Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Last Christmas in Malaysia - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese. 

Christmas Skype Home
Dear Family and Friends!

I feel like I learned a lot this week. I keep remembering a kind rebuke given me in zone conference by my mission president ... "Ammon was not looking for sheep when he met King Lamoni." I have really been trying to take that to heart. This week I feel that Elder Brown and I have had multiple moments that we have taken care of a sheep or two that have reaped great rewards. It is an act of faith and at times scary because we always want the activities to directly effect the key indicators, but if the Spirit and your mission president tell you to not neglect taking care of sheep you best do it. The following is a miracle that Elder Brown and I had because we took care of sheep.

We had a really awesome investigator last transfer named K** who was progressing wonderfully. He kept his commitments and came to church weekly. He would even hang out with some of the members during the week because he made good friends. Sadly, the end of last transfer till this past week, he has kind of slipped under the radar. We have had occasional contact with him, but every time he has said he is too busy. This past week after teaching a member's older brother (who was found by taking care of sheep), the member we were teaching asked if we could go visit K**. We had a little bit of time so we headed over later that day. We wanted to have a lesson of course because that would help us reach our goals, but I felt it was not what he needed. We talked to him for a little bit. He told us work has been really stressful and that he has also been busy taking care of his mother who is very elderly. We asked him if there was anything we could do for him. He told us that his mom's room is really dusty and bad for her health, and she keeps getting bitten by bugs that live in there. We offered to help and he accepted the offer. He came to church yesterday and later in the afternoon we came with three members to help him. The room was in really bad condition. I am still sneezing dust out today. Even though I wanted to teach a lesson, a helping hand is what K**needed. After we finished helping him he asked us if he could offer a prayer before we left. As he prayed he was very emotional because of the help we were able to offer him.

We also were able to take a less-active member and his non-member girlfriend caroling with us. They both like it. They also came to the Christmas party and church on Sunday. It was so cool! We are hoping to start working with them more soon.

Oh! and one of the Nepalese guys came to all 3 hours of church yesterday. Don't know how much he understood, but he was a trooper through it :)

Most of the branch seems to be back in town. It is going to be nice to have a Branch Mission Leader to work with again. We were able to teach the older brother of one of the youth in the branch. The elders have never been able to meet with any of her family before because her mom says our church is "evil." The opposition in Sitiawan is also a blessing. This sister's brother wanted to meet us because all of his friends when they hear that she attends our church say that our church is evil and he wanted to know why. We were also able to give a blessing to a different member's mom who is not a member. I think we might be able to work with her more in the future. We have also found a lot of potentials who are friends of the members. That makes it much easier for us to help the members get involved.

We visited another member last night. As we talked to her we asked her what she feels was the difference between the elders last year who had a lot of success verses this year as we have reaped little. She said that although the elders this year have done their part and in many aspects have been more obedient, but they have been working on their own. The previous elders were always working with the members. I am hoping that I can find the proper balance between the two. It seems that the admonition in the scriptures to be "Temperate in all things" is becoming more clear. There is a way to have the members fully involved while being exactly I have to keep trying it till I figure it out.

Thanks for everything!

Elder Avery

Feeling Love from the Members (December 20, 2015)

New Year  (January 3, 2016)

This is our church building and Elder Brown has the light!

Helping K** clean his mom's room

Elder Brown was a little sleepy :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Feeling Love from the Members - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Dearest Familia and Friends,

This week we have been increasing our faith by trying to discern people's needs as we talk to them. I feel that often I get the same cookie cutter contacts. This week Elder Brown and I have been praying for the gift of discernment to help us discern specific needs of the people we meet. We have had some miracles accompanying it, and even those who don't end up having interest are at least left with a warm feeling. I have loved singing for people this week and observing people on the street who we help learn what Christmas is about for the first time in their lives.

Earlier this week Elder Brown and I were walking by some shops. Elder Brown began talking to a girl outside one of the stores. As he was talking to her he was able to ask the right questions to find out that half of her family was Christian the other half is Hindu, she works every day, she used to go to church weekly, and the anniversary of her dad passing away was around the corner. We then had a very clear direction of where to go with the contact. We bore testimony of eternal families and Jesus Christ. That was one of a few experiences that we were able to find very specific concerns that people have. We truly need the Spirit to discern the things concerns that others are not anxious to have us know.

We finally got investigators at church. Early Sunday morning we went to invite K** to church but he kindly said "no" (we are worried about him). Then we went to visit some Nepalese men who live across from the chapel. They got dressed in the best clothes they have and came and invited a friend. Their English is not that good and the members at church go in and out of Chinese and English the whole meeting, so I don't know what they understood...but hey! Cool! Mr. Z** also came. He seems a little more happy than before. He also came to 2nd hour. I think that might have been a first for him.

This week we visited two part member families and are visiting another this week. After contacting a couple of the member's friends the members seem to slowly be more open to giving referrals. We were able to get a couple of high potential referrals this past week. We visited two less active families this week, that we have not seen in a while. We are hoping to get one of them on the branch caroling list if the family is free that night. We have also had multiple members reach out to us elders and serve us this week. I am always touched by the kindness members show us elders and I hope they feel that same love coming from me and my companion.

Love you all!

Elder Joshua Avery

Exhausting Week and Exchanges (December 13, 2015)

My Last Christmas in Malaysia  (December 27, 2015)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Exhausting Week and Exchanges - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese. 

This week I have been increasing my faith by learning to be more patient. Elder Brown and I have been talking to everyone and have been struggling to find solid people. We have found multiple people who received the word gladly at first and then rejected it or have just been flaky. I was absolutely exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually by the end of the week. I was definitely beginning to stress because I felt that all of our finding efforts were not being as fruitful as I had hoped. Sure, we are planting seeds but I want Sitiawan to be a baptizing area.

Church and the sacrament was the refresher I needed for sure. We made sure to fast and get to church an hour early so that we could talk to everyone on the street in hopes we could get someone to church. If not that, we'd at least let people know we have a chapel and where it is (the location is not the greatest). In 3rd hour we read the last chapter of The Teachings of President Benson. It goes hand in hand with what we learned about going from self-centered to Christ-centered. It spoke of many Christ like attributes given in the 1st chapter of 2 Peter. While we were reading I was looking at all of the attributes and it reminded me that we can't develop these attributes without opposition. How could we be patient if we never had to wait for anything? How could we develop charity if there was nothing or no one that was hard to love? How could we increase our faith if it was never tried? I am going to be learning a lot here, haha! :)

This week we were going to visit two of our investigators, but they ended up having to go to a wedding. While we were in the area we saw a big group of men with construction caps on. We went to them and tried talking to them. I went up to one of them and said "Hello!" He gave me a funny look and said, "Wo tingbudong". We started talking to him in Chinese and found out that he and a bunch of his buddies are working here from China the next little bit. We were able to give him a Chinese Book of Mormon and give him the Chinese link to the website. He gave us his contact information so hopefully he pulls through. There are a lot of other guys from China there, so hopefully we can start teaching them too!

The branch keeps thinning out. Our Branch Mission Leader and his family are in Taiwan and a lot of people are gone. We only had 4 of us in priesthood meeting this Sunday. E**, who is getting ready to serve a mission, didn't come to church again this week. Since I have been in Sitiawan, he has definitely been at church less times than he has missed...not what you would expect from someone who is going on a mission in a couple weeks. I wish there was more we could do to help him. He has canceled multiple times that we have tried to visit him, but he has gone to help us visit people a couple times. I'm not sure what to do for him at this point. He tells us he reads his scriptures every morning and night to prepare for his mission, but I don't see how you would skip church almost every week if you are reading your scriptures every morning and night. We planned a caroling activity with the branch so that we can visit the less-active members. I think that will be a great way to reach out.

This week Elder Perrit and Elder Schwimmer came for exchanges. It was a good moral boost and good to get to serve with Elder Perrit for a day. We have some awesome leaders in the mission. Elder Schwimmer seems to be doing good, and I think he and Elder Brown had an awesome day while they were here and saw a lot of miracles.

Love you all!
Elder Joshua Avery

Christmas Zone Conference (December 6, 2015)

Feeling Love from the Members  (December 20, 2015)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Zone Conference - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese. 

This week was trying in a lot of ways, but I know God is still blessing our efforts and we are seeing miracles. The Christmas Zone conference was so awesome. I loved the training, the music, and the food. I am always amazed by the sacrifice of the members in the church.

This past week we have been able to talk to many people who have expressed some interest. I feel like every week we get better at talking to people. I will admit that it is hard to have most people look at us with fear and try to run away, and that the number of people who are honest with us when we talk to them is probably less than 10%. People will do just about anything to get away from us. On the way to the internet cafe we talked to a man who, without looking, nearly pulled himself and his wife into oncoming traffic twice before his wife stopped him.

I didn't realize before my mission that disciples of Jesus Christ are so disliked by the world, but now it's kind of like "duh!" of course they don't like us. We make them do things. Coming to church is more than dancing and listening to a band (other churches do this). It requires effort on the part of the participant. We come to church to reflect on our week and the Savior's sacrifice, and then do our best to sacrifice more of our will to His will for us.

Casual listening is frowned upon in our church. In our meetings, we must listen closely to not just the speaker but, most importantly, the Spirit. Sometimes other people/churches want their answers right now! Most don't take their efforts further than asking their pastor and they exclude the hours of prayer, study, faith, patience, and long-suffering required to get answers from God. Rather than seeking to achieve greatness all these things, many people are just looking to avoid pain. They don't care about returning to live with Heavenly Father (or know that's important). They just don't want to go to hell and have consequences for their choices. I am increasing my faith by not giving up on these people. Christ has never said me or anyone else here is beyond help. I don't now how to help these people care about their salvation and eternal happiness, but I am sure through greater prayer, scripture study, patience, and experience it will all make a little more sense. We are finding people who let us teach, but none of them are showing any real progress.

This week Elder Brown and I were by the church when we saw a Chinese family walking into the restaurant by the chapel. We tried to talk to the parents but they ignored at us, then told us off. I was going to leave and try and find someone else, but Elder Brown saw their teenage daughter walking a little ways behind them and talked to her. She ended up expressing mild interest and even gave us her contact information while her father was shouting at her. During fast and testimony meeting one of the girls in our branch told us that was a good friend of hers, and she has always wanted to share with her but was scared because of her friend's parents.

During fast and testimony meeting nearly all of the members talked about missionary work. It was so awesome, even though we ended up finding two of those members at a food court last night... :( Then, 3rd hour we helped teach Sunday School. The topic was on sharing the gospel. The members seemed into it. We even picked some of them to come role play with us. At the end we gave them all the new pass along cards to give to a friend this week. Our branch mission

Earlier this week we also were able to bring a member to teach a less-active member. We were surprised when that less-active member brought a friend to teach! It was cool. They also took us to get some great Chinese food. Sadly, they didn't come to church either. We will keep working on them and maybe organize a caroling activity so we can reach out to other less-active members.
leader leaves this week and I don't think we will be seeing him till January. We rely on his family a lot in our branch, so this will be a good opportunity to see which other members want to step up to the plate during their absence.

Thanks for everything!

Elder Avery

Miracles and a Cute Dog (November 29, 2015)

Exhausting Week and Exchanges  (December 13, 2015)