Saturday, July 22, 2017

Week #53: Revelation! – July 11, 2017 – July 17, 2017 (Miri)
It was a Spirit-filled week, ending with the greatest revelation of my mission, the water heater! I'm kidding, but it was one of the best discoveries I had made in the Miri home. Every area I have served so far has had a water heater switch right outside the bathroom, but Miri was a time of endless cold showers. On Thursday, after staring at the water heater in the bathroom, and staring at a mysterious switch in our study room (which I learned to never touch mysterious buttons/switches in KK or a guard will come up to your apartment at night thinking there is danger), I discovered the wondrous connection! I'm never taking warm water for granted, ever again!

Anyway, this week was truly Spirit filled. We had yet another baptism, and Sister Montague skyped in from Arizona (because she finished her mission a couple of weeks ago) at 4 am. Our new convert, J--- is so cute! She's Filipina, and since our church is the English speaking branch, we have a lot of Filipinos and Chinese that attend. Her baptism was all in Tagalog. I was not able to understand a word, but the Spirit was so strong. I could really feel the testimony and faith of each of the Filipinos that participated, and it was incredible. In this mission, we get a lot of Filipinos who work in Malaysia, and they are just so ready for the Gospel. One elder joked that there are two things Filipinos are just meant for, basketball and the Gospel. It's true though:)

As for a spiritual thought, I am reading through an old General Conference, October 2015. One talk I read yesterday morning and was reminded of was "My Heart Pondereth Them Continually" by Devin G. Durrant. This speaker starts out with a clear distinction of his earthly and spiritual calling, an investor and disciple of Jesus Christ, respectively. He challenges his audience to do two things that will have a major impact on them, physically and spiritually, that are like bank deposits, that will only add up. The first challenge is literally making bank deposits--save money every week. Many of us understand how this will have a positive effect and overtime will produce significant results. The second challenge is to "ponderize" a scripture every week. Perhaps this rings a bell. This is a made up word combining ponder and memorize. Just like the bank deposit, ponderizing a new scripture every week is making spiritual deposits, which over time will add up and produce significant results. I invite you to read this talk and ponderize a scripture this week. I am going to start as well with my senior year seminary theme, Doctrine and Covenants 6:33,36 :)



Saturday, July 15, 2017


Sisters Vranes and Steele
Week #52 - Claimed: July 4, 2017 - July 10, 2017 (Miri)

This week I was claimed by a Chinese family. So most of the week has been slow, we were trying to find some less actives and former investigators at their homes, but no one was home. On Friday, we finally went to visit a less active that we try to see every week or every two weeks. The wife and daughter-in-law are both members, but the husband and the sons are not. As we went to visit, the wife and husband were both very talkative and interested in getting to know me. We were helping them become Facebook friends and contact past missionaries again. As we were talking, I jokingly asked them to give me a proper Chinese last name. In order to get a "real" Chinese name, you have to have a Chinese person give it to you. I have a Chinese name from my foster family in China, 高超 (gao chao), but I don't have a last name. On my mission, I have been going by 高姐妹 (gao jie mei, which means "Sister Tall"). Many people in Miri haven't like it and said it wasn't a real Chinese last name, which it isn't, so I was trying to have the couple give me one. Eventually, I told them my adoption story, and the wife was so sad. She was telling me how she was going to cry because of my story. She went on about how I couldn't miss anything, because I hadn't remembered anything, but I would miss them because of my face, or something like that. She said that I have American parents, but now I need Chinese parents. She then claimed me. She was so happy, because now she has two daughters. The husband warned me that he wasn't Mormon, but he hopes that's okay, haha. So now I've been claimed! I'm finally Malaysian!
Claimed!

Anyway, one miracle that happened this week was riding home after English Class. We were in a hurry, so we were biking really fast. Half way home, I felt an impression to slow down. I stopped for a moment wondering if it was true. I was very unsure if it was just some fear or doubt, but we needed to get home fast. I then continued to ride and was trying to catch up to my companion to tell her, but she was too far ahead. I prayed to be able to yell loud enough so she could hear me call her name. I also prayed for confidence that if this was a true prompting from Heavenly Father, that she would stop. After my prayer, I took a deep breath and yelled. She immediately stopped and turned around. I caught up, told her what I felt, I led the way and we rode slowly home. Later that night, I learned that she had actually not heard me, but that she felt she should stop at the exact moment I had yelled. It was a miracle and a blessing!

As for a spiritual thought, I would invite you to read the lyrics to "Choose the Right" (hymn #239) in the LDS hymnbook. Many times, we want to choose the right, but how do we know what is right? In the world today, it seems like there are so many gray areas. The answer is simple. In  2 Nephi 2:28 it says,
And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit

I know that this is true. The Great Mediator is Jesus Christ. Look to the example of Jesus Christ, and you will always know what is right and true.

 
Sister Vranes - can fall alseep anywhere, anytime, any position

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Week #51: YOU Are a Child of God: June 27, 2017 – July 3, 2017 (Miri)

Since Sister Montague is leaving, I've been living off the love of members, meaning their food. When a Malaysian loves you, they'll feed you. That's about the only way they show their love, and by being very very blunt. If you gain weight, they'll tell you.

Starting at the beginning of this week, we went to the beach for p-day. We brought ukeleles, pizza, and played games in the sand. It was definitely a p-day to repeat...which we are this Monday! Yay!

The highlight of this week was Saturday. We had a baptism! Our 17-year old investigator, T----- finally got baptized after a long journey of investigating for two years. For a long time, her parents would not allow her to join The Church. They did not even attend her baptism. Her testimony, strength, and courage were admirable. She is a true pioneer of Miri. We then celebrated her baptism afterwards with the other two branches at a Gawai party. 

Gawai is an Iban celebration (Iban is a traditional tribe of Malaysia). It is the celebration of a new year, like Christmas. There were many traditional costumes, music and dancing (in which the missionaries had to participate with the poco poco), and delicious food! They had a Gawai tree full of candy, where the men dance one by one up to the tree, cut off some candy, and throw it to the kids. There is a candy, choki choki, that is basically a plastic tube of chocolate. It is delicious. Two of the elders danced, threw candy to the kids, and the chips and choki choki to their companions *shaking my head*

At the baptism, we performed "I Am a Child of God" https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-05-009-child-of-god?lang=eng  This is a basic song that the smallest children sing in the Church. Don't forget who you are, and who you can become. You are a son or daughter of God with divine nature. You're potential is limitless. Heavenly Father loves you more than you could ever imagine. I hope you see this. If not, pray, and ask Heavenly Father who you are to Him. He will tell you.

I love you all! I pray for you. I miss you. 

Love,


Sister Vranes

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week #50 - And Then There Was One: June 20, 2017 - June 26, 2017 (Miri)

I'm back and ready to kill. This week I have been transferred to Miri, which is in Sarawak, East Malaysia. I am yet again companions with Sister Montague, my first mission mama out of four. I have "killed' 2/4 (missionary talk meaning I was their last companion before they finished their missions), soon to be 3/4. Sister Durham is next! Sister Montague goes home July 4, 2017.

Anyway, jokes aside, I am in a trio with Sister Montague and Sister Steele. I knew Sister Steele in the MTC, she was 6 weeks ahead of me, so we had 3 weeks to get to know each other. She is from Orem, Utah. She is a talented singer and musician #ukesquad, and is very down-to-earth and patient. We also happen to have the same first name, Samantha, but both of us went by Sam before. Honestly, I do not know what I am doing in Miri. All I know is that the Lord needed me here.

Miri reminds me of St. George. It is very hot and desert like. There are a lot of houses instead of apartment complexes. The homes are gorgeous! They are huge and spread out. Many people here even have yards and gates. The city symbol is the seahorse. We get chased by dogs here, supposedly. I have only transported by car so far, because I am waiting for my bike to be sent from Penang. I learned that Muslims are not allowed to own dogs according to their religion. Many dogs are either strays or have been trained to be guard dogs. Other dogs just chase us because they are bored, while we are both on bikes and on foot. There are also all sorts of animals around. The other day, we found a crab in our drive way, and a frog in a sister's shoe this morning. There are 7 sisters living in one home. We have 6 sets of missionaries serving here, 3 sets of sisters and 3 sets of elders. There are 3 branches, 2 in Malay (one of those is technically Malay but usually speaks all Iban), and 1 in English (thank goodness that's my branch). Miri is where Sister Steele and Sister Clark started their missions. Sister Quan is still the Queen of Miri, having served here for 10 months. That's a little about Miri for you.

While in church, yesterday, I met an investigator and her 2 daughters from China. Her first daughter is my age, also an ox, and is studying in England. Her second daughter is Sarah's age, also a rabbit, and is studying in China. The two daughters were born in Malaysia and grew up here, but their family is originally from China. They are moving to KL soon, but it was great to get to know them. The mother has been investigating the church for almost 15 years now. While I was talking to the oldest daughter, I learned that she was actually quite involved in the church in England. She goes to YSA activities often, and even camps. I was talking about Trek and Girl's Camp, as well as YSA activities, and she really wanted to participate in these activities. We then talked about her life in college. She expressed her difficulty making friends. Don't we all, at one point or another, have had difficulty with a new stage of life? I know I did. 

Growing up, I often had to make difficult decisions of which school I should attend, should I go on a mission and when, and am I even doing the right thing? These are life-changing decisions that many of us had to make. I soon realized, early on that I couldn't just make them myself, but prayerfully. To give a little background, I went to an elementary school that fed into a junior high, where only 20% of that junior high would feed into the boundaries of my high school. I had the option of 3 junior high schools, all within a 5 minute drive of each other. This was a time I had to prayfully decide which school to attend. The next decision came when I had to choose which high school, and then further for college. These dilemmas were caused because I had a choice for something good, versus something better, versus something that was best for me. These moments helped me to strengthen my relationship with Heavenly Father and to rely on His plan and timing for me. In the end, when I had made a prayerful decision, I had found countless blessings. I was able to go to a school where I had countless opportunities where and doorways opened up. I was able to find teachers that I understood their teaching and that I connected well with; I was even able to make really good friends who supported and guided me down righteous paths. At the first of each of these new experiences, I always had a difficult time making a good friend. I knew I had made a correct choice, because I had prayed about it, but I was wondering if I had chosen wrong. This was a time where my prayers had to change and I even had to fast. I found myself changing the words of my prayers to be more specific, and with the faith to fast, I found what I was looking for. Today, I can say I have at least 1 great friend (from each stage of life) that has influenced me, supported me, and led me down righteous paths. I am still great friends with each of them to this day. 

It is my testimony that Heavenly Father has a great plan for each of us. This plan goes down to the smallest decisions we will make. We have no need to wonder which choice is correct. We will always be right when we prayerfully choose them. I know He listens to our prayers and fasts when we have righteous desires. I have faith that He has higher purposes for my transfer to Miri. Perhaps you don't understand everything in your life right now, but there is one who does. Trust Him. Ask Him. He will listen and in the right time, He will answer.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Week #49 – Is Heavenly Father Your Friend or Your Best Friend? – June 13, 2017 – June 19, 2017 (KK)

Is Heavenly Father your friend, or your best friend? One sister said this statement this week and it has stuck with me, a lot. First, what constitutes being a best friend? Probably someone you trust, can talk to and who will listen, can laugh and cry with, and loves you for who you are. Is this your relationship with God?

This week, we have been trying a new contacting method, a survey. There were 4 questions we asked that struck up some very interesting conversations:
1. Do you believe in God?
2. On a scale of 1-10, how close do you feel to God?
3. On a scale of 1-10, how close do you want to feel to God?
4. How do you think you can reach that goal?

I was surprised to find how many people did not know where they were on the scale, but they wanted to gain a strong relationship, at least 8 or above. Throughout this week, I had to ask myself these questions. I realized I wasn't where I wanted to be, and that I could improve. 

This week I have been studying a lot about The 12 Steps to Change. This is found on LDS.org. Even though these 12 steps to change are related a lot to addiction recovery, these are the 12 steps to repentance. Everyday, we are trying to change, to become better, and to ultimately do what we call repentance. This change is only possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Everyday, I am repenting. Everyday, I hope you too are repenting. Now don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean you are a bad person, but that you AND I are not perfect, and need to change, to become better. The first step to change is honesty. Are you honest with yourself? With Heavenly Father? I invite you today to answer those survey questions, and be honest. Just check where you are spiritually today.

One way to grow that relationship with God, with Heavenly Father, is to have an open, honest prayer. Prayer is the way to communicate with God. This is also made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Start your prayer by saying who you are speaking to, "Dear Heavenly Father". Then say the things on your mind and in your heart. How as your day today? What did you do? You can include questions such as, "Are you there? Are you listening? Do you care? Do you love me?" Include the things that were good and you were grateful for, as well as the secret pleadings of your heart. Since prayer is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, end with, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

I am learning everyday how to have meaningful prayers and a deeper relationship with God, with my loving Heavenly Father. This is the first step to deepening that relationship and reaching the type of relationship you hope to have. I know the 12 steps to change are the 12 steps to repentance, the 12 steps to healing, the 12 steps to peace, and the 12 steps to happiness. Start today.

I love you all.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love,


Sister Vranes

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Week #48 - Triangles: June 6, 2017 – June 12, 2017 (KK)

This week was crazy! It was very, very eventful, with Zone Conference, exchanges in Singapore, and the missionary open house. It feels forever ago that we had Zone Conference, but it was only on Tuesday. In Zone Conference, the topic was finding. President and Sister Simmons started with a focus on training the trainer. In the next few months of this mission, we are losing large groups of missionaries. At the end of THIS transfer , we lose 20+ missionaries, and then gain 20+ new missionaries. I forgot it's June already. Anyway, there's going to be a lot of turn over, and greenie fire. Whoot! 

In training, we learned how to adjust to life. There is a book called Adjusting to Missionary Life on LDS.org. We talked about how this book is really about adjusting to life. There are many things we can apply to life through this book, especially about stress. Sister Simmons said, "If you're not adjusting to missionary life, you are not repenting (changing)". Life is a constant change and at times, it gets very stressful. There are many ways and techniques to deal with these. The best manual to life, however, is The Book of Mormon. Take Nephi for example. Many times, his brothers oppose him, and at times, bully him. Instead of letting things just happen to him. He relies on the Lord, asks for strength (the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ), and take matters into his own hands, becoming an agent to do rather than be acted upon. Take a look through these two books and learn something to help you today.

On exchanges in Singapore, I was able to be reunited with my mission mama, Sister Durham. The duo is back and better than ever. It was lots of fun, with lots of contacting, and implementing the things I had just learned in Zone Conference. We went about Singapore talking to many people, rejected by many people, and giving commitments to everyone. We made a point to leave everyone we talked to with a commitment, such as write 3 things down that were good today. It was a great time! We taught English class later that night and were reunited with our Penang buds, Elder Elieson and Elder Hunt. 

Upon returning to Kota Kinabalu (KK), it was late at night, I got sick, and the next day we had a missionary open house. While riding back home with one of the members, we learned that all of KK had gotten sick overnight. We weren't sure if our decorations were complete for the room we were in charge of. No one had specific details to what we were doing specifically. To be frank, we thought it would be a complete disaster. In the end, it turned out better than expected. We were actually very impressed. Many people happily brought their friends that they had introduced and invited. Everyone's decorations were spectacular. Our investigators came and had a good time, and were even fellowshipped very well by the members. The next day we had church, combined with the other branch. Only a few people from the open house came, but the district was so unified. What made them all unified?

They remembered their purpose. They remembered that we are united in our love for Heavenly Father. In this mission, we often talk about triangles. Draw a triangle like this: an equilateral triangle, I/me on the left, you/them on the right, Heavenly Father at the top. In this triangle, you have to be equal. You draw nearer to your neighbor/spouse/friend/etc. by coming closer to Heavenly Father. If there was only you and the other person, you are the farthest apart. Additionally, without Heavenly Father, this triangle becomes a tug-of-war. There is no balance. When you remember Heavenly Father, there is perfect balance. Now it becomes a matter that both you and the other person must be coming closer to Heavenly Father. If not, the triangle becomes lop-sided. So, I invite you today to look beyond divides. Look beyond prejudices. Look beyond challenges and faults. Remember who you are and who those around you are, children of a LOVING Heavenly Father. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week #47: May 30, 2017 - June 5, 2017

This week has gone by very quickly. Sister Evans and I are working hard to find new investigators and to prepare for the open house in KK (Kota Kinabalu) coming up on June 10th. One thought this week is the scripture found in Matthew 7:7, it says, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." I immediately went to the Topical Guide, and under Ask; Seek; Knock, a similar word is prayer. Look in the Topical Guide and in every scripture excerpt, replace "ask", "seek", and "knock" with "pray" or "prayer". In the footnotes of Matthew 7:7, to ask=prayer; to seek=meditate and study; and to knock=learn. This is THE secret formula to growing your own testimony. I testify that this is true. I know that prayer is the doorway to know truth, to gain answers, and to talk WITH Heavenly Father. Prayer is our phone call to God, scriptures are His loving answers. I know Heavenly Father loves you and listens to you. He knows who you are, the things of your heart, and the answers to give to you. Please, give Him a call today. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.