Monday, August 25, 2014

SB Email (South, Baer . . . )

August 25, 2014
Dear Everyone,
It looks like the family reunion at Yellowstone was a lot of fun!  Thanks so much for taking so many pictures for me!  I hope you all had a great time and I'm glad that everyone was safe.  (When I went to Yellowstone, I was so afraid of falling into a boiling something or other.  I don't even remember if the boardwalks come close to the natural attractions or not.  I'm also glad I didn't hear anything about getting pulled over or having any accidents on the way home. (Was it coming back from Yellowstone that we got pulled over on 200 West?)
I'm still doing well here in Sibu.  Elder South and I are working together very well, and I'm learning so much from him.  He's similar to me in more ways than I thought at first, and we are finding a lot in common and building a great relationship of trust.  I still feel like an inadequate "father" for him, but we press on, trying every day to be better.  Our studies are going a little overtime, consistently, because he asks a lot of great questions and I talk waaay too much in reply.  That's one skill I've been trying to hone on my mission: getting effectively to the point without wordy wandering.
Elder South and I have a vision of finding and teaching through the members of the branch, so we've spent a little more time getting to know them, (actually, I feel like I know many of them pretty well, now, but I just keep getting new companions to introduce to them), and asking for names of their friends or colleagues.  With everyone who will trust us with the name of their friend, we will combine our efforts to meet and begin to teach their friend.  We want to share missionary experiences with the members, not a divide between "separate but equal" member missionary work and full time missionary work.
At times when we're not meeting with active or less-active members, we have been contacting on the streets of the city.  We've focused on beginning to testify immediately - find when you teach, teach when you find.  We have passed out a lot of cards and talked with many people.  As we prayerfully did so, we saw a miracle: A NEW INVESTIGATOR!!  It has been too long without a new investigator in the Chinese branch, so I'm very excited about this.  We met an elderly lady crossing the street downtown.  We talked to her for a moment and explained that we teach about Jesus Christ.  She agreed to have us come to her house the next evening.  With the help of an active member, we met her at her home on Sunday evening.  We found that she wants to learn about prayer, so we'll be teaching her how to pray at our next visit.  I can tell it will be a long process for her to learn and understand our message, but I know that the Lord can bring great things about from small and simple beginnings.
I feel so blessed to see His hand at work every day.  Sometimes it's disappointing that I don't see more rapid progress in the Chinese areas where I've served, but I think that the things I'm learning and the miracles that I have seen far outweigh all the setbacks that I face.  I love being a missionary!!
I love you all so much!!

It's a Boy!

August 18, 2014
Dear Family,
It's a boy!!  I'm now a proud trainer!  My new companion's name is Elder South.  He just arrived in the mission after 9 weeks in the MTC.  His enthusiasm takes me back to great times in Provo with Elder Fletcher and all the MTC gang who are now in Taiwan and California.  Elder South is from Menan, Idaho.  He's the youngest of 9 kids, so he's been looking forward to a mission for a long time, and has learned a lot from his siblings' mission experiences already.  He's worked in Canada, most of the States, and China with his dad's construction company, so he's not living away from home for the first time.  His whole family is musical, and so he knows a lot of the same music that I listened to before the mission, and we love the same musicals.  Cool!
Elder South's energy is contagious, and it will be a big help to us here in Sibu! feel totally unqualified to be his trainer, but I'll do the best I can to fulfill this calling from the Lord.  I think we'll have a lot of fun, and get lots of work done!
Us at Wendy's - Elder South is right behind me.

Elder Zeng thinks my glasses are funny when we come out of 
Wendy's air-conditioned environment onto the rainy streets.
It was sad saying goodbye to Elder Durrant after only one transfer together, but I know that he's going to do great and have fun in Ipoh!  We traveled to Singapore together, and there we met lots of old mission friends.  We all had a great time, exploring and contacting in Chinatown then eating a classic favorite spicy Chinese dinner.  It was so good to see Elder Wang, Elder Fletcher and Elder McCarthy, Elder Wadsworth and Elder Zeng again, among many other friends in Singapore!

So far, this week has been taken up with planning and making a vision for our area.  We'll be continually working with members and less actives.  Our branch has over 150 members, but only about 25 attend church, so we'll be trying to help reactivate those who have fallen away, and look for opportunities to share the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ with them, with their friends, and with their family members.  Elder South commented this morning about how much of missionary work is actually planning and calling and desk work.  I'm sorry that his first impression of being in the field is being in chair behind a desk all day, but we both feel that it is important to have a solid vision, backed up by goals and plans, before we hit the streets.  This way, we'll always be able to answer the question "What is our purpose in doing [specific activity] today?"  In essence, the way we've planned is such that we cover the "Why," the "What" and the "How"  questions of our missionary work, and give us a direction to take as we work.

Recently, with Wendy, we've been reading the Book of Mormon at every visit.  I'm afraid that she won't be quite ready in time for her baptismal date in a few weeks.  However, I want to remember that we're not teaching just to check off boxes in our area book, but to help her gain a witness from the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true and that the Heavenly Father will bless her life immeasurably as she lives the first principles of the Gospel.  We want to help her set a spiritual foundation that will last a lifetime of activity and progression in the Church, so we're taking it slowly, not going faster than she can understand.  She can't read Chinese very well, so we read a verse with her, and then she explains what it means.  We draw connections to her life, and let her ask her questions about Lehi, Nephi, and what it means for her.  Her testimony is beginning to grow, and we hope that we can help her nurture it by reading the Book of Mormon with her constantly and encouraging her to seek a spiritual witness of it's truthfulness.

Thanks for all your prayers on behalf of our branch members and for us to find new investigators!  I love you all so much!!


Sunday, August 17, 2014


11 August 2014
What?  I'm going to be training a new Chinese Elder from the MTC!!  Elder Durrant is going to Ipoh, in West Malaysia.  He'll be opening a new area for Chinese, and training a new Elder!  He only got here 1 transfer ago, and he's never been in Sarawak before, so I thought he'd be staying a while.  Nhope.  Dang.  It's been fun to be with Elder Durrant, and he's just so great that it is going to be really hard to send him away.  but AUUEHGh!  I'm training!!
I've been kind of looking forward to training a new Elder, but I expect it will be difficult.  I think Sibu is a great place to be trained, so I'm actually excited.

And Elder Hobbs is still in Sibu, training a new Elder.  We'll have a lot of fun, I think!  Elder Hobbs has been in Sibu now for 5 transfers, so after these six weeks, he'll have been here for 9 months!

Good stuff and birthday fun

11 August 2014

Dear Family and All of You,

This week seemed to be just one long-drawn-out, exhausting event.  I can only remember the good parts, so let me tell you all about them:
Last Sunday we visited a member who hadn't been to church in probably 15 years.  We found out about her through another member we visited the previous week.  She set up an appointment and brought us and the branch president to her friend's house.  We had a nice visit and they all talked in Foochow, which I still don't understand, but she decided to come to church yesterday!  Not only that, she found that she had old friends in the branch, and they sat in the chapel after sacrament meeting, catching up on a lot of things they've missed over the years.  She even said she'll be coming to church every week now!  Yaayy for member missionary work!!
Wendy is still learning with us about 4-5 times in a week.  She's Malay-educated, so she's still learning to read Chinese.  It's slow going as we read the Book of Mormon together, but I love it!  She has such a willing heart and is so good at sharing her questions and concerns with us.  It's just a joy to work with her!  I'll let you know what happens as things develop.  Or, you could just read 1 Nephi 3 if you want to know what we're learning next.  Don't spoil it for me, though! :)
Happy Birthday to Elder Durrant!  His Birthday was Friday of this week.  We celebrated by going on companion exchanges.  I thought I wouldn't see him all day, but we met up at our lesson with Wendy, so that she could give him a birthday present.  We celebrated our reunion on Saturday with ice cream and cake, and I broke out the napkins that you sent me.  Hilaarious!
Thank you for the package! It is always great to get little pieces of home.  I absolutely LOVE the jellybeans, and I think the napkins are just the greatest.  I'll have to enlist the help of Elder and Sister Beus in order to make the brownies.  Our apartment doesn't have a large oven anymore.  We've got a small toaster oven, which is great for garlic bread, but makes for unique cakes.  You can see from the pictures I'll send how Elder Durrant's cake turned out:beautifully blackened on top, and with molten chocolate batter running out of cracks in the bottom. When he put in on a plate, we both laughed hard because it jiggled like jello, but managed to keep it's shape.  ("I have some loose birthday cake, okay."  wobble wobble.)  It was deliciously unhealthy!
Back to Friday's exchanges, I went out with Elder Sutherland (not to be confused with Elder Sutherland the Chinese Elder) to a far-away area for some faith finding.  In case you haven't done a lot of faith finding, it means that in companionship prayer you tell Heavenly Father exactly where you'll be and what you're trying to accomplish, then ask for His help to find someone who will become a new investigator.  We parked our bikes at the end of a long row of terrace houses [is that what they're called?] (one really big, long building with partitions and separate gates for different residents) and then I offered a prayer.  I said that we really needed new investigators and that we would be knocking down this row, trying to find someone who needed the gospel.  I asked that Heavenly Father would help us to find someone to teach.  The street was deserted, it was the afternoon time when no one's home from work, it was pouring rain, and the houses were so new that not all of them had residents.  These were small matters for the Lord, however.  We knocked on the very first gate, and out walked a girl about our age.  I explained (in probably the most boring way possible, sheesh) that we were missionaries and our purpose in coming was to share a message that blesses families.  I asked if we could share our message with her.  I was completely caught off-guard when she said, "right now?"  and, "Is this important?"  I stuttered, "Yes, this is very important."  She told us her parents weren't home but that we should come back on Sunday.
Well, Elder Sutherland and Elder Christensen went back on Sunday (because she spoke better Malay than Chinese), and said that it was the most Preach My Gospel perfect missionary lesson ever taught.  They had a branch member who became this family's friend right away, they followed many of the recommendations in Preach My Gospel about how to begin and what to teach, and they taught about the Restoration of the Gospel.  They said the family all soaked it up and were basically the perfect new investigators.  Wow!!  My testimony that the Lord is preparing people to receive the gospel was strengthened immensely from that experience, and I feel so grateful to see a miraculous answer to my prayers come so immediately.  It was so unexpected that I just laughed when the Elders told me about their meeting on Sunday night.
On a day when even my rubber shoes were starting to complain about being so drenched, and my planner was destroyed and my name cards turned to soggy lumps of pocket goo, I was skeptical that anything would be accomplished, but I was willing to try, and wiling to involve the Lord in our plans.  I know that He knows my situation and is willing to help me if I will just accept His help.  I know the same is true for everyone, and I'm so glad that I have a chance to share this message with people here!
Thank you for all the support you are to me, through your constant prayers, your yummy and funny gifts, your encouraging letters, and your outstanding examples!!  I love you all SO MUCH!!

Oh yeah . . .   One interesting thing I discovered as I read the scriptures this week:  In Jacob 7:27, the English is: "Brethren, Adieu."  The Chinese reads, "Brothers, I would that God be with all of you."