Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Final Chapter – Finally

Here it is . . . the final chapter of my missionary blog. It’s been a long time in coming. We’ve been home a little over a month now. We have been busy since returning home and have had very little time and/or energy to sit down and write this final chapter. It's also a hard thing to do as I think back about the last 18 months . . . the ups, the downs, the members, the missionaries, the food, and all the other experiences that we've had . . . they are over for now, and my heart o'erfloweth.

We arrived in Salt Lake City on March 1 in the afternoon. We were met by our three children and their families at the airport. We spent the evening with them and stayed that night with our son, Aaron and his family, in Grantsville.

The next day we flew to St. George where we were met by our other two children and their families. It was definitely a wonderful reunion to see our children and our grandchildren again. We've missed them a great deal. We also got to meet two grandsons that we hadn't met yet; Pierson who is about 18 months now and Ezra who is about two months old. Such handsome, happy little guys. It is a blessing   to hug them and to receive hugs from all the grandchildren, all 21 of them!

Welcome home to St. George! 
All the homemade signs, here and in SLC were fantastic! 
Are we really here?
Definitely a welcome sight to see all our grandkids again!
We have been going ever since we've arrived back in St. George. We've made several trips to various stores to restock and update our home and yard supplies.  We went to the Spring Home and Garden Show in St. George and came away with several ideas. Today is the first day of Spring so our thoughts are turned to sprucing up the yard, at least getting a bit of a garden planted. But, that's not important. I need to get back to more important matters.

One important stop when we got back to St. George was to rent a car. We gave both of our cars to our sons when we left. Both cars promptly broke down shortly after we left. SIGH! They both have yet to be repaired.

So, the rental? The picture speaks for itself.

It was fun to drive, but a little impractical for us!
No, we didn't buy that one. We were a little more conservative and bought a used 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe. It fits our needs at the present time.

It gets really good gas mileage!
Our homecoming Sacrament meeting was March 13. The ward has grown a lot since we've been gone, partly due to a long overdue ward boundary change. Anyway, the chapel and overflow were filled to capacity. We had a lot of family, friends, missionaries, and parents of missionaries. It was overwhelming to have so many people show their support for us.

The musical number was presented by our children, grandchildren, and many of the missionaries that we have come to know and love. Sherrie accompanied on the piano; our granddaughter, Savanna, accompanied on the harp; and I directed. We sang I Am a Child of God in English and Malay (Aku Anak Tuhan). It turned our very nicely.

Our Family/Missionary Choir
A special thanks to Brother C for videoing part of the musical number!

After the meeting we met at our house for a light lunch and some visiting. I should note that the Saturday night before we had a little missionary reunion. Several of our missionaries were able to stop by and visit. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to renew these friendships.

Love 'em all!
Beth and Micah Putnam. Micah was our language tutor. 
Elder T's Parents . . . The Thompsons 
Elder C's Parents . . . the Changs 
Elder Kahea Chang and Elder Jake Mix
The Changs and Elder and Sister Hadley (Doug and Marie)
Elder Orr's mother and siblings.
In our backyard with "our adopted sons. 
Reunited with a beautiful family
One of the major things I wanted to do when I go home was to get back on my bike and lose some weight. It took awhile . . . maybe three weeks, before I could even think about it, but it finally happened. We took both Sherrie's and my bike in to be tuned up. They were in sad shape, but they looked and performed almost like new after the tune ups. I had to replace both tubes on my bike before I could ride.

Before we left on our mission I was up to 15 miles per day. It's going to be awhile before I get to that point again. I didn't fare too well on my first two rides, but I am up to the challenge. I will be at it everyday starting next week. This week we are in Salt Lake City for a grandson's birthday.

I close my missionary blog by declaring to all who read it that I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know He lives. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His true Church on the earth today. There is truth is all churches, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church on the earth today that has His Priesthood, the authority to act in His name, and all that He needs us do and know.

The Church was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know he is the prophet of the restoration. I know our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a grove of trees as he knelt in prayer to ask which church he should join. I know that he was told to join no church at that time, but that he would be used as an instrument to restore the ancient Church of Jesus Christ which fell into apostasy when the apostles, the foundation of the Church, were killed.

I know that Joseph Smith received the Priesthood from John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John. He received more keys from other ancient prophets.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. It was given to him by the Angel Moroni. Joseph Smith translated by the power of the Holy Ghost. I have read the Book of Mormon several times. I know it's true.

I know that our Father in Heaven has provided a way for us to return to Him. It's called by many names, but perhaps the most common is the Plan of Happiness.  Through His plan, we have been blessed with a Savior, even Jesus Christ. I know that through His Atonement we can return to live with Him and with our Father if we repent, keep trying, and endure to the end.

I am grateful that we had the opportunity and privilege to go to the Singapore Mission and work with the seminary and institute teachers in Sarawak, East Malaysia. I am grateful for them and their dedication and examples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the youth with whom they work. I am grateful that we had the privilege of working with them.

I am grateful for the members and the missionaries with whom we grew to love with all our hearts. We were greatly blessed by so many beautiful and wonderful people. We already miss them a great deal. I am still having withdrawals.

I know that we have a living prophet today, even Thomas S. Monson. I know that we have living apostles, too. I know that the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by Jesus Christ.

I know that we served a purpose on our mission. I know that we were able to help and influence others for good. We were able to organize a seminary council in Sibu with youth from several branches of the Church there. We were able to help teach members about the Gospel through the seminary and institute programs, the Primary program, and music. We taught a directing class which turned into the Branch 2 Choir. It is still going strong.

It has been a blessing for us to be able to serve and share. I love the Lord. I love being in His service. We would like to serve another mission. We will see how our health and family go.

The Church is true! I thank my Father in Heaven for calling us to serve.

In the name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Our Last Week in Sibu!

The week started with a surprise, but not really a surprise. We had been keeping our mouths closed to the fact that we are leaving next Sunday morning and would not be attending church in Sibu. We thought we might be able to get out of speaking in Sacrament meeting, but, alas. that didn't happen.

Why there were no speakers assigned to speak in Branch One we have no idea. Fortunately, President Lai and Brother Tandiman were there. They were the first two speakers, followed by Sister Bodell. There was an intermediate hymn, and I was the concluding speaker. It was not a complete surprise that we got to speak.

It turns out that the meeting was very nice, very spiritual. Both Sherrie and I were able to convey our thoughts in English and Malay. I believe we were both blessed with the Holy Ghost. We both had ample time to share our feelings.

We also had the opportunity to speak in Branch Two. There were two other speakers who were both quite lengthy, but we still had a little time to share our testimonies. We attended our last Branch Two choir practice today, too. Sherrie accompanied because the Elder who usually does wasn't there. I had the opportunity to direct a couple of hymns, including God be With You. We sang the hymn in Indo then sang the first in English. It was very touching for all of us. I told these wonderful people that those words were our prayer for them. God be with (all of) us till we meet again.

Sunday evening we had a nice dinner with President Lai, Brother Tandiman, and President and Sister Chua. It was quite relaxing. After dinner, we took Brother Tandiman to the airport and said our goodbyes to him. We won't see him again.

Monday we mailed a second package home. We mailed the first when we were in Kuching. This one cost a little more to mail. It was pretty heavy. We also got our usual runs to GDex and the bank. This was our last run. Traffic is usually bad, but today it was the worst we've seen it. That might be due to it being the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration. Monday night we were back in the middle of a war zone. It started about 6:00 PM and continued for most of the night. It's like the neighbors were in competition to see who could make the most noise. The good news is that this ended tonight.

Tuesday was our last district meeting. Afterwards we went to The Noodle House with the district. I had the sizzling pork chop which is unusual because they usually "don't have" or "out of stock." It was really good, but I'm not sure it was cooked properly. That afternoon and evening I had to stay close to home. I won't go into details. A side note to this adventure is a little establishment across the street from The Noodle House.

The name is how I felt!
Tuesday evening we attended our last Chinese FHE. It was a special edition in our honor. The food was good, and Sister Bodell and I said our goodbyes to the wonderful members of the Chinese Branch.

Fun people!
President Chua Huat (Branch President) and family
Brother and Sister Ting
Sister Ng (Yes, I typed that correctly!)
President and Sister Chua (District President) 
Several of Chinese Branch Priesthood holders
On Wednesday afternoon the Elders were going to come over and wash our cars. It was raining pretty hard so we texted a set of missionaries to tell them another day would probably be better and to pass the message on to the others. Sometimes there is a lack of communication as was the case today. One set didn't get the message so we put them to work cleaning one of the bathrooms.

Elder D and Elder LW - Thanks guys!
Sister Bodell spent most of Thursday morning printing the words to many of the Primary songs on posters so the three branch Primaries will all have copies. This was after we got up and washed both of the cars in our driveway and sending a car report to the mission office. No more car reports after Saturday!

Thursday evening we went to Sister Ruran and her family by ourselves. We've been putting it off, trying to get the Elders to set up an appointment because our English isn't that good. The Elders called and asked if we'd like to go out that evening. We were busy at the time, showing Dimi and Natalie where some of the better places to shop are. We decided that we would bite the bullet and go by ourselves later that evening.

Turns out we had a delightful time without the missionaries. Sister Ruran called Sister Bintang who came over with her kids, Loren and Jacky. Between our pidgin Malay and their pidgin English we got along just fine! We're kicking ourselves for not being more courageous and not doing this sooner. If you check back through the archives of my blog, you'll find the picture of their baptism day. I am standing in the picture dressed in white because I had the privilege of baptizing the whole family.
They are so beautiful, but have been less active due to transport problems. We love them, and they seem to love us, too. It was beautiful to watch Sister Ruran light up when she saw Sister Bodell! She practically ran to her and gave her a hug! We will definitely miss them. Thank goodness for FaceBook.

Sister Ruran's mother, Kimberly, Sister Ruran, a daughter whose name has slipped my mind,
Kalvine, Sister Bintang, Loren, and Jackie
Turns out that Thursday and Friday I was still having issues with a digestive issue. I felt like that trading company in the second picture in this blog. However, I decided that I still wanted to go to the Fruit Bowl one more time with the Elders before we come home.

After the English class on Friday evening we met at the Fruit Bowl for our last time. The Fruit Bowl has become a Saturday tradition. The missionaries meet there about 8:00 PM for dinner and talk about their week. They call it Sibu Sabtu, which means Sibu Saturday. We went on Friday night because there was party at the church for us on Saturday night.

Elders T, R, and M eating their fruit bowls
Sister Bodell with her roti, Elder C, and Alex
I have to share a picture here before I forget. Can you guess what the national sport is here? No, it's not tennis.
The racket is smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a ping pong paddle.
Ping pong is really big here, too.
Saturday we finished our packing, cleaning the house, baking cookies for the Elders, using up what food stuff we had on hand. Saturday evening was our farewell soiree. This is a brief video of the evening. Sorry about the poor sound, but it's all I had that was appropriate.

President Chua picked us up Sunday morning and took us to the airport. We were met in Singapore by Elder and Sister Kunz (office couple) who took us to their old apartment where we stayed Sunday and Monday nights before heading off to the airport early Tuesday morning (That's tomorrow morning for us.). We have a dinner appointment this evening with President and Sister Simmons.

The next installment of this blog will be written from our home in Ivins. It's really hard to believe that we're on our way. I will spend the time between now and then composing my thoughts for the final chapter. It will be written in about two weeks from now. God bless you all!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Senior Couples in Kuching – Lots of Pictures!

We have two weeks left on our mission. By the time this is posted we will be down to our last week!

Monday we flew to Kuching to spend a little time with some of our senior couple friends before we head home. Elder and Sister Hammer are stationed in Kuching with Elder and Sister Slider. Elder and Sister Evensen flew from Miri on Public Affairs business so we were all together. We fly home in two weeks with the Sliders.

Monday afternoon we were able to go to the Sarawak Malaysian Culture Center. It's similar to the Polynesian Culture Center in Hawaii, but not as big. The first thing we saw was their cultural dance program. Here are a few highlights.

There were several displays in many of the various ethnic houses that showed the culture of the major tribes in Sarawak. Here are some pictures of the grounds and different dwellings of the ethnic tribes, along with some still shots from the show.

Wooden steps looking down 
Wooden steps from the side
Blow dart demonstration
Sape Player
Sape player (Yes, he's clothed in a loin cloth!)

Iban Warrior Dancer 
Shaman Shrine

That night we all went to dinner at a place called Howdy's.

The Evensens, Sliders, Hammers, and Bodells
This was a panorama shot with a handoff to Sister Evensen to catch the Bodells.
Tuesday we spent some time at the church, then took off to the waterfront. We went back to the waterfront on Wednesday as well. 

The Wisers, Evensens, Bodell, Hammers, and Sliders
Kuching is the Malay word for cat. How Kuching got its name I don't know. There is cat museum in Kuching. We didn't go inside, but the view is amazing. There are also several cat statues within the city.

Cat Museum
View from the museum, overlooking Kuching
Nice view of us, too!
Tree canopy
Chinese New Year is still being celebrated. It's a two-week celebration. Here are just a few pictures of some decorations in Kuching.

It's the Year of the Monkey.
This display rotated. 
The monkey is surrounded by other animals of the Chinese zodiac.
One of several displays in this particular mall
We took a little boat ride across the river in Kuching because a Malay woman told we should go. There wasn't a lot to see, but the boat ride was worth it. It cost RM 1.00 round trip. That's about 25¢! Fort Margherita is across the river. It dates back to 1879 and was also used in WWI and WWII. Of course, everything is right in the middle of the jungle.

Our destination 
Our boat captain
Not our boat, but similar
Docked at our destination
Fort Margherita
Love the size of the leaves!
Good advice!
Found this plaque at an eatery along the river front.
We got back from Kuching Wednesday evening. Thursday was a catch up and laundry day. Friday we thought we'd better see if we could get the rest of our souvenir shopping done and get things mailed home. Well, some of the souvenir shopping was done, but we haven't made it to the post office yet.

On many of our trips to the Bandar (downtown shopping area) I had noticed some wonderfully carved pineapple. I saw them again today and took Sister Bodell to see them. The fellow who carves them was there wielding his knife on the fruit. It was fun to watch and delicious to eat later.

How to Carve a Pineapple

The finished product
Seminary and Institute inservice is scheduled for this week and next. We've been excused since there is so much to do and so little time to get it done before going home. We did, however, attend the S&I inservice in Sibu Saturday afternoon. President Lai (our boss) and Juswan Tandiman (President Lai's boss) were here. 

Seminary & Institute Inservice in Session
Back Row: President Lai, Sister Bodell, Brother Tandiman, Alex, President Gara
Front Row: Elder Bodell, President Chua, Elder C, Elder R
A Seminary Visit with Elders D & T, Sister Bodell, and Brother Tandiman
Later that evening the Branch One Relief Society had a special going away party for Sister Bodell. I went along for the ride and took this picture. Funny! It doesn't look like a Relief Society function.

Typical seating arrangement for a branch party
It's been a good week, a busy week, a fast week. We only have one more week left in Sibu. Next Saturday evening we will say our good-byes. Sunday we will be on a plane bound for Singapore.