Brother Jack

I would like you to meet Brother Jack. That’s not his real name but that is what everyone calls him. He speaks 7-9 languages one of which is English. He is so interesting to talk to. We gave him a ride home from church last Sunday. He lives about 20-25km from the church in a real small village in the middle of the rain forest. He has diabetes and some other health issues. As a result, he hasn’t been able to find a job. He is currently living with his wife and three small children in his mother in laws home.

He was raised in an orphanage. At age 18 he was expected to leave and provide for himself. He made a living in sales, as a teacher and as a chef. One year he got very ill and ended up in the hospital. It was there he discovered the Bible and found great healing from it. After getting out of the hospital and working, he asked a coworker where the nearest church was. Not being a member, his coworker told him about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which was close by in Bintulu. He went to the church one Sunday morning and waited for the members to arrive. A short time after that he was baptized a member. It was there that he served as the Branch President for a time.

Bus service from his village no longer runs on Sunday so he relies on the Branch President to give him a ride. Last Saturday we had a baptismal service which Brother Jack come to with the Branch President. The Branch President went home that evening and was unable to come to church on Sunday so Brother Jack stayed in Kuching. He spent the night at the CityOne Mall, had dinner, then slept on a bus bench until Sunday morning. He then walked to our building so he could attend church. He walks very slowly with the aid if one crutch. I’m sure it was difficult for him. No one knew this until after our meetings. After church, several members asked if we could give Brother Jack a ride home. It was on our ride home that we discovered all this information about him. When I think about some of the reasons members give for not attending church, my mind will come back to Brother Jack and I will count my blessings.

We took Brother Jack to his village and walked with him to his home. He invited us in to visit with his wife, mother in law and to see his 3 children. They were so gracious. His wife had prepared fried jack fruit for us and they gave us a warm chocolate drink. The jack fruit grows all over there. It was pretty good. It has a large pit in the middle kind of like a plumb. We met his wife who is not a member of the church. He has 3 cute children. Two are two month old twins. Sister Leary loved that.

As we left, they provided us with a bag of fried jack fruit and a bag of raw jack fruit. They also gave us a golden pineapple to take home. It is so humbling to me to see how people treat the missionaries. They provide so much for the missionaries when they have so little and are in such great need themselves. I know the Lord will bless all the good people who treat his servants so kindly and with such charity.

As we walked through their little village, we passed a small home with four children out front. They looked with wonder and amazement at us. We smiled and said hello. As we walked along further and stopped to take a picture of the banana tree we heard lots of little voices. We turned back and there must have been 20 children all gathered together staring at the white Americans taking a picture of a banana tree. It made us smile.

What a scenic ride.
It is so lush and green.
Sometimes It’s hard to believe we are really here.
This is a Mongolian Fan Palm.
It’s beautiful.
The first time I have seen bananas grow in the wild with the heart of the banana tree.
Collected spices that are drying. These are pepper corns in front.
Brother Jack’s oldest daughter.
Sister Leary holding one of the 2 month old twin babies.
This is the other twin – 2 months old.
Here is Brother Jack exhausted after very little sleep and not eating since the previous night.

This is Malaysia

Here are some fun pictures we have taken since we have been here.

These drainage ditches are everywhere. They are 3 – 4 feet deep and always have water in them. We really haven’t been outside during a torrential rain to see if they fill up.
Look what I found. It tasted sooo good. Just like home. Now I can get an ice cream fix.
These show up for dinner every night. You do not want to mess with these bad boys. They are big. They are called a lesser banded hornet. Their sting is among the worst in the insect world.

Famous Durian

You will notice they are wearing gloves when touching the fruit. Apparently the smell is so bad it is banned on the Mass Rapid Transport in Singapore. One person said it smells like turpentine and onions garnished with a gym sock. I tasted it fried but don’t know I will try it raw.

The Chinese consider the number 4 to be very unlucky. This presents some interesting situations like in our apartment. We are on the 4th floor. So, when you get in the elevator the first floor is ground, the second floor is the 1st floor and so on. It’s like starting to count with 0. That puts us on the 3rd floor. For taller buildings they will have floors 3A and 3B and 13A and 13B. Well doesn’t that sound fun. We have 6 units in our side of the building, so they get creative on how they identify and number them.

One thing I really miss here are the P-traps that are found in all the drains in the US. They did not install them in our kitchen sink. There must be some sort of gray water collection so they think they are not needed. Trust me on this one. They should be required. A few days after arriving here when I woke up in the morning the kitchen had a very strong smell of Indian spices and other smells. It didn’t take long to figure out the smell came from the sink drains the evening before. Now, every night before we go to bed, we put a stopper in the sink drains to stop the smells from the joining apartments coming up into our kitchen. It does smell much better, but there are times…

Resist the temptation – don’t plumb drains like this.

Then there is the food. There are some pretty bizarre crackers and chip like things in all the stores. They are very oriental. Prawn and fish crackers, seaweed crackers, and any number of mystery crackers that we don’t dare try. The candy is even fish flavored and looks salty. I think lots f it is for the Chinese New Year. They do have some US candy products – Snickers, M&M’s, Oreos and the like.

It is so weird to buy room temperature cartons of milk on the shelf that are not refrigerated. The ultra heat pasteurization makes the milk good at room temperature for 6 months or more. We are slowly adjusting to the taste.

Chicken is everywhere in all the stores. It is cut in any number of ways and placed on trays in the stores. Sometimes it is in ice and other times it isn’t. You pick the parts you want, put them in a bag then they weigh and label them. You can even buy the whole chicken. I’m talking the whole thing from the head, eyes and beak right down to the talons on the feet. At least they remove the feathers and gut them for you. The breasts seem to be the last part of the chicken to be sold. The feet are much more popular.

This morning we woke up to discover all our water is brown. Apparently there is some sort of leak in the main water line coming into our complex. I’m not sure how long it will take them to fix it. But thankfully, we have a nice filter system provided by the church.

Malaysia has some things really figured out nicely. For instance, they round every purchase to the closest 5 cents. They don’t have pennies here. It is really fabulous not having to carry a pocket of pennies around.

How about some Kit Kats. They are in every store and in lots of flavors. the most interesting one we have found is below.

Green Tea with Red Bean flavor Kit Kats.

I love the indoor lighting here, I think nearly all of it is bright white LED. Some of the homes are dimmer but the stores and malls are all bright.

Chinese New Year

Happy new year! The Chinese New Year began on 5 Feb. Today is 13 Feb and they are still partying. We hear fireworks during the evening and during the morning every day. It is a huge event. Most of the big fireworks were on New Years Eve. All the smaller stores close down. Many are still closed. We understand the celebration may extend for 2 weeks. The Chinese homes are all decorated up with red lanterns and other festive decorations.

Part of the celebration in the local mall.
This is part of the dragon dance.
Sister Leary insisted on this picture.

We will be posting more pictures and some videos on this entry in the next few weeks so check back.

Counted Cross Stitch

After spending a good portion of the week preparing for the Branch Enrichment activity, Sister Leary was ready. I took her over to the KDC (Kuching District Center) to meet with the sisters at 10AM. Sister Jackson was also there to provide assistance if needed. They waited and waited. After 40 minutes, Sister Leary called Sister Helen. (Malaysia time is a bit different than time in the states.) Sister Helen said they were meeting at a members house and not the KDC. That was a change Sister Leary did not know about. We asked Sister Helen to send the GPS coordinates to the home they were meeting in. After about 5 minutes we received the coordinates and were off. We located the street and the home at the provided coordinates but no sisters. On the phone with Sister Helen again. She gave us a different location and after driving past them once we were able to turn around and find the correct home around 11AM.

Would you be surprised to know that there were a few sisters still coming that hadn’t arrived yet? Sister Leary was able to give the instructions and everyone was thrilled. And with any good Relief Society activity, there had to be great food. The sisters had a real good lunch with a few new things for Sister Leary to try.

About lunch time the Sister Missionaries showed up to eat. Sister Helen had invited them. They were dripping wet since there was a huge downpour right before and they are on bikes. They didn’t seem to care.

I came to pick up Sister Leary about 1:30PM and the ladies were still going strong. It was sunny and warm when I said goodbye to the Sister Missionaries who looked completely dry to me. I weathered the rain storm great in the van.

Overall it was a fun activity for Sister Leary. She was able to connect with several of the sisters in the Branch and they were able to get to know her better.

Sisters chilling out doing counted cross stitch.
Counted cross stitch and food. What a combination.

District Council

We attended our first district council meeting Tuesday afternoon. The mission president asked us to attend but does not want us to actively participate or take over the meeting. It was fun seeing the mission leadership at work. In our district there are 2 sister training leaders, a zone leader and a district leader. All are great missionaries. They discussed district, zone and mission goals and instructions from President Rowley. Next, they had a discussion on some principles tied to preaching the gospel. Following the instruction they split in groups and practiced role play. I was ok with the role plays until they switched to Malay – then I got lost immediately. One role play was dealing with cell phone distraction and the other role play was how to handle members who want to take over the discussion. It was funny and highly beneficial for the missionaries.

These are the Elders and Sisters in our district.

Disclaimer

We live in a crazy time. Individuals personal data is often not kept personal and sometimes is used for illegal activity. I purposely set up this blog on my own server so I could have control over the data. It was never my intent to publish any material on any public social media site for several reasons. Some of the experiences here are very private and contain personal information for numerous people. It is not for public dissemination. I would ask that you please not copy or post any information or images contained in this blog to any social media site.

I also do not want this content crawled by a search engine. I have taken the steps I can to prevent this. If I discover the search engines are not honoring my request, then I will be forced to password protect this content. Let’s see how it goes. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation.

All content (including photographs and text) on this blog is copyrighted by John W. Leary 2019. Content cannot be used in any form without prior written permission from the copyright owner.

Mission Work

Sister Leary had her first real authentic missionary dinner experience the first Sunday we were in Kuching. A wonderful family in the district invited the Jacksons and us over for dinner (Brother Govin and Sister Helen). Women here keep their father’s name and don’t assume their married surname. It is really interesting. Not knowing what they were going to fix we went with a bit of apprehension. As it turned out they served us a delicious meal (albeit a few bones we needed to pick out and some pretty spicy sauce Sister Leary took a bit too much of without tasting it first). The husband is Indian and the wife Malaysian. After the meal we gave her father, who has stage 4 cancer and is living with them, a priesthood blessing. He is not a member of the church. You could tell he isn’t doing very well at all. I think the blessing brought him some peace. I’m not sure how much longer he will live. They have a beautiful home in one of the nicer parts of the city. Their son and his wife along with their other children all live in the home too.

The following Sunday Sister Helen was visiting with us in the Family History Center, where I was configuring the two new computers they received. She invited Sister Leary to attend their branch Relief Society Enrichment meeting on Saturday. They wanted to do some counted cross stitching. I told her that Sister Leary was the expert on that. Oh, her eyes lit up and she got real excited. I got the impression no one in their branch has ever done it. Before long, Sister Helen gave all the money to Sister Leary and turned the entire activity over to her. I looked at Sister Leary and said, “Welcome to the mission field.”

We had to drive around to find a store that had material and thread for cross stitching. It seems like all of the smaller shops close for Chinese New Years. We found a real cool shop that had all kinds of craft stuff in it and drawer after drawer of cross stitch thread. Sister Leary was in her element. She has spent many hours this week preparing the pattern, cutting the material and coming up with border options for the sisters. Saturday should be amazing for the branch sisters. How cool to have Sister Leary here, who knows so much about cross stitching, to assist the branch sisters.

Very Personal

Kori and I are keeping this blog for several reasons. We want this to be shared with our children and grand children so they can experience our mission with us. We also want to share our mission with dear friends and family. We also want this to be a standing record of our service – a history of sorts that we and our children can reference for many years to come. Because of that, I am including the following.

On a very personal note, the day after we arrived in Malaysia I received notification from my family back home that I needed to contact them. I was informed that my 95 year old father had passed away peacefully in his home. That was news I was not expecting,

The night before Kori and I flew to Singapore we visited my father. He was alert and attentive. We had a wonderful visit with him. He knew we were going on our mission the next day and would be very far away. I gave him a hug, and told him that I loved him. Driving away was very difficult – I had to fight back the tears. I just knew that would the last time I would see him and that night would be my last memory of him. I also knew we were going to be about as far away from him as we could possibly be and that it would be extremely difficult to return for his funeral. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Dad was old. I knew his life was winding down. He suffered from dementia the last few years and his memory would often fade in and out at different times. He always knew who I was and appreciated my visits. He was still living in his home and was able to get around. My selfless sister had been caring for him the last several years. I knew it would be hardest on my sister and I wanted to be there for her so badly. But, thankfully all my children were there for her and for each other. They all loved their grandpa and had numerous special memories of him and with him.

It was the previous Sunday. My oldest grandson, Keegan, who will be turning 12 this year, was able to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and be ordained a Deacon. My dad was able to attend and stand in the circle for his ordination. We got some priceless family pictures. I think that was the last time dad left his home. My oldest granddaughter, Aleigha, who also will turn 12 this year was able to go into Young Womens. These events were truly a loving kindness from Heavenly Father before we left for the mission field.

It was my father’s request that I speak at his funeral. Over the next few days I wrote a talk reminiscing about his life, his character, my experiences with him and the legacy he left behind. It was an amazing experience for me. I felt such a peace as I summarized my dads life in a few pages and shared it with Kori. He was a wonderful man. He served in WWII and had a rich life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived it. I then emailed my talk to my daughter who read it at his funeral.

Dad’s funeral was Saturday in SLC. It was very early Sunday morning for us in Malaysia. Unable to attend, I was told it was a wonderful service. I was able to talk with each of my children and my sister about the service. They will forward pictures, audio recordings and video to me later. Things went very smoothly. This wasn’t quite how I envisioned our first week in Malaysia. I am so thankful for my four wonderful children and their families. My son was even able to fly in from North Carolina for the weekend to be with his sisters and aunt. They all came through this together with their parents gone. I’m grateful to my selfless sister who has sacrificed so much to care for my father. I love her dearly. Family is the greatest blessing in life. Don’t let an opportunity pass by without telling those you love how you feel about them.

Sunday

This morning we woke up to the sound of rain. It has rained every night since we arrived here. It is usually pretty nice during the day. Everything is so green. All the buildings look old here because of the rain and the algae growing on them. When I looked outside I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our church is across the street from the Kuching Blessed Church. Their parking lot is vacant every day of the week. But this morning -wow It was full. Too bad we can’t get some of those people to walk across the street.

Blessed Church parking lot Sunday morning.

When we got to church we were surprised to see President and Sister Rowley, our mission president and his wife. He attended our branch and both bore their testimonies. President Rowley interviewed all the younger elders and sisters. I didn’t realize that district presidents report to the mission president. So President Rowley sets missionaries apart and does other interviews as needed. He travels constantly. Following the meeting they came over to our apartment for a tour. He said we had the best apartment in the entire mission. Prices are a lot cheaper here in Malaysia so that does make a difference. We won’t complain. It was fun having them over and just sit down and chat. President Rowley wants us to have a great experience here. He supports us and will do anything to make it wonderful for us. After meeting with us they caught a Grab (Uber for Asia) and went to the airport to fly back to Singapore,

Sister Leary and Sister Jackson are perfect for each other. Jacksons came to our building for a meeting. When they saw us, Sister Jackson asked if we walked to church today because they didn’t see our van in the parking lot. Sister Leary had to go out to our van to get some keys and discovered Jacksons had parked right next to us and Sister Jackson had to get out of their van right next to our van. When Sister Leary told her that, they both started laughing like a couple of school girls.

The fun is beginning. We went into the family history center in the KDC and discovered they have 2 brand new computers no one has been able to configure. I was able to determine what the problem is so I requested some information from the area Family History manager and will go back this week and configure both computers. You will need to read another blog entry to see what happened to Sister Leary – it was quiet fun.

No Walmart here

It’s challenging trying to get everything you need for a new apartment. What we found is there isn’t a single store that has everything we need. As a result, the Jackson’s have taken us to a few different stores where they know we can purchase what we need. We also went to their apartment so we could become familiar with their area. Their apartment isn’t as nice as ours, but what they lack in the apartment they gain in the view. It is incredible. See below.

Elder and Sister Jackson serve in the Matang branch. This is their building – right next to the auto parts store. They use all three stories of it. One sister doesn’t come to church because she is unable to climb the stairs.
Here is the Muslim hotel being built.
Fresh bacon anyone?
Here is the fresh fruit we bought. Mandarin oranges, small bananas, pineapple, langsat (white and smooth) and rambutan (spikey).
The rambutan is on the right. It is like a sweet plum with a honey like flavor and a seed in the middle. The langsat peels and comes apart like a citrus fruit. It also has seeds you eat around. It has a plum like consistency and a sweet flavor. They are delicious.
Here is the view from one side of the Jackson’s apartment.
Here is the view from the other side. This shows you the tropical rain forest on Borneo. The vines and plants on the side of the road are easily over 6 feet high. It is dense vegetation but very beautiful..
And finally, here are Elder and Sister Jackson. They have been invaluable is helping us get situated, get everything we need for our apartment. and showing us around the area. They are serving for 23 months and will be returning home after we leave. They have been here just over 3 months.

Saturday for lunch we stopped at the KFC. There are several around here. We ordered 9 piece nuggets to share, some fries and cole slaw along with 2 drinks. Total cost 29 ringgit ($7). After you finish eating you leave your tray on the table and they clean up after you. Prepared food is very inexpensive here. On a side note, their ketchup is terrible.

We are creatures of habit. After shopping at one store we loaded the groceries in the back of our van. Then we went to our doors. I climbed in and as I looked up, there was no steering wheel. I slid over to the side I was supposed to be on and Sister Leary walked around the vehicle. We both just started laughing. I can imagine what anyone who watched us was thinking… dumb Americans – they don’t even know which side of the vehicle to get in. The good news is the wiper blades don’t start flapping anymore when I make a turn.