Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Racing around Maylasia

Dear Family,

It's been yet another crazy hectic week with little sleep.  

Last Monday it was quite rainy, so we just decided to roam around downtown a bit, took some cool pictures and saw some of the touristy places (not sure how long we're going to stay in Sing since I've already seen it so much).  After that, we met up with the chinese Elders and ate all you can eat Dim Sum at a nice place at Dhoby Ghaut.  

After reporting with President Mains on Tuesday, we literally sprinted to the airport.  We made both our flights, thankfully, and landed in Miri.  It was a great time to be with all of the Elders there.  I followed Elder Bodhaine and Elder Tan, two of my favs in the mission.  Elder Bodhaine is into cooking, so we literally didn't eat any meals out while I was there... (I cannot remember the last time we didn't eat out... except for sundays... I'm going to be sad when I come home and we can't eat out for every meal D: )  We had a couple of interesting experiences.  This is the 3rd time I've gone on exchanges with the ZLs in Miri, and each time we've visited the same member (who in my opinion never showed any progress or action to come back)  When I heard we were going to see them again, I kind of rolled my eyes.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she has been coming back to church, and as we spoke with her, she had actually had been reading the Book of Mormon and that she could recount what she was reading.  impressive.  I guess everyone really can change after all, and I'm glad the zone leaders saw something in her that I was missing.  We had another experience where a man let us into his home... and we could tell something was fishy... because he was too friendly, smiling too big.... long story short, we find out he's a pastor from another church (he waited 30 min before telling us that) and then started warning us against reading the book of Mormon.  We finally said we had to leave, and that we respected his opinion, and then he asked if we could have a closing prayer.  we all agreed that'd be fine, so he started praying.  Mid prayer he put his hands on the other two elders heads ( I didn't see it, my eyes were closed) but I heard him say their names and he shouted that the evil spirit from the book of mormon would go "OUT!!", I was so annoyed at this point, then I felt a hand on my head and immediately slapped it off.  I asked him to not touch me, and then he tried to touch my head again, so I continued to dodge/smack his hand.  He gave up, and closed the prayer.  He told me afterwards that I didn't need to worry, that I wasn't bad, it was just the evil spirit inside of me... We got out of there quickly.  It's one thing to pray for each other, but I was really disappointed that he would try to do something disrespectful like that as a preacher.  Other than that, we had a good time in Miri.

The senior couple dropped us off at the airport, and we flew to Labuan.  Labuan is a little island off the coast of east malaysia, where our layover was only supposed to be 45 minutes.  When we landed, we heard there was something wrong with the plane, so our flight was pushed back atleast another 4 hours.  They gave us spending money and told us to come back to the airport later... so we went out and explored the town/island a little bit before catching our flight back over.  It seemed like the whole island was completely muslim- I didn't see any chinese.  THey were just starting the Labuan International Sea Challenge, so there was a lot going on for that.  I hired a taxi to drive us around to all the spots, and he kind of ripped us off, but he took us to all the cool places and I don't htink we would have been able to see all we did any other way.  We finally got on our flight from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu.

When we arrived in KK, we went straight to the Zone Leaders house, where we were told to grab some bikes and meet them at Keramat.  I was super excited to see people from my old area, so although it was getting late, we hopped on our bikes and rode as fast as we could over there.  I got to see a 17 year old we worked with/bring back to activation.  He is doing so well.  It was fun to surprise his family, and to see how they were doing.  The senior couple tells me he is doing so well, and that he wants to learn everything.  He's a smart one, too.  He was recently in Klang with his mom, and showed me a picture of him with the Elders there.  I was shocked that he went to church there!  He said, "I told you I wasn't going to miss church anymore"  soooo cool.  I hear all the members there took care of him.  We then went upstairs and saw another family.  This family just sent off their first missionary, who was the branch mission leader when I was in KK.  I was able to show his family pictures of him from Singapore when he was set apart.  Great to see people again.

I forgot how beautiful KK is.  I'm so excited for you to see it.  After that night, we did our training with the ZLs, and then I followed another companionship way far away to their place in 1Borneo, supposedly the biggest mall in the whole island.  I rode forever on a bad bike... haha.  Good experience.  The senior couple, The Allens, said to tell them when we're coming again so they can make/buy treats.  She thanked me for sharing the V chocolates with them!  We'll have to bring them some.   On our way back to the Town the next day, an elder riding in front of me fell of his bike on the coastal highway right as we were going to the airport... we made our flight, and he's ok.  We had a long layover in KL, where we ran into a senior couple serving in Sri Lanka.  ONe of the missionaries in our mission was from the branch they're serving in.  It was good to see how excited this couple was, and energetic, about the growth of the church in Asia.  We landed in Singapore around 1:00AM, and it was SO busy... I don't understand. 

Sunday was really good.  Sheila came back from the Philippines and came to church yesterady.  I'm glad she did, and the sunday school lesson was on the Word of Wisdom... which, of course, we hadn't taught yet.  It went well, and I'm excited to see how she progresses.  

While writing this email, I've been on hold with Malaysia Airlines, listening to strange malaysian elevator music.  President Mains changed up the schedule a bit with New Missionary Training in two weeks, so now we're trying to figure our how we're going to do our exchanges.  We still have to go to JB, Kuching, Penang, and KL... I honestly have no idea how it's going to work..... oh well.  I'm really hungry writing this letter.  And clearly I have run out of things to say.

OK bai
Elder Robinson

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Another round of exchanges

Dear Family,

This week we started another round of exchanges.  My desire to email is decreasing the longer I'm out here...

Last Preparation Day we went to the Dinosaur exhibit at the Marina Bay Sands museum.  It was a rip off.  Should have just waited to go to Thanksgiving Point...  But it's always fun to walk around the downtown parts of Singapore and see how, I guess you'll see how when you come here!  What's the budget for hotels....?  Because there are some waay cool places to stay in some of the cities we're visiting...

We started our first round of exchanges this past week, and had a really good time doing it!  We flew on Tuesday Morning to Sibu, Sarawak, and met up with the Zone Leaders there.  The one who replaced Elder Crum in Sibu is Elder Misa, who was trained by Elder Stahle.  We did our training with them, and got a lot of good ideas on how to work with some of the challenges the mission is facing.  For most of the exchange, it was Elder Plaizier's turn to follow the Zone Leaders while I went with another companionship (Elder Wilson and Elder Hobbs).  We had some great lessons, and were able to learn a lot about the importance of follow up.  I'm trying to think of funny things that happened..... oh, I accidentally threw their house keys on their roof, so that was interesting getting them down.

I'm trying to do the mission a favor by trying to save money on these exchanges.  The way my previous companion showed me how to schedule flights was costing a lot of money because when you pick multi-city trips, it doesn't give you the best deal.  So, it takes a little more time to search but we end up saving hundreds of dollars.  "Thinking smarter not harder"- Elder Stahle.  So, when I saw how much it cost to go from Sibu to Bintulu, I figured we probably could bus it and still be ok.

so, we bought bus tickets from Sibu to Bintulu, because I thought it would be cool to drive through the jungle.  Jungle looks the same during the first 10 minutes as it does for the rest of the 4 hours... so I was pretty bored.  The roads were too bumpy to read well.  Overall, good experience, and we only spent 50RM on tickets.  (after that experience, I decided we're not renting a car and driving between cities... not enough time).

Bintulu was one of the coolest exchanges we've had.  I followed the Zone Leaders (Elder Adams and Elder Wayment, both are in my MTC group).  It's interesting when we go on exchanges, because everyone expects you to be coming into the area with a solution, or crazy new ideas to fix a problem... which is kind of hard because we know so little about the full situation... second thought, that's usually a good thing.  When we arrived in Bintulu, the ZLs told us the district had planned an easter activity at the church.  When we got there, there really wasn't anything planned other than come to the church and bring food, so the members pushed it onto the missionaries.  So, as I was sitting in the congregation, I heard my name announced as one of the speakers talking about easter...
That night, we were talking about how the area was going, and they told me about the difficulties they're having getting members involved/motivated, and how the areas they've been working in aren't working.  We all decided we would make the exchange an experiment and try something completely new.  They had heard about a new development off of the map, that might be an interesting place to go check out, so we made the plan to do so.  They only had 2 bikes, but one has pegs on the back wheel, so since I was the biggest, I rode one while Elder Adams stood on the pegs and held onto my shoulders.  We rode to the river, took a ferry to the other side, and began riding in the middle of no where.  We rode for so long.  Long story short, we (after taking tons of wrong turns, snakes, bathroom runs, etc) ended up at this new housing development, where missionaries had never gone before.  Everyone had cars, and we were told that it was almost all christian.  It gave us all a boost of energy/motivation/excitement.  I just spoke with them today and they're very hopeful and excited for this new phase of the work.

I'm consistently impressed with how the Lord always provides while we're on exchanges.  Each time we go, I get nervous/stressed thinking how on earth are we supposed to help here?  Yet, the most "random" things happen, and miracles start popping up.  i think the Lord uses that to help us and them.

Ok I'm thoroughly done with writing.

I got the package!  Unfortunately, I'm on a running bet with the Chinese Elders that we won't eat sugar until Elder Black goes home (May 8).  It's the worst.  Saving it all for then!
Elder Robinson

New Transfer

Dear Family,

This week has been really nice- a lot of good times, and a lot of good change.  We stayed in Singapore all week ( I think this might be the longest streak in Singapore yet).  Last Monday, because Elder Toney was being transferred out, President and Sister Mains took us out to eat.  We went to a nice steak house and got expensive steak- it was really good, but I think Sis. Mains summed it up by saying "well, it's not American...." haha.  Tuesday-Friday were taken up with the New Missionaries coming in from the various MTC.  We had 2 Australians coming from Manila to Terminal 1 at the same time as when Elder Plaizier was to be arriving from KL in Terminal 2.  We thought we planned it out well, and timed everything perfectly, but we had no sign of any of them.  We started doing the usual checks, calling the mission office, calling the airlines, then calling immigration custody, but nothing haha.  It also doesn't help that missionaries traveling don't have cell phones... -___-  Anyway, turns out that Elder Plaizier missed his flight in KL and had to catch the next one, and that the australian elders' flight was delayed.  Everything worked out.

I felt very bad for Elder Plaizier because we were so busy running around that I didn't get to fully clue him in on the trainings we were expected to give.  It hit me while we were on the stand, 3 minutes before we were expected to give it... haha. He did really well, and understood why we didn't have time to practice it more.  The new missionaries seemed good.

One of the highlights of the week the departing dinner/devotional for a group of missionaries leaving the mission.  These were the elders who came right before us, and the sisters who came right after us, so I knew most of them quite well.  I served with two , Elder Gualtier in KK and KL, and with Sis. Guzman in KL/Singapore, the most, and was sad to see them go.  It was a fun evening and a lot of funny stories were told.

Another really cool thing happened last week.  Our Branch Mission Leader in KK came to Singapore to be set apart before heading to Manila MTC.  He was so excited to go, and so ready too.  He hardly speaks any english, so I think Singapore was a bit overwhelming for him... I hear the Manila MTC is super strict about English only.... so we're praying for him.  He told me that his two younger siblings are also in the process of applying for a mission.  They're going to be such great support for KK when they get back.

General Conference was very insightful.  I most enjoyed Elder Bednar's talk, Elder Hallstrom's, Elder Scott's, and Elder Eyring's.  Lots of reminders for members to be actively involved in the gathering of Israel.  I loved Elder Ballards invitation from last conference to pray for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone around you, and now to invite someone once a quarter. You can feel how the church is headed in that direction in the mission field.... 80,000 missionaries going home with the mentality of being the member that the prophets are reminding us to be.  I think member missionary work is going to change dramatically as this next generation of missionaries come home.
The best part about conference was an experience we had.  The night before, we praying to know who we should focus on (from the 3rd Ward) to get to sessions of General Conference.  Mid prayer, I had a name come to mind.
** background story**
in January, I was riding a train when I accidentally stepped on a man's foot.  I apologized, and he quickly continued talking to 3 young white people.  I noticed that he was a Filipino, so I waited for another opportunity to talk to him.  The 3 white people alighted, so I then asked him if they were his students.  He responded by saying they were his colleagues, and that they were working at a Chinese INternational school near Newton Circus.  I asked him if he had ever heard of our church, because it's very near Newton Circus, and he responded, "yes, I'm a return missionary".  His stop came up right after that, and I hurriedly asked for his phone number.  He hesitatingly gave it to me, and alighted.  Well, for the past 2 months, every so often I've called and invited him to activities, to follow ot lessons, to come to stake conference, etc... but all the calls went the same way: he asks who it is, tells me how busy he is, and then says he'll call me back. ***  so when I had his name come to mind, I can't say I was too sure about it.  We called him, and he surprisingly said, ok what time?  I was blown away when he actually came to one of the sessions.  Afterwards, we talked for a bit and he opened up a lot.  He told us more of his story, which is very interesting, and then how long it had been since he had been in a church.  He felt embarrassed that he didn't recognize the apostles or their names.  He mentioned some other personal things, and both Elder Plaizier and I felt really touched by him.  He pulled me aside on his way out and thanked me for being patient, and for continuing to call him.  I hope we can continue to meet him again.  It was so great to see the spirit working within him as he listened to the prophet's messages.

The Lord also prepared a way for Sheila to attend conference.  She had previously told us that she would be unable to attend due to a team building training at her work all weekend, but all of a sudden, it was rescheduled.  She was so impressed by the emphasis on family, values, and discipleship.

Things have been a little calmer here, but that's all about to change tomorrow when we start traveling again.  President Mains created a new zone, so we now have 10 zone leader companionships to visit in 6 weeks..... we'll see how....

k bai!
Elder Robinson

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Longest Week of My Life

Dear Family,

As stated by the subject of this email, this past week was the busiest of the mission I think... and the sad part is we stayed in Singapore the whole week!

This week was zone conference, so every missionary in the mission made their way to one of the sessions in Singapore this past week.  We had the Semenanjung(West Malaysia) and Sabah session on Tuesday, the Sarawak session on thursday, and the Singapore/Johor Bahru session on friday.  We had Mission Leadership Council on Wednesday, and on every night we had pre zone activities (family history) and post zone conference activities.  We were at the church for 14 hour days all last week.  Missionaries love Zone Conference.  One of the reasons is because there is tons of pizza... unfortunately, after a week of eating pizza, I never want to see/smell/taste it again.  haha.  

The Conferences ran really smoothly- I can't complain.  There were a lot of highlights.  Even though we heard the same things 3x, I still picked up new things each time.  The best part was seeing all the missionaries again, and being able to spend time with them.  

We helped the Family History senior couple with the Pre Zone Conference activity, which was all about family history and those little booklets the church is distributing.  I found it very interesting.  I have been looking at familysearch.org at our family, and notice that there isn't much, other than names and dates.  You can go in and add stories and photographs.  The only things I saw were "legacy disputes" from Dad haha.  

By the time friday came around we were so tired... and then we got an offer from the costa rican ambassador member (who likes to treat the APs) to dinner at the American Club.  It was very nice.  and the funny thing was that we ran into several members there.  

Saturday was mostly spent planning for this next transfers' Zone Leader trainings, and making graphs/charts of all the numbers.  In the evening, we met sis. Sheila with a member Bro. Vince.  There is a mall called lucky plaza, where filippinos go to send money back, and they have a fast food restaurant called Jolibees (which is supposed to be the biggest in Philippines).  haha.  It was packed with Filippinos, and the menu has fried chicken, spaghetti, rice, and hamburgers.  The food was ok.  The lesson was great, and we were able to find a quiet room in the back to share it.  She then came to church the next day and had a great time.

We spent most of yesterday dealing with transfer news.  We sent all the flight plans to our travel agent just a few minutes ago.  My companion is being transferred to Melaka (they need his help there) and my new companion is Elder Plaizier, who was currently serving in Kuala Lumpur Branch, Zone Leader (he took my spot in KL when I left).  He is probably the nicest guy in the whole mission, so many people saw it coming.  

that's exciting that you purchased the flight plans already.  We'll have to figure out how we're going to do the rest of the flying within malaysia...  

don't have much time to email because we're meeting our zone at a trampoline house in a little bit.

elder robinson

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sego Larvae for dinner...

Dear Family,

Thank you for resolving the school issue.  I thought that had previously been worked out- my companion told me he talked to President and that I was already taken care of.... -________-

This was the longest week of the mission I think.  It was so hectic.  It was fantastic though.  Too much to write.  I have a bunch of pictures.

On Monday we went downtown and visited the Singapore National Museum- it was def in the top 5 Pday activities I've done on my mission.  I've been determined on going for a long time, and a bunch missionaries were following us... so I dragged them all there.  There were free audio visual guides, and I recommended that all the ELders/Sisters get them... only a few listened... The entire museum revolved around the electronic guides, so we had a trail of whining elders for several hours.  I was content though.  Hopefully they got some culture out of it.  We live in the coolest place.  Singapore has such a cool history and background, honestly the coolest place.

The following morning we flew to Kuala Lumpur with the Mains to give a New Missionary Training.  It went really well, and I felt very uplifted afterwards.  We were able to have lunch with the Mains and chat for a long time, which was nice- something we rarely get.  Immediately after the training ended (6:00PM) we had to race over to the airport.  Whenever we go on exchanges, we end up running a courier service for all the mail/parcels that come into Singapore, so we were trying to run through trainstations with giant heavy bags... bad idea.  Our flight ended up being delayed (go figure).  We didn't land in Kota Kinabalu until 12:00, and didn't make it to the Zone Leaders house until around 12:45- they were already all asleep.  When the alarm went off at 7:00, the elders told me we only had 10 minutes before we needed to leave for a funeral, so I frantically put myself together... The senior couple (Allens) picked us up, and we went to a members house (the member told us to be there by 8, without telling us the funeral didn't start until 10:00....)  This member is hilarious, and had prepared breakfast for us.  It was kind of bland Bubur (rice porridge) so I asked if she had some sambal (malaysian spicy sauce they use in everything).  She handed me some homemade kind, which I took a small spoonful of... she freaked out and said, "too much too much!  You won't be able to handle it!"  I pulled a Dad and thought I knew better.... I instantly began sweating and was hot the rest of the day.  She kept bringing strange food out of the kitchen, one was Sego Worm... an east malaysian delicacy.... I'll attach the picture.  They're giant larvae... you're supposed to eat them alive, but I had to kill mine first before I put it into my mouth...  The funeral was interesting.  It was a cowboy themed funeral...? of a member's father.  They sang several spirituals set to the tune of home on the range and amazing grace... hehe.... Nice service... very hot.  
I spent the day with two younger Elders, and had a great time.  They're so diligent and it showed in all the success they're having.  It was fun to teach people, and help the missionaries see the importance of strong commitments.  I was so tired throughout all the day though, I felt bad!  The next day we trained the Zone Leaders and spent some time checking houses.  Around 5:00PM we headed to the KK airport, and found that the taxi driver remembered who I was.  He was a nice muslim man that we used to use when I served there.  Our flight was delayed... so we spent some time reading in the airport for a while.  We flew from KK to KL, and on the flight I sat next to a man named Muhammed Arif Hakimi... we started talking and he then went on to give me a lesson in writing Jawi (classic written malay using Arab characters)  I got pretty good at writing my name!  We almost missed our flight from KL to Penang, so we were those guys running through the airport.... We landed on Penang Island around 11:00PM, where a member picked us up and drove us to the Zone Leaders house.  Elder Ung stayed in the same room with me in the MTC, he's great.  They were so hospitable.  THey made us brownies and pancakes for breakfast the following day!  It was Elder Toney's turn to follow the Zone Leaders, so early that morning I took a taxi to Georgetown to catch a ferry to meet the other elders.  On my way to the fairy, I passed a sign saying "Khoo Kongsi House: 400m" (I recently saw a picture saying it was a must see/UNESCO world heritage site) so without thinking I told the taxi to turn.  The driver left the meter running while I sprinted through this awesome Chinese Clan house and tried to take as many pictures as I could.  Supposedly it compares with the Imperial Palace in China.  Penang is the coolest place.  I want to finish my mission there.  I love the people and the whole area... so cool!  I then took the ferry across the strait to meet up with Elder Mayo, who is serving in Butterworth. He is so funny and a great example.  He works so well with the members and makes everyone around him happy.  He's also amazing at singing (I forgot that, until I heard him again!)  It was fun to ride bikes around with him, teach some great people.  I learned a lot.  It's a great experience to go with other missionaries from our MTC group and see how they've changed, and also to see what skills/experiences they've picked up along the way.  We ended up pillow talking late... great to catch up!  The following morning, I took the ferry back to Penang Island where a member picked me up and drove me to where my comp and the ZLs were eating lunch.  Supposedly Penang was voted the top place for food in the world... I believe it.  We went to the world famous Cendol place, ate Penang Laksa, and then went to Fatty Loh's, which is supposed to be the best chicken rice in malaysia (i agree).  Afterwards, we had our Zone Leader Training which went really well.  It's interesting to see how different all the Zone Leaders are, and how each one of them have such good ideas on so many different things.  I realized that our job is less of coming up with new ideas, but rather piecing together the mission's and working with President to make them happen.  We flew back to Singapore on Saturday late afternoon, and had to race over to a members home for a dinner appointment.  Such a nice family- they had wanted to introduce us to their housemates, but they left last minute, so we ended up sharing the message with them and having fillippino food with them.

Yesterday was a nice Sunday.  SHeila couldn't come to the 12:00 service, so we went to the 9:00 Toa Payoh Ward sacrament meeting... for some reason, a bunch of 3rd Ward members were there, so it worked out perfectly!  Sheila is doing well, and is excited towards her baptism preparation.  She is having a lot of problems with her son, and it's taking a toll on her.  Miraculously enough, there was a fireside for parenting/family at the Singapore Stake Center put on by the Eyres (member family, been on the Today SHow, Oprah, GMA, NYTimes best sellers) for working with families.  She came to that, sat with the filippino members, and had a good time.  It was incredibly well done.  We had to leave early to make it to another appointment, which was also very nice.  

I feel like I gave more of an itinerary for what last week was as opposed to anything spiritual/what I gained from it all.  I'm so tired.  And this week is Zone Conference, so we have all the missionaries from the whole mission coming into Singapore in 3 different groups spread throughout the week.  I don't think we'll be getting much of a pday today.