Saturday, October 21, 2017

Week #66: A Greater Purpose – October 10, 2017 – October 16, 2017

The past weeks have been crazy! Sorry all. Last week, I was in Singapore for my last Singapore Zone Conference! What? I'm officially down to two months of my mission left on Monday. Cool thing is I leave Singapore December 16, travel for 33 hours, and arrive in the U.S. December 16#timetraveling. Anyway, in Singapore we arrived at the mission office at 2 pm, emailed for a short time, bought cute dresses, and ate delicious potstickers in Chinatown. Singapore Chinatown is amazing! It's so big and goes on for a few blocks. We went there last time in Singapore, but it was so good we had to go back. I was planning on eating Mexican food (finally!), but we ran out of time. Thankfully, during Zone Conference, the senior couples fed us Mexican food #miracles!

For Zone Conference, our focus was our missionary purpose. It was good to go back to basics and remember why we are out here. There is a huge turnover in the mission right now. About 40% of the missionaries are new from 4 months ago until now. The turnover continues, and President Simmons' board is filled with many new faces for the next months. It's exciting. As we discussed our purpose, we learned a lot about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyday, we recite, "Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them develop faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I've learned a lot about my purpose over my mission.

A greater purpose I've learned and discovered is God's purpose. My all time favorite scripture is Moses 1:39: "For behold this is my work and my glory-- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Learning about God can only come by learning about Christ. Don't get me wrong, there are many religions with much truth about God. By learning Christ's life and example, we can gain a clear and true description of who God is. Jesus Christ is the son of God. He is the only perfect human to have lived. He is the Savior and Redeemer of the World. He is the only Begotten Son. Through His life and example, we can come closer to learning and understanding who God is. As I've studied about Christ's life, everything He did was unselfish. They were purely for the good of mankind and according to the will of God. I am inspired to share this article in the new October Liahona called, "A Christlike Character" https://www.lds.org/new-era/2017/10/a-christlike-character?lang=eng I'm learning more and more everyday how God's purpose and actions are intended to show His unselfish love. Everything they do and ask of us are for the better us. We can truly become like God, to live a higher way and law, and to have true joy. .I cannot say it nor explain it better than Elder Bednar does in this talk.

I love you all! I hope you take care this week!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Week #65: Thank you! – October 3, 2017 – October 9, 2017
 
Sister Sorenesen and Vranes with a memeber.

Sorry for the short message. I am currently in Singapore. We arrived this afternoon for Zone Conference, my last one until I come home! What?!

Anyway, this week was a blur. I was still getting over my cold for the most part of the week. On Saturday and Sunday, we watched General Conference. Everyone said it was amazing and let me tell you, it was! I enjoyed every moment of conference. Elder Hollands talk titled, "Be Ye Therefore Perfect--Eventually" was amazing! Throughout this week, while meeting people, we taught about conference. We gave everyone a piece of paper and said, "If you can talk to God for 2 minutes, what would you ask Him?" We invited them to bring this paper to conference and write the answer they hear. I did this myself and my answers were more than answered. This is my invite to you if you haven't watched conference, or even if you have. Also, for my spiritual thought, read this talk. I can't put into words how great it was and how much truth there is in this talk. The primary focus was the Book of Mormon, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the secret to happiness. As one of my wise companions always said, "If you're not happy, your Gospel of Jesus Christ is broken." I know this is true.
 
Sisters Vranes and Sorensen with a branch member.
In this time out here I've had so much support, wise words of encouragement, and love. I can truly feel your love, support, and prayers out here. It is my turn to finally say thank you. Thank you for each one of you who has been in my life and supported me, whether close or from afar. I'm learning a lot more about God's perfect plan to place each one of you in my life and learn from your examples. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me. I love you!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Week #64: Breaking 50: September 26, 2017 - October 2, 2017 (Miri)

This week has flown by... I don't really remember what happened most of the beginning of this week. At the end of the week I got sick. I'm still getting over it. On Sunday, my faith in the power of prayer and desire increased. I had a strong desire to at least partake of the sacrament this Sunday. I was pretty sick. After prayer, I was better enough to attend sacrament meeting. My prayers and desires were answered. Our miracle was that we broke 50 in our number of people who attended sacrament meeting! When I first got to Miri, there was about 20-30 people. There was definitely a new energy in sacrament this past week. It was exciting. It just showed me that God answers the desires of our hearts. Anyway, sorry for the short letter this week. I'll write a better one next week. Love you all!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Week #63: Make the Sabbath Your Temple: September 19, 2017 – September 25, 2017 (Miri)

Sisters in Miri.
It's the last week of the transfer and it has flown by! At the beginning of the week, we had Zone Conference in Miri with outpost elders from Bintulu.  Our focus was baptizing converts. There were many great aspects of this conference. One we focused on was recognizing a convert. We reviewed these things from Preach My Gospel (a book we use to become better at teaching), and hoped to become converted ourselves. As it is well said, "You can't convert past your own conversion"--meaning you can't teach what you don't know. This is true on so many levels.

The rest of the week was a roller coaster. In the middle of the week, we attended a baptism, because I was asked to play piano for them. It's definitely been a useful talent to have on a mission. I can't tell you how many times they've needed a pianist on my mission. I counted I've played at 15 baptisms, let alone how many times I've played in church, for English Class, and how many other things I can't count! Thank you mom and dad for putting me in piano lessons! There is nothing better on a mission than witnessing the baptism of a fellow brother or sister who has decided to follow the covenant path and example of Jesus Christ. Thanks to this skill, I've been able to constantly witness this beautiful moment, and the joy, peace, and cleanliness only the Gospel can bring into their lives.

After the baptism, my companion got ill and we had to stay in a day or two. When we finally got out of the house, it was the weekend and there was plenty to do. On Saturday, as we were heading out to bike 45+ minutes to an appointment, and my companion got two flat tires. We started riding when we noticed her back tire was flat. We pumped it up and started again when "pop!" her front tire is flat. We walked back to the home and got an uber. We never got out of the gated community we were in! We figured it was a sign, especially since my companion was still getting over her cold. It was all good though. We got to hand out a Book of Mormon, so miracles!
 
Sister Vranes eating a Cookies n' Cream milkshake.
Sunday was definitely a highlight of the week. Many of the usuals weren't at church, but many of the less active members filled those seats instead. It was a miracle! One of the less actives was up and choristering the whole time. We got to definitely see how Miri branch used to be and the potential it has. Miri is definitely amazing!

One of the things that stood out to me this week was the sacrament. When Elder Christofferson, from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came to Singapore, he did a Q&A session with the missionaries. One of the questions asked was: "How can we, the members, continue to feel the blessings of the temple while it is quite far away?" Malaysia and Singapore do not have a temple. The closest temples are Manilla, Phillippines temple, Hong Kong temple, and soon to be the Bangkok, Thailand temple. Most members in Malaysia have to sacrifice a lot to travel to the temple. Many do not have the luxury of traveling to the temple all the time. Many have to sacrifice a lot if they want to go at all. Very few members have the means, but make the necessary sacrifices, to attend the temple once a year. These members are amazing! We, as missionaries, cannot attend the temple for the duration of our missions (that is anywhere between 18 months and 2 years). Feeling the blessings of the temple is sometimes hard. Elder Christofferson replied, "Make the Sabbath your temple." He told us to have a proper Sabbath Day and to sanctify and set it apart from the rest. To have a proper Sabbath Day, preparation is the key. Make Saturday night the day to reflect on the week--to meditate, repent, and resolve to do better.
 
Sister Vranes eating lunch.
This was definitely a deep thought that was further studied out and addressed this past Zone Conference. Our mission president's wife was giving us a training about pride, (humility is our Christ-like attribute we have been studying and focusing on as a mission this past transfer) when she told us something interesting about the Sabbath. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we learn that it is a way of life. We start with our faith in Jesus Christ, then we repent, when we've repented, we get baptized, and God will promise us His gift of the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, we endure to the end, where we start this cycle, this way of life, all over again until the end (which death is not the end). We also teach that when we repeat this cycle, we don't get baptized again if we've messed up. We come to church and partake of the Sacrament. This must mean the sacrament is really special, and it is. It must mean it is so special it can take the place of having to get baptized all over again. This Sacrament symbolizes the renewing of covenants, all covenants. Think of how many times we mess up and are NOT perfect within the week. I think of this quite a bit. That is the beauty of the sacrament, repentance, and the plan Heavenly Father has set for you, and for me. Because of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us, we don't have to be perfect. We may mess up big time, or even small. We may feel we can never be forgiven. We may feel we are past the point of no return. That is a lie! It is Satan's favorite lie. The sacrament, if taken properly, is all the chances we need. We can come to church every week and partake of it. We can be clean and set free. There is no limit to the times you can partake of the sacrament, and ALL covenants, including baptism and temple covenants, are renewed. This is one of the most wonderful thoughts and revelations of my mission. Partake of the Sacrament. Repent daily. Worship freely. Become whole through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Week #62: The Lamb and the Lion : September 12, 2017 – September 18, 2017 (Miri)

Having dinner with some members.
This week flew by! I don't even remember much of what happened. All I knew was we were busy every day and didn't even know where to fit in our studies most of the days. One of the highlights this week was celebrating the birthday of one of our branch members. We hoped to give her a day she would never forget. We baked her a cake and biked over an hour and a half to her home (mostly because we got lost...) When we arrived, she was with her mom and little brother. Her mom was about to leave for work, and she was going to be left babysitting her little brother. No one showed up to wish her happy birthday. She was going to spend the night watching not-so-great movies. We arrived with a cake and hoped to make her birthday like none other she had, serving others. We took her to heart attack another member who lived nearby. Then we picked up that member and went to dinner. We had a great talk about her interests and the future. She is very realistic and because of circumstances, didn't see too much for her future. She just wants to give back to the one who loved and raised her, her mom. She has a very good heart and noble ideas. She is amazing!

Sister Vranes eating a great Malaysian lunch.
Another highlight this week was meeting our three convert 18-year-olds for a movie night. One of the members actually brought their two siblings who are not members to watch Finding Faith in Christ with us. It was a very simple depiction of Jesus Christ and his life. In Malaysia, we learn that a lot of the members here are converts from either Christianity, Buddhism, free thinking, or another faith. They do not have much of a background knowledge of Jesus Christ. This movie taught so simply, yet powerfully. I learned a lot as well and the Spirit filled the room. Sometimes, watching a video versus just reading adds new life and character. If you do not know a lot about the life of Jesus Christ, or what He did, I invite you to learn so now by going to lds.org/Christ

For a spiritual thought, I would like to share this video from Mormon Channel Studios https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/series/mormon-channel-studio/mormon-channel-studio-david-lindes . The musician, David Lindes, sings an original song about forgiveness. He gives a beautiful thought and insight to the story of the lamb and the lion. In Church, we teach that Christ will come a second time to earth. When He does, there will be perfect peace for one thousand years. This is called the Millenium. In the scriptures, a depiction of perfect peace is given by a lamb and a lion laying down together. They will be friends and will not hurt each other. Many of the stories in the Bible about Christ are both physical and metaphorical. This story is metaphorical of the perfect peace that is offered to us through Christ. We will not want to hurt one another. The lion will put it's weapons down and will not bite the others.
Sister Vranes...it's a good thing I bike!
David Lindes further explained about the lamb, who has to be willing to eventually forgive and trust the lion again. It goes both ways. That is the beautiful part about the Gospel and the peace it brings when we are willing to live a life that follows Jesus Christ. We too have to become like the lamb and the lion. Because of Jesus Christ and His Atonement for us, we too can be healed and become this perfect depiction of peace. Through Christ, we can lay down our weapons of war, stop hurting others, and become as the lion. Through Christ, we can find strength beyond our own to forgive and trust again, and become as the lamb. Through Christ, we can be healed. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Week #61: Loving Parents: September 5, 2017 - September 11, 2017 (Miri)

Sister Sorensen and Sister Vranes
This week has been great! I got to see Mama Steele again because of exchanges, but whet on exchanges with another sister, Sister Edwards. They visited Miri and it was lots of fun. It was like a big reunion for Sister Steele, because the members here absolutely love and adore her (I mean, she has been in Miri for 9 months...) Anyway, it was lots of fun and I learned a lot. Sister Edwards is very bold. It was different, but refreshing. Her mission mama is also Sister Durham. She said I reminded her a lot of Sister Durham, which is definitely new, because I usually get the compliment from other missionaries that I remind them of Sister Quan. Like mother like daughter, haha. 

One miracle this week was this new investigator we are teaching. She works at a foot massage place. We've been slow cooking her the past few months. It started with her always saying "Hi sisters!" in the mall where we usually eat lunch at after a missionary meeting every week. When we first talked to her, she said that she was baptized in 2012 or something. When we returned to talk to her, we learned she is actually Buddhist and attended English Class in Kuching. Over time, her friends at the massage place all started talking to us and liked us a lot. One funny old uncle, who works there, even gave us a phone and hugged me...all he wants to do is dance. It was a great and terrible day that day. Anyway, after meeting with her and encouraging her to come to English Class, we had the impression to just start talking about God. As we talked, she desired to pray and develop a relationship with God. As we have continued to meet with her, she has a strong desire to know who God is and the success she and her children can get. She is a loving parent and relates so well with a loving Heavenly Father. Finding her was truly a miracle and blessing.

Having fun on a p-day.
Sunday was hectic. I have never been involved in church so much as I did yesterday. In Miri, there are three branches. Our branch is the last one to start at 11:30 am, starting with Sunday School, Relief Society, and then Sacrament Meeting, respectively. There are 153 members in the branch, but only 20-30 members attend, on a good day. This Sunday, I was assigned to teach Sunday School and Relief Society with my companion, then told to give a talk 10 minutes just before I was supposed to give it, and played the hymns on the piano. As I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting, I was reflecting back on how this would never happen to someone in Utah. I am amazed, however, by the level of involvement these members are accustomed to. In Miri, we have 12 and 13 year olds saying the opening prayer and spending time sharing their testimonies with the missionaries. As I was talking with my companion (who is straight from America so she remembers what it's like), she mentioned the church topics and level of simplicity in Malaysia. Her dad gave a talk on being positive through opposition, while we have talks on simple faith, or service, or tithing--the basic doctrines of the Church. Many times, we have to explain the meaning of opposition, revelation, and many other words to our members. Although these members don't have much, they give their all. As I've come to learn about who they are and their lives, they have every reason not to be faithful members, yet they still are. For a little bit of history, the Church has only been in Malaysia for 20-30 years (20 in West Malaysia, 30 in East Malaysia). It is amazing to see their struggles. The missionaries are the examples of the foundation of the Church and how it should run. Our Branch President basis the organization of the Church off of the organization in Taiwan, where he served only 5 years ago. He is from Kuching, married a long time member in Miri, and has two little girls. This Branch is so young, yet so faithful. These are the pioneers of Malaysia. These pioneers are involved. These pioneers have sound understanding of the basic doctrine of the church. These pioneers are amazing! President Boyd K. Packer said, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." I know that is true. By studying and sharing the doctrine of the Gospel every day, my testimony has grown immensely.

As for a spiritual thought, I am continually learning about the love Heavenly Father has for all of His children. I have learned more about prayer this week than I ever did before. In one of my studies, I learned why we pray and even came up with an analogy to better understand it. If you haven't already, read the Bible Dictionary definition of prayer. We pray so that we can ask God for blessings and revelation. He is able to answer us through His help and guides, the Holy Ghost, scriptures, and even others around us (which is why we go to church, to receive more revelation). My favorite analogy to look at is the parent-child relationship. God is a loving Heavenly Father. We are His children.  As a loving parent, God wants the best for us. Sometimes, as children, we are in our own little worlds. There is a girl in my branch who is a great example of this. She often twirls in circles, slides down a small banister, goes to the front where her parents are so she can be watched, and only responds when you wave a hand in her face. She is in her own little world. Sometimes, we are like this little child, in our own little worlds. As children, we sometimes want things, and have to ask for them. A child might ask for their parent to buy a new toy, or ice cream. As a child becomes older, they become a teenager and want bigger things, like a car or the latest phone. The parent will sometimes say yes, or sometimes say no. It may not be in the parent's budget. It may not be healthy for the child. Maybe the parent is saving the money spent on an ice cream cone for their future education--for something better. For whatever reason it is, they know what would be best for the child. I'd like to point out two things in this example. First, the child had to ask. Even though the parent knows their children love ice cream, the child has to sometimes ask to get one. This is why we pray, so that we can receive the blessings Heavenly Father is willing to give, we need only ask. Second, the parent doesn't always give them what they want. The parent knows what is best for their child, and they may even have a greater gift in mind. This is like Heavenly Father, who only wants the best for us. When we ask, He knows what will make us fat. He knows what will hurt us and what will help us.

Furthermore, in this analogy, a loving parent will help their children, but only when they child is willing to do their part. Going back to the teenager, they ask for more expensive things. They ask for cars and phones. A loving parent will wait to see if first they are responsible, and second, if they are willing to earn it. Maybe the child has to work and earn 50% of the cost, and the parent will help do the rest. Maybe the parent ask for more help from the child. Heavenly Father loves His children and is not against having His children "earn" their blessings. They have to be responsible and put in effort. He is a fair and loving God.

But as a loving parent gives good gifts, so much more is Heavenly Father willing to give great gifts. Perhaps the parent doesn't buy their children ice cream all the time. They are saving up for their child to gain an education. This paints the picture of the quote, "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime." I know a parent who loves their child, invests in their life. Heavenly Father sometimes withholds immediate blessings for great ones. He is making investments in us. He is truly a great and loving parent. He is a loving Heavenly Father.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Week #60: Humble Confidence (August 29, 2017 – September 4, 2017)

Eating delicious ice cream.
This week has been amazing! The past few weeks have been rough. It seemed we were having no success, but that changed. On Tuesday, we were getting to work when some of our members started calling us and invited us to visit later that evening. We couldn't believe it. That rarely happens, like only twice before. This continued throughout the week, and we were actually invited to their homes to teach their family and friends. I was beyond surprised and amazed. It also helped that it was National Malaysia Day, a public holiday for most of the week. 

One miracle day was visiting a pig farm. Our members were having a relief society activity, visiting a pig farm. Only two of our members showed up, but one of the members had their whole family and a few other families join. It was a good way to get our faces and the church out there. The farm we visited also was a family owned farm, where we fed some wild boars. It was none too crazy. Our member who drove us wanted us to talk to one family a lot more, so we stalked her sister's car, who was driving them, all the way to their home. Our member is a little quirky and would fail at being an undercover spy. They called their sister, had them follow us for ice cream (but it was closed), and followed them the rest of the way to the family's home. We then visited a suspension bridge. The bridge was inspired by the Canadians and was designed by our member's uncle. We also walked on rocks. It's an Asian therapy called foot reflexology. There is a path of rocks in the ground you walk on, and the more it hurts, the more your body is toxic. My body is very toxic...but that's ok, it was the first time I finished the whole path (I usually only get two steps in and wimp out :) Anyway, since it was holiday, many people were at the park. One group of people wanted to take pictures with my companion. They also wanted pictures with one of our members who is half English, half Malaysian. They became famous within two seconds. We were then fed vegetarian food and Malaysian ice cream (it's kind of like otter pops but flavors such as plum, mango, dragonfruit, etc.) This group of 50+ people was a family reunion that followed Confucianism. They don't believe in killing, and that is why they are all vegetarian. We handed out a bunch of Free English Class flyers (it's one of the services we do in our mission), and our number. It was a miracle!

Fun activities with church members.
On Saturday, we had promised a member they could ride with us. They live a good 30 minute bike ride from our home and had no way to get to us to obtain one of our extra bikes. Neither my companion nor I had coasted a bike before, especially that far away. It was a very busy rode towards their home and it just felt unsafe. We were debating what we could do to make it up to them. We didn't really have set appointments for that day as well, and were worried they might just be riding in the hot sun with us around Miri, looking for people to talk to. As we were debating, Sister Sorensen shared a quote her dad said to her, "It is better to get it finished than to have it perfect". I thought it was profound. We decided we had to break the news to them, but would make it up over ice cream. We went out that day unsure of what we would do/where we would go. While on the hunt for some medicine, we felt a prompting to talk to some slow-cooking potential investigators. It turned out to be exactly what we needed to do. One of them we invited to English Class. Another one was home and just appreciated the fact that we thought to come back and talk with them. This guy is hilarious because he's from New Jersey, randomly living in Malaysia, has never heard of Mormons, has lived in most Muslim countries (including Afghanistan), and makes/sells homemade wooden slingshots to scare away the dogs. It wasn't perfect, but it was definitely a Spirit-led day that was finished and worth it.

Overall, this past week has taught me a lot about opposition. There needs to be opposition in all things--like good and bad, happy and sad, joy and pain, etc. The past few weeks have been rough, but it made this week so much more worth it. I really appreciated having a miracle-filled week, and it made it so much easier after all the "bad weeks" to notice the great week in the middle, the golden nugget that makes it all worth it.

Sister Vranes says hello.
As for a spiritual thought, I read a talk in the April 2017 General Conference, "The Greatest Among You" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. In this talk, President Uchtdorf explains the meaning of "humble confidence". Humility is the Christ-like attribute the missionaries in my mission are focusing on and developing. In a planner I was given by a previous companion, she had written the note "humble confidence". I didn't understand what that meant, until I read this talk. In the talk, President Uchtdorf tells a few stories of these great people who did a lot for a cause, and should be rewarded, but were not. It would be easy for them to have a sense of entitlement. It would be easy for them to protest, to cry, to murmur and tell the world and become martyrs. Yes, it would be easy, but it takes humble confidence to not do so. Humble confidence is described as doing what's right and what you're supposed to do without having to be rewarded. It takes trusting God that all will be right and rewarded in the end. It may not even be in this life time. It includes having integrity. It includes virtue. It includes becoming Christ-like. 

One of the stories in this talk is about a stake president, who was preparing for a pioneer celebration parade. During the time of preparing, this stake president was released. When it came time for the parade, they asked for volunteers to help in this celebration. They were told to dress up in work clothes, bring a shovel and their truck. When the morning of the event arrived, the former stake president arrived ready to work, and was told to be pooper scooper. This former stake president happily did so because, in President Uchtdorf's words, "He understood that one kind of service is not above another". This former stake president exemplified humble confidence. No calling, no job, no service is greater than another. They are all forms of remembering and serving God. When I think of these things, I am reminded of an EFY song called, "Not So Little" by Nik Day. One of the lines goes, "Every little good thing you do, makes a little change in you." Sometimes we think the reward of the things we do will be great, and we hope to even get applauded. I know it's humble confidence that lets us know that the reward IS great--the reward is becoming like our Heavenly Father through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and having a place by his side in eternal life.