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)