Thursday, January 29, 2015

Week of miracles in JB

Hi All,

Things seem to be hastening here in Johor Bahru. It has been a week of miracles!  As Elder Mitchell and I focused on filling the funnel by our own finding efforts and by using the potential investigator forms, we met many more people who were willing to learn about Jesus Christ. We came back to the apartment each night, seemingly with more miracles to share with the other Elders than we'd had the previous day! One particular miracle that I witnessed this week was that our newest investigator accepted a baptism date! We talked to him for the very first time only last Saturday. We walked a little way with him and invited him to church the next day. The next morning, he attended all three hours, and participated in the lessons! We met him a couple of days later at his home to teach him about the restoration. He asked how he could know that the message was true in the first lesson, and he committed to be baptized on February 28 in our second lesson! I really feel that the Lord's hand is at work here, and I'm very excited to continue working with Him! I've never felt such an excitement for missionary work before in my mission!

We also had companion exchanges with the assistants this week, so I got to be companions with Elder Wadsworth for a day.  (In case you don't remember him, he lived in the same house as me in Singapore and JB last year and the year before.  Woah.  That's a scary sentence.)  We took the assistants out to our new favorite restaurant, Fat Cow Burgers, for a nice american meal, then got to work finding people who need the gospel.  I have been working on becoming a better contacter - I think that has been one of my biggest weaknesses throughout my whole mission - so as soon as we stepped out of the restaurant, I opened my mouth to a man who surprised us as he walked by.  I learned that he doesn't live in our area, but that he comes to JB weekly.  He said his entire family was Buddhist, but he'd like to learn about Christianity.  Per Elder Wadsworth's suggestion, we whipped out a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and asked him to read the first few paragraphs right there on the street.  He gladly complied, and said he was interested to learn the answers to the "Big 3" questions, "Where did I come from?", "Why am I here?", and "Where will I go after I die?".  We've got an appointment to meet again and teach him this week when he returns to JB!

A few minutes later, as we walked past a street hawker food stand, the owner came over and stopped us.  
He asked, "Are you the Bear one?"
Apparently, he remembered that I had stopped at that food stand for a satay one night about a year ago, and talked to his friend about our English class and coming to church.  He said that he was really busy but that he'd like to meet again, too!

I know that it's going to be really hard to actually meet up with all of the people that we miraculously met this week, but I've never been more hopeful that people are actually being prepared, and placed in our path, to hear the gospel.  I'll be doing all I can to help these people find the answers to their questions of the soul.

A question for you all:  How can I learn to be more loving?  How can I better understand and help meet people's needs?
This is the question that I asked in my personal study today, because I often feel that I don't quite see the big picture of someone else's situation.  I feel like something's impeding my focus or my ability to see clearly.  I really do love the people I meet and I desire their salvation, but I don't feel that I show that love very well.  I sincerely want to help people, but I only know how to encourage them to pray, read, come to church, have FHE, etc.  I believe that doing these things with real intent and a sincere heart will bring a sense of peace and direction, a relationship with their loving Heavenly Father, into people's lives that will help more than anything I could ever do.  At the same time, I feel that there is still something I could be doing to be more loving and comforting to people as I meet with them.
So far, as I thought to myself, "If I were my investigator, I don't think I would know that I loved me," I've discovered that I can simply express my love and concern more often, by the words I speak.  I've also discovered that it's better to ask questions and to understand clearly than to just catch the gist of what someone says and making them happy by letting them think that I know what they said.
I would love to hear what suggestions you all have, as well.

Thanks for all your love and support always!!  I love you all so much, too!!

From the other side

I am forwarding these photos taken by a lady who serves in the Relief Society presidency at the Women's Prison.  She and her husband were traveling, and went to a Sacrament meeting where Brennan was speaking.  She said that she found his appearance, speech and mannerisms familiar, and kept asking herself who he could be.  After the meeting she approached him and saw his name tag.  It didn't take too long to make a connection.  I think that Brennan has sent a couple of these pictures already.  I may hear more about him tomorrow at church.  She did say that he was mobbed after the meeting: he appears to be very well liked by the members, who are amazed at his mastery of the language.  We rejoice with him at the positive results of his efforts and attitude.

--Grandpa Baer

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Zone Meeting, Melaka, and Special Visitors

19 January 2015

Hi Family!

Well, I'll just begin at last P-Day and walk you through my week from there.  We had a fun zone activity: the Elders came in from Masai and Melaka to play fun minute-to-win-it games at the church and then we watched 17 Miracles at the Schollenbergers'.  (If you haven't seen it recently, I highly reccommend it!)

Tuesday was the long-awaited Zone Meeting of Destiny.  It was a great learning experience for me!  We gave a training about how to use our time more effectively, maintaining our Area Books to keep a record of our area, and finding new people to add to our teaching pools.  The Schollenbergers helped us out with a fun half-time break, and we invited a few other missionaries to train us, in two break-out sessions, about goal-setting in faith, and accountability and the atonement.  I feel that I have learned a lot about accountability this week.  I know I'm not the expert on the subject, but I have really seen that things like commitment without follow-up, goals without plans, or work not reported are useless.  I have pondered the reality of me giving a personal accounting to the Savior for how I use His time each day of my mission, and my talents throughout my life, and it kind of scares me.  Actually, it motivates me to be better.  I've started to give an accounting of my day to God in my prayers at night.

On Wednesday, we took a three hour bus ride to Melaka to conduct exchanges with the Elders there.  At one of our teaching appointments there, I learned a valuable lesson about helping people understand your expectations and being bold and loving in inviting them to come unto Christ.  It was also fun to see the colorful city of Melaka.  You may be able to get a better feel for it if you Google it, but from what I understand, it is a famous port city, with a heavy Portuguese influence. [Also spelled Malacca, it's a key port on the Malacca Strait, between the Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra; the strait connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans.]
 After we returned to JB on Friday, we struggled to make plans for the coming week - mostly because we were really tired and because nothing is really certain in people's schedules as Chinese New Year approaches.  We spent several hours on the weekend street contacting.  We met several nice people, including a big Hindu/Christian Indian family, and an elderly Chinese man out for his afternoon walk.  As we spoke to the man, he said he has nothing to do with his time anymore so he'd love to come to church with us.  We didn't think he'd remember, but the next morning, he arrived at church right on time!  He stayed for all the classes and seemed to enjoy reading from Gospel Principles, but he doesn't want us to come over to his house to teach him, yet.  I'll keep praying that he opens his heart to the gospel message.

Yesterday, we were surprised to have two couples, the Balls and the Bloxhams, from Pocatello, Idaho, and one couple from Brazil, drop in on our sacrament meeting.  Purely by coincidence, six foreigners somehow arrived at exactly the same time at our small shoplot church building in JB!  When I walked over to talk to them after the meeting, I was stunned to hear Sister Balls say, "Elder Baer...well, the only Baer I know is Steve Baer from Pocatello."  
Apparently Brother and Sister Balls work with Grandpa at the prison in Idaho!  We had a grand time making connections, and introducing them to the Schollenbergers and the branch members.

On the bus rides to and from Melaka I searched the scriptures for ways that I can become a better missionary.  I read Mosiah 11-18, specifically, to learn about Abinadi's mission.  I'm glad mine hasn't been as hard as his, but I really admire how bold and faithful Abinadi was.  I have a hard time putting myself in the position of people in the scriptures, sometimes, but I know that if I was in Abinadi's shoes, it would be really hard for me to declare repentance as boldly and plainly as he did.  It was definitely not socially acceptable to do and say the things he did, but he was more concerned about what the Lord wanted than what he wanted.  He knew the scriptures well, and qualified for the presence of the Holy Ghost, which brought indisputable power to his preaching.  I have such a desire to improve and do what the Lord wants me to do, but most of the time I don't know exactly what steps to take or what the future will bring.  When I feel this way, I hope I can remember and learn from Abinadi's example!  Who are your favorite scripture heroes?  I'd love to hear from you next week!

Good luck with all the business of the coming week, and tons of love,

P.S.  I've just gotten word that a fantastic investigator whom I taught in Ipoh was just baptized!!  Yaay!!  She is one whose gate we knocked on our "one last street" of the day.  I think it was a miracle that we met, and an even bigger miracle that she was able to feel the Holy Ghost teaching her the truth of the gospel.  She has accepted it whole-heartedly, and I can't express how happy I am for her!!

Freshly Harvested Cocoa beans at an investigator's house in Melaka.  Chinese Elders.

Me and a real live duran tree in Melaka!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Great! . . . and not so great.

Hi Everyone!

This week was great!  ...and sometimes not so great.

We met very few of our companionship and zone goals this week. We didn't accomplish all that we wanted to, but I feel that I have become a much more effective servant of the Lord because of the things I learned about using time wisely. I'm really grateful for the counsel I received and the discussion we had at MLC this week. Although we didn't hit our goals, and many appointments and plans fell through, Elder Mitchell and I are still in high spirits because we feel we have a direction to go, a new focus (effective time management, filling the funnel), and the tools to help us accomplish our vision. We expect great things from ourselves and our missionaries here in JB and Melaka.

I'm getting along very well with Elder Mitchell. I kind of feel that I'm in training again, because I learn so much from him each day. I especially admire how tuned-in to the Spirit he is. I want to be like that, as well. We are both always striving to become better and more righteous stewards over our small plot of the Lord's vineard. We will be encouraging our zone members to do the same in tomorrow's zone meeting, as well.  Oh, by the way, zone meeting is tomorrow.  Elder Mitchell and I have been planning this one since the beginning of the transfer, back in December, so I don't know how I forgot to tell you about it.  Our zone vision, based in Jacob 5, is that our zone members will unite in becoming righteous stewards over our plot of the Lord's vineard, through the use of effective goal-setting, planning, and accountability.  I'm really excited for it, and I'm not even as nervous as I thought I'd be, giving my first zone training.  Wish us luck!

... Okay, to expound on the previous paragraph, we will be training the missionaries on how to use the tools in their Area Books more effectively, how to use time wisely and fully, and why it's important to give an accounting unto the Lord.  Preach My Gospel Chapter 8 includes everything we'll be talking about, in case you wanted a taste of our training.  I know that Preach My Gospel came out after Mom and Dad's missions.  I've often wondered what missionary was like without Preach My Gospel.  Did you have area books?  Did you have a missionary manual?  Did you memorize discussions?  Was the doctrine that you taught the same or in the same order as it is today?

On an unrelated note, I just remembered a question I've been asking myself for a couple of weeks.  When, if ever, is it appropriate to work on Sundays?  I personally feel that any sacrifice you have to make, except for in life-threatening emergencies, to not work on the Sabbath is going to be worth it, and God will help you find a way to support your family and  come to church.  When is the ox in the mire, and when are people not living up to their covenenants?  This is a question I struggle to answer, because I know that so many people here are required to work on Sunday, especially because JB weekends are officially Friday-Saturday.  Work is really competitive, and it's hard to support a family as it is, but people are being pulled away from what I feel is most important.  Is giving up other things, even careers, in order to attend church, an invitation I should extend as a missionary?  (If so, I'm really going to need to think about how to do so lovingly.)

I bore my testimony in church yesterday, (an on-the-spot opportunity, in place of the assigned speaker who didn't attend), about how Heavenly Father knows the desires of our hearts, and He knows what we sacrifice.  I said that He will always make a way for us to keep His commandments, and whatever we sacrifice in order to do so would be worth it.  When Elder Mitchell got up after me, he made sure to say that we weren't asking the members to give up everything they had in order to live the gospel.  His testimony was a lot more kind and concerned for the people than mine was, and so I spent the rest of the day thinking and trying to determine what kind of teacher I am.  I'm really convinced that living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to go, but I'm worried that I'm not very loving or understanding when I talk about it with people.  That seems really contrary to what a representative of Jesus Christ should be, so I know I've got some work to do.  I'm glad I can learn from Elder Mitchell.

MLC was AWESOME!!  Elder Mitchell calls it the Jedi Council.  His description is not far off.  We all sat around the tables in the high council room in the Singapore stake center, and discussed the affairs of the mission.  Almost everything that we discussed directly corellated to our zone vision and the training we will present tomorrow.  (So, you can learn all the important, non-exclusively-Singapore-Mission-related things we talked about by reading PMG chapter 8.

Well, my time is far spent, there is little remaining, so I'll get working on pictures for you.  Just know that I love you A LOT, and I think of you often.  It was fun to skype with you, and I love seeing your pictures, too!  Good luck with life this upcoming week.  It sounds crazy, and I hope it's a good crazy!


P.S.  Thanks to both Haslam families that sent me Christmas photos and newsletters!

This "Jalan" has a road sign and everything, but it's actually just a sewage pipe that crosses a river. [A jalan is a road.]

The view from the Missionary house in Masai, one district in the JB/Melaka zone.

This bowl of Tom Yam was full of things that were not actually meant to be eaten.  The little bowl next to it is filled with all the things that I had to pick out.  They are added for flavor, but not for consumption.  It was the most difficult bowl of soup I've ever eaten.

Monday, January 5, 2015

First letter of 2015

Well, things here are chaos, once again, because it's P-DAY!! (insert enthusiastic cheers from all the other missionaries.)  I have to be brief.

I'm having a great time here in JB.  I love all the members of the Church here, and I love our investigators, too.  I feel a new life and energy in the branch.  It's a big relief, and it is really exciting for the missionaries.  I have been able to see that the Lord truly is preparing the hearts of people to receive the gospel.

This week absolutely flew by!  I'll just tell you about a few events of this past week.  We ate a fabulous Korean BBQ with a lot of members to celebrate the holidays.  I didn't know how to eat because apparently Korean chopsticks are a different shape than Malaysian Chopsticks.  But, the food got into my mouth, and it was delicious, and we had a great time celebrating as friends.  (This is the part where Elder Mitchell ate a whole clove of garlic, because he thought it was a water chestnut.)
We had a triple-birthday BBQ here at our apartments this week.  The food was good (I think I say that every time.  Well, just know that every day I eat things you've never even seen before but you don't have to worry because I LOVE IT!)  Many people came, and it was a fun and exhausting way to celebrate my birthday along with two others.  I like the way that this branch just feels like a big family.

We haven't found any new investigators this week, and we haven't had as many opportunities to meet our current investigators as we had hoped or planned.  President Mains has invited us to renew our focus on finding new investigators, to "fill our funnel," so we'll definitely be spending some time this week walking the streets, taking the buses, riding with members, searching those who are seeking for the gospel.  It's gonna be good.
Oh, my zone leader responsibilities are basically to set an example for other missionaries, minister to the people in my zone, pump them up to do missionary work, receive weekly reports from them, and report to the assistants to the President each Monday morning.  In addition, I'll be going to Mission Leadership Conference for the first time this week.  At MLC in Singapore, we receive training from President Mains, and learn what we can do to become better missionaries and inspire the others in our zone.  I'm excited for it, because I've heard that MLC is a spiritually intense experience.  I'll let you know about it next week!

Love, and thanks for the pictures, to all of you!

I still don't know where this little trail leads.  It probably goes to an Indian Kampung of sorts, because 3 little Indian kids came walking down the trail just after I took this picutre.  I couldn't talk to them very well, but they got a kick out of us two white guys with funny clothes.
Mom: what's a kampung?
It's Malay for "hometown" but it usually means a little village.

Elder Mitchell: Portrait

Elder Mitchell and Elder Durrant Love Roti Canai!  (I love it, too!)
Mom: Are the flatbreads filled?  or do you dip them in the sauce?
They're not filled, usually.  Sometimes I order them with Kaya, which is like Sweetened Condensed Coconut.  We dip them in chicken curry, fish curry, beef curry, spicy curry, and mint curry.  Yum!

Our after-Christmas spoils. (What's left of them, anyway...)

Johor Bahru City street in the afternoon.  (taken from a bus window, far away from where we stay.  I hardly ever see this many people out on the streets where we live.)

Korean BBQ dinner to celebrate the New Year!

Elder Mitchell doesn't recognize this as a clove of garlic before he chews it.  Hilarity ensued.