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!