Monday, February 24, 2014

This week's news

Dear Family,
Transfer news came in yesterday.  Elders Loke and Wadsworth are transferred to East Malaysia. I'm staying in Johor Bahru with Elder Fabiano!  This is going to be a great chance to become his best friend and to keep serving with Stan, President Schollenberger, and the rest of the branch!  Also, we're moving over to the other tower of apartments, into a fancy one on the 5th floor.  I know it's not a penthouse, but it's going to be such an improvement over the one we've been living in!

I'm glad you got to spend some time with cousins!  I don't know how you fit the time in, between science fair prep, band, baptisms, lacrosse, wrestling, composing, and meditating.  I actually just began reading chapter 4 [of Preach My Gospel] today for my personal study.  I have been asking questions about prayers lately, too.  I wasn't exactly sure how to ask questions about my questions to Heavenly Father, but I've just been letting Him know how I feel, and asking for the ability to recognize and cheerfully follow the promptings I receive.
Thanks for telling me about others serving missions now.  I'm really glad to hear about the news from Sister Fronk, Sister Moon, and Mina.  I can keep them in my prayers.  When I hear about the things they're experiencing, I consider myself pretty fortunate.  I know that the Lord is always watching over me and that President and Sister Mains are really taking good care of the missionaries here.
Thanks also for reporting to me on your morning scripture reading, Mom.  I'm glad you find a peaceful time to read.  I know how nice it is to get up early and read - it really does bring a lot of strength into your day by inviting the guidance of the Holy Ghost right from the beginning.
I'm really sad I don't have any more time to write - Transfers are always hard on email time.  I hope I will be more prepared next week to tell you more things.
One other piece of news - I finally need to buy a bicycle, so I'll be taking 550 ringgit out of my personal funds today.  For the quality and newness of the bicycle I'm getting (Elder Wadsworth's, which is only 6 weeks old, well maintained, and ridden only a handful of times) I'm really happy for that price!

This message was pretty scattered, but know that I still love you and think of you all very often.  Thanks for all the help and support you give me, even the kinds that I will never know about and can't see as emails or letters!

Nasi Lemak!  Finally, there are pictures!  

I'm eating the one that's still wrapped in the newspaper.  I couldn't wait long enough to open it!  ( just kidding, it tastes so much better when you don't eat the newspaper wrapping with it.)

The icon of JB - "the car"
It sits just down the street from the church, so we pass it often.  I finally got a picture with it.

Oh, you may choose if you want the pot in there or not.  Elder Fabiano threw it to me just as Elder Wadsworth was about to take the picture.  One pic with, one without.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Great week!

Hi Everyone,
I have been doing really well this week!  It's funny that I say that, because I still have all my daily insecurities and things that I don't understand, but when I email home I just can't seem to remember all the little injustices and disheartening things that during the week I wish I could tell you all.  Lets see, this week was pretty slow, as usual, but I think most things were overshadowed by the overarching excitement for Stan's baptism.  Thank you for all your prayers on his behalf.  I'm sure many missionaries feel this way about their new converts, but I really believe that his conversion, as well as his wife's, is a lifelong conversion.  The only thing I fear for him now is that we, the missionaries and the members of the branch, are so excited for him that we will overload him, and put heavy demands on his already full work schedule.  I believe he is completely willing to do everything in his power to "give back to the church and to Heavenly Father," and I know that he will be a great strength to the small branch here in Johor Bahru.

The baptismal meeting was practically perfect!  More people came than we expected, a lot more pictures were taken than I expected, the talks were short and sweet, our song, "If the Savior Stood Beside Me," was beautiful, there were no problems with the rather old baptismal font, and Elder Loke performed the ordinance flawlessly.  Yesterday, I felt very honored to confirm him a member of the Church, and although I was a little nervous about giving him that priesthood blessing, everything flowed very smoothly.

Stan's mother came all the way from Kuala Lumpur to support him in his baptism.  She was touched by the Spirit, and afterwards she asked us if she could transfer her records from her Lutheran congregation to our church!  It is a testimony to me of the converting power displayed by Stan's righteous and consistent example in living the Gospel, and of the power of the Holy Ghost to bear witness of truth.

I pray every day for help to recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Recently, "Let the Holy Spirit Guide" has become my favorite hymn.  I realize that there are so many things that I cannot do on my own, and many circumstances that I have no control over, but I pray that by being in tune with the Spirit I will know how to do what Jesus would do in every situation.  I hope that every one of us can do the same, because I know the Lord wants to guide us, and He will if we listen and follow with real intent.

I love you all, and thank you for your letters and prayers!


Oh, a really cool part of this week that I forgot to mention in my letter: I got to see a lion dance, right in the lobby of our complex!  Two lions came out and danced to a ridiculous beat, and dared people to come take lucky mandarin oranges from their mouths!

Here they are fighting over a head of lettuce, and giving gifts to bystanders of all ages.  Tons of fun to see!

A bird's eye view (almost) of my area, from one of the other missionary apartments across town.  Can you see all the cranes in the hazy distance?

The crazy distance is what really gets me.  Johor Bahru, in Chinese is called Xin Shan, "New Mountain," but there aren't any mountains!  The sky stretches out forever, and the clouds here are amazing!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Musings from Malaysia

Hi Everyone!

This week's post will just be as I think of it, and maybe my fingers will keep up with my mind.  
So, maybe last week's letter wasn't especially positive.  I felt pretty good last week, actually.  Chinese New Year was a great time, despite a few days indoors with sporadic cases of different afflictions between the four of us in the apartment.  This week, however was much better.  With the exception of one day this week, I felt like I was doing work that was actually helping to build the branch, fellowship members, learn about the area, and prepare *Stan* for baptism.  There were still tough times, but I felt I was doing effective things, overall.

The one day this week on which I conducted exchanges with another Elder was a day of decision for me.  While Elder Loke and his temporary companion call that day "Miracle Day," it was "Depression Day" for me.  There were absolutely no appointments scheduled for that day, and all the members (not a joke) were out of town.  I was feeling a lot of pressure to lead confidently in my area, but to be honest, I don't know my area that well - it's the biggest area in the mission - I have almost no experience in knocking doors, and I was trying to lead a very experienced missionary with high expectations.  I completely failed to take the lead in anything but, after hours of accomplishing nothing, I asked him to teach me a few things about approaching people, talking to them and sharing the gospel message. 
As I listened to him, observed how he worked, and then put a smile on my face, difficult as it was, I found a sense of satisfaction in all the rejection I faced.  This was, I think, because I just rose up and faced it, blew off the times when people rejected me, and looked forward to the next opportunity to just speak to someone, no matter how awkwardly I started.  I feel a deeper sense of ability in talking to people now, and I look back on that day as a great learning experience, and a day of decision to always open my mouth, be friendly, and keep things in an eternal perspective. 

However, most of my week was spectacular!  I met again with Stan, who never ceases to amaze me.  In our practice for the baptismal interview, he bore very powerful testimony of the huge change the gospel has made in his life, "not in monetary gains, or in health, but in helping [him] not focus so much on the material things of life, and find the spiritual things we all need."  As we watched the movie about the first vision with him, he expressed that he had doubts about Joseph Smith at first, but that he knows now that Joseph Smith really was a prophet.  He said he was so grateful that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith so that he could have it in his life to give him guidance, direction, peace, assurance and strength today.  I can do nothing but echo his already strong testimony, and add a second witness to his, that God is our Heavenly Father, and He restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith because He loves us.  He has a plan for all of us. He knows our strengths and weaknesses.  As I learn more every day about my own strengths and weaknesses, I'm so blessed to know that He already knows, and has prepared a way for me to keep his commandments, and to grow because of my trials, as well as through the happy times.

I hope that everyone at home is well and happy.  Keep learning and loving!  I wish you all could be learning and loving just the way I do every day here!

Love always,

P.S. I'll just write a few thoughts in response to the email I got earlier. 

I don't know if Singaporeans go all out for Valentines day.  I've been in Malaysia for a while now, but I think Singaporeans probably celebrate most holidays that Americans celebrate.  If it can be made into a big deal, or if it will get people to spend their money at malls, it's probably big in Singapore.

I think I can handle most of the criticism I get.  The stuff about my food is not really important, and hasn't changed my diet at all.  I was surprised, myself, that people would think that eating fruit was girly [it’s an Asian culture thing].  I've got no problems with self-worth right now.  I think I've really learned a lot about myself, and about what traits I really value by reading those letters Mom and Dad wrote to me for APIA camps in the past three years.  I'm feeling really good, now.  Thanks for supporting me through a hard couple of weeks - Sister Edwards' emails also really helped.

I gained 5 lbs in the MTC, and I've been exactly the same weight for 4 months since then.  130 lbs, with a 0.2lb deviation from day to day.  Wow.
I haven't been wearing my Taska around.  I just use the drymax socks drawstring bag.  My Taska is too nice, says everyone here.  It makes it look like I'm carrying expensive computer equipment.  I'll wait for another area to pull it out again.  I'm fine for now.  The only thing I miss is the rain fly.  I've been lucky, so nothing's been ruined yet. :)

Thanks for the experience, Mom, about the junior companion.  I'm still the junior companion, but I do feel sometimes that things could be done in a better way.  I try hard to not vocalize in an obnoxious or know-it-all way, and I'm still perfectly content to be the junior companion, but I feel a little more pressure to step up, because of my district leader calling.  I'm going to ask my zone leaders (of whom Elder Black is one) about what I can do to help move forward confidently and lovingly, without being irritating, and without losing sight of what really matters.  One thing I completely agree with, and I feel like I learned, through no particular experience this week, is that you can't force a miracle from the Lord.  

Thanks for your loving words, and I hope you know that I love you all more than I express!

Chinese New Year = Hongbao's yay! 
Hongbao (red envelopes) are a tradition at this time of year.  a small sum of money is put in each of them, and given away to unmarried people. Unusual, but hey, I'm not complaining!

Spiderman and I pore over the maps of Johor.