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!