Singapore (Malaysia) Mission
O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
I was lying awake in bed when I heard call to prayer the first time. It jolted me out of my first-day-in-the-field thoughts and was actually a bit scary; you don't expect someone wailing in Arabic at five in the morning loudly outside your window. My companion explained the next morning "zee Muslim mosque neighbor is singing to praying. Pretty, no?"
Since that initial experience, I've fallen in love with call to prayer. The mission is a big diverse landscape of three immigration systems, dozens of languages and even more religions. As I've traveled from coast to coast, the only thing I can rely on is the Book of Mormon and call to prayer to sound five times a day. I bike to the beat of the muffled tune when I happen to be out during prayer time. Investigators proudly announce they pray five times a day, as reminded by the Muslim call to prayer. A pious polygamist Muslim shows me a video of call to prayer done professionally on youtube, asking if Mormons could implement it in our church services. Shukrey, my friend, picks me up late on our way to the airport because he "really got into praying." The stores close at awkward times for prayer. We teach the song "I Am a Child of God" as a Hindu family places a church produced picture of Jesus next to Vishnu (we haven't yet gone over the Ten Commandments) and right on cue, call to prayer provides the harmony.
I've collected a lot of memories on my mission. My favorite ones are about connecting people to heaven. I will miss teaching people how to pray on street corners, watching people realize God exists, and watching the heavens open, both in the skies and in people's hearts. Of course, I will miss the laksa, the Ibans and Indians but nothing can compare to watching people plug in to the incomprehensible by something so mundane and beautiful as prayer. The simple faith of asking "God, do you exist?" changes lives. When treated right, it can lead to God, to conversion, to happiness. I have seen it time and time again.
I have no regrets. I have served with all of my heart, might, mind and strength and God has given me power beyond what I have. Because of this, my mission was beautiful and perfect. I cried for one of the first times on my mission this last week because I realized this beautiful dream cannot last forever. Time keeps lurching forwards and even though I don't know how it could possibly be, I know life has amazing things in store. I don't know what they are, but I am learning to stop blabbering and worrying so much and just let the love of God warm me like sitting next to a fire as I grow what little trust in God I have.
Somewhere between watching the deaf hear angels sing, watching the downtrodden discover how to smile, building stilt houses, teaching hundreds and talking with thousands of people, I found myself. I am changed.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and provided support through this journey. I return home this week and will be giving my homecoming talk on December 18 in the Chantilly Ward. All are welcome to attend.
Dear Mom (and everyone else),
Here's an excerpt from a journal entry about Mark's baptism this week.
I met Mark at a desperate stage of life. He was deep into drugs, smoking and drinking regularly, penniless and waiting out life. He had come to Malaysia from Philippines, taking a job as a noodle maker at a fancy Italian restaurant to help support his family. The little of what he made was automatically sent home. He was a deeply lonely and a hurting man.
You could feel his resentment towards society and the world, and hatred towards his family. I don't know how he ever slept, there seemed to be so many worries and angry thoughts that forced their way through his mind.
The change happened fast--almost too fast to be real. He quit drugs dry after we taught him how to repent. He stopped smoking within two weeks after we taught a deep lesson about the Atonement. He studied the scriptures daily, and felt the Spirit strongly in every lesson. Within a short period of time he had gone from a man with nothing, who almost was nothing, to a man with everything and who knew he was everything to a God he now knew.
It wasn't easy. There were the calls and the tears, the relapses and the cravings. The daily meetings and painful stories and memories that haunted him and fasting and songs and scriptures and emergency visits and the "drop everything right now Mark needs us" moments. There were the daily efforts to renew the desire to quit, the silent prayers and the screaming prayers, the tearful prayers and the angry prayers. But in the end, he found peace.
In a way, Mark represents the beauty of my mission. What could compel a man to work so fervently against the only way of life he'd ever known? What heals a heart against years of collected memories of abuse and abandonment? What takes a jailbird doing absolutely everything and anything to feed his excessive hunger for drugs to a man happy to whistle down a street completely sober and happy?
But that is why I am on a mission. The world can never be fixed by money or even teaching people good values or reforming programs. No, putting Mark in the prison system didn't change his nature, it simply changed the direction of his anger. Only Christ can change what people are really made of. Yes, this all may seem preposterous and overly optimistic, but I have seen families and even communities change their very nature through the Atonement. I have seen many families evolve from abusive to happy. I have watched useless men become useful in society. I have watched Christ tutor mothers in how to parent, and children forgive their families. I have watched and testify that Christ creates happiness.
When Mark bore his testimony after his baptism, tears were streaming down his face as he whispered over and over again, "I forgive my family. I will love my family. I can walk with my head held high because I know that Christ loves me and will watch over me. I'm completely sober and I'm happy. I'm happy."
And that's the miracle of a mission.
In other news, I was in Kuala Lumpur this week to go on exchanges there, then came back exhausted and had Mark's memorable baptism--my last (considering I have two weeks left). I'm in Singapore right now for Zone Conference and will be going back to Penang, Thursday night. Dad/our family's lucky number is 64, right? My exit out of Singapore for the last time will be the 64th stamp in my passport from this mission. Must mean I've been having a lucky mission.
I'm still serving in Penang, but was in Ipoh this week for exchanges.
I associate Cantonese people with Hong Kong--hustle, bustle, money, banks, crowded trains, tests, night markets. But nestled in the middle of Western Malaysia is Ipoh, a quiet Cantonese collection of oddly squished towns. They're famous for their noodles, white coffee and retirees--and that's about all anyone knows Ipoh for. Ipoh branch is famous in the mission as being the spot with no baptisms this year (and 20+ last year). The missionaries there had told me there "aren't any people to talk to" and "nobody's interested," but it turns out they were just looking in the wrong places.
We spent our mornings at the exercise parks and wet markets, talking with everyone about everything. We talked to the coconut men--the men who grind coconuts to make coconut shavings and coconut milk. We ate breakfast with Cantonese Uncles--as they showed us their pictures of times long past on vacations to New York, California, and other exotic places. In the afternoon, we found the mahjong centers with plenty of rich retirees with nothing to do but time to talk about everything, including God.
And thanks to my grandma, I could carry on full blown conversations about "Di zi gui" (a set of memorized idioms of how good Chinese children should behave).
We looked for less actives and got caught in the rain, but were miraculously invited into a Chinese home where we shared a message with their large family. We met with less actives who read the Book of Mormon for the first time in 20 years and celebrated.
By the end of my few days in Ipoh, I was told that "the area does have people!" and it's "not as hopeless as I thought!"
I really enjoy being in a trio. Before, I still did exchanges every week but if I was asked to go to their area, I would be in a different part of the country. During the exchanges, I tended to worry and try to take care of the area from a distance, since I'd mostly be working in my area on weekends only. But now there's a full companionship functioning in the area when I'm gone! They're doing a great job. Sister Durham is a national winning cabaret dancer (we make up dances sometimes to help her learn Chinese) and Sister Vranes is a beautifully sarcastic and witty adopted Chinese kid. We are a beautiful companionship. AND we are all under 5 feet--the tallest one is 4'11. Miracles.
I love my life.
Penang feels like my entire childhood converged into one island. It has the lush landscape and rainy hills of Hong Kong, with the shrubbery of Bangkok. It is a hawker city--delectable street food on every corner, with old ladies cooking famous fusions of Chinese, Thai, and Indian food. The shwarma is next to the curries coupled with the kuey teow stalls.
Any given apartment building is exploding with a pulsing jumble of Muslim colored lights, Chinese lanterns and Indian Deepavali decorations. Ask anyone about religion, and they can tell you Mohammad is a prophet, Vishnu is a god and Jesus saves people. They proudly respect everyone and everything. Knock on a door to share the gospel, and you'll find Indian grandpas who tell me how dangerous the American election is and how we need gun control. An old man whipped out his harmonica yesterday to play me "What a Friend we have in Jesus" on a street corner.
On any given day, we might meet and teach the Hindi who believes in Jesus and Joseph Smith, the Singaporean free thinker in heels, the Buddhist businessman, the convert Christian student, or the Muslim local going to prayer. Turn the street corner, and you might find professional street art reminiscing times past, catching the last remnants of the old world as the island churns towards the 21st century.
The entire mission is diverse, but this is the most beautifully diverse place I've ever lived.
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (KL) have the same ethnic diversity, but they feel stifled--Singapore with too many men in suits tied down with this incessant drive for perfection and money and progress and speed, and KL is stifling with poverty and religious and political tension. Yes, there are plenty of money driven people here competing with the Chinese mainlanders buying up all the land (we had an entire Sunday School lesson on how money isn't everything, but it actually is). Yes, I work with the people who are barely surviving day to day. I don't know what makes Penang so special, but it could be the rain that falls every day at exactly 10AM or the Penang laksa dishes.
Maybe it's because I'm a missionary. I can weave in and out of cultures and houses, one minute jumping off my bike becoming friends a group of Chinese investors then biking through the narrow roads against traffic while talking to a Muslim in Malay about his Taoist friends. It's all a beautiful dream.
I can think clearly for the first time in my life. I don't feel limited by any single culture or language. Can't contact someone in Tamil? No worries. Most likely the person also speaks Hokkien and English and five other languages. I can't communicate to the old grandma in the nursing home who only speaks Hokkien. But Brahms and Rachmaninoff and prayer and scriptures work.
It's the most beautiful thing in the world.
Last Monday feels like two months ago. It's been a crazy week. Recently, I haven't included a lot of what's actually happening in the field. So here's a short overview on a few things that happened:
- Johannah got baptized! It was a bit of a surprise baptism, but I know I was sent specifically for KK just for these six weeks for her. Whirlwind to get it all sorted, but it worked out perfectly in the end. In fact, there are certain people I've met while here in KK and I was able to recognize I was sent here specifically for them. I know my time in KK is short (I'm transferring out for my last transfer back to West), and I hope I've been able to serve here to the fullest.
Johannah's taken the lessons for about a year, and we miraculously got permission from her husband for her to be baptized recently. A few months ago, he had asked the missionaries to stop coming over because the gospel was "ruining the family peace and the kids have been more rowdy because of the missionaries." We've been working [with the Holy Ghost] to soften his heart, and he recently consented. It was beautiful. Her husband even came to support her.
- Flew to Kuching for exchanges. I forgot to plan exchanges with one sister, so I called the mission office in the morning, they booked me a flight for that night, and I was gone for a few days.
My poor companion.
I now have so many immigration stamps in my passport (different parts of Malaysia have different immigration systems) the immigration officers keep asking when I plan on leaving the country. I just tell them I promise I'll be back on CONUS within 50 days (which, scary enough, is true).
Exchanges were great. Went back to my old branch--which has since been dissolved. Six missionaries and 30 active members in the branch, 800 less active. Because of a lack of correlation between the missionaries (their baptismal goal in this newly created branch is 30 by December), I spearheaded the operation and called an emergency correlation meeting. Luckily the Mission President and Sister Simmons flew in and found out and attended the correlation. It was a beautiful three hours of dividing the area, creating a plan for working with members, and discussing how to work together.
It's amazing how God uses all of our knowledge collectively. Even though I served in the area about a year ago, I was still able to recall areas I had explored that I could recommend that they had never heard of, areas with Bidayu and Iban, how far it takes to bike to certain places, etc. I'm constantly learning how faith really consists of much more than just belief. It truly requires wise planning.
Also, whilst in Kuching, we taught an amazing lesson to a "golden" investigator. This particular investigator had kept every commitment and progressed very quickly but never wanted to get baptized since he wasn't sure if the Book of Mormon was true. We sat down for the lesson and he suddenly looked me in the eye and said, "I haven't told Sister Yuen this yet, but I want to get baptized this Saturday. I found out the Book of Mormon is true and now I have to do something about it."
It was really fun to work with Sister Yuen again. It's been about eight months since we were companions, and it's amazing to see how we've both grown and changed as missionaries and as people.
- Got hives for the first time in my life. Worst night ever. I've never even had hay fever before, let alone bad hives. It was a traumatic experience.
-I've learned a lot about parenting the last year. I'm constantly in awe of how you have to parent each child totally differently (on the mission you get to "parent" new missionaries). With one trainee, training her was like a regimented military camp. With another, I refrained from giving help unless she asked for it (to avoid contention). With another, all I had to do was let her lead so she could teach herself. And the list of differences goes on. I was trying to teach each sister the exact same skill set, but it's amazing how different each of their needs are. Same goes for investigators.
One of my favorite things to do on a mission is to teach and watch people talk to God for the very first time.
...and lots of other things happened. My brain isn't really capable of recalling them right now though. Between all the late night last minute flights, surprise hives and other last minute things that have needed to be solved, my brain is rather fuzzy right now.
P day activities in KK are amazing--you can go hiking and see incredible wildlife, hike up Mount Kinabalu, go to kampung, go see on of the world's largest flowers, etc. But I think I'm going to go home and pack and take a nap.
I just spent nearly my entire time writing reports so I'm out of email time.
Here are a few snippets from various reports with different ideas and observations. Please comment and expand on these ideas.
I've observed that Kota Kinabalu (KK) is the most religiously confused city I've ever been to, even more than Kuala Lumpur (I quite possibly might simply be more aware of it now). As someone today me yesterday, "all you need to start a church is followers and money." I've realized that because there are simply so many churches and so many missionaries, everyone is confused.
No wonder people are disillusioned with religion. I've started asking people, "What is the purpose of church? What is a church?" and have realized I have to start with what church really is before I can move on to God and Christ. We are more than a social club or a Rotary club. We literally exist to help you make covenants through Priesthood power to become like God. I've only been here 2.5 weeks, but that's stuck out to me...
....Contacting the people here is a 180 degree turn from Miri. I think a lot of missionaries (me included!) get used to contacting a certain type of people, whether it be Ibans or Indians, then have our worlds shaken when we are suddenly thrown into a new city/language without guidance. Missionary work is the same everywhere, but teaching people effectively requires understanding people. I suppose that comes by learning to follow the Spirit, but a little instruction could be a conduit for revelation.
___ SISTERS (applicable to senior couples)
...we discussed "burn out" and energy issues. We concluded that shorter, more focused projects increases productivity and vision. For instance, deciding to focus on creating a functioning primary for eight weeks and training the leaders, then moving on to the Young Women's for two months, is much more productive than focusing on a single issue for too long. A good model for how this works is Sister Slaugh (she taught me this principle). She focused her energy for a few months on English class and really got it running, then moved on to Primary, which is very close to functioning beautifully.
If I could go back and do Miri again, this is what I would do. The problem was that I spent too much energy in one department, which didn't foster training new leaders as well as I could have, and just created exhaustion.
CHANGE: I think one of the most painful parts of leadership is watching sisters who could be so much more than they are now, but just don't realize it. I'm constantly brought back to the idea that children (or other missionaries) expect to learn. If we lower our standards, we are giving in to their past selves instead of believing in their future. Or as conference put it, "How we see our children is how we treat them. How we treat them is what they become." I simply pray God keeps blessing me to see these beautiful sisters as they will become.
MIRACLE: We were on a bus and I felt prompted to get off and go to the Shell station and ask for a random name that I had seen written on an old list once. Listened to the prompting and went into the gas station and asked to see this lady whose name I had seen. She came out of the back and we had a great conversation about the Gospel and a dream she had had about the "white building with people inside dressed all in white who looked holy". She wasn't interested in meeting, but she needed us to help her talk through her life issues, and she shed many tears. God really watches out for all of this children through his missionaries, whether through traditional methods or otherwise.
...and those were a few thoughts I wanted to share. Any ideas on how to help avoid burnout, effective contacting, training leaders where the church is less developed, and helping others reach their potential?
Doing missionary work in Chinese is much harder than operating in Malay.
1. The branch is in Malay.
2. The city operates in Malay.
3. All of the area's investigators speak...Malay.
BUT we are the Chinese sisters!...and my poor trainee just came out of the MTC speaking Chinese and has no idea what happens all day.
We joke: Preach My Gospel says talk to everyone. But we're not allowed to proselyte to Muslims, so knock off 60%. She doesn't speak Malay, so knock off another 35%.
So we are working on getting Chinese investigators.
This week was a conversion week. We dropped or passed Malay speaking investigators (aka nearly everyone), ID'd places on the map that indicate a higher Chinese population (Chinese temples, Chinese sounding businesses), and did a preliminary scout of those areas, talked to a few people to get a general feel of the area. We visited almost every single less active with a Chinese sounding last name (they've all moved or don't want association with the church anymore) and so now we're prepared to move into Phase Two of the "converting the area phase."
Honestly, it takes faith NOT to find! I absolutely love talking to everyone in Malay and meeting and teaching in Malay. But it's harder to have the faith to find Chinese people--maybe because I relate to them more and know how stubborn they can be (like me!)
But as we have exercised the faith to change, we've seen lots of miracles along the way. Miracle contacts, miracle areas. We have found several areas composed of pure Chinese people, essentially untouched by missionaries before.
Other things that happened this week:
Found out an investigator lives in a Meth lab.
Got on a bus. First off, we had to wait 90 minutes for a bus to come pick us up. Secondly, it was 2PM and there was a disco ball going at full speed, with the bus driver rocking out to Muslim disco music. Beautiful memories.
Someone asked my companion if her freckles were a disease.
Taught a long term investigator (over a year) the lesson "God has a body." She freaked out. Apparently missionaries had never taught her that before. Because of that experience, we taught "God has a body" to every other investigator (all three of them). It put two of them in shock. ("Shenme shi? If God has a body, that means he knows how I feel! How does he answer everyone's prayers at once if he only has one brain?") Also, every Chinese person who's been willing to pray for us has prayed for God to give them more money.
So...we're basically starting from ground zero. In many respects.
I absolutely adore KK. We live on the seaside and I watch the boats come in and out every day, against the blazing sunsets. President sent me a short reply to my email this week:
"Dear Sister Quan,
Prediction: You will dread leaving KK in early December.
Leaving Miri was probably the hardest move I've ever made. Considering I've made a few in my life, that's saying quite a lot. Something I've always rather foolishly wondered is if we are really making a difference out there in the world, and leaving Miri really confirmed to me that we are simply God's hands. Here are a few stories:
Tuesday, we went around to different members and investigators to say goodbye. We stopped by Sister L's house. She was having husband troubles back in February, and we've been there for her through all of those times where she debating whether to leave or not. A few months ago, we gained the husband's trust and started teaching him. He's extremely close to baptism (needs to quit the last two cigarettes!)
Sister L got married when she was 15 years old, so she's still very young. Her husband works offshore, so she doesn't see him that often. During our goodbye lesson about personal revelation, she said that her husband used to get really drunk and beat her and hit the kids. That was one of the reasons she wanted to leave him. He hated anything to do with the church, especially tithing, and would often get mad at her for going to church. She went faithfully for about five years before it got too hard and she went inactive.
She fasted and prayed diligently, and finally the Elders found her again last summer. They started working with the entire family, and the husband was still unreceptive and didn't understand. He still drank and beat her regularly.
But she said that when my companion and I started teaching him about repentance and faith, his heart softened and he independently and quietly decided to stop drinking. According to Sister L, he hasn't drunk or hit her since we started teaching her.
As a missionary, I knew he had previously had drinking problems but I didn't know that he had completely stopped. Even though we had worked with him for many months, we had never felt we needed to directly teach him the Word of Wisdom. It was a huge testimony builder to me that if you teach correct doctrines and principles, the Spirit will prompt people to know how to change!
The most difficult goodbye, however, was Katherine's family. We've been working both directly and indirectly with members of her family my entire time in Miri, and have seen them make enormous changes to their lifestyle. We did a Family Home Evening together, and everyone felt the Spirit as they shared how the Gospel changed their life. Henryanto shared how he used to drink and beat his wife because he thought there was no purpose to everything. He said that as we taught him the Plan of Salvation he opened his heart and felt the Spirit tell him to stop drinking. Katherine talked about how much happier she is. Sanggai shared how we literally and figuratively saved his life. Other family members and extended family members shared how Christ has transformed who they are.
There were many other goodbyes and a lot of tears (actually, I didn't cry externally at all. But people around me did). As I shared my testimony in district meeting, the Spirit testified to teach of us that the work we are doing truly is the work of God.
I realize that in most areas you don't get to see such 180 degree transformations while you are in one area, for so many people. I don't know why, but I've been privileged to watch and help dozens of people--less actives, recent converts, active members, other missionaries, etc. change their lives and become happy.
Now I'm in Kota Kinabalu, Chinese speaking. The work here hasn't historically been very fast paced (especially for the Chinese sisters) but we are here to change that.
Missionary work is amazing, and learning the Gospel is how we change. I know that full consecration is how we help other people change, and our faith can make good things happen in other people's lives.
Transfers rolled around. Last night I was curious and texted President Simmons, who told me I was staying in Miri 2, unless I felt strongly otherwise. I told him I felt my work was coming to a close in Miri. He called me this morning and told me that he prayed about it, he decided I'm going to Kota Kinabalu (KK) Chinese speaking and training Sister Welling.
I firmly believe that missionaries attract investigators like themselves. Intellectual missionaries attract "hard" investigators with lots of questions. Easy going missionaries attract easy going people. I attract the outcasts.
The only thing I'm leaving behind in Miri, is a whimsical collection of weird people. I mean; I first met a few of them fishing in the Malaysian sewers. Here are a few examples from the past 48 hours to illustrate:
An Elder to my recent convert*: "Why are you so happy all the time? You're always singing!"
See what I mean? Complete weirdos.
But I love all of them to death.
My favorite part of this Miri chapter is how I've been able to see and literally experience change in each of these valuable souls. I've been blessed to take a handful of people from initial contact through their recent convert lessons and on to callings. To watch them go from useless high school drop outs, the girl who married a guy just to get out of the village, the neglected child, the people with talent and no encouragement to the happy souls they are now, completely warms my heart. It's a true testament to the power of the Atonement, the power of the Gospel to make sad men happy and happy people rejoice.
I hope I left Miri better than I found it. If anything, there's a group of awkward individuals passing the Sacrament each week, beaming from ear to ear because of the Gospel. And that's the joy that God's blessed me with.
Thought Number One:
This week was a wake up call--the world still exists!
To get an idea of how isolated I've been the last year...
1) I only found out the Olympics were happening about two weeks ago
2) I didn't know Justin Bieber had a new album until about February
3) Apparently #goals is a trend that's come and gone (found out today during companionship study)
In an attempt to wake me up and realize there is life outside Miri, God sent me to Singapore and Kota Kinabalu (KK) last week--a charming beach city where the sisters live on top of a California style mall in the middle of KK Times Square (they have a brand new gym that looks over the city and the beach. Prime real estate). As a missionary, we are always talking to people. But walking out of the apartment into the mall boggled my mind because there was just so much more world than I was used to. Shopping! Music! PDA! Fashion? What's that? Hamburgers! Vogue! A far cry from humble stilt houses and Iban karaoke music.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the world is a scary place.
Good exchanges in KK. If you want more of what was learned there, email me.
Thought Number 2:
I've lived in Miri for as long as I've lived anywhere since 2013.
Thought Number 3:
Katherine and Henrying got baptized!
I've been working with them since February, and have watched them completely change. Henrying went from getting drunk and beating his wife to loving church, completely sober, and loving his family and actively helping everyone. I've seen so many miracles with this family--everything from them unknowingly being related to two different less active families and Sanggai (recent convert), to fasting so they could come to church, to Henrying stopping drinking just because he felt the Holy Ghost told him to; setting temple goals together, reading dozens of chapters of the Book of Mormon together, etc. Fasting, praying, laughing, and crying really bring you together.
About two months ago they moved out of my area into the Miri 1 area, and I'm so grateful Sister Slaugh and Monroe got to work with them because they were able to help them in ways I wasn't.
I got a blessing about five months ago which told me that I would "be blessed to see the fruits of my labors in Miri." I know that they were a part of that beautiful blessing. I promised them I would take them through the temple when that day comes (now we all just need to make enough money).
I am currently in Singapore for a few days, then going to KK for the rest of the week on exchanges. I put my little trainee, who doesn't speak Malay, with Sister Clark, my former Chinese trainee, so somehow they have to figure out how to teach people in Malay. Neither of them know enough to carry on a conversation. I feel rather evil.
I was here in Singapore for a special meeting with Elder [David F.] Evans, which was prolific. It was for Mission Leadership Council [MLC] so there were only about 20 of us, and it was amazing to listen and converse with him for about six hours.
He talked a lot about how we could change the mission. Something rather complimentary he said was that, out of all the missionaries in the world, we (the "travelling pioneers of Malaysia") are the most trusted.
We were discussing teaching repentance and he said, "Do you even understand repentance?" He then proceeded to give a beautiful discourse on how to deepen our understanding of the doctrine. So one of the focuses for the rest of my mission is to follow his advice and deepen my understanding of that doctrine.*
Our bike seats were stolen during a lesson. After the lesson, I told the husband of our investigator, and he got really mad. He stormed outside and gathered all of the kampong children (probably about 20 of them) and got quite angry at them (they recently stole his car battery and car tires). He threatened to evict a few of them (he also owns their houses, apparently) and yelled at their parents for their bad parenting skills. He also called the police and made us wait for them. They didn't do anything when they arrived, so we were simply bike-seatless.The next day he called us and let us know that he found our bike seats washed up on the riverbank, and another one hidden under one of his tenant's houses.
What were the chances?
The story would not be complete if I neglected to add that in a different lesson (ironically on repentance) later in the week, he interrupted our lesson and showed us about six crying boys all lined up outside his house. He had contacted each of their families who had brought them to our lesson. He told us to sit and watch, as he proceeded to yell at each boy for stealing. He then asked each of their families for permission to slap them ("only once, to teach them a lesson") which he did, then made each of them promise to never steal anything again.
Several of them wouldn't promise. At least they were honest. They then each shook our hands and apologized.
Imagine this scene: two sister missionaries and an Iban lady sitting at a table learning about repentance. Six crying boys lined up in front of them with a very large smoking Chinese man shaking a fist and a bike seat in their faces and screaming, "Kamu minta mati!" (You're asking for death!), and...a crowd of about 35 people watching the events unfold.
Not quite my style of parenting, but at least our investigator's husband now has a great relationship with us. ALSO, the siblings of one of the thieves sat in one of our lessons and really enjoyed it.
God works in mysterious ways.
*Notes from Elder Evans: The worst thing that should happen in meeting someone is that they have a wonderful conversation about the church but if we're not teaching repentance, we won't get converts.
Talk with people, not to people
USE YOUR BRAIN
The sermon had ended
The priests had descended
Much delighted were they
But preferred the old way
He said that's the problem with missionaries. they prefer to use old useless tactics.
Faith is a sweet blend of belief and action.
He wants more than just work. He wants smart, focused work.
Street contacting is useless. If half of the apostles could have their way, they would eliminate street contacting.
This week didn't seem to have a huge overarching theme, so here are a few fun things from the journal:
1. Stilt houses are better than houses with good foundations
2. We created a very large hole in the middle of a less active's wooden house.
4. Crazy recent converts
Area update: I'm still in Miri! For...the 9th month! I've actually been praying to stay here because I can feel there is so much more work to do.
There's always a catch though. Ready?
I'm half training an English speaking sister to speak Malay starting from nothing. We learned "thank you" the other day. Imagine that. Last week, President asked me how I felt about teaching someone Malay from scratch. And just like that, he called up a brand new English speaking missionary, told her she would be learning Malay, and here we are. Sister Erickson is truly amazing, and if someone was capable of switching languages without the MTC experience, it would be her. She played basketball in college, so has a great work ethic and strong testimony--the two ingredients I would argue are necessary for success on a mission.
The good news is that I'm no longer in two branches and don't need to teach anyone Chinese anymore, so I can focus on teaching her Malay. I'm also still Sister Training Leader (STL), meaning I go on exchanges with Sisters all over and learn amazing lessons from them.
The internet was completely out in the city of Miri and Bintulu yesterday. No one had internet. It's funny to think about it--if the internet didn't work at all in Singapore, the entire city would practically shut down. But little Miri chugged along as usual almost as if their entire lifeline to the rest of the world hadn't just completely died.
This was a great week. First off, I was voiceless for about four days. Since my companion doesn't actually speak Malay (she's a Chinese sister), we couldn't go to some of our appointments. Then it was Zone Conference. Then Al, Nana and Nini were baptized. Then the week was over.
Nana and Nini are the two girls I talked about in last week's email. Here's a little about Al:
First off, I have trust issues and never take things at face value.
I am constantly learning exactly how incomprehensibly God loves each of his children. I know that one of the many reasons I have come to Miri, is for Florencia and Diana--two kids.
Two kids may be inconsequential in building the kingdom of God, but two kids are two precious souls. And to me, spending 30 minutes a week helping someone feel happy through the spirit isn't a waste of time.
Originally we were simply teaching a less active. But the less active's daughter introduced us to her 9 and 12 year old friends, who started sitting in the lesson. Then they started getting really interested and started going to church. For about two months, we didn't count them as investigators because they're, well, kids.
This was an extraordinarily eventful week in many aspects. I suppose there were three rather large events that happened:
1. The Pedophile Post on Facebook that turned our work upside down
2. Larina's baptism
1. The Pedophile Post
For our weekly English class, we advertise by holding a large sign up with our phone number at a busy intersection in town. It's actually extremely effective and we've gained quite a few quality students that way.
Last week it was the Elders' duty, and someone snapped a picture of Elder M at a rare moment he wasn't smiling. The anonymous photographer posted it on Facebook side by side with the picture of an Englishman who had come to MIri five years ago, claiming to teach English, but was actually a pedophile. The post said something to the effect of "don't talk to people on bikes, they're all pedophiles."
Hello everyone :)
Here are notes taken from Sister Simmon's interview with me about a month ago. This is what I wrote down from it, so there was definitely more I didn't write!
The question was: "How do we help sisters get lost in the work?"
Sister Simmons immediately diagnosed it as a "vision problem", citing Enos as the chief scriptural example. She left me with four ideas to study and discover:
1. Our souls desire joy.
- Joy is ultimately the sum of all of our desires. We simply vary in how we think we can acquire it
2. Joy is a practiced art. "Perfection now" is the siren song of a Saviorless world.
3. The Spirit gives us desires
- study Enos, Alma 5 and Oliver Cowdery
4. The process begins with gratitude and humility
- "consecration is more than just us giving our all--it's also expecting God to give us everything."
- Are sisters serving out of obligation or love? If we can get all sisters into a miracle zone where their faith is constantly elevating, they can shift to a place where they recognize the necessity of the discomfort and ultimate joy that comes from growth.
- "Gratitude is the mother of all virtues"
-"Profound repentance means adopting the mindset of God as he teaches us through personal revelation. This is exciting stuff--to be tutored by God."
Food for thought.
For some reason, a lot of returned missionaries say that missions get boring after a while--always the same routine.
I happen to disagree.
Maybe it's my area or my situation, but every week is so much fun. In fact, I didn't know this much fun was allowed on a mission.
For instance, the other day my companion and I stopped by a member's house to borrow something. What did we find?
The kids had caught a few turtles from the nearby river and had built a fire pit with a cooking wire over it. They had put the turtles over the fire without killing them first, so the turtles were trying to crawl away but the dad kept poking them down with a long stick. The turtles were trying their hardest to crawl but were no match for the stick. My companion literally felt sick to her stomach and had to run away. But I watched, fascinated by the slow and tortoious death (hehe) of the poor, undeserving turtles.
To make the entire story ten times better, the kids were throwing weed on the fire.
Painfully roasted turtle and weed. I wonder how it tasted. My companion and I now use "Exalted turtle!" as our new chosen swear word.
Reflecting back on my mission, I realize that I used to be very diplomatic and let investigators resolve concerns through the Spirit and scriptural means, which meant not a lot got resolved because they didn't actually do it. Now (especially on exchanges) I use the pigeon approach--I go around poking everyone. I'm simply sick of excuses and so now I'm very bold. At least these people know I love them to death and would do anything for them, so it's okay, right?
1. Marissa (name changed) is a 17 year old newly married (illegally) to a 28 year old. They met on WeChat a few months ago. They don't have a marriage certificate because she's under aged, and was planning on getting baptized after her 18th birthday.
So this was how the lesson went:
(after a powerful discussion on the blessings of baptism)
Me: You understand the Book of Mormon, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the role of baptism in conversion. We commit you to have no sex with your husband until you get a marriage certificate so you can get baptized.
To my complete surprise, she agreed and thought it was a wonderful idea.
Her: Yes! Of course!
Me: Wait...for real?
Me: Don't you want to ask your husband first?
Her: Nah, it's fine, he'll be okay.
Me: Do you even miss him? (he's working off shore)
Her: Eh, it's okay.
We still made her talk to her husband, and he said it was okay so...she's abstaining from sex and other activities with her husband for a few months. She passed her baptism interview with flying colors. I am quite concerned about the quality of her relationship with her husband.
2. I also had quite a few exchanges this week. I was doing companionship study with a companionship and checked their area book, to find they had no fellow shippers listed, which is a huge no-no. They gave lots of excuses so I simply opened Preach My Gospel and read to them the part about NO EXCUSES. I think it put them in shock. Oh well.
3. We also went and taught a few recent convert young men a chastity lesson (they were bragging about their Brazilian online girlfriends. Why in the world do you have a Brazilian online girlfriend? Exactly.) I don't want to be taking the Sacrament from unworthy Priesthood holders. It was very bold and made them squirm. It was rather enjoyable.
4. I'm a much more bold contacter now. If you don't want to learn about the gospel I'm not going to waste time on you. Before I used to be their best friend before I set up a lesson with them and got their number. Now I go up to them and start talking about temple marriage or infant baptism or the Book of Mormon or family home evening and commit them to be married in the temple on the spot then mention that meeting with missionaries and baptism is a step towards that. It's quite interesting. Jesus overthrew the temple, so why can't we overthrow Miri?
I'm going to have to cool down before I go home. Otherwise I'm not going to have any friends.
This week was wonderful. Last week the branches, the area and everything fell apart (seven people on date to get baptized within the next two weeks no longer are and the branch was full of contention).
So this week, God essentially saved my life by giving me a wonderful break.
Wednesday morning, I flew alone to Singapore for a meeting. Somehow I got bumped to business class, and spent about 11 hours travelling and spent a long layover in the business class lounge calling investigators, studying scriptures, talking to people, and eating cheese (a rare commodity in Miri).
Thursday, we were spiritually empowered, attended Spirit filled meetings and listened to testimonies and went to training sessions, and Friday I came home and we had exchanges.
Sunday a Chinese lady walked into nursery and said, "I'm from Brunei and I've read the Book of Mormon. Can I get baptized in two weeks?"
Technically our area includes all of Brunei, so we are going to teach her through Skype because of immigration issues.
...and that's about all that happened. I apologize for the short email, I'm trying to type an essay on vision and goals and that's taking up most of my email time.
These are my real colors. Forgive me if they destroy any good virtues you thought I had.
The question of the week is:
How do you parent with results without the fighting?
It's really no secret that my mom is a semi-tiger mom. Not quite as extreme as Amy Chua, but she definitely had standards and expectations and structure, for which I am very grateful, because with my personality and way of learning, I needed it. But now I parent others the same way I was parented.
I was a pretty unmotivated child and Mom had to beat motivation and work ethic into me. When I was about seven years old, I remember Mom was helping me learn Seitz for a competition. To this day I still remember Seitz, because we worked on it together for an entire summer with lots of tears and lots of temper tantrums on my part--every single detail from how to breathe to exact intonation while all still having fun while playing. The tears and temper tantrums repeated themselves later, when Dad was trying to teach me math (except he gave up. Which is why I'm good at music and REALLY bad at math). It all came back rather vividly this week.
I was trying to help poor Sister Clark memorize a paragraph from "God is our Loving Heavenly Father" in Chinese. She was frustrated ("Why can't I learn this?"), I was frustrated ("Why isn't she learning it?"), but I refused to let us leave the house without her achieving her goal.
So there we were--we had already missed two appointments because she hadn't learned it yet. Me, sprawled out on the tile floor with my eyes closed (in what my yoga teacher once told was a relaxing pose) correcting her pronunciation, as she stood, tears streaming down her face as she hit a wall with her water bottle.
I had the amazing opportunity this week to go to Kuching to work in the Chinese branch there, had five week training with my trainee, and came back to Miri. Honestly, so much happens on any given day I can't remember what happens.
I'm learning how to delegate. I'm slightly ADD to begin with, but I don't think I've ever been stretched so thin before. It's so much more than just missionary work and leadership--it's the Branch's drama. Our Relief Society President got mad at a bunch of people. The Chinese people in our branch got offended by the Philipinos so now certain people won't come to church. They asked to be released from their callings as well. So much DRAMA.
BUT in the other branch, we finally have a Young Women's President!!! I'm extraordinarily excited, since we've been the acting Presidency for a few months now, so that's one less responsibility.
Favorite lesson (in Kuching):
Madame Tan. Madame Tan is a highly sophisticated 65 year old Chinese investigator in Kuching (picture the classic jade necklace and heavy eyebrow pencil to make up for the lack of eyebrows on Chinese people). I went over with a brand new missionary and we shared the message of the Restoration--the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. At the end of our discussion, we asked if she had any questions.
This week was amazing! We conducted the first ever Visiting Teaching in one of our branches!!!!!!!! (I don't use exclamation marks often, so this shows it's a big deal).
Of the six hours at church, we taught Young Women, Youth Sunday School, translated into Malay, translated again, Primary, and Adult Sunday School. Our next goal is to get people confident enough to teach so we're not enabling (that's one of my biggest worries--enabling instead of long term help). However, there are two cautionary bicycle parables....
1. It was on exchanges with Sister O'Boyle. It started as a wonderful day--insightful and motivating studies, set appointments with seemingly solid eight different potential investigators, good sunny weather. The day started going downhill about five minutes after we left the house.
Anyone who knows me and my biking skills knows I HATE biking in the front. I'm horrible at directions and don't look where I'm going. I always make my companion bike in the front. Since Sister O'Boyle didn't know where anything was, I had to lead.
Perhaps it was the Sibelius stuck in my head or the list of people I was thinking I needed to call or my ADD side ("Look! tail-less cat. Why do cats in Malaysia have no tails?"), but I ran a red light at a sizable intersection.
This week the Iban people of Sarawak celebrate Gawai--a tribal festival that involves going back to Kampong (longhouse in the middle of nowhere) to drink, see family, and perform rituals like dancing over rice with chickens.
This also meant this was the worst week of missionary work since my training days. All of our investigators went back to kampong; the streets were empty and everyone we saw was pretty drunk or a Jehovah's Witness. So...this is where having two branches comes in handy. We went to visit Chinese less actives. The Chinese branch had a grand total of 24 people at church, 10 of whom were recent converts.
I also took another trip to Singapore for a meeting and to do a visa run with Sister Slaugh, my MTC companion (and housemate). Coincidentally, this also happened to be our year mark. We talked a lot about how we have fundamentally changed on our missions in just a year. Not just our behavior, but the essence of who we are. When you truly lose yourself in the work and stop thinking about yourself, you really do find yourself.
I really needed the visit. A lot of times I think that the Lord gives me so responsibilities because He knows I need exchanges to make sure I work really hard and desperately need miracles. I need the trips to Singapore to have contact with mission leadership so I can get fire to bring back to our little corner of the country.
I don't really know what to say. Helping other struggling sisters is humbling. Training is like all of a sudden having a teenager. Speaking multiple languages in two branches is a new experience.
OH! Sister Slaugh and I were approved to wake up an hour early each morning to go running. Honestly, I don't like running very much. Anyone who knows me knows that. I remember Emily used to sign me up for 5Ks then drag my by the hand through the entire race. One year Emily's New Year's resolution was to make me go running. That's how bad it is.
But I love Sister Slaugh and I hate lying in bed doing nothing, so we run every morning. Ready for the breakthrough?
I DISCOVERED RUNNING IS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.
We are suppose to search, ponder and pray. But let's be real. When do missionaries have time to ponder? Running gives me time to think through my prayers and desires, to ponder the scriptures I'm absorbing, to take in the beauty of the world, and to simply be grateful. So as I run, I pray. I list things I am grateful for in my prayers, and the power of gratitude gives me energy for the day. I talk to God as I maneuver the streets and admire the mango trees. Then I go home and prepare for personal study, which is so much more meaningful when I've just had an amazingly spiritual experience.
I'm not very fast (my legs are REALLY short), but I keep jogging (looks more like trotting--Sister Slaugh repeatedly has to stop and jog in place for me to catch up while the grass cutters and commuters give us weird looks) along for 60 minutes each morning. It's such a beautiful meditative experience.
I never thought I would ever have a positive thing to say about running. It's amazing what missions do to you.
Love you all,
Favorite moment of the week: The most tender moment of the week was with Katherine. Katherine is one who might be considered a "golden" investigator--she loves learning about the gospel, understands it well, keeps commitments and everything else. Her husband is the brother of Sanggai (recent convert) and she has two little kids. Her only difficulty is getting to church, since she doesn't have money to bring her family. She's had a really hard life.
We found out her older brother is actually a member of the church, albeit less active (Brother Lerang). We've actually been working with his wife for many months, trying to get them to rebuild their testimony. Finally, Brother Lerang decided to come to church this week, which also happened to be the same week Katherine was able to come to church.
When they saw each other at church, they gave each other the most tender Iban sniff I have ever seen (as a sign of affection, Iban people violently sniff each other). It turns out that they haven't seen each other for TEN YEARS and this was the first time he's met these nieces and nephews. Throughout the church services they didn't say very much to each other, but you could tell there was pure familial love in their eyes whenever they looked at each other. She was telling me about how he basically was the father of the family and helped the family through their many hardships, including the death of a few of their siblings.
Dreams: I started violently throwing up and was miserably sick last Sunday. It lasted for quite a while and it was horrible pain. That night, Sister Slaugh (my MTC companion! I've lived with her most of my mission--and we're back in the same house...again! It's amazing) had a dream I had worms and I needed to take an antibiotic and a worm pill.
The next day I was still in horrible pain, but I decided it wouldn't hurt to try taking the medicines she gave me. And...I miraculously got better. The power of dreams is real.
Also...I had ringworm on my face. It was gross. It is now gone. Just thought you would like to know.
I watched Shirley grow from first contact to confirmation. I remember seeing her infectious smile for the first time at church, the excitement of the sisters as she progressed in the Gospel. She used to bring me roses--never pink because she knew I didn't like pink. She always had little gifts for all the sisters-bracelets she made, little necklaces, a pear clip with a pearl. On exchanges, I got to teach her the Plan of Salvation, chastity, the Word of Wisdom (she gave us a long lecture about how "dadah" (drugs in Malay) ruin your brain cells). Her first primary song was "I am a Child of God." The memories are still vivid.
Her prayers were what taught me the most. They were at least five minutes long. Bless the sisters to have angels protect them as they bike. Thank you for a lesson that changed my life. Please bless Joseph Smith even though he's dead. Bless people in the spirit world. Thank you for the clouds, they remind me of you.
She was only 11. Her mom wasn't interested in learning, her father figure was her mom's Muslim boyfriend. Neither cared if she continued learning. So Shirley rode the bus faithfully to church, by herself, every week for months. She didn't go to school (her mom was too lazy to sign her up) so the sisters tried registering once. Shriley would take the sisters around the neighborhood and introduce them to all the children. Soon all the kids of Tudon, Phase One, could sing "Follow the Prophet."
Her baptism was beautiful. I played the violin while everyone belted "I know He lives! I will follow faithfully! My heart I give to him I know that my Savior loves me!" We took photos by the pictures of Jesus. Smile! Funny face! Put on your missionary name tag! Her testimony was also touching. "I wish that my family would come. But that's okay, because you're my family."
Life was busy. I was in a different branch, busy sorting out their woes and troubles. One Sunday I noticed Shirley hadn't given me my perfunctory hug. The sisters had no idea where she was. None of her church friends or concerned primary leaders could find out what happened. By a chance meeting with her mother at the market, they found out she had a job washing dishes at a restaurant--9 hours a day, two days off a month. Sometimes night shift, sometimes day shift.
I am now in Shirley's branch. We've been praying to meet her. Thursday we were biking and suddenly I heard Shirley's voice screaming, "Sister Quan!" Her mom pulled up on a moto alongside us and Shirley hurriedly told us we could come by her house at 3:00 the next afternoon.
She wasn't her usual self. She was hesitant to sing and even more hesitant to pray. She looked around the room nervously and refused all of our invitations. We asked if she could go get her Book of Mormon Stories and songs and she gave a nervous laugh. We asked if we could sing her a song.
"I am a Child of God, and he has sent me here..."
She looked nervously at the ground. By this point I had a pretty strong theory about what had happened.
"has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear..."
The room filled with a strong and familiar warm spirit, the kind that pierces the heart testifying of Christ. It was so powerful it was almost tangible.
"Lead me guide me, walk beside me..."
She ran across the room to her mom--"give them to me! Now!" She ran back to where we were crosslegged on the floor.
"Help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do..."
She brought her hands in front of her, revealing several pictures of her baptism.
"To live with Him someday."
"I have to stop going to church." she looked around the room. "Mom, you tell them!"
Silence. Heavy silence. I knew what she was going to say, but I didn't want to disturb the space in the room.
"I have a date. Early July. Mom wants me to become Muslim so she can marry her boyfriend. It's all arranged with the Imam. I can't pray to Heavenly Father anymore."
It hurt, more than I thought it would. Especially since I was the only one who understood the magnitude of this. Once you become Muslim, there is absolutely no way to switch back to Christianity. Legally speaking, you are never allowed back into a church. Your children are automatically born Muslim, your spouse must convert. My mind flashed back to an older lady I had met in KL--holding my hands and begging me to teach her about the Gospel. Somehow she had gotten a hold of a Restoration pamphlet and felt it was true. But she had married a Muslim when she was 19 and divorced a year later, so we were forbidden to teach her.
Shirley handed me a photo. "Give this to Sister Lim, I want her to know that I love her. Tell her thank you for teaching me prayer."
"This one is for Veronica, I miss her."
"This one is for Stephanie."
"This one is for you." It was a picture of her all in white, smiling.
I couldn't think of anything to say, so I started singing.
"I love to see the temple, I'm going there someday..."
My companion joined in. Shirley started singing. By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall my word be established.
"Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father's plan..."
For the second time on my entire mission, I started crying. I could literally feel the hardships that would come into her life because of this. It was as if the Spirit was reassuring me, more than her, that someday, everything will be okay. The church is still true.
"I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..."
My voice tripped on the words as I listened to my companion--a 5 day old missionary with the entire world and a multitude of possibilities at her call and beckon. Her voice blended with Shirley's. "...I'll follow his light. His truth I will proclaim!"
We were walking out the gate, and Shirley consented to give the prayer. "...I'm sorry, I have to enter Islam now. Please forgive me, God. I know this church is true."
Tears mingled with my sweat as we biked away. A saying came to mind, "everything will work out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end." But how hard will the road be to the end without the blessings of revelation through prayer and church and scriptures?
I know my limits and role as a missionary. My job is simply to invite people to come unto Christ. I know that Christ helps everyone, regardless of circumstance. He truly hears and responds to our prayers and I can testify that His plan is perfect. Even if things look gloomy and hopeless, they will work out. Maybe not ever in this life, but someday. I'm still learning to develop the faith and patience to endure gracefully, but I know without a doubt Christ truly is our Savior.
Before I write anything, does anyone know my little (well, not so little. She's 6 feet tall) trainee, Allison Clark? She lived in Beijing from 2006-2011 (3rd branch) and went to ISB. From Sweden. We know tons of people in common. She left Beijing three months before I arrived...
To be completely honest, I can't remember much of what we did this week. Here's what I recall:
I went to Singapore to pick up Sister Clark (this is the third time I've been to Singapore in the 7 weeks. I thought I used to fly a lot before my mission, but I don't think I've ever flown this much in my entire life!). Sister Soon and I had a full afternoon free before meetings. I was a bit stressed (wouldn't admit it, but I probably was) so Sister Soon and I spent the afternoon shopping. And yes, retail therapy in Singapore works. There are certain things you can't really get in Miri--like good waterproof shoes and reliable cameras that don't have viruses.
To appreciate the value of good waterproof plastic shoes--my old shoes had been chewed by dogs, peed in, and had holes. So the shopping really was necessary. I needed a new camera because the circuit on my old camera was broken, and then some child got a hold of it and hit his sister over the head with it really hard and it...stopped working.
And then we met our trainees, did a lot of flying back to Miri, and got to work.
The most beautiful moment of the week was actually last night, talking to my new companion right before we fell asleep. We had had a pretty typical weekend--in charge of nursery and young womens and giving talks, visiting less actives, investigators--the normal missionary things. It wasn't really anything special to me, it felt like any other weekend.
Sister Clark was reviewing the first lesson I took her to. It was in Malay, so she didn't understand anything being said.
From My Perspective
This is what I explained to her as we went there: Greg and his family is a less active family with lots of challenges that make it hard for them to come to church. It's hard to teach them because all of the kids are illiterate and he won't send them to school. Don't know why. The mom ran away a few years ago, leaving him with the kids. So understanding comes very very slowly. Very sweet and loving kids, need help with transportation, need to review Godhead and prayer because they still pray to Jesus instead of Heavenly Father.
At the lesson: We read a few verses from 3 Nephi 11 to illustrate how Jesus Christ came to visit the Nephites (this was new information to them).
As we were biking away, I was evaluating the lesson and was wondering if it was even worth visiting this family. The understanding comes so slowly, I wondered if they even knew what baptism meant. I didn't share this with Sister Clark, of course.
This was Sister Clark's appraisal of the situation (almost word for word, I wrote it in my journal right after she said this):
We walked into the most beautiful wooden longhouse home. The only pictures on the wall were pictures of Jesus and the temple. There wasn't anything in this bookshelf thing except for the scriptures. It really amazes me how much they value the Book of Mormon and the Gospel in their lives. When they started praying, you could feel the Spirit and you could see how earnestly they truly want to understand who Christ is.
I want to have that sense of respect and wonder for Christ, the same way they do. When you were explaining to them about how Christ came to earth and appeared to the people of the Book of Mormon, the spirit was really strong and I know that the entire family felt it. I will never forget that first lesson I went to on my mission.
Same lesson, two different experiences. To me, it was a typical borderline is-this-visit-worth-it 20 minutes. Commitment, check. Scriptures and inspired questions, check. Prayers said correctly, check. Spirit, check. Preach my Gospel standards, check. To someone with fresher, more open eyes than me, it was a sacred experience she will never forget. She couldn't understand the language or anything that was going on, so all she could do was feel. Feel the Spirit engulf us as we talked of Christ. I think the difference is I walked into the house noticing the details that needed fixing (for instance, their picture of the temple was ripped on the side and I'll bring tape next week). Instead, I learned that I should walk into these experiences looking for the holy--looking for God in the room.
Preach My Gospel
Currently serving a mission in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
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253 Bukit Timah Road,