Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Elder Nelson's Visit

Halo Keluargaku!

Well, here I am writing from the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur. We came down here on Monday to see the mission tour with Elder Nelson and we won't be heading back until later today. Missionary gatherings are always a lot of fun, and this one has been particularly nice, but I think it will be good to get back into my area too! Elder Nelson was actually a really special experience. You definitely don't look at an apostle the same way during your mission you did before. It was just so awesome to have someone really called by God as one of his special witnesses right there just talking to us for so long. We had a missionary meeting in the morning that was only the 26 missionaries in West Malaysia, President and Sister Clark, Elder and Sister Watson (he's in the area presidency for asia), and Elder and Sister Nelson, (plus one Indonesian member who was going back to Indonesia before the member meeting that night). It was awesome, you could just tell he cared so much about us and wanted so much to give us something valuable. Such a smart man too! Did you know that he actually speaks 8 languages (including a little chinese). I think the best part though was the time he gave us just to ask questions at the end. He told us that was probably the only opportunity we'd ever have to ask an apostle questions in such a small group, and I think he was probably right. It was awesome. Historic also! When he went to East Malaysia just before coming to see us it was the very first time in the history of the world that an apostle made a visit to the island of Borneo (did I ever clarify that? That East Malaysia is Borneo? Well, Borneo is a big island, and the top half is East Malaysia).

Things are going really well with Elder Porter! I got to see Elder Watkins too coming down here to KL so that was fun.

Did I forget to tell you about Chinese New Year much? It was fun! I was waiting for Elder Porter to arrive so I spent a lot of the first day just visiting member's houses and snacking (that's what they do, everyone sits around a table and you have snacks, then you all move on to the next house and do the same thing). The Ang Pow was plentiful, although not nearly as much as some of the member kids seem to pull in. Two of the youth in our branch brought in 600 ringgit, which is a little under 200 US, but when you consider that almost everything here in Malaysia is about 60% cheaper, it becomes a really sizable amount of money. Ah, the food here is so delicious! I think my favorite is the Chinese food (which is a surprise! I thought it was going to be Indian). Have I talked at all about Chinese food? I don't think so. It turns out most of the sweet, syrupy stuff we have in America is nothing like real Chinese food. Chinese food is actually really savory, rarely sweet at all. There's kind of a few options, you either get nasi (rice) or mee (noodles), and if you get noodles you either get it fried or in a soup. There's a ton of different kinds of noodles here, but one of my favorites is called Kuew Tiao (which has innumerable spellings). Its a long flat noodle about 1/2 an inch wide. It's super delicious either goreng (fried) or in a soup. Really delicious, and super fun to practice your chop stick skills. The Indian food is good also, lots and lots of curries. Indian food you almost always eat with rice or with some kind of nan or roti (which all seem to me to just be variations on tortillas). Did I tell you I ate fish head curry the other day before Elder Hall left? That was an experience! Turns out most of the meat on a fish head is in the lips. Who would have guessed? The hardest part was making myself eat the eyeball though. You have to scoop it out with your spoon, put it in your mouth and suck all the meat off because there's a hard kind of plasticky part of the eye that you can't eat. Very different, but lots of fun!

So, things are still going great here. It's funny, even without being forced to speak Malay everyday mine seems to be getting a lot better now. My listening comprehension is kind of dismal, but I'm finding that I can say or translate into Malay whatever I hear in English. So, keep working, right? Elder Porter is helping me out a lot after spending six months in Sarawak, where it's all-malay all-the-time.

Ok, I have to run, but I love you all so much!

Love you! Talk to you soon! Elder Blissett (Kevin)

P.S. My e-mail is changing to kevin.blissett@myldsmail.net

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another New Companion!

Halo Keluargaku,

Nama Berita Dek? (How are you?)

You'll have to forgive the Iban, but I just have Sarawak on the brain after, you guessed it (or maybe you didn't), my new companion arrived here fresh from Sarawak, East Malaysia. New companion you say, but didn't you just get a new companion? Funny how that works, but I'm begining to learn that missionary transfers are *completely* impossible to predict.

So, the rumors are true, after an incredible seven days with Elder Watkins he was emergency transferred to KL to take the place of another Elder with a foot injury there. So, just when you're getting used to the idea of my companion being Elder Watkins, I'm now with Elder Porter from beautiful Delta, Utah. Crazy, huh?

So, as of Monday evening I'm officially with my sixth companion in five months (including the MTC). I think it would be pretty standard for most people to have around eight companions their whole mission. Still just blows my mind everytime I think about it. It's been a good, really cool experience, but it's a surprise every time.

So, Elder Porter, he's a really great guy. Very tall and muscular (he's on a full-ride wresteling scholarship to UVU), which makes him stick out quite a lot here in Malaysia, but I think makes me look even a little more Malaysian sized, so it's good. Did I ever tell you I was Malaysian sized? It's true! Most of them are a bit skinnier than me, but pretty commonly right around my height. Good to find a place where I fit in!

So, like I said before, Elder Porter has spent the last 6 months in Sarawak in a little bitty town called Sibu. He's kind of had a bit of culture shock coming back over here to West Malaysia where people have furniture and cars, but I think we're really going to be able to work well together. If this week is any indication, it's going to be a pretty fruitful companionship.

In the one week that Elder Watkins was here we actually just started to have really awesome success. Multiple people have started showing up who are just really prepared to hear the gospel. One is a guard named M*** who just happened to start working at our apartment complex a few weeks ago. We didn't meet him until we were going over to meet with the Dabels for district meeting and he called out after us, "Hey, are you from the Church of Jesus Christ?" When we finished the meeting, there he was again to meet us and ask more questions. It turns out he actually went to the church in Australia at least one time, is very familiar with the Joseph Smith story, just sort of recently become Christian and is looking for more of the truth. He's a perfect investigator!

Later that week, a member here took us to a small town about 30 minutes south of here called Batu Gajah, where there just happens to be a whole family who really want to learn because the father said he just couldn't feel the spirit at his church. After coming only one week, he said to us, "Yes, I'll be coming back every week." Wah! There's rumors all over the place of a lot more people in Batu Gajah who want to learn. I feel like in the somewhat near future there could even be enough members down there to start a group. Very exciting.

So, things are looking up. Crazy everyday, always changing, but definitely looking up!

I forgot to tell you about Chinese New Year! It was great! Bigger than Christmas I think, and people will actually continue to celebrate for the next two weeks. So, as far as I can gather, the first day is just for family gatherings, but after that it's open house after open house where everyone just offers you little snacks. Lots of snacks added up though means you're very full all day. And Ang Pow of course! Those wonderful little red envelopes filled with money married people give to single people. What a nice tradition, huh? :D

So, everything's going really well here. Elder Nelson is coming to KL next week for a mission tour, so we'll be going down there Monday through Wednesday! Awesome!

Ok, Aku sayang kamu semua banyak (I love you all a lot!), so happy to hear everything is going well. I'm doing well and the work is doing better!

Talk to you soon! Love you!

-Elder Blissett (Kevin)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Companion

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, Elder Hall is gone now. We had a really nice breakfast with President Yap and Sister Chris and the Dabels, stuck him on a bus and then he was gone! Crazy to think it happens that fast, but I'm excited for him to be back home.

Malaysia is really starting to heat up getting ready for Chinese New Year! As far as I can tell, it's actually bigger than Christmas here. In fact, since the first day falls on Sunday, this next week we're only going to have sacrament meeting. Crazy! So the public holiday is officially the 14 and 15 of February this year, but I guess people will celebrate for kind of the two weeks surrounding the holiday too. It's crazy, people take off like a whole week of work and just have a good time with their families! Should be fun.

This one comes right on the tails of another holiday I forgot to tell you about called Thaipusam (or something kind of like that). It's actually an Indian festival, and another huge deal and public holiday. Maybe a little less wholesome though. I guess the whole idea of the festival is to show the gods that you really want a particular blessing by sort of torturing yourself in their honor. The most common ways are by putting about a dozen nasty looking hooks in your back, and having someone pull them while you walk a few kilometers, or else carrying a nine foot tall mini-temple with an idol in it on your shoulders from the river to his temple. I guess that one often gets combined with some good ol' fashioned hooking as well.

Sounds a little less fun, huh?

Anyway, it sounds like the major ways to celebrate Chinese New Year are by singing all kinds of funny sounds, gathering up your whole family and spending time together, giving away mandarin oranges and (certainly one of the best parts) giving away ang pow! Ang Pow are little red envelopes that married people put money in and give to single people! I don't really understand all the reasons for the tradition, but it's always a very friendly one to missionaries.

I have my new companion. His name is Elder Watkins, and he's from Holladay. I think we're going to get along really, really well. He's actually a really young missionary also, only about two months older than me, but he's super motivated and definitely has his head on his shoulders. So, we're off to a good start, lots of exciting families to teach and everything.

Just before Elder Hall left we were able to have two more baptisms. The first was a really nice chinese lady named S***F ***. She almost delayed, but we asked her to go home, pray about it and really think about it, and she pulled through in the end. It was so good to see her baptized. I really know it's going to make such a difference to her and to her family. We're starting to teach her husband and son more this week, so hopefully they'll be able to follow!

The second was a daughter of our recent convert named D ***. She's only about 11, so she's got a wonderful pure heart, and I'm just so happy that now she's going to be able to grow up in the gospel. It makes such a huge difference to be able to learn while you're young, and I feel like I can see such a bright future ahead of her. She's got so much potential. I can't wait to see where she goes!

That's pretty much the news for the week though! Lots of things happening here in Ipoh, and it looks like in the coming weeks there's going to be a lot more! So glad to hear everything's going well at home, and I can't wait to hear from you again!

Ok! Love you so much! Talk to you soon!

Selalu dengan kasih sayang,
Elder Blissett (Kevin)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 2, 2010

This week has been kind of crazy so far and I think it's just going to get a lot more wild. Maybe I'll just try and start at the beginning and move forward though.

OK... sooo... I gave my first blessing for the sick this week. It was actually a really special experience. The lady I blessed was an investigator we've been teaching for a little while. We thought she was going out of town (outstation as they say here) though, so we hadn't met her for a couple of weeks. By the time she'd gotten home we'd found out that she'd actually spent the last eight days at the hospital trying to recover from an infected dog bite. I guess she was trying to referee a fight between her own dog and a neighbor's and ended up getting bit in the process. Anyway, by the time we met with her she was doing better, but still had some infection and was moving pretty slowly. I didn't even think to offer her a blessing until we were just about to leave when the idea came to me really suddenly, so I turned to her right after our closing prayer and explained what a blessing was and asked if she'd like one. She agreed really eagerly, so Elder Dables anointed and she asked me to do the blessing. It was my first time, so I was a little nervous, but as soon as I started that kind of started to fade away and I just focused on trying to give her the blessing Heavenly Father wanted to offer her, and when I did that, I just sort of felt led through the whole blessing. It was really cool, and very hard to describe, but I just felt led. I would have a feeling about something I should say, try and verbalize it and then just say it. If I started wrong or misspoke something, I could kind of tell something was off and would just go back and correct myself quickly. It was amazing, and reinforced my testimony of priesthood blessings so much. I'm so grateful to have finally had the chance to give one for the sick, and I know that they're real. Sister Esther felt something special also, so hopefully this helps her continue to progress and learn!

So, we have eight elders coming over to our little apartment of usually just two this weekend. A bunch of things all lined up, so it turns out the Assistants to the President, the Zone Leaders, and two mandarin elders from a small town a couple of hours away called Sitiawan are all visiting at the same time. Crazy! We're still trying to think of where we're going to put everyone to sleep and everything, but it should be super fun. I'll also most likely be finding out who my new companion is since Elder Hall will be leaving on Monday. Yes, I am kind of nervous about it, but I know that whoever comes the Lord will help me to make it work. I think I've got a good feeling about it, so everything should be alright! Crazy to go through so many companions so quickly though...

You asked how much Malay I'm speaking here. I guess I never really got to tell you, huh? Well, everyone here speaks Malay, but we're still almost always chatting and teaching in English, which is sometimes hard for me, but I think I'm learning a lot of teaching skills in English that are really going to bless me once I have to make the transition into Malay. I've actually developed a real, genuine love for the language, so it's a little hard not to be speaking and learning it as much as I'd like to, but I'm still working hard, and I think as long as I keep at it I'll be able to learn it ok even if I never serve in a major Malay speaking area (which is mostly East Malaysia). Can't really control how much people speak Malay around me, can I? So, I just work as hard as I can and count on everything working out in the end.

Anyway, I think that's about the news for the week! I love you all so much though, I'm working really hard to come back better than I ever was before. I think that's the beauty of the gospel. So many people work so hard to find out what to do to improve themselves and to be happier and to help others more and everything. So good to be finding out that all those answers are really in the gospel. That's it! Learn and love the gospel and you'll find yourself becoming your very best self. It's beautiful, and it works for everyone, in every culture, in any language, and from any background. Ah! I just have such a feeling of love for the gospel and for Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father when I think about how much I've been able to learn and accomplish because of this church and this gospel. It's a wonderful thing!

Ok! I love you all so much! I can't wait to hear from you again!

Talk to you later!

Elder Blissett (Kevin)