Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy New Year - 2

Dear Family,

I'm on a few hours early today because we're all going to Singapore for ZONE CONFERENCE!!!   I'm so excited!  Zone conference is always a much needed spiritual boost, and a great opportunity to meet missionary leaders and friends.  Even though I was just in Singapore two weeks ago for MLC, I'm still really happy to go back today.  Most missionaries are having fits of hysteria over the fact that we are going to be watching "Meet the Mormons" tomorrow!  (I'll admit, I'm really happy about it, too.)  We're probably going to go to the giant Ferris Wheel at Marina Bay, then have a badminton tournament with all the West Malaysian Elders.  I'll try to get some good pictures of our P-Day for you.

In other news, the Schollenbergers are back in Payson, Utah now.  They've left Johor Bahru for good, and everyone here really misses them.  The new senior missionaries have moved in, and are discovering just what an exciting and busy time of year it is as they try to get adjusted.  The Bensons, from Logan, UT, are wonderful!  Their excitement and enthusiasm to hasten the work of the Lord will be a big help to the missionaries and member missionaries here in JB!  They've had quite a week to adjust to: Chinese New Year, with incessant fireworks for days and nights on end, branch members arriving back from the Philippines, driving to all the far reaches of JB, a Singapore border crossing today, zone conference for most of this week, and a baptism coming up on Saturday!

Oh! that's one miracle that I haven't done a very good job of keeping you updated about.  Do you remember this part from my email to you a few weeks ago? : "...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."    Well, this Chinese man, Brother T, is the one getting baptized on Saturday!!  Ever since the first day we met him, he's been coming to church consistently, and meeting with us twice or three times per week.  I probably didn't think to tell you all about his teaching process because I've never seen anyone who accepted all the lessons and commitments so smoothly, and with so few questions or concerns.  It just seemed a little too good to be true, and he was a no-stress investigator, so he never weighed on my mind as I emailed you.  Weird.  Well, my prayers, your prayers, our teaching, and his faith actually have helped him to open his heart to the gospel message.  I'll send pictures of the baptism next week!

My faith in Jesus Christ, and my belief that He really is just waiting to bless us with miracles, has been strengthened so much lately.  I wasn't expecting much out of this week of Chinese New Year, but to say I was pleasantly surprised at what actually happened is an understatement.  This year was nothing like last year - Molek was still drained of people and life, but we actually had what was possibly our busiest week of the transfer nonetheless.  On the anticipated "dead day," the 19th, we began by speaking to a little Chinese auntie next to KFC.  She said "Oh, I'm Christian, too!"  She lives very far away, so we'll probably not be able to teach her often, but she was very kind to us.  She bought us both Hot Boxes at KFC, then took us to see her fish farm.  We followed her truck down a secret jungle road, met her husband, and took a quick tour of their fishery.  Later that day, we had more opportunities to meet people in unlikely places, getting several phone numbers and following up with investigators.  The rest of the week was even more packed, with several appointments each day, and hardly enough time for our weekly planning session.

I know the Lord is watching out for me.  Even more importantly, I know He is watching over all of God's children and preparing their hearts to receive the gospel.  I also pray that He will always watch over, protect, guide, and provide for all of you!

Love you lots! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Me, KFC, the hidden fish farm.

The fish farm.  (with Elder Mitchell, not me.  Just in case you couldn't tell:)

Morning exercises in Melaka - Back Alley Badminton

"Squid Crackers, Ooh, ooh ooh!"

I call this one, "Bayu, Bicycle, and Kampung"

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy New Year!!

Dear Everybody,

恭喜发财!GongXiFaCai! Happy New Year!!

Chinese New Year is a great, fun time, with a lot of celebrating, feasting, and well-wishing!  However, everyone is so caught up in all that other fun stuff, so they all have no time to hear the gospel.  I find it kind of ironic and disappointing that people are getting busy with making preparations to welcome in a new year, looking forward to peace, prosperity, and hope in new opportunities, but they just don't know that what we want so much to share with them is a message that, if accepted, will bring more peace, hope, and prosperity than anything else.  Last year, Chinese New Year turned our area of JB into a ghost town, leaving us with no work to do, other than making endless phone calls. (I think it was a tender mercy that the Lord Gave us a mountainous pile of former/potential investigators to call through last year, because two of the four Elders in our house were sick in bed, and we were all rather frustrated that going outside to find people was almost completely fruitless.)  This year, we're going to combat the daily duldrums with what Elder Mitchell calls Operation ஹலோ.  (ஹலோ, "Vanakkam", is Tamil for "hello.")  This means that we have been finding as many non-Chinese investigators as possible, so that we'll still have people to meet with in the next few weeks.  We've met several people from the Philippines, India, Nepal, and Korea, whom we'll be sharing the gospel with for a while now.  Wish me luck!

I'll share again a part of my letter to President Mains:

I focused this week on teaching for understanding.  I tried not to view myself as a teacher, with a lesson to prepare and deliver eloquently to a student, but to keep in mind what our investigators might be feeling as I shared with them truth that has brought so much peace and happiness to me.  As I tried to see through the eyes of our investigators, and as I remembered that they are all beloved children of my Heavenly Father, I found the Spirit teaching more powerfully and clearly through me and Elder Mitchell.

To show my love for the Savior, I tried to lose my own will in order to adopt his.  Previously, I thought I was pretty good at doing this, but I've come to realize that I'm a lot more self-centered and stubborn than I like to think I am.  I have been praying for the strength and faith to accept and do the Lord's will instead of my own.  I believe that's the only way that I will accomplish all that the Lord has for me to do while I serve him in this capacity.

I have been striving to live the missionary schedule more fully.  I have been keeping mealtimes, studies, and lessons to the proper time frame, but I'm also looking for more opportunities to spend more time filling the funnel.  Elder Mitchell and I have been typically taking less than the full hour for meals, and eating outside, so that we can talk to more people.  I'm trying to develop the habit of not turning off the "missionary mode" when we eat or stop for something.

I've seen a lot of miracles this week.  One that I remember in particular was meeting a former investigator at her hotel.  She referred her boss to us, and had him join our first discussion.  During the course of the discussion, he demanded the most attention, because of his many questions about our beliefs.  We had not prepared specifically to answer any of the questions he was asking us, but Elder Mitchell and I both felt comfortable and confident in our responses.  I know it was because the Holy Ghost was there, giving us what to say, testifying of truth, and even protecting us against some of the tricky questions he was asking.  The former investigator has expressed a renewed interest in learning about the Church and searching for truth!  We'll be meeting with her again in the next few weeks.

Things are still going well in JB.  In fact, we now have a lot more appointments with investigators and potential investigators than when I came in just two months ago.  Elder Lundahl-Wolford and Elder Pierce's area has seen a great improvement, as well.  Our enthusiasm to do the work of the Lord is high, and still increasing!  We are building our faith that miracles are just waiting to happen as we open our mouths!

[[I do feel an enthusiasm to do the work, but in the last few days, I've also felt a bit overwhelmed.  I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly what's stressing me out, but I know I've just been feeling inadequate.  I feel such a responsibility to lead my zone righteously, but sometimes it's hard to know if I'm being successful, and it's hard to work closely with missionaries who live far away from me.  Elder Mitchell is a fantastic companion.  He has a lot of strengths that are just what the missionaries in our zone need, but it's been hard lately to see what I contribute to our companionship and to our zone.  I think the biggest question I've been asking is, "how can I learn to recognize whose ideas are right/more true, and what things I should avoid?"  Several times in these past weeks, I've listened to an idea from another missionary, about how they teach, or study, etc. and thought, "That's a really good idea.  I like it!"  Then, when I've shared it with Elder Mitchell, he's shown me that the idea the other missionary brought probably wouldn't be very wise, for one reason or another, I've had to agree with him, as well.  I've been worrying about whether I'm just too trusting of what everybody says, or if I can't really discern good ideas from bad ideas, or if my love for people just blinds me to any ways that I could help them improve or change.  I just see the good in people, and think everybody's right, and I agree with ideas they have, unless it's obviously disobedient, etc. but my companion doesn't always agree with everyone.  I trust that a lot of things he does are wise and tactful, however.  It's hard because I feel that I'm not a good judge of what's good and what's not.  In my patriarchal blessing, I was blessed to be able to discern between the truths of God and the theories of men, but I don't feel very perceptive.  I don't want to burden you with my stress, but I'd love to hear if you've had similar experiences, or have any suggestions for me.  I'll also try to nail down what I'm worried about, specifiacally, so I can talk to President Mains about it in my interview tomorrow.  Thank you so much!!]]

Thanks for all the pictures and all your constant support, love and prayers!!Well, time's running out.  For now,  新年快!
My love always,

Monday, February 9, 2015

Temple Tour

Dear All Y'all,

As you know, I send a letter to President Mains each Monday before I email my letter to you.  I've included selections from that letter here, because they give a pretty good summary of my week.

This week, I have striven to fulfill my purpose by becoming more effective in finding new investigators.  I have opened my mouth to people we pass more times than any other week of my mission!  Despite the fact that we didn't hit our goal for new investigators, I can still feel my faith growing each day, and we are seeing a flood of potential investigators like never before.  It's exciting!

To show my love for my Savior, I have remembered him in times when I was tempted to become impatient.  I have been striving to avoid "corrupt communication," and have a spirit of patience and understanding.  (There have been no arguments or quarrels in our companionship, don't worry, but as I tried to "look unto [Christ] in every thought," I found myself looking through the eyes of others more frequently.)  I've found that I feel closer to my Savior and more understanding of others.

The importance of using the short time the Lord has given me fully and wisely has been on my mind constantly, of late.  I feel that this is one prompting of the Spirit, and it has helped to motivate and encourage me to be bold and dedicated to the work I've been called to do.

Although a few days this week were spent in Singapore and on exchanges, we still saw miracles in our area.  We saw many small miracles as we opened our mouths to everyone.  We still have no new investigators, but we have been getting a lot of phone numbers and following up diligently with the people we meet.  I have confidence that we will see the new investigators we hope for and so need, very soon.

We met a referral from a member in Singapore, yesterday.  We shared with him a little bit about our purpose, and how Christ is a vital part of our lives.  We testified that because of the Savior's atonement, we can overcome challenges, change our nature, and have a brighter outlook on life.  It was really refreshing, talking to someone who really wanted to know about Jesus Christ, and having a few excellent friends (Church members) there to teach and testify and befriend him with us.

The longer I'm here, the more I love doing missionary work.  I feel like I'm just beginning to see the bigger picture, and I hope the Lord will continue to help me increase in understanding and trust in Him, so that I can be a righteous servant.  Thank you for all of your prayers and support and love!!

My love right back to all of you!!

I'll send you pictures of last P-Day, so you can see our "Temple Tour" of JB. :)

Here are a couple from a Hindu temple we visited.  The guards and priests told us to just go in, watch everything and take as many pictures as we liked.

Another Hindu Temple. 

A photobomber.