Monday morning we arose at 6am. We are fully acclimated to the timezone shift. It was marvelous. I would much rather travel west than travel east. That time change just seems easier for me. The internet install team came over about 10:30 and begain running the fiber cable through the conduit. Our landlord, Mr. Lee was there to make sure they didn’t drill through the concrete walls or floor of our apartment. Victor came over about 11:00 so you can imagine how hectic it was. The internet guys were finally able to get the fiber cable spliced after about 4 or 5 tries. They installed the modem and router. I ran a speed test and you can imagine my glee when I saw 100mgbit down and 100mgbit up. I can’t even get that at my Kaysville home. Wahoo – we are connected to the world. Victor spent the afternoon training us on self-reliance issues. He told us about the organization, the people of Malaysia, how they work and interact and several other very good things. He also told us about several of the people in our branch and district so we could better understand them. By the end of the day our brains had reached their saturation point. Kori cooked dinner and washed the dishes while I tried to figure out our krazy TV.
This morning we went to the KDC (Kuching District Center) and attended church with the Kuching 1st Branch. Victor (Wai Hung) met us there and attended church with us. The counselor in the branch presidency asked us if we would introduce ourselves. We said yes. The entire meeting was in Malay. I felt pretty isolated barely understanding Malay. After the Sacrament the counselor said something about missionaries and Victor leaned over to me and said he just invited you up to speak. Kori and I got up and went to the podium. I did a quick introduction in English then pulled out my written testimony and read it in Malay. Kori then bore her testimony in Malay. The saints eyes just lit up as she bore testimony to them in their language. After we introduced ourselves, the two new sisters in the branch also got up and introduced themselves. They were just transferred to the branch. Of course, they spoke fluent Malay. It was interesting singing from the Malay Hymn book. It is about half the thickness of the English Hymnal. There were about 60 people in attendance. They all were dressed nice and it was fun to meet with them.
Following Sacrament Meeting I went to Elders quorum. There were about 7 members plus me and the two Elders assigned to the branch. 4 of the 7 elders there are native Badayuh – one of the original groups on Borneo. The Elders President taught the lesson. He rotated between English, Malay and a Badayuh dialect. It was quite fascinating. I still didn’t get much out of the lesson though as very little was in English. It was just amazing to see the Elders in their element. They brought a young man who was part Ebon and part Badayuh. They have been teaching him. They along with the rest of the quorum would speak directly to this young man and testify about the principles of the gospel to him. I’m confident he felt the spirit.
After Priesthood and Relief society they had some food prepared in the kitchen area. They invited us to join them. I was a bit hesitant as there was a very distinct smell coming from there that really didn’t appeal to me. Upon looking over the food I could tell it was as authentic as it was going to get. I asked the sister missionary what several of the foods were. I followed my rule with unknon foods – if there are large portions of it, people must really like it. If there are small portions stay away from it as most people probably don’t eat lots of it. I tried the rice, fried durian, the bean paste stuff, the mystery meat, the boiled green leaf stuff, the pickled bamboo, the bamboo soup and the star fruit. I couldn’t bring myself to try the super hot red pepper stuff or the whole dried fish. I’m talking the whole thing – eyes, head, tail, bone etc. The fish were nearly 4 inches in length. The young elder next to me chocked down one of the fish leaving the tail, head and bones. He commented to the sister it was real salty. She looked at him funny and said he was supposed to eat the fish with rice not all by itself. Some of the food was quite tasty. After that came desert – Nutella spread on bread made in half sandwiches. That was good. We just laughed after church. We walked out to the parking lot and both of us went to the wrong side of the car to get in. Old habits are hard to break! We figured out we need to switch.
We are slowly acclimating to our major time shift. We are now sleeping in until 5am and we are not as tired in the evening. Today was our first full day in Kuching. After breakfast we went again with the Jacksons. Elder Jackson took us to the telecom store so I could order internet. We had to wait for about an hour. They scheduled the install for Monday morning. That made me happy. We got the nearby tour of the KDC (Kuching District Center), a few shopping places and had lunch at a small Japanese restaurant. We each ordered a chicken dish with rice or noodles, miso soup plus a can of soda. Total cost for the four of us – 81 ringgit (about $20).
In the afternoon it was my turn to drive. Was that entertaining. Every time I went to turn left or right the windshield wiper blades would start going back and forth. Yes, you guessed it. The blinker is on the wrong side of the steering column. Driving on the left side of the road is wild. But, no crazy accidents which was a good thing. In the evening we arranged to have dinner with the Self Reliance Manager for our area. He was just hired by the church and flew in to train us. His name is Wai Hung Yong. He is from west Malaysia. We ate at the Imperial Hotel where he was staying and had the all you can eat buffet. It was first class. All the food and deserts were excellent and very tasty. They don’t tip in Malaysia so the cost was about $16 each. After dinner the Jacksons really didn’t want to drive us back to our apartment so we used Grab – a company just like Uber but in Asia. I was told they bought Uber in Asia. We had a driver meet us in less than 1 minute and took us the 15 minute drive to our apartment. Total cost 8 ringgit ($2). I gave him 10 ringgit ($2.50). It was real nice and super inexpensive. Then off to bed. Exhaustion hit again.
We woke up again around 4:30am wondering where on the planet it is morning. We talked more then got ready to leave the hotel. We ate another very oriental breakfast of chicken sausage, processed ham, rice, noodles and fruit. Along with fresh orange juice (tang). Then it was in a Taxi and off to the airport. The ride to the airport took about 30 minutes and cost us $21 SIN (Singapore dollars) which is roughly $16 USD (US dollars). We found a kiosk machine that worked (3rd one) and printed our luggage tags. I placed them on the bags and went to weigh them. It was then that the handle broke right off my small bag. Filling it to the maximum weight and expanding it was just too much for the poor little thing. We had to pay extra for the weight but the mission office said they will reimburse us.
On through customs and passport control yet again. We once again admired the beautiful Christmas music playing and all the Christmas decorations in several shops. We found our gate and waited for boarding. When I looked up from my seat there stood a nice gentleman and his wife. He asked us what our name was. Kori didn’t quite known what to say but said Sister Leary and I said I was Elder Leary. He introduced himself as President Ero – the Kuching District President (like a stake president). He told us we were pretty easy to pick out even though we were not wearing our name tags. He and his lovely wife talked to us until the plane boarded. They were on our flight to Kuching. It was fun meeting them and hearing about their family.
Asia Air is a super cheap airline. We didn’t even get a drink or pretzels. You have to purchase everything. Since the flight was only an hour and twenty minutes, we were fine. As we landed in Kuching I couldn’t believe how lush and green everything was. It was beautiful. Kuching is a large city. Once off the plane, another blast of heat and humidity. Another trip through immigration, baggage claim and baggage xray then we were finally allowed to leave the airport.
We were met by Elder and Sister Jackson, the other senior couple in Kuching who has done lots of work getting things ready for us. President Ero took us all out to lunch to a small Chinese restaurant in the building he works in. It was delicious food. Then we saw our apartment for the first time and dropped off our luggage. Wow do we have a nice brand new, never lived in, apartment. It is beautiful. We decided it would be best to do some shopping and get our phone service so off to the mall we went.
There was no problem getting new sim cards for our phone. However, we will have to put money on the account every month to get service because we are not citizens of Malaysia and are unable to attach a Malaysia credit card to the account. Grocery shopping is always fun to see what products different countries have. We were is a store that had lots of American products on the shelves and many others from different countries. We bought a few things to get us by for the weekend then went back to our apartment and unpacked. Being exhausted, we went to bed.
At 4AM our eyes popped open – it was morning somewhere in the world. Not sure if it was morning where we were because it was still dark outside. We talked in bed for awhile then got up to get ready for the day. The hotel provided breakfast for us and I was introduced to oriental culture – no personal space. Several individuals placed their hand on my shoulder and just pushed me out of their way when we were standing in line. We were on our own to get back to the mission office.
We were given ezlink money cards to ride the MRT (Mass rapid transit). We learned how to transfer between different rail lines and miraculously found our way to the Mission office. Singapore has an amazing underground rail transit system. I think you could get anywhere on it. Once in the office more orientation about water filters, food, health care, finances, driving, apartment inspection, etc. We did take a break for lunch (authentic English fish and chips) which was delicious. We finished up around 3pm so went back to the hotel. The Madsens had additional training and meetings that took them to 10pm. We felt bad for them.
Kori and I walked to another hawker and had dinner. It is so fascinating to see all the different kinds of food – much of it oriental. Following dinner we were just tired to see anything so we went back to the hotel. We will be back in Singapore in a few weeks and will have an extra day then to sight see.
After a grueling 16 hour flight we landed in Hong Kong just before sunrise. We found our gate and watched the sunrise over the mountains waiting for our flight to Singapore. Another 4 hour flight and we finally landed in Singapore. As we stepped off the plane I felt a rush of hot/humid air. We had arrived. Elder and Sister Madsen who traveled with us were met at baggage claim by a woman holding a sign with their name on it. The airline was unable to get one of their bags on the plane. It would be shipped to the hotel that evening.
What a surprise and shock to be standing in the immigration/passport verification line and listen to beautiful Christmas music playing. Once we passed passport control, there stood President and Sister Rowley and Elder Cross. Our bags were whisked away and in the van we went with President and Sister Rowley. Next, it was off to the hawker for lunch. A hawker is an open area with tables and chairs or benches where you can sit and eat with lots of different kinds of food being prepared around you.
President Rowley ordered several different types of Indian and Thai food. It was all so delicious. Never in our lives have we tasted Mango so sweet and juicy – it was like a firm sweet peach without the skin. The pineapple was equally delicious. We’re going to love it here.
Off to the mission home we went for an afternoon of orientation on housing, cars, medical, missionaries, etc. by the presidency and office staff. We finished up around 7pm and were exhausted. We were taken to the hotel where we checked in then went up to our room and crashed for the night.
This afternoon we completed our two days of training at the church office building (cob) with eight other couples. They taught us all about the Self Reliance initiative. We learned about the program, the sessions, the training material and structure. We covered it from beginning to end. We went over the reporting and communication chain and responsibilities of all those involved. It was a lot of information. We were amazed at the organization of the Church and the success of Self Reliance and the Perpetual Education Fund.
For part of the training the international missionaries were separated from the United States missionaries. All were given the area plan for the areas they will be serving in. The highlight for me was being presented and reading the Asia area plan. That is the area that covers our mission. It included the vision, priorities, indicators and implementation plan. As I read that inspired document my mind was flooded with ideas, promptings, thoughts and images. We call this revelation. I began to understand why Kori and I are being called to Malaysia.
Since I did some oil painting as a youth, the best analogy I can come up with is this. A master painter is preparing. He has stretched the large white canvas over the wooden frame and placed it upon the easel. He has assembled all the brushes and supplies to begin his masterful work. He has placed many different colors of paint on his pallet and is now mixing colors together. He has selected his brush and is now beginning to paint. Occasionally I will see a partial, faint glimpse of portions of the final painting, but I don’t know what the final work will be. I have seen his paintings before and I know this will be a priceless masterpiece.
As missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is in Jesus Christ, the master painter of our lives, who we place our faith and trust.
At breakfast we sat by two fun sisters. One was from south England and the other from Santaquin. They were both headed to Calgary, Canada. The English sister said her brothers were upset because they stayed in Europe for their missions and she got to come to America and Canada. We tried to tell her about Chick-Fil-A. She had no idea what it was. Sad…
Today we had our member teaching experience. They have volunteers come in to allow the senior missionaries to learn about them and to teach them. We had an older brother who had served a mission in the Phillipines with his wife then served a mission in the MTC. His life has been filed with service and ministering to others. What an example to us.
Brother Gibbons in our district taught music in middle school for many years. He and his wife retired to St. George so he could write hymns for the church. He sat down to the piano and nothing. They served a 2 and a half year service mission then had the feeling they needed to serve a full time mission. As soon as they submitted their paperwork, he sat down at the piano and composed 6 hymns in four months. He wrote the music and lyrics. He presented each companionship in our district with copies of 3 of his hymns then sang and performed them for us. There are absolutely beautiful! He will submit them for the new hymn book. I will be surprised if they are not included.
At lunch we sat down by the Russian missionaries. One sister from New Zealand is going to Moscow. The other sister was from Anchorage and the only place she did not want to go on her mission was Russia. Well, guess what, she was called to Siberia in Russia. She has an amazing attitude about it and will be an excellent missionary. The Lord knows where he needs missionaries to serve.
In the afternoon we did some workshops and had some discussions. Then we were allowed to come home. We said our goodbyes to our district and to our other companionship the Cahoons. We trust the Lord will bless them all in their fields of labor.
As we leave the MTC I am struck with a few profound feelings. First, I have seen the army of the Lord with my own eyes. These are faith filled, strong, valiant warriors filled with energy and spirit. They were chosen to be here now and are more than willing to sacrifice all to serve their Father in Heaven. Second, the righteous senior couples we have labored with are “familiar spirits”. It is as though we knew each other before – that this was all planned and orchestrated previously. We share a love for one another and the Savior which is deep in our hearts. Third, Jesus Christ directs this work. He stands at the head and allows us to be instruments in accomplishing His work. Fourth, I received a very unexpected impression during the week revealing to me how hard and difficult it is going to be to say goodbye to the saints in Malaysia. My heart ached – and I haven’t even met them yet. There are many other feelings inside – some cannot be spoken of and others will linger a lifetime.
Today we did advanced app training. We learned all about notebooks in the Gospel App. It is a great feature I haven’t had the time to look at yet. This will be a time saver for us. It is quite impressive how the church had done it. We also spent time going over how to follow up with people and what type of questions to ask while teaching. We have spent a lot of time in Preach My Gospel. It is a great resource.
Then we watched a profound video from Elder Bednar about the character of Christ. We found out it is on Youtube if you want to hear it.
Lunch was so much fun. We sat and talked to all 4 sisters going to Hawaii. They arrived in the MTC yesterday. We also spoke with two sisters going to Bulgaria and one cute sister going to Moldovia (the only one). All three were learning Bulgarian. The Moldovian sister is going to learn another language after arriving in the mission field.
After lunch we were back at it. We planned and taught our other companionship couple. It gave us a chance to practice everything we had learned up to that point. It was a bit scarry and nerve racking but went well. They also taught us. Part of the teaching was to challenge them to do something to help them in their gospel living.
One sister in our district passed out two candy bars to each person. Our challenge was to give them to missionaries that looked like they were down or needed a pick me up. Read on.
We also found out we had been assigned to the city of Kuching. We are so excited. That is the largest and most westernized city in east Malaysia. We will be there with another couple.
At dinner we sat by Elder Liu and Elder Yeh. We laughed and joked with them till I could hardly breath. Elder Yeh is a jokster as am I. We had so much fun together even though he could not understand me. Following dinner we were on our way out and noticed two elders sitting by themselves and looking rather somber. We stopped and talked to them. They had been in the MTC for 3 weeks and were learning Persian. They were the only ones learning Persian. There are 3 instructors and 2 elders. They are called to the California Irvine mission. They were given mom’s candy bars.
After leaving the cafeteria we encountered two sisters on the couch. One looked almost in tears and the other pretty somber. One was going to Oregon, the other to Washington DC. I gave them my candy bars.
After that we were off to our Malay tutor, Sister Monroe. She plays on the BYU Women’s Rugby team. It was fun seeing her in person for the first time. We still need serious help with the language. She said Kuching was the celestial kingdom of east Malaysia.
We started the day talking about what it means to be a missionary and who we want to become during our mission. Then we spent the morning preparing lessons to teach our other companionship.
After lunch we received training in the Gospel app. It was interesting and informative. They should probably give it to all the members of the church.
At lunch we met two amazing Elders. We want you to meet Elder Yeh and Elder Liu. Elder Yeh is on the right in the photograph. Elder Yeh is from Tiawan. He is in the MTC learning English so he can serve in the Riverside California Mission. He is assigned to speak Mandarin and English. He is a funny and polite Elder. He is just learning English. His favorite American foods are steak and ice cream.
Elder Liu is from mainland China. Yes – mainland China. He is the only member of the church in his family. At age 11 he told his father he wanted to worship God. His mother was a Buddhist and his father had no religion. He attended a Christian church in China. At age 17, before coming to America, they told him to find a Christian church because people of God would not hurt him and would treat him good. He came to America and stayed with an LDS family and ultimately joined the church. He wanted to serve a mission contrary to his parents wishes. He speaks English very well. He is very polite, kind and confident with a great sense of humor. We all laughed as he told us about the Korean Elders that barely spoke English trying to teach him the gospel when he barely knew English. He is a sharp Elder. I see him is church leadership soon after returning from his mission.
What a wonderful – faith filled- spirtual day.