Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stranded! Housing Coordination, and District Conference

This past week has been a fun ride! It started Monday when our Internet went down. The WiFi in the house was okay, but there just wasn't any Internet. It almost felt like we'd been cut off from the rest of the world. It wasn't too bad. We were still able to text or iMessage other people. That was a plus. Sometimes we put too much stock and/or rely too much on modern technology. I like the simple life, myself.

The Internet provider was able to get the problem remedied before our Skype language lesson on Wednesday. I am grateful for that as my lesson went quite well. Micah is very patient and positive. As we were conversing, ever so slowly, the Spirit touched my several times. I had to ask Micah what the Malay word for "weep" is. I've never had that problem arise in a lesson before. We were talking about the language and the people.

It was a blessing that the Internet was up for our lesson. The Internet went down again on Thursday and wasn't restored until late Friday afternoon so we missed our Skype lesson with our language coach. I wasn't happy to have to tell Bryan about the problem, but he was understanding. You can't Skype unless you're connected to the Internet.

It may have been a blessing not to have the Internet for Thursday and Friday. We were occupied with other matters. Our mission president and his wife, President and Sister Mains arrived Thursday to conduct interviews with the young Elders in the zone prior to our District Conference this weekend. We had the privilege and opportunity to drive them to the various missionary apartments, drive around the city looking for possible new missionary housing (Missionary housing could be an entire blog by itself! I previously started a discussion about that. This story continues to grow. I will have to continue it another time . . . if I don't forget!), or back and forth to the church and their hotel.

We had great lessons with our language tutor this week. We each get our own 45 minutes with him. I finally figured out what works bests for me. We had a pretty good discussion today, mostly in Malay. I'm working on just understanding what I hear. We spoke a little English today. Next week our tutor is planning on speaking only Malay to me. That's going to be difficult, but okay. My understanding with him is picking up. I'm feeling much better about the language today than I did yesterday. Speaking is another issue which will eventually come as my understanding increases.

Sister Bodell had a good discussion with him, too. She found out that he was assigned to find new housing for the missionaries when he was serving here in the mission. She got got some good help from him. He also has an iPhone we can iMessage when we need to for help.

It may have been a blessing not to have the Internet for Thursday and Friday. We were occupied with other matters. Our mission president and his wife, President and Sister Mains arrived Thursday to conduct interviews with the young Elders in the zone prior to our District Conference this weekend. We had the privilege and opportunity to drive them to the various missionary apartments, drive around the city looking for possible new missionary housing (Missionary housing could be an entire blog by itself! I previously started a discussion about that. This story continues to grow. I will have to continue it another time . . . if I don't forget!), or back and forth to the church and their hotel.

Friday night Sister Bodell made a large pot of chili and some corn bread to take over to Elder and Sister Mills' place for dinner. President and Sister Mains normally take the senior couples out for dinner, but Sister Mills had fallen recently and broken her knee cap so we all went to their place for dinner.

I should add here that corn meal cannot be had anywhere in Malaysia, which is really strange since the people eat a lot of corn here. Sister Bodell had to make her own corn meal by putting popcorn in the chopper attachment for the food processor. She managed to produce a useable corn meal to make the corn bread. It turned out very well. She had also found a recipe that was delicious for the corn bread. It was a great meal and great company.

District Conference consisted of four meetings. The first was a leadership conference Saturday afternoon at 4:00 P.M.. It was followed by an adult session at 7:00 P.M. Sunday morning was the general session. It was followed by a short meeting in which the Branch Presidents and young Elders introduced the recent converts and investigators that were in attendance at Conference. President Mains walked around the chapel, shook hands with each one, and welcomed them. I thought it was an excellent meeting. He also spoke about the road they were on back to our Father in Heaven.

One of the highlights of Conference included the District Choir which sang with the angels of Heaven. Sister Mains told me that there has never been a choir that sounded so good in Sibu. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to participate with such a wonderful group of people. The District president said he'd like to see the choir continue. President Mains said the same thing. They should sing in Sacrament meetings on a regular basis.

The talks were also good. It was interesting to hear the missionaries translate. Those of us who are non-Malay speakers were able to wear earphones and listen to the missionaries translate from Malay into English.

After Conference, we brought the Mains and the Tedrows back to our house for lunch before sending them home back to Mukah (a two-hour drive for the Tedrows), and to the airport to fly back to Singapore. Later we picked up the zone leaders out in Rantau Panjang (a 30-45 minute drive depending on the rain and traffic.) Yes, it was raining tonight so it took a little longer.

One of the hardest things for us as a senior couple is transfers. We get attached to some of the missionaries, and then they're gone. This is transfers week. We will probably lose and gain a couple of missionaries. We know we're saying good-bye to Elder S. He leaves Sibu on Tuesday to meet his parents in Singapore for a little touring before heading home. His mission is complete. He and Elder H are coming over for lunch tomorrow. We will miss him when he's gone.

Here are a couple of pictures. There is one more of the ZLs that I should post, but it's on Sister Bodell's iPhone. I will post it later.

I picked up the ZLs, Elders H & S, upon their return from MLC, They had to scrunch up in the front seat because the back seat had a bicycle in it.

Lawren, Pres. Gara's son, received his mission call this week to the Singapore Mission. He was excited!

Two good friends, Rolyn and Ostine, from Sibu Jaya. 
We became good friends at Youth Conference. They were great supporters of the District Choir. Rolyn turn 18 next year and will be submitting his mission papers then. He is excited to serve. Ostine is only 15 right now, but he's planning on serving a mission as well.

Elder L arriving at District Conference Sunday morning after a 30-minute bike ride from his apartment. Why the towel and bare feet? It was raining his entire trip. He was soaked from head to toe!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Apartment for Let

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? This week we have learned how to close up an Elders apartment. The lease was up on the house in which four Elders were living, and due to various reasons, the lease was not extended. We were asked to take care of the closing. We were amazed that on Wednesday of this week, almost the entire zone turned out to help clean the house and move personal and Church belongs to the missionaries new abodes. Let me tell you, a lot of stuff can accumulate in a missionary apartment that has been occupied for many years. It was not a pretty sight! Most of the missionaries were able to come back on Thursday to help clean, mop floors, wash windows, vacuum, etc. There was also more stuff to throw away. We've made several "hauling" trips with our car. Everyone is now settled, at least, temporarily in their new digs. Two of the Elders moved in with the Chinese Elders and the other two moved in with the Zone Leaders.

Elder T with Elder B in his "house cleaning attire"

Our new responsibility is to meet with the landlord, walk through the house, and try to reclaim as much of the deposit as possible. Good luck with that one! We're waiting now for the landlord to contact us so we can do this.

We're also involved with closing the Senior Couple's house in Bintulu. The reason we picked this one up is because of the three Senior Couples in our district, we live the closest to the landlord. I should mention that both of the landlords involved here are Chinese. We may have to take President Chua, our District President, to go with us. He's Chinese and speaks Chinese.

It's been a pretty busy and frustrating week with the housing situations, but we're still here. We're learning more about this process. Procuring new housing is also a challenge. We've been involved with that since we've arrived, but it's been unsuccessful in finding suitable lodging for the Elders.

On a different note, this week was Zone Meeting so all the zone was here. They went bowling Monday afternoon. We tagged along because there weren't enough bikes to go around. It's a good thing we were there, however. Before anyone got started bowling, Sister Mills took a wrong step on a short step and landed on her knee, breaking her knee cap into at least three pieces. Her husband and I gave her a blessing before taking her to the hospital. That's when she found out about the knee cap. Needless to say, she was not a happy camper. The doctor put a splint on her leg so she can't bend her knee and put her on bed rest. She's down for six weeks. Not fun! Elder Mills is heavily involved with the Sibu Jaya Branch having been recently called as the Branch President there. We're helping out where we can. Sister Bodell is staying with her Saturday night while Elder Mills participates in a baptismal service for his branch that night. Me? I'm going to seminary.

The Elders were able to get several games of bowling in. There were definitely some interesting bowling styles!
Seminary was great! Brother Merang is doing a super job. This was his second lesson. The youth are participating in discussions. It's good to see this happening.

We had our last choir practice Sunday evening. District Conference is next weekend. President and Sister Main, our mission president and his wife, will be in the neighborhood this week for interviews with the missionaries and attending District Conference. This promises to be a good week. I will try and take notes and pictures along the way for the next post.

The Gospel is true! How grateful we should be to have living prophets on the earth! We will be blessed if we heed their counsel and advice.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Back Into a Routine

We are back into a "normal" routine again. I'd like to say that we're not trying to figure out what to do next, but we are. Seminary starts this week so we're trying to organize our travels and our responsibilities. We will be traveling to our stewardship areas to help train the seminary teachers. More about that later.

I need to "WOW!" Last Sunday our little choir for District Conference grew from about 12 members to 32! What happened! Bless her heart! Sister Norlia from the second branch bore her testimony about the importance of music in the Church. She also thanked Sister Bodell and I for teaching them the right way to sing the hymns . . . not just the words, but with feeling . . . as we work with the choir. It was an awesome testimony. As the conclusion of testimony meeting, her husband and first counselor in the branch presidency (Bless his heart, too.) did pretty much the same thing. He talked about the Spirit in the choir and invited all to attend. The choir seats were full to overflowing. We had to set up extra chairs. It was a miracle.

Even though our choir has difficulty with parts, they don't have difficulty with the Spirit and they follow really well. There is a sweet, beautiful sound and spirit that is produced when they sing. I wish I could capture and describe it, but I don't have the words to do so. It's something that has to be experienced. The District President heard them singing last week and told me that we should somehow continue the choir, prepare for Christmas, and conduct a conducting class with all of them. He also mentioned that I was establishing my "legacy" with the members here. I'm glad he told me this because I was beginning to wonder if "I had done any good in the world." Maybe I have. I sincerely hope so.

District Conference is on the 24th and 25th of January. We're singing four numbers; three of which will be sung in Indonesian. There isn't a Malay Hymn Book at the present time: I Need Thee Every Hour, How Firm a Foundation, and I Know that My Redeemer Lives. The fourth song will be sung in English, We'll Bring the World His Truth. Having the privilege to direct this choir has been a blessing to me. I am most grateful. Sometime between now and then, I need to get a picture of this beautiful choir.

We've had our usual weekly Skype lessons with our tutor, Micah, and coach, Bryan. They are great young men, and we certainly appreciate their time and patience. We've also had Skype meetings with Brother J, the area supervisor for S&I, and with Elisha, the financial man for the Malaysia area. We got a lot out of our Skype meetings this week. We have now defined our role as CES/S&I Missionaries. It's been a long and arduous journey getting this done. We now know where we're going and what our responsibilities are.

Speaking of responsibilities, I spent several hours on Friday contacting seminary teachers and their local leaders to schedule S&I training. We will be going to Bintulu the end of this month for training, along with trips and training in Kuching, Mukah, and here in Sibu. We're excited to be moving forward with our calling.

Random thoughts: It was so nice to have Chicken Alabam and mashed potatoes last night for dinner. It was like a little bit of heaven, even though chickens here aren't quite the same. They are tough and stringy, even the thighs, when you can find them. You can find every other part of the chicken in the stores, necks (including the heads), feet, gizzards, livers, etc. Thighs usually come attached to the leg. One more thought on chicken here. When you order chicken in a restaurant, it's usually a chicken chop. That means the chicken, usually the breast, has been cooked and sliced (bone and all) and placed on a bed of rice with whatever sauce you've chosen. I know we are looking forward to buying boneless, skinless chicken when we get home.

It's not just chicken, either, that's different. All the meats are butchered differently here. They're sliced differently. they don't taste the same. Ground beef has a different texture. It all takes some getting used to.

Another thought on drivers here: I will never again complain about Utah drivers! These people are just crazy. There is no sense of propriety. I almost got hit again this morning. A car was making a turn in to my lane where I was already occupying space. I'd like to get Chief Flowers and his band of merry men to clean up the driving in the city! (Bob, if you read this, do you think you could work on an exchange system of some kind with the local authorities?)

Communication: Right now I don't even want to talk about communication! There is a barrier in English, a barrier in Chinese, a barrier in Malay, and a barrier in Iban. It doesn't matter if you have translators or both parties are speaking the same language. I'm a little frustrated today about that. SIGH! Fortunately, this too shall pass so why get upset? I don't know. In the words of Elder L, "Just simmer, Elder B! So I will just simmer, or chill, until I blog again.

One more thought: Sister Bodell has discovered a substitute for "Goo-Gone" on Pinterest that actually works. It's a good thing because there is no such product here in East Malaysia. It's one-part baking soda and one-part vegetable oil. She made a paste today that worked well. She used ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon oil. She said another drop or two of oil would have been nice. but it works well. This is a good thing because the sticky on price stickers is really sticky. Nothing would take it off until this discovery.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

'Twas the Week After Christmas

'Twas the week after Christmas and everything is still busy, but we're getting back into a routine. It's nice to be back into a "normal" flow.

Sunday I was able to finish lesson five of the Temple Prep class. I started it about three weeks ago, but between this, that, and the other, we've been unable to finish the lesson. I was a little nervous because it's been awhile since I had originally prepared. I wasn't as fluent in my Malay as I would have liked, but the missionaries were there to translate for me. I started with a review of the first four lessons and what I had covered of lesson five before. We had some non-members of the Church there, but that didn't stop the Spirit from taking over and giving the lesson. I was amazed how the Spirit took over and taught. It was one of the most spiritual Temple Prep lessons we've had. There was also good participation. I recognize this lesson as one of God's tender mercies for me. I was in need of a good spiritual uplift, and I received it.

Monday was Sister Bodell's birthday. We celebrated by giving our house a good cleaning. We haven't had the time to do so for several weeks. We even cleaned all the portable fans. They were getting a bit grungy. After the cleaning, we got cleaned up and went to dinner at The Ark. It's a restaurant that we've never been to, but wanting to try. It wasn't bad. The food was actually very good, but way too much. There was also the added protein of a rather large ant in the pineapple fried rice. We just moved it out of the way and kept eating! The rice was delicious. So was the sweet/sour pork and the fish and chips. The piece of fish was huge!

The restaurant contained a nice atrium with trees, other plants, and koi stocked ponds.
A very nice atmosphere!

The entry to the restaurant holds this horse made from tree bark.

After lunch we had to hurry back home for a "teacher training" meeting with the zone leaders. Actually, it was a ruse for Sister Bodell. The missionaries in our district were coming over to sing to Sister Bodell for her birthday. They were early! As we were driving up the street towards our place, I could see several of the missionaries riding their bike heading to our place. It all worked our. We followed them for a block where they turned down our street, got off their bikes, turned and faced the car, and started singing in the middle of the street. The expression on Sister Bodell's face was priceless! We invited them in for a drink, then they dispersed to their various contacts and meetings. It was beautiful and made Sister Bodell's day.

"Happy Birthday, Sister Bodell.
Happy Birthday to you!"

Sister Bodell and the Sibu District Elders
Ma and the her boys!
One of the zone leaders affectionately calls us Ma and Pa.

Tuesday was our weekly District meeting. I am very impressed with our new DL. He's given two trainings now, and he is going to be outstanding. He's not the same as Elder C, but he's every bit in tune with the Spirit as Elder C was. I look forward to his words of wisdom and council.

Sister Bodell made chocolate cookies with peppermint kisses on top. The young Elders appreciate her very much. After our meeting, and the cookies consumed, the young Elders went to lunch at KFC. We were going to, but there was nothing on the menu that interested us. I ended up with a peanut butter sandwich at home. It hit the spot. Sister Bodell had a croissant from the bakery.

Wednesday - Happy New Year! Let us wish you that before we go to sleep. We were going to help clean the chapel this morning, but it turns out the cleaning is tomorrow morning, We were told Wednesday, but they meant Thursday.

Another tender mercy today as we were out shopping for cleaning supplies for us. We decided to go out to Farley Corner to see what we could find. While there, we got a call from Elder L and Elder J asking if we could come and get them and their bikes to take them downtown (Bandar) to the bike shop. Elder L had a flat tire which needed more attention than just a tube. I asked them how soon they could be ready. Elder L said they were ready then. I told him that was great because we were just across the street from their apartment! I should explain that Farley Corner is not close to town, us, or where we normally shop, but it's where we needed to be today to pick up these Elders to help them. It makes me feel good to know that we were where we needed to be. Coincidence? I don't think so!

It was dinner and a movie before retiring. I'm getting a little leery of eating out, and I was getting tired of rice. So, for dinner Sister Bodell fixed chicken, rice, and veggies with a sweet/sour sauce. It was good, and I didn't even mind the rice! We watched a movie, studied for a bit, then went to sleep.

Happy New Year!

The new year arrived with a bang! We were sleeping peacefully until midnight when we were awakened by bangs, pops, and booms. It was quite exciting! Fireworks are not controlled here like they are in Utah. They set off big bottle rockets similar to those you see in firework shows on the 4th of July! The noises were so loud in our neighborhood that they set off car and house alarms! The noise continued for about six minutes and then all was quiet. Sleep came again until we woke up this morning at 6:30.

We were able to help clean the church this morning before going to Sister Daung's place for lunch to celebrate the new year. She had a lovely assortment of food that wasn't too spicy. After our meal, Elders T and B presented a short lesson from the Book of Mormon after Sister Bodell gave an opening prayer. I gave the closing prayer. Sister Bodell and Elder B wrote most of our for me so I wouldn't forget anything.

Elder B, Sis Bodell, Elder T, Sister Daung, Elder V, Elder W
Sister Daung's daughter and grandsons
Later, that evening, we went with Elders S & H to a discussion with Brother J and his wife. Brother J is a member and former branch president, but his wife is not a member. The lesson went a little longer than planned, but the Spirit the missionaries brought with them was strong. I could also sense their frustration with Sister J's reluctance to answer questions, but she did pray at the end of the discussion. We would really like to see her move forward, but it may not be the time right now. Brother J is such a strong member of the Church. He's looking forward to going to the Temple soon.

I think that should wrap it up for this week. Thank you to all our family and friends that sent us Christmas greetings. It's nice to know that someone is thinking about us. We appreciate your caring about us.