of President and Sister Bishop.

Here is the update on our children:

Julie, Adam, Jackson-9 and Dawson-5 continue to live in Pleasant Grove while Adam works as an investment advisor and hunts for an avocation. He and Julie went to Africa this year and had a great time. The boys are growing and enjoying their many friends. Jackson and Dawson play many sports. Jackson is also learning to play the piano and is a good cub scout.

Kris and Riley, DJ-13, Samantha-10, and Lydia-4, moved from Las Vegas to Riley’s hometown of Alamo, Nevada this past summer. They love the small town atmosphere, participating in sports, church, and community activities. Riley commutes to LV where he works in the Trust department of the Wells Fargo regional office. Having them closer to Utah has been nice, until we moved 7,000 miles to the west last April. Samantha is learning to play the piano and play Volleyball for her school. DJ is playing football and active in scouting and his Aaronic Priesthood work. Lydia enjoys her pre-school, which she insists must be called “school.”

Brea, Brenden, Conner-8, Jaron-6, and Logan-3 moved from El Paso to Pleasant Grove this past summer. Brenden had some health problems during this time of move, so they have had a roller-coaster ride. He is doing well now and has a very good job in Salt Lake City, which he loves. Brea continues to manage the finances for a cabinet making company in Springville. Jaron and Conner are active in sports, and Conner is a loyal cub scout. Logan is a happy little boy busy with his toys.

Eric, Alisa, Landon-7, Chayse-4, and Karson-1 continue to live in Springville, while Eric works for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City. Landon is now in the first grade and Chayse attends pre-school and many “extra-curricular” activities like dance. Karson is growing up and has such a loving personality (unless you don’t like having all the cupboards emptied every hour of the day). Eric is arranging for our five children to join us in Taiwan for one week in March.

Andy, Missy, Kaitlyn-2, and the newest---William Andrew-.5 are living in Springville. Kaitlyn is a busy two year old, keeping her mother hopping all day. William is a most beautiful and pleasant baby. Lola has not been able to hold him yet, which she dearly longs for. We are so glad that Missy supplies us with plenty of photos of both of these Liston grandchildren. Andy finished his Echo Technology Bachelor’s degree this year and is now employed as the lead Echo Technologist with Mountain View Hospital in Payson. Missy is the architect and manager of our Blog.

We are very proud of each member of our family. They are raising their children to be responsible and contributing members of their communities. Each of our children and their spouses are actively serving our Father in Heaven in various capacities. We love and miss them. They each assure us that they are receiving many blessings as we serve fulltime in Taiwan. We can hardly wait to have them join us and experience a little of Taiwan next year.

Anyone who has served a full-time mission knows that Christmas away from home is very different. And, living in a country that is primarily non-Christian, makes capturing the usual spirit of Christmas even more difficult. A few stores have “xmas” greetings, music, and some Christmas trappings. But, overall, much of the traditional Christmas fare is missing. Although we miss this, what we are enjoying is a wonderful focus on Christ and our deep gratitude for him and his Church.

It is our hope that this Christmas letter finds you and your loved ones tied close together around the reality of Jesus Christ, his birth, his life, and his atonement. For these blessings in our life, we are eternally grateful.

Elder and Sister Liston (Ron and Lola)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving and Flowers...

Our Thanksgiving 2011 was a day late, but spent with five of our wonderful mission friends who work with us in the office.  As the photo shows, the meal we shared didn’t miss any of the traditional Thanksgiving fare.  The pies were a little expensive and difficult to make without any Crisco.   But, the seven of us, for an hour or two, felt like we were home.  All we missed were our families.   (Well, maybe some football too.)  We really enjoyed spending our Thanksgiving with President and Sister Bishop.  

In addition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the people of Taiwan, we are so thankful for many things.  One of the year round pleasures in Taiwan are the flowers which seem to grow everywhere.  The city is very crowded, with only sporadic garden spots which have not been crowded out by small and large apartment buildings.  However, in front of many of the apartments are “potted and bucket” gardens---many of which are very beautiful.  We are especially pleased to see our neighbor’s flowers every morning on our way to the office.  The caretaker of this garden spends time each day caring for this masterpiece surrounded by concrete and asphalt.  It is certainly a joy to us.  Right across from her flowers, and attached to our large apartment building, is a beautiful flowering vine.   
Of course the mountains are filled with wild flowers.  On one of our recent preparation day hikes we were most impressed with the Poinsettias which apparently are not native, but thrive in the moist mountain air.  And, of course there are many other flowers growing wild in the mountains.  The photos are beautiful, but do not capture how elegant and delicate they all appear on our hikes. 
Taiwan is very proud of its history and heritage.  Our thanksgiving holiday was crowned with a trip to the Taipei Temple on Saturday.  One of our Branch friends received her endowment, and several recent converts were also sealed to their families.  We had time afterwards to once again visit the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park, two blocks from the temple.  The flowers and gardens were absolutely beautiful.  We feel very blessed to serve a mission here and enjoy so many things, including the beautiful flowers.

Neighbors Flowers

Flowering vine on our apartment building
Taipei Garden
Memorial Garden

Mountain garden

Mountain Poinsettias
Poinsettia and Elders

Yellow wild flowers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Biking in Taiwan...

President Bishop and I recently biked into the mountains.  Behind us is a squash garden.  However, the road we are standing on is at least ten feet above the garden floor.  These squash plants are growing on ten foot stilts with wires for them to cling to.  The squash hang like grapes when ripe.  I guess this prevents bugs and beasts from eating them.  

Here are some photo's is of me and my new bike. 

While biking we saw this huge spider hanging from a tree behind me so we stopped to take a picture of it.

I imagine it was at least eight inches from side to side.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our “Non-Mission” Friends and Neighbors in Taichung

We wanted to devote this blog to the many wonderful people in Taiwan who have treated us so kindly. 
Each morning as we go out for our walk or exercise we pass Liang Ma Ma who is our apartment neighbor.  She doesn’t speak a word of English (well maybe bye bye is her only word), but we stop and talk to her anyway.  Ron nearly always sings her a song (Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day…).  She shakes her head at him like she is embarrassed or telling him he needs to be hitting on his wife and not her.  But, we know she loves it.  Her health is poor, but after she tells us a sad story, she always smiles and laughs reminding us that life is still very good.  Our apartment security guards are also our friends and we have made our way slowly into their confidence.  We live in a nice and safe apartment, for that we are very grateful.
Liang Ma Ma, our neighbor
Our morning walks bring us into contact with many other walkers.  Ron has made a good friend named Hugo, a teacher at the technical and engineering university in Taichung.  He has studied in the U.S., and loves American music, which he listens to until Ron comes along to talk with him.  The two of them look like “mutt and jeff.”  But, they are good friends.
Ron & Hugo
We have introduced you to our exercise Christian Sisters who we dearly love and feel their love for us.  They teach us new Chinese words nearly every day, and laugh at our attempts to get the Chinese language tones correct.  Several of the women speak fairly good English so they help us get to know each other.  They offer prayer with us before our exercise music begins.  We hope they ask us to pray sometime.  They pray using the native Taiwanese language, so we really do not understand that at all.  We remind them that prayer is from the heart, and they understand we are okay.

Our Tai-Chi exercise group

To and from our work at the office we pass by and wave at many friends whose names we do not know. The lady who cooks in the Tempanyaki restaurant, the vitamin store couple, the optometrist, the juice vender and the breakfast vender, the great couple who lives three doors away and give us fruit several times a week. 
Our good neighbor who gives us fruit.
And of course, we cannot forget our little substitute grandchildren.  Ray On is about age six or seven and is a great little dancer and gymnast.  Her brother, Yo Een, is about five, but has the athleticism of an eight year old.  We stop and say hi every night.  Sometimes we skip the rope with them, play soccer, or just watch them ride their oversized bicycle up and down the narrow walk in front of our apartments.  Their mother is a wonderful woman who runs a second hand clothing store next door to our apartment entrance.  We dearly love this family. 
 Ray On and Yo Een

Elder Liston & Yo Een playing soccer
We attend church in an English speaking branch composed of about six mixed nationality couples  (mostly U.S. and Taiwanese).   There are some Philippine, Mongolian, Mainland Chinese, and others who attend.  We also have as few as four and as many as twelve single American English teachers who are here teaching on short term contracts.  They add a great deal to the strength of the branch.  Attendance at church ranges from 25 to 45.  Ron serves as a counselor in the branch presidency and Lola teaches Relief Society.  However, Ron has also conducted sharing time in Primary three times.  Something  very new for him, but he has greatly enjoyed.
Primary kids in our branch after a sharing time that Elder Liston taught.

Wu Quan Branch Picnic

When we first arrived in Taiwan we started looking for a barber/beautician.  Ron got his hair cut once at a barber shop less than clean and orderly.  Lola put her hair cut off as long as she could.  As we walked into several salons we failed trying to explain how Lola wanted her hair cut.  We even wrote down words in Chinese to explain.  Some of the words must have been a few clicks off plumb because the two people reading them started to laugh.  We left with our heads (with long hair) hung low.  We actually prayed about finding a place to get Lola’s hair cut.  (No reason to pray about Ron’s lack of hair)  We went into the next salon and met Alan and Savian.  They have treated us both like we were celebrities.  Alan wanted to see pictures of Lola’s hair so he could cut her hair right.  He does a great job on her hair. 

We have made many friends at the various offices we go to representing our mission.  Sandy works at the post office a few blocks from our office.  She loves Lola to come with Ron and always states how happy Sister Liston looks.   Ron has made friends at the two banks he does business with.  Between his broken and bruised Chinese, and their English in similar condition, they do just fine.  There is no doubt the good senior Elders who proceeded Ron laid a great foundation.  Our contact at the Immigration office (we call him Smiley) has been a great help to us, and is very friendly and courteous as we bring in “mounds” of Alien Resident Forms for him to process.  Taiwan is a wonderful country.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sun Moon Lake

Missy keeps a blog current for us as we send her photos and text relating to our experience in Taiwan.  We do not share personal thoughts and feelings on the blog.  Our goal is to keep our family and friends posted on some of the interesting experiences we have.  We also hope it will be a motivating experience for some lone “internet surfer” to get serious about serving a senior couple mission. 

I am including some posts from our blog for my journal:

Sun Moon Lake
It was Friday, August 12th, and I had seen enough concrete, heard enough cars and scooters, and inhaled enough exhaust to suit me.  Besides, it had been nearly four months since I saw a real tree.  I called President Bishop and he agreed. It was either get Sister Liston and me out of town, or increase our anti depression medications.  The Bishops picked us up at 7:30 Saturday morning and in less than 90 minutes, we were at a beautiful lake with real trees, real air, much cooler air, and the only exhaust came from re-told stories being repeated by President Bishop and me.  We had a great day at Sun Moon Lake high in the mountains of Central Taiwan. 
The lake is beautiful and we took a boat tour to three different locations on the lake.  The first was a small village on the opposite side of the lake where we hiked, visited a butterfly garden, and sampled food at three of the local venders. This is always a treat, but you never quite know what the food will be like.  The Provo health department surely wouldn’t give them a food handles permit, but we gave them four stars for great food.  “If you don’t like the dirty chair, don’t sit in it.”  The cabbage/mushroom roll was great, and so was the chicken/pork rolled in a tortilla type thing.  The mango ice cream was perfect on a hot mountain afternoon.
Taiwan is beautiful and the people are great to us.  This is the area where the LDS stakes have their youth outings and it is easy to see why.  It is a very relaxing location.  We spent about four hours on our tour of the lake and hiking. President Bishop had a wonderful time entertaining some children while we waited for our boat to return and pick us up.  It is always good to see him relax.  He works very hard as mission president, and we dearly love and respect he and Sister Bishop.
We would have enjoyed staying there all day, but duty called us back Taichung.  The road to and from the lake is lined with rice paddies, a novelty for us, but as common as orchards used to be in Utah County.  When the President dropped us off in front of our apartment we were immediately struck by the heat, the exhaust, and the incessant vehicle noise.  But, we were refreshed, and energized for another week.  So energized, we took the elevator to our apartment, and took a nap.  Something we never do.  It was great.  We loved our “time out” in the mountains, and do feel ready for another four months of serving in our concrete city.

Us with President and Sister Bishop at Sun Moon Rock

A lunch vendor making a cabbage mushroom roll.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stake Center Ground Breaking

Taichung City has two LDS stakes, but only one new dedicated Stake Center.  The north Taichung Stake meets in a chapel built in a large office building on one of the upper floors.  The church in Taichung is growing rapidly.  On Saturday, July 30th, the Stake celebrated a ground breaking for the construction a new stake center.  The photos attached to this email give you some idea of how beautiful this morning event was.  Here is a little background information:

The property is a large open asphalt lot which has been used as a “night market” several evenings a week.  Immediately adjacent to the site are large apartment buildings.  There are also some retail businesses on the street. 

The stake and area leadership did an outstanding job in preparing the event which came across very professional and highly organized.  It was all in Chinese, so we picked up many of the words, but not all the detail.  However, the audience was very much into the brief talks and music.  We have been overwhelmed with the outstanding priesthood and auxiliary leadership in the church here in Taiwan.  Equal to what we experience in the States.

There were seven to ten city dignitaries who attended and spoke briefly to the audience.   A female city leader spoke very positively about the LDS population in her city. She commented how all the LDS people she knows are happy and smile all the time.  (We hear this comment regularly from people we talk with about how we are happy people.)  What a nice testimony of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do for people.

I am sure you will enjoy the photo of Sister Liston talking to a little boy who was there with his family.  Somehow she always manages to find a child to share the love she has for all children---especially our grandchildren.  Chinese children are absolutely beautiful.  And this little boy is no exception.  As I look at the photo, I can see this boy speaking to his ward in 17 years as he leaves to serve a mission.  I think it was thoughts like this that made our Saturday so special.  We felt very much a part of the growth of the Church in this beautiful country with loving, good people.

Ground breaking audience

Stake choir

The ground breaking

A picture with Pres. and Sis. Bishop

Sis. Liston talking to a  little boy who came

Pres. and Sis. Bishop

Taichung Dignitaries