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