Saturday, February 25, 2017

Week #32 – Adventures in Singapore and KL: February 14, 2017 – February 17, 2017


This week has been great! We were able to go to Zone Conference in Singapore. We arrived a day early, so we did splits with the Chinese sisters in Singapore. Sister Shafer was able to go with her old MTC companion, while I went with a new sister. It was good and fun! We were able to visit the China Town in Singapore, but we didn't go too far in, only to get ice cream sandwiches and take a picture of a large Rooster, which I see everywhere in Penang. At Zone Conference we discussed the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast and all of the changes. We were able to discuss how these changes could benefit us more. On our way home, we got stuck in Kuala Lumpur (KL). Our flight was from Singapore to KL, and then KL to Penang, but our flight was only half way booked! We had the flight
Red Rooster China Town, Singapore
from KL to Penang, but none to leave Singapore. Thankfully, the guy we met was awesome and got a flight booked, and rebooked our flight to Penang to match the flight to KL.  However, the flight that got us home was too close and we were stuck in KL. All of the missionaries in KL had left for Zone Conference... except Senior Couples! So we got to stay with one set while the elders stayed with another set. I was the only missionary who had never served in an area with senior couples. They were super sweet and awesome! They also fed us french toast! (a luxury not often found in this mission) The next day we took a 4 hour train ride back to Penang. All four of us were in a square, sitting next to another passenger. The guy sitting next to me was Muslim and worked for the government. I was like, "Oh crap!" However, he turned out to be really nice, worked for the government's domestic trading, and we talked the whole time. He even asked questions that took me through the whole first lesson of Preach My Gospel, The Restoration. He was very knowledgeable about Malaysia and I was able to learn a lot about the country. They include the GST 6% tax in their prices so people aren't surprised when they buy something at the counter. Definitely not America. They also don't allow R-rated movies to play in the public movie theaters!
Sisters Vranes/Shafer & Singapore Sisters

Anyway, Penang is doing awesome! We had a miracle where we were able to meet a guy the elders' had previously contacted a few weeks ago, who sat down in front of us at dinner and said, "Tell me about the Restoration". We were like "Golden!!" As for a spiritual thought this week, I've been contemplating this talk by Elder Renlund in the October 2016 conference:
It's really good and talks about Repentance, what it is and what it is not. I've also been thinking more about why I came out here, and what is the most important part of the Gospel. I think this quote summarizes it beautifully:

“The fact that we can repent is the good news of the gospel! Guilt can be “swept away.” We can be filled with joy, receive a remission of our sins, and have “peace of conscience.” We can be freed from feelings of despair and the bondage of sin. We can be filled with the marvelous light of God and be “pained no more.” Repentance is not only possible but also joyful because of our Savior.”

I know this is true and that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has made repentance, has made change, possible in our lives. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week #31:  A holiday within a holiday—only in Malaysia: February 7, 2017 – February 13, 2017

In Malaysia, it seems like every weekend is a holiday. Holidays from Malaysia, China, India, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism are all celebrated here. This past week, Chinese New Year FINALLY ended! Chinese New Year lasts for 2 weeks in Malaysia. Meanwhile, there was another Hindu holiday that was celebrated within the week called Thaipusam. It's a crazy holiday that represents sacrifice. People walk a long distance (3-5 miles), barefooted, to a Hindu temple. Many of the people also wear hooks with bells hanging down and put large rings through their mouths and noses. It was crazy!! This was all done in order to show love, diligence, and sacrifice.

Penang Countryside
So why do we sacrifice? Last Sunday we discussed this topic in Sunday School. Religion often requires a sacrifice in some form. Perhaps we sacrifice our time, perhaps our money. Over time, I have learned that we sacrifice out of love. If we truly love someone, we will spend our time with them. We will spend money to buy them the things they need or want. Whatever it is, love is the compelling factor that makes us willing to sacrifice. That is all God asks of us--to love Him. Think of the person you love the most. What are you willing to give them? Probably anything, even your life. Heavenly Father loved us just the same, that He was willing to give His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus loved us so much He was willing to give His life. This was the greatest form of sacrifice. Because Heavenly Father loved you first, what are you now willing to give Him?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Week 30: The infamous DURIAN!!! – January 30, 2017 – February 6, 2017

This week we took a tour around Penang with branch members, and Elder Fogth and I finally had our first Durian!! For those of you who have never eaten Durian, it's a spiky fruit, known for its awful smell, and notorious for it's even worse “after burps”. It's said to be so spiky, that if you walk under a Durian tree and one falls on your head, it will kill you. You either hate Durian or you love it. There is no in between. If you don’t like it the first time, the rule is to give it 3 tries before passing judgement. Many people claim it must have been the fruit that Adam and Eve took in the Garden of Eden. Anyway, this was my first time tasting Durian. It was as spiky and stinky as they said it was. The taste at first wasn't bad. It's somewhere between an onion and something else. Never, and I repeat, NEVER get in a car full of people who have just eaten Durian. The after burps were true to their name. I also learned from our Mission President's experience to never drink 100 Plus (or any carbonated beverage) after eating Durian.
Inside of a Durian
Anyway, it's a Singapore mission must have experience. If any of you travel to Malaysia in your life, try Durian :)

This week, after meeting with a member, we met a random old man, riding a bike, who introduced himself as KM (short for Kilometer because that's how fast he goes on his bike) and yelled, "Follow Me!" We were on the way to that place anyways so we followed. We ended up in a line to get free bags of HUGE food. This was from a charity that is trying to reach a goal of giving out over 1000 bags, but had not achieved the goal yet. We ended up getting 4 bags of food which we gave to needy church members. Afterwards, KM happily said, "Now I Follow You!" We ended up at the church and started teaching him. It was amazing, plus he was taking notes and everything!

Elder Fogth and Sister Vranes
One thing I've been really thinking about this week is organization. What's most important in your life? While teaching, we gave a demonstration of organization, perhaps you can imagine it, see a video, or perform it yourself. In a clear, large glass container/vase, pour water until it is halfway full. The water represents stress. Then take some little rocks and add them in. The little rocks represent the little stresses of the day, such as going to work, being late to a meeting, not having your car start, going shopping, etc. Afterwards, add in some big rocks. These big rocks represent the large stresses in life, such as taking care of family, losing a job, having someone die, etc. Eventually, if you add enough stressors, the stress gets too much and the water spills out. Now, take everything out and reorganize. Add the big rocks first, then the little rocks, then the water. Now, everything fits. If we let the stress get to us before we let the most important things in, it will become too much to bear. If we reorganize ourselves and make the most important things in our lives first, then there will always be room. So, let me ask you, what will you put first?

Penang Island

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Week #29 – My First Chinese Chinese New Year: January 24, 2017 – January 30, 2017

Celebrating Chinese New Year
新年快恭喜发财! Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing you prosperity and good fortune! This week has been great! I finally got to spend a Chinese New Year in a very Chinese country! Haha for some reason, it reminded me of the 4th of July mixed with New Years with fireworks, cleaning, and LOTS and LOTS of food! We had a traditional steam boat, in which everything is steamed in a large pot in front of everyone. We also received Ang Pao (Hong Bao) [red envelopes]. Tradition is that only unmarried people can receive red packets from the married people. 

Mall Decorations for Chinese New Year
During the holiday time, we were able to spend more time with the members and to strengthen their faith. Sister Shafer and I are working together to improve our Chinese. One miracle to me was a lesson with a family that only speaks Chinese. I know the Spirit was there that day guiding both my language and the message shared to the family. It was amazing! 

Sisters Shaffer and Vranes
Another miracle this week, we have been able to see one of our recent converts grow their testimony. As they have worked to keep all of the commandments of God, including tithing, they have seen blessings from strictly following the commandments rain upon them. It's shown me how happy Heavenly Father must be for each one of us when we can finally receive His blessings. I know He gives us His commandments because He wants to bless us and have us feel happiness. I know I've felt much happiness, because our recent convert has been receiving such blessings and feels the same thing. I know know that Heavenly Father is the same. He is happy when we are happy. The commandments of God are not meant to be restrictive, but are meant to bring freedom, happiness, and blessings (prosperity)!

Hair......... GONE!