Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas in Sibu, East Malaysia

Christmas has been totally different here in Sibu. In a previous blog I mentioned several things I missed this year. I will add one more to the list. SNOW! I don't care if it doesn't snow very often at home, but I miss the white stuff and the chill in the air. It just doesn't seem like Christmas without it.

It has been a great week, in spite of the fact that it hasn't been cold. There have been plenty of branch and missionary activities. Branch 1 had two Christmas parties. We missed part of the second one due to a Branch 2 party at the home of Brother Merang and family. That was enjoyable. There were several members there who helped cook the chicken outside on the grill along with wild boar cooked inside bamboo poles. I didn't think to take pictures of that. Maybe I can remember next year. Sister Bodell took a small loaf of banana bread for Brother Merang's wife. She gifted us later with a music box and a homemade Christmas card. I think all Christmas cards here are homemade. I have seen any sold in stores.

There was also a Branch 2 party at the church on another night. They also went caroling to members homes and the Branch President was able to visit with his flock.

Branch 1 had two parties at the church. There was also a "progressive" dinner on Christmas Day in Rantau Panjang where many of the members live. We started at the home of Brother Steven. His wife had prepared many yummy, spicy dishes. You can see the spread. We sat on the floor and ate. Then we all went to President Gara's home and had more, but not as spicy. We didn't need to sit on the floor there as they have a couple of seats. We all went to two more homes after that and had more of the same. There were two more homes to which we should have gone, but it was getting late, one of the missionaries wasn't feeling well, and we were stuffed. I don't think we could have eaten another bite anyway. We were disappointed that we couldn't go to the other two, but that's the way it is.

Home #1 on the "Progressive" Dinner. Each house was like this.
We had started Christmas morning by visiting a family from Branch 2. There was a meal served there as well. The members always serve us and the missionaries something when we go to their homes, even if they are very poor. We visited with a family the day after Christmas who was just recently baptized. Two more daughters are being baptized this evening (Saturday). There's is a humble home, but clean. Again we sat on the floor and were served cookies and a drink.

Sister Molly and her family. She and her son, Michael were baptized recently.
Her two oldest daughters are being baptized tonight.
After that we visited another sister and her daughter in their very small, two-room apartment. I was amazed as I knew them fairly well. They always dress well for church, but their humble surroundings made me stop to think about the blessings we have. The mother is a member of the Branch RS presidency. Their outward appearance portrays a contrast of their actual circumstances. It was after this visit that we went out to Rantau Panjang for the "progressive" dinner.

Christmas in Sibu itself is a lot different than in Utah. They don't normally give gifts. Houses are not decorated on the outside. There is Christmas music blaring in the stores, but it's raucous. There was no Christmas program in Sacrament meeting, but the Christmas story was told at the parties. There aren't any branch choirs to sing. The branches are too small, but Christmas music is sung in their meetings. There are some Christmas decorations on the stores and inside, but lacking the all-out decorations like in America, but they still have their Christmas sales events.

We had several of the Elders over to Skype, FaceTime, or use Google Hangouts to visit with their families. It was fun to hear excited mothers and other family members say hello to their sons. The Elders were also excited to visit with their families as well. What a blessing technology is! Back in my mission days it was still black, dial telephones. Phone time was expensive so calls were short. Now the missionaries get an hour to call their families, and it's all free, even from here! After the Skyping, we invited the Elders to stay for a taco lunch. They loved it! After lunch we had a language study session. We played Sahibba, a Malaysian form of Scrabble. Yes! All the words had be Malay.

Dig in, Elders!

Don't mind if I do!

This moment of silence was brought you by Sister Bodell and her home cooking!

Sooo good!

After lunch language study
This was the Sibu Zone prior to the last transfer.

We were able to talk with our kids and grandkids for Christmas as well. We do miss them! It's been a great week though, and two baptisms to top it off this evening.

Elder S, Masrina, Connie, Elder J

Sister Molly (the mother) and Michael (the older son) were baptized two weeks ago.
Michael gave the talk on the Holy Ghost this evening.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Youth Conference

We got back from Singapore on Saturday afternoon. Monday morning we headed up the road to the YMCA for the Persidangan Remaja Daerah Sibu, or in other words the Sibu District Youth Conference. The kids and leaders were there for three days and two nights. The shirts were designed by us and our son, Josh. They each got two shirts. The maroon shirts are in Malay, and the white shirts are in English. We found the 2015 YM/YW theme and logo, and applied to Youth Conference. We had two themes: Called to Serve and 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 at the last day.

There were all sorts of activities and classes, including music directing, how to teach the Gospel, morality, and a scripture treasure hunt. Each youth and leader was given their own copy of Preach My Gospel. Time was provided on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for personal study on specific concepts in Preach My Gospel. There was a special Hold to the Rod experience one night which ended at the Tree of Life. And of course, there were several games and activities. All in all everyone had a good, spiritual experience.

Between me, Elder Mills, the Tedrows, and David Kong, I collected over 800 photos. There is no way that I can post that many so I've taken about 300 of the photos and put them into a video with music that I've posted to YouTube. We hope to show it to all the participants in the near future.

The link to the video is:

After Youth Conference we jumped right into Christmas. More about that in the next post.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Touring Singapore After Conference

As shared previously, our Zone/Seniors Conference in Singapore was outstanding, even if I did have to speak. It was totally uplifting. It was sad to end it. It was also sad to say good-by to Elder and Sister Boyter. They were the first ones from the mission who met us at the airport.

The Boyters were originally stationed in Kuching as CES missionaries. Our original call was to replace them when we arrived in January, 2015, but they were reassigned to the mission home, and we were asked to come earlier than January, but you already know that story. Anyway, we were assigned to Sibu because the seminary and institute program is doing pretty well in Kuching. Sibu and the surrounding areas need help and support. We're working on that. We gave the local YM/YW leaders seminary registration forms at the end of Youth Conference yesterday. More about YC to follow. Meanwhile, back to the Boyters. They are dear friends, and we hated to say good-by, but we know that we shall see them again sometime.

Sister & Elder Boyter and Elder & Sister Bodell

Sister Boyter & Sister Bodell looking down a deep, dark well that was painted in only two dimensions. A really cool optical illusion!
We made several new friends and renewed acquaintances with seniors couples during our time in Singapore. We went to dinner with the Boyters, Pryzbylas, and Sliders. The Sliders were in the MTC with us. They got a later start with a passport issue. They took our place in Kuching, but they are MLS missionaries. The Pryzbylas are also in Kuching, but they are Self-Reliance missionaries.

Elder Slider, Elder Pryzbyla, Elder & Sister Boyter, Sister Bodell, Elder Bodell, Sister Pryzbyla, Sister Slider: This was dinner at Astons. They have really good food there.
We were able to do a little sight-seeing while we were in Singapore. We know where to go next time. We learned a lot about Singapore from the Pryzbylas. I hope we can spend more time with them next time.

We went out to Sentosa Island in Singapore. What a place! There're several shops, restaurants, cafes, a wax museum, an aquarium, and Universal Studios. Here are few highlights from there, as well as the Christmas lights on Orchard Street. Beautiful!

Merry Fishmas from the Aquarium on Sentosa Island

They displays are definitely captivating!

Santa and one of his elves paid a visit while we at the aquarium.

Live, from Universal Studios on Sentosa Island, Singapore!
No, we didn't make into Universal Studios on this trip. Maybe another time.
Somewhere in Singapore. I hope we find this place soon.
Inside the Muslim mosque; this is the men's prayer room.

Sister Bodell, our guide, and Sister Pryzbyla. We up in the women's prayer room
where a woman's head is always covered.

This is the outside of the mosque.

Orchard Street becomes Christmas Street every year.

It's quite a site. It helped give us the Christmas Spirit!

The lights were beautiful!
This is a quick glimpse if the lights in the trees.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Zone/Seniors Conference in Singapore

Monday morning we flew to Singapore for Zone and Seniors Conference. Our first flight took us to KL (Kuala Lumpur). From the we flew to Singapore, where we arrive in the afternoon. We are dinner at Wendy's® which is near the hotel. It was nice to have "American" for a change. We also had breakfast there Tuesday morning before heading to Zone Conference.

Zone Conference was excellent! It was all about love and charity combined with Christmas. Three videos were shared: the new Church produced Christmas video, He is The Gift, the second was The Nativity; the third was the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

Some of the scriptures that stood out to me from conference are:

1 Timothy 4:12-15 Be thou an example; Neglect not thy gift (stewardship); What does the Lord want me to do with my gifts?
Moroni 6:9 Conducting meetings by the Spirit
D&C 88:62 Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you.
John 15:9 Continue in the Love of Christ

Other Quotes:

Review the lyrics of Fill the World with Love from the film, Good-bye, Mr. Chips. The Tabernacle Choir has sung this many times. I need to get a recording of it. Excellent lyrics!

Stop. Look. Listen.
Stop before you speak.
Look to God; look into your heart.
Listen toe the Holy Ghost, then speak the words with love.

Sister Mains had a wonderful presentation of the Nativity with several of the missionaries and the congregation singing Christmas carols throughout the presentation. It really touched my heart and got me in the Christmas Spirit. I am very grateful for that. There was a wonderful Spirit during our sessions of Zone Conference. This was all Tuesday.

On Wednesday we had Seniors Conference with all the senior couples in the mission. We had presentations from all the newer couples, including ourselves. There were also presentations from the couples that will be soon going home. One couple in particular we will greatly miss are the Boyters. I hope we can keep in touch with them after they get home. They are dear friends.

We had a lovely Christmas lunch between sessions with turkey, stuffing, ham, rolls, potatoes, green beans, green salad. All of which we don't see much of back in Sibu. After our sessions we went to dinner with the Boyters, Sliders, and Przybylas. We had dinner at a restaurant called Astons in Singapore. It was wonderful, too.

This has been a great conference, and I'm ready to get back to work. However, we have a few more days in Singapore to go to the dentist, to do some sight-seeing, and to get some shopping done before we return. That will be covered in the next blog.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Burgled, Lights, O Tannenbaum! and Youth Conference Prep

Yes, another burglary, but this time it wasn't us personally, that was burgled. Someone one broke into the substation outside the church parking lot and stole all the copper wiring inside. We noticed something was amiss Saturday night at the Chinese Thanksgiving dinner. There was no air conditioning. It was really noticeable Sunday at church. It got quite hot and humid. I told the Elders that if President Monson was there, he would most assuredly direct to remove our jackets. It was pretty unbearable! (By the way, I have heard President Monson do this in a Priesthood session or two of General Conference.) The air conditioner was later restored to the chapel, but that was the only place in the building. We were able to have our Youth Conference committee meeting in the cool. Unfortunately it shut off before we got through with choir practice. Choir practice was a little shorter than usual. It doesn't take long for things to heat up without the air cons. It's going to be quite expensive to replace the wiring. Copper thievery doesn't just happen in the USA.

Time is flying by! December 1 marked the three-month mark of our mission. I was reading my cousin Marty's newsletter. They'll be heading home soon. I hope we can accomplish as much as they have before we return home.

Monday we took the ZLs to the post office so they could mail some packages home. They are always asking us if there is anything they can do to help.  We usually tell them no, but today we took them up on their offer. We had them change some light bulbs that were a little awkward for us older folk to change.

I had managed to change the bulbs in the lower three globes, but the upper two were too high for me and the ladder. The missionaries came to our rescue and replaced the top two bulbs.
When they were done, we fed them crackers and home made salsa. Since it's now December, we asked if they'd like to set up our Christmas tree and decorate it. They jumped at the opportunity. It was fun to watch them. Of course, we had Christmas music playing in the background. After the tree was set up, Sister Bodell fixed them dinner, and then I took them back to their place so they could get to their appointment on time.

Just adding the final touch!
It looks pretty good!

Thursday was a bizarre day for me. I don't know why, but I didn't sleep well Wednesday night. I was tired. We had language lesson with our tutor, and I was really tired for that and discouraged that Sherrie is doing so well, and I am struggling. Eventually everything caught up with me. I think I was somewhat homesick, too. I miss the kids and grandkids, other family, friends, decorating the house inside and out, setting up the train in the front room, Choir practice with the ward choir for the Christmas Sacrament meeting program, Christmas parties, yada, yada, yada. I was pretty bummed all day. I know what and why Wednesday was happening, but I was having trouble getting through it. However, after getting a good night's sleep Thursday night, I felt 200% better on Friday. There is no better place to be at Christmas than the mission field, sharing the Gospel with other people. This is where we need to be at this time. I don't doubt that at all.

We are looking forward to Zone/Senior Couples Conference next week in Singapore, then Youth Conference the following week, then Christmas, then get seminary started here in Sibu. It will be busy, but exciting.

Speaking of Youth Conference, we've had to get a lot of shopping done, and get the T-Shirts designed and ordered. That's been a task, but the shopping and, as of last night, the T-Shirts are ordered. Thanks to Josh and Aaron for their help. Here is the final work up how the shirts will look.

The maroon shirts are in Malay; the white shirts in English.

Everyone will get one of each color.

Here it is Friday night already! Tonight's project is to help Branch 1 with their membership audit. It was originally due in June, but that didn't happen. We helped Branch 2 with their audit a couple of weeks ago. That was our first one. It wasn't too difficult because we had the branch president with us who knew most of the people in the branch. Tonight? Hmmm. . . . Success! We finished the Branch 1 membership audit this evening. We were able to sit down with the branch clerk and show him how to do it. He should be able to do himself next time. We also received word that we'll probably be involved with the financial audits at the beginning of the new year.

One more thing to complete tonight . . . design the program for Youth Conference. We started working on it, and continued working on it late into the night. We finished it up Saturday morning and got it printed. Done! Tomorrow we can actually rest? Not likely! It's Sunday, and we have Primary, Temple Prep, Youth Conference committee meeting, and choir practice, and then prepare to leave for Mission Conference.

We were able to have a second session of language study with the zone leaders Saturday afternoon. This has been most helpful to us. I am grateful for their help. Thank you Elders J and S!