Sunday, September 30, 2012

Project, Presidents and the Pox

Great News.  Our project for the Indonesian School Children has been approved.  We are so thrilled.  If you remember from a past blog, the Indonesian children are not allowed to attend schools here in Malay.  A sweet lady named Kathryn Rivai has started some schools for them on the plantations and lumber yards where there fathers work.  She receives no funding from the government and relies entirely on donations.  We will be helping 3 schools with a total of 275 children.  The largest is the school at Keningau which we visited about two months ago.  I blogged some pictures of our visit.  Keningau is 2 hours outside of KK.  The school there helps Indonesian children whose fathers work in the lumber factory.  Now we will have to buy all the school supplies and the supplies for the hygiene kits.  The branches are going to help us put the kits together.  Hong Kong was asking a lot of questions about our project and we didn't have all the answers they were looking for so we asked Elder Subandriyo, the area authority 70, if he would help us with the questions Hong Kong had.  In less than an hour Hong Kong had emailed us and said that Elder Subandriyo told them the project would be ok so Hong Kong said if it is good enough for Elder Subandriyo, it is good enough for us.  Bang -- it was ok'd in nothing flat.  Funny how getting an area authority 70 involved can help you out.  Thank you Elder Subandriyo.  Oh, did I mention that Elder Subandriyo is Indonesian.  Maybe that also helped.
Some of the Indonesian children.  The parents are able to pick up Indonesian School Uniforms when they go back to Indonesia for a visit.
Kindergarten class.  These children are just so sweet.  They are so happy to go to school that there is never a discipline problem in any grade

Today we got new branch presidents for both our branches.  Hooray.  Pres. Ng was sustained as the new branch president in KK1, replacing Pres. Francis who died.  Pres. Ng was the 1st counselor.  He has only been a member for 2 years.  He was Buddhist.  He is a great man and will do a good job we think.  In KK2 the new branch President is Pres. Sebastian.  He actually lives in the KK1 branch but they had to pull someone from KK1 to be branch president for KK2 because there isn't much priesthood in KK2.  He is a young man of about 30ish and has been a branch president before.  He is the taxi driver for all the members coming in and out of KK.  He has 2 adorable kids ages 3 and 2.

On Monday night at 6 pm we got a call to help one of the sisters, a recent convert, take her 11 year old son to the hospital.  He had just fallen and broken his arm.  We were in the emergency waiting room for about 2 hours before the 11 year old came out and told us his arm wasn't broken.  We said good, we'll just take you home then.  The boy went back and we didn't see or hear from him again.  After 45 minutes of waiting we had the Elders call the mother's cell phone to see what was going on.  Well his arm was broken and they had put one cast on but it was too tight so they were in the process of removing that cast and putting another one on. After three and half hours, we finally left the hospital.  It took forever. The next day we had an appointment with this same sister and her other children to teach her a follow-up lesson from her baptism.  We went to their apartment (in a really poor area with rats running everywhere) and we shook hands with all the kids and the mom.  Just as we were sitting on the floor the mother said, "Oh, the kids all have the chicken-pox".  AAAGH.  One of the kids was just breaking out and was running a fever and was so sick.  The others, 5 of them, were in various stages of the pox.  Ben and I have both had chicken pox but the elders with us weren't sure they had.  By now, we had all been exposed.  We gave our lesson and then left without shaking hands this time.  Outside we drenched ourselves in all the portable hand sanitizer we could find.  I think the incubation period for Chicken Pox is 2 weeks.  I think we'll be okay once I get rid of this rash and itch.  I don't think it's anything, do you?

We spent a good deal of time last week working on new apartments for all the new missionaries.  We need two more apartments. One for the sisters who are living with us and one for one set of missionaries who will be working in a new area a little farther out of downtown KK.  The sisters apartment will be in the same complex that the other Elders are living in now.  This is what we found for the Elders in the new area:
It is a brand new 4 bedroom house is a new "sub-division" area.  It is furnished.  This is the living room and that is elder Gottfriedson from Las Vegas enjoying the living room.  It is much bigger than the elders need but it is in a very safe area and is close to where they will be working.  It is also about 1/2 of the rent the Elders in KK are paying for their apartment.  They will use one of the bedrooms as a study.  Another member lives in the next block so that will be good too.  They are excited to move in.  Just need to get all the paper work completed.  More pictures:
A bedroom.
A bathroom.  Don't you just love the pink plastic mirror?  The elders are so tall they will have to kneel down to see in the mirror.  Wish us luck in getting all the missionaries moved into their own apartments this week.
Love ya all  E/S Read

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hellos and Goodbyes

What a week we have had in KK.  On Wednesday the Singapore mission received 27 new missionaries!  That's right 27!  And we only had 6 leave.  WOW.  It is so exciting.  Of the 27 new missionaries, 6 of them came to KK.  We have two new Elder companionships and 1 sister companionship.  We had two of our KK missionaries transferred to Singapore.  It is so hard to send them off.  It is just like sending your own son off again on a mission.  We get so attached to these elders and just love them.  They are doing amazing work here.  On Monday morning we had the missionaries who have been with us for so long come over for a "farewell" breakfast.
Back row l to R:  Elder Glad from Virginia; Elder Jacob Reid from Farrmington, Elder O'driscoll from Sandy and Elder Howell from West Jordan.  We had to send Elder Jacob Reid and Elder Howell on their way to Singapore.  Elder Howell will be coming home in December so as the missionaries say, he will die in Singapore.
The new Elders we got are Elder Parker from Mesa, Az.; Elder Shoetz from somewhere; Elder Peterson from somewhere else; and Elder Gottfriedsen from Las Vegas.  The sisters are Sister Wilson from Virginia and Sister Cabella from Micronesia.  All six of these new missionaries are go-getters and were so anxious to get out and get started the first day they were here.  Elders Gottfriedsen and Shoetz and Sis. Cabella came right from the MTC.  They are all amazing with their language skills already and their knowledge of the gospel and how to teach.  They are so well prepared.
The sisters will be staying with us temporarily.  We have found an apartment for them, but we have to wait until all the paperwork has been signed and money exchanged before they can move in.  It should, hopefully, be sometime next week.  Their apartment is in the same complex as the elders so that will be very nice and convenient for everyone.  It is also close to the area they are assigned too.  We don't see much of them around our apartment.  They leave mid-morning and usually don't get home until 10 pm the time they must be home.  When they can move into their own apartment, we will have to take them shopping for dishes, pots, pans, linens, etc.  The apartment has furniture but not furnishings.  They and I are looking forward to shopping.   Sis. Wilson is 1/2 Korean, 1/4 Cuban and 1/4 Jamican while sister Cabella, although she comes from Micronesia, is Philipino.  All I can say is watch out KK.  With these missionaries on the lose, things are going to get wild and crazy.
Elder Watson when he was here last week told us that there are 10 missions in the Asia area and these 10 missions are responsible for over 1/3 of the world's population.  I told the missionaries that gave them all about 2 million + people to contact and convert.
On Friday morning we got some terribly sad news.  The branch president of KK1, Pres. Francis Simon, passed away suddenly and totally unexpectedly.  We here in KK are all in shock.  Just last week he was talking in the meetings with elder Watson and this week he isn't even here.  We are all struggling and having such a hard time.  It was just such a shock.  We're still not sure what happened.  We think it might have been a blood clot to hit his brain, but we haven't heard officially.  Pres. Francis' service for LDS members was yesterday in a village called Papar, about an hours drive from here.  While he and some of his children were LDS, no one else in his family was.  They are mostly RC and were not very happy with the way his children wanted to have his funeral.  He kinda ended up with LDS services on Saturday and then other family services today.  They buried him today in Papar.  Again, Ben was asked to dedicate the grave.
 I thought you would enjoy this.  These guys in the bright neon green shirts are the undertakers.  It says "Undertaker" right on their shirt.  You can't read it very well but the back of this guy's shirt says something about Caskets and Funeral Directors and gives phone numbers to call.
This guy seemed to be the head undertaker.  He supervised the others and smoked cigarettes the whole time.
This is the first "hearse" they sent.  It slid off the road and rolled into a ditch on its way to Papar.  If you look close you can see the dents and the windows broken out.
This is Ben dedicating the grave.  It just poured rain all night and all morning so the ground was just soaked and oh so muddy.  The lady behind the casket in the black is Pres. Francis' daughter Caroline, such a wonderful member.Next to Ben is Pres. Fausto, counselor in the district presidency, and Bro. Gary the YM's president and a piano student of mine.  You can see the ropes and boards the the casket is resting on.
They lower the casket on the ropes and then the undertakers start shoveling the dirt back into the grave.
Here the grave is almost all filled in and the temporary cross marker up.
Then we all laid a flower on the grave.
All in all it was a nice service for Pres. Francis.  He was a much loved man in the branches and in the community.  The KK missionaries will especially miss him because he was always taking them places and arranging trips for them on their P-days.  It has been really really hard the last few days coming to grips with his sudden death.  It is really extra hard on the branches here because KK2's branch president was released about one month ago and they have never put anyone in in his place.  Now KK1 does not have a branch president either.  Two branches and no presidents or presidencies.  The district president, pres. Ling, really has a lot on his shoulders right now trying to run two branches.  Hopefully, things will straighten themselves out quickly.
So you can see it was a week of hellos and goodbyes but we know in all cases the goodbyes are just temporary and we will all meet again.  What joy we can all find in the atonement.  How sad for those who don't understand or don't know about this wonderful gift they have been given.  It really is true, Families CAN be together forever.  Instead of hugging your toilet this week, hug your family and keep them close to your heart.  We love you all.  Drop us a line.  E/S Read

Monday, September 17, 2012

Conference X2

We had another senior conference on Wed., Thurs. and Friday of last week.  We always look forward to them.  We have to go back to Singapore every 3 months to get our visas chopped, and all seniors are on the same schedule, so we always have a conference while we are there.  We always get spiritually uplifted and feel like we can come back to KK and carry on.  We just love the other senior couples and have lots of fun while we are there.
This is the whole group of us.  Pres. and Sis. Mains are the 4th and 5th from the right.  On Thursday afternoon we all took a trip to the Gardens by the Bay.  It is a beautiful place to visit and we were there for about three hours and didn't see all we wanted to see.  If you are a botanist, like Dawn Gatherum, you would fall in love with this place.
First we took a little trolley ride around the entire complex to see what there was to see and then we set off on our own to visit a couple of the areas.  We chose to go to the Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome and the canopy walk.
On the canopy walk.  You can see a tiny little bit of the Singapore skyline in the left background.
By the giant waterfall inside the cloud forest dome.  It was spectacular inside here and it was so cool, and not just as in awesome, but cool as in not too sunny hot.
We got back from Senior conference on Friday night and had to jump right into district conference on Saturday and Sunday.  We had the Lee's who are serving in the Sandakan branch stay with us Friday and Saturday nights.
Elder and Sister Lee are the first native Malay couple to serve as full time missionaries.  He is also serving as the branch president and she is the Relief Society president in the Sandakan branch.  She is a great cook and made us an authentic Chinese supper one night and an authentic Chinese breakfast Sunday morning.  Both interesting, not typical for Americans, but still pretty tasty.
The branch in Tawau and the branch in Sandakan have to take a bus to come to district conference.  It is a 6 hour bus ride one way from Sandakan and, hold on to your hats, an 11 hour bus ride one way from Tawau.  Yet each branch had around 35 people who made the arduous trip.  What dedication and sacrifice for these people, in their time and in their money.  I've heard people complain about having to take a 20 minute drive from Roy in their nice air conditioned car to the tabernacle to attend stake conference.  We are so spoiled.  We had a GA, Elder Watson of the 70, come from Hong Kong.  He really related well to the Malaysian members.  They were so excited to have him come.
These are some members from the Tawau branch.  President and Sis. Mains are sitting on the front row.  There are 5 little children on that row with them starting with the one sitting on Pres. Mains' lap.  They come from a family that has 10 little children, the oldest being just 13 or 14.  They could only afford to send 6 children (1 of the children got sick and was lying down) and the father.  But those 5 little children came into the conference, sat on the front row, and they never made a sound or hardly even moved.  I have never seen such well behaved, polite children.  Their father was on the stand to give a talk so he couldn't sit with them, so they were on their own and they were just little angels.  And then they had them sing.  Their wasn't a dry eye in the whole congregation.  They sang "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus", in English no-less, and they had the most touching hand gestures that went with the song.  They sang out loud and clear and then they went right from that song into "A Child's Prayer".  They were even able to sing the part where the boys sing one set of words and the girls sing the other together.  I was bawling my eyes out.  It was just so touching to see these little children, who really have nothing in the world, singing how much they loved Jesus and the gospel.  It is something I will keep in that special place of my heart for memories you always want to treasure.  I should mention that these children are not allowed to go to school by the Malay government.  Their mother and oldest sister are trying to teach them to read and write.  Oh be so thankful that your children and you can have that opportunity and the privilege and the chance for a good education.  My heart just breaks when I look at this family and think how badly they want it and how it is kept from them.

Please be grateful for all you have.  We all have so much and just take it for granted and don't realize what a treasure we have been given.  But, where much is given much is expected.  I have been given so much so there is certainly a lot I need to do and say to even start to make a small dent in the debt I owe.  We love you all.  Keep them emails coming.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bits and Pieces

For a change, it was a rather slow week last week. Not too much going on for us.  We used the time to catch up on a lot of paper work that had been piling up.  I spent most of the time organizing our "Area Book" and making sure everything and everybody who should be in the book, was in the book.  We got some prints made of pictures taken at baptisms to put in the book and to share with the branch presidents so they will have a reminder of who the new members of their branch are.  We managed to stay busy and get a lot accomplished.  We have submitted another project dealing with schools for the Indonesian Children.  It got hung up some how and wasn't presented to the Hong Kong folks last Wednesday for approval so hopefully it will be reviewed this Wednesday and, Hopefully, approved so we can move forward with it.

We are having district conference this coming weekend.  Branches from Tawau and Sandakan will be coming to meet with the KK branches.  Elder Watson, a GA from Hong Kong, will be coming so everyone in the branches is excited to meet and hear from him.  Pres. Ling, the district president, asked us to visit some less actives.  He asked that we visit a mother and daughter who were baptized about a year ago.  Some of the members had told us that they went inactive about two weeks after being baptized and that the mother hated the church and everyone in it and the daughter had some other problems.  David Liew, the elders quorum president, called and talked with the daughter and she told us we could come and visit her.  Then she called back and asked us to come later in the day as her mother wanted to be there also.  I'm not feeling real good about this visit after all I've heard.  But off we go.  It was a wonderful visit.  They wanted to come back to church.  They just weren't sure how to do it.  Right after their baptism they had had a falling out with some other Philipino branch members and that was why they weren't coming.  The daughter had asked David to bring her an English B of M. They are Philipino.  The daughter says that when she goes back to visit family in the Philipines, she always pays her tithing there.  We offered to take them to church yesterday with us which they were anxious to do.  So many of the branch members were so happy to see them back.  When we took them home after the meetings they said it had been a wonderful day.  They are looking forward to district conference too.  The daughter wants the missionaries to come and re-teach her husband.  I learned an important lesson.  Don't judge and don't listen to rumors.

We were very saddened and heart broken once again this week.  We learned of the death of our wonderful neighbor, Nadine Fowers.  Doug and Nadine have been our neighbors for years and we dearly love them both so much.  It was quite a shock to hear that Nadine had suddenly passed away.  We love Doug and Nadine so much and are just in shock and tearful.  Nadine knew and took care of everyone in the neighborhood.  She also took care of her grandchildren each day.  For those of you who know Doug and Nadine, be sure and let Doug know how much you care about him and his family.  They will be in our prayers.

We are leaving on Wednesday for Singapore.  It is time to get our Visas chopped again.  We will also be having another senior conference while we are there.  We really enjoy the conferences and getting together with all the other seniors.  It will be our first conference with our new mission president and his wife, Pres. and Sis. Mains.  They are from Pennsylvania.  He is a convert.  What a blessing he has been to the church and his family.

Here is a picture of some of the young women I give piano lessons to:
LtoR:  Minna (piano student), Jackolyn (Primary President), Faralia (piano), Betty (piano) and CiCie (Young Single Adult representative).  All in all I have 9 piano students now.  That really keeps me busy.

When we were in Miri two weeks ago we went to the Niah Caves.  It was an hour drive from Miri and then an hour hike back into the caves.  The caves aren't like Minnetonka or Timpanogas but they were very pretty and interesting.  There is a bird called a Swiftie which makes it's nest in the caves.  The Chinese like to take their nests and use them for soup- yep bird nest soup -  and for cosmetics.  They are becoming endangered so the government will only let the nests be harvested now during three months of the year.  The nests are way up in the cave so they are very hard to get to.  They have rigged up some kind of poles to help them get the nests.  Here are some cave pictures:
  Looking out the mouth of the cave.
Sis. Atkinson and me.  We climbed "where no man dared to go."
Inside the cave.

Everyone have a great day and remember to hug your spouse extra tightly and tell them how much you love them.  You never know.  Love ya all   E/S Read

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wedding, beach, baptism

We had another wedding in our branch.  The couple actually got married in June.  They are a cute couple.  His name is Bryan and he is from the Miri branch.  Her name is Kiko and she is from our branch.  They are so lucky that they found each other, and that they are both members.  What a rarity that is here in KK.  Again, everyone came dressed like they were going to a... well going to a fancy wedding.  You can't believe the make up the ladies all put on.  I've never seen so many false eyelashes in so many colors.  Also, the color scheme for this wedding was red and white.  Everyone was asked to wear red and white.  The reception was supposed to start at 6:30, but in accordance with Malay time, it didn't start until 7:30.  Everyone was just sitting around.  I don't know what the delay was.  Finally the bride made her appearance.  We all had to sing and clap a special clap. Then they played some newlywed type of games with the bride and groom for the next hour.  The bride and groom danced, or they tried to dance.  Neither one was sure of the hand position for dancing and then they just kind of swayed back and forth.  Then they had a big buffet about 9:00 pm.  Everyone in the branch contributed food for the buffet.  I was asked to make some cupcakes.  At first they said they wanted over 200, but then last week they changed it to only 60.  Sixty I could handle.  I made some chocolate ones and some yellow cake ones.  I thought they were pretty tasty considering I didn't use a cake mix.  A cake mix over here cost around $4 US for a Betty Crocker type cake box.  No way I'm paying that much for a cake mix.  I also made all the frosting.  The night before the reception another lady in the branch, Mary (Natalie, David Liew's sister) and I iced all the cupcakes. Mary had bought some flower decorations to put on the cupcakes.  She had also bought a cupcake stand which held coincidentally 60 cupcakes.  She arranged them on the stand and this is the result:
  I thought she did a pretty good job.  They didn't have a wedding cake, just the cupcakes.  There were close to 200+ people who came to the wedding.  I asked what we were going to do because there were only 60 cupcakes and she said it's just first come first served.  Needless to say, the cupcakes were gone in less than 2 minutes.  Unfortunately the battery in our camera died and this was the only picture of the wedding I was able to get.

Yesterday, the KK1 branch held a fellowship day at the beach.  It was the first time we had made a trip to the beach here.  They have lots of beaches.  Too bad they are so littered with trash and garbage.  Still, it was fun to be with the members and just have a good time.

In case you missed, I'm the white person in the back with the sunglasses.  Right in front of me in gray is Sis. Kinta.  Sis. Kinta was diagnosed with cervical cancer and has been undergoing chemo, thus she has no hair.  But she is a wonderful, special sister that I just love.  To Kinta's left, the lady sitting by the tree is known as Mama.  It was her husband that died a couple of months ago and we went to our first Malay funeral.  She loves to sing and says "Hallelujia" every time she meets you.  The lady in the pink is Sis. Lillian and she is the YW's president.  A real strength to the branch.
This man was selling ice cream cones from his bicycle.  I love how he is all bundled up in a parka and sweatshirt with a hoodie.  You would think it was cold here.  He hit a gold mine when he came to our branches picnic area.  One scoop, a very wee scoop, cost Rm1 (about 30 cents US) or a bigger double scoop (about the size of two very wee scoops) was Rm2 (about 60 cents US).  Everyone wanted to buy ice cream cones.  We bought a flavor called Rainbow.  It was strawberry and, here it comes, Yam.  Pretty interesting flavor combination.  It seemed to be the number one seller though.  I'm glad there wasn't corn flavor.
On the beach.  It was a great day with the branch.

After the beach we had two baptisms that night at the chapel.
This is Hinti and the elders who taught him, Elder Glad (from Virginia) on the left and Elder Jacob Reid (from Farmington) on the right.
This is Bro. Roger and his mother.  His mother has been a member for about a year.  Roger recently had a near death experience and knew he had to join the church.  Needless to say, his mom was excited, not about the near death experience but about his wanting to be baptized.

The Relief Society recently had an activity.  Each sister was supposed to dress in her native tribal costume and bring a food typical of where they came from.  Well the activity was supposed to start at 2:00.  At 2:00 just I and the RS Pres. Kate were there.  Kate didn't seem to be too concerned.  At 2:30 there was still just Kate and I.  I said, well should we just eat what we've brought and she said not yet.  At 3:00 there was still just Kate and I and she still didn't want to get started.  Finally at about 3:15 sisters started to come and they had the most amazingly beautiful costumes and brought really exotic dishes.  It was worth the wait, but I was ready to give up after 1 hour.  Typical Malay time -- hours late but it's ok.
LtoR:  Sis Ah Ling, Sis. Diaminah, Sis. Betty (YSA/ and piano student), Sis. Faralia (YSA/ piano student), Sis. Jackolyn (YSA, Primary Pres.), just me (don't you love my costume), Sis. Mary (Natalie, David Liew's sister), Sis. Cicie (YSA), Sis. Lisa (RS Counselor and piano student), Sis. Kate (RS President) and Sis. Ervinna.

I hope you enjoy these pictures and that they tell you a little bit about what we are doing here.  We are enjoying doing the work and enjoying the members so very much.  It is a great mission.  Keep the emails and comments coming.   LOVE YA ALL