Thursday, May 29, 2014

What would Jesus do?


To be real, this week has been hard.  We had three appointments, which did a little to break up the long hours spent at home on the couch or at my desk.  I struggled knowing how to use my time this week.  I had time to finish organizing our area book, which was in a dismal state (there are actually three binders), and to begin calling people contained in it.  One tender mercy I've seen is that people here actually answer their phones, and the majority of people will actually talk to me.  I talked to a lot of people over the phone and I wasn't able to set any definite appointments to meet them, but it still gave me a feeling of accomplishment to some degree.

The big question of this week has been "What would Jesus do?"  I find that asking myself this question frequently helps me to focus on the doctrines, not just the applications.  That is, why I make the choices I do, not just going through the motions.  It also keeps me focused on finding what's most important, what I truly want to stand for, and who I want to become.
This week was also characterized a lot of opposition to virtually everything I'd ever been taught was right.  I was encouraged to lower my standards, and was told plainly that a missionary who doesn't obey like I want to is a better missionary.  There were so many voices bombarding me from all directions that it was hard to hear the voice of the Spirit.  (see "The Voice of the Spirit" Mormon Message - it's my favorite!)  The only times I was able to feel any sort of assurance and confidence was as I listened to primary songs in Chinese.  I'm surprised at how much guidance and simple truth I felt as I listened and prayed about the things I learned from those inspired songs.

I want you, Mom, Dad, and all my family, to know how much I appreciate your patience and diligence in teaching me to live the gospel when I was young.  The truths that you testified to me of, by word and action, and helped me to live, have sustained me through hard times thus far.  I know now why there are so many comparisons of the gospel to a strong foundation.  I really have felt the testimony I have been building from my early years support me, and give me a place to stand in which I can be firm and faithful.  I know it is through the loving teachings and examples of my parents and family members that I was prepared in ways that I didn't realize.  THANK YOU ALL!  I cannot say enough to express my real feelings, but I love you so much!

I love you all!  Thank you for all the help and support you give me through you letters and prayers!

I want to write so much more, but nothing is coming.  There have been a few interesting events I could tell you about:

Finding a rhinoceros beetle hugging the tire of one Elder's bike as he went to get on it one morning.

Going almost every night to eat "fruit bowl" shaved ice and fruit.

Being invited to play the trumpet at the branch activity this coming Saturday.

Making a birthday breakfast of cinnamon French toast and honey bacon wraps for Elder Broadhead's birthday.  I wanted to surprise him on the morning of his birthday, so I made breakfast with Elder Berger instead of exercising.  He was really surprised, because it turned out that the bacon I had bought was actually steamboat pork strips, which are to be boiled and not eaten for breakfast.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Transferes, Turtles, and Gawai

Hi Family!
I just found out transfer news:  I'm staying here with Elder Broadhead in Sibu!  Elder Hobbs' companion, our district leader, who's spent his entire mission here (8 months) is moving farther into east Malaysia.  Other than that, our house is unchanged.

Well, I'm a little thrown off my game by all the excitement over transfer news, and all the other people I just emailed as fast as I could.  I don't have a lot to say that I didn't say last week.
It was SOO fun to face-time you all (is that a verb now?) last week!!  Thanks for arranging so that you all could see and talk to me!  It was, as it always is, a great boost to my morale for the week!
I realized I didn't actually give you answers to your questions very well last week.  You asked, what things to people do/say here that are strange or culturally different.  right?
1. People communicate in multiple languages in one sentence.  Whichever language comes to mind first, or whichever language has the better word at a given time is what comes out.  Also, there is a whole language of grunts and "uh" and "ahw" -ing that I had to pick up on.  You're in for some miscommunications when I get home.
2. People seem to be afraid of the rain.  They'll cancel indoor activities, even, if it begins to fall.  "Will you come to church this Sunday?"  "Sure, Elder, if it's not raining."
3.  Discipline.  Spoken in Chinese by the child's grandmother:  "If you hit that Elder again, I'm going to smack you silly!  You can't hit people!"  He got smacked.  That would be a hard way for me to learn the intended lesson, I think.
4. Food:  It's like people will die without it... oh.  But at activities/mealtimes, more pictures are taken of the food than of people or anything that would help them remember the event.  I've just never seen people so absorbed by what's on their plate.
5. For the natives here, (not so much the Chinese), furniture is just uncomfortable.  When things get serious in a discussion, everyone goes to the floor, if they weren't already sitting there.
You asked, "What was your biggest adventure?"  Besides my plane flight into Borneo through a lightning storm, I'd say:
Being followed down a smoky alleyway at night by three guys.

or  Exploring the jungle in my area.
or Hefting a Brazillian Snapping turtle by the tail.

Well, I had more to share with you but I forgot to photograph my short letter from my journal.  Next week, I hope I'll have more to say. 

One special point: Rosie (you remember her from my letters in JB) was baptized this week!!!  She sent me an email that showed me how much her life has changed since she heard the message of the restoration, and how much joy and peace she felt at her baptismal service.  I was very fortunate to be granted permission to speak with her over the phone this week and congratulate her.  It was an experience I'll treasure as one of the most special of my mission.  I was filled with real joy when I heard the news and was able to talk with her again! 

I know our Heavenly Father is watching over us, and He knows each of us personally.  He wants what is best for us, and he will lead us to it if we are willing to listen to the Holy Ghost's promptings.  I'm glad Rosie has, and I hope that we can all remember and follow her example!

Tons of Love,

Guess What?...

These guys were heavy!   30+ Kilo's. and Mean!  I'm impressed Elder Broadhead lifted him up with just one hand and held him there!


I'm not sure what's actually celebrated at Gawai.  I think it's alcohol.  Luckily, our church party didn't have any of that there.  Enjoy the pictures!


Elders' Eating Contest!  This was the craziest Church party I've ever seen!


Part of the traditional celebration is shown here by the clothing and the tree.  Candy or treats are tied to the tree, then one by one, adults dance around the tree and cut off treats with the sword and throw them to the children!


Elder Hobbs and Elder Broadhead take part!

Elder Berger

Elder Baer

I think this is an Iban holiday.  It was really cool to see their traditional clothes and games!


Chinese Temples and Roti.  Yum!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Safety First

The Elders are asked to teach a class on safety and emergency preparedness. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

Dear Family,

I can’t believe another week has gone by already!  I’m never going to figure out how time can pass so quickly when it can feel ever so slow at the same time.  My week was made up of a few exciting events, spaced unevenly amidst many hours of blank white slots in the planner.  Area Book work [reviewing notes from past missionaries about past investigators] is kind of like putting together a really big puzzle, but lots of pieces are missing, and the others are scattered haphazardly throughout the 3 books of considerable voluminosity.  Because it’s kind of boring, I won’t give you the specifics, but you should know that some good things came of those long hours:  a few potentials for new investigators this week, and I learned the word “voluminosity.” 

Well, while I wasn’t sitting at a desk, calling people, or cleaning up the Area Book(s), I was riding my bike through pouring rain.  This week, Sibu was hit by the coolest lightning storm I’ve ever seen, and definitely the coolest one I’ve ever pedaled a 21-speed through.  I was kind of afraid to stop and get pictures of it, but I’m confident that I could have captured some incredible shots of lightning stretching like a skeletal hand across the horizon, and the forest canopy silhouetted black against an electrically-illuminated night sky.  Instead, I splashed back home as fast as I could.

On the 1st of May, Malaysia celebrated Labor Day.  Our branch had a breakfast BBQ at a beautiful park.  This park is built right up the side of the tallest hill in Sibu.  There aren’t that many hills here, so it was cool to be able to see across the entire countryside after only a short climb.  We picked up trash at the park, played water balloon toss using towels, and took many pictures of the beautiful landscape.  I hope you can see the pictures I included of the bridge and all the stairs:  they reminded me of Kung Fu Panda.

This week, I also got an unusual amount of time at the piano.  I was able to play much more these last few days, and it felt so refreshing.  It felt like a part of me that has lain dormant and un-exercised for a while, and being able to play the piano for a long time last P-day seemed to somehow answer my questions about who I really am.  It is just one of those things I can’t put into words.

As for the events of my week, that’s about all I’ve got for you.  I hope the pictures can be worth at least a few words and help you see a little be through my eyes.

Something I’ve been asking myself this week is, “What does it mean to be meek?  Am I meek?  How do I know?”  I found some great answers in Elder Ulisses Soares’ talk, “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart,” given in October 2013.  I learned that “meekness is the quality of those who are God-fearing, righteous. Humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.  Those who possess this attribute are willing to follow Jesus Christ, and their temperament is calm, docile, tolerant, and submissive.”  These are qualities that I’ve always valued, but I struggled to know if these values were skewed, because they don’t seem to be important to many people I’ve seen.  I’ve wondered if the Lord is testing my meekness, or at least giving me the opportunity to learn about meekness, by giving me the challenges I face now.  As I become meek, Elder Soares promises that I will be able to leave my weaknesses behind, reject the evil influences in my life, control my anger, and develop the attributes of my Savior.  I don’t feel like I’ve ever had anger issues, but there is more to meekness than just that.  I hope that the Lord will help me to develop more meekness and lowliness of heart as I continue to serve.  It may require challenging times in order to learn, but my hope is that I’ll become a more refined tool in the Lord’s hands as I let Him teach me in times of trial.

Well, let me know what you all learned from the Lord this week – I’m anxious to hear it!

Love and prayers,

P.S. As I was riding home from church, someone in a car pulled a careless move and cut across two lanes to turn left suddenly.  A man on a moto braked as hard as he could, but was too late to avoid the car.  He hit the back of the car and rolled off of his bike out into the middle of the road.  I dropped my bike and ran over to see if he was alright.  He got up quickly and looked around, a little stunned.  I helped him gather the things that had fallen from his pockets as he hit the asphalt.  He was actually in pretty good shape, but just shaken up a little.  His motorbike will need a little straightening out, but he's alright.  I asked him a few questions:  "Are you okay?  Where are you going?  How far away do you live?  (Sir or Madam, are you in need of medical resistance?)"  He was just on his way home.  He seemed totally fine, but just really angry at the driver that had already fled the scene.  He resumed his course quickly, and rode away before I knew what to do.  I was happy that I could offer a little service, or at least be there for him, in case there had been a more serious emergency.  I hope it gives him a favorable impression of missionaries.

P.P.S. I love getting mail from all the kids, even if I don't have a lot of time to respond to everyone.  I still have to read all the stuff you sent me this week.  I kind of got a slow start today.  I love showing the other Elders  the EE&ER installments.  Most of them have loved seeing them, and they all say Noelle should publish a book or a missionary calendar!  Lately, I show them to people at my house, and nobody seems to understand.  In chinese, there's an idiom, 对牛弹琴 "Dui Niu Tan Qin" which means, (literally) "playing the lute to a cow," or, "your audience doesn't appreciate your talent."
I still laugh!

Missionaries in traffic.  When you zoom in, can you tell who's having a good time and who's not?

Our chapel at sunset

Elder Hobbs with a gift from a member:  A home-taxidermy-ed pufferfish.  Wow.

The beautiful park at Bukit Aup.  We had our branch Labor Day activity here.

So . . . many . . . stairs.

It wasn't actually as bad as in Kung Fu Panda, but I thought, "hey, maybe lots of stairs up steep hills is a real thing in Asia."

Well, I thought it was kind of a fun thing to see.

This is something we don't have back home.  (You can read the sign, right?)

 Baloon toss

Eating "Fruitbowl" makes up for everything that disappointed earlier in the day! Elder Broadhead and Elder Parker.

This is a sunny and cloudy day outside our gate.

Seeing through my eyes after a ride in the rain

"One Black Beetle"

Mom:  Where did you take this?  in your apartment?   Was it alive? Or a specimen somewhere?

Brennan: other Elders found it dead in their driveway. [See, it was real, and big.]
I found a crazy-looking caterpillar that I was too rushed to take a picture of.  It looked hard and black with orange thorns all over it.  it had an orange head with black antlers like those on a young deer!  Google it if you have time.

Mom:  Did it look like this?  A Malayan Eggfly.

Brennan:  Yes. Wow.  I left before I knew where it went.  I hope it didn't crawl into our house somewhere...

Mom: Don't worry -- here is what the female Malayan Eggfly caterpillarturns into -- wings up and wings down

Brennan:  Oh.  cool!  Something so terrifying can turn into something so pretty.