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


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