Saturday, January 13, 2018

Week #75 (12/12/17-12/16/17: The Countdown

Monday, December 11, 2017, p-day-chill day with Sister Childs (the senior couple). We watched movies about the pioneers (which, by the way, if you haven’t seen the John Tanner Story, you have to see it!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017-Thursday, December 14, 2017, say goodbye to everyone. I was reunited with my tóngabāna! (‘tóngabān’ in chinese means companion. ‘Ohana’ means family. Nobody gets left behind nor forgotten). I was yet again with the Miri 2 sisters, Sister Erickson (Sister Ricky) and Sister Bithell (Sister Bell). Their names are too hard for Ibans to pronounce. Sister Erickson also finished her mission with me. She is the official queen of Miri (having served 13 months of her mission here) so we had a lot of people to teach, and who wanted to say goodbye. I have many tóngabāna from this mission.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, Miri 3 branch held a Christmas/goodbye party for me. They were so sweet, and all of the investigators the elders and we were teaching showed up! I was amazed! Miri is going to do well.

Friday, December 15, 2017, I arrived in Singapore. It was a great reunion. We had our last Sisters Council with the mission president’s wife, Sister Simmons. The point was to address fears and concerns. We talked about My Plan and ways to keep up the good things learned from the mission. We talked extensively about journaling and how important it is. One idea that was brilliant and interesting (not mine of course) was to go through the PMG lessons we teach and journal an experience that led to strengthening your personal testimony for every point. I had my last interview with my mission president, President Simmons. Afterwards, we went to the mission home, their home. It was everything like America and more. It was a culture shock to a lot of us. They had a dishwasher! And hot water! And carpeted stairs! They fed us a very nice home cooked meal (with a vegetarian option)! We finished singing songs, bearing our testimonies, and taking pictures. President and Sister Simmons are amazing people! It was an honor to serve under them.

Saturday, December 16, 2017, I left Singapore. Ten sisters, one elder. Twenty-six hours. Three planes. One elder, one sister. Saturday, December 16, 2017, I arrived home. Six sisters, one elder. These were our replacements.  Time has flown and everyone is different. The plane rides were long and there was plenty to eat (if I didn't get fat on my mission, the plane ride sure did it for me :) When I left Miri, it felt surreal. Singapore was the same. In the Japan airport, I was surrounded by Asians, and soon I saw Caucasians, African Americans, and Mexicans at the gate waiting to leave to America. I was surprised. I turned to my right, CNN was playing and there was a video of President Donald Trump speaking. He’s the President?! What a thought. In LAX airport, there were people who started to recognize missionaries, and they shared their missions with us. The plane to Salt Lake was small, so they took our carry-ons. When I landed, I waited for my carry-on at the jet bridge. Mine was the last to arrive. It was freezing cold and many of the bags had snow on them. Is it real? As I was walking off the plane in the Salt Lake Airport, I lost my travel buddy, only to find them in the crowd of missionaries. We found the missionaries heading to the Singapore Mission! They were starry eyed with looks of excitement and nervousness in their eyes, and full of greenie fire. It became real all at once. I almost started crying right then and there, before I had even met my family. They are a great bunch and ready to take on the world. I was taken back to the beginning, and I wish I can go back again. They boarded onto the plane we had just exited. We took a picture and I gave them all hugs (except the elder, of course). They are wonderful! In the whole history of President and Sister Simmons service, missionaries meeting each other on the way has never happened before. This was but a few of the tender mercies the Lord gave me on my way home.

I would like to thank you all for your support and prayers. I felt and continue to feel your love. I’ve felt not only your support, but the support of my God. I know in whom I trust and I will trust in Him forever. I will be sharing more of my experiences and testimony in church, Sunday, January 14, 2018. If you would like to attend and need an address, you may message me.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Week #74: His Work and His Glory – December 5, 2017 – December 11, 2017 (Miri)
Sister Vranes and Sister Steele
This week has been crazy! First, we started our week with exchanges in Sibu. It was good to work with Sister Steele and Sister Mark again. They are great sisters and I love them so much. They're working really hard in Sibu. We left on Tuesday, and returned Friday. This was the last stop I had, and now I have officially served or visited every sister area in the mission! It was oddly a mix between Penang and Miri, my two favorite areas! I loved every minute of it.

When we returned from Sibu, our schedule was crazy. There was a Christmas Musical Fireside on Saturday. Many people were all of a sudden asking for us to practice with the piano with them. I played the whole time when the fireside came around. It was a nice program though. I was amazed by the talent in this branch. One of the members sang a medley of Christmas songs in Malay, with a music beat box. The son played some cool beats on the box while they sang.  The miracle that came from that was our investigators coming to the Christmas Musical Fireside. The next day they also came to church. Yay! On Sunday, we were both called on to give talks, as well as teach Sunday School.  There was a lot more throughout this week, but in short, our schedule was awal. My faith in the Lord's work this week grew immensely. I've been able to see the Lord make time for everything and make more of our efforts than we could ever make ourselves. I've been thinking back on my mission quite a bit lately and the things I've learned from it. This was the topic of my talk as well. As I've looked back I can see His hand in all aspects of my mission, even though I didn't see it then. 
Eating Lunch with Members
I realized this mission has been the best thing I could possibly ever do. It has also been the best thing for me, and the most rewarding. On Sunday, I was crying because I realized just how much I will miss this. I love this work with all my heart. I love the Gospel. It is perfect and everything just seems to make sense. There is hope, happiness, healing, and joy that is available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father's great Plan of Happiness. He has made more of my efforts in this work than I could ever make. He has shaped, molded, destroyed, smashed, and recreated me. I side with the scripture, "Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?" (Mormon 5:23). I have truly been in His hands. I've learned how much I truly have a loving Heavenly Father. I'm continuing to learn of His perfectness, and mercy. I'm human, so I can't quite understand it fully, but I can gain a human understanding of my perfect Father. I can make connections, similarities, and relationships. I've come to love and appreciate my parents more fully, as I've understood them and my Heavenly Father by their loving example. I've learned and experienced the great Plan of Salvation on another level. I've learned and applied the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm learning more and more each day how much I truly NEED Him every hour. I've learned of His work and His glory. Before my mission, Moses 1:39 was my favorite scripture. I didn't fully understand it's whole meaning, but I loved what I understood at the time. I appreciate and understand it a lot better. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to participate in His work. All that I've done out here is His glory. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sibu Sisters and Sister Vranes

Sibu, East Malaysia

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Week #73: Knock – November 28, 2017 – December 4, 2017 (Miri)
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
This week has been a great week! At the beginning of the week, Sister Cloud had exchanges with Sister Winters. It was good to be back with the Miri 2 sisters. We were able to serve, contact, and work hard. We helped a member make food for an elder's farewell. We didn't even realize until we were at the event it was his farewell. One of the elders from the branch I work in, Miri 3, was also with the Miri 2 elders because his companion had exchanges. When we left, we found Sister Erickson's bike seat was stolen. One of the members was just dying from laughter. The elders then walked out and said their goodbyes. As they were saying good bye, all the elders all of a sudden started taking off their ties, and gave it to the future missionary that was leaving the next day. It was a tender moment to watch. I ended up biking the bike with no bike seat home. It was just like standing up. It's also a good thing I am pandi bicycling. The elders rode us back most of the way, one was behind me to be the caboose. It was very sweet. 

Early the next morning, we dropped Sister Winters off at the airport. As we came back, we realized the difference in how we felt when we had good studies and exercise to start off the morning versus when we didn't. The investigator that met wayyy early in the morning finally dropped us, and we just felt relief. We tried all that we could. We stopped by and gave her a Book of Mormon before we never saw her again. Even though it was a bit sad, we felt good about our efforts. We realized the importance of good studies in the morning. It was definitely journal worthy. Afterwards,
The missing bicycle seat.
we had our investigator follow us on a bike to our lessons. We were able to have a Relief Society service project with the District Relief Society President. At first, the missionaries were worried, but we all ended up loving it in the end. It was a very precious time and I really connected with a girl with downs syndrome. She was super sweet and I enjoyed being with her for a couple of hours. On Saturday, we had a talent show. It was a very fun-filled night. The missionaries were the opening act and did a dance. There was a lot of talented singing. There was a group of youth that performed many songs, with different solo vocalists. In the end, we were guessing which one would be the lead singer of "the boy band". They were so cute. There is a lot of talent in Miri. Their traditional dancing is so beautiful.

One miracle that happened this week was meeting a new investigator on Sunday. We had a less active member call us a few days before to refer her friend to us. We called up her friend, but they didn't seem that interested. We had an idea to go to a certain area, one that kind of scared me a while back though, but still felt it was right. Our less active member then called us up and told us to visit her friend in the next day or two. I asked where her friend lived and it ended up being in the area we were planning on going to after church. We visited the friend, who was super sweet, and open, had a family, and we got a new investigator.  The lesson was all in Chinese, so I
Bicycling with some members
took most of the lesson, but it was super powerful. I just felt the Spirit so strong in there. We ended up being a bit late to our next appointment, and rode as fast as we could. It took us a half hour to get there, and we planned it would take that long to get to our next appointment, so we were worried about being late. As we were riding, we ended up taking some really random turns, not knowing where we were going, but ended up being guided by the Spirit in finding a short cut. We arrived in less than 8 minutes to our next appointment. These were some big miracles!

We had a member join us for a lesson this week and when it came to Fast and Testimony meeting, she bore her testimony of missionary work. She explained how she had never been invited by the missionaries to go to a lesson with them before. She's been a member (third generation member) for over 30 years, and has never been a member present. She's shared the gospel with her friends, but never with the missionaries. It made me realize how we weren't doing our job properly. It also made me realize how willing and happy the members are to do member missionary work, and to not be scared when they are "very busy". As we were talking to a few members after church, I asked them if they ever helped the missionaries before. I was surprised that some of the very solid members said no. We're definitely going to work harder to allow EVERY member an opportunity to help us. We had been trying in the past, but I realize now we were asking some of the wrong members. I really really wanted to inspire the missionary heart in the members for a long time here, but didn't know how. I thought they were all just too shy, but I was wrong. Some just haven't been given the opportunity to do so. As we were biking home yesterday, I realized how little I knew about member missionary work before my mission. We talked about our experiences, and have come to the conclusion we need to just TEACH them, and invite them. I'm excited for these upcoming last weeks, and what changes there will be in the branch.
Miri, East Malaysia
I'm doing well. Sister Cloud and I get along so well. We are working well with our members and investigators. We teach well together and are having a great time as companions. She is hilarious and fun to be around. I'm learning a lot from her. I'm also learning a lot more these past few weeks. This past week, I learned the importance of journaling. I found it was the thing I needed to review my day, write the things that I can learn from, and I find I am guided by the Spirit all the time to pick out the nuggets of gold. I'm learning a lot more from my days, instead of just letting them pass me by. I've learned a lot from Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." As I've studied this out, in the LDS version of the footnotes, I've learned asking means pray, seeking means study/meditate, and knocking means learn. I've been really focusing on knocking. As you come to ask God the things of your heart, to "know the mysteries of God", and you search them out, you are promised you can find an answer. This is what missionaries do, to teach you how you can gain your own personal revelation. Journaling is a form of meditation, that leads to answers. As you journal, you'll find a lot more truth in your day and it turns the days around. Try it :)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week #72: Happy Thanksgiving! (Malaysia Style) – October 21, 2017 – October 27, 2017 (Miri)
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud eating lunch.
This week has been great! We've been working very very hard and I am proud of our efforts this week. I feel good about the people we are teaching right now. Early in the week, we got two new investigators. Both of them have to meet early. We've been meeting them before their work. We were very good at putting in the effort to meet them, but we felt a lacking, because we found most of our studies had to be pushed back to the middle of the day. As a side note, we get to study the Gospel every single day. We have an hour to do personal studies, another half hour (or optional hour) to study as a companionship, and another half hour (or optional hour) to study the language.  On Thursday, we were able to get quite a bit of our studies in before we met our investigators. This was a testimony builder to me of the importance of studies. I love studies anyway, but this solidified the testimony I already had. As we were riding to the lesson, we had a distinct impression to teach something completely different than what we had planned. We were able to control the situation well, follow the Spirit, and teach with power and authority. The Spirit wasn't as strong before because we didn't get much of our studies in before we met them. I definitely feel a difference in my life when I study the Gospel everyday versus when I don't.
The Miri Sister biking.
On Saturday, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving as a Miri missionary family with Elder and Sister Childs (more like Super Childs, the amazing senior couple). They returned late to their home from an outpost area, Bintulu, about 6 pm on Friday, and invited us for a sloppy joe Thanksgiving the next day. It was like a big family. We ate delicious food, and said what we were thankful for, and played the Mormon version of Family Feud. Did you know people in Utah pray for moisture the most? I Didn't. We finished the day with Karaoke with our Relief Society. We ate food together, had a good time, and my companion sang The Prayer. She has an amazing voice. Everyone is asking her to sing for the Talent show, the Christmas Music Fireside, and everything else within these weeks leading up to Christmas. 

This week has seriously flown by because I just realized, we had Zone Conference this week. It was my last Zone Conference, and I had to bear my dying testimony. So sad. We focused on planning and preparing. We learned a lot about how planning and setting goals is part of the holy order of things. It was something God has done since the beginning. It's definitely something to work on and continue doing throughout my life. When I think of goals and plans, I think of choices. I've been studying two talks recently, the first is "Choices" and the second is "Choose You This Day", both by President Thomas S. Monson. One quote he says in both is, "The choices we make determine our destiny". He then talks about Alice and Wonderland. I won't go into more detail, so you will have to read these talks. Goals and plans are the way we can make better choices. What are your plans today? Are they as effective as they can be? Are they getting you closer to your end goal, or destiny?
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Week #71: When You Believe – November 14, 2017 – November 20, 2017 (Miri)
The Miracle Poster
This week started slow, but ended up being AMAZING! On our wall, we have a miracle poster, where we write miracles. It has some Christmas lights around it and at the top says, "There can be miracles..." This whole week was definitely miracle wall worthy. We started the week off right by watching 17 Miracles. I was bawling by the end, (mission tears you know). Jk, but it was a real tear-jerker. The first few days were really slow. On Wednesday, time picked up and we were biking across town (over 20 km to get to town) back and forth and back and forth. One of the amazing  miracles was I bought some stuff for my companion's birthday. I had it in a bag, but accidentally left it on a bench in the mall. We had left, biked a good 15 minutes, and remembered I had left it. We then returned and I found it on the bench, untouched. It was a miracle! We then left the mall and contacted a man from China. Let me tell you, Malaysian Chinese and China Chinese are wayyyy different. I'll never be able to communicate! It at least showed the man was very nice and patient :) He ended up leaving the next day. 
Enjoying the rain in Miri.
Another miracle was planning what to do on Thursday, when one of our members pulled up in their car. They brought a lot of delicious Chinese food (including dumplings) that her nonmember friend wanted to give to us. The nonmember friend heard our member's story of who we are and wanted to share her food immediately. The member then took us to their sister's home (a place no missionary has been allowed to enter until now) and we had a delicious lunch. We were able to teach our member's niece and nephew. Miracles!

When Saturday rolled around, the miracles and blessings were just pouring! We started  Saturday with a plan to meet six people with only two real set appointments. We weren't sure if the people would be home. As we started we found ourselves getting calls from other people for us to meet them. We were biking from one end of Miri to another. We were very excited and more than willing to do so. The lessons were certainly Spirit-filled, we were well fed, and we reached many of our goals that day. God really planned our day! Miracles.

On Sunday, the real miracles happened. At the beginning of the day, we were studying before going to church. My companion all of a sudden had a strong craving for a cookie. I started making cookies, when she made herself a microwave chocolate mudcake (it's very delicious by the way.) She satisfied her sweet tooth, and we left the giant cookie I made at home. After church, we had plans to contact all day. We are advised to do so since most families are home this day. We've been following this advice this transfer. Today, we were walking around a neighborhood. We found a home where a Muslim man lives. Because of Malaysian laws, we aren't allowed to teach Muslims. The man was very nice, and pointed us to a ton of houses we CAN contact. We had some great conversations, some were nice, some not so much, and in the end, none of the people wanted to learn. After a while, we came to a crossroads. We took a left turn. We were then called by a previous contact. During the call, we saw one of our English Class students. He ended up leading us to their home and mother. We set up an appointment to meet them and share more about the Gospel. It was a double hitter and a miracle. Afterwards, we left the neighborhood to meet our investigator. We had already had a lot of rejection, were a bit down, but prayed and left for our lesson. In the end, the investigator canceled, but we went to their work to say "Hi!" On our way, we found a girl who had just finished work. We taught her the first lesson, set up a return appointment, and gained a new investigator. It was a true miracle and tender mercy! God answers prayers. When we came home, we found out the other sisters had a miracle too. There are four other sisters who live with us. Two of them came home because they were feeling sick. Another two came home because they had a flat tire. They all had a hard time coming home. Two of them had a sudden craving for cookies and remembering the power of prayer, they prayed for cookies. They came home to find the giant cookie I made. The tender mercies of the Lord are everywhere. He truly makes a way and means so He answers all prayers, even though we may not understand everything at the time.   
Nighttime in Miri.

Church was amazing, as always. We taught a lesson about reaching out in love to less actives and recent converts. I continue to be amazed by the members of Miri. As I mentioned before, these are the pioneeers of Malaysia. The members seemed a little down because they see how hard it is to be a pioneer in the modern days. They told it how it is. It's hard. I admit that. I really respect and admire these members. We told them how much we love, appreciate, respect, and even look up to them because they ARE modern day pioneers. We realized they don't hear enough from the missionaries how great they actually are. We tried to remedy that and we could tell it really hit home for them as we told them of what they're doing right. I've definitely learned a lot over my mission of the power of positive words. Words are powerful. If you don't believe so, read, "The Ricciardi Letter" and "The Power of Your Words". These are amazing. As Sister Linda K. Burton said, "When was the last time you intentionally spoke kind words to each other?" I invite you today to speak kind words

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Week #70: Vranish! – October 7, 2017 – October 13, 2017 (Miri)

Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
The beginning of the week was a bit slow. Sister Cloud was sick in the middle. Then she had a missionary leadership training. She is a sister training leader. It was good to go out with the Miri 2 sisters again. We had a good time. I was impressed and amazed by their love and dedication. We went into town to meet one of my recent converts, and took the bus. We got a bit lost while walking for a while. I'm a bit directionally impaired and I had no idea where we were when the bus stopped. We walked a long ways, got soaking wet, and had 2 small umbrellas between 3 people (mind you these sisters are both about 5'10"). At times, we were jogging to make the time. In the end, our appointment canceled. The sisters didn't once complain. They seemed to see it was an adventure and we loved it. In It sure created some great memories. 

Saturday we tried to contact most of the day. We went to an area and started walking around the neighborhood for 2 hours. Many of the people there weren't super friendly. They said they were Christian already or Buddhist, big surprise in Malaysia. Not. For some background, Malaysia is like Utah in that it has a religious place of worship at every corner. The difference, unlike Utah, not all of them are Mormon chapels. There are Hindu and Buddhist temples everywhere, a Christian church around the corner, and shrines every which way we turn. There's a lot of diversity here. Anyway, we walked for at least an hour and a half by the time we stopped to know where to go. We prayed and opened The Book of Mormon. We read two verses. The verses talked about secret combinations. We joked for a little bit about the "secret combinations" in our branch, but there wasn't really anything to go off of. Then we saw a family coming out of their home. We decided to give the area one more try. We walked down to find an uncle washing a car and his two grandsons (one older, about 15-20, and the other younger, about 3 years old). The uncle was Christian and was trying to give us advice, but it wasn't going anywhere. Sister Cloud was very courageous and asked to meet the grandson, which we found out he was 18. The uncle happily obliged, told his grandson to talk with us, and went inside. We taught a quick, powerful, first lesson. He got a phone call in the middle and walked off. We silently prayed for him to return, which he did! We were amazed! In the end, he didn't want, but it gave us the boost and courage we needed. We counted it as a miracle. It was good practice, and we were much more confident. Miracles continued to pour out that day as we met our investigators, and even ate delicious vietnamese food for free. 

Yesterday, in church, we taught a lesson about family history. As I was preparing for this lesson, I started reading some stories I brought with me about my family. One autobiography I read was my great-great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Willey. He was one of the ancestors who crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers. I learned that he lived, knew, and served with the Prophet Joseph Smith. I'd been learning a lot about the pioneers. Last week and for this week for p-day, we watched The Work and The Glory, all three movies, and 17 Miracles. These movies give a great perspective on the pioneers and what they had to go through. It really brought a lot of appreciation in my life for them. If you haven't watched these movies, I would highly recommend them. Then you can start to understand the things these early saints went through. It also gave me a greater love, respect, and appreciation for the people I am serving now. Pioneers are the first people to lead the way. The Mormon Pioneers in the 1800's went through so much hardship. The members in Malaysia are the pioneers of this country. They are paving the way. I have such a profound respect for them and their trials. 

Another thing I discovered while doing my family history was where my ancestors are from. On my mom's side, I was told they were English and Irish. On my dad's side, I thought I was English and Scottish. Growing up, I visited a lot of graves with my parents. On my dad's side, there were graves that had the last name Vranish. I had assumed it was something that was changed when they emmigrated from Scotland. As I looked at my family tree, I learned my dad is second or third generation Croatian. That explains why "V" is in the alphabet (it's not in the Scottish alphabet). It depends on who the first one to emigrate from Croatia is (his dad or grandfather). I don't know now, but I am excited to learn when I come home. Many people, like my dad, in Malaysia, are second and third generation. Many of them are from China. As we were teaching, we have members from Philippines. One member, a Filipino, shared how his grandmother is a Japanese refugee from WWII that settled in the Philippines. There are so many cool stories, and rich history in finding your family. I invite you today to learn a story from a family member and write it down. You'll be surprised by your history.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Week #69 – Go District! – October 31, 2017 – November 6, 2017 (Miri)

Miri Missionaries
This week has been a great week! Out of this week, I would say we haven't gained a lot of success in finding people, but I've gained a greater knowledge, understanding, love, and respect for my fellow missionaries. We've become a lot more united since Sister Cloud has arrived, we've put in a lot more effort, and I've seen an amazing difference. This new perspective is towards my leaders, my fellow missionaries (especially in my district), and my companion I'm definitely reminded of the song in The Best Two Years that that's sung, "Don't you know? Can't you see? What your love has made of me?" This is a great movie by the way. I've felt a lot of love and support from my companion and my District. When they asked us when we should hold our branch Christmas party, my companion and elders immediately stepped in and spoke up to hold it before I finished my mission in December. Woot! Go District!

At the beginning of this week, we went to Batu Niah caves. It is an hour and a half drive from Miri, and are these amazing caves. We got in a good hike and saw some beautiful scenes. The senior couple was nice enough to drive all of the sisters there. It was definitely worth it! The rest of the week were full of little miracles. One day was a very rough, but after riding for 45 minutes to an appointment in pouring rain, that ended up canceling, we stopped by a place to dry off. We were outside a massage kedai, and they gave us some nice towels and a place to sit while we were warming up. It was so
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
sweet of them and a sweet miracle! When it seemed everyone canceled that day, we rode past one members' home, yelled his name as we saw him, and came back around on our bikes. He surprisingly came outside, greeted us, had a good laugh, showed us pictures of his new baby, and gave us some fruit. It turned our whole day around. Sunday, we started a music class. I felt a deep impression to do something with my music my whole mission, but finally had the guts to do it. It was amazing. The branch is so excited for this class. They are willing to participate very well. One member I was working with the past week played the closing song in church. It was amazing! He was so happy afterwards, and the members were so impressed. They encouraged him so much more. It made me so happy.

One thing we've been focusing on a lot is the Restoration in our lessons. I've used The Restoration video in some lessons before, but every single lesson I've taught this week is that movie. I never realized the power in this video. If you haven't, or even if you have, watch this video: