Sister Noria

Sister Noria Kian is a local missionary from the Matang area. She has been serving in the Singapore mission and completed her mission two weeks ago. We invited her to lunch so we could celebrate her wonderful mission experience. She graciously consented to join us.

Sister Noria.

Six months into her mission, her parents were involved in a moto scooter accident which took her mother’s life. Her father sustained serious injury. She was allowed to go home for a short time to help with the funeral and to get her family settled. Then, against the wishes of her branch, she returned to the mission field. Elder and Sister Jackson picked her up at the airport when she arrived from her mission and took her home. Sister Jackson did not want to let her go. They told us her living conditions are among the worst they have seen in East Malaysia.

Noria has an older brother and a younger syster. Both have some form of limitation so Noria is the most capable member of her family. She recognizes that and realizes she is going to be the one to take care of her family. Her father still has physical limitations from the accident and doesn’t work. Their family does not own a car.

To get her for lunch, we drove to the end of the pavement using the GPS coordinates then contacted her and told her we were there. Pretty soon this radiant, beautiful young women comes walking down the dirt road toward the car. She was dressed so nice.

We had so much fun at lunch. It was great getting to know her and talking with her. She speaks excellent English. Her Chinese mother felt strongly that she should learn English so she always spoke to her in English. She is very sweet and gentle. She has a fun sense of humor and has considerable depth about her. She has not let tragedy define her. She has a peace about her. She walks with confidence and poise and has so much potential. We told her we would do this again. I asked if we could get her a piece of cake to take home. She said no. Sister Leary asked her if she liked cake. She smiled and indicated she really liked cake. Busted – we bought her a piece of cake. We all laughed.

Sister Leary and Sister Noria.

I feel such an urgency to get this young woman to college – Sister Leary is more patient about it and feels Noria needs to make the decision herself. We invited her to meet Saturday with Victor (our area self reliance manager) before our self reliance devotional. He was going to present the IWorks program available to returned missionaries from Malaysia. She said she would think about it. We can’t imagine what she has been through and what she is feeling inside.

The old man can take a selfie with Sister Leary and Sister Noria.

A few days later I texted her and she said she would come to the IWorks presentation. We were thrilled.

Elder Masam

We decided to try this restaurant by us that looked pretty good. We ordered our meal and I was just getting ready to start eating when my phone rang. It was Elder Phillips. He proceeded to inform me that his companion, Elder Masam, who had only been out a week and a half had just been involved in a bike crash. They called the mission nurse and she advised them to call us. They needed us to come pick them up and take them to the medical center so Elder Masam could be treated.

We were still waiting for Sister Leary’s chicken sandwich to arrive at the table. I asked the Elders to send us their location and after we finished eating as quickly as we could, we would get them. (Elder Masam was scrapped up real bad but wasn’t seriously injured).

Were we surprised when the sandwich arrived. It was a chicken thigh, covered with skin and dripping with unidentifiable sauces. The bun was dark grey (charcoal bun) and looked rather unappetizing. It didn’t taker Sister Leary long to eat what was edible on the sandwich. Then we were off to the missionaries location. Thank goodness for french fries.

We arrived just before dark. Thankfully the senior office finance missionary approved me purchasing a bike rack a few weeks before then. Things like this are not a coincidence. I strapped the bike rack on our van, put both their bikes on the rack and we were off to Timberland Medical Center. We went inside and the missionaries checked in. While we were waiting we talked with Elder Masam. He had been out one and a half weeks and had just barely learned how to ride a bike. Several days before he had crashed on his bike when he passed out while they were biking. He wasn’t hurt but ruined his pants. I looked down at his knee and realized he had just ruined a second pair of pants. The pant knee was all torn up and did not look good. Elder Masam is a local missionary from Sibu. Most of these missionaries come from extremely humble circumstances. We could tell, he was more upset about ruining his pants than he was about his injuries. We knew why. Elder Masam is a very kind, gentle and soft soft spoken Elder. He speaks several languages but is a bit timid to speak English even though he speaks very well. After about 10-15 minutes they called him back.

He was back out in about 15 minutes all patched up with a prescription in hand and the bill. The Elders picked up the Rx and paid the bill. I believe the bill came to $150 RM (about $36 USD). We then drove them over to a hawker center close by their apartment so they could do some contacting the rest of the night. These are dedicated missionaries. Gratefully, Elder Masam’s bike was not damaged in either accident. We told his companion to take it easy on him for a few days.

The mistake I made was asking the office couple if I could just buy Elder Masam a new pair of pants. Then I told President Rowley I would gladly pay for a new pair of pants knowing what Elder Masam’s finaincial state probably was and considering he still has nearly 2 years left on his mission. I received a loving written lashing that I was not do to anything like that for any missionary. Things are in place to take care of those types of situations should they arise. Experiences like these make me so conflicted inside – I really struggle sometimes.

The next week we were in Sibu and the Senior couple, Elder and Sister Stephens, confirmed our greatest concerns regarding Elder Masam and his family.

Elder Phillips and Elder Masam.


After our Branch Fast Meeting today, Sister Leary and I took a break. We had been up all night watching General Conference. The first session started at midnight, the second session started at 4AM and the Priesthood Session began at 8AM. It was a spiritual feast but a rather sleepless night. The Branches in the District will watch conference next week.

Shortly after Sister Leary began cooking our dinner, the sister missionaries called. Magda had not shown up for work and they were not able to get hold of her until after several phone calls. Magda was quite ill. The sisters were worried about her. They asked if we could come and give Magda a blessing. We put our partially cooked dinner in the fridge and were off to pick up the Sisters and go visit Magda.

When we arrived we could tell she was not good. Her face was gaunt and she was just laying around. Most of the time this young lady is happy, bubbly and dancing around. This was not normal for her. After going through all the simple questions, it didn’t take much to discover she was severely dehydrated. She has been unable to get clean water to drink and wasn’t sure how long to boil it for. I went back to our apartment and picked up 2 liters of fresh water and an orange. After returning, we made her eat half the orange and start drinking the water. Within about 15 minutes her whole countenance changed. With further discussion and information, it was also clear she is malnourished. Her mother went to Singapore and basically left Magda to care for herself (she is 19 years old). Since she was baptized a few months back, the sister missionaries have helped her become more self reliant. Magda has basically been living on Ramen like noodles and limited water. She has also lost weight. One of the members in the English branch consented to allow Magda to live at her home for 2 weeks. The sisters are trying to find a hostile for Magda to live in.

The sisters had an appointment with a family they were hoping would feed them dinner. They invited Magda to come with them so she could get some good food. We took them to the members home and I asked the member to gave her a blessing with me. Unfortunately, the missionaries were not fed at their appointment. The sisters called later and told us this. We gathered some of our remaining dinner along with some other food and took it over to Magda. Thankfully, she had a good meal that night. We also arranged to have the sisters take her grocery shopping Monday (P Day) and get her some nutritious food. We told the sisters to instruct her on the importance of drinking and eating healthy.

Magda has a good job with another recent convert. He has loaned her the money to renew her visa (Magda is from Indonesia) and also floated her some money to pay for transportation to/from work. Our hope is that she can stay healthy enough to keep working so she can afford food and other necessitates in life. These experiences break your heart. The biggest problem is Magda speaks no English so the Sister Missionaries need to be there to translate for us and they don’t have the time to do that very often.

Helping Magda.

General Conference

There is a 12 hour time difference here in Kuching compared to Utah DST. Sister Leary and I wanted to watch the conference sessions in English, so we stayed up. First Saturday session started just after midnight Sunday morning. The afternoon session was at 4AM and then Priesthood session at 8AM. Then we were off to church at 11AM. We were exhausted. Then we did the same exact thing Monday morning for the Sunday sessions. It was a tiring week but well worth it. Here in Kuching they rebroadcast all the sessions the next week. We viewed the entire conference proceedings first in English then a week later in a mix of Indonesian and Malay. We cheated a bit and read some of the talks in English as they were broadcast in Malay.

I loved Elder Hollands suggestion – sell the ox or fill the mire.

There were so many great talks. We loved hearing from President Nelson. We have come to gain a profound appreciation that English is our native tongue. It is so hard and difficult for the translators – we can’t imagine how they do it. At one time the translator kind of messed up a little. He made a funny sound, paused a bit then took right off.

We were so touched hearing President Nelson. The love and emotion in his voice were so tender. Sister Leary said it best. She compared it to the Savior standing in front of us and teaching us. We couldn’t imagine how the translator was going to convey that. At one point the translator was so moved by President Nelson’s remarks, you could just feel the emotion in his voice – he was noticeably shaken. The spirit was so strong. We know President Nelson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today. That witness has been borne to us repeatedly. We know this is the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. How blessed we are to be serving a mission in this glorious time in the history of the church.

Sister Stephanie

The sisters invited us to visit a young woman in the Branch who has expressed an interest in serving a mission. Her name is Stephanie. Her older brother is 1st counselor in the branch presidency. She is a beautiful, tiny young woman who frequently helps with the music during Sacrament Meeting.

They live in a longhouse type structure with neighbors on both sides. We were quite surprised to see their home. It is humble. We visited with Stephanie, her younger sister and her mother, Sister Toni. Her older sisters was gone. Sister Stephanie always looks so nice at church. She always wears real nice, clean dresses to church. Her hair is very well groomed and she is very attractive.

The sister missionaries taught about the restoration. I don’t recall seeing her mother or younger sister at church before. It was expected – the sisters asked Sister Toni who should say the opening prayer and she pointed right at Sister Leary. For some reason, everyone likes to pick on Sister Leary to pray. The sisters in the branch love her. They always give her big hugs and greet her warmly.

At the conclusion Sister Leary got to choose who should pray. She gave me the task to say the closing prayer. I said as much as I could in Malay then mixed English in with it. Over all, it was a great visit. We presented them with a framed picture of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Stephanie had asked the sisters for that print a few weeks back so I’m sure it will be a treasure for their family.

To our surprise, the next Sunday, Sister Toni, Sister Stephanie and her two older sisters all showed up for church. It was great to see them. They all wanted their pictures taken with Sister Leary.

Sister Toni, Stephanie, and her little sister along with Sisters Dayley, Salleh and Leary in their home.
Sister Stephanie, Sister Everernise, Sister Leary and Sister Eliana at the KDC.

Sister Mellon/Pres. Michael

We just had the most exciting adventure thus far on our mission. The sister missionaries asked if we would like to accompany them to visit Sister Mellon and President Michael (Elders Quorum President). We jumped at that opportunity. This family personally provides and cooks food for the entire branch three weeks out of the month. They feel a need to do it. They are rarely visited by church members. He lives close by President Ero’s palm plantation and works for President Ero.

On our drive, we were treated to another spectacular sunset. The sisters were stunned. I don’t think they have been able to see sunsets like these before being in the city or indoors when the sun sets. There was no place to pull off the road so the best images were taken while driving.

They live in a nice home which is farther away from our apartment than any other place we have driven. I think it is about 45 km (approx. 27 miles). They live in one of the most rural areas we have been too. We had to meet them at a nearby shoplot then follow his son and son in law on the moto to their house. The roads are elevated about a meter above the surrounding fields and it was very dark. There were no stars, no moon, no light from anything – just blackness. As we were following, we came around a bend to find a car coming toward us in the other lane. As I looked ahead, there it was – a slow moving turtle right where the tire runs. This was on a very narrow (emphasize very narrow) road. I had four options. 1) slam on the brakes and risk passenger injury, 2) swerve off the side of the road and roll the vehicle, 3) swerve into the oncoming car and get hit, or 4) sacrifice the turtle. Instinctively, I knew what to do. The turtle sacrificed it’s life for the life of four missionaries. I felt terrible. The mistake i made was saying, “sorry turtle”. The sisters said, “What?” I had to confess.

I am amazed we found our way to their home. We had a fun visit. The sisters taught President Michael’s son on law. He is at church every week. I didn’t even know he was not a member. The discussion was great and he even gave the closing prayer. They would teach him more often if they lived closer. Following the lesson, they unexpectedly fed us dinner. We had already eaten dinner that night. But we managed to eat some more food. It was the first time I have had boiled tapioca root. It is golden yellow in color and has a taste and texture very close to russett potatoes.

Here is President Michael and his family.

As we left their home, the fun started. I remembered crossing a narrow bridge on the way to their home, so it only made sense we would cross it again going back to the highway. There was not a single road on the GPS – we were completely on our own. I noticed a bridge ahead and went over it then slowly followed along a road that got narrower and narrower with 6 foot high grass on both sides as it dropped a meter down to the fields on both sides. We were lost and it was black outside. There was no way to turn around. All we could do is back up the van (I always refer to it as the boat or ark) the way we came. Sister Dayley opened her door and turned on the flashlight on her phone to look behind us to see the road. The inside car light was on, bugs started flying everywhere inside the van then all the windows began fogging up with condensing water from the outside. Sister Dayley kept saying “there is no road on this side”. There was no road on either side. You can get the picture of our predicament. We called for help. President Michael would send the boys on the moto out looking for us.

After carefully backing up and crossing back over the bridge we saw a moto. It was two boys we didn’t know. The sisters asked them in Malay where the highway was. They graciously escorted us to the road where we found President Michael’s son in law and son on their moto. It was an experience to remember. We finally got the sisters home half an hour after they should have been. It took some time to get all the bugs out of the van that night.

A few days later the sisters gave us a nice thank you note with some hand soap and key chains for Sister Leary and I. Yup. You can guess what was on each key chain.

Poor little turtle.

Hospital Day

We met Elder and Sister Jackson at the Specialist Hospital this morning. They picked up Br. Jack earlier in the morning and brought him here for a surgical consultation on how best to get the open sore on his foot stumps healed.

He consulted with the plastic surgeon in the emergency room area. They also did some blood work and xrays there. Then we took him up to the cardiologist/interventionalist. He did a blood sugar test and ordered an EKG. After the EKG was complete it was back to the cardiologist. He then ordered some additional blood work and gave Brother Jack some prescriptions.

Next we were off to the lab to have his blood and urine taken. Finally after all that was done we were able to go pay the bill. Each bill was on separate sheets of paper. We went to the cashier. She took his prescriptions, gave them to the pharmacy and entered all the billing codes each area had written down then gave us a number to wait. A short time after that our number was called. They gave me his drugs and I payed the bill. Medicine is so very different here than in the US. There are no HIPPA laws. We did not have an appointment for anything and were able to get all this done before lunch. Total bill for the emergency room visit, doctors, prescriptions and all lab tests came to $682.15 RM (thats about $165 USD).

We then took Brother Jack to the Government office so he could extend his welfare status. He needs to do this a couple times a year to continue to receive government assistance. Then we had lunch and took him grocery shopping. Bro. Jack has worked as a chef before so it was real fun watching him pick out produce, fish and chicken for his family. He was even able to get a few treats for his cute daughter, Amelia. Then we took him home.

We finally found the correct road into his kampung so that helped getting him back into his house. This whole adventure took us most of the day. Then we had a beautiful relaxing drive back to our apartment.

Elder Jackson will be sending all the xrays and medical tests to the Doctor in Jakarta to determine the best option for Brother Jack to get new prosthesis. Then he should be able to get a job and support his family.

Bicycle Safety

Well, boys and girls, when you come out on a mission you have to watch ten – thats right, 10 – safety videos prepared especially for the younger missionaries. They cover all aspects of missionary work and how to be safe with your companion.

Meet Sister Thackery and Sister Shanmuganathan. Every time I would see Sister Shanmuganathan she would cover up her name tag and ask me what her name was. It took a while to figure out how to pronounce it correctly, but now I have it memorized. She is from Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysia and serving in the Singapore Mission. She speaks excellent English and is fluent in Malay. They are fun sisters.

Sister Thackery and Sister Shanmuganathan

At Magda’s baptisamal service they were getting ready to leave so I told them to behave themselves. Sister Thackery proceeded to tell me she weighed herself this morning and Sister Shanmuganathan is almost exactly half her weight. I was perplexed. Then I figured it out. They thought I said weigh yourselves when I said BEHAVE yourselves. We all had a great laugh at that one.

At our Zone Tour all the sisters were gathered around laughing. I just had to see what was going on. Sister Shanmuganathan then showed me the video below. I couldn’t resist. I asked her for a copy. It speaks for itself. No one was hurt in the production of this video.

A quick lesson on what NOT to do on your mission or when riding your bike.

Sister Kian Homecoming

Today Sister Leary and I had the privilege of attending the Matang Branch. This is the branch the Jackson’s are assigned to. We came to their Sacrament Meeting to hear Sister Kian report back on her mission. She was released last Wednesday. She is so sweet and humble. She possesses a poise and confidence that comes through a dedicated mission to the Lord. Her face radiates her love for the Savior, for her mission and for the gospel. Even though we could not understand what she said, we felt the power of her message as she would wipe away tears and gently place her hand on her heart.

We hope to encourage her in every way possible to attend college and look for great opportunities in her life. I asked her if she had thought about attending BYU/Hawaii. She said yes, but she needed to stay home and help her family. That broke my heart. I told her that we were here to help her. She had spent time on her mission helping other people, now it was time to let other people help her. I hope she will decide to attend college. I did tell her we would keep in touch.

We also spoke with Angela. She is a returned missionary from Vancouver, BC. She wants to attend College. The church is very generous in helping the returned missionaries in Malaysia get a college education at BYU/Hawaii. I asked Angela if she would consider going to school there. She politely informed me she received her answer in the temple that she was to attend BYU/Idaho. I told her that would be very expensive and difficult. She didn’t seem too concerned. The language assessment exam for entrance will cost her $800RM – probably close to a full month’s wages for her. She is determined to do it, so we will help her figure things out.

I don’t know how else to word this, but there is an innocence, purity, genuineness and lack of guile among these people.

Transfer Day

We knew this day was coming – it comes every 6 weeks. What we didn’t expect was how hard it was going to be saying good bye to the Elders in our district we had worked with and grown to love over the time we had been here. We had to say goodbye to Elder Bowler, Elder Hunt and Elder Raja. Each one was dedicated and had been serving well. We hope to have the opportunity to serve with them again.

The senior couples often help with transporting bikes. Elder Bowler asked us to take them to the bike store where his bike was being boxed and prepared for shipping. I dropped Sister Leary off, then took Elder Bowler and Elder Yochim to the bike store. We picked up his boxed bike and took it to the post office package delivery drop. Off it went. The elders then informed me they would walk to the KDC which was fairly close. These missionaries are responsible and independent.

We will be receiving three new elders along with a new companionship which will be serving in Kota Samarahan. That will put four missionaries in Samarahan. President Rowley has closed some less productive areas and moved the elders to areas of strength.