Friday, January 29, 2010

January 26th 2010

Halo Keluargaku,

Glad to hear that the house didn't burn down while I was away! I actually didn't remember the microwave catching on fire the last time, but I'm glad to hear it didn't last this time? How's Johnny doing? Still running around crazy?

Well, this was a good week, but just a little bit slower than usual for sure. Elder Hall was actually pretty sick from about Thursday really until Monday, so we spent lots of time inside kind of just recovering. Which was pretty nice, but things just feel slow when you're not out working all the time, you know? On the other hand I suddenly found a whole lot of spare time to brush up on some Malay.

Um... so... what other news this week. Things are still going pretty good with most of our investigators. Lots of people still looking good and making good progress towards baptism. One family in particular (I can't remember if I mentioned them before) are a husband and wife named E.L. and his wife A ** is especially awesome. A is actually expecting a baby near the end of the year, so they're at kind of a transitioning time in their life, which I think always kinds of help people be prepared to hear the gospel. Best of all though, E.L. is just a sincerely good person striving to do what's right. While I've been out here, I've realized that sometimes that's kind of rare. There are so many people in the world just content to kind of go on living their lives without looking to make anything about them better. Just kind of on cruise control. E.L. though really just seems to be looking for the truth. Such a good guy! We're actually going to go out and do a little shopping with him and another member today. So, looking forward to that.

So, things the last couple of weeks have definitely been looking pretty good, but there have been sadder events too. One family in particular who was scheduled to be baptized last Saturday looks like they've kind of dropped us. The wife was never quite as on board as the husband and son, and I guess the husband went and got some incorrect information about the church from his pastor, and that seems to be just about it for them (at least for now). It's just really sad to see people who were so close to making the best decision of their lives back out at the last second. Satan's just strong sometimes. But, we're going to try and do whatever we can for them and I guess we'll just have to wait and see how everything turns out. People have their agency, right?

Overall though, things are going really well. I'm loving it here in Ipoh. Friendly people, lots of different groups of people, tons of delicious food, good members and the chance to ride a bike, which I've actually come to really love! Strange to be losing my companion though. Elder Hall has been awesome, but he'll be headed home in just a little over a week now. This last week in our district meeting we all made guesses about who would be coming to replace him. Exciting to see!

So, kind of same old, same old. C, our recent convert, is doing really well and making progress everyday. Hopefully now that Elder Hall is healthier we'll be able to get out a little bit more this week. One more advantage of a bunch of free time though is that I discovered journal writing, and have now become a journal writing fiend. So, you can expect to hear everything when I get home!

Ok, I love you so much! So good to hear from you always, and I pray for all you guys all the time! I love you! The church is true. I'm learning all the time that the more involved you get in it, the more you find that out.

Ok! Love you!
-Elder Blissett (Kevin)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Halo Keluargaku

So, the rumors are true. The food here in Ipoh is amazing. Really, probably some of the very best in the whole world. I was telling that to one of the members here the other day, at first as kind of a joke, but once I started to think about it, I think I really believe it! Seriously, every bit as good as Greek food or Italian or anything else. Really diverse too!

Elder Hall and I have mostly been eating a lot of chinese food lately, but there's also great Indian and Malay food here too. The best part is it's very, very cheap! Best of both worlds. Things have been going great here in Ipoh.

Elder Hall and I were able to have a baptism on Saturday, which was a really great way to celebrate my birthday, and a great baptism besides! His name is C ***, and it's been so good to see him start to really make changes in his life. His background isn't the best, but the more we meet with him, the more the gospel seems to be changing his heart. We met with him this week to teach him his first Recent Convert lesson (we teach recent converts all the investigator lessons + 1 more to make sure we can keep working with people even after they're baptized), and he just looked so much happier, more well rested, more motivated and eager to learn more about the gospel. He's bringing his parents to church, trying to get a job, showing his friends a good example and everything else he should be doing. He's still got a lot to learn, but he's doing so much better every time we meet. Very cool to see.

Elder Hall is holding up well. In the mission we have a phrase called "trunky," that describes what happens to missionaries when they think too much about home. They lose their focus, start singing all the old music they used to listen to at home, bend the rules, and, you guessed it, start packing their "trunks." It's kind of funny if you can avoid the frustration of it all. Elder Hall, however, is not the least bit trunky. He's going home the way missionaries should, working hard, staying focused and teaching me a lot. He's only got about three weeks to go, but I can tell we're going to make them count! He's a good Elder for sure!

My birthday went great! President Yap (the branch president here, such an awesome guy and very funny. He's only been a member for about 5 years, and yet, here he is doing a great job leading the church here in Ipoh.) and a really missionary minded member here named Sister Chris took Elder Hall and I out for dinner, made us a cake, and just celebrated with us generally, so it ended up being a really good birthday. Sister Chris even brought us breakfast my birthday morning. It was awesome! They're the best.

Other than that though, it's been a pretty standard week. Still teaching a lot of people, still working hard. Ok! Running out of time for this week with trying to send all the pictures too! But I love you so much. Still safe and happy down here.

Love You! Elder Blissett (Kevin)


Me with my nametag and good old Kitab Mormon. I realized you hadn't seen a picture of any of that yet, but thought a picture without some person in it would be kind of boring. So, I put myself in there too!

Chowing down on some delicious Indian food. I'm actually pretty proud of my eating-by-hand technique. It's actually more complicated than just grabbing the food and shoving it in your mouth. You have to use your first four fingers like a spoon, and then use your thumb to push the food off your hand and into your mouth. Very delicate, very graceful.

A picture of Elder Hall and I with the birthday cake Sister Chris/President Yap got for me. A very good birthday!

This is my companion Elder Hall (he's from North Ogden by the way, but going to BYU) in front of the door of our apartment. I guess a bunch of members decorated it for the new year, and we decided to leave it all up at least through Chinese New Year, which is a very huge deal and is coming up in the middle of February.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1st Week in Malaysia

Dear Family!

So good to hear from you again. I don't know if e-mails on P-Day will ever stop being a much needed refreshment! Just nice to hear about everything going on at home. Things over here are also going really well though! Malaysia is great, and I feel like I'm starting to feel more at home here all the time, even though Elder Hall and I have had almost not a single regular working day since I got here. Just so much going on!

Things here with the churches and everything are definitely not a big problem. Elder Hall and I were actually in KL for mission tour (when a general authority comes here to tour our mission and do like a zone conference and things. More on that later) on Thursday when things kind of got started, but we didn't even hear anything about it the whole time we were there. Missionaries are still in KL and everything, so we're all pretty safe!

But, like I said, took a train down to KL with the rest of our zone and also KL zone to visit with Elder Watson of the Seventy who was here touring our mission. It was really cool to see him and all of the other elders and everything. Missionary gatherings are always just so exciting! Always have good training prepared with nice, practical things to go home and apply, but every bit as enjoyable is seeing all the other missionaries and hearing fun stories and how things are going and just enjoying ourselves for a day. I finally got to see a couple of the other missionaries I was in the MTC with! That was awesome, and they're all doing really great. Working hard and having good success and everything.

After that, we came home, had a very productive Sunday packed with good appointments, and then yesterday the zone leaders came down from Penang to do an interview with an investigator we have scheduled to be baptized on Saturday! So, a good way to celebrate a birthday for sure, huh?

I'm getting a lot more used to life in Malaysia even though we've been so crazy with traveling around and everything! The food here is so delicious, and I'm working hard to get my chopstick skills up to scratch! It's funny, I wouldn't have thought I'd be going on a mission where I'd need chopsticks, but there are so many Chinese here that sometimes it feels a little bit like I'm visiting the Chinese countryside instead of the Malaysian. We're actually even teaching a few investigators through translators, although almost everyone here speaks Malay since they all have to learn it in school. So! Good to have a common language even if English isn't the best to use!

The other major groups here are Tamils from India who have mostly been here for a few generations now. Sometimes again though, it feels like you've been thrust into the middle of India. The other day we biked through a Tamil neighborhood where I saw a cow wandering through the middle of the streets next to a Hindu temple. Who would have guessed, huh?

Which reminds me! I'm totally a biking missionary now, which I'm loving, but has made me very, very sore. I think I'm getting over the shock of the first couple of days, but you'd be amazed how much there is to learn about how to move through the streets here in Malaysia. One important lesson I learned just yesterday was "Do NOT ride your bike through puddles" after seeing one of my zone leaders hit a hidden pothole and flip all the way over onto his back. He was fine, but the look on his face was definitely one of a surprise I'd rather not experience. Also, "stay close to your Senior companion." That one I learned after getting separated and lost for about and hour. It's ok though, I met a very friendly Nigerian man and everything worked out ok!

Anyway, I'm doing really well out here. Really starting to love it! Malaysia is an adventure, but very, very awesome, and I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else in the world. I love you all so much, and it's so good to hear from you! Can't wait to hear from you again.

Thanks for all the Happy Birthday wishes, (and to answer John's question, Happy Birthday at least in this part of Malaysia [I'm finding more and more that Malay varies wildly depending on where you are in Malaysia], is "Selamat Hari Jadi," which means something like "Happy Happening Day." Like the day you happened I guess! Very strange... Another possibility I've heard is "Selamat Ulang Tahun," which means something like "Happy Year Repetition." Not quite so nice).

Love you!! Elder Blissett (aka in Malaysia as Elder Bliss, Blizzard, or Lizard, but who still just prefers, Kevin)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Live from Ipoh...

Halo Keluarga Aku,

Heavens! Everyone I've talked to said that you get a new culture shock each time you go to one of our three areas (Singapore, East and West Malaysia) for the first time, but I guess I never really realized the extent until I got here. It's crazy. Ipoh is so, so different! The people are different, the work is different, the food is different, languages are different. Everything! It's like I went into a whole new country.

It's so good though. I think I'm going to really love it here in Ipoh, which is good news, since I could easily be here for a long time. My companion, Elder Hall, is actually going home in just a month, but he's spent the last 8 months here, and although transfer schedules are completely impossible to predict (as I just learned), I think I could be here for a long time.

Anyway, so what's it like exactly? Good! It actually kind of reminds me of like... a smaller town in Texas kind of feel, only with a lot more Indians. Things here are mostly pretty run down, lots and lots of farming, very friendly people who will just sit and visit with you for a long time, and not a whole lot of the same western conveniences we had in Singapore. Also much dirtier! But good, it seems like the kind of dirtiness that comes from people just lounging around so much, more than dirtiness from any kind of intentional badness.

Let me tell you about how I got here though. Goodness it was crazy, and if I didn't have to do it like this, I certainly wouldn't have, but it all turned out ok in the end.

So I found out I was getting transferred at exactly 11:08 Monday morning which was really, really bittersweet. On the one hand, I was really excited to be getting into Malaysia, but I was also really sad to be leaving Elder Merrill and Singapore and everything. Like every missionary says, I felt like I was really, finally getting a handle on Singapore just in those last few days. Things were going to be pretty tough, but I was kind of excited for the adventure. Guess it just wasn't meant to be! So after being blown away by the fact that I was leaving, we started making phone calls to people to tell them I was leaving, got invited over for dinner and all of those kinds of things. Then we went down to the office to take care of some things where, surprise, surprise, there were about a dozen missionaries in for their trimonthly visits to Singapore. Normally that would just be fun, until I found out that the Zone Leaders from KL, who normally buy peoples bus tickets in for people coming up to Ipoh were in Singapore instead. No big deal though, one of the Senior sisters just told me to talk to them and they'd work it out, so I did, no problem, just went out and enjoyed the rest of our day.

It wasn't until I got home around 10 o'clock that night and I realized no one had really told me what the plans were for the next day. I had my flight plan, so I knew I what time I'd be leaving, but that was about it. By the next day (after I'd stayed up until about three packing and recording all the information I had to give before I left), we'd discovered that I didn't have any ride to the airport arranged, didn't know what terminal I was going to, didn't have a bus ticket from KL so I'd have to buy my own, and didn't have anyone to accompany me on my first trip to Malaysia. Hooray! It all worked out ok though. I was able to find out where the terminal was, how to catch a taxi to the Bus station in KL (which is a *terrifying* place called Puduraya. It's this dirty, nasty place where everyone sits around with scowls on their faces, and people without nametags or any way to tell they are employees just shout at you ,"Hey boss! where you going?" It was scary, but somehow I ended up on the right bus (which I wasn't even positive about until around 3 hours into the trip when I finally mustered up the courage to ask the guy sitting next to me how much longer until Ipoh. I couldn't make myself really sleep the entire time for fear that he or someone else was going to rob me. I had my passport in my pocket and everything). Anyway, I made it, I'm here, everything's ok. All I can say is that prayer is real.

Things are good though. I'm safe, the work is going really well here and Elder Hall is great! It was a crazy experience, but I'm finally here in Malaysia. Phew, what a trip. It's definitely going to take some adjusting, but people always talk about how good the food is here, so I think it will be a pleasant adjusting period. You should look up some pictures of Ipoh. They have these crazy *huge* rock mountain things that just pop up out of the ground and are covered with like... jungle on top! Very strange...

Anyway, I love you so much! I'm doing great! Thinking about you all the time and I'm excited to get working hard here to make you all proud!

Love you so much!
Elder Blissett (Kevin)

The News!

Hey, I just wanted to shoot you this quick e-mail since I found a free terminal and just in case my news interferes with my P-Day (it shouldn't). But I've been transferred to Ipoh, Malaysia! Crazy, huh? I found out yesterday at 11:08 and I should be there by this afternoon. So I'll be flying into Kuala Lumpur, and then bussing there. Anyway, just wanted to let you know!

Love you!
Elder Blissett (Kevin)