Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in KL

Halo Keluargaku,

Oh no! I can't believe the basement flooded! What a nightmare, and on Christmas too. It's funny though, when I first looked at the picture you sent, I didn't even notice the torn up carpet, I was just looking at how different and awesome the rest of the downstairs looked! Somehow I'd totally forgotten that it's even changed since I've been gone. It looks awesome though, that basement really did need some work.

I'm glad to hear though that at least Christmas Eve was the usual Christmas festivities. Johnny looked absolutely thrilled with his presents. What a goofy little kid! I laughed when I saw the picture of his "rubber ducky" too. He'll be a fine hunter in no time.

Well, the rest of Christmas for us was a little bit uneventful as well. We went to our Iban investigator's home and had some delicious Malaysian food (satay [which is kind of like shishkabob], chicken and beef curry, some vegetables and of course lots of rice), but best of all we met a whole lot of our investigator's family who all accepted the invitation to come to church the next day. Well, they loved it, so now we're teaching a whole mess of Ibans up here who are progressing really well. We're very, very excited about it. One of the challenges here in KL is finding native Malaysian families who won't just move to a place where the church doesn't exist soon after their baptism, so these families are a big answer to prayers.

We finished the night with a quiet dinner with a young couple here in the branch. It was really nice. Christmas was really great this year actually. A whole lot of fun and a nice break from the normal toil of missionary work. Just some time to spend remembering the Savior and having fun with some friends was awesome.

Well, the work here in KL is going great, but there's definitely an adventure everyday. Just the other day we knocked into a half Thai/half Burmese man (a very unusual combination) who quickly became kind of a friend and an awesome investigator. Anyway, from the very beginning he explained to us that although he was Buddhist, he knew there were a lot of Christians around that area and he was determined to help us find them. Well, we were ok with that, so just the other day he takes us to this hawker stand, introduces us to a Burmese lady there, and tells us that in 30 minutes she's going to take us to go meet a bunch of Christian Burmese people. Sounds good! Well, we wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually when we're starting to get a little concerned she finally takes us up, first to three drunk Burmese men, out of whom only one spoke very limited, very drunken English, and then to a whole group of people who seemed like they had a lot more potential. Well, we started off trying to decide what language to use to teach them.

"Siapa di sini pandai cakap Bahasa Melayu?" (Who here can speak Malay?)


"Who can speak English?"


We turned to one girl in the group.

"Kamu pandai cakap Melayu?" (Can you speak Malay?)

"Tak tahu" (Don't know.)"

Do you speak English?"


Great. Well, we do our best trying to get our half Thai/half Burmese friend to translate for us, handing out Burmese pamphlets, doing whatever we can to try and get the Spirit into the room and invite them to come to church, but not much luck. Well, pretty discouraged we decide to leave when someone says something like, "It was nice to meet you."

"Wait, you speak English?"

"Broken, a little bit."

We turn to another member of the group.

"Wait, do you speak English."

"Can, just a little bit."

Well, that was a surprise. Anyway, after discovering that the entire group spoke ok broken English, it was time to go, but we did get an appointment to come back next Saturday when a bunch of members of their church are gathering at that house so we could share a little bit. So, such is the life in KL.

We were talking to a Nigerian Recent Convert last night and asked him how many languages he spoke. I actually laughed out loud when he said that he spoke 11. No way, 5 is pretty common, but I didn't even believe 11 was possible. Well, we started to test him on as many of them as we could, and it turns out he can probably speak 11 languages. Crazy.

Well, I'm really loving it here. KL is doing great right now and it's already been one of the unique experiences of my life to serve in a place like this. It's a huge blessing! My whole mission has been one of the choicest blessings of my life so far. I've come to love the Book of Mormon so much. I know that it's the word of God and can change lives dramatically. I love this gospel and this work. It's so fun to feel the Spirit testify that what you're saying is true, and to see people's hearts change in response to that. I love inviting people to follow Jesus Christ, and I love to see how much faith the good people of Malaysia have. My mission is awesome!

I love you all so much. I'm so grateful to have a family that enjoys all the blessings of the gospel. I'm grateful for all the sacrifice that has made my life possible. Hope you have a great new year!

I love you!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Halo Keluargaku,

Merry Christmas! I hope you guys all have a good one and I'm thinking it's going to be pretty great out here in the mission field. It's funny, my companion and I keep saying that it's a lot like holidays don't even exist when you're out in the mission field, nothing really changes that much, but I think it's going to be pretty awesome to have a totally Christ-centered Christmas this year. There probably won't be as much glam and tradition this year, but the sisters are having a baptism we're going to (their names are Sister Wing and Sister Goodwin by the way. They're both from my MTC group. Sister Wing is from Bountiful and Sister Goodwin is from California), so Christmas should be really awesome.

Today was Zone Conference, which normally means travel, but since we're in KL we just kind of stuck around the area this time which was actually really nice. Saves a lot of travel stress and it means that the area doesn't suffer while we're away! Zone Conference was awesome. In addition to regular training about how to work well with the local leaders here (which can sometimes be a big challenge in this part of the world since the church is still not really established), we got an awesome training from President Clark all about why bad things happen to good people. President Clark is a spiritual giant and it's always a blast to hear what he has to say. Anyway, the gist of his message today was that the question is kind of based on a false premise. It kind of assumes that anything hard that happens to us is something bad. So, he told us that whatever draws us closer to Jesus Christ is good, and whatever takes us away from him is bad. The implication is kind of that we're the ones who get to decide if the hard things that happen to us are actually good things or bad things by how we react to them. The real answer to the question is that bad things don't really happen to truly good people at all, they just use hard times to draw closer to Christ. Interesting.

We got to do a small part of the training (just about 10 minutes) as the Zone Leaders here in KL, so that was kind of fun. My first training really.

Oh man, KL is awesome. I know I mentioned this before, but there is every kind of person from all over the world here (except South Americans, I don't why none of them come here). Anyway, this last week I met (among other things), Ibans, Iranians, Indians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Pakistanis, tons of Burmese (a *lot* of them come here as refugees), and even someone from Afghanistan. So, it's a crazy city, but really, really cool. Definitely a unique place to be serving in the entire world.

We've been working with a lot of Burmese people this last week, which is really interesting because the church is basically non-existent in Myanmar right now (the country is called Myanmar, the race and language are called Burmese). Cool to be part of building the church over there in addition to putting it together in Malaysia. The only material translated into Burmese right now is the Gospel Fundamentals manual, but most of them speak pretty decent English. So, very cool. We actually contacted at least three Burmese pastors this last week and taught one. So, we're hoping something works out with that and we can start a Burmese group here. You never know, right? :D

Well, KL is awesome. The Zone is really great. I'm learning a *ton* from Elder Peterson. Sometimes I feel like I'm just on exchanges with the Zone Leaders instead of being companions with one. He's an awesome missionary for sure, and I think we're going to be able to put together some good things in this area. Merry Christmas again! I love you all so much! The work here is going awesome. I love the Savior and know that we're members of Jesus Christ's church restored to the Earth. There's nothing in the world more important than that!

Love you! Talk to you very soon!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Transfer to Kuala Lumpur and a fish pedicure

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, I'm sad to say that today does happen to be one of the random days that I'm e-mailing earlier than normal becaaaaause...

I got transferred!

Yup, it's true, no Christmas in Tawau for me, which is sad, but it's ok because at this very moment I'm writing you from the lovely big city of Kuala Lumpur where I've been assigned as the Singapore mission's newest Zone Leader! So, that's very, very exciting. It's crazy to be out of Tawau and into the biggest city I've lived in in my entire life (I think! I actually haven't been able to get a really accurate idea of what the population is here yet, so I don't really know if it's bigger than Singapore or not. Definitely more spread out). I'm super excited to be here though. KL is a very cool city and I think there's going to be a lot of opportunity here to do some awesome missionary work.

I can't believe how diverse it is here. I think I told you a couple of times when I was in Singapore that that was the second most diverse city in the mission, and it's definitely true. Kuala Lumpur seems to be the melting pot of all of Asia with everything that Singapore had and a whole lot more. Our condominium here has a lot of Iranians. The area we live in is known as kind of the Korea town of KL. There's Nigerians all over the place here to work or study, and last night I got to teach my first Iban family. So, should be pretty awesome. Definitely very different.

Well, I haven't been to church yet, but I've heard that the branch is actually about half ex-pats (Including Brother Doxey! I'd forgotten that you told me they lived here). Unfortunately it means my first few weeks here I might not to get to meet a lot of them with so many going back to America for the Christmas season, but eventually I should be able to get a good taste of what it's like to be back in America. So ex-pats is a first for me on my mission.

We also have not only another pair of missionaries in our branch (another first for me), but they're Sisters (another in a whole series of firsts. I've never served with Sisters before). So, lots of things to get used to, but it should be absolutely awesome.

My companion here is named Elder Peterson. He's from Layton, so it's kind of fun to be with someone from close to home. We also had the same trainer (Elder Merrill), which makes us 'brothers' in the mission. Elder Merrill's 'youngest child' is also in this zone, and the area I'm serving in now was actually Elder Merrill's last area. So lots of family tradition here. We just need to get the 'grandchildren' into the zone and we'll be able to have a whole family reunion.

Well, I just got here yesterday afternoon, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to experience the city yet, but hopefully next week I'll have a lot of interesting things to write about. Later today we're going to go to a giant market called 'Pasar Seni' to have the callouses eaten off of our feet by a million little fishes. So that should be an interesting experience! I guess it tickles like crazy...So, lots of very exciting things this week.

Saying goodbye to the people in Tawau was pretty tough. It helps though to have guessed a few weeks in advance that my time there was running out (although I never thought I'd be come to KL). Transfers are just part of missionary life though, and I think the branch is in very good hands with Elder Cazier and his new companion. I'm so grateful for all the things I learned about and the ways I grew in Tawau. I think that little city on the Indonesian border is always going to have a special place in my heart. I loved it a lot there, but KL is going to be awesome too. I'm very, very excited about serving here

Welp, that's kind of the news for the week. Before I left Tawau we started to work with an awesome investigator who came to us pretty much ready and willing to be baptized. She's set up to be baptized on January 1st (can you think of a better way to start the new year?), and things are looking really great for her. The three Ibans we taught here last night all accepted baptismal dates for the early part of January. They all have such strong faith, and it's awesome to meet people so prepared for the missionaries. It will be awesome to get to know them a little bit better.

Hey, did you know you could put a bicycle on an airplane? I had no idea, but now that we carry bikes with us from area to area, that's how they get them from place to place! We just packed it up into a box (that was really too small for it), and loaded up on the airplane as an extra very large piece of check-in luggage. They charged us extra, but it really wasn't even that bad. It's was kind of funny to see the look on everyone's face walking around the airport with a huge box though. The taxi driver was understandably less than excited to take it. It all worked out just great though. We don't actually use bikes here in KL, but they moved it with me anyway just to make sure I'd have one if my next area requires one.

Well, I'm really humbled to be in my new area. Elder Peterson is an awesome missionary and I can already tell that I'm going to learn a LOT from this companionship. It's funny, Elder Peterson is from the group right in front of mine (two months older than my group), and other than a couple scattered missionaries (I think literally two), they're the oldest in the mission now. Someone from their group just became AP. So that makes our group the second oldest group in the entire mission. Absolutely unbelievable.

OK, well I love you so much! Don't worry about not getting time to send the extra e-mail, I snuck up on you! I love you so much and I'm so grateful for all you support and love. Hope you enjoy the twelve days of Christmas! I know that this church is the only path to the greatest lasting happiness in this life and in the life to come. I'm so grateful to get to be here helping the people of KL come unto Christ. Look out Big City, here we come!

Love you!!
Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A dog that belonged to somebody...

Halo keluargaku,

hey, you'll have to forgive me for a lack of capitalization throughout this e-mail. we found a new internet cafe which is far less crowded, but also kind of has lousy keyboards, and the shift key on this one is broken. so, i guess you just have to trade, right?

maybe i'll start with the two questions for the newsletter first to get those taken care of (i really like the idea of doing monthly questions!). so, for the first one, christmas so far is actually turning out to be a bigger deal than i thought, but definitely nothing like what you'd see in america. surprisingly to me they were playing christmas music at the mall today and there's a few signs going up on various businesses for scattered christmas sales. businesses run by christians are putting up christmas trees and lights, but for the most part in heavily-muslim-majority-tawau christmas seems like it's just going to be a day off work for most people. even for the christians here i don't think it's quite as big a deal as it is back in america (our branch was planning on having their christmas party on christmas eve! that would be kind of unheard of in america, right? at least for our family christmas eve is at least as big a deal as christmas day!) so, christmas is definitely quiet here, but i think it's going to be nice just to spend the day with the members and our christmas party should be pretty fun too. i don't think i need to mention that we're planning on it being very hot here. good ol' malaysia, right?

as far as the best gift i've received on my mission, it's definitely hard to say. i'd say that *one of* the best though is a love of the book of mormon. it's funny, before my mission i always liked to read the book of mormon, but i never quite had the love for it that i've started to develop here in the field. sometimes i find myself just reading it for pleasure in my spare time. it's truly an amazing book and it changes hearts. i love the book of mormon and i'm super grateful for the chance i have to come out here and share that love with others.

so, this last week in tawau was really nice! definitely hard working with a lot of time spent out knocking, but we had some good success and this feels like a particularly satisfying P-Day after so much good, solid work.

We set a new investigator on baptismal date this last week. her name is ***** and she's a referral from a member here which is absolutely awesome. it's a million times better to baptize a referral. it's so nice to have people with those pre-built support systems and someone they can always go to for help or if they have questions. it's essential to keep people in the church! anyway, ***** is 19 and is good friends with our member's daughter, and she came to us pretty much ready to be baptized, so it's a really big privilege to be able to teach her. her date is set for january 1 (could there be a better way to start the new year)? so things are looking really great with her so far.

I got bit by my first dog this week! there's a missionary landmark, right? don't worry, it was a dog that belonged to somebody and wasn't a very serious bite at all. i was actually shocked it got me at all. dogs here in malaysia have a huge bark, but are absolute cowards. we have one member who's dog actually hid on the side of the house the other day and just peeked around the corner to bark at us. they're absolutely terrified! well, with this dog i just started walking toward it confidently like normal and it started to slink away like they always do, but the little sneaker got up behind me when i wasn't looking and took a snap at my calf. i couldn't believe it! i was too shocked to even do anything but watch the dog run away, looking very satisfied with itself. other than that, things are looking kind of the same.

our investigator **** that i told you about last week broke his phone or something, which we didn't even find out about until the other day, so we haven't had a lot of contact with him, but we're planning on going out to his house in the next day or two.

so, that's kind of the week in tawau! i'm so grateful for the knowledge we have of the restored church and gospel of Jesus Christ. your story was really interesting about the moderator who asked what interest God could have in political campaign. it's always interesting to see what other people's perceptions of God are. this last week we were talking to a man who's wife is a member, but who hasn't come in a long time because she follows him to his church. anyway, we were trying to explain to him why it's important for him and his wife to come to church (proper priesthood authority, true doctrine, that kind of thing). anyway, he finally just said, "we do the same things you do. we pray and you pray. we have talks. we learn about how to become better people. the only difference is that our church is only for 1 hour and yours is for 3, so why do we need to come to your church?" it's a question i've heard a million times, but for some reason when he asked it, it really got me to thinking about how wildly different our whole perspectives about religion are. because he's right! if your church and religion to you are just something you do for one hour on sundays, our church is pretty much the same as his. talks, prayers, singing, the works. but our church is so much more! it's a way of life! it's discipleship! the church blesses you every second of every day, not just for one hour on sundays. it was just interesting to really realize that to him, that's not what church is at all. it's just prayers for an hour. crazy! this world needs the gospel so much!

so, i'm so grateful for the restored gospel and for the chance i have to come and share it with others. i'm grateful we can be a family forever!i love you all so much! have an awesome week and enjoy the snow!

love you!!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rice Makes You Small

Halo Keluargaku,

Hey, it's awesome that you got to see Elder Wheelwright. I hear about him pretty often, but I never really crossed paths with him too much. It's funny though to hear about people on the other side. It almost seems like sometimes after somebody leaves the mission they just cease to exist. You never really hear anything about them. Good to know they live on over there though.

KL was a lot of fun. We had to wake up at 4:45 this morning to catch our early flight back to Tawau, so we're feeling a little bit lethargic, but still doing well! While we were in KL we had a lot of training. We had two days of meetings from 9 in the morning until past 5 in the evening, but we learned a lot and I think it's going to help the area a lot. It's funny, this is basically the exact same training that we've gotten twice already, but even this third time I feel like I learned a lot. The Spirit has a really awesome way of teaching you something new every time you go over inspired material, even if you thought you got everything the first time. That's one reason we keep reading the scriptures all the time I think. You can read everyday for 20 years and still not get everything there is to offer.

Have I talked about Malaysian breakfast yet? I think maybe I mentioned it before, but for a Malaysian, breakfast is pretty much the same as any other meal of the day. In America, breakfast is almost always sweet and fresh, but in Malaysia, you'd eat pretty much what you'd eat for any other meal. On the flight back to Tawau, they served us our choice of fried noodles or nasi lemak (a spicy mix of fried rice and shrimp). To be fair, it was late enough that they maybe could have considered it a very early lunch, but I've always just thought that was so funny. Give me doughnuts for breakfast any day of the week!

Malaysians actually eat rice with pretty much every meal. They say you just don't get full unless you eat rice. One of the common first questions when we meet someone new is, "Hey, you don't eat rice in America, right?"
"Well, we eat some rice, but not very much. We usually just eat it as kind of a side dish with something else."
"Well, what do you eat then?"
"Mostly just bread and meat" (which is partly true, and partly just what you know they want to hear you say. They're convinced all we eat is bread and meat. But hey, how else do you describe the American diet, right?)
"How do you get full?"
"Oh you know, just eat enough bread and meat and you just get full."
"Hmm... I guess you're right, but it's a different kind of full, right? I just don't get full unless I eat rice."

That's one of those conversations you have a thousand times. Coincidentally they're convinced our bread and meat diet is also what makes Americans so tall and huge. "Rice makes you small" they say. Who knows?

The work is going pretty well here. We have an investigator we've kind of been expecting to get baptized every weekend for about the last three weeks, but she keeps having weird things come up, so we're not exactly sure what her progress looks like right now, but we're working on it. We had a miracle last week working with a new investigator. He's a fifteen year old and initially his whole family was meeting with us, but most of them seem to have lost interest at this point. They're a Filipino family and interestingly his mom actually came to our church for about three years in a row about ten years back. For some reason she was never baptized, and when she finally accepted a baptismal date she left for the Philippines and lost touch with the missionaries. Anyway, in our meeting with this kid last week he told us in response to a question about how his Book of Mormon reading was going, "I believe it! It's just so true." And later, "When you were talking about baptism the other day I just had this feeling that I really wanted to get baptized." So, he's awesome. He's got some obstacles to overcome right now with his family and his current church, but we really have high hopes for him.

We had another miracle while we were out knocking the other day. We were heading out to a particular area when I had a feeling that we should just try somewhere else for right now, so I continued on to another place I thought would be good, but before we arrived there I saw another neighborhood on our left that just called our names. So, we went over there and started looking around. It looked like it would be a great place to knock around at night (lots of indications of kids and families), but at 2 in the afternoon it was looking just about empty. Well, before turning around we decided to knock just a few of the houses that looked like they had people. Two doors rejected us, but in the third the lady invited us inside the gate before we could even manage to tell her who we were. We sat down and asked her, "So, what is your name?" to which we got the shocking reply, "Oh, you don't know?" I hate that reply. Usually it means that I met someone once a few weeks ago and have forgotten their names already, but luckily this time it just meant this lady was actually a long time member who had been inactive for about 6 years. Hooray! So, we invited her to come to church and she agreed immediately. She also introduced us to her friend down the street who was very excited to meet with us, and brought her non-member husband to church. Awesome! It's so funny, all these years she's been away from the church, and all she needed to come back to have someone go and invite her to come back. It didn't even take any convincing, just an invitation! So, that was awesome. We're hoping for some good things from them.

So, lots of miracles right now! I'm loving the work here a lot. Tawau is the greatest. I hope we can all come back here some day and visit. The people here are amazing, not to mention that this part of the country is absolutely beautiful. So, we'll be back to see the Tawau stake created or something :D.

Anyway, I love you so much! Glad you had a happy thanksgiving! The Gospel is true!

Love you!
Elder Blissett