Sunday, August 13, 2017

So sad, we ended up in a Muslim Cemetery.
Week #56: The Good and The Bad: August 1, 2017 – August 7, 2017(Miri)

Hi Friends and Family! 

This week was a great week! We got a new investigator last week who we passed a Book of Mormon, she read it every day, texted us a verse a day, came to church last week, but didn't want to meet. We were perplexed. She even wanted to share a small 2 minute talk in Church. Thankfully, that was our lead in and we were able to meet her not only once this week, but twice! MIracles! She came to church this week, fasted with us, and even shared her testimony in church. She's awesome! 

"Celestial Kingdom" Mattresses
One day, we were having a slow day, and decided to follow the Spirit to where we needed to be. The first time, we ended up in a cemetery. Not just any cemetery, but a Muslim cemetery. We quickly got out of there. The second time, we ended up in a neighborhood. Some sisters called us and we got bit by mosquitos like 50 million times. We also got out of there. The third time, we found a girl, but she was Muslim...but not wearing a hijab. It guess it just wasn't meant to be that day.

On another day, we were with a member who only comes back to the area every 4 months or so to take care of their mom who is getting older now. This member knows everything about the branch and had taken us around to meet less actives and meet their nonmember friends. One of the friends we were introduced to owns a mattress store. Her shop had a mattress brand called the "Celestial Kingdom". What better way to start a conversation than through a mattress?? Haha.

Celebrating Sister Hoeft's birthday.
We also had a birthday this week. It was Sister Hoeft's. She loves her birthday and told everyone when it was coming up. She loves celebrations! She basically had all that she really needed/wanted so we didn't know what to do. Then Sister Steele came up with an ingenious idea. Sister Hoeft is a jokester and she loves presents. We wrapped all of Sister Hoeft's stuff in newspaper, desk, bed, and dresser included. We also wrapped her presents in newspaper, so she had to unwrap everything to find them. She loved it! Everything was like a mini gift for her. The other sisters made a chocolate cheescake, and decorated her study doorway with quotes she says all the time. 

Anyway, one thing that helped my faith grow in the power of prayer and fasting this week, was losing our phone yesterday. After church, we weren't sure where it was. We thought it might be in a member's car that had helped us to bring our investigator to church. When we realized we had a problem, we both immediately prayed, and made it part of our fast. The member had already left, but we felt an overwhelming sense of calm and peace. We were sure it was in the member's car. After the reassurance by the Spirit, we continued to focus on our missionary work. The phone didn't show up immediately. The member was too far away for the things we had planned that day, so we continued to work hard, according to the plans made that morning. That night, as we were about to prepare dinner, miracles happened! First, a member came to our home to drop off some food. Second, the member whose car we thought we had left our phone in, came to our home to drop it off. Miracles! It showed me the power of prayer and the Holy Ghost to give feelings of comfort and peace. It also showed me that the Lord blesses His children for doing His work.


Helping a member with their new puppies.
On Sunday, we gave a lesson in Gospel Doctrine about adversity. The branch has been through Gospel Principles so many times that they got bored, so we studying gospel doctrine. The book we are studying about is Doctrine and Covenants. This is a series of revelations given to Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this lesson we discussed Doctrine and Covenants, section 121-122. The title is, "O God, Where Art Thou?" In this time, Joseph Smith and other church leaders were jailed for six months without any accusations nor reasons given. They were abused, cold, marched, confined in a small space, and had very little interaction with the outside world. It would be easy to say, "Why Me?" Yet, Joseph Smith never did. Instead, He understood the Lord and His purposes. President Brigham Young said, "Joseph Smith progressed toward perfection more in thirty-eight years because of his trials than he would have been able to do in a thousand years without them." Many of us experience trials today. Adversity is hard to overcome. I know that God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. We need Him to help us today. Think of where you would be without the trials you have. Where would you be? I know I wouldn't be the same person. For that, I am grateful for my trials. I invite you today to look to God for help. He knows the way and He will show you how.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Sisters in Miri, all wearing the same pair of levis.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Zone Conference in Singapore - Sarawak District
Week #55: Be an Instrument of the Lord: July 24, 2017 – July 31, 2017 (Miri)

I'm so sorry for the last week! When we landed in Singapore, everyone had a list of things they wanted to do. One the good side, I got to finally see quite a bit in Singapore. We went to see these giant trees that are gorgeous at night. I had seen them earlier on an exchange in Singapore, but I got to see them again and they were extravagant. We then went to Chinatown where we got to shop and we were going to eat Mexican food, but the shop was closed. So sad. We had a very good Zone Conference on Teaching Repentance by the Spirit. It was very inspiring. I learned a lot personally. We did a lot of role plays (which we do like every other day in this mission), and it was a real treat to finally see a role play by President and Sister Simmons. We got to see how they taught, and that they even messed up at times. At the end of Zone Conference, we usually have an activity. In the past, activities have included rely races, volleyball, etc. This time, our activity was seeing the lightshow in Singapore. It reminded me of the water light show in Disneyland, California. It was amazing! We then ran to get some llaollao (yogurt from Spain), and then went home.
 
Sight Seeing in Singapore
After Zone Conference, we got to stay another day to have exchanges. I got to go on exchanges with Sister Welling (the STL from Bountiful, Utah). It was lots of fun, and I got treated so well. Every STL knows my love for ice cream, so I got a real treat by going to Cold Stone. We contacted a lot of people and taught an amazing lesson on the Book of Mormon, and how it answers any question. I love love love the Book of Mormon, and I know it truly answers every question. In Singapore, we found out about a new change to the mission. In the Singapore Mission, we have 3 languages, English, Chinese, and Malay speaking missionaries. Now, missionaries assigned to the Singapore Mission will only be assigned Mandarin or Malay, no English. Although most of the mission here is English, we will all be learning so that we have more areas that we can serve. Before, English missionaries served only in West Malaysia, Malay missionaries served only in East Malaysia, and Mandarin missionaries served everywhere. It will be a great change to the mission. We will still be speaking English, as well as learning new languages in this mission! :)

The rest of the week was a bit more uneventful. When we returned, it was a bit slow in Miri. We were trying to contact our investigators again, but none of them were picking up. It was hard. On Saturday, our recent convert biked with us most of the day. It was lots of fun! She had the spirit of missionary work very strong in her. I don't remember much about the week before, so I'm sorry.

One thing I learned this week was the topic "Be an instrument of the Lord". This is actually a picture quote I put on my companion's planner that I made for her. There is this video https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-06-1120-the-gift-of-time?lang=eng&category=principle-2-use-time-wisely that made me really think of what is most important. Most of us think time is one of the most precious gifts we have in the world. The next question is how do we use it? Do we use it wisely? Do we make time for the things that really matter? Today, make a list of the things that take your time. Add the things you would like to do to your list. Now, add numbers starting from 1 up to give an
Sight seeing in Singapore
order of importance to YOU, not to how much time you think you have. I was reading a talk this morning from the April 2015 General Conference, "The Comforter" by President Henry B. Eyring. President Eyring talks about the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is given by proper priesthood authority after baptism by the laying on of hands, and conferred by the power of God. Often we think this gift is for us, and it is, but it is also for us to become instruments in the hands of the Lord to help bless and comfort others. The Holy Ghost is given so we may give service. I invite you today to read this talk and watch this video. Take time to do something that will change your outlook on life and priorities. In the words of Elder Richard G. Scott, "Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences". Be an instrument of the Lord.


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