Friday, December 15, 2017

Week #74: His Work and His Glory – December 5, 2017 – December 11, 2017 (Miri)
 
Sister Vranes and Sister Steele
This week has been crazy! First, we started our week with exchanges in Sibu. It was good to work with Sister Steele and Sister Mark again. They are great sisters and I love them so much. They're working really hard in Sibu. We left on Tuesday, and returned Friday. This was the last stop I had, and now I have officially served or visited every sister area in the mission! It was oddly a mix between Penang and Miri, my two favorite areas! I loved every minute of it.

When we returned from Sibu, our schedule was crazy. There was a Christmas Musical Fireside on Saturday. Many people were all of a sudden asking for us to practice with the piano with them. I played the whole time when the fireside came around. It was a nice program though. I was amazed by the talent in this branch. One of the members sang a medley of Christmas songs in Malay, with a music beat box. The son played some cool beats on the box while they sang.  The miracle that came from that was our investigators coming to the Christmas Musical Fireside. The next day they also came to church. Yay! On Sunday, we were both called on to give talks, as well as teach Sunday School.  There was a lot more throughout this week, but in short, our schedule was awal. My faith in the Lord's work this week grew immensely. I've been able to see the Lord make time for everything and make more of our efforts than we could ever make ourselves. I've been thinking back on my mission quite a bit lately and the things I've learned from it. This was the topic of my talk as well. As I've looked back I can see His hand in all aspects of my mission, even though I didn't see it then. 
 
Eating Lunch with Members
I realized this mission has been the best thing I could possibly ever do. It has also been the best thing for me, and the most rewarding. On Sunday, I was crying because I realized just how much I will miss this. I love this work with all my heart. I love the Gospel. It is perfect and everything just seems to make sense. There is hope, happiness, healing, and joy that is available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father's great Plan of Happiness. He has made more of my efforts in this work than I could ever make. He has shaped, molded, destroyed, smashed, and recreated me. I side with the scripture, "Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?" (Mormon 5:23). I have truly been in His hands. I've learned how much I truly have a loving Heavenly Father. I'm continuing to learn of His perfectness, and mercy. I'm human, so I can't quite understand it fully, but I can gain a human understanding of my perfect Father. I can make connections, similarities, and relationships. I've come to love and appreciate my parents more fully, as I've understood them and my Heavenly Father by their loving example. I've learned and experienced the great Plan of Salvation on another level. I've learned and applied the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm learning more and more each day how much I truly NEED Him every hour. I've learned of His work and His glory. Before my mission, Moses 1:39 was my favorite scripture. I didn't fully understand it's whole meaning, but I loved what I understood at the time. I appreciate and understand it a lot better. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to participate in His work. All that I've done out here is His glory. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sibu Sisters and Sister Vranes

Sibu, East Malaysia

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Week #73: Knock – November 28, 2017 – December 4, 2017 (Miri)
 
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
 
This week has been a great week! At the beginning of the week, Sister Cloud had exchanges with Sister Winters. It was good to be back with the Miri 2 sisters. We were able to serve, contact, and work hard. We helped a member make food for an elder's farewell. We didn't even realize until we were at the event it was his farewell. One of the elders from the branch I work in, Miri 3, was also with the Miri 2 elders because his companion had exchanges. When we left, we found Sister Erickson's bike seat was stolen. One of the members was just dying from laughter. The elders then walked out and said their goodbyes. As they were saying good bye, all the elders all of a sudden started taking off their ties, and gave it to the future missionary that was leaving the next day. It was a tender moment to watch. I ended up biking the bike with no bike seat home. It was just like standing up. It's also a good thing I am pandi bicycling. The elders rode us back most of the way, one was behind me to be the caboose. It was very sweet. 

Early the next morning, we dropped Sister Winters off at the airport. As we came back, we realized the difference in how we felt when we had good studies and exercise to start off the morning versus when we didn't. The investigator that met wayyy early in the morning finally dropped us, and we just felt relief. We tried all that we could. We stopped by and gave her a Book of Mormon before we never saw her again. Even though it was a bit sad, we felt good about our efforts. We realized the importance of good studies in the morning. It was definitely journal worthy. Afterwards,
The missing bicycle seat.
we had our investigator follow us on a bike to our lessons. We were able to have a Relief Society service project with the District Relief Society President. At first, the missionaries were worried, but we all ended up loving it in the end. It was a very precious time and I really connected with a girl with downs syndrome. She was super sweet and I enjoyed being with her for a couple of hours. On Saturday, we had a talent show. It was a very fun-filled night. The missionaries were the opening act and did a dance. There was a lot of talented singing. There was a group of youth that performed many songs, with different solo vocalists. In the end, we were guessing which one would be the lead singer of "the boy band". They were so cute. There is a lot of talent in Miri. Their traditional dancing is so beautiful.

One miracle that happened this week was meeting a new investigator on Sunday. We had a less active member call us a few days before to refer her friend to us. We called up her friend, but they didn't seem that interested. We had an idea to go to a certain area, one that kind of scared me a while back though, but still felt it was right. Our less active member then called us up and told us to visit her friend in the next day or two. I asked where her friend lived and it ended up being in the area we were planning on going to after church. We visited the friend, who was super sweet, and open, had a family, and we got a new investigator.  The lesson was all in Chinese, so I
Bicycling with some members
took most of the lesson, but it was super powerful. I just felt the Spirit so strong in there. We ended up being a bit late to our next appointment, and rode as fast as we could. It took us a half hour to get there, and we planned it would take that long to get to our next appointment, so we were worried about being late. As we were riding, we ended up taking some really random turns, not knowing where we were going, but ended up being guided by the Spirit in finding a short cut. We arrived in less than 8 minutes to our next appointment. These were some big miracles!

We had a member join us for a lesson this week and when it came to Fast and Testimony meeting, she bore her testimony of missionary work. She explained how she had never been invited by the missionaries to go to a lesson with them before. She's been a member (third generation member) for over 30 years, and has never been a member present. She's shared the gospel with her friends, but never with the missionaries. It made me realize how we weren't doing our job properly. It also made me realize how willing and happy the members are to do member missionary work, and to not be scared when they are "very busy". As we were talking to a few members after church, I asked them if they ever helped the missionaries before. I was surprised that some of the very solid members said no. We're definitely going to work harder to allow EVERY member an opportunity to help us. We had been trying in the past, but I realize now we were asking some of the wrong members. I really really wanted to inspire the missionary heart in the members for a long time here, but didn't know how. I thought they were all just too shy, but I was wrong. Some just haven't been given the opportunity to do so. As we were biking home yesterday, I realized how little I knew about member missionary work before my mission. We talked about our experiences, and have come to the conclusion we need to just TEACH them, and invite them. I'm excited for these upcoming last weeks, and what changes there will be in the branch.
 
Miri, East Malaysia
I'm doing well. Sister Cloud and I get along so well. We are working well with our members and investigators. We teach well together and are having a great time as companions. She is hilarious and fun to be around. I'm learning a lot from her. I'm also learning a lot more these past few weeks. This past week, I learned the importance of journaling. I found it was the thing I needed to review my day, write the things that I can learn from, and I find I am guided by the Spirit all the time to pick out the nuggets of gold. I'm learning a lot more from my days, instead of just letting them pass me by. I've learned a lot from Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." As I've studied this out, in the LDS version of the footnotes, I've learned asking means pray, seeking means study/meditate, and knocking means learn. I've been really focusing on knocking. As you come to ask God the things of your heart, to "know the mysteries of God", and you search them out, you are promised you can find an answer. This is what missionaries do, to teach you how you can gain your own personal revelation. Journaling is a form of meditation, that leads to answers. As you journal, you'll find a lot more truth in your day and it turns the days around. Try it :)


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week #72: Happy Thanksgiving! (Malaysia Style) – October 21, 2017 – October 27, 2017 (Miri)
 
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud eating lunch.
This week has been great! We've been working very very hard and I am proud of our efforts this week. I feel good about the people we are teaching right now. Early in the week, we got two new investigators. Both of them have to meet early. We've been meeting them before their work. We were very good at putting in the effort to meet them, but we felt a lacking, because we found most of our studies had to be pushed back to the middle of the day. As a side note, we get to study the Gospel every single day. We have an hour to do personal studies, another half hour (or optional hour) to study as a companionship, and another half hour (or optional hour) to study the language.  On Thursday, we were able to get quite a bit of our studies in before we met our investigators. This was a testimony builder to me of the importance of studies. I love studies anyway, but this solidified the testimony I already had. As we were riding to the lesson, we had a distinct impression to teach something completely different than what we had planned. We were able to control the situation well, follow the Spirit, and teach with power and authority. The Spirit wasn't as strong before because we didn't get much of our studies in before we met them. I definitely feel a difference in my life when I study the Gospel everyday versus when I don't.
 
The Miri Sister biking.
On Saturday, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving as a Miri missionary family with Elder and Sister Childs (more like Super Childs, the amazing senior couple). They returned late to their home from an outpost area, Bintulu, about 6 pm on Friday, and invited us for a sloppy joe Thanksgiving the next day. It was like a big family. We ate delicious food, and said what we were thankful for, and played the Mormon version of Family Feud. Did you know people in Utah pray for moisture the most? I Didn't. We finished the day with Karaoke with our Relief Society. We ate food together, had a good time, and my companion sang The Prayer. She has an amazing voice. Everyone is asking her to sing for the Talent show, the Christmas Music Fireside, and everything else within these weeks leading up to Christmas. 

This week has seriously flown by because I just realized, we had Zone Conference this week. It was my last Zone Conference, and I had to bear my dying testimony. So sad. We focused on planning and preparing. We learned a lot about how planning and setting goals is part of the holy order of things. It was something God has done since the beginning. It's definitely something to work on and continue doing throughout my life. When I think of goals and plans, I think of choices. I've been studying two talks recently, the first is "Choices" and the second is "Choose You This Day", both by President Thomas S. Monson. One quote he says in both is, "The choices we make determine our destiny". He then talks about Alice and Wonderland. I won't go into more detail, so you will have to read these talks. Goals and plans are the way we can make better choices. What are your plans today? Are they as effective as they can be? Are they getting you closer to your end goal, or destiny?
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud




Saturday, November 25, 2017

Week #71: When You Believe – November 14, 2017 – November 20, 2017 (Miri)
 
The Miracle Poster
This week started slow, but ended up being AMAZING! On our wall, we have a miracle poster, where we write miracles. It has some Christmas lights around it and at the top says, "There can be miracles..." This whole week was definitely miracle wall worthy. We started the week off right by watching 17 Miracles. I was bawling by the end, (mission tears you know). Jk, but it was a real tear-jerker. The first few days were really slow. On Wednesday, time picked up and we were biking across town (over 20 km to get to town) back and forth and back and forth. One of the amazing  miracles was I bought some stuff for my companion's birthday. I had it in a bag, but accidentally left it on a bench in the mall. We had left, biked a good 15 minutes, and remembered I had left it. We then returned and I found it on the bench, untouched. It was a miracle! We then left the mall and contacted a man from China. Let me tell you, Malaysian Chinese and China Chinese are wayyyy different. I'll never be able to communicate! It at least showed the man was very nice and patient :) He ended up leaving the next day. 
 
Enjoying the rain in Miri.
Another miracle was planning what to do on Thursday, when one of our members pulled up in their car. They brought a lot of delicious Chinese food (including dumplings) that her nonmember friend wanted to give to us. The nonmember friend heard our member's story of who we are and wanted to share her food immediately. The member then took us to their sister's home (a place no missionary has been allowed to enter until now) and we had a delicious lunch. We were able to teach our member's niece and nephew. Miracles!

When Saturday rolled around, the miracles and blessings were just pouring! We started  Saturday with a plan to meet six people with only two real set appointments. We weren't sure if the people would be home. As we started we found ourselves getting calls from other people for us to meet them. We were biking from one end of Miri to another. We were very excited and more than willing to do so. The lessons were certainly Spirit-filled, we were well fed, and we reached many of our goals that day. God really planned our day! Miracles.

On Sunday, the real miracles happened. At the beginning of the day, we were studying before going to church. My companion all of a sudden had a strong craving for a cookie. I started making cookies, when she made herself a microwave chocolate mudcake (it's very delicious by the way.) She satisfied her sweet tooth, and we left the giant cookie I made at home. After church, we had plans to contact all day. We are advised to do so since most families are home this day. We've been following this advice this transfer. Today, we were walking around a neighborhood. We found a home where a Muslim man lives. Because of Malaysian laws, we aren't allowed to teach Muslims. The man was very nice, and pointed us to a ton of houses we CAN contact. We had some great conversations, some were nice, some not so much, and in the end, none of the people wanted to learn. After a while, we came to a crossroads. We took a left turn. We were then called by a previous contact. During the call, we saw one of our English Class students. He ended up leading us to their home and mother. We set up an appointment to meet them and share more about the Gospel. It was a double hitter and a miracle. Afterwards, we left the neighborhood to meet our investigator. We had already had a lot of rejection, were a bit down, but prayed and left for our lesson. In the end, the investigator canceled, but we went to their work to say "Hi!" On our way, we found a girl who had just finished work. We taught her the first lesson, set up a return appointment, and gained a new investigator. It was a true miracle and tender mercy! God answers prayers. When we came home, we found out the other sisters had a miracle too. There are four other sisters who live with us. Two of them came home because they were feeling sick. Another two came home because they had a flat tire. They all had a hard time coming home. Two of them had a sudden craving for cookies and remembering the power of prayer, they prayed for cookies. They came home to find the giant cookie I made. The tender mercies of the Lord are everywhere. He truly makes a way and means so He answers all prayers, even though we may not understand everything at the time.   
Nighttime in Miri.

Church was amazing, as always. We taught a lesson about reaching out in love to less actives and recent converts. I continue to be amazed by the members of Miri. As I mentioned before, these are the pioneeers of Malaysia. The members seemed a little down because they see how hard it is to be a pioneer in the modern days. They told it how it is. It's hard. I admit that. I really respect and admire these members. We told them how much we love, appreciate, respect, and even look up to them because they ARE modern day pioneers. We realized they don't hear enough from the missionaries how great they actually are. We tried to remedy that and we could tell it really hit home for them as we told them of what they're doing right. I've definitely learned a lot over my mission of the power of positive words. Words are powerful. If you don't believe so, read, "The Ricciardi Letter" and "The Power of Your Words". These are amazing. As Sister Linda K. Burton said, "When was the last time you intentionally spoke kind words to each other?" I invite you today to speak kind words


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Week #70: Vranish! – October 7, 2017 – October 13, 2017 (Miri)

Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
The beginning of the week was a bit slow. Sister Cloud was sick in the middle. Then she had a missionary leadership training. She is a sister training leader. It was good to go out with the Miri 2 sisters again. We had a good time. I was impressed and amazed by their love and dedication. We went into town to meet one of my recent converts, and took the bus. We got a bit lost while walking for a while. I'm a bit directionally impaired and I had no idea where we were when the bus stopped. We walked a long ways, got soaking wet, and had 2 small umbrellas between 3 people (mind you these sisters are both about 5'10"). At times, we were jogging to make the time. In the end, our appointment canceled. The sisters didn't once complain. They seemed to see it was an adventure and we loved it. In It sure created some great memories. 

Saturday we tried to contact most of the day. We went to an area and started walking around the neighborhood for 2 hours. Many of the people there weren't super friendly. They said they were Christian already or Buddhist, big surprise in Malaysia. Not. For some background, Malaysia is like Utah in that it has a religious place of worship at every corner. The difference, unlike Utah, not all of them are Mormon chapels. There are Hindu and Buddhist temples everywhere, a Christian church around the corner, and shrines every which way we turn. There's a lot of diversity here. Anyway, we walked for at least an hour and a half by the time we stopped to know where to go. We prayed and opened The Book of Mormon. We read two verses. The verses talked about secret combinations. We joked for a little bit about the "secret combinations" in our branch, but there wasn't really anything to go off of. Then we saw a family coming out of their home. We decided to give the area one more try. We walked down to find an uncle washing a car and his two grandsons (one older, about 15-20, and the other younger, about 3 years old). The uncle was Christian and was trying to give us advice, but it wasn't going anywhere. Sister Cloud was very courageous and asked to meet the grandson, which we found out he was 18. The uncle happily obliged, told his grandson to talk with us, and went inside. We taught a quick, powerful, first lesson. He got a phone call in the middle and walked off. We silently prayed for him to return, which he did! We were amazed! In the end, he didn't want, but it gave us the boost and courage we needed. We counted it as a miracle. It was good practice, and we were much more confident. Miracles continued to pour out that day as we met our investigators, and even ate delicious vietnamese food for free. 
Tracting

Yesterday, in church, we taught a lesson about family history. As I was preparing for this lesson, I started reading some stories I brought with me about my family. One autobiography I read was my great-great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Willey. He was one of the ancestors who crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers. I learned that he lived, knew, and served with the Prophet Joseph Smith. I'd been learning a lot about the pioneers. Last week and for this week for p-day, we watched The Work and The Glory, all three movies, and 17 Miracles. These movies give a great perspective on the pioneers and what they had to go through. It really brought a lot of appreciation in my life for them. If you haven't watched these movies, I would highly recommend them. Then you can start to understand the things these early saints went through. It also gave me a greater love, respect, and appreciation for the people I am serving now. Pioneers are the first people to lead the way. The Mormon Pioneers in the 1800's went through so much hardship. The members in Malaysia are the pioneers of this country. They are paving the way. I have such a profound respect for them and their trials. 

Another thing I discovered while doing my family history was where my ancestors are from. On my mom's side, I was told they were English and Irish. On my dad's side, I thought I was English and Scottish. Growing up, I visited a lot of graves with my parents. On my dad's side, there were graves that had the last name Vranish. I had assumed it was something that was changed when they emmigrated from Scotland. As I looked at my family tree, I learned my dad is second or third generation Croatian. That explains why "V" is in the alphabet (it's not in the Scottish alphabet). It depends on who the first one to emigrate from Croatia is (his dad or grandfather). I don't know now, but I am excited to learn when I come home. Many people, like my dad, in Malaysia, are second and third generation. Many of them are from China. As we were teaching, we have members from Philippines. One member, a Filipino, shared how his grandmother is a Japanese refugee from WWII that settled in the Philippines. There are so many cool stories, and rich history in finding your family. I invite you today to learn a story from a family member and write it down. You'll be surprised by your history.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Week #69 – Go District! – October 31, 2017 – November 6, 2017 (Miri)

Miri Missionaries
This week has been a great week! Out of this week, I would say we haven't gained a lot of success in finding people, but I've gained a greater knowledge, understanding, love, and respect for my fellow missionaries. We've become a lot more united since Sister Cloud has arrived, we've put in a lot more effort, and I've seen an amazing difference. This new perspective is towards my leaders, my fellow missionaries (especially in my district), and my companion I'm definitely reminded of the song in The Best Two Years that that's sung, "Don't you know? Can't you see? What your love has made of me?" This is a great movie by the way. I've felt a lot of love and support from my companion and my District. When they asked us when we should hold our branch Christmas party, my companion and elders immediately stepped in and spoke up to hold it before I finished my mission in December. Woot! Go District!

At the beginning of this week, we went to Batu Niah caves. It is an hour and a half drive from Miri, and are these amazing caves. We got in a good hike and saw some beautiful scenes. The senior couple was nice enough to drive all of the sisters there. It was definitely worth it! The rest of the week were full of little miracles. One day was a very rough, but after riding for 45 minutes to an appointment in pouring rain, that ended up canceling, we stopped by a place to dry off. We were outside a massage kedai, and they gave us some nice towels and a place to sit while we were warming up. It was so
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud
sweet of them and a sweet miracle! When it seemed everyone canceled that day, we rode past one members' home, yelled his name as we saw him, and came back around on our bikes. He surprisingly came outside, greeted us, had a good laugh, showed us pictures of his new baby, and gave us some fruit. It turned our whole day around. Sunday, we started a music class. I felt a deep impression to do something with my music my whole mission, but finally had the guts to do it. It was amazing. The branch is so excited for this class. They are willing to participate very well. One member I was working with the past week played the closing song in church. It was amazing! He was so happy afterwards, and the members were so impressed. They encouraged him so much more. It made me so happy.

One thing we've been focusing on a lot is the Restoration in our lessons. I've used The Restoration video in some lessons before, but every single lesson I've taught this week is that movie. I never realized the power in this video. If you haven't, or even if you have, watch this video: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-07-004-the-restoration?lang=eng&_r=1

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Week #68: October 24, 2017 – October 30, 2017

This week has been great. We had a few days of exchanges in the middle of the week. Working with Sister Steele was like talking/working with an old friend. She really made a focus of just making us feel loved and comfortable. I trust her whole-heartedly. Sister Mark was a hoot and we had many miracles that day. Our extra bikes weren't working, so it seemed we were going to go by foot. We were making plans when a pi called us. We'd been in contact the past few weeks, but she was in Penang for a while. The Miri 2 sisters contacted her and passed her to us. When she first got back, she called us and wanted to meet. She had a car and met us within walking distance of our home. She came to our lesson, and immediately asked for us to show her where the church was. We happily did so and gave a church tour. She drove us back and the next day set up a return appointment. Miracles!

On Friday, we had a Halloween Party for the Miri District. There was a great turn out and many pi's/investigators came. Unfortunately, my companion and I were held up with face painting most of the time (a huge hit by the way), and didn't see all the people who did come. I saw many peak their heads in from Miri 3 branch as investigators. It was amazing. On Sunday, even more miracles came up.  A long time former investigator, finally came to church. She was close to baptism at the time, but her parent wouldn't allow her to come. She was so cute and even invited us to her home for dinner that night. She knows what she wants, has strong faith, and isn’t afraid to go for it. 

On our way to this investigator's home, we were trying to find Jalan Desa Pujut. I know a Desa Pujut area, by another member's home, but this was a different area, very far away. On our way to try to find her, we went down the member's street to get to a middle road. On our way there, we spotted a lot of boys playing basketball. They turned around and we found one of our young men members. He hadn’t come to church today. At first, he was trying to kind of ignore us. Then, I felt to ask him if he knew where our investigator lives. He did. He pointed in a general direction. We were confused. Then he got his bike and backpack and rode us to their home, 15 minutes away. He was so so sweet about it. He was kind and we could tell he was really struggling and needs help. It was a miracle beyond miracle. We were given some papaya from another member that afternoon, and gave it to him and his family.

I don't really have much time to talk this week, but I'll write better next week. I love you all!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Week #67: The Sewers Part 2 - October 17, 2017 – October 23, 2017 (Miri)

Luckily, Sister Vranes found her bike lock.
We're back to the sewers! This morning, while buying groceries, we were unlocking our bikes when the bottom bike lock thingy flipped out of my hand and into the sewers. This time, I willingly went in. It was an open sewer so we were looking all around for where it could have fallen. We then noticed there were beer bottles in the sewer that were pretty sunk in. We noticed a black hole, and prayed it was the bottom half of the bike lock. I jumped in. We got a small stick and pulled it out. Miracles! 

Other than that, this week has been superb! At the beginning of the week we had the special missionary meeting with Elder Meurs (Area Seventy), Sister Meurs, Elder Snow (church history), Sister Snow, President Lai (Area Presidency), Sister Lai and Elder Nielson (church history). I enjoyed it a lot. A lot of the focus was writing down your history. Elder Nielson gave a tremendous talk about the First Vision. Elder Snow included a lot of statistics with the Church History Museum and Church History Library. We flew to Kuching for one day. I've officially got 7/8 sister areas in this mission crossed off for visiting/serving for a day or more. I was determined to visit all of them, but now Sibu has opened up since last transfer. The missionaries in Kuching had a little meeting the night before this big meeting (between 3 zones and their outposts--the most missionaries together in this mission since President Simmons started) and one sister said, "It was really good. It guilt tripped me into almost
Sister Vranes and her bike lock in the sewers.
writing in my journal last night." Sure enough, the theme was missionary work and journaling. There is a quote, "Your mission is the MTC to life." Over time, I've learned a few truths about journaling. First, do it! Just get to work and do it. Write every day and you'll never regret it. Second, start from where you are, and then start going back. Sometimes, big things happen but it takes me a few days to start writing it down, so I start at the beginning and lose energy to finish. Just start with the most recent and you'll never have a problem. Third, only say positive things. This is most prevalent in the Book of Mormon. Many of the prophets have trials and challenges. They say the things necessary about their hard situation, but they don't go too in depth. This turns into venting, which just drains energy. Say what little you have to about the bad situation if you have one, but explain how you overcame it. This is what the Book of Mormon prophets did. They showed how they overcame their trial. This is something you owe to yourself and your future generations.

After the meeting, I received a new companion. Her name is Sister Cloud. She's from Rhode Island (last time she was at home though, they lived in Germany. Her dad is in the military.) She is a ball of energy, well driven, funny, and has spunk. I feel as I did back in the beginning of my mission with getting to work, but much more intelligent. I've seen so many miracles. I've been taken out of my comfort zone a lot these days, but I feel more bold and confident. Sister Cloud does a good job at making me feel as if what I do is good and important. She's very supportive. She truly believes in everyone out here. Her goal is to create good unity between us, the elders, and our home. She's very successful so far. I love it! I hope I can do the same for her and support her full-heartedly. My faith has just grown so much in the power of belief. She's creating a lot of power here by her belief in others.
Sister Vranes and Sister Cloud.

One miracle this week was Sunday. When we arrived back in Miri, we had a lot of appointments. We tried everything to get our two investigators to church and some less active members. One night, we called literally everyone in the branch that is thinking of coming to church to find a ride for a mother and her two sons to come to church. When it seemed hope was lost, we got someone to call us at 10 at night saying they could. We then tried to confirm with the mother, but she wouldn't confirm until 20 minutes before church. We then biked to the meet up point to show the member where to go to find the mother and her sons, with the plan that we would continue to church on our bikes. However, the member didn't show up. I totally spaced and forgot to tell them that the mother had confirmed. The mother finally got her mother to take her to church. We got 3 contacts in on the way, and 2 potential investigators. We showed up a little late to church, but found our investigator in class when we arrived. Four investigators (between the elders and us) showed up altogether. The branch is continuing to grow! It was an amazing miracle.

I hope you are all taking care. I don't have too much more time, but here is my spiritual thought. Read this talk, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/a-yearning-for-home?cid=HP_FR_20-10-2017_dPFD_fGC_xLIDyL1-A_&lang=eng


Saturday, October 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 15, 2017

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

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

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


Saturday, October 7, 2017

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

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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


Sunday, September 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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