Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mission Office Duties

We thought you might like knowing a little bit about our office day. We wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go for a walk around the city of Taichung.   There are two different very nice "Walking Park Streets" we walk through in the morning.  After stretching, reading, having breakfast, we get into the office at 9:00 a.m.   Although our duties are quite separate, we do help each other a lot, especially as we are learning our duties.
Elder Liston manages all of the mission finances.  Tasks include reimbursing missionaries for mission related expenses, assisting Elders with their monthly credit cards when they are not working, authorizing purchases of replacement apartment items, paying mission expenses, bank deposits, bank withdrawls, and budgeting and managing the mission budget with President Bishop. The paying of mission expenses includes all that is related to managing over 75 apartments (leases, utilities, furnishings, etc.)  I could go on and on with more details and activities, but I think this will suffice. The church has a sophisticated software program used in all missions making much of the financial work consistent and easier to manage. 

Sister Liston has the more complex and detailed responsibilities.  To put all she does on a work flow diagram would take up too much of Taiwan's real estate and more paper than the mission currently has in stock.  Think of managing the paperwork that goes along with 160 misisonaries, including more than 80 coming and 80 going each year.  Visa's, Passports, Alien Resident Cards, Medical Cards, numerous internal documents used by the President and Assistants, Travel plans to and from Taiwan, phone lists, Letters to parent-- pre missionaries--missionaries--stake presidents-- bishops, Missionary photos for various applications, etc., etc., etc.  The mission has a comprenesive data base which is the foundation for many of the reports, letters, applications, etc.  There are numerous queries which Sister Liston uses to create these letters and reports.
We are supported by two good office Elders who work very hard to support us.  The office Elders have duties outside the office, so we are often alone managing the mission office. We also work together on many tasks like mail, postage, paying bills at the local 7-eleven.    We are also supported by our predecessors, James and Joann Greene who are now back in Rexburg, but so very helpful when we call at least weekly. 
We also have faith that this is the work of our Heavenly Father, and we pray a lot to learn and do our jobs to support our wonderful missionaries who work tirelessly to bless the lives of the people they serve. We get home as early as 6:30 p.m. and as late as 8:30 at night.  Obviously we are tired.  One of the blessings of being so tired is better sleep. We feel like we are on a "crash course" learning how to swim while being thrown into the ocean, but we are learning.  We love working with President and Sister Bishop and all of the missionaries.  Serving our Father in Heaven is always rewarding.

Here are just a few pictures outside the mission office as well:
Looking out the front gate
Flowering tree in front of the mission office
Sidewalk in front of the mission office.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tofu and Duck Blood

The office Elders invited us to a restaurant with several members of the ward in which they serve.  It was an upscale restaurant which specializes in "hot pot" meals. 
A two portion soup pot is brought to the table, placed on a gas burner in the middle of the table.  Both sides are filled with broth, spices, sea weed, etc.  the one side is filled with "hot" spices for the more gutsy pallet.
We allowed our chinese friends to order the main course.  It was cabbage, tofu and duck blood.  Tofu and duck blood Chunks the size of pieces of fudge were brought to the table already cooked in a pot.  The ingredients were poured into the pot to simmer together and we took piece after piece out of the pot and place in our bowl with rice.  the Tofu was good.  the duck blood was okay, but hard to think about it.  It had the consistency of jello, but was fairly easy cut into smaller sized pieces with your chopstick.  Mom looked at me and said, "who would have imagined?
Lola and I have found a great diet in Taiwan---chopsticks.  By the time we fully learn to use them, we will be a few pounds lighter.  It is interesting that eating slow fills you up sooner.  Especially Duck Blood.
We enjoyed our time listening to and being brought into the "mostly chinese" conversation.  Their were four children at the table next to us who were very interested in speaking with me in English.  Lola and I love being around the chinese children.
Pictured in the photo include our office Elders, Hanich, Liu, and Tung.   The other photo shows our guests and the capable server for our table.  Everytime she left our table aftger serving us she would bow.

A little about Taiwan...

So far our exposure to Taiwan is the airport and two hour drive to Taichung, living and working in the city of Taichung, and a beauitiful hike in the foothills of the mountains to the east of Taichung.  The City is huge, about two million people.  We have driven several miles in three directions, and still there are big buildings, little buildings, street venders, and 7-11's.  I am not sure if there is a "center" part of Taiwan.  It's like taking downtown SLC and replicating it 20, 30, maybe 50 times over.  I don't know.  It's just big and it keeps on going.  It would be very easy to get lost here.  But, the people are so kind and helpful, I am sure I could get good directions back home.  All of us in the city live in apartments, mostly 5 to 15 stories tall.
I am impressed with the order of the city amidst the perpetual traffic, both car, scooter, bike, and foot traffic.  Our missionaries, both Elder and Sister are amazing.  They navigate the traffic on their bikes like they belong there.  And, that is how the residents do--just like they belong on the road.  As chaotic as it seems at times, there is actually good order and seldome does anyone "friek out" about a rude driver.  It is just the Taiwan way.
We have enjoyed the food we have eaten so far--- chinese noodles, dumplings, fried rice, rice wraps, and fruit of every kind.  We have never eaten better fruit and such a wide variety.  The pineapple is especially good and in the middle of its season.  the biggest problem is knowing what to order because we know absolutely no chinese characters on billboards, menus, etc.  So, our chinese speaking Elders have been our food menus. 
It is very humid, and just starting to get warm.  A this point however, the temperature has been perfect.  The hot summer awaits us.

Here are some pictures we have taken so far so you can see what it looks like:

Our Apartment
Our bedroom

The kitchen.  Lola is wearing her favorite apron!

The living room

The office in our apartment

A neighbor friend living in our apartment complex
The City and Street Markets

The new hospital right across the street from the mission office

The Greene's teaching Taiwanese children how to play paper, rock, scissors.  We love the children here.  They are absolutely beautiful.

On a morning walk thru the city

Park and Botanical Gardens
The busy night life

Street markets

Buying from a fruit vendor

Lola buying from one of the vendors

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Off we go!

Our flight to Taiwan was without incident, but was terribly long and left us very jet-lagged.  We were 14 hours on the plane over the Pacific Ocean.  The Chinese staff on the plane was very professional and caring.  We left our home at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, left SLC for LA at 11:00 a.m.  We spent several hours in Los Angeles before boarding our flight for Taiwan.  We left the gate at 4:00 p.m. Friday for a 14 hour flight and finally arrived in Taipei, Taiwan at 9:00 pm local time.  After passing through customs and a two hour trip to Taichung we arrived on the mission property at midnight. Ron basically missed all but four hours of his birthday -April 16th due to the time change.  Once we arrived, President Bishop, his wife, the Greene's and the A.P.'s sang happy birthday to him. 

Arriving in Taiwan, welcomed by the A.P.'s (Elder Cocke & Elder Wang)

We finally made it to bed at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning  and woke up 3 hours later to get ready for church.  So much for our first experience of jet lag. Sunday was a nice day, but we probably acted like two zombies. We were very pleased to hear three talks in Chinese.  We understood 50% of the words and basically got the message without the assistance of the translater standing next to the speaker.  It was rewarding for both of us.  

Elder and Sister Greene are the Missionary couple that we are replacing in the mission office.  The Greene's have been most helpful and have done everything to welcome us to our mission.

A picture of us with Elder and Sister Greene
Taichung is very beautiful.  It reminds us of Hawaii.

A picture of us with President and Sister Bishop

Missionary Training Center

The MTC was a very fine experience in reminding us the first week of how we can be effective missionaries while we are in Taiwan.  Role playing was something that caused Lola a little more anxiety, but she did very well as we taught volunteers who came to the MTC in the roles of investigator, inactive member, etc.  The second week was only three days and involved learning some of the office systems we are using.  We had one full day on Thursday to get all of our last items off our preparation list.

Being able to have Brother James Pau as our Mandarin tutor was a great blessing for us.  Brother Pau (pronounced "Bau") grew up in Taiwan and has lived in Canada.  His English and Chinese are equally excellent.  We worked very hard to learn words and put them together into phrases that would mean something.  Learning the "four primary tones" in Mandarin was especially difficult.  Brother Pau was very patient with us, but there were times when I am sure he thought we were not learning anything.  We had a hard time saying goodbye to him.  He is a great young man who we love.

Setting Apart

We were set apart as Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, April 3rd by our wonderful Stake President following the afternoon session of General Conference.  

President Alden Pope set us each individually apart, and gave us each blessings that  that were very specific, giving us the counsel, confidence and comfort that we needed as we begin an 18-month separation from our children and grandchildren.

Our children and grandchildren who live locally were able to attend this very special and spiritual event and were very touched by the sweet spirit that was present and were able to also feel a sweet comfort as the blessings were given. 
We are very excited to embark on this great work.

Farewell Party!

We were grateful for our children and their spouses arranging a farewell and retirement party for us to see so many of our many friends and associates from the past. The party was held on March 12, 2011 at Eric's church. We had friends from our years in graduate school in SLC, Ron's mission, our Orem friends, and of course many relatives. Not only was this special for Ron and Lola, but each of our children loved to see people they had not seen since they left their home in Orem many years ago. Additionally, Ron's work provided a retirment party at Orem Community Hospital. Both these gatherings brought back many fond memories. We have many good friends who we love and appreciate.

Thank you to our many kind and wonderful friends and family members for all of your love and support.