Sunday, May 26, 2013


This is definitely the hardest blog I have sent out while on our mission.  When we got home from church this afternoon, we had an invitation to hang out with Mark.  I knew it would be the bad news I have been expecting for the last few days.  My dear, wonderful, happy, loving mother passed away today.  I really feel completely drained right now.  I am still trying to grasp the fact that when we get home, she won't be there.  She has always been there in my life.  I can't remember a major decision I ever made or a time of hesistation in my life that she wasn't there to advise, counsel and cheer me on.  She raised five totally fine children, well most of us are totally fine, and always gave us a perfect example to follow.  She could kiss a skinned knee or a cheek wet with tears and make everything instantly better.  There have been very few times I have seen her cry, namely because she had Sjorgren's disease and didn't have any tears.  But I have seen her soul rocked with sobs and her heart about to break usually due to something affecting her children or grandchildren or great granchildren.  She was a perfect wife and mother.  She could bake, sew a little, clean, laugh, holler and hug like no other.  She was an instant friend to anyone she met.  She had an art of making you feel at ease and that you had something interesting to tell her about your life.  She was the glue that held our family together.  She was the reason we all wanted to go to Granma's house on Sunday nights.  Oh how I am going to miss those Sunday nights.  Sometimes people who marry into our family can't understand the Sunday nights but they were a time for us, all of us, to cry with each other, to cheer each other on, to laugh over silly things that only a 'Cowles' would get.  But mostly they were a time to love each other, no matter what was happening in our lives.  We knew we would either have 20 people on Sunday night who would be happy for us or there would be 20 people who would be disappointed in us.  A true test of a potential marriage partner was the Sunday Night family 'meet and greet'.  If you couldn't pass this test, you were doomed.  And my mom was always the reason we were there in the first place. I have felt so lost these last few days, knowing she was graduating and going back home.  Mark and I think she was reading her new "Handbook of Instructions" before she actually made it back.  She too is now on a mission.  My mission has a release date. Her mission is eternal.  But she will be there to greet us when our earthly missions are over.  And like I told her on the phone yesterday, "I will come running Mom.  I will come running towards you so very fast you'd better be well planted so I don't knock you over."  What a joyous occasion to look forward too.  I have such a hole in my heart right now that it makes it hard to breath sometimes.  My mom's name was Grace and she was full of Grace and beauty and truth and virtue.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy or of good report, it was Grace. The world is sadder and heaven is jumping for joy!  I Love You Mom.
Always Have.  Always will.  T  H  I  S    M  U  C  H!    H2C

Sunday, May 19, 2013

And They're Gone

After approximately 10 days of having John and Kathy with us, they have returned home and we are very sad.  It was so much fun to have them with us.  We had an amazing time and saw some wonderful sights.  It was so much fun to laugh with someone who has the same sense of humor and understands your cracks.  Most of the Malaysian's here just look at me like, "What?  I don't get it?"  Who can blame them?  It's an acquired skill or an inherited one.  Sometimes Ben still looks at me like "Uh?!  Really?  You said or did that?"  Oh well, he's got all eternity to try and figure it out.  He is a patient man.

Our last big activity with them was snorkeling on Manatani Island.  We had to take a van ride for about an hour and then a boat ride to the island for about another 30-40 minutes.  It was a nice ride going over not so nice coming back.  I was a little leery of snorkeling because the last time I tried it, in Hawaii, I managed to swallow half the ocean and it didn't sit well on my stomach.  I did this after only being in the water for 3 - 5 minutes.  But this time I did just fine and really enjoyed it a whole lot.  We saw lots of beautiful coral and lots of beautiful fish -- fish of all sizes and shapes and colors.  It's amazing what is underneath all that water in the ocean.  Unfortunately, our camera had a problem so I wasn't able to get any pictures of our snorkeling trip.  Maybe Kathy will post some on her blog.

Today we taught another Temple Prep lesson.  They are some of the lessons we really enjoy teaching.  Everyone in the class is so happy and excited to be going to the temple and they all want to learn what to do and what to expect.  We have about 10 in our class this time.  There are two couples and the rest are sisters.  Some of the sisters are married and some are single.  It is quite a sacrifice for them to make this trip and for many it will be a once in a lifetime trip.  We are so blessed that we can be at a temple after just a 10-20- or 30 minute drive.  They will be going to the temple in Manila on June 3.  Unfortunately we won't be able to go with them.  We are having a senior conference that same week and we need to be to that.

While our calling is to be Humanitarian/Welfare missionaries, we find a lot of joy in working with the people in the branches.  It sure makes you appreciate the priesthood.  If they could just get the priesthood to function and accept their responsibilites, everything would run so much smoother.  Right now the church here is only 16 years old -- a teenager -- and you know how teenagers can be.  The hope and promise of these branches lies with the exceptional youth that are coming up.  They are terrific and so motivated.  Just exceptional young people.  We can see that the church will be just fine as the youth come along.

I thought I would show you around our chapel this week. We have the only chapel in Sabah.  We are very lucky that we don't have to meet in a shop lot or an old converted house.

                                                                  This is the nursery
                                                        This is the upstairs foyer
 This is the Relief Society Room
 This is a typical classroom

Same classroom different view
The hall leading to the chapel
The chapel which also doubles as the rec hall

This is the Relief Society room which is also the eating area

 This is the kitchen off of the RS room
The downstairs foyer area

This is the baptismal font.  We are lucky to have a nice baptismal font.  In some buildings they have a big white box outside the church which is just big enough for two people to get in and that is where they do their baptisms.
This is the grounds on the outside of the building.  They are always well maintained by a landscape company.
This is a view of the back of the building and surrounding parking lot.
The front of our chapel.  It sits on a hill so you can kinda see it if you know where to look.
This kinda gives you an idea of our chapel here in KK.  It isn't very big but it meets our needs and we are so blessed to have a building of our own.  

Things have been rather slow this last week.  Not much excitement or people to visit.  We hope that will pick up.  We are going to submit another project this week and hope it will be accepted.  We are working with the Deaf Society to help them with books, hygiene kits, school supplies and some baking pots and pans.  We won't know if it will be accepted until the first part of June because the committee in HK doesn't meet for a few weeks.  

Take care everyone and love each other.  Give your kids, parents, friends, etc. an extra special hug and just tell them you love them, cuz you never know what tomorrow will bring.  We hug and love you all E/S Read

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Amazing Borneo Adventures!!!

What wonderful adventures we had this week!  We went with Kathy and John to the beautiful Tabin Valley Resort.  It is a wildlife sanctuary in the state of Sabah and is a protected area for all kinds of wild life.  We were hoping we would be able to see an elephant, but the elephant must not have known it was time for him to make an appearance because he never showed.  But, the whole area was so amazing that we were totally awestruck by everything around us.

Arriving at the resort with John and Kathy.

And we made it too.  They tried to ditch us but even though we may be old, we were too fast for them.

 Ben and I had River Lodge Cabin #3 and John and Kathy had two.  The cabins are right out on the river.
This is the inside of our cabin.  You could sit out on the deck and watch the river go by and at night you could see the fireflies lighting up and blinking.  It was so cool.
This was our mode of transportation around the resort.  A pick up with three padded benches across.  It actually wasn't too bad.  Sometimes you had to hold on really tight to your teeth and your bladder and the bench to keep everything from falling out as you went down bumpy roads, but it was a nice way to travel through the jungle.
 Our first jungle trek was to the mud volcano.  Notice our stylish hiking rubber boots.  Sometimes you really were in mud up to your knees.  At one point I took a step and when I took the next step the first foot jumped out of my boot and landed in the mud.  Now I had a sock full of mud as well as a boot full of mud.  YUCK!

If you look really close you can see a little mouse deer in the picture.  I am proud to say that I was the first to spy this little guy.  He was right close to the trail for quite a while.  They are very very small deer.
This is the mud volcano looking towards the jungle.  The mud contains a lot of salt and the animals like to come to the volcano to lick the salt.  You can see many tracks of animals who visit the volcano.  There is also a four story observation tower where you can sit and hope to see animals coming for a salt visit.  While we were sitting there I closed my eyes and prayed, "Lord, please let us see some animals while we are here for this short time.  We really would like to see some animals."  When I opened my eyes, lo and behold there were THREE animals there, of the homo sapien variety from the next group.  I had to laugh.  The Lord really does have a sense of humor.  Next time Lord I will be more specific about what type of animals to send.
 We saw this bunch of wild boars crossing the road.  Little piggies and momma piggies.  They can really run fast when trying to get out of the path of an oncoming truck loaded with people hungry for bacon.  Actually we have eaten wild boar and it is pretty good.
We saw these elephant tracks in the mud.  The tracks were HUGE.  We also saw elephant poop in many places, we could hear them at night in the palm oil plantations and we could smell them, but alas and alack, we never were able to see them.  I guess we'll just have to go back another time and hope they will make an appearance.
Here is a gibbon monkey in a tree.  There were several of them in the trees outside of our cabins.  They were fun to watch as they swung from tree to tree.  Kathy thought it was also fun to listen to them calling each other.  
Anytime you get back from a jungle trek you must check for leeches.  Here is an example of a leech on the Wellington boots we had to wear while trekking.  Kathy found one on her leg just above her ankle.  It had drawn blood.  Kathy was screaming and crying like a baby when she saw it (not really).  She was brave and pulled it off and killed it dead.  We had a sweet German girl, Heike, who was part of our group.  One day she found four leeches on her.  
 After a hard day of jungle trekking they offer you a herbal foot soak.  Doesn't John look so fine soaking his feet.  Ben was a boob and wouldn't come with us for his foot soak.  He really missed out.  It was really very soothing and made your feet feel so nice after.
 Heike and I soaking our feet.  

This is the restaurant where we ate our meals.  The five of us sat at the table there in front.  You can see John's back on the left and then me and Heike to the right of the green post.  They had pretty good meals.  If you got up early to do a dawn or morning trek, 5:30 - 6:00 ish, then you got a light breakfast and then when you get back around 8:30 or 9 they had a bigger breakfast.  You had lunch around 12:30, tea time at 4 and then dinner at 7 or 7:30.  Of course every meal had one staple dish -- r  i  c  e!!

Crossing the suspension bridge over the river by our cabins. 
 The jungle with an early morning mist in it.  It was beautiful.  They jungle is so diverse and interesting.
 A flower for Dawn to identify if he can.  Didn't turn out so well.
 A giant tree about 200' high - very very tall and about 400 years old.  Related to the legume family.  Honey bees love these trees.  Some even call this tree the honey bee tree.
I thought this flower was interesting too.  There were two different types of flowers growing out of the same stem.  Dawn -- what do you think?  What type of flower is it?

Well these are just a few of the many many pictures we took.  It was just an amazing place to visit and we learned so much about jungle life.  The Lord has truly made us a beautiful world.  Hope you appreciate everything around you.  While we may not all live in a jungle, we are all blessed to have special things in nature to make our world better.  "And I say to myself, what a wonderful world".  Glod bless you all.  Send us an email please.  Elder and Sister Read

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Halelujia and Yipee!!!  Kathy and John arrived!  They got here on Firday morning, May 3 at 12:40 am -- that's right AM.  We had to wait until way into the night to finally get to see them.  I was so excited I couldn't sleep anyway.  I just ran to them when I finally saw them in the waiting area.  I was bawling and laughing and crying and smiling so so big.  What a wonderful day/night.  And we have been going ever since.  Friday was spent showing them around KK and letting them get accostomed to the heat and humidity.  When we walked out of the airport they both went Whew at the same time.  The humidity always takes people by surprise.  I guess we are used to it now because I don't hardly notice it any more -- except for my hair.  My hair really takes notice and sits up and salutes and twists itself into a tight coil.  Well, I digress.  Enough about my hair.
This is at the over look with all of KK city in the background.  You can also see  the sea ports and some of the mountains from this outlook.  It is a spectacular view.  On Friday we also took them to the open air fruit and vegetable market and then they went with us to visit a potential project we are working on.

Saturday, Kathy and John were doing white water rafting on the Padas River.  It has class 3 and 4 rapids.  We were picked up at our condo early in the morning -- 5:15 am (what's all this am time?  Makes me tired)
From our condo we were put on a very nice motor coach bus with nice seats and air con.  Great.  We had to ride on the coach for about 1 1/2 hours to the city of Beaufort.  In Beaufort we had to transfer to a train for the rest of our voyage into the interior -- jungle.  The first train we got on was probably built in 1940/1950 and was pulled by a steam engine.  There were about four passenger cars with seating for only about 20 per car.  There were a lot more on the train than that.  (Aside -- it is election day in KK today and apparently you must go back to your original Kampung--village--to vote. Kinda reminds me of having to go to Bethlehem to pay taxes).  Back to the train,  two kind boys did offer their seats to Kathy and me but Ben and John had to stand all the way to the next station where we had to transfer trains again.
This is our next train.  Only two cars and all these people are waiting to get on.  There is the red car and the white car.  The red car had seats -- the white car didn't.  It was standing or sitting on the floor only and was like a cattle car.  In fact, we all saluted with a loud MOO as we got on.  Guess which car we ended up on?  Not the red one.
 If you look behind the Marlboro man in the white shorts, you can see Kathy and John standing behind him

These are a couple of views from inside the white cattle car.  They did keep the doors open so we could get some air.  It was a very bumpy, hot, jerky, hot and crowded ride.  I got a new appreciation for the poor Jewish people in WWII.  But it was a great experience.  We all four said how we were really enjoying ourselves and experiencing something 90% of the rest of the world will never get the opportunity to try.  We loved it.  We really did.
Ben and I got off at this station in the middle of nowhere.  A rather nice station don't you think?  Most of the other stations were nothing like this.  Just a bench on the side of track where you waited for the train to come by.  The Padas river is on the right side.  Kathy and John continued up the river on the train for about another 20 minutes til they got to the place where they put in.  Ben and I weren't comfortable rafting since we are missionaries, so we didn't do the actual rafting.
I thought I would walk the line and see if I could catch up with the rafters.  Isn't it beautiful countryside?  It was truly a beautiful ride all the way.
But we did help this lady, the lunch cook, with her supplies and food for everyone's lunch when they got off the river.

Kathy and John getting off the river after rafting.  They both said the water was great and the waves and white water was also fantastic.  John got thrown out of the boat on one stretch.  But he is such a river rat anyway that he was back in the boat before he was missed.  I'm so glad they got this experience and I'm so glad we got to go with them.  I just so much enjoy being with them after all this time.  I can't stop smiling!
This is the nice picnic area where we had lunch.  It was really Kathy and John's first taste of true Malaysian food and they really enjoyed.  Of course there was rice, but there was also watermelon, honey dew melon, cabbage salad, beans, chicken and lamb.  It was pretty good.  After lunch it was back on the two car train for the ride back to Beaufort.  We transferred to the four car train further down the line and Kathy got this picture looking out the window of the four car train.  
Here we are sitting -- we actually got a seat this time because we cheated but that's another story -- in the four car train on the way back to Beaufort.  It was hot and jerky and hot and bumpy and hot and crowded but again, what an adventure.

We all came home and rushed and got showered and headed over to the church for a baptism.  Sis. Verronica was baptized and she is quite the new member.

Today is voting day in Malaysia.  Every five years they elect a new prime minister and cabinet and other offices.  There has been a whole lot of campaigning going on.  And today it comes to an end.  We only had one hour of church with both branches combined today so everyone could vote. Pres. Mains and the Hong Kong Asia Area Presidency advised all missionaries that they were to go directly home after the meeting and they were to stay in their apartments the remainder of the day.  They didn't want anyone proselyting or visiting today.  In the past elections they have had some trouble, so just to be on the safe side, all missionaries are to stay home.  Not much fun for John and Kathy being cooped up all afternoon.  But Ben, Kathy and John did take a hike on the hill behind our condo.  That's our condo in the background.  See me waving from the 14th floor right hand corner?
What a great week we have had!  Did I mention Kathy and John are here?  Can you see my big smile reflecting in the sun?  One thing would have made the week better -- GRANDKIDS!!!!

Love to all and we miss all of you so so much.  Please drop us a line if you can.  We would love to know what is happening in your lives too.  God bless you all.  E/S Read