Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in KL

Halo Keluargaku,

Oh no! I can't believe the basement flooded! What a nightmare, and on Christmas too. It's funny though, when I first looked at the picture you sent, I didn't even notice the torn up carpet, I was just looking at how different and awesome the rest of the downstairs looked! Somehow I'd totally forgotten that it's even changed since I've been gone. It looks awesome though, that basement really did need some work.

I'm glad to hear though that at least Christmas Eve was the usual Christmas festivities. Johnny looked absolutely thrilled with his presents. What a goofy little kid! I laughed when I saw the picture of his "rubber ducky" too. He'll be a fine hunter in no time.

Well, the rest of Christmas for us was a little bit uneventful as well. We went to our Iban investigator's home and had some delicious Malaysian food (satay [which is kind of like shishkabob], chicken and beef curry, some vegetables and of course lots of rice), but best of all we met a whole lot of our investigator's family who all accepted the invitation to come to church the next day. Well, they loved it, so now we're teaching a whole mess of Ibans up here who are progressing really well. We're very, very excited about it. One of the challenges here in KL is finding native Malaysian families who won't just move to a place where the church doesn't exist soon after their baptism, so these families are a big answer to prayers.

We finished the night with a quiet dinner with a young couple here in the branch. It was really nice. Christmas was really great this year actually. A whole lot of fun and a nice break from the normal toil of missionary work. Just some time to spend remembering the Savior and having fun with some friends was awesome.

Well, the work here in KL is going great, but there's definitely an adventure everyday. Just the other day we knocked into a half Thai/half Burmese man (a very unusual combination) who quickly became kind of a friend and an awesome investigator. Anyway, from the very beginning he explained to us that although he was Buddhist, he knew there were a lot of Christians around that area and he was determined to help us find them. Well, we were ok with that, so just the other day he takes us to this hawker stand, introduces us to a Burmese lady there, and tells us that in 30 minutes she's going to take us to go meet a bunch of Christian Burmese people. Sounds good! Well, we wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually when we're starting to get a little concerned she finally takes us up, first to three drunk Burmese men, out of whom only one spoke very limited, very drunken English, and then to a whole group of people who seemed like they had a lot more potential. Well, we started off trying to decide what language to use to teach them.

"Siapa di sini pandai cakap Bahasa Melayu?" (Who here can speak Malay?)

Silence

"Who can speak English?"

Silence

We turned to one girl in the group.

"Kamu pandai cakap Melayu?" (Can you speak Malay?)

"Tak tahu" (Don't know.)"

Do you speak English?"

"No."

Great. Well, we do our best trying to get our half Thai/half Burmese friend to translate for us, handing out Burmese pamphlets, doing whatever we can to try and get the Spirit into the room and invite them to come to church, but not much luck. Well, pretty discouraged we decide to leave when someone says something like, "It was nice to meet you."

"Wait, you speak English?"

"Broken, a little bit."

We turn to another member of the group.

"Wait, do you speak English."

"Can, just a little bit."

Well, that was a surprise. Anyway, after discovering that the entire group spoke ok broken English, it was time to go, but we did get an appointment to come back next Saturday when a bunch of members of their church are gathering at that house so we could share a little bit. So, such is the life in KL.

We were talking to a Nigerian Recent Convert last night and asked him how many languages he spoke. I actually laughed out loud when he said that he spoke 11. No way, 5 is pretty common, but I didn't even believe 11 was possible. Well, we started to test him on as many of them as we could, and it turns out he can probably speak 11 languages. Crazy.

Well, I'm really loving it here. KL is doing great right now and it's already been one of the unique experiences of my life to serve in a place like this. It's a huge blessing! My whole mission has been one of the choicest blessings of my life so far. I've come to love the Book of Mormon so much. I know that it's the word of God and can change lives dramatically. I love this gospel and this work. It's so fun to feel the Spirit testify that what you're saying is true, and to see people's hearts change in response to that. I love inviting people to follow Jesus Christ, and I love to see how much faith the good people of Malaysia have. My mission is awesome!

I love you all so much. I'm so grateful to have a family that enjoys all the blessings of the gospel. I'm grateful for all the sacrifice that has made my life possible. Hope you have a great new year!

I love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Halo Keluargaku,

Merry Christmas! I hope you guys all have a good one and I'm thinking it's going to be pretty great out here in the mission field. It's funny, my companion and I keep saying that it's a lot like holidays don't even exist when you're out in the mission field, nothing really changes that much, but I think it's going to be pretty awesome to have a totally Christ-centered Christmas this year. There probably won't be as much glam and tradition this year, but the sisters are having a baptism we're going to (their names are Sister Wing and Sister Goodwin by the way. They're both from my MTC group. Sister Wing is from Bountiful and Sister Goodwin is from California), so Christmas should be really awesome.

Today was Zone Conference, which normally means travel, but since we're in KL we just kind of stuck around the area this time which was actually really nice. Saves a lot of travel stress and it means that the area doesn't suffer while we're away! Zone Conference was awesome. In addition to regular training about how to work well with the local leaders here (which can sometimes be a big challenge in this part of the world since the church is still not really established), we got an awesome training from President Clark all about why bad things happen to good people. President Clark is a spiritual giant and it's always a blast to hear what he has to say. Anyway, the gist of his message today was that the question is kind of based on a false premise. It kind of assumes that anything hard that happens to us is something bad. So, he told us that whatever draws us closer to Jesus Christ is good, and whatever takes us away from him is bad. The implication is kind of that we're the ones who get to decide if the hard things that happen to us are actually good things or bad things by how we react to them. The real answer to the question is that bad things don't really happen to truly good people at all, they just use hard times to draw closer to Christ. Interesting.

We got to do a small part of the training (just about 10 minutes) as the Zone Leaders here in KL, so that was kind of fun. My first training really.

Oh man, KL is awesome. I know I mentioned this before, but there is every kind of person from all over the world here (except South Americans, I don't why none of them come here). Anyway, this last week I met (among other things), Ibans, Iranians, Indians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Pakistanis, tons of Burmese (a *lot* of them come here as refugees), and even someone from Afghanistan. So, it's a crazy city, but really, really cool. Definitely a unique place to be serving in the entire world.

We've been working with a lot of Burmese people this last week, which is really interesting because the church is basically non-existent in Myanmar right now (the country is called Myanmar, the race and language are called Burmese). Cool to be part of building the church over there in addition to putting it together in Malaysia. The only material translated into Burmese right now is the Gospel Fundamentals manual, but most of them speak pretty decent English. So, very cool. We actually contacted at least three Burmese pastors this last week and taught one. So, we're hoping something works out with that and we can start a Burmese group here. You never know, right? :D

Well, KL is awesome. The Zone is really great. I'm learning a *ton* from Elder Peterson. Sometimes I feel like I'm just on exchanges with the Zone Leaders instead of being companions with one. He's an awesome missionary for sure, and I think we're going to be able to put together some good things in this area. Merry Christmas again! I love you all so much! The work here is going awesome. I love the Savior and know that we're members of Jesus Christ's church restored to the Earth. There's nothing in the world more important than that!

Love you! Talk to you very soon!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Transfer to Kuala Lumpur and a fish pedicure

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, I'm sad to say that today does happen to be one of the random days that I'm e-mailing earlier than normal becaaaaause...

I got transferred!

Yup, it's true, no Christmas in Tawau for me, which is sad, but it's ok because at this very moment I'm writing you from the lovely big city of Kuala Lumpur where I've been assigned as the Singapore mission's newest Zone Leader! So, that's very, very exciting. It's crazy to be out of Tawau and into the biggest city I've lived in in my entire life (I think! I actually haven't been able to get a really accurate idea of what the population is here yet, so I don't really know if it's bigger than Singapore or not. Definitely more spread out). I'm super excited to be here though. KL is a very cool city and I think there's going to be a lot of opportunity here to do some awesome missionary work.

I can't believe how diverse it is here. I think I told you a couple of times when I was in Singapore that that was the second most diverse city in the mission, and it's definitely true. Kuala Lumpur seems to be the melting pot of all of Asia with everything that Singapore had and a whole lot more. Our condominium here has a lot of Iranians. The area we live in is known as kind of the Korea town of KL. There's Nigerians all over the place here to work or study, and last night I got to teach my first Iban family. So, should be pretty awesome. Definitely very different.

Well, I haven't been to church yet, but I've heard that the branch is actually about half ex-pats (Including Brother Doxey! I'd forgotten that you told me they lived here). Unfortunately it means my first few weeks here I might not to get to meet a lot of them with so many going back to America for the Christmas season, but eventually I should be able to get a good taste of what it's like to be back in America. So ex-pats is a first for me on my mission.

We also have not only another pair of missionaries in our branch (another first for me), but they're Sisters (another in a whole series of firsts. I've never served with Sisters before). So, lots of things to get used to, but it should be absolutely awesome.

My companion here is named Elder Peterson. He's from Layton, so it's kind of fun to be with someone from close to home. We also had the same trainer (Elder Merrill), which makes us 'brothers' in the mission. Elder Merrill's 'youngest child' is also in this zone, and the area I'm serving in now was actually Elder Merrill's last area. So lots of family tradition here. We just need to get the 'grandchildren' into the zone and we'll be able to have a whole family reunion.

Well, I just got here yesterday afternoon, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to experience the city yet, but hopefully next week I'll have a lot of interesting things to write about. Later today we're going to go to a giant market called 'Pasar Seni' to have the callouses eaten off of our feet by a million little fishes. So that should be an interesting experience! I guess it tickles like crazy...So, lots of very exciting things this week.

Saying goodbye to the people in Tawau was pretty tough. It helps though to have guessed a few weeks in advance that my time there was running out (although I never thought I'd be come to KL). Transfers are just part of missionary life though, and I think the branch is in very good hands with Elder Cazier and his new companion. I'm so grateful for all the things I learned about and the ways I grew in Tawau. I think that little city on the Indonesian border is always going to have a special place in my heart. I loved it a lot there, but KL is going to be awesome too. I'm very, very excited about serving here

Welp, that's kind of the news for the week. Before I left Tawau we started to work with an awesome investigator who came to us pretty much ready and willing to be baptized. She's set up to be baptized on January 1st (can you think of a better way to start the new year?), and things are looking really great for her. The three Ibans we taught here last night all accepted baptismal dates for the early part of January. They all have such strong faith, and it's awesome to meet people so prepared for the missionaries. It will be awesome to get to know them a little bit better.

Hey, did you know you could put a bicycle on an airplane? I had no idea, but now that we carry bikes with us from area to area, that's how they get them from place to place! We just packed it up into a box (that was really too small for it), and loaded up on the airplane as an extra very large piece of check-in luggage. They charged us extra, but it really wasn't even that bad. It's was kind of funny to see the look on everyone's face walking around the airport with a huge box though. The taxi driver was understandably less than excited to take it. It all worked out just great though. We don't actually use bikes here in KL, but they moved it with me anyway just to make sure I'd have one if my next area requires one.

Well, I'm really humbled to be in my new area. Elder Peterson is an awesome missionary and I can already tell that I'm going to learn a LOT from this companionship. It's funny, Elder Peterson is from the group right in front of mine (two months older than my group), and other than a couple scattered missionaries (I think literally two), they're the oldest in the mission now. Someone from their group just became AP. So that makes our group the second oldest group in the entire mission. Absolutely unbelievable.

OK, well I love you so much! Don't worry about not getting time to send the extra e-mail, I snuck up on you! I love you so much and I'm so grateful for all you support and love. Hope you enjoy the twelve days of Christmas! I know that this church is the only path to the greatest lasting happiness in this life and in the life to come. I'm so grateful to get to be here helping the people of KL come unto Christ. Look out Big City, here we come!

Love you!!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A dog that belonged to somebody...

Halo keluargaku,

hey, you'll have to forgive me for a lack of capitalization throughout this e-mail. we found a new internet cafe which is far less crowded, but also kind of has lousy keyboards, and the shift key on this one is broken. so, i guess you just have to trade, right?

maybe i'll start with the two questions for the newsletter first to get those taken care of (i really like the idea of doing monthly questions!). so, for the first one, christmas so far is actually turning out to be a bigger deal than i thought, but definitely nothing like what you'd see in america. surprisingly to me they were playing christmas music at the mall today and there's a few signs going up on various businesses for scattered christmas sales. businesses run by christians are putting up christmas trees and lights, but for the most part in heavily-muslim-majority-tawau christmas seems like it's just going to be a day off work for most people. even for the christians here i don't think it's quite as big a deal as it is back in america (our branch was planning on having their christmas party on christmas eve! that would be kind of unheard of in america, right? at least for our family christmas eve is at least as big a deal as christmas day!) so, christmas is definitely quiet here, but i think it's going to be nice just to spend the day with the members and our christmas party should be pretty fun too. i don't think i need to mention that we're planning on it being very hot here. good ol' malaysia, right?

as far as the best gift i've received on my mission, it's definitely hard to say. i'd say that *one of* the best though is a love of the book of mormon. it's funny, before my mission i always liked to read the book of mormon, but i never quite had the love for it that i've started to develop here in the field. sometimes i find myself just reading it for pleasure in my spare time. it's truly an amazing book and it changes hearts. i love the book of mormon and i'm super grateful for the chance i have to come out here and share that love with others.

so, this last week in tawau was really nice! definitely hard working with a lot of time spent out knocking, but we had some good success and this feels like a particularly satisfying P-Day after so much good, solid work.

We set a new investigator on baptismal date this last week. her name is ***** and she's a referral from a member here which is absolutely awesome. it's a million times better to baptize a referral. it's so nice to have people with those pre-built support systems and someone they can always go to for help or if they have questions. it's essential to keep people in the church! anyway, ***** is 19 and is good friends with our member's daughter, and she came to us pretty much ready to be baptized, so it's a really big privilege to be able to teach her. her date is set for january 1 (could there be a better way to start the new year)? so things are looking really great with her so far.

I got bit by my first dog this week! there's a missionary landmark, right? don't worry, it was a dog that belonged to somebody and wasn't a very serious bite at all. i was actually shocked it got me at all. dogs here in malaysia have a huge bark, but are absolute cowards. we have one member who's dog actually hid on the side of the house the other day and just peeked around the corner to bark at us. they're absolutely terrified! well, with this dog i just started walking toward it confidently like normal and it started to slink away like they always do, but the little sneaker got up behind me when i wasn't looking and took a snap at my calf. i couldn't believe it! i was too shocked to even do anything but watch the dog run away, looking very satisfied with itself. other than that, things are looking kind of the same.

our investigator **** that i told you about last week broke his phone or something, which we didn't even find out about until the other day, so we haven't had a lot of contact with him, but we're planning on going out to his house in the next day or two.

so, that's kind of the week in tawau! i'm so grateful for the knowledge we have of the restored church and gospel of Jesus Christ. your story was really interesting about the moderator who asked what interest God could have in political campaign. it's always interesting to see what other people's perceptions of God are. this last week we were talking to a man who's wife is a member, but who hasn't come in a long time because she follows him to his church. anyway, we were trying to explain to him why it's important for him and his wife to come to church (proper priesthood authority, true doctrine, that kind of thing). anyway, he finally just said, "we do the same things you do. we pray and you pray. we have talks. we learn about how to become better people. the only difference is that our church is only for 1 hour and yours is for 3, so why do we need to come to your church?" it's a question i've heard a million times, but for some reason when he asked it, it really got me to thinking about how wildly different our whole perspectives about religion are. because he's right! if your church and religion to you are just something you do for one hour on sundays, our church is pretty much the same as his. talks, prayers, singing, the works. but our church is so much more! it's a way of life! it's discipleship! the church blesses you every second of every day, not just for one hour on sundays. it was just interesting to really realize that to him, that's not what church is at all. it's just prayers for an hour. crazy! this world needs the gospel so much!

so, i'm so grateful for the restored gospel and for the chance i have to come and share it with others. i'm grateful we can be a family forever!i love you all so much! have an awesome week and enjoy the snow!

love you!!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rice Makes You Small

Halo Keluargaku,

Hey, it's awesome that you got to see Elder Wheelwright. I hear about him pretty often, but I never really crossed paths with him too much. It's funny though to hear about people on the other side. It almost seems like sometimes after somebody leaves the mission they just cease to exist. You never really hear anything about them. Good to know they live on over there though.

KL was a lot of fun. We had to wake up at 4:45 this morning to catch our early flight back to Tawau, so we're feeling a little bit lethargic, but still doing well! While we were in KL we had a lot of training. We had two days of meetings from 9 in the morning until past 5 in the evening, but we learned a lot and I think it's going to help the area a lot. It's funny, this is basically the exact same training that we've gotten twice already, but even this third time I feel like I learned a lot. The Spirit has a really awesome way of teaching you something new every time you go over inspired material, even if you thought you got everything the first time. That's one reason we keep reading the scriptures all the time I think. You can read everyday for 20 years and still not get everything there is to offer.

Have I talked about Malaysian breakfast yet? I think maybe I mentioned it before, but for a Malaysian, breakfast is pretty much the same as any other meal of the day. In America, breakfast is almost always sweet and fresh, but in Malaysia, you'd eat pretty much what you'd eat for any other meal. On the flight back to Tawau, they served us our choice of fried noodles or nasi lemak (a spicy mix of fried rice and shrimp). To be fair, it was late enough that they maybe could have considered it a very early lunch, but I've always just thought that was so funny. Give me doughnuts for breakfast any day of the week!

Malaysians actually eat rice with pretty much every meal. They say you just don't get full unless you eat rice. One of the common first questions when we meet someone new is, "Hey, you don't eat rice in America, right?"
"Well, we eat some rice, but not very much. We usually just eat it as kind of a side dish with something else."
"Well, what do you eat then?"
"Mostly just bread and meat" (which is partly true, and partly just what you know they want to hear you say. They're convinced all we eat is bread and meat. But hey, how else do you describe the American diet, right?)
"How do you get full?"
"Oh you know, just eat enough bread and meat and you just get full."
"Hmm... I guess you're right, but it's a different kind of full, right? I just don't get full unless I eat rice."

That's one of those conversations you have a thousand times. Coincidentally they're convinced our bread and meat diet is also what makes Americans so tall and huge. "Rice makes you small" they say. Who knows?

The work is going pretty well here. We have an investigator we've kind of been expecting to get baptized every weekend for about the last three weeks, but she keeps having weird things come up, so we're not exactly sure what her progress looks like right now, but we're working on it. We had a miracle last week working with a new investigator. He's a fifteen year old and initially his whole family was meeting with us, but most of them seem to have lost interest at this point. They're a Filipino family and interestingly his mom actually came to our church for about three years in a row about ten years back. For some reason she was never baptized, and when she finally accepted a baptismal date she left for the Philippines and lost touch with the missionaries. Anyway, in our meeting with this kid last week he told us in response to a question about how his Book of Mormon reading was going, "I believe it! It's just so true." And later, "When you were talking about baptism the other day I just had this feeling that I really wanted to get baptized." So, he's awesome. He's got some obstacles to overcome right now with his family and his current church, but we really have high hopes for him.

We had another miracle while we were out knocking the other day. We were heading out to a particular area when I had a feeling that we should just try somewhere else for right now, so I continued on to another place I thought would be good, but before we arrived there I saw another neighborhood on our left that just called our names. So, we went over there and started looking around. It looked like it would be a great place to knock around at night (lots of indications of kids and families), but at 2 in the afternoon it was looking just about empty. Well, before turning around we decided to knock just a few of the houses that looked like they had people. Two doors rejected us, but in the third the lady invited us inside the gate before we could even manage to tell her who we were. We sat down and asked her, "So, what is your name?" to which we got the shocking reply, "Oh, you don't know?" I hate that reply. Usually it means that I met someone once a few weeks ago and have forgotten their names already, but luckily this time it just meant this lady was actually a long time member who had been inactive for about 6 years. Hooray! So, we invited her to come to church and she agreed immediately. She also introduced us to her friend down the street who was very excited to meet with us, and brought her non-member husband to church. Awesome! It's so funny, all these years she's been away from the church, and all she needed to come back to have someone go and invite her to come back. It didn't even take any convincing, just an invitation! So, that was awesome. We're hoping for some good things from them.

So, lots of miracles right now! I'm loving the work here a lot. Tawau is the greatest. I hope we can all come back here some day and visit. The people here are amazing, not to mention that this part of the country is absolutely beautiful. So, we'll be back to see the Tawau stake created or something :D.

Anyway, I love you so much! Glad you had a happy thanksgiving! The Gospel is true!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Thanksgiving in Malaysia

Halo Keluargaku,

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm actually a little bit ashamed to ask this, but Thanksgiving is on this Thursday, right? There have been absolutely no indications of any holiday celebration here, and with Thanksgiving always moving around it's hard to be sure when it is! So, in answer to your question, Thanksgiving is definitely an American's only holiday. It's funny, the members here will celebrate Pioneer Day and Halloween, but when it comes to Thanksgiving nobody has ever celebrated one. Too bad, huh?

But, for us the work just moves on. Tawau is still doing well. Last week we had kind of a tough time as far as numbers go, but we set some new goals and got a little bit refocused and things are looking a lot brighter already this week. If I've learned anything, it's that missionary work is all about ups and downs. So we worked through the down week and aren't really too surprised to see that things are looking up this week.

The senior couple from KK came down here this week to start work on a humanitarian project, and they were thoughtful enough to take us out to dinner. It was really fun to get to spend a little time with them, especially since they've just been here in the field for a couple of months. Their stories were hilarious and reminded me a lot of all the things that are so crazy to you when you first get out here, but just start to get a little bit normal after a while. Their best story though was definitely hearing about how Elder Larson got the "biggest shock of his life" walking into a public bathroom at a mall only to find that in Malaysia, a toilet can mean just a hole in the ground and a hose. A "squatter" as we like to call them! I still remember the first time I went into the bathroom in our apartment in Singapore and noticed there wasn't any toilet paper. I came back out to ask Elder Buchuluun (I still can't spell that!) where they kept it, and he just laughed at me. Ah, the joys of a hose...The Larsons have actually adjusted really well though (they ate rice with us at a food court in the mall here for dinner), and it was really nice to get to see some other missionaries for a little.

This Monday we're flying into KL again for our last Simplified Curriculum training. Apparently after this we'll just be back to regular Zone Conferences, so we'll be spending a little bit more time in our areas which should be really nice.

Turns out there wasn't any flooding by the time we arrived back home, which was a little disappointing actually. Elder Cazier and I were thinking there was going to be an absolute disaster awaiting us, wondering how bad flooding in Tawau would have to be before you could read about it in a newspaper in America. I'm not really sure anything about Tawau has ever made in into an American newspaper! It makes a lot of sense though if you've found a local Sabah newspaper. As small as Tawau is, it's the third largest city in all of Sabah. A real newsmaker.

I have a confession to make! I'm actually glad you mentioned it would be ok to open something for Thanksgiving, because just today I finally yielded to temptation and grabbed a little something out. I didn't look in the package at all, so Christmas will still be a huge surprise, but I did reach in there and feel around until I found the book that you sent. I was just sitting there thinking about that package in the other room during personal study and it the temptation just got to be too much for me. I'm actually pretty proud of myself for making it this long. It's hard to know how a missionary feels about packages until you get into the field, and waiting is just killer. So, I cracked a little, I'm sorry :D! But the book is awesome! Thank you so much! I love Elder Maxwell and I can't wait to really dive into this book. You're the best Mom and I love you a lot. I promise I'll save the rest for Christmas! :D

Welp, other than that, Tawau is just same-old same-old. It feels like home here and I think it's going to be awfully sad when I have to go. It's a lovely place and I hope that someday we get to come back and see it together!

I love you so much! I think about you and pray for you everyday! I have the greatest family on earth and I couldn't be more grateful. I can't wait to see you guys and little Johnny again. Tell John that I said Happy Birthday. I saw it on the calender and was thinking about him. What a blessing he's been for us, huh? I love you so much! Happy Thanksgiving!

Love you!

Elder Blissett

Friday, November 19, 2010

Few Priesthood Holders

Halo Keluargaku,

Oh dear! Kuhara Road (or Jalan Kuhara) is *exactly* next to where we live. It's the namesake of Kuhara Court. When did you hear about flooding? Things were looking really normal when we left, but there was actually a storm coming in. I guess we'll find out in a couple of days what everything is like. How did you hear about that? (Looking back I'm remembering that there's a place called Pasir Puteh that's kind of famous for flooding sometimes. We have a lot of less active members out there. Is that where it was?)

We're having a great time here in Singapore! Everything went smoothly on the flight and it's been a blast to see everyone again. My dear son (Elder Whittaker) is doing great, and it always feels a little bit like coming back to my mission "home" when we come back to Singapore. It's funny, Singapore was definitely a tough area for me, but there are lots of things that I miss about it and it's always fun to get to come back for a couple of days. I think sometimes it's the harder things that you look back and remember the most fondly, right?

We're planning on having a baptism sometime this week, but we have a couple of problems to resolve this week. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but Tawau struggles to an extreme degree with Melchizedek priesthood holders. To more specific, there are three that are currently active, the branch president, a missionary who just got returned from his mission in this mission and is now the first counselor, and an incredibly Christlike, faithful brother who went blind a few years ago and lives very far away, so he only comes in for sacrament meetings (he's the second counselor). Well, in sacrament meeting a couple of weeks ago the Branch President announced that he has to go help out with the family business in a small town called Lahad Datu about two hours away from Tawau. So, he's only going to get to come to church about twice a month, and he's leaving in just a few weeks. Well, that was really hard, but we were feeling pretty good knowing that the first counselor, our recently returned missionary, could be the next branch president. Come to find out he's moving to Lahad Datu as well, although he'll be coming into Tawau every Sunday to go to church, but he'll still have to spend the week in Lahad Datu. So, we don't really have anyone to be the new Branch President. We're thinking they're probably going to send in a Senior Couple, but we still don't really know what's going to happen at this point.

Anyway, how that relates to the baptism is that we're supposed to have a Branch Presidency member at every baptism, and the Branch President just went to the temple in the Philippines this week, and the first counselor is in Lahad Datu already. We've been trying to call the second counselor to see if he can make a special trip into town, but we haven't been able to get a hold of him. So our baptism may be waiting for a week. Life in Tawau, huh?

Other than that, things are going really great way out on the Indonesian border. I'm loving it there and I'll definitely never forget the lessons I've learned in Tawau. It's been awesome.

Anyway, things are still going great. I'm loving it. My mission has been the best experience of my whole life. I'm so grateful to have been born a member of this church. It's the truth, and it's a massive blessing to be able to share it with others everyday.I love you all so much!

Sounds like next week I'll be letting you know how it feels to be swimming through the floods of Tawau!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That small black book that Christians use

Halo Keluargaku,

Thanks so much for all your prayers for everyone we're teaching here, and I'm happy to report that our baptisms went through this last weekend. So, there's just two children and the father left to complete the family and it looks like things are getting better everyday with them. It's so good to see a family come into the church together. It's so important for recent converts of the church to have some support, and there's nothing better than a family to provide that. So we feel really blessed and are really happy with the progress we've been able to see here in Tawau.

This last week we've really been focusing on finding new investigators. You always run into the funny problem when you have baptisms of running out of people to teach, so we've been trying to head it off before it gets too bad and spend a good amount of time visiting members and good old fashioned knocking. It's funny, I used to hate knocking, but it's become so regular now that I've even kind of started to like it. It's just exciting never quite knowing who's going to come out of that house and what they're going to say to you. Malaysia is a pretty crazy country, so it always keeps things interesting. We've even had some ok success finding people who are willing to meet with us, so that's really nice.

We're going to Singapore next week for a couple of days this next week, and the week after that we're going to KL for another of those Simplified Curriculum trainings. This is supposed to be the last one though I guess, so our travel schedule should be cooling off a little which will be kind of nice. Traveling is fun, and I'm super grateful that we get to do it so much in this mission, but it's always a little bit hard to get back into the groove of things. I feel bad for our Zone Leaders. They actually have to fly down here to Tawau every time we do have to do a baptismal interview since we're not allowed to do them ourselves and the nearest elders are a 4 hour bus ride away. That would really mess up your schedule.

I was trying to think of something funny that happened this week, but this week was a little bit normal actually. We had one investigator we knocked into this week who absolutely refused to set up an appointment with us even though she seemed kind of interested, only to text us everyday after since we've met her and become pretty willing to meet anytime. Go figure. Another Buddhist man the other day asked us if we thought the world was going to end in 2012 because his Christian friend had told him that "that book" said something about it. "Which book?" "Oh, you know, that small black book, the one that Christians use?" "You mean the Bible?" "Oh, I'm not very sure. Is that what that book is called, the little black one?" Even after being out here for over a year I'm still blown away when I run into a person who's never even really heard of the Bible. It's just a different world out here sometimes. It's so awesome though to get to teach people from the ground up though. To start with someone who doesn't really have any definite conception of God, any clue what a prophet is or really even know what the Bible is, and to get to take them step by step through the whole Gospel is a pretty special privilege.

Well, Tawau is still going great. I'm loving it here and I'm hoping I have at least another couple of months here before it comes time to move on. It's a huge blessing to be serving the Lord here and to have the great opportunity to grow in my testimony daily and to get to help others do the same. I know that the church is true, and I'm committed to following it as closely as I can for the rest of my life. It's the only thing that really brings lasting peace and happiness in this entire world. I'm so grateful to know what I know and to get to share it everyday!

I love you all so much!

Elder Blissett

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Exotic Asian Thing To Do...

Halo Keluargaku,

Happy Birthday Mom! I actually think you'll be getting this e-mail on your birthday, which is absolutely perfect! I love you so much and I'm so grateful for the awesome mother that you've been to me. I could never have made it this far without you, and I'm so grateful that we've gotten to go through this life together and to be sealed for eternity. Hope you had a great day, and I'm putting a handwritten letter in the mail for you today!

Hey! I'm actually really excited about the questions for the newsletter, if only because it gives me a chance to mention that I finally fulfilled a strange secret ambition to eat dog (I'm not sure why that's always been an ambition. It's just always seemed like an exotic asian thing to do to me). Yes, it's true, we went to go visit one of our investigators way out in Kampung Tator, and, lucky us, his neighbor had just delivered a nice bowl of freshly cooked dog. I only ate one piece (not really knowing where the dog came from and thinking about the all to numerous strays that roam around here in Tawau). It wasn't half bad though. Incredibly spicy (so spicy that it gave my companion hiccups for a few minutes. They like the food spicy in Sulawesi where our investigator comes from), and pretty tough, but a pretty nice experience overall. I'd say a close second was the time I had fish head curry in Ipoh (the first time I ever ate an eyeball)!

The things to be grateful for are kind of too many to count. I've become so grateful for the Gospel and the Book of Mormon, grateful for the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, *really* grateful to live in America, grateful for our family, and grateful for our inspired mission president. But one of the things I've been really grateful for is to have been so blessed to know how to live my day to day life because of the gospel. For example, just last night we talked to a member who has been incredibly frustrated because of a lot of crazy circumstances that have prevented her from going on a mission, and she was contemplating taking a job at camp which would force her out of activity in the church to kind of get away from everything. So, we talked to her, but immediately the thought came that I should fast for her too, so that's what I'm doing. Without the gospel I never would have known about the avenue of extra power that can come with fasting and never would have had access to that blessing! I know that when I'm upset I can read from the Book of Mormon and feel better. When I'm confused or have a problem to work out, I can pray. On Sunday I know what I'm supposed to do. If I have a weakness, I know where to go to find help in solving it. Whatever problem or event or anything that comes up in life, I know what to do about it. The gospel gives us all of those answers, and that for me is a big part of what makes it such a huge blessing in our lives. (Feel free to cut up any of the above to make it fit in the newsletter! :D)

Happy Halloween! Unsurprisingly, Halloween isn't a holiday here in Malaysia, but the branch did decide to have an impromtu party on Monday night that went great! We had a ton of people come, which was really cool considering they decided to have the party about 24 hours before it actually occured. That's one thing I love about Malaysia. If you want to have a party, you just have a party! No need for advance notice! People here are so laid back, which can be frustrating at times, but really makes them pretty lovable ultimately.

Our baptisms are still looking good for this weekend. It's so awesome to see this family start to come together. They'll be such a strength to each other and to the branch here. You couldn't hope for anything better than seeing families come into the church.

Well, other than that, things have still been going great here in Tawau. I'm loving it here and I'm so grateful and excited to get to serve two years as a full time missionary. There's no greater privelage than that. I love you all so much. Thanks for all of your support! Hope you had a great birthday Mom (Selamat Hari Jadi! or "Happy Happening Day!" You know, like the day you "happened." That's the closest translation I can think of for the Malay word for birthday.)

Love you!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The girls got baptized!

Halo Keluargaku,

The girls got baptized! Hooray! The little brother is set up to be baptized next week and it looks like the mom is going to follow with him as well. We reviewed the baptismal interview questions with them last night and things are looking good to go. So, more huge blessings. It's awesome to see what the good example of some of the daughters did for the rest of the family. Sometimes that's what it takes to get us moving though. So things are going really great with their family and we're really excited about all of their progress. It's a huge blessing for them and a huge blessing for us too!

This week was a little bit exhausting, but I think one of our most productive for a long time! Elder Cazier and I biked, a LOT, and we're definitely feeling it, but I think after a good day of rest we'll be ready to go again. It's funny, when you're in the midst of running around and everything you don't really realize how far you've gone, but getting home at night you definitely start to feel it. Just the other night Elder Cazier and I finished off the night with biking around four miles through hilly Tawau country. It was a great way to end a bike filled week!

Tawau is doing the best it's done in a long time. We're meeting with members everyday and spending less and less time knocking and more and more time working with referrals and looking for more, which I think is exactly the way things should happen in missionary work. Our investigators are looking more solid than ever and it definitely feels like we're spending less time just spinning our tires and more time actually getting somewhere. It feels great! We're seeing the blessings of the Lord everyday and I'm coming to realize more and more what a privilege it is to serve in this awesome little corner of the mission. Tawau is a place I'll remember for the rest of my life, and I'm super grateful for all the time I've been able to spend here.

I'll send a couple of pictures along! The first one is of a coconut Elder Cazier and I discovered and very happily spent some time busting open before our investigators arrived for their baptism on Saturday. I've always heard that it was impossible to break open a coconut without using a machete or something, but now I know better! :D A little bit of needed diversion from a hard-working week.

The next one is a Malaysian lawnmower. What? That's a weed-whacker you say? I guess that's probably what they look like at first, but check out the lawnmower blade on the end of it. Lawnmowers are actually kind of rare to come by here in Malaysia, so instead people just toss metal blades on to the end of their weed eaters and bam! Instant lawnmower. Easy to carry too.


Love you so much!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More success and riding bikes

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, first things first. We're having two baptisms this weekend. Hooray! It was a huge surprise for us, but two of the daughters from the Filipino family we've been teaching told us unexpectedly they wanted to be baptized this weekend, and it looks like the rest of the family is probably going to follow in the coming weeks. Awesome! These investigators have been the most diligent about reading the Book of Mormon of any I think I've ever had and it's really shown through in the depth of their testimony and their commitment to the gospel. So, that's very exciting. The Lord has really blessed this area a lot, and it's amazing to get to see that happen. It's also amazing to see the gospel touch the hearts of people from all backgrounds and from all parts of the world. Old, young, Filipino, Indonesian, Singaporean, it doesn't matter. The Gospel is for everyone, and blesses all of our lives the same.

We started riding our bikes this last week and it's been amazing. I don't think I realized exactly how much I missed riding a bike until we put ours together last week and got to start getting around on them. It is *so* much faster than taking the busses and it's really going to open up a lot of options for us as far as when we can meet our investigators and where we can go finding. We're really excited about it. Plus bikes are just fun. You always feel like you're getting a nice, good exercise when you're on a bike.

It's crazy that halloween is coming up. I don't actually know if we're going to do anything here. Malaysia isn't very big on Halloween, although I've heard of branches having parties for it in different places. So, that will be interesting to see, but Halloween coming up means Christmas is coming up too, which I'm already excited for. Christmas is the best.

Well, other than that things are still just going well here in Tawau. Elder Cazier and I are getting along great. We'll be getting a new Zone Leader soon which should be pretty fun, and we've got some investigators who are looking really great. Elder Whittaker and his companion found a super golden investigator last weekend in Singapore too who asked them when she could get baptized, so it's good to hear that he'll probably be having his first baptism he's present at before too long too.

I love you all so much! Thanks for your love and support. You're the best! The church is true, and the Book of Mormon changes lives. I've seen it first hand, those who will read it with an open heart and pray about it sincerely find out without exception that it's true. We're in the greatest church on Earth. It's such a blessing to know the things we know.

Love you all!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Baptism!


Beautiful beach-side Tawau Chapel



Views from the beach




Old and new shoe comparison

Halo Keluargaku,

We're in KL! Crazy, huh? You're probably starting to feel like we're never in our area based on how many times I've e-mailed you from crazy places now, but it's not as bad as it seems, I promise! We had to come here for another of those big missionary trainings (this time with all of Singapore, West Malaysia, and Sabah only) so we're here for four days getting to see all the other elders again and having some awesome training from President Clark. So far it's been really awesome and I'm super excited to get back into our area and start applying some of this good stuff. We're going to be a lot more effective for sure.

Our Baptism went through! Woohoo! Everything went great and the best part of all was hearing ****'s absolutely amazing testimony. It's so cool to see how far she's come in really only a few weeks of learning from missionaries, but in over a year of good preparation from her awesome mother. Her testimony started out normally enough for a recent convert, but after only a few sentences you could just see something change in her countenance and she couldn't even really speak for about a minute. When she finally could she just expressed so much love for her mom, the Lord, and the elders and told everyone about her commitment to endure to the end and make it to the temple. She said she'd never stop coming to church and learning about Heavenly Father. She said she hoped the Elders would keep coming to visit her so she could keep learning about Heavenly Father. It was absolutely music to this missionary's ears, and made all the time I've spent in Tawau 100% worth it. She's solid and is going all the way to the temple. I couldn't be happier! I'm just sad Elder Whit had to miss it, but Elder Cazier has been great too for the few days we've been together.

Elder Cazier is from Elk Ridge Utah and is pretty darn cool. I think we're going to get along really well.

I'm sending some pictures. Most importantly a picture of Elder Cazier and I plus *** and her family at the baptism, a few pictures of our beautiful beach side church (it's so pretty, the pictures don't really even do it justice), and *drumroll please* my new shoes, or at least my shoes newly delivered from Singapore! Yay! I was pretty blown away how different they looked from my old ones (that's a old shoe vs. new shoe picture of the soles. The old ones are hardly recognizable!) But they're super comfortable and shiny and I'm really grateful to have them. Awesome.

Elder Whit and I never did find the beach! We actually didn't even find anything very touristy and just avoided not coming back with any souvenirs and all. It's funny, you always hear about it, but other than scuba diving there's really not much in Semporna at all. Not even touristy shops or anything. It was kind of crazy, but fun anyway just to "jalan-jalan" (a Malay word for kind of just walking around and hanging out). I'm just glad we didn't get lost.

Other than that, things out here in Malaysia are kind of same-old same-old. We're thinking about busting out the bikes in Tawau and seeing how it goes. The buses all shut down at around 7:30, leaving us abandoned pretty much wherever we happen to be at around 7:30 until we decide to go home which limits our options a lot. So, we're looking into using buses during the day and bikes at night. I think it could work out pretty well.

Well, Kuala Lumpur says hi! Things are going great and we're looking at another baptism in a couple of weeks which is very exciting. We had a member's daughter just move here from Indonesia who was immediately interested in joining the church. Well, things were going great until last week we called to confirm an appointment and she told us that she couldn't meet because she'd moved to a city about four hours away. Malaysians are prone to do that kind of thing at the drop of the hat. So, we were getting ready to pass her to the Elders who lived there only to find out she'd decided to move back again. That's ok by us :D. Honestly though, as long as she gets baptized it's not really important to me who does it!

I got the package with the insoles and the candy and everything. Thank you SO MUCH. You forget how awesome stuff from America is until you're away from it for a while. Those pens you sent me are like a bright, gleaming ray of well manufactured goodness in a country filled with crummy pens. They're awesome, and I really needed some new pens, so thanks a lot!

I love you so much! Thanks so much for all your support and everything. I'm so grateful to be in this family. The church is true and it's the greatest blessing to have the opportunity to spend two years full-time sharing it with others. Malaysia is the best (and Singapore too)!

I love you! Talk to you soon!

Elder Blissett

Friday, October 8, 2010

Good-bye Elder Whit

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, this week is a little exciting, first off because I'm writing from lovely Semporna, Malaysia. No, I didn't get transferred, although Elder Whittaker actually is headed off to Singapore. The companionship is coming to an end to soon, but Heavenly Father always knows best, right? So, to celebrate his leaving we decided to finally take a P-Day out to Semporna which is about an hour and half away from Tawau. This is actually the place with all the amazing diving, but Elder Whit and I just came looking for beaches and souveniers. Unfortunately, now that we're here we're not exactly sure where to go to find the beach, but we'll find it! Don't worry!

Our first baptism is this Saturday! Things are looking really solid, so we're very, very excited. Unfortunately Elder Whit is getting transferred on Thursday so he's actually going to miss his first baptism, which is pretty much the worst part about him getting transferred, but we're going to take a lot of pictures for him and make sure he still eats "baptism ice cream." It's very important to eat ice cream after every baptism! Good luck I've found...

I'm super happy to hear conference was cool. Unfortunately it's actually probably going to be a long time (if ever) before I get to listen to it in English! Before Singapore would send out DVDs in three languages to the branches (English, Malay, and Chinese), but now it sounds like they're only going to send the Malay. So, we'll probably watch that next weekend and I guess I'll just have to test to see how good my Malay has really gotten. I'll try and read the "highlight" talks during e-mail as soon as the text is posted, but it sounds like I'll mostly just be waiting for the Ensign. Ironic to be missing conference as a missionary... :D

I did, however, hear from the members that they're building another temple in the Philipines which is very exciting. Go Asia!

Things are still going well with our investigators. We had one investigator set up to be baptized actually move away this week, which is tough, but she's in a place where there are other missionaries, so hopefully everything works out ok. Our family is still doing well. Thanks so much for your prayers, it makes a big difference to them and to us.

My new companion is named Elder Cazier. His last area was in Sibu, Sarawak, and he's a few months younger than I am in the mission. Other than that I don't really know much about him, but I'm excited to pick him up on Thursday. I'm sure we'll have a great companionship.

I'm happy to hear that Johnny likes to read so much. A sure sign of a brilliant Simmons boy. I'll have to teach him Malay when I get home so he and I can have secret brotherly conversations behind your backs. Babies are supposed to be fast at picking that kind of stuff up, right? and if he's already gotten to "shoe" in English, Malay shouldn't be any problem for him at all. :D

I was thinking it was probably cooling off in Utah. Things are just as hot as ever here in Tawau, although people tell us that the cooler season should be starting soon. The big secret is that the cool season is pretty much the same as every other time of the year, so you can feel free to tell people it's just about to start whenever you want! I think the consensus is that there's actually two cooler seasons throughout the year separated by a few months. Who knows!

Other than that it's been a pretty standard week. I'm sad to see Elder Whit go (my little boy has gotten all grown up and is having his first transfer), but that's just part of missionary life. I think he'll do great in Singapore.

Oh! I remembered what I wanted to ask for for Christmas! I think for the first Christmas ever I'm actually hoping to get clothes! The big thing is just a few more pairs of black socks. I seem to have an amazing ability to lose those! And a couple of those broadcloth white shirts would be awesome, those are the best. Also, if you wouldn't mind looking for a thin, fairly inexpensive wallet that would be the icing on the cake. The duct tape wallet may not be surviving a whole lot longer. Seems like a year of Malaysia just makes about anything start to fall apart. And, if one more thing wouldn't be too much, we just got the new movie list and The Emporers New Groove is on it! I love that movie. Would you mind finding a copy? Thank you so much!

Ok, we're going to go search for a beach. I love you so much, wish us luck! Miracles happen every day here in the mission field. Thank you so much for your prayers and faith. The Lord is watching out for us and things are going great.

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things are easier...Miracles in Tawau

Halo Keluargaku,

That's very strange you didn't get my e-mail until later. We sent it the same time as we usually do! Must have just gotten stuck in the pipes or something.

I can't believe conference is this week! Elder Whittaker and I were talking about it, but we didn't even know when it was supposed to be! That's super exciting. Conference has started to become one of my very favorite parts of the entire year. You really start to get attatched to certain general authorities and I can't wait to hear what they have to say. It's amazing that every 6 months we can hear the most up-to-date instructions from the Lord so easily. It's an unbelievable blessing really! I don't know how we'll see it, but it will probably not be for a couple of weeks. Next week I'll have to try and listen to a couple of talks online though if I get a chance.

Tawau is going great! We have a solid baptism set up for next week and we actually have an entire family right now that's doing awesome. It's really one of the first families I've been able to teach consistently for my whole mission, but they're absolutely awesome. We've been teaching them for a couple of weeks now, and up until our last meeting it was mostly just one of the older daughters who seemed interested. Three of the children and the mother actually came to church on their own this last week though early and stayed for all three hours. At our last meeting we put two of the daughters on baptismal date for October 23 and the parents both say they want to follow as well. So it's going awesome! Thanks so much for your prayers for our investigators, they've really made a difference and please keep praying for this family as well. It's so hard to make this change, but they are very, very close. It's the parents and 5 kids. We're very excited.

We actually had a members daughter who just recently arrived here from Indonesia accept a baptismal date also for October, so hopefully it will be an exciting month. It's unbelievable how the Lord is blessing us, but after four months of hard struggle, things are finally starting to fall into place. Elder Whittaker and I were just knocking doors the other day and meeting some great people when I turned to Elder Whit and said, "Have you noticed that things are just getting a lot easier all of a sudden?" People would talk to us, they were hiding less, more excited to see us, more willing to meet again, everything. He looked back and told me he was afraid to say anything but that he'd noticed it too. It's a huge blessing, and I'm sure we'll still have some hard times ahead, but it's awesome to be able to have things just go right for a while.

So, things are going awesome! We're still striving to rely on the Lord, and we're seeing some real miracles occur. I've grown so much for my time here in Tawau and wouldn't trade being here for anywhere else. The Lord sends us here for a purpose!

I love you so much. Thanks so much for your support. I'm so happy we have a family that is able to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.

Love you!

Elder Blissett

P.S. You asked what we're doing for food. Elder Whittaker and I have actually been eating lunch and dinner at the apartment most days for the last couple of weeks, so, there's not a whole lot of variety, but I think we're improving every week. This week we're experimenting again with rice and we've been eating a whole lot of eggs. So, learning lots of good skills, right?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photos!!!

So, it looks like I'm going to be able to send some pictures today, which is awesome! Normally they take too long to load on these computers to send, but it looks like it's going to work this time.



Elder Whittaker and I


Our big biawak (monitor lizard) friend (Elder Whittaker says he was about 6 feet long)








Two pictures of water kampungs (these sweet neighborhoods they build out over the ocean)


A picture of one of the giant ants here (zoom in for the full effect!)




A huge tree by the church




A sign Elder Whittaker and I found at a park here. It's a big list of things you can't do, like, bring your dog, vandalize public facilities, destroy the plants and yup, you guessed it, no "berkelakuan sambung," which means something like "romantic behavior." Public Displays of Affection are actually illegal in Malaysia! Always have to be careful.

First Baptism in Tawau October 9th

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, I have lots of good news to start off. First off, it looks like we're going to have our first baptism here in Tawau on October 9th. Yaaaay! Definitely the best news I could be writing home about. The sister's name is P ***, and she's the daughter of a pretty recent convert here. We were actually teaching here before, but because of a big misunderstanding she and her fiance (now husband) dropped us. But, about a month ago her mom contacted us and told us she wants to learn again, and now, after her wedding last week, she's looking really solid to be baptized. Really excited and super eager to learn. Her mom is awesome and is actually getting ready to go to the temple for the first time this November, so it's a really exciting time all around for their family. It's so nice to be meeting with someone who is so eager to learn. I'll tell you what, there's is nothing in this whole world that cheers a missionary's heart more than asking an investigator to pray and hearing things like, "I want to continue learning about your gospel and go to church every week. I'll keep praying and I believe in thee." So awesome! We're really excited. Keep praying for her though. These few weeks before someone gets baptized can be really hard sometimes, so she'll still need plenty of help.

The other good news is that I found a solution to my shoe problem. Things were looking really bad when we were in KK, and I was honestly terrified that at any second I was going to be socks on pavement. The heels did not hold up as well as I was expecting. So, in desperate times I was driven to (what seemed like) desperate measures. All over the place around bus stations here in Malaysia there's always a pretty good number of older men who hang out on the sidewalk with piles of shoes all around them. They're actually kind of cobblers, but seemed a little
bit sketchy to me, and as I couldn't find a missionary who had ever used one, I was a little wary. But, being in such dire straits, I gave it a shot, and it actually went great. Took about ten minutes, cost me 12 ringgit (less than 4 dollars) and all of a sudden I had nice, newly repaired heels. It doesn't even look that bad. So, it's a good solution for maybe another month or two, plenty of time to get my new shoes. Tragedy averted and lesson learned. Use the old men by the bus stations!

Elder Whittaker and I were sneak attacked by giant ants this week. We were walking through a "kampung" (technically it means village, but kind of like a small neighborhood of houses on stilts) looking for Christians. A few people pointed us down a path, and Elder Whittaker, observing that a low hanging limb had ants on it, was very careful to cross without disturbing them. Unfortunately he tripped and smacked the branch, follwed immediately by me triping in the exact same spot and hitting the branch again. At first there didn't seem to be any problem, until Elder Whittaker looked down and saw his arm was covered with giant ants. About the time I saw him start spinning in circles and smacking his body, I started to feel a stinging on various parts of my body and started spinning around as well, dropping everything and smacking every ant I could see. So, after about five minutes of that, we were safe (except for some insect juices on our clothes) and surrounded by what seemed like over 100 dead ant bodies. We're lucky Malaysian ant bites don't itch or leave big marks or we'd be in real trouble. The strangest thing is though there were people all around us watching these two crazy "orang putih" spinning around in circles, going crazy and smacking themselves all over, and they didn't do anything about it. Not even laugh! They all just stood around and watched. It was very strange. Elder Whittaker and I both found ant bodies in our clothes that night.

We're working with a Filipino family right now who are doing great. Three of the kids at least are lined up to come to church right now, and the oldest daughter seems really interested. Has a lot of real intent and is just willing to try and learn for herself if the message is true. We're really excited about it and are hoping it signals some more baptisms soon!

KK was awesome. We ate a lot of McDonalds/Burger King/Whatever American food we could find. It was exceedingly delicious. Zone Conference was great (like always) and district conference was especially fun. The member of the Area Presidency there was an Seventy named Elder Subandrio, who is actually from Indonesia. It was surprisingly exciting to hear a major church authority speaking Indonesian and just made me realize how much progress this part of the world is going to make in the church. Who would ever think that one of your Malaysian recent converts might someday become a Seventy. It's hard to imagine now, but it's bound to happen someday!

I'm absolutely loving the work! I know that this church really is the Savior's church here on the earth today, led by Him. There's no doubting it when you spend as much with the gospel as a missionary. It gets more clear everyday.

I love you all so much, I'm so glad things are going awesome at home. We actually got to talk to the daughter of a member this week who was at school at LDS Business College in Salt Lake. She just came back here about a week ago. It was crazy to talk to someone who just came from my home, but super fun. She might be staying here in Malaysia, but if she goes back I'll be sure to give her our number or something so that you guys can take her out to dinner or something and talk to her all about Malaysia. Very cool.

Florida sounds awesome, we'll have to make another trip sometime!

I love you so much. The church is true, and I'm so grateful that we can enjoy it together as a family. That's one of the greatest blessings we could receive.

Love you! Talk to you soon!

Elder Blissett

Shoes HeHeHeHe LOL HaHa


I don't know if you can quite get the full effect from pictures, but suffice it to say my shoes were not doing well.

Love you!

Elder Blissett

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hari Raya

Halo Keluargaku,

Selamat Hari Raya! Yes, that's right, this last weekend was Hari Raya time here in Tawau, which turned out to be pretty fun. You could just tell a lot of people were really excited about it, and Saturday night we were even invited over to go eat at a Hari Raya party a nice Malay man was holding. It was quite delicious, and good times were had by all. It turns out Hari Raya actually lasts for an entire month (a surprise to me!), but most of the celebrating happens in the first three days, so things are starting to get back to normal.

So tomorrow we're headed to KK for Zone Conference immediately followed by district conference which should be absolutely awesome. Ironically one of the things I'm looking forward to the most is eating some delicious McDonalds. I never thought I'd say something like that, but you'd be surprised how much you start to miss fries, a burger and a soda. Even McDonalds is like heaven after a while. But, the training is always the best part, so it should turn out to be a really great weekend.

We spent a lot of time knocking this last week which is something we haven't had to do a lot of in a while. It's good for you every once in a while though and our teaching pool was running a little low so we got out there and covered some ground. It's funny, the things that you once hated doing so much (and believe me, no missionary likes to knock. At least no missionary I've ever met) get so much better when you get out there and just do it. Even knocking isn't that bad, and it sure makes building up a habit of journal writing or any good habit a lot easier. So, we're learning some new contacting skills and seeing more success everytime we get out. Tawau has been a real crucible, but it's been the best experience of my mission. I'll really miss it when I have to go.

So, we're doing well way out here on the edge of the world. Elder Whittaker's Malay is getting awesome and it't been really fun to get to teach together more and more. We're a good companionship.

So, things are going well. I'm loving the scriptures more than ever. I've been skimming through a lot of the old testament and just studying some good foundational stuff and absolutely loving it. The Pearl of Great Price is the best. It's amazing how much more we know because of our modern prophets. Guidance from a living prophet is the best thing about the church. When we follow the prophet we'll never go astray.

I love you all so much! I love this church. It's so good to just have a pure source of truth to be able to go to everyday. My mission has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Missionary work is the best!

Love you all! Talk to you soon!

Elder Blissett

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blessings Follow Obedience

Halo Keluargaku,

Interesting that you asked about my shoes after the mud actually. The mud really hasn't had any effect on them, however a year of hard missionary labor definitely has. The tops and most of the soles are actually ok (if not a little bit thinner than when I got started), but for some reason the heels have gotten absolutely dominated and although they still look ok for everyone else to see, the bottoms of them are like... I don't know, kind of crumbling away. My shoes learned a new trick! If there's any kind of moisture on the ground they've somehow developed a system of sucking it up through the heel of my sock to get just the heel of my sock wet. Neat, huh? :D The good news is I actually still have an almost brand new pair of shoes waiting for me in Singapore. When I got transferred to Malaysia I just took one pair of shoes because of weight and space, so the second pair are actually waiting all nice and cosy in my suitcase in Singapore with only two months of light use. So, I just have to get to them! I was going to grab them during this huge missionary meeting, but they told us we couldn't take anything out of storage, so I'll just grab them next time I go to Singapore (so no need to send any new shoes!). So, just have to make sure I take care of these for a little while longer. It's actually kind of fun to be wearing out a pair of shoes though, makes you feel like you're working hard!

This week in Tawau was actually really great! Actually, in terms of numbers I think it was easily our best week ever as a companionship and this week has potential to be even better. So that's really exciting! We have at least one person who is looking really solid for baptism in early october (we'd do it sooner, but she's actually in West Malaysia getting married right now! What can you do...), so there's a few other possibilities who are looking really good. So, exciting to say the least. Ironically, it's been such a blessing to have kind of a slower time on my mission, it's taught me so much about patience and humility and preparation, not to mention doing wonders for teaching and contacting skills, but I'm about ready to start seeing people get baptized too. So, glad to see we probably won't have to wait that long. Pray for our investigators!

We have district conference and zone conference coming up together in about two weeks, which means we'll be spending about four days in Kota Kinabalu which should be really fun. KK is the capital of Sabah and is actually a really beautiful city. I think a lot of the most famous beaches in Malaysia (and some of the only really pretty ones) are there, so it attracts a pretty good number of tourists, but is mostly just a nice, good sized city. I never realized quite how much of a city person I was until I came out on my mission, but, I have to admit, I miss seeing cities even the size of Provo and definitely miss good ol' SLC.

Our Zone Leaders informed us of (what I think) is a pretty significant mission policy change again this week. There's been a lot of those lately. This one might not be as significant to you as it was for me, but I thought it was cool. Most missions in the world (as far as I know) have what's called the mission standard of excellence, which is kind of like a standard for key indicators each area in the mission should be striving to achieve (this many member presents, this many new investigators, this many baptisms). It's not a quota, but it's kind of just a goal to let you know what's kind of expected of you. Anyway, this last week the Zone Leaders informed us that because almost every area in our mission is so different from the others, instead of a mission standard of excellence, President decided that every area in the mission should have their own individual expectations as determined by the Zone Leaders. So, it's a big step forward. Our new expectations feel a lot more achievable and motivating, not to mention helping me feel a little bit better about the work we've done here so far. It's tough to set a standard expectation when each area of the mission not only kind of has a culture of its own, but also an entirely different style of doing missionary work. So, we're happy about it!

Other than that, it's school holidays right now because Hari Raya is coming up this week! Hari Raya is a pretty big holiday here, that, as far as I understand it, marks the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan (spelling?), which is a month of fasting. That means that for all of the last month, none of the muslims here in Tawau have been eating or drinking during daylight hours. Not an easy task when you're in the oppressive Malaysian heat all day and can't get a drink of water. So, you can imagine, Hari Raya is supposed to be a huge party with a mighty good helping of eating. So we're looking forward to it, should be fun!

For some reason this last week I've been really impressed with just how much the Lord blesses us for even the smallest obediences to the commandments. I'm not sure what reminded me of that, but it's been a really powerful idea for me. Heavenly Father loves us so much, that even though we constantly fall short and make mistakes and lose our perspective, any time we manage to do any little thing that's right, he blesses us so enormously. I think one good scriptural example is Laman and Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel did almost nothing but complain and cause problems for their family for pretty much their entire lives as far as the scriptures show, and yet the Lord still blessed them immensely for what must have been pretty minor obediences. First off, He let them live, giving them breath from moment to moment. Then He gave them an awesome family who continually strove to bring them back on the straight and narrow. Then He let them go to the promised land and receive lands there. Then, at the end of the story, it was Laman and Lemuel's seed that ended up surviving by the end of the Book of Mormon, even longer than righteous Nephi's. That's a lot of pretty huge blessings for people who don't seem to have much desire to do what's right! It's the same in our lives I think. Sure we're lazy and judgmental and selfish, but we do go to church and say our prayers and pay our tithing and the Lord gives us incredible blessings for it. For me, just being on a mission is a bigger blessing than I think I ever merited, and it's that's just the beginning of all the things I've received. The Lord really does love us, and any time it's hard to keep a commandment, I think for me it's recently become incredibly important just to remember that the Lord always gives us far more in return than we ever give up.

So, the work is going well. Malaysia is still awesome, and I don't think there's anywhere in the mission I'd rather be than Tawau right now. It's one awesome area. We're loving it and doing our best to help move the kingdom forward.

I love you all so much. I love this work and I love this church. I know it's true and I'm so grateful to have the chance to come out here and share it with others full-time. The church is true!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hump Day!

Halo Keluargaku,

I can't believe it's been a year either. Actually, I still technicallyhave one day left, but the more I think about it the crazier the idea gets. I can't believe that it was a full year ago that I stepped out of the car and into the MTC, or that in one more year I'll be stepping off the plane and into Salt Lake! What a crazy thought! But, I think it keeps me motivated too. It's a little sad to think I only have a year left, but I think I can work twice as hard in this second year asthe first and everything will work out just fine. Just crazy, but pretty fun too.

The rain is always so nice. I love to see the storms rolling in here in Malaysia. The thunder and lightening can be pretty amazing, and it always feels so cozy if you can manage to be somewhere safe during the storms. This last week we actually had some pretty major flooding all over different parts of Tawau. Church attendance was a little low because of it (lots of members seem to enjoy living next to rivers. If it was me, no thanks!), but overall the rain turns out to be pretty fun. In the road in front of our house the drains where normally all rain the drains down to were actually working in reverse and spewing water out to flood the whole road. The was actually a piece of the sidewalk with water bursting out of it like a small fountain. Pretty crazy, but lots of fun.

It actually ended up holding another surprise for us just yesterday too. All the flooding had subsided and I actually kind of forgot it even happened at all. So, we're taking a "shortcut" to get to member's house when we come to a really small stream. More like a trickle. Less than a foot wide, a tiny little thing. So, anyway, I step out to take a small hop onto the opposite bank, land nicely and, surprise, am immediately sucked into the ground up to my knees. It turns out the sturdy looking bank was actually a 2-3 foot deposit of soft, freshly flooded mud. So, after finding a board to help me get out (I couldn't step anywhere near me without sinking into more mud, so I required a little additional assistance), a friendly nearby man helped me get my shoes and socks and legs and pants sprayed off so I could get back on the bus to go home and get cleaned up. It was a mess. There was another guy who saw what happened with one of the biggest smiles I've seen on a Malaysian. He just couldn't stop laughing, and who can blame him. It's not everyday you see an orang putih (white guy) crossing through your back yard and getting stuck up to his knees in mud. They just kept asking, "kenapa kamu limpas sini? Ada jalan sana." (why didyou cross through here? There's a road over there). So, that was fun. A good story, right? :D

Other than that, things are going pretty average. The new training we got from President was awesome, and I think already the quality of our lessons is going way up. And, something else happened! One of the fairly recent converts here has randomly given us 8 referrals in the last week. It was so crazy, but such a blessing. Everything is better if you can get a referral, so hopefully we'll be able to baptize several of these! Awesome.

Other than that, still just working hard, learning everyday and loving it. Missionary work is the best. Once you get a taste for it you just find you don't ever want to stop.

Love you all so much! Elder Whittaker's doing good! We're loving it out here.

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Training in Singapore

Halo Keluargaku,

So, here I am in Singapore for the first (and probably only) all mission conference ever! I can't remember if I mentioned this was going to happen, but the entire mission (all 80 missionaries of us. Malaysia is totally empty of missionaries) is in Singapore right now for four days doing a brand new training from the first presidency called the "simplified curriculum."

So, totally awesome! It's perfect too right before the mission split to get to see everyone for one huge last hurrah! So, we're just hanging out, doing tons of training and kind of enjoying each others company for one of our last runs to Singapore. With the new visas, they should be getting rarer and rarer. The new training is interesting. Nothing really earth shattering, but just kind of eight teaching principles that we're supposed to focus on a lot more that hopefully will make a pretty good difference in the results we see.

Hey, I have some other random great news I heard the other day. They're officially teaching Malay at the MTC! Hooray! We're finally getting a little bit of acknowledgment. Apparently we're still looking at about three years before we get a Book of Mormon, but this is definitely a huge step forward. The Singapore mission is moving up in the world! So, to meet with our new transfer schedule (we're going to get on a twelve week transfer cycle apparently), they're changing the language program to only six weeks, aaand they've separated us from the Indonesian missionaries. Good deal.

I got to go around on kind of exchanges with Elder Skanchy (our new AP) the other night. He actually went to East High and lives up by Steiner, so it was pretty fun to get to remember home a little bit with him. I actually met Elder Wheelright too the other day during training, who is the Prout's grandson. So, lots of random connections to home this last week.

Tawau is doing well. We had to miss church there this week to fly to Singapore which was a *huge* bummer (it's funny, before my mission I never would have guessed how important it would be to have missionaries at church), but during training here we're getting a lot of new ideas that I think are really going to help out. We've just got so much potential, and I think the longer I'm there the better things will get. Apparently President is very committed to trying to keep us in our areas 6-8 months now though so I should have plenty of time to get everything figured out.

It's funny though, as slow as things get I absolutely love Tawau. It's just a fun area with great members, and everyday is kind of an adventure out there. So, I'm doing well too.

I'm hitting my year mark next year. I don't know if I have any shirts or anything I can afford to burn, but, we'll have to find some kind of way of commemorating it. (Fire is definitely not a huge danger though. Any building of size in Malaysia is built almost completely out of cement. They're working on getting more fire alarms out into the missionary apartments, but, honestly I don't know if we could light our apartment on fire if we wanted! Maybe the couches!) I can't believe how fast it's gone, but, shockingly enough, as much as I miss home I find myself kind of wishing this second half will go a little slower. I'm just finally starting to love the work, and the thought that would end too quickly kills me!

But, I'm doing great and loving the work. The church is so true and such a huge blessing to have in our lives. There's just nothing else like it in all the world. It's a truly inspired organization from the very bottom to the very top, and I love being a part of it. It's a miracle that they assign the responsibility for taking the lead on the missionary efforts to nineteen year old kids, but the bigger miracle is exactly how well it works. I promise we perform above our natural abilities, and it's so good to know that whoever looks like they're in charge, the Lord is always the one behind the scenes making everything work. It's awesome to be here during a time of so much change, but every time a big one comes it just becomes so much more obvious how inspired President Clark is in leading our mission. Good to know we're in the Lord's hands.

I love you all so much. Thanks so much for your support, and it's always so good to hear you're all doing well too!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coming up on the year mark

Halo Keluargaku,

Thanks for all the information on the mudskippers. That sounds like exactly what they are! In fact I remembered after reading that article we even saw them flipping and rolling around trying to stay wet. Just such a crazy animal...

Well, I've been a little bit sick again, which is bad, but not bad enough to keep us from getting out and working which is good. It feels like I've been sick more than normal on my mission. Maybe it's just that I notice it a lot more now though when it affects so much of your daily activities.

Other than that the week has been pretty good though. I did get your package, thank you so much! We're just about to run go watch the movies you sent and I'm really, really excited for it. The candy is awesome too though! I don't know if you really remember or noticed, but the starbursts you sent are actually sour and sweet kinds. Well, as soon as I opened up the bag I grabbed one of the green ones (a sour one) and popped it in my mouth only to be completely overcome with sourness. Seriously, I almost couldn't keep it in my mouth. So I called to Elder Whittaker and said, "Elder, you have to try one of these. These are the most sour thing I've ever tasted." Elder Whittaker, after trying one just kind of looked at me and said "Elder, you've been in Malaysia for too long." Malaysians don't really do sweet or sour, so I guess after living here for almost a year I've started to lose some of my tolerance. Anyway, that was a lot of fun, and now I've started to get a little bit more used to them.

The work is still going pretty well. I'd keep your more updated on our investigators, but things change so much from week to week that it's almost impossible to keep up. But, things are going well, ****, a Filipino lady here and someone who's kind of starting to be a long term investigator is on baptismal date and really is just super ready for the church. She loves the church magazines, and I think she understands more than some of the members here how important and awesome it is to get to go to the temple and be sealed to your family forever. So, hopefully before long she'll be baptized. Her husband has been a bit of struggle to meet with, but we've even been able to make some progress with him in the last week.

So, things are going well. We're working hard and enjoying it, and I think that's really about all you can ask for as a missionary. I love this work. I know the church is true and the more we dive into it, the more obvious that becomes.

I love you so much! Thank you so much for all your support. I really can feel it all the way down here in Malaysia, especially when times are tough. I'm coming up on my year mark, isn't that crazy? I think two weeks left to go. Crazy...

Love you so much!

Elder Blissett

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No electricity

Well, lots of random things this week, one of the first and foremost is that we were pleasantly surprised to hear a little bit of ruckus by our door during studies the other day, the quiet sound of paper sliding under the door, and feet beating a quick retreat to find out that, surprise, our power got cut! Yipee...

So, I'm still not entirely sure what happened. There's a guy here in Malaysia who handles all the church finances, so we faxed him our power bill weeks ago, but for some reason he just didn't pay for it. I... don't really know why. We called him the other day and he said he would pay it right then, but it was a national holiday in Singapore so it wouldn't get through until later. OK. Well, we called him yesterday again and it turns out due to a miscommunication he thought we were just going to pay for it. Well... Today the power it still out, so we don't know what's going on. On the brightside we slept out on the porch area of our apartment since we don't have any aircon or fans, which turned out to be a little like camping! As nice as it is to cool your apartment with fresh air though, we're pretty excited to be getting our power back, although we still don't know when exactly that will be.

We discovered new wildlife this week (it seems like I've been sending a bunch of wildlife e-mails lately). Anyway, this week Elder Whittaker and I started watching some fish in a nearby water channel thing, only to be shocked to see one fish jump out of the water and land on the beach. That was unusual, but you can only imagine our surprise when said fish started paddling along the beach with his flippers, and then quickly dart down a hole in the sand. Turns out as we kept watching we found about a dozen of these "mudfish" paddling their way across the beach and darting down holes. They've got to be some of the weirdest animals I've ever seen, although I'm actually pretty sure I've seen them on Discovery Channel or something. They're just some kind of crazy fish that for some reason can survive out of the water for a little bit, and has developed a way to use it's little flippers to almost kind of walk. Ridiculous. I'd love to get more information on them if you can find any though!

Things are getting a little more stable with our investigators. We have one looking pretty solid to be baptized in the early part of September, and two more who should be going on date sometime this week (they're actually that guy we randomly re-met I talked about last week and his wife. They've been to church twice already and are looking pretty solid). So, we're feeling prety encouraged. Still just working hard everyday.

Well, that's pretty much it for the week in Tawau! Elder Whittaker told me that he thinks for everyday, you should be able to say that today is better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow, and I'm thinking that's a pretty good way to get by in life. Seems pretty applicable here!

The gospel is true. It's what makes everything we do as missionaries worthwhile. I know I'd be lost without the church and I'm so happy to get a chance to do my part in sharing that with others. It's so good to get two years of your life totally focused everyday on doing better to help more people. Not many more noble goals.

Love you so much!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lost in Tawau

Halo Keluargaku,

This week turned out pretty well actually despite any setbacks we ran into, one of which quite notably happened on the day President Clark arrived here. So, he actually only ended up meeting with us for a few hours, but the plan was that we would have an appointment set-up, we would do a pre-check before the appointment and then go teach, and afterwards do a review together. Well, due to a lack of really progressing investigators we didn't really have many people we could schedule for the time that he wanted to come here. To add on to the problems one of the few people we were able to schedule backed out on us the day before we needed her. Garbage! Luckily we were able to contact another awesome lady on the bus though and set her up right in the nick of time to bring president.

Well, everything seemed to be kind of coming together until we went out to find this lady's house. I was actually pretty sure I knew from her directions exactly where her house was. Long story short, I didn't. So, after about half a dozen phone calls to her, 50 ringgit in taxis, directions from anyone we could find, and almost an hour of hiking through the wonderful neighborhoods of Tawau, we finally got to this lady's house and had a pretty nice lesson with her. We'd already wasted enough time we didn't really get a chance to do the after lesson review before we had to rush them all off to the airport, but all in all, we survived. We're lucky that President Clark both has a great attitude and is in excellent physical condition or else we really could have been in trouble. What a mess...

The good news is we found an awesome new investigator this last week named T ***. He's a race called "orang menado," which means he comes from a pretty good sized island in Indonesia called Sulawesi, but he's been here in Sabah for a few years already. Anyway, I actually contacted this guy about a month ago, but sort of overlooked him in my list of potential investigators. Well, here we are weeks later teaching a lesson at a home near his house, when he suddenly shows up and sits in on the lesson. He asked us if we'd be willing to come down to his house afterwards where he told us that he'd actually been looking for us since he met me the first time, but his phone didn't have any credit so he couldn't give us a call. Awesome. Anyway, it turns out he's super eager to learn and even came to church the day after we met him, which is awesome. We're really excited about him and it looks like things are going to go really well.

Elder Whittaker and I found a 5 to 6 foot monitor lizard on the road this week! Awesome! We actually managed to chase him against a fence so we were able to get close enough to get some really awesome pictures of him (and stay safe :D ). Ayoh, I might just have to send the pictures next week though, the internet here might be a little too slow to manage it. Anyway, they're awesome! If you look on wikipedia I'm sure you can find some good pictures.

Anyway, that's the week from Tawau. I love you all so much. The church is true. Thanks so much for all your support!

Love you!
Elder Blissett