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.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Week #59: Apostles, Seventies, and Conference, oh my! - August 22, 2017 - August 28, 2017 (Miri)

This week has been crazy! On Tuesday, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife visited Singapore and addressed the whole mission. Our mission flew in the mission leaders (such as Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders) and missionaries who did not attend the Provo MTC (most of the natives) into Singapore to meet the apostle. The meeting was then skyped to the rest of the mission in Malaysia. On Monday, for p-day before this meeting, we went to the beach and played companionship water balloon toss. This was the senior couples' way of making it up to us for not traveling to Singapore. 

In his address, Elder Christofferson focused on giving 100%. One quote he said that impressed me was about our living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. He said, "President Monson gives 100%. His 100% is now at a lower level than his 100% twenty years ago, but it is still 100%" This made me think a lot about diligence. In a later Zone Meeting, we discussed our goal to "Go Hard with Humility". We came to the conclusion that humility means thinking less of yourself. We also discussed the application that giving 100% means more than just missionary work. What might it mean for a member? Honestly, I don't know if this answers the question posed, but I share this because of how profound it is. We read in Daniel 3 about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who would be cast into fire for not abandoning their God. They would not worship an idol of the king at the time, so they were going to be put to death. In a verse we discussed the meaning "but if not". These faithful and loyal men would not denounce their God. They would not worship. They knew God had all power to save them, but if not, they will still stand up for their beliefs. They were not immediately saved. They were cast into a pit of fire. The fire wouldn't start, and then when it finally did, they were saved and not harmed. The fire went around them. 

To take from this story, yes we have a God of miracles. Yes, He can save us and help us overcome our trials, but if not, if we don't immediately see His hand in our lives nor resolve our issues within the time we want them resolved, will we still continue to believe? Will we still stand up for God when we are thrown into the fire? What will you do when you are thrown into the fire? Sister Simmons' mom was a mission president's wife as well, and had the motto, "Always keep the dream alive." I know this is true.

The craziness of this week continues with meeting Elder and Sister Meurs (an Asian area seventy) and finally ends with District Conference (similar to Stake Conference) with Miri and Bintulu. President and Sister Simmons and Elder and Sister Meurs were giving talks left and right, and seemed to be handing them out like candy. It was a way cool conference because throughout the whole thing talks were given in English and Malay and then translated into English, Malay, and Mandarin. The theme of this District Conference seemed to be missionary work and forgiveness. The rising generation, especially in Malaysia, are the future leaders of the Church. Every day, I am impressed by Malaysia because these ARE the pioneers. The church is just short of 30 years in Malaysia, and it is amazing to see their faith through their challenges and struggles. It gives me a great appreciation for my ancestors and pioneers. Every day, we see their excitement for the Gospel, their faithful love for God, and their sacrifices for what is right and true in the Gospel. 

I can go on forever about what I had learned this past week. It was a truly spirit-filled and powerful weekend. I feel as if I had just finished Conference weekend. There is always more to share, but I'll leave you with these thoughts. Take care!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Week #58: My first baby!!: August 15, 2017 – August 21, 2017 (Miri)

This mission is being taken over by greenies and giants! I just had a baby and her name is Sister Sorensen. She is from Springville, Utah, and straight from the states. She is blond, 6'1'', and AMAZING! She is seriously the sweetest. In Miri, we had a plan that I would only speak Chinese for the first two days (there was even food at stake). Sister Steele thought I would last 20 minutes...I lasted 2 seconds! I was just so so excited!! If you haven't already guessed, she's a basketball player. She also plays the harp and goes to BYU. Haha, she actually had found and stalked my blog a bit before coming into Singapore and thought how crazy it would be if I were her trainer #imfamous. Straight off the plane, she was ready to get to work. I can tell it's going to be a great transfer!

Anyways, this week has been crazy. On Monday, we found out about transfers. Sister Steele and I found out we were having babies! It turns out I know her baby, Sister Joylyn Hansen, because we went to Chinese camp together. I was surprised when I found out she was coming into the mission. I saw it in President Simmons' office (my mission president). I was so excited and told him I knew her. President really has a sense of humor, because I became a trainer, but not to my friend. That's ok. I knew it would happen. On Wednesday, Sister Steele left the home at 9 am to catch an 11 am flight. It was a slow day at first, but then at 2 pm you'll never guess who came to the home, Sister Steele! I couldn't believe it! I had to wipe my eyes to make sure they weren't deceiving me. It turns out her flight was at We spent the rest of the day together, but she had none of her stuff; they were already checked into the airline. We took apart her bike and finished the area book and preparing the area together.

On Thursday, my greenie arrived!! We have 4 new missionaries in Miri. I went to the airport with the senior couple to pick up 3 of them when they flew in from Singapore (the other one arrived a lot later). The elders didn't get to pick their new missionaries up, but I did #score! While they were waiting for their luggage, I saw three white tall (like 6 foot tall) missionaries and tried to get stalker photos. Unfortunately, all of my photos turned out blurry (and now they can't upload to the computer, sorry). Anyways, they came out, were dead tired, but were ready to work. I loved it!!

The rest of the week has been normal missionary work. Sister Sorensen made it to her first Sunday! That's all it really takes in all the new phases of missionary work to get used to it. Of course, there will be a lot more for her to get used to, the culture of Malaysia, for sure! Sister Sorensen is just amazing and I love her!

As for a spiritual thought, happiness is a choice. I'm learning that more and more every  day. Just as happiness is a choice, thoughts are choices. Anything that is good, kind, and happy is from God. Thoughts that are not, come from Satan. As a wise district leader of mine once said, "Sadness and depression are not eternal principles". Don't let Satan overcome and don't let him in. Choose to think happy, choose to act happy, choose to BE happy. If any of you have seen Disney's Hercules, there is a scene where Hercules has just rescued Meg, Hades tries to make Hercules unhappy and think differently, but Hercules just back punches him in the face. My trainer always talked about this scene. When Satan comes into your life, just tell him to "be quiet" and back punch him in the face (watch the movie for added effect). 

I love you all!
Sister Sorensen

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trying to find the right house number
Week #57: Blessings are everywhere: August 8, 2017 - August 14, 2017

This week was full of miracles! One day, we were trying to find a bunch of less active members that lived near the church. These members have already been searched for, but not found. We said a prayer that day, took our bikes, and went on our way. Within less than 5 minutes, we already found the first less active. Unfortunately, they had moved away overseas, but we were able to contact their sister-in-law. She was really nice and sweet. We found out during the rest of the day, that the members we were in search of had actually moved a while ago. We were able to contact so many great people: a lady who owned a cute cafe and she likes to sing and dance, a cute Chinese family with 3 kids, and a man from New Jersey but has lived all over the world (including Afghanistan). It was a very fun and eventful day. 

The next day was a miracle of a lifetime. It was very late at night and we were biking home in the rain. The place we were at was 40 minutes away from our home, on a good, sunny day. When we started, my bike seat was starting to move, and with each pedal, would move side-to-side. Then my handle bars started to come loose. At one point, it
Eating a BIG bowl of noodles
had tipped all the way to the side. I had to pull over a few times to move it to the center. After 10 minutes, my light started to indicate that it was going to die, unless I charged it. I started to pray really hard for my companion and I to be safe. After a few pull-overs and readjustments, I hear my companion yell, "It's Liew!" He is her recent convert from a year ago when she was first in Miri. He had a giant green truck, his wife in the front seat, and ropes for our bikes. He saved our lives! It was a miracle! They tied our bikes down, we got in the truck, and we were happily driven home. The power of prayer is truly amazing.

The next day, was what seemed a very unsuccessful day. Miri is known for it's dry, hot weather. It's still humid like crazy, but more dry, kind of reminds me of St. George, Utah. It's also notorious for never raining, and no wind, not even if you're biking fast enough you should catch wind. However, Miri has been bipolar, it's rained almost every day since I've gotten here, and there is lots of wind that fights back (but it's ok because it's natural air conditioning). On this particular day, there was no rain, but lots and lots of sun and wind. We were trying to visit more members we had felt needed our help that day. As we stopped by, no one was home. By the time it was 5 o'clock, we were drained. We were biking to our next home when we were chased by dogs (pretty common in East Malaysia). Then one of the dogs near the end of the street turned around and fought the other dogs off. It was a miracle! Blessings kept pouring after that. As we were riding, I got a picture of the beautiful sunset. It was as if God was smiling down and saying, "You're doing good.
The perks of being petite
Keep trying!" We had arrived to this home early (and had to wait for another member to arrive), and started to play futsol with the members' neighbor, the cutest 8 and 5 year olds! It was a great way to be in the right mood again (too bad they only spoke Malay). The lesson got a raincheck, but we were able to meet a long time less active and contact him. On the way back, our member was able to drive next to us as we left the neighborhood to protect us from the dogs. Blessings brighten when you count them, and there are many.

Lately, I have been studying families with my companion. We had one of our investigators ask from the Restoration pamphlet, "How does the gospel of Jesus Christ strengthen families? How is it done? What do you do?" Well that seemed like an easy question - every day hold family prayer, family scripture study, go to church as a family, hold FHE every Monday night, and other basic primary answers. Little did I know that this question would keep popping up everywhere. In District Meeting on Tuesday, a meeting held every week for missionaries to be trained and learn how to become better missionaries, we answered questions of the soul, such as, "Why are families so important?"

My companion shared a talk with me called, "Teach Them to Understand" by Elder David A. Bednar. This is a tremendous talk where Elder Bednar answers the question: "Why is the home so crucial for gospel instruction?" I will not give any spoilers here, but if you've ever had any thoughts or questions about your family now or in the future, I would highly recommend reading this talk. Find it, learn from it, and implement it :)

I hope you all take care and be safe!
Elder  Schwemmer's good-bye party

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 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!

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"  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. 


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 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.


Sister Vranes