Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pictures from Batu Caves

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Cultural Adventures

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, this week is a week for pictures for sure, so assuming everything goes ok, you'll be able to see the big adventure that this week has turned out to be as well as read about it! Cross your fingers, right?

So, it all started with Thaipusam, which involved a whole lot less needle-hooky kind of things like we expected, and a lot more looking at Hindu temples and observing priests and that kind of thing. But it turned out to be a lot of fun! Batu caves is really kind of a beautiful place. It's a big Hindu temple complex located not to far at all from the city (you can actually see it from tall buildings), but the most famous temple is the one in a cave 200 and something steps up the side of a mountain. It was super fun to see everyone there getting all in the festival spirit. So I guess Thaipusam is all about doing penance, and there were a few people there already even though it was actually the day before Thaipusam was meant to start. Anyway, the most popular activity of the day was carrying these jars on your head all the way up the 200 and something steps of Batu Caves, which may not seem that difficult until you actually tried to do it. Some people were really struggling! One of the coolest parts of Hindu art and style and stuff in my mind though is that the Indians always use bright colors, and these people didn't disappoint with their awesome, yellow clothing. So, the whole area was filled with lots of sound and colors and excitement and turned out to be a whole lot of fun. So, that was the first adventure of the week!

The second was actually Indian related too, as we got invited to attend the Indian wedding of the family member of one of our ward member's. So that was a pretty fun cultural experience too. I've actually been to one Tamil wedding before, and I wasn't at all disappointed to see that this one was pretty much the same as that. So, when you go to a Tamil wedding, the very first thing you look forward to is eating a whole lot of delicious curry, but what people don't usually tell you is that before you can eat any curry there's a huge, long ceremony they have to go through to actually get the bride and groom married. The most notable feature is that there's always this umm... very Indian musical accompaniment to the whole thing with only two musicians, a drummer guy who is going absolutely crazy for well over an hour (and usually drenched head to foot in sweat too!), and a guy who plays this Indian trumpet looking thing, which I'm not exactly sure how to describe except as sounding very nasally. You'd actually know it if you heard it. If you ever watch a cartoon where they depict a snake charmer, they're always playing this funny trumpet thing. That's the kind of trumpet that we're talking about! Anyway, the night was super fun and really cool to see how they do their marriages (which I didn't really understand any of, there's a whole lot of the priest picking up something and waving it in front of the brides face, then picking up something else and waving it in the bride's face, then someone else picking something up and waving it in the bride's face. There's a part where the groom ties a necklace onto the bride and they're actually officially married. The best part though was when the parents of the bride and groom sat in chairs facing each other and negotiated what I think was the dowry. All I know is that it involved an incredibly thick wallet!). The best part of the whole night though was when we were invited with the other white people (another couple from the branch and a random German couple. I don't exactly know where they came from) to come sit at one of the tables of honor right at the very front of the whole wedding. Can you talk about being stared at? But it was super fun. We had a really good view of everything.

So, the last adventure for the week was yesterday, when one of our Nigerian recent converts took us to go eat African food with him. There's an unusually large number of Nigerian and other African students here, and they're always super fun to be around. Super friendly, very, very hopeful, cool, cool people. So, anyway, he mentioned the other day that cow head would be one of the dishes on the menu. Well, it turns out that cow head isn't quite as exciting as it sounds. It's all divided into its parts and things (doesn't even resemble a head!) and tastes almost exactly like roast beef, but it was a fun adventure anyway! I guess in Africa, they don't eat rice like they do here in Asia (with every single meal). Instead they eat this stuff called suji, which is pretty hard to describe except to say that it's a big, white, lump of dough. Really, really soft, with a texture almost like soft play-dough. Anyway, the way you eat African food is you take a piece of the suji and you roll it into a ball, then you take the ball and dip it into whatever kind of sauce you're eating (in our case, "melon seed," which I guess is just a melon seed ground up really find with some kind almost curry-like substance to go with it). So, it was fun, and actually not too bad at all!*phew*.

So that's the cultural experiences for the week, except to mention that this week we met a man from Botswana and another from Somalia. So, my map marked with all the countries I've met people from is keeping updated. I counted just the other day and was pleased to find that I'm up above thirty countries now! Crazy, huh? Just one reason the Singapore mission really is the greatest mission in the entire world!

*** was interviewed and is looking really solid for baptism next Sunday! Woohoo! It's so awesome to see their family get completed. When it comes right down to it, the ultimate goal of missionary work is to get families sealed in the temple and faithful to their covenants, so it's awesome to see them take this exciting step.I know that the Lord is in this work. I know that this is Jesus Christ's church and that it's led by living Apostles and Prophets today just like it was before. I've never been happier than on a mission, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity (and adventure) it's been to get to serve!

I love you all so much! Talk to you next week!

Elder Blissett

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Turning 21

Halo Keluargaku,

Well, we've got some exciting plans for today! I don't know if you've heard (I'm sure the news over there in America is just rattling about it), but tomorrow begins the huge Hindu festival of Thaipusum! Hooray! What's that, you haven't heard of Thaipusum before? Weell, I don't know if you'll remember it, but I actually mentioned it last year in Ipoh. Thaipusum is this big Indian festival where in order to implore special blessings from the gods, every year lots of Indian people stick hooks in their back and carry shrines on their shoulders and that kinds of thing. And, wouldn't you guess it, here in KL we live pretty close to the largest Hindu shrine in all of Malaysia called "Batu Caves." So, we're going to head up there a little later and see if we can't get some fun, Malaysian cultural exposure. There's lots of monkeys up there too, so that should be lots of fun! I'll try and send some pictures back next week.

Well, we had a really good week, but the best news of all though is that *** has quit smoking cold turkey this last week! Woohoo! So far he's been about four days off and it looks like he's going to make it. We're really proud of him and we've really seen the Lord's hand in the last little while to help him out. Kind of serendipitously, this last week *everybody* in KL got sick. Seriously, it was crazy. Everyone seemed to be coming down with this cold all over the place. Anyway, **** and his family ended up getting sick as well, and as luck would have it this sickness or something else has made it where cigarette smoke smells really, really bad to him. He says he doesn't even like to be in the same room as it. So, this sickness kind of came on right when we were having our last lesson with him when he finally stopped saying, "Ok, I'll try to quit smoking," and said for the first time, "Saya AKAN berhenti merokok" (I WILL stop smoking). So, it's awesome, he's doing great and looking to get baptized near the end of the month. Thanks so much for your prayers for him, I've been able to see what a huge difference it makes for him. Thanks for your prayers for me too. It's funny, this last week there's been a few times when I've gotten some special help that I really feel like was the result of prayers on my behalf. So thanks so much, it makes all the difference to a missionary to have someone praying for him.

I loved your observation about how when people struggle with addictions and problems in their life, that's exactly the time that they need to come to church instead of being too embarrassed to come. That's a major problem in this mission and we talk about it a lot. I loved that bishop's comment that there was nothing better than the smell of cigarette smoke in sacrament meeting because it meant someone was still working to make things right. That's dead on! It's been interesting to see how my perspectives on church, prayer, and scripture study have developed since I've been out here, but those three things are the number 1 treatment for almost every spiritual ailment. If we'd all just do those three things I don't know if there's very much that we couldn't accomplish. It makes all the difference in the world.

Welp, that's kind of the news from KL. We had some transfers in our Zone this week, so we're looking at getting some new people come in which should be fun. We're planning on making a day-trip down to Johor Baru (a city right across the border from Singapore), to do some training with the elders down there next week. Should be fun!

Anyway, I love you all so much! My birthday was awesome by the way. People didn't even really know about it, but we randomly ended up getting dinner with a Chinese family on Saturday night, and our Pakistani recent convert's family made us delicious Pakistani food on Sunday. Another member randomly decided to give us a weeks worth of groceries (which was a perfect birthday present), and one of the sister's recent converts who I've kind of bonded with even bought me a birthday present! His name is ***, pronounced **, and he's from Vietnam, but is one of the coolest guys that I've met on my mission. He's pretty close to my age, but what's most interesting is that he speaks very, very little English and only very simple Malay. So, there's a major language barrier, but he comes to church every single week, even though he lives well over an hour away and doesn't understand much of anything that's said for all three hours of church. He's an awesome recent. When the Sisters were teaching him they managed to get him a Vietnamese copy of the Book of Mormon and I guess that was pretty much the end of the story. He reads like crazy and loves it. I guess in Vietnam he was in one of those families without any kind of religious tradition at all. It's so interesting to see though that sometimes when people like that finally come into contact with the truth they just absorb it. *** is awesome and a super great example of the kind of faith some of these people in Malaysia have to sacrifice to travel every week to come to a church where they can't even understand the language being spoken, but can feel the Spirit every bit as well.

So, I love you! Glad to hear everything is still going great back in good ol' SLC!

Love you so much!

Elder Blissett

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The prophecy

Well, both Elder Peterson and I were sick this last week (me only a little cold, Elder Peterson's gotten a pretty nasty little virus though), but that didn't stop us from having a few awesome adventures this last week!

First and foremost, two of the Ibans were baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday, so those would have been the confirmations I did with Brother Doxey (Elder Peterson baptized them both on Saturday and I got to do the confirmations on Sunday). The rest of the family is still looking pretty good, but unfortunately couldn't make it to the baptism or to church on Sunday. R***'s husband is still doing really, really well. He really wants to be baptized, but he's working on kicking a bad smoking addiction, so it may be a little bit of time. He's doing great though and has already set a goal for himself to be baptized with the next group of his family members. So, that was very exciting for us.

Speaking of exciting, we had an exciting run in the other day with a Myanmar man who was apparently an Elder in one of the local Myanmar churches. We had a really nice conversation with him, and found out in the course of our conversation that his wife was a prophetess. Pretty interesting, I've never met a prophetess before. Anyway, at the end of the lesson I closed with a prayer, and we were just getting ready to go when the man told us, "Ok, now my wife will give you a blessing. She will pray for you." Oh, ok, no problem. So, the wife gave us a nice blessing (in tongues) while her husband interpreted so that we could understand. That was something new for me! After the prayer though we all sat back and she made prophecies about both of us. She only spoke Myanmar languages, so her husband was our interpreter for the whole thing. First he turned to me and asked, "Are you married?" "Umm, nope, not yet." After that he told me that his wife saw a very lovely Malay woman with me "in the form of a man." Well that was a little weird until he told me that he just meant that she would be strong like a man. Anyway, she prophesied that someday I would marry this very lovely Malay woman and she would help me in my ministry. "Well that wasn't so bad," I thought. She then turned her attention to my companion, who, unfortunately didn't fare as well as I did. His major prophecy was that he would "remain a virgin, even until Heaven." Oh well, at least she threw in that Heavenly Father was very pleased with him!

So, anyway, that's kind of the news for the week, except that Elder Pratt (yes, he is related to Parley P. Pratt) of the Asia Area Presidency is coming for Mission Tour on Friday. Those are always really special experiences, so we're really looking forward to his visit.

So far no plans for my birthday, except that we've been justifying buying all kinds of delicious fast-food this week reasoning that with a birthday so soon we're entitled to some extra treats.

So, that's the week from Kuala Lumpur. Thanks again for the birthday present. It was so awesome, and a huge boost for my whole week. I love you all so much! I'm loving it here serving the Lord in beautiful Kuala Lumpur!

Love you!
Elder Blissett

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rice and Curry, and more rice and curry, and more...

Halo Keluargaku,

KL is going great! It's funny, I never thought that I'd grow to love it here so fast, but I really do. This area is absolutely awesome! Elder Peterson and I have been getting along really well and we're having a blast getting a lot of work done here. It's super fun, and I really, really like it here a lot.

Elder Peterson and I had an interesting food-packed New Years day. It all started with Elder Peterson decided that he was finally going to get down to making us curry (which he'd been promising to do pretty much since I got here). Well, that sounded great to me so for lunch I helped him out the best that I could and took some careful mental notes so that I could try and make some of my own a little later (I think I could do it). Well, anyway, it was pretty uneventful and actually really delicious curry. So good I had two plates of rice and curry. Super delicious.

Well, anyway, after lunch we headed out to our appointments for the day, which consisted mostly of following some of our Iban investigators to go and meet their family who live kind of out of range of public transport. Well, anyway, they drove us over and we walked in the house to see that, oh, how nice, they made us some food. And, what's that? It's curry! Hooray! It was actually really good too, so even though I was pretty full from our curry earlier in the afternoon I managed to down another plate of rice and curry along with some of their snacks they always put out. Well, anyway, by this point I'm feeling very full, but nicely satisfied. Moving a little bit more slowly to make sure not to upset anything in my stomach and we moved on to the next house.

So, the people living in the next house we went to had only been there a few days so we were only mildly surprised to see that this visit was actually a house-warming party with... you guessed it, more rice and curry! Well, I'm stuffed so I tried to just avoid the hosts eyes and look really engaged in conversation with other people, but apparently not well enough because within only a few minutes of sitting down, I hear, "Elder, makan! Makan!" (Elder, eat! Eat!). Well, there's one thing you learn in Malaysia, and that's that when an Iban tells you to eat, you don't say know (they're very easy to offend sometimes). So, I dragged myself over and loaded up another plate of rice and curry, feeling like I was going to burst already, but managing to put it down anyway to appease our host.

It was at about that moment that I realized our last appointment of the night would be with an Indian lady right around dinner time... Oh no! Please say she didn't cook for us... She did! And what did she cook? Rice and curry! Hooray!

So, all said and done Elder Peterson and I put down about six to seven healthy servings of rice and curry before the day was over. But it's ok, we kept it down and our Ibans came to church again! So, mission accomplished! Woohoo!

The only other story I wanted to tell you this week happened last night when I went on exchanges with some of the other elders here in KL. They took us over to go meet some of their Nepalese investigators, which was really fun! They were all super friendly and very humble (there was at least 10 people living in an apartment maybe a little bit bigger than the size of our upstairs living room with no furniture to speak of). Anyway, they love to call you "brother" all the time, so, remembering something about Nepal, I asked one of them, "Brother, have you ever seen Mount Everest?"

"Oh yes, I can see Everest from my house."

"Oh wow! You can see Mount Everest from your house?"

"Yes Brother, I can see *two* Everests from my house."

"You can see...?"

So, the secrets out, Nepal is filled with Mount Everests.

So, everything is going awesome here! President and the Zone Leaders from the West Malaysia/Sabah side of the mission came here for one of our monthly Zone Leader Councils on Tuesday which was totally awesome. I love to hear any training we can get from President. He's a very inspired man, and we're super lucky to have him as our President here in Malaysia.

I know the gospel is true! I'm happier out here sharing it with others than I've ever been before. It's been awesome to see it change the lives of others, and I know that the more fully we live it, the happier we are. It's as simple as that!

I love you so much! Thank you all so much for all of your support! Hope you have a great week! Enjoy the snow!

Love you!
Elder Blissett