Sunday, April 26, 2015

Transfers, Touring, Teaching, and Pictures

This has been one of those roller coaster weeks with emotions. Yes, it was transfer week. They just don't get any easier. We just get too attached to these young Elders. They are special, and some of them just worm their way into out hearts.

This week Elders H and S finished their missions and returned to their homes and families in the United States. Elders L and W were transferred. We lost half our district! We only got two new replacements. We were downsized one companionship. We will probably lose another companionship at the next transfer, too. It's too bad because the missionaries here are really working hard and are starting to have an abundance of investigators.

Monday, P-Day, we were able to visit a couple of interesting places with some of the young Elders before they moved on. The first was a Chinese tiger temple. There is a fellow in the Chinese Branch that knows about these difference Chinese temples. We would never have known about this one. Truly unique!

Did you notice that the entrance is shaped like the mouth of a tiger?

What's a Chinese temple without incense burning?

The entry to the temple

No lions or bears, just tigers

This one appears to be relaxing.

That could be Dad in the back wondering about his son.

This one isn't lounging, maybe prowling?

A warrior tiger

Nice kitty, kitty.

Sister Bodell and Elder L emerging from the temple

The outside body of the tiger temple
After our excursion of the tiger temple, we drove down the road to a long house. To those who might not know what a long house is, it is a long house. There are several homes built together in the same building, most often they are family. This one is really quite nice with a covered hallway. There is a porch on the outside where families can also gather or hang their clothes out to dry. The Iban tribe used to be cannibals. One of the most intriguing items in this long house is a net full of skulls. It's hanging from a light, almost like a chandelier.

A very lonnng hallway in a very lonnng house.
We just kept walking and walking
The wooden floor on which we walked. You can't see it too well in the picture,
but the ground is about 20 feet down from the floor.
These pictures are all over in Sarawak. They are
the Prime Minister, the Monarch, and the Sultana, the Monarch's wife.
Weren't you just waiting for this picture?
Maybe just a little bizarre?
The lonnng walk back to the car.
Sister Bodell and I were able to go with the Elders M and C to Sister Star's home again. This time they taught the lesson on the restoration of the Church. It was pretty impressive, even though we didn't understand a lot since it was in Malay, but we did understand the Spirit. I asked Elder M if I could share the story of how they came upon this family. He said I could. He typed it for me so this is the story in his own words.

     We only have a few main locations in our area, Rantau Panjang and Sentosa. One random day, Elder Hays and I decided we would try and bike past Sentosa to see if there was anywhere else we could possibly start some more work and find more people. 

     We had already passed Sentosa when we realized there wasn’t a lot of housing area, but we found more of the thick Sarawak jungle on both sides of the road. We had a feeling we should keep on biking. We biked about 20-30 mins past Sentosa when we hit a bridge and a turn off. We took the turn off to a place called Sungai Salim.

     We were amazed with the number of long houses in the area. We kept passing one after another. We weren’t sure who to talk to until a very energetic man came up to us. We talked to him for about 10 mins until a car approached us and stopped. We started talking to the woman that was in the car, and she agreed to show us her house and have us come back another time and share a message with her. Her name is Star.

     When we finally followed up with Star, she agreed to drive 45 minutes and meet us at the church in Sibu. We brought a member along and had a great lesson with her. She explained to us that she had a son named Jackie who had a failing kidney. She then explained that he was blind because of that problem. She asked if we would come to her house a few days later to give a blessing to him. We agreed. We gave her a tour of the church, and then separated.

     The following Sunday, she came to church in the morning. That was a miracle for us! At church, she met some of her relatives and friends that were members. That night, we had the senior couple, Elder and Sister Bodell, take us in their car to her house.  Brother Dagang and Sister Lucy, the relatives who she had met that day, also followed. All of Star’s family (including her husband) gathered together and we gave Jackie a priesthood blessing. Star then insisted that we eat her mass amount of food and her boiling hot Milo. Before we left their house, we scheduled another appointment.

     Elder and Sister Bodell, the following Thursday, were good enough to take my new companion, Elder Coloma and I out there again to meet with Star’s family. Before starting the lesson, a friend named Leah decided to join in the lesson along with Star, Jackie, and Erika. We shared with them the message of the Restoration. At first, the lesson was rough and the family was unfocused, but it changed. About half way through, both Elder Coloma and I listened to the spirit and shared the rest of our message. At the end, we both felt an impression to put the family on date for baptism for the 23rd of May. We did so and all four of them accepted without hesitation. 

     The cool part of this experience was hearing Star’s testimony and thoughts about us sharing our message with her. She was driving back home that first day we met her, and she saw us by the side of the road. She explained that she knew we were messengers from God and a light shined within us. She felt impressed to stop and talk to us. After we left, she took a minute and prayed for another meeting to happen with us because she had felt something.

     At that time, she had been looking for a Christian church that would help give her a  blessing to her ill son and also give her peace in her life from the situation with that. She didn’t feel right about the many churches she already investigated but she felt right about the comforting message we had for her. 

     I was in shock at the miracles and love that God gives to all his children. This experience strengthened my testimony of the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that God lives and through Jesus Christ, we can all return to Them. It’s through the great message that I share as a missionary that can do that for people.

It is such a joy and blessing to work with the young Elders. They are amazing. Their level of spirituality, their attention to the Spirit, to go who knows where or why and be blessed is truly a blessing to behold

More pictures of other activities during the week:

Alexson and Elder S.
Elder S went home this week, but before he did, he gave Alexson his bicycle on four conditions.
1. He would always lock it up and keep it safe.
2. He would use it to ride to church.
3. He would "follow" the Elders and help them.
4. He would continue his reading learning with Elder and Sister Bodell
Elder L, Alexson, and Elder S
Alexson's family - Family pictures had to be separate because Alexson had to go to work.
President Gara's family, Brother Alok and his wife, and the missionaries.
All the missionaries are gone except Elder Mix who is still here.
Elder J went to Bintulu, Elder D went to Kuching, Elder L went to JB.
Elders H and S are now back home.
Brother Gaadong and his family with Elder and Sister Bodell and Elder L
Sister and Elder Bodell with Elder W before he was transferred to Kuching
Can you see the bananas on the tree to the right?
These trees are growing in a garden planted by a local resident.
Happy 65th Birthday, Elder Mills!
Yes, Sister Bodell made and decorated the cake.
We had dinner at the Maple Leaf.
So, this week we said good-bye to Elders H and S who completed their missions in style and returned home. We also said good-bye to Elders L and W who were transferred to other areas. We said "Hello, and good to meet you," to Elders H and C. They will be a great addition to the district. We also welcomed back Elder V.

Elder P (District Leader), Cassidy, and Elder H, our new Elder from Down Under
Here are a couple of short videos of what happens when the youth and missionaries get going after seminary:

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

The Hokey Pokey -
Where everyone had a good time!

That is pretty much it for this week, except to say that it looks like we found a house for the Elders. It's big enough for the six Malay Elders and will be perfect when the next two leave the area. The house is in a good location, and the owner is willing to upgrade a few items that will be of great help. The house has been approved by Sister Mains, the mission president's wife, so we are moving forward.

It has been a good week, except for the transfers, but that the way of it. We have been blessed with good health and safe travel. I know our Father in Heaven has blessed us. There was more than once that we could have been in an accident. I am grateful for the prayers of family and friends. I know those prayers have been answered.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Uneventful Week . . . NOT!

It has been an uneventful week . . . NOT!

I wish I could say it was Dutch oven cooking, but, alas, I cannot. We put some blueberries on the stove with some water to rehydrate for some goodies Sister Bodell was going to make for district meeting today. We got busy and forgot about them. The good news is that the smoke detector works fine. The bad news is that the house smells like a campfire. What was I said at the end of last week's blog? Something about what new adventure waits for us in the coming week. We were definitely off to a good start.

This week we also went to Sister Daisy's new home with Elders L & S. They wanted to make sure we knew where she lives. Elder S will be going home soon, and Elder L may be transferred. We had a really nice meal of chicken curry which was unique in flavor to what we've had thus far. This had a lemony flavor because it had lemon grass in it. Quite tasty, but still spicy. We also had something that resembled spinach, but it could have been some sort of greenery plucked from the roadside. It still tasted okay.

The week continued Thursday evening with a dinner at Sister Sabie's place. It was a commemoration dinner for her son who was killed two months ago. There were lots of people there including eight missionaries. Sister Sabie had plenty of food for all the people that were there. The place was wall to wall with people sitting on the floor.

Wall to Wall People, and you can't see the ones sitting on the left.
There were twice this many in the other room! Yes, that's Elders L and S.
Sister Sabie made the best vegetable with carrots, cucumber, & spices.

I don't know how it happened exactly, but Thursday evening, after we got home from Sister Sabies, Sister Bodell was getting a drink at the sink and the faucet broke. It just snapped off where the water filter was connected.

We called President Chua Friday morning. He came over to see what he could do. He went out looking for parts. Sister Bodell and I went out also to see what we could find. While we were out, we had a near collision with a car that pulled right out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and the horn at the same time! I couldn't steer to the other side of the road because there was a lady coming the opposite direction on her moto. She had a big smile on her face as she passed by. She thought the near disaster was pretty humorous! I could see the accident happening in my mind, but we were blessed with protection! I am grateful for that, but I was also grateful to get back home.

I did go out later with Elders L & S again in the afternoon. We went to see Alexson and have a reading lesson. It's Alexson's mother that was making the beaded collar that I shared in a previous post. Here is Elder L wearing the finished product.

This has got to be the best picture of Elder L.
He's usually pulling some weird face.
Oh, before I forget, we missed our Skype lesson with our tutor this week. The power went out in the morning so we had no internet! Just one more thing this week. We had to text him to tell him the problem. We're glad he has an iPhone! We tried to FaceTime, but the connection for that was bad as well.

We had our six-month in-field Skype meeting Friday morning with Brother Thorley from the MTC. Six months is all we really get for language training, but due to some mitigating factors, we get another two months of language study with Micah. We had our last Skype coaching session with Bryan Friday morning as well. It was really hard to say good-bye. However, we hope to see him when we get home in March. We will miss him. He's a good man and a good friend.

Great Screen Shot of Bryan. We love you!

Saturday morning we had the district over for breakfast, prior to watching the Priesthood session of General Conference in English. They wanted to watch it in English before watching it in Malay tomorrow after church. It's been a beautiful morning. We've been physically and spiritually fed.

Breakfast with the young Elders
Starting on the left, Elders S, P, M, D, J, G, W, H, L, and C

I'm always impressed when I watch the Elders watch conference.
They have their notepads handy and listen with real intents.

Standing to sing Hark, All Ye Nations, hear Heaven's Voice.
These young men are the voice of Heaven, declaring the Good News
and preaching repentance.

There is a great comradeship among the Elders.
It is a blessing for us to be able to associate with them.
Sunday was the usual Primary Sharing Time for Sister Bodell. We also had our second class of music directing for Branch One. That class consisted of President Gara and his family. The Branch Two choir had their debut in Sacrament meeting today singing, Come, O Thou King of Kings. It was amazing. There were about 20 that sang in the choir. I wish I had a recording of it. However, we did make a recording of Dearest Children during their choir practice this afternoon. Hopefully you can play the recording by copying and pasting this link in your browser.

You have to keep in mind that this was only a practice. The altos are closest to the microphone (my iPhone). But, you can almost hear all four parts. That's something unheard of here in the Iban culture. We had an amazing turnout for practice today. Besides the usual, we also had an investigator family of five come; plus another investigator from another family.

Speaking of investigators, Elders C and P had 12 investigators attend church today! There were 17 al together from all the missionaries. That is a lot. Many of them stayed to listen to the Priesthood/Relief Society sessions of General Conference Sunday evening.

One more thing to report to end the week: We "followed" Elders H and M to an investigator's home. She has a son that is blind and has kidney issues. Apparently the blindness is caused by the kidney issue.

Back Row: Elder M, Elder & Sister Bodell, Brother Dagong, Elder H
Front Row: Sister Dagong, Sister Star, her husband, and their son
in the chair.

Just a funny little note on the side here, the terms "follow" and "send" are both used to take someone with you in your car. We don't take the Elders anywhere. We either follow them or send them!

I will this week with this shot of the neighborhood. I took this from one of the apartments we were checking out for new housing for the Elders. Both were terrible, especially for the rent wanted. I thought about including the pictures I took of the insides of these places so you could see, but I changed my mind. I didn't want to make anyone ill.

This is a good view of where we live.

Next week is shaping up to be a big one. It's transfer week, and we know that two are leaving for sure to return home. Their time is up. We may also be visiting a long house on Monday.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Zone Meeting, Lawren's Farewell, Senior Date Night

There is a brother in the Chinese Branch who is quite the artist. He present us sketcehds he ahd made of Sister Bodell and myself. He did a really great job. He may do another set. Who knows!

Elder Bodell

Sister Bodell

Tuesday we had an outstanding zone meeting conducted by Elders H & M. Elders S & S also presented part of the training. Today's topic: Begin with the End in Mind. Why are we here? What should be the end result? Obviously we are here to teach people about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. To what end? The end result would be preparing people for exaltation by helping them to keep the covenants they make at baptism, but to prepare them to go to the temple. We watched a couple of videos. One was from The District series, where the family that had been taught was able to attend the temple. After the teaching and discussion, the ZLs asked each missionary to share which temple was the favorite and a testimony about the temple. They had asked me to prepare slides to show as each missionary shared their testimony. The following movie was the result of that assignment. The only thing missing in the video is testimony of each of the missionaries. (For those of you with analytical minds, the slides were paused as each missionary shared his thoughts.) Let me tell you, it was a very spiritual, moving experience! There were two missionaries whose parents had been divorced without ever having been sealed. Their testimonies were very moving about the importance of temple sealings. I don't think there was a dry eye among any of us, including the young missionaries. There were many reasons why each temple was chosen, all touching our hearts. A group hug would have been appropriate after this meeting. There was a lot of love in this meeting.

After zone meeting, I was informed that President Gara had asked me to speak that evening at his son's missionary farewell party! How do spell "S-C-R-A-M-B-L-E"? That's what I was doing while lunch was being purchased.

Purchased? Yes, purchased. A hamburger eating contest was proposed at the last zone meeting. This involved one missionary from each district in the zone and one of the ZLs. Food? It was supposed to be a Big Mac, fries, chicken nuggets, and a drink. The first one done was the winner. No Big Macs today. McDonald's was out of beef so chicken was substituted. (Only in Malaysia!). (We all had non-Big Macs after the contest.) And the winner . . . Elder S from Sibu Jaya! After lunch we had the usual zone meeting picture before everyone went their own way.

Let them eat cake! Well, maybe chicken burgers instead.
Elders P, M, G, and S

Elder S is the winner!

Elders J, G, H, G, C, W, O, P, S, M, W, C, S, W, L, and T
Sister & Elder Bodell, Sister & Elder Mills, Sister & Elder Tedrow

Later that evening, we attended Lawren's Farewell Program and dinner. There were three speakers: Me, Lawren, and President Chua. When we arrived, President Gara told me that he'd like me to tell why Lawren was going on a mission as there were several members of his and Sister Mina's family who were there and not members of the Church. The amazing thing about this is, is that is exactly what I had prepared. It was short, sweet, and pertinent.

Brother Steven and son with Elder Bodell,
Brother Steven had recently gotten a buzz. He's working up to shaving his head.

Sister Mina, Sister Bodell, Lawren, President Gara, Elder H, Elder Bodell
Olivia, Monica

More of President Gara's family.
His sons, Willington and Hendri are in this picture.
The next morning we got up early (4:00 AM) so that we could go out to the airport with several other missionaries to see Lawren off. It was a good send-off. There were six young Elders there and Lawren's family. Lawren is the first missionary to leave from here in several years and the first from President Gara's family. We came home afterward and slept another couple of hours.

Elders H, L, P, M, G, C, & S
Can you guess who's got the new missionary shoes?
That would be Lawren!
President Gara's family with Sister Mina's sister and two of her children.
And finally a picture of President Gara's youngest son, Burayun.
You can't read it too well, but this is in front of the departure sign.
Checking in at the departure desk.
The last time the family will see Lawren for  the next two years.
Things got back to normal after we got some sleep. Wednesday afternoon we went to Alexson's for his reading lesson. Sister Bodell may not go next time. She got several mosquito bites while we were there. Nothing unusual . . . after all, this is the jungle! While we were there, I had an epiphany while we there. I need to make some flash cards for him with just syllables on them so he can join them together to make other words. I started doing this on Keynote, but then I thought flash cards might be better. Anyway, I've got to get moving on that as we have another lesson on Friday, and it's Thursday already!

Thursday we spent much of our time preparing activities for the children for Conference this weekend. We've been able to watch most of it, but this weekend we should have the translations in Malay and Mandarin. 

We also are planning for a visit from President and Sister Mains, the Mission President and his wife. They're coming to interview the Elders in preparation of transfers in a couple of weeks. There will be some changes made in our area. There are 40 missionaries going home in the next few months and only 20 coming. This will result in a decrease in the number of Elders in Sibu. There is a similar issue with Senior Couples as well. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Friday night was Senior Date Night. We hosted dinner here at home with President and Sister Main and Elder and Sister Mills. Sister Bodell served meatloaf, baked potatoes, broccoli, carrots and cranberries, and applesauce pie. It was all very tasty. She even went so far as to find a new way to fold napkins on the Internet.

A great gathering. If you expand the picture, you an see the folded napkins on the plates.
Elder & Sister Bodell, President & Sister Mains, Elder & Sister Mills
Saturday and Sunday we went to the church for Conference. We had downloads of English (Baptism Room), Malay (Chapel), and Mandarin (RS Room). Saturday's sessions were at 4::00 PM and 7:00 PM. Sunday's sessions were at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. We'll show the Priesthood and Womens sessions next Sunday. 

It was great to hear our Church leaders speak, especially President Monson. I'm grateful that we have the opportunity every six months in General Conference to raise our hand in a sustaining vote for him and the other leaders of the Church. I do sustain President Monson as a prophet, a seer, and a revelator. There are some who say no; some say maybe sometimes, but this is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is His Church. He does direct it. I know that to be true.

Saturday was also Elder C's birthday. He requested a confetti cake. You can't buy them here in Sibu, but Sister Bodell granted his request and made one using sprinkles, which you can find here. We had a pizza lunch prior to the first session of conference and had birthday cake for dessert.

Happy Birthday, Elder C!

What will next week bring? That is a good question! Every week is a new adventure, even when there is nothing set. I do know that Monday there is a FHE to which we are invited, and the usual language trainings. What surprises will we find?