Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why?

This has been a very slow week, which is just as well. It gives me a chance to reflect on the last nine months and to answer the question Why?


June 1 is our nine-month anniversary. We are now half-way through our mission. Why did we come here? What have we accomplished? Have we done any good in the world so far? These are good questions, and sometimes I wonder. I'd like to share some thoughts and pictures from the last nine months.

Singapore . . . then onto Sibu, East Malaysia
That's 8,400 miles from home!
We have been blessed with good friends and good health starting in the MTC. We were with a great group of other Senior Couples. This was one of the largest groups of Senior Couples sent from the MTC. Most of these folks were MLS (Membership Leader Support missionaries). We are in the second picture.


Ninth couple from the right
We became good friends with many in this group. This group has special callings such as CES, YSA, or Military assignments.

We are on the next to back row, on the right side

We arrived in Singapore not know anyone except the Boyters and the Bues's because we had been in contact with emailing. We were grateful to be met at the airport in Singapore by the Boyters. They have become very close friends. How we miss them! They are now in preparation for another mission.

The Boyters are on the left. We were also met by Juswan Tandiman and President Lai.
Brother Tandiman and President Lai are the coordinators and supervisors for the Singapore and Asia area.
 . . . our bosses.
We replaced the Boyters as CES missionaries when they were called to serve in the Mission office.
Another blessing is seeing the joy that comes to others when they are baptized. We've been able to participate in several baptismal services

Brother Merang and family. Sister Doa was baptized the next week.
Ot course, we can't forget the many missionaries we have grown to love.

Elders, M, B, D, S, J, H, C, S, B, and J
Elders H, V, C, G, C, C, P, and M
video
Sometimes the missionaries just have get themselves moving!

And then there have been several funny signs and labels of various kinds . . . 

This is from the flight monitor on the seat in front of me from a flight from Singapore.
What a clever name for toilet tissue!
And the various and sundry foods we've eaten or just looked at because there is no way we're going to even try . . . 

Chicken Chop with rice and cucumbers, served with a bowl of chicken foot soup
video
I'm not sure how they get these things down!

Sacrament meetings were sparsely attended this weekend. Gawai is this coming week. There were a total of 13-14 people, counting the eight missionaries who were there at Branch One. No Branch Presidency. Branch Two had 10 in attendance . . . the Branch President and his son. Everyone is off to their longhouses/kumpongs to be with their families for the next week. Some for the next two weeks. We've been invited to go to a member's longhouse this coming week. Hopefully there will be pictures to share.

Another blessing of being here is the addition of a new, healthy grandson. We are looking forward to getting acquainted with him and reacquainted with all the grandchildren. It's amazing how much they've all grown in the last nine months. (Nate is now taller than his mom or dad!)

The grandkids nine months ago!

Our newest addition
The members have been wonderful. They sacrifice so much being first-generation members of the Church here in Malaysia. They are trying so hard. One my heroes is the President Balley. He is the the branch president of Branch 2. His family was giving him a very bad time so he moved from his family's longhouse to that of his wife's family. They are building a new longhouse. He is a real stalwart in the Church.

President Balley and his family the day his little daughter was blessed.
Why are we here? Who can count the reasons? There are so many other blessings we have received. We have had the opportunity to serve and to help. We have seen so many interesting sites and cities. There are so many pictures we could post, but most importantly, we have felt and seen the hand of our Father in Heaven in His work among His children here. We know we will see more during the next nine months.

Is a mission worth it? You'd better believe it. The Gospel is true. God bless all of you!







Monday, May 25, 2015

Singapore and Gawai

It has been a great week in Singapore. It was great to see many of the Elders that have been transferred from our area and renew those friendships. Some of them will be going home soon, taking a part of us with them.


Places:

Many buildings have plants growing on several levels.
 A closer look

Our favorite place to go in Singapore.

The variety is totally different from what we're used to in the States.
The salted caramel are really good. Haven't tried the green tea.

 Love the colors. If you look carefully, you can see laundry hanging of from the windows.

It seems like an optical illusion, but the building in front is actually triangular.
It just looks like a flat sheet.
There are so many many places to see and visit. I can't put them all in the same blog.

People:
Elders M, B, & L with us.
Elder G (known to us as Lawren) is the son of the
president of Branch One. He is the first to serve from this branch.

Sometimes we have to take turns taking pictures.
Us with Elder L. He will be going home soon.
We look forward to seeing him again in March.

The Singapore Mission Senior Couples

The East Malaysia Zone Missionaries

We were able to visit the beautiful gardens of Singapore. We spent most of our time strolling through the orchid garden where they have hundreds of varieties of orchids. Here is just a small sampling, along with some of the other parts of the gardens.

The Gardens:


Gotta love the looks of this tree!












Heading out of the Orchid Garden
It was a fun week in Singapore, but we were glad to get home. We got back Saturday just in time to clean up and head to the church for the Branch Two Gawai celebration. It's a good thing we made it. Our names were printed on the program as the guests of honor.

It's amazing how the three Gawai celebrations with the three church branches were all different. Variety is definitely the spice of life. The costumes are similar, though, since most of the members here are Iban. There are a couple of other dayak (tribes) so their costumes are different. You can see the differences in the video. But first, a photo of President Balley, Branch Two president.

Elder C with President Balley.
President Balley is a great man with strong testimony of the Gospel.

video

More colorful costumes and dancing. As guests of honor, we had to judge who had the best dress. How do you judge something like that?

Many of the members will be going home to their families this next weekend. It is a traditional family gathering time. We are not expecting many members to be at church. Many members are strong in the faith, but Gawai can be a little sketchy as they return home to family and traditions. Many have been known to fall back into their old ways of drinking and smoking. Hopefully they will remain strong as they visit with their families.

The Lord gave us the Word of Wisdom for a reason. We are much healthier mentally and physically as we keep this commandment. 














Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lunching with the Elders, S&I Inservice, and Pre-Gawai

It's a beautiful morning here in Sibu. I think one of the things that we will miss most when we come home is the hujan. That's the rain. Once in awhile I check the weather back home and see the forecast for dry and windy conditions. There isn't much of either here. The rain is refreshing as it makes the humidity more tolerable and it lowers the temperature by a couple of degrees.

Sister Bodell had a surprise call from Elder Misa Monday night. Whether he meant to call her or not is irrelevant. It could have been a pocket dial. Anyway, when Sister Bodell answered the phone, he wished her a happy Mother's Day. We miss him. He was one of our ZLs when we first arrived.

We had a great District meeting on Tuesday. I don't know where these young come up with their ideas, but the training we receive is outstanding. The training for this meeting was all about attitude. No one force us to be happy or sad. It's our choice. Our attitude determines our altitude, or wether our thoughts and moods are elevated or keeping us down in the dumps. Elder P did an awesome job.

Sister Bodell always provides some sort of treat for District meeting. This week she made 7-Layer dip and cream puffs. The Elders went crazy with the avocado, wondering where to get some. Avocados are plentiful at the present time. Sister Bodell also made her own salsa. We found a jar of dried "coriander leaves". That's the same thing as dried cilantro. They worked very well. And yes, the cream puffs went over very well, too!

There is always a discussion of where to go to lunch after District meeting. I suggested we go to the Noodle house because none of our present district had been there. We loaded up the van (still a little small for the entire district of eight Elders) and drove over to the cafe. It was closed. However, on the way we passed another restaurant that looked promising. It was definitely promising! It had table cloths, nice silverware, goblets for ice water, real napkins, delicious food! It's not a place that the Elders would go everyday as it's kind of pricey, but well-worth it. They were pleasantly surprised, however, when they each went to pay their bill. Sister Bodell had already paid for everyone. The name of the restaurant is Australian Story.

Elders V, G, C, P, C, M, C, and H

Our waiter, whose name I didn't catch and Elder V.
The waiter kept referring to us as Elder and Sister. I asked him how he knew. He told us that he is a member, baptized in the Philippines, had been a member for seven years now, but was less-active because of working. This is a major reason for so much inactivity in the Church here. It's either work or transport. It's a sad situation.

The rest of the week was used for planning our Seminary & Institute Inservice for Saturday. What started out as a group of three grew to an event with 11 S&I Teachers from Sibu, Sibu Jaya, Bintulu, and Kuching. Those from Bintulu came via a three-hour bus ride. Those from Kuching came by a 40 minute a plane ride.

The inservice went very smoothly. It was six-hour affair including an hour for lunch. The teachers were well-taught. It was great to have Brother Paul and Brother Kelven from Kuching to present. They are super S&I teachers with great attendance rates for their classes. They talked about preparing and presenting lessons in Malay. No translation necessary for the teachers . . . only for those white people who don't speak Malay.

Here are a few pictures from the inservice:

S&I Inservice in session

President Lai, Singapore Stake President and Singapore/Malaysia S&I Coordinator

A group of seminary teachers from Sibu Jaya and Bintulu

Brother Paul and Brother Kelven from Kuching


Happy Gawai! Later that night we attended two branch Gawai celebrations. The first was in Sibu Jaya; the second with Sibu Branch 1.

Gawai is a celebration of the local Sarawak Dayak (Tribes). The tradition started very small back in 1963, and has grown to national holiday status. The actual holiday is June 1-2. It celebrates the end of the harvest and the beginning of the new planting season. Each dayak celebrates with traditional music and food. Everyone tries to go home to their family kumpong to celebrated with much merriment and drinking. This is hard for the members of the church because they don't drink like their families do. Some stay home; some stray and drink. It's a tough time. Tradition is strong with these people. I'm told that on the weekend of Gawai there are very few members left in Sibu for church. The first and second branches are planning on combining their meetings that Sunday. I will have to report on that later.

We were invited to attend the Sibu Jaya Branch party by Sister Katrina. We didn't know if we would make it, but we did and we are so glad we did. The Young Men and Young Women were dressed in traditional costumes and performed several Iban dances. (Most of the members here are from the Iban tribe.) The costumes are amazing and they practiced their dances for several months before performing at the party. The pictures and video taken don't do justice to it all, but here are a few of both:

Some of the Young Women of the Sibu Jaya Branch in costume

The YW, Elder Mills, Sister and Elder Bodell

Sister Katrina and Sister Bodell.
Sister Kat made the beaded necklaces, over the shoulder straps. Very talented!

Some of the Young Men from the Sibu Jaya Branch
along with Elder Mills, Elders C, O, Y,  W, and Elder Bodell
The beaded tie I'm wearing was made by Sister Katrina.
Next a couple of videos from the Sibu Jaya party.

video
This is the Welcome Dance. This was performed at the beginning of the party.

I don't know what this next dance is officially called, but for want of another name, I'll call it the sword dance. It tends to go forever, at least until all the "fruit" of the tree is cut and placed in the basket. After the fruit is all cut, the tree is chopped down and removed. You'll get the idea watching the first four dancers. You may recognize two of the dancers.

video

The Sword Dance

The music is pretty repetitive in all their dances. It was all quite similar at the Branch One party, but the youth weren't dressed in costume. I did have to do the sword dance again . . . with a pair of scissors! Not quite as exciting, but still was fun.

Next Saturday we will attend Branch Two's celebration of Gawai. There will be more pictures and video I'm sure. Until then, have a pleasant week. We're off to Singapore on Monday for Zone/Senior Conference and our three-month visa renewal. There will be lots to share next time.