I wrote about Claire’s birthday in Australian birthday time (yesterday since she’s 18 hours ahead of us). But it’s her birthday today in America. So let’s celebrate this girl a little bit and give an update into how her mission is going so far. And there’s a lot to say with some excerpts from Claire’s letters, so fair warning.
Little did we know when we took this picture all those years ago on some trip somewhere:
…that Claire would be here on her 20th birthday:
Serving as a missionary and working her darnedest to learn that language on the cover of that Book of Mormon she was holding as a little girl up above.
Missionary Training Center before she left
I already wrote all about her arrival in Australia but I don’t think I included these pictures from her nine-week stay at the Missionary Training Center.
Dave was so good to send her packages every now and again filled with snacks, and a sister in her district made her that cute flag.
Serving lunch at the MTC
I know this might be the luckiest thing in the whole wide world, but we were invited to serve lunch at the MTC while Claire was there. Max and Abby came along with me and I cannot even tell you how giddy we were to get to be there midst of all those bright, full-of-light missionaries. Especially when our own came up and realized we were the “serving people” that day.
(Gotta love Max’s fancy hair net he hadn’t removed yet, ha!)
These pictures can’t do the excitement quite the justice it deserves. We were drenched in big-eye happy wonder that we got to do that thing, and hug our girl one more time before she took off.
Two generations of MTC
One fun little side-note that day was that this:
You see those two girls on the left up there with me back in my own MTC days? All three of us heading out into different parts of the world as missionaries (and cheesy matching to boot).
Well, all three of our CHILDREN happened to be in the MTC at the exact same time.
If that isn’t a pretty divine coincidence I don’t know what is!
It was fun to make sure they knew each other, made all us moms pretty happy I have to say.
If her height wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary enough at the MTC, just you wait until she got to Chinatown. Ha! (That’s the story of our lives, people telling us we’re tall. Yep, got it.)
The MTC Thankful Tree
We sent over a mini MTC thankful tree to Claire and friends to match ours. These girls were all so gracious and sweet about it.
Last goodbyes with family before taking off:
Arrival in Australia
And then, after a long journey, she arrived in the great land of Australia to be greeted heartily and with so much love by the mission leaders and missionaries there.
When you first arrive in your mission you get assigned to have a “trainer” as a companion. A missionary who has been in the mission for long enough to show you around and get you situated.
Claire was assigned to have not one but two trainers, who both happen to be from Taiwan.
And her first assignment was to work in the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown.
Here’s part of her first letter to give you a taste of it all:
I made it to aussie land!!!!!!!!!
Wow too much happened this past week so im sincerely sorry if this email is forever and a half.
I left the MTC which was honestly a heart breaker. i loved that place and the people in it. BUT i got to have cafe rio in the airport🙏🙏 i flew to LA then straight to Sydney which was 15 hours of straight turbulance (i hate turbulance). Then we got picked up by our mission president (he is so incredible) and went straight to Sydney Opera House. AMAZING. i was honestly in such a daze i need to go back to take it all in.
Then they told us we had a driving test. We all looked at each other with straight panic. I was so dizzy and tired already from the plane AND australia does indeed drive on the opposite side of the road. The poor lady in the front seat was GRIPPING the handle while i was driving. I think her life flashed before her eyes on several occasions but i did pass.
On tuesday we met our trainers!!!! Im in a wonderful trio again with hu 姐妹 and li 姐妹. They are both from taiwan and are amazing. They pretty much only talk in mandarin so i dont know whats going on ever, but im trying to keep up. The area that im serving in is called ryde and it is fully china town. Im not kidding the only english i have heard is when im with my district. Every grocery store, restaurant, shop is all just mandarin. SO i have a lot of work to do because i dont understand a lick of anything but im so thankful to be thrown into the mandarin right away so i can learn!!!! Right after we met our trainers, we went straight to a members house. We had hot pot with the family which made me realize i severely have to work on my picky eating because its just not going to work here. I hate seafood but im doing my best to put a smile on and just swallow it. Hahaha. Then we had a lesson where i explained what prophets are🔥😎 (theres no way he knew what i was saying) BUT i did it.
On sunday, the bishop was giving ward business. I couldnt understand anything until i heard “bao jiemei” (my chinese name). Turns out i had to introduce myself and give a testimony with no notice before🙏🙏 but it was good and i was able to talk with some people in the ward.
One part that really stuck out to me this week was english class. There were people from everywhere, china, taiwan, iran, and columbia. We shared alma 26: 37 and everyone took turns reading it in their own language.
“Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.”
I literally felt so much joy teaching them that heavenly father is mindful of each and every one of us. His arms of mercy are wrapped around them! Then we were able to give them all a book of mormon in their own language
I love australia I love mandarin (sometimes) I love the gospel and I love you all💖💝💘
Teaching English classes each week:
Getting to know each other:
And having fun p-days all while Claire was trying to get her feet under her.
All these smiles are real and good.
But there are no pictures of the hard times. And I want to be sure to relate that there are those too.
This transition to missionary life is no cake-walk I tell you!
Especially when you arrive right before Thanksgiving and parts of your family is together back home in practically every FaceTime call until New Years.
I think the past two p-days were the first ones where Claire didn’t tear up a little bit.
But oh! She knows she is learning and growing more than she ever even knew she could.
Every six weeks missions shift around companions and areas. Sometimes you stay right smack-dab where you are, sometimes your companion changes, sometimes you move to a whole new state or province. And start to learn everything all over again.
Continual learning is the name of the game in many ways.
And change sweeps in so much of that!
Claire’s first transfer was a couple weeks ago and she stayed in her same area but one companion got transferred to a different area.
So now it’s down to these two.
And there have been some grand adventures.
I’ll let Claire tell them from her most recent letter:
I survived my first transfer!!!! Barely!!!! Unfortunately on the last day of the transfer i got to experience passing out!!!! We were doing some service at our good friend chriss house (didnt even start) when i got dizzy and looked at sister hu and said “do i look pale to you?” Next thing i know im outside with people shoving chocolate, cheese, and water into my face and heart monitors on me. People are yelling saying im pale and my lips are blue (so embarrassing🧎♀️) and chris is on the phone with the ambulance, getting mad at me that i didnt take my diabetes medication. (I simply dont have diabetes). ANYWAYS this man has severe heart issues and made me think that these were my final seconds on earth. After an hour of laying with my legs elevated, my heart sped up again and then we got maccas!!!
I am now out of a trio and just in a companionship with sister hu! The work has been good we have been meeting so many amazing people it literally warms my heart. Im growing strong relationships with our friends and members i love them DEARLY.❤️🩹❤️🩹
Sister hu has been teaching a woman from way before i got here but i have had the PRIVILEGE to teach her for these last 2 months. At first she just wanted to get baptized for her kids, but these past weeks in our lesson she has had the biggest smile while explaining that she loves this gospel and wants to get baptized for herself. So she did! On Saturday!
Every morning, sister hu and i work out at eastwood park because there is a group of chinese people who always play ping pong there. We talk to them every morning and now we are just like one big friend group. Granted they are all at least 80 and bible bash us here and there but they do have a lot of questions about our church which we love.
One of our mission leaders shared this quote with me that i loved and i think you will too
“All you can do, is all you can do. And all you can do is good enough”
Sometimes we (me) feel like we dont measure up or arent good enough. BUT thats the beauty of life! We arent going to be perfect ever in this life, so all we can do is give it our all. Try to be the best we can be. And part of that is making mistakes, so that we can do all we can to CHANGE and GROW! All we have to do is give him everything we can, then trust in him for the rest. Im so so grateful for this gospel
Oh how I love this girl!
And also her sweetest-ever companion who made a little birthday video for her with videos from all of us sent in. It was honestly such a kind act and just what Claire needed.
If I get permission from her I’ll come back and add that sweet video in, but I’ll just say here, THANK YOU Sister Hu!!
We all got to “be together” last night to celebrate this birthday girl we love so much:
Oh how I loved those velvety minutes filled up with so much love as we got the chance to tell Claire the things we love most about her.
I love this poem our friends (who are mission leaders in Iowa) share with all the new missionaries who come to their mission as they are sent out with new companions:
Father, where shall I work today?
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”
I love it because it’s so true for these missionaries serving far and wide in so many vastly varying placed on the planet.
But it’s true for us too.
In our own little sections of the world where we’re “asked to serve” each day.
Whether it’s cleaning up continual messes from toddlers, up all night with sick kids, trying to share love and instigating important conversations with co-workers, in the darkness trying to figure out how to deal with teenagers, in a marriage that it taking up all our energy, working out family dynamics with siblings or extended family, we are all at “work” serving in our own corners of this big garden we call the world.
Wherever our “little place” to tend is, may we “zoom out” and see it and the people in it as God does.
Like Claire is working to do over in that new land of hers so filled up with adventures and learning.