Friday, March 30, 2012

It has been while since I last blogged, but I hopefully will catch up now.  WOW what a week we have had.  It was district (stake) conference last week and members came to KK from miles away.  One group took a bus and rode all night to get here.  What dedication the people have.  How many of us would travel all night on an old clambering bus , spend two days in a less than wonderful hotel, head back on the same old bus two days later in time to go to work on Monday morning just to go to stake conference?
As part of the district conference Pres. Clark arranged for the missionaries to make a climb on Mt. Kinabalu.  Kinabalu is the highest mountain around.  It rises to 12,500 from sea level.  It is a beautiful mountain when we can see it out our window.  It is so high it is usually shrouded in the clouds.  After some haggling with the bus driver over the cost (which we thought had already been agreed upon) we were off at 6:30 am.  It was about a 2 hr drive to get to the hiking spot.  The trail does not zig zag back and forth it just goes straight up.  By the way, they will not let you climb Kinabalu in one day.  It takes two days and you have to stay overnight half way up if you are going to climb the whole mountain.  It is a dense, jungle-like trail with spectacular views and beautiful flowers along the way.  Elder Read and I had only gone maybe 1/4K when we met President Clark who asked us if we would stay back with an Elder who was having lots of problems climbing.  He was over weight and out of shape and already couldn't keep up with the group.  E Read and I were the only senior couple who went on the hike, so we went slower with the young Elder to be with him.  The trail is muddy and wet most of the way.  In some places they have built steps to help you but they are very steep too.  We only went about 2K up the mountain, but what an experience.
Elder Ahmad and I on the trail to Kinabalu.  See how steep the stairs are?

Elder Read at the bottom on one set of stairs before heading up the next.

One of the pretty waterfalls we saw on our way.  They fall for 1000's of feet.

We left conference on Sunday and had to go catch a plane to go to the Senior Couples conference in Singapore.  Many of the branch members came to the airport with us to say goodbye to E/S Larson who were leaving.  E/S Larson are so loved by the member of the branches here.  I hope they will be sad to see us go when we leave and not be out there cheering.
      Some of the branch members at the airport to say goodbye to the Larson's.

We and one other couple stayed at the President's home.  They really have a nice home in Singapore. Some of the couples stayed at Pasir house (remember the concubine house) and some of the couples stayed with members throughout Singapore.  Singapore has nine wards and is a stake.  On Monday we had new couples training with Sis. Clark and then a group FHE and dinner at Pasir House.
Some of the senior couples having a picnic outdoors at Pasir house.

Tuesday we spent in meetings all day that was very beneficial and enjoyable.  In the evening we went to a Seafood buffet.  Elder Read even tried some shark fin soup.  Me, I'm not that adventurous.  Then we went on a harbor boat ride.  Singapore is such a beautiful, modern expensive city.  Example:  if you want to own a car you must pay $70K just for a permit to own a car, then you buy the car at an inflated cost and then you have to pay a special tax for owning the car.  A car that would cost around say 30K in the US ends up costing about $170K to $200K.  They are trying to discourage people buying cars and cut down on the traffic.  It isn't working.  People in Singapore have so much money, they just pay.

Today we are off to help the Elders clean an apartment and then this evening we have a baptism, a woman of about 40 named Josephine.

Everyone say HAPPY BIRTHDAY today 3/30 to our Granddaughter Grace who is five now!  We love you Grace!

Let us know how you all are doing.  We love hearing from each and everyone of you.  LOVE YA ALL
E/S Read

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our First Sunday in Borneo

Our first Sunday in KK was a very nice one.  There are two branches in KK and we are usually supposed to alternate between the two branches -- one on one Sunday and the other the next.  However, we usually do something with both branches.  Church is conducted in Malay and the full time missionaries try to translate but sometimes the headphones and translating equipment doesn't work, I should say usually doesn't work.  But most of the members speak some English so a lot of the time they would bounce between Malay and English.  There were about 60 in attendance at the branch we attended.  Mostly women and children.  The members all come from very humble circumstances, some are so poor it is heart breaking.  And yet, they are very loving and happy people.  Between the two little branches here they will soon have about nine missionaries out.  There is a set of identical twin sisters (tiny tiny) who are going to serve in London, but in different missions in London. There is one family who every week out of the goodness of their heart, prepares lunch for the members of their branch.  These people are very poor themselves.  It is a simple lunch of rice -- always rice -- and some vegetables.  After our block meetings were over we came home for about 2 1/2 hours and grabbed some lunch and the men took a quick nap.  Then it was back to the church where we had branch council training meetings. The church is so very young here that the members and those in leadership are still learning what you do when you conduct meetings, how you have an auxiliary presidency meeting, how you call someone to a position.  All the basics that we take for granted.  You must even be sure you use the most simple of explanations.  Keep everything on a Primary level, simple, simple, simple.  They are all trying so hard and want to do it right.  They are a pleasure to teach.
Some of the members are very interesting, like the YA who brings a bunny -- not a rabbit -- a bunny with her wherever she goes.  The bunny is in one of those purses/cases like you would put a small dog in and the bunny is on a leash.  She is a most interesting YA.  Then there is the YA who when you first meet him likes to play a joke on you by pretending that he is deaf and mute.  There is the older couple who used to be ministers in another faith and she always greets you by saying "Hallelujia".  I guess every ward/branch has those few quirky people in them, even our own back home.  At least the Roy 30th ward can say that their couple of kooks are gone on a mission and not in the ward anymore.
The branch presidencies are made up of mostly young men, I guess because the church is so new here that they haven't had time to grow old yet.  Men as young as 18/19 are serving in the presidencies.  They look like young priests sitting on the stand.
I have attached a picture of the church building.  It is a very nice fairly new building.  It is two stories high.  The top story has most of the meeting rooms there.  The chapel doubles as the activity hall.  It is where we eat and play.  Then on Sundays it becomes the chapel again.  The kitchen, RS room, primary room, and YW room are all on the top floor.  The bottom floor has a family search center, the nursery and the branch presidents' offices.  It is pretty functional but not like anything I had seen before.
The YW, Primary and RS seem to be functioning pretty well but the programs for the YM are basically non-existent.  They don't have the scout program here so there is really nothing here to take the place of scouting.    The Elders are struggling also.  Retention is an ever time consuming problem.  The people are so poor here that the only way they have to come to church is on a bus.  Very very few own a vehicle of any kind.  If the buses aren't running or if it is raining or if it is a holiday, not very many make it.
On the first Friday we were here they had the RS birthday party.  It was fun and a very good dinner.  The next night they had the "Goodbye to the Larson's and Welcome to the Read's" party.  It was very nice and everyone is very sad to see the Larson's go.  They have done a remarkable job here.  I hope we can be half as good as they were.
On Thurs., Fri. Sat and Sun we are having district conference.  Some the branches in the outlying areas will have to catch a bus on Fri., travel all night to get here by Sat. morning and then leave right after the meetings on Sun., travel all night to get back home to be able to go to work on Monday.  Talk about dedication.  These people are truly amazing.
On Sun. we will have to leave early to catch a plane to go back to Singapore for the Senior Couples conference.  It will be on Mon., Tues. and fly back Wed.
We have been very busy since we got here trying to learn all the Larson's can teach us in about 10 days.  I just am so thankful for the Larson's.  They are so loving and kind and have really taught us not only the mechanics of the mission but the loving of the mission.

Side View of the Chapel
 The Larson's, Elder Peterson who is from North Ogden (I worked with his Bishop, Andy Lippert in the Chemistry department at WSU) and of course us.
 A traditional dance performed by Pres. Chauh and family at the "Goodbye, Welcome" party
Some of the Primary children singing I Am a Child of God at "G/W" party
 Ben got a traditional scarf, I got a traditional beaded necklace and the Larson's each got hats.
The front of the chapel.

Some of you have asked for our mailing address.  It is:
 Elder and Sister Read
 Unit 13a-2 Radiant Tower B
 Mile 3 1/2 Jalan Tuaran
 86450 Kota Kinabalu
 Sabah, Malaysia  

You can send letters but not packages to this address.
Thank you for all your support.  We are doing great.  We can feel your prayers for us and we really need them.  Love you all

Friday, March 16, 2012

We Made It To KK

Hello Everyone -- We made it to Kota Kinabalu about 6:30 pm on March 15.  We spent the night of the 14th in Singapore at the mission home.  It is really a pretty place.  Singapore is a very very pretty city.  It is so clean and beautiful.  I would love to go back and spend some time sight seeing.  Wicked is playing so maybe we will take some extra time and go and take in a performance.

KK is a lot different than what I had imagined.  The population here is between 400-500 thousand people.  There are crazy drivers and people everywhere.  I am glad that Elder Larson knows how to get around because it scares me to death everytime we go out in the car.  I guess we will be buying the Larson's car but I'm not sure I'll ever want to drive.  They drive on the opposite side of the road and I'm constantly ducking and screaming thinking we are going to be killed.

Our apartment in Radiant Towers is a nice apartment.  It has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a small kitchen and a living room/dining room combination.  I will try and take pictures to send you.  The view from the windows is very nice.  We can see the South China Sea and the Mountains.  We are on the 14th floor but over here they don't like the number four so they kind of skip those floors.  We punch floor 13A to get to our floor.

The weather hasn't been too terribly bad.  It was very nice in Singapore, not too hot at all.  It hasn't been too bad here in KK either.  Of course we go from our air conditioned apartment to an air conditioned car and then to air conditioned buildings, so we are doing pretty well.

Today the Larson's showed us how to get around and which stores to shop at.  I can't figure where in the heck we ever are.  I think we just go around in circles but somehow we end up where we need to be.  They don't put up street names so you just have to go by landmarks.

We haven't suffered too much with jet lag.  By the time we got to Singapore we had been up for about 36 to 40 hours.  When we got to the mission home we were having our passports copied when I discovered I had left mine at the Singapore airport.  I was so worried and upset.  We hurried back over and the people at the information desk had it.  Some kind soul had turned it in.  I was so relieved.  A very tender mercy from Heavenly Father.  We turned in early for bed, about 6:30 pm and just died.  We woke up at the time we usually wake up, 5:00 am, and went for a walk around the mission home grounds.  Then it was time to leave for the airport at 12:00 noon and then on to KK.

Tonight is the RS Birthday dinner for the two KK branches.  Sis Larson and I are going.  I'm not sure what the two Elders will be doing while we are gone.  The meeting house is a very nice one.  A different floor plan.  The chapel doubles as an activity room.  I know we are having cake tonight because Sis. Larson had to pick up a cake for it.  I'm not sure what else we are having.  I'll let you all know later because I'm sure you won't be able to rest until you know what we had for the RS birthday.

I am now going to try and attach some pictures.  If you see them then you will know I did it -- if you don't see them, well then you'll know I'm dumb and don't know quite how to do it yet.

Please let us hear from you.  We want to know what is going on in your lives.  We love you all.
Our arrival in KK.  Elder Larson, Elder Read, Sis. Read and Sis. Larson

This is the building where we spent the night in Singapore.  Our bedroom was on the upper left corner.  This house was once owned by a Chinese biggie and he kept his concubines here.

This the house where the Chinese biggie himself lived.  It is front of the concubine house.  The church bought it  several years ago.  It now has two chapels in it.  The concubine house is behind.

This is our arrival in Singapore after having been up for about 36 hours + straight.  Don't we look intelligent?

The Three Beauts at the airport.  Don't you wish you could have been born a Beaut?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Greetings From the MTC

Hi Everyone:  Well we have completed our first week at the MTC and what a week it has been.  We have usually been on the go from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm.  But what a wonderful experience and time we are having here.  The highlight of our week has been the fireside with Elder Holland.  It was so powerful!  We have also been stretched with learning the missionary lessons and applying them.  The scariest part was the practice teaching we had to do with prospective "investigators".  That was really scary for Margaret and certainly out of her comfort zone.

We are impressed with the number of senior missionaries here and the variety of locations and assignments they are going to.  We are the only ones headed to Malaysia/Borneo and a lot of people ask "Where's that" and then they seem to be glad it's not them heading there.  We have made some wonderful new friends.  I hope I can enclose a picture of our district.

Next week we are going to be learning about the humanitarian work we will be doing.  On Monday we are going to take a trip to Welfare Square in SLC.  We are really looking forward to that.

This will be our chief  means of communicating with everyone now, so please check out this spot rather than our email but PLEASE do send us emails and keep us up with what is happening in your lives.

This is Elder and Sister Myers from Huntington Ut.  They are going to No. Carolina

Elder and Sis. Read doing the "This is where we're going" pose.

Our entire district with our teachers Elder Hepworth Left and Elder Pike Right.  Others LtoR:  Bro and Sis. Anunson from San Diego going to Virginia; Us; Bro and Sis Myers going to No. Carolina; Bro and Sis Ovard going to Heidleberg, Germany.