Friday, January 29, 2016

Manila Temple Trip

Maybe the best part of serving a mission is helping members get to the Temple for the first time. We've now had that opportunity, and even though it was stressful at times, it was definitely worth it.

Sunday afternoon we began our journey to the Manila Temple. We accompanied the Merang family from Branch 2 and Brother Jubang from Branch 1. We flew to Kuala Lumpor where we spent the night in the airport Tunes hotel. It wasn't too bad. I was surprised because President Chua told me Sister Bodell wasn't going to like it. She was fine with it. (President Chua is our District President here in Sibu. He made all the flight and hotel arrangements for us. We made the Temple and Temple housing arrangements.)

Monday morning we flew to Manila and took a taxi to the Temple housing. If we ever thought traffic was bad in Malaysia, we will count our blessings that we don't drive in Manila! Oh, boy! Bumper to bumper all the way. Our taxi driver, Clem, on the way back to the airport on our return trip said there are some simple rules for driving in the Philippines.

Rule #1: Fill in the blanks." That's exactly what they do! If there is any space between cars, they fill it in. 
Rule #2 is "First come, first serve." That deals with filling in the blanks and intersections. 
Rule #3 is "Buses have the always have the right of way. They're bigger than you are. 
Rule #4 is if you have an issue with a bus, refer to rule #3.

We arrived at the Temple housing and greeted by Lyte Gaviola. He has become a good friend with all the correspondence we've done in making the arrangements. He gave us the good news that we would all have our own separate rooms. We were planning on the brethren being in one room and the sisters in another. Each room has two sets of bunk beds and nothing else. There was a common bathroom for each gender and also a common room for eating. Food was also catered, but Sister Bodell and I mostly ate out. It was quite the adventure!

The reason for going to the Temple was so the adults could take out their endowment and the sealing of the Merang family. We were able to do three endowment sessions, do some baptizing for the dead, and participate in a separate sealing session other than the family being sealed. Both families had brought names to get their temple work done.

The family sealing was especially touching. It was an emotional experience for all of us to witness this beautiful family sealed together for time and all eternity. Words will never be able to express how we felt. This family was baptized shortly after we arrived in Sibu. We have watched them grow in the gospel. They are definitely a kingdom building family. We will continue to correspond with them after we return back to Utah.

The Temple Presidency and temple workers were very helpful. It seems that they bent over backwards to make sure that we were all taken care of and our needs met in fulfilling our purpose at the temple.

We were in Manila for about three days. We flew back on Thursday. We were happy to be back safely in our own beds. Our flight from Manila to KL was about an hour and a half late. We were a little concerned as we had a connecting flight to Sibu. We made it with about 20 minutes to spare for boarding. It was pretty close, but we were blessed. 

The flight was pretty bumpy as we hit a patch of turbulence. At one point the plane dropped, leaving our stomachs to catch up with us. The passengers issued an audible gasp. That was kind of humorous.

We spent Friday getting caught up with laundry, running errands, and getting a little rest.

A delicious surprise at the KL airport!
Waiting for the taxi at the Manila airport
Front view of the Manila Temple
The Manila Temple from the side
Another shot of the Manila Temple
Elder & Sister Bodell, Brother Jubang, Cassidy, Claudia, Kharista, Elvika,
Tracy, Caroline, Sister Doo, Brother Merang
Temple Patron Housing
Lyte Gaviola, Temple Housing Coordinator
Grocery prices in Philippine pesos. One American dollar equals about 40 pesos.
There were armed guards at the little mall where we ate.
A very delicious tuna cranberry sandwich on a croissant 
Kind of a Monte Cristo sandwich with cheese, chicken, and ham
Welcome back to Sibu1

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hiking, Contrasts, New Grandson, Zone Conference, District Conference

I'm a little behind again! So sorry! I didn't finish last week's blog, and I'm almost not getting this one done. Busy! Busy! Busy!

We started this week off with a little hiking with the Elders. We once again climbed to the highest point in Sibu. It's a little bukit, or hill. This is the second time we've been there. These Elders had never been so it was fun for them to get out and do something different.

Jungle Boat 
The Foot Bridge
The Elders
Up Close and Personal
Elders C, R, T, LW, M and A
It's still a lot of stairs!
High on a Mountain Top! Well, not exactly, but the highest point in Sibu.
Elders T, C, LW, A, M, R, and Sister Bodell

Sibu is a city of contrasts; tall and short, wealthy and poor, cement and greenery. I snapped a couple of photos this week of some of those contrasts. I need to photograph all the plants in our yard. They're not something you'll find back home.

The Wisma Sayan – the tallest structure in Sibu in contrast with the surrounding buildings.
We've been told it's the tallest building in the state of Sarawak.
One of the many plants in our yard. The yellow flowers are gorgeous!
A picture just doesn't do them justice.
We received a new addition to our family this week. Our son, Josh, and his wife, Amber, were blessed with a healthy baby boy. Ezra Stephen entered this world on January 14. He weighed in at 9 lbs. 3 oz. and was 21 inches long. We were able to FaceTime with Josh and Amber and get a good look at our newest grandson. Both Amber and Ezra are doing well. We are so happy about that.

Amber and Ezra
Josh and Ezra
Shhh! Let me sleep!
I'm sitting in our hotel room in Singapore, getting ready to write this week's blog, and noticed that I didn't finish last week's and get it posted. So sorry about that. I hope you can wade through this one. It will be a little longer than I'd like.

This is our last Zone Conference. We haven't done a lot of sight-seeing this time except to go to China Town and do some shopping. We've eaten at a great Mexican restaurant called Muchos twice this trip. We presented our departing testimonies at the Senior Couples session of Conference. Yep, we lost it, but pulled through. I threw a slide presentation together, but it's too big to be viewed here. I didn't have a lot of focused time to do it, but it got the point across. I do have a few photos from our week. (And yes, Lindsey, of course I did!)

Elder Bodell, Elder Slider, Sister Bodell, Sister Slider, Sister Evensen,
Sister & Elder Patterson, Elder Evensen,  Elder Kane, Sister Hammer, Sister Kane, Elder Hammer
Sister and Elder Bodell in China Town 
One of many China Town Stores decked out for Chinese New Year
Assorted Sausages
A real social community . . . if you're connected on your phone!
Elder Bodell and Elder Orr
Tree of Life - the end of a scripture treasure hunt 
Unofficial photo of the East Malaysia missionaries at Zone Conference
The weekend brought District Conference. It was a great teaching opportunity for the members. We were involved with teaching and training. Sister Bodell taught the Primary leaders and teachers along with Sister Simmons, the mission president's wife. I worked with the branch clerks and executive secretaries. That was the afternoon session. I also taught a lesson on how to conduct Family Home Evening, and Home Teaching in the evening session. Brother Gaadong and family demonstrated how to have FHE. David Kong and Jackson Saga demonstrated how to share a message with the family when they came by during FHE. It all worked out well. Sorry no pictures from that. We're not supposed to take pictures in the chapel. Besides, I was standing at the pulpit while the demonstrations were taking place. 

And, of course, we were involved with the choir Saturday night and Sunday morning. It is now Sunday morning, and we're getting ready to leave for Conference. This afternoon we're flying to KL (Kuala Lumpor) as we begin our journey to the Manila Temple with Brother Merang, his family, and Brother Jubang. We have been looking forward to this trip for a year now, ever since the family was baptized. Hopefully a report will be coming in next week's blog.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New DL, Scripture Reading, Special Holiday Offer, Chinese Wedding, a Family Baptism

Hello, and welcome to Elder LW! Our new district leader arrived late Saturday night. Elder LW is replacing Elder S who was transferred to JB. It's been a wild week since he arrived. We've had a couple of Elders that have had some sort of flu with achy, tired bodies. However, everyone is looking and feeling better now. Tuesday we were all able to eat together after district meeting.

Elder LW was looking forward to some Indian food, but the restaurant was closed when we got there so we opted for the Noodle House just around the corner. It was closed, too! This is nothing unusual here for restaurants to be closed during normal business hours. Anyway, we ended up at McDonald's.

Sister Bodell, Elders LW, A, R, M, T, and C
One of the best sites to see here in Sibu is on a Sunday morning, waiting for church to start. This young sister isn't even in YW yet, but here she is, reading her scriptures. This is dedication!
Reading her scriptures before church!

While we were at the doctors clinic with our under the weather Elders, we noticed this sign. There's more here for starting a new school year than just new clothes! What a great Holiday special! What a deal! That's about $375 in American money. It's also customary here, in the Iban culture, to have this procedure done when a young man turns 12.

The week ended with a bang (literally)!

Saturday started with a wedding in the Chinese Branch. It was pretty nice. It was simple short. Sister Bodell played the piano for the opening and closing songs. I "performed" the exchanging of vows. That's the "I do" part of the program. After the vows we sang the closing song and prayer. I was asked to give the closing prayer. 

As I was walking up to do so, I stepped on a loose carpet tile. It went one way, and I went the other. It's amazing what you think about in such a short period of time as you're flailing! I did fall with a bang, but I was able to stand quickly, gain my composure, and say the closing prayer.

Two quick but very important points: 1. I was not hurt (only embarrassed) but did make a BANG when I landed! 2. Most importantly, I really felt the Spirit as I gave the closing prayer. The words were given to me as I prayed. That was a very spiritual moment for me. I need to add here, too, that I have been blessed with great health, no mosquito bites, protected from bodily injury, and the Spirit when needed since we've been here. I cannot question the Lord's hand in my behalf.

Later in the day we attended the reception/luncheon for the Joyce and David. It was held in a large conference hall at the Kingwood Hotel, the largest hotel in Sibu. There were about 900 people in attendance. I was also asked to bless the food. How difficult can that be? Not to bad, except I kept picturing myself falling in front of 900 people! A little nervous to say the least, but all was well. 

Dinner was interesting, about 7 courses which were brought out and placed on the lazy-Susan of each table. I won't go into detail on each course except to say that it was all quite fancy and Chinese. Some were good; others not quite so much. There was duck, shrimp, vegetables, cake, black chicken (The chickens are actually black . . . not so appetizing, but we see them in the stores all the time.)

Here are some pictures of the car, the hall, and the LDS reserved tables.

The bride's and groom's car at the church
Reserved seating for the members of the Church
Backdrop at the reception 
The family table
Inside the hall
Inside the hall from another angle
Elders T and A with Sister Bodell
Elder M working on his black chicken
It was raining profusely when the party was over! 
The hotel is right on the river!

Saturday was also the baptism of Brother Philip, Sister Dawa, and their family. What a beautiful site to see such a strong family come into the Church. The branch here will be blessed by their addition.

Sister Dawa, Brother Philip, and their family

See you all next week, hopefully before life gets really crazy. Zone Conference, District Conference, Temple Trip . . . all coming up soon!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year, Transfers, Happy Birthday, Traffic Signals, and My Testimony

Another year has come and gone! That's so hard to believe! The end of our mission is rapidly approaching as well. We have just two months left, and those months are going to keep us busy. The month of January has Zone Conference, District Conference, and a trip to the Manila Temple with a family. February will be clean, clean, clean! But enough of that. I'd better share a little about this week.

Transfers are always hard–some harder than others. This week Elder S was transferred to JB. We will miss him. He is always cheerful and positive. His trainings at district meeting were pertinent. JB is blessed to have him. He had been here five transfers so it was time for him to move on. We're happy that he has the opportunity to do so.

Elder S with Elder and Sister Bodell
It was Sister Bodell's birthday this week. We celebrated by going to lunch at a Korean restaurant that we hadn't ever been to call Maya. It was good, a little spicy, but still a good choice. We had lunch prepared at the table. It was quite a feast.

Welcome to the Maya Restaurant!
Start with fresh ingredients.
Keep covered unless stirring.
The finished product topped with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
  The process . . . It was a good birthday meal!

The young Elders also prepared a little thank you for Sister Bodell for her birthday. They presented her with this lei. Each triangle had a thank you from each individual Elder.

A special thank you from the Elders
Later that evening we attended the Chinese Branch Family Home Evening. The Elders had the activity, but gave it to us. We played a couple of games: a string game where they had to separate from each other without undoing or removing the string and the Pass the Scissors game. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The refreshments were the highlight of the evening with a cake for Sister Bodell's birthday.

Aha! Someone figured it out!
Happy Birthday, Sister Bodell!
Make a wish!
Wednesday evening we took a little drive around town to look at some of the Christmas decorations. It's the first time we've been able to get out at night to look. It was a pleasant evening, and the lights were great. Here is our last look at a Sibu Christmas.

The Ta 'Ann Building 

This, and the following pictures were taken at the Gerbang Pintu Sibu.

Really nice Christmas decorations for a Muslim country, although, Sibu and Sarawak are mostly Christian. While we were walking a young man and his wife walked past and wished me a Merry Christmas. They were very pleasant and genuine and Muslim. The Muslim people that we've encountered have been very friendly, cheerful people, not like what we're reading about in the newspapers or seeing on TV.

We went to Brother Merang's and Sister Doo's place for a visit on New Year's Eve. Brother Gaadong and Sister Norlia and family were there, too. It's so nice to see these two families become such good friends, including the children. Both of these families are special to us. Sister Doo fixed us dinner, but everyone else had to wait until the New Year for their dinner. That's one of the traditions here. After we left they set off their fireworks.

And so the new year begins. The fireworks and firecrackers will continue now until the Chinese New Year in February, getting more and more frequent. Last year it was like living in a war zone. I'll try to capture more of the stars bursting in air as they happen.

It's been awhile since I've said anything about driving here in Sibu. I wanted to capture the traffic signals. Their not just in Sibu, but all over East Malaysia. Most of the traffic signals countdown so you'll know when the light is going to change. Sometimes it's like starting a race. Frequently there are drivers who jump the gun. There is also a countdown light letting you know the light will be turning red. There are always drivers accelerating to make it through before the light turns red.

Traffic Light Countdown

This week we also burned a couple of Primary Songs CDs for the two Malay branches. The CDs included all the accompaniments for the Primary songs in the Indonesian Primary Childrens Songbook. We fixed it so it's the same as the English CD with page numbers and titles, but all in Indo so they can find the songs quickly. We also made a CD with just the songs for the 2016 Primary program. The branches are good to go with music now when we leave. There is still no sign of replacements for us.

We received our wedding invitation for a Chinese wedding coming up next week. Both Sister Bodell and I are on the program. I'll talk about that next week, after the wedding.

Outside of invitation 
Inside of invitation

Did I mention that we're working with a combined choir from three branches for District Conference in January? We had a beautiful practice Sunday afternoon. I will definitely need to record their voices. I know it won't do justice to the Spirit which they bring.

I told these wonderful people that I hated them. They looked at me rather strangely, then I told them I hate them because I love them so much and they make me cry. They had a good laugh with that. They are such fun people. I have a good time with them.

I also bore my testimony today in Branch 2. I am so grateful that we have this opportunity to serve here. Yes, there are ups and downs when people here don't fulfill their callings the way they should, but then I realized they're still new to the gospel, still new to so many things. They don't always understand what happens or doesn't happen when they don't show up. You have to love them.

The Gospel is true! I know the Savior lives and we are helping to prepare the people here to live with Him again. I know the Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration of the the Gospel. Through him Christ restored the Church as it was when He established the Church. We have living prophets and apostles that lead the Church today. Through them, the Savior guides His Church. I am grateful for that knowledge. I am grateful for the Plan of Salvation. I know that if we live our lives the way we should, and repent as necessary, we can live with Him and our Father in Heaven again.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. I've finished reading it again. I don't know how many times I've read it. I know it's true. I've enjoyed it each time and my testimony has been strengthened each time I've read it.

My goal this year is to read the Old Testament. It's the seminary course of study this year. Even though we won't be affiliated with the seminary program for much longer, I wanted to challenge myself to read it with the youth. I plan on keeping contact with several of them. I want to be able to share my reading experiences with them.

May you all feel the Spirit as you read the scriptures daily.