Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back to Bintulu, Chinese New Year, and More!

Tuesday we got some help from our zone leaders to get President Gara and family to the temple. Not quite sure if it's going to happen when they'd like. I know there is no housing available at this time.

Sister Bodell and I took part in our weekly district meeting. Sister Bodell had the "Dress for Success" moment. She taught the Elders how to tie a necktie without it being around someone's neck. Yes, you'll have to have her demonstrate that. She found the directions on a YouTube video. 

I had the assignment to share from the White Handbook. I started by saying something like this might be a "janky" assignment and proceeded to talk about our language and how we shouldn't use slang or abbreviations. We should be about that sort of thing. Then I read from the Senior Missionary section which says that some of the rules for young missionaries don't apply to senior missionaries. The point was made, but humorously.

We left district meeting early so begin our sojourn to Bintulu. It was a nice drive, and I avoided most of the potholes! We presented a seminary teacher training for the Sungai Plan Branch. There were 20+ people there. They weren't all seminary teachers, but members wanting to improve their teachings skills. We had a good time, and we were invited to come again. That's a good sign.

We returned home Wednesday afternoon with an additional three boxes of stuff from the Senior Couple house we closed a couple of weeks ago. That house is now done.

Happy New Year! Tonight is the Chinese New Year's Eve. It sounds like a war zone with fire going off all over the neighborhood and city. A neighbor told me that at midnight it will sound like the world is exploding. Here is a little video and some pictures that will help explain a little more about the night. The first shots were two doors down from us. The second was just across the street. This was happening everywhere! Then the dark of night came, and the big guns came out all over the city. The ending fireworks are again from our neighbor two doors down.

The noise was much louder than this, and it went on for hours each day. When midnight hit you would have thought the world was exploding!

The Chinese people also decorate their homes for New Year's, just like we do for Christmas, but the only colors you see are red, gold, and white.

Thursday of this week I went with the Elders from Branch 2 to dedicate the land for the building of the branch president's home. When we got there we discovered it wasn't just his home, but also the home of family members of his wife. They are building a 12-door longhouse. Longhouses are just what the name implies. They are "houses" connected to each other in a long row. 

We had a good sized audience for the blessing. Many of the workers (family members) stopped what they were doing and came over for the prayer. They are not members of the Church, but active in their own Christian religions. I had written the prayer in English, translated it into Malay, and had our language tutor proofread and correct it. I gave President Balley his choice of English or Malay. He chose . . . You guessed it! English! I was surprised. I did have to change some of the wording as I gave the prayer to include the other homes that were being built and their future occupants.
As usual, there were refreshments afterward. Sitting in homes here is on the floor. Most people don't own furniture like chairs, couches, etc. It gets a little hard on the old body at times.

The Grand Scheme of things

This plot of ground will eventually house a 12-door longhouse.
President Balley's plot of ground for his section of the longhouse
Seated on the ground, ready to partake. President Balley is sitting next to me.
Also in the picture are Elders T, C, S, and L.
Just plain colorful! 
The gathering!

It's now three days later since the Chinese New Year began, and there are still fireworks and noise day and night, but it has calmed down. New Year's day the Chinese people spend with their families and then for the next two weeks they visit their friends. Everyone has oodles of food! We did a little visiting, and I got a little sick. But I am fine again.

Saturday the Branch 2 Elders, Elders C and T, had four baptisms. They were a mother and her three daughters. I was busy at the time so I didn't get a picture of the family. The oldest daughter gave a talk in Sacrament meeting last week and did an outstanding job. They were all so happy tonight. They will be a great asset to the Branch 2.

We had to get laundry done Saturday evening so we skipped Seminary. Three loads of laundry; towels and white dresses from the baptism and my white shirts. We had to finish the laundry on Sunday because we are taking off for Singapore bright and early Monday morning. I think the flight leaves at 7:10 AM. We have to leave the house no later than 5:30 to get to the airport on time.

(Just a reminder that you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Sunday was the usual, at least for the most part. Sister Bodell attended two Primarys, helping them to understand Sharing Time. In the evening we attended a little gathering in honor of President Gara's son's 12th birthday and the one year anniversary of Brother Alok and his family being baptized. Sister Bodell made a cake for the occasion.

Here are a couple of pictures to share . . . 

It surprising that no one still lives in this house.

There are a couple of these palm trees around. I think the shape is totally fascinating!
Tomorrow we're off to Singapore for Zone/Missionary Conference and the renewal of our visas. Bon Voyage!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One Day at a Time!

Monday: It' P-Day, and I've been up and moving for quite awhile. I started with getting my white shirts in the wash, then Sister Bodell and I washed the car, cleaned house, and planted a small garden. All this before 10:00 AM. We've also been out picking up a broken chair from the ZLs' place in hopes that Elder Tedrow can fix it while he and his wife are here for zone meeting tomorrow. They are having lunch with us today.

The Tedrows arrived around 12:20 this afternoon. We had a nice lunch of hamburgers and potato salad here at home. Then Elder Tedrow and I picked up the ZLs and their bikes and took them to the bike shop. One of them needed a new tire, but he was planning on negotiating for a new bike. I'll have to see how that turned out. We got back to our place, and Elder Tedrow fixed the broken chair. Then we took them to the hospital to visit Sister Mills.

We left everyone at the hospital, picked up the wrong bike delivery (See last week's blog) and took it to City-Link to ship to KK. There was a mess up with the paper work, but they got it straightened out . . . we hope. We left the bike there. Now all we have to do is wait for the right bike to be shipped here.

So, the garden is an experiment. I will keep you posted on its progress. These are pictures from day one. If I can get anything to grow, I'll try some more. Some of the seeds that I planted were found here in the house. I don't know if they're viable or not. We bought the cilantro and lettuce seeds here.
The cilantro seeds are labeled coriander. They don't use cilantro here in Malaysia. At least, we haven't been able to find any.

I planted bush beans in the first pot, cilantro, and lettuce in the second one.

The top left pot has something . . . I've forgotten what right now. The pot with the plant in also has zucchini seeds. The middle pot is just full of weeds right now.
And finally, this little pot has peas in it.
As I wrote that last sentence, I was reminded that we can't find sour cream or buttermilk here either. Sister Bodell has been making sour cream by adding lemon juice to whipping cream. It works pretty well. We're still looking for a buttermilk substitute.

What was I saying in my last blog about no more houses to close? SIGH! We got an email from Sister Mains today asking that we go back to Bintulu to close one more house, possibly this week or next. We'd like to fly, but we'll have too much stuff to pack up and bring back with us. All this, and it's still only Monday! The good news is that we don't have to clean it all out. That should already be done. Should being the operative word. It isn't really a bad drive, but there are more potholes on the way to Bintulu than to Mukah.

While Elder Tedrow and I were out this afternoon, a moto with a family of four pulled up to a light next to us. We both surreptitiously took a picture.

The good news is that they're all wearing helmets.

I also caught this guy on his moto on his way home from a shopping trip

Tuesday: Good news! The trip to Bintulu isn't imminent. We don't know when we're going, but we don't feel rushed to get it done. However, we are going next week. We will also conduct some more seminary teacher training while we are there.

Today was Zone Meeting. The ZLs did an outstanding job on involving the Elders in the zone in the discussions. We had a short session to start with the usual song, prayer, and purpose. Then each set of missionaries reported on miracles that had happened to them the past week. The miracle I witnessed this past week was Sunday when the four missionaries from Branch 2 spoke in Sacrament meeting. That's nothing all that unusual except they were asked about 30 minutes before church started. They coordinated their talks and selected the music that would enhance the topics on which they spoke. Each of the missionaries taught with the Spirit. It's one of the most spiritual meetings I've attended.

There was an intermission where the missionaries were treated to homemade cookies, chips, and pretzels supplied by Sister Bodell. The Tedrows brought soda for them. Needless to say, the missionaries were grateful for the treats.

Prior to the intermission. the ZLs collected everyone's black missionary badge. During the intermission they places an orange sticky dot on each one. (When missionaries enter the MTC, they are given a similar orange sticky do to distinguish them as "greenies" at the MTC.) After the intermission, everyone went upstair to enter the Sibu "MTC". Sister Bodell and I had the privilege of welcoming the Elders to the MTC and giving them their badges with the orange dot. They all understood what the orange dot represented.

The purpose of the Sibu MTC experience was to remind the missionaries about their feelings and enthusiasm about missionary work when they were "green".  Most of the missionaries in our zone right now are "seasoned veterans". They were reminded of the "greenie fire" they had. A discussion was conducted on how to get that fire back. It was great to see these guys get involved and get fired up again to go forth to serve and to teach.

We have a great zone! These wonderful young men who want to serve our Father in Heaven, to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their brothers and sisters. We have several new Elders in our from the last transfer, but we can already feel the love they have for our Savior. It's a blessing for us to be here with them.

Back Row: Elders O, D, L, M, G, S, W, T, & S
Second Row: Elders G, C, C, J, T, W, & H
Front Row: Elder & Sister B and Elder & Sister T

After our meeting, the Tedrows and we went to the hospital for a short visit with Sister and Elder Mills. We didn't stay too long as the physical therapist came for Sister Mills. We took the Tedrows to one of our favorite restaurants here in Sibu. It's called Cafe Cafe. The food is excellent. After we ate the Tedrows took off for their home in Mukah. That's a two-hour drive.

We stopped by the post office to check on a package that was supposed to have been delivered a couple of months ago, but we didn't have a tracking number. Sister Bodell walked up to the counter, and the clerk pointed to a package. There is was! It was another miracle. We had the tracking number, but they were waiting for us to come in this time. We had been once before, but didn't have a tracking number so they couldn't (wouldn't) help us. We are still waiting for another box that a previous senior couple shipped to us with Temple clothing. We haven't been able to obtain a tracking number on that delivery as of yet.

Wednesday: We were thinking today would be more leisurely than usual, but it wasn't really. We had to scrounge up some bike boxes for a couple of Elders who left their bikes here when they were transferred. They want them now so the ZLs and we are trying to get everything together. The missionaries are supposed to be responsible to take their bikes with them when they transfer. I will say no more other than some missionaries are more responsible and reliable than others.

We also ended up taking Elder W to the medical clinic for a pain in his back and side. We picked them up Tuesday night from out by Farley Corner where they had been working because the pain was so bad. The Elders in his apartment gave him a blessing, and the pain eased a bit, but it was still painful in the morning. When we talked with him this morning, we told him to call Sister Mains and ask if he should see a doctor. She thought it the best idea to be on the safe side. The good news: It's not appendicitis! He's either pulled a muscle or has a urinary track or kidney infection. We don't know yet.

In the evening we went out to Rantau Panjang to Brother Steven's place for his son's birthday party/FHE. It was fun. Dinner, of course, was served. I was already stuffed from our own dinner so I didn't eat anything but a piece of cake. We sat on the floor as they don't have chairs in their home.

Petersen, Brother Steven, Elder Bodell, Sister Bodell, Sister Mina

There two ladies were preparing greens of some kind as we ascended
the three flights of stairs up to Brother Steven's home. 

Thursday: Elder S's bike arrived today by City-Link. We delivered it to him along with a the broken chair Elder Tedrow fixed. We ran a few errands. It's been a pretty calm afternoon so I was able to create a birthday card for our grandson, Jaxon. He's turning eight on Valentine's Day. He will be baptized soon. I've tried several ways/places to upload it, but without success . . . yet. I'm not giving up. Success! If you'd like to see the birthday/baptism card I made for Jaxon, you can find it at

Friday: This morning we had our Skype lesson with Bryan, our coach, and the volunteer. While we were finishing up, Micah, our tutor, walked passed in the background. I was able to get a screen shot of both Bryan and Micah. These are the two young men who have been helping us learn Malay. Bryan went to Croatia on his mission. Micah served here in the Singapore Mission. We appreciate their help!

Micah, our tutor, and Bryan, our coach
Not bad for a screen shot over Skype, eh?
Saturday: We took Elder W back to the clinic this morning. He had another test done this morning. We dropped them off then drove down to the Everwin store at the end of Brooke for a few items. I dropped Sister Bodell off at home and went back for the Elders. They weren't ready. The testing was done, but they were waiting for the results. I came back home to wait. Parking at the clinic was at a premium this morning.

No positive results from Elder W's test this morning. However it could have something to do with his gall bladder. He was given an antibiotic and something for his pain. He has to go back in 10 days for a check up.

I almost forgot to say something about eating out last night. We went to a place the missionaries call the fruit bowl. It's only open in the evening. It's an open air, potpourri of many different food stalls. There are two that actually serve a fruit bowl. It's composed of ice, milk or cream, watermelon, coconut, and other fruits. Not my favorite concoction, but Sister Bodell liked it and ate mine, too. It was Saturday night. English class was over; teaching class was over, and seminary was over. It's hard to believe that it had rained hard this evening, too.

Elder L and Elder C

Our district at the Fruit Bowl Saturday night

Sunday: The end of the week or the beginning? I don't know anymore. All I know is that today has been more restful than usual. Sister Bodell had her usual doses of Primary. We didn't have any extra classes or activities after church today. The only thing I had was to meet with President Gara (Branch 1) and his family to discuss their temple trip preparations. There is so much to do to prepare. It's not like going to the Temple for the first time in Utah. First, they have to travel out of the country here, to Manila, in the Philippines. We will meet with them again tomorrow to see how much we can get done.

The President of Branch 2 (President Balley) asked me today if I was available this coming Thursday. I checked my calendar, thinking that there wasn't anything in particular that day. He asked me if I would come out to some property he owns and dedicate if for the building of his future house. I told him that he could do it, but he said that he wanted me to do it. His asking me to do this is an honor and very humbling. He gave me an idea of the direction I need to go, and from where to call him when I get to a certain point. He'll meet us and lead the way from there.

Bike update: Both ZLs took their bikes in and both came out with new ones. They seem to pretty nice bikes, and they fit on our car bike rack better than many of others have done.

That pretty much covers the week. I'm thinking next week may be busy as well. I know we're taking some missionaries to the bike shop tomorrow morning, attending District Meeting on Tuesday besides Skyping with our financial advisor and driving to Bintulu, returning Wednesday after Skyping with Micah, our language coach, attending Chinese New Year festivities at a member's home, Skyping with Bryan, Skyping with Brother Thorley who's over the Infield Language for Senior Couples, and attending a couple of branch activities. Watch for all of that in the next blog!

Our love to all of you who may be reading this. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support! It means a lot to us.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Road to Mukah and More

We left home at about 7:00 AM, bound for Mukah. We had another Seminary teacher training there. We arrived with about 25 minutes to spare before out training at 10:00 AM. The weather wasn't bad, and I am getting pretty good at navigating the potholes on the road between Sibu and Mukah. I only hit one up and one on the way back. You can't always tell whether they are puddles or chasms!

I still have white knuckles, though. It's only a two-lane road with trucks going both directions. Passing is like a game of leap frog when cars get backed up behind a truck or two or three. Many drivers here are always in such a hurry. They don't always wait until the solid line changes to a passing line. Scary! 

After our training we had lunch at a little place in Mukah called Mr. Bean's. It's a quaint place, but the food was good. There was an old Mr. Bean movie playing. There was no sound, but there were subtitles . . . in Malay or Indo. Lunch was good with Elders G and T, Elder and Sister Tedrow, President Lai, President Boney, and Brother Sylvester.

We drove back Tuesday afternoon, got some laundry done, and a good night's sleep. Tuesday we ran some errands in the morning before getting on a plane for Kuching. Normally the flight takes about 35 minutes in an old prop cargo type plane, and you have to walk out on the tarmac to board the plane by way of the rear door. This time we flew in a 737, boarded in the front via a covered ramp, and made it to Kuching in 20 minutes from wheels off the ground in Sibu to wheels on the ground in Kuching. The return trip was 25 minutes.

While in Kuching we participated in the Seminary teacher training Tuesday evening. I've taught at all the trainings. President Lai asked Sister Bodell to teach at this one. The trainings have all been about asking questions, specifically search and analyzing questions. President Lai did the search questions, and I taught about analyzing questions. This last last training Sister Bodell taught the search questions, and I, again, taught the other. It's been a fun training. It's always fun to go to Kuching.

We stayed at the Imperial Hotel again. This is the hotel where we've died and gone to bathroom heaven. The bathrooms consist of a tub with curtained shower, a separate glass-enclosed shower, and a toilet with built-in bidet. All very nice and clean. We were on the 11th floor so the view was pretty nice.

That's the ocean off in the distance.

There are shop lots like this all over in every city. Some are really old, or at least look old because of the weathering of the buildings. The chapels in Mukah and Bintulu are located in shop lots like these.

Wednesday morning President Lai spent a couple of hours teaching Sister Bodell how to use WISE, an online attendance/assignment program for seminary. She will be keeping this information up to date for Sibu, Sibu Jaya, Mukah, Bintulu, and Kuching. It's pretty complicated, but Sister Bodell can handle it. We had the rest of the day to wander and shop. We also called Elder and Sister Slider. They picked us up and drove us around. It was good to spend time with them.

Chinese New Year is a big thing here in Sarawak, at least in Sibu and Kuching. There were lots of decorations up all over . . . almost more than at Christmas. Here are some examples:

The display at the Imperial Hotel where we stayed in Kuching

Crossing a bridge at a display in the Boulevard Mall, attached to the hotel

Bamboo backdrop

A display at Spring Mall

The entrance to Spring Mall

Thursday morning we were picked up from the the hotel by Elder and Sister Hammer. They drove us to the airport. They are Family History missionaries. We met them Tuesday evening at the church where our training was held. They are on a two-year, family history mission covering East Malaysia.

We arrived home with a notice from City Link, the local delivery company, that a delivery attempt was made Thursday. One of the Elders will be glad when we get the delivery tomorrow morning. It's his bicycle!

No he won't! The bike was delivered the next morning. We delivered it to the addressed Elder, but it turns out that the wrong bike was sent here by mistake. We need to send this bike to another Elder in Kota Kinabalu, commonly referred to as KK. This will be our project Monday morning. Hopefully, whoever has Elder S's bike will ship it here. Elder S was a little disappointed, but we do have some extra bikes here in the district. He's not walking so he's happy!

Sunday was a busy day as usual. Sister Bodell was doing music in Primary in both branches. I was getting a couple of emails written for supplies. Later in the day we conducted a second music conducting class. We had a good attendance this evening. It was a lot of fun. We're doing a continuation of the class the 1st of March. Some of the class members will be out of town until then.

We also visited Sister Mills in the hospital. She's twisted her back and has quite a bit of pain. She's a trooper, though, and will get through this. Oh, the trials of age! Sometimes they can be a real pain!

The four Elders assigned to Branch 2 were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting today. They were asked shortly before church. All four of them did an outstanding job. I was impressed with their knowledge of the scriptures and how they were able to speak without notes. Most impressive was the Spirit with which they spoke. They are humble, obedient missionaries who want to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. There was a wonderful feeling in Sacrament meeting today. They helped select the music so it coordinated with their talks.

We are blessed again to be here. We are tired, but buoyed up by our testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the His restored Gospel. Writing this blog each week reminds me of the many blessings we have in our lives. We are grateful to be here. We are grateful for our family and friends and their support. We love all of them! That would include you. Yes, you who are reading this right now. We love you! Thank you for your love and support!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lizards, Transfers, Travel, and Training

We had our house sprayed for bugs and had one of the air cons (air conditioners) fixed today. The bugs aren't bad if you keep them under control. Sister Bodell feels better when we've had the house sprayed. Fortunately we don't have a problem with mice; however, we do have a problem with lizards. They leave their calling card behind, on the counters, on the walls, in the air cons. Wait! In the air cons? Yes, that's why we had to have one repaired. Seems the little critter crawled into one and got fried when it was turned on! Poor little thing! So now we have to spray lizard repellant around each of out air con units to keep them away.

This week was transfers. We lost four of our Elders. Elder Smith, one of our ZLs, has completed his mission. He's meeting his parents in Singapore this week and doing some touring of the mission before they return home. We're going to miss him. He's been a great leader, a great example, a great teacher, a great missionary, a great language resource, and a great friend. He has been a blessing in the lives of so many people here in Sibu. We look forward to hearing from him when he returns home.

We also lost Elders V, W, S, and B. We wish them all well in their new areas. They will be missed, but will continue to grow where they're planted.

We haven't met the new Elders yet. We will have to wait until this weekend when we return from Bintulu.

Our new missionaries include Elders C, S, G, D, and M. We haven't met them all yet, but we love the ones we have. We still haven't met Elder S. We've been gone most of the week, and he was ill Sunday and didn't make it to church. It will be later this week that we get to meet him, after we return from our trip to Kuching.

Kuching? Yes, we're going to Kuching again for Seminary and Institute teacher training. This past week we drove to Bintulu for training there on Thursday evening. It's a three-hour drive. While we were there, we closed the Senior Couple house. The mission president was hoping to send another couple to Bintulu, but there aren't any available right now. We had to clean out the house, move all church materials and furnishings to another missionary apartment that is in the process of closing for temporary storage. Sister Bodell really worked hard. She was texting and emailing Sister Mains, the mission president's wife frequently getting feedback on what needed to be saved or tossed. It took us two days to get this all done. Fortunately we had some help from some members with a truck to move the furniture. Another member, Ethan, was also a big help. The missionaries in Bintulu also were a great help. After all was said and done, we were able to sign the house back over to the landlord on Saturday morning and make the three-hour drive back to Sibu. We made it back in time for our S&I training there at 5:30 and seminary class after that at 7:00 PM.

It was a busy few days in Bintulu, but we did have time to make a stop at the beach while we were out looking for a place for lunch. Here a few pictures.

Pretty much a tropical paradise . . .

Except for the murky, brown water!

There is a sign posted to swim at your own risk! You definitely won't find us in these waters.

But still a tropical paradise!

After seminary we drove a pair of missionaries to a member's home whose son was recently killed. The hows of that are still sketchy. He may have been mugged and beaten. He was only in his early 20s. Sunday morning I drove them out to the hospital/morgue to be with the mother. It's a sad situation.

Sunday was a pretty normal Sunday, other than driving the missionaries to the hospital. I did have to go back and pick them up.

We did start something new Sunday night . . . a music directing workshop. It went very well. We had three members, Sister Noralia was out of town so she couldn't come, and six Elders there. We covered the basics of three, four, and two beats per measure (fence). We also worked on preparatory beats and fermatas. We talked about how not to direct as well. We all had a good time. Next Sunday we're going to talk about six beats per measure, time changes in hymns, like Come, Come Ye Saints. I'm hoping to give a little listening quiz and see if they can identify how many beats are in each measure. We talked about a lot of other musical Dos and Don'ts. We'll see how they do.

I'm closing for tonight, Sunday, as we will be leaving early in the morning (7:00) to go to Mukah for S&I training there.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we have to teach and to serve. It is a blessing. This is the true Church of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son to atone for my sins. I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know he saw the Father and the Son in the grove of trees near his father's farm. I am grateful for his strength, courage, determination, and testimony in restoring the Gospel back to the earth. I am grateful for President Monson and his strength, courage, determination, and testimony in his calling as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. He is God's mouthpiece today.