Monday, September 29, 2014


Dear Family,
To answer your questions about Wendy, she got permission to be baptized, but then her previous church's pastors and members told her a lot of bad things about the Church.  She's having a really hard time deciding what to do right now.  She's not coming to church anymore, and in fact, she's attending the other church again.  She's meeting with teachers from the other church and she says she can't read the Book of Mormon anymore.  She doesn't want to pray in our lessons anymore, and whenever we ask her a question about how she feels or what she's looking for or what the real reasons for her holding back are, she just says, "I don't know."    She says she feels in her heart that what we teach is true and that in her heart she wants to be baptized, but nothing she's doing is showing it.  Elder South and I have been pretty frank and clear in our recent lessons, while still showing our love for her and testifying of the Lord's love for her.  I pray for her every day, and I focus all of my study time on what to do to help her see clearly and feel the Holy Ghost, but we've come to the point where we can do almost nothing more.  We'll need to have a "Do or Drop" lesson with her this week. All the missionaries in Sibu know Wendy, and they've all been rooting for her, so this is disappointing for more than just Elder South and me.
That less-active member has been coming back to church, and has been welcomed by old friends.  She even brought two of her barbers to a church activity one night last week!  She says she really wants to find some other long-time less-active members, of whom she has a photograph, and bring them back to church, too!  However, she's always outstationed or too busy to meet with us.  We learned the importance of following up yesterday, from Elder Ballard's recent conference talk, so we'll keep trying to meet!

Elder South is such a wonderful companion! He is really focused on helping other people. Not only does he offer and render service to whomever we're around, but he is very perceptive as to the needs of our investigators and branch members. It makes it very easy to take action toward helping them fulfill their needs.

Elder South's Chinese is coming along.  He's getting pretty good at recognizing characters after seeing them a few times on his flashcards.  I still have to translate back and forth for him and for our investigators in lessons, but he's learning very quickly.  He's got a great language study plan, and I know he'll be dedicated to learning it.  He actually worked on a big construction project in China before the mission, so he's very motivated to learn the language well so that he can use it again when he goes back to China later.
Before the mission, Elder South traveled a lot, and worked with his family building monolithic (all in one piece of cement) domes.  You can look at his father's company's website at:  He's a lot of fun, and likes "smart people humor."  He quotes Oscar occasionally, much to my delight, and then I quote Pirates of Penzance or Homestar Runner back to him.  We enjoy it!

This Friday and Saturday, we went to Kuching (the "capitol" of Sarawak) for New Missionary Training with President and Sister Mains and the AP's.  They told us all about teaching for understanding, being bold in making our purpose known, and focusing on the commitment to be baptized.  President Mains gave a training, very similar to the one that he gave when I was the new missionary in his training meeting, about the covenant path that everyone must walk in order to make it back to Heavenly Father.  During the training, I caught myself thinking, "He makes it sound so simple!"  I resolved to change my teaching to be more plain, bold, and simple, by teaching the steps of the covenant path (baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, receiving either and ordination to the priesthood or blessings/ordinances through priesthood power, and temple covenants, then faithfully keeping these covenants until the end of our mortal trial.)  I believe that this will help people I work with to see not only the way to go, but why we need to walk that path and what blessings will surely come of it.  Heavenly Father has made his expectations clear, and he invites us to come unto him by following this path.  He'll give us the help that we need, but he won't force us into anything. 

It gives me comfort to know that as we taught Wendy, we made God's expectations clear and invited her and helped her, but now the choice is hers to make.  I hope and pray that she'll be sensitive to the Holy Ghost as she decides this week what to do.  I wish I could just take my knowledge and testimony and instill it in her until all her doubts were gone, however I know how important it is to exercise agency on our faith so that one will gain their own testimony.  We'll be very thankful for all of your prayers for Wendy and our struggling branch here.
So Much Love,
P.S.  It's really easy to reply to questions at the beginning of your emails, so keep them coming!  What else do you want to know?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Zone conference and past pictures

Hi I'm online, just waiting for transfer news this morning.   AAAUGH  the suspense!!
Love you all,

September 22, 2014
Dear Allayalls,
This week was taken up mostly by Zone Conference.  We left on Wednesday at some hour of the morning, which my eyes were too blurry to distinguish on a clock.  We got to Singapore with several hours to spare, so we celebrated Elder Christensen (my AMAZING district leader)'s birthday at Baja Fresh, eating the tastiest Mexican food I can remember.  We contacted people all along the way to the Stake Center, then to Little India, where I finally found some of my favorite 0.1 size pens! Yay!  I realized on the third day in Singapore that I'd written the wrong phone number on the pass-along cards I gave out with the Singapore Chinese Elders' names on them.  Hopefully, nobody who calls will be scared away by speaking to the Chinese Sisters instead.
It was great to see old friends, like Elder Wang, Elder Tzeng, Elder Wadsworth, and many others at Zone Conference, but my favorite parts were the trainings we received.  I just feel so Spiritually recharged after hearing from President and Sister Mains and their assistants.  I had several questions about what to do in certain situations (with a companion, in a lesson, in my studies, etc.) that were answered so well by what I learned at Zone Conference.  The coolest thing is that I believe I was doing something right because I learned more from what I felt than from what the speakers said.
Training has been going very well lately.  I've been making so much progress and I'm sure Elder South is proud of me.  I'm not the best learner, at times, but Elder South is a fantastic trainer!!  If I've learned one thing this transfer, it's that obedience is key!  I don't know how many times the Lord has tried to get it through my thick skull that He's completely willing to bless me and the people I work with as long as I'm obedient.  I felt that I was totally convinced of that at the beginning of my mission, but that I'd slowly been losing sight of the fact.  I've not been blatantly disobedient, but Elder South has helped me realize some of my bad habits, and is truly helping me to overcome them.  xI like being his companion because he doesn't just help me see where I can improve, but he actively builds me up and is right there with me as I try to repent and become better.  He has fixed firmly in his mind a vision of the person he wants to be and the companionship we have the potential to become, and we are working toward it together!
What Else do you want to know?  I'm happy to write to you, but in the sweat of emailing and suspense of waiting for transfer news, I'm prone to forget.  let me know!

Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated at Family Home Evening by lighting lanterns.  We also floated the kind of lanterns that you see in Tangled, but I couldn't get any good pictures of those.  Sorry!

Oh yeah, we went to Kapit, this little jungle town down about 3 hours upriver of Sibu last Monday.  It was quite an adventure to take the express river boats, try not to get distracted by the Kung Fu movies playing on board, arrive at a dock along the forested river bank, walk through a crowded market full of things I thought no one would ever buy, pack into a "bus," travel through the mountains (mountains, what?!  okay, they were tall hills), and teach a long-time member family at their room in a longhouse in the jungle! 
Here are few pictures of the trip!
Scenes of riverside life in Sarawak



At the top of the hill, and racing down with kids!

So, I'm staying in Sibu with Elder South!  This means that I will have been in Sibu nearly 1/3 of my mission at the end of this next transfer!

Have a great week!! Bye

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quick photo

Hello, Sister Baer!

My wife and I are winding up our first week in the Singapore Mission. It has been a whirlwind since we stepped off the plane last week.

We attended church in Sibu where we met Elder Baer for the first time. We didn't have much time to chat, but I did make a point of letting him know who I was. He is a great young man and a dedicated missionary. I am impressed with him. You've raised him well.

I had the chance to grab a picture of him and his companion, Elder South, after our zone conference in Singapore this evening. I don't know the name of the Elder in the middle. He just kind of sneaked in.

May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.

Elder Bodell

Monday, September 15, 2014

Into the jungle!

Hi All,
This P-Day was probably the most experiences I've ever had (in Sibu).  Our Zone took a trip to Kapit, a town about three hours away from Sibu by express speedboat.  You know how people dream about going on a jungle tour by river in a little boat, then stopping off at a little town in the backwoods of Borneo and spending the day photographing exotic animals and eating fruits nobody's ever heard of and lodging in a longhouse of local tribespeople whom they can only communicate with via native interpreter?  If not, then maybe people don't actually dream about that, but that's what I did today!
It was cool to me to think that ever since I was 5 or 6 years old, I've wanted to explore a tropical rainforest, and my mission is helping me live my dream and teach the gospel at the same time!  Today, I was a few stones throws from parts of the planet that no humans have ever set foot on and that no human eye has ever seen.  (I mean, it probably is just the same as places I went today that have been seen by human eyes, but you never know!)

We went to Kapit to meet a couple of long-time, endowed members of the Church and their children.  They've not had contact with the Church or missionaries in a long time, so it was an awesome experience to take a trip for hours into the jungle and spend some time with them.  I don't speak their language, and I only understood some of the words they said, but I  could feel the strength of their faith as we shared our testimonies with them, and they shared with us.  It was a beautiful opportunity to meet members of the Church who were so dedicated to living worthily every day even without the support of others, and it strengthened my own testimony very much.
To show my love for the Lord, I've continued in a habit of personal prayer and companionship prayer throughout the day.  Elder South and I pray frequently together throughout each day, and I feel the Spirit guiding us more and more.  Although I do feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost more consistently, I do have more questions now, both about how to be a better trainer and companion to Elder South and about how to live up to the high standards of Preach My Gospel.  I've felt several answers come to me because I have slowed down and remembered to pray sincerely.

We have begun watching the Preach My Gospel training segments at every opportunity.  Any time that we are in the house but aren't planning or conducting studies, the DVDs are playing and we are learning.  I've realized that I'm much farther from being a Preach My Gospel missionary than I thought.  We are striving to apply everything we've learned from watching these DVDs, together.

I've never had so much to do in Sibu before!  We've had a flood of "referrals" from the other missionaries in our area, and are trying to keep up with everyone that the Lord has suddenly put into our hands.  Just this week, we found a family of four new investigators through personal contacting - the first time I've actually seen results from knocking gates!  I'm excited to meet with them again tonight and help them continue learning how the gospel will bless their family.  Our recently reactivated sister has brought a few friends to Church activities and is anxious to help us find long-lost members in Sibu.  Things seem to be looking up, to me, but at the same time, I've never felt like a more inadequate missionary.

I'm so thankful for the chance to work with Elder South.  I wish I'd been as strong as he is when I was in training!  He is so brilliant and creative and dedicated to living the standards of Preach My Gospel exactly.  I've learned from this last week that I have a lot of repenting to do!  I've discovered several ways that I'm not a Preach My Gospel missionary, much to my disappointment.  Because I think I've been laboring under several false precedents in Sarawak, I found a few things about which I disagreed with Elder South.  Every time that I found myself resisting an idea or suggestion from him, however, I discovered that he was giving me an opportunity to change and become more like a Preach My Gospel missionary.  He really lifts me up and encourages me to live to my potential.  This change is hard for me to make, but worth the effort, as I learn that although I haven't been consciously doing wrong, it's time to do things right.

For an update on Wendy, she got permission to be taught and baptized, but has been anti-ed by her previous church's pastors.  Her testimony is still strong, I feel, but shaken a little by people she trusted.  Please continue to pray for her!!
Thank you for all your help and love and support!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Mooncake Festival!!

Dear Family,
Happy Mooncake Festival.... day...  I don't really know what's going on or why it's going on, but today is celebrated with mooncakes.  Look it up, and then if it's interesting, let me know.  
Here's a link for anyone interested:  Mid-Autumn Festival

This week was packed full of ... stuff!  I think it was because Elder South and I dedicated ourselves to working more effectively.  I believe I tried harder in this week than in any other week of my mission to accomplish the weekly goals that we set. We called potentials and missionary referrals, went to the homes of investigators every day, worked with members and our district leader more than any other week, and still couldn't pull our actuals up to meet our goals this week. Lately, we have been trying to plan smart, so we've been hitting our goals rather well. This week, we didn't really increase our goals at all, but found it extra difficult to achieve them. I know that goals throughout our zone and our mission are consistently not being hit, and I hate being part of the problem, but now I can understand what it feels like to have done absolutely everything I know how to do, praying for help along the way, and getting out and working at every possible opportunity, and still suffering disappointments.  (Pretty much all of our appointments fell through, and we had a member come to a couple of appointments to find that no one was there to let us in.  Ugh.)
I'm not highly demoralized, but Elder South and I can see that the work here is going to require all that we've got, and we're making goals and plans always which will help us give our utmost.
One cool thing from this week was eating dinner at a Schmancy restaurant with a semi-investigator.  He is apparently quite well-off, and took us out to have a huge meal in honor of the Beus' approaching departure.  That was probably the single most exciting meal of my life.  We were greeted by a horde of Chinese restaurant staff, which guided us through the large empty building to our saved table.  For the first time, it was everything I'd pictured "Chinese" being like: a ton of friendly workers, pink and red cloths everywhere, fancy ornaments and carvings on the walls, and a too-fancy-for-just-plain-old-you eight-course meal. 
I thought the appetizers were fancy: boiled peanuts in super scrumptious soy sauce, but after everyone had arrived, they brought out the real appetizers: so many dumplings, on a swan-shaped plate, tiered like a wedding cake, on a bed of lettuce grass, cucumbers, lemons and oranges.  Yowza!
After that, we had a course of mushroom slabs with sea cucumber in gravy.  Next came the shark fin soup (what?!? I never thought I'd eat that in my life!  I certainly can't afford it.) Next, spring rolls (/egg rolls).  Next, some of the most tender pork I've ever had here. Next, a platter of crab legs and lobster.  Eating the crab leg was like eating a stalk off of a rose bush, but more prickly.  Ouch!  Next, a steaming hunk of some giant fish that allegedly costs $1000 Ringgit, served to us on a silver platter over an open flame.  Dessert was a welcome relief: cupcakes and yam pudding.  I think.
The whole time we were eating, about a hundred staff members (okay, I exaggerate) stood around us, pouring more fizzy drinks into our goblets whenever we made it past half-empty, and furnishing hot towels for our hands and faces.  This was a dinner to remember!
I wish I could remember more things about this week.   I think I'll just have to photograph some of my journal entries and let you read them.  I feel I've learned so much about how to follow the Spirit lately.  Did I tell you about my experience last week where we knelt down to pray in the last hour of our proselyting day, and I simply couldn't focus on anything because I had a vision of Elder South and myself walking down the street in the pouring rain?  In that image, I didn't know what we were doing, but we were both smiling and happy.  After we got off our knees, I turned to Elder South and said, "Do you want to go outside now?"  We both looked out the window, but we couldn't see the night because of all the cats and dogs falling down.  We left our umbrella and bags inside and splashed off away from our apartment, to knock some gates.  We didn't see any miracles that night, but we had a good time together and I felt that I had followed a prompting.  (We did meet Sunny, an Indian man who spoke Hindi.  I thought, "Drat!  Where's Evan when you need him?")
I know the Holy Ghost speaks to all of us, if we listen for His voice.  I know that He will always guide us to make choices that will bring us closer to Christ and help other people along the way.  I hope you are all learning how the Spirit speaks to you, and choosing to follow His promptings.  I know that whatever we sacrifice in order to follow a prompting from the Holy Ghost will always be worth it.
So much Love,