Sister Ko and Sister Chang asked us one night to accompany them and visit a member family they are trying to activate. He speaks Chinese. We have seen him at church before so went with them to see the family. In their home, I noticed something in Sister Chang’s backpack I had never seen before. After our visit, I just had to get a picture of it.
We don’t get to hang out with the missionaries very often, but when we do it is always a joy and you never quite know what is going to happen. Our Branch is preparing a pre Gawai (Harvest Festival) celebration and party for Saturday, 18 May. The missionaries were asked to dance one of the native dances along with a few members. We had a practice one night to learn the dance. It will be interesting. At the practice we noticed something a bit strange.
Chintra and Pamela are returned missionaries in Sibu who served in England. Both want to attend BYH/Hawaii. It was Thursday evening, April 19th, 2019. We were visiting Sibu. I sat in a chair right across from Chintra as she told me she wanted to attend college at BYU/Hawaii but she promised her father (who is not a member) if he would allow her to serve a mission, she would not leave the country again.
I felt one of those missionary promptings that I acted on immediately. I looked her straight in the eyes and with big tears welling up in my eyes and running down my cheeks, I promised her the Lord would open the doors and would provide a way for her to attend college. Big tears welled up in her eyes and began to run down her cheeks. She felt something – we both felt something strong and powerful.
We obtained contact information from both young ladies and have kept in touch with them – sending words of encouragement. We have spent many nights on our knees in humble pray asking the Lord to help Chintra and all the other recently returned missionaries in this area. He knows, more than we do, how much help they need.
Fast forward three weeks to Wednesday, May 8th. We send a text to Chintra telling her she is always in our thoughts and prayers. We tell her that Elder Wehrli will be coming up to Sibu Jaya. We inform her we know him well and have instructed him to find her father and just love him. She responds back very happy and excited that we know Elder Wehrli. She said she will look for him and help them as much as she can. She also tells us it is her birthday. She is 21 years old. We send her birthday wishes and hope the best for her as she celebrates.
Two days later, Friday, May 10th we receive a text message from her. It states, “Hi Elder and Sister Leary! I have talked to my dad briefly about applying to go to BYU/Hawaii. He told me that he doesn’t mind wherever I want to study. His only concern is that I can get a job right after I finish studying.”
She hadn’t told him about the program they have to help the Malaysian students or anything about BYU/Hawaii. We were stunned in disbelief. What just happened. We immediately wrote back to her about the blessing that would be in her life. I also reminded her of the tender tears in both our eyes as the Lord’s promise was given to her. I told her the Lord keeps His promises to us!
She responded back in gratitude and disbelief. She was the recipient of a loving kindness from her Father in Heaven. She expressed how incredible this was for her and that she didn’t feel her father would be receptive to her decision especially since it just accidentally came out of her mouth. We just beheld a miracle.
He does want her to check on a local college as part of her evaluation, but once he finds out what is available to her in Hawaii, we are confident she will be able to apply and attend. We never thought it would happen this quick. This will not only change her life but will change the life of her posterity for generations.
It happened again. We get close to the young Elders and Sisters, get to know them well and share some great experiences, then they get transferred. We develop a deep love for them and then have to say good bye to them. It’s never easy. Transfers come out every six weeks on Monday. They hold District Council meetings on Tuesday afternoons. On Wednesday they are gone to their new areas and we start the whole process over again.
This makes the District Council meetings that week pretty serious as the Elders and Sisters say their farewells to those they have served with. They are also saying their good byes to Branch and District members knowing they may not see them again. It’s sad. It is also exciting for them. They receive new companions, are able to start fresh in new areas and will have the opportunity to meet lots of new people and have choice experiences with them.
We will really miss Sister Dayley. She has been in the area the whole time we have been here. She has been like our trainer for the area, the branch, the people and their customs. It has always been fun talking with her and working with her in the Lord’s vinyard. We love her and will really miss her. We have visited many members homes with these two sisters.
These missionaries are so independent and responsible. When they transfer, the phone SIM cards stay in the area. They remove them from their phones and leave them. When a new missionary comes in they put the area SIM card in their phone. This causes problems with the Grab (Uber) application. There are only a few companionships in the zone who have a working Grab account. The missionaries will always try them first but as a last resort they call us to order Grab cars. We know when they call, they have no other option so we gladly help them.
Bikes are always challenging on transfer day. There are no members with bike racks and very few members who even have vehicles large enough to take a bike anywhere. As a result, senior couples are called upon to assist. This happens throughout East Malaysia. The senior couples will gladly step in to ship and pick up bikes for the missionaries. In most cases, the missionaries have their bikes boxed, labeled and ready to ship out. They are amazing. The funny thing is, for some reason, they tend not to put their names on the shipping labels. We can’t figure out why that is the case or who they want their bikes to be shipped to. They always have the address though.
We had another baptism in our branch on 4 May. Two young women the Sisters have been working with were baptized. It was a great service. We have seen these two sisters at church for several weeks so it was fun to see them get baptized. Both seemed so happy to be joining the branch. After individuals are baptized they are invited up to the stand to bear their testimonies of the gospel. It is a joy to see them stand with such confidence and speak to those in attendance. We wish we could understand what they say.
President and Sister Rowley were able to attend the baptism so that was great. It is always wonderful to see them and see the love they have for the missionaries. They only have two months before they are released and Elder and Sister Woo take over the reigns as Mission President.
Have you ever wondered what a day is like for a senior couple serving in Malaysia? Here you go. It is Wednesday, May 8th – transfer day.
6:45 AM – we woke up with the sun. We had a brief discussion about our day, got ready then ate breakfast.
9:15 AM – we started the day off with our language tutor. We teleconference with Sister Monroe twice a week. She teaches Malay at the MTC in Provo. It lasts an hour. We wonder if it is helping.
10:30 AM we are off to the bike store to have them box up Sister Chen’s bicycle for shipping to her new area. While they are boxing up the bike we drive to the telecommunications store to pay our internet bill. They have ATM like machines you enter your account number into then feed in your cash to make payment. I wanted to pay $400 RM (8 – $50 RM bills) to prepay 3 months of service. I place the cash into the machine then it all comes out with the message, “We are sorry but we can’t take your bills.” I think to myself, that’s weird. Lets try it again. I try it again. Cash comes back out with the same message. I go to their receptionist and inform him that their machines won’t take my cash. Of course, he thinks I am a dumb American and points me to a different machine. I try that machine. My cash comes back out. Back to the receptionist. “Your machine will not take my cash – I have tried 3 times.” By this time he thinks I am really deranged and follows me over to a third machine. He instructs me to do everything exactly as I had done before. Well guess what… the cash comes back out of the machine. He looks at my bills puzzled. It dawned on him they are brand new uncirculated bills. Their machines have problems separating new bills. He proceeds to fold them all up and feed them into the machine one at a time. He had to feed one bill in 3 times to get it to accept the cash. Well, needless to say, we finally finished the payment and got the receipt. He figured out this American wasn’t that dumb after all. Sister Leary is in the car wondering what happened to me. Next time I will get the oldest, dirtiest bills I can find to pay them.
11:30 AM – back to the bike store. I pay them for boxing up the bicycle, then put it in the back of the van. Then we are off to the bus terminal to ship Sister Chen’s bike and pick up Sister Chang’s bike. I pay the $35 RM fee to ship Sister Chen’s bike and pick up Sister Chang’s bike. To pick up her bike, the gentleman behind the counter wants to see my passport. Luckily I carry a color laminated photocopy of my passport page for cases like this. We load her bike in the back of our van.
12:00 PM – now it’s close to lunch. We stop at a roadside KFC for lunch on our way to the E Mart to meet the Matang Elders. They have some things that Elder Mansfield left with them that they need us to deliver to him tonight at a baptismal service.
12:30 PM – off to E Mart. We arrive just after 1:00 PM and walk into the grocery store. We message the Elders we are there. We can’t see them and they can’t find us. I told them we are right by the Pizza Hut and Watson’s pharmacy. I even send them a picture of where we are. I get this message back. “Are you at the Matang E Mart or the Batu Kawa E Mart.” Well hello, I didn’t know we were at the E Mart in Batu Kawa. Back in the car.
We are driving along the highway and the sisters call for us to order them a Grab car from the airport to their apartment. Sister Chen flew out and Sister Chang arrived. I pull off the side of the road and order them a car. They want to know when we will deliver the bike. We tell them it will be around 2:30 before we can get there.
1:30 PM we arrive at the Matang E Mart. I message the Elders we are under the big E Mart sign. You can’t miss that. After a few minutes they arrive and give us the things to take to Elder Mansfield. Off we go to the sisters apartment. The GPS indicates we will be there about 2:23. While we are driving the Elders call and indicate they need to change their evening appointment with Belinda’s family and asked if we can meet them at the airport at 3:50 PM. We tell them that will work.
2:25 PM we arrive at the sister’s apartment. We take the bike upstairs and meet Sister Chang. We welcome her to Kuching. Finally we can go back to our apartment, cool off a bit and grab a drink.
3:35 PM off to the airport. We meet the 4 elders there. We welcome the two new Elders to Kuching. Then we order the Chinese elders a grab to take them and all the bags to their apartment. (All 4 elders live in the same apartment.) Elder Bennion and Elder Jones hop in our van and off we go to meet with Belinda’s family.
4:30 PM – we arrive at Belinda’s and have a nice meeting with them. We would love to see her step father receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and her younger brother receive the Aaronic Priesthood. We will see how that goes. We head home, drop the Elders off at their apartment around 6:00 PM, then arrive at our apartment to eat a quick peanut butter sandwich for dinner.
6:45 PM – back in the van. We are off to a baptismal service in the Samarahan Branch. It started at 7:30 and was a very nice service. A husband and wife got baptized. They will be a great asset to the branch. The Samarahan members are so fun to visit. We love it there.
We also dropped off the things that Elder Wehrli and Elder Mansfield had left in various places. Elder Wehrli will be leaving the zone tomorrow. We will miss him. He is a great missionary and very entertaining. President Rowley allowed them to move the baptism service up and let Elder Wehrli stay in their area an extra day so he could baptize the father. Elder Wehrli is going to Sibu Jaya – where Chintra and Pamela live. I told him I know why he is going up there. I told him to find Chintra’s father and just love him. I told him about the promise I made to her that the Lord would open the doors and make it possible for her to attend college. I feel Elder Wehrli is going to play a part in this story. He will be training a new missionary in Sibu Jaya.
9:20 PM we arrive home. We visited every area in our zone and traveled to the west, the north west, the north east and the south east. You can guess we were pretty tired by the time we got home. In case you were wondering, there isn’t a normal day in the mission field. Transfer days are something else.
Right next to President Ero’s beautiful home stands a Bidayuh hut which he had built. It looks like he wants to preserve his ancestry for him and his family. It is as real as it can be – all built from local split timbers and furnished with authentic items.
President Ero said sometimes he just likes to come into this hut and sleep at night. He does have a nice bed in there and the bathroom is state of the art, so there are some modern conveniences that are worth incorporating. What an amazing and educational experience.
Two weeks ago I was talking to our District President, President Ero. I told him we would love to come out and see his oil palm plantation and see his operation. He told me he would contact Elder Jackson and plan a time we could come out. Last Saturday Elder Jackson contacted me and indicated President Ero would like us to come out on Saturday to see his operation and have dinner. We gladly accepted.
His oil palm plantation is about 45km from our place. It took us a while to drive out that far but it was a beautiful drive. The Jackson’s came with us.
He built a 6000 square foot home on the top of this hill. It took them 100 days. We have no idea how they did it. Their home is absolutely beautiful and fully furnished with beautiful furnishings. It is peaceful and tranquil. There are photographs throughout their home of the world trips they have taken as a family. It was so fun seeing all the different places they have been and to be invited to share this with his family.
Scientists in California have discovered that the palm branches are highly nutritious for cattle. The are currently working on grinding up the spent branches, combining the substance with sweet dates and producing cattle feed pellets. They are more nutritious than hay. They are looking at ways to ship the branches to processing plants. That would be even better for President Ero’s operation. Very little goes to waste. It is quite educational.
Following our tour we were treated to a delicious authentic Bidayuh meal. It consisted of rice and chicken mixed with spices and lemon grass then stuffed in bamboo stalks and cooked over a fire until done.
Sister Helen’s (Brother Govin’s wife) father has been living in their home for several months. He was diagnosed on Christmas day with cancer and was given 3-4 months to live. Monday morning Sister Leary sprung out of bed much earlier then normal – especially for a P day. We soon learned why she was inspired to do that. Sister Hellen called early and asked if we could come over to give her father a blessing of comfort. His health had declined rapidly.
We got dressed and went over to find most of their family members there. It was a solemn occasion. I gave him a blessing along with President Souli (the Branch President). Her father was not responsive at all and was just moaning. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and really looked bad. He had completely stopped eating and drinking. We stayed for a few hours to show our support then returned home.
Thursday we received notification that he passed away. Sister Leary asked sister Helen if she could make some dinner for them. Sister Leary made a large crockpot full of chicken soup. We gingerly drove it over to their home. They were very appreciative. It was surprising to see a refrigerated casket with a Plexiglas top in their living room with her father in it. Chairs were placed on both sides of the casket for friends and family members to sit and talk while viewing her father. Sister Leary sat next to the casket with Sister Helen and provided comfort. We visited for awhile. We were invited to a pray service the following night and the cemetery on Saturday morning. As I looked around, there was a small lock box with a slit in the top. Next to that was a pad of paper and a pen. I walked over and noticed that several had made donations. They placed their name and the donation amount next to it. We made a donation to help the family in their time of need.
Friday night they basically held a funeral service for her father for members of the church. There were many friends, family and branch members there. The Govins attend the Batu Kawa branch. All the missionaries assigned tot he branch were able to attend. Talks were given, songs were sung and memories shared. It was a simple yet beautiful service in their home. A beautiful wood casket was also in the room but her Father’s body remained in the Plexiglas and metal casket. We opted not to stay for the dinner. Sister Helen is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her father was Anglican and her sisters are Muslim. It was a very interesting situation.
Saturday morning was the Anglican funeral service in their home. We did not attend that but remained outside and followed the funeral procession. At some point they transferred his body to the wood casket. We drove to the Anglican cemetery and witnessed the graveside service. They lowered the wood casket into a three or four foot deep cement vault. Then the minister began reading things from his book. A man had a bucket of sand. He was going around the group and each person took a small handful of sand and held it. At the appropriate time people began throwing the sand on top of the coffin. As one group finished those in the back went to the front and threw their sand on the casket. Then there were more prayers and reading. Next a bag of flower petals was passed around to the family. People would grab a handful of flower petals. Those were also thrown on the casket at the appropriate time. It was all in Malay so we didn’t understand it. Then the minister finished. There were several Muslims in attendance. Some of them were videoing the entire proceeding. We didn’t take pictures during the service.
Workers began to lift two inch cement slats and place them in the grooves at the the top of the cement vault. They placed seven slats which covered the entire vault. Then they shoveled several shovels of clean, wet sand on top of the cement slats. One worker shoveled and the other smoothed the wet sand over the top of the slats. When that was completed, they pulled their truck and cement mixer up next to the grave and started the cement mixer. They filled a wheelbarrow with freshly mixed cement and began shoveling it on top of the sand. They probably build up a three to four inch layer of fresh cement on the vault using several wheelbarrows full of cement. One worker worked the cement while the other shoveled it on. When they were completed they placed two sheets of corrugated sheet metal over the entire cement area (probably so it wouldn’t dry out too fast or get washed away in a rain storm). Finally they placed the grave marker cross made out of wood over the metal. This concluded the service. Some began to leave and others stayed around to visit.
Looking around the cemetery, there were several cement covered vaults. The tops are almost a foot above ground level. Other vaults had the cement slats in place so you could tell they were available for use. Others had beautifully crafted stone along the sides and tops of the vaults. Some had elaborate headstones as part of the stone work. Many were beautiful with carved lettering that was gold covered. It was so interesting to see.
I noticed one family standing next to us had a large bag full of something. They took the bag to an area of the cemetery about 50 yards away. They proceeded to empty the bag on what appeared to be a pile of something. Then they lit a fire and began burning the contents of the bag. I could not identify what exactly was in the bag, but i found it quite interesting. One sister asked about funerals in America. She was quite surprised we didn’t keep the bodies at home before the funeral. She was equally surprised we have viewings and funerals at the church and not in our homes. We are receiving quite an education here. Shortly after that we left.
We had our first Self Reliance devotional in Kuching. Prior to that we met with two recently returned missionaries and presented to them the IWorks program which helps them go to BYU/Hawaii and receive a college degree. Both seemed interested. We sure hope they will take the opportunity to get a degree. It will make a complete difference in their lives and lifestyles here. Following that we held the devotional.
There were 46 people in attendance at the devotional. Victor (our area manager) presented the devotional in Malay. We didn’t understand any of it. President Rowley came to Kuching and was able to attend the devotional. I guess it was decided all the Branch Presidents would get lists from their branches of who wanted to attend one of the Self Reliance classes. We hope that plan works. Then each branch will hold their own class.
Sister Noria was able to attend. She had served in the Kuching area and knew several people there. It was fun for her to visit with many of her old friends.
After the devotional we ran across some of the Kuching 2nd branch youth and young adults who made eggs and cupcakes to pass out to their branch on Easter Sunday. They are a great group.
The next day we caught a flight to Sibu to visit President Merang.
When we landed it was overcast and we could tell it had been raining. Walking off the plane onto the tarmac it was raining – they provided umbrellas for us to use. We summoned a Grab driver and off we went into Sibu. Leaving the airport, the road was flooded and under water. They had received some substantial amounts of rain that morning. Luckily, our Grab driver had a truck.
It was over a half hour drive to the hotel. As we were driving I received a message from President Merang, the District President, informing us he would be unable to meet with us. I asked if the District RS President would be joining us. He said she would not be attending either. That was too bad – we were really hoping to meet with them. He assured us his counselor would be there to meet with us. It was later that day we found out from the senior missionaries that President Merang’s wife’s family lived in a longhouse that had burned down just a few days earlier. Her aunt had sustained burns over 60% of her body and was hospitalized in a comma. We were heartbroken. Then we found out their longhouse was the next one on the Jackson’s list to receive fire extinguishers from the church humanitarian group. That made the loss even worse. About a week after, her aunt passed away from her burns.
Early in the evening, Elder and Sister Stephens and Elder and Sister Baer picked us up at the hotel to go to dinner. We went to a nice little outdoor restaurant and had a very good dinner. It is always fun getting together with the other senior missionaries. Victor got a real eye opener about couples serving a mission in Malaysia. The Stephens are going home in a week and the Baers just got into the mission field so they are being trained for 2 weeks. We will miss the Stephens but the Baers will be great. Sister Baer asked me if there was anything I haven’t gotten used to in East Malaysia. I said yes. I will never get used to seeing the conditions some of the members live in here. It breaks your heart.
We arrived at the Sibu District Center right around sunset. It is a beautiful building. It was so clean. We learned later that a Chinese brother keeps the building clean all by himself. It was so impressive.
Our meeting was attended by the District Presidency counselor, his wife along with two young women and one of their mothers and Elder and Sister Baer. The presentation went well and we feel confident they understand the Self Reliance initiatives in the church and can find ways to implement them in their district. Of most interest to Sister Leary and I were the two young women who attended. Both were returned missionaries who had served in England. Their English was really good. Both were in the Branch RS Presidency.
Following the presentation and closing prayer I leaned over to both of them and said, “Don’t go anywhere – we need to talk.” We discovered Pamela has already begun her application process to BYU/Hawaii. She is a cute, energetic, outgoing young woman. She was excited to talk with us. She mentioned that Sister Stephens has helped her a lot to prepare for college. We told her we would help her. Chintra was very quiet and didn’t say much.
I moved my chair in front of Chintra and asked her what her plans were. She explained that her father (who is not a member) did not want her to leave the country to serve a mission. She promised him she would not leave the country again if he would let her serve a mission. She would like to attend BYU/Hawaii but didn’t think her father would let her. At that moment, I felt an impression. Through tears in my eyes, I promised her the Lord would provide a way. He would open the doors and allow her the opportunity to attend college. I didn’t know how but felt strongly He would. As I looked into her face big tears developed in her eyes and began rolling down her face. She felt something deep inside. I hope a spark of faith ignited within her sole. Her mother sat next to her. I don’t know how much English she understands. It was a very tender moment. We assured both young women we were there to help and encourage them. We would do what we can to get them to college. I hope they felt our love for them.
We recorded their contact information so we could keep in touch. If we accomplished nothing else on our trip the last two days, this single event was more than worth it. Elder and Sister Stephens gave us a ride back to the hotel.