This was the busiest week of my mission I think. I hope I don't have to do another one like this!! I'll start off on Monday.
We decided to go to some gardens called the Haw Par Villa Gardens. Do you know what Tiger Balm is? I think it's just fancy chapstick/vaseline, but apparently it combats stuffy noses, upset stomachs, headaches, and flatulence. It's all over the place here, and these gardens were made in the 1920's by the two founders of tiger balm (Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par) Anyway, it was cool, but also really twisted and creepy at some parts. Lots of traditional Buddhist elements, including a cave illustrating (in gross detail) the 10 courts of Hell and their associated punishments. Later that night, we were on our way somewhere on a train and I saw a white couple trying to sneak pictures of us. I was flustered about something, so I just ignored it, but then we ended up next to them, and the man leans up to us and asks how Singapore's institute program is. Turns out they're life long members from Zurich, Switzerland who are visiting their 2 sons who are bankers in Singapore. We talked for a while and we mentioned that we were busy that week with AP exchanges. He told us an interesting story I'd never heard of. This man's AP was Mitt Romney in france, and supposedly while he was there, there was a terrible car accident that ended up killing the mission president's wife. Elder Romney became the acting mission president for 3 months. This guy had such good things to say about him. He told us a lot of good tips for making sure we're the type of mission leaders that people will remember for good.
and then the rest of the week started....
We had an early meeting with President on Tuesday morning, which went really well, then we headed straight for the airport. We went to Bintulu, where I followed the Zone Leaders there (Elder Adams- from my MTC group, and Elder Jacobs). We had a really good time. It took us quite a bit of time to get there, but eventually we did. We had a lot of discussions throughout the whole day, and I learned just how "out of the loop" I am. They stories of disobedience going on that I had no idea were happening, and it was kind of disturbing how all of it was sliding right past us. Another disturbing realization was something that happened a long time ago. We visited several members in the Bintulu area in attempts to give me an idea of what their work looks like, and we visited a sister who had been baptized for several years, but had no idea of what was going on. She barely spoke Malay (only Iban), had no idea who Jesus Christ was, and couldn't read. There were hundred of people baptized in the 5 years before, and it's alarming to see how many are less active. President Mains has always pushed/stressed the importance of teaching lasting conversion, and really helping people to make the decision for themselves, and for the right reason. I really appreciate the Elders who go the extra mile to help prepare people well.
Later that night we went to a house of a strong member who heard I was in town, and wanted to make us dinner. We went to their wooden house on top of a river, and sat down to eat to the nice meal she had prepared. I was just about ready to eat, and the sister and her husband ask me to grab a hymn book. I reach to where the books were, and grabbed a couple. She then said... just one. She then informed me that it's a tradition in her house that the guest always sings a solo before eating... -______- So I ended up singing "Keluarga dapat kekal selamnya" (families can be together forever). I was embarrassed, but the other missionaries said they've all done it too!
Early the next morning we woke up extra early to catch our flight to Kuching en route to Singapore. We met all the Zone Leaders from Sarawak at the Kuching Airport on their way to MLC with us in Singapore. It was great to see them all and to catch up! We landed in Singapore, quickly took a taxi to Carls Jr. ate lunch, and then headed back to the Stake Center for MLC. This MLC was a really different experience than the others. It was interesting to look out at the ZLs and think that one of them will be the next assistant, and that all the other missionaries they work with will be the next zls and so forth. I remember a quote given by a general authority that says, "Brothers and Sisters, the cemeteries are filled with leaders who thought they were indispensable" It adds a new perspective to think that a huge part of what we do is to prepare those we lead to eventually take our place and continue the work.
President Mains introduced to us his 2014 Singapore Mission Plan. It was so clear and to the point. He did something he hasn't done in the past by making a baptismal goal for the year: 545. It's over 200 more than last year, but definitely possible. It's exciting to see how much direction this can and is giving missionaries. I think it helps a lot to see the end goal when making plans for each day. That same night we stayed up late making last minute flight changes because of a scheduling conflict with the Sibu zone leaders.
So that night we went to bed at 12:00, and woke up at 4:00 to make our flight to Sibu. Sibu was so much fun. This was Elder Toney's last area before he became assistant, and this is where Elder Crum is serving as a ZL. It was so great to see him in action- he's such a good leader. We all had a good time, and it was good for me to follow some of the other companionships around and see how they're doing. We woke up extra early one morning and played a game of basketball and had a ton of fun. The people they have taught and baptized recently are so awesome and strong. They stood in such contrast to the previous people that I saw.. the ones that couldn't tell our church from any other... >.< I followed Elder Scott (comp from KL) one night on this little back seat he made on his bike. I wish I could spend more time on details, but I don'tthink you would get them. Sibu was settled by Chinese methodists, so it's really interesting to feel the difference in a real christian town in malaysia.
Because it's so difficult to get flights to/from sibu, we ended up getting back in Singapore halfway through church. There was a guy visitng from Finland named Jaakko Rewell, who knew the carpenters.
I have been so tired this week, but it felt soooo nice to be home. I slept in my bed 2 nights last week. this morning we woke up at 6 and ran 3k then did sprints, cleared up the noggin. OK that's all I have, I'll write another email in a second regarding housing. Also, is that endorsement thing already for President to check it?