Friday, December 27, 2013

December 22

I'm glad the [piano] recital was a success.  This letter might not be a success, because I have already used a lot of my time emailing President Mains and trying to figure out the Skype thing in the office with Elder Harper.  I may only get to write a little, and I may send this to you at intervals so that my time doesn't run out before I send the whole letter (I get cut off without warning on these computers.)
I loved hearing a little about Dad's arrangements.  I wish I could have heard them; they sound super fun!  I'm glad that the stress of preparing for concerts is over now (it is, right?) and I hope things become more restful.  I wish everyone good health, too.  I'm sorry to hear about the Hand-Foot-Mouth sickness.  I'll pray for you all.  This year, Christmas is going to be really different for all of us, isn't it.  I'll have more to tell about Christmas in Singapore in a couple of days when we talk, but it doesn't feel like Christmas at all.  It's not bad, but everything is so different that I don't recognize the holiday. 

Thanks for the reminder about finding Christ in our lives.  It's funny how many very important things I can lose sight of, even doing missionary work.  Right now, I know that before my mission, I was engaged in good things, and now that I'm here as a missionary, I'm definitely doing better things.  However, it's become apparent to me lately that I am called to rise up to always doing and thinking the best things.  I always thought this just naturally "came with the job," but I can see that there is more to it that just being "out here," and not breaking rules.  Becoming better than myself - putting off the natural man - is harder than I ever realized, but it's worth every effort, because I can feel the progress I make and the Holy Ghost's influence on my thoughts and actions each day.  I want to echo Mom's testimony that life focused on Christ, maintaining an eternal perspective, really brings real joy and peace of mind and heart.  I know that the things we think, say, and do now are so important, and it is essential to use the great gift of agency to strive to emulate Jesus Christ's example.  I want to thank you for your own example of selfless service in helping the Kemps and the Swinks, and many others in need, and for your determination to live the standards of Jesus Christ's gospel and remember Him, regardless of whether it's Christmas or July.

But, since it is Christmas, I want to wish you all love and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Missing the Cold

Hi Family!
I'll type this as I read through the letter you sent me, so I can't say it's going to be well-formulated, but I hope I can answer some of your questions.

My companions right now are awesome!  Elder Harper just graduated from AP to "real missionary."  Just kidding about that, but he's super happy all the time, now that he's not sitting in an office or an airplane all the time.  He's from Boise, and went to BYU for a year before coming to Singapore.  He's a lot of fun to be with and a great leader.  Elder Wang is from Sichuan, China, so he can eat anything, no matter how spicy it is.  This week he made some noodles with Sichuan pepper, then picked all the pepper out of my serving and told me not to eat it or I wouldn't be able to feel my mouth.  Singaporean/Chinese spicy is not the same as Italian or American spicy; it skips the pleasant, enjoyable burn and just goes straight for the kill.  Elder Wang is also really funny, especially in our English grammar lessons.  I'm so glad I'm learning Chinese, not English.

Right now, there is an Elder Hunsaker staying with us, because his companion's arrival was delayed a couple weeks.  He is from Idaho Falls, and he says he really misses the cold right now.  His dad also went to Italy, Milano on his mission, probably about the same time that Mom and Dad were there.  Did you know an Elder Nathan Hunsaker in Italy?  Right now, Elder Hunsaker's eye is really swollen from some kind of infection, but he's remained pretty cheerful for one in so much discomfort and who doesn't speak Chinese like the rest of his company.
The Ward I'm in now is the Singapore 2nd Ward, which is the Chinese-speaking ward.  There are several (probably under 10) wards in Singapore, and 1 stake.  There are no other stakes in the mission, but there are a few branches.  In Singapore, there is a ward for Expatriates, (White people here for work or vacation or luxurious retirement), one for Filipinos, one for Chinese, and a few others that I don't know very much about.
I am really missing the snow and the cold right now.  I didn't really think I would miss it that badly, but every day is the same here, as far as the weather goes.  It's warm - just above unpleasantly warm - and really muggy.  If there's a breeze, its a fabulous day.  Every time I email and think about home, I just wish I could fill up my lungs with some clear, delicious, thin, high-altitude air.  This would be a nice place to retire, and drive a fancy car, and attend expensive concerts and stuff, but I think I prefer the environment of Cache Valley to this one.  I'm probably going to come back home and struggle for breath for the first months, after I've gotten used to the heavy air here.
I'm glad Noelle had a good birthday - a really good birthday, by the looks of that poster :)   I've never eaten at Herm's Inn, only driven past it, but it must have been good if you decided to go back.  I know the birthday is over, but I still send my best wishes!
 I was really confused for a minute when I saw that picture of Grandma standing next to me at home, but then I laughed a lot!  Nice work!  What did you do with my cutout?
Thank you so much for the Christmas package!  While I'm not exactly sure when it arrived, I picked it up on Thursday of this week.  The package was a little squished, and it was mostly open already, but no real damage was done (The CD case is broken, but the music is great!).  I love the ornaments with your faces and wishes on them!  It really made for a perfect Christmas present.  I'm working on something to send home, but... still working.  This may be a Chinese New Year package, instead of a Christmas package by the time it arrives, but know that I wish you all a very merry, warm, and healthy Christmas, and I'm excited to talk to you next week!
I love you all so much!

Me eating at a deelicious Chinese soup place

Me eating a "century egg"
Century egg . . . a really really old egg
Elders Baer, Harper, Wang, and Hunsaker

Eating the best Thai food at a new investigator's house!
Elder Hunsaker with a crazy huge pear!

Elder Baer with all three phases of Chinese learning. The equivalent of gathering all three rings of power.  Only once!
Chinese Elders and Sisters trying not to get wet
Elder Bear
Afternoon in Singapore

Monday, December 9, 2013


Thanks for letting me know about Mr. Litizzetti.  I really feel for his family, and I know a lot of students will miss him, and the school has suffered a great loss.  I wore nice clothes this week, too, but had no time for tie dye.
It sounds like there's a lot of music...stuff happening around now.  Good luck with arranging those songs!  How did the AFC performances go?  I loved going to those, and am really looking forward to hearing some real singing when I get home.  In the Singapore mission, from what I've observed so far, some of the missionaries sing pretty well, but not loud enough to cover the enthusiastically off-key congregations.  Sacrament meeting isn't quite as reverent as I remember.  Church is fun, though!  Everyone is excited and happy to be there.  It didn't always seem that way in Utah, but I think I learned more from church in Providence.  I guess that could be because I still don't speak Chinese very well.

In case he doesn't know already, tell brother Russon that I enjoyed his letter to me while I was in the MTC, and I still have it.  If you still don't know about that letter, I'll send you a copy next week.  I liked it.  Yes, for us proselytizing is allowed in Singapore, but the Jehovah's Witnesses are still illegal.  In Malaysia, it's not illegal, technically, but missionaries will be stopped at the border and turned back if they are recognized.  Teaching Muslims is illegal if they are from Malaysia or their parents are from Malaysia, or if they meet a list of other criteria.  It's just not a good idea to teach them at all.

Things are going well in my new tripanionship.  I am learning lots of leadership and teaching skills from Elder Harper, AP emeritus, and a ton of Chinese and communication skills from Elder Wang, from China.  It is a lot of fun, because we are all happy to be together.  Elder Harper is extremely glad to have finally escaped the office after 4 or 5 months, and is just excited all day to be back out doing missionary work.  This kind of life might be just what we need to help our investigators progress!

Are my letters getting shorter? (I realized that my first couple of weeks I didn't send a letter to President Mains. *gasp*.)  Well, I'll end this one with a list.

Things I didn't learn this week:
1. How to eat a pomegranate
2. How to download music you send me
3. How to put my shoes on quickly without using a shoe horn
4. Where to find postcards to send home for Christmas

Things I did learn this week:
1. How to (mostly) clean a white shirt of pomegranate stains
2. How to be less awkward in contacting people on the MRT
3. I need a shoe horn or slip-on shoes, or I need to figure out something better when I go to Malaysia.  (suggestions?)
4. From Elder Wang: "You need is write English use you head, you need is write Chinese use you heart."

P.S.  Tell me if you see anything in the news about Singapore's "Little India" today or tomorrow.  I heard there were a few cars set on fire.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Family,

I’ve had another great week!  Once again, most of our plans for the week were obliterated by forces beyond our control.  The only goal we achieved this week was copies of the Book of Mormon placed, and we were cutting it close on that one, too.  Elder Black is teaching me so much about planning, preparing, then going to work; I’m so glad that my first companion in the field is a master goal-setter.  

Well, I’d like to tell you a little more about my week than just the members and mudaoyous (investigators) that didn’t show up.  On Monday (Sunday night for you), I spent P-day at Pulao Ubin, an island for hiking and biking through the jungle.  I went with Elder Black and two other Sisters, and this small group made for a really pleasant and relaxing excursion.  We rode bicycles along paved and unpaved roads through the rainforest, admiring 100-foot tall trees, wild pygmy hogs, and a birds-eye view of the island from a high viewing tower above the trees.  Of all the days to forget my camera!  Rrrgh!

My Thanksgiving feast with Elder Black
Mmm . . . gelato!
 On Thursday, Thanksgiving was celebrated with an unhealthy amount of delicious food from Wendy’s and then gelato from a local gelateria I discovered the day before.  I had a super-delicious cup of pistachio and tiramisu, instead of bell pepper, and it really made me think of home.  I came home (haha, to my apartment) and made some of the Olive Nere [black olive] pasta, which Elder Black and I downed in about 5 minutes.  I had a satisfying Thanksgiving, and I hope you all did, too.  I’d love to hear about it!  Over Thanksgiving, I felt especially grateful for the people in my life.  I love my companion, the other missionaries, my mission president, and my investigators.  I’m even more grateful for you, my family.  I’m grateful that you’re willing to follow the commandments God has given us to keep us safe and happy.  I’m so thankful that I know families can be united forever, not just in mortality.  So many people here have never even considered that.  One lady I met on the MRT even scoffed, rolled her eyes, and said, “How can you believe that?  Nothing is forever!”  I felt so sorry for her, but thankful for the knowledge and testimony I have of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to guide us in this life and forever.
I love you all so much and thank you for your prayers!  Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving duck with a member

Yikes!  Transfer News! 
I am staying in Singapore, but Elder Black is going to West Malaysia.  I'm going to be in a 3-some (tripanionship) with the Former AP, Elder Harper, and with an Elder from Sichuan, China, Elder Wang.

This is really exciting, but I'm not sure in what way.  I'm going to really miss Elder Black, but I see so many opportunities to learn from these other two elders.  I hope I don't have to fight to keep a positive attitude this transfer, because I foresee it being more difficult than last.

Wow, I'm kind of in shock - the whole mission was changed because of this - several threesomes, new areas opened up, missionaries who haven't finished their training will now be training, some have been called to speak a different language, lots of new missionaries coming in (mostly sisters, called to speak English), and new leadership all over the place!  Elder Wadsworth and Elder Fabiano are still together, but they are whitewashing Johor Bahru (JB) in West.  (Whitewashing means that both missionaries are new to the area, and that there will be no "veterans" in the area to help them.)