Monday, November 24, 2014

Faith in Finding

Hi Everyone!

This week has been one of inflection, self-evaluation, and testimony-building.  To show my love for the Lord this week, I first studied truths about Him and reflected upon my own testimony of His importance, and then sought opportunities to testify of Him.  I believe I was given a few key opportunities to testify to those who had sincere questions about the Savior.  I felt prepared to testify to them, because I had been thinking all week about Christ and his redeeming role in my life.  I also strove to use the small pockets of "down time," (as we driving somewhere with a member, as we waited for people to arrive at scheduled activities, and the time before personal study and bedtime and after meals,) for contacting investigators or potential investigators.  I feel that this missionary district in Ipoh is full of wonderful examples of missionaries who use the Lord's time fully and wisely.  I believe that this has been the biggest struggle in my mission, so, looking to the examples of my fellow missionaries and that of the Savior, I made a resolution to make effective use of all time into one of my strengths.  It's definitely not easy, and it requires careful focus and constant attention to promptings from the Holy Ghost, but I feel much more satisfied in doing missionary work in this way, especially when I'm exhausted.  I like to think of President Eyring saying "when I find myself drawn away from my priesthood duties by other interests and when my body begs for rest, I give to myself this rallying cry: 'Remember Him.' " 

I feel that Satan is working hard on keeping us from achieving the goals we have set in our companionship.  I've never had so many appointments fall through in a single week before!  Many times last week, Elder Li and I had to exercise faith that the Lord would help us find seekers of truth as we reverted to our  backup plans, then to backups to the backups.  We spent lots of time out and about trying to talk to as many people as we could contact, in a real effort to find new investigators.  The Lord didn't answer our prayers in the way that I thought he would, but we were given the two new investigators whom we prayed for all week, through the diligence of members in inviting their friends to church. 

We have a family to teach!  They are a wonderful couple from China with an adorable little daughter.  They know a young member of the Ipoh branch, who invited them to church and helped them feel welcomed at a few activities this week. They attended our branch Thanksgiving dinner this week, and had a blast!  We had a chance to answer the father's questions about Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ.  Because I like to have beautiful logical answers to questions that people ask me, it was hard to reply to "Why do so many people that believe in Jesus do bad things?"  and similar questions.  I realized that I don't have perfect answers to all of our investigators questions, but I was able to refer them back to Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father as the source of truth and peace and answers to life's questions.  Like Alma, I know that "there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness." 

All that has happened this week has definitely helped to strengthen my faith that people are being prepared to hear the gospel, and that the Lord's ways are higher than my ways.  As I've focused on learning about humility this week, I feel the Lord has helped me to become more humble (or at least to recognize, and desire to change, the pride in me.)  I pray that He will continue to do so, and that I will be a more worthy instrument in His hands.

Elder Baer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love Serving in Ipoh!

Hi Everyone,

I love serving in Ipoh!  I've never been so showered with gifts (food) from members before.  I'm actually concerned that I'm going to leave Ipoh a lot more round than when I came.

At the same time, there are also challenges to moving to a new area.  We've been tracting and street contacting every day, because the area is newly opened for Chinese Elders, and we don't have very many investigators.  Plus, every one of our appointments cancelled this week.  We only had one lesson, but it was a miracle lesson.  We met a wonderful young man, code named Isaac.  He's the only one who let us into his house this entire week!  He wasn't feeling very well, but he still agreed to let us come in and let us teach him about the restoration of the gospel.  He's already Christian, and has a desire to learn more about God and how to become closer to Him, because of the blessings he's seen in his life since he converted to Christianity.  He said that he felt good as we talked, and he wants to read the Book of Mormon to find out how it can help him obtain the things that are most important to him in his life.  We'll go back and meet him again in a couple of days, to talk about what he learned, and help him to keep feeling the Holy Ghost.
We talked to so many people, and knocked on so many gates, and only 1 person agreed to listen to us.  However, because of Isaac, my faith is strengthened, and I know that God is guiding people who are seeking truth to find the restored gospel.  I also know that if I remember to seek His help, Heavenly Father will make all things work together for my good.  I've been studying Humility, from Preach My Gospel, this month, and I bet that as I've asked the Lord to help me be more humble, he's given me these recent experiences to humble me and help me develop this Christlike attribute.

Yesterday, we went out contacting again, in a Chinese/Malay neighborhood at the feet of some tree-covered mountains.  As the evening went on, the heavens gathered blackness, and all the elements combined to drench us thoroughly and scare us out of our socks.  Rain poured, wind howled, and lightning pounded the mountain.  The rain drummed on the tin rooftops and awnings of these little houses so hard that people inside couldn't hear us banging their gates with our flashlights.  I could hardly hear Elder Li yelling to me from two feet away.  We decided to take cover under a pavillion at a park just at the end of the lane where we were knocking.  The storm came on so suddenly that before we had even got to the end of the lane there was lightning striking all around.  I would see bright flashes, and before I even counted to 1 1/2, I felt the thunder boom, almost in waves, coming from various directions.  We hurried the small lighted area under the pavillion, and watched the lightning strike the mountain, and several nearby trees, including ones in the neighborhood where we had just left.  At one point, I think it even struck a pavillion neighboring the one we stood under, turning out all the lights in that area of the park!  I know that Heavenly Father was watching out for us, and keeping us safe through the storm.

While we stood under the pavillion, I talked to /shout-tacted a little man who had just been biking around the park when the rain hit.  He was obviously Christian, from the polo shirt he was wearing, and he recognized us as Christians, as well.  As we talked a little about where I had come from and why I was in Malaysia, our conversation eventually drifted to the subject of God and his prophets. 
He asked "But no one's ever seen God, right?"
I replied, "Well, God's prophets have seen him and testified of Him.  Have you ever heard of Joseph Smith?"
He said he remembered that there were prophets in the Bible, and that he had never heard the name before.  I opened a pamphlet to the page with the picture of the first vision, and related Joseph Smith's experience to him.  I also had an opportunity to testify that there is a living prophet on the earth today.
"What?  A prophet today?  What's his name?" he questioned.
"This is Thomas Monson," I said, pulling out a pass-along card with the prophet's picture, "God's chosen prophet today!"
Because he was interested in prophets, he took a restoration pamphlet, and the pass-along card, but it was obvious that he didn't want to deny his church by learning too much from us.  He didn't allow us any way to contact him again, but I hope that he will remember the minutes he spent with me on that stormy night, as the Spirit testified to him of the truth of a living prophet.

I feel so blessed to be serving the Lord as his representative here.  I know that the gospel is way true, and that because it was restored the the Prophet Joseph Smith, our lives can be more blessed and happy than we ever would be otherwise!  I encourage you to read again, as a family, (or listen to and pause occasionally) Elder Neil Anderson's talk from this conference.  Will you?  I know that if you do, and you do as Elder Anderson invites, you will build a testimony, and gain a witness from the Holy Ghost, of the importance of, and the blessings that come from the restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith.

Tons of Love,

Monday, November 10, 2014

Life in Ipoh

Hi Family,

Well, I can see why some say Ipoh translates to "The Promised Land."  I have only been here five days, but I'm already having a great time, and I'm feeling great about missionary work.  I think it's mostly because there are so many members here that are also excited about missionary work.  There are a small handful of missionaries from Ipoh serving in Taiwan and the United States currently.  Do you remember Elder Loke, from KL?  Well, while he served his mission, his family moved to Ipoh! When I talked with Sister Loke yesterday, she became ecstatic to see me.  I couldn't believe how much she had heard about me from Elder Loke, and some of the things she said made me wonder if she had actually mistaken me for one of his other companions.  I never thought that Elder Loke would have said I was one of his most fun, adept, and hardworking companions.  I've certainly tried my best to meet the Lord's expectations in every area of my mission, but I seem to remember my Johor Bahru self as less confident, discontented, and generally less cheerful.  Well, that was just very nice to hear from Sister Loke, and it boosted my spirits so much!

My transfer went a little bit like this:  I packed Monday and Tuesday nights.  On Wednesday, I got up at 4:30 to see Elder South off to Singapore, where he picked up his new trainee (!)  Then, I began to worry a bit about my own travel, because I knew I would have to take my bike with me every step of the way.  I had taken it apart and packed it into a dilapidated box which I wrapped in a not-very-reassuring amount of tape.   Later in the morning, Elder Bodell helped me get my bike and suitcases out to the Sibu airport.  Luckily, they gave me no problems at the luggage counter (miracle #1!) and my bike made it onto the same plane as I did.  I retrieved my bike from the Kuala Lumpur airport on my arrival, and was pleased to find that the box was still intact.  Then, another tender mercy followed: I didn't have to take my bike through the immigration office. (whew!)  After that, many prayers were answered with even more miracles as I managed, with the help of several very kind people along the way, to get all my things through the KL airport, onto the train to the train station, then off that train and onto the train to Ipoh, then again off of the train, through the station, and into a taxi to the apartment.  I really felt God's help and knew that He was watching over me as I did this.  I believe he put special people in my path, whose hearts were softened enough to help me out.  I was also able to remember a surprising amount of Malay at the times that I needed it most.  I'm extremely grateful for Heavenly Father's constant care for me!!

I testify that what Elder Li said is true: "Ipoh is a place to get fat."  I've already been showered with groceries, fruit, burgers, cake, and invitations to Chinese dinners from members here.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to intensify my morning workout to keep up with them!  In addition, we live very close to a little place with fantastic Indian food like Nasi Bryanni and Naan bread.  Yum!

Oh, Elder Li. (pronounced Lee).  Elder Li is a great missionary.  He's pretty quiet, but an adept teacher and great at sharing the truths of the gospel.  He's very different from any companion I've had before, but I already love working with him!  His parents are from China, so he already speaks the language.  This is a big help to our ability to teach in unity, to contact people, and to translate sacrament meeting for non-English speakers.  I don't have any pictures of us yet, but I'm sure I will have many Ipoh-tunities to take fabulous pictures of everything and send them to you.  (ugh, that was probably worse than the I-pun you sent to me earlier.)

To describe the place, Ipoh is bigger than Sibu, and less foresty.  The population is much more racially, culturally, and religiously diverse. (does that even make sense?) The city is surrounded by mountains - the kind that you see in Chinese brush-painted pictures, that jut straight up from the ground and have round, tree-topped summits and caves.  I still can't get over how cool mountains are.  That's one of the things I miss most about living in Cache Valley.  I somehow always seemed to take strength from pausing to just look out at the mountains.  Probably because they pointed my thoughts heavenward, and made me think about the beauty of God's creations, and the purpose of my life on Earth.   Thinking of it, I believe that the moments I took to gaze out at the valley and the mountains of Utah were times that I took great confidence in knowing that God is over all things.  Those solitary moments were times that I remembered that I am a son of Heavenly Father, and I have a divine potential - a clear view of my often rather hazy eternal perspective.  I hope that you will always remember that no matter what happens in life, whether it's what we expect or not, it is ultimately and lovingly designed by God, for our welfare.

I love you all very much!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

So Long, Elder Baer

We had to bid farewell to Elder Baer this morning. I dropped him off at the
airport this morning where he met up with Elder Bester. They are on the same
flight. I won't say where he's going. I'll let him tell you when he has the
chance. We will miss him!

I had to laugh about the expression on his face. He's a funny guy!

Elder and Sister Bodell