Saturday, September 6, 2008

I had such a bad week I forgot about . . .

Flashback Friday!

This week's theme is, the things I miss most about Asia/Missionary work . . .

1. The family I miss most is Chris and Kate Varel.Sister Budge and I with Chris and Kate and the Bywater family on Kate's baptism day. Chris is the fairer Indian man. Kate is next to him.

Chris and Kate were a referral from the Bywater family in the Singapore 1st Ward. Before Sister Budge and I started teaching them Sisters Weldon and Wang had been teaching them. Though they were keeping all the commitments they weren't regularly going to Church nor had they set a baptism date. So the Sisters prayed about what to do and the answer was "pass them to the ex-pat ward." Which was technically where they should have been all along since Chris was from India and Kate from China. The other Sisters were teaching them because Sister Wang was also from China so she and Kate could speak Chinese, but they were going to the Filipino ward, which just wasn't right for them. Well after Sister Budge and I started teaching them things really picked up. They loved the 1st Ward and soon Chris set a date. But Kate, several months pregnant, wanted to wait. She never would tell us what was holding her back. But growing up in China, she'd never even had faith in any type of God, she'd hardly even heard of a Supreme Being. But a couple months after Chris was baptized she told us she was ready. When we asked what had changed her mind she replied, "Ever since Chris was baptized he has helped with the dishes and cleaning of the house. His hot temper is gone. He is a much better husband. This is what I was thinking when he wanted to get baptized. I'd wait and see if he changed, and he did, so I now I know the Church is true." Things worked out great this way because on that day Chris was able to baptize her and the Elder's investigator from India. Great way to use his priesthood. They both looked so happy. Since then they have had their baby, and went to the temple to be sealed as a family. I love them so much. I know I'll see them again someday before we meet in the Celestial Kingdom.

2. The food I miss most is definitely Roti Canai. There was this little restaurant in Bintulu, East Malaysia that Sister Boston and I would stop at every night on our way home for some Roti Canai with telur (egg). It's this wonderfully thin bread with an egg cooked in the middle of it. You pour curry sauce over it and enjoy. I wish I could make it here, but it just doesn't work out the same. I still remember eating it for the first time with the Eliap family on the way to Sri Aman. It was instant love.

3. The site I miss most, the road to Ivy's house. Hell might be the word I use to describe that bike ride. But it was so worth it. And once we got out of the city it was just the most beautiful jungle road. There were little wooden neighborhoods all over on the sides of the street. We crossed over a mucky brown river, that looked surprisingly gorgeous. Then (after nearly an hour of biking) we'd make it to Ivy's flats and there would always be kids outside playing in the jungle - happy as could be.I'm wearing a mask because it was "burning season." The jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia were being cut down and burned. The air was thick with smoke and we got so sick I thought we might die. So the members made us promise we'd wear these masks. Sister Ivy is next to me and her daugher Roverina is in front of her. The other woman is her neighbor who she referred and we taught for a while. The boys are hers.

4. The youth I miss the most, Jessica and Viviana.
Jessica and Viviana are standing on the left with me. The Juni family is surrounding Sister Weldon. The family was less active when Sister Weldon and I were left on our own in Kuching. And as they say, every time you bring a less active back they will bring investigators. That is exactly what Brother Juni did. Jessica was his neice, Viviana her best friend.

Lessons at their Kampung were the best! The whole family would gather around to encourage them to do as we taught (stay morally clean, not drink etc) even though no one else in the family was interested in our teachings or commandments. There was always a great dinner. Our translators usually were a little horrific. But somehow these two girls still embraced the gospel. Of course we were a little worried about whether or not they'd stay active. Since they lived about an hour bus ride and a mile walk from the Church, and no one in their family joined with them. But every time I've talked to Sisters who have served in Kuching since then, I hear good news. It warms my heart. I love these girls. I hope they find good LDS men.

5. The companion I miss most is Julie Weldon.

Left: "The Field is White Already To Harvest." Cutting down the jungle for Kuching branches cemetary. Right: crazy statue on the way to Sri Aman.

But having Safia Hussein all the way in Pakistan is hard. I may never see her again. And I'd love to go for a good morning run with Hailey and Tiffany. But things with Julie were just special. We were both new to the field when our trainer, Sister Waew, went home to Thailand. We finished our training together, started with a nearly non-existent investigator pool, and there was low activity in both Kuching branches. We worked harder than I think any two missionaries have ever worked (humble I know). We felt guilty if lunch took more than 20 minutes. We biked 25 miles a day (practically) - visiting less actives and recent converts; contacting everyone we saw on the sidewalks of MJC; knocking Chinese neighborhoods, looking to add some money and diversity to the branches we served in. We never stopped to rest. And it all paid off when we left the area, with both branches swelling up to 80 people in each congregation; with several new families in each branch, none of which were Chinese, but I'm sure we sewed some seeds.

6. Missionary work I miss most is, surprisingly, contacting. Whether we were gate knocking in Malaysia or riding the trains in Singapore it was always so special to bear your testimony to a complete stranger and then invite them to improve their lives by making some small committment. Of course it was always rewarding when that 1 in 100 contact would actually want to meet you again, and then that 1 in 25 that would actually continue learning, and then that 1 in 10 that would join the church. Member referrals really are the way to go, but contancting is amazing.Sister Driggs and I with Sister Budge's amazing contacts, Vietnamese friends Hieu and Mai. Sister Budge gave Hieu our card on the MRT (subway) and a couple months later she called and asked to "learn about Jesus," and she asked if she could bring her friend along. Sister Budge didn't even remember her, but I have never met two people more "golden." They already knew the Gospel. We'd start teaching a principle and they'd finish it. They blew members away. Unfortunately they stopped their investigation when their freindship was broken.

7. Missionary "chore" I miss most is Scripture study. Ben and I read the Book of Mormon every night but it's just not the same. Ask any former missionary. I remember an AP saying once that he missed studying the scriptures with other people in mind, he cried about it and at the time I thought it was kind of strange. But now I know what he meant. Something amazing happens when you study the scriptures with other people in mind the whole time.

8. The culture I miss most - Islam. I love Muslim people. It was heart wrenching not being able to teach them. But I must admit, I broke the rules of few times. When Muslims approached me and asked for us to teach them, I told them we couldn't and then broke the rules by passing them a passalong card with the church's website on the back and the SLC temple on the front. I figured if they really wanted to know they could learn on their own. And I prayed I wouldn't be killed or arrested for this small act of kindness.

9. The P-day activity I miss the most is Squash. Why haven't Americans picked up on this sport? I loved Wednesday mornings when all us Singapore Sisters got together for some squash competition.

10. And for the last one it's a tie, between neighborhoods I miss the most. These two neighborhoods have much in common. Batu Kawa RPR is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Kuching and Sebatang was Bintulu's poor. Batu Kawa was filled with part member families, less active women with several beautiful children, husbands who wouldn't even talk to us. Sebatang was filled with recent convert families. Like six full families with the most adorable and happy children. And the grandmother to them all was perhaps my favorite.

Batu Kawa . . .

The children I love more than any others in the world, Sister Suin's kids. On Sister Weldon's last night in Kuching I asked "where do you want to go?" But I already knew the answer. Sister Suin's one room house in Batu Kawa RPR. And almost a year later when Sister Boston and I were in Kuching for Zone Conference I begged, "Can we just go to one house?" When we got out of the Taxi and walked toward the front porch little Michelle started jumping up and down and screamed "Sister Bassett! Sister Bassett!" She ran inside to get her mother and immediately the tears started to flow. And on their TV console stood a picture of days long gone, of Sister Weldon and I at their house for Michelle and Oleyvia's baptism lessons.

Sebatang . . .

Left, Sadam (a married 17-year-old mother) in front of her tiny house. Right, the home with the most love in the world. Sister Weldon and Sister Chung were introduced to Medan and his family after knocking on and teaching Medan's brother's family. And they just kept meeting more and more family members in this small neighborhood. Grandma made sure all her grown children (the first brother, Medan, and Sadam's husband) gave up smoking and drinking and joined the Church . Medan's 12-year-old daughter Debbie told us once that she wanted to be a missionary "Just like Sister Weldon" some day. And I'll never forget the night Debbie's mother said something in Iban to her husband, Medan, and then he translated for me "You remind us of Sister Weldon. Do you know her?" I just smiled and said "she was my first companion, in Kuching." He nodded as if that made all the sense in the world. But my favorite memory of this house was the night we were teaching Grandma's youngest son, a single 21 year old college student. We asked him if he would give the closing prayer, to which he replied he wasn't sure he knew how. Medan told him he could follow me, you know the kind of prayers parents have with three-year-olds, where the child repeats everything the parent says. My response was "No Medan, he'll follow your prayer." Then all 15 of us got up on our knees and this giant of a man led his little brother in the most beautiful Iban prayer. The spirit was so strong.

1 comment:

Mom and Dad Bassett said...

Dear Sis,
Your beautiful remembrances of Singapore have given you a breath of fresh air! Aren't our memories of special times refreshing?
Take that renewal with you into the classroom this week and make life with Dunbar 9th graders a piece of heaven.
I love you. God bless.

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