Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Testimony of Joseph Smith

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, this week has definitely been a little bit of an unusual one. My companion is making a trip to Singapore, and instead of having me go to the nearest area with missionaries, they decided this time to have me just try and stay with members for the two-and-a-half days my companion has been gone, which means for these three days I've been following the Branch President to work and sitting quitetly reading until he goes home and I switch off to staying with one of the young men. So, it's good and bad. On the bright side, I had the chance to study the Doctrine and Covenants for about six hours yesterday and actually loved it! It's amazing what serving a mission will do for the way you look at the scriptures, and equally amazing to see the rich blessings that can flow from good, solid scripture study. Reading and studying the Doctrine and Covenants yesterday really deepened what knowledge I thought I had about Joseph Smith as the prophet of the restoration. Now, I feel like more than ever before, I know that he truly was who he said he was. I think Joseph F. Smith talked about how testimony from the Holy Ghost can be imparted to us so strongly it literally becomes woven into the sinews and nerves of our bodies so that it cannot be forgotten, and I feel like everyday I'm getting more of that kind of knowledge about the Prophet. I still have lots to learn, but it's awesome to see what the Lord will bless us with when we seek it.

So, on the down side of sitting around, I'm experiencing a unique kind of missionary sickness I've heard missionaries talk about, but I wasn't sure I'd ever experience personally. It's called, "I've-been-sitting-around-too-long-and-I-need-to-get-out-and-do-some-missionary-work-right-now-itis." It's bad. You just don't feel like a missionary when you're sitting around. So, hopefully I'll be able to remedy that with some good hard work tonight.

Overall things are looking up here. Elder Stewart and I had the best numbers of our companionship this last week (and we miraculously hit our revised new investigators goal of 25 on our last night. A Sunday, which is usually one of our less productive times for finding!) So, although the teaching pool is looking a little sparse right now, things are on the up-and-up.

So, Tawau is in good hands (Heavenly Father's). It's helpful for me to remember that the works of God cannot be frustrated, and that the Standard of Truth has been erected and is here to stay! There's nothing I or anyone else can do to ruin the purposes of God, so even if all our investigators dropped us and the branch fell apart, Heavenly Father would still have a plan to make things better again. That's reassuring.

So, I love you all so much. Thanks for all your encouragement. Things are looking up here, and I'm working harder than I have any other time on my mission. Thanks so much for your prayers and help. Love you so much!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

P.S. I almost completely forgot the 4th of July until my companion asked if we were going to find a way to celebrate the other day. Isn't that crazy? Needless to say, holidays are different here...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wearing Nametags

Halo Keluargaku,

Nametags this last week went well! It actually feels totally natural already, and I think it's been a good benefit for the work. People immediately know what we're there doing and it's a great way to help people understand the name of the church, which is always a little bit of a struggle. It's just a little long and harder to understand here, but this has been helpful.

It is *super* awesome to see that letter about the early church memeber here. I can't believe there are pictures of the first missionary baptism in Ipoh! That's quite a legacy to get to look back and see! So crazy the kinds of connections you end up with in the church, huh? Just shows you what a real difference every person makes.

Things in Tawau have really turned around here in the last few days. These last two weeks have been tough! Almost everybody who looked really promising dropped us or we had to drop and our teaching pool took a major hit. We kept our spirits up though and trusted that the Lord would help things come back together. Sometimes you just have off weeks. So, on Monday, we went out for a normal day of good hard work (setting a goal of giving away more pamphlets and trying to ask everyone for return appointments), did a little contacting and taught a couple of lessons, then came home to do the numbers. Strangely, somehow we never realized that anything unusual had happened, but when we started adding up the numbers we found out that somehow we'd ended up with 11 new investigators that day, which is almost completely unheard of for this part of the mission. Our goal for new investigators for an entire week for my time here in Tawau has been about 7-9, and yet somehow on what felt like a pretty average day we'd ended up with 11. Yesterday we added another 6. So, we're going from getting about 8 last week to shooting for a goal of 25 this week. It's a total miracle, but it's really taught me in a big way that the Lord rewards faith and boldness in trying to do this work. And also that when things look darkest, big blessings are often right around the corner.

So, the work here in turning around. Elder Stewart and I are commited to working with the Lord to hit our mission expectations even in an area that's traditionally thought of as being a little tougher. And we're going to make it!

I love you so much! Always working hard out here to do the Lord's work! Talk to you before long!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kota Kinabalu

This week I'm writing you from lovely Kota Kinabalu way up on the northern half of Sabah. It's zone conference, so we and the Sandakan Elders took the quick 45 minute flight up here, are staying for a couple of days and heading back tomorrow night! I'm pretty excited to be here actually, KK is really pretty. Lots of nice beaches and a bigger city (which means they have McDonalds! Have I told you McDonalds is such a missionary favorite? It's funny, it's like the most common fast food place in America, but here it's kind of a treat to get to go there. It's even a little pricey in Malaysia! Crazy...)

So, Zone Conference is the best, should be fun.Things in Tawau are going pretty well too. We've entered a little bit of a tougher period, a lot of our most promising investigators either dropped us or came up with some problems that will probably keep them getting baptized for a while (husband doesn't want them to be baptized, busy the entire month of June, Leaving three months for National Service, etc.), but we have one bright shining ray of hope. The other day Elder Stewart contacted a guy while we were just on our way out of the house who turns out to be from Sarawak, which is pretty fun. Anyway, we got an appointment with him and it turns out (so far) he's completely golden. His name is ***, and we put him on baptismal date yesterday at our second meeting with him. He's a really sincere, awesome guy, very accepting and sounds pretty committed to learning and coming to church. It looks like he's even going to kick a smoking problem in three days so he can be baptized by the date we set (he'll need your prayers for that! :D). He's just totally full of faith, really confident he can do it and we are too. Elder Stewart actually just mentioned the Word of Wisdom to him at church this last week, asked him if he'd be willing to start to stop smoking, and he totally accepted it. He went from 20 everyday to only 4 yesterday, and we're planning on helping him be done for good by the end of the week. It's gonna take a lot of faith, but things look really good so far.

So, in short, things are looking pretty optimistic. Elder Stewart and I are feeling good and working hard, which mean great success is right around the corner!

Love you all so much, thanks so much for all your support!

Love you!

Elder Blissett

P.S. We're wearing nametags now! Can you believe it? We just had a policy change recently, so, everyday we're getting to be just a little bit more like all the other missionaries in the world. It's a really good thing though, I think it's great to see us "come forth out of obscurity" a little bit.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tawau is Awesome

Tawau is doing awesome! It's definitely been a tougher week this week, but things are looking pretty promising for having a good turnout of investigators at church, which is something we really need. Elder Stewart and I are starting to try some things that are a little bit new. Working on spending lots of time focusing on specific areas that look promising, where we have members willing to do missionary work, and also trying out some new areas that don't really seem like they've had missionaries before. So things are looking really promising with that so far.

Again, we're still just running into miracle people who just seem born ready to accept the gospel. This last week, one super awesome recent convert brought *another* friend to church (Our recent convert has been a member for about a month and has already brought something like six new people to church. She's awesome). At some point during church, I guess our recent convert asked her friend how she was enjoying it. Her friend said it was great. Encouraged, our recent convert asked if she thought she'd like to be baptized into this church, to which her friend said yes! Awesome! Sometimes it makes you feel a little foolish. We spend all this time struggling and working and striving to get people to keep commitments and to learn about the church and to improve their lives, and then Heavenly Father just drops one totally prepared right in your lap without any intervention on your part. Sometimes I almost feel like he's just showing us how much better at this work He is than we are. When you work so hard at something I think to start to try and ascribe any success you have to your own efforts, but it's things like this that show me it was really Heavenly Father all the way. We can't really do anything without Him, but he could do everything without us! I think He just loves me enough to let me come along for the ride and try to learn something while he does His own work!

So, things are going well. We're in the Lord's hands, and he knows how to do His work. We're still working hard to do the best we can! Learning more and growing more everyday.

On a quick side note, it turns out the wildlife here in Tawau is actually pretty cool. In most of the mission you don't get to see a whole lot, and even here you usually have to get a little farther from town to see much, but we've managed to spot some pretty cool stuff. One highlight we spotted one day outside the church. The church is actually right on a small beach, and one day while looking out over the beach, Elder Stewart shouted to me "Elder, come here!" I went slowly thinking he was pulling some kind of trick on me, and even stopped for a few seconds until he shouted "No really, come here!" I finally walked over to spot with him a five to six foot monitor lizard ("biawak" in Malay) crawling its way across the beach. It was awesome!

Yesterday we were out looking for a new "kampung" we hadn't ever visited when elder stewart noticed something moving around in the leaves by the road. He said it was a snake so I came over to try and get a look. (Don't worry, we were still a reasonable distance away. We were being careful. :D ) So, we looked down in the gutter but couldn't see anything at first, until I saw a nearly perfectly camoflauged insect moving around! It looked like a stick bug to me at first, but it was perfectly green and was shaped to look like blades of grass. I threw a rock down to try and get it to move so we could get a better look, but accidently hit it! Stunned, it just sort of laid there for a little bit, when all of the sudden this crazy, slimy looking, brown, 10-inch lizard came out of the grass and started to gobble it up (The lizard was what Elder Stewart first thought was a snake)! It was wild! Super fun though.

So, Tawau is awesome. I'm having a great time here!

Anyway, I love you all so much. I'm working hard to do the Lord's work the best I know how. Thanks for all your support!


Elder Blissett

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If you think you *can't* keep a commandment...

Halo keluargaku,

So, this week I'm writing from Singapore since I had to come in for a couple of days before I go back to Malaysia. So, in short, it's really crazy to see my old area again. Singapore is a very stressful place, and I think that helps explain why the first couple of months of my mission seem to be a blur of stressful moments. You're just kind of in a constant rush here, walking really fast everywhere you go. So, I still love it, I think it's really awesome, but it's definitely wild to be back.

Things in Tawau are still looking really good. We've run into a couple of problems with a few of our investigators, but you know what, I'm starting to find out that missionary work is just like that. It's rare that you have an investigator who makes it all the way to baptism without any problems, and I think there's a reason for that. Satan works on them hard! But, I've learned just as well that if people are really sincere about learning the truth, it doesn't matter what challenges show up, they'll find a way to overcome them if they really want to. That's kind of life, right? Satan tries as hard as he can to make sure it's as hard as possible to keep the commandments, but if we really want to follow, Heavenly Father always provides a way. That's the hard part to believe in. I hear pretty routinely, "But Elder, I *can't* come to church," or "Elder, I *can't* do missionary work. None of my friends want to hear," and, don't get me wrong, it's definitely hard to do those things sometimes, but I've learned to stop believing that anyone *can't* keep a commandment. There always *has* to be a way to keep every commandment. If you couldn't, it wouldn't be a commandment, right? We just have to want to follow enough to sacrifice and show the Lord that he's first in our life, which is kind of the task of a lifetime. Part of the whole reason we're here.

So, overall, missionary work is better everyday. It's always hard, always challenging, but we're on the Lord's errand!

I love you all so much. Thanks for all your prayers!

Love,Elder Blissett