Mission Tour

On Tuesday we had our mission tour with Elder Meurs of the Seventy and his wife, along with President Rowley and his wife. It was just plain fun seeing all the Elders and Sisters come from the surrounding areas and be able to see each other again. It is so uplifting to feel their spirits and see their illuminated faces.

Preparing for the Tour photograph with President Rowley in front.
Still getting ready.
Final product – our small part of the Lord’s Army.

We, along with the Jackson’s, were assigned to feed this group for lunch. The sisters were working days before, buying food and preparing it for Tuesday. Sister Leary baked 3 different kinds of cookies (chocolate crinkle, peanut butter and chocolate chip) and banana muffins for the whole group. On Monday the two sisters were washing apples, lettuce and tomatoes for salad and preparing noodles for the pasta salad. We had previously ordered Subway sandwiches from the only Subway in East Malaysia.

Tuesday morning at 11AM Elder Jackson and I went to pick up the sandwiches. Subway had everything ready for us. They prepared everything so well and had all the veggies, sauces, lettuce and tomatoes all prepared and packaged for us. It was great. The best part was the Elders and Sisters. Most of the USA missionaries had not had a subway sandwich since they arrived. The green salad was a huge success – they loved that. The pasta salad was eaten but not as much as we thought.

Sisters first.
Yummy.
Elders next.
You rarely see salad in East Malaysia.
Our turn to eat.
Senior couples and Jeff (I will make a blog entry about him later).

The senior couples cleaned up everything after the meal so we missed several portions of the actual conference. That’s ok – we recognize that someone needs to do that work so the missionaries can enjoy the meetings.

Clean up crew – Sisters Madsen, Leary, Jackson and Stephens.

Elder Meurs taught the Elders and Sisters how to plan to teach and how to teach. He used a template provided by Tad Callister (General Sunday School President). They had an opportunity after that to practice what they had learned. It was very beneficial for the young missionaries.

As the conference closed there was time for question and answers. The Elders and Sisters asked some great questions and received some excellent guidance from Elder Meurs and President Rowley. Following that, four missionaries were asked to bear their testimonies.

It was there we first met Sister Kian. She is from the Matang Branch in our District. She is a beautiful young lady. She had been out on her mission for about six months when her father and mother were involved in a motorbike accident. Her mother was killed and her father was severely injured. She returned home as a missionary to help with the funeral services and to help her family settle things. She then returned to her full time mission against the wishes of her family and friends. She is currently in Miri and will finish her mission in a few weeks. She has learned excellent English and hopefully can do something significant with her life. We will keep tabs on her and hopefully get her any assistance she needs to pursue a good education. She came from very humble circumstances, loves her mission and it shows. She is a light and strength to those around her and she is so very humble. Her father is Iban and her mother Filipino.

Siter Kian and her companion, Sister Wilhelm.

After the conference concluded I drove Elder and Sister Meurs and President and Sister Rowley to the airport to catch a flight to their next tour destination in Kuala Lumpur in West Malaysia. All were very gracious and appreciative. It is only a 12 minute drive to the airport which is nice because they were running late to catch their flight. After that all the senior couples went out to dinner to our favorite Chinese Restaurant. We have developed an instant bond with the other senior couples serving with us. It is very enjoyable visiting with them when we have the opportunity. By the time we dropped the two couples off at their hotel and returned home it was well after 10:30PM. It was an exhausting day.

Senior Greeting

The mission flew two senior couples down to our mission tour in Kuching. We were visited with the Madsens and the Stephens. Us four couples have lots of fun together (Jacksons had another dinner appointment). Being in Kuching, I was appointed the designated driver. The Stephens had not been around Kuching before, so we treated them to the nice mall we shop at, had dinner, and of course, stopped at Baskin Robbins for ice cream. Kuching is a much larger city than the cities they serve in so of course, we have it a bit nicer here. The sisters do this a lot when they get together.

Sisters Leary, Madsen and Stephens.

Hungry?

We were at the grocery store and noticed the chicken feet were on sale. they are only $3.90RM/kilo. It doesn’t look like they will be running out any time soon. The beauty of these is that you can cook them in soup or with noodles or other creative ways.

Fresh chicken feet.

We opted to eat dessert instead. They have these really delicious minature cheese cake pies. They are a light creamy cheesecake and are very good and a bit more expensive than we normally spend.

Yummy.

Zone Challenge

On Saturday, the zone leaders extended a challenge to all 15 missionaries in the zone to contact 150 People as a zone, share a testimony and invite them to church. Sister Daley and Sister Salleh asked if we would like to go with them in the afternoon. They arranged with some members to visit them and wanted us to share our testimonies and feelings with the members. Off we went.

Sister Salleh and Sister Dayley.

First stop, Brother Johari and his wife Julia and their three grandchildren. We went to a small kampung (village) and parked the van. We walked in the downpour to their humble home. The sister missionaries and I were drenched – Sister Leary was under an umbrella. It was scary walking up the soaked, wooden steps. We weren’t sure if they were going to hold us or not. Some boards were missing and others were split. Once inside, we removed our shoes and went into their home and sat on the floor. The floor had several squishy spots. I wasn’t sure if we were going to fall through or not. I was nervous. Once inside it was so noisy from the rain hitting the corrugated steel roof that we couldn’t even hear each other speak. A good portion of the visit was in Iban so Sister Dayley along with Sister Leary and I couldn’t understand any of it. It was a very humble dwelling right next to the river. The family was bringing in fill dirt as they could procure it to build up a higher area they could use to build a new home as their current home will get flooded occasionally when the river level gets high. We bore testimony and invited them to attend church and the Self Reliance devotional in April.

We drove to our second visit but no one was home so we walked in the warm rain to another family the Sisters wanted to visit. They were Brother Kacil, his daughter Setia and her three children. Setia’s oldest daughter is married and is 21 years old. Her name is Doris. As we entered their home and removed our shoes, sister Setia offered each of us a towel to dry off with. It was appreciated. They live in a cement structure which was much more quiet with the rain.

Brother Kacil, Setia and Doris with Setia’s other daughters. Does Elder Leary look wet? He was soaked through and through.

We had a nice visit with them. Sister Setia speaks some English and understands some English. We bore testimony to them and extended an invitation to attend church. After the visit they brought out a warm reddish pink drink and some small pastry like things that resembled Pizza Bites. They offered them to Sister Leary who took one. Then I took one. They were HOT. I mean temperature hot. We could barely hold them. They must have come right out of the oil. Everyone else waited. We had a good laugh at me trying to cool it off. Then I took a bite. Surprise! They were a corn meal consistency with big chunks of sardine in them. They didn’t taste too bad. I ate two. The drink was like a rose/watermelon type flavor – very interesting. After leaving, the rain subsided.

Our final stop was to visit Belinda’s family. Sister Leary and I were excited to visit with Belinda’s family and parents. It takes a while to get to their home. It is about 30 minutes from the KDC. They live in a new area with all cement home complexes that are small but very nice.

Belinda lives with her younger brother and her mother who has remarried. Her older brother also lives there with his wife and their 9 month old baby – nine total. It is very common here for extended families to be living in the same residence together.

The sister missionaries have done splits with Belinda in the past so they have lots of fun together. Her younger brother will be 16 soon and has never received the Priesthood. We talked about the Priesthood, bore testimony of it and challenged them to attend church. Sister Leary keeps in touch with Belinda via Whatsapp. Later that evening, Belinda informed Sister Leary that neither her mother or step father know how to read. Family scripture study for them is very difficult when she is not there. That will be a real loss for her family when she goes off to school.

Fast forward to the end of the day. The Kuching zone contacted 300 people, bore testimony to them and invited them to church. What a remarkable group of missionaries we have in our zone.

Plumbing

Happy day. Friday, our landlord (Mr. Lee) came over with the plumber. He installed two “cups” in our kitchen sink drain. In America we call them P-traps and they are designed very different. However, the effect is the same. There is a water block that prevents the sewer smells and gasses from coming up the drain into the room. It’s sooo nice. Mr. Lee is a Chinese man and is very accommodating to us. We are quite lucky as he wants the place to be real nice.

No more bad kitchen smells.

Sister Visits

Thursday evening, the Sister Missionaries were kind enough to let us go with them to visit Magda and her mother. Magda has only been a member for two weeks and her mother is not a member.

We weren’t quite prepared for what we experienced. They live in the upper floor of a shop lot. These are buildings that usually have stores in the main floor and residences in the upper floors. It was not a very good part of town. They rent what appears to be part of a wide hallway. It has a cord across it with some material like a bed sheet that can be drawn across for privacy. The entire area was about 6 feet by 8 feet. In it there was a three inch cloth covered pad that looked like Magda’s bed, a small table with a rice cooker on it and a few boxes. It was clean and orderly but so very modest. Magda was very clean and had clean clothes on as did her mother. I believe everyone on the floor shares the same bathroom facilities. It is unimaginable for me to see how some of these people are living. They are content and happy. We need so little to live – we see this often. We always remove our shoes and sit on the floor.

Magda often has abdominal pain. She was crouched over holding a pillow during most of our visit. They have run some medial tests but can quite diagnose what her problem is. If they can’t help her, they may need to go back to Indonesia to her abusive father. Magda’s mother, Rachael, is trying to avoid that. Magda would not be able to attend church and would be exposed to some bad things. Rachael is protecting Magda as much as she can. Indonesia has more medical care she can receive at a reduced cost.

The sisters taught Rachael about the restoration and asked her how she felt when she has come to church with Magda. Her mother speaks some English so we heard her tell the sisters she feels “empty” when she comes to church. None of us were expecting that. As the sisters spoke with her more, what she really feels is a peace and tranquility she experiences in no other place – empty from all the cares and commotion from the world. The sisters went back and forth with Rachel for some time. Sister Leary and I could not follow the conversation. It wasn’t until we were in the car leaving that the sisters informed us the she was asking how soon she could be baptized.

Rachael said the closing prayer. It was the most heartfelt, lengthy prayer I have every heard a non member give. Sister Leary and I were touched.

We felt that we needed to bring some kind of gift to Magda on our visit, so while Sister Leary was baking cookies for the mission tour, I went to a photo printing company and had three 5×7 prints made of pictures I had taken at her baptism. On our way out, we presented Magda with the pictures. I think she will treasure those photographs for some time. They will be a great memory – a constant reminder of that special day in her life.

Looks like we may be having a baptism in the near future.

After that we visited another member closer to our apartment. Her name was Sister Ijok. She and her husband are both members. They live in humble circumstances but are in much better shape than Rachael and Magda. It was fun visiting with her. She tries to read Kitab Mormon (The Book of Mormon) every night. We look forward to seeing her at church. Her husband is out of town working for a few months then he will be back.

We were there about 8:30 PM and she brings out Coke for us to drink and some cake that reminded us of pound cake and banana bread. The members always seem to want to feed missionaries – even the old ones. Thankfully, we have not gotten sick yet from anything that has been offered to us.

Waterfront

After visiting with Sister REgina it was time for lunch. We headed to the waterfront not too far from where we were. This was our first visit to actually see the river flowing into the South China Sea. The water is pretty brown from silt and dirt but it was fun to see.

We lucked out with a real nice day.
I guess they catch fish in this river.
We walked down to the waterfront.
This was our lunch view from our restaurant.

Sister Regina

Thursday the Jacksons wanted to take us to the Cheshire House in Kuching. They felt we could secure a wheelchair for Brother Jack. They also wanted us to see one of the organizations the Church Humanitarian funds have assisted. We accepted their offer.

It was there we met Sister Regina. All I can say is she is the Mother Teresa of Kuching. She is a Catholic Nun in her mid 60’s. She runs this home for the disabled and incapacitated. She was so kind and gracious to us. She had her assistant pull a brand new wheelchair from the back room and bring it out to us to give to Brother Jack.

Sister Regina and her assistant Margaret.

I was impressed. The facility was clean and quite nice. It appeared sanitary and well taken care of. The residents also appeared to be well taken care of. They have this old sewing machine that they use for the residents and others to sew pillows and other things they sell at an annual sale to help fund the facility.

My grandmother had one of these that my mother used until she received her electric sewing machine. This is an antique.

It was there I received a wheelchair education I had never been exposed to before. She said the chairs with hard rubber wheels only last a year or two then they are usually thrown away because they are unable to get replacement wheel parts for them. Also, they don’t do well outside and on rougher, uneven surfaces. The wheels that have bicycle type inflatable tires are much better in different terrains plus the tires can be replaced easily when they are worn out. The LDS Charities chairs are real nice and they can get replacement parts for them, but they are way too heavy and in most situations they cannot be used for people who drive themselves around in cars and need to put their chairs in their cars by themselves. Most don’t have the upper body strength to pick them up and move them from a sitting position plus they are too big for their small cars.

Elder Jackson has been working with a group who have spinal injuries and have very little upper body strength and cannot twist around to pick up and pack wheel chairs. He is trying to get a light weight, easily to assemble/disassemble wheelchair for these individuals through the Humanitarian group. They really pushed back hard but he did not give up. In response to his requests, one of their head wheelchair experts is flying to Kuching to asses the situation and see what can be done.

Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read my editorial. The Humanitarian group has access to PHD level engineering departments at BYU and elsewhere. I find it hard to believe they cannot engineer a lightweight, easy to assemble and disassemble wheelchair that is affordable, will work in different terrain and can easily be repaired with supply parts. With all the new composite materials, 3D printers and nano technology, something can’t be produced to help these people? Have you seen the latest bicycles lately? They aren’t the old steel Schwinn I grew up with. I was told these new types of wheelchairs exist but cost $5000.

Sister Leary and Sister Jackson were off meeting some of the residents. One lady was doing cross stitch with one hand. She would put the needle through then reach around with the same hand to pull it out. It was a laborious effort but the piece she was working on was beautiful.

Once each year they have a fair type fund raiser in July. They sell items that are created by the residents. There were some beautiful bead work items that individuals had done that were very impressive given their situations. Each individual we encountered was very happy even with their physical limitations and restrictions.

Others were playing Uno with the oldest most tattered, worn out card deck I have ever seen in my life. They were keeping score and Patrick (age 42) was winning. Patrick is a smart man, is unable to speak and only has the partial use of one hand. He can awkwardly grab a pencil and point to letters to spell the words he is trying to say. He is also great at math. He loves to paint with watercolors. He had two paintings that we wanted to give to Sister Leary and Sister Jackson. To paint, he needs to grab the brush and carefully make each stroke. This is a very time intensive process.

We now own a beautiful masterpiece water painting by Patrick. A treasure that will be with us for a good long time. There has to be a special place in heaven for these people. It sure makes you think when you have an ache or pain.

Hunt & Wehrli

Tuesday morning we received an urgent call from Elder Jackson. He needed us to help with some missionary transfers. Apparently there were a few emergency transfers taking place in Kuching and we needed to pick up two elders with their bikes and suitcases and take them to their new area.

We met at the KDC, picked up Elders Wehrli and Hunt and drove them to Batu Kawa to their new area. It is a ways away. Elder Wehrli entertained us the whole way. He is funny to listen to and never lacked for anything to say. We dropped them off along with their bikes and suit cases. The home they were in had not been lived in for a bit so they needed to clean up a few things.

As time was limited, we asked the Elders what they wanted to eat for lunch. Elder Wehrli responded, “Ayam bakar”. Not having a clue what he said, I responded back, “Yes, you are”. He said, “I am burnt chicken?” We all started laughing hysterically. It was too funny. So much for our Bahasa skills. We ended up taking them to lunch (KFC) before their District Council Meeting. After eating, we dropped them off at the KDC for their meeting and we were off to find the only Subway in East Malaysia. We needed to check their menu and find out about catering options for the upcoming mission tour.

The Subway is a small store situated next to the entrance of a nice mall. We spoke with the manager, told him what we needed and gave him our phone number. We said he would call later with a quote.

Zone Food

Next week we are having a mission tour with one of the General Authority Seventy. He will be coming to spend the day at our zone along with President and Sister Rowley. All the missionaries in the area will be coming to the KDC. They will be joined by a few of the senior couples as well. The tour is 3 days and 3 main areas. It involves considerable travel for some of the missionaries.

We were informed that we and the Jacksons were responsible to feed 59 people at our zone meeting. You can imagine how fun that has been this past week getting food quotes, planning a menu, purchasing the food etc. The senior couples tend to get assigned stuff like this. Sister Leary will be cooking cookies, muffins and help prepare a pasta salad. She will be busy but will feel accomplished. We decided on Subway sandwiches. There is one Subway in East Malaysia. I think this will be a real treat for the US missionaries. Plus it is a bit pricey for them to buy. It was that or Pizza Hut pizza. Sandwiches won out.

Due to this, we have driven all over Kuching and seen numerous sites we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see. Pictures to follow.