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.
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
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