Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Week #10: Ipoh, West Malaysia September 13, 2016 - September 19, 2016

I've made it to Singapore! I traveled in a group of 9 elders, and I was a lone sister. After 18 long hours on a plane, we landed in Singapore, and I got motion sickness. It was a great
Sister Vranes with the Mission President,
President Stephens, and Sister Stephens
way to start off the mission in the field. Not. The first place we ate in Singapore was as native as you can get...Burger King! In Singapore, we met up with a sister who is from Malaysia going to the Salt Lake City mission (Bountiful is also included). She's just waiting for her visa to the U.S., so until then, she's serving in East Malaysia. Her name is Sister Latchamanan (I think that is how you spell it). I also saw Sister Emma Toone in Singapore! I went to high school with her. She was previously in Ipoh, and was just tranferred to Singapore. It was great to see a familiar face my first day! The next day, we found out our new companions and left to our new areas. There was a Sister Peterson and Sister Montague who are Malay speaking and Mandarin speaking, respectively. We met them our first day in Singapore, and they had switched tags to try to keep us guessing who were our companions. Sister Toone told me about Sister Montague and what she looked like, so the surprise for me was ruined. It was funny to see Sister Latchamanan's reaction though. 
Sister Vranes and her companion Sister Montague

My first area is obviously Ipoh, which is in West Malaysia. My companion is Sister Montague from Arizona. She's pretty awesome. They decorate the covers of their planners, to "waterproof" them, and she made an awesome one with a baby. There's a whole new language they speak here, and especially between the missionaries. They talk about babies and mamas (newbies and trainers), and people dying (or people who have just finished their mission). I was so confused. The culture here is so different, but I love the people! There are mostly Malaysians (Muslims), Chinese, and Indians. They are all so kind and friendly. I expected to be speaking Mandarin, but the area I am in is mostly English, so all of the lessons are in English. My companion and I still use Mandarin whenever we are together. 

Carrying lanterns for Autumn Moon Festival
In Ipoh, there are only 6 missionaries--2 elders and 4 sisters. The sisters all live together. The members here are awesome! They get super involved in helping out with the missionaries, and they sure don't let us starve. My first day here, we were able to go to a
member's house and celebrate the Moon Festival. This was my first legit moon festival, and it was fantastic! We ate moon cakes, had authentic Chinese food, and carried lanterns down the street.

So far, we've got 2 investigators. When we invited one of our investigators to relief society, she gave us a referral in front of our faces by asking her co-worker to come with her family. They both came, had their two daughters, and two 3-5 year old sons. We painted water colors and it was super fun! On my first day contacting, we were able to get 5 new potential investigators. Here, the average is 3, or so. It's very hard around here. 

Celebrating the Autumn Moon Festival
Sunday, I met the members and they are all awesome. They are mostly Indian and Chinese. Their conversion stories are amazing! They are also hilarious! I was given the opportunity to introduce myself and bear my testimony. Half of the members can't pronounce my name, they think I speak funny, ask if I'm Korean because of my face, and they almost die when they find out I am vegetarian. They feed us so much, and keep telling me I'll only last a month out here until I change my ways. Anyway, as for a spiritual thought, keep sharing your testimonies. It helps a ton. Also, I know that God answers prayers. If you have a sincere heart, He will listen and He will bless you. He has answered so many while I've been out here. I've seen His blessings in keeping us safe, especially while biking, and while trying to find people to do His work. God hears your prayers as well, and He wants to bless you.

This mission is quite unique in so many ways. We've got 3 areas in West  Malaysia, 3 areas in East Malaysia, and Singapore. There are 3 languages the missionaries speak, and we're flying all the time, at least every 90 days. We wake up at 7 instead of 6:30, and go to bed at 11, instead of 10:30. For safety, we still go back to our condos by 9:30. It's pretty hard to trying to proselyte, and numbers aren't very high. It's also difficult to get baptisms, and then to have them stay in the church. The ward is so small, there is only one in Ipoh, so it's a branch. There are 70 or so members who solidly come every week. There are a lot of Muslims around here, and we can't proselyte to them if they are from Malaysia, only if they are from Singapore. In Malaysia we bike, in Singapore they take public transport. So I am going to have awesome thighs when I get back :) There's a lot of other things I am still learning about this mission. It's very hot, humid, and tiring, but I love the work out here! I love you all! Take care!
Ipoh, Malaysia

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Week #9: MTC - September 8, 2016 - September 12, 2016

The zone sisters
It's finally happening!! Today, Monday, September 12, 2016, is finally my last day in the MTC!! It's so easy to forget there is a real world out there, but it's finally time. This morning, I sent my companion off to New York. This week has been crazy and amazing, bonding with the sisters in our district, and the other district that came in with us. After 9 weeks, it's definitely hard to say goodbye to all of these amazing missionaries.

For the last two devotionals, we were blessed to have Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Russell M. Ballard speak to us. They were both inspiring and spoke about missionary work. I had never really thought about the reason missionaries teach repentance as their main purpose. It was all put into perspective at one of the devotionals. Missionaries teach repentance, because it means we are testifying of Christ. In order to repent, a person must use the atonement, which was performed and could  only could be performed through Christ. Repentance changes people, which brings about all other aspects of missionary work such as faith, baptism, and enduring to the end. This all leads to eternal life, and IS the gospel of Jesus Christ. "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ..." (2 Nephi 25:26)

In our class, we have learned and discussed a lot about the 5 main motivations for doing something: 1) Duty, 2) Revenge, 3) Fear, 4) Reward (Blessings), 5) Love. Out of all of them, love is the only one that will never fail. We learn in the church to have charity, which is "the pure love of Christ"(Moroni 7:47). We also learn, however, that "charity never faileth" (Moroni 7: 46). I promise you that if you do anything out of love, you will have what it takes to endure until the end. Also, from class, my testimony has grown immensely about the power of a simple testimony. Every day for the past week, we have had the opportunity to share our testimonies to our districts and to the other districts in our zone (and even some in the other zone). I know that simply saying what you truly believe in your heart and in your mind brings the spirit of God so strongly, and strengthens the faith of the individual saying it.

Here's some of my testimony:

I know this gospel is true. I have a true love for it and for my Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ. This gospel has brought tremendous joy to my life. Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us, created specifically to our needs and for our happiness. His plan is called the Plan of Salvation and the Great Plan of Happiness. I know that He provided a way for me to find my family in a way only He could do, and He has provided a way for us to live together forever, even after death. I know that this gospel will bring so much happiness to everyone else's life. I know He wants each of His children to return to Him. I have a great love for this gospel and for the brothers and sisters I have in Singapore and Malaysia. I know He will help each of them return to Him. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Week #8: MTC September 1, 2016 - September 7, 2016

This week at the MTC, we've been having bat problems! In the sister residence halls, the upper levels 3 and 4 had to move out due to bats found in some rooms. It was officially the 4th or 5th time in a short while of having bats. At first
Sister Chambers cave fortress against the bats. 
we weren't affected, because we were on the second level. The other sisters had to move to a residence hall that previously had elders, who were reassigned residence halls for this reason. To say the least, they smell like elders, the bathrooms have urinals and only some of them had doors on the stalls...Anyway, on Friday night, my roommates heard flapping in the vents! We were eventually evacuated the next day, and moved to the other sister residence on the MTC campus. It's a smaller building, but there is more space and there are only 4 sisters to a room rather than 6. Thankfully, I still have the same roommates. The elders were awesome and half of our zone helped us move out. To catch bats, you would think you would have a squad of four people or more with some gear trying to catch them. That is not the case. The elders were at devotional early, because Elder Kwok was getting ready to play a cello musical number, when a bat flew in. Instead of a squad, there was one person, about 70 years old, trying to catch the bat with a butterfly net. To say the least, this past week has a bit busy and entertaining.
Sister Vranes and her district getting their flight plans.

This Friday, I finally got my flight plans. I officially leave this Monday! I can't believe how fast the MTC experience has gone. The elders told us they did the math and by the time we leave, as a sister at least, we will have already completed 11% of our mission! What?! Anyway, I've got quite a distance to get to Singapore, because I don't even arrive there until Wednesday. I'm going from Salt Lake Airport, to LAX, to Hong Kong, to Singapore (finally)! It's super exciting, nerve wracking, and everything else at the same time.

This week for Tuesday devotional, Chad Lewis and his wife came. Chad Lewis went to the Taiwan, Taichung mission, speaks mandarin, and played football (he helped the Pittsburgh Eagles go to the Super Bowl). He was so very inspiring, and got us all pumped us ad mandarin speakers on our
Study materials I have to take to Singapore/Malaysia.
missions. He had an elder from the other zone whose dad he knew, and had him share his testimony in Mandarin. It was cool to understand the elder's whole testimony and powerful to hear him share that simple message over the stand. He told of the many time he had the opportunity to share the gospel, especially in his football career. Just hearing him talk, I could tell that his whole demeanor and the way he treated others, always testified of Christ. That is the light we all have, and the duty we all have to share it. Let your light shine through so that others may recongnize God.

On Sunday, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Katherine Christofferson, visited. Elder Christofferson spoke of repentance as a turning to God. He also spoke of the importance of why we are sharing the message of repentance--when we share the message of repentance, we are testifiying that there is a Savior; we are testifying of Christ. His talk put a whole new perspective on our call as missionaries, and gave a lot of confidence. Sister Christofferson's talk was inspiring. She shared a story of a missionary in Russia
The two districts that are leaving the MTC on Monday.
who lost her luggage, after a week of not having found it, she wanted to go home. The mission president's wife put it so simply. There are two people who are vying for your attention: God and Satan. Who wants you to succeed? God. Who wants you to fail? Satan. Who do you want to win this war?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Week #7: MTC August 25, 2016 - August 31, 2016
A list of languages taught in the MTC

This week has been quite eventful. We have two teachers, Brother Lee and Sister Hendricks. Both of them served in Taipei, Taiwan. They also had their birthdays this week. One on Thursday, and one on Tuesday. They were both surprised that we knew, but it was lots of fun to celebrate. Then they switched up the teachers, and we got Brother Wadsworth and kept Sister Hendricks. Turns out Brother Wadsworth served in Singapore. It was really cool to learn more about our mission, and he has an authentic Beijing accent. He said that we come in contact with all kinds of Mandarin accents. He also knows some Malay and that was very exciting.

This week we also got 5 new sisters. They are all going to Taichung, Taiwan. However, 3 of the new elders are going to Singapore. While waiting for Sunday Devotional, we met an Elder Christiansen, who is Malay speaking, leaving for Singapore the same day I will. It's been fun to see him around the MTC all the time now. It's been pretty exciting because I've been finding quite a few missionaries from China and Taiwan. I'm impressed by how fast the gospel is spreading. The elders in my district have officially lost it (of course, that's what 8 weeks in the MTC does to you). Elder Barlow started a tortilla eating contest. They roll up a tortilla like a cinnamon roll and eat it in one bite, trying to see who can choke it down the fastest. They are always up to so many different antics. In our classroom, they hung up Singapore and Malaysian flags. That was a pretty awesome surprise! 

Sister Vranes and her district
This Sunday, I ended up giving the talk for sacrament meeting. Like I said before, they choose a sister and elder each week randomly to give a 5 minute talk in Mandarin. Unfortunately, I knew it was going to be me. There are 4 sisters that came in at the same time I did, me included, and I was the only option left to give a talk. My companion was giving the prayer, and the other two sisters are the Sister Training Leaders (whom the presidency never picks while they have that calling). That left me. Luckily, it went well. My district had the idea to try reverse psychology and all of us sat on the front row. Obviously it didn't work because Elder Barlow and Elder Kwok were called to give the sacrament prayer, Sister Nelson gave the opening prayer, Elder Johnson and I were called to give talks. Our district fully participated, except Elder Gould. 

On p-days we are allowed to go to the temple. Our teacher, Brother Lee, is half asian, and gave us a few of his family names from his asian-side. It was cool to do the work for his Taiwanese ancestry! Previously, in a Chinese class, I had learned that the wife does not take on the husband's name when she marries. I was all like, "Yeah! Power to the woman!" Here, I learned that in history, the husband's name would only be recorded. The wife would then be forgotten and is known as "wife of [husband's name]". So the first name was actually the whole name
My view every morning that I run

provided on the sheet. It was a fun and spiritually powerful experience to do such a thing. Hopefully one day, I could find a link to my Chinese ancestry. Ooo, turns out one of the new sisters is adopted from China as well. She was 18 months old (the same age as Sarah)! Another one of the new sisters has 2 sisters adopted from China (both from different parts...I think...)

This past week, all of the devotionals have been about the worth of souls and the impact one can make in someone else's life. In D&C 18:10, it reads, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" Like a loving parent, Heavenly Father loves all of his children. He knows every child, and blesses each, one by one. The people in our lives are put there for a reason. In the end, it is to learn love, unconditionally. Whether we know it or not, the small actions we do will tremendously affect the lives of many, and sometimes, even generations. These actions may be bold and grand, or they may be small, such as flashing a smile. They may be to our closest friend or family member, or they may be to a complete stranger. Whatever it is, you make a difference. Be bold, be confident, and learn to love!
Sisters Chambers, Vranes, Pruitt, and
 Nelson pointing to their missions.