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.

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