Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Thanksgiving in Malaysia

Halo Keluargaku,

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm actually a little bit ashamed to ask this, but Thanksgiving is on this Thursday, right? There have been absolutely no indications of any holiday celebration here, and with Thanksgiving always moving around it's hard to be sure when it is! So, in answer to your question, Thanksgiving is definitely an American's only holiday. It's funny, the members here will celebrate Pioneer Day and Halloween, but when it comes to Thanksgiving nobody has ever celebrated one. Too bad, huh?

But, for us the work just moves on. Tawau is still doing well. Last week we had kind of a tough time as far as numbers go, but we set some new goals and got a little bit refocused and things are looking a lot brighter already this week. If I've learned anything, it's that missionary work is all about ups and downs. So we worked through the down week and aren't really too surprised to see that things are looking up this week.

The senior couple from KK came down here this week to start work on a humanitarian project, and they were thoughtful enough to take us out to dinner. It was really fun to get to spend a little time with them, especially since they've just been here in the field for a couple of months. Their stories were hilarious and reminded me a lot of all the things that are so crazy to you when you first get out here, but just start to get a little bit normal after a while. Their best story though was definitely hearing about how Elder Larson got the "biggest shock of his life" walking into a public bathroom at a mall only to find that in Malaysia, a toilet can mean just a hole in the ground and a hose. A "squatter" as we like to call them! I still remember the first time I went into the bathroom in our apartment in Singapore and noticed there wasn't any toilet paper. I came back out to ask Elder Buchuluun (I still can't spell that!) where they kept it, and he just laughed at me. Ah, the joys of a hose...The Larsons have actually adjusted really well though (they ate rice with us at a food court in the mall here for dinner), and it was really nice to get to see some other missionaries for a little.

This Monday we're flying into KL again for our last Simplified Curriculum training. Apparently after this we'll just be back to regular Zone Conferences, so we'll be spending a little bit more time in our areas which should be really nice.

Turns out there wasn't any flooding by the time we arrived back home, which was a little disappointing actually. Elder Cazier and I were thinking there was going to be an absolute disaster awaiting us, wondering how bad flooding in Tawau would have to be before you could read about it in a newspaper in America. I'm not really sure anything about Tawau has ever made in into an American newspaper! It makes a lot of sense though if you've found a local Sabah newspaper. As small as Tawau is, it's the third largest city in all of Sabah. A real newsmaker.

I have a confession to make! I'm actually glad you mentioned it would be ok to open something for Thanksgiving, because just today I finally yielded to temptation and grabbed a little something out. I didn't look in the package at all, so Christmas will still be a huge surprise, but I did reach in there and feel around until I found the book that you sent. I was just sitting there thinking about that package in the other room during personal study and it the temptation just got to be too much for me. I'm actually pretty proud of myself for making it this long. It's hard to know how a missionary feels about packages until you get into the field, and waiting is just killer. So, I cracked a little, I'm sorry :D! But the book is awesome! Thank you so much! I love Elder Maxwell and I can't wait to really dive into this book. You're the best Mom and I love you a lot. I promise I'll save the rest for Christmas! :D

Welp, other than that, Tawau is just same-old same-old. It feels like home here and I think it's going to be awfully sad when I have to go. It's a lovely place and I hope that someday we get to come back and see it together!

I love you so much! I think about you and pray for you everyday! I have the greatest family on earth and I couldn't be more grateful. I can't wait to see you guys and little Johnny again. Tell John that I said Happy Birthday. I saw it on the calender and was thinking about him. What a blessing he's been for us, huh? I love you so much! Happy Thanksgiving!

Love you!

Elder Blissett

Friday, November 19, 2010

Few Priesthood Holders

Halo Keluargaku,

Oh dear! Kuhara Road (or Jalan Kuhara) is *exactly* next to where we live. It's the namesake of Kuhara Court. When did you hear about flooding? Things were looking really normal when we left, but there was actually a storm coming in. I guess we'll find out in a couple of days what everything is like. How did you hear about that? (Looking back I'm remembering that there's a place called Pasir Puteh that's kind of famous for flooding sometimes. We have a lot of less active members out there. Is that where it was?)

We're having a great time here in Singapore! Everything went smoothly on the flight and it's been a blast to see everyone again. My dear son (Elder Whittaker) is doing great, and it always feels a little bit like coming back to my mission "home" when we come back to Singapore. It's funny, Singapore was definitely a tough area for me, but there are lots of things that I miss about it and it's always fun to get to come back for a couple of days. I think sometimes it's the harder things that you look back and remember the most fondly, right?

We're planning on having a baptism sometime this week, but we have a couple of problems to resolve this week. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but Tawau struggles to an extreme degree with Melchizedek priesthood holders. To more specific, there are three that are currently active, the branch president, a missionary who just got returned from his mission in this mission and is now the first counselor, and an incredibly Christlike, faithful brother who went blind a few years ago and lives very far away, so he only comes in for sacrament meetings (he's the second counselor). Well, in sacrament meeting a couple of weeks ago the Branch President announced that he has to go help out with the family business in a small town called Lahad Datu about two hours away from Tawau. So, he's only going to get to come to church about twice a month, and he's leaving in just a few weeks. Well, that was really hard, but we were feeling pretty good knowing that the first counselor, our recently returned missionary, could be the next branch president. Come to find out he's moving to Lahad Datu as well, although he'll be coming into Tawau every Sunday to go to church, but he'll still have to spend the week in Lahad Datu. So, we don't really have anyone to be the new Branch President. We're thinking they're probably going to send in a Senior Couple, but we still don't really know what's going to happen at this point.

Anyway, how that relates to the baptism is that we're supposed to have a Branch Presidency member at every baptism, and the Branch President just went to the temple in the Philippines this week, and the first counselor is in Lahad Datu already. We've been trying to call the second counselor to see if he can make a special trip into town, but we haven't been able to get a hold of him. So our baptism may be waiting for a week. Life in Tawau, huh?

Other than that, things are going really great way out on the Indonesian border. I'm loving it there and I'll definitely never forget the lessons I've learned in Tawau. It's been awesome.

Anyway, things are still going great. I'm loving it. My mission has been the best experience of my whole life. I'm so grateful to have been born a member of this church. It's the truth, and it's a massive blessing to be able to share it with others everyday.I love you all so much!

Sounds like next week I'll be letting you know how it feels to be swimming through the floods of Tawau!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That small black book that Christians use

Halo Keluargaku,

Thanks so much for all your prayers for everyone we're teaching here, and I'm happy to report that our baptisms went through this last weekend. So, there's just two children and the father left to complete the family and it looks like things are getting better everyday with them. It's so good to see a family come into the church together. It's so important for recent converts of the church to have some support, and there's nothing better than a family to provide that. So we feel really blessed and are really happy with the progress we've been able to see here in Tawau.

This last week we've really been focusing on finding new investigators. You always run into the funny problem when you have baptisms of running out of people to teach, so we've been trying to head it off before it gets too bad and spend a good amount of time visiting members and good old fashioned knocking. It's funny, I used to hate knocking, but it's become so regular now that I've even kind of started to like it. It's just exciting never quite knowing who's going to come out of that house and what they're going to say to you. Malaysia is a pretty crazy country, so it always keeps things interesting. We've even had some ok success finding people who are willing to meet with us, so that's really nice.

We're going to Singapore next week for a couple of days this next week, and the week after that we're going to KL for another of those Simplified Curriculum trainings. This is supposed to be the last one though I guess, so our travel schedule should be cooling off a little which will be kind of nice. Traveling is fun, and I'm super grateful that we get to do it so much in this mission, but it's always a little bit hard to get back into the groove of things. I feel bad for our Zone Leaders. They actually have to fly down here to Tawau every time we do have to do a baptismal interview since we're not allowed to do them ourselves and the nearest elders are a 4 hour bus ride away. That would really mess up your schedule.

I was trying to think of something funny that happened this week, but this week was a little bit normal actually. We had one investigator we knocked into this week who absolutely refused to set up an appointment with us even though she seemed kind of interested, only to text us everyday after since we've met her and become pretty willing to meet anytime. Go figure. Another Buddhist man the other day asked us if we thought the world was going to end in 2012 because his Christian friend had told him that "that book" said something about it. "Which book?" "Oh, you know, that small black book, the one that Christians use?" "You mean the Bible?" "Oh, I'm not very sure. Is that what that book is called, the little black one?" Even after being out here for over a year I'm still blown away when I run into a person who's never even really heard of the Bible. It's just a different world out here sometimes. It's so awesome though to get to teach people from the ground up though. To start with someone who doesn't really have any definite conception of God, any clue what a prophet is or really even know what the Bible is, and to get to take them step by step through the whole Gospel is a pretty special privilege.

Well, Tawau is still going great. I'm loving it here and I'm hoping I have at least another couple of months here before it comes time to move on. It's a huge blessing to be serving the Lord here and to have the great opportunity to grow in my testimony daily and to get to help others do the same. I know that the church is true, and I'm committed to following it as closely as I can for the rest of my life. It's the only thing that really brings lasting peace and happiness in this entire world. I'm so grateful to know what I know and to get to share it everyday!

I love you all so much!

Elder Blissett

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Exotic Asian Thing To Do...

Halo Keluargaku,

Happy Birthday Mom! I actually think you'll be getting this e-mail on your birthday, which is absolutely perfect! I love you so much and I'm so grateful for the awesome mother that you've been to me. I could never have made it this far without you, and I'm so grateful that we've gotten to go through this life together and to be sealed for eternity. Hope you had a great day, and I'm putting a handwritten letter in the mail for you today!

Hey! I'm actually really excited about the questions for the newsletter, if only because it gives me a chance to mention that I finally fulfilled a strange secret ambition to eat dog (I'm not sure why that's always been an ambition. It's just always seemed like an exotic asian thing to do to me). Yes, it's true, we went to go visit one of our investigators way out in Kampung Tator, and, lucky us, his neighbor had just delivered a nice bowl of freshly cooked dog. I only ate one piece (not really knowing where the dog came from and thinking about the all to numerous strays that roam around here in Tawau). It wasn't half bad though. Incredibly spicy (so spicy that it gave my companion hiccups for a few minutes. They like the food spicy in Sulawesi where our investigator comes from), and pretty tough, but a pretty nice experience overall. I'd say a close second was the time I had fish head curry in Ipoh (the first time I ever ate an eyeball)!

The things to be grateful for are kind of too many to count. I've become so grateful for the Gospel and the Book of Mormon, grateful for the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, *really* grateful to live in America, grateful for our family, and grateful for our inspired mission president. But one of the things I've been really grateful for is to have been so blessed to know how to live my day to day life because of the gospel. For example, just last night we talked to a member who has been incredibly frustrated because of a lot of crazy circumstances that have prevented her from going on a mission, and she was contemplating taking a job at camp which would force her out of activity in the church to kind of get away from everything. So, we talked to her, but immediately the thought came that I should fast for her too, so that's what I'm doing. Without the gospel I never would have known about the avenue of extra power that can come with fasting and never would have had access to that blessing! I know that when I'm upset I can read from the Book of Mormon and feel better. When I'm confused or have a problem to work out, I can pray. On Sunday I know what I'm supposed to do. If I have a weakness, I know where to go to find help in solving it. Whatever problem or event or anything that comes up in life, I know what to do about it. The gospel gives us all of those answers, and that for me is a big part of what makes it such a huge blessing in our lives. (Feel free to cut up any of the above to make it fit in the newsletter! :D)

Happy Halloween! Unsurprisingly, Halloween isn't a holiday here in Malaysia, but the branch did decide to have an impromtu party on Monday night that went great! We had a ton of people come, which was really cool considering they decided to have the party about 24 hours before it actually occured. That's one thing I love about Malaysia. If you want to have a party, you just have a party! No need for advance notice! People here are so laid back, which can be frustrating at times, but really makes them pretty lovable ultimately.

Our baptisms are still looking good for this weekend. It's so awesome to see this family start to come together. They'll be such a strength to each other and to the branch here. You couldn't hope for anything better than seeing families come into the church.

Well, other than that, things have still been going great here in Tawau. I'm loving it here and I'm so grateful and excited to get to serve two years as a full time missionary. There's no greater privelage than that. I love you all so much. Thanks for all of your support! Hope you had a great birthday Mom (Selamat Hari Jadi! or "Happy Happening Day!" You know, like the day you "happened." That's the closest translation I can think of for the Malay word for birthday.)

Love you!

Elder Blissett