Saturday, January 25, 2014

Johor Bahru - first impressions

Hi Family!
I've really been looking forward to this email time this week.  I mostly just need a few more people to dump my feelings on.  I was kinda down on myself this week, and I wrote down what I was feeling in my journal.  I always feel better when I get to email home, so I don't feel so bad now.

When I take a step back, some of the things that are really weighing on me don't really matter that much (I feel ridiculous complaining about filtering water and not having fans), but lots of little things built up into a load of stress that left me sick yesterday.  I feel bad dumping on you, but I told you I would tell you about the bad times as well as the good.

Journal entry: Sunday, Jan 19, 2014
I really am weighed down. I could begin to list the reasons, but whenever I pinpoint them, they seem really stupid, like things that people would reply to with “just get over it, already!”  I feel really dumb, making these complaints to God, and I try really hard to work through them, but ignoring them is hard.
About the place and the people
Little factors build up into an overarching and inescapable state of constant discomfort:
- We must filter all water.
- The house doesn’t have fans to help dry me off.
- Being naturally colder than everyone else, I freeze at night.
- People here are mostly Muslim, which means I’m encouraged to not even start a conversation with them.
- It’s hard to find people who will speak Mandarin with me.
- It’s always hot and muggy outside, and the city is filthy.
- It’s dangerous going anywhere outside.  Johor Bahru is known for an extra-high crime rate – I’ve almost been robbed.  Also, my big, strong native companion is afraid, as I am.  We’ve both nearly been hit my Malaysian drivers on the road.
- The branch here is tiny, with almost no activity, and the president isn’t interested in getting to know the members or missionaries.
- People here are very poor, but most aren’t willing to accept the gospel.
I’m really trying not to dwell on only the negative things, but it’s really hard for me to find good, positive things.  I feel like I’m praying more than ever, making sacrifices for my investigators and companions, and wearing myself out doing the very best I possibly can in every task of the day, and it’s not good enough.

I believe firmly that obedience brings blessings, and I feel like doing anything that’s not “missionary work,” for example, taking a little time out of the day to relax isn’t obedient, or isn’t showing God that I’m serving Him with all my strength.

Are my standards too high?  Are my sights set too far in the distance?  How am I to cheerfully represent the Lord when silly little things about me are constantly brought to my attention, and it takes focus and physical strain to even stand straight with any confidence?  My focus in scripture study has been on Ether 12 and Doctrine and Covenants 121-123 this week.  I don’t want to drown in self-pity, but my heart aches.

[About my companion:]  I like him.  He's a fantastic teacher, very street-wise, and loving.  He doesn't mince words, and he speaks his feelings.  I think there were a few things mentioned in passing, and probably meant in good humor, which I took to heart in a negative way.  This has been the case with all of my companions so far, though.  I just feel especially self-conscious around all of them.  There are a few things that I assumed of myself, but were just never said to my face before the mission.  I feel like I should be able to be confident in all situations, but many, many times, I just don't know what to do. 
Elder Loke has asked me if I don't like him, or if I hate living with the Elders in our house.  He noticed that I don't talk in the mornings or at night.  I realized that I seemed really anti-social because I was trying to finish everything I have to do in the morning so that I could make it to studies on time, and if I was early, I didn't lounge with them, but I dove right into my study.  I have discovered a love for reading the Book of Mormon in Chinese (probably because it's one thing I can actually see real, daily improvement in) and I hadn't realized that it might seem unfriendly to want to use my little spare time to read something I look forward to all day.

I think that these are things about myself that I used to not care about so much, but when they were brought up as potential weaknesses, I felt like I couldn't tolerate them as someone who was called to represent Jesus Christ.  I feel a lot of pressure to become more Christlike, which would mean ridding myself of imperfections.  I think these are not new developments in actuality, but only in my mind.  I probably need to adjust my focus from self to others, and choose not to be humble, but not plagued by my weaknesses.

I know I'm not the only one.  I was thinking a lot about how many other missionaries feel, and especially about how the Savior felt, rejected by his own people.  I know I can't comprehend that kind of suffering and rejection, and that my own trials are puny in comparison, and really rather silly.  I can rationally think through problems and trials, and I can remember blessings, but it's still just hard to pull myself up out of an emotionally low day.  Thanks for your support.  I do kind of feel like an irrational crybaby when I complain about things, but I'm glad you'll still listen to me! :)

Thanks!  I love you all!

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