What’s Going On…
In district meeting, we discussed how human weakness is not a sin. In other words, our ability to not do something perfectly is not an intentional violation of a commandment. After thinking about this, I realized how different weakness and sin really are. The Atonement of Christ allows us to find Mercy in our sin after repentance. The Grace of Christ allows us to overcome weakness. In our discussion, I found that weakness is given from God as a way for us to grow. Sin comes from Satan to pull us away from progression. On my mission, I have often found that I feel weak and helpless. It comforts me to know that this is not a sin, but a way for me to come closer to God. When I do my best to succeed but fall short, it is a way for me to grow spiritually. As we continued to discuss this, I found that Christ on Earth had weaknesses. Christ had to feel pain, hunger, and experience death. Weakness does not limit our progression towards Heaven, but only a distinct rebellion to God’s commandants through sin. I have learned to have hope in my weakness. In my weakness, through Christ, can I become strong.
I am in Kota Kinabalu for a district conference. The conference was Saturday and Sunday, and we have a zone activity today. While staying at the local missionaries’ home, I was able to talk about their experiences. We talked about how to be obedient missionaries despite living with disobedient missionaries. I learned a great deal of what is most important as a missionary, and how to handle tough situations. From the other Elder’s experiences, missionaries cannot have 100% obedient. At first I was confused. As they shared there experiences of both success and mistakes, I learned the purpose of rules. I initially had the perception that rules were to be followed blindly. There are many rules in the Missionary Handbook that are impossible to keep in this area of the mission. Rules about the time we eat dinner, how long we visit people, and how we interact with the members cannot be kept at the same time as loving the people. I learned that the missionary rules give guidelines as to how I can love my companion and others and be safe. More importantly than following the rules is following the Spirit. The other missionaries shared stories about how they wanted to be completely consecrated to the work. They would not step a single second outside of the missionary schedule, and would not ever find time to do anything other than teach or study. This however would damage the missionaries’ companionship. When the missionaries had different views of how to be obedient, they would have contention. Missionaries would choose to push a companion out the door to proselyte, even if the companion felt sick. I wondered, “what is being obedient? Should I do what the missionary handbook says, or love my companion?” I remembered a Liahona article several months ago about the Sacrament. A friend of a general authority questioned why the church uses water instead of wine, even when wine was used in the Book of Mormon. The reply from the general authority was that we should follow past commandments as it agrees with current revelation. In other words, current revelation said to not drink wine. After thinking about this, I realized that it is more important to love my companion than compel them to obedience. I can be obedient as much as I can, but loving others should be first. For example, the missionary handbook advises us to only visit investigators for 45 mins. From my experiences, we sometimes cannot stay for only 45 minutes. The investigators will bring food and will want to talk. Leaving within 45 mins will occasionally give the impression that we do not love or care for the people. It is offensive in some homes to leave early, and we would not be invited to come back. I learned that the rules should be followed in coordination with the Spirit.
Of all the Christlike attributes that I have learned to develop, Love is most important. It is the motivation for Heavenly Father to work. It shows us to be charitable, patient, and even obedient. If the only thing I learn on my mission is to love everyone, I feel that I will have been successful. Christ set the perfect example of missionary work. He showed me how to love others.
On a random note: We were going to an appointment with the local Elders in a taxi. We traveled down a wrong road, and our driver was backing up to turn around. We almost hit another taxi, and our driver got really mad. He got out of the car and almost started a fight with the other driver.
On our bus ride to Kota Kinabalu, our bus was boarded twice by police officers to check for illegal immigrants. There are many illegal immigrants in Sabah Malaysia, and we were afraid that we would have to stay in jail for a night while they checked our documents.
Tons of new adventures, but tons of fun!
Patience seems to be something I need to keep relearning. It is a challenging thing to learn, I don’t really know how I can describe it. In Elder Chin’s words, it might be “do whatever you’re doing really well for a really long time with a smile and don’t show weakness”. Whatever patience is, I feel that learning it will help me to enjoy my experiences more. I think that patience is a challenging characteristic. Sometimes I feel I am patient, and then I get mosquito bites when I am sleeping. Why would there be mosquitoes in Malaysia! Anyway, when times are tough, there is no better friend than Christ. Growth takes time, is usually uncomfortable, but is most rewarding.
To lighten the mood this week, it was Elder Tan’s birthday. Elder Pearce and I bought him a small cake, and we tackled him while he was sleeping. Times like this really help us bond and enjoy each other’s company. A branch member took us out to eat at KFC for his birthday, which is a luxury food in Tawau. While we were eating, a random stranger wanted to grab my companion’s nose. She was pregnant with a baby boy, and she believed that if she touched Elder Pearce’s nose, her baby would have a “white-boy’s” nose. We thought it was the funniest thing on earth!
Concerning missionary work, I learned that when people trust me, I can learn things about them from their soul. I learn what they fear, their inner desires, and why they do the things they do. With a less active boy, we taught how he can have greater happiness in his busy school/sports/sleep life. I shared a scripture about seeking God’s kingdom, then blessings will be placed in his life. At the end of the visit, he replied that he trusted me and would do the things that I had asked him to do. I felt so grateful for the time I had spent with him because of the trust that we had developed. With an investigator, a similar thing occurred. We taught him about the value of money in this Earthly life. We explained to him the importance of a family, and how money is a tool to share happiness. He has in the past had dreams about becoming rich and retiring extremely early. However, at the end of this visit, he told us that he believed our message and loved us for sharing it. He agreed to read Jacob 2:18 every morning he gets out of bed to remind him of the purpose of money. I was happy to see a change in his heart. We had usually had trouble having a serious conversation with this investigator, but this discussion helped us establish our purpose as representatives of Christ.
We had our first branch counsel this week! We worked with our branch president to overcome problems in the branch concerning home/visiting teaching, priesthood worthiness, and overall missionary progress. We are helping the branch members start home/visiting teaching so they can continue to grow their testimonies.
This coming week, I will be travelling to Kota Kinabalu again for a district conference. We will also have a missionary return home from England. I am excited for these events, although this will take up our teaching and proselyting time. We are making great progress, we won’t let anything get in our way!
This week has had many changes. I have found with my new companion that I now need to do things that my old companion had usually taken care of. Because of these changes, I have seen my weaknesses, but also the areas where I have grown. I used to be very shy with strangers, but now I find it an adventure to meet new people. My new companion and I have lately struggled to work with unity, but I find it a place where we can both grow in many areas. I have learned to become very close with my Father in Heaven through prayer and the scriptures. It is interesting to see how experiences change the way the scriptures are read. Now as I read the first chapters of Nephi, I can feel how Nephi feels. I have a better understanding of how being a little brother among older, more educated, but disobedient Laman and Lemuel feels like. I have never loved the scriptures more than now. Prayer has comforted me when I feel alone and lost. When I have felt deserted and broken down, I cling to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week, I attended a mission tour with Elder Funk, a member of the second Quorum of The Seventy. We received training all day with Elder Funk, Sister Funk, President Mains, and Sister Mains. Because last week was mission conference, we have had so many inspired thoughts these two weeks!
Elder Funk instructed us on becoming full purpose missionaries. There are many people ready to receive the gospel, but Heavenly Father will not place them in our path until we are prepared and ready to teach them. We must show through our faith (actions) that we want to share the gospel. Elder Funk described a full purpose missionary as someone who is exactly obedient to the mission rules, which includes being punctual especially in the morning. Mornings are some of the toughest parts of the day. I am always exhausted with never enough sleep, and getting out the door in 5 minutes to go running is sometimes impossible. When we return, we must eat a quick breakfast so we can begin our personal study with the scriptures on time. I have noticed that if I do not have an effective personal study, the rest of the day is less effective. Elder Funk asked us missionaries to be exactly obedient to the missionary schedule and start our mornings right. After receiving this training, my companion and I decided to be extremely precise in our use of time and starting our day with a strong spirit. The day we returned from mission tour, we implemented our plan and witnessed several small miracles. We planned to visit less active members in the branch. The first less active sister happened to be having a television installed. The supervisor in charge of the installation was talking with the less active sister and wanted to know more about our church. The less active sister said a prayer that the Elders would come to her house and talk to the man. We arrived just in time to teach the man a lesson on service and exchange contact information. Later in the day, we were able to meet with a sister that we hadn’t seen in a month. We lastly stopped by another sister’s house who spoke Malay and didn’t understand English. Although we struggled with the language barrier, we were able to share our love with her. She was very lonely because she did not understand the scriptures very well. We recommended the other Malay speaking Elders to visit her. Although these were small miracles, they were an obvious sign of the power of being obedient.
We had a fun experience cleaning the church, which was not a typical service project. There were many leaves on the roof of the church, and we did not have tools to effectively remove the leaves. It was not safe to walk on the church roof, so we came up with a solution that took an hour. We filled small buckets of water and threw the water at the leaves. We ended up getting most of the leaves off the roof, but the method was not very effective.
Elder Lloyd and I were frustrated this week with an investigator that seems to be progressing slowly. He has been taught all of the discussions many times and has an understanding of the gospel. He tells us that he believes our church is true, that Christ is his saviour, and Joseph Smith restored Christ’s church. He however will not leave his current “religion”, which believes that all religions are correct and true. It is known as the “center” where the members go to worship. They may also attend another church of their choice. The center believes in reincarnation, self-purification instead of repentance, and God has given them his power that they use to purify the world. They believe that God is creating a heaven on Earth through their people, and that God needs them to spread his light to people that need help. I don’t understand everything, and I am very confused about how everyone can be correct in their religion. Our investigator believes that Christ Atoned for his sins, but also believes that he can purify himself with an object that he received when he joined the center. Over the week, I was able to study more about how Heavenly Father works, and the character of Jesus Christ. I learned that God does not walk in crooked paths, and a belief in false truth cannot bring salvation. The path to salvation should not be confusing, but we should have confidence that what we are doing is correct. We encouraged our investigator to continue to ponder the things that we had shared and continue to pray. We hope that through our patience that he will have a change of heart.
Everyone has been telling me that I’m getting thinner, so I invested in protein powder. It was extremely expensive, but I don’t want to be thinner that a twig by the end of my mission.
We received transfer news today, and Elder Lloyd will be transferred Sitiawan. My new companion will be Elder Lloyd’s MTC companion Elder Pierce. We will be transferring on Wednesday.
I had Zone/Mission Conference in Singapore, and I was able to see some old friends! I saw Elder Harmon and Sister Huff, who were in my group in the MTC. We received training on what we can do to increase our faith.
Elder Bagley, a senior missionary, gave a devotional message on deciding what we will do early in life. He shared his experiences as a pilot and RM. He was flying an older plane with his friend one day, and technical problems caused his plane to combust into flames. He was trained to know that he would die within 30 seconds because of the fuel tank exploding, but he was also trained to not give up. Pilots are trained to continue flying as far as possible. He somehow landed the plane safely in a field, but had major burns on his arms, legs, and head. At the time of danger, he did not have time to make up his mind to continue flying the plane, or to crash it to end his suffering. His point was to decide what course of action to take before the problem occurs. He was also trained on his mission to work hard and love the people. Elder Bagley met the Stringer family on his mission, who said they would never be baptised into the church. He continued to be persistent, but their progress was slow. Before leaving the area, he committed himself to baptising this family. He continued to work hard, and baptised the Stringer family the day before he was transferred. Had he not made up his mind to work hard and love the Stringer family, he may not have had the privilege of baptising them. He recently received a letter from the Stringer family, and they not have more than 30 members in their family. Elder Bagley lastly shared another aviation experience when shooting down other planes in a war. He noticed that on his missions, some planes would be “survivors” and leave as soon as their mission was complete. Pilots were ordered that if they had sufficient fuel, they should engage other enemy planes. The pilots that continued to fight after their first assignment were known as “tigers”. The survivors and tigers were consistent in their actions, the pilots that stayed to fight were the same every time. Elder Bagley closed his devotional with commanding us to make the important decisions in our life right now. He told us to decide now if we will stay in the church, read our scriptures, pray, and maintain our faith. Will we marry in the temple? Will we have a spouse that will agree to serve a senior mission? Will we gain an education to support a family? If we do not decide what we want now, the influences of society will choose for us. He lastly told us to always wear our temple garments. We have heard stories about people not being burned where their garments touched their body, but now I know someone that had this experience. He could not have make the decision to wear his garments when he was in the plane. What type of life do you want to have?
I experienced a few small miracles with less active members in the branch. With one member, he has always had difficulty expressing his testimony. Some of the things he says are inaccurate, and does not reflect what is taught in the Gospel. In lessons, he tries to share his testimony on scriptures from Revelations. This Sunday was fast and testimony meeting, and he shared his testimony on why he loves the Gospel. Earlier in the week when we visited him, he told us to make sure his children always stayed in the church. Elder Lloyd and I had not done anything special to help him, but we only shared with him our love. His testimony was strong in the joy that he has felt with the church. I learned that a strong testimony is based on Christ and his Atonement, and the joy we receive by using His Gospel. With another less active member, she had gotten mad and frustrated with us because she is slipping into old habits. Her conversion story includes changing her lifestyle and habits, overcoming addictions, and changing her life. She was beginning to change into the person she once was, and yelled at us for not helping her. We did the best we could to help her see the hope in Christ’s Atonement, but she was not interesting in having faith in changing herself. On Sunday, Elder Tan and Elder Lloyd taught a Chinese Sunday School class on love. The less active member began to cry after hearing the lesson because she found what she was missing in her life. After the lesson, she asked Elder Lloyd why we did not tell her that she needed to love other people. I was confused with this question because I thought we had already taught her this message. I learned that I am not the teacher, but only a missionary and a tool in God’s hand. The Spirit is the true teacher, and it pierces to the very soul and changes hearts.
The Gospel is the greatest source of happiness and truth. It is selfish to not want to share it.
Happy Chinese New Year! I sure had a ton of food to eat! Everywhere we went, everyone tried to make us eat everything! I’m sad to say that the food was not very nutritional, but it was the best food we could get in Malaysia. I received 103 RM from Hong Baos, the red envelopes with money. Everyone was very happy, and we were grateful for the happy atmosphere.
The later end of the week was rough. I never realized how stressful missionary work is until now. We have put much work into building up the branch and helping our investigators. It is so sad to see things fall apart. Our church attendance was cut in half on Sunday, and members are forgetting the covenants they have made. We respect their agency, but why do things fail after all we can do? I was looking through Elder Tan’s hard drive and came across a video that explains why missionary work is the hardest work on this earth. It touched my heart, and comforted me to know that I am not alone. Every feeling that I feel on my mission is to help me help my investigators, and to help me use Christ’s Atonement in my life. I have felt that the topic of the Atonement has often lost its meaning through the repetitive phrases such as, “it helps you repent” or “Christ felt what you felt”. I never realized the significance until I have needed it and used it to carry me. It was never important to me that Christ knew my feelings when I got a cut, burned myself, or did bad on a test. I now appreciate the Atonement even more when I understand that Christ was a missionary. I do not look at my situation as “Christ knows how I feel when I am rejected, or when things don’t turn out well”. Instead, I see that “when I am rejected and things don’t turn out well, I am feeling for a moment what Christ already felt”. The video is called Missionary Work and the Atonement. When we (missionaries) ask why it is so hard, we are reminded that we were not the first to ask this question. Christ was the perfect missionary, and He experienced all challenges that a missionary today has felt or will feel. Christ has felt these feelings so He can know how to help us. A missionary will feel a portion of the pain to know how to help his or her investigators. The Atonement of Christ is not only for investigators, or sinners, or sad people. The Atonement will be the driving source of power for missionaries and the strongest members of the church. In the missionary purpose, it first states that a missionary invites others to come unto Christ. It then mentions the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Atonement. It is the most simple and beautiful message in this world.
For those preparing for a mission, or RM’s, I would recommend watching the video Missioniary Work and the Atonement. By understanding who Christ really is and what he did, we are given the energy and ability to be missionaries. Anyone can be a missionary if they desire to share the message of Christ.
This week was incredibly busy. The zone leader, aka the “Zone Lords”, visited us for zone conference. We had a very inspiring message that motivated me to work even harder. The zone leaders wanted to create a “title” for the Sabah Malaysia Zone. In the past, other areas of the mission have been know to “be on fire”. When missionaries are transferred to those areas, they are excited because of the past success with baptisms. For the Sabah Zone, we want missionaries to say they “struck gold” when they are transferred to our areas. In order to do this, we plan to strengthen the members’ testimonies and help recent converts become “kingdom builders”. We need members that are examples to others when they stand alone. In order to do this, we need to increase the number of baptisms in the branch. We hope this will help the branch members catch the “missionary fire” and help us in this effort. We will increase the number of baptisms by maximizing our investigator pool, and therefore our potential investigator pool. We want to build the Sabah Zone by talking with everyone and inviting them to come unto Christ. To accelerate the process of moving potential investigators towards baptism, we have decided to have the question, “Who are we baptising next” in our minds. Who is ready to enlist in the Lord’s army for good in this world?
We were so busy this week that I didn’t have time to eat dinner on my birthday. I did however receive a cake from an investigator, a recent convert, and a fellow missionary friend. Elder Tan decided to jump on my bed at midnight and surprised me with his cake. Apparently I yelled really loud. I will admit, I was very surprised. I’m quite sure I woke up all the neighbours.
We also were privileged to have the Singapore Stake Presidency visit our branch. We took President Li to some less active member’s houses, and he invited the youth to attend seminary. On Sunday, he again expressed the importance of seminary in the work of salvation. He explained that seminary helps the youth have a desire to serve a mission and share the knowledge they have learned. After serving a mission, the desire to marry outside of the temple is lessened. This will help more members stay on the straight and narrow path to eternal life. We have decided to pay special attention to the youth of the branch, and how we can help them desire to serve a mission.
This week I learned that while on a mission, my loyalty is first to Heavenly Father. Stand brave among the strong.
In this week’s District Meeting, we discussed one of the greatest miracles that we have seen in our mission. The greatest miracle in the Singapore Mission is that it exists. I learned about the mission’s history, and previous dangers and laws that attempted to prevent the Work from progressing. The Singapore Mission is fulfilling the prophesy of the Gospel reaching the whole world. When the mission was first established, the Singapore border regulations were very strict. They would not allow many missionaries through the border. At one point in time, they only allowed one foreign missionary into Singapore per year. The mission adapted by calling more native missionaries. In the Malaysian part of the mission, the government is against Christians. Missionaries several years ago were not allowed to wear white shirts or ties, or even the name tag for safety reasons. Missionaries have been put in prison for false accusations. Others have been attacked by anti-Christian groups. The overall conclusion of the meeting was not the dangers that surround us, but the power that protects us. Not any Christian church would be able to enter Malaysia and survive. Only a church that is true and has authority, and is led by Christ. It is a miracle that I am in Malaysia.
This week, I learned now imperfect I am. No one but Christ is a perfect judge, and we cannot judge another person by what we see or feel. I met with many members and investigators these past few days, and I learned that some of the kindest people in this world are different than me. One member works at a bar, rarely comes to church because of work, has tattoos, piercings, and other different outward appearances. On the inside, I found that he is a caring person that loves the people he works with, and wants to share the Gospel. He has brought friends to church, shared the Gospel to his friends, and has lived a good life. When I took the time to understand his situation, I learned that he has a strong spirit that desires good. There is much evil in this world, but there are also brave strong souls that desire to follow Christ. It is as if I am meeting the trees that grow in the middle of a river. The turbulent forces of life attempt to destroy the tree, but it has no power as long as the sun shines and gives the tree sunlight. I have learned that missionary work is different in every mission because of the people. In the Singapore mission, we work hard to strengthen the members and help them be the missionaries that will share the Gospel.
There are good people in every land if you are willing to search for them.
Last week was transfer week, and Elder Ajek was sent to Bintulu. We received Elder Tan, who is a native and speaks many languages. He has been helping us translate to our Chinese investigators. We’ve been working very hard this week. This past Sunday, Elder Lloyd and I had 8 investigators at church, which is about 20% of the attendance. We are becoming very comfortable with the church members, and almost all of them want to feed us when we visit them. I love the people, they are so kind. Although I don’t understand what they are saying (in Malay), I can see through their actions they care for the missionaries.
Fun random facts:
I had my first Durian, which costed 10RM = 2.75USD. Very cheap for a large fresh durian
My Mandarin name is Chen Da Qiu
I’m practising a magic trick that an investigator taught us, known as the card spring
I’ll be flying again this month back to Singapore for zone conference
We are continuing to teach a Buddhist investigator (Pin), and we frequently use our most recent convert (Ho) to accompany us. While we were teaching about prayer, our investigator asks about what an answer to prayer is. It is strange for a person to pray for the first time, and not understand what an answer from God is. We were patient with him, and helped him understand the Spirit. Ho was Buddhist before he was baptised, and uses the most creative analogy to describe the Spirit. He says, “The Spirit is like smoking. You feel really good afterwards, and your body feels warm. If you asked me how I felt after I smoked, I would tell you it was a good feeling. I couldn’t describe it exactly because you would feel different if you smoked. Everyone feels the Spirit differently”. Of course Ho doesn’t smoke any more, but he accurately related the foreign topic of the Spirit to something familiar. Trough this experience, we were able to help him understand what he should be looking to feel like after prayer, and Ho also sparked his interest in the Word of Wisdom. We are excited to continue teaching Pin, and he has also invited his friends to the discussions.
At another appointment with an inactive former branch president, we found many other potential referrals. The inactive member is Gary, who has an inactive son named Sean. During our visit, Gary wanted us to talk to Sean about college. Sean is 18, and is finishing up high school. We spent much time getting to know him and gaining his trust. He told us he wanted to go to BYU-Provo, even though he is inactive. We asked him why he wanted to go to BYU, as it is very far and more expensive than local Malaysian colleges. Over time, he told us he wants to serve a mission because of past missionaries’ examples to him. He fears that his testimony is too weak, and requested that we come back to visit with him. He shared with us things that he does with his friends, and the guilt he feels. We were so happy for his desire to do good, and we gladly reassured him of the power of Christ’s Atonement. Moments like this are what make the mission worth it. Finding the one person in a million that desires to change their life because of another person’s example.
I have finally adapted to the mission life. I know the area very well, and my Chinese has improved dramatically. I witness miracles everyday, and I have learned to be grateful for the small moments in life. I’ve learned to love things I once hated, and enjoy things I once feared. The mission makes it clear what the purpose of life is, and what is most important. I love Malaysia!