Monday, October 20, 2014

New Investigator

20 October 2014
Hi Everyone,
Well, this week was great for some reasons and not great for others.  I have been seeing a lot more success in missionary work recently, for example: members have been coming to church a little more consistently, the same members have accepted and are living the commitments we extended to them to study the scriptures daily as a family, we are finding more new investigators, we've gotten back in touch with a wonderful less-active member and her family, we remember to extend commitments intended to help people repent and draw closer to Christ, and an investigator came to church!!  These things all make me pretty happy, but at the same time, I think Satan is working pretty hard on me, because I still have a sinking feeling that all our recent success is just superficial, and it won't really make any difference.  Things are consistently... not improving for the branch, and the people seem to have lost hope that missionary work will succeed. I'm going to need creativity to do something that's never been done before so that we will see different results than what we've seen for the last few years in Sarawak.  I've never thought that I was very good at thinking outside the box, and I'm in an especially low rut for creativity now.  I don't want to drown in this feeling, so I just keep working each day, and I try to stretch my mind to do new things.

Okay, I'll talk about our investigator now.  I'll call him Ethan.  He's the one that elder Christensen met last week.  He rode past Ethan's house, and had the impression to stop and knock there.  Ethan said that he'd seen them ride by, and heard a voice say that they were coming to talk to him.  When they knocked his door, he let them in and accepted a return appointment.  When I went there (on exchanges with Elder Christensen), he was very anxious to learn about the restoration.  When we opened the Gospel Art Book (my favorite book, aside from the Book of Mormon) to a picture of Joseph Smith, he said, "I've think I've seen his face before!  This feels important!"  We testified that Joseph Smith is, indeed, very important to everything we believe.  As we opened the Restoration pamphlet to the page with a picture of Peter, James and John conferring the Priesthood on Joseph Smith, he said, "that's the feeling I have right now - like someone's putting their hands on my head and giving me a blessing.  Is that what the Holy Ghost feels like?"  Turns out, he has that feeling a lot, especially when he reads the book of Mormon and comes to church.  He's only had the book for about a week, and he's read through Jacob!  He's accepted a baptism date in November, and he made a pretty significant sacrifice of time and comfort to come to church for the first time yesterday!  I'm so happy for him, and I know that the Lord led him to us and us to him!
Great things (miracles) happen in missionary work all the time, if I'm worthy of them.  As much as I say this, it's still hard to remember that, sometimes.  I feel so dumb when, bogged down by a hard day, I mentally put restrictions on what the Lord can do.  I think, "that probably won't happen," or "If only..."  However, I just need to remember that with God, all things are possible.  I know it's true, and I will do better at remembering that this week.  Get ready to hear about more miracles next Monday!!
Love to you all!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Holy General Conference Batman!!

13 October 2014
Dear Family,
Holy General Conference Batman!!  Every talk was just so good, I didn't know what to do.  I wanted to just write down everything they all said so I'd remember it forever, but then I remembered that there's this thing called the Gospel Library app, so it was already taken care of for me.  Yay!  Things I remember specifically were:  "Teach the power of prayer, not just the routine of prayer."  "Lord, is it I?"  and "A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder."  I was especially struck by the talks of Elder Jorg Klebingat and Richard G. Scott.  I'm definitely going to read and study those two again.  I'll probably listen to them as I eat breakfast in the morning.  Do you all have a plan for when you'll read/review the prophets' words?
A miracle happened this week:  we found five new investigators!!  These new investigators all seem super solid (knock on wood), but I believe it's because of a pattern we followed: in each lesson, just before we concluded, we asked them what they were feeling.  They all described the feelings that the Holy Ghost brings, although they didn't recognize it as the influence of the Spirit.  We testified to them that they were feeling the Holy Ghost, and that they could feel it again and again if they would read the Book of Mormon, pray to know of its truthfulness, and come to church.  We helped them identify the influence of the Spirit on them, and promised them the blessing that they would come closer to God and know with a surety that these things were true if they accepted our invitations.
They all accepted our invitations, and 3 even accepted the invitation to conference.  However, no one actually showed up.  We did have a couple branch members come watch conference, but no investigators, new or otherwise.  ;(  This morning, I was feeling very hopeless, and I had no faith in any of our investigators, because I thought too much about all the new investigators I've seen in Sibu, and how none of them have progressed to baptism.  I believe that there are prepared people here, and I'm trying to find them.  However, I'm also feeling pretty bad for not being able to contribute as much as I want to this year's baptism goal.  [The mission is falling behind on our baptism goal for this year, by quite a bit, and now more than ever they need the diligence and concentration and hard work of every missionary if we're going to pull together and meet our goals.  I want to help so badly, and I want to show President Mains and the Lord that I'm willing to follow their direction, but I feel it just doesn't show in the results we've achieved here.  I'm surrounded by missionaries who are seeing so much success - in fact, our zone, here in Sibu, is actually on track to exceed the baptism goal - so it makes me think I must be doing something wrong.  I'm anxious to figure out what it is, and make the changes necessary in my life.
I'm not just drowning in pity, though.  I'm actually having a great time and I'm learning a lot from my leaders, the prophets, scriptures, my companion, my own experiences, and from the Lord through my prayers.  I trust in the Lord's unfailing promises, and I'm just going to need a little more patience.  (Ha!  I just thought to myself, "I learned patience last transfer.  I want miracles now!"  Obviously I still have a lot to learn.)  I'm enjoying my time with Elder South, and I'm growing in love for the people here.  Oh, there's just so much more than I can tell you with words!  Thank you for all your prayers on my behalf, and I want you to know that I pray for you, too!
P.S.  Funny moment this week:  I had an "... and I do not squeal like a girl!" moment when, as we contacted at night, I stepped on an especially spongy bit of asphalt that croaked loudly and hopped away as I picked up my foot.

Exchanges with our fearless district leader, Elder Christensen.  He's one of the greatest examples of a Preach My Gospel missionary and just a Priesthood man!

Jungle-tracting again.  I look a little disgusted in this picture, but it's just bright outside.  I have to use the flashlight off of the front of my bike in order to knock gates loudly enough  to attract the attention of whoever's inside.

Pics of Elder Baer

Sunday, 12 October 2014
The missionaries were here last night for dinner after watching General Conference. Elder Baer and his companion are ALWAYS washing our dishes after such events. They even wash them when they stop over to use the computer or whatever. They live about two blocks away.

We’re going to a less-active member’s home with them this week. It is so fun to watch these young men in action. You can be well-pleased with your son. We’re impressed! 

Have a great day and know that your son is doing the Lord’s work.

Elder & Sister Bodell

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Selamat Hari Korban!

Hello Everyobody!!
Selamat Hari Korban! Happy Day of Sacrifice! (I'm not sure why every Monday is a holiday here.  It makes it really hard to get haircuts from our favorite saloon on Preparation Day.  (And there is no such thing as a salon here. All the haircut places really do say "Hair Saloon."))  Apparently it's an Islamic tradition to sacrifice lambs on this day, and a lot of people did, last night.  I didn't see anything, but people said it was a little scary and they didn't want to go outside at night because of all the sacrifices happening.

Also, Happy General Conference!!  I've been waiting like six months for this and it's finally here!!  I'm really excited to hear the conference messages this week on Saturday and Sunday.  I'd also love to hear what you thought of it and what messages touched your hearts. 

And you know what else this means:  I will have seen 2 conferences in Sibu!  That's half of the General conferences in my mission!  After this week, I only have one left.  AAUGH!!  How am I ever going to become a Preach My Gospel Missionary before my mission is over?  As I asked this question this past week, I evaluated my expectations of myself.  I found that some were rather high - oh not really much, just perfection! - and others had gotten a little careless.  I'm sooo glad that Elder South is here to train me!

Elder South never ceases to amaze me! I find that I don't share all of his opinions about how to live life, but I learn so much from him about how to be an effective finder and teacher, and how to give service unselfishly. I feel that he deserves someone a lot better than me to train him. Actually, he could just train another missionary right now. He still struggles to understand the language, as could be expected, but he has all the qualities of a true disciple of Christ. I believe that this companionship was appointed to train me more than to train Elder South.
I have sincere desires to do good, to help others, and to be a Preach My Gospel missionary - I want nothing else more than this, but no matter how hard I try, and how focused I stay, I just can't keep up with Elder South. I just feel so undeserving of his companionship, but so thankful every day to learn from him!
This week, we spent some time simply walking around in the city, looking and praying for people, and specifically for families, to teach.  As we parked our bikes, I spotted somebody working at a phone desk across the street, went right up to him and told him that we were disciples of Jesus Christ and had been sent to share His Gospel with him.  He talked to us for a while, took a restoration pamphlet, and told us to come back on Monday.  We called him to follow up, and he had read the pamphlet! (What?? People don't just read what we give them!)  So, I'm pretty excited to go back and talk with him more about the Restoration.

The same night, walking in the same area, we met a woman in a stationery shop, who was asking about some guitars hanging from the ceiling.  Elder South pulled one down, tuned it, and demonstrated how to play it.  While he tuned the guitar, I had a chance to speak with the woman, who told us she wants her children to learn music and English.  Well, we are both pretty good at both of those, so we offered to come to her house the next night.  When we arrived, we had a grand time playing with her 3 rowdy little boys and teaching her basic hymns on the piano.  She didn't actually come to English class, but we said we'd like to return to her house this week to share more about Jesus Christ, and she agreed!
The underlying feeling I have now is: in Sibu, things are going pretty well, but still not easy.  The Lord is helping me to have patience at a time when we just have to go outside and talk to everyone because we have virtually nobody to teach.  I know there are prepared people, and I am trying to become prepared for them, as well, through meaningful study, praying throughout the day, and working in unity with Elder South.  I thank you for your constant prayers on my behalf, and I hope you know I pray for you all, too!
Tons of Love,

P.S.  I finally had time to finish reading those letters you sent from friends.  At the end, you explained that the Fronk family was really sympathetic and supportive of me.  I read that and felt kind of wimpy.  There I was, just wallowing in my own mire of self-pity, wishing somebody would do something about it, not knowing or caring about other people and their trials, and they still cared about me.  after reading what you sent me about their own missionary challenges, my heart goes out to them (and many others).  Please let them know how much I appreciate and love them.  I pray often for their success and happiness, especially those serving missions.

Well... this is us at the airport in Kuching.  We had a layover, so Elder South, Elder McCown, Elder Hobbs and I all ordered Happy Meals at McDonalds.  The car race was a little disappointing, 'cause they didn't work very well at all, but it was a fun diversion at a time when we couldn't proselyte.