Saturday, June 27, 2015

Batmen, but no Robin; Dental Work, S-Day Prep

The Batmen team was here on Monday. We discovered recently that we had bats in the belfry . . . or at least in the attic. The exterminators, the Batmen team, patched up a hole that was allowing them into the house. There were eight of them, the largest the size of a fist! There were several smaller ones. Another senior couple also had bats, but they had about 20 of them. The exterminators had taken pictures of them. They didn't today. If they had, I would have included one. Sorry about that.

Sister Bodell wanted a hazmat suit to clean up the bat droppings that were coming down in a gap between the wall and the ceiling in two bedrooms. Oh, the never-ending adventures.

I would be amiss if I didn't take time to say thank you to a very special friend in our lives. We had our last language Skype lesson with Micah this week. We will miss our weekly visits and updates on his life. Even though we are finished with our Skype lessons, we will continue to keep in touch. We wish him and Beth the very best as they begin a new chapter in their lives in August. We look forward to seeing them when we get home from our mission. (I hope they don't mind that I borrowed a picture from Micah's Facebook page. I forgot to take a screen shot at our last lesson.)

Beth and Micah

I lost a filling from a tooth this week. I nervously went to a dentist here in Sibu. His name is Dr. Hu. (Yes, that's pronounced Who, so now I have met Dr. Who.) Going to the dentist here is not like going to the dentist back home. I checked in with the receptionist, filled out an information sheet, and was immediately led into see the doctor. Dr. Hu is a very nice Chinese dentist with several degrees and trainings, and he speaks English.

He looked at the tooth and told me I needed a crown. Then he took an X-ray to check out the root. Looks like we need to take a trip to Kuala Lumpur (KL) or Singapore for a root canal. There is not an endodontist to be found in Sibu. We'll be going to KL because it's closer, and we've never been there except for layovers in the airport. There is a senior couple there who have offered to house us for a few days.

The Elders here decided they wanted to have a seminary "S-Day" activity centered around stories from the Book of Mormon. The date has been set for July 4. The seminary kids from here and Sibu Jaya have been invited. Sister Bodell has been making costumes for the Elders. She bought a little sewing machine several months ago, but had some issues with it. She figured it out so now she can make some simple tunics for the Elders. Here is a picture of her little machine.

Cute little thing, isn't it?
The Elder spent some time working on "sets" for their production.

Elders at work!

Elder S and the Brass Plates

Would you believe Nephi's ship?

You have to use some imagination!

We attended the Chinese branch FHE this week. We had a good lesson and played a fun game similar to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but you had to have a sign or sound. If you missed, you were out of the game. It was amusing!

Saturday Sister Bodell taught the Relief Society of Branch One how to make peanut butter cookies. 

"This is the recipe . . . "

The fun begins!

Mashing the cookies is really the fun part.

Okay, Sister Lucy, you're right. The fun part is eating the cookies!

Enjoying the fruits of their labors!
There wasn't a big turn out, but it was successful. Next month they're going to make oatmeal cranberry cookies.

Hopefully there will be no more bats or other surprises this coming week. The time needs to be used to get everything read for next Saturday. Hopefully we can share many pictures of the S-Day activity.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kuching and More

This week has gone by really fast. I suppose it was because we were in Kuching for a few days. We were able to do a little shopping and touring besides providing training to the S&I teachers in Kuching.

We stayed with Elder and Sister Hammer while in Kuching this trip. They have a lovely penthouse apartment. Sister Bodell may have been a little envious. Of course, we get a little envious every time we go to Kuching. It's a bigger, cleaner city than Sibu.

The Hammers are Family History missionaries. They are serving a two-year mission. They had some Family History business at the church so we went with them. Several missionaries were there in a meeting. It was like a Sibu missionary reunion when they were done.

Only two of these missionaries haven't served in Sibu since we've been here.
Neither has Elder G, but his father is the branch president of Branch 1 in Sibu.
L to R: Elder C, Elder D, Elder M (in the back), Elder G (front and center), Elder B, and Elder L.
It was Elder G's mother's birthday the next day so we took this picture and emailed it to her.
I wish we had more time to get to know know Elders B and L better, but they will be returning to the States soon.
On Thursday evening we went to dinner with the Pryzbylas, Sliders, and Hammers to a wonderful restaurant called Chef at Home. Everyone was very happy with their meal. The Senior Couples in Kuching go there often

L to R: the Przbylas, Sliders, Sister Bodell, and the Hammers
We always like to go to Kuching for S&I training. The members there always make us feel welcome.  They are wonderfully warm people. The District President, President Sulai is a great man. Brother Govan and his wife, Helen, are amazing, with such strong testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have endured a lot persecution, but they remain faithful. Kelvin is the only member of his family that is a member of the Church. His family was not happy when he joined the Church. He has served a mission and now teaches seminary, and serves as the District Executive Secretary and also a counselor in his branch presidency.

A few of the S&I teachers in Kuching. I'm sorry to say I don't know all of their names.
Those I know are Kelvin (short one in the center. He's standing next to President Sulai.
Brother Govan and his wife, Helen, are on the end.

The YSAs and Youth from the Kuching District were practicing for District Conference this weekend. We were invited in to listen to them. They were practicing several numbers. The arrangements were made my Kinzie, President Sulai's son.

Kuching is the Malay word for cat so there are many statues of cats throughout the city. Here are a few that we saw while we were there this time. There is also a cat museum, but we haven't been there yet. 

This cat is dressed in a traditional Gawai costume, including the hat!

We are not sure what the fascination with cats is Kuching, but it's fascinating to observe. All the souvenir shops have a potpourri of cats for sell . . . wooden, porcelain, small, big, singular, groups. You name it; you can probably get what you want somewhere!

Sunday evening we were able to go with the ZLs for their discussion and dinner with Sister Star and her family. They mostly taught her husband this evening because he hasn't been able to attend all the discussions. It was a little bit of "Catch up." This is such a great family. They are living the Word of Wisdom and attending church each week. They will be strong members of the Church and a great asset for the branch they will attend. I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to tag along with the missionaries. 

That's pretty much the week in review. Next week starts with Batman coming to our house on Monday morning.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

FHEs, Zone Meeting, Star's Family

This week is shaping up to be a great one. Monday evening I went with Elders M, C, and J to President Gara's for FHE. Brother Steven was there, too. The missionaries gave a lesson on Lehi's dream and holding to the rod. It was pretty good. Afterward we had a dinner prepared by Sister Mina. It was delicious as usual. I had the opportunity to chat with President Gara, through Elder J's translating, and asked him if there was anything I could to help him. He asked if I could help him better understand his responsibilities. He has some questions from his reading of the Church Leadership Handbook. We are going to meet Sunday to start answering those questions.

Tuesday we had another great Zone Meeting. The ZLs compared the preparations of the Iban headhunter with those of the Missionary Soul Hunter. They created a great Keynote (PowerPoint), presentation with our help, that they used throughout the training. At the end of the training, they showed a little video comparing the head hunter with the soul hunters of the zone, and then showed the Bible video called, Feed My Sheep. It was an inspiring meeting and well-received by the Elders in the zone.

Here is the little video comparing the headhunters of Borneo with the soul hunters of the Sibu Zone. The missionaries' pictures were provided by the Assistants to the President. They are their original pictures used on their missionary applications. When I first saw the pictures I had to ask myself who these kids were. They've grown up since being on their missions. We have recent "greenies" in our zone to one who has about four weeks left.

What a great zone!

Back Row: Elders M, J, P, C, S, H, C
Middle Row: Elders C, H, Y, C, B, T, O
Front Row doesn't change much.
We do miss the Tedrows who are serving in the mission home at this time.
This week has gone by quickly. We've been involved with the missionaries at two FHEs; one was with President Gara and his family. The other was with Brother Steven and his family. Brother Steven is the second counselor in the Branch Presidency. These are wonderful people who are striving to keep the commandments and lead the branch in positive way.

Unfortunately, there are those who think they know more because they have been members of the Church longer. There is some dissension in the ranks. They don't quite understand the importance of sustaining their leaders. I hope I can help President Gara feel more secure and increase his trust in the Lord. I will be meeting with him this Sunday to help him understand his responsibilities as Branch President.

There was a good turn out for seminary and institute on Saturday night. There haven't been any classes for the last three or four weeks because of Gawai celebrations.  Hopefully attendance will continue to improve now. Both classes are where they are supposed to be in the Doctrine and Covenants. They are keeping pace with the schedule. We feel good about that.

Sunday was a good day. Sister Bodell spent the day in Primary in both branches. She was there with the president of the 1st Branch Primary and her 1st counselor. The Primary president had to thump one of the kids on the head a couple of times because he was causing disruptions during singing time. (His mother is the first counselor.) Sister Bodell finally got him to calm down and participate. During the 2nd Branch Primary she pretty much had the whole thing. The Primary Presidency and all the teachers were no-shows. She and Elder H handled it all very well. The kids all behaved themselves. (The rowdy ones weren't there.)

We had an amazing choir practice today. We haven't had a practice for three weeks. Any guesses as to why not? I'm sure you figured it out. Gawai is the correct answer. We are back to normal and had a huge crowd there today. They are fast learners, too. We introduced them to a couple of hymns from the hymn book they didn't know. Now they do! This choir will be singing for District Conference in June.

I didn't get a chance to meet with President Gara today. He decided to have PEC meeting instead, which is as it should be. Maybe next Sunday.

Sunday evening we went to Sister Star's house for dinner and missionary discussion with the ZLs. They are a strong family. The ZLs retaught the Restoration of the Gospel lesson because Sister Star's husband wasn't there for that lesson. They also showed the video of the Restoration. At the end of the lesson, the ZLs asked Sister Bodell and I if there was anything we'd like to add. We bore our testimonies to the truthfulness of the Restoration of the Gospel; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration; and that Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet today. (Yes, in Malay!) This beautiful family is on date to be baptized July 4th! By the way, Star's name is actually Bintang, which means star in Malay.

Next week we are going to Kuching again for S&I training. We are looking forward to that. It's always a great experience to to visit with the teachers in Kuching. I would like to remember to take pictures this time.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Gawai is Over! Transfers, and a Baptism!

Gawai is over for another year. Unfortunately, we won't be here for the next one. We'll have to celebrate at home.

Monday morning we went out to Sister Minah's longhouse where here family lives. There are actually three longhouses here. We learned something new about longhouses. They don't finish either end in case the house needs to be enlarged. The ends are just covered with corrugated metal. The homes are in the inside are well-kept and have furniture, at least the ones we visited. We were offered something to eat in every home. What was planned as a 45 minute visit became a couple of hours. But it was worth it.

There is a hallway that connects the homes on the inside.

These are two-story homes.

You can see how the end of this longhouse is unfinished.

The inner hallway connecting the homes inside

Inside Sister Minah's home

What would a long house be like without the trophies from years past?

Sister Minah, her dad, Anne Michelle, the missionaries

Beautiful bead work . . . 

More bead work. Sister Minah's youngest sister does this tedious, but beautiful work.

Each family has their own "tapestry" displayed during Gawai.

Sister Minah explaining her tapestry. The bamboo shoots represent the men in the family.

Sister Minah's father, daughter, nephew, and the missionaries

 Traditional foods served during Gawai:

A fried rice noodle delicacy . . . light, airy, and hollow on the inside

A pancake style bread

Caramel covered corn flakes with blueberries

I'm not quite sure what this is, but it was light and airy.

I've forgotten what these are called, but I've seen them in the states.
The batter is placed on a metal design, then deep fried.

This party started at one end of the longhouse and moved to the other end. Each time it stopped, music would be played and food would be served.

Sister Bodell trying some of the food

Photo op!

Sister Bodell NOT trying the the locally produced beverage . . .  rice wine.
One whiff and she said, "No, thank-you. Tidak boleh!"
The lady offering her the rice wine was fairly persistent, but Sister Minah came to Sister Bodell's rescue.

The rhythm of the percussive sounds of the Iban traditional instruments and music made Sister Bodell spontaneously break into dance.

Learning about Gawai and the Iban culture has proved to be very enlightening. This holiday is similar to Christmas break. There are two days of actual holiday, but it continues for two weeks. It's a time for family and friends.

Tuesday was district meeting. It was short and sweet because there was much to do for everyone to get ready for transfers. We went to dinner that evening with the other two senior couples, the Tedrows and the Mills, to Aussie Story, a wonderful little restaurant the serves more Western style food. It plays American music such at the Carpenters. It was a very relaxing, enjoyable evening. The next morning the Tedrows were on their way to the mission office for several months to serve as the financial couple. The couple their now has to cut their mission short due to family issues back home. We will miss the Tedrows! It's only temporary . . . hopefully, until they are replaced.

Wednesday was transfer day. I played taxi starting at 8:00 AM and going to later in the afternoon. I only had to make one trip to the airport, but we were there for about an hour dropping off Elder G for his transfer. We had to wait about an hour for Elders H and S to arrive. I made some several trips to the bus depot and missionary apartments to pick up and deliver as well. It was good-bye to Elders G and V, and hello to Elders S, H, and O. Elder H is in Sibu Jaya.

The Sibu District Elders before transfers
Elders C, P, G, C, H, M, V, and C
(I should note there that were able to exchange vehicles. Our previous Toyota Altis held six missionaries if I had one on my lap and Sister Bodell drove. Now, with our Toyota Innova, we can carry eight Elders without Sister Bodell having to drive.)

Wednesday night we went out to Rantau Panjang with Elders C, M, C, and O for Family Home Evening and dinner with President Gara and his family. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening as well and the food, as always, was sedap, especially the sauce on the chicken. It was like a sweet and sour barbecue sauce. Very yummy!

Saturday was a special day for our friend Randy. He was baptized by Elder P. He was confirmed a member of the Church on Sunday by his Uncle Merang. Randy is a great young man. He reads the Book of Mormon everyday.

He's my man for tutoring in Malay. He's very patient and fortunately has a great sense of humor.

Brother Merang, Sister Doa, Randy, and Elder P

A Very Happy Family with Elders H and P

Someday Randy will make an excellent missionary!
This weekend included a visit to another investigator family. This was our first visit to their place. We went with the young missionaries (all six of them). We didn't stay for dinner because we had several other things we had to do. However, the walkway to their house is fascinating!

Yes, more sturdy than it looks!
We also celebrated Elder M's birthday on Sunday before going with the ZLs to Sister Star's place for dinner and a lesson. Sister Star and her family are on date to be baptized next month. (If you've been keeping up with the blog, you will recognize her name. This family will be a great asset to their branch.)

Sister Bodell baked and decorated a cake for Elder M. His mother had sent candles, noise makers, and hats.

Only took three blows to get all the candles out!

Happy Birthday, Elder M!
Next week is Zone Meeting. The ZLs have a great meeting ready. We're helping them with a Keynote presentation and another video. We can't finish the Keynote or video until the morning of Zone Meeting. Let's hope we can get it done.