Three of the four children born to Greg and Gina Anderson of Springville, Utah, have served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All three of them have served in the Taiwan Taichung Mission.
Kelsi Anderson Flint was the first of the Anderson children to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission from 2009-2010. Her younger sister Marissa Anderson Woolsey served in the same mission from 2013-2014, and their younger brother, Miles, is currently serving there.
“We calculated the odds of all three of them going to Taiwan Taichung and all three serving in the same city,” said Greg Anderson, an associate professor at Brigham Young University. “And it is pretty much about zero percent until you factor in Heavenly Father, and then it becomes 100 percent.”
Before 2009, the only connection the Andersons had to Taiwan was their grandfather, who was stationed there briefly while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Kelsi Anderson Flint developed a fondness for East Asia when she went to China to teach English as a student at Weber State University.
“I just totally fell in love with the Chinese culture and the people and just everything,” Flint said. “I just had the time of my life. I had some very spiritual experiences there where I really grew to love the people, and I just loved it.”
Flint submitted her mission papers in May 2009. Every night for the next two weeks while she waited for her call to arrive, she prayed. In her prayers, she told God that she was willing to go anywhere but that she wanted to feel peace about the call. She already felt a connection to the Mandarin-speaking people, and she wanted to feel that again.
When she received her call and learned she would teach Mandarin speakers in the Taiwan Taichung Mission, she said she "lost it.”
Five and a half weeks later, she entered the Provo Missionary Training Center, and three months after that, she headed to Taiwan.
“I just had the best experience,” Flint said. “I loved my mission. It was one of the best experiences of my life, next to being a mom and a wife.”
Kelsi Anderson became Kelsi Anderson Flint in the summer of 2012 when she married Ty Flint. The couple became parents last year when their son, Beckham, was born.
On her mission, Flint and her companion taught a woman named Shu-Zhen Cao, who owned a fruit stand. The woman became like a mother to the two sister missionaries. She loved the message of the gospel that they shared but had a difficult time committing to baptism because she ran a fruit stand that was open on Sundays. She used the profits from the fruit stand to support her brother and his family members, who were struggling at the time. One day, her daughter, Lin Yu-Yu, who had just graduated from college, returned home for a couple months and immediately began to show interest in the gospel.
“She just ate it up,” Flint said. “She loved it, and she started progressing quickly. She was reading the Book of Mormon and praying and coming to church. She loved it.”
After being required to attend church in college while taking a class on studies of Christianity, Lin began to wonder why there were so many Christian churches that held different beliefs. She was invited to be baptized by several churches but didn’t feel that she could commit to any of them. However, while reading the Book of Mormon, her heart was touched, and she felt that she had found the truth. Flint was able to see Lin be baptized on Aug. 19, 2010.
Flint's younger sister Marissa Anderson Woolsey followed in Flint's footsteps in 2012 when she spent a semester teaching English in China.
During the fall of 2012, while still in China, Woolsey was watching general conference when President Thomas S. Monson, president of the LDS Church, announced that the minimum age requirement for missionary service would be changed from 19 years old to 18 for young men and from 21 years old to 19 for young women.
Woolsey, then 19, had always dreamed of serving a mission and immediately submitted her mission papers. The night before she received her call, she was asked where she would like to go. “I want to go to Taiwan so badly,” she responded.
She was still in China when her call arrived at her home in Utah. Her brother, Miles, read the call to her over Skype, and when she heard the words “Taiwan Taichung Mission,” she started crying.
“I cried, but it felt to me like I always knew I would go there,” Woolsey said. “It just had such a special place in my heart, especially because I was with the students in China, so it was just really touching that I knew I would be able to continue to serve them and be able to know them on a more intimate level than just teaching English.”
Six weeks after arriving in Taiwan, Woolsey was assigned to serve in Tanzi, a city where her older sister had served.
“It was fun to ride around and think, ‘She’s ridden these streets before, and she’s gone over this gigantic hill before,’” said Woolsey, who later married Bryant Woolsey, another former Taiwan Taichung missionary. “And if she could do it, I could do it. So it was just more of an inspiration and a little bit surreal to know that she had been doing the exact same thing just three years before in that exact same place.”
With just 12 weeks remaining in her mission, Woolsey received a call from her mission president. He told her that she would be transferred to a new area, which surprised her because she had only been in her current area for six weeks. He told her that she would be moving south to a city called Gaoxiong, but midsentence, he asked her to move instead to Douliu to serve with Sister Lin Yu-Yu, the same Lin Yu-Yu that Woolsey's sister had taught a few years earlier.
“President, you realize my sister taught her?” Woolsey remembered asking.
The mission president had no idea.
Serving with Lin was a special experience for Woolsey. The moment she walked into the apartment she would share with Lin, she saw pictures of her sister pinned on the wall.
“I walked in and saw that and just got really emotional because you’re bridging these two worlds,” Woolsey said. “And it was just really special to feel like I was continuing work that my sister had done, that everything she had done was now affecting me and helping me become a better missionary and a better disciple of Christ.”
For Lin, serving with the sister of the missionary who taught her the gospel was intimidating initially.
“I was very nervous because I would think, ‘She will tell her sister how I am. I don’t think I’m good enough to be her companion because, for me, Kelsi is an angel.’ So I wanted to be perfect,” Lin said. “And when I first saw Marissa, I wanted to pretend I was perfect. Now we’ve become really good friends. We have lots of fun together.”
Lin told Woolsey about object lessons that Flint used to teach her the gospel. Lin said she tried to emulate Flint’s teaching style.
“Kelsi is very excited about everything about the gospel. Every time she would say, ‘You know what? This is very good! I want to tell you this,’ just like a friend,” Lin said. “So when I would talk to investigators, I would say, ‘I really love this, and I want to share it with you.’ Not, ‘This is the lesson you need to know.’ ... That's what Kelsi did.”
While Lin was serving her mission, her mother was baptized. Woolsey said that was in large part due to the letters Lin sent her mother each Monday.
The two companions continue to keep in touch.
Flint and Woolsey's younger brother, Miles, had no expectation of serving in Taiwan. He hoped to serve in New Zealand or somewhere in South America, but when he opened his mission call on March 13, 2015, in front of friends and family, he couldn’t speak.
“I instantly knew that Taichung is exactly where I need to serve,” Miles Anderson wrote in a letter to his father. “And I was just super emotional and cried the whole night.”
Miles Anderson entered the MTC on Aug. 5, 2015, and is expected to return in August 2017. He has already served in Tanzi, the city where both of his sisters served. He has also met Lin Yu-Yu, who hopes Elder Anderson will have the opportunity to teach her younger brother. Elder Anderson said he realizes that whether he has that opportunity is “in the Lord’s hands.” He is confident that the Lord is aware of him and his service.
“(The Lord) definitely has a special plan for me,” Anderson recently wrote in a letter to his family. “And it might overlap with the plan that he has for my sisters. It also has been a great way to draw closer to my sisters. We can share our love for the beautiful country and the beautiful people of Taiwan. … I don’t know what God has in store for my future here or even for my future after my mission. I just hope I can fulfill the plan that he has for me.”
Their father, Greg Anderson, doesn’t speak Chinese and hasn’t been to Taiwan, but he said the love his children have developed for the Taiwanese people has spread to his whole family.
“I think the people of Taiwan have helped us more than my children have helped them,” he said. “Our entire family has a special feeling towards Taiwan and the people there. … I think that comes from the service our children are performing. Service results in love for the person — or in our case, an entire country.”